As someone who grew up looking at, then reading and collecting superhero comics, my first proper job was in a comic/sci-fi shop. I loved it. I got to talk about something I was interested in every day. I learnt what the customers were interested in; from Batman, Spider-Man and Judge Dredd to Star Wars, Dr Who and Star Trek. I got to know about different storylines, writers and artists. I often talked about the heady days of the death of Superman, the breaking of Batman’s back, the Infinity Saga, the start of Image Comics and Valiant Comics and the age-old argument of Classic Star Trek vs Next Gen! A customer came in delighted one day when his son spoke his first words: “Girk” and “Bock” – I’ll let you work out what they represented!
I was a young Christian who knew far more about comics than I did the Bible or my faith. I’ll be honest and say I used to read far more comics than I did the Bible. I amassed quite a collection of my own comics which then, over time and into adulthood, went in the loft. Then further and further back in the loft, becoming inaccessible.
Can TV & Films Fill The Gap?
So, with a gap of 12 years since my last monthly subscription ran out, and having bought an average of less than 1 comic per year during those years, I was happy to get my comic-geek fix through the increased number of movies and TV shows about the characters I’d grown up with. That was a lot cheaper (which benefitted my family) and my background knowledge of the characters became something the young people in our Youth Group and Camps seemed to respect me for. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) became a starting point for conversation. How could I bring that round to the Bible and Christian things? It was a challenge I accepted, albeit not as often as I should. I developed little devotional talks using certain characters like Spider-Man, Superman, Hulk, Robin, Green Lantern and the X-Men, which they seemed to enjoy and engage with, but I wonder if they remember the Christian content or the comics I used as visual aids?
I was also noticing something: The movies and TV shows were getting darker, the violence and bad language was increasing. For example, arguably the 2 most recently successful movies (commercially and critically) have been Deadpool and The Joker. I’ve seen both characters in the comics and was somewhat looking forward to seeing what these big screen adaptations would be. However, should a Christian watch movies like Deadpool and The Joker? I decided not to but I know Christians who have. Perhaps that’s a topic for another article! Nevertheless, it’s a long, long way from Adam West’s Batman, Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman, Lou Ferrigno’s Hulk or the slew of superhero cartoons that frequented my Saturday morning TV schedule! In recent years, gritty shows like Gotham, Arrow, Jessica Jones, Daredevil and Luke Cage have been must-watch TV for superhero-geeks, and even Supergirl and Titans (which you might think would be more universal) had storylines and subplots I was uncomfortable with.
The Return to Comics?
So, we come to 2020, with an increasing disappointment and unhappiness regarding many superhero TV shows and no superhero movies to watch at the cinema, I decided to return to the comics and I placed my first ever order online for some new material. I was especially attracted to Alex Ross’ Timeless Covers on a host of Marvel titles – They looked great! Remember, I’d been away from comics for about 12 years… What should I expect to find beneath the covers? It saddened me to see the most popular current storylines/titles for both DC and Marvel involved much more darkness and evil practices including the whole DC Dark Multiverse and Marvel’s King in Black saga about the coming of the symbiote god, Knull, originating from the Venom and Thor comics. Don’t misunderstand me, I know these types of storylines have existed for many, many years but they were generally in their own genre and didn’t often cross into the more mainstream hero titles. It was hard to find new comics in 2020 that I expected to enjoy: Spider-Man had made a deal for his soul. Even the proverbial ‘boy scout’ Superman seemed darker. I loved the history and the idea of reconnecting with some of that history, but was let down by much of the content and direction the comics were heading in…
Then again, I know I have changed a lot in 12 years. I’ve grown more as a Christian. I’ve become much more discerning… You have to be as a father!
So, now, is my only interest in comics likely to be from working through my existing collection and filling-in gaps among back-issues? Perhaps it is… Although I did enjoy the first issue of the new Transformers/Back To The Future mini-series in which [spoiler alert] the DeLorean is an Autobot!
As I have dug out comics in the loft, I am thankful to have found a suitable app with which I can find if I have anything of interest or value in the current market, but even with that and various YouTube videos, there is the draw (no pun intended) to buy new comics, hot comics, comics that might be worth something to my children or grandchildren in 20 years… but is it worth it? It is a constant discernment dilemma. And maybe it’s just me, but I’d sooner they know me more as a Christian, with a deeper love for God and knowledge of His Word, than as a comic-geek knowing unfruitful storylines.