Recently, I completed a lengthy e-mail interview with Bryan Stroud for his The Silver Lantern site, which is dedicated to superhero comic books of the Silver Age, the 1960s. Bryan has posted interviews with a lot of people I know from the comic book biz, so I am happy to join the ranks of my friends. But since my story has never been told anywhere else, and since some of you are not comics fans, I am including the first part of the interview here as a teaser.
Q. I never knew any girls cool enough to read superhero comics back in the day. Did you feel you were in a minority?
A. I first read comics at a girlfriend’s house when I was ten or eleven, so no, I didn’t. I only realized girls were a minority of comic book fans once I noticed that all the fans who wrote serious letters to the lettercolumns were boys.
As far as comics-reading itself, I grew up in a very highbrow milieu, one in which parents did not bring trashy comic books into the house, only quality hardcover children’s books. My mother endlessly took us to cultural events; I have the distinction of having seen the opera “Don Giovanni” performed by puppets, for instance. I hate puppets. Parents also expected high achievement from their children. The intelligent kids put away childish things at puberty, and ironically, that’s when I became a comic book fan. My parents objected strongly to me bringing them into the house as a teenager. I’ll probably blog about that battle some day. My high school friends read serious modern literature like Salinger, but I was reading Tarzan, Doc Savage, historical novels, murder mysteries, romance novels, Gothics, and science fiction. I knew nobody who read comics until I became acquainted with other comics fans through the lettercolumns. And it was not until many years later than I met anyone who read romance novels. Not even in college.
Q. When you wrote The Letter, published in Hawkman #18, were you surprised it saw print?
A. Very surprised. And proud. I had not written it expecting it to get published. I’d simply been moved to write it. My father had me read him the letter, and he praised it, saying it was well written. This was a peak moment in my life. He died only a few years later, so I was very glad that he and I had that. [See my post about my father.] I guess because of the connection with my father, all other considerations about the letter have faded in my memory. Did I expect to be famous from then on? Perhaps. Was I? Kind of. Comic book fans from the Silver Age still contact me to talk about my letters. I received a very moving tribute just recently from one fan whose mother finally allowed him to read comics because he showed her one of my letters with my college address attached. But although I treasure every one of those contacts, I have come to realize that what made my letters special was that they epitomized feelings that other comic book fans had, but did not have the ability, or the time, or the whatever to express. So I was speaking for my generation. As proud as I am of my personal accomplishment in writing those letters, I recognize that being a representative of many other fans played a key part in it.
Q. Did you ever imagine that one day you’d end up writing comics?
A. Of course. I sent [Superman editor] Mort Weisinger a complete Lois Lane story while still in high school. He didn’t buy it. This was in 1965. Mort had already invited me up to New York to get a VIP tour of the office and have lunch. My mother and I took the train up. She went to various museums, and I was treated like royalty at National Periodical Publications at 575 Lexington Avenue, including a fancy lunch out. Mort Weisinger introduced me to everyone and treated me in a fatherly way. At the end of the day, the editors gave me a huge armload of original artwork. It was probably the best day of my life to that point. Adult life has surpassed it, but what a moment!
There’s much more, but to read it, you should head on over to Bryan’s site. Here’s the updated link directly to the interview.