In all of my years having an interest in comics I didn’t anticipate feeling emotionally invested in characters the way I am presently. When you are younger heroes are all encompassing, whether it’s the wildly fantastical stories or colorful uniforms or epic battles, you are just naturally drawn to them. I’ve had many different eras of my life in which I had more interest in one character over another. I spent my youth obsessed with Batman and Spider-Man; two opposite ends of the spectrum.
I’m sure you can make many comparisons between the two heroes and their morals, their attitudes, and their fortitude. I’m not sure if I emotionally resonated with the characters when I was younger or if I was more interested in story telling.
Being in my thirties I can say now that I was drawn to story aspects and colorful characters in a wide variety of costumes and pictures. I was naturally drawn to art and drawing and expressed a huge interest from such an early time in my childhood. Looking at these two characters and my interests as a kid, it only makes sense I was drawn to them. Not only were both stars of popular animated series (They still remain my two favorite cartoons of all time) but they dominated comics in the early 90’s.
Seeing so many different depictions and eras of these characters and truly experiencing what staples they were in pop culture fundamentally influenced by artwork for years to come, and in some ways it’s still an influence.
With this being said I didn’t expect to be really emotionally invested in another character in my thirties. I am a comic creator, I draw, I write and color my own comics and participate in creating fan art/commissions for people as well. I’m still an active comic reader and believe in the medium as a story telling vehicle. I believe feelings you get from reading a comic and experiencing a storyline are unique to comics and I can’t replicate the feeling elsewhere.
I started recently reading Superman comics over the past two years since Brian Michael Bendis took over on the character. I hadn’t been regularly keeping up with the character in my life, sure I read through Death of Superman like any other 90’s reader. I had figures from the story line, I watched the animated series like the others and appreciated Smallville in DVD sets. I couldn’t say though that I was emotionally invested in this character then or resonated with the character on a personal level.
Bendis is my biggest influence in comic creating. I have been following his career since the early 2000’s when he was revamping Spiderman for Marvel’s ultimate line and defining what would be my favorite Daredevil run of all time. When he made the move to DC in 2018 I was stunned but also excited to see what he was going to do. The first sets of titles announced were Superman books which really piqued my interest.
Two years later I’ve read 20+ issues of his superman titles and am surprised at my investment in these books. When reflecting upon it I think it’s a direct reflection of my stresses/worries with the current state of the world and where we are going as a society.
One of the key concepts to these books is the Truth. Speaking the truth, communicating your TRUTH in a world where the TRUTH is constantly under scrutiny and attack. We live in a current climate where we feel we must constantly doubt the truth and not just in a way of “Is this really happening right now?” But in a sense of information being shared, how we get our information and how we communicate as a people.
The delivering of the truth, the publications of truth being under scrutiny by polar opposite ends of the political spectrum is something that really resonates through these books. When you think about it the entire main cast are reporters which in the current climate are under an insane amount of scrutiny and often now treated poorly or disregarded completely.
We watch these real life reporters being dismissed, threatened, disenfranchised, disrespected and outright ignored. We watch them publicly shamed and hated for literally trying to report the TRUTH in this current political climate. Who knew that trying to keep an accurate account of what is happening on a day to day would be considered of annoyance to offices in power? To think the very vehicles that are used to help officials get elected, to get their message out there and to promote events like this are more often than not in the direct line of fire and outright attacked for reporting TRUTH, for asking the hard questions that are hovering around the heart of TRUTH in society.
Seeing these events unfold on a daily basis whether I want to or not. Part of present day society is not being able to turn off those news outlets whether you want to or not. The fear and anxiety in your body is a huge factor in that. Why would you want to stick your head in the sand and just ignore decisions that are going to impact our planet and future generations? There are many who state this is how they survive, by simply turning a deaf ear to the TRUTH because the TRUTH is scary and so overwhelmingly frightening to have to grapple with. The feeling of despair and terror at the antiquated jaded hands we have placed our safety and trust into is something I’m really struggling with.
In these times it’s hard not to completely fall to despair, to not just want to shut yourself off from the internet and hide in a hole. A big part of working through this for me is working on my comics, putting the energy into something productive and at its heart trying to encompass the ideals I feel we desperately need to preserve and hold onto. I write Legends of Lys, it’s a fantasy story about a young girl growing up, trying to find herself and dedicate herself to the defense of her homeland. That is her truth, to protect what she loves and values.
In some ways she is inspired by Wonder Woman and Superman, characters that embody justice and truth in such iconic ways. Having been reading much more superman I can feel those ideals and feelings of hope begin to trickle in. I guess that’s also been a huge comfort through the past 4 years. We struggle and panic and look for any signs of hope. We hope for a resources (James Comey, Robert Meuller) we hope for an event to reset the status quo (cc: Impeachment 2019/20) and we hope for a savior ( cc: Bernie, Elizabeth Warren).
More personally I have found hope in reading these Superman books. To look at a character devoutly pure and upholding justice in a way I don’t currently see reflected in the world is inspiring to me. A character that has been a staple in pop culture and a figurehead in my own upbringing (remember I love superheroes y’all.) I get to not only have this hopeful influence in my comic reading but also someone who is struggling as a father to raise a child period let alone one in the current state of the world really resonates with me.
I think it also just feels good to see people really being saved from disastrous situations in a way that so many of us wish to be. To have someone not only defending TRUTH as a reporter but stepping out and into his own TRUTH ( See Superman Issue #18 of the most recent run) and still standing tall in his assertions and family.
On a dark day like today where we are all but assured obedience by a singular party to their dictator I needed something positive to write about and feel. I don’t know where we go as a society from here but I plan on hunkering down and living in fantasy worlds of Lys and Metropolis, because at least there people still have moral character and decency.
If you also feel like joining me in Lys, the first volume is available here https://intheshade.bigcartel.com/product/legends-of-lys-vol-1-defenders-of-sanctum-tpb
Check out Superman and Action Comics by Brian Michael Bendis at DC Comics, read Lois Lane by Greg Rucka and Mike Perkins at DC Comics,.