Apart of Me

comics, Japanese culture, manga, nerd culture

Comic books resonate with many people because they either identify with the characters, the characters have inspiring traits, or we become immersed into a fantastic/different world. Ultimately, any work of fiction allows us to live vicariously, but comics offer a visual component that draws us in.

Night Things and magic abound, and I where I picture Bill Nighly as Uncle Aloysius

Night Things and magic abound; and I where I picture Bill Nighy as Uncle Aloysius.

I recently re-read a few volumes of one of my favorite indie comics, Courtney Crumrin. It reminded me of a time I had to deal with my own Night Things during the formative teenage years. My comic choices in the past weren’t Superman or Wonder Woman.

Who did I relate to as a teenager? Punisher, Hellboy, Spawn, Catwoman (stand-alone titles), and a flirtation with Blade (I couldn’t decide if I liked him or not). They appealed to my loner and outcast nature. The unapologetic grittiness and the blurred lines between what was right or wrong mirrored what I saw in the world. The vigilantes, often not law-abiding, fought to keep sane in a world of chaos, similar to how I saw myself. Grim stuff; however, I broke it up with an occasional dose of shonen and shojo manga.

Manga once fell into the category: fantastic/different world. I learned about Japanese mythology, customs, honorifics, and that it was all right to enjoy eating good food. I found the country and storytelling fascinating. When I finally visited Japan, all the things I read about became real. Other than the challenge of trying to learn and speak conversational Japanese, Tokyo and Kyoto were familiar friends. I firmly stand by my opinion that manga is a cultural travel guide, without all the dry bits on how to pray at a temple or how to bathe at an onsen.

Currently, I’m reading the new short series Serenity: Leaves on the Wind and recent Gambit installments. I’m finding that my comic book choices are a direct reflection of where I am in life; trying to find my way in this ever changing world and to be optimistic about the uncertain future. One thing I know for certain is that I’ll still be reading comics when I turn seventy.

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