I didn’t read the Hurricane Sandy issue of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye (#7) until last month, almost a year and a half after the actual storm. I’m living in California now, but when Sandy hit, I was shacked up in New York. Long Island, actually. My living situation was strange – I was living with my then-fiancée, but our place in North Babylon was so small that the majority of my stuff was still being stored at my parents’ home in Freeport. The storm hit us hard, pretty much everywhere… but Freeport had the particular distinction of being located right on the water. We were surrounded on either side by a canal that, as was predicted by pretty much everyone, wound up spilling into many of our homes, much like the scene in Hawkeye where Clint and Grills see that Grills’ father’s home has been turned into a veritable swimming pool. I didn’t go through anything as traumatic as trying to rescue my dead wife’s photographs from a basement full of treacherous water, risking life and limb to preserve a memory as these characters did, but man… reading that issue brought up a lot of feelings about the storm that I hadn’t really dealt with.
It made me think about stuff. Not the general stuff stuff, but the possessions. The things we call our own. I remembered when I was racing to put all of my favorite things as high up as possible, hoping the water wouldn’t reach the top of my parents’ shelves. I put as many comics as I could as close to the ceiling as I could manage. When I’d decided that I’d done the best I could, I went home and prepared for the storm with the fiancee. It’s funny what made some of my possessions worth saving while others got pushed to the wayside – when I think about it, I suppose it wasn’t the value of the items. Most of my electronics got ruined by the storm, and I was okay with that. Like Grills’ father, I sought to preserve memories. I saved the signed, hardcover copy of Blankets that the fiancee got me at New York Comic Con just a month prior. I saved my first stuffed animal, a Snoopy doll, that had comforted me for years as I slept. I saved my first ever comic… Stephen King’s Creepshow. I saved the memories.
What I loved most about the Hawkeye issue was the honesty of it… how a storm that can destroy your life doesn’t really seem real until it’s right in your face. It’s easy to think about how crazy the events of that day were after they were done, but I remember something else. I remember rejecting the truth of the storm – I didn’t stick in my place like Grills’ father, but I did do something pretty ridiculous. I was on the phone with my editor, who was giving me notes on one of my Robyn Hood issues, I think the third one. The power went out, but I stayed on the phone, racing to type his notes. The fiancee began to panic. While she prepared for the storm, like a sane person, I stayed on the phone. She ended up hitting her head on the chandelier and getting pretty hurt before I hung up on my editor. We eventually ended up laughing about that, because the whole thing was pretty damn silly, but it wasn’t funny at first. We argued afterward and, of course, she was right. I isolated myself, like Grills’ father, by denying the storm. It was only after it was over, when she and I went to my parents’ home in Freeport days later to survey the damage that I really allowed myself to be made vulnerable by it. We walked into my room and felt the wetness on the rug. It had only gone up about half a foot, though at the time I’d thought it’d filled most of the house. I remembered finding a stash of my Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics that I’d left on the ground. So many of them, and I thought for sure they were destroyed. I remember opening that box as she sat on the bed, watching me. The comics were bagged and boarded, and they were perfectly fine.
Other things were destroyed. A lot of things were destroyed, to be honest. I’m still finding some of my things stinky and salty, all this time later, unsure how I’d gone so long without noticing. Many people lost so much more, and I knew I was lucky that day.
The issue of Hawkeye made me feel almost exactly like I did in the days following the storm. Nervous and scared and tentative and wistful and weird and human and small.
And also, kind of not small.
In the comic, much like life, there are no superheroics. No big battle… Hawkeye isn’t fighting something that he can beat. He’s helping people and being human and doing good and messing up and making bad choices sometimes but still trying.
I can’t help but think that, should another storm like Sandy strike, that comic would end up very, very close to the ceiling.
And I’d make damn sure to hang up the phone before the power goes out.
PAT SHAND is a writer and editor for Zenescope Entertainment.