I owe a lot to comic books.
I was reminded of this when I visited Frontenac School to check out their new graphic novel collection full of Dog Man, Captain Underpants, and some superheroes that meant a lot to me when I was a kid.
Without Spiderman, The Fantastic Four, Daredevil, The Mighty Thor, and Captain America, I’m not sure I’d be a reader who often has five books on the go.
Back in the late 60s, getting a hold of my older brother Franco’s comic books was a challenge – they were hidden between his mattresses in his room.
I often slipped into his room, extracted a comic, and scurried into a vacant corner in the house where my eyes sparkled over each page.
Eventually, my brother relented, sending me to the Lucky Dollar five and dime on Marion Street with one dollar to buy 8 comics and some ju jubes with the leftover pennies.
Franco read them first, of course. The mags trickled to me when he was done with them. The waiting was excruciating,
I could only look, though. I couldn’t read. The art, characters, and plots in those stories exploded in my mind even though I couldn’t read the words in the bubbles.
Something magical happened as I began to connect the art in the comics to the letters in the bubbles.
I began to read.
My favorite was Spiderman. He inadvertently taught me about irony, paradox, alliteration, understatement, and metaphor. His sardonic exchanges with cool villains like The Green Goblin, the Rhino, Man Mountain Marko, and Doctor Octopus filled me with an intense desire to decode more and more letters on those pages.
My real attraction to Spidey, though, was that he had a special quality I understood.
He was kind of a loser.
He lost a girlfriend, worked a flimsy part time job at the Daily Bugle with a rude boss, lost his parents in a plane crash, lived in a tiny house with his Aunt May, and generally felt misunderstood. I recall last panels in those 20-page epics with the webslinger walking into an archetypal sunset.
I connected with Peter Parker’s personal struggles as much as I reveled in his battles with super villains. He was an important friend to me in those days when a fat little Italian kid in a predominantly English neighbourhood needed every friend he could find.
Do I still read The Amazing Spider-man? I check in on him from time to time, like an old friend. It’s different though.
Nothing will ever capture the breathlessness of those engrossing hours on Traverse Avenue with Spidey in a dogfight with the Lizard.
I couldn’t crawl on a wall, swing between skyscrapers or spew spider silk from my wrists, but I discovered my own superpower – the ability to read all about them.
Louis Riel School Division