They Were Your Heroes Then… Are They Now?

I’ll admit it: I had a hard time coming up with an idea for an article this week. I had several ideas that could work but I wasn’t sure if they had already been discussed, or if they were just ho-hum… I just couldn’t figure anything out. Then, I thought a bit about the idea of “me and comics” and thought about the books I used to read as a kid. Then I thought about the characters — because that’s what I was really doing, I was buying a Spider-Man story, not a book, an Iron Man adventure instead of an Iron Man issue. Then I realized, “Whoa! I read the same books now as I read back then! That’s… crazy!”

I mean, I don’t read Hardy Boys books now. I haven’t bought a Choose-Your-Own-Adventureadventure (the first hyper linked stories?) or watched an episode of Emergency! (though, now, come to think of it, I might check one that after I write this… thank you, Mighty InterWeb!) in a very long time. But I still read the ongoing adventures of the heroes I read when I was a kid.

Why? Let’s find out. I’ll discuss a few books that I read back then and then see if I actually read them now–and why. I look forward to reading about your past and present heroes!

Daredevil
Then: You know, when I first started reading him, I didn’t even know he was blind? Seriously. I remember starting to read his books when he was having problems with his radar abilities, so he was really struggling with stuff. He had great senses, sure, but his “extra” stuff was gone. I always remember the cover to the left — I have this issue somewhere — I had never heard of Wolverine (I never really got into the X-Men when I was a kid, it seemed…more adult? I dunno. It just seemed “too much” for me, for some reason. I have no idea, maybe I was just more comfortable reading “single character” books, instead of teams…odd? Sad?), and here he was, absolutely rocking my sixth grade brain. As a kid, I read Daredevil because he was really gritty, working hard to protect people at night, and because he had even worse eyesight than I did. I think I liked him because it showed, honestly, that anyone could be a hero. Sounds cheesy, I know, but I think that was it!

Now: I have been reading Daredevil since I got back into comics (see below) — I immediately starting picking up Daredevil and I felt that he had gotten older, like me, but not actually like me — he was more tired, more frustrated… cynical, even. It’s been a rough couple of years for Matt Murdock and I have to tell you, I wish he could just catch a break. The story has been really depressing, almost to a fault, but Daredevil has always stuck it out, so I will too.

Spider-Man

Then: Charlie Brown with spider powers, right? I know I am supposed to talk about how I totally identified with Peter Parker, how he was the first real super hero that was a teen, etc, etc, but I started reading him when I was a kid, and didn’t care about his high school problems. I just wanted to watch Spider-Man do his thing, thanks in no small part to the Electric Company episodes (so awesome). I read a lot of Spider-Man, but then I remember getting really into him once he got the black suit, and then it just becomes a blur. I remember stopping because all the stories just felt the same, for whatever reason. He’s such an icon that I would just think to myself, “Peter Parker, he’s Spider-Man, loves Mary Jane but they will never get back together, and Green Goblin’s around, blah blah blah” — the character just never seemed to go anywhere.

Now: I got back into Spider-Man big time when I started reading my (much) younger brother’s Ultimate Spider-Man trades! Crazy, right? He had the first couple, and though at first I was highly skeptical, I really had nothing else to read, so I just went for it and, although I wasn’t a huge fan of the art, I couldn’t put them down. I bought the rest of the trades and then went back to issues and haven’t stopped since. As I got into issues, I started reading The Amazing Spider-Man and even a few of the other side titles and was rolling along pretty well, until Civil War. (I’m not going to talk about that Spider-Man: The Other nonsense.)

Civil War: This debacle is worthy of another article, so I will just touch upon it here, but suffice to say, I still feel very, very conflicted with the whole (lame) reversal of Spidey’s unmasking. I think it’s one of the lamest, stupidest cop outs that I have ever read and I think, honestly, Marvel should be embarrassed at how it was handled. I found it amateurish and stupid, and, well, let’s just leave it at that.
However, that being said, I will admit that the Spider-Man books are about as good as they have ever been as of late. Some of the “Brand New Day” run have been more successful than others, but I have been enjoying the punchy prose, the slightly retro art (Marcos Martin rocks) and fast moving story. I do like the book, but I guess, just like a once spurned lover, I still don’t entirely trust it yet.  

The Flash

Then: Barry Allen was my favorite hero growing up. I knew there were more obviously powerful superheroes, but for some reason, The Flash just resonated with me the longest — maybe because I didn’t start really needing glasses to walk across the street until I was a bit older (enter Daredevil around that time). I wasn’t a very fast runner, could that be it? No, I think what it was, really, was that I had grown up reading old Flash comics (I read the digest on the right until it fell apart, then found it again at an old bookstore a few years ago, I was so stoked) and then, I came back and found that Iris Allen had been killed by Professor Zoom! That totally affected me, more so than the death of even Elektra. I mean, whoa! Then, of course, Barry died in Crisis… well, the man was a hero, dammit! To this day, I really only have ever identified with Barry Allen (and, to an extent, Jay Garrick, probably because of the digest) — the other Flashes never really did it for me.Like the other heroes, The Flash was kind of an underdog character, never really A-List, which might have been another reason why I was drawn to him. B-Listers, unite!

Now: Look, I tried. I started reading the new Flash and then he died and now Wally’s back and he has kids and… I just don’t care. I just don’t have it in me. Barry Allen is my Flash, just like Hal Jordan is my Green Lantern. I know about the other guys but I just don’t really know them, nor do I feel much like getting to know them. Is that bad? Maybe, but hey — I’m saving a bit of money by not buying The Flash right now, right? That’s good, right? I hear rumors of Barry coming back… I wonder if that will be good or bad. Something about the memory of the fallen hero makes the hero more powerful to me. We shall see.

Batman
Then: When I went to Southern California during the summer, my life revolved around two things: the free full size Snickers bars that my grandparents would give me (so much bigger back then, it was magical) and the Batman TV show. It never played in San Francisco, so I was like a fiend for it! I read the comic — not religiously, I admit, I kinda did the World’s Finest thing for a long time and split the difference between Supes and Batman — but even when I wasn’t reading the comic, I was connected to the character. Again, a normal guy with a calling, who uses his intellect and resources around him to do good. Sure, he’s a nutcase now, but back then, he was just…into it, I guess? Whenever I would pass by a comic book store, I would check in on Batman, just to see what was up.  

In fact, it is because of Batman that I am back into comics. Oh, I was buying them from time to time, but I remember walking down 23rd street in New York City and walking by a sandwich board in front of Cosmic Comics, displaying a big poster of the cover you see on the left. I looked at it, realized I had at least a dime to get me to check out the store, and left with probably about $40 worth of comics. I haven’t looked back since.Yes, I took the bait, hook line and sinker, and the hook’s still stuck in my cheek.

Now: I am into Batman, man. I really am. I like what Grant Morrison is doing with him, I like reading Robin and Nightwing, I am basically down with the whole thing. In fact, I would say that I look forward to reading Batman more than I do any of the other titles I mentioned here. He’s a lot more interesting (let’s give it up for Paul Dini bringing that Zatanna romantic vibe!) and I find myself caring about what’s going with his character. Sure, Bruce is a bit of train wreck (kinda like Murdock), but that’s part of the fun. Like Daredevil and Barry Allen, he’s got a great deal of integrity (yeah, I know, Parker does too, but I mean, not as much, really — he was doing paparazzi, for goodness’ sake) and, like Daredevil, he brings a great deal of gravitas to whatever story he appears in.

So there you go. That was kind of fun — I really never thought about all of this stuff so actively before. How about you? What heroes do you still identify with? How about the ones you don’t?

Thanks for reading, see ya next week!

 


Mike Romo is an actor living in Los Angeles. He used to live in New York, where you can eat a super hero sandwich while reading a superhero book, which was kinda cool.

Comments

  1. You know, when I was a kid, I loved Transformers comics with all my heart. Trying to read them in my twenties… proved to be a mistake. I haven’t dared go back to check out GI Joe again, although the iFanboy triumvirate have given it the seal of approval.

    I’ve been a big Spidey guy since I could read, which is why dropping his book during "Back in Black" felt like cutting one of the kids out of the will. 

  2. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Really cool idea!

    The thing that really struck me here is the idea that, at one point in time, X-Men was considered more adult than Daredevil.  

  3. I was a kid during the whole Image boom, so many of the heroes I read are long gone, and frankly, that’s a good thing, as I think reading them now would ruin how I hold them in my head.  I’ve always been a huge Batman kid and read his stories consistently until my junior year of high school, and like you, I’m really enjoying him now that I’m back into comics.  I used to read a ton of Spider-Man, but I got back into comics around Civil War, disliked OMD, and while BND has brought some interesting things to the character, I just don’t really want to buy weekly books anymore.  Now, Ultimate Spider-Man seems to be a different beast, and I definitely buy that regularly. 

    The one thing I used to read but don’t anymore:  The X-Men.  Somehow, when I left regular comics as a 14 year old, the X-Men morphed into this crazy insane complicated world that’s impossible to get into.  Add to that, the fact that it doesn’t really seem if much has changed (the world still hates them, teammates die and come back, weird mutant powers, etc., etc.), and my interest level is in the negative zone in comparison to when I was a kid.  And who wants to buy 5 different books?  As a kid, it was no problem, but as an adult…no thanks.

  4. X Men, especiaaly Wolverine. I haven’t really read a story that has taken hi in a new direction. Placing him in different time periods, whilw logical, is kind of a cop out.

    Proffesor X insofar as he was portrayed in the 90’s cartoon and the early X men before he took a left turn and became kind of an ass.

    The Thing: I loved his solo series back fthat ran from 83-86 (I inherited nearly the complete run from a friend who was cleaning his collection out. Slott’s brillaint 8 issue run was such a tease. He really had great solo adventures. He could go to to to with anyone,. At the end of the day, he just wanted to find a broad have soome booze and hang out with some bros. I hope he gits a solo series again. What I liked so much about his character is that nothing pashed him. It’s kind of "The World’s ending again." Christ, just let me finishmy sandwich."

    Savage Dragon: C’mon Eric old boy. I loved the Dragon, could you at least put him out quarterly? I’ll but it. Please? It was a great mix of superhero/ cop stories. Hire a publishing assitant or something.

    Peanuts: This is a little outside of the box, but I truly do miss swing rhe wonderfully mundane and whimsical eork of Charles scShultz. It was comforting seing a new strip every Sunday into my teens. RIP, Mr Shultz.

    That’s all for now. Well done, Mike. I love this new writing team.

  5. Dude, I had that EXACT SAME Flash Digest! Read it ’til it fell apart, too! I loved the story where every time Barry pops the costume out of his Flash ring, it’s a different super-hero costume, and he ends up being Green Lantern, Hawkman, etc.

    Man, I haven’t thought about that book in years… 

  6. When I was younger, I loved Iron Man. Like Bruce Wayne, he was wealthy and relied on his intellect to give him the upper hand. No mutant powers or accidental encounters with radiated spiders. With his suit, he was one of the most powerful super heros around. Yet, unlike Bruce Wayne, his heart condition weakened him physically and he was also an alcholic. This resulted in a very complex and interesting character.

    I realize that Spider-Man was a successful movie spin-off, but when I heard that Iron Man would become a film adaptation, and Robert Downey Jr. was playing the lead role, I was really excited. Finally, a comic book hero worthy of the big screen! And of course, it didn’t disappoint. 

  7. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I’ve never really related to Superman.  What a terrible character. 

     Ummmm…..growing up I was really into the 90s X-Men cartoon.  I liked Nightcrawler for all the reasons any 11 year old should.  As for comics, it was Batman.  Always Batman.  When I think about it, I was always attracted to the more mature stuff, the stuff the big guys were reading.  I wanted to read the darkest and grittiest and most sordid stuff I could find.  Which is really funny now, because these days I tend to like the lighter stuff like Ultimate Spider-Man and JSA (though, that book did open with a nazi speedster running through a kid).  

  8. Man, this was awesome. I stopped reading when I was about 13, started again at 25. But I am WAY more into it now then I was as a kid. Back then I only read about 3 titles regularly.

    Transformers was one, could not get enough of anything TF related, weeped like a baby when Prime died in the movie (should I have put *SPOILER* before that? Is 22 years safe?). Would never consider it now, which is odd as I actually enjoyed the new movie, dumb as it was, and I know that 13 year-old me would’ve LOVED IT!

    Me and one other guy at junior school were hooked on G.I Joe, although it was called Action Force over here. We’d bring our new issues to school and talk about how unbelievably cool Snake Eyes was. Then I saw the animated movie with all that Serpentor nonsense, and even as a kid I tuned out. I’ll probably watch the upcoming movie for nostalgia (Stephen Sommers is directing – ugh! – but Sienna Miller and Chris Eccleston are in it – yay!). Doubt I’ll read a comic again though.

    The main one, though, the one comic that got me like no other, and has stayed with me until today is Batman. I can’t explain it, just everything about that character, the costume, how plain cool and bad-ass he was, but mostly that he was a real guy with no powers; just using his skills to try and keep people from harm. And I still think Bats has the best rogue’s gallery.

    When I got back into comics I picked up as many trades as I could, the ones I’d missed while not reading or the ones I’d been too young to know about or understand. And it was still there, still loved the guy. I’ll admit I was hesitant to jump on regular books for a while as there was a lot of story I’d missed (I’m not even sure I was buying them in order as a kid, I just bought them when I saw them), but now I’m back on and loving it as much as I did back then.

    Awesome piece, Mike… wow, that a trip down memory lane. 

  9. I’m with you Mike Batman is sooooo good right now.

    And Ethan Van Sciver is about to start drawing The Flash and that probably means a new writer too. So things may be looking up for that old friend of yours. 

  10. When I was a kid I was all about Batman, Superman & The Phantom. I never stopped reading Batman & Superman comics, & they’re still my favourite characters. I never "got back into comics" because I never left them. I haven’t read a Phantom comic in about 15 years though, I reckon.

    I buy way more comics now than I ever did when I was a kid, back then I was lucky to get one per week (being poor rules) so maybe now I buy so many because I remember the agony of bein’ a kid and always wanting more comics, and reading the same comics over & over & over …

  11. I really miss Choose Your Own Adventure books.

  12. I loved those books! I think it would be great to convert them to websites or, even better, iPhone compatible websites so you could go through them online…it would be fun, too, do more "Adult" ones.

    To apply for this job, turn to page 45

    To laugh in the interviewer’s face, turn to page 96

    To take your sword and cut the interviewer in half, turn to page 22

     

    sigh, I need to eat.

  13. Choose Your Own Adventure, The Hardy Boys, and Encyclopedia Brown – that’s the stuff of Conor’s childhood!

  14. I would read Rom, The Micronauts, and The Shogun Warriors if they were still appearing in comics.  Machine Man?  Perhaps not.  At least Wonder Man is back in his cool red jacket.

  15. @ultimatehoratio  Machine Man was in Xmen: First Class this week!

  16. @ohcaroline  Hmm, I might actually have to check that out!  I love that old bug-eyed purple guy!  (He’d make a great movie property too.)

  17. @ultimatehoratio  It’s a fun issue.  Is supposed to be continued next month, too.

    I only know Machine Man from some old ‘Iron Man’ stories, but he seems like a cool character.  I think he has an ongoing story in ‘marvel comics presents’ right now, too.

  18. I haven’t yet, but need to argue with a friend over the HULK movie (don’t worry it relates to this post in the youth area).  He hated it, and is a big HULK fan, or was when he was young.

    I need to say to him "You have gotten too old, when you were young, lines like ‘bring in the gunship’ would have had you squiming with excitement.  Now, old man Ben is upset the Hulk is using weapons? Recapture your youth!!!!"