I’ve been an adult for a few years, and I’ve realized that while your responsibility grows, who we really are generally remains unchanged. The things that filled us with wonder and entertained us as children still can, but many give up on those things as we grow older and more “mature.”
What adulthood really should give us is the freedom to revel in the things we enjoy and being true to ourselves and our interests. C.S. Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, summed it up perfectly:
“When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”
I do all the things society expects of an adult: I go to work, I pay my taxes and bills, I buy my groceries, cook my dinner and clean my house.
As an adult, I might also have a greater passion for the stories, heroes and villains that grace the pages of comic books than I ever did as kid.
Luckily for me, superheroes may never have been more popular than they are today. The latest Marvel movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron, dominated the global box office to the tune of $1.5 billion.
Marvel Studios has another 11 movies planned through 2019 and rival DC Comics has outlined plans for 10 movies through 2020. Both in quantity and quality of films, this is the Golden Age of comic book movies.
For a kid who grew up watching animated TV shows and reading comic books of Spider-Man, the X-Men, Batman and more — it’s thrilling to see characters you grew up with in movies not ashamed of the source material. Director Joss Whedon’s Age of Ultron was not without flaws but contained scenes ripped straight from the pages of comic books.
Superheroes first became popular during the Great Depression, when people looked for an escape from financial woes. More than 70 years later, the country was stumbling through the Great Recession when movies like 2008’s “Iron Man” and 2010’s “The Dark Knight” kicked off a string of critical and box office successes.
Superheroes seem to thrive in difficult times but the inversion has also been true. In 1996, as the U.S. economy was in the midst of a decade of steady growth in jobs and GDP, Marvel filed for bankruptcy.
I think people embrace superheroes in difficult times because they represent a modern mythology. Many of the heroes are god-like, with powers far beyond our comprehension and the apparent ability to die and resurrect at will.
What I believe makes the heroes of today better touchstones is their stories are relatable. As a skinny, bespectacled kid, it was easy to relate with Peter Parker and dream of being Spider-Man while growing up.
Now that I’m an adult, I think less about being a superhero (though super speed, flight or invulnerability would still be cool) and more about the way comics are touchstones to our current affairs.
Since its inception in the 1960s, X-Men comics have addressed ideas of prejudice, equality and what it means to be different in an unaccepting world. After the adoption of the PATRIOT Act, Marvel ran a storyline known as Civil War that questioned the balance between privacy and security.
Even the growing diversity of superheroes — in gender, race, ethnicity and sexuality — have reflected society’s increased recognition of marginalized groups.
So even as I grow older, I doubt my love affair with comic books will fade away.
I’ve subjected my patient wife to my fascination with heroes and she’s always humored me. At my wedding nearly a year ago, my groomsman and I even wore superhero shirts under our tuxedos.
I’d like to think that my ability to connect with my childhood self will make me a better father someday, no matter what interests my children.
In a lot of ways, the characters have grown and evolved even in my lifetime. The simple days of black-and-white good versus evil are gone. Heroes and villains alike are complex and live in the gray areas that question our morality, perceptions and beliefs.
So in short, I agree with Lewis. I’m not ashamed that I read comics as an adult because I’ve come to appreciate them more as time goes on and cherish the perspective and entertainment they’ve given me over the years.