I have been taking a writing course in nightschool recently. One of the earlier assignments was to write about something you are passionate about. Now outside the top three things (my wife, my son and being with the two of them) the answer was easy, comics. So below is that assignment, unedited as I wrote it on the night. I would appreciate any thoughts.
Many people have vices, hobbies, addictions and that ‘thing’ they have. My father’s is sport, my mother’s is books about murder, or Victorian hardships and my brother has wrestling. I had comics.
I first fell in love with them at age six, the same age my son is now. At a corner shop in Bradford, I was given one as a reward, or a keeping me quiet thing, but it was a piece of magic. The comic was Original X-Men #1, this 11 page story, with fantastical images, overblown dialogue transported me into a world so far beyond my own. Its characters as real to my 6 year old mind as anything on TV, or even distant relatives. I couldn’t believe it existed, it was like books with better pictures, or cartoons where I did the voices. The morality of these four colour picture books was enticing, you judge a person by what they did, we were all equal, you stick up for the little guy and you did the right thing, just because it was the right thing. It reinforced the right and wrong my mother and father were teaching me and yet it seemed much more powerful, this was an idea. No it was more than an idea, it was something to strive for.
From the X-Men I learned that racism and discrimination of all kinds was wrong, from Green Lantern I learned about fear, how it stops you and how you must overcome it. I was voracious in my reading, when many issues were thrown out, I was heartbroken, I carried resentment towards my parents, who had done this unknowingly. They were the touchstones of my history. I was a lonely and introverted child, this wasn’t about escaping the world, but expanding my world into new places. So many words I use now, I first learned in comics, my vocabulary now is often a hold-over from that. I could read more words than I could say and scientific ideas were shown to be before school decided to.
I was still only an occasional reader, but as my adolescence became lonelier and I turned more inward, I re discovered them at 14 and my love for them intensified. By the early 90s there were 30 years’ worth of stories, intense sagas, small character pieces and a sense of ongoing narrative similar to what my mother got out of soap operas. I had no illusions that these comics were seen as ‘beneath’ me and often viewed as kids stuff and I was very aware of the difference between these fictions and the real world, but these were my stories, my legends and my mythology. I read of Mice And Men and enjoyed the tale of George and Lennie, but that paled against the characters that I knew better and loved longer. That guy at work who works on the floor above, have met with him and drank with him, but I related more to the X-Man called Cyclops. I admired real people (still do) but not like role models, they always end up letting you down, but Superman was always a stand-up guy. I kept collecting and when the current wares didn’t thrill me, I searched back issue bins and comic marts to get classics. Through a shop I visited I made friends, even worked there on Saturdays for a couple of years. They expanded my world in many ways.
But out in the world, I was embarrassed by this hobbie for a long time, not admitting it to others, or simply avoiding talking about it. But inside, I was a died in the wool geek.
When comic book movies were starting to happen, I jumped on each one, the idea that something in my hand (or longbox) could be on the big screen was amazing, despite the fact that it’d been done many times before since the dawn of cinema. When comic book movies started getting more and more common, well that was just awesome. My wife and I, on our first weekend together went to see Superman Returns. It became something I could share with her, or at least be more open about.
Then I had a depression related breakdown. I felt broken. I stopped enjoying things and after dropping my son off at nursery each morning, I had a 45 minute walk to work alone to cope with. With depression, your own thoughts are scarier than anything out in the world. In order to cope with being scared of my own thoughts, I turned to podcasts, internet radio shows. I gravitated quick quickly to comic related ones and discovered a new community to be a part of and for the first time in ten years I could enjoy comic fandom. Long after my need of them to chase my demons away had passed, I continued with them. It got me online, get into social media and have made facebook friends out of it, one of them (a podcaster) I meet up with at comic marts and we have a great comic stuff conversation. My life has changed, is bigger than before, I am a father, a husband, a blogger (or one could argue, writer) but I was always a comic reader. Another podcaster that I am a fan of, referred to it as a crippling addiction that they may never recover from. I hope I don’t myself.
Next to my feet is a bag with 6 comics in it, I am wearing an X-Men tee-shirt right now. I love my son more than I knew was possible, I love my wife more than my own life, they are the greatest loves of my life. But comics have been a constant.
I am a comic fan, my life is a never ending battle…
…to be continued.