The Editor’s Notes: The Deeper Meaning of Comic Books

The Editor’s Notes is an opinion column allowing our writers to express their honest feelings about comic books, the comic book industry, and all that it inspires. The views expressed within belong solely to their author.

deeper meaning of comicsTo some people, comic books are childish remnants of a time where responsibility was an unknown and nap time was a requirement. To others, they represent a return to a simpler time; a time where an escape from reality could make any surrounding turmoil disappear for a brief moment. I reside somewhere in between these two views.

I was raised to love reading, eventually to get a Masters in Literature because my dad bought me a collection of comic books when I was 12 years old. I remember very clearly the childish sense of wonder I had reading Teen Titans, Silver Surfer, Justice League, and Uncanny X-Men. As I have matured, I have never lost my love for the fantasy contained within the staple bound paper pages of comic books, and I have grown to appreciate the depth these stories can provide.  The stories within comic books can reach out from the pages and pull the reader into a fantasy or out of depression.

Comics provide deep insight into the everyday. My life recently has dramatically changed.  I have a beautiful seven-month-old boy who has irreversibly changed my life.  His presence in my life has placed me at a difficult crossroads between the idealism of my 20’s and the responsibilities of fatherhood in my 30’s.  When I feel overwhelmed, I dive into comics to lose myself for a short time.

Igiant_size_ms_marveln a specific moment of dismay, I began re-reading Brian Reed’s run on Ms. Marvel.  In a story titled “Moment of Clarity” from Giant Size Ms. Marvel #1, Carol Danvers states, “In a flicker of an instant, I realize that who I really am is barely a shadow of who I thought I was.”  This line affected me deeply.  I’ve been furiously applying for a new job for months. I’ve been deeply immersed in the self-deprecating endeavor of highlighting my professional accomplishments only to be told, “We have decided to go in a different direction.” I’ve gone from a confident leader in a classroom to a beaten down applicant—a shadow of who I was.

Carol continues her soliloquy, however, saying, “This isn’t a question of what I’m not. This is a question of who I could be. There is no reason at all that I can’t be as good as I was yesterday.” Where Carol could see her failures as a superhero, I could see my failures as a provider for my family. Did Ms. Marvel hide from the world that was dragging her down though?  No.  She identifies her weaknesses and as frustrating as it ends up being embarks on a quest to regain her glory.

So, there were Brian Reed’s words reaching out from a dialogue box above a superhero and into how I viewed my life. As Carol Danvers set out to regain her prestigious superhero reputation, I could see I needed to pick myself up and restore myself to the confident, hard-working father I have proven myself to be.  This moment of clarity may have been the result of my own contemplation of my life, but it was ignited by a comic book.

The first comic I ever laid my adolescent hands on was Silver Surfer (vol. 3) #25.  As a child, the image of the Silver Surfer zipping through laser beams, blasting back with energy shot from his fists elicited fantasies of being an astronaut with his own interstellar surfboard. silver-surfer-25The story inside depicts the Surfer battling aliens of all types in an ancient war. At the time, I loved the bright panels and furious action. Today, however, I realize there’s so much more to Silver Surfer than fantasy.

In #25, the Surfer is drawn into an ancient war between the Kree and Skrulls. He desires to be left alone, yet through violence and persuasion the Surfer is conscripted into helping the Skrulls. He does everything in his power to help, though his motivation is solely to protect his loved ones from the ensuing war. As an adult, I look back at this story and understand the uniqueness of life more clearly.

Like superheroes, everyone has a set of skills and how they use those skills defines who they are. The Silver Surfer has the Power Cosmic and a flying surfboard. Ms. Marvel can fly, absorb energy, and redirect it. For me, I understand grammar, arguably write well, and love to talk. Whether it is the Surfer’s struggling to protect his loved ones or provide aid to a civilization that has proven to be untrustworthy, it is clear that even superheroes must deal with indecision. As I face my own indecision, I can wither in defeat, sit on my couch and play Xbox, and feel pessimistic about things–or I can stand up and face uncertainty with confidence like the superheroes of my childhood would.

The message remains the same no matter who your favorite superhero is; Ms. Marvel and Silver Surfer are but two small examples in a universe of possibilities. It takes some critical thought, some self-reflection, and a good imagination to see that the stories presented in these sequential panels of artwork and dialogue can tell us something about ourselves. When things are at their darkest, comics can provide us with hope and optimism that speaks clearly and honestly while igniting creativity and imagination.

Comics may be childish, but only if you choose to view them at their most basic level. I know that whenever I’m reading comics, I’m only one page turn away from uncovering something special.


About Marcus Hammond

Marcus is a proofreader with an obsession for comic books, movies, and if he's honest with himself, all things pop culture. He embraces his dorky, analytical side and finds nothing wrong with wearing a superhero t-shirt everyday, even if it's underneath a collared shirt. He finds Twitter fascinating so if one is so compelled, however, you can reach him at @BoomGalactus.

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