Soundtrack: “The Bobby Fuller Four, Live at PJ’s Pub (December 1965)”

Well! My schizophrenic immersion in Marvel Comic letters pages and the historiography of New England Puritanism has begun in earnest. I’m going to read as much of this stuff as I can, in the next couple of months, hoping to generate such a contagious level of enthusiasm for my thesis that no professor would want to miss out on the chance to supervise my work at the doctoral level (and no institution would balk at the idea of giving me enough research money to but every comic published by Marvel between 1961 & 1976, in the worst possible condition, natch! This is no investor scam…) We’ll see how that turns out…

Anyway, whilst poring over a few of the issues I do still have, I came across some interesting items:

–in Doctor Strange #7 (April, 1975): Peter Sanderson (yes, I suppose it must be that Peter Sanderson!) comments:

The Silver Dagger-Doctor Strange conflict could be used to represent a clash between two kinds of religious outlooks or moral commitment. Dr. Strange does not attempt to preach to anyone, yet he demonstrates the active moral commitment Dagger lacks. Outside of institutions, unconcerned with power . . . Strange goes out and fights for what he believes in and in doing so drives out evil… Dagger is merely content to rule over other people and satisfy his own ego. Strange is willing to sacrifice his own sanity for his principles…His trials are not just fights to see who’s the stronger—they are struggles to keep one’s sanity, to act effectively in a world wherein everything appears incomprehensible and opposed to one’s goals…Doctor Strange’s world is now less the real world assaulted by supernatural forces [than] it is the real world seen as a kind of nightmare.

The letter takes up the whole column, working overtime to establish Silver Dagger as a stand-in for the Catholic church and its’ repressive policies throughout the centuries. Which is fair, I suppose—if you’ve read any Spenser and Milton, you know that the “Scarlet Whore of Rome” has been represented by much uglier allegorical figures than Silver Dagger. Sanderson doesn’t use any theological terms, but he’s basically calling the Doc an antinomian, when he discusses Strange’s radical outsider status—and there I would take issue with him (Marvel super-heroes never experience the kind of “assurance” of “election” that a true Antinomian feels—they are always in doubt as to whether they are “saved” or “selfish worldlings”. Peter Parker is the classic exhibitor of this relentless spiritual uncertainty, but pretty much all of the characters share this trait, at least to some degree…)

–And speaking of Mr. Parker, a letter from Amazing Spider-Man #66 (Nov ’68), attributed to something called “The Flowerpower League of Yuma Arizona”, does a good, although certainly simplistic, job of zeroing in on the key characteristics of the classic Marvel Hero:

Spider-Man is a poor slob under abnormal stresses. He is consistently frustrated in his love life (he hasn’t made a pass at Gwen in 62 issues that had a ghost of a chance of success). He represses desire for Mary Jane (inhumanly) and manages to do exactly the things that alienate friends and lose chicks. Every time. And he can talk about his hang-ups casually…

Try reading John Winthrop’s journals sometime. It’s substantially the same thing! (Although he was somewhat more successful with the ladies)

Anyway, I’d better go! But let me know if this stuff interests you, okay? Obviously, my judgment in these matters is a bit off.

Good night friends!




  1. Dave,

    Please continue to post letter page highlights. The letters were one of my favorite parts of comic books growing up, and it’s been sad to watch them go.


  2. Lovely post, but, Dave, you’re talking out your ass. If anyone is ‘anointed’ or ‘appointed’ to his post, it’s Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts and, dig it, dude, Sorcerer Supreme of our entire cosmos.

    Strange isn’t just some occult adventurer off shagging babes and kicking bad guys in the crotch like John Constantine or, I don’t know, the cretinous DJ who is the hero of THE POINT MAN. Strange has a gig, and it’s a biggie… he’s the Occult Guardian of All Earthly Humanity. Much like Buffy is mankind’s protector against the supernatural, except where Buffy has, well, a pointed stick, Strange has quite literally the wisdom of the ages, as well as enough magical chops to make Eternity himself take two steps back and go ‘whoa’.

    Strange got given his current job by no less a figure than the Ancient One, at a time when the Ancient One was the embodiment of the Universe itself, and he takes it seriously (or at least, he does when he’s being written well). When some mystic threat looms that threatens all of humanity, Stephen Strange rolls up his sleeves and goes to work. The Doctor is IN, baby. And he doesn’t do it because he got whiney and let a burglar escape and that burglar later whacked his Uncle Ben, nor does he do it because his parents were gunned down by a sociopath when he was 5 years old. He ain’t dependent on his chest plate to keep him alive, so what the hell, he might as well beat up some commies. He’s not a slumming Thunder God looking for thrills, and he didn’t get hit by a shelf full of electrified chemicals and decide to put on a costume. Strange does it because it’s his JOB… he was APPOINTED to it, and ANOINTED to it. Like Green Lantern got his mojo and his chops from the Guardians, like Wonder Woman was sent to man’s world to make us all l

  3. Did it again. Here’s the rest:

    Like Green Lantern got his mojo and his chops from the Guardians, like Wonder Woman was sent to man’s world to make us all look bad, so too is Stephen Strange a man with a mission… and it’s not self appointed.

    Dig it… he’s got the ankh symbol on his forehead conveying immortality. He’s got the Eye and the Orb of Agomotto. He’s got the cosmic awareness. He’s Da Man. He stands between us and the Outer Dark, and make no mistake… it’s not because he’s bored and looking for kicks. That’s his JOB. So give the man his props.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s