My Journey Between The Panels aka How Comics Have Changed My Life

My relationship with comics is a loyal and lifelong friendship.

I was a huge geek from my earliest recollection. I would sit on the floor at my great grandmas house and steal the newspaper just so that I could peruse the Sunday morning “funnies” section in the back. I fell in love with Calvin and Hobbes, Snoopy and Garfield, and although I couldn’t read the speech bubbles, among the rainbow chip cookie crumbs I was dropping, I was pouring over the pictures trying to piece together the jokes. One fateful day, on top of my usual strawberry Yop, I asked my mom to buy me a colorful comic book while waiting in the grocery aisle. That Archie comic was the biggest catalyst in my learning to read and learning how much fun that it could be. I collected hundreds of the comics over time, obsessively reading them in every corner and every seat of the house until I was in my late teens. To this day, I can glance at a strip and know immediately whether or not I’ve read it before.

From all the way back to my first Catwoman Halloween costume, I blame my present day nerdiness entirely on my dad, who always watched X Men: The Animated Series, Batman: The Animated Series and Spiderman when I was around, not to mention the infamous ‘Lois and Clark’. That’s right folks, Dean Cain was my first Superman.

We also watched a lot of WWF wrestling, but that’s in the past. I got over that phase just in time.

It was also my dad who started bringing quarters to the corner store every time that we went so that I could buy Marvel cards from the vending machine. I became obsessed with those cards and still keep them close by to this day. I would pull them out and read the artist notes from time to time and obsess over the amazing artwork, even though I barely knew who most of the characters were at the time. In those days, I barely knew who Stan Lee was, let alone who the heck ‘Spiderman 2099’ was.

Note to self: find out who the heck ‘Spiderman 2099’ is.

In the year 2000, when I was only 12, Bryan Singers ‘X Men’ came out and changed my world. Never before had I been so enthralled with a superhero movie and so impressed by its quality. These were characters that I recognized, but ones who’s stories I was unfamiliar with, so to see it play out in a very realistic way was a whole new perspective for a younger me. They were not simply fighting aliens, robots or each other, like in the cartoons, but they were fighting a very real world that believed that they should not exist. Being barely a teenager, the thought of these amazing people coping with things that I was, like loneliness, being outcast and trying to find a safe place in the world struck a cord inside of my psyche.

I would also like to point out that before this movie came out, I looked at my Professor X card one day and said “He looks like the guy from Star Trek!”. Just saying, I called it and I was only 11.

I went through a tough period of time where for a few years I barely touched a comic book or watched a superhero movie, or thought about them at all. There was a lull in quality productions, when the only movies coming out where Spiderman, The Hulk, Fantastic 4 and Iron Man 2 (ugh) and I was rather turned off by the whole situation. Instead I was marathon watching everything from ‘Scrubs’ to ‘The Sopranos’ to keep myself sane. From that grew a passionate love affair with television, so, some good did come from the situation after all.

Over the years, comic adaptations have taken a dramatic turn towards mainstream popularity, meaning that it is increasingly less unique to be a comic book nerd, which is breaking down the stigma a bit. It also means that we have plentiful material to enjoy, from the brilliant ‘Dark Knight Rises’ series to the ever growing universe of Marvel movies. There is no shortage of joy in my life because there is always a new comic, a new movie, TV show or beautiful artists rendition to get excited about. Luckily, the movies eventually starting rolling in by the boatload. Iron Man is now my absolute favorite movie of all time. The Avengers is my go-to movie if I need a pick-me-up. Loki is my wallpaper on my phone. I am constantly impressed by the new stories, casting choices and costume variations that are being brought forth and salivate over every one of them, no matter how bad they may turn out.

Comic books and superheroes, to many people, are simply children’s literature. Pointless. A waste of time. Juvenile. In reality, these stories and these characters are no different from mythological characters and “wives tales” that many generations have come to love and refer to for their lessons and wisdom. Sure, they are fictional and they are often obtuse,but under every hero and villain is a story. Every hero has an aspiration, a burden or a desire that we can see within ourselves that makes us passionate about their journey. Even the non-hero comic characters, like Charlie Brown, ‘Calvin and Hobbes or ‘Foxtrot’ have a way of bridging the gap between adolescence and adulthood by pinpointing our deepest and most subtle inner thoughts, bringing them to light in a playful way. That tender feeling of nostalgia is a beautiful thing. For me, comics are an escape and an indulgence of the mind. Comic book characters average people just like you and I, but in extraordinary circumstances. They can be innocent, evil, funny, brave and fragile. Their history, relationships and burdens draw you in and their persona attaches to an emotional place inside of you, like friends that you have never met. Friends who are invincible and immortal. Anyone from the ages of 5-50 in any walk of life can appreciate a comic strip in the Sunday paper, or a movie about a scientist who turns in a big green rage monster when he gets mad. That kind of universal appeal can only be considered an art.

I feel about comics the same way that I feel about art, because that it precisely what they are. They are full of beauty, humanity and fun. To me, its about the way that I felt when I see an actor in their superhero costume for the first time. Its about how enthralling it is to see a new interpretation of a character in a drawing. Its about the overwhelming sense of anxiety that I felt when I was squirming in my seat waiting to find out what would happen in the final Batman movie. And more and more over time, it is about the beautiful feeling of nostalgia when I pull out my Marvel cards or watch my old favorite shows.

These are the reason why I love comics, and I don’t care who knows.

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