Why do (presumably) intelligent, cogent, and non-pubescent men and women like us love those multi-colored fummetti books showcasing the hulkingly massive heroes and the unrealistic yet appreciably voluptuous heroines? Well anyone not in our little circle of geekdom who’d answer sardonically or ignorantly would merely disregard our love for the illustrated magazine as our collective refusal to relinquish adolescence. Perhaps even the most empathetic of non-comic readers would simply pardon our rabid fandom as being not unlike the kids in those Apple Jack commercials back in the early 2000s (which is a cereal that I haven’t had in a green moon…) and just merely say ‘we read what we like’. However, I employ both of those groups to please not dismiss our idiosyncratic nerdiness so easily, as you may have more in common with us than you think.
Rewind back to the late 80s. Like many people growing up in North Philly, my mom wasn’t exactly around a lot, and the closest thing I had to a dad was Dr. Huxtable. Grandma did what she could and was cool as Hell, and my pop-pop’s idea of a good comic was (gasp) Archie. Enter my uncle Morris. He always watched the old Super Friends and Spider-Man cartoons with me on days when I was sitting in the house. He’d tell me that these shows were good, but that the books-like most paper-to-screen-adaptations-were far superior. It was my Uncle Morris that broke out his old Batman and Incredible Hulk comics, and it was my Uncle Morris that explained the difference to me between the Justice League and the Fantastic Four. It was my Uncle Morris that first schooled me on the T-bone –sized beef between the Hulk and the Thing, and it was him that I wanted so badly to impress with whatever comic knowledge I had come across. Wolverine’s NOT from Australia like that HORRIBLE X-Men pilot suggested? Gotta run and tell him. Wait…there was ANOTHER dude called the Flash before the Flash?? Let’s run and tell him. There’s TWO Captain Marvels…in EACH company?? I bet he didn’t know that mess. And of course every time, just like a little kid who just happens to make that jumper in his dad’s face to ‘win’ the game, or when you just happened to strike out your big brother…he’d just so happened to give me the old gasp and shock routine, God rest him. Does that story sound vaguely familiar to anyone? Well…it kinda should, especially to those who ever had their first catch with their dad, played a little H.O.R.S.E. with their big brother, rode a bike for the first time to impress mom-dukes, or kicked the living snot out of that kickball in front of your Uncle. What I’m getting at here gang, is that just as how many of you got into your favorite sport at an early age because a loved one that you absolutely adored or looked up to first put you ‘D’, Comics work very much the same way. You had a catch with your dad or grandpop when you were a buck, and ever since then you’ve had an emotional connection to that sport and ultimately that relative. This love for this sport-or comic-grows exponentially when that loved one is no longer there to share this with you.
I can say this is true for me, since I connected to my younger uncle ‘Maine’ on a basketball level because he was only 5’9” and was REDICULOUS in ‘ball, and could dunk from one foot inside the free –throw line. I saw MJ and ‘Nique go tit-for-tat in the dunk contest back in the day, but they were both giants. My uncle was short, and to this day I swear he got dressed in a phone booth before basketball games. It was the same with my Uncle Morris when it came to comics. He passed his knowledge and love on to me, and I took it as my responsibility and honor to be the ‘keeper’ of this torch. This love of graphic novels grew immensely when he died.
So I feel that to say that we nerds merely love comics ‘just because’ is unfair and somewhat disrespectful, as I’m sure many of us have a strong emotional attachment that somehow connects us all to a moment –or person-in time. After all, we’re a very protective group of our ‘stuff’, especially towards ingenuous outsiders and never-been-in-a-comic-shop Noobs. And it wasn’t until only recently with the advent of so many successful comic movies has it now become socially acceptable or dare I even say ‘cool’ to be a nerd. With all this mainstreaming multiplied by the media most of us true-geeks whose fandom predate the FIRST Keaton Batman movie feel that our space is being invaded upon. Now athletes wear the glasses that you were clowned for in middle school-and make it trendy. We don’t want Johnny-come-lately’s and super-noobs. We all thought the same thing: ‘First Michael Schumaker…now this??’ That’s not to say that we don’t want new people to take interest in our dork-arts; otherwise comics themselves would enter a state of stagnation. We just want to make sure that the people that are taking interest respect the medium the way we do, and have the reverence for it that we have, and can ultimately become keepers of the flame. I love comics, and I always will. Someday I wish to pass on this passion to my children as my uncle did me, but in the meantime I’m perfectly content to pass this on to any friend who has the strength of character and the sincerity to take care of this, the gift of geekdom. So if you find a padawon worth your time…be patient, for the force is your ally-and a powerful ally it is.