Guilty Pleasures


I know what you’re thinking, guilty pleasures must mean sex, drugs and rock & roll, or at the very least chocolate. But you’re wrong. For me a guilty pleasure is reading old superhero comic books.

Yep, Superman, Batman and the Justice League. Preferably from the 1940s and 1950s and some from the early 1960, with an occasional one from the early 1990s.

I do branch out into the Martian Manhunter, the Flash and others as well, but Superman and Batman were the first, and a girl never forgets her first.

For me they continue to provide a cultural history lesson into this country I choose to live in. The early stories of both Superman and Batman were started in the 1930s at a time of great economic uncertainty and much social injustice, not just in the US but across the world. The rise of Nazi Germany created another opportunity for superheroes to flex their superhuman muscles to protect the innocent and the downtrodden.

Throughout the stories you can see the progression of ills befalling society that require clean up. The old stories so clearly illustrate the desire of young men (they wrote and drew these stories and also read them) to believe that there might be someone out there, a little different, a little stronger (okay, a lot stronger), and with unshakable moral convictions of what was right and wrong, who could make their lives better.

For example it’s been speculated that one of Superman’s powers, the fact that bullets can’t hurt him, was put into the story because one of the creators of the hero lost his father to gun violence. (Superman was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster, high school students living in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1933.)

But the actual super powers are less of what draws me to the stories. The earlier stories show me a country in turmoil trying to find its identity in a world teetering on a precarious cusp between good and evil. The stories, as they progress, show me how America found its place in the world, for better or worse. From almost cowering isolationism, to -initially reluctant - hero of WWII, to ebullient economic super-power. With the launch of the space program stories joined in and added more threats from outer space.  I’ve not read many of the more recent comic books as the extremely exaggerated muscles and profusion of blood and gore are a bit of a turn off, and a distraction to the story for me.

The recent movie trilogy of Iron Man has made me curious about the progression of his story, so I shall delve into those starting at the beginning. Time permitting of course.

Of course, reading these books is also a great way to stay connected with my offspring.