In the early 1970’s my parents bought a new house in a new subdivision of Green Bay. It was needed, after all, at the time, there were three kids and two adults living in an 800 square foot shotgun shack. We were more than cramped. So, they did what any caring parents would do and moved us to a larger home. Away from our friends and familiar surroundings.
It took almost two weeks before I found someone in the neighborhood that was my age and had similar interests. Albiet… one big difference.
His name was Mark, I’ll never forget him. He was scrawnier than I was, same age as me and yet, he had a more firm grasp on his place in the world than I did. When I asked him how he knew so much about things he didn’t answer. He just walked away and motioned for me to follow.
We ended up in his bedroom and he pulled a torn and tattered box out from under his bed and handed me my first comic book. It was a Spiderman comic. One of many where Peter Parker fights Doc Oc. I was enthralled. Smitten. Worse yet, over the next four hours spent in silence, where we did nothing but read, I became an addict.
Mark had a huge collection of comics. Spider Man, Batman, Superman, Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, The Hulk and many more I can’t even begin to think of. I remember not caring too much for Superman, but the Batman and Spiderman books were fascinating. I read those faster than I could comprehend the morals of the stories.
Over the next few years, Mark and I became close friends, not just sharing comics but also a love of building things. Soap box racers, bikes, forts, and launch ramps for skateboards. Eventually he moved away. I was heartbroken. But I found more friends. Friends who had no interest in comics but an interest in building things and adventure.
I took those friends into my life and we had many excursions into life. Lessons taught to us through experience and not through the colored pages of cheap magazines. Magazines found at spinner racks of the drug store or even the grocery store. Yup, I put the comics behind me.
Until I joined the Navy, then I discovered more comics. I spent endless hours reading them in my rack. Most of them were compliments of a pal of mine who had a footlocker full of them. He also seemed to be able to get them through mail order. They arrived in plain, brown paper wrappers and most guys speculated he had an unnatural affliction for pornography. This was not the case. Nope, he had an affliction for well written stories with colorful artists who’d spend endless hours making sure the graphics matched the tales. I was honored to be one of the few who was able to borrow these books.
Flash forward to today… 2015, comics are everywhere. The biggest movies in the theatres, the conventions, the culture and even the clothes of today all herald the rise of the geeks. The kids who back in the seventies and eighties sat alone in their rooms and read the colorful splash pages of cheap books have taken over the world. (Thank you Joss Whedon).
I’m happy to see this. I don’t feel so alone. Matter of fact, there are nights where I crawl into my bed and my teenage daughter crawls in beside me and we do nothing but read comic books. Her choice, Batgirl, my choice Batman.
On television there are at least four shows that descends from the comics or have comic references. The movies we go to are based on comics and I know that in our future a comic convention will be attended by the two of us.
The stories, the morals, the ethics and the love of all things good versus evil in the pages of inexpensive tomes will finally come to fruition. I try to teach her about the men and women who helped make this possible but she is only interested in how Batgirl kicks the shit out of the next villain. Or, how Barbra Gordan and Dick Grayson will wind up their next date. I couldn’t be more proud of her.
Yes, the geeks and nerds have a strangle hold on this world for now. Right versus wrong seems to be a popular theme in our country right now and what better way to tell a story than through the medium of comics. It is glorious.
Yet, I’m sure as the day is long, eventually, those types of stories will get tired and worn out. No matter how unique and wonderful they are. After all, everything is cyclical. Including our movie appetites. Yet, for now, I’m happy to take my offspring to the films, read beside her the adventures between the pages and share a love for all that is dark, colorful and based on good versus evil.
Sure, my favorite villain will always be the Joker; my favorite hero the Batman with Spiderman coming in a close second, yet I can only hope and pray that my daughter and future generations will see great stories and there teachings the writers and artists portray between the pages of comics.
Yet I can’t foresee a future where villains will change, heroes will change and our taste as Americans in the film world won’t change. It is after all, the nature of things. The land of our life is for the living, not for the soon to be expired. We are here for a brief period and our only hope for influence is teaching those that will come behind us what is important and what matters. I hope I have done this within my life as I hope you have done the same within yours.
Yet, for the time being, I have a stack of comics to get through, Batman mostly. So I hope you don’t mind… I’m going to go read for a while.
Have a great week.