When we hear about the comic book community, we tend to hear only negative commentary. We hear about sexism, racism, homophobia, and exclusivity. As a result, we forget about the positive impact comics have on people’s lives. Here is something positive for a change:
Throughout elementary and middle school, Austin Gomez understood what it was like to be bullied.
Picked on for being of smaller physique and mild temperament, Austin was delighted when he picked up his first Spider-Man comic at his local library and discovered that the protagonist, Peter Parker, was just like him.
“Spider-Man is reflective for me,” Austin said. “He was weak and skinny. When I saw him I thought of myself and thought he’s just like me.’ ”
Instead of being bitten by a radioactive spider and granted superpowers, Austin has superpowers of his own — the ability to regularly organize an event where kids like him can fit in and attend without fear of judgment for the way they look or what they like. Last October, Austin headed up a small committee of teens that held it’s first mini “comic con” at the Hudson Regional Library for Pasco teenagers who might not otherwise have the means to attend the bigger, expensive conventions.
“Spider-Man was my childhood hero and still is,” said the 15-year-old Hudson High School student. “If I ever met [Spider-Man co-creator] Stan Lee, I’d thank him. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
That is what comics can do for people when you take away the politics, the posturing, and the agendas.
It is also worth mentioning that what Austin did is exactly how most comic book clubs, groups, organizations, comic book stores, and conventions began. There was no conspiracy to keep anyone out. There was simply the desire to give people who liked comics and were often left out of everything else a place to belong.
I do not want to focus on anything negative, however, I want everyone who complaints about the lack of this group’s representation or that group’s visibility in the comic book community to look at what Austin did. He did not rail against anyone. He did not try to color or gender swap anyone’s favorite hero. He did not accuse anyone of being a bigot or keeping him down. He created a space for other teens who like comics.
That is how you build a welcoming a community. People should try doing that more often rather than trying to get rid of Peter Parker because Miles Morales would make a handful of liberals feel superior.