Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Saved By Comics

High school was a difficult time for me, like it was/is for many people. The feelings of ostracization and solitude that came from being an outcast (to some degree, even among my friends) made Life seem very trying. I was never so miserable that I gave suicide any real contemplation, but miserable enough that I can empathize with those kids who shot up Columbine High School.

So around this time of feeling like crap, I stumbled across a copy of New Mutants #45. The story was a self-contained one, wholly unrelated to the anniversary cover. I found the following synopsis of the story online...
The New Mutants go to a dance at the Salem Center High School. Larry Bodine sees Dani leave on Brightwind, and reveals to the reader he too is a mutant. Bodine, a victim of verbal bullying, is threatened that they'll call X-Factor on him as a prank by the 'popular' crowd. Larry goes off with the New Mutants back to Xavier's for a bit, but wears out his welcome by telling the new joke going around school, which is about mutants. He goes home alone to sulk. Rahne, however, trusting her instinct, follows him home and sees his light sculpture, and rushes off to tell the New Mutants. Just then, the bullies call Larry's home, and tell him they called X-Factor. Afraid of X-Factor, he commits suicide. The next morning at breakfast, Rahne is about to let everyone know he's a mutant when Magneto interrupts to let them know he committed suicide. Dani and the others talk Rahne out of killing the people who caused Larry's death. Shadowcat gives a speech at an assembly at Salem Center High School to urge people to be careful how they label others.

The story, by Chris Claremont, was exceptionally well-written -- even by Claremont standards -- and did a phenomenal job of speaking to the fear and loneliness that's almost inherent in high school. Kitty Pryde's speech at the end was preachy, but the rest of the story was so powerful that the epilogue really was pretty ancillary to the tale.

The story, as you've no doubt surmised, touched me very deeply. It helped put the crapfest that is/was school in perspective. It helped make me a stronger person and believe in my own self and my own integrity, despite the name calling and pranks and any host of other emotionally distressing events. I learned that I don't need validation from others if I know I'm being true and honest with myself. I don't need to cater to others in an effort to win their respect or approval if I respect and approve of myself.

I haven't actually looked at the issue for several years now, and I'm sure I'm inflating it's prowess a bit more than is truly warranted. But, ultimately, a critical analysis of the book would be meaningless to me because I found so much meaning in what it meant. I think I carried that issue around with me to school and back every day for a month when I first found it. It's certainly the most well-read individual issue in my collection to this day, despite not having read it recently.

And, really, for the analytical eye I turn to Jack Kirby and Art Spiegelman and David O'Connell, none of them can compete with the comic that kept me going throughout high school and taught me how to keep going throughout Life.

1 comment:

Pj Perez said...

Claremont and Simonson really did amazing work on New Mutants. I need to pick up any Essential volumes of those. I have small runs here and there but would love to have the whole series ... until Cable shows up with the ugly 90s in tow.