Letters : Staff : 2010 : To the Staff 19/08/2010

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Date: Aug 19, 2010
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From Kara Wright

Hi Al,

First of all let me say that I love your reviews. I'm living in France for 3 1/2 months (4 weeks left!) and obviously my Spider-Man subscription couldn't follow me to Paris, so my comics are piling up back home (under the watchful eye of my mother - sometimes shipping to Canada goes awry and an issue goes AWOL; she's making sure that doesn't happen) while I'm experiencing painful Spidey withdrawal. The antidote? Your wonderful reviews. You manage to capture the flavor of the comics. I also love all the personal touches. (I had to set my laptop down I was laughing so hard at Nicky throwing up on your comic.) So thank you very much for fueling my addiction. And I can't wait to get home and inhale the pile waiting for me.

I'm emailing specifically in reference to issue #50, where you quoted a letter from Cpl Leonard R. St. Clair. I was just as worried about Leonard as you were, so I decided to hit the Net and see what could be found.

I found him almost immediately, on the Virtual Vietnam Veterans Wall. He was killed February 26, 1967. Which, strangely, means that his letter appeared in a comic printed about 5 months after he died. Here is the link.

I'm not sure why but when I found this it really made me sad. I guess a fellow Spider-Man fan automatically becomes a real person, not just a statistic.

Sorry the news wasn't better. I was really hoping to find him alive and well telling stories to his grandchildren.

Thanks again for the great reviews, and for connecting us young Spidey fans to our past.

Hi Kara,

You know, I've gotten a lot of Spiderfan letters over the years but yours is far and away the best. I'm so pleased to hear you've been enjoying the reviews and that they are feeding your Spidey addiction while you are away from home. I wish I could help fill your last 4 weeks with more. If I had continued on as I had been, I would be well on my way to #100 by now but I got derailed along the way working for Marvel as one of their Head Writers on the "Official Index to the Marvel Universe." This, unfortunately, has taken up most of the time I devoted to Spiderfan. I keep telling myself I need to get back to the Spiderfan reviews more often but that output has been reduced to a trickle.

After reading your letter, though, I've been reminded as to why I write the reviews in the first place. I have just GOT to get back to them after a letter like this. It won't help you much over the next four weeks but, when they start appearing again, you can take a lot of credit for it. Thanks for sharing your appreciation. (And speaking of personal touches... I loved hearing of your reaction to Nicky's contribution to ASM #41. I almost never hear about readers' reactions to anything but the Spidey issue itself. Talk about a personal touch.)

Thanks, also, for taking the time to look up Leonard R. St. Clair. I too am saddened by this and wish he was alive and well. (Sometimes I hear from people I've listed from the MMMS members or previous letter writers. It would have been great to get a letter from Leonard saying, "I'm here and this is what my life has been.") So, why do we feel sad over 40 years later? Some of it is as you said, "a fellow Spidey fan becomes a real person." But, really, any knowledge of the personal thoughts, wishes, likes and dislikes of another person makes them real to us. It doesn't matter when they lived and died. If we can feel them as a real person, then we have ties to them that make us care for them and feel for their fate. This is what's needed the world over, of course, to diminish hate, racism, sexism, unreasonable fear, and so on. Almost all of these things grow and develop from viewing people as a single inhuman bloc. Once you get to know people as individuals, it's hard to maintain these destructive feelings. (Which is not to say there aren't individuals we dislike but that's a whole different thing.)

So, it doesn't matter that Leonard died 43 years ago. We read his letter, we share his thoughts, we care about him, we worry about his fate. And the fate of dying at the age of 21 is a terrible one no matter in what year it took place. But look at it this way. Here is a man who died so long ago that he may have few mourners left. And those who are still around have long since accustomed themselves to his death. And here we come along and it is fresh to us and, 43 years after the fact, we think of him in fresh terms, we feel the sadness that has long faded for others, and we mourn him in the here and now, briefly bringing him alive again at this moment even as we contemplate his death. That all comes about because of a letter he wrote to a comic book back in the 1960s... a letter he didn't live to see published... and that's a pretty great thing, that a comic can do that, that a comic can form a connection that spans all those years and live and death with people he never even knew.

The Spider-Oracle Adds:

This letter and reply was printed in Amazing Spider-Man #53.

"Dear Stan,

Since all of us in the headquarters section of India Company are Spider-Man fans, we regret to inform you that Corporal St. Clair, whose letter will be printed in SPIDER-MAN #50, was killed in action on 28 February, 1967. He was a squad leader in our 3rd Platoon when his patrol was ambushed southwest of Da Nang. Your comic SPIDER-MAN is the most sought after piece of literature and art work in this company. Keep up the good work; you're a real morale booster.

India Company 3/1 3rd Bn., 1st Mar.
1st Marine Div. (REIN) FMF, FPO
San Francisco, Cal. 96602"

Comments from Stan Lee:

"God rest you, soldier. And God bless you all. As a mark of respect to Corporal St. Clair, and all others who have given the last measure of devotion for their country, we are omitting our usual "coming attractions" paragraph this issue. We prefer, instead, to express the fervent hope that the day will soon come when men in every land will walk together in peace -- and brotherhood."