The Sidekick Complex

I lie to Batman

Preconceived Notions of Comic Books


To many superheroes are characters that transcend time. Every generation has the same superheroes. Superman was around for my parents and grandparents, and he is around for me. The Man of Steel will be around longer then any of us hope to live. He will still be in his prime long after I am dead, and will continue on until the end. Superheroes are here to stay. They are arguable one the best literary achievements that America has ever reached. We have great authors such as Hemingway, and Fitzgerald- but not everybody likes their works. Many may not be able to identify with the works, and nobody would dare to call Hemingway’s works “their own”. But people do not hesitate to call a superhero ‘theirs’. They pick who they like, and the hero becomes ‘theirs’.

As a child I knew precious little of superheroes, but I cannot recall a time when I was ignorant of who and what they were. I was never taught who The Flash, or Batman, or Superman were- it’s as if I was born with the knowledge (shaky though it was) of these transient beings. If you were to ask most they would know doubt say the same thing. Nobody knows when they learned who Batman was, but they know. I can however recall when I learned who Atticus Finch or Holden Caulfield were.

It is inconsequential if you read comic books or not. Everybody in the world knows of superheroes and has a favorite. Even people who are not what you may call ‘geeky’ watch superhero films. The Avengers was a worldwide smash hit at the box office, proving the enduring popularity of superheroes. The Dark Knight is to many a modern classic, and proved that superheroes were not just campy men in tights who get the girl. That film showed people that a superhero can make you think- it can be dark and twisted and philosophical- it can be just as good as any book or movie with the label “deep”.


Due to the once childish image of superheroes, comic books tend to get a bad rap. I personally never picked up a comic book for years because of the preconceived notion of them I held in my mind. I thought they were for children, and the stories could never compare to those in my favorite novels. But as a preteen I started watching Smallville and my interest in superheroes was piqued. The Superman mythology was interesting, and some might even go as far as to say complex. It was just as fascinating as any of the fantasy novels and movies I enjoyed, and I craved more. I spent hours online looking up facts on Superman, which led to research on the Justice League, which led to research on other superheroes and villains.

I finally caved and bought a comic book.

If a person who has never picked up a comic book were to read one they would be extremely confused. One cannot just pick up a random Batman issue and understand what is going on. With the New 52 it is simpler, but you still need to start from the beginning (but in all honesty don’t put yourself through the torture of the New 52- just read the old DCU comics). You cannot just read and know who all the people and what their back stories are. Comic book mythology is far more complex then it is given credit for.

My mother for example has no idea what a comic book actually is. She knows that they are about superheroes, but that is the extent of her knowledge. She once asked, quite innocently, if they were “funny”. She believed that because of the name “comic” they would be funny. I had to explain to her that comics were about superheroes, and some of them may be funny, sad, tragic, and almost all involve action as well. She still did not seem to understand, and while I have never taken to the term graphic novel, I began referring to comics as such in front of her (which confused her greatly).


Another misconception my mother had (and still does) was that they were for children- more specifically, little boys. This has always been her main objection to my reading comic books. No matter how many times I have tired to explain, she just cannot seem to comprehend that many comic books should not be read by little eight year old boys. I would by know means allow a little boy to read Identity Crisis- something that deals with morality issues such as altering another beings mind (essentially a rape of the mind), and rape (not just mind rape- actual physical rape). I cannot say however that this is just ignorance on my mothers part. I once held the frame of mind once too.


One thing that everybody can agree on however is that superheroes are here to stay. Comic books may be going through a bit of an image crisis however, considering how many do not understand what a comic book actually is. To readers of “graphic novels” we know what they are. We know what they stand for, we know the ‘images’ that they stand for- the differences between DC and Marvel, and why we prefer one over the other. But to “outsiders”, people who do not read comics, they are unaware of what a comic book actually is. If people learned what they actually were, and the depth of the stores told in the pages of the books, then perhaps many more would be swayed to read them. Somehow comics need to undo the stigma attached to them. Even with the huge popularity of their movies I still know people afraid to go pick up a comic, no matter how much they enjoyed the movies.

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This entry was posted on 09/02/2013 by in Comic books and tagged , , , , .

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