Before he was busy composing A Song of Ice and Fire, it seems George R. R. Martin was a particularly big fan of the early days of Marvel Superhero comics. Martin is, of course, now a best-selling author whose fantastical tale of swords and sorcery set in Westeros and the surrounding areas has been turned into the big-budget HBO television series, Game of Thrones. The show has helped to turn even more people onto Martin's original works and his next novel, The Winds of Winter, is eagerly awaited.
The letter pages of Marvel comic books from the 1960s and '70s included a number of names that would later go on to become celebrated authors, artists or comic writers themselves and naturally, the man usually tasked with replying to all this correspondence was a figure still hugely important in the genre today - Stan Lee. Aside from Lee's huge character and story contributions, it also appears that he had a hand in encouraging the next generation of budding story-tellers.
Speaking on the History Channel's Superheroes Decoded: The Thing. George R. R. Martin reads out an excerpt from his own fan letter to Marvel, as well as a part of Stan Lee's response. Martin wrote to Marvel concerning his favorite character The Thing and more specifically, Fantastic Four #17 and notes that the letter was the first instance of his writing being featured in print. He writes:
"Dear Stan and Jack [Kirby, fellow Marvel overlord],
F.F. #17 was greater than great. It will live forever as one of the greatest F.F. comics ever printed, ergo as one of the greatest of all comics. In what other comic mag can you see things like a hero falling down a man-hole and a President of the U.S.A. leaving a conference that may determine the fate of the world to put his daughter to bed... Then there's your cover boast 'The World's Greatest Comic Magazine' and by gumbo, you achieved it! If you were only half as good as you are now, you'd still be the world's best mag.
George R. Martin."
According to the author, Stan Lee responded with: "We might as well quit while we're ahead. Thanks for your kind words George."
In the clip, Martin insists that the letter and subsequent response changed his life and even though Lee would have no way of knowing the talent he was encouraging (unless he really is The Watcher) it's both pleasing and heart-warming to see one generation of legendary writers directly inspiring the next. It's also interesting to note that despite the letter being sent around half a century ago, both Martin and Lee are arguably more popular than ever thanks to the various live-action adaptations of their works.
Intriguingly, both Martin's letter and the response highlight a bygone era where the relationship between fans and artists was far more optimistic than it is today. Although some comic publishers still print sections dedicated to fan mail (more accurately, e-mail), you'd be hard pressed to find anything as unashamedly positive as Martin's letter was.
Naturally, however, there are sure to be some Westeros-starved A Song of Ice and Fire fans out there wondering why on Earth George R. R. Martin is appearing in History Channel documentaries at all when he should be holed up in his office finishing The Winds of Winter.
Game of Thrones season 7 premieres July 16th on HBO.
Source: History Channel
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