Okay, guys, I’m really sorry for disappearing constantly. It’s unprofessional (not that I’m actually a professional) and I feel like I’m letting you down. And really, if you’ve expressed interest in writing a fill-in, I greatly appreciate it, and I’d love for you to send me an e-mail and stuff. Click on the Contact Us at the top of the page.
Anyway, I’m just going to throw myself back in the column as best I can, even in the face of horrors like life and work and Halo 3 coming out tomorrow. So, here’s my plan. I’m going to type until this column’s done. And I promise that every missing column will be filled in. Eventually.
Onwards with today’s entry. Let’s talk about an aspect of comics-as-periodicals that every right-thinking fan wishes was being used more. Bring it on! (Archive.)
267. The Letters Page
Ahh, the letters page, everyone’s favorite classic method of keeping track of readers’ opinions, from the formal era of “Dear Editor:” to the classic era of “Hey, you crazy bums” to “What’s up, Gorfinkel?”. I miss it like an old friend.
I don’t know who came up with the letters page, but I thank them for it. Now, the letters page didn’t really come into comics prominence until the age of Stan Lee, who threw one into the back pages of Fantastic Four and brought about the mighty Marvel manner and cultivated their unique fandom. Stan Lee’s cult of personality owes a lot to the letters page.
Me, I’m the kinda guy who always reads the letters page when I reread a back issue. I love to get into the fans’ heads, and some old titles have brilliant letters pages, like the girl-oriented romance books, or Justice League International (I love it when L-Ron answers the letters) or Batman Adventures (featuring letters from kids and adults, and giving away awesome prizes) or even recent ones like Nextwave (the Letter-o-Matic!). The rapport between creator/editor and fan can be boring at times, but it can also be captivating.
Remember the recurring cast of letterhacks? Gosh, they were awesome. People like T.M. Maple, Uncle Elvis Orten, Melissa Page, Malcolm Bourne, or CBR’s own Augie De Blieck, among others. Dozens of cool peeps whose opinions we readers came to care about. Whatever happened to these guys? Is there any chance any of them are reading this column? Okay, I know what happened to Augie, yes. Hi, Augie. ‘sup?
Nowadays, most comics phase out the letters page. Sometimes they replace it with an extra page of story, which is cool, but usually the inserted page is an ad or maybe the DC Nation page. Honestly, does anyone read that DC Nation page? I don’t want to disparage the company or anything, but personally I miss the letters page. Nothing felt better than seeing one’s name in print and becoming immortalized in your favorite (or perhaps most despised) comic book. The companies give reasons for dropping the letter column– after all, we’ve got this thing called the internet nowadays, and there are forums everywhere, but it’s just not the same. The letters page shows us that the creators and/or editors are actually listening, and taking the time to talk to us.
Some comics still use letter pages, but not many. Marvel’s got a few around, like in Thunderbolts. Frankly, though, it’s the indies which are most noted for letters pages these days, like in Powers and Invincible. In Fell, Warren Ellis has transformed the backmatter into a combination of behind-the-scenes information and letters from smart and interesting readers.
Boy, I miss the letters page. There’s a special magic to it, and a hidden art. I never got a letter printed, and I still wish I could. Sure, I’ve got this column about comics and everything, and I’m sure a bunch of people are reading this or whatnot, but man, I’d really like to see my name in a letters page. That’d be awesome.
Do you love the letters page? Why do you dig ’em? Ever had a letter printed? Ever win a “name the letters column” contest? Those were always cool. Got any cool letters page images to share? I wish I had my issues to scan with me– and I also wish I could find that awesome letter in which Mort Weisinger decried inter-title continuity. That one’s great.