Before the Golden Age
A lot of people have been asking me about comic books. After the Golden Age is so obviously inspired by the classic comic-book superheroes, surely I must have a lifelong love for them. But I have a terrible confession: I didn’t really read comic books when I was growing up, and didn’t start until college, when I encountered Watchmen and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and all those seminal graphic novels that changed everything. Instead, I watched a lot of TV, and that’s how I fell in love with superheroes.
I grew up in a golden age of TV superheroes: Wonder Woman, the Incredible Hulk, the Bionic Woman and Six Million Dollar Man, not to mention those Spider-Man shorts on The Electric Company, the Super Friends cartoon, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (I was shocked, shocked I tell you, to find out that Bobby/Iceman was supposed to be part of the X-Men. I thought, he doesn’t have time for that, he’s off saving the world with Spider-Man and Firestar!), and a bunch of others I’ve probably forgotten. I even adored The Greatest American Hero, which was on some level a spoof—but a spoof that remained true to the spirit of superheroism. Ralph really did have powers, and he really did help people, however goofy he was while doing it.
I had Wonder Woman and Supergirl Underoos. My second time trick-or-treating on Halloween, I dressed up as Wonder Woman. I spent a lot of time on the playground in preschool pretending to be Wonder Woman, including getting into a knock-down argument with the other kids about what she would really look like flying in her invisible jet. (I insisted on sticking my arms out and running around making airplane noises. I was informed that this was incorrect, and that she would merely scoot through the air in a seated position. Well, sure, I said. But my way is more fun.) I would spin around and pretend that my costume changed, just like Lynda Carter’s. Spin Wonder Woman! Spin Scuba Wonder Woman! Spin Motorcycle Wonder Woman! It was awesome. And dizzy.
I tried reading comic books—my brother’s, not mine. Girls were not supposed to read comic books, so nobody gave me any. Fortunately, Rob shared his. I gotta tell you, early 1980’s runs of Superman and X-Men and such were kind of…boring. Not nearly as interesting as what I was watching on TV. I later found out from comic-guru friends that it wasn’t just me—this was not the best time to be reading comic books. It was the lull before Alan Moore and Frank Miller knocked the stuffings out of the genre.
These days, I have boxes of my own comic books. It’s even okay for girls to read them now, which is awesome. I came to comics as an adult, for the most part. But my true love has always been for the superheroes rather than the medium they first appeared in. Which is why, I think, I wrote a novel about them instead of a comic book. I didn’t need the pictures. I wanted the hows and whys and thoughts and meaning. The “what if?” questions that made me daydream as a kid. That still make me daydream.
‘Cause you know, I still occasionally dress up as Wonder Woman.
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