This was a great thread about a bit of Canadian comics history.

Now the boards are gone, I’m saving for posterity here to accompany our other TM MAPLE post here.

Originally posted at, i saved this via a Google search cash. all content is copyright the original posters, it’s only reproduced here for the sake of history.

● Matthew Allison: Posted: Mon Dec 11, 2006 12:46 pm Post subject: TM Maple – Anyone ever meet the guy?
Can’t remember what I was reading the other day but it had a letter from TM Maple in it and I thought, “TM Maple! Wow! I remember him! Who was that dude?”
So…who was that dude? Wikipedia helped a little.
● Alex Buchet: Posted: Mon Dec 11, 2006 3:15 pm
The Mad Maple was a very active Canadian fan in the ’70s and early ’80s, who died young.
He was a noted lettercol fanactivist.
● Eric Reynolds: Posted: Mon Dec 11, 2006 4:43 pm
“Lettercol Fanactivist” is my new band name.
● Russ Maheras: Posted: Mon Dec 11, 2006 10:02 pm
Yeah, I met T.M. Maple, aka Jim Burke, at the 1988 Chicago Comicon. As a matter of fact, I did a “fan-fiction” strip of T.M., before he lifted his veil of anonymity, with his full blessing. That was the way we initially met — via the mail. I sent him the script and got his approval first. The strip, called, “The Secret of T.M. Maple,” was featured in the ‘zine “It’s A Fanzine” #39, published by long-time Iowan comics fan Gene Kehoe in 1987.
Jim was a super guy, and although he’s gone, he’s certainly not forgotten.
Here’s the splash, which I sent to Jim shortly after the strip was published:

● Ivan: Posted: Mon Dec 11, 2006 10:22 pm
good stuff, russ… care to post the rest??
● Russ Maheras: Posted: Mon Dec 11, 2006 10:25 pm
Here’s a photo of T.M. Maple (Jim Burke) and I at the Ramada O’Hare for the 1988 Chicago Comicon. Jim’s on the left; I’m the goofy-looking guy on the right.

“good stuff, russ… care to post the rest??”
Unfortunately, I can’t right now, but I’ll scan the last two pages and post them as soon as I can.
● Gary Dunaier: Posted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 12:06 am
I notice he’s wearing a dealer’s badge… what was he selling?
● Russ Maheras: Posted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 12:32 am
I’m going by memory here, but I’m pretty sure he was selling the latest issue of “Captain Optimist,” a character he created and wrote the stories for. I believe Allen Freeman did the art.
● Matthew Allison: Posted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 1:24 pm
Wow – thanks for your posts, Russ. After all those years of seeing his name in the letters pages it’s good to finally get a face to go with it.
● Alex Buchet: Posted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 2:08 pm
That shirt, Russ… You…you’re not a …Trekkie? (shudder)
● Kletz: Posted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 2:46 pm
It’s the SR-71 Blackbird. Stealth plane.
● Jesse Hamm: Posted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 3:29 pm
So he was an X-MEN fan!
● Russ Maheras: Posted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 3:31 pm
Yeah, at the time, I was in the Air Force and an Electronic Warfare Systems technician on the SR-71. I worked on the Blackbird from 1982-1990, after which the SR-71 was retired from the Air Force inventory. That was a very sad day for me. It was a great aircraft, and the people who flew and maintained the SR were some of the best people I’ve every had the privilege of working with — particularly the group that was stationed at Detachment 1, 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Okinawa, Japan.
For anyone who is curious, EWS incorporates not only defensive electronic countermeasures equipment, but electronic warfare-related intelligence detection and recording equipment as well (referred to as electronic intelligence, or ELINT equipment)
● Kletz: Posted: Thu Dec 14, 2006 6:58 am
When I was a lad, that was my favorite plane.
I had toys and models of it. GI Joe used one, the X-Men did, etc. Russ, you’re my childhood hero.
● R Bienvenu: Posted: Thu Dec 14, 2006 5:48 pm
That’s exactly how a T.M. Maple should look. Thanks for the pic.
Matthewwave: Posted: Thu Dec 14, 2006 6:06 pm
My apologies, but whenever the subject of TM Maple — or even letter hacks in general — comes up, I gotta ask it:
Wither the Wu Sisters?
They were favorites of mine.
● Robert Cook: Posted: Thu Dec 14, 2006 6:52 pm
While it’s interesting and all to learn more about T.M. Maple, what I want to know is: has anyone ever met the legendary Guy H. Lillian III, or know where he is today, (if he is, that is)?
Also, re: the picture of Maple and Maheras…why is it that comics and sci-fi guys always have the worst taste in eyewear?
Post script: after I posted this, I did a Google search for Guy H. Lillian III; he’s a criminal lawyer in Louisiana, and apparently still affiliated with comics fandom, given that he has been involved in editing various fanzines.
How about that? (For the youngsters around here, he was an omnipresent letterhack in the comic book letter columns of the 60s…primarily Marvel comics, I guess, as I don’t believe DC comics had letters columns much, if at all.)
● Paul Herden: Posted: Thu Dec 14, 2006 8:24 pm
Oh, Metropolis Mailbag, Detective Comments, and Flash-Grams, how the unbelievers have forsaken ye!
● Russ Maheras: Posted: Thu Dec 14, 2006 10:59 pm
“Also, re: the picture of Maple and Maheras…why is it that comics and sci-fi guys always have the worst taste in eyewear?”
Well, I can’t speak for anyone else, but because of my avionics maintenance background at the time, the more stylish wire-rim glasses were not a practical option for general use because of the high voltages I regularly worked around — per OSHA and Air Force regs. That also included any metal jewelry (including rings and watches).
And, since I wasn’t going to be switching glasses all the time (I always thought that was a bit vain anyhow), I settled for a plastic style that was inexpensive and reasonably stylish for the time period. Inexpensive because I wasn’t highly paid at the time, and because only a fool would buy expensive glasses to use in a shop/flightline environment — which is where I spend the vast majority of time when I wasn’t on leave.
Besides — I was married — and my wife didn’t mind them. It isn’t like I was hard up and trying to earn any cool points with anyone.
● Robert Cook: Posted: Fri Dec 15, 2006 10:05 am
That’s fine for you, Russ…but what’s the excuse for the tens of thousands of other sci-fi/comics nerds?
● WLLilly: Posted: Fri Dec 15, 2006 11:36 am
…As far as yesteryear’s letterhacks goeth , I was thinking of mentioning Guy…Another perennial , and a GUURRLLLL !!!!!!!!! , of his era , was Irene Vartanoff , or ” Poison I. V. ” . I guess she went so far into would-be prodom as to be an intern ( If that – no-pay !!!!!!!!! – concept was used as much in the mid-70s as it is now . ) , or something like that , in the mid-70s .
In the late 80s , I remember Uncle Elvis , and Rolf ( from the U. K. ) somebody , who would end his letters with ” Rock’n’Roll “…
I remember an early 70s DC regular called James T. McCoy , not entirely sure about the middle initial . He may not have been in for very long , but I remember him…
As , after a while , a last letter from his sister appeared , explaining that he had died – at 14 or thereabouts – of MS , or something of that kind .
● WLLilly: Posted: Fri Dec 15, 2006 11:38 am
…By/way , Robert , though one can certainly find tons of justifications for the ” nerdy comic fan ” sterotype , how would , say , you have comics fans dress ? ( Cleanliness standards aside . )
Isn’t the ” the coolest guy on the comics con panel ” thing something of a sterotype in itself ?
● Russ Maheras: Posted: Fri Dec 15, 2006 11:45 am
“That’s fine for you, Russ…but what’s the excuse for the tens of thousands of other sci-fi/comics nerds?”
Oh, I don’t know — I think some comic fans are just defensive about the whole “nerdy” thing. Take the glasses issue — plenty of people in other professions wear such “nerdy” glasses without the same apparent stigma.
Below are three examples. I could easily find many more.
Martin Scorsese, Elvis Costello (self-explanatory)
Joe Paterno (legendary college football coach)
● Robert Cook: Posted: Fri Dec 15, 2006 12:19 pm
Scorcese and Costello’s glasses are stylish…not nerdy at all!
As for the question re: how should comics/sci-fi nerd dress? As if they were as regular in their perusal of GQ as in their study of Frank Miller or Orson Scott Card.
Back to top
● Alex Buchet: Posted: Fri Dec 15, 2006 1:47 pm
Irene Vartonoff…didn’t she turn out to be the daughter of letterer Artie Simek?
Yeah, you read those old ‘Thor’ lettercols from round ’68-’69, and you are astounded at the wit and erudition on show…
Thing was, Marvel comics were extremely cool among smart college students at the time. And this was pre-Internet, when it was a big deal to type and mail a letter, so they took their writing seriously…unlike now, when lazy dorks such as I can blather away their bland banalities unchecked by aught but the bilious thunder of a “post-bad Taco” Dirk.
● Andrew Farago: Posted: Fri Dec 15, 2006 2:49 pm
I read someplace that we have Roger Stern to thank for T.M. Maple’s frequent presence in Marvel Comics’ letterpages. Jim Shooter had instituted a “no nicknames/pseudonyms” rule for Marvel’s letter columns, which would have forced Stern, who was an editor at the time, to blacklist one of the most interesting, thoughtful letter writers commenting on his books, a guy who went by the nickname “The Mad Maple.” Stern shortened the name to “T.M. Maple,” got around the nickname ban, and the legend was born.
● Alex Buchet: Posted: Sat Dec 16, 2006 3:43 pm
Andrew, how much is a ‘bazillion’?
● WLLilly: Posted: Sat Dec 16, 2006 4:07 pm
…A zillion and one !!!!!!!!!!!
● Russ Maheras: Posted: Sat Jan 06, 2007 11:05 pm
As I promised, here are the last two pages of the fan fiction comic book story I wrote and drew back in 1987, “The Secret of T.M. Maple”:

● Andrew Farago: Posted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 1:38 pm
“Andrew, how much is a ‘bazillion’?”
It’s basically the biggest number there is–my unofficial subtitle for The Chronicles of William Bazillion is “The Richest Goddamn Kid on Earth.”
Cool story, Russ. I hope that a T.M. Maple/Uncle Elvis crossover happened at some point…
● Alex Buchet: Posted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 1:49 pm
I find it gently moving that a deceased person should be remembered in such a spirit of fun and ‘fanness’.
TM, if you have a poltergeist going…let’er rip!
● Russ Maheras: Posted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 2:11 pm
Well, the strip was done in 1987, with T.M.’s approval and blessing. I even gave him the original art for the splash page for being such a good sport.
After the strip was published in “It’s A Fanzine” #39, T.M. Maple (aka Jim Burke) revealed his alter ego a short time later. He jokingly told me when we met at the 1988 Chicago Comicon that the reason he revealed his true identity to the world is because he didn’t want a bunch of curious fans staking out his P.O. box at the Weston Post Office in Canada.
He was a very nice, very funny guy.
● Eric “Von Allan” Julien: Posted: Tue Jan 23, 2007 6:49 pm
Thanks for posting this thread, folks. I was (and am) a big fan of Mr. Burke’s letter columns and, being Canadian, loved his “T.M. Maple” persona.
Really nice to see him remembered!
● Brad Mackay: Posted: Thu Jan 25, 2007 8:20 am
So what’s the story with TM and The Simpsons Comic Book Guy? Aside from the obvious resemblance, is there any truth to the rumour that the character was inspired by “TM Maple” in the first place? I mean, just reading some of his letters would give one that impression; the tone is remarkably similar – funny, obsessive and haughty all at the same time. Anybody know the scoop?
● Danny Hellman: Posted: Thu Jan 25, 2007 9:41 pm
“re: the picture of Maple and Maheras…why is it that comics and sci-fi guys always have the worst taste in eyewear? “
Bob, of course, was wearing an impeccably hip pair of Lou Reed-style mirrored aviators when he sauntered into the DragonCon dealer’s room back in ’88.
● Matthew Allison: Posted: Fri Jan 26, 2007 10:53 am
“So what’s the story with TM and The Simpsons Comic Book Guy? Aside from the obvious resemblance, is there any truth to the rumour that the character was inspired by “TM Maple” in the first place? I mean, just reading some of his letters would give one that impression; the tone is remarkably similar – funny, obsessive and haughty all at the same time. Anybody know the scoop?”
I was told that Future Dreams in Portland, OR and its owner were the inspiration for The Android’s Dungeon and Comic Book Guy. On my last visit there I was taken to their new location which is in the basement of a run down building. You have to walk thru a gravel pit, into the building and down two flights of cement stairs to get to this filthy, completely disorganized “store”. The owner wasn’t there the day I was.
● Brad Mackay: Posted: Fri Jan 26, 2007 11:19 am
Crikey! That’s one horrible website. I’ve actually put out some feelers to people who know Simpsons people to see what the inspiration for CBG is. Though i welcome any other stories about your favourite crappy comic book store.
● Alex Buchet: Posted: Fri Jan 26, 2007 1:53 pm
The crappiness is part of the fun, isn’t it?
● Matthew Allison: Posted: Fri Jan 26, 2007 4:23 pm
Anyone familiar with Aaron Stubbs (I’m pretty sure I have that last name wrong) and the “I.R.S.” collection?
Aaron was a collector here in Colorado who was well-known among comics dealers for his massive Golden and Silver Age collection. I worked at a store in the late 80’s-early 90’s and witnessed Mr. Stubbs in action on a few occasions. About 6’2″, balding, horrible teeth, bad B.O., filthy coke-bottle glasses, Aaron would come into our store to fill holes in his collection which he kept catalogued in a ragged 3-ring binder. We’d pull expensive back issues from the wall for him to examine and he’d haggle price with my boss but usually ended up dropping $100-$300 on a half dozen comics.
Turned out that he worked for the I.R.S. and was writing himself checks for years. Some of the more disreputable shops in the Denver area would actually cash these checks for him. When he was eventually caught his former employers seized his collection and auctioned it off. I saw some of the haul at a show a year or two later. The dealer who purchased it was referring to it as “The I.R.S. collection”.
Mr. Stubbs was working for Mile High Comics in their Mega-store a while after that. He was there once when I went in and I thought “Jesus! This is like giving an alcoholic a job at a liquor store!”
● Kevin Greenlee: Posted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 8:38 am
Speaking of the Simpsons Comic Book Guy…
About seven or eight years ago, fellow TCJ message boarder Jaz! and I attended a small comics show here in Indianapolis. There was an obese, bearded dealer there who loudly proclaimed to one and all that he and he alone was the inspiration for the comics shop guy on the Simpsons. According to him, Groening himself supported his story- this guy supposedly ran Groening’s favorite comics store until vaguely described “health reasons” forced him to move to the midwest.
But that wasn’t all. This guy also claimed

  • he was regularly flown to Japan where he was an honored guest at various Simpsons conventions.
  • the then current season of the Simpsons would be its last because Groening was tired of it; both the network and Groening himself had separately phoned this dealer with the news
  • he had a huge collections of valuable Golden Age comics which sometimes frustrated his wife. “Honey,” she’d ask him, “Do you really need six Action #1’s AND seven Detective #27’s?”
  • he had not one not two not three but SEVEN complete collections of every comic ever published by ACG (my friend Stuart pictured the dealer anxiously scavenging through boxes at conventions, all the while thinking “All I need is just one more issue of TeePee Tim and I’ll complete my seventh ACG set!”)
  • he was a beloved figure among Hollywood celebrities. Why, just the week before Harrison Ford, Mark Hammill, Nicholas Cage and Leonardo DiCaprio had all been in his store at the same time arguing over who would buy his “selling” copy of Action #1. Because, see, they didn’t just want the book they wanted to buy it from HIM.

I got to hear those stories (and many more) because he was one of those dealers who had a large number of hard to find items I was interested in- but his stock was all unbagged, unpriced and poorly organized. It took me quite a while to wade through it all- especially since I felt obliged to listen (and even pretend to believe) what the guy was telling me. I ended up buying quite a large stack of comics from him- and he gave me a price on them that was less than half of what I had expected to pay.
Naturally, I told Jaz! about the guy. Jaz went to his booth, made no pretense of listening to his stories and- I believe- ended up getting quoted a price that was probably close to twice of what he expected to pay.
Though I continued going to shows in Indianapolis, I never saw the guy again.
Does anyone else have stories about lines of BS they’ve heard at cons?
● Brad Mackay: Posted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 9:11 am
Only in comics would someone boast about beimng the inspiration for a fictional character that is both obese and obnoxious. >Sniff< *choke* You have reignited my love of the medium sir!
● Matthew Allison: Posted: Tue Jan 30, 2007 5:21 pm
I don’t have any con stories but I can tell you about my old boss. He started out in rare coins and then moved into comics when he realized how badly he could screw little kids out of their allowance. He had no interest in comic books other than how much over cover price he could charge for one, although I did hear him tell people he read Vigilante a few times. This guy was always following kids around the store and didn’t care how obvious it was that he was watching them. My desk, where I would read dirty comics and price back issues, was on a platform elevated about 2 feet off the ground and positioned behind the new release rack. When customers walked in they would see just my head sticking up over the top shelf like I was 8 feet tall. If a particularly shifty looking kid came in my boss would motion for me to go stand next to the kid and pretend to be organizing comics. Another anti-theft method he had was an 8mm camera(!?!) mounted to the ceiling with a tube taped to it. I guess this was to make people believe that we were filming them and developing the five minute rolls of film each night to catch thieves.
My boss would say stuff like “Boy, that’s like finding out Saddam Hussein was your Father-in-law! HA!”. One time he was talking to some clients about a local man who had been convicted of child molestation and said, “If they put him in the electric chair and I got to watch, I would have an orgasm.”. We employees would have to help his daughter move, go shopping with his wife, and pick up his grandkids from school. He’d give us cash out of the register so we could spy on other shop owners but be able to buy something so they wouldn’t suspect. He also kept the mini-fridge and microwave in the small unisex bathroom, which also had a drawer full of porno mags in it.
Best job I’ve ever had!
● Allen Freeman: Posted: Fri Feb 18, 2011 12:00 pm
Russ also won the contest in Captain Optimisst, “Draw T.M.Maple!” I’ll find his entry and post it.
● Russ Maheras: Posted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 12:21 am
This is spooky! While going through my T.M. Maple correspondence not more than an hour ago, I was just holding a photocopy of the illo in my hands!
Please do post the image if you got it — it’ll save me from scanning the grayish photocopy I have and cleaning up the copier streaks and fade-outs.
● Allen Freeman: Posted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 3:40 pm
Russ, post up that illo you just had in your hands. I’m still trying to find the old issues of Captain Optimist.
● Russ MaheraS: Posted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 8:57 pm
I didn’t have time to clean it up, but this is the image, right?