What makes a comic book relevant?
It’s a vague, broad question to be sure, and one that can have numerous answers without any solid, defining solution. I’m hoping for that to be the case, otherwise this column may not have much of a point.
What makes comic books relevant? As a teacher of 5th grade students, I see numerous (let’s call them “fun-time-fillers”), fun-time-fillers that youngsters would be interested in. Many of these fun-time-fillers also prevented them from doing the simplest classwork I assigned to them, but that’s for another post. iPods, television, computer entertainment, the Jersey Shore, (as horrible as that is to admit). It is extremely interesting to see how advanced many kids are in our modernized society of technology. Once again, they had iPods. Sometimes Touches, if you can believe it.
Let me inform you a bit about myself first. My name is Robert Acosta, but mainly I prefer Bobby. I’ve been reading comics since I was 8 and they’ve been an influential part of my life ever since, and I always try to bring that out every time I talk with someone about them. Such as when I worked in a local comic shop in college. Following college, as I mentioned above, I’m now a 5th grade teacher at a Tucson school. So, every once in a while I try to bring comics up in my classroom to show my kids something more personal about me. Bringing in a one book in particular was such a way.
Recently, I purchased an all-ages comic called “Takio“, written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Michael Avon Oeming. It was published through Marvel Comics Icon Imprint, where famous creators can go do their own creator owned work and make up their own stories.
I informed the kids about the basic premise of the book; how it’s a story about two sisters from a bi-racial, adopted family (the author, Bendis, has such a family) and how they are the first two people ever to gain super powers and the, ultimately, untimely encounter with their first super-villain, one they never expected. The story is funny, exciting, and has some serious heart, one thing lacking from much of the entertainment industry today.
Since I love comics, I decided a good way of bonding with my students would be to bring it into the class and talk with them about it, hoping they would read it. With state standardized testing such a large focus of the 5th grade, if they’re reading anything, anything at all, it helps keep their brains sharp and gets them more adjusted to reading in class when it seriously counts. I said they could borrow it with the stipulation that they bring it back within a day or two. As well as in one piece. Little sisters and cousins are a prevalent force of destruction for my kid’s folders and homework.
I brought it in. Already, almost everyday since, someone different had checked the book out and loved it. Most read it all in one night and brought it back the next day. During their free time, when assignments were finished, students specifically called out for THAT book.
What connected to them? What made is such an instant grab? Again, many of my kids have iPods ( I don’t even have one), and a simple comic captured their interest and imagination and thoughts for long after they finished. What did they find inside?
Questions like these are ones I hope to answer within this column. Every Wednesday (with the occasional different day, such as today and tomorrow) a new comic will be reviewed and broken down. New readers and old faithfuls alike will walk away with something new, with the hopeful result being spreading the word of comics. Over time, and working with a Mr. Henry Barajas of the Retcon Podcast, after looking at enough comics, we’ll continue to find why they, in the simplest, most basic of all senses, matter.