Since the middle of January, I’ve been receiving a Batman comic in the mail about every two or three weeks, and invariably devouring it as soon as I get it. Around the middle of March I subscribed to Spiderman, and now I have two things to look forward to in the mail every few weeks. Super heroes stories engage me like few others do, and I’ve been happily addicted to the comics ever since I started reading them. Why, though? What do I see in comic books and super hero stories, which the world routinely tells us are for children?
First off, the comics are far better pieces of literature than most people give them credit for. The very first Batman comic I ever received addressed the gentrification of low-income neighborhoods and police violence against African-Americans. The next few issues referenced everything from the “island of stability” concept in nuclear physics to a high-stakes variation of poker designed to teach quick thinking and decision-making. Comic books, no matter who they’re for, are written and drawn by artists, artists who want to send message just as much as any novelist or painter. To pretend that comic books have nothing meaningful in them is to do these artists a huge disservice.
Second, comic books are also masterful examples of character-building. Mention the name of any DC or Marvel character, and anyone familiar with that character can formulate a complete image of them and their personality. Comic book characters are incredibly well-developed, to the point that even minor villains have interesting backstories and incredible depth. Any writer looking to improve their creation or description of characters would do well to read through some comic books to see how powerful characters can be created from any background.
Most importantly though, I read comic books because there’s something deeply inspiring in them for me. As a quiet, shy kid who grew into a nerd with passable wit, both Batman and Spiderman are characters that, as drastically different as they are from me, can help me believe in myself. In Spiderman, a superhero with a happy-go-lucky attitude and brilliant wit, I see that heroes come in more than one mindset. In Batman, a hero who grew out of a a shy and quiet child, I see that who you were doesn’t have to limit who you can be. There’s something for me to find inspiring in any comic book hero, no matter their race, creed, or species. What could be more worth reading than that?