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The Heroes Are Real

All this month, we’ll be helping Children’s Hospital Los AngelesMake March Matter campaign, which aims to raise over a million dollars in March alone for CHLA through the efforts of its corporate partners, among which we are proud to be numbered.  Children’s Hospital Los Angeles sees over 528,000 patient visits annually, and is the top ranked pediatric hospital in California by US News & World Report. You can help Make March Matter by simply attending one of the many events or participating in one of the many initiatives being offered by CHLA’s partners (including our event on Saturday, March 25), all listed at www.makemarchmatter.org.

To help remind us all to Make March Matter to support children’s health, we’ve asked all our contributors here at the website to focus on books and comics for kids, or the books or comics that meant the most to them as kids, because we firmly believe that escaping into literature is just as important in keeping children healthy and happy.

Today’s piece is from screenwriter Jeremy Adams:

I’m having the hardest time trying to quantify what comic books mean to me. The reasons are so varied, so complicated and involved, how could I possibly write about them all in such a small amount of space?

The real answer is, I can’t!

All I can hope for is to quickly brush through the tapestry of my life (so far) and tell you some of the ways that comic books have influenced me. Some of them good, some of them great, and some of them important to everything that I am.

My parents divorced when I was about five, and from that time forward I saw my Dad MAYBE once a year. He was an artist that occasionally did work for DC Comics, and so, I grew up loving comic books myself.

It’s obvious to me now, I was trying to connect with my absent father through the things he loved, but to my benefit, comics became and did so much more. They taught and guided me through a bevy of serious (and not so serious) life lessons. They cultivated my imagination, and told me that good would win, as long as the good took the time to stand up to evil. Comics were a call to adventure and cultivated my imagination in ways that I’d never truly understand but would benefit me immensely in my inevitable career.

It was Solo Avengers number one, starring Hawkeye and Mockingbird that had me in the backyard, nocking as many arrows as I could fit between my fingers and firing them at the back fence. Of course, nothing would hit the mark, and my brother and I would fight over who had to go retrieve our lost arrows from the neighbor’s now pockmarked shed. But hey, no one said being a hero in training was going to come easy.

I learned what treachery was when my older brother convinced me to give up my half of our shared X-Men collection in exchange for a “complete” collection of Spider-Ham. “Jeremy, listen, you could share X-Men 123, 154, 200, I mean, they aren’t even in order! Wouldn’t you want a complete collection of Spider-Ham? I mean, he’s Spider-man AND a pig!” (No, I’m not bitter at all.)

After Gruenwald’s “Captain America No More” run (starting in Captain America 332), I fashioned my own garbage can shield and tried to bounce it off every corner I could find (sorry, Mom), following the same training regimen that the Taskmaster gave John Walker in Captain America 334.

And it was after one too many “KRAKATHOOOOMS” in Thor, that my neighbor, Rusty, seeing a precocious kid running around the neighborhood sans dad, stepped in and helped construct my very own Mjolnir out of a block of wood, a dowel, and leather strapping. This was one of the first, and not the last, ways in which my love of comics would bring a surrogate Dad to my rescue.

When I was mercilessly bullied in junior high, I knew I had to do the same thing that countless other heroes had done before me. Bruce Wayne, Matt Murdock, Ted Kord, were all just disciplined, normal humans (aside from a little radar sense and billion dollar trust fund). They trained themselves to take on the bad guys, and help the helpless. Armed with this knowledge, I headed to a nearby Tae Kwon Do studio and after two weeks thought I was Bruce Lee. It was that confidence that kept me from ever being bullied again.

I bought my first car on the basis of what I could afford, AND how much it looked like the Batmobile.

When the only comic book store to exist in my hometown appeared, it was the owner, “Uncle Joe” who would listen to my exuberant ramblings. He was ecstatic when I showed up to their Halloween party dressed as Moon Knight, despite my inhibitions about doing so.

He never complained that I would stick an assortment of comics I could never afford into my “cubby” at the store. And when this shop, which had become my safe haven, closed not one year after it opened, I received a package in the mail with all the aforementioned books, along with a note of encouragement that went a long way for an insecure teen.

It was Captain America that helped me learn that standing for one’s beliefs wasn’t just a necessity, but heroic. It was the character of these “fictional” people that helped bolster me when I had to stand up for my faith, my conscious, or my taste in movies and television (which sometimes became more contentious than the first two!).

And… when I moved out to Los Angeles, I was prepared for the adversity that comes with pursuing your dreams. After all, I had seen Peter Parker scramble to make ends meet, and the X-Men’s hopes for a bright future consistently destroyed at every turn. But they kept jumping into danger. They kept doing the next right thing, and so would I (even though, yes, Professor X is a jerk!).

And, even when it came to dating, comics informed the type of person I longed after. They were the Kitty Prydes and Barbara Gordons, the smart, capable, and incredible women that I had grown to admire. They were easily the equal to (if not superior to) the men, and that expectation served me well when the woman that would be my wife said, “yes” to me some eight years ago.

You see, these fictional characters were REAL heroes to a thousand aspects of my life. Whatever bottled magic the creators, writers, inkers, pencilers, editors and everyone in-between had put onto these pages, had a profound effect on my being, entirely for the better.

Currently, my oldest daughter (age 3 going on 16) is playing with a toy car in the kitchen, while my youngest (age 7 months) is rolling around the living room, on the cusp of crawling (pray for me). Watching these kids grow, learn, become the wonderful women I know they will be has been both an indescribable joy, and the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.

Sure, when my oldest runs into the room dressed as Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, or Captain Marvel (yes, she has all those costumes), I’m undeniably proud. But more importantly, they will never need to chase after a Dad that wasn’t there. Instead, they can rely on a Dad that is full of hope, imagination and adventure, in no small measure granted from the wisdom and artistry that came at the cost of 50 cents per issue.


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