How I connected with Comicbooks

Hi there,

I’m Alexander. Some friends call me Axx. I’m new here. I have a lot of ideas about a lot of things, but most of my ideas are about comics and pop culture. I look forward to sharing my thoughts and my unconventional writing style with you. But before delving into my wild and wacky world of words, I thought I would share a little bit of my origin story of how I got into comics. How I survived as a nerd. If you can relate to anything you read or just like the cut of my jib, maybe you’ll be down to stick around and read more in the future.

Ok, let’s get crackin.

I was birthed into existence in the late 80s, and gained sentience in the era of Power Rangers, Gack, Pogs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Fugees. A few years before achieving a hint of my identity however, my dad had a lot of ideas about child rearing as he attempted to replicate things he did as a child and pass them on to us. He pretty much had a preconceived idea for his children, so tried his best teach us how to act and behave like human children. Does that make sense? Let me give you an example or two.

One year way back when we celebrated Christmas, my brother and I received 1970s Batman and Robin dolls. I was the oldest so I got the Adam West Batman (proud of that) and my brother, who was too young at the time to care, was given the Robin with the little ass shorts. Another time he took us on a hunt for G.I. Joes. We went from store to store (this was before the internet, kids) where he would request the classic action figures. Each time an employee would bring out a 5 inch “All you can be” American plastic man bestowed with the powers of the kung-fu grip, and each time my dad would reject the figure saying it wasn’t what he was looking for. After some time searching, a good samaritan suggested an antique store, which is exactly where he found them. I remember the weight. The attention to detail in the face left an impression. The soldier with brown skin, brown like the color you would find in a crayon box, donned a ruggedly placed beret and looked off into the distance as he snarled at the sunset. He was garbbed in camouflage made out of actual fabric material. I can’t remember much else about it, but holding the G.I. in my hands I could tell it was expensive. Matel at it’s finest.

On the last of our adventures in “things dad did as a child that you should also experience” that I can remember was a trip to a comic book shop. This was a short trip, but it resonated with me. I got to choose one comic to take home. I don’t even remember if I chose it actually. All I remember is that it was an X-Men comic. Mostly B class characters. My favorite from the comic was Morph. He had a blank grey face, could transform into practically anything and would do so for comedic effect more so than for practicality. He was really funny, and different. I tried to google Morph recently to find out that his story- or at least other iterations of his story- lead him down a darker less satirical path.

I wouldn’t pick up another comic book for several years, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have my finger on the pulse of comic book lore. It was the 90’s dude! When 9am to 1 in the afternoon on a Saturday was the best time to be alive. I learned everything I knew about Spider-Man, X-Men, Batman and many other comic book mythos from their animated counter parts. I remember the scheduling gymnastics of channel flipping I had to pull off to catch all of my favorite shows. And from Saturday mornings, I moved on to the cartoon lineups after school. Some movies followed. I stayed with it all, the good and the bad, but still I rarely ever touched the source material. Until this one moment…

There was this golden era in time where all the stars aligned and a beacon of hope and nerdom was created that I frequented every chance I had. The year was 1999; the city was San Francisco, California; the place to be was known only as the Metreon. This place, which could have just been an IMAX theater, had everything! On the first floor alone the Metreon had it’s very own PlayStation store. The second floor consisted of a fully decked out arcade, role-playing board game shop, a Bandai store with it’s own mini theater that would show free screenings of anime, and (drum roll please) a comic book store next door called Things from Another World. There were more things still, but I don’t remember them as much.

Things from Another World was my second introduction into the world of illustrated storytelling. Around this time I was neck-deep in the anime, so at first when I went into the comic shop it was to kill time between anime screenings. First thing I bought there was volume 1 & 2 of the Tokyopop Cowboy Bebop manga series. Combing through the isles, I would look at what they had anime related: single back issues of Evangelion, the Trigun omnibus, and few figurines didn’t keep my attention for very long, but as time went on I found my self staying longer.

Something caught my eye when looking at the seemingly infinite collection of comics that surrounded me. It was a comic cover of Spider-Man web-slinging through New York, but this Spider-Man was a woman. Rocking a get-up very similar to the traditional web-head’s attire. The cover was “Spider-Girl”, and I’d never seen anything like it. Who was she? How did she get spider powers? The idea that the symbol of Spidey could be female, to this day, is one was the dopest things I’ve ever heard. And just like that I got sucked into the world of May “Mayday” Parker.

On that point let’s fast forward. The second Amazing Spider-Man film fails miserably. Wait. No. To far. Go back a bit. Riiiiiiight there. Ok go.

I’m in college. YouTube doesn’t have commercials yet. A friend shows me a comedy sketch about a kid named Jerry who poops his pants in class. It’s the funniest thing on the internet. I laugh til I cry. Later on I find out Jerry is Donald Glover. Nerdy writer/actor/comedian/rapper who makes dope… everything. I instantly become a fan. Not just because I like the majority of his work, but his work ethic itself is something to aspire to. How many artists out there sit on thier couch with a great idea, but no drive to follow through? Glover’s batting average is incredible. He’s able to do the things that he likes and puts himself in his work so much that you can see where he’s coming from, if you’re paying attention.

So the story goes, the Spider-Man film reboot was in talks and someone suggested Donald Glover for the role of the friendly neighborhood super hero. So as expected, the internet chose sides. This continued to kick up dust in the digital world after Donald Glover himself playfully campaigned for the role by dropping “Donald for Spider-Man” in a verse on his song “Do Ya Like”, and by rocking Spider-Man PJ’s in episode one, season two of NBC’s Community. This drew so much dialogue and discussion that it got the ear of Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis, who was completely on board. But instead of Glover becoming our next cinematic web-slinger (dodging a bullet there), Miles Morales was born!

I guess it all boils down to one point. The point in the timeline where I went from casually reading or watching something about comics, to my transformation when I went all in and followed story arch after story arch, issue by issue grabbing stacks of comics every Wednesday. I don’t know when I cried more. When Peter died or when Miles got bit by the Spider. Spider-Man has been big part of my life whether or not I choose to accept it. I assume that the same goes for some of you reading this. As fictional as the world is in a comic, it’s still just that: a world. With characters who have hopes, dreams and fears. Put to the test with trials that we cheer for them to succeed against, but they don’t always win. It’s the story. And the humanity. The same goes for any book, or movie, or sport, or reality show. We as humans love a good story; it’s in our nature.

The point where comics changed into one of my favorite outlets for story was in one page. Miles clings to the ceiling for the first time and the only thing he says is, “Oh no.” This page, this one page. It said so much without saying anything at all. This is in homage to the late Peter who had a very similar page when he first discovered he had spider powers, but Parker’s reaction was quite the opposite. Two boys on the same path with the biggest difference between them not being the color of their skin, but what they thought they knew about the world. Peter was adventurous, and even exited to see what he could do with his abilities. He didn’t think about how the outside world might treat him until it was too late. Time after time, Pete always had to learn his lessons the hardest ways.

Miles on the other hand, was born into a world where people who are different are already persecuted. He has a father that loves him, but shelters him from the world. His dad, who was prejudiced against mutants, wanted to keep him far away from that kind of activity. He had preconceived ideas for what he wanted his son to be. He wanted his son to be better than him, to survive in a world where there were more villains than heroes. And now here he was clinging to a wall upside-down. Miles with all this power. He knew who he was now and what he could do, but wanted none of it. This one page resonated with me more than anything. Growing up, I was always afraid to act how I felt; to say/do/be what I wanted. I had to keep up an appearance and because of that I’m not sure who I could have been, but I have all these mental walls now as an adult that I don’t know how to tear down. I’m stuck, clinged to them just like Miles, unsure of what to do next.

I think in time, I’ll find my own great “power” to get my responsibilities in order.

Alexander McAlister
@skull0mania

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