Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Suggestion Unboxed - My Comic Book Life's Education


Doug: Back in October we ran a post requesting ideas from our readers. We promised to run all of those suggestions at some point. While we've covered many of them, it's been a while since some of those thoughts graced our blog. Here's another one:


Martinex1: Discuss examples when comics taught you something that school and life didn't...


23 comments:

Edo Bosnar said...

Heh, I know Martinex is suggesting deeper life and/or moral lessons, but the first thing that popped into my head is vocabulary. I learned so many words reading comics that I didn't learn at home (since I grew up on what was mainly a non-English speaking household) or the Catholic elementary school I attended. Of course, I didn't know how to pronounce many of them (I still remember those little "a-ha" moments whenever I first heard words like "facade" or "awry" pronounced correctly).
I will say this, though, comics not only helped me overcome my language/reading problems as a kid, they also spurred what would become my life-long love of reading in general.

Colin Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Great topic Martinex!

I had the same first thought as Edo - vocabulary. I distinctly remember learning the word "stark". I think it was in a Daredevil comic when he was going against Angar the Screamer and he was going "stark, raving mad" - or something like that. I immediately wanted to know what that meant and had to go look it up in the dictionary. I would do that a lot. When I was first getting into Marvel, I had a buddy who used to say he didn't think it was "necessary" to read anything other than the word balloons. But, it was in all that narration that I often found these great words that, when a comic was good, would really add to and complement the pictures.

I also remember learning a lot about real places. Like once Spiderman stopped some guys from robbing the Guggenheim museum. As an adult I went to New York and passed by the museum and thought "Spidey's been there".

Tom

Redartz said...

Like Edo, vocabulary is the first lesson that comics seem to have left me with. As a young, small, nerdy kid with glasses, I often got the unwanted attentions of school 'thugs'. I would find myself walking away afterwards, muttering about 'imbeciles' and 'brainless dolts'. Yes, between comics and my fascination with paleontology, my word list was constantly expanding.
Slightly off-topic but this all triggered a memory: way back in 6th. grade, our teacher would let the students come up with some of the words for the weekly spelling list. On one occasion I submitted "Styracosaurus"; probably didn't endear myself with classmates, in hindsight...

On a more general note, I credit comics with giving me a wider, more open-minded outlook on the world. From the works of Englehart and Gerber, to later readings by Eisner and Art Spiegelman. Although an avid reader of books, comics seemed to lead me in wider directions and captured my imagination both verbally and visually. In fact, comics inspired my interest in art, which led to my career even today...

Doug said...

You can add me to the list of folks whose vocabulary far exceeded their classmates'. Being a phonics baby, I distinctly recall one day in 2nd grade when we were about to read a story. The main character had a really long name that began with a "C". The teacher wrote it on the board and asked if anyone could sound it out. Sound it out? Pfah... "Cornelius!" shouted young Doug. Not necessarily a comic book education, but certainly one steeped in pop culture.

Yeah, I got some sideways glances from the other kids.

And also echoing the geographical aspects of comic books. Avengers during the Celestial Madonna took us to New York, Vietnam, and Limbo (where I learned what a labyrinth is).

Doug

Edo Bosnar said...

Ha! Redartz reminded me of a subsidiary aspect of the expanded, comics-generated vocabulary: the great, often obscure words flung as insults by the villains, especially ones you pretty much only saw in comics, like whelp or stripling.

More in the spirit of Martinex's suggestion, I should note that it was after I read the three Black Panther issues of Marvel Premiere (#s 51-53) and the actual Klan story from Jungle Action not long afterward that I began to seriously think about stuff like racism and the KKK - at the age of about 11, long before high school, when we finally got around to learning a little about Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement in history class.

david_b said...

I do recall confidence issues when I was really young and I was reading FF 138, where Medusa couldn't pull herself away from these stone arms the Miracle Man had grabbing at her feet, exclaiming she lacked the confidence.

Then Ben Grimm just came in and ripped 'em out of the ground. Case closed.

There's many many MANY more incidents.., but that one comes to mind on this early, frigid Tuesday. :)

Colin Jones said...

I also first heard of the Gettysburg Address thanks to Marvel because Ben Grimm often mentioned it - "Sheesh, we didn't ask for the Gettysburg Address, Stretch..." or words to that effect.

Humanbelly said...

I can completely echo the comments above about the early expansion of vocabulary, which- to this day- my elderly mother staunchly refuses to acknowledge-- "just silly stories for little kids" was where she categorized them at some point in her youth, and that's where they forever remained. I can promise you, she has never ever read a Silver Age or newer DC or Marvel comic in her life. Sort of like trying new foods-- she knows she won't like it, 'cause she's never tried it before. . . sheesh.

More seriously, though, Amazing Spiderman #121 really had a profound effect on me- possibly w/out even knowing it at the time. I went through a very real 5-stages-of-grief process with it, no question. But it provided a vital, early lesson in the real-world fact that happy endings simply don't always happen-- but that life does indeed continue on regardless. It came at a point when I was starting to recognize that our home life was beginning to disintegrate in an ugly fashion- and would continue to do so over the next few years- and Pete's struggles and perseverance and ability to forge ahead during the darkest point (at that time) of his life did indeed provide direction on how to deal with endings that weren't happy. And to accept that fact that and ending itself is possibly the best thing one can hope for, regardless. Happiness might not be part of that equation.

Sorry-- that's more of a downer than is probably necessary here, yeah?

Might I add, then, that the OZYMANDIAS epilogue in Avengers #57 is something that gave me an appreciation for how "old, dried-up" literature actually is timeless in its ability to completely grab a person's fancy and sense of wonder? STILL my favorite little poem after all these years. Used it in my thesis show, in fact.

HB

Doug said...

Totally off-topic, but I just got the digital edition of Back Issue #86. Our readers will love this issue, as it's all about Giant-Size Marvel in the Bronze Age. The magazine is chock full of indices to Marvel's reprint titles, G-S mags, etc. Additionally there are articles on the Origins series, and Marvel's paperbacks from the late '70s that reprinted seminal runs of the FF, Spidey, etc. And... there are more than a few examples of original art and thumbnail sketches of well-known covers of the era. Editor Michael Eury really turned out a nice periodical this time round!

Doug

Redartz said...

Yes, I've been wanting this issue since first hearing of it, Doug! Think I might have to download it onto that new Christmas tablet tonight.

HB- thanks for sharing about the impact Spidey 121 had on you. Sorry to hear of the rough seas you sailed. Peter Parker 's stories have been a help to me as well. As much as he has gone through, he still strives to do right; to remain the good guy. That in itself remains a pretty darned good lesson...

Anonymous said...

You can put me down in the "vocabulary" camp as well. I learned plenty of new words from comics, as well as all sorts of historical factoids that comics writers like to sprinkle in their scripts to prove how erudite (hey, there's a good word!) they are.

I also learned a fair bit about World War II from reading Sgt. Rock and those sorts of comics. And sometimes war comics taught me some vocabulary too...I remember reading some British war comics and having to ask my dad (who's from England) what all the slang meant! I still remember "tanner" was slang for a sixpence.

Mike Wilson

Martinex1 said...

Howdy all. Seems I am late to a party I started. I am glad to hear others benefitted from the vocabulary lessons in comics. “Intangible” was definitely one of the words I learned in my early readership. I pronounced it wrong with a hard “g”, but eventually got it right. For some reason I didn’t initially know the Vision’s name and called him “Intangible Man” until a friend corrected me. I also learned that “aka” was an abbreviation and not pronounced “ah-kah”. And my brother teased me because I thought Peter Parker was “punny” and not “puny”. Such is life learning to read. All good.

I also didn’t necessarily gain a full understanding about WWII, but Captain America and Sgt. Fury definitely made me curious, and it is where I first started putting the conflict all together in a broad way. Axis and Allies, occupied France, U Boats, Rommel, Churchill, Nazis, Pearl Harbor etc. Marvel always had a sense of history as a back story and somehow as time went on the pieces fit together. And specifically regarding Pearl Harbor, I learned a lot from an issue of “Dennis the Menace Goes to Hawaii”.

Like HB, comics also taught me a bit about the unfairness of life and that not everything ends peacefully. For me, it was a one-off issue of Two-In-One with the Thing and Nighthawk trying to protect an ugly alien from some thugs. The alien was a peaceful creature that was just horrendous visually and the brutish townsfolk thought it was a monster and killed it. As heavy handed as it was, it stuck with me. A similar emotion came about when Thor killed the robot Gabriel in a battle; but a small child had looked up to Gabriel as the only friend he had and hated Thor because of that action. Not always happy endings in the comics.

I also think I learned something about honor, responsibility, and sacrifice (in some way) from comics.

Jim Moore said...

Thanks to a comic book I learned what the word laser stood for

Light
Amplification by
Stimulated
Emmission of
Radiation

William said...

I learned that "With great power, comes great responsibility."

Too bad the leaders of our country apparently never read many comic-books.

William Preston said...

Obama is a BIG Spidey fan, he has said.

That aside: Yup on vocab. "Interstices" showed up in a Doctor Strange ish, I think. I know Reed gave me some big words.

Before I became a Marvel reader, I read DC comics, and what they "taught" me runs somewhat counter to where others have gone with this thread. I loved Teen Titans in the early '70s, when DC had them speaking all groovy-like . . . about as awkwardly as the characters in TV's The Mod Squad. (TV show Perry Mason did a much better job with the counterculture in the late '50s-early '60s in many of its episodes, I'd say.) I only read the Spider-Man issues from that era several years later, and though Stan did get his groove on in that dialogue, he didn't so forcefully pepper his characters' speech with new idioms that they sounded like dolts. Peter still sounded sharp. Teen Titans, instead, had its characters constantly talking like people who could only speak in teen-speak, but they "taught" me that, somewhere, teens sounded like this.

Anonymous said...

Like my buddy Edo, comics were my first foray into 'big' words, so my vocabulary definitely benefited from reading many comic books, which in turn stoked my interest in literature.

Hmm, come to think of it, I learned the word 'opprobrium' from the pages of Thor (during Walt Simonson's run)!


- Mike 'linguistically challenged' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Karen said...

I learned that Europe still looks like it did in the 1700s, with quaint castles and burgomeisters and lederhosen.

But, yeah, the vocabulary thing for me too.

William Preston said...

Karen, this makes me think of the contrast between Doom's Latveria, an utterly retrograde place, and T'Challa's Wakanda, the high-tech Kirbyfest in the middle of a jungle. Both such oddities.

Vince and Siv said...

The word 'shard' I got form a comic (can't remember which!).... I put it into an English essay when I was about 14 only for my English teacher to say I'd made it up as he'd never heard of it even when I explained. A quick flick through my dictionary put him right! Ironic now that one of the tallest buildings in London is called 'The Shard' !!

R. Lloyd said...

I have to say Marvel Comics had an impact on my vocabulary too. When I was in my first year of high school my knowledge of Thor and mythology was part of an story I wrote in class. The teacher thought I plagiarized my story. When in fact, I just was extremely good at knowing who was who because I read so much on the subject. Long story short, I had to go to the principal's office and show him samples of my other stories. The teacher never apologized for making a false accusation of plagiarism against me. However the principal was convinced and it was what got me into college prep level English classes. I changed teachers that day and was on the way to taking college preparatory classes in all my subjects.

William said...

When i was 12, my 7th grade English teacher told my mother that I was reading at a college level. And since pretty much the only thing I read outside of school was comic-books, then I guess I owe most of my vocabulary and reading aptitude to my 4-color friends.

johnlindwall said...

As a kid, I learned the word "macabre" from comics although I pronounced it "mack-a-bree" until I learned better.

I also remember reading a Lois Lane story at a very young age and being confused at this character called "Superman Robert", who seemed to be a duplicate of Superman. Uh, duh, I finally figured out it was one of those prevalent silver-age Superman *robots*.

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