This week, Marvel announced that an upcoming miniseries called Captain America: Reborn will bring the original Captain America, Steve Rogers, back from the dead after his assassination two years ago.
Back in college, I took an editorial writing class. The first assignment was to write a personal essay explaining something about myself. I chose to explain my love of comics.
I dug up that editorial and I’m posting it here because it (A) explains why I love comics so much and (B) because Steve Rogers was my first superhero. It seemed like digging this up to post would be both topical and also a nice little bit of explanation as to where I come from as a comic book fan. My mom admitted to never understanding why I enjoyed comics till she read this back when I wrote it. So, hopefully it accomplishes that for all you EoP readers while also acting as a nice little tribute to the man himself, Steve Rogers!
It was the worst kind of torture that can be implemented on a 6-year-old child.
I had perform the amazing feat of sitting still. And, if that wasn’t enough, I had to become a tiny stone golem of perfect unmoving childhood in order to balance tiny liquid-filled trays on my arms.
My arms itched—a lot. It seemed as though my arms were the itchiest arms to ever exist. No matter how much the itch increased, I had to sit still. I was getting a scratch test where my skin would be exposed to possible allergens to see how much was wrong with me. If the result is positive to one of the substances that are being tested on the skin, then it itches—a lot. And, as it turned out, I was allergic to almost everything they tested on me. Not only that, but I had been diagnosed as “very” asthmatic earlier that day, so I was not too keen on sitting there and not scratching my horribly itchy arms.
In a comic book, this would be the point where the hero would burst through the wall and free this poor, innocent child from torture at the hand of evil doctors. Luckily, a colorful book in the hands of a sympathetic nurse was all it took to bring me a hero. Captain America was his name and the book was a comic book story entitled “Captain America Meets The Asthma Monster.”
My mom must have read that comic book to me ten times as I sat there stone-still, gritting my teeth against the itching. I fought the urge to throw those tiny trays off and scratch my arms furiously by engrossing myself in the fantasy in front of me. I loved every panel on every page of that distracting godsend. It was a basic fight of good versus evil to which I could fully relate. There was my first superhero kicking the butt of the very disease that caused me to take daily inhalers. It made me think what I would do if I were Captain America. It gave my mind somewhere to roam while pain wracked my arms.
Comic books then became a tradition for me. When my mom would pull me out of school to get more testing done or to get a check up, she would bring new comics to make it all seem a little better.
I got older and had to get my tonsils and adenoids removed. I came out of the sedation of surgery to find new comics. And as the acne-faced and awkwardly chubby years of junior high began, I turned to my fantasy world again to lift my spirits and bring me out of the problems I faced in my daily life.
In Marvel comics’ universe, I saw a weak young man named Steve Rogers who was given a medical serum to turn him into the country’s greatest hero, Captain America. I read about another young boy named Peter Parker who was teased for being a nerd who excelled in his classes. This glasses-clad youngster pined after the most beautiful girls in school and was smarter than all the dumb jocks that pushed him. He received a bite from a radioactive spider and became the Amazing Spider-Man. I also saw tales of a group of heroes who were different from everyone else. At puberty these children developed special powers and were called mutants. They were the heroes known as the X-Men.
There is no shocking reason as to why these stories spoke to me. I was always one more trip away from the doctor’s visit where an “amazing mishap” would awaken my deep-seeded super powers. I was always just one injection or test away from throwing off my less-than-appealing awkward phase and morphing into a handsome and witty hero to millions of kids just like myself. I would sit through class imagining how this fateful day was bound to come sooner or later.
A few years later, puberty had come and gone. I hadn’t gained any super powers, but I had grown out of awkwardness and become a surprisingly normal-looking human being. I found that I was tall and relatively athletic. I kissed a few girls and found that I didn’t need to escape into fiction because life was pretty good.
But my love of comics couldn’t hide forever. Major motion pictures were released starring my old heroes and I found myself reading through every comic I had kept for years in dusty crates hidden in my closet. I came to the realization that these stories had not been an escape to another world, they had been a comfort in the real world. They told stories I knew so well because I had lived them, and so had the many men who wrote these books. It reminded me that I wasn’t alone.
All those old comic heroes showed me that the meekest of people could harbor the bravest of hearts. Instead of focusing on what I couldn’t do and the things I would never accomplish, I was prodded by tales of adventure and fantasy to imagine what I could do.
I know that I’ll never defeat aliens and save the Earth. I know I’ll never leap tall buildings in a single bound, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to settle for reading alone in my room. There will always be those who need the “saving power” of fantasy and the hope that grows from seeds planted in the imagination. My mom fostered that hope in me long ago. She gave me the comic stories that exercised my imagination. I won’t ever be able to stand spandex-clad atop some evil monster and be looked at as a hero, but maybe I can tell a few stories to a few young people and give them those seeds of hope. Giving hope and fueling imaginations may not be all that is (super)humanly possible, but sometimes heroes don’t have to be super to change someone’s life.
Side note #1: It’s nice, after reading this, to see that I’ve improved as a writer over the past few years.
Side note #2: If this editorial sounds a little familiar, it may be because it was the model I used for this review of Captain America #34 I wrote nearly a year later.