I’ve mentioned on occasion that I consider myself to be something of a comic book geek. It’s not a label I pin to my chest for all the world to see on a daily basis. Though, if it was a fact that I was trying to hide, I certainly wouldn’t publish it on a blog that anyone in the world can have access to. I’ve been a fan of Superman comics since I was a kid and I don’t care who knows it.
That being said, I’ve noticed changes in the comic books over the years. The most obvious change would be the price tag. Why, back in my day, a kid could pick up a copy of Action Comics at the 7-Eleven for pocket change. When I was old enough to walk to the convenience store to get my own comic books, the going rate was 75 cents. When Dad was a kid, they went for a quarter. These days, a cheap comic book is $2.99. It’s kind of ridiculous.
The way they print comics has changed, too. They’re printed to last longer as collector’s items. While the first issue of Action Comics may have sold for ten cents, it’s certainly worth a whole lot more today. But it’s a rare thing to find a copy of that first appearance of the Man of Steel in decent condition. Back then, the comic books were printed on some pretty cheap newsprint paper. Now the quality of these things has risen quite a bit, so the cost has risen with them.
But price isn’t the change on which I want to focus. As a kid, I always got a kick out of reaching the end of a particular issue and then reading the letters column on the last page. Sometimes the letters were entertaining. Sometimes the letters were boring. Sometimes the letters were from obsessive people who pointed out nitpicky little continuity problems that a 10 year old kid couldn’t possibly understand. Little did that 10 year old know that he would grow up into the kind of person who could easily find those nitpicky little problems in continuity. It’s a little sad, I know.
Over the decades, those letter columns seem to have disappeared from a lot of titles. I know there are some that still like to print what their fans are sending them in the mail (do they use mail anymore?). These days, I’ll get the occasional digital copy of comic books, and the only one I’ve noticed that still prints fan letters is The Walking Dead. It could be that I’m complaining about something that’s only limited to DC Comics, since those are the characters I’m primarily familiar with.
I’m not sure when DC decided to stop printing the letters they’ve received. I have no doubt that they’ve continued receiving letters from fans. It could be that at some point in the late 90s, the powers that be at DC Comics made some poor creative decisions and the fans weren’t happy. Maybe they started getting more negative feedback than positive, so they felt the need to show off those letters was somewhat lessened. Actually, I wouldn’t know if the comics in those days were good or bad. Believe it or not, I stopped collecting for a number of years while I was in college and for a while after.
But then I got back into the swing of things for a few years. I liked catching up from month to month with the goings on of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and their fellow Justice Leaguers. But when I got back into the comics, I wasn’t able to catch up on what the fans were thinking because their letters weren’t being printed in the backs of the comics anymore.
I know what the argument now could be: Thanks to the internet, we can just go to DC Comics’ website and read the message boards. Sure, that’s true. But a blurb on a message board just isn’t the same as when someone takes the time to think about what they want to write while crafting a serious letter. Any irate fool can tweet whatever they want at the drop of a hat with no more meaning behind it than an emotional outburst.
When I was a kid, I wrote one letter to the writers of Superman. Maybe I was a touch OCD, but I took my time writing that letter. I think I even went through a couple drafts. My thinking at the time was, Maybe they’ll print it in the back of the book. I want this to be really good, just in case. And sure enough, they published my letter in the back of Superman (vol. 2) #103. Felt pretty good about myself when I saw my name back there with the other letters. The editor even wrote a short response under what I wrote.
I’m not saying all this as an impassioned plea to the editors of DC Comics to reinstate the letters page in the back. I’m just saying it’s something I miss. Just like I miss paying only 75 cents for an issue of Action Comics.