I’ve mentioned in previous posts that once I discovered my love for comic books and comic strips that I was quickly devoured by them. I would be the person to grab the paper each morning to look at the comic section. I would be waiting at the local drug store to pick up the latest copy of Iron Man or the Flash. Comics quickly became a part of my daily life and I started learning more and more about the processes behind making them.
I became fascinated with the comic book making process: the printing, the writing, the storylines, the plot twists. Unfortunately, I didn’t capture the idea of the drawing for a year or so. I can’t even tell you how long it took me to put two and two together that participating in art class would greatly help me out with my work on comics. My teacher would always catch me reading the comics and get frustrated with me until one day he said, “Jeffrey, why don’t you make you own comic book series for your next project?” You mean I could do that? But I thought art class was supposed to be about painting or calligraphy? Well, my teacher saw a spark in my eye that was drawn (pardon the pun) to illustration, and he didn’t want that spark to flicker out, so he encouraged me to write my own book. Now my first comic wasn’t the best looking thing in the world, but the summer after that school year I took some private drawing lessons with a local artist who taught me how to illustrate characters and different styles of cartoon illustrations and I’m proud to say that my next comic book was a masterpiece! And from there on out, that’s exactly what I’ve done. Never professionally of course, but as a hobby I still to this day illustrate my own comics.
The reason I bring all of this up is that my experience is the experience of a lot of kids growing up. They are attracted to comics because of the action, the illustrations, and the fact that they are just so fun to read! But not many kids think of themselves as comic book creators. They don’t think that they could ever do that, and this is just so unfortunate because I thought this same way once. It wasn’t until a teacher of mine saw my potential and encouraged me to take it up. We should be encouraging kids to take up comic book drawing all the time. It keeps them awake during school and can spark other interests that they can then pursue, like writing or marketing.
So if you’re a parent, an uncle, aunt, teacher, or community leader and you see a child reading a comic, ask them if they have ever considered writing their own. Who knows, some of these kids could be the next Charles Schulz and we don’t even know it, and we never will unless we encourage them to take up the lead and start writing!
Comic books to me, growing up, were a great equalizer of sorts. What do I mean by that? Well, my family generally did not have the kind of money that allowed us to go to the movie theaters or to buy the latest and greatest action figures, but my uncle worked at a local drug store that sold comic books. Now, I couldn’t afford to purchase every issue because they came out every week and that got expensive, so my uncle would be sure to set aside any issues that got damaged in shipping and were unable to sell but still perfectly readable for a kid like me.
Getting a hold of these comic books allowed me to keep up with all of the other kids at school. I may not have had the accompanying action figure to play with but I was able to speak comics with them. And since I wasn’t able to have the action figure, you bet I knew more about the comic series than anyone else in my class did. Kids used to come up to me when they had questions about the series or if they wanted a prediction on what would happen in the next episode. In this way comic books helped to equalize me, in my low-income upbringing, with many of my peers who may not have had a similar financial situation as me and my family did growing up.
In this same vein, comic books really allowed me to explore my creative side and express myself in ways that might not have otherwise been possible. Since my love for comics developed early on, it helped me learn to read. Some of the earliest “books” that I was reading was the Spiderman and Ironman comic book series. After I started reading pretty proficiently, I then took to writing, because, after all, what 6 year old kid doesn’t want to write his own comic book? As I began writing my own series, that is about the time I started drawing and learning how to express myself through the characters that I was creating. At first they weren’t that complex. My characters would simply end up going on adventures that I wish me and my family could afford to go on. For example, one adventure was flying across the ocean, and another was going to the tallest place in the world. They were fantasies that I dreamed of doing someday, but they were all possible through comics.
Later my characters got surprisingly complex. As I look back at some of my work now, I wonder what my parents thought having their 8 year old son making a comic book series like this, ha! They were just happy that the hobby allowed me to interact with the kids at school and helped me develop some life long friendships that I still have today.
Clearly comics played a vital part in my early life and they really helped me develop into who I am today. How did comics influence you while you were younger? Share your thoughts below.
Some of the best cartoons in the world are the simplest.