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.
Continue reading LITG: “Why Superman?” By Mandy Stegall