I haven’t written anything since Orlando. Comic books just didn’t seem that important for the last week. Brightly colored escapism seemed vapid in the face of all this hate and vitriol. With the whole country pointing fingers and scapegoating, reading about heroes in tights seemed almost in bad taste. But now, I’ve had a weekend to think and drink and reflect and I’ve come to the conclusion…fuck all that noise. This is exactly when I need, some uplifting escapism. You probably do to.
I was in Chicago when the coward unleashed his atrocity in Pulse*. The wife and I had gotten away for a weekend of concerts, art museums and amazing Windy City food. (Trust me, when it comes to eats they are not The Second City.) We rose early on Sunday morning after a remarkable night on the town and were gobsmacked by the news coming out of Orlando. I had always known a night like that was coming. I had assumed the killer would be some guy whose middle name was Wayne. He’d be wearing a cap and bearing a shotgun. I picked the wrong troglodyte but the outcome was the same.
We made our way downstairs, feeling sober and a little dazed. There was an international soccer tournament in town so the hotel was filled with people from many nations. We were
surrounded by guests of every color and there was a dizzying chorus of languages being spoken all around us. Outside the hotel, the streets were swarming with life. Gay and lesbian couples walked the streets proudly, defiantly, hand in hand. They dined together in the bistros and cafes with their heads held high. They were unbowed. I noted many in the crowd were wearing superhero merchandise, most especially, Superman and Captain America t-shirts. We followed this river of people towards the lake.
The wife and I spent our day touring Millennium Park, the Lakeshore Walk, Navy Pier and then Millennium Park, again. The whole time we were carried along in a current of people; people of all color
s, nations and religions. People smiled and waved and took selfies. They ate whatever hotdog their particular faith allowed them (Chicago style, natch). They took more selfies. They wrestled
with language barriers to get strangers to take group pictures of them and their families. They toured the gardens. They waded in the fountains. They took more selfies.
I saw a Hispanic family from God knows where with a genderqueer Goth teen in tow. I saw a multitude of people with very little supervision do an excellent job of not killing each other. So, while my friends were home, dealing with their anguish and confusion over what had happened the night before, I was buoyed like a cork on a sea of goodwill. I felt just a tad bit guilty.
Now, it’s a week later. The crass and the bellicose are shouting at me from my TV screen. They want to exploit last week’s tragedy. I need something to drown out the din of sleazy, self-aggrandizing horse shit. I need a break from the shit-stirring, rabble-rousing cacophony. I need to feel like I did in Millennium Park last Sunday. I need an escape.
And there it is, a pile of comics. I have two weeks’ worth of reading to catch up on. I’m going to dive right in and enjoy the heroic optimists in their brightly colored tights. I need to see them going out and doing the right thing for its own sake. I need the escapist thrill of a world where the weak get defended and justice gets served with more than lip service. I need to see somebody stand up for decency and mercy. I need to see some goofy ponce in a cape stand up for truth, justice and the American way and I need to see him do it with a straight face. I want to see basic goodness affirmed once more in the evolving mythos that is the modern comic book. These are our epic tales. This is what the Joseph Campbells of the future will be studying.
It’s not a retreat from reality I seek but rather a reprieve from it as well as a reaffirmation of things I have always believed in. Or at least, I have always wanted to believe in them. Our fantasies don’t just make the real world bearable, they help us to guide the future in a better direction. Everything we ever built began as a dream.
*I won’t say his name, now or ever. Cowards deserve to die in ignominious anonymity. So let the loathsome and (rightly) self-loathing little shit heel be buried and forgotten. The world will move on and grow without him.
He also sings for the Supra-70s band, RIFLE.