Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Child's Play

Well, here we are again, folks. That damnable job that puts food on my table keeps getting in the way of contributing to this and other blogs. Sorry about that.

So, what have we got?

Tonight I'd like to just kind of tell you about something that's important to me. This'll be sarcasm-free, just to warn you all ahead of time. This is one of those posts I write because I want to say something, not because I want you to read something. It's personal, it's shmaltzy, but it's real. Also, there are no pictures.

I know, I know, the readers who are really pissed off are the ones who haven't gotten their weekly dose of complete spoilerage since I haven't done a proper review in, what, a month?

But tonight, it's all about the children. My God, the children.

I have two sons and a daughter.

One of the reasons I'm hugely into Marvel Adventures: The Avengers is that it's a damn fine old-school comic book. Also worth mentioning: the backup strips by Chris Giarrusso are a hoot.

But the totally superawesome thing about it is that it's a comic I can sit down and read with my sons, and they're really getting into it. It's corny, but it's awesome. A typical exchange goes something like this:

SON #1: How come the Hulk doesn't kill the bad guys?

ME: Well, the Hulk's a good guy.

SON #2: Yeah, but he smashed those people's cars and buildings!

ME: Well, I'm sure he only did it because he had to stop the U-Foes.

SON #1: But won't those people have to pay for new cars?

ME: Well, yes, but...

SON #2: Yeah! And now they won't have jobs because they don't have anywhere to go to work because the Hulk smashed their building!

ME: Yeah, but...

SON #1: Yeah! And they won't be able to take their kids to school without cars!

ME: Ummm...

SON #2: Yeah! And they can't buy dinners because they don't have jobs!

ME: Well, it's--- (sigh) listen, do you have anything else to say before I turn the page?

SON #2: The U-Foes are lame.

SON #1: Yeah.

ME: I love you guys. The U-Foes are TOTALLY lame.

For what it's worth, it ends up taking about 45 minutes to get through a single 22-page comic, but it's golden quality time. The really cool thing is that I've seen them going back over the issues when they think I'm not looking, and I've heard them discussing important ideas between them, including:

"Iron Man looks funny when he's not wearing his helmet"

"Captain America's head-wings are way cooler than Namor's foot-wings"

"If I were Storm, I'd just tell them all they're being stupid. And then zap them with a hurricane."

The point is that it's got them reading, it's got them using their imaginations, it's got them running around playing "superheroes" with each other instead of watching the latest drivel on TV or staring mindlessly at a video game.

(Side Note: I have nothing inherently against TV or video games. I'm just saying that it's nice to see them entertaining themselves without electronic assistance.)

It's funny, because I know that part of the reason I love it is because I'm sharing something I enjoy very much with people I love very much, and that's good for the ol' ego. I get to feel like I'm teaching them something, and they think it's fun. How often does that happen these days?

And yes, of course some part of me is living vicariously through them --- that's 90% of the fun part of parenting --- but another part of me is holding out hope that 10 years from now if they're faced with a difficult situation, they'll remember something like "with great power comes great responsibility" --- which is also pretty much the definition of parenting, come to think of it.

And it's really cool.

I also have a daughter --- technically a stepdaughter, but I've been her dad for 8 years now, and I've never thought of her as anything other than a daughter. She and I have had some difficulties, over and above the normal "teenage daughters will not only drive sane men up the wall, they will drive them off the cliff, into traffic, and make them do a commando roll out of the car into a pit of starving pythons" stuff.

So, yeah, we've had our issues --- not her issues, not my issues, OUR issues.

And then about a year and a half ago when she started high school, she was looking for something for a project--- I forget what--- and found my DC Encyclopedia.

Two weeks later, I had to politely ask her to return it.

What followed was two solid hours of her asking me questions about continuity, back issues, and the various incarnations of the JLA.

It was the longest conversation we'd ever had.

And it was wonderful.

It was just nice, you know? For once we weren't harping on what we perceived as each other's faults, weren't complaining about what was wrong, weren't being so goddamned serious about everything. I wasn't trying to be "All-Knowing Father Whom Commands Obedience" and she wasn't trying to be "Disaffected Youth Who Has Problems Which No One Will Ever, Ever Understand As Long As I Live".

We were just two people who enjoyed the same thing, and who finally realized that it's OK to let your guard down--- and that my God, you should just be able to talk--- about a common interest.

I'm not about to say that "Comics Was The Magic Potion That Solved My Family Issues". But they did help us to understand each other a little better. Just knowing that we could actually relate on any level whatsoever has done worlds of good in the way we approach each other now.

So now we can talk about serious issues, like high school pressures, or her schedule, or expectations, or her faith. And we still clash over certain things like any father and daughter would.

But we also like to talk about other issues--- like the one where Batman laid the whoopin' down on the Riddler, or how crappy we both thought "Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle" was, or why Hawkgirl sometimes has wrist bandages and sometimes doesn't.

And it, too, is really cool.

For the record, she enjoys Batman, Zatanna, and Hawkgirl. Also for the record, it's extremely hard to explain to 6 and 7 year old boys why they never see Superman fighting Galactus.

Don't know why I felt like writing this down tonight. Don't really have a point behind it, but one's occurred to me just now. I leave you with it.

Maybe all the cynics and naysayers and jaded spectators and commenters (like me) are wrong. Maybe, to fly in the face of conventional wisdom, it's true on some level:

Comics really are still for kids.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You give me hope for the future. God bless your kids.

-- Jack of Spades

9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bah. The U-Foes rule. Rule I say!

11:09 PM  
Blogger joncormier said...

This was a great interlude/way to start the day. Thanks.

Last FCBD I brought my friend's son along with me and he picked out a lot of loot. But being only 4 years old he wanted Spider-man action figures. I picked up a few comics for him anyway.

It turns out he's now reading those at night with his parents as he approaches five. Mostly "Gorilla, Gorilla" but also Owly, some Duck Comics, and I think some Spidies as well.

This X-mas, the Tintin collection begins.

5:46 AM  
Blogger Spencer Carnage said...

"Comics really are still for kids."

And that's where you lose me.

7:42 AM  
Blogger David Campbell said...

What a great post! My girls are a little too young but I hope they'll get into comics, at least to some small degree. This gives me hope. Well done!

8:43 AM  
Anonymous Fin Fang Doom said...

I'm looking forward to the time when my nephew is old enough to read my Justice League Adventures comics.

3:46 PM  
Blogger -Dana said...

Hey Chris, I hear what you're saying, buddy.

My girlfriend's little girl (who is 6 and in Grade 1) is starting to get into comics now....her mom and I have been together since Liv was 2 and she knows "her D" likes comics and have since I was her age. She's constantly telling me stories about her friends liking X-men this or Batman that...I keep every Spidey sticker she brings home from the dentist for me or every picture of Supes she draws. And she's starting to ask more questions about comics. Like you were saying...its an unbelievable bonding moment when a little life that you love so much starts to love the same things you do and look up to you for the knowledge they can share. Its incredible.

Last year I was asked by Liv's kindergarten teacher to come in and talk to the class about the books I've illustrated (just children's books). Of course, I brought in some samples of the more well-known comic book characters I grew up with (and the comics I've given Liv to read...or look at before she could read) to show the kids what got me started in art. They loved it and I was later told by Liv's teacher that they still talk about when Dana came in to talk to them; they still call me by name when I go over and ask me questions about books, toys and movies. Its great.

Like you said...its great to pass on that love and appreciation to those you love and appreciate. Great post Chris!


8:52 AM  
Anonymous carla said...

This is why I sell comics.
It's a thankless job, but sometimes very very very worth it indeed.

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Van Doom said...

when I pick up comics I sometimes think about whether I'll read them to kids (if and when), or at what age they'd start to like them. Makes me remember all the GI Joe I used to dive into back in the day.

3:44 PM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

No kids for me yet, but when they do come along, they'll be getting comics.

Oh, and Marvel Adventures Avengers was great, but these past couple of issuess were terrible. Bring back Jeff Parker!

4:11 AM  

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