This is a day late. Just admitting that up front.
I planned for yesterday’s post to be the first of a “What’s In My Bag?” series. Writing materials and equipment are a secretly-known interest of mine. (I say interest, because calling it an “obsession” makes me sound crazy there aren’t voices in my head.)
But then, the strangest thing started to gain national, widespread attention:
I can’t ignore the fact that these boys are dressed exactly like former students of mine in Tucson. It’s been sitting in my craw and eating at me. I taught on Tucson’s south side, and honestly, many of the children and families that attended my school might have crossed the border illegally. Didn’t matter, though, because they came for a reason. They came for a better life and to learn.
Turns out, when your country is comfortable putting kids in cages, your writing spirit can be ripped out of you.
So, instead, I spent yesterday afternoon reading comic books. Iron Man. Justice League. The Avengers. Man of Steel.
Suddenly, it dawned on me.
Reading comics was my escape from the fact my country is holding children hostage. That the honor and righteousness we supposedly embodied is non-existent. Instead, an orange loaf played with our emotions and used kids and cries and tears as playthings to further an agenda that may go nowhere.
So, what did I do after looking up sites and organizations that could offer help to these people? (Check Raices in Texas)
I read comic books.
Lots of comics. Lots of new comics. And it helped.
It’s been some time since I’ve read modern comics. Up until a few years ago, I not only picked up anywhere between 10 to 20 comic titles a month, but I also worked in a comic book store. (Heroes & Villains in Tucson, the friendliest comic store you’ll find, so check them out if you’re reading this and happen to visit/live in Tucson.)
Life happened, as it does. A move to a different city and a wife that I’m now married to can slow down your comic consumption. But something’s been compelling me, drawing me back, to the graphic novel lined walls and shelves inside a store.
Maybe it’s the outcrop of new issue #1s featuring writers I adore. (As pictured above. Brian Michael Bendis taking over Superman, Scott Snyder writing Justice League, Dan Slott taking over Iron Man after 10 years writing Spider-Man, and Jason Aaron writing the Avengers book I never knew I wanted.)
Or maybe it’s because I know some former-Tucsonans doing some great things in the comic realm. Eric M. Esquivel, a former colleague at the aforementioned comic shop, is helping bring back DC’s Vertigo Comics line with his and Ramon Villalobos’ book, Border Town. Henry Barajas, Director of Operations at Top Cow comics, is doing stuff that I’m not even sure I’m allowed to talk about yet, so I won’t.
They’re pushing me and driving me to do and be better.
To write more and write harder.
While it could be a combination of those, really, it’s the escape.
I used to despise that term, “escapism,” when people described what comics were for. As a blanket that shielded all readers, like we couldn’t handle the living world in front of us, and we needed men and women in tights to comfort us.
That’s not what is is, though.
We read comics to escape, sure, but we do it to learn. There’s a difference between taking a vacation to the Bahamas and coming back, dehydrated, having only drank 47 Bahama Mamas, and taking a historical tour of Germany. In one instance, you’re just running away for a bit, whereas the other, you’re leaving to come back stronger. What I saw and what I see in comic books is a path to improve, and the characters guide us that way.
Everyone’s escapism is different. Maybe it’s sports. Maybe it’s literature or movies or family. Either way, escapism isn’t bad. It’s what people need, to venture out, and return 10x more powerful to tackle the nonsense given to us on a rotten plate of terrible.
That’s why I was able to write this today. Tomorrow’s blog post will be up, as scheduled.
That’s why I’m going to continue writing Project: HARP tonight, because a fantasy story about young people saving the world is exactly what I, and possibly others, need to read.