Stepping into the Worl…no, Universe of Comics

Comic books are something that have always escaped me as a hobby. Don’t get me wrong – I am familiar with the characters of Marvel and DC; anyone who grew up in the early 90’s watched the X-Men animated series, whose theme song still pops into my head, now, decades after I last heard it. (Decades…ugh). And, of course, growing up in New York City, it was easy to imagine Spider-Man swinging through the buildings, Thing lumbering down a city block or, of course, looking into the night sky and wondering if you’d see the Bat Signal. (Gotham isn’t New York, but close enough). All that being said, I don’t think I ever voluntarily picked up a comic book.

I remember, back in grade school, my father bought me a number of specialty comics to both read and save. Little did I know at that time, it was an attempt at getting me into a new hobby. I enjoyed reading them, but it did not stick. Oddly enough, my father’s plan did work, just some time later. ( I still have the comics and years of not reading them has left them in perfect condition…they wound up being pretty important issues too).

Then – the late 90’s to today – comics have been brought in the main stream. The Spider-Man trilogy, the X-Men movies, the New Batman films, The Avengers, all bringing these characters to life, not just for their fans, but for the world at large. Television shows, both live action and animated, are available on the big networks. And let us not forget the video games…yet, STILL, I hadn’t read a comic since before I discovered hair in new and exciting places.

So, here I am, 28 years old, a veritable smorgasbord of geeky interests and hobbies under my belt…wouldn’t you say it was time to add comics? Even so, it wasn’t a conscious decision. Certainly, not on a grand scale. It all started on Free Comic Book Day at a local shop in my area. A couple of friends from work were there covering the event and a guest appearance by Jim Shooter (had no idea who he was…). The little girl at the front asked which of the comics I wanted, and, being a sucker for free stuff, I picked those with the coolest covers. A couple of hours and 1 BM later, a new interested was born.

Now, I found that I could finally connect to the subject matter. (After reading many more graphic novels, I am amazed that this is still considered, by those outside, as something for kids…) As a child, it is easy to be awed at the larger-than-life qualities and bright colors, but you really can’t connect with the characters on any real level. I mean, they’re usually adults, and old…you know, in their 20’s or 30’s. But now I can identify with an adult, dealing with anger turning him into a giant, unstoppable monster or the concept of what it takes to sacrifice for someone else, whether it’s taking a little damage or putting your life on the line.

So the fire was lit. I jumped online to Amazon and ordered my first graphic novel – Batman: Hush. Seemed simple enough. Everyone knows Batman, he’s awesome; tough, rich, smart…plagued by horrible guilt and pain. I guess you can’t have everything, huh? And it got great reviews. A week later, it came in the mail and it swallowed me whole. I read the whole thing in one shot, amazed at the art and the storyline. Almost every villain and hero showed up that I knew about, some that I didn’t. By the end, I knew this was not just something fun to do. This was an entire part of me that had been there, undercover, the whole time. It wasn’t too long before boxes of graphic novels started showing up at the house and my bank account started to cry.

I found that many of my friends were into comics and had been the whole time. They were more than happy to tell me about the different publishers, the origin stories of every character, different universes…????? This is immense! (Apparently, so immense, that everything sort of collapses and reboots after a while…I mean, how else are these characters all not 80 years old).

Ultimate X-Men, Astonishing X-Men, Batman, Superman, Everything that ends in Crisis, Invincible, Hellboy, Y: The Last Man, the list goes on and on and on. All of them bringing something new to the table, all of them filling a hole I didn’t know was there.

Long story, slightly shorter, as I write to you now, only 4 or 5 months has passed since my joining the realm of Comics. I’ve read so much, there is so much more to read and there is really no way to get bored. I’ve strengthened friendships with people I’ve known, started some new ones and now, am no stranger to striking up a conversation with a fan and being able to hold my own. And all this from a little paper page-turner with a bunch of “kid stuff” drawn in it…

So, what’s the point of the story? Is it to let you know that I am “one of you”? Is it simply to say, in writing, that comics are outstanding works of art and entertainment? Maybe both.

Or maybe, just maybe, it means that you should listen to your father once and a while. He just might know something you don’t…

Unless your Dad is Magneto.

‘Til next time. Up, Up and Away!!!

– T.I.G.

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