The Twenty Two Page Bible

One of comics' most iconic covers: The Avenger...

One of comics’ most iconic covers: The Avengers #4 (March 1964). Art by Kirby & George Roussos. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I would like to think I am a decent person. I care about others, I am generally honest, usually hard-working, and avoid hurting others whenever possible, which is to say: 99.99 percent of the time. I really don’t know what more we need to do to be good. Others may disagree, but moral strength seems to be relatively simple to achieve and yet so many people want to make it more complex. They look to ancient texts, or more accurately, combinations of ancient texts, which often don’t always agree with each other, to create an overly complex, and freakishly detailed, account of what it is to be right. I haven’t really understood the need to look to those books for that, though if I were to be honest, it is not just inherent goodness, or excellent upbringing, that created my sense of morality. I have my holy texts too.
In the interest of disclosure, the twenty-two page bible mentioned in the title is actually more than one text. It is hundreds of them. Most of them inspired by the works of a few men. My apostles are Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Joel Schuster, Jerry Siegel and Bill Finger. The prophets are a strange visitor from another world, a teenager burdened with great power, a soldier lost in time, and others equally or more strange. Twenty-two pages was the average length, after ads, of a comic book in my youth. It was in the panels of these tiny tomes that I learned so much of what it is a good person.
From both Superman and Spider-Man I learned that “with great power comes great responsibility.” They also taught me that doing good is its own reward and that seeking accolades should not be your motivation, no matter how hard put upon, how looked down upon, you are when no one knows it was you who saved the day. They taught me that people seeking an ordinary life can still be extraordinary.
From Benjamin Grimm, aka the ever lovin’, blue-eyed Thing, I learned that being dealt a bum hand is no reason to take it out on the world. Yes things can be bad, even really bad, but there is always someone out there that has it worse, and if you can, you should fight to make it better for them. Conversely, from Iron-Man, I learned that being dealt a good hand does not excuse you from acting to make the world a better place.
From the Wolverine and the Hulk I learned that one’s personal demons are not insurmountable. You can be a hero even if you don’t feel like one. No matter how bad a person you think you are, you can rise and do what is right.
Wonder Woman, Batman, and Captain America are among the mightiest warriors of their mythologies and yet they each seek peace. They taught me that your bitterest enemy deserves a second chance, and that those that hurt you, or those you love, have their own internal battles and dismissing them is unworthy of you.
From so many of the villains in both companies, but in particular Marvel, I learned that the line between right and wrong is often difficult to see, and easy to cross. In particular from Magneto I learned you can do the wrong thing for the right reason, and vice versa. Other characters taught other lessons, but when it comes right down to it, they can be compressed into the values cited above.
I spent way too much of my money on comic books as a teenager. I probably could have afforded driving lessons if I had not, but my parents never pushed the issue. They’d occasionally admonish me not to spend so much, but ultimately let me do with my money what I wanted. Part of that is probably because they knew I could spend it on worse things, also, they probably felt I needed to learn that lesson on my own. I also believe, however, that they saw the positive influence these stories were on me, and wanted to encourage that. Whatever the case is, I am proud to be a comic book loving nerd, and to carry the perhaps overly romantic ideas about right and wrong that they gave me.

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4 thoughts on “The Twenty Two Page Bible

  1. Pingback: Sunday Church In The Front Room | Hand of Ananke

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