Monday, 27 January 2014

KID'S MIGHTY MARVEL MAILBAG...


Image copyright MARVEL COMICS

For those who may be interested, I finally managed to find
the photocopy of my letter published in The MIGHTY WORLD
Of MARVEL back in 1977 - so, as promised, here it is.  I'd forgot-
ten the number, but I also uncovered a copy of a later letters page 
eply which identified the particular issue - #226.  Now all I need
to do is discover in which number the reply was published
and I'll be a very satisfied man.

Unfortunately, the copy of my missive is far too faded to re-
produce well, but I managed to discern what it said and retyped
it so you can read what my younger self was saying in 1977.

******

TOO REAL?

                Dear Marvel,

                It is well-known by comic fans today that Marvel is the world's largest
                and most popular comic book publishing company compared with all
                the other companies in this field of artistic endeavour.  It is also well-
                known that Marvel characters are supposed to be more realistic than
                characters portrayed by competitors.  In Marvel the characters have
                money problems, romantic hang-ups, feelings of inadequacy, vanity,
                jealousy, fear, etc.  In Stan Lee's best-selling book, "Origins of Marvel
                Comics" he comments about the role comic books play in our society 
                today.  He says, "Or call it (the comic book medium) perhaps a rem-
                edy, a pictorial tonic to relieve the awesome affliction that threatens
                us all, the endlessly spreading virus of too much reality in a world
                that is losing its legends, a world that has lost its heroes."

                Well, it is my opinion that "the endlessly spreading virus of too much
                reality" has finally infected the media which was originally created to
                provide an escape from it.  Or, if you prefer, to offer relievement from
                it.  Let me digress for a moment.  You meet a friend who has just been to
                the cinema and when he starts to relate how the hero, who was wrongly
                imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit, escapes from jail, overpowers
                two guards, hijacks a truck and finally brings the real criminal to
                justice, you immediately think it's a film worth going to see.

                But what happens when you see the film and find out that this action
                only takes up forty minutes out of two and a half hours viewing time,
                and that the rest of the film is concerned with the hero's mother taking
                a heart attack, his father running off with the next-door neighbour's
                wife, his brother joining the army, someone feeding poisoned milk to
                his cat and finally strangling his budgie?  You'd probably go looking
                for your friend with a double-barrelled shotgun.

                Now, if that was reversed, and there was two hours of exciting car
                chases, cliffhanger exploits and other death-defying feats, with the
                hero's personal  life only taking up a half-hour scattered throughout
                the picture, then perhaps you'd think it was a really enjoyable picture,
                and you'd  probably invite your friend out for a drink the next time
                you meet him.

                And now, in case you're wondering what all this has to do with Marvel
                comics, I'll explain.  It used to be, in Marvel, that the story was con-
                cerned with the hero trying to capture the villain who set out intriguing
                traps, made sinister schemes and plotted the hero's downfall.  Occasion-
                ally, the personal lives of the characters would be hinted at in order to
                inform the reader that, although it was a superhero mag, the people in
                it were normal, with faults and follies the same as we ourselves.

                Nowadays, I have noticed a growing tendency in your mags (especially
                American) to have the story centered  around the heroes' personal lives,
                with an odd super-villain or two thrown in to provide a bit of action, and
                to remind us we're reading about superheroes.  Don't misunderstand me,
                I'm not saying cut out private lives altogether, all I'm asking is don't play
                them up so much.  A bit of soap-opera is okay once in a while in an odd
                magazine or two, but when you pick up at least ten or twelve mags
                regularly every month and you read nothing but  "O Henry" type of
                stuff, it gets kind of boring.  After all, what would YOU rather watch,
                a James Bond movie or "Crossroads"?

                                                                                                                             Gordon Robson,
                                                                                                                        Glasgow, Scotland.

                We-e-e-ll, from time to time we've had criticism tossed at us, hurled
                at us or gently pushed across the table at us.  But to you, Gordon,
                goes the distinction of being the very first critic to suggest that we
                have too much REALISM in the mags.  That "realism" is one of the
                cornerstones of Marvel.  How do we defend it without defending
                Marvel itself?  So at this stage we're gonna wait for the reaction
                from Marveldom.

******

And here's the reply from LANCE HANSON a few issues later::

BACK TO REALITY

                Dear Sir (and Gordon Robson),

                I absolutely disagree with Gordon Robson's letter in MWOM 226
                about comics having "too much reality".  He wrote, "Which would
                you rather watch, a James Bond movie or Crossroads?"  I would
                watch  James Bond.

                Well, it is my opinion that "the endlessly spreading virus of too
                much reality has finally infected the media which was originally
                created to provide an escape from it, " he wrote.  Very silly.  If I
                wanted laughable comics I would buy them.  But I don't, I buy
                comics to think about what I am reading.  I buy my comics for
                reality.

                If Mr. Robson wanted reality in Marvel, why not buy "Howard
                the Duck"?  Take peter Parker, student at a university.  The death
                of Gwen Stacy shook him, but he soon got out of it..  His friendships
                and hardships with Mary Jane Watson.  His super-hero career does
                not affect him in any way.

                Gordon, make a choice.  Either take a risk of embarrassment and
                read "Funny" comics or read comics filled with signs of reality.
                Think it over again.  You might feel differently.

                                                                                                                                 Lance Hanson,
                                                                                                                   Dudley, W. Midlands. 

I'm sure I replied to Lance's letter, but no longer recall whether
it was published or not.  Going by his response to my James Bond
comparison, it seems plain that he didn't quite get what I was saying.
In fact, I'm far from convinced that he quite got what he was saying
either, as his logic lacks cohesion, based, as it is, on a misunder-
standing of my basic point.

Looking at my letter all these years later, I can only wonder why
I used an obsolete word like 'relievement' instead of 'relief', but apart
from that (and using the word 'media' instead of 'medium'), it wasn't
too bad, considering.  So, how do I wrap this up?  Ah, I know...
"Make Mine Marvel!"

******

UPDATE:  Since first posting this, I've now acquired a
replacement copy of the actual issue.  It's like holding a little piece
of history in my hands, which helps roll back the years to 1977 as if
it were only a couple or so years back.  Incidentally, I now realise why
the photocopy of my letter was so faded - the letter itself as printed
in the comic wasn't too sharp to begin with.  Still good to have the
'original' back in my possession 'though.

4 comments:

mlp said...

I only wrote one letter to Marvel Comics, back in the early '80s when I was 13 or so, and holy moly, it got printed!
But unfortunately, my hand writing was so bad that they couldn't read it clearly, and both my name and my hometown got garbled and misspelled in the letters section!
Like Dean Martin sang, 'Ain't that a kick in the head!"

Kid said...

I think I had at least three, possibly four letters printed back in the '70s, Mlp. Funnily enough, I've probably had more printed in the last few years. That's persistence for you.

Colin Jones said...

Were all the letters that intelligent and thoughtful? Whenever I've thought about the letters pages from those days(which is not very often) I've assumed the letters were all a bit juvenile,"I like Spidey because..." sort of thing. Actually, one thing that bugged me about Star Trek:The Next Generation was that it was a bit too soap opera-ish and concerned with the crew's private lives unlike the original Trek where the sci-fi adventures were the important thing.As for getting letters printed, I had one in the Radio Times in July 1984 but it wasn't very interesting and I was a bit embarrassed by it, I was 18 at the time and it looked horribly immature compared to the other letters. It was a hell of a shock when I got a postcard from RT saying they were printing it though! I also had a letter in SFX magazine last year and an email read out on Radio 4 - what an honour!

Kid said...

Looking at my letter now, Colin, it seems a bit laboured and over-long. I could probably have made the same point with less than half the words. Surprisingly, there were quite a few intelligent letters - a lot of them by Mike Mittelstadt, who was a regular contributor to the Mighty Marvel Missives in the mid-'70s. Glad to hear you've also had your name in print - I still get a thrill when it happens to me.

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