The following is a response to Bill Maher’s blog in which he wrote some disparaging things regarding Comics books and the late great Stan Lee. It is my intent to use this letter to show how Mr. Maher is wrong by using pieces of my life story.
Dear Mr. Maher
When I was 9 years old, my parents moved from the city to the suburbs. I would have to make new friends and get used to my new surroundings. The one problem was that we moved in the summer of that year and I really wouldn’t meet anyone until school started in the fall.
The summer of 1976 was when I first started getting into comics. Superfriends, Shazam, Batman, Iron Man, Spiderman and the Fantastic Four became my new friends that summer. Although I made some new human friends in the fall when school started, I was not ready to give up my friends that existed in my escape world. So, I had both. The best of both worlds.
A few years later, I was still into comics. Every dime my 12–year–old hands could get from my parents I went to the local 7/11 to send on comics. I looked forward to going to the local farmers market because I knew I could get more. This quickly became my hobby.
It was around this time that my father was just as closed minded as you and was concerned that I was reading too many of these books. Imagine, an educated man like my father worried because I was reading. Who would think? I appeased my parents and read some books without pictures like Paddington and other children books along with some poetry books because I was into poetry also.
However, I always gravitated back to comic books. My father’s closest friend was a respected school teacher in our area and my father voiced his concerns about my hobby. His friend asked him “Is he reading?”. “Well yes,” my father said. “How is he doing in English and the standard test the schools give every year in comprehension?” his friend queried.
“He’s doing good” my father responded. Well, you don’t have a problem. You have a kid reading. Doesn’t matter what he’s reading as long as he is reading. That’s why he’s doing good in school. My father had no argument. A few years later my father took me to my first comic convention. He was surprised at this time there were just as many adults as kids there. This was about the early 1980s. Over 30 years before Trump.
Throughout my teens, I continued to read comic books. Comic books would encourage me to learn about other things. Reading books like Fantastic Four and Iron Man would give me an interest in science. Reading a book called All Star Squadron would give me historical facts about World War II. Reading Batman books not only piqued my interest in the benefits of using your deductive skills but also showed what you could possibly accomplish if your trained yourself and dedicated yourself to succeed.
Reading The X-men taught me how rational civilized people handle racism and the correct way to conduct yourself when faced with such a thing which was important to a young Afro-American teenager. Reading about Peter Parker the Amazing Spiderman gave me a hero I could relate to that was closer to my age and taught me “with great power comes great responsibility”. Something people like you tend to forget when you get a national stage and make irresponsible comments.
At the age of 17 and about to go to college, I had a problem. I had so too many comics and nowhere to put them. My grandfather was a man that could build anything so that’s where I went to make something to hold my hobby. I designed it and provided all the measurements and he showed me how to make it. My grandfather would be with us for another 20 years and we had tons of good memorable times together but comics brought us closer and gave us a time neither of us would ever forget. At 52, I still have that big wooden case we made to hold 1,400 comic books.
When I became 25, I was blessed with a son. As a toddler, he would watch me read comics. As he got older, but still too young to read, he would sit on my lap and marvel at the pictures. The day that brought a tear to my eyes was when I took him to a comic book store and I heard him read for the first time. Yes, it was a comic book. Spiderman. Inspired by comic books, my son would go to college and receive a bachelor’s degree in Illustration. He is currently living with his wife who teaches in Japan as he works on his first independent comic book.
But I jump ahead. Since his teen years, one of the many connections my son and I have is comic books and the sci-fi world. We would go to comic cons together. We would go to the midnight showings of the blockbuster comic book movies. In 2015, we started our own podcast called Like Nerd Like Son on iTunes and SoundCloud which we stopped doing because he moved to Japan. Understand, that although comic books are not the only thing that bonds a father and son, it plays an important part.
To slightly digress, when my son was ten, I married a woman with 3 kids. My new daughter did not get into comics but knew the importance they had in my life. When the family was low on cash and I had to sell some books, she was right there with me selling books at the convention. To this day she will drag her boyfriend out to the movies to the newest superhero movie with her Dad.
All this to say how wrong you are sir. Wrong not only in your disrespect of the late Stan Lee but you are wrong about comic books and the important impact they have on our society. Your narrow–minded approach to comic books is based on an opinion that was not well considered. My story is my story but I’m sure there are more stories from others like me that are just like mine. Stories showing family bonding.
Stories showing a young kid getting through a difficult situation by just reading. Stories showing that the work of men like Stan Lee has helped change and mold lives. The work of Stan Lee and his peers not only created movies that we watch now but worlds, universes, and dimensions that helped expand minds and imagination. What would we be without imagination?
Stan Lee was a man who spoke out against discrimination when it wasn’t popular for a White man to do so. Stan Lee was the man who wrote a groundbreaking story in the 1970s to help educate youth on the evils of drug use. Stan Lee was the man who would remain editor of a comic company for nearly 30 years only to take a leave of absence to serve our county in World War II.
Stan Lee was the man who stayed married to his wife for nearly 70 years showing that someone in the celebrity spotlight could maintain a lasting marriage. Stan Lee was the man who created fictional characters that have bonded generations in the past and will continue to do so for decades to come. What is the importance of comics? I’m almost positive that 50 years from now the average person will remember Spiderman and his message of “with great power comes great responsibility” before they remember a comedian with a political cable TV show.
A Forever Comic Book Fan
Kenny Walker Jr