When I first started dating my now husband, I discovered his affinity for comic books.
I accepted it as one of his “cute” little idiosyncrasies and never imagined that the stories within them would occupy my closet space…….or my mind.
In the 12 years we’ve been together, I have developed an intelligent appreciation for what I first determined to be his childlike attachment to these stories and characters.
Of all the films we’ve seen together over these last 12 years, probably 80-90% of them are Marvel or DC comic book inspired.
They make great movies. They have all the reasons you pay nearly $10 or more for a big screen ticket. There’s action, incredible special effects, drama, humor, and usually a love story of some kind that underscores everything.
This week, I watched the last installment of the Wolverine trilogy: “Logan” and last night we finally got to view “Dr. Strange”.
“Logan” was incredibly intense for a Marvel movie. Violent, saturated with strong language and very little humor. It was dark, following suit with the two previous films.
“Dr. Strange” was more in line with a typical comic book flick. More humor. A more visual transformation of man to superhero.
They both moved me.
Yes, you read that correctly. These movies, based on comic books, moved me. One of them moved me to tears.
The thing about comic book movies is that there is always a suffering character. Usually more than one. The storylines almost always compare and contrast the suffering of these characters and show us multiple perspectives of the choices each of us have within our own suffering.
One of my favorite quotes from these two films is one from “Dr. Strange”.
We do not lose our demons…we only learn to live above them.
These words, in a nutshell, sum up the characters and plots from almost every Marvel and DC movie I’ve ever seen.
How do these characters rise above the inner demons with which they came into the story, and how do they rise above the impulses for power when they are given superhuman abilities….or do they rise above at all?
My husband has almost completed his brainwashing of me, as now my favorite show on television (and I only watch about 3 on a regular basis) is The Walking Dead.
TWD is based on a graphic novel series (violent comic books) and is unlike anything I would have ever considered watching had I not been married to a geek. (I mean that in the most loving, complimentary way possible.)
The Walking Dead isn’t about killing zombies. It’s about understanding the purpose of your own existence, seeing the bigger picture, yet living each day as if it could be your last. In their world, as in ours, that idea of unpromised time is both true and relevant.
As I get older, and hopefully wiser, I have come to appreciate truth wherever I can grasp it. In a sermon, in a book, in the words of a friend, in a meditation, or even, yes, even in a comic book story.
I could write pages and pages of things that have given me pause and food for thought that I have gleaned over the last decade from comic book stories and characters alone. Little nuggets and grand ideas alike.
What I find inspiring about them though, mainly, is the sheer popularity of them.
Yes, there are some people that use entertainment as a means of escaping their present reality. It’s certainly appealing. Yes, there are those who only like the fight scenes and action sequences.
But these elements are not what draw me into these fictional worlds. And, I have a hunch, it is not these things that appeals to a majority of audiences. It is the truth that lies at the heart of the stories.
Whether people realize it or not, I think there are deeper reasons these stories are so universally loved and viewed by millions of people.
We all want redemption. We all want to know that the good guys can win, even against seemingly insurmountable odds. We all relate to the inner struggles of doubt, skepticism, self-worth, and rising above our own weaknesses.
And we want to matter.
We want what we do with our own gifts and abilities to make a difference in a battered and cynical world.
We recognize that even our heroes have flaws. Big ones even. In that way, we see the possibilities within ourselves.
It’s why stories in the Bible of people like Peter and Thomas appeal to me so much.
The failures of these men did not define their futures.
It took some time, and some painful “refining” before they were able to see the big picture.
So it is with the characters of the comic book realm.
It is said that, “Art imitates life.”
Perhaps some of the greatest lessons we can learn from both fictional characters, biblical apostles, and those we meet every day all have something in common: humanity.
The real human characteristics of pride, pain, the need for love and the dare to hope…..these are evident in art, in sometimes unappreciated forms, and in our daily interactions with the human race.
So the next time you dismiss one of those “comic book nerds”, know that, at least in my personal experience, those “nerds” have a greater grasp of truth, right and wrong, responsibility, and the possibilities of redemption and grace, than some of the most educated, powerful, and pious people you’ll ever meet.
Comic books may have been intended for children….but sometimes “a little child will lead them.”