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Friday, January 16, 2009

Read all about it

You know we internet aficionados have it easy in this day and age when we want to talk about our comic books. It doesn't matter where you live or how socially inept you are, you will easily find someone who shares your viewpoint on a certain book, character or storyline.

Finding someone to argue with about those particular subjects is even easier. We have chat-room, internet forums, newsgroups and the really weird can even start their own blog to ram their views down the world's throat.

Back in the day the only medium available to fans was the letters column in the back of the comics. Most of the comics had one or two pages of "letters of comments". In the beginning these were just your standard "I hate" or "I love" letters but slowly reader participation increased and it became a valid means for creators to get feedback from their adoring (or not so adoring) fans. And let's not forget it was THE place for comic fans to "meet" likeminded people. You have to remember that at the time, they were publishing full addresses and fans started writing each other.

When people ask me why I stubbornly read my Silver Age comics (and not keep them slabbed) instead of the reprints that I also own, I point them to the letters pages, the ads, the editorials..for me they are an integral part of the whole comic book experience and they give me a very cool wormhole into the past and into the mindset of your average comic reader of the 60's.
But what really gets my rocks off is when I stumble onto an old fan-letter written by a fan/kid who later turned into a Marvel/DC mainstay. A lot of famous artists, editors and writers got their first taste of comic publishing when their letter was printed in "Avengers Assemble!" (Avengers), "Letters to the Living Legend," (Captain America), "Spider's Web" (Amazing Spider-Man), or "X-Mail," (Uncanny X-Men).

This week I was reading the first 20 or so issues of Fantastic Four and I was pleasantly surprised how many "names" were scattered all over the letters pages and I thought I'd share a few with you.

Uncanny X-men and Legion of Super-heroes legend, the late great Dave Cockrum was a very avid comic fan and letterhack back at the very beginning of the Marvel Age.
Dave was a young sailor in the US navy and wrote a lot of letters to Amazing Spider-man, Avengers and Fantastic Four.

In fact Dave met and married his first wife through the letter page of Fantastic Four #34. She read the letter and became interested because he was a sailor and a comic fan. Dave and her exchanged letters, met up and got married !

Anyway here's a scan of an earlier letter Dave Cockrum sent in to Fantastic Four #22 from January 1964. Don't you just love it how Dave criticizes the inking on the X-men books.
Enjoy !

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Anonymous dedalus said...

very astute catch on this letters page.

i'm surprised how much dave cockrum's letter sounds like every other fanboy who wrote in to their favorite comic books. pretty hard to criticize kirby and lee, but i expected cockrum, as the guy who wrote one of the best x-men runs of all time to have more to say than how much he liked the issue.

i read a lot of comics in the early 90s and back then it seemed some dutch guy named "olav beemer" had a letter in every issue. i wonder if he's ever going to reappear in the comics world.

3:38 AM  
Blogger chromium said...

Small world...but I actually know Olav Beemer. He's been the Dutch translator of Marvel Comics for the last decade or so and recently got a new gig as a translator of Duck books.
He also runs a (Dutch language) comics site and chat-board called www.weeklydose.com.

9:14 AM  
Anonymous dedalus said...

wow, that's a coincidence.

i thought back then that olav beemer would end up working in the comics industry. good to hear he did indeed end up working in comics.

11:27 PM  
Anonymous greggy said...


Stop making like you know people.



7:57 PM  
Blogger chromium said...

I can't... it feels so warm and fuzzy inside

8:00 PM  

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