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March 05, 2013
Letters to the Unknown Editor!
This is a fan letter?
Say, how many of you out there have actually read the letters page of a comic book? I’m sure there’s an entire generation out there that just read the previous sentence, shrugged and said “What’s a letters page?” To which I can only heave a sigh of sadness because it really makes me feel old. I’m also certain there’s a percentage out there who are laughing at me for suggesting that anyone, aside from the folks who’ve actually submitted a letter, read the letters page. And yet I can’t help feeling that there’s also a large contingent out there who, like me, have read their fair share of Letters to the Editor.
Before the internet existed as the sort of omnipresent force it now does, your only methods of communication with the folks who published your “funny books” and other fans of the medium were either very expensive long distance phone calls or a letter mailed with a stamped envelope through the local post office. And if you were lucky and your comments reached the right level of praise mixed with commentary and constructive criticism, then maybe, just maybe, you’d get to see your letter printed in a future issue and you’d have your foot in the door to the comic industry. Heck, it’s how Todd McFarlane started out (see World’s Finest Comics #274) along with many other current professionals. See kids, it’s all about networking – something I know nothing of.
Anyway, occasional glimpses of famous names aside, the letters page of a comic book could also be educational. For instance, younger kids may not know this, but back in the 1960s when the Fantastic Four were at the height of their popularity almost every letters page had requests for Marvel to simply remove Sue “Invisible Girl” Storm from the FF roster. The comments ranged from having her lose her powers and being forced to leave to just outright killing her off due to her utter uselessness. Other than that it was a very enjoyable Comics Magazine, or so the comments went. In fairness, Sue was pretty useless back then, but you also have to remember that Fantastic Four is a work of fiction, and in the 1960s it was being written by men raised with 1930s mentalities towards the opposite sex, so, what did the fans expect? Rampant feminist views? And what would have happened if Stan Lee and Jack Kirby did kill off Sue Storm? You’d have been left with a gray haired stretchy guy, a big rocky guy and a teen flamer who go out on adventures together… all the time… just the 3 of them living together, adventuring together… sometimes the stretchy guy would wrap himself around the rocky guy to “calm him down”… sometimes they’d douse the flaming kid in a vain attempt to put out his flame… yes, I can see it all now… something I like to call Batman and Robin syndrome.
And then there were the letters that made you just scratch your head, like the following taken from Adventures Into the Unknown #144. Please, take the time to give it a read, I’m just going to step out and enjoy an RC Cola (do they still make that?)…
So, did you have a good read? Are you just as confused as I am as to how this letter was even published?
Think about it for a moment. Mr. Grubbs was so pissed off by what he read that, rather than simply burning the offending issue in a fire (fires being plentiful in 1963), he sat down and wrote a fully articulate letter, sealed it and paid for postage and addressed it and mailed it to the editor of Adventures into the Unknown. There was no internet back in 1963, you couldn’t just take your smart phone and tweet how stupid AITU #144 is – this took real time and effort and yes, even money.
Fine, you say, but people complain, it’s what they do. Yes, that’s true – but then why on earth did the editor of AITU decide this letter was an ideal candidate for publication? The editor admits there was nothing constructive in the letter, that it’s just A HATE FILLED RANT THAT HE PUBLISHED ANYWAY AND GAVE ALMOST A FULL PAGE OF HIS MAGAZINE TO!! WTF???
Near as I can figure, there are 3 likely reasons the editor let this letter see the light of day:
<![if !supportLists]>1) <![endif]>The editor wants to goad the loyal AITU fan base into responding with letters of praise – thereby filling up his obviously declining letters page.
<![if !supportLists]>2) <![endif]>The editor really had nothing else he could fill the page with.
<![if !supportLists]>3) <![endif]>The editor is trying to get himself fired.
Aside from point number 3, I can’t see how this stunt would have any beneficial effect.
Picture yourself as a fan of Adventures into the Unknown and you read this letter in your beloved publication – what would you feel? Anger? Disgust? I would, but it would be directed at AITU. Why would they waste space on a hateful rant when they could have published my, or any other legitimate fan letter instead? Seriously, is this the best fan letter they had for publication? Have I wasted my life following this publication?
And for the casual reader, after reading a rant like that, wouldn’t it make you start to question the issue in your hands? It may have seemed alright the first time you read it, but now?
Well, let’s have a look at a small snippet from AITU #144 and you can decide for yourself…
Pretty standard stuff so far… sure for simple folk like me the first story panel is a little confusing. Is it just me or does it look like the Duke is getting rid of the old man because the old man ISN”T a wizard? Hey old dude, if you were a wizard everything would be cool, but you flubbed the last test at wizard school so tough luck.
But other than that, standard stuff so far…
…how the hell did he impale himself on a sword leaning AWAY from him? Look at the picture above, just look at it. Can you see where the hilt of the sword is (it’s colored blue like the sky in the second panel). The handle of the sword is protruding from the Dukes butt!!! Now that you’ve seen it, I’m sorry, but there’s no way for you to un-see it. The Duke literally would’ve had to take a flying leap to get the blade buried that deep! And again, is it just me, or does OH-HHHH sound less like someone who’s dying from the world’s most awkward stabbing accident and more like someone really enjoying a good round of sodomy?
It also doesn’t help that the Duke looks like Moe from the Three Stooges.
And suddenly I wonder why I shelled out cash for AITU #144. But wait, this is surely just one goofy spot in the issue. Things can’t possibly get any stupider, could they?
Okay, so the Duke takes one “for the team” and now his descendant decides to hang the sodomy sword up with cheap twine that, in one panel is wrapped around the blade, in another panel around the handle. Twine that is lying just above 3, count them, 3 lit candles. Ever been to a castle? Remember all those swords hanging on the wall with twine over lit candles? No? Me neither.
Clearly these folks are mentally deficient. Generations of inbreeding will do that. But two sad endings do not a story make…
“He sat his mount proudly” – what the hell does that even mean?
Oops, butterfingers. Let’s just say that the other folks loyal to the king didn’t appreciate Francois’ salute. In all fairness, it does look like Francois just casually tossed his sword at the clearly jaundice suffering king. I think Francois did the king a favor, what with the horrible state of health care back in the 1800s – the king’s jaundice was a death sentence anyway.
And the horse – the horse just looks like he doesn’t give a damn.
Okay, maybe things will pick up with the final tale…
Notice how he’s holding the sword? How many of you are predicting a Hara-Kiri moment right about now? Who holds a sword up in the air like that?
Okay, something’s not right here. Sorry, but I just love the look on this guy’s face – I imagine it’s the artist’s interpretation of anyone who had to read this story – a perfect mix of HUH? and WTF?
Is he going to suck his thumb or something? Yes, if you look closely, he scratched his thumb…
What do I think? I think that Mr. Grubb wins the argument this round. Kudos Mr. Grubb, kudos.
Going back to the letter, the editor notes that AITU had been in publication for a long time (it started in 1948) and that he sees it going on for many years more. ACG, the company that published AITU was one of the few companies to survive from the Golden Age all the way into the late 1960s – when they folded. The final issue of AITU saw print in 1967 (#174) and again, I could just picture Mr. Grubb sitting at the ice cream shop a short 4 years later with an “I told you so” smirk on his face as he reads the latest issue of Superman.
Call it an unfair generalization, but my thinking is, when you’re forced to print what essentially amounts to hate mail to fill out your fan mail section, then your publication has a problem.
Well folks, that’s all for now, until next time…