Marvel Knights #1 cover with overload letters column text image

Fun With Letters Columns: Marvel Knights

I recently re-read the complete Marvel Knights series that Chuck Dixon wrote for Joe Quesada 15 years ago. (I reviewed it over at ComicBook.com) It was both as good as I remembered, and slightly less so.  It definitely ended too soon, due to moves Marvel was making to shake up its publishing line.  Such is life.

I had a fun time reading the letters columns as the issues rolled by.  It’s something we miss in modern comics without letters columns.  There’s a certain historical snapshot inside the pages of the series, itself, with the letters.  Without those pages, you have to resort to going on-line and searching through Google for reviews written as issues came out, or comments made on message boards or something. It’s not easy, and it’s usually far too much work.

Letters columns are a much simpler snapshot

With that said, let’s take a look at what wonders those pages hold for us.

 

Sales Figures

Part of the deal with a publisher offering subscriptions through the US mail is that the publisher has to print a statement inside its periodicals once a year with the sales and distribution numbers of the series.  These numbers turn out to be important to our understanding of publishing trends in decades prior to Diamond’s monopoly, when we could make educated guesses from behind the scenes information.

Here’s the relevant portion of the October 1, 2000 filing from Marvel for “Marvel Knights.”

Marvel Knights #7 sales report

Look at letter C.  The average issue from the previous 12 months of the series is 66,736 (before counting damaged copies and comp copies), with the most recent issue at just a hair under 50,000.  That makes sense.  The book would have started high and trended downwards. This statement was in issue #7, so the prior 12 months takes into considering the first issue sales, inflating the figures.  That first issue probably sold north of 80,000, if I had to guess. It might have even been at 90,000.

Can you imagine those sales today?  That’s a crossover event book’s first issue sales these days.

 

Snarky Editors

Every now and then, editors like to print the wacky and crazy letters.  Those are the ones from the types who would ask William Shatner what the combo was to that safe in that one episode of “Star Trek,” or the one who uses ALL-CAPS in such a way that the whole letter looks like a ransom note made from cuttings of magazines.

Check this one out:

Marvel Knights #9 crazy letter writer

Bonus points for an XFL reference there.

And in case you had forgotten him, here’s  Madcap’s Wikipedia page.

“KL” is the assistant editor on the series, Kelly Lamy.

 

 

Fellow Blogger Appearance

Hey, look, there’s Sean Kleefeld!  You can find him today at his long-lived blog, “Kleefeld on Comics“:

Marvel Knights #2 Sean Kleefeld letter

 

 

I’m In There, Too

I completely forgot I had ever had a letter printed in the series, let alone three.

Here’s the first:

Marvel Knights #5 letters column letter from Augie De Blieck Jr.

The 2017 version of me looks at this letter and immediately wants to cut a half dozen unnecessary words.  I would start with “just seems really” in the first sentence, which is classic hedging , not to mention being wordy and unnecessary.

The second:

Another letters column appearance by Augie De Blieck Jr. in Marvel Knights

Trent Kaniuga isn’t in comics anymore, but maintains a YouTube channel (almost 60,000 subscribers!) and has a nice portfolio website.

Sadly, Eduardo Barreto died a few years ago.

Colorist Dave Kemp fled comics a decade ago, by the looks of it.

From the next-to-last issue, check out the editorial response to my question about Chuck Dixon writing more Punisher.

Marvel Knights #11 letters column presages the Chuck Dixon difficulties?

Obviously, the end of “Marvel Knights” was nigh, and things behind the scenes were heading south already.

Here’s the classic CBR headline that covered the situation at the time:

CBR headline for Dixon vs Quesada

“Dixon not amused.”  Good job on that headline, Beau!

 

Completely Off-Topic

I love this pair of panels:

Marvel Knights #11 with white hood talk between Luke Cage and Moon Knight

5 Comments

  • MATT O'HARA August 19, 2017 at 5:13 pm

    I like Chuck Dixon’s writing, but always found the manly man schtick he shares with Beau Smith to be a little annoying. That’s why I was surprised and amused when I clicked on a link in the CBR story you mentioned. Looks like dixonverse.com no longer directs to Chuck’s blog. Now it’s a website in Japanese. Translation: “Let’s be eyelashes beauty.”

    Reply
    • Augie August 20, 2017 at 12:00 am

      It’s Dixonverse.NET now. There was a URL name renewal mishap a few years back and he lost the .com and went to the .net, as I recall.

      I don’t think it’s a schtick Dixon does too much. I think Smith’s is more schticky, but even that’s toned down in recent years.

      Reply
  • JC Lebourdais August 21, 2017 at 6:09 am

    Was I the only one to feel that the Marvel Knights concept was weird?
    It started a nasty trend in mainstream publishers trying to do ‘edgy’ stuff, basically like your suburban middle-aged dad trying to rap like he’s from the ghetto.

    Reply
    • Abdul Zimbabwe September 5, 2017 at 3:02 am

      There were more hits than misses. Kevin Smith’s DD, Paul Jenkin’s Inhumans….uh, I know there’s a few more but I can’t recall at the mo 😀

      Reply
      • Augie September 5, 2017 at 8:08 am

        Marvel Knights existed as a concept because bankrupt Marvel had to try something new. They couldn’t rely on the same old storytelling techniques in a world where distribution had broken down and kids weren’t buying comics anymore. So they aimed at the slightly older audience that they actually had. And, given the right creators, it worked.

        Abdul – “Black Panther” with Christopher Priest and Sal Velluto, et. al. was in there, too. The Ennis/Dillon “Punisher” series came out of there, too. (We won’t talk about that first Punisher attempt where he was an avenging angel or something….)

        Reply

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