Sometimes, there’s a moment in life that makes you take pause and really question why you believe the things you do. These moments make you look past the superficial reasons and really look into yourself and, if you’re lucky, you come out feeling like a better person.
I had a moment like that recently. And believe it or not, I owe it all to comics.
Regular readers of this column know that I teach high school English and journalism. Since my first days as a teacher, I have never hid the fact that I read comic books. Instead, I have embraced it as part of who I am. The wallpaper on my computer is always decorated with some kind of DC Comics character. Right now, I have that awesome Shane Davis Superman from Earth One where the pavement is cracking underneath him. It’s epic and majestic and it’s been on my desktop since the beginning of school. I’ve been told I should change it. I don’t want to.
Anyway, students will ask me about comics every so often. I had a student in my most recent journalism class who loved to get me started on comic talk while they were working in the lab on stories and layout. Another student said one day that he should put a microphone between us and just record us talking. He would ask me all kinds of questions, like why I don’t read Marvel (it took me a few days, but I finally was able to explain it in a way that he could buy into) and if I knew anything about the Green Lantern or Batman movie. They were fun conversations, and I often times found myself wondering why I was never able to put these thoughts in writing.
And then, my student asked me one day, “Why Superman?” Honestly, I didn’t have a good explanation at first. As the reasons formed in my head, I knew that by voicing them I ran the risk of making him—and potentially every other student in the class—laugh at me uncontrollably. I thought long and hard about my response and finally came up with what I felt was a good, sturdy, and (hopefully) an inspiring answer. Because that’s why I got into the business of teaching in the first place—to inspire.
I consider myself an idealist. I want to see the best in everyone, so I find that I trust fairly easily. I believe that everyone deserves a second chance, and I’m a firm believer in equality—for everyone. Can I claim credit for coming to these beliefs on my own. No, of course not. My family, friends, and colleagues certainly deserve some of that credit. But another person who deserves that credit is a fictional character. So as odd and crazy as it may sound, I think I’m a better person because of Superman.
At his core, Superman has a huge heart. Maybe Kryptonian hearts are just naturally bigger than human hearts, I don’t know. But the guy has the ability to find redeeming qualities in everyone. He listens, he shows compassion, he gives second chances. He isn’t quick to judge. For all the strength and power he has, he still finds time to go back to Smallville for a piece of his mom’s apple pie.
He doesn’t kill when there is another option. He has good manners. He earns the nickname “Big Blue Boy Scout.” He’s in a committed relationship that hopefully no writer is stupid enough to break up or destroy in some way.
And last, but certainly not least, he’s full of hope. He believes in humanity and our capacity for good. He believes that in a world of people who kill for what seems like no good reason, there are just as many people who are ready and willing to stand up for a cause and see it through until the end. He sees the good in everyone, and challenges us to see it as well.
I realize now that I try to embody these traits. If that makes me goofy or geeky or just plain weird, I could really care less. I don’t make apologies for this. I’m perfectly at peace with it…how could I not be? At least now, I can articulate why Superman means so much to me.
So what does all this mean for “Life in the Gutter?” It means that the column has a new purpose. I’ve come to realize that while I enjoy reading many different comics, I still have a huge squee factor when I get to read a Super-book. And truthfully? I just don’t think Supes and his peeps get enough press. In the words of Ghandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Well, I wish to see Superman (and his alter ego Clark Kent) and his supporting cast get more face time. And since I want to see it, I’m going to make it happen. “Life in the Gutter” is now devoted to the Superman-family.
I’ll talk about not only the comics, but also what’s going on with the movies, TV, and any other media-related issues to Superman. Am I totally ridding myself from talking about anything else? Hell, no. I’m sure there will be times when a book rocks me so much that I’ll have to comment on it. But for now, this is where my heart is. Hopefully, this will equal columns coming more regularly as well.