The first Marvel letters page was in Fantastic Four 3 (Mar 1962). When you think about it, that's pretty soon after Stan made the conscious effort to up his game and do something a bit more engaging than Godzilla rip-off comics. Quoted in Ronin Ro's Tales to Astonish Stan explained that "we had never gotten fan mail, maybe one letter a year about some stupid subject. But all of a sudden we got fan mail from readers saying 'We love this [Fantastic Four] book', 'We can't wait for the next issue'. I knew we were onto something."
|Stan Lee explains what inspired him to start connecting with the Marvel readers |
in that signature humorous, friendly tone. Click on image to enlarge.
While the first letter from future Marvel inker Alan Weiss seems genuine enough, the final letter on the page is from a certain "S. Brodsky" of Brooklyn, New York. Could that be Marvel production guy Sol Brodsky, writing a letter of comment to fill out a page that had fetched up a little short of material?
That trademark Stan Lee light and humorous tone is right there on the very first Marvel Comics letters page. His reply to Alan Weiss reads, "It'll [FF] become a success? What do you think it is now. Chicken liver?? Consider that our artist signs the name JACK KIRBY on everything he can get his greedy little fingers on, I think we can safely claim that that's his name!"
The next FF Fan page looked a little less rushed though no less padded. The "4"s between the letters looked to have been lifted from the FF's uniforms, which was an improvement, but the portrait of Sue Storm looked like it might have been drawn by Stan Lee - Sol Brodsky was a much better artist than that. The padding came in the form of a letter credited to "S. Goldberg" which reads like it was written by Stan himself - Stan Goldberg was the colourist on most of the Marvel titles at the time and also the artist on Millie the Model.
|The third Marvel letters column (the second was in Amazing Adult Fantasy 12, on sale a week earlier than FF4) introduces Stan's idea of plugging other Marvel titles to bring cohesiveness and synergy to the line, by mentioning other Marvel product.|
|I didn't note any later-famous names in the list of contest winners Stan published on the Fantastic Four 6 letters page ... is your name there?|
The letters pages continued in Fantastic Four pretty much along the same lines - without the fake letters, it should be noted - until Stan announced he was doing away with the formal "Dear Editor" salutations and started including announcements peppered throughout the page.
Now all the letters would start with "Dear Stan and Jack" and Stan was explaining to readers how Marvel worked behind the scenes - for example, Marvel had no reserves of Fantastic Four issues 1 - 9 so wouldn't be supplying back issues any longer.
The Fantastic 4 Fan Page in issue 12 (Mar 1963) was also a double page of just letters, but did end with the message that Amazing Spider-Man 1 would be on sale on 10th Dec 1962. From that we can calculate that the Marvel books were on sale a good 11 weeks before their cover date. Add that to the 13 week lead time from sending an issue to the printers, then the gap between the in-house deadline and the issue's cover date is almost six months.
|Announced in Fantastic Four 13 (Apr 1963) - No new members for the Fantastic Four, Iron Man's appearing in Tales of Suspense and The Sub-Mariner returns in the very next issue of FF.|
|A great promotion page from the April 1963 Fantastic Four comic ... |
but darnit, I think I may have missed 'em!
As the Fantastic 4 Fan Page progressed, the Special Announcements Section grew longer. By FF30 (Sep 1964) it was taking up almost half the allotted two-page spread. The bulk of the Announcements were just plugging the other Marvel comics on sale the same month - which included a slew of Annuals - but another change was in the wind.
The letters column in Fantastic Four 33 (Dec 1964) included a table listing all the Marvel titles on sale the same month. With the hard-sell sectioned off in its own area, Stan was freed up to reveal what MMMS stood for, to tell readers that every Marvel mag now had a letters column and that Stan had been elected Best Writer as well as Best Editor of the Year by the Academy of Comic-Book Fans and Collectors.
|As well as boxing off the Mighty Marvel Checklist into its own section, the Fantastic 4 Fan Page in FF33 also had a healthy announcements section. Click on the image to read future Marvel scripter Don McGregor's suggestion that Reed and Sue marry.|
Next: The Marvel Bullpen Page touches down