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So a while back I mentioned in a footnote to this post that the above comic book, Superboy #208 from April 1975, was the first comic book I ever read featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes. Now, I don’t recall if I read this when it was new (which would be probably January or February 1975, given the usual difference between cover dates and the actual release dates) and I was five years old, or if my original copy was purchased from a used book store a bit later, when I was around, say, seven years old.
Either way, I was quite the young fellow when I was exposed to that weird-ass story where Lightning Lad stepped out of a spaceship left foot first, bad luck on his planet, and ended up losing an arm because of said bad luck! Okay, things weren’t quite what they seemed, but still, that stuck in my head for years, along with several other images and bits of dialogue from this issue that floated around in my brain. I’d long since lost my original copy, but picked up a replacement sometime later at my previous place of employment.
Now, at my current place of employment (being Sterling Silver Comics, located in the heart of lovely Camarillo, CA), I bought another collection of 1970s comics that was heavy on the Superman and Superboy comics. And in this collection was yet another copy of Superboy #208 (said copy scanned and posted above). As I was processing the collection, I did what I sometimes like to do with old comics and glace at the letters page, looking for missives from future comic creators, customers of mine from either shop (more common that you’d think!), or letters from around my local area. I never recalled doing this with my own copy of #208, so I went ahead and checked this copy, and wouldn’t you know it, there’s a letter from someone from my own hometown:
…and that’s pretty neat an’ all, but I started thinking. As I recall, perhaps not every letter that appeared in these old comics were, shall we say, on the up-and-up. As in, “not actually written and sent in by real readers.” Whether it was just to fill up space, or to lead into a plug for other comics, or whatever, sometimes there was a little fudging of the truth in those letter columns. (I don’t know if the practice continues today, though in the ’90s a pal had a letter printed in a particular superhero comic that was edited from being critical to being quite praising, so there were still shenanigans of some sort going on.)
Anyway, this only comes to mind because two of the main drags in Oxnard, California are “Rose Avenue” and “Gonzales Road,” which actually intersect not too far from where I’m living now. Now, “Rose Gonzales” is hardly a rare or unusual name or anything, but that certainly seemed like quite the coincidence, like someone needed a name to attach to a letter (or a seeming excerpt from a letter), whipped out the Book o’Maps, picked “Oxnard” for the letter writer’s city, and picked out a couple street names to comprise the name as a gag. (I regularly spot letters with “Oxnard” or nearby “Ventura” addresses in ’60s and ’70s comics, so I imagine the city names were at least somewhat familiar to some editors.)
Now I have no idea if that’s what happened…granted, seems like a lot of work just to create authenticity for a line or two of inconsequential text to fill space in a layout. Could just as easily been “Mary Smith of New York” and it’s not like anyone was going to check. And I certainly can’t check now, as anyone involved in the editorial process here is either, um, departed, or not going to want to take any calls from a dude asking about 40-year-old letter columns they don’t remember.
I just thought it was an oddly interesting thing to note in this old comic that I have strong nostalgic feelings for…that now has an even stronger connection with its ties, real or spurious, to my hometown.
From the letters page of House of Mystery #266 (March 1979) comes an missive from a fan to the House of Mystery’s horror host Cain, inquiring about the decades-later existence of Sandman, The Dreaming, Justice League Dark, select issues of Swamp Thing, etc.:
Well, okay, maybe those books aren’t exactly
what he was asking for…but hey, close enough.
No, not this “Dr. Supernatural” chump:
I’m talking EXECUTION BUZZARD:
Well, that certainly seems entirely practical.
On a different note, an important question is asked and answered on this issue’s letters page:
Mr. Editor, I believe Mr. Brando-El begs to differ:
images from Action Comics #330 (November 1965) – cover by Curt Swan & George Klein
A letter from DC Comics’ World’s Finest
#192 published in March 1970, a few years before Marvel Comics put out What If?
#1, cover-dated February 1977.
I’m trying to picture this issue of What If? with those other titles. “Conan…walking the Earth of today? IMAGINE THAT!” Or “What’s NOT Happening? Any more Conan comics from Marvel!” Or, you know, something like that.
I also like the implication in the editor’s reply that the only thing keeping them from publishing an ongoing Imaginary Stories series is the inability to decide on a title. “Gee, we’d like to, James C., but we here at 909 Third Avenue can’t settle on a name. Imagine That? No, no…. Wait, how ’bout…Just Imagine? …Nah, who’d buy that?”
…The writer goes on to say that, since the Phantom Zone villains can see everything that goes on in the material world and therefore they should know Superman is Clark Kent, why wouldn’t they pass that info on, somehow, to another Earth-bound villain who could wreak some havoc on the Man of Steel.
Which of course brings up the fact that the Phantom Zone villains, while trapped unseen in that other dimension, could see into the real world, and why they wouldn’t, say, hang around Lois Lane’s boudoir and later taunt Superman with that knowledge. “HA HA we saw your girlfriend naked!” “Why, you…SHUT UP, YOU VILLAINS!” “HA HA look he’s all mad!”
I figure Superman probably walked around with some low level of paranoia dogging his every action, wondering if, while he’s using the restroom, or digging for some super-boogers, there’s Jax-Ur, hovering invisibly in a ghostly world, staring directly at him, observing everything and smirking all the while.
letter from Superman #211 (November 1968)…also, the editorial response was that the PZ villains did try, but “the crook just went to a psychiatrist and complained of hearing voices in his head, saying the most ridiculous things!”
So a couple of weeks ago I was talking about a Sugar and Spike story dedicated to “Nugget Pete,” a 90-something year old gent who’d been writing in and requesting an S&S story featuring Native Americans.
Well, longtime Ruinite C. Elam popped into the comments on that post to drop in a couple of message board links giving us a little more detail on Mr. N. Pete. Those message board entries were made only days after my own initial posting, so clearly the Nugget Pete zeitgeist was making its way across the comics nerdinet.
The first features a Sugar and Spike letter column containing what seems to be Nugget Pete’s first letter to the series, written back when Pete was but a strapping young lad of 87. And, sure enough, he’s asking for stories with Native Americans. “I suggest you put in something about cowboys and Indians – That never hurt a magazine yet.” …Words to live by!
The second link has another S&S letter column, this time from another fan (this one only 75 years old!) referring back to Nugget Pete’s letter and wondering if that was any inspiration for the grandpa/cowboy character Shelly Mayer introduced into the S&S strip. Mayer’s response, paraphrased: “yeah, probably.”
Anyway, that was a nice follow-up to what was (to me, anyway) an interesting tidbit of funnybook history. Thanks, C. Elam, for pointing that out to me!
From the letter column for Star Spangled War Stories #126 (April-May 1966):
“RK” being “Robert Kanigher,” natch. (Fake letter run to help dissuade similar letters from pouring in, or real reader comment pulled out and used as a lesson in what editors don’t
want to see? No idea.)
From the same issue, an in-house ad that, I can only assume, resulted in the highest sales ever for any issue of Metal Men:
I vote “hotcha.” I mean, who doesn’t
While the “me am Superbaby!” talk is a little annoying, granted:
…that seems like something of an…extreme response.
BONUS: by using this particular standard:
…count the number of civilized men at the San Diego Comic Con. I suspect there will be an equal number of headbands and neckties.
And now, from Swamp Thing #8 (Jan-Feb 1974), my favorite letter of comment from a Swamp Thing letters page:
From the letters column in Challengers of the Unknown #86 (April-May 1978):
The editorial reply:
Well, I don’t know about you, but I’d totally be in favor of an “Adventures of Alec Holland” series. In fact, in a way it looks like we might be getting a little bit of that in next week’s final issue of that one series I don’t want to spoil by mentioning that Swamp Thing may or may not have made an appearance in the previous issue.
We’ve had the occasional Alec Holland adventure in the various Swamp Thing titles, usually when he reverts (or imagines he reverts) to human form, like in the last issue of his original series and the couple of Challengers of the Unknown issues which followed up on those plot threads.
And then there was this, Alec Holland’s one and (I think) only appearance in the DC Animated Universe comics, from Batman Adventures Vol. 2 #16 by Ty Templeton, Rick Burchett and Terry Beatty:
Alas, at no time was there an animated universe Swamp Thing to go with our animated universe Alec Holland, aside from some sneaky cameos in the Justice League
As an aside…there sure were a lot of typos in that Challengers letters column. In the scans you can see “there” used in place of “their,” and “permanently” spelled “perminately.” Not shown: “November” spelled “Nobember.” By the way, I was going back through some of my older posts as I was writing this and quickly spotted several typos of my own, so I’m not taking the high road, here.
And if I may quibble a bit with the original letter writer’s point…Holland didn’t spend “his whole life looking like that.” Even in real world time, as opposed to however much time allegedly passed in the comics, Holland had only been Swamp Thing for about six years at that point. So let’s not exaggerate, Guy Who Wrote in to Challengers of the Unknown 30-Plus Years Ago!
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