From Fanboys to Pros

Comics, Geek

When I was a teenage cartoonist, my greatest ambition was to make it to the big time, as a penciler for Teen Titans or X-Men. The next best thing, though, was to get a fan letter printed in either of those books. Back then, the letter pages allowed fans to share their thoughts, not only about the comics but about their own lives. Much like today’s online forums, the lettercol were vibrant communities that made readers like myself feel more connected to the characters — and creators — we followed each month.

I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone that many industry veterans — folks like Kurt Busiek, Todd McFarlane, Dave Sim; and even alt-comix names like Eric Reynolds and James Kochalka — got their start as “fanboys” too. Over the years, I’ve put together a sampling of real letters to comics’ mailbags from comics professionals during their amateur letterhack days. It’s a long page, and true to my obsessive tendencies, is both chronlogical and alphabetical. Look for your favorite (or most hated) creator, and click on their name to find the comment in question. The letters make for amusing/informative reading, especially given the work many of these later-to-be pro’s ended up doing themselves.

The letters are mostly culled from my own collection, as well as a few contributions from outside sources. So if you’ve got a letter I don’t have, feel free to email it to me and I’ll add it to the collection.

Check out “From Fanboys to Pros” here ->>

P.S. As I got older, I lost interest in crafting superhero tales, but I did have the satisfaction of getting a couple of letters printed, in “Titans Tower” — not that I had anything particularly insightful to say…

1984 Letter to John Byrne

Comics, Geek

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.