Sunday, January 21, 2007

An Experiment in the Hayfamzone, Part One

The character of Jonah Hex first appeared in issue 10 of All-Star Western in 1972. That comic book changed its name to Weird Western Tales with issue 12 and Jonah Hex was featured through issue 38 when he would spin off into his own comic book while the anchor spot WWT would be turned over to Scalphunter.

The title of the letter column in Weird Western Tales was, of all things, "Weird Western Mails." The new Jonah Hex comic book would be needing a title for its own letter column (yes kids, practically every comic had a letters page in the old days!). Soomebody wrote in and suggested the very organic "Via Pony Express" and the editor inaugurated that as the lettercol title immediately. Now, do you suppose you are acquainted with this title-suggester? YES, YOU ARE! IT WAS ME!

When DC Comics Presents was starting up and featuring Superman team-ups with other heroes every issue, I wrote in to suggest "Star Spangled Salvos" as a nod to a great Golden Age anthology superhero title. The editor did not take my suggestion on that one but should have, as my proposal was much better than what wound up getting picked (although I have by this time forgotten what that was, without regret).

Anyway, my point is that I used to write letters to the editors of comics in my younger days. You can find letters by me printed in Rampaging Hulk issues 13 and 15, and in Unknown Soldier 233, and in Unexpected 196, and in a handful of others. There was something I liked better than writing letters to the editor, though, and that was writing letters to artists. Let me give you an example.

When DC Super-Stars #12 came out in late 1976, it floored me. It featured a Superboy story and cover drawn by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson, and it was stunningly beautiful. The team of Swan and Anderson is one of my favorite penciller/inker pairings in all of comics history (although I can't stop myself from self-interrupting to tell you that my TOP favorite art team of all time is Jack Kirby and Mike Royer), but they hadn't worked together for about three years at that time. And Curt Swan hadn't drawn any covers at all for five or more years previous. So for a couple of reasons I was crazy about that issue. Click here if you'd like a reminder of what that Superboy cover looked like, but be sure to come right back!

Instead of just writing a letter to the editor to say how great I thought everything was about that issue, I decided to write to Curt Swan himself! I gushed and gushed and wrote how I wished he would draw covers regularly again. I addressed the letter to Mr. Swan in care of DC Comics, and proceeded to go about my business.

I don't think I had written with the expectation of being written back to; I think I just wanted to let a fine artisan know that his craftsmanship was not only appreciated but highly valued. It turned out that in fact Mr. Swan did write back to me, and I could tell from his missive that he was a very kind man. He graciously thanked me for the lavish praise I had heaped upon him, and he explained that cutting back to drawing very few covers had been his choice because otherwise he would have to regularly travel into New York City from his home (which I think I recall was in Connecticut) and he preferred not to do that. This fine letter from this wonderful gentleman was delightfully hand-printed in comics-appropriate all-capital letters, and I unfold it and read it every few years as a special treat for myself.

Hold on tight now as we fast-forward to the present day.

Here in the Hayfamzone Blog, a bottomless reservoir of positivity, we try to make a point of highlighting the best and brightest to be found in comics in our humble little articles. And lately I've started thinking, why not inform the best and brightest that they've been made a point of? So I like to print a hard copy of an article and send it to the individual(s) that I spoke highly of in that article. Is this a bad thing? Isn't this pretty much the same intention as when I wrote my letter to Mr. Curt Swan?

Imagine my surprise then when one of these recent Hayfamzone Letters was returned to me in the sense of "Return to Sender." I had addressed the letter to an individual in care of the company that the individual currently works for exclusively. Instead of forwarding this harmless little letter to the appropriate party, however, someone on the receiving end took a big black marker and darkened out the entire name and address area of the envelope; my return address sticker and the postage stamp were the only pieces of information left unobscured by Marker-Crazy, and the essentially-refused piece of mail was returned to me.

Just for good fun and potential blogability I'm going to send my Hayfamzone Letter to this individual again, although this time more pointedly than just in care of a company. Will it be delivered this time, or will blackouts once again rule the day? Forgive me for not specifying any details yet, but I will report back to you in the future and spill every bean at that time. Wish me well!


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