When I was first introduced to comics books in the early 90’s it seemed that every comic book that came in to my possession had a letters column. I remember reading through the letters from various dedicated readers who would be lodging their complaints, posing various questions or simply praising their favorite book.
Upon returning to comics a couple years ago I realized that letter columns are nearly extinct from the pages of main stream comics. None of DC Comics current titles print letters, and very few of Marvel’s titles do either.
So what’s the deal? Where have all the letters gone?
I believe that the internet has played a large part in killing off letters. What’s the point in writing in to an editor to ask them a question that you could easily research with google? Why actually put pen to paper and pay for a stamp when you can simply switch on the computer and post on a message board for free and within seconds?
Furthermore, why would a comic book company bother printing letters? They’re usually rather dull and increase the overhead come press time.
Still, a comic without letters from readers seems a little lacking… at least that was my original sentiment. Then I came across an old issue of Justice League America (#71 published February 1993… a terrible issue) which actually has a letters column, entitled Justice Log. The first letter made me reverse my thoughts on letters columns on the spot. It reads, in full:
A true story: Last Friday, new comics day that it was, before I stopped into Galaxy Books for my weekly indulgence, I mowed the lawn. But while mowing, I must have inhaled pollen or something of the like for I wen into a sneezing fit for the rest of the day. Later, while picking out my comics, and Justice League America #67 in particular, I felt the mother of all sneezes building up. Hastily I withdrew my Kleenex from its pocket resting space and lodged it squarely in front of my face before heaving the mother of all sneezes out of my sinuses. It was then that I witnessed the cover of JLA #67 and knew exactly how Beetle felt while echoing his soon-to-be immortal words, ‘EEEEE-ew! Where’d all this goo come from?!’
Joe Kucharsky III
Haddon Heights, New Jersey
P.S. You know you can count on my support for the Fire calendar.”
“I know what you mean, Joe. Ehh… Ehhh… ACHOOO!”
What in god’s name was the editor thinking when he allowed this letter to be published? I’d rather not hear about this kid’s sinus explosion in full detail… but I got to anyway. I could just picture his sweaty little thick fingers gripping the latest issue of Justice League America. His pulse quickened from an unhealthy intake of Pepsi and Cheetos. Fresh lawn scattered about his tube socks, formerly a pristine white, now resembling the green hair of his imaginary girlfriend, Fire. Suddenly he feels the onslaught of allergies. He quickly reaches for a tissue and blows out a snack for later. So thrilled is he by this irony that he is motivated to pen a letter to Brian Augustyn, 39 year old editor of JLA. He too is amused by this irony and sees a reflection of his younger self in this young boy. Moved by the letter, he stops the press and bumps this amazing true story to the top of the Justice Log heap.
Comic book companies: abstain from printing a letters column. It produces more of an overhead for you, and makes a comic book feel even nerdier than it did in the first place.
If you absolutely must print a letter’s column, please choose it’s content wisely, and resist the urge to attempt humor in your replies.
Readers: if you get the strange urge to write a cheesy letter, please suppress it. If you still feel you really must speak your opinions, start a weblog and get it accepted in to the 9rules Network.