We recently shared a letter that a young George R.R. Martin sent to Stan Lee and was printed in AVENGERS #12 from the '60's. Martin recently reflected on his letter and talked a bit about the early differences between Marvel and DC Comics.
Here is what he had to say:
George R.R. Martin: I liked Wonder Man. And you know why? [Laughs] Now it’s coming back to me vividly! Wonder Man dies in that story. He’s a brand new character, he’s introduced, and he dies. It was very heartwrenching. I liked the character — it was a tragic, doomed character. I guess I’ve responded to tragic, doomed characters ever since I was a high-school kid.
John Hodgman: Especially those who might die at any minute.
George R.R. Martin: That’s right. Of course, being comic books, Wonder Man didn’t stay dead for long. He came back a year or two later and had a long run for many, many decades. But the fact that he was introduced and joined the Avengers and died all in that one issue had a great impact on me when I was a high-school kid.
John Hodgman: I imagine it was pretty surprising, in a comic book at that time, to see a whole story arc resolve tragically in that way in one issue.
George R.R. Martin: Yes. It’s hard to understand, I think, from the vantage point of 2011 exactly what was going on in comics back in the early ’60s. The Marvel comics that I was writing letters to were really revolutionary for the time. Stan Lee was doing some amazing work. Up until then, the dominant comic book had been the DC comics, which at that time were always very circular: Superman or Batman would have an adventure, and at the end of the adventure they would wind up exactly where they were, and then the next issue would follow the same pattern. Nothing ever changed for the DC characters.
The Marvel characters were constantly changing. Important things were happening. The lineup of the Avengers was constantly changing. People would quit and they would have fights and all of that, as opposed to DC, where everybody got along and it was all very nice, and of course all the heroes liked each other. None of this was happening. So really, Stan Lee introduced the whole concept of characterization [chuckles] to comic books, and conflict, and maybe even a touch of gray in some of the characters. And boy, looking back at it now, I can see that it probably was a bigger influence on my own work than I would have dreamed.
I can completely relate to to his sentiments. I like the idea of each comic story being mostly resolved at the end of the book. It is so cool for me to see where Martin's love of crafting stories came from. Game of Thrones is an amazingly immersive show so I am happy to see