More than just a pretty name.

§ December 19th, 2016 § Filed under collecting, legion of super-heroes, letters of comment § 15 Comments

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.

15 Responses to “More than just a pretty name.”

  • Skinslip says:

    I’ve always wanted a collection of pertinent or interesting letters. Especially from prolific letter writers such as T.M. Maple and the like. I still hold out hope that one day such a thing can be possible through the current digital market.

  • Philfromgermany says:

    You ought to track down this Rose Gonzales. 10 minutes in you could look at your reader and say: “I must be in a Daniel Clowes comic!”

  • Bryan Levy says:

    Plug the name into Facebook. I do it all the time with letter column writers from Baltimore.

  • RDaggle says:

    Rose Gonzales?

    This is not the letter writer you are looking for.

  • Nate A. says:

    Maria Gonzales (nee Wooley) was married to Donald Gonzales. Their daughter, Rose Gonzales, later married into the Carpeteria fortune. This was quite the to-do among the Oxnard elite, for it scuttled the long expected alliance between Clan Carpeteria and Clan Worthington (paterfamilias Cal Worthington).

    The heart wants what the heart wants, etc.

  • philip says:

    My hometown is a proverbial stone’s throw from your hometown (hello, Santa Maria). If “Rose Gonzalez” is fictitious, I’m going to guess that whomever made her up found “Oxnard” as funny to say as we all did back then. My apologies for our pre-adolescent senses of humor. Oxnard got me back in the ’80s by making me give all my part-time-job money to various Nardcore bands.

  • Another possibility is that whomever was assembling the letter column also hailed from the Oxnard area and was immediately familiar with the street names. So, very little extra effort required.

  • Rob Staeger says:

    I used to work for a puzzle magazine publisher, and one of the mags ran a sparsely populated lettercol that largely existed as a chance for us to add a couple of quasi-puzzles and brain teasers into the mix. I think all of my college roommates “wrote” a letter or two to the magazine, with maybe their names jumbled a bit for deniability.

  • Once it dawned on me that I could do this, I looked up Irene Vartanoff. Anyone remember how she was writing to every comic back in the 60s?

  • Eric L says:

    My favorite was Uncle Elvis Orten.

  • Eric L says:

    And TM Maple has his own Wikipedia page which I like.

  • Brad says:

    I can’t drive by a certain intersection in Oklahoma without wondering if there ever was an actual Wayne Payne.

  • I corresponded with good ol’ Maple a few times back in the day. We talked about comics, but he was very interested in hearing about Chicago and the other big cities I went to for the writing conventions.

    Anyone remember Danny Fingeroth? We exchanged postcards.

  • Bryan says:

    When I got back into comics 10 years ago, I noticed the name of a woman from my hometown kept popping up in the back issues from the 1980s that I was buying. I did a Google search for her at some point, and Frank Miller listed her name (along with many others) as someone he used as a sounding board for his ideas. I was always sorta impressed by that.

  • BK MUnn says:

    I thought this was going to end with something about Los Bros. I do the same thing with LOCs from Canada in old comics and did have success once in connecting with one fan simply by reposting the letter online where he found his name through google miraculously!

    I, too would love a book collecting fan-turned-pro and other “important” letters from old Marvel + DC columns. T.M Maple has been memorialized with a fan award named after him as part of the Shuster Awards…