Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Time Out! The Comic Book

        There are a great many ways in which we all hang on to life. We hang on to youth. We hang on to the little things that make us all feel like children on the inside, where it counts. One of these things, for me at least, is my love of Superheroes and the mythic storytelling that is part and parcel of how they function in our society.

        My name is Hector Lugo, and I am 42 years old, and some 14 years ago I gave up reading comic books out of a misguided idea that at 28 years old, I had outgrown the genre and what it had to offer me. During this time, however, I was also developing new and, some might say, odd religious beliefs about the world around me, and one of the factors in this development was myth.

        Myth filled the void left by the comic book genre in that it allowed the imagination to fly, yet myth did something the comic books did not because they had a history as sacred literature. Myth helped to explain the world, and from them entire philosophies, theologies, and cosmologies were built over thousands of years. They allowed the world of the imagination and the world of logic to come together into a form of storytelling that went beyond either.         Myth, you see, links us to the divine, and as I am about to postulate, so do the many forms of fiction and storytelling that we humans so revel in.

        But unlike myth, the comic book has never been seen by society as an acceptable expression of divine reality, rather it has more often than not been seen as childish delusion, simple entertainment, and silliness. But something happened to the comic book along its long history, it grew up, and the genre is no longer simple, no longer silly, and it has become ever more relevant to people who enjoy it for what it is, an expression of human reality through the focus on the super human. In other words, a view of man from the viewpoint of Gods.

        True, Superman, Batman, Wolverine, Wonder Woman, and Phoenix are not Gods in the traditional sense, but one could argue that we human beings sense a connection with the divine, with God or the Gods, angels, demons, etc., through the very art that we produce, and no art, no matter how simple, fantastic, or profound is exempt from this. The comic book, like the myths of old, are an expression of man’s connection to the divine reality. But that in itself is not the purpose of this piece, just an attempt to explain it, or perhaps justify it, to those who may not understand it.

        Just a couple of years ago, I rediscovered my love of the genre. How could I not? Hollywood has fallen in love with the superhero, and along with the move of characters like Batman and Spiderman to not only the box office, but the academy award lists of nominees, the superhero has proven once again that it can capture the imagination and thrill us. That the superhero is indeed relevant because we are now atthe dawn of an age of adults who no longer see the genre as silly, even if they may sometimes consider it childish or geeky.

        This rediscovered love of the genre came as no surprise for me. It gave me a glimpse back into my own past, to remember things, people, places, and events that were formative for me. Because seeing Power Girl break through a wall somehow reminded me of that sweet comic shop owner who befriended me when I was very alone. Because seeing a beautiful rendition of Thor, hammer in hand, brought back images of a childhood home I seldom ever thought about. Because seeing Wonder Woman kick ass reminded me of a love I lost a long time ago who always laughed that I had to pick up my books rather than go to dinner every Thursday.

        The comic book brought me back to a time when I was happy, sometimes sad, sometimes frightened, but times when these books, short as they are, would help me escape into a world where anything was possible. And today, the same characters, some changed, some hardly at all, bring me the same kind of relief from the mundane. Just as a good Sci-Fi thriller or another reading of Lord of the Rings does. It allows me to access my most basic programming, my inner child, and revel in his joy. It keeps me from going into the dullness that is middle age by keeping my spirit fresh and full of wonder, and it keeps my imagination flying.

        But unlike the child, I can look at this genre with a fresh set of eyes. I can look at it and see in it symbolism and concepts that a child might miss. Where Wonder Woman is simply a kick ass hot chick to the 12 year old, she is a symbol of a powerful woman to the 42 year old man. Where Wolverine is a cool dude with knives and a gay haircut to the 13 year old, the 42 year old sees him as a symbol of man in his constant desire to overcome his baser, animal instincts and brutality. The man can see the symbolic nature of Red Tornado as the machine who longs to be human as more than that, as a symbol of all who are different in their struggle to fit in while remaining unique. Of Green Lantern as symbol not just of courage, but of every man’s need to overcome his own fears.

        Combining these two, the ability of the 42 year old man and the child inside to see these books in such different ways, allows me to stay youthful, even if the body is going to heck through a singularity, the mind is still enraptured in the simple act of imagining the impossible, and enjoying every minute of it.

No comments: