7 Things I Hope You Learn From Comics

Hey there, Lizard,

It’s me, your dad, writing you in the year 2008. I’m sure that by the time you read this you will be a capable, registered mega-genius living on a space station of your own construct, but as I write these words you are a one year old sitting next to me at the kitchen table eating a grilled cheese sandwich one molecule at a time. The way you’re holding it, you look a little like a squirrel. It is fascinating to observe, for the first fifteen or twenty minutes. After that, I have to go get the laptop. I’m not going to sugarcoat it.

I’m writing you today because, unfortunately for you, I am half of the team forging your moral compass as you make your way through the minefield/horror show that is the early 21st century. (I really am sorry. Your mother’s the only reason you ever stood a chance.) Knowing that I will be a huge influence on you, and knowing what forces have had a huge influence on me throughout the years, I have for you all the worries and concerns that most first-time parents naturally have for their first-born children.

fear my wrath!!Specifically, I am concerned that you are going to grow up to be a supervillain.

It’s too early to tell, of course, but occasionally I see things and fret. Those power-mad rampages through the playroom. Your tendency to cackle like a demented fiend. The way you occasionally plot the conquest of any toy being played with by someone who isn’t you. Your constant attempts to seize (the remote) control. That time nine months ago when I leaned in to kiss you and you clawed my retina. It gives a man pause, and also a very red eye. The fact that one of your nicknames is “Lizard” certainly can’t be helping, either.

You are in the hands of someone who for years has absorbed his sense of right and wrong mainly from comic books, so there was always a chance of some warping, but reading comics has taught me some positive lessons even as it ate away at my fragile mind. I know you will never read comics yourself– in your time, a 32-page comic is $47 and has 19 pages of ads– but before it’s too late I can still pass on what I’ve learned to you second-hand:

Everything you thought you knew was wrong!
The retcons, reveals and revisions that appear in modern comics with the frequency of new haircuts may seem like a folly of daddy’s hobby, but they are actually everywhere around you. You can laugh about Jean Grey not really being dead, but as you chuckle rest assured that your fifth grade history teacher will grade you on information that will be completely disproven by the time you graduate high school. They did a complete retcon on Christopher Columbus right in front of me. You can sneer, “Spider-Man totally had a baby, and everybody just sort of decided to pretend it didn’t happen?” even as a living, breathing politician gets away with something that would cook your brain in its own steam because someone just sort of decides not to mount the investigation. Pluto isn’t a planet after all; turns out it was a meteor with a good publicist all along. Recent studies show that food they thought was good for you is bad for you, that poison actually doubles your lifespan, and sunblock gives you skin cancer. And it was that way all along. We dig a little deeper every day; be ready for anything.

No matter how much you hate someone, you will team up with them eventually.
Don’t go in swinging; don’t punch a guy just because you’ve never heard of his team, or you’re registered and he’s not. For all you know, you’re both investigating the same ring of international jewel thieves. (If you must become a villain, consider being a neighborhood jewel thief. International jewel thieves seem to be the ones that draw all the unwanted investigations.) Don’t be like the Hulk and the Thing, two basically decent guys who’ve spent forty years block knocking for no good reason when they could be tag teaming. Be like the X-Men. Those soft-hearted romantics have let so many of their blood enemies crash with them that the mansion has a special room for it right between the Danger Room and the Honeymoon Suite. The Villains’ Nook has housed everyone from Sabretooth to Mystique at least once, sometimes twice. When I was a kid, Xavier just let Magneto run the school. For years. The White Queen is dating the boss! The X-Men get it: sure, you tried to assassinate a senator and decapitate me that time, but hey, we’re all mutants here. Let me get you a parking pass.

Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself, within reason.
As you grow up, you are going to hear every authority figure you ever have say, roughly 400 times each, “Be yourself.” Though this advice will sound a little bit dumber every time you hear it (“What else could I possibly be?” you may think during your all-black-clothes, reading-but-not-particularly-understanding-philosophy phase; “‘Don’t be President Lyndon Johnson! Don’t be a can of tomato paste! Be yourself‘”) it is essentially sound if you don’t overthink it. Unfortunately, everything you’re likely to read in a comic book will seem to directly contradict it. Almost every hero you are supposed to be looking up to in comics is doing everything they can to disguise who they really are at all costs, and if you are ready to dress up like Speedball then those costs are obviously pretty high. Peter Parker and Clark Kent would like nothing more than to keep you from finding out they possess any talents or virtue.

The superheroes know something your authority figures don’t tell you, though. They know that, sure, you can “be yourself,” but that doesn’t mean being the same self for all time. (Even Spider-Man went through that all-black-clothes phase.) If you read an issue from 1987 and then another from 2007, and those two books were basically the same, you would be looking at something painfully stagnant and immature. Times change, circumstances change, and art forms grow and evolve; make sure you’re changing and evolving too. “Being yourself” doesn’t mean picking a self in high school and then sticking with it unchallenged from that day forward. I know twenty flavors of that guy. He’s 33, and every time I see him he’s still wearing his letter jacket and can tell you how this year’s junior varsity team is doing. Do not be that guy.

Of course, in your efforts not to be that guy, you’re going to experiment, and not all of those experiments are going to be a hit. The important thing– and this is what “be yourself” really means, mask on or off– is to resist trends when you’re making your changes. You will be tempted to flirt with grim ‘n’ gritty. There will be a period, starting roughly during your sophomore year of college if I recall correctly, when everyone will start wearing armor. That doesn’t mean you have to do it. If you decide you want to become electric blue or give your identity to Azrael, that’s fine, but do it because you want to do it, not because of how you read the zeitgeist. Just remember: odds are, you’ll reboot “back to basics” in a couple of years and everyone will be laughing at that phase, so think hard before you cut the sleeves off that hooded sweatshirt and make it the centerpiece of your costume.

Know when to drop it.
Life is full of relationships– with people, with companies, with MMORPGs– and no matter how much fun they are at first not all of them are ultimately going to work out. Take the occasional hard look at how you’re spending your hours and ask, for example, “This friend who only calls me when she’s fighting with her boyfriend: is she really worth what I’m paying in per month? Would this friendship be better in larger, six-month doses? Or is time to drop this psychic drag from my life?” If you become one of those people who says, “But I have followed all of Margaret’s issues dating back to 1998!” then you are going to squander a lot of opportunities with smaller indie friends that you’d have had a better time with.

Study the female characters in superhero comics very carefully, and then do the exact opposite of everything they did.
I mean it. The outfits, the choices, what they put up with from the guys, the whole deal. “But what about, say, Kitty Pryde? She’s tough and smart; she’s pretty together.” Yeah. Bring home Colossus Twentysomethingovitch when you’re fourteen and see how long it takes you to get ungrounded. You’ll have to phase through the wall just to leave the house again. God, Chris Claremont had issues.

Ask a lot of questions before making any deals with the Devil.
It’s generally best to avoid the dark torts altogether, but if you ever do find yourself presented with one of these hard choices be sure to nail them down on specifics. Is this one of those ones where everyone forgets my secret identity, and in exchange I’m just sort of sad and don’t know why? Or is this one of those “I am cursed to turn into a flaming skeleton on a Harley” ones? Will I have to spend any time with John Leguizamo in a fat suit? Because that is a dealbreaker. Have a lawyer look it over before signing anything. Most are well-versed in evil and they’ll tell you: the loopholes are where they getcha.

If you can sign it in someone else’s blood, so much the better.

A mask that covers your eyes and forehead makes you completely unrecognizable to people who have known you for ten years.
Also, get your hands on a Spider-Man mask. Wearing it while on the phone muffles your voice so much you sound like a different person, which comes in handy when you need an excuse for why you’re going to be late somewhere.

I’m not telling you this one because it is actually good advice. I am telling you this because you’re my kid, and I want it to be easy to catch you when you are lying.

Above all, use your powers for good. In the real world, bad guys are not hard to come by, so those bases are covered. I love you already, Lizard. You don’t have to take over the world to make me proud. Besides, Empire makes it look like a monumental pain in the neck.



Jim Mroczkowski is being allowed to raise a child while the State stands by doing nothing. Rest assured that at least he’s taking better care of her than he is Jimski.com or Twitter.



  1. Great life lessons! Yes, if the future does bring about a time where your daughter goes out to fight crime, pants should be included in her costume! Unless she becomes Power Girl…then tights and a BIG hole in her top are totally acceptable!

  2. These are really wonderful, thanks for sharing!

    I don’t have kids, but I have a niece.  The first time I watched ‘Toy Story’ with her, and she laughed maniacally every time Woody got hurt, I did start to wonder about the supervillain thing.  I wonder how long it will be before they start making Black Queen costumes for toddlers? 

  3. Wow, that might be the most moving article in iFanboy history. Kudos Jim.

  4. This is *hilarious*, and spot on.  My friends have been accusing me of raising supervillans for five years now.  Seriously good essay, Jim.

  5. Great article Jim, and such a cute kid! 🙂

    Great last point btw, how people in masks arent recognizble is laughable. I mean even if they cover their face, they can still hear the voice….Ah that’s what makes comics so great.

  6. I have two girls myself and they are (at 2 and 4) already into superheroes.  They are typically either Supergirl or Wonderwoman (they haven’t really been exposed to the Marvel female superheroes who are typically either dead, momentarily between deaths, or skrulls).  We were recently reading the Superman/Batman trade entitled Supergirl (drawn by the late Micheal Turner) and my oldest asked, while looking at a picture of Powergirl, "why are her boobies showing?"  Obviously, I had no idea how to answer that so I just said, "Powergirl is just sort of a freak", and she was fine with that.  I am now wondering what I have gotten them (and myself) into.

  7. Good advice I hope to steal from you when my wife and I complete our adoption with Catholic Charities. Spot on, every one!

  8. "Pluto isn’t a planet after all; turns out it was a meteor with a good publicist all along." – Great stuff… 

  9. One of the most moving articles I’ve read in ages, thanks Jimski

    @stuchlach "powergirl is just sort of a freak" hahahahahaha

  10. I agree with AirDave817, Jim – spot on!  What are the copyright issues if I copy this, put my 1-year old’s picture on it, and hand it to him when he’s riding around around in cars that fold into suitcases and I’m in the new retirement cetner they built up on Mars?

  11. You should put that first picture on a t-shirt or something.  That would be great to wear around Disney world or something with your little girl in the stroller.

  12. Great article.

    "Besides, Empire makes it look like a monumental pain in the neck."

    Bwahaha! I wonder how many people got that.  

  13. EMPIRE was a great series!

  14. great article with my first on the way in april it was appreciated

  15. Oh, this is wonderful.  Clever and adorable – lovely work.

  16. A digg well deserved.  

  17. That right there, that was quite beautiful. Hey, I’m man enough (barely) to admit when something moves me, and that did the job. Something tells me you’re gonna be a pretty awesome dad, Jimski. Keep it up, and thanks for sharing 🙂

  18. a great article. i just digged it. Thanks for letting me what "be yourself" really means. Now I need to get rid of all my clothes that I’ve been wearing since HS. Same goes to someone who still wears them on their video podcast. Now I’ll try on some red or blue lantern clothes instead of green. =p

  19. Sentimental and funny.  Very good.  You’ve captured a lot of experiences that I’ve come across with my own little guy.  If mine does go evil, I just hope he realizes that he doesn’t have to go all oedipal on me to get at my comic collection.  I can’t wait until he’s old enough to share it with me!

  20. Good stuff!

    My four-year old is obsessed with Hellboy.  She’s seen a bit of the movie here and there.  She loves the DVD cover to HB2.

    I kinda dug that Daredevil costume.  Nice Scott McDaniel design.

  21. A truly great article, even though i dont have kids it captures everything i would think a parent would want their child to learn from comics and from life.

  22. You forgot to mention the "banding together with other kids/teens from the future phase, which makes Daddy consider joining a Supervillian team, just for self preservation"

    In all seriousness, Jimski well done!

  23. when’s josh having a kid?

  24. What the?!?

  25. I believe he’s saying he would like to have your baby. But he is shy.

  26. Will there be cash payouts involved?

  27. Josh has a kid.  His name is George Clooney.

  28. When Liz is a supervillain, George can be her henchdog.

  29. It’s funny, because no matter how many times I try, I can’t seem to get him to let me stick that tuning fork in his head.  And without that, his teleporting skills are abysmal.

  30. Josh, what’s the number to your local humane society? 

  31. heh