I remember the bullies that used to pick on the fat red-headed kid a few grades younger than themselves at a Cleveland-area Catholic school in the late 1970s/early 1980s. What those bullies didn’t know was that the fat red-headed kid they were making life miserable for had secret weapons galore, such as a pretty powerful friend named the Incredible Hulk. Another friend would have been Superman. Any yet another would be his favorite friend, the Amazing Spiderman. No, none of these Weapons of Imaginative Destruction would jump out of a locker and beat the bullies to a pulp, no matter how much the kid wished it. But they were always waiting for him when he got home, and were always able to lend just a little bit of courage for the kid to make it to school the next day. Comic books were his passion, even late at night under the covers with a barely-working flash light. He certainly didn’t know it at the time, but the fact that this kid read all those comic books during his childhood went a long ways towards the young man acing every English and Literature class he would ever take, and give him the base skills to perhaps write a few tales of his own someday. This is why I believe that the art form of the American Comic Book should be celebrated so much, much more than it is in our culture. It has been a friend and a teacher to millions of children, young adults and adults themselves since the early days of the 20th century. As this art form feels the pinch of fleeting attention thanks to the internet and the video games and everything else fighting for our children’s precious minutes, I believe every parent should give at least one sincere chance of sitting each child down with some classic comics and just see what happens. As Charlie Brown once said, “happiness is a stack of old comic books.” Maybe, just maybe, your child (or nephew, or niece, or grandkid) might one day agree, and their lives could be richer for it.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.