Age and Comics

I fully admit, I might be ruminating on age because it was my birthday earlier this week (thank you,by the way, for the birthday wishes, everyone!), but nonetheless, there has always been a relationship between age and comics. Sure, right–age is an aspect of all of life, and is often part of the equation with some things, like wine or cars or milk.

When I was younger (I hate starting sentences like that but oh well), I was keenly aware that there was a whole universe of problems (and opportunities) that lay ahead of me, that I didn't have to deal with because, well, I was nine.  But slowly, things began to change. I remember when I started to realize that I was the same age as college athletes–made sense, I was in college–and then, suddenly, I was older than some popular football players and now…well, now, like, there are millionaires who are younger than me.

And, honestly, that all seemed to happen real quick.

I never really started thinking about how old superheroes are until the question came up on the iFanboy Pick of the Week Podast every once in awhile. I remember straight up gasping when Conor suggested that Bruce Wayne started out as Batman when he was in his late 20s.  Like, sure, now it makes sense, but… really?  He's not.then I realized: Bruce Wayne was, well… ageless. Like, the very concept of age just didn't apply,somehow…I mean, he's drawn as an adult guy, and I guess when pressed I might have to say he's 30–I hear 33 is the "official age" but then (and this is a huge "then") that means I am older than Bruce Wayne!

There's a line in one of my favorite films, Withnail and I, where Monty says–well, here:

Monty: It is the most shattering experience of a young man's life when he awakes and quite reasonable says to himself: [He puts his hand on his heart] I will never play The Dane. When that moment comes, ones ambition ceases. Don't you agree?

(By "The Dane" he is referring to Hamlet, by the way.)

Now, this is a funny line–it's meant to be funny–and I always chuckle at it, but inside, a part of me has a minor breakdown.  Not that I necessarily need to play Hamlet (I did play "Hal" in Henry IV, Part 1, which is a great role), but man, it would be nice to be asked, you know? 

Maybe it's because I am working to be a full time actor, where one is reminded of your age every 15 minutes, where guys like Sam Rockwell get all the parts you want (did I say that?), but I have to think that everyone gets those age quakes once in awhile. I remember when I found out that there was no way I could be a gymnast once I was, like, 26. I couldn't believe it! I didn't want to be a gymnast, but I just hadn't really thought about age defining what I could and could not do, you know?

Which is why age is so important when it comes to comics.  Vitally important. If you are lucky enough to get to read comics as a kid, you are given the possibility to grow up and be a hero, to protect the innocent, to punish the wicked. You get the sugggestion that if you work out and don't smoke cigarettes (somehow it's okay eat Hostess cupcakes though), you'll get big and strong and be able to help pull a person out a burning wreck.  Sure, you might not be able to fly, but you could grow up and do what is right–when you grow up.  Become an adult. Age.

And now, suddenly, I find myself admiring Peter Parker, not only because he is heroic and was able to help MJ from getting crushed by the Rhino, but because he's also able to juggle his professional life with the needs of being a hero and the needs of being in a reliable partner in a fulfilling relationship. Seriously! I'm not really joking! Maybe it's just my situation, where I will be called out for an audition out of the blue and have to rearrange my day so I can try to get some chili commercial in the valley and be back for my 3:30 meeting with QA, but I kind of doubt it. We're all running around like crazy, whether it be from class to class or from work to pick up your kid from school, running out at lunch to make it to the dentist, making sure you get the right groceries on the way home — whatever.

The heroes stay the same, but their power seems to change in the effectiveness as you get older.  Like, I am pretty sure that the 9-year-old version of me would not be enjoying Superman: Secret Origin as much as I am.  He wouldn't look at the cubicles and the stacks of papers and feel a glimmer of "oh, yeah, I know that, sing it, GJ! Amen!" Nope. He'd be like, "Fly. Now."

I remember reading that issue of All-Star Batman and Robin with the crazy 5-6 page gatefold showing the entire Batcave with all of the vehicles. (They reproduce that in the trade, by the way–I remember Ron or Josh wondering if they would reprint it in one of the podcasts, back when I was 14.) I marveled at all the cars and then a part of me–a small part, but it was there–wondered about how expensive it would be to manage all of those cars, and mused, just a tad, that Batman probably had a gas tank somewhere on the premises. Because that's what I would do, right? Me as adult and now, apparently around the same age as — sigh, okay, older than–  Batman.

Of course, the stories are not about old our heroes are.  When I see Matt Murdock arguing a case, I don't think about how old he is and whether or not he's paid off law school.  I think about a guy doing his job, and I relate to it because I gots one, too.

Interestingly–and I am just realizing this now, as I type it–I don't really think about the female superheroes getting older.  Maybe because I'm not a woman I don't think about them in terms of age like I do with guys. I dunno.  I won't even write about it until I can say something useful about it–I'd be curious as to what y'all think.   I won't even go into the whole craziness with how some characters can age and others cannot. That's been discussed on the show and if you think about it too much you'll go crazy. 

Comics are also interesting to look through the lens of "age" because so many people still think comics are for kids, that responsible adults with real lives don't buy comic books. Happens all the time. Like, most of the time I am in a restaurant and I am reading a comic, someone will invariably come up to me and talk about how he used to read that title when he was a kid but then he stopped. I always suggest that he go back and catch up, but that helpful hint delivered in the middle of my sandwich session is just met with a polite, if bemused chuckle, with some mumbling about how he's got other things to do, blahblahblah money, whatever blah.

Reading comics as a full-on adult is a different thing. It's a remembrance of one's youth, a celebration of the relationship one has with the characters and a chance to read a great story.  The feeling, that wondrous feeling of "what-if?" is tempered a bit by "what now?" — but that's okay. I appreciate the art and the writing in a different way now. I look at the expressions of the characters and I feel the emotions a bit more. When I see joy on the face of a character, it is different than the big smile of happiness that a kid might see. Where I might have seen an unhappy, sad face when I was 12, now I see despair and hopelessness. Reading comics is a richer experience because of the wealth of experience I bring with me to each page.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons we want to keep these books around in those long, heavy boxes we keep in our closets, under our bed, in Conor's storage compartment.  There's a part of us that is curious to read the book later, not only because it reminds us of the past, but because the story might mean something a little different after a few years has passed. (Or maybe we are just compulsive, that's a good theory, too.) But it's a lot easier to re-read a few comics than it is a few novels, that's for sure. Comics are one of the only print mediums that make re-reading a welcome diversion, a wonderful way to spend a rainy afternoon, a way to remember the glimmers of youthful idealism over the course of 28 pages.

In the end… I guess I am coming to the understanding that my heroes will never age, but I am happy to grow old with them.

Mike Romo is an actor whose age-range has been kind of the same for awhile, thank you very much.  Email him by clicking here, check his tweeterness here.


  1. Fantastic article Mike.  This is the year I turn 30 so aging, what little I’ve accomplished in life and noticing that more and more "famous" or "successful" people are younger than me really weighs on my sometimes. 

    Was I really meant to be full of debt, working a job I don’t love just trying to pay things off so I can quit and finally figure out what I want to do?

    I refuse to think about Heroes ages because if I ever become older than Batman?  I.. I just can’t be older than Batman.

  2. Yeah, I’m only 21 but I can definently appreciate the comics I read now more.

    loved the article by the way.

  3. What a great article Mike. Hitting 30 this year now and seeing the difference in both comics reading and life in general. Thanks God we have comics to escape into! 🙂

  4. Cool article Mike. Is Robin older than Batman yet? What Robin is Batman WTF Ha!!! I have the ASBM trade and was surprised to see the gate fold in it.  I’ve been meaning to find the time to reread some of my old comics. However, I need to get through all the new comics and trades first.  I think your article fits perfect with this week’s video podcast with Ultimate Spiderman.  When it comes to ages of characters and how that is reflected in their personalities, I think flip-flops.  You have writers that write characters with different personalities and lets not forget the retcons and continuity shake-ups.  It’s almost like many comic characters these days have been split and each has a younger and older version.

  5. I rarely think about the fact that superheroes are younger than I am now, maybe because when I read their stories I mentally revert to the kid I was when I discovered them. I do sometimes watch a show like SNL and think about a cast member, "Was she even born when I started watching SNL?"

    If you really want your mind blown, think of the people you have already outlived. Jimi Hendrix only made it to 28!

  6. When I passed 27 and saw all the impressive people in the 27 Club (Jimi included) it was a pretty huge downer.

  7. Batman is as old as our grandparents….But ya know….There’s the Spa and Botox…And Batcolonics.

  8. Great piece, Mike. You actually triggered a few things I hadn’t thought about before, about how I relate to comics now vs. as a kid. Why do I like reading about teenage Peter Parker in Ultimate Spider-man? Because I WAS a kid, and I REMEMBER awkwardness, and trying to deal with everything and Bendis has really tapped into that in a fun way that includes monsters and villains and making out with girls?

    What would I have thought as a kid? Your line about 9-year-old you saying "Fly. Now." TOTALLY reminds me that when *I* was reading comics as a kid, I would choose my purchase from the spinner rack by flipping through it and seeing what had the most fight scenes. It wasn’t about emotional resonance or relating to another teenager. It was: what has the coolest, most bad-ass spectacle.

    But now, I’d be happier with 8 pages of talking heads if the dialogue was deep and meaningful and resonated with me on an emotional level.

  9. Now I feel old. :-/

    Nice article, Mr. Romo! You got me to do a lot of thinking. 

  10. Mike…this article was a TOUR DE FORCE, my friend. Really well done, good for you. A lot of food for thought, and one of the most cogent missives about age and how we deal with it personally, and in our enjoyment of comics, I’ve ever come across.



  11. Thanks Mike. I realize that i did have the opportunity to grow up with comics and i actually am growing up to be able a better person.

  12. Great article. I grew up in the deep south and reading the X-Men as a kid helped me put the struggle for civil rights in a context I could understand. Xavier’s dream helped me understand the aspirations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Magneto showed me what Malcom X meant by "any means necessary."


  13. Mike’s sentimental side. Comics, to me, is practically all ages. You can enjoy them superficially and you can enjoy the depth of them. Something for us all.

  14. Amazing article…

  15. i find it’s best not to think about it

  16. Kitty Pryde is the one that depresses me. When I first started reading comics, I was a few years younger than her. Now I’m so much older than her, she probably wouldn’t even date me.

  17. Nice one Mike,  definitley in the same boat you’re in. Let’s just say Evel Keneivel was my idol!

    :[  You really get a slap from reality when people you grew up watching start passing away (Patrick Swayze, Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, David Carridine) even though they did die due to some circumstances.

  18. Nice article Mike.  I too had a birthday recently, but I didn’t ruminate about the age of my favorite super heroes.  Instead, I thought about the fact that when I was the age of the kids that I teach everyday, there was no such thing as the Internet.  Now, I could call on any one of them to bust out their cell phones and look stuff up.  That makes me feel really old.

  19. hi guys!

    Wow, such thoughtful comments–I am glad you guys could relate…it’s just interesting, how our relationship to comics, books, TV shows, movie..all kinds of media, really, changes as one gets older.  @Jesse1125–I had one of those Evel Keneval wind up cycles…LOVED that toy! Happy late birthday, @Neb! I trip out all the time as I think about my younger brother going through school..I mean, it’s just such a totally different time!

    Thanks so much for the encouraging comments, guys, I’m glad you liked it.

     stay young,


  20. It was a depressing day for me as well when I realized that I was older than some professional athletes. I drafted a player in a fantasy baseball league and thought, "Oh shit, this guy is younger than me!" The idea that I wouldn’t be young forever hit me hard that day. I knew it would only be a matter of time before I started complaining about the "crazy kids these days,"  getting colonoscopies, and driving 10 miles an hour under the speed limit.

  21. Hey quit your whining i’m 46!

  22. Mike, I love ya, but now I am *rediculously* depressed 🙂


  23. Im 19 and that article made me depressed :O

    However, its still good work 🙂

  24. 21? I’ve got socks older than that (well maybe not, but I do have kids older than that). I turned 53 on Dec. 26th.

    Comics and the desire to work in comics were the driving force in my life right up to the turn of the century. In the 90’s I achieved many of my goals working for Valiant Comics and later for companies like Milestone, Marvel and even Image.

    For the last decade I’ve given up on ever "…playing the Dane," and worked in the "real world", but something was missing. Lately I’ve come back to comics, and now I’m back in the game as a writer and publisher. Some things just get into your blood and you can never shake’em. Comics is like that for me.

    I’ll never be too old.

    Now excuse me… I’ve got to head out to Detroit Comics and get my weekly fix.

    Clifford VanMeter

  25. Great work, Mike. It’s articles like this that make iFanboy stand out from the rest. Keep up the great work. 


  26. I dont care what anyone says. To me, Batman is 40. No, not because I fear being older than him, Im in my early twenties and don’t have to worry about that for a while, but simply because I like Batman as being a hardened older detective who has been doing this for years and has seen it all compared to his younger sidekicks. I mean, I dont understand why he still has to be in his thirties, he can still kick ass and take names at 40.

    I will admit though that Tim Drake makes me jealous. I grew up identifying with him much more than bat shit crazy Bruce, high school was the funnest time of my life and I still look back but Tim is  STILL in high school! Just not fair.

  27. Maybe it’s because of my age, but since returning to comics at the age of 31, I haven’t been able to read superhero comics except for the classics like "The Dark Knight Returns" and "Watchmen."

    Thank God for Vertigo!

  28. Hey Mike, nice article. Very thoughtful about the nature of life and comics.

  29. Awesome article. I’ve always found that some characters I always feel are younger, some the same age, and some older than me. I always think of Spider-Man as my age (I’m 27). I’m sure he’s actually younger, but that’s not how I view him. Whereas I always think of Captain America, Iron Man, Batman as being older. But yeah, it’s definitely something I think of from time to time.

  30. Wonderful article. I think I am going to write a nice long eassy about that .