I was recently ‘outed’ by a friend of mine. Up until that moment I had kept my secret virtually to myself since I was very young. In a way I’m pleased that people now know. It means that I don’t have to sneak around or pretend. I can now stand up and proudly say; ‘I am a Comic Book fan!’.
Yes, it’s true. I have t-shirts with super heroes on them – which in true super hero style I’d always worn, hidden, under my shirt/jumper – as well as figurines, films and of course the comic books themselves.
So why do I like comic books, super heroes et al? And who is Al?
It probably stems back to childhood. I used to think that I – the short stocky boy who was picked on in school – really had super powers. Of course having these powers, and the great responsibility which came with them, meant that I couldn’t fight back in case I hurt my attackers. I kept up the pretence really well. I continued to let myself get regularly beaten up just so that no one would ever suspect anything. It also meant that I didn’t mind getting picked last for every sports team, because I needed to keep my incredible speed and agility a secret.
And so I identified with the comic book characters, which had to keep their alter egos a secret. I especially identified with Spider Man. I dreamed of being bitten by a radioactive spider. I even tried to find one once but unfortunately had to make do with a woodlouse which I covered in bleach. As you can imagine, it didn’t have the desired effect, unless having a nasty itchy rash is considered a super power.
I am also a big fan of Batman. Here was someone who didn’t have any powers as such. He was a normal guy, just like me. Well, just like me apart from the physique, looks and phenomenal wealth. Although I am a fan of Batman, I’ve never really come to terms with Robin. To me Robin is the comic book equivalent of Scrappy Doo – something brought in for the young kids. And of course, let’s be honest, there is something quite odd about an older man getting a young boy to live with him and dressing him up in rubber and Lycra. But we won’t dwell on that.
Then we have The Hulk. To be truthful, I was never really a big fan of The Hulk in the comic books but, like all my friends and my dad and my friend’s dads, I loved the TV series. I enjoyed the constant playground Incredible Hulk queries. Things like; how many spare pairs of trousers does he have to carry with him? Why are the Hulk’s trousers always the same colour and ripped in exactly the same place? How painful were those contact lenses? And how come David Banner could only stay in one place for an hour before having to thumb a lift again? Which reminds me, I still find it funny that they changed Bruce Banner’s first name to David as they thought Bruce sounded too ‘camp’.
Then there are heroes who have to overcome their disabilities; eg Daredevil is blind, Professor X is in a wheelchair, Iron Man has a heart problem, Thor has a Seventies hairstyle etc.
And let’s not forget about the ladies. When I was younger my first sexual attraction was towards comic book heroines. I had a photo of The Invisible Woman stuck to my wall – I won’t tell you what I used as an adhesive. Alright, it was Blu Tack. I also had a crush on Storm from the X-Men and of course Elektra. I know it all sounds a bit childish, but seventeen is a tough age.
And then of course there’s Superman. This character is slightly different to most in as much as his disguise is that of Clark Kent. Superman’s real name is Kal El, which I believe is the Kryptonian equivalent of Kevin. Because his home planet, Krypton, was about to explode, Superman’s parents sent him to Earth. They told him that he would be the protector of Humanity. Now I know a lot of parents have great aspirations for their children, but I do think that’s being slightly optimistic.
There are some powers which I personally always wanted to have. Like the power to tell when a girl was lying. Then I could say things like; ‘Aha! My super lie detecting power informs me that you are not telling the truth and that in fact it isthe smallest you’ve seen and it is actually notnormal for it to be over so quickly. That’s the last time we play with my Travel Scrabble’.
I’ve often thought what I would call myself if I became a Super Hero. I think I’d call myself Wonderman. Because then, if someone came rushing up to me shouting; ‘The world is about to be destroyed by an evil mastermind, can you help us Wonderman?’ I could say; ‘Mmmm, I wonder…’