By Mihir Joshi
I’m a massive comic books collector. I’ve loved comics books since I was a kid and collect everything related to the comics universe — action figures, statues, movies, merchandise…everything!
Growing up, I first fell in love with Superman. I think I first discovered Superman when I was about eight years old, but my dad introduced me to comics when I was even younger than that. It was Asterix back then. My dad used to read out the stories to me and I’d know everything that happened in each of the books even before I could read. I’ve been eternally grateful to him for getting me into reading because even today, I can’t go to sleep unless I read at least one page. Now the reading is on an iPad but back when I was a kid, it was good old paper comic books for me.
From everything I’ve said so far, I think you already know that I’m going to advocate reading, specifically comic books for your kids. Well, you’re partly right about that. I’ll tell you why I said partly.
When I was a kid, I’d say about 30 years ago, the comics available in the libraries back then were even older than that. The older superhero stories were very simplistic, good vs evil stories that were meant for kids to consume. I’d say about the mid-80s, that all changed. I read everything today but what I read more than anything else is comic books, because the ones today are NOT meant for kids. At least not the ones you thought were meant for kids about 30 years ago. Characters like Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Spider-man, Captain America, Iron Man and all the others you’ve seen in the movies are even more complex and beautiful to read in the comic books. They’ve been at it for years.
Just this year Detective Comics, home of Batman, completed 80 years and last year, Action Comics, home of Superman completed 80 years as well. Most of your favourite characters have been around for over 50 years at least and now, the writing is meant for a more mature audience. An audience that is not easily influenced or moulded by what they read. And I say that because I truly believe that when you are a kid, the books you read, the music you listen, the content you watch (TV or movies) and the company you keep have a major influence on how you turn out.
So here’s the partly right part. Before you introduce your kids to superheroes, educate yourself. Do not say stupid stuff like Superman and Spiderman are for kids. Avengers Endgame is going to hit three billion dollars. It is almost inevitable. That DID NOT happen because kids went to watch a superhero movie. The movies, TV shows and comics today are meant for adults and you have to be really careful when you’re introducing your really young children to them.
So what is the solution? Pretty much all superhero characters have kid-friendly versions of their stories. You have to look for them specifically. DC Comics for instance has imprints called DC Kids meant for very young kids, DC Zoom for middle grade readers and DC Ink for young adults. Find the right comics for your kids and you are good to go. You’ll keep them occupied for hours, increase their vocabulary and help grow their imagination in ways you could not possibly imagine. One of the reasons adults are loving the Marvel Cinematic Universe so much is because everything they read and imagined as kids is coming to life in these movies.
I still remember when I first saw Superman featuring Christopher Reeve in the 1978 movie and then more recently Henry Cavill in Man of Steel; I was absolutely blown away. The 1978 movie just made you believe the magic of the Superman folklore and the 2013 movie, thanks to modern technology, made everything you could have imagined about Superman come to life.
I’ll tell you what I learnt from comic books and why I love them and why I definitely want to get my son, Neil, into them very soon. While I love a ton of superheroes, my favourite was always Superman and that was not because of his amazing powers. Sure, the powers were amazing as a kid but as I started growing up and reading the books, I fell in love with the man behind the superhero. The principles he lived his life by, the generosity and kindness he showed everyone and just the desire to be a good human being became the fundamental building blocks of my life.
I began to identify with the character, and I learnt a lot from the man. While he took me on amazing journeys to planets unknown and showed me feats that no ordinary man could do through the stories, what always spoke to me was the inherent humanity. As is evident, this did not happen as a kid, but it would have never happened at all if I hadn’t started reading comics and stuck to reading comics as I grew up. I would have missed out on an incredible role model for me and I’m so glad that I found the comics when I did.
For you, you may find something similarly inspirational in Spiderman or Batman or Iron Man or Captain America…and you’ll have your own story to tell, but to be able to do that, you need to read comics. And get your kids into them too.
I’ll end it by reiterating what I’ve written already. Be responsible in what you give your kids. Read the books before you give it to them. And once you know that you’ve found age-appropriate reading, go ahead! The world of superheroes is wonderful and inspirational. And you can continue being in love with that world no matter how old you get. Start them young and I guarantee, when they’re older, they’ll thank you like I thank my dad for starting me off, before I could even read!
(The writer is a singer–his debut album Mumbai Blues won the GIMA Award for Best Rock Album in 2015–hosts his own talk show-The MJ Show and does live Hindi commentary for WWE. Follow him on twitter @mihirjoshimusic)