This is my living room wall. It looks the way it does for a reason.
Since I can remember, Comic Books have been an integral part of my life. From my earliest memories, they were always present in our home and my Dad was the world’s greatest at encouraging me to use my imagination and learn to not only read, but to escape what he knew I was going through as an only child, through the world of comics.
You see, in my experience, as an only child and also as one who had been adopted, I never fit in. My “cousins” and “family” because they saw me as not really being in the family and, in the late 1960’s in my neighborhood where I grew up, there were only really big kids and no one my age to play with. So I was desperately lonely at an early age.
Dad worked all the time and mom was busy doing what moms in the late 1960’s did…she kept the house up, did the shopping, dealt with me being a typical hyperactive handful of a kid, and made sure dinner was on the table when he got home. Both of them were always very tired at the end of the day with no time to really spend with me and the weekends were always a blur of gardening or yardwork, maintenance on the car and other “grown up” stuff that I didn’t have any interest in–so I styed by myself and just hung out.
I could read well thought and from a very early age. My mother had insisted on reading to me every day when she could and I had taken to it quickly. I read a lot and I loved nooks, especially books about myths and legends. My dad picked up on this, because he was a great dad and was looking for something–ANYTHING–a kid with no interest in sports nor in most anything else, except reading, that would help him feel less alone and actually have some fun.
So–he went to what we called at the time the “Jiffy Stop” and bought EVERY, and I do mean EVERY, DC and Marvel comic book he could find and brought them home to me. I’ll never forget how excited I was by the colors and the characters and the action scenes and just the fantastical stuff that was between those pages! I must have devoured them because the next week he did the same thing….and before I knew it, I was hooked.
I found myself using an actual Dictionary to look up words like “Omnipotent” and “Omnipowerful” andother words who I couldnt even pronounce; but look them up I did, and learned what they meant and, more importantly, what the writer was saying through the characters.
I found myself encircled for the first time as well with friends. Not real ones, mind you, but, again; when you’re an only child and left alone a lot….you talk to yourself. And I began to read aloud, at first only to myself in voices; but later into a tape recorder (yes one of those antiques) to read the stories and play them back so I could relive them. My friends were far better than the teenage jerks around the neighborhood, too. My friends had names like “Thor”,and “Bruce Banner”, and “Batman” and my absolute favorite, “Superman”……and they were ALWAYS there for me.
I began to collect action figures and then began to use dad’s fishing line to string a rope from the doorframe across the room so that the figures could slide or “fly” to the rescue against the bad guy action figures and found endless weekends flying by just pretending the stories I’d read in the books.
This was the time I remember when each day seemed to go on forever and there was nothing but sunshine and truth and justice in my world….and then I had to grow up.
Across the years, I either gave away, broke or lost the books and figures I treasured as a child. As “grown ups” tend to do, I walked away for a bit from that world and had to face becoming a father and a husband and a responsible person but then when I had my kids…it all came back again; but so much sweeter….I got to see that world through their eyes; relive it all over again. See them, and later, my grandsons, learn to love these same heroes and villains I loved at their age and see the circle become complete.
So, when I ask my grandson what “Omnipotent” means…he asks me “Are you talking about Thor, Odin, or just plain old Darkseid?” ….and we can understand each other. There is nothing greater in the world than that.
So…thank you Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and the army of artists, writers and visionaries who gave birth to this genre. Know you not only created a unique and wonderful form of Art but you gave a lonely little boy the one thing he always wanted but couldn’t ever have when he needed them the most….friends.; and heroes.