Saturday, June 20, 2009

Superman Thinks Teachers Are Heroes...

Apparently. You know, as one of your regular, run of the mill, blue collar-type comic bloggers I spend a lot of time seething with anger or boiling over with rage and all the colors of fury inbetween... when I'm not shooting dogs with pellet guns or sticking heroin needles between my toes to hide my track marks. It's a brutal life when you hate the thing you love and it hates you back, and I'm not sure what it all accomplishes.

But every once in a while, you read a story that gives you hope. Like the story about 13-year-old Hakeem Bennett, who wrote an essay about how his teacher is a real-life hero so DC put the eighth grader in a Superman story. Stories like this make me want to put out that Dan Didio effigy I'm burning and... smile. Let's see if I can. Trying... trying...

Well, no, I can't do it. Years of comics blogging have frozen my mouth into a permanent rictus of pure hate. But right now I don't feel that hate inside. My tiny, shrivelled heart is growing... if not three sizes then at least two and a half. One and three quarters. All right, I admit it-- I don't have a heart. But if I did, it would be warm right now.

All jokes aside (those were jokes?!), I'm actually happier when the big cats get something right than I am angry when they screw up, and I wish more comic book publishers did things like this with more frequency. Involve the fans, put things on some kind of personal basis in some way, impart a positive message. Remember the old days of letters columns and Marvel's No Prizes? That sense of belonging? I suppose we get that from message boards, but those seem a little cold sometimes. A little perfunctory. Here's a kid who's actually going inside the story. When I was a little younger than Bennett is now, there was a comic book contest every few months. Win a 10-speed, submit a story for Wonder Woman, invent a villain for some cereal campaign. When my first letter was published in an issue of Sgt. Rock, I was thrilled for days.

Bennett's principal, Jennifer Glidden, puts it best in the news story: "We really think he's going to be a real success. This opportunity, I personally feel, really has boosted his self-esteem."

And while I'm not sure if Superman actually does think teachers are heroes, I wouldn't be surprised at all if he did. I know I do. I had a few truly excellent and inspiring teachers growing up. They don't get paid nearly enough, they're practically the first government jobs that suffer wage freezes and cutbacks and yet we could not have civilization without teachers of some kind. Education is an absolute necessity and there is no good substitute for it. The only one I can think of is to remain ignorant, and we know that doesn't work.

So kudos to Hakeem Bennett, his teachers and to DC Comics for putting them in the spotlight for a change.

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