Message boards and letters pages

By Kirk Chritton
©1988, 2008 Kirk Chritton. All Rights Reserved.

There are many ways to start networking in the comics industry. Your potential contacts are all around you, and many of them will actively be seeking you to be their contact.

In the old days of comics fandom, writing letters to the editors of comic books was one of the few ways to get your name known by professional comics creators. The internet has now opened up many new ways for you to interact with editors, publishers, and professional comics creators.

Not many comics have letters pages anymore, but those that do may be desperate to find semi-literate, somewhat thoughtful letters. If you take some time to gather your thoughts, write them fairly well, and send letters regularly, you’re likely to be remembered by the editorial staff.

The same goes for the online forums that abound from every comics publisher. Many of these forums are monitored by the editors, and sometimes the editors and creators actively participate in the forums, responding to questions and comments. As long as you’re not abusing the rules of the forum, you’ve got open season to get your name in front of the editors. In fact, some forums allow you to include linked images in your posts, which means artists can include examples of their work when it’s appropriate.

What good does this do?

If you’re sending lots of letters or participating in the forums regularly, the editors will begin to remember your name, especially if you have interesting things to say.

Reading through old letters pages is often like a trip down the comics hall of fame. Just as I was starting the initial draft of this article I bought a stack of Captain America back issues from the mid-70s. I picked up the first one, and flipped idly through. The first letter on the letters page was by a fan from Oshkosh, Wisconsin: Mark Gruenwald, who later became Marvel Comics’ Executive Editor. I thought, “Wow, that’ll make an excellent example for the ‘Getting Established’ article,” and picked up the next issue on the stack. The first letter on that letters page was by Dean Mullaney, who later became an industry leader as the publisher of Eclipse Comics.

Whether its in print or in the forums, there are some tricks to getting positive response to your comments. First, try to say something interesting. If you can’t think of anything that hasn’t been said before, try harder. If nothing else, ask a question. Don’t send or post a scaldingly negative comment; you’re not making friends with the editor. It is, however, a good idea to be a little critical, suggesting things that you’d like to see in the book.

It’s also important to be selective about which forums and letters columns you participate in. If you’re interested in drawing superheroes, there’s no need to hang out on an artsy independent forum. Also, while the major internet news sites have very active forums, it’s less likely that your target audience will see or notice your comments in the midst of so many others.

Instead, pick the forums and letters columns that are most closely aligned with the editors and creators you admire. Focus on those where the decision makers are actively participating.

And act professionally.

And check your spelling.

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