Whenever superhero comic books tackle some kind of social issue these days, it seems that some section of fandom is displeased with the result. Often, the nub of this displeasure appears to be that the reader simply doesn't agree with what they interpret as the writer's "message" in the story.
Of course, fans complaining that they didn't like some aspect of a comic is nothing new. To answer the paraphrased question "why do you guys insist on forcing your messages down readers' throats?," Marvel's Executive Editor and Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort recently dug out a vintage edition of Stan Lee's old Stan's Soapbox in which the comics legend expressed his take on the the inclusion of social issues in comics.
"Why do you guys insist on forcing your messages down readers' throats?" pic.twitter.com/ltzZzMZu50— Tom Brevoort (@TomBrevoort) January 22, 2017
As Lee puts it, "A story without a message... is like a man without a soul." But when and where did the column first appear? Well, according to former Marvel writer and editor Fabian Nicieza, the column in question featured in Marvel titles cover-dated April 1970, which would have included "Fantastic Four" #97, "Amazing Spider-Man" #83, "Captain America" #124 and "Incredible Hulk" #126.
Did anyone answer? FF#97 listed on page came out April 1970— Fabian Nicieza (@FabianNicieza) January 23, 2017
However, the column does leave one intriguing question -- was there a particular comic, and storyline, that prompted the fan letter that Lee's answering? Fans will have to dig deep in their back issue bins to solve that puzzle.