Thursday, March 1, 2012

Wait, Mr. Postman, Look and See...

Today we thought it would be fun to take a stroll down our comics-loving memory lane. We're looking at letter columns and the oft-creative titles to those necessary-reading pages. After loving on the artwork below, let us know what you think. Did you regularly read the letters pages? What did you think of the writers and editorial responses? Were there any letters that were memorable? Did you ever have a letter published?

By the way, you may notice that a) this is not an inclusive list, and b) we've left out some heavy hitters, like the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. We will be running a follow-up post with some of Marvel's big guns, taking an historical look at those letters pages. Stay tuned for that.

The Brave and the Bold 136 (September 1977)

Captain America 140 (August 1971)

The Cat 3 (April 1973)

Daredevil 116 (December 1974)

Defenders 45 (March 1977)

Detective Comics 476 (April 1978)

Hero for Hire 15 (November 1973)

Incredible Hulk 196 (February 1976)

Jungle Action 11 (September 1974)

Ka-Zar 3 (May 1974)

Marvel Team-Up 20 (April 1974)

Marvel Team-Up 69 (May 1978)

Marvel Two-In-One (February 1976)

Shogun Warriors 19 (August 1980)

Star Wars 99 (September 1985)

Sub-Mariner 67 (November 1973)

Superboy 199 (November 1973)

Superboy & the Legion of Super-Heroes 232 (October 1977)

Superman 267 (September 1973)

Teen Titans 48 (June 1977)

Thor 218 (December 1973)

What If? 4 (August 1977)


Anonymous said...

I loved the titles to those old letters pages! They were so fun! The one most memorable to me that you didn't include this time around was the JLA Mailroom, with the JLAers hanging around the table while Batman reads letters from readers. I remember Martian Manhunter dissappearing from that picture when he bowed out of the League. I seem to remember they replaced him with someone but I can't remember which hero they replaced the Manhunter with.

I probably only wrote a half dozen or so letters, but was thrilled to have two of them published. I have the first letter published in The Thing (not sure which issue, I guess #3 or #4), commenting on my love for the Thing's old series, MTIO, and my enthusiasm for his new solo mag. I wrote it right after MTIO #100 came out. My second published letter was in an issue of The Flash, early in the Trial series. I started reading The Flash again after seeing a few pages of the book published in a DC Sampler.

The funny thing about reading letters pages now (as an aging adult), is to imagine how a professional writer would feel reading critcism from young teenage readers, telling the writer how to do his craft. Makes me wonder how many writers truly read the letters. It also makes me appreciate the well-crafted letters of the better letter-hacks, where the criticism wasn't as obvious but the point was still made.


William said...

Ahhh, more reminders of things that I miss about the good old days of comics. Simply awesome.

My favorite Letter's Page title was always "Let's Level With Daredevil". That one always had a nice ring to it.

When I was younger, I would skim the letters page, but rarely read it word for word. (I had too short of an attention span at that age).

Nowadays I when I'm reading an old comic I like to look for letters by future comic creators. I've seen several from Kurk Busiek for example. It's interesting to read what was on their fanboy minds before they hit it big in the biz. I don't remember reading any letter in particular that stands out to me right now Maybe if I think about it a while.

As for myself, I had one letter published in a comic. It was an issue of Batman Adventures back in the mid-90's. I also three letters published in ToyFare Magazine (if that counts).

Garett said...

I like Green Skin's Grab Bag and The Hammer Strikes! I never wrote a letter, but I usually read them. Just yesterday I saw a book called Stan's Soapbox, which reprints all of those. I do like skimming through the letters when I pick up a back issue--there was much praise for Logan's Run in that letter column.

david_b said...

One of the stellar reasons which made Marvel tops, most times the letters page was more fun than the story itself. Whether it drove my hunt for back issues, validated my thoughts on characters or storylines, the letters pages were integral to living in the Marvel Universe.

I always loved the Marvel designations from the 60s, greatly missed in the 70s..

Fred W. Hill said...

I loved those letters pages too, and hated it when they became hit and miss from the late '70s on. I never sent in a letter myself -- just too damn lazy, I guess. I also enjoyed the dialogue between the letters writers and whoever wrote the responses, especially in mags like Master of Kung Fu that included some interesting letters from Bill Wu and responses from Doug Moench. Sure, there were a lot of fairly silly letters, but also several well-thought out critiques of the mags.

Inkstained Wretch said...

I always read the letters pages, mainly to see the reactions from the editors. Good letters provoked interesting responses, giving me some behind-the-scenes insight into the creative process.

Sometimes the editors would cop to mistakes. Other times they'd explain the intentions behind a particular storyline. Or they might make veiled references to the higher ups forcing changes on their work.

I remember being fascinated by the letters pages to Roy Thomas's All-Star Squadron, Infinity Inc., and Young All-Stars in the months and years after the Crisis. They clearly showed a man struggling to deal with constantly shifting editorial mandates on what was the new continuity in the DC universe.

Inkstained Wretch said...

Letters page names I remember (for some reason all DC comics):

Action Comics - "Action Reaction"

Green Lantern - "Letters by Lantern Light"

Flash - "Flash-grams"

Wonder Woman - "Wonder Words"

Jonah Hex - "via Pony Express"

DC Comics Presents - "Pair Mail"

That's all I can remember. The Flash and Wonder Woman names were blah, but I think the others are fairly clever.

Edo Bosnar said...

Loved the letter columns as well. They were kind of like prehistoric web forum comment threads without all of the rancor and snark.
I sent only two letters myself: one to X-men and one to Peter Parker/Spectactular Spider-man (because I was so excited by the fact that I recognized a cameo appearance by Mike Doonesbury and Zonker Harris in a splash page). Neither were printed.
By the way, I always loved "Why Not?" for What If, and I think "Cat Scratches" is the best name this side of "Baxter Building Bulletins."

Rip Jagger said...

I hate to sound like a broken record about E-Man sometimes, but as it turns out that book also had the most prophetic letter column title ever.

"E-Mail" as it was dubbed back in those pre-home computer days was clever enough at the time, but now seems brilliant!

Some of the other Charlton letter columns were less impressive, the least of which was "Peacemaker Patter". That sounds just wrong somehow.

Rip Off

Redartz said...

Rip- I'd forgotten E-Man's prophetic letter column title! Good recall!

The Spider's Web is the first example that comes to my mind. All those old letter columns are full of missives by future professionals. Other writers (T.M.Maple and Dean Mullaney, for example) seemed to have letters printed with amazing frequency, and wrote with intelligence and wit.

I wrote several letters, but never saw one printed, and my one attempt at a no-prize went no-where...

humanbelly said...

Unshakable Incredible Hulk fan that I always have been, "Greenskin's Grab-bag" was of course my favorite column title. "Gamma Grams" (less dated, I suppose) was never quite as "homey", y'know? But yes, I also thought of the letters column as an integral, intrinsic part of the experience, and never got over feeling cheated when the page was occassionally bumped out. And then, when they officially dropped the columns altogether I knew that another little piece of what made Marvel special had been jettisoned. Heck, many of the independant/small press books still maintained MULTIPLE letters pages (INVINCIBLE had, like, 4 dozen per issue. . . ). I can only assume that there was a numbers-based decision that they simply didn't provide any measurable return on the publishing investment, or something. They weren't specifically "product" or advertising, so thus must have become expendable.

I do understand that in the internet age, they may appear to be redundant. But there is nothing- NOTHING- that can replace that sense of Readers-talking-and-Marvel-responding that they provided. And lordy, they could be darned funny sometimes! As well as aggravating, or transparent boosterism, or thought-provoking-- as mentioned above, there were whole threads that got going for months at a time. The "Nudity in comics? Yes or No?" debate that started on the LP of Incredible Hulk went on for months and months and months.

Wrote maybe six or seven letters in my life, and actually had two of those see print-- very lucky. One was a small excerpt expressing joy at John B's return to the Avengers in the mid-80's, and the other was a longer one which, I believe, appeared in the very last letters column printed in Amazing Spiderman.


Jason Atomic said...

I do think yellow was a very inappropriate colour choice for the background of the 'Send It To Subby' logo

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