Letterhack, Etcetera

I’ve been writing notes to comics’ letterpages on a fairly regular basis for a year or two. Mostly I do this because I realized that while I could write online reviews, I would probably have more of a direct line to the people that make the comics, and thus an ever-so-slightly greater influence on what they make, if I just wrote in directly.

I write about all kinds of things–I happily fan-gush over great issues; I talk about the particular writers and artists on a book; I criticize stuff that should never have been published; I try to point out when characters from marginalized backgrounds, especially women, are used well or used poorly.

I tend to write to Marvel, since that’s the majority of comics I get, but I also make a point of writing to smaller publishers that may get less feedback.

I’ve had six letters published so far: in Fantastic Four vol. 6, #s 12, 25, and 30; Grendel: Devil’s Odyssey #s 3 and 7 (the latter being running across two pages below); and Spider-woman vol. 6, # 5.

My first letter to Fantastic Four resulted in me receiving a No-Prize, the non-award greatly sought after by comic letter writers. It is given to letterhacks who explain why something that seemed to be a continuity mistake was not, in fact, a mistake, thus preserving Marvel’s infallibility. I was all the more excited to get my particular No-Prize, because it was on a Molecule Man-related topic, and Molecule Man is my favorite character.

(In the past, a No-Prize was an empty envelope you got in the mail; now it is a JPG of a photo of an empty envelope, thus being even more of a No Prize than before, which is great.)

One thing I prize about fan culture is the reciprocal connection between creators and the fans. This exists in all kinds of forms, including just talking at cons, but the letterhack tradition is a great one, in my opinion, because it is one of the few opportunities for fans to voice their opinion and have it formally ensconced in the official publication that they are a fan of–i.e., they write about a comic, then their letter gets printed in that comic. Then other fans read it, and it creates further conversation among fans, continuing the cycle. This cycle has additional emotional potency for the fans when one considers that several artists and writers (Jo Duffy, Mark Gruenwald, Frank Miller, Diana Shutz) had letters published in the letters column before they started their professional career.

Connecting my cosplay and overall fandom work, I submitted my Jack of Hearts costume to Marvel’s Costoberfest 2019 online cosplay contest and had it featured in week 4.

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