And Why You Should Never Quit Comics
My grandmother, La Aba, my mother’s mother, was in my life for just a few short years. She passed away while I was merely seven, but I was blessed to live with her for a couple of those. Although her presence in my life covers just a decimal percentage of my span, there are some memories I will never part with, like how on weekdays we walked the dozen blocks from my elementary school to our apartment, in the heart of San Miguel de Tucumán’s downtown, and she most likely needed to stop at a corner store for some smokes. See, she was hindered, and ultimately fated, by this terrible addiction, but while she told the boy to fetch her two packs of Reds, I set my attention towards the magazine stand a few feet away. While La Aba handed over some cash for her delicious death sticks, I quickly spotted whatever comic was hung up that I hadn’t yet had the luck to read. Prepare the big, brown, puppy eyes, the right words to beg, and as soon as she turned away from her killer and towards me, I was ready. “Por favor, por favor,” would ring out as I clutch a new X-Men comic, or maybe an Action Comics, that was just translated for the Argentinean crowd.
As you might expect, being a young comic book reader, I was leaning towards the nerdy side. My older brother would beat me up often, I would cry to mom more often, and today I couldn’t name a single friends from my short stay at Nueva Concepcíon, the elementary school I attended. But I can proudly tell you that Gambit was my favorite X-Men and that the Ninja Turtles were the most badass group of dudes I ever met. I believe comics find those who are looking for an explanation in life, the ones that need an extra something – this applies to societal needs as much as it does to personal ones. So as a small, unsure boy in Tucumán, I needed a role model like Gambit (if you can even call Gambit such a thing), who showed me how to be confident, witty, and most importantly, a charmer. The same way Americans needed a Superman to beat up war criminals in the 40’s, I needed a Michelangelo to beat up bullies, crack jokes, and tell me it’s okay to eat only pizza. You didn’t see me worshiping Donatello, because it’s not the hero I needed to look up to, the same way little Johnny being drafted into war was more inclined to enjoy Captain America over Wonder Woman.
At the end of the day, our societal norms change, and so do our heroes. When patriotism was the number one importance during the golden age of comics, of course a white, male hero wielding a star-spangled shield and the most American name was going to emerge. Today, we keep tirelessly fighting for equality and women’s rights, so does it surprise anyone that Cap’s African American buddy, Sam Wilson, The Falcon, is taking over the red, white, and blue digs? Does is surprise anyone that the most talked about hero in the upcoming Batman vs. Superman movie is actually Wonder Woman? I don’t think so.
And what about my comic needs today, as a 20-something, wannabe writer? No, it’s not Clark Kent’s less notable story arc “Deadlines: Death of The Daily Planet,” I’m actually more interested in galactic tales and some “what if” stories. I guess after countless years of studying literature and film, reading novel after novel and textbook after textbook, I’ve become somewhat of an educated stiff. For that, today I lean more towards comics that stray me away from life instead of giving me an answer to it. I am no longer reading The Amazing Spider-Man to have a buddy like Peter Parker by my side while I struggle though high school, I am more fascinated with the Infinity Gauntlet and the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Today I am fighting for my sanity, so it’s not a hero I need, it’s an entertaining distraction, and that’s how my use of comics differs from when I was a shy little boy who hadn’t yet discovered his knack for sports and picking up girls. As my needs changed, so did my comic book pull list. And since society has had its fill of male superheroes, it’s now the women who are looking for empowerment, so we demand a Black Widow movie and more girl-power. We’ve had enough of the white superhero, so boom, “give us some Black Panther,” we yell, right before we all unite for a “T’Challa” chant! Comics and life go hand-in-hand, there’s no argument there. It’s all about finding the right hero to fit your needs for that point in time, whether that be a distance from your structured life, a little space and stars, or someone to relate to as you feel looked down on or under appreciated, a father figure in a cape. There will always be a comic, a hero, a story for anyone looking, for anyone in need. Always.
– Nahuel F.A.