Serial comic books seldom end with a letters column these days, but I’ve begun to appreciate the notes from readers more and more in my research. I never imagined that I would be planning a trip to the Library of Congress to read 1950s comics that are readily available in reprints, merely so that I can browse the original fan letters as well as the ads and other promotional material in circulation at the time.
So my question this week is pretty simple: what is the value of the letters column to you?
Of course, letter pages from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s were hardly straight-forward monologues of fan response. The columns are well known for staging conversations between readers and comic book creators in ways that I have always found fascinating. The replies from the editors are often carefully crafted teasers for upcoming issues or tongue-in-cheek rebuttals to criticism; witness the way in which the Green Lantern editor responds to the above letter by ridiculing the reader’s spelling errors! Even the most selective, highly-mediated exchanges can offer some insight into the brambles of reader response and the creative process.