Growing up as an only child with separated parents, I had to find ways to occupy my time and entertain myself when I wasn’t out with other kids or a parent. I enjoyed legos, drawing, watching baseball and collecting cards, and playing video games, but my favorite was reading comic books. It was the one activity that outlasted the rest, from 2nd grade through high school. My favorites were Spiderman and the X-Men. I attended the San Diego Comic Convention, where I met Stan Lee and talked to him for a few minutes. He sat alone at a booth with no line of people waiting. He was the creator of my favorite characters, and I asked him how he got into comics. The more I listened, the more I wanted to know more about the person who created these stories that both inspired and entertained me. After chatting, he signed some things of mine and I left. Looking back, I would trade those signatures for a photo, but one thing that I’ll keep is the memories of reading his stories and having the privilege of meeting him.
In the 1950s, the government wanted to regulate comic books because they were seen as poisoning the youth. In 1954, the Comic Code was introduced out of fear of censorship. But the same issue persisted in the 90s with comics, music, and television.
I always thought that was strange because I thought comics had the opposite effect. And of course, they’re fun, otherwise, no one would want to read them!
As vehicles of both storytelling and art, comic books can:
- Teach us that we will be called on to make sacrifices for others, and for things that are greater than ourselves.
- Show us that we don’t have to have special powers or abilities to make a difference.
- Inspire us to do good and help others.
- Tell us that it’s ok to fail and suffer loss, and to find the strength to persevere.
- Reinforce and illustrate virtues and values.
- Grant us the courage to stand up and speak out against injustice and to help the less fortunate.
- Encourage us to be compassionate and honorable.
- Instill values in ways that aren’t done in school or at home.
- Show us that we have a responsibility to do what good we can, with the power we have.
- Help us think differently, and to understand that the world isn’t black and white. Sometimes there is a reason why people are villains, and sometimes they’re the ones that need help the most to be shown a better future.
The best stories don’t just entertain us. They inspire and challenge us to better ourselves and the world around us. Comic books are one vehicle to do that, and they can be effective because they are entertaining, easy to digest, and done privately.