I’ve been a fan of superheroes, I assume, since I first stumbled across the X-Men animated series back in the mid 90’s, but truthfully I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t into superheroes. They’ve been a part of my life and part of who I am for as long as I remember.
It’s important to separate superheroes and comics for me, especially back in the mid 1990’s. I knew a few characters mainly from the TV shows that were around at the time, but that was all I knew them from. I was still a couple years out from first seeing the characters I loved in print. At the time, I didn’t know superheroes came in comics; for me comics were things like the Beano and the Dandy, not Spider-Man and The Uncanny X-Men.
When I first started reading comics in late 1997, buying each issue wasn’t anything I broadcast; I didn’t run around waving my copy of Wolverine Unleashed #8 like the
crazy enthusiastic fan I would become. It wasn’t that comics were a bad thing, but in the South West of England among my group of friends they were at most something that you’d want to read once in awhile, and not something you’d follow monthly. I remember there being two comics brought to school by kids there; once in Year 7 (Grade 7 on this side of the pond), and once in Year 8. The former was Wolverine Unleashed #5 (I know this because I either brought it from the kid that had it, or I stole it from him. Either way I still have it in a box somewhere), and the latter was a Lobo comic, but I have no idea what one (it was a single issue tale about Lobo going to jail for an extraordinary length of time because he abused a judge just to fight someone). Needless to say, my friends eventually moved away from comics, drifting toward what most teenagers tend to drift toward.
And although I also partook of those things, I never stopped reading comics.
For more than ten years I kept the comic loving part of me quiet; for most of my life in England superheroes, and comics, were looked upon as something that people grow out of. When I was first getting into comics there was almost nothing for me to find online like there is now (I was aware only of the forums on Marvel.com), and there was very little comic culture where I lived.
Fast forward ten years through a cross-pond move to Eastern Canada, and comics are everywhere. Now I’m sure that part of it is the people who grew up on comics being far more vocal about them online and in person, but I’ve noticed a huge shift in the public awareness since Batman Begins, and Iron Man came out in the theaters. When I was first starting to read comics I didn’t see any t-shirts or hoodies being worn even by comics fans, but today? Oh boy, today I’d say that a lot of the people who have the X-Men, or Deadpool, emblazoned across their clothing have likely never read the comics on any regular basis.
I’m okay with that.
Comics, now more than ever, are a part of our culture. They help define part of who I am, and without them I can honestly say I wouldn’t be where I am, or even who I am, today. The older I get the more comics enter the mainstream; it’s an exciting time to be a fan of the floppies; from comics being adapted for the big and small screen – some seeing some massive success (the big and small screen juggernaut of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and AMC’s The Walking Dead to name just two), to a massive marketing push on superhero merchandise. This is a far cry from the state of comics when I first started learning about superheroes in the mid 90’s, to when I first started reading them in the late 90’s. Young Me couldn’t dream that in twenty short years you couldn’t turn around without seeing a t-shirt, poster, or something on TV with a comic character being there.
The times have certainly changed, and as I said before, it’s a very exciting time for one such as myself. The current bubble may burst eventually, but right now I’m going to enjoy every minute I can.