A few notes on the letters pages. First of all, did any of you read them? I never did. So for all we know, the only person who cared enough to read them may have been Jack Kirby, and that was after they were printed because Jack had no control of the letters column. And if you did read them, did they effect your experience? They come at the end of the book so they are the last thing you see. Did anyone read them and think, “Man, I agree with these guys who thinks the new Kirby books suck, and I disagree with all these Kirby Kultists who are praising Kirby’s krap?”Or vice versa?
All I can say is that if anyone did read these letters columns, surely they had to detect some serious Kirby kriticims from amongst the True Believers. And sorry how I started the word “criticism” above with a “k” that’s an inside joke — Jack’s kritiks love to kreate disrespektful names for Jack, his work, and his fans that start with “ks”. They are kcreative. I think it’s safe to say that with these letters pages we are literally seeing the beginning of what I’ll call the archetypal Kirby Critic (I’m not going to use a “k” for critic because that’s kinfantile). Their basic credo is: “Everything Jack did without Stan Lee sucked, because Lee was a genius.”
Okay, let’s look at this. I’m hoping whoever was running Marvel had taken a moment to read the letters page at this point to see what the hired-help was up to. Apparently not…
The first letter writer wants more color variation on the covers. Uh… okay. At least he’s not slamming the writer/artist/editor of the book. Second letter? The letter writer say’s when Jack took over Captain America he was “to say the least — disappointed.” So this guy isn’t just disappointed, that’s the least he can say. The rest is typical fanboy bleating, sort of like all the losers who whine about how awful George Lusas’ Star Wars movies are. And as I’ve said throughout this series on the Cap letters pages, I wasn’t a huge fan of Jack’s 70s stuff either because I was a geek who liked Fantastic Four and Hulk, but I still contend the letters page is not the place for this. Every month for about 5 months in a row now Marvel has been publishing these letters slamming Jack. Why in the @#$% would anybody buy the next issue? If Stan Lee had published these kinds of letters in his letters pages slamming himself in his bullpen bulletins, I bet Goodman would’ve booted him out the door.
And of course after the second letter slams Jack, the letter writer ends it with, “I hope you pay attention to all the suggestions you receive…” The Marvel Staffer gushes, “We do Russ! We do indeed!” Who is “we?” It certainly ain’t Jack — he isn’t seeing or approving any of these letters.
The third letter is very sweet: the letter writer apologizes for being overly critical of Jack, and announces amongst other criticisms that Jack has “improved.” How nice of him. 40 years in the business and this guy feels Jack finally improved.
Clearly these letters are pro-Stan Lee propaganda: “Kirby comics were great with Lee adding text; with Kirby adding text they suck.” And again this letter is addressed directly to Jack, but remember some glorified Marvel intern is answering and selecting the letters to publish. Not Jack.
The final letter writer doesn’t like the “Let’s Rap with Cap” title. Well, at least maybe he enjoyed Jack’s work. The intern responding to the letters asks “Marveldom Assembled” to come up with a better name.
So one reader wants more colors on the cover, one reader wants a new name for the letters column, and two readers think Jack sucks. Great way to promote a comic book and encourage people to invest in the next issue. Great way to treat the guy who built the Marvel empire.
I tell you one thing, if I had been some lonely geek who cared what other comic book nerds thought about comics and I had read these letters pages? I would have been convinced Jack sucked and I would have stopped buying the books. I would have written a letter myself and begged Marvel to fire Jack, and hire guys like Russ Pass or Mathew Kraps because clearly they knew a lot more about comic book writing than the likes of Jack Kirby. And who even knows if all these letter writers are real people, I’ve heard rumors some of these letters were written by Marvel staffers themselves, hell bent on getting rid of Jack.