Comics books. For as long as I can remember, my friends would argue over things like the strength of the various tights clad, power imbued aliens and gods. How they were rightous and just and we should admire them. But something never sat right with me about that. I still remember when Lex final took Superman’s powers and we watched him spiral into madness.
The one that really hit me when I was a kid, the one that opened my eyes, was about a man who never wanted to be anything more than a scientist. He wasn’t looking for power or control. He was a man in the wrong place at the wrong time. I still remember watching as Anton Arcane (who’s name would later become my go-to for gamertags and has evolved so many times over the decades) set the events in motion. The events that led Dr. Alec Holland to morph into a beast of plant and animal matter. The day that Swamp Thing showed me how much more there is to comics.
Since then, the “anti-hero” has always been the one for me. The people who are just living their lives and then suddenly everything was out of their control. They do what they do because of an internal moral compass. Not out of some pious notion of nationalism or humanitarianism, but simply because it’s the right thing given the circumstance. Unfortunately, just like in real life, things can go horribly wrong.
The road to Hell. They say it’s paved with good intentions. Ask Constantine, Hellboy… hell, ask Lucifer. They all try desperately to do the right thing and it always goes terribly wrong. Loved ones are lost, hopes and dreams fade, parental love turns to hate… and yes, I know it’s a “sympathy for the devil” type situation. In one case it’s quite literal. But the simple truth is, from Jesse Custer to Wynona Earp, we can’t help but see ourselves and our own struggles.
These are not the heroes. These are not the caped and spandex bedazzled gods. These are the plain and simple folks just trying to get by. They are you and me.
Tomorrow is new comic book day. Maybe slide on into the store up the street and peruse the shelves. But look a little deeper this time, to that spot that’s hidden just in the shadows. The one way in the back. And when you see the covers that depict hues of browns and greys, ruddy dirt and grime that belies a deeper truth, don’t turn away…