This week for Episode 42 of Cool Comics in My Collection I’m excited to present guest blogger Hank Garner, an author of several novels and short stories, and the man behind Author Stories Podcast. Be sure to check out Hank’s website!
When people talk about their first comic, they usually use words like life changing, magical, and empowering. Sometimes that first superhero book that they received as a birthday present fosters a life-long love of storytelling, or that first encounter with the squeaky spinner rack toward the back of the drug store opens their eyes to what could possibly be… if we lived in the world of the 4 color press. I too tend to talk about my first experience with comics with that same kind of hyperbole, but if you’ll indulge me a moment, I’d like to explain.
It was sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas of 1977. I was six years old and was riding in the back seat of my mother’s car. We were driving to my grandparent’s house and I was fidgeting in the back seat next to my sister, who was probably reading a Judy Blume book. I didn’t share her love of reading, and it showed.
I was in first grade and had been struggling to learn to read. I would later learn that I had dyslexia, and the jumbling letters that wouldn’t sit still on the page was not normal. On that trip to my grandparent’s house, my mother handed me a colorful Superman comic, Action Comics #485, and when I opened the pages my life changed. I don’t mean that in a flippant way. My life literally changed. I never read anything from start to finish. But I flipped through the pages of that comic and by following along with the panels, I made out the gist of the story. I would then start over and make my way through the dialog bubbles and add more depth to the story that I had just read. In this way, comics opened a door for me that no teacher had been able to.
From that day forward I would read any comic I could get my hands on. Superman led me to the JLA. From there, Batman and Wonder Woman. Then I discovered the Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Hawkman, and a whole host of heroes that helped me make sense of things.
I depended on comics for the next several years and those characters became trusted friends. Not only were comics – and superhero comics especially – great morality tales that taught me to believe in justice and compassion, they became valuable teaching aids. Some adults look down on comics as some sort of “second-rate literature” and discourage kids from reading them. I would wholeheartedly disagree. I encourage my children to read everything, and most especially comics.
Superman was a tremendous influence on me
Comics instilled in me a love of reading that then became a love of writing. If it weren’t for the big blue Boy scout in that comic in 1977, I might not be publishing stories of my own. And for that, I am forever grateful. Since then I’ve had periods where I have read comics more consistently than others, depending on what was going on in my life. But one thing has always been true. My love for the heroes on the page, and the art form specifically, has never waned.
I will leave you with a list of some of my favorite comics, and some that I have encouraged my own kids to read. Do yourself a favor and pick these (and others) up, and if you see a kid struggling in school, slip him or her a comic. You just might change a kid’s life.
- Superman Birthright by MarK Waid
- Kingdom Come by Mark Waid, Alex Ross
- Man of Steel by John Byrne
- Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar
- Superman: Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski
- Justice League of America: The Tornado’s Path by Brad Meltzer
- Justice League Origin (New 52) by Geoff Johns
To learn more about Hank Garner, please visit The Author Stories Podcast.