A few years ago I embarked on attempting to read all the early Marvel superhero comics. My plan was to try to read the whole of the silver age and bronze age over the course of several years. Babies got in the way, however, and I only made it through 1961 to 1965. I did get to read the first issues and storylines of most of the main comics though, which was great. I even made a colour-coded spreadsheet of them all, being the über geek that I am. Here’s a screenshot of a small part of it.
Not only did I enjoy reading the actual storylines and admiring the artwork, but I also loved checking out the adverts of the time and also reading all the extra little bits of content like the readers’ letters pages. Reading the letters from readers really does transport you back into the mindset and zeitgeist of the day, much more so than just reading the stories. It was fascinating to see how people were reacting to these stories and comics when they weren’t used to stories like that. This style of comic was all new at the time. Superheroes with real life problems hadn’t really been done before.
But one day, while I was reading the reader’s letters in Fantastic Four #9, I noticed that one letter was written by a certain Paul Gambaccini from Westport, Conn. This name obviously jumped out at me because it’s not a very common name and I wondered if it could be THE Paul Gambaccini who is famous in the UK for being a Radio DJ and TV personality among other things. He’s American but I’m not sure if he’s well known in the US. I had a look online and found this excerpt on Wikipedia, which proved that it must be the very same Paul Gambaccini. He was 13 at the time of writing the letter.
“Gambaccini was active in the realm of comic book fandom. As an American teenager in the 1960s his missives were regularly published in the letter columns of titles such as Justice League of America and The Amazing Spider-Man. Gambaccini claims to have invented the term “Brand Echh”, which later became widely used by Stan Lee.”
Read more on Paul Gambaccini’s Wikipedia page.
So apparently, he was a fairly prolific writer of fan letters to comic companies. I’ll have to look out for his other ones. Here is the letter that he wrote in Fantastic Four #9. Not exactly complimentary!
I was excited now about reading the letters pages in case there was another interesting letter by anyone. Lo and behold, just 8 issues later in FF#17 there’s another letter by Paul Gambaccini.
What a hilariously over the top letter that is and how contrasting to his first letter. Note that he puts his actual home address on this one but didn’t on the first angry letter.
But it doesn’t end there. I did a bit more of a search on Google about Paul Gambaccini and Marvel comics as the Wikipedia article had hinted that he corresponded a lot with Marvel and Stan Lee and I discovered that only 3 issues after this one there was a letter from none other than George R. R. Martin! And not only that but he actually references Paul Gambaccini’s letters! It’s bizarre to think that a 13 yr old Paul Gambaccini and a 14 yr old George R R Martin were referencing each other via Marvel comics. Here’s the letter from ‘George Martin’.
I’m not sure how well known all of this is online, as I only stumbled across the Paul Gambaccini one myself, but here is an article I found from Den of Geek that talks about the Martin one. No mention of the reference to Paul Gambaccini though as I guess the writer was American and didn’t know who Gambaccini was.
So one thing I know for sure is that if I read any old comics or magazines I’m going to read every single piece of text to see if I come across any other gems like these.