The world of comic books is made up of two separate but equally important groups: the people who work in comics and the fans who read them. Sometimes, members of the latter group cross over and end up working in the industry. And occasionally, in the letter columns of back issues, one can find fan letters written by these readers-turned-pros. These are their stories. (Apologies to Law & Order.)
It’s been almost four years (!) since I last explored this feature, but some time spent sifting through a box of assorted back issue picked up at a flea market brought me back to a bunch of letter pages, and to a couple of pre-pro fan letters. The last time I wrote about these little lettercol treasures, we visited with Astro City writer Kurt Busiek long before he broke into the comics industry. This time, his Astro City artistic collaborator steps into the “Letter Bugs” spotlight.
In Captain Marvel #36 (cover dated January 1975), a letter from a certain Brent E. Anderson laments what he perceived (correctly) to be the end of the Jim Starlin run on the title in issue #34…
Eye on Comics emailed the esteemed artist to double-check if the Brent Anderson in question was actually him. He confirmed it, and offered a story about the letter.
“Yup, dat wuz me! I was working at the San Jose Comic Art Store in San Jose, Calif., and made a bet with my friends that I could write a ‘Marvel letter’ that was all but guaranteed to get printed, and I won the bet,” he wrote in an email. “No money, just the prestige in getting it published in a great title.”
The next letter from a comics reader who would later become a comics professional didn’t need verification. The name is so distinct, it could have only been the real deal. I’m speaking of cartoonist Fred Hembeck, who had some thoughts about Superman #305, which were published in Superman #309 (cover dated March 1977) in that issue’s letter column (dubbed “Metropolis Mailbag”)…
Apparently, it wouldn’t take long for him to make the transition from fan to professional, as his “Hembeck” comic strips started appearing in the back of various DC titles just two years later. These days, you can find him selling a varied assortment of sketch cards on eBay in his distinct and incredibly amusing style. I’ve always wanted to get one of those original “Hembeck” strips that ran in DC’s Daily Planet promo pages, but I’ve never seen one for sale.
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