Originally posted at Pencil Panel Page.
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.
An archive of my online writing on comics, literature, and culture. (Illustration above by Seth!)