Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the six hundred and thirty-seventh week where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.
People would send in dress designs that Marvel would then publish in their comic books.
Sadly, we just lost one of the greats of the early days of the Marvel Age, as “Fabulous” Flo Steinberg has passed away at the age of 78. Steinberg was Stan Lee’s “Gal Friday” during the early years of the Marvel Age, from 1963-1968. Her main job soon became being the de facto public relations manager of the company, answering all of the fan mail, including missives from fan magazines.
I was sad to hear about her passing, but while I was reading some old interviews that she had given over the years, I inadvertently found a solution to a comic book legend suggestion that reader Dan Q. had sent in years ago. Dan noted how old comics always had these bits where they would show dresses and say, “Designed by So and So.” He wanted to know if they were actually designed by “So and So” and how that stuff worked. In a great interview Flo Steinberg gave in Comics Interview #17, she actually explained how that whole deal worked.
You see, as noted earlier, Steinberg was in charge of handling letters from fans, but in 1963, they weren’t really receiving that much fan mail from their superhero comics, as Fantastic Four was their only main superhero title of the era. Amazing Spider-Man was only just starting. Soon, the mail would be so voluminous that it became pretty much a full-time job, but when Steinberg first joined Marvel, there wasn’t a whole lot of mail. The majority of the mail that they DID receive was for what was perhaps their most popular title, Patsy Walker, Marvel’s version of Archie Andrews.
As Steinberg noted, little kids WOULD send in drawings of dresses or haircuts, but they would never actually use those drawings (as they were drawn by, you know, little kids). What they would do, instead, was that the artist on the series (the great Al Hartley and Stan Golbderg, mostly, at that point in Marvel history. Obviously, Dan DeCarlo was the man in this genre earlier on in Marvel’s history before he left to go to Archie and re-define what Archie Comics looked like for decades to follow) would draw the dresses pages on their own, not using anything but their own sense of design (which likely meant looking through actual clotting catalogs) and then it would be Steinberg’s job to put a letter-writer’s name alongside the dress, if the person wrote in with a dress. The letter-writer’s name would be used, but not their design. The same thing for the bathing suit pages and the hairstyle pages. If you wrote in with a hairstyle idea, your name would be used for one of the already-designed hairstyles.
By the way, these letters had grown so popular by this point in time that the comics were practically overflowing with letter-suggestions. This was an early indication that fans loved to be seen as though they “matter”….
So there ya go, Dan. At least Marvel, in the 1960s, would not use actual fan designs in their everyday comics.
RIP, Flo, you were truly fabulous!
Check out my latest TV Legends Revealed, which I waited to tie in with this legend – Did the 1980s Dungeons and Dragons TV series originally end with the characters all dying?
OK, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!
Here’s my most recent book, Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent? The cover is by Kevin Hopgood (the fellow who designed War Machine’s armor).
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See you all next week!
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