Beauology 101: My Open Love Letter To Comic Books

Your host, Beau Smith

Your host, Beau Smith


by Beau Smith

This is a sharing column this week. Almost a preview of a much bigger one to come. I’m going to give you a little introduction, but the bulk of this column is sharing letters that were sent to me by Comic Book professionals BEFORE I became a professional writer and comic book marketing Vice President.

In the very early 1980s I finally took my own advice and began my full throttle attempt to get into the business of comic books, not only as a writer, but on the marketing side as well. Please remember, in the early ’80s there was no internet, no fax machines, no emails, no social media, long distance calls were at a high cost, and the price of plane tickets was close to a month’s salary at my day job. Needless to say, the U.S. Mail became my go-to source for communication in my quest to bust into the business.

Please note, I knew not one professional in comics. No editors, writers, artists; no one, nobody! I lived in a small town in West Virginia. The chips were stacked against me. This was not going to be an easy task. My plan was simple, every Friday when I bought comic books, back then new comic day was Friday, I would read the issue(s) then sit down and write/type (with carbon paper) a Letter Of Comment to the editor. Back then, each comic book had a “Letters Page” where readers would write in and give their thoughts to the editors about the comic books, before chat rooms, forums, and all that tech stuff. (That is now pretty much obsolete in tech.)

If I bought 6 comic books, I wrote 6 letters. I sent them out via U.S. Mail the next day. I continued this pattern for many years. In fact, until I made it into comics as a writer and Marketing VP in 1987, I had over 200 letters printed in various comic books by almost every publisher, large and small. I signed my full name, Stephen Scott Beau Smith, to set myself apart from everyone else that was writing letters. As time went on, I also sent in pitches, did contests, tried for No Prizes with Marvel… I tried everything. Not much was off limits to my quest to bust into comics.

Again, this is just a short intro to a 31 year career into comic books. What I wanted to do is share just a few of the hundreds of letters that I had received in those early years. If nothing else, a chance for you to read thoughts of very nice, professional creators to a crazed comic book reader like—well—ME!

I hope you enjoy these letters and please know that one day, I might publish all of the letters that I have in my collection, because you know what—I kept them all!

Please enjoy!

Beau's interview questions for Carol Kalish

Beau’s interview questions for Carol Kalish


Beau's interview questions for Carol Kalish

Beau’s interview questions for Carol Kalish


Carol Kalish's responses

Carol Kalish’s responses


Carol Kalish's responses

Carol Kalish’s responses


This is a “By Mail” interview I did with Carol Kalish, Direct Market pioneer for Marvel Comics in the sales and marketing department. I first met Carol here in Huntington, West Virginia, when fellow West Virginian and friend, Steve Saffel, (soon after this he was working for Carol at Marvel Comics) brought her in for a convention he was running at Marshall University. Carol was always a wonderful and helpful person to me, before and after I got into the marketing side of comic books. She was a ground breaker and a trendsetter in so many ways. She is missed, and every time I read this letter I am reminded of that. Carol and I used to always speak of how The Sub-Mariner was our favorite Marvel Character. She truly loved comic books.

Beau's first rejection letter

Beau’s first rejection letter


This is my first rejection letter. It was from Jim Shooter at Marvel Comics. I wasted no time back then; I submitted my stories to the top. This story was about the son of Molten Man who was a classmate of Peter Parker in school, and had a variation of Molten Man’s powers. He came after revenge on Spider-Man because he felt Spider-Man ruined his family life and that of his father’s. The son’s name was “The Grill”. The story title was “Fry And Die To The Thrill Of The Grill.” Shooter’s reply was short and sweet, but I always appreciated he wrote me back and that he was honest in his own words.

A Christmas card from the Simonsons

A Christmas card from the Simonsons


A letter from Walter Simonson

A letter from Walter Simonson


Here is the inside of a Christmas Card I got from Walter Simonson and Louise, as well as a hand written reply from my letter praising him for the supporting character Roger Willis in Thor. The character reminded me of my dad, and as you can see, a little of Walt’s dad as well. Walt was always so kind to me as I was attempting to break into the business with his advice, his kindness and his tips. He was sharing a studio with Howard Chaykin at the time, and when I would call, Howard would bust my chops in a snarky, but witty, way; never with a mean streak, but with wit and fun. It was a wonderful time to be around comic books.

A letter from Tom DeFalco

A letter from Tom DeFalco


This letter from Tom DeFalco was a real thrill. It was my first, “I’ve got noticed” response. I had compiled and did an article for the comic book magazine Amazing Heroes (Fantagraphics-My First paid writing work) on comic book letter writers (Letterhacks) that turned into comic book professionals. It was an extensive list and article (Illustrated my Don Rosa of Donald Duck fame). As you can see by this letter, Marvel Comics was pondering doing something similar with letterhacks turned Marvel Pros. Nothing came of this, but I was stoked to see that Jim Shooter thought enough about my article to turn it over to Tom DeFalco and follow up. By the way, Tom and I ended up being long time friends for over 30 years after this. (Even though as an editor, he never hired me. 😉

A letter from Terry Austin

A letter from Terry Austin


Here is a letter from noted inker/artist and super nice guy, Terry Austin. He was not only kind enough to answer my questions, he sent me various drawings, and also passed my name on to this editors as a possible writer they may wanna look at. Terry was always great to me, and he has the best handwriting I’ve seen. Penmanship counts!

A letter from Mike Carlin

A letter from Mike Carlin


This letter is from then editor, Mike Carlin at Marvel Comics. In his letter column he had put up a question with a humorous twist, I sent in my answer, with a humorous twist, and this was his answer when I got it wrong. Mike is a funny guy and his letters always had a sense of fun to them.

A letter from Chuck Dixon

A letter from Chuck Dixon


Here is a historical moment letter from one of my best friends (as far as he knows) in comics, Chuck Dixon. It announces that he got the gig to write Savage Sword Of Conan with Gary Kwapisz and Ernie Chan. Not only would Chuck become one of my best friends and co-writers, but so would artist, Gary Kwapisz. This letter is one of my treasured ones. Chuck, like Tim Truman, Walt Simonson, Mike Baron, Joe Kubert, and Ernie Colon, made time, when they didn’t have to, to teach me how to harness my raw talent into the craft of writing comic books. I owe these guys so much.

A letter from Mike Baron

A letter from Mike Baron


Another letter from Baron

Another letter from Baron


A Mike Baron script page

A Mike Baron script page


Here is a letter from novelist, comic book genius, and madman, Mike Baron. Mike was so instrumental in teaching me how to be a writer in comic books, long before my first paycheck. He always took time to explain and illustrate how and what to do with character, dialogue, pacing and how to deal with editors. This letter also came with a load of his legal pad, hand drawn and written scripts for Nexus and The Badger. Those scripts were a huge part of me learing how to write comic books and work with an artist.

A letter from Steve Rude

A letter from Steve Rude


Speaking of Nexus…this is a note from Nexus artist and co-creator, Steve Rude. I knew that Steve was a HUGE Space Ghost fan, as I was. I was working for an audio/video chain at the time and I ordered the complete collection of Space Ghost on VHS taps and sent them to Steve as a gift. Much to my surprise, in return, I got an 11×17 inch, penciled, inked and colored drawing of Space Ghost that remains framed on my wall to this day. I was knocked out when it arrived. Again, the kindness of comic books is the common bond that ties so many of us from different walks together.

These are just a few of the many handwritten memories of my life and love of comic books. Just wanted to share them with you, my friends in comics.

Your letter writing amigo,

Beau Smith

The Flying Fist Ranch

@BeauSmithRanch Twitter and Instagram

 

USER COMMENTS3 Responses

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  1. Roger Says:

    I think your interview with Carol Kalish is really interesting. Many interviews today are done via email, and this is a low tech version of that. Aside from being an interesting piece of history, it anticipates what would become a common way to conduct interviews.

  2. Beau Smith Says:

    Thank you, Roger. It was that last bit of time before technology really accelerated and changed the way we do everything from the mundane to the complicated. Carol was special and ahead of her time. A great combination of business and comic book lover. She never lost the fan within. She was also very honest and spoke straight.

    Beau

  3. Jim Burdo Says:

    The second page of Carol Kalish’s answers is missing.