(This blog post is dedicated to the hundreds of comic book letters columns that I read and enjoyed but never wrote in to and the handful of ones that I did)
I don’t buy serialized comics these days. I wait until I can read the completed story from beginning to end and, as a result, I have four bookcases full of graphic novels (both original GNs and trade paper back collections of comic books). Like most good old-time geeks, I also have comics stored away in longboxes (four of them, coincidentally); old comics that I have either not yet to get rid of or will never get rid of. One of the cool things about those serialized comics that I’m missing out on is the letters columns. There are still some comics that have letters columns (like Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo and NIX Comics Quarterly, edited by Ken Eppstein), but I think a lot of readers letters have been relegated to message boards, Facebook pages and blog comment sections. “So it goes.”
Like the others, I use Facebook and Twitter and this blog/website to keep in touch with readers of Blink, and I’m grateful for the feedback I receive, the comments, the “likes” and the retweets are all very nice. But you know what I’d love more of?
I’d love to get more letters.
And do you know what? I want to PRINT those letters in the Blink comic books. I’ve done that in the past way back when I was printing the Blink books as photocopied digest books, but as Facebook and Twitter have grown, the length and substance of letters of comment have dwindled. I’m not harping on the lack of input from people who read and love Blink, but FB comments like “Cool!” and “Love it!!! XD” aren’t really going to make for interesting reading in a letters column.
Now, I’m not asking for this as an ego boost kind of thing. What I’m looking for is a way to incorporate the community of Blink readers into the Blink books themselves. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now and I even have a name for the letters column: PLATONIC SOCIAL INTERCOURSE. The plan is to have a 3-page PSI letters column in the individual chapters (more pages if I get enough letters), along with my usual Creatorial and Sketchbookery / Story Notes sections.
I have a couple of letters in the PSI queue right now, but I’d like a few more. You can either send me a letter through postal mail, email, FB, or use this contact form.
To give you a taste of what you can expect to see, here’s a sample of what will appear in WWK:
I often go out and about to work on drawing Blink—usually at a library or a coffee shop. So long as wherever I am is well lit and not too busy, I can get my work done. I like the flow of people around me while I work, and most of the time I am left to my own devices.
However, being as I am creating art in a public place, from time to time there are people will notice me and notice what I’m doing and maybe take a passing glance or proffer a comment or question. Typically, I will explain what I’m doing (making comics) and ask the person if they read any comics. I’d estimate that half of the time the answer is “no” (which I appreciate) and the other half is '”yes” (which I love). Whether or not they read comics, I offer them a free Blink mini comic and autograph it with a sketch as a sign of appreciation for their interest.
There are times when their interest in my work is a step above curious and that’s when I offer them a copy of BLINK: SO FAR. (I keep a few stashed in my backpack for such occasions.) There have been times when people have bought the book on the spot (which is awesome) and other times when they decline (which is understandable). On a few occasions, the people are genuinely enthusiastic about the book, but have no funds with them. And so I give them the book—with the mutual understanding that they’ll pay me when they can.
On a recent afternoon, while working on Blink at Stauf’s Coffee House in Grandview Heights, I struck up a conversation with a pleasant young lady, Norah who noticed my work. Although the chat was brief (she’s a freshman at OSU and had homework to finish), she was one of those people who was “a step above curious” and a lover of comics, which prompted me to give her a copy of BLINK: SO FAR.
Later that evening, I received an email like none I had ever gotten before--
Dear Max Ink,
I cannot tell you how happy I am to have met you at Stauf’s! It was really the most wonderful timing and I want to tell you why. Somehow, over the past few months, I have found myself in this ugly depressed state. It is the most unusual thing. I've always been very happy, and curious, and quietly silly, but lately, it's been hard to keep hold of these innate Norah qualities. I have felt very alone because I have known no one else who thinks like me, until this evening when I met Blink. Without a doubt, “Blink” is the loveliest comic in all the world. Reading it has given me a revitalized sense of self, which I really needed at this time. Please allow me to pay you back for the book.
Wishing you all the best,
You know what, Norah? There are lots of times when I feel the same way about the comic, and I create it. Thank you so much for your letter—your response is one of the key reasons why I write and draw Blink. It is my sincerest wish that you find some people with whom you can relate to in a mutually understanding way. However, as a supplement, I’m happy to continue making this “loveliest comic in the world” for you and anyone else who’s interested.
That’s the sort of letter writing and response that I’m wanting for Blink’s Platonic Social Intercourse letter column. Of course, I don’t expect `em all to be that naked and heartfelt—but I’d love honest letters, thoughtful letters, letters written with sincerity and curiosity.
Or jokes. That’d be nice, too.