In 1979, my parents bought me my first comic book, Fantastic Four #212. In it, the super powered foursome fought off old age as their enemies, Galactus and the Sphinx, battled each other. I was hooked!
I still have that issue. I also have all the issues I received from a subscription over two years’ time to The Amazing Spider-Man. Now I was really hooked. All those comics are battered and bruised, some without covers anymore from so many re-readings.
Some time in December, I will hit 10,000 comic books in my collection. Since that magical day 34 years ago, I have steadily built a library of comics that fill the shelves I had built for my office.
What is it about these four-color wonders that lured me in and has kept me reading them, even as I start my fifth decade? It may be any number of things. I think, though, that deep down, I have realized that part of my great love of reading overall has come from comic books.
For many years, collecting comic books was viewed as a nerdy thing to do. It’s only in the past few years that super heroes have become really cool. When movies with Batman and the Avengers make a billion dollars each worldwide, they can’t help but be cool. And here sit all the prior nerds with our collections, citing first appearances of Batman (Detective Comics #27, 1939) and Thor (Journey Into Mystery #83), nodding and smiling because we knew all along that comic book heroes were awesome.
If I’m really honest, I’ll tell you that I related to characters like Peter Parker (that’s Spider-Man’s secret identity, in case you were wondering). He was a mousy teenager, unsure of himself, pretty smart in school, but not very good around girls. I saw a lot of him in me, and many people who cite their favorite book, movie, etc. can relate to a character in that story.
I’m not sure for which character I have the most comics. It may very well be Spider-Man, though it could be Superman too. I do know that my longest consecutive run of one comic is Captain America. In addition to having every issue from 206-454, I have almost every comic of his at least in a reprint form. That’s a lot of patriotism!
I think I would have enjoyed reading a lot, even without comic books. After all, by the time I got my first one when I was five, I already liked books. However, I’m a proponent of the idea that comic books can help those who claim to not like reading. I have a number of these kids in my classroom every year.
As I’ve explored why kids don’t like to read, there could be any number of reasons, some of which involves lack of exposure to books when they were young. However, the idea I get from many is that they struggle to picture what is happening as they read. Those of us who love books can visualize everything as it occurs, soaring through the air with Harry Potter on his broomstick or sitting in the courtroom with Atticus Finch.
Comics can be a solution to that problem. They present the picture for the reader, allowing a reluctant reader to help that imagery along. With more exposure, comics can help kids find an enjoyment in reading and nudge along the visualization process. Will it be a solution for everyone? No, I’m sure it won’t, but it’s worth a try, isn’t it?
I keep bound collections of comics in my classroom and urge some of those struggling readers to try them. For some, it has worked. Others are still afraid of the stigma of being seen with them. For anyone who might be interested in seeing if it would work with your child, let me know. I’m happy to lend out my collections. Plus, I have a number of free comic books that I received from the Little Professor Book Store to give to kids.
Who knows? That one comic could help lead your child to a love of reading. And maybe a lack of shelf space in his or her office someday!
Word of the Week: This week’s word is primogeniture, which means the right of inheritance belonging to the firstborn child, as in, “The comic collector’s eldest child passed up her primogeniture, allowing her brother to have their father’s entire comic book collection.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!