July 22, 2016
Sixteen-year-old George R.R. Martin wrote his heroes exactly the letter you’d imagine
by Ian Dreiblatt
George R.R. Martin seems like a fun guy to talk about comic books with.
Martin, the sixty-seven-year-old author of the books on which HBO’s absurdly successful Game of Thrones is based, has given a lot of people a lot of joy: not just his novels and the TV megahit they’ve spawned, but all manner of supplemental material as well, like this gag by popular comedian Barack Obama, or JW McCormack’s excellent episode recaps for Vice (sample sentence: “Last night’s Game of Thrones was the big one: A spendy set piece waged between warriors and cavaliers (did you know there was a basketball game on last night too?) in which the few of us who still pay for HBO were rewarded with a special-effect bonanza that punished the cape-swirlers, the baby-stabbers, the dick-choppers, and rewarded our cast of a thousand beards with the battle royale we’ve been waiting for.” This is from a section titled “Happy Shitting!”).
In the interest of making adequate disclosure, I have never actually seen Game of Thrones, or read A Song of Ice and Fire, the series of novels on which it’s based (I happen to prefer robots with tude and curséd ancient priests to dragons and broadswords: sue me). Still, I think I have a decent working understanding of what it’s all about (from what I can tell, a wandering banister salesman named Red who goes from house to house marrying people, right?).
I do, however, know that George R.R. Martin seems to be a pretty likeable guy. He dresses like a bear working as a train conductor, and is prone to saying sweet things in interviews — for instance, that for him as a kid in New Jersey, the “lights of Staten Island were like Shangri-La.”
Now I also know, thanks to a couple of images posted to Imgur earlier this week, that he’s been this way for a long, long time. As far back as 1964, a sixteen-year-old Martin was sending his amicably nitpicky continuity quibbles to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the legendary comic-book impresarios (and also famously nice guys) behind, in this case, Marvel Comics’ The Fantastic Four. The letter, delightful in its entirety, reads as follows (emphasis added):
Dear Stan and Jack,
Ho-hum! Another month, another bunch of classics, but then what else can one expect from you chaps! [Fantastic Four] #29 was once again sublime with the beautiful Kirby-Stone artwork giving just the right impact to Stan’s sparkling script. As for that last panel on page 11, I could rave all day and still not run out of words. When my beady little eyes first glinted hungrily at that panel, hydrogen bombs exploded inside my brain and I was swept away by the sheer magnificence of it. Please, fellas, don’t do that too often unless you want to see me die young! However, I regret to inform you that I found one flaw in this otherwise perfect masterpiece, a flaw that is, regrettably, very common with you. When we last saw the Red Ghost in FF #13 he was stuck on the moon being chased around by three super-powered apes livid with hatred and waving Mr. Fantastic’s paralyzer ray at him. Now suddenly you bring him back in full control of his apes without one single word of explanation. This isn’t the first time you’ve brought back a villain without properly explaining how. You did it when you revived the Puppet Master in FF #14 after Reed had pronounced him dead in FF #8. Some scientist — can’t even tell whether a chap is living or dead but is bright enough to come up with a super-amplified-cosmic-powered-radioactive-doohickey-ray at a moment’s notice! In conclusion, I’ll wish you good luck on all forthcoming books, but Stan, don’t pull any more returning villains out of your hat. Next time tell us how they remade the scene — o.k.? o.k.!
George R.R. Martin, 35 E. First St.
Somebody please go to George R.R. Martin’s house with flowers. I hear he’s having a tough year.
Ian Dreiblatt is the former Director of Digital Media at Melville House.