When faced with confrontation, stress, or merely a question about morality, my mind often wanders to comic books…
As a child, the following lessons were made clear to me through the wonderful medium of sequential art. Peter Parker taught me that you have to always do the right thing, even if it means putting yourself at risk and making yourself miserable. Bruce Wayne taught me that if you put enough effort into it, anything is possible. Matt Murdoch taught me never to give up, no matter how hard you have been beaten down, or how bad things seem, you gotta pick yourself up and get back in the fight. Ollie Queen taught me that fighting for what you believe in is more important than the rules or what even your friends might think of you. Dick Grayson and his pals crew taught me that family is more than blood, it’s the people who stand by you through the end, no matter who drank your last beer. Xavier’s crew taught me that differences shouldn’t seperate us, that we should embrace them because they make us stronger. I learned from Barry Allen that self-sacrifice is a neccesarry part of keeping your friends and family safe. I learned from Clark Kent that no matter what your gifts, what edge you have, you must always be humble and worry about those less fortunate.
As I grew into my teens I learned more complex lessons. From Morpheus, I was taught that dreams have more power than anyone could have thought possible, and that without hope, life is meaningless. I learned from Buddy Baker that we are all connected to this earth, and everything we do has an impact. Jesse Custer taught me never to take anything at face value, that nothing, and no one, no matter how much love we devote to them, is as pure or reciprocal as we want it to be. And I learned from Spider Jerusalem that very often, telling the truth about something can cost you very nearly everything…… but no matter what the truth is more important.Â
Many people throw out “everything I need to know about life I learned from ‘yadda yadda’… and it’s possible that they believe it, but more often than not it’s just someone trying to be witty and get a life. But the truth of the matter is, I got most of my moral lessons from comics. Not from the big knock down drag out fights, or the endless litany of soap opera situations. I learned my lessons from the little moments. Firestorm, on a rooftop, refusing to fight back against a friend who felt that Ronnie wronged him, and willingly getting the snot beat out of him rather than raise a hand against a friend. Ben Parker, telling his nephew that with great power comes great responsiblility. Kitty Pryde defending Stevie from a racist classmate. Rick Jones’s heart breaking beside Marla’s deathbed. Wonder Woman trying to console a young Cassie after her classmate commited suicide.
Sure the fights have always entertained me, and the costumes and impossible situations are fun to read about, but it was always the little things that kept me coming back. The unintentional moral lessons, the ones you don’t even notice until you have gained enough wisdom to look back and recognize them for what they were.
The comics I read and learned the most from never tried cramming their morals down my throat, they never stepped back to explain what they were teaching and why it was important, but the message was their, and it was subtle, it wormed its way into my personality and influenced me without being a hammer. And that’s why it worked. Sure the obvious moral to every story and character were there, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t hurt people, but those were all lessons we knew already.
It saddens me that there are fewer and fewer places where kids can learn these lessons today. Comics are too expensive and hard to find for most kids, television is worthless, and our supposed moral leaders seem to busy telling us all that people who love each other are an abomination or that everything they might possibly enjoy will send them to hell for anyone to actually take them seriously.
Where will your children learn how to treat each other and themselves? With all the honor, compassion, and personal heroism being dismissed and ignored, and treating each other like garbage is not only acceptable, but encouraged in the media, what kind of people will your children grow up to be?
Posted originally: 2007-01-09 13:16:53