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A Crisis of Innocence

5. Child Readers and Comics Letter Pages

Many comics included letter pages to which young readers could send their suggestions and critiques. The industry encouraged its young readers to think of comics as theirs and to engage with them in a participatory way. For example, the titles of readers’ forums were often framed as questions inviting reader responses: ‘This is Your Page; Speak Up!’ or ‘What’s on Your Mind?’ or ‘What Do You think?’ One particularly creative formulation was the letters page in Guns Against Gangsters, which seemed to invite reader criticism with its title ‘Fire at Will!’

Young readers also sometimes publicized their own fan clubs in the letters pages of their favourite comics. Linda Lorentz of Chicago, for example, wrote the editors of the horror comic Forbidden Worlds not only to express her approval of the series but to mention her new club: “I have read FW for a long time. So have all my friends, and we think your stories are swell. In fact, we have formed a club called ‘Forbidden’ and we read your comics all the time.”

In these reader forums, young people could also express their opinions and make suggestions for future issues. A particulary striking example of this practice comes from M. Mahaffey, writing in the "Coffin Corner" forum of Horrific comics, who offers a surprising take on the animal stories so common to ‘official’ children’s culture: “I enjoy your stories very much, so I don’t think you’ll mind if I make a request. Why not feature more animals with intelligence, animals with the capacity to think and reason, like Claws of Horror in your last book?... Such stories give our overblown human vanity a jolt and it certainly needs it in this day of man’s inhumanity to man.”