For some it’s the subtext that draws them in; the subtle and not-so-subtle commentary on the so-called “real world”.
For others, it’s the in-your-face action, the literally out-of-this-world action, the dazzling colors and even the occasional “BAMPF!” and “SNIKT!“.
There are endless drawing points that attract comic book readers. I’d like to share mine with you now.
Batman saved my life. Before you ask, my mother never had me tested. I’m as sane as they come, although truthfully, my life would be easier if I was more like the Mad Hatter. But I’m not. My only escape from the real world is through the pages of a comic rather than the recesses of my own mind. Luckily for me, comic books have proven to be a literal lifesaver.
You see, when I was a boy I found myself persecuted by a villain every bit as evil and depraved as any comic book madman. But there was no hero to save me. No Dark Knight to swoop in from the shadows and end my torment. The incident in question lasted minutes. It’s lasted forever.
I hate the term “sexual assault”. It is a sanitized term for the ugliest action one human being can perpetrate on another. What happened to me was dehumanizing and isolating; I couldn’t speak to my friends or family about it. To this day, my parents have no idea what really happened to me. (They don’t read my blog or scan comic book websites. Hard to fathom, right?) In the Seventies people didn’t share their feelings, virtually or otherwise. I didn’t have a therapist or support group.
But there was always Bruce Wayne and his alter-ego.
Bruce was a helpless boy whose world had been violated. He found himself alone in a world that he no longer recognized. He had two choices: Become stronger or buckle under the weight of his own existence.
Naturally, he became my hero.
And he was far from alone. Clark Kent couldn’t tell the woman he loved who he really was without putting her in danger. Peter Parker appeared to be a big loser even though he was the coolest cat (excuse me, spider), in New York.
Anytime the memory of that day became too much for me to bear – which was often – I retreated into a DC or Marvel comic. The world fell away and I was a bystander to the exploits of Batman, Spider-Man, the Avengers and hundreds of other heroes who had the strength to conquer their “real” problems. I did whatever I had to in order to scrape together enough cash to head down to the corner store (this was, gasp!, before comic book stores existed, kids), and pick up the latest offering from the Big Two.
And as that scared young boy grew older he grew less reliant on his coping mechanism. Granted, once he started working and earning his own money he bought more comics than ever but that was because by then, he truly loved the medium. And then one glorious day he met a girl, a strong, intelligent, wonderful girl whom he could trust with his secret. And she understood and accepted him.
She even accepted his love of comics. She’s never understood it (even though she loves Twilight and all things vampire-related), but she accepts it. And they have a daughter together who, much to her mother’s dismay, has inherited her forty-five-year-old father’s love of the comic book medium. Of course, she loves Archie comics, but today’s Archie Andrews is far cooler than he used to be.
But you didn’t hear that from me.
And now we come to the point of this little post/confessional. Every once and a while I’ll run into some who’ll say “You still read comic books at your age? What’s the appeal?”
And now you know.