By Beau Smith
Remember when the mail, the REAL mail, not email, Facebook or Twitter, was THE source of getting things? Granted, it wasn’t as instant as the modern methods I just mentioned, but it was almost always worth the wait.
Real mail was physical. You could hold it in your hands, take it anywhere and rediscover it anytime you wanted. If it was a letter, you could see the handwritten scribbling. If it were typed, you could see where the typewriter keys made their inked impression on the paper. It was real.
Why am I bringing this up? Well, the other day I started trying to do some organizing of all my comic book related material. If you are a regular reader of Busted Knuckles, then you know that I rarely throw anything away. If there’s the slightest hint of a memory attached, it stays with me in a box. My wife, Beth, tells me I’m just a few storage boxes away from being on the TV show Hoarders. I hope not.
Before I broke into the comic book business, I was quite the letter writer. I wrote letters of comment to the letter pages of all the comic books I read. I wrote personal letters to the editors and creators as well. I think that’s why even today, I always try and write something back to those that write/email me.
Most times, these same editors and creators wrote me back. Remember, this was before the internet. That means that these folks took the time to not only write a couple of lines (or type on a typewriter) but they also had to put it in an envelope, throw on a stamp and even in some cases take it to a post office. That made the letters I got mean even more to me. That was truly sharing their time with me, a stranger. (And they don’t get any stranger than me.)
Comics were the common bond that became the “handshake” and connection. It really brought all sorts of people from different places and paths together through the U.S. mail.
Now, getting back on topic, as I was saying, I was going through all the comic book related material and correspondence that I’ve accumulated though the years, and it brought back a lot of memories – good memories – ones I don’t mind sharing with you today.
I have hundreds of letters, cards, Christmas cards and odds & ends, but I want to share just a few with you today. As time goes on and I have more space, I hope to share even more of these with you.
** Back in the very early 1980’s, I started research on comic book professionals that had once been young comic book readers that had letters printed in the various comic book letter pages. I had spent hours going through my vast personal collection as well as my friends and even in some cases, using the stock of local comic book shops to seek out more names and issues. In 1982, I compiled a pretty good list and write to Jim Shooter at Marvel to see if they would be interested in publishing a book or comic book about all these former “Letterhacks Turned Pro”. Jim Shooter was always kind enough to answer most of the letters I wrote him or pass me on to someone that could. I always appreciated that and got the chance to tell him so at a Marvel Pool Party at Chicago Con in the early ’80s.
In this particular case, Jim passed my letter off to editor, Tom DeFalco who told me that Marvel was actually working on such a book and gave me the chance to possibly be a part of. The book never happened and I was never offered any payment for the list that I sent them, but what the heck, I came close and that was good enough for me back in 1982. Just a few years later I did manage to parlay all that research into my first paying professional writing work in comics when Amazing Heroes magazine bought my two-part article and published it. They even got Don Rosa of later Donald Duck fame to illustrate the article. Here is the letter that Tom DeFalco wrote back to me in 1982. Needless to say, I was stoked. Please know that a few years later, when I did break into comics as a writer and marketing VP for Eclipse Comics, Tom and I became friends and still are friends today, many years later.
** I was so very fortunate to become friends with one of my comic book heroes, artist, Don Heck, in the 1980’s. It started out with some casual trading of letters and then grew into almost daily phone calls. Don was a wonderfully giving man with his stories, opinions and thoughts. I learned a lot about comics and art through Don. This letter from him in 1986 covered him mentioning his current work then on Mandrake and DC Challenge. It was at a time in his life when he was getting more job offers to ink over young artists and artists that were late. Don was always saving somebody’s butt during this time. He had also sent me a pile of the comics from my childhood (Avengers and Iron Man) that I had sent him and asked him to sign for me. I made sure that I gave him copies of the comics as well. Don was more than kind and also sent me his original of Hercules(the DC version) from DC Comics Who’s Who entry, a piece I treasure to this day. Don Heck, always the professional and the gentleman.
** Another one of the finer gentleman in comics is artist and inker Terry Austin. Terry is the man that truly put inkers on the map and helping them finally get the credit they deserve as ARTISTS. Terry’s letters and cards were always filled with inside information and humor. It was like Christmas when one would come in the mail from Terry’s neck of the woods. His Christmas cards were always entertaining and humorous. This hand written note of his not only gave some inside info from a letter I written about Fantastic Four #286, but also answered a truly fanboy question I had about the lack of the usual hair on Wolverine’s arms that he usually drew, as always, Terry had the answer and turned my asking for a No-Prize into his asking for a “Beau-Prize” for answering my question.
** Walt Simonson is not only famous for his wonderful art, stories and run on The Mighty Thor. He’s also another A-List gentleman and pro. Back in 1984 I had written to Walt via Marvel Comics and in a week or so I received the first of many letters and cards from Walt. In this case I had written him telling him how much I was enjoying his run on Thor and the supporting character of Roger Willis, a true, manly character even before Tim Truman and I did Beau LaDuke in the pages of Scout. As you can see by his handwritten letter, Walt gave me a wonderful response that thrilled me then and gives me great memories now.
** I once thought I had spotted a mistake in an issue of Iron Man that “Mirthful” Mike Carlin was editing at Marvel. I sent him a tongue-in-cheek letter telling him of my great ability to spot a mistake and made mention of how much I deserved a Marvel No-Prize. (They were much sought after back in the day. Stan would give one to any reader that caught a true mistake in a Marvel Comics. You would get a Marvel envelope in the mail with nothing in it, so they tell me) Ends up in my pitiful attempt to win a No Prize I was wrong and this was the reply that Mike Carlin sent me. I enjoyed his humor.
** Back in 1982, I sent a pitch to Jim Shooter for a Spider-Man story where he fought the teenage son of Molten Man. The son came after Spider-Man because he blamed Spider-Man for his dad being in prison. During his calling out of Spider-Man, his powers are no longer dormant and he can burn things with his touch. He instantly gives himself the super villain name of “The Grill” and tries to fry Spidey. The title of the story was “Fry And Die To The Thrill Of The Grill”. (I thought it was a title Stan would think of.) Jim Shooter kindly read my pitch and this was his reply. I always appreciated him being honest and upfront. Lord knows the idea was bad.
This is just a small taste of the letters and cards that I have gotten through the years. I hope you can see what a lost art letters in the mail are. If you’re too young to have experienced this type of contact with comic book publishers and creators, or physical mail in general, I hope this will give you a little bit of an idea what it was like for me to have Christmas and a birthday with every trip to the mail box.
Please don’t let the craft of letter writing and sending it through the U.S. Mail die. Now and then, stop and take a few minutes to write someone a letter, you might just get something back.
Busted Knuckles Manly Cover of the Week: Danger Trail #3
National Periodical/DC Comics
Cover by Carmine Infantino
As a kid, I was lucky enough to find this issue of Danger Trail at a yard sale for 5 cents. The comic was a little beat up, but I loved it. It was filled with great manly stories of heroes that fought with their fists and guns I could only dream of owning. The stories were global and in places where everyone had a funny sounding name. As a kid, it was the best. The main hero, King Faraday, was a real two-fisted hero. In this issue the stories were “Thunder Over Thailand” where King Farady is on the trail of “The World’s Most Dangerous Man.” Other stories were “Battle Flag Of The Foreign Legion”, Hawaiian River God and Ghost Ship Of The South Seas. Pencils were by Carmine Infantino with inks by Alex Toth. This book doesn’t come cheap these days.
Busted Knuckles Babe of the Week: Roselyn Sanchez
Without a doubt, Roselyn Sanchez is one of the best-looking women in the world. She can do comedy, action, drama and I bet you didn’t know she can sing. She is known well for the TV series Without A Trace, as well as such films as Yellow, Basic, Chasing Papi and the upcoming Act Of Valor. This woman is flawless.
Hey, I want to give you a heads up on a really great spy/action/sci-fi/thriller comic book called Who Is Jake Ellis from Image Comics. This comic book is by Nathan Edmondson and Tonci Zonjic. The book is one of the best combos of story, cinematic, sequential art and perfectly matched colors. The first issue grabs you and builds the story without giving away any of the arc’s secrets too early. I just stumbled over this comic and I hope that more of you do. The dialogue is sewn well with the panels and action and the story directing is innovative without being “look at me!” cute. Who Is Jake Ellis is smart and stylish.
Check it out and I’ll see you next time here at Busted Knuckles.
The Flying Fist Ranch
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