Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Roy Thomas Replies...


Previously, we took a look at a letter from Avengers reader Philip Jones, who in 1970 critiqued a story from issue #74 of the book which concluded a two-part tale featuring the sinister Sons of the Serpent. Jones's letter was given the entire letters page to make its points, which writer Roy Thomas would respond to personally in the letters page of the following issue. In essence, Jones was taking issue with scenes throughout the story which he felt were given racial subtext by Thomas and artist John Buscema, either in ignorance or otherwise.

To follow up, this post presents Thomas's reply in its entirety. If you haven't yet checked out the earlier post on this subject, which goes into the letter in detail, you may wish to do so before reading what Thomas had to say on the matter, in order to have a balanced picture of the entire exchange and to put Thomas's comments into proper perspective. Though before you make the assumption that you're getting into a hornet's nest here, you'll find the tone in both men to be quite civil, albeit with strong words and very pointed observations. As the preface to Thomas's column intimates, "praise and condemnation" can exist side-by-side in civil discourse; but that said, Thomas is quite blunt in his reply, and he offers a strong defense for the approach he took with the story.

Overall, it's an interesting clash of impressions during what was at the time a growing understanding of race relations emerging from the late 1960s.




7 comments:

Colin Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
split2nd said...

Roy was referencing William Butler Yates' 1919 poem, "The Second Coming". The first line: "Things fall apart, the center cannot hold....."

Comicsfan said...

Much obliged, split2nd! I was only going to mention that many people had used that saying well before Thomas's radio commentator quoted it, but you went the extra mile and provided its origin. (Assuming Yates didn't lift it from someone else, that is--apparently it's in demand!)

Gordon Turner said...

Really enjoyed the last two posts. One question, though: how are you sure that the writer of the letter almost 50 years ago (who has a very common name) is the artist Philip Mallory Jones?

Comicsfan said...

By no means a certainty, Gordon, and thank you for bringing it up. Aside from the exact name, which didn't seem as common to myself (the full name was listed in the published letter), the clues seemed to add up--including the letter's address, which was listed as Ithaca, NY, where Mr. Jones was director and co-founder of a media arts center the following year and where he attended college for three years afterward. Not definitive proof, to be sure, but perhaps not grasping at straws, either. If indeed the match is accurate, that young man who gave Mr. Thomas cause for "soul-searching" certainly went on to make a distinguished career for himself.

B Smith said...

I'm a bit late to the party, but can I also add my appreciation of the last two posts. It shows how times have changes in many respects - including the final treatment accorded to letters pages which once upon a time were more than just repositories for "Hulk is stronger than Thor" type letters. I realise the internet and social media have kind of rendered them redundant, but still...

There was also a discussion of a similar nature in the lettercols of the first few issues of Warren's "Spirit" reprints, about the role and portrayal of Ebony; I think people just might have agrees to disagree.

Comicsfan said...

B, I also find it interesting that the Omnibus collections make an effort to include the issues' letters page(s), given how they had grown to be such an integral part of the reader's experience--yet it's a rare day when you'll find the letters page included in Marvel's digital archives of those older issues. I suppose removing the monthly wait had some impact on that decision, since there's no longer any point to giving the digital reader incentive to weigh in on those classic stories--but there are those who might appreciate them all the same.

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