Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Marvel Age Of Postcards

(C) 2018 Luke T. Bush    01/30/18

(Click on each image to enlarge.)

Way back in the early 1960s a small comic book company in New York City was shifting from monster on the loose/SF/fantasy tales to superheroes.  When the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man burst on the scene only a few worked for Marvel: it was like a family business.  The company grew over the decades and now is a key member of the Disney empire.

From the beginning Marvel presented itself in a more personal manner, letting you to get to know its creative team, the Bullpen.  Unlike somewhat stodgy DC comics Marvel was looser: its people had nicknames like "Smilin'" Stan Lee and Jack "King" Kirby.  

Beyond featuring letter columns in its titles Marvel also reached out to its growing audience by replying to fan letters with postcards.  Recently I dug out my Marvel postcards from when I was nine years old and took a second look at them.  (Only 4¢ to mail a postcard?  Then again comic books were only 12¢ in those days.)

One postcard addressed issues I had raised about Spider-Man.  If Spider-Man gained his powers from a spider (albeit a radioactive one) did he have poison in his system?    Also, Peter Parker wore glasses so how did he deal with his limited eyesight when he went into action as Spider-Man?  (Being a nearsighted fan boy that question easily popped into my mind.) 

Now this was in the early days when Marvel Comics had to deal with such issues on the fly.  (Also periods were never used in dialogue, just exclamation points!)  Responding to my questions Marvel wrote:

Hi Luke..Spider-Man didn't obtain the powers of a spider with poison!  Also, his eyesight increases when he has his mask on due to spider powers!  Nice to hear from you!

Thanks to the miracle of Google I found this detail at one arachnid-centric site:

As for the number of non-venomous spiders, all spiders use venom to kill their food but, in most species this venom is only harmful to their food (insects and some mammals, birds and reptiles).   LINK: http://arachnophiliac.info/burrow/how_many_spiders.htm

Oh well, sometimes there's a conflict between science fact and science fiction.

As for the eyeglasses that Peter wore in the earliest Spider-Man comics it was revealed that he decided he didn't need them after they fell off and broke on the ground.  So his eyesight had improved after his radioactive spider bite and he wore the glasses out of habit.  There's an anecdote that someone said Peter looked like Clark Kent (Superman) and so the glasses had to go.

My postcards are signed "Stan & Jack" or "Stan & Steve" but the signatures look all the same.  I had read Marvel's secretary at that time, "Fabulous" Flo Steinberg, replied to the fan mail.  Besides using a typewriter for responses I suspect she also inked the signatures on the behalf of the Bullpren.. It was sad to hear she died last year from a brain aneurysm and metastatic lung cancer.

I wonder what it was like for her to deal with goofy fan letters from young readers like me.  In photographs Flo always had a smile.  I imagine reading fan mail added more smiles in her life.

No comments: