Thursday, June 10, 2004

Comic Books

Well, today my mind has turned to comic books. I have always been a big comic book fan. Given when I was born, I suppose that I was predisposed to it. Batman, starring Adam West and Burt Ward, debuted on ABC when I was almost three years old. That September The New Adventures of Superman debuted on Saturday morning on CBS. It was followed by several other comic book inspired cartoons: Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, Aquaman, and so on. But it was Batman that I remember best and the one that started it all. As a child I did not realise it was supposed to be a comedy, that the Dynamic Duo were being played as camp. I regarded it as high adventure. As an adult I can appreciate the comedy of Batman, but as a child it was very serious business!

Naturally, once I was old enough to read, it was comic books featuring the Caped Crusader I started with. Of course, by the time I was old enough to read, writer Denny O'Neil and artist Neal Adams had returned Batman to his roots. Although the TV series starring Adam West brought the Dark Knight to the attention of the general public, Batman was not originally a camp character. In the beginning he was a creature of the night, a dark night avenger whose costume was meant to strike fear in the hearts of criminals. Naturally, I found the whole idea very appealing. Batman was my favourite superhero as a child. He still is.

Of course, I didn't simply read Batman comic books. I also read other comic books published by DC Comics. I never cared much for Superman. As much as I love the old Max Fleischer cartoons and the George Reeves TV show, I always found the Man of Steel a tad dull as a child. But I loved The Green Lantern and The Flash. Both were members of the Justice League of America (as were Batman and Superman). It was in the pages of the Justice League of America that I discovered the superheroes of the Golden Age. Every year the JLA would team up with their counterparts on Earth II, the Justice Society of America. Of course, the JSA was the first superhero team, composed of heroes published by DC Comics and All-American Comics. And it was there I found my second favourite hero--the Golden Age Green Lantern. The Silver Age Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, was cool, but the Golden Age Green Lantern, Alan Scott, was even cooler. Hal Jordan was basically an intergalactic policeman equipped with a ring that ran on willpower, given to him by the Guardians of the Universe. On the other hand, Alan Scott had made his own ring from a magic lantern that spoke to him. I found the idea of a magic lantern much more appealing. I still do.

As time went by, I found that I preferred the Justice Society of America to the Justice League of America. The characters were much more interesting. There was Dr. Mid-Nite, a blind physician who could see with special goggles. The Sandman, a character would could put criminals to sleep with his special gun. Hawkman, who had the power of flight. The Spectre, a policeman who had returned from the grave with the powers of a god. I thought they were a very interesting lot. I still do.

Of course, the Silver Age was also the age of Marvel Comics. And while Marvel Comics was the big rage in the Sixties and the Seventies, I cannot say that I ever really got into them. I loved Spider-Man, especially when he was still being written by Stan Lee and John Romita. Unfortunately, the comic book was somewhat spoiled for me when they killed off his girl friend, Gwen Stacey (I always did prefer blondes). I also liked The Fantastic Four, especially The Thing. Daredevil also appealed to me. He was blind like DC's Dr. Mid-Nite, but in his case he was equipped with his own radar.

I continued reading comic books well into adulthood, although my tastes matured as I did. Fortunately, it seemed comic books matured with me. The run of Swamp Thing written by Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman's Sandman are decidely adult reading, dealing with such serious subjects as philosophy, religion, and the nature of life. I especially loved Gaiman's Sandman. Gaiman created his own mythology. The Sandman was Morpheus, also known as Dream. Morpheus was one of the Endless, archetypal entities who each deal with various aspects of the universe (the others are Death, Delirium, Desire, Despair, Destiny, and Destruction).

From what I understand, comic book reading has declined the past few decades. In fact, I can honestly say that I know more adults who read comic books than children. I suppose that cable television, VCRS, video games, and finally computers gradually wore away comic books' readership. I find that sad. While I no longer buy comic books (they have become much too expensive for me), I still enjoy them and I enjoyed them a good deal as a child. Indeed, comic books were what created my interest in writing. To a large degree, then, I owe much of what I am to the comics.


g-clair said...

are you familiar with Jack Chick tracts?

Terence Towles Canote said...

I've never actually seen one of Jack Chick's tracts, but I have read a good deal about them.