Remember Letter Columns?

For those of you who collected comics before the internet, do you remember the letter columns at the back of each book? I do and it used to be one of my favorite parts of the comics. 2 to 4 pages of feedback and questions from readers, with actual answers from the editors! In his column today, Augie de Blieck talks about his 15 year run as a letter hack and the fun that was had with letter columns back in the day.

I have to admit, its a well written, thoughtful piece that got me reminiscing about the time I tried to be a letter hack and sent over 20 letters to the Excalibur editorial office. Alas, none were printed.

I totally also read the Savage Dragon letter columns obsessively, mainly for Olav Beemer. Am I the only one? Well aside from Augie?

I have to say, while I love the internet and all its brought us, I do think the death of the letters column is a direct affect of it and I’m not so sure that I’m happy about it. Many comic pros grew from the letters columns (i.e. Kurt Busiek) and the dedication of the letter hacks is not something that equalled by internet trolls. It becomes a discipline issue, I did not have the discipline or patience to be a letter hack, and therefore the quality of my letters did not merit getting printed. While now, anyone can say anything they want online, with no filter. It’s both empowering and frustrating at the same time, in my opinion.


  1. I sent one letter to the Waling Dead last year. The only letter I have ever sent to a comic. It was printed. Luck me?

  2. I LOVED the SAVAGE DRAGON columns!!!!!!!
    Remember when Peter David and Larsen were having that feud!?
    That was BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. I always enjoyed the letter columns in the pre-web days. I think my favorite letter columns were perversely those in Todd McFarlane’s self-written Spider-Man book; I went back and read a few of those issues years after they came out, and it was hilarious to see people writing in, going, “What are you doing to Spider-Man?! Oh, God! Oh God, no!” I had seen positive letters, nitpick letters, no-prize letters… Spider-Man was the first time I had seen letters that were raw expressions of abject horror at the way a book was being done.

    I wrote two letters in my adolescence, one of which was printed in Marvel Age. During the heyday of “Solo Avengers,” I asked why there wasn’t a “Solo X-Men.” So I guess the last ten years have been my fault. Sorry.

    I was sorely tempted to write a letter after the last “Ms. Marvel” arc to explain that it was now impossible to root for the character, but then I thought, “You know? He’s probably considered this already. He may have heard about it from one or two other people.”

  4. Thanks, Ron.

    There are still people out there who think Olav and I are the same person. We have such funny names, after all. I have the proof that we aren’t, though: a pic of me, Olav, and Erik Larsen at a San Diego con a few years back. Good times.

    I did get a letter printed in a Jim Lee issue of adjectiveless X-MEN. That may have been the only letter ever printed in a #1 book of the month, saleswise that I ever had. First trick to letterhacking: Write to the less popular books. Less readers means less letters means a better chance to get printed. Starting at EXCALIBUR might not have been the most advantageous decision. (“His webs — Advantageous!” Sorry, McFlashback there.)

    I wrote that column on Sunday, and I’m still thinking about letterhacking. I might even have enough material for a follow-up column someday.

    Dude – that feud was beautiful. Pages of back-and-forth between the two. You just can’t get that kind of stuff anymore.

  5. Not really sure where to put this but I figured hey this is definitely the geekiest thread going right now so here goes:
    It’s about Second Life the online game or whatever the hell you want to call it. They have their first millionaire. Some woman from China made 1 million real world us dollars for selling virtual real estate in the game world. who the hell pays for fake shit with real money? my god I missed my calling in life

  6. When I was in elementary school, a friend of mine and I wrote a Thor song to the tune of “The Candy Man.” It got in the letter column.

    I got hate mail.:)

  7. Andy, do you still have the lyrics? That sounds like something Fred would like…

  8. HEY

    but ya know, I could make a ransom note style audio clipping version of it

  9. Got my one letter published in Cerebus. I had a smarta$$ question to Dave Sim, and he published it with his own smarta$$ answer…it was great! I bought like every issue i could find. I’m sure that issue had to have spiked on the Diamond list!!!

    Really miss the letters. Anyone here old enough to remember T.M. Maple? He was like in every DC letter column in the 70s-80s. Whatever happened to that guy?

  10. now is the time where we praise the combo of Google and Wikipedia:

    TM Maple was the pseudonym of Jim Burke, a Canadian who wrote more than 3,000 letters to comic book letter columns between 1977 and 1994. His letters were quite popular among readers as well as editors and he wrote prolifically to a diverse number of comic publishing companies and titles.

    Burke originally signed his letters as “The Mad Maple,” but an editor at Marvel Comics abbreviated it to TM Maple to make it sound like a real name, circumventing a new policy at the company to stop printing letters submitted with pseudonyms. Burke took a liking to the new name and began using it exclusively until 1988, when in Zot #21 he revealed his real name.

    Burke published a fanzine about comics in the late ’80s. After he died of a heart attack in 1994, he was eulogized in a number of letter columns published by DC Comics, probably the company he wrote to most prolifically.

  11. T.M. Maple, sadly, passed away in 1994.

    There is a small tribute page to him over here, though:

    I’m jealous of that CEREBUS letter, target. It’s one letters column I would have loved to have been in, looking back.

  12. I got a letter printed in New Avengers in like, issue #8, a little while back. It was when I realized I had crossed the line to super-geek status. Still haven’t told my wife.