(Editor’s note: In the months to come, proprietor Dean Compton and I hope to share with you the thoughts on an increasingly diverse array of comics from even more fellow lovers of that most Unspoken of Decades! If you would like to be one of them, head on over to The Unspoken Decade’s Facebook page and send us a message! In the meantime, enjoy this look at Fin Addicts from new contributor Albert Carpentier! – ES)
Hi, Legions of the Unspoken! My name is Albert Carpentier, and I celebrate 90’s comics. Thanks to Dean for letting me contribute to the Unspoken Decade! During the early 90’s, I was a teenager with a limited amount of monetary funds to spend on comic books. I tried to avoid multi-part crossovers and comics with jacked up prices due to a fancy cover but a crap story. I enjoyed extras like pinups, house ads, and letter columns.
DC and Marvel typically included a one page letter column with a handful of letters that occasionally offered some insight but were chosen to print because the editors could hype up some upcoming story line or new series in their response. I don’t remember Valiant having letter columns at all and I don’t feel like digging out my old Ninjak comics to check. Then there was Image. Image comics were a breath of fresh air with multiple pages of letters. I thought it would be fun to revisit the Fin Addicts letter column from Issues #1-26 of Savage Dragon.
The first issue of Savage Dragon I picked up was Issue #9. I picked it up because I had enjoyed the SuperPatriot miniseries, and the character made a guest appearance in #9. I knew Savage Dragon was the flagship title for the Highbrow Universe of Erik Larsen and eventually bought all of the back issues at my LCS. Besides enjoying the fun story lines and characters, I got my money’s worth because Larsen filled these issues with extras, and as the series went on they usually averaged four to seven pages of the letter column Fin Addicts. The infamous Issue #7 was 22 pages of splash pages, a poster insert, and eight pages of letter column that concluded on the back cover!
This was before email. Letters were typed or written and then mailed (with a stamp!) to the PO Box listed in the header of Fin Addicts. Larsen responded to a question in Savage Dragon (ongoing) Issue #1 that he received over a thousand pieces of mail every month.
Issue #12 included an explanation on how he picks letters for the column. It is good advice about asking questions that can be answered without ruining the story, offering insight and something new. While I enjoyed reading Fin Addicts, I never attempted writing a letter. This could have been time well spent in my high school creative writing class but I was too busy writing fan fiction episodes of Seinfeld.
A typical Fin Addicts included a question and answer section compiled by Larsen from questions in letters. This was helpful to find out character names and backgrounds not stated in the story and about Larsen’s creative process. Issue #13B included a preamble about many readers asking the same questions to write term papers. He listed several questions from 12-year-old Robert Mickelson. This info helped middle and high school kids write book reports. I like to think somewhere in the world there is someone who received a Bachelor of Arts in English writing a thesis about Dragon. I imagine this person is somewhat like the Jeremy Piven character in the movie PCU.
Larsen used Fin Addicts as a forum to interact with readers and he held court about a variety of topics. Issue #8 included a tribute to Jack Kirby after his death. Issue #14 an announcement of the birth of Larsen’s son. Issue #18 a breakdown of different formats used to write comics. Issue #26 a stark take on the status of the comic book industry after the speculation boom. Letters with negative views were printed, and Issue #15 included an apology to a reader whose dad was “bent out of shape” about the near nudity of characters in Issues #9 and #14.
Due to the passage of time we tend to forget how controversial Image was at the time. Some people like to collect comics because of the writers and artists. Some people like to collect comics because of the characters. Neither way is wrong; however, opinions are created and heated feuds can take place. Larsen feuded with Peter David and others. Fin Addicts was not immune from these conflicts. Reader Alan Bykowski wrote letters appearing in Issues #11 and #14 touching on some of these issues. Letters from Peter David were in Issues #20 and #22. Larsen’s response to the letter in Issue 20 was four-and-a-half pages long! I remember being shocked at the time flipping through and seeing page after page of bold font used for responses. Creating comics was their job, and they took it seriously.
Reading and collecting comics was a choice I made as a teenager. Initially none of the others in my group of friends made the choice with me. Eventually, I found several new friends who shared an interest in comics, but when I first started reading, I felt like an outsider. I read Fin Addicts and found there were other people who cared about comic books and the characters in them just like I did. They were escaping into comics just like I was, and they cared enough to write a letter letting the creators know we were out there.