I spend a fair amount of my time and income on comics and comic-related merchandise. For example, as I write this, my computer screen is surrounded by Hawkman and Batman figures, staring at me intently. And I can’t let them down–or else!
Ever since I was young, I’ve been fascinated by the possible. Even if something is very unlikely, it could still take place. And that has always tickled my imagination and drawn me to things beyond the commonplace. This is also probably why I love science fiction so much.
As a very small child, I remember going into the cellar of our home and finding something I had never seen before–a comic book! Seems my sister had picked it up, then lost interest in it, which is why it was relegated to the cellar, where we rarely ever went.
I picked it up, and discovered it was a Batman comic. The Caped Crusader was in the UK, and he was monitoring a castle to check for bad guys. To do this, he had constructed a wooden frame he stretched his cape over, then glided around the castle… like a real bat would do.
I was transfixed. As Frank Miller would say years later, “I fell in” to the comic. Suddenly, the possible was more than that, it was real to me.
This is probably why I am more of a fan of DC Comics than Marvel. The latter stresses that its heroes are “just like us,” so Spider-Man gets a cold and Invisible Woman has a bad hair day. The DC heroes are , well, more heroic and larger than life, making the impossible possible, so they are more iconic and engage my imagination more. I already know a lot of comics readers who disagree with me on this, but hey, diversity and all that!
There was a little comic book store in our town that sold comics and candy. My brother and I often wondered if we could hide and maybe even live in there with the two things we loved most.
Now, I haven’t always kept up with the latest comics. When I went to college, I was just too busy to read them. Besides, it was the era of the Spider-Mobile, the Super-Mobile, and Doc Octopus marrying Aunt May. I didn’t feel I was missing anything, so I focused on other things for about 12 years.
It was really The New Teen Titans comic that got me back into the swing of things. I saw George Perez’s art and loved the storytelling, so I started buying them after my brother sent me to every comics store in the Washington, D.C., area for the first issue of that run.
For a while, all I bought was about five comics a month. Then the guy running my comics store said that if I added just a few titles to my list, I’d get a bigger discount. So I looked over the stand, then added a few comics–including the Batman books.
Understand that Batman at that time was fighting Nocturna and the Calendar Man, so he was fighting in hard times. The folks at DC very nearly canceled Detective Comics, the sales were so low. But it wouldn’t be long before Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns was released, and Batman has been living off the vision that series conveyed for the last couple of decades.
It’s the stories, stupid! That’s why I read comics.
Probably the best example of this is when I saw Batman facing a bunch of Superman-level baddies, thinking he’s about to get creamed when the Dark Knight turns the tables on them and has them screaming while he puts his fist in his other hand and says, “Ready when you are!” (JLA #3)
I remember where I was when I read that. I remember thinking that Batman couldn’t possibly escape this, then recall the elation I felt when he made the bad guys yell for mercy. Oh, yeah, that’s why I read comics, all right!
One other example I will share will date me terribly, but way, way back in Justice League Of America #18 in 1963. The entire league makes a “Journey Into The Micro-World,” and end up in a prison they cannot break out of. They tell each other, “If I can’t do it, surely you can’t either.” And no one can … until Batman demands they all keep quiet and not tell him anything about being able to bend the prison bars.
I wish I could have found an image of that moment, but I couldn’t. You’ll just have to imagine it for yourselves — Batman pulling prison bars open with the astonished faces of Superman and Wonder Woman behind him. I still love that panel.
These are examples of why I read comics. I’m sure some of you could come up with your own examples, so feel free!