Saturday, August 2, 2014

Comic Books, Reading and Movies

I just saw the movie Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s definitely a do-over. I will be taking 8 year old Meghan (the Todzilla) to see it. Although the PG-13 rating cites “intense sci-fi violence and action, and some language”, I think she sees more violence on Sponge Bob and other television shows. There was no obvious gore and the “language” was nothing more than on most regular televisions shows some kids already view.
I won’t go into what I saw in the movie, there are plenty of folks out there that have already seen and reviewed  and Rolling Stone's Pete Travers reviewed better than I could.
What I love so much about the movies that are made from comic book superheroes is how I wax nostalgic about the stuff that kept me reading as a child.
When I was in grade school, while most of the girls my age were reading Nancy Drew, Bobbsey Twins and Hardy Boys, I spent my money on comic books, mostly Superman, Thor and Captain America. I tried to take an interest in the books like Nancy Drew, but there just wasn’t enough fantasy and suspending reality in them to hold my attention. I was probably somewhat dyslexic at a time when dyslexia wasn’t a commonly recognized symptom of learning difficulties. I wasn’t a ‘struggling’ student, but a block of printed words on an eight inch sheet, with no pictures or drawings to display the point of the content, often sent me daydreaming.
 I pined for the days of primary readers of Dick and Jane.
I remember my first comic book. It was a Superman. I can not tell you what the episode or specific storyline was, but I had rapt attention in the full color illustrations and unsubtle action that was captured in a bubble of tightly edited dialogue, the epitome of KISS (keep it short & simple). So much of the story was told on one page of panels filled with four to six blocks of well executed narrative. From Superman I grew my reading repertoire to Thor, Captain America, Fantastic Four, Avengers and the Hulk. My personal faves were Superman and Thor. What’s not to like about a musclebound superhero hunk with great hair that happens to be articulate and intellectual and able to avert mass destruction in 20 pages or less?
I continued to read comic books into my teen years. I bought comics from the news stand I passed on my way home from high school, as I got off the Frankford el. After I finished reading, they would be added to a stacked pile that eventually got trashed. The only other person in our household to share my interest in comics was my brother. Once the pile was about 12 inches high, Mom insisted they get trashed. Who would have thought that pulpy newsprint comic books would have become collector items?
There was one other person who shared my superhero/fantasy interest. That was a boyfriend. When he found out about my penchant for comic books, he recommended one of his favorite series by Robert E. Howard and continued by Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp - Conan the Barbarian. Freshly infatuated with teenaged ardor, I found a new hero to follow and add to my reading repertoire. The boyfriend was short-lived, but the love of fantasy reading matured with an appreciation for a more complex storyline of a fine specimen of male brawn, brains and always able to save the day.
It’s gratifying when I see a film that suitably portrays the characterizations and action packed stories that kept me reading as a child. I hope the imagination of these film makers continues to put out the same of level of entertainment I wax nostalgic about with my  comic book reading.