I remember being eight and getting my first real comic book. It was an issue of Batman. The villain’s name was Cutter. He would chop up women after he murdered them and throw away their bodies in dumpsters. I loved Batman, but that particular book freaked me out.
I was scared to death to take the trash out at night for the next two years. As a grown-up, I’m not scared to take out the trash anymore, but the impact of comic books on my life remains.
I was a dorky chubby kid in middle school. I was un-athletic and cared more about books and Nintendo games than I did about sports or hunting. My family moved to Texas at the beginning of my seventh grade year. I spent the first few weeks being the new kid. My lunchtime was mostly sitting alone and reading a copy of The Outsiders.
That was about the time I started getting more into comic books. My favorite was always Batman. Soon came Superman, then the X-Men, and Wolverine. I didn’t like my life very much when I was that age. Comics became an escape that was different than books and video games.
I was as intelligent as Batman when I read an issue of Detective Comics, no matter how I was doing in school. I could be as strong as Superman no matter how overweight I was. I wasn’t shy and timid when I read Wolverine. I was a bad ass just like he was.
I was so self-conscious about changing clothes in the locker room. Just the thought of shirts vs. skins games sent me into a near panic. I did everything I could to be on the shirts team. I refused to take my shirt off one time when I was forced to play on the skins. That definitely didn’t help things for me. I imagined what it would be like to be as ripped as Batman. He probably didn’t have a problem playing on the skins side.
I was always dead last when we had to run laps during gym. I would actually get lapped by the faster kids. It was so embarrassing. But in my mind I would become a fat kid version of Wolverine. I was quick, manly, and the girl I had a crush on found me irresistible.
My life, preserved
I started to watch Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman when I got to high school. It became the highlight of my Sunday night. I was such a nerd that I would even record the episodes with our VCR.
I wanted to be Clark Kent so badly. Maybe it was because I was madly in love with Teri Hatcher. Maybe it was because he got to write for an amazing newspaper. Maybe it was because he seemed to have it all. I wanted to escape into that world. I wanted to be anyone but me. And in that escape, I could do just that.
The escape would keep me going. It kept me sane. By allowing an escape from my life, comics kind of saved it.
I learned a lot about kids during my time as a classroom teacher. I learned that kids have many different escapes. For some it was Pokémon, Xbox, or another game. Many kids played football, volleyball, or soccer. And a few kids enjoyed drawing, writing, or music. I learned not to judge, even if I didn’t understand it.
Everyone needs some kind of escape from their life. Everyone needs a chance to be someone else. Sometimes, it’s in that escape from ourselves that we find out more of who we really are.
Somehow I eventually made it through high school and a major depressive episode during my senior year. Batman, Superman, and Wolverine were still there waiting whenever I needed an escape.
Now I’m not a kid anymore. I’m a grown man. I’ve been married for over 14 years and have four wonderful children. Even though I’m more comfortable with who I am, I’m still terrified to be an adult. I try to be brave and face that fear everyday. But every once in a while, in those times that I can’t, I try to remember my escape and that I can still be Batman.
“The more you know who you are and know what you want, the less you let things upset you.”
Lost in Translation (2003)