EL PASO – In regard to the comic book industry, I periodically surge in playing catch up. Monthlies are great early on in their runs, but I eventually gobble up the graphic novels or collected editions. But there was a time when comics fell off the map entirely for me, beginning in 2000.
It was not long after returning to my hometown of El Paso, Texas in 2008 that my health tanked, and I had to dramatically readjust my physical and spiritual bearings. On top of the daunting task of healing physically—a journey I am still on–I had to begin to heal a broken soul…a sprained heart, if you will. In a roundabout way, the physical end of the personal trials re-introduced me to illustrated superhero fiction.
Early spring of 2009: As I recovered from cervical disc replacement surgery at Physicians Hospital (Now East El Paso Physicians Medical Center), I maintained a rather wacky sleep-cycle. The television in my room was on virtually non-stop, and it secured my rapt attention one night when one of the thousands of cartoon channels happened to begin another airing of the Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest (BSMWF).
BSMWF was never a theatrical release, nor originally a direct-to-video production; Warner Bros. had simply strung together three episodes from the second season of the animated series Superman (1996-2000). I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it brought back good memories of my early to mid-1990s love affair with Batman: The Animated Series. It reminded me of a time in the mid-1970s when I could not pedal my Schwinn cruiser fast enough to the Skaggs Albertson’s grocery storeso I could buy comics in the raw. No bags, no boards, and sitting on a wire rack. You had to get to weekly shipments soon or the comics’ spines would all be rolled from some schmuck going through them like a flip-book.
Yes, I was a comic book policeman even then.
After watching Batman and Superman roundly kick the Joker’s butt and pound Lex Luthor’s bald head one more time, I laid back in the uncomfortable hospital bed in an even more uncomfortable foam neck brace. I was staring at the ceiling as the room lights went out and all I had was the glow from city lights creeping through metal Venetian blinds. In this semi-darkness, I realized that I had forsaken the childhood wonder of costumed heroes and vigilantes duking it out with clear-cut villains. Stories of hard fought battles and recoveries, all of it in the names of Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Sadly, I had been fighting battles in the names of Career, Acceptance, and Human Whimsy.
I had allowed myself to become one of the millions of faddish cynics that populate this world, the kind that are embarrassed to say those words: Truth…Justice…The American Way. The Creator’s sovereignty mercifully allowed me to go through a valley of shadowy death to remind me of what I had lost.
I was about to undergo some radical lifestyle changes, and while some of it was painful, all of it was for the better.
2010: I am now writing and illustrating comics. Additionally, I have partnered with a longtime friend in renewing a goal of publishing comics under our own moniker.
Because they were my one-time idols and primary means of survival, the worlds of retail management and technical field service nearly robbed me of something very special, something I won’t let go of ever again.
I believe in superheroes again. They exist within and without the covers of a comic book, and their bio-graphic novels are only stepping stones into fully capturing their lives of wonder and imagination.
It’s time for all of us to dust off our tights, helmets, and capes. Don’t pretend you don’t have any. You just haven’t looked hard enough.
I want to get back on that bike, pedaling hard and fast in getting back to those metal racks of comics. All of us need to see where leaping tall buildings in a single bound takes us.