Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Comic That Changed Your Life: Final Installment

Editor's note: The last two weeks, we have run pieces by Megan Kurashige, in which she asked people, "What is the comic that changed your life?"  Here are the first and second installments--today, we feature the final answers, along with Megan's concluding thoughts.

Michael John Rawley, who works at Isotope Comics, told me that Mike Carey's Lucifer is partly responsible for his move from the East to West Coast. "Lucifer is a character looking to escape the world in which God has already predestined him to attempt the conquering of heaven…The idea of a character like Lucifer ultimately escaping the chains of predestination helped drive me to do the same in my own life, to seek my own path."

Danger Bob, who I met at Isotope, talked about Jim Lee's X-Men and Darwin Cook's Frontier and how refreshing and relaxing it can be to slip into the world of superheroes, where justice is measured out according to virtue and wrong-doing. Comics, he said, changed the way he acts. "In comics, you don't need to be a jerk to survive; you can get by by being a nice person, or trying to be as good a person as you can… Even if no one is watching me, I'm not going to do something stupid and try to get away with it. I mean, that's not Batman. He wouldn't do that."

Two of the last people I talked to were Chris Keene and his son, Austen. Chris said that Neil Gaiman's Sandman and Art Spiegelman's Maus tipped him over the edge, Maus for the way it gives you a different way of looking at really horrible things and Sandman for they way it "took so many different threads and sources and packed them into these… little polished gems." Austen told me about a manga series called One Piece. It's about pirates, he said, and the navy. "I'd say that while I don't really have a book that's changed me, reading has sort of made up what I do, how I look at things. It puts ideas in my head. In the comic I'm reading now, the pure of heart are kind of, like, in both sides, so you're not really sure who's good and who's bad. So maybe the bad guys aren't the ones who are really doing the bad things, and things aren't really what they seem."

I'm afraid I've done a terrible job of telling you how wonderful these stories were. I've struggled with the writing of this piece, something that seemed so easy and fun when I set out to do it. Listening to these people, each and every one of them, thrilled me. I wish I could instantly transmit, through whatever screen you might be reading this, a sunny afternoon spent at a friendly comic bookstore where people drop all the usual masks of awkwardness worn when talking to strangers and tell you about something as touchingly private and important as a great love of their life. As someone who believes in telling stories and making art, I felt like I was being schooled in my belief, challenged to remember that these things really do matter, that they operate directly on people's hearts and minds, shape the way their eyeballs perceive the world and the way their brains choose to deal with it, that a comic is entirely capable of changing someone's life and to think anything else is to subscribe to a silly flippancy that would deprive you of a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction.

By Megan Kurashige