I suppose you could say that I was an amateur comic book fan when I was a kid. I had a small collection (over one hundred) and, though I didn’t read all of the comics I owned, I enjoyed reading specific ones regularly. It was a sort of guilty pleasure then, something I was slightly embarrassed of and something I rarely tell people that I did even now. In the circles I ran in comic books were for nerdy kids. If you could describe how the Green Lantern became the Green Lantern no body wanted to sit with you at lunch. So I kept my comic fandom a secret. After some time of reflection, however, I am coming out of the closet to say: I think comic books can be good for us!
The evolution of the Graphic Novel has made that statement far less powerful today, seeing as how many find value in comics. Even university English programs now offer courses in which students are required to read at least one, if not multiple, graphic novels. But I think of equal value are the works of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and other comic book others from years past (The Silver Age of Comics, as it has been termed). These comics helped us think carefully about issues that even the Bible challenges us to reflect on, such as race, war, justice, self-identity, etc. The X-Men movies brought again to the foreground the way in which comic books raise questions regarding prejudice. There’s something, then, that perhaps Wolverine can teach us about how we view different races, and how we relate to people of a different sexual orientation.
My personal favorite was always Captain America. What’s interesting about the Cap. is that his creation came out of the WWII era, as a response to the wickedness of the Nazis. The creators behind Captain America had heard enough complaints against U.S. involvement in the war, and were personally convinced that what the Nazis were doing was wrong and as a result they created the Captain to inspire hope and support for U.S. involvement. The first issue contained a drawing of the Captian punching Adolf Hitlher in the face and it sold more copies than some national magazines like Time. Here is an example of how a comic book had greater motivation than simply to entertain, it was created to inspire and give hope.
Of course I don’t think it would be wise to allow your world to revolve around comic books (in other words don’t become “Comic Book Guy” from the Simpsons). There are other mediums, of course, that are equally competent in communicating these truths and there are other things more important that you ought to be doing than reading Spiderman. The Bible should be our primary read and there we find the themes of comic books more helpfully presented and showcased.
Yet, there’s no need to fear that reading comic books is necessarily a waste of your time. Spiderman can teach us about inner turmoil and responsibility. Gambit, from the X-Men, can teach us about bearing the burden of our past. And Captian America can inspire us to do the right thing, even when it appears it’s not popular. It’s not always clear, nor is it always Biblical, but comic books can help us wrestle with biblical morality at a whole other level, and for that we can express our appreciation.