September 14, 2001
This is a week that I am glad to be a comic book reader.
The day before yesterday, the new books for the week hit the comic store as
they do every Wednesday. Normally, I would have written up a couple of reviews
for the site, but not this week. It was really just too much.
For instance, in The Adventures of Superman #596, on page two, there
is one of the most eerie panels I've ever seen: Superman hovers in the air,
looking up at the Metropolis (DC's version of New York City) twin towers - analogous
to the World Trade Center's Twin Towers. Both have suffered massive destruction
to their upper floors.
In Transmetropolitan #49, there's a McVeigh High School - entirely ironic,
and very funny in context, but strange synchronicity, to say the least.
There are others, but you can pick the books up yourself if you're interested.
I just found it to be too much, trying to read the stories from a reviewer's
seat; every time I'd find myself in the groove, I would run across something
else that would remind me of what happened in Manhattan. I read comics - and
have for many years - to get away from the real world, and this wasn't working.
So, for the most part, the comics have been put aside, waiting for later reading.
I want to enjoy them like I enjoy books that come out during normal weeks. I
will say, though, that the aforementioned Superman book is a good book to pick
up this week. It deals with the aftermath of a huge war, and is really inspirational.
I hope Joe Casey and Mike Weiringo aren't fretting too much about the precognizant
panel, because the rest of the story is perfect for this week, good coincidental
* * * *
I know that there are a lot of you that don't read comics, and even more that
don't read the X-Men line of books. But there's an important message
in those books, at their core, that applies nicely to this situation.
The book was, at least in the Stan Lee days, a metaphor for racism. The heroes
are mutants, the next step in the evolution of humanity; of course, so are the
villains. The trick is that the heroes are hated by the general public as much
as the bad guys are, by sole virtue of their being mutants. Even facing public
scorn and even violence, they struggle on, protecting a world that fears and
Originally, the appeal of the book for kids was that the X-Men were outcasts,
much like most of the kids that read comics, but nevertheless they were still
good guys. They fought the good fight, they did the right thing, and carried
on, hoping that one day homo sapiens would accept them as equals.
No one would argue that the X-Men are bad guys. Yes, they are different from
the rest of 'us.' Yes, there are bad mutants, mutants that do evil things like
blow up buildings and hold governments hostage with threats of terrorism. But
the X-Men can't be judged based solely on their DNA, the things that make them
different; we see them as heroes because of their actions.
We would do well to remember that.
* * * *
I used to wonder as a kid what the world would be like with superheroes - people
that could really fly, or stick to walls, or run at the speed of light. In my
head, that was a beautiful world, much more exciting than the suburban small
town life I was living.
As I got older, I still held on to that fantasy; that changed on Tuesday, when
I realized that catastrophic things would happen more often. In comics, the
good guys always save the day, but what they don't show is the lives that are
lost in the battles, or before the good guys arrive.
Recently, Warren Ellis showed something along such lines in his early issues
of The Authority. It never really affected me until today, when I thought
about it for this column; up until today, I never had an emotional point of
reference for such a thing.
Frankly, now that I've experienced the kind of destruction that happens all
the time in comics, I'll stick with the real world. I'll always dream of flying,
or being able to lift mountains, but dreams are good things to have.
Besides, it occurs to me that we do have superheroes. There are police and
doctors and volunteers sifting through the rubble, trying to find survivors.
There are firefighters who risked and gave their lives helping people in Manhattan.
There are the soldiers that guard our country everyday, and that offer their
safety and well being to protect our freedoms. There are normal, everyday people
- people that could have been you and me - that took a chance and tried to fight
the hijackers on the airplane that went down in Pennsylvania, potentially saving
thousands of lives with their bravery and ultimate sacrifice.
They don't need uniforms, but they do deserve recognition.