Wednesday, July 02, 2008

I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Stan Lee a Letter

3ยข stampSit back, kiddies and kiddettes, and let ol' Uncle Bully tell you a story about an older time, a simpler time, a better time, when Pepperidge Farm cookies roamed the plains and prairies, when comic books only had four colors and when Tony Stark wasn't (so much of) a jerk. In these long-ago, far-away days, the internet was just the gleam in the eye of that bright tyke little Alvin Gore, and email? Pfui. Didn't exist! You could pony up your wheat pennies and buffalo nickels and plasticine dimes at the old Western Union to send a telegram or, as Grampa Bull used to call it, "a word whistle," or better yet, hitch up old Dobbin to the buckboard and whinny on down to Mr. Drucker's General Store and Post Office, where for a mere three shiny pennies, an acorn and a whittlin' stick, you could buy yourself a glossy new first class postage stamp to stick on an envelope so you could write Ida Lou out on the farm in Oklahoma, or maybe send away for that feed catalogue you saw advertised in the back of The Farmer's Almanac, or maybe...just could write a letter to your favorite comic book magazine.

Bernard the PoetYes, before everyone and his little stuffed bull had a comic book blog to compain about Final Crisis and the size of Power Girl's breasts, you had to mail a letter into a comic book to write about it, and we liked it that way. Altho' Mister Stan Lee didn't invent letter columns, writing to comics was all the rage once the Marvel Age of Comics got underway in the Swingin' Sixties. Why, writing to Smilin' Stan and King Jack was as popular a pastime in the 1960s as challenging the establishment, burning your bra, and hanging out at the Coffee-a-Go-Go listening to the hep rhythms of Bernard the Poet.

The comic book letter columns are mostly gone from Marvel Comics (with the exception of Three Times Monthly Spider-Man, which reinstituted them recently during "Brand New Day"). But while they lasted, it was a Golden Age for the fans. That was the beauty of it all: the sheer democracy of the system. Anybody could see their name in print, anybody could have their letter published if they wrote a missive that amused or intrigued the Marvel gophers or editors (or if they wrote during a month nobody else wrote in). Why, even early on, look at the common folk fans who were writing into Fantastic Four, a guy just like you an' me who got his letter published in FF #4:
FF letter of comment

Of course, that magazine, and that letter-writer, soon vanished and were never to be heard from again.

Naw, jus' kiddin'.

Here's s'more letters to the Fantastic Four Fan Page from folks who would one day make a name for themselves in the world o' comics:

Gerry Conway! (FF #50)

FF letter of comment

Denny O'Neil! (FF #53)

FF letter of comment

Tony Isabella! (FF #74)

FF letter of comment

Don McGregor! (FF #80)

FF letter of comment

Alan Kupperberg! (FF #101)

FF letter of comment

J. M. DeMatteis! (FF #101)

FF letter of comment

Mike W. Barr! (FF #131)

FF letter of comment

Jill Thompson! (FF #246)

FF letter of comment

And some guy by the name o' Stan... (FF #269)

FF letter of comment

Huh. That guy's going nowhere in this business.


Sleestak said...

I wonder how many comic geeks that preferred one company over the other got stalked by angry troll-nerds way back in the days when they published full addresses to their fans?

Now that's a story waiting to be told.

Eden said...

I am not famous and I choose to not mention the exact comics, but I once had a couple of letters published when they still had comics pages (early '90s). Made a few good friends that way -- was even in the wedding of one of them.

I know with the Internet, we don't need the letter pages much anymore, but I am still nostalgic (and grateful) for them.

Harvey Jerkwater said...

Don McGregor's letter is by far the wordiest...


Unknown said...


I was going to comment on the same thing. Funny how his letter is just like his comics-verbose.

Jim said...

I was going to say the same thing, too! Good thing there was no letter from Chris Claremont...

Rick L. Phillips said...

When I buy a back issue I love to see who wrote in and became famous in the field. Surprisingly most are written by people I never heard of.
As fas as the comment that mentioned people who prefer one company over the other. I wouldn't doubt that it happened but where I grew up no one cared if it was Marvel, DC or anyone else. Just that it was a good story.

Michael said...

I miss the letter columns too. I've had a few letters published and there is something about seeing your letter in the actual become part of the comic, part of the experience. Making a comment to a DC Comics bulletin board feels...disembodied, separate, transitory. Someone deletes a file, you're gone. Yet for better or worse my earnest, teenage and ever-so-slightly cringe-making comments in X-Men #161 (1981 or so)will live forever...


spidertour02 said...

I don't remember what issues, but I also remember seeing letters from Dave Cockrum and George R.R. Martin in some spots. Those two actually had multiple ones printed, if I remember correctly.