When The Brave and the Bold #35 came out in the Spring of 1961, readers noticed something a little different about the letters page; the full address of each letter writer was printed under their name. Armed with this resource, two young comic book fans, Jerry Bails and Roy Thomas, quickly established a network through which they could distribute their new fanzine, Alter-Ego.
In November 1960, Roy Thomas wrote DC comics inquiring about back issues of All-Star Comics. DC editor Julius Schwartz forwarded Thomas’ inquiry to All-Star writer Gardner Fox who replied that he had sold his bound volumes of the title to a fan in Detroit named Jerry Bails. Thomas secured Bails’ address and an extensive correspondence between the two fans ensued. The result, several months later, was the creation of a fanzine and a comic book fan network the like of which hadn’t really existed for the medium since the days of EC’s Fan-Addicts.
Letters from Bails and Thomas were frequently found in the letters pages of DC titles during 1961. (Marvel wouldn’t introduce letters pages until 1962). Most important of these for the future of fandom was a letter from Thomas printed in Justice League of America #8 near the end of the year, in which Julie Schwartz allowed him to pitch the new fanzine.
Schwartz’s reply is interesting. One wonders why the originators of Science Fiction fanzines (a first usually credited to Raymond A. Palmer) hadn’t promoted or encouraged such an endeavour for comic books sooner. Perhaps the printing of letter writers’ addresses was intended to achieve that goal all along. If so, I salute the subtle marketing skills being exercised at DC fifty years ago.