Avatar (newspaper)

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Cover of the first issue of Avatar (1967)

Avatar was an American underground newspaper published in Boston, Massachusetts in 1967-68. The newspaper's first issues were published from the headquarters of Broadside magazine in Cambridge.[1] The paper was initially started by a varied group of people from different parts of the Boston countercultural scene, but quickly came to be dominated by the Fort Hill Commune led by Mel Lyman, a banjo-playing folk musician turned acid guru who led a hippie cult known as The Lyman Family.[2] During its brief existence Avatar was considered one of the best underground papers in the country, largely for its excellent layout, printing and design. Toward the end of its run 6 issues (nos. 18-23) were published in large size broadsheet newspaper format, with a tabloid size magazine insert.

Mel Lyman's group dominated the paper from the start by packing staff meetings with their supporters and winning any issue that came to a vote, and the contents of the paper included large amounts of writing by and about Mel Lyman in his role as self-appointed world savior. Over time disputes between the Fort Hill Commune and other factions involved in putting out the paper led to a violent split which killed the paper. A total of 24 issues were printed bi-weekly from June 9, 1967, through April 26, 1968.[3] In "My Odyssey Through the Underground Press," Michael Kindman wrote: "Issue Number 24 was a kind of declaration of spiritual war by Mel on the others who felt they had some claim to the paper."[4] A 25th issue dated May 9, 1968 was printed by the opposition faction, but all but 1000 copies of the 45,000 copy press run were stolen and destroyed by angry members of the Fort Hill Commune.

There were three brief-lived spinoffs including a New York City edition loyal to Mel Lyman called New York Avatar, edited by Brian Keating out of a Soho loft and featuring contributions by Paul Williams and Peter Stafford of Crawdaddy magazine and underground cartoonist The Mad Peck. New York Avatar published 7 issues, with a print run of 7500 copies, between March 29 and August 1968. A reorganized Boston Avatar (also known as Avatar Vol. II), edited by Dave Wilson of Broadside magazine and produced by the opposition faction, published 6 issues between July and August 1968. A beautifully printed tabloid magazine version called American Avatar ran for four issues under the direction of Mel Lyman from October 1968 to Summer 1969.


  1. ^ "Incident in Harvard Square". Boston Magazine. January 1968. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  2. ^ Vrabel, Jim (2004). When in Boston. Bostonian Society. p. 415. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  3. ^ McCleary, John Bassett. Hippie Dictionary. Ten Speed Press. p. 676. ISBN 978-1-58008-547-2. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  4. ^ Voices from the Underground ed. Ken Wachsberger (1993).

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