Friday, March 22, 2019

My Vinegary Letter to The Comics Journal in 1981

The Comics Journal began humbly as an adzine with little-if-any editorial content but it rose to be a major source of comics-related information from the late 1970s through the 1990s and maybe slightly beyond.

TCJ 63 dated May of 1981, for example, included long-form interviews with Steve Englehart and Wendy Pini and it also featured fiction by Harlan Ellison with illustrations by Gil Kane! Not bad! Most issues of TCJ were standard magazine thickness but the above squarebound issue reported in with 336 pages, slightly akin to a phone book.

Every issue of TCJ had a lively and long letters column titled Blood & Thunder. I have chosen issue 63 in particular to show you because that issue features a letter to the editor written by me. I was particularly proud that they ran mine in the pole position of very-first-letter that issue. The editor gave my missive the heading "NOT LETTERS TO THE EDITOR" and here's what I wrote:

For over 20 issues I've been reading and disliking the letters to the editor that you print, but only yesterday did I consciously realize the reason for this disliking.

The whole problem stems fro the fact that they are not "letters to the editor." What are they then, you ask.

Well, half of them speak directly to the reader, which makes them letters to the reader, not the editor. The writers of these letters have taken it upon themselves to presume that their letter will be printed, and so take the liberty of making the letter sound like an article.

The other half of them are written by your staff writers, and so cannot properly be considered letters to the editor. Seeing Martin Pasko's tirade appear as a letter to the editorand then seeing the very Pasko himself answering other people's letters made my eyes feel tremendously silly(the tirade in question might have more reasonably be billed as an introduction to those subsequent letters).

The other half are not so much letters as theses, whose authors are bent on convincing the editor/the reader/themselves that they know a whole lot about comics and that they drink vinegar for breakfast.

I could tell you about the other half of the letters, but I'll restrain myself. I will blurt out, though, that some other fraction of them are written by pros just for the sake of being written by pros. Again, an integral part of  a letter to the editor is the chance that it will not be printed, but from the look of things, any old pro who writes a letter to you (no matter how many times, I might add) is guaranteed publication.

I cannot bring myself to be as negative as most of your letter-to-the-editor writers are, so I will concede that the other half of the letters that you print are in fact perfect examples of what letters to the editor should be like. No unlike this one.

The Comics Journal has not published a print edition for a few years now but it does maintain a quiet online presence.

(The Hayfamzone Blog thanks John Stangeland of Atlas Comics for generously loaning out his copy of TCJ 63 which paved the way for the above transcription.)


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