Comic Legends: When the Comics Code Declared War on Letter Columns

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the six hundred and eighty-fifth installment where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.

As always, there will be three different posts for each legend this week!

NOTE: Well, the the CSBG Twitter page hit 10,050 followers, so I agreed to do a BONUS edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed during the week that we hit 10,050. So three more legends! Let's say we'll keep the bit going, though. Every 1,000 followers of the CSBG Twitter page, I'll do a bonus Comic Book Legends Revealed that week.


The Comics Code Authority made comic book companies stop posting addresses of fans because of fear that people would sell them pornography.


Basically True

In his book about the Founders of Comic Book Fandom, Bill Schelly wrote about Jerry Bails and how the mainstream media started to get interested in comic books again in the mid-1960s, a decade after they helped nearly drive the comic book industry out of business with the whole Seduction of the Innocent era:

Toward the end of 1964, a few articles appeared (in The New York Times and elsewhere) talking about the high prices that were being commanded by “those old funny books”. This led to reporters hearing about a college professor in Detroit who was a ring-leader of the comic book collectors, and telephoning Bails for quotes and other information. In early 1965, Bails was contacted by Newsweek reporter Hugh McCann who wanted to interview him in Jerry’s Detroit home. Jerry invited fans to join in the interview, including Shel Dorf, Marvin Giles, Eugene Seger, Bob Brosch, Gary Crowdus, Dennis Kawicki and Carl Lundgren. To the reporter, no doubt curious as to why adults would be interested in something like comic books, Jerry explained, “They say that men in our society frequently make a total break from their childhood. I see no reason, if you enjoy something as a youngster, why you should ever lose that enjoyment.” The resulting article, “Superfans and Batmaniacs”, appeared in Newsweek on February 15, 1965. The tone of the article was, at times, snide and condescending, while the information it contained was basically accurate. Bails had mixed feelings about it, and avoided subsequent interviews by reporters who obviously had their own agenda.

However, since so many of these articles tended to take a dim view of comic book fans, there were even a few that suggested sinister motives involved in the burgeoning fan communities of the era. You see, a few articles (without any actual proof that I am aware of) began to occasionally note that people selling pornography and things of that nature were scouring through comic books looking for lists of pen pals that comic books used to feature back in the 1960s and used those addresses to find new customers.

The Comics Code Authority announced that they wanted comic book companies to only print the name, city and state of their letter writers, despite a clear desire for a number of fans to have pen pals.

That is what DC Comics did for their regular letter columns anyways...

It's just that they would used to occasionally include pen pal lists, as well. So would most young readers titles.

Once the Comics Code stepped in, that ceased.

While not the only ones who ignored this request, the most prominent was Marvel, who continued to include full addresses from their letter writers...

Then again, Marvel, more than others, were selling the whole "interconnected fan experience," like through the Merry Marvel Marching Society...

Still, these pen pal lists were how most of the early comic book fandom folk met each other, so without it, it would have been a whole lot different.

Plus, Richard Pini met his future wife, Wendy, through the Silver Surfer letter column, so maybe we wouldn't have Elfquest!

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Check back tomorrow for part 2 of this installment's legends!

And remember, if you have a legend that you're curious about, drop me a line at either brianc@cbr.com or cronb01@aol.com!

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