Does being a fan of superhero comics at 28 years old make me immature and ill-prepared for the world ahead of me? Has it retarded my intellectual growth to go this long reading stories intended for teenagers, about meek, unattractive men who transform into bulletproof circus strongmen and live out adolescent power fantasies in a black-and-white, objectively good-versus-evil world? Do real adults even have heroes?
I have Spider-Man bed sheets. I do. I got them somewhat ironically and somewhat because I think of Spider-Man as a mascot not just for Marvel but for New York, as Marvel is a very New York-centric company, and to me being a Spider-Man fan is as indicative of loving NYC (and / or Queens) as being a Mets fan.
I also just felt, after reigniting my Tumblr and finding so many people on there who treat characters like Spidey and The Avengers and The Doctor from Doctor Who like rock stars, that there is something kind of punk rock about cartoon characters. So, if I had to analyze it, I would say that my reasons for having Spider-Man bed sheets are completely grounded in a twenty-something, hipster, post-collegiate pop-nerdiness.
But then I look at my life and I really start to wonder if maybe Alan Moore is right, and that the comic book industry really is bolstered by people my age who cannot let go of their childhoods and are imprisoned within a puerile, adolescent view of the world. I’m sure that there are people like that within comic book fandom, as I’m sure you’re liable to find them in any sort of fandom, as the very concept of fandom lends itself to the idea of a severe attachment that verges on unhealthy, and if people want that, they’ll find it, regardless of what it is they’re attaching themselves to. But then again, few media are more perfect for this sort of fanaticism than the medium of super-hero comics.
So, where do I fall in all of that? I mean, I checked my bank account balance yesterday, and it kinda sucked. A lot. I still had to pay rent, on top of needing to run out that day to buy groceries and do my laundry. Where’s all my money? Well, right now I’m working as a waiter in Times Square and we’re in a sort of an earnings valley between the peak seasons of summer and the holidays. We servers were told to expect a slow month and less-than-stellar pay until October rolled around. Then, once the holidays hit, we’d be swimming in money like Scrooge McDuck.
Knowing this, do you think I buckled down, spent sparingly, lived within my means and made sure that my various financial obligations were met before allowing myself a discrete allowance with which to enjoy the sights and sounds of the most expensive city in the world? Of course not. I ate out just as much, went to bars just as much, bought jewelry just as much (which is actually never), and just resigned myself to having to dip into savings at the end of the month in order to cover my shortfall. And when the next boom month came around, I’d replace what I took out. Spend what I got as soon as it comes in, cover any deficits with my savings, and leave the burden of replenishing those savings with Future Mike Greear. Yeah, real mature. What am I, Congress?
But that’s just how I do things. I go with the easiest, quickest solution. The impulse. The path of least resistance. Who cares what trouble I’m in tomorrow, as long as tonight’s fun. I’m sick with a head cold, but I still smoke when I go out. Cigarettes are $12 a pack in the city, but I still buy them, or worse yet, bum them from my friends, who have to support their habit and mine. I spend more money on beer than I do on my phone bill, and then at the end of the month, I don’t have money to buy my groceries with. I don’t work out because I get too tired from work to do any more vigorous movement when I get home, so I’m surviving on a largely sedentary lifestyle and a diet of pretzels and veggie burgers. What the hell?
And as much as I am living off of credit that my future self will have to one day pay back, either monetarily or physically, I am not doing shit right now to make sure that guy is better off than I am. My reading and writing, the two most important things I can be doing right now in my free time aside from sending out resumes or pitches, or going places and networking, are constantly being pushed aside in favor of either resting or partying. I’m living entirely for the short term and am running the risk of letting that become my routine, until one day I wake up and I’m 58 and still waiting tables and spending my tips on a six-pack of Budweiser and the latest issue of Iron Man.
Is all of this because I grew up reading Batman and Spider-Man comics instead of The Wall Street Journal? In addition to Truth, Justice, and the American Way, did super-heroes also instill me with an unrealistic expectation that life will just get better one day thanks to a random spider bite or cosmic ray? Did they also teach me that no one ever dies, people stay young forever, and that consequences are never actually dealt with because I can always count on a continuity reboot by the end of the year?
I doubt it. I’m probably just being a dumbass. The reason I read comics still is two-fold: on one hand, there are a lot of creators within the industry that I admire and I want to keep up with what they’re working on, and on the other hand, I want to work within that industry some day and I want to stay current with what is happening in it. And I don’t want to work in comics because I am an insecure man-child, it’s because I want to make stories for kids and young adults to make them excited for the future and hopefully give them the fables and myths that they need to make the world a better place when they grow up, kind of like a blueprint for a better world tucked safely inside a flat, four-color box and shot into the near future.
And on the other hand, I am still a big kid. There are a lot of important values and skills that children are imbued with that adults feel they can’t take with them, which I feel are absolutely essential to living a fulfilling life. Your imagination, for one thing. Your sense of humor, for another. As well as the sense that everything is still new and that the world is still a wondrous place that tests you and teaches you every time you open your eyes. Never be set in your ways, never take anything too seriously, never stop learning or trying new things, never stop making friends. Never finish the phrase “I am” with your job title. These aren’t the values of adults, these are the values of children, and we can’t lose them simply by telling ourselves we’ve “grown up.”