From a teeny titan to a wonder woman

by Celia Shortt


Times-Herald writer Celia Shortt’s love of comic books continues to grow through the years.

Boom! Pow! Zap! Zoom! Biff! These are the words I grew up with most Saturday mornings as I watched Adam West portray Batman and Burt Ward portray Robin — this was usually preceded by me getting up early to watch reruns of “The Bionic Woman.”

My sisters and I would crowd around the television set and sit on the edge of our seats for 30 minutes as the Caped Crusaders managed to narrowly save the day every time. My dad would watch with us and laugh at the crazy antics and cheesiness that ensued on the show. My mom would be there, too, but she would usually be sitting in her chair, reading a book, and smiling at the fun we were having.

When I got a little bit older, I started reading more than watching TV — thanks to my mom and the children’s librarian at my local library. I became an avid reader the moment I realized I could go to a faraway place with the turn of a page. I still had my love for superheroes, though. It had, however, grown to include Superman, Wonder Woman, and the X-Men.

Around that time, I also saw my first comic book.

My family had gone to visit my grandparents in Virginia. Soon after we got there, my mam-maw told my dad she had something to show him. She had been cleaning out the office and stumbled onto something he had enjoyed reading when he was a kid. The something was an original Superman comic that cost 10 cents.

My dad’s eyes lit up, and he instantly became a kid again as he recited what happened in the story and relived it. As soon as he finished, I picked up the comic and read it myself. I was amazed. Here was a story that not only took me to another place, but it included things that made my imagination go wild.

As soon as I finished reading it, I wanted to read another one. I started asking my dad for more. He would answer my questions as best he could, always with a smile on his face.

Now, when I read this comic, it was 1992, right around the time the Death of Superman story started. That storyline fascinated me, as an 11-year-old. How could they kill Superman? What was going to happen? Would the world ever be right again?

Twenty-one years later, I look at those questions, and I laugh. Of course everything was okay. In fact, the death of Superman had a disappointing resolution. And why Lois Lane had not figured out Clark Kent was Superman as soon as she met him was completely unrealistic. Any journalist worth their salt would have figured it out much sooner.

Twenty-one years later, though, I do not laugh about how much I still enjoy reading comic books — vintage and new — and what they still do for my imagination. They make it come alive, and they give me a breath of fresh air in the normalcy of life.

That may sound silly or childish, but it is true. When I pick up a comic book, my mind sighs, takes a deep breath and “resets” from the craziness of the day. I go back to that place where my imagination says anything is possible, and I am whisked away to a faraway place with the turn of a page.

I still talk to my dad about comics; usually it is about how the latest superhero movie got it right or wrong. But now, someone else has joined the conversation — my 13-year-old brother, Joel. Joel loves football and superheroes. Don’t get him started on either unless you have more than 10 minutes to talk.

Whenever I call home, Joel has a question or comment about a comic book or superhero. So, I smile as I do the best I can to answer, and my eyes twinkle as I fill him in on what our dad told me when I was about his age. I’ll fill him in on the “new” comic book stuff I’ve learned this week and then send him the comics I’ve finished reading.

It’s fun to see his imagination start to go wild and his desire to read grow. It’s also nice to stay relevant and cool in the eyes of a teenager, especially your brother.

So, yes, I’m not embarrassed to admit that as a 32-year-old, successful adult, I read comic books on a regular basis. I’m comfortable with the person they helped create in an 11-year-old girl and who she is now. I do not want to think about how different — and probably boring — my life would be if I hadn’t see that Superman comic book 21 years ago at my grandparents’ house in Virginia. More importantly, I hope 21 years from now, my little brother can look back and say the same thing about his life.

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