In the text features for our LOAC titles we often quote from letters received by the cartoonist in question. Sometimes this is professional correspondence related to the business of syndicating or merchandising the strip and its characters, while other times we cite those individual readers who felt the burning urge to pen either high praise or high dudgeon and mail it to the artist.
But some letters are so far “off the beam” they would have no place inside our books. Let me share the highlights — and I use that term loosely — from one of my very favorites with you …
Postmarked from scenic Brooklyn, New York in September of 1955, the item in question arrived in an envelope bearing this address (pardon the extreme blurriness):
The enclosed letter was typed all in capitals (before that approach was deemed to represent “shouting”). As you can tell from the envelope excerpt above, the copy of the letter I have is too blurred for good reproduction, but I carefully transcribed the contents of the original when I found it during one of our research trips to The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at The Ohio State University, so I’m able to replicate the all-caps format and include the various typos and misspellings, as well. Believe me, I couldn’t make this stuff up!
The author begins:
RUSSIAS CLAIMS ON PLANETARY DISCOVERY BY COSMIC SPACE SHIPS IN AN ARTICLE OF AUG. ’55 BY REUTERS NEWS DISPATCH, IS A LITTLE PREVIOUS. IN AUG. OF ’53, PATIENT Z-125 IN WASHINGTON, D.C. REHEARSED THE STATE DEPARTMENT IN RIGHTS OF THE WORD OF GOD ON FAR PLANETS.
THE EVOLUTION AND PROPAGATION OF THE THREE PLANETS NEAREST THE SUN-STAR ARE IN THE ICE, STONE AND BIBLE MAKING STAGES. WIT H EARTH THE FARTHEST ADVANCED OF ORBIT EVOLUTION IN THE SUN-STAR UNIVERSE, THE BROTHER AND SISTER PLANETS HAVE BEEN IN COMMUNION WITH THE EARTH EVOLUTION.
BEING HINDERED IN STATIONING, AND ATMOSPHERIC PLANETARY ACCEPTANCE, W WOULD BE A HURDLE RUSSIA MAY FIND DIFFICULT TO- OVER COME.
The author (who shall go nameless) then shifts to a discussion of the goddesses found in “GREEK FAIRY TALES” and a tale of The Resurrection cited as being revealed by “ST MATTHEW TO THE MULTITUDE IN EPISTLE C22.” In closing, the letter’s writer offers this:
POEM OF PROSE
A WEDLOCK BEING WAC, MARRIED AND M.D.,
IN THE 1st CHURCH BEILEVEING 6 DAYS FOR A MONTH.
NOW THERE’S 28 DAYS IN ONE MONTH;
BEING, TOO, WELOCKED IN 2nd CHURCH BELIEVING 22 DAYS FOR A MONTH.
THE LADY OF MONTHS THAT PASS.
THAT BEING NEAR THE PHYSICIAN.
THE LADY KNOWS HER Ps AND Qs.
THAT FAR MATHEMATICIAN KNOWS Y PLUS X = ZERO.
Finally, by way of apology, the correspondent concluded: “P.S. SORRY I’M NOT A GOOD ODE-IST, PLEASE FOR-GIVE MY SHORT COMINGS.”
Even a wit as keen as Al Capp seemed flummoxed by what he had just read. Still, because he was a swiftie, he saw in the letter an opportunity to throw a couple gentle jabs at his good friend, Caniff. He forwarded the letter to Milton along with a note dated September 22, 1955. In it, Al wrote:
“Judging from the contents of this letter … this is one of your readers. It was sent to me because everyone thinks I do all the comic strips.”
That humorous note provided the perfect — errr-r-r — Capper to the original letter writer’s impenetrable attempt at communication. But the missive serves as a reminder that, just as in today’s 21st Century world of high-profile stars and instantaneous contact, where stories of “celebrity stalkers” or bedeviling on-line “trolls” regularly make the news, the classic penmen of the past received plenty of letters from those who fit the description of either cranks or crackpots. Technology changes, but the range of human response does not.
And if this little exchange provided you with a smile, remind me someday to reprint the letter Ernie Bushmiller wrote about one particular piece of fan mail …!