Wednesday 29 July 2009

Late Lamented Letters Pages

Letters pages in comic books finally fizzled out a few years ago. The last one I remember seeing was in an issue of Captain America some way into Ed Brubaker's run. DC had already dropped them across their line a few years before that. Now neither Marvel nor DC run letters pages (as far as I'm aware). Which is a shame, because that's a window on the readership that's going to be lost for anyone looking back. Sure, there's the various internet message boards, but those threads don't necessarily stay around forever. Whereas a letters page in a physical comic book acts as a near-as-dammit permanent time capsule, shedding light on what the most fervent fans were thinking at the time.

Why is that important? Honestly, I don't know if it is. But I've been re-reading old Alan Moore Swamp Things, and the letters pages are often fascinating: the shock in the missives at Moore's first few issues (where Swampy's origin was stood on its head); the arrival as editor of Karen Berger, future Vertigo supremo. If you check the names of letter-writers in old comics, you'll often recognize a future comics writer or artist, firing off adolescent fanmail to their favourite book. In years to come, will we be able to look back at archived message board threads and spot the stars of tomorrow? Or have we lost something unique, something maybe even worthwhile?

1 comment:

  1. An interesting point, Nick.
    As a child I used to love reading the X-Men letters pages. There was so much going on in that comic, so it was nice to hear what other fans thought (as I had no friends).

    Vertigo letters pages were fantastic - the letters pages in Invisibles and Sandman were just as essential as the issues' stories.

    But sometimes when they print letters in DC titles or Spidey titles these days, i find them pretty boring. Maybe I'm too old. Or maybe it's a pointless exercise, as there is no community these days, half of it is online.

    Either way, it's a shame really, as you lose the editorial voice and also you miss out on hints about what is coming up.

    p.s. i am reading the Swamp Thing trades so I can't see the letters pages :-(
    p.p.s. i just thought of a joke - the Swamp Ting Tings ha ha ha