Yes, there was fandom before the Internet
Comic strip historian Allan Holtz has posted a 1926 interview with Frank King, creator of the long-running strip Gasoline Alley, and parts of it sound quite modern. King hands out some general good advice (“The habit of observation is the important thing, both as regards ideas and drawing”) and discusses the genesis of several of his characters, which is pretty interesting, but this is what caught my eye:
In speaking of stories, one which seemed to become almost simultaneously current in all parts of the country, arose from somewhere last summer. This explains the mystery of Skeezix’s birth by asserting that Walt was shell shocked in the war and had married Mrs. Blossom, who was a war nurse. Skeezix, being the child of that union. Walt, however, losing his memory, forgot the whole affair and is still in ignorance of Skeezix’s parentage. This I heard on both coasts and from many places between.
King obviously didn’t originate this story; it seems to be one of those Paul-is-dead pieces of fan folklore that might have even started with someone’s fan fiction and somehow went viral. It’s a reminder that in their heyday, newspaper strips had the same kind of interactivity as webcomics do now, with readers sending in comments and suggestions via the old-fashioned mail and the creators commenting in articles like this one. It all just moved slower.
(via The Comics Reporter)