Sat

06

Mar

2010

Wherefore art thou, Uncle Elvis?

I miss letter columns in comic books. 

 

There's something unbelievably charming in the notion of fans of a comic book, sitting at their desks, kitchen tables, classroom desk, or what have you, and penning an honest-to-God letter to the creators of a story or character. 

 

(More charming are the letters from small children, directly to Superman or Spider-Man. I would burst with pride to have some young fan send a letter to The Shield.)

 

Obviously, there are much more immediate tools available today for such interaction: message boards, blogs, Twitter, and so on, and they do have their unique charms as well. 

 

But with the greater availability of those tools, it seems like the signal-to-noise ratio has become increasingly unfavorable. For every useful critique (or, God forbid, word of praise for the creators), there are a million posts about how any given issue "sucks." 

 

The pen-and-paper route tended to (and I'm sure I'm romanticizing a bit here) more thoughtful and gracious commentary, which certainly made the comics fandom I grew up with considerably more welcoming than the harsher, nastier tone to the modern online comics tribes. (Again, a gross generalization; I've found pockets of online fandom I find very useful, both as a writer and as a fan.) 

 

As a kid, I found myself actively looking forward to some of the regular letter-writers, fans who seemed to have the time and energy to write in and comment on every book on the market. My favorite? "Uncle Elvis." 

 

"Elvis" (who apparently later changed his nom de plume to "Daddy Elvis") seemed to have a comment for every book DC published (and had a particular affection, if memory serves, for GrimJack, as well), and they were consistently thoughtful and occasionally quite whimsical. 

 

In essence, "Elvis" invented an pre-internet avatar for himself, and used it to not only develop some minor celebrity within the fan community, but also to create a steady interaction with the people who made the stories and characters he so clearly loved. 

 

It was a uniquely print-era thing, really, and with the subsequent rise of the web as a communication and interaction tool (and the death of the letter column in all but a few mainstream comics), it's the kind of thing that can't ever happen in quite the same way again. 

 

I miss it, honestly. 

 

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Comments: 8
  • #1

    Dwight Williams (Saturday, 13 March 2010 20:29)

    I thought I remembered coming across his web presence not too many weeks ago...?

  • #2

    Dwight Williams (Saturday, 13 March 2010 20:34)

    Being one of the more irregular letter-writers myself, though...yeah. I miss those days of the print-edition lettercolumn, and I had my own favourites amongst the ranks. Elizabeth Holden, for instance. Mark Lucas and Malcolm Bourne to name two more.

    Malcolm's since managed to get at least one OGN of his own into print, as I recall. I keep in touch with Elizabeth via LJ and other fannish gatherings hereabouts in Ottawa, and still keep in touch with Mark via e-mail as well.

    Maybe we can't recapture the days of olde, but we can build new things...

  • #3

    James Manley (Tuesday, 06 April 2010 14:11)

    remember the No-Prizes that Marvel use to give out if you managed to find and point out mistakes made in the comic books...I always wanted to get one of those...HAHA

  • #4

    Eric Trautmann (Tuesday, 06 April 2010 16:37)

    @JJ: You should check out "The Marvel Vault." It has a replica No-Prize in it.

    http://www.amazon.com/Marvel-Vault-Museum-Book-Collectibles/dp/0762428449/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1270589795&sr=8-1

  • #5

    Dwight Williams (Sunday, 18 April 2010 16:38)

    They didn't award the No-Prizes for just noticing the mistakes. You earned it for figuring out how to render it "not a mistake"!

  • #6

    uncle elvis (Wednesday, 19 May 2010 15:29)

    Eric-
    Thank you so much for the kind words....it's always flattering to be remembered fondly.
    Uncle Elvis

  • #7

    Eric Trautmann (Tuesday, 15 June 2010 15:14)

    ...Uncle Elvis is posting on my website?

    THAT IS AWESOME.

    :)

    -E

  • #8

    Anjeanette Illustration (Wednesday, 04 January 2012 09:44)

    Where can I see an image of Uncle Elvis pre-avatar? :)