Even When Pain is Your Teacher

People read for different reasons.  Some read for knowledge, some read for inspiration, and some just read for entertainment.  Throughout reading we discover characters that can inspire and teach us life lessons to draw on in times of difficulty.  Myths have inspired us since back to the beginning of sharing folklore.  Modern mythology and folklore, as presented in comic book and graphic novels, can be a traditional outlet for the disenchanted or those looking for inspiration.

I discovered a love of comics with Uncanny X-men by Marvel Comics, particularly issue number 175 written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Paul Smith. My reading list was forever changed by opening and reading that issue.  Not only were the X-men a group brought together from all different backgrounds, but there was infighting, and the point of view character was in a survival situation that required not only his full power, but also his wits to survive.  I remember cutting panels from the issue to carry around with me in elementary school so I could have parts of the story with me (I’ve since replaced the issue and had it signed by Chris Claremont: I hope to one day get it signed by Paul Smith). Prior to this, my comic exposure had been mostly silver and early bronze age issues that my older siblings already had in boxes in a closet, featuring multi-colored Batman costumes and campy stories that ended with a superhero smiling or winking at the reader, breaking the fourth wall.   

My love of comics continued to grow as I did. I found myself playing sports and getting more active in life.  However, the downside was that I found myself getting injured often, more so than my peers. I would play well, then suddenly have a muscle tear or an injured joint, sometimes for no apparent reason. Pain became a constant but was shooed away as growing pains or just being hurt.  My teammates and friends never made me feel less, but coaches would have something else to say, going so far as having a coach counsel me to ask myself whether I was hurt or injured (essentially if just hurt, I could still play, but if injured, I had to stop).  Inspiration for me to persevere continued to come from my love of reading, especially comics. One story even featured Catwoman discovering that Batman’s back was full of scars, meaning not only had he faced much in his life, but he did not escape unscathed.

The protagonists had to overcome insurmountable odds, and face danger, to triumph. In the year 1986, two prominent stories were published that became my primary go-to stories, especially when recovering and rehabbing an injury.  The Dark Knight Returns, written and drawn by Frank Miller and Daredevil Born Again, also written by Frank Miller, but this time drawn by David Mazzucchelli; both blew me away at that time.  Not only did the protagonist face insurmountable odds, but initially they lost.  Not only did they lose, but they were beaten down to their lowest, within an inch of their lives, broken.

However, both rise to fight again, changed by the experience, but not wholly resolved.  In the case of Batman, at least for this story, he learned to fight smarter.  For Daredevil, there would be far reaching recurring storylines that last up until the present, for new writer and artist teams.  Following these two phenomena were multiple stories featuring less than perfect protagonists, with difficulties ranging from the psychological to physical, facing challenges that could either crush them or inspire them to get broken, heal, then come back and fight again. Chris Claremont and Barry Windsor-Smith’s the Uncanny X-men number 205: The Wounded Wolf, Jim Starlin and  Bernie Wrightson’s Batman:  the Cult, and J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck’s Spider-man:  Kraven’s Last Hunt, all featured a story in which the character faces their demons, internal and external,  emerging scarred.

After a misguided high school football career (we were literally referred to as the Bad News Bulldogs), a worthy stint in the Army as a medic and nurse, and years following doing many things as I aged that  I shouldn’t have done, I find myself in my forties, broken. Just this year the mystery of my frequently injurious nature has been solved by the discovery of a form of rheumatoid arthritis that primarily attacks the spine and weakens bone tissue, with many other somewhat detrimental physical (and some psychological effect). 

So, what now?  Well, for one, as I attempt to rest and get to a point where I’ll begin rebuilding physically again, I’ll end up doing things that physically I shouldn’t do anymore.   I’ll go back to my inspiration in Daredevil and Batman.  I’ll read what I love, and I’ll talk to others who love it too, from fans to creators.  That is what Pulp Revelators is to me. The place to know you all.   I hope you join us as we begin season 2 of our journey. 

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with my (go to but in no way complete) reading list of further stories to read for inspiration while on the mend.

Daredevil: Born Again

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Uncanny X-men number 205: The Wounded Wolf,

Batman:  The Cult,

Spider-man:  Kraven’s Last Hunt

Batman: The Court of Owls

Batman by Tom King

Wolverine by Frank Miller

Amazing Spider-man (1963) number 33

As always, The Dark Knight Rises……

2 Replies to “Even When Pain is Your Teacher”

  1. Aleta (Wallace) Hill says:

    Gary, in my younger years comic books are what inspired me. My Uncle Clarence has a collection that was mind blowing to me. That is where my siblings and I were introduced to comics, how to play chess and other intellectual thinking games.
    In writting this, I just realized I need to thank him. To thank him for introducing me to a world, I would have never known, never experienced. In my youth, those intellectual thinking games prepared me…I had lost my love for reading; I believe I just found it again. I had a “I was lost, but now I’m found” moment!

    With that said thank you Kendra for the invitation. Thank you Gary for your inspiring words…thank God for the revelation.

    Reply
    1. gskirk2010 says:

      Aleta, Thank you so much for the kind words! It is amazing the world that is opened by reading!

      Reply

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