I've mentioned on occasion that I consider myself to be something of a comic book geek. It's not a label I pin to my chest for all the world to see on a daily basis. Though, if it was a fact that I was trying to hide, I certainly wouldn't publish it on a blog that anyone in the world can have access to. I've been reading Superman comics since I was a kid and I don't care who knows it.
That being said, I've noticed changes in the comic books over the years. The most obvious change would be the price tag. Why, back in my day, a kid could pick up a copy of Action Comics at the 7-Eleven for pocket change. When I was old enough to walk to the convenience store to get my own comic books, the going rate was 75-cents. When Dad was a kid, they went for a quarter. These days, a cheap comic book is $2.99. It's kind of ridiculous.
The way they print the comics has changed too. They're printed to last longer as collector's items. While the first issue of Action Comics may have sold for 10-cents, it's certainly worth a whole lot more today. But it's a rare thing to find a copy of that first appearance of Superman in decent condition. Back then, the comic books were printed on some pretty cheap newsprint paper. Now the quality of these things has risen quite a bit, so the cost has risen with them.
But price isn't the change on which I want to focus. As a kid, I always got a kick out of reaching the end of a particular issue and then reading the letters column on the last page. Sometimes the letters were entertaining. Sometimes the letters were boring. Sometimes the letters were from obsessive people who pointed out nitpicky little continuity problems that a 10-year-old kid couldn't possibly understand. Little did that 10-year-old know that he would grow up into the kind of person who could easily find those nitpicky little problems in continuity. It's a little sad, I know.
Over the decades, those letter columns seem to have disappeared. I'm sure there are some titles that still like to print what their fans are sending them in the mail (if they even use mail anymore). The only comic book I get these days that still likes to show off those letters is Dark Horse's Buffy Season 8. It could be that I'm complaining about something that's only limited to DC Comics, since those are the characters I primarily follow.
I'm not sure when DC decided to stop printing the letters they received. I have no doubt that they've continued receiving letters from fans. It could be that at some point in the late 90s, the powers that be at DC Comics made some poor creative decisions and the fans weren't happy. Maybe they started getting more negative feedback than positive, so they felt the need to show off those letters was somewhat lessened. Actually, I wouldn't know if the comics in those days were good or bad. Believe it or not, I stopped collecting for several years while I was in college, and for some time after.
But now I'm back into the swing of things. I like catching up from month to month with the goings on of Superman, Batman, the Flash, and their fellow heroes. But these days, I'm not able to catch up on what the fans are thinking because their letters aren't being printed in the backs of the comics anymore.
I know what the argument now could be: Thanks to the internet, we can just go to DC Comics' website and read the message boards. Sure, that's true. But a blurb on a message board just isn't the same as when someone takes the time to think about what they want to write while crafting a serious letter. Any irate fool can tweet whatever they want at the drop of a hat with no more meaning behind it than an emotional outburst.
When I was a kid, I wrote one letter to the writers of Superman. Maybe I was a touch OCD, but I took my time writing that letter. I think I even went through a couple drafts. My thinking at the time was, Maybe they'll print it in the back of the book. I want this to be really good, just in case. And sure enough, they published my letter in the back of Superman #103. Felt pretty good about myself when I saw my name back there with the other letters. The editor even wrote a short response under what I wrote.
I'm not saying all this as an impassioned plea to the editors of DC Comics to re-institute the letters page in the back. I'm just saying it's something I miss. Just like I miss paying only 75-cents for an issue of Action Comics.