In 1984, when I was 16 years old, I wrote a letter to John Byrne, then writer/artist of Fantastic Four and Alpha Flight.
February 5, 1984
Dear Mr. Byrne,
I think you are doing a superb job on both Alpha Flight and the Fantastic Four. More and more, you are proving yourself as not only a great artist but a great writer too! Somehow, you are able to find the time to write, pencil and ink two comics while writing another. Not only that, but there is no sign of the strain on your artwork. Both Alpha Flight and the FF look terrific, and since issue 258 of the FF, the art has gotten better each issue (it seemed a little rushed in some of the issues previous to that).
I’m sure you’ve heard all that before, so what I’m writing about is something that I’m not quite so pleased with. My complaint with AF and FF (not The Thing, because I don’t read that title) is your lack of blacks or minorities drawn in their pages. On most scenes of cities that you draw, not one black is shown, and when they are, they are portrayed badly. For instance, FF 256. You show a black man with a large radio held to his ear, and you have him using such words as, “Ain’tcha got no radio, momma?” and, “There’s some bad nastiness goin’ down.” If this is the way blacks appear to you, I think you should look again.
Also, when the FF traveled to the Negative Zone, how come any race of aliens that they came upon always were consistently colored; all the members were yellow, all the members where pink-skinned, etc. And why did the race that looked most human have Caucasian skin? Was that your choice or Glynis Wein’s (the colorist)? To continue, what about Alpha Flight? All the members in Alpha, Beta and Gamma Flights are white! I know you know that there are minorities in Canada; why not one in the comic? Besides Shaman, there is nary a one. How about an East Indian superhero? There are lots of them in Vancouver.
The reason I am writing this letter is that I like the two comics you do. I would like them to be the best they can possibly be, though, and one way to do that is to put in a little more of real life. The earth is multicolored! Thanks for listening and please reply.
— Josh Neufeld
In response, I received Byrne’s Marvel business card. On the flip side, he had scrawled “Best to Josh” and signed it.