Sunday, May 30, 2010

Old Marvel Comics Letters Pages

I've been reading this great book, the Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus, a mammoth tome collecting the entirety of the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko run in a single volume. I don't really want to review the book here. I mean, if a mammoth tome collecting the entirety of the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko Spider-Man run isn't inherently appealing to you, I can't really help you. I did want to mention one particularly enjoyable aspect of the book, though: The letters pages from the original comics are reproduced here in all their glory.

It seems like I'm always talking about letters pages. I like 'em. Especially in comics released pre-internet, I find them to be a really useful and entertaining way to engage with the mindset of early comics fandom. Now, of course I realize that the letters reprinted here represent a consciously edited version of early Marvel comics fandom, namely the version Stan Lee wanted his readers to see, but that's sort of fascinating and useful, too. The warm atmosphere and distinctive editorial "voice" Lee employs in these pages was a huge part of what made those Silver Age Marvel comics so appealing to so many kids (and adults). It's a real treat to see firsthand how Stan Lee thought about the books they were publishing, and how he wanted the readers to think about them. While most of the missives were filled to bursting with praise, a fair amount of negative letters are printed as well, with more than a few coming down hard on Steve Ditko's "weird" drawing style.

As much as I love reading these old ones, I don't really think many of today's comics would be well served by bringing back letters pages. The discussion of comics happens in a different way now. Namely, online, and by a more informed and sophisticated network of fans and semi-professional websites reporting comics "news." Still, letters pages were once a crucial factor in what made those old Marvel comics so unique and wonderful, and the Omnibus books provide a valuable service in preserving this piece of the company's history. Plus, you know, the entirety of the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko Spider-Man run in a single volume! Did I already mention that?


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