I would like to share with you a story I just finished reading.
It’s a comic book story, and though it’s been less than five minutes since I finished reading it, I’m pretty sure that it – for a long while at least – is going to be remembered as one of my favourite and most cherished comic book stories ever.
It’s called Superman – Secret Identity. It’s not really a Superman story, it’s not set in the regular DC world of superheroes and villains and as many twists to the rules of physics as there are in the plot. It’s set in a regular world, where two ordinary Kents who live in Kansas think it would be funny to name their son Clark. As you can imagine, growing up with the name Clark Kent meant constant ridicule and teasing for the boy who, incidentally, doesn’t even like the Superman comics. One day, though, out alone in the fields of Kansas, a meteor falls… and immediately after, Clark Kent discovers that he has, now, all the powers of Superman himself.
That’s the basic premise for the story, the essential “what it’s all about”. But that’s not what I loved about reading the story – what I loved was the way it was written. Clark Kent was characterized so well, and everything revolves around that – not on his superpowers, or what he does with them, the center of the story is Clark. Kent.
It’s what I’ve always wanted my superhero stories to be like. About the people more than anything else.
Clark is shown as a thinker, and a bit of a loner – not someone who shuns society, but who really prefers the quiet and being alone with his thoughts. The writing, the coloured word boxes(which have replaced thought bubbles in most modern comics, if you didn’t know), and even the art are all quiet, reflective, thoughtful, insightful and, as he gets older, increasingly wiser. Okay, the art doesn’t really get wiser, but it’s certainly quiet and thoughtful sort of art. No bright colours or loud fanfares to put the boom into action.
Also, Clark does a remarkable job of living his own life, making a place for himself in the world and not being defined solely by his superpowers, although they are a big part of him. Most superhero comics fail in this aspect too, but the thing is, I realize, is that regular comic book industries have to cater to their fans, and most fans don’t want to read about their favourite heroes growing old and starting a family. Superman – Secret Identity was a four issue mini-series, the whole thing being in just four parts – so the writer, Kurt Busiek – had a lot more liberty in what his story could be.
I think I look for more humanity in my stories because there is so much about being a person I don’t really know. So I like seeing how different people handle different things. In seeing all the different ways people handle different situations, I find myself – I see moments where one person chooses to do something I would have done completely differently. I see thoughts and opinions I relate to strongly. And I need these things, because there is so much about being myself that I do not know.
Lately, things have been falling into place in just the right places – places that have been empty in me for years. And I finally feel like I’m becoming part of a world and as I see myself there, I see who it is that I am, and I’m proud of me. I’m liking me. And I’m knowing, more surely, day by day, that the choice to like myself isn’t blind egoism. Egotism? Self-centeredness? Nar- there, that’s the one. Isn’t blind narcissism.
I’m going to share with you my favourite page from the story. I don’t always have a favourite page, but in this one, I do. It’s the one that appealed most to me, resonated most strongly with me. You know how you’re listening to a romantic song but there’s that ONE moment, that ONE note or ONE line that strikes the strongest resonant chord within you? This page is like that – I’m reading a story that settles in my mind as a the life of a person doing what he can to find his own, person place in a six dimensioned world(the sixth dimension being feelings. Emotional significance. Whatnot), and this page resonates that in me the strongest.
It’s the art that catches my eye are first. If I could float, I would so sit cross-legged at night over any city I want to. The words are just part of the flow of the story as the art fills me with joy and that’s-where-I’d-be-ness. Then I see the words and I love them – sitting in a location like that just to ponder about deep philosophical quandaries that define who he is – and he’s already forming ideas on how to write about it. And that’s why I relate to this page so strongly – because that’s me. That’s how I think. It’s how I look at things, and it’s so much of who I am and it’s one of the things I love about being someone who has ink and words flowing through his bloodstream.
At the same time, Clark is different from me in many ways. He’s more grounded than I’d ever be. Far less random and sparky and much less of a dreamer. He’s not into comics at all other than random trivia enforced upon him through his name. He’s up to date on current event and is completely aware of political situations. He plans things in the quiet, smart, well thought out way of plans that actually work the way they’re supposed to, allowing him to balance doing what he wants and doing what he needs and doing what he wishes he really didn’t have to do.
He’s got boatloads of patience, too. I wish I had that. I don’t want to be this Clark Kent, but I sure as hell admire the character.