For Christmas, my brother, Arch, gave me four comics from 1948, the year after I was born. He also gave me three from 1949 and two from 1955. They were all 10 cents, and all were Walt Disney Comics and Stories. Now you might think that was a cheap gift. “Au, contraire, mon frère, ma soeur,” or on the contrary, my brother, my sister. This was “a pearl of great price” from Matthew 13:45-46. “A merchant of pearls discovers one pearl of great price and sells all he has to acquire it.” These comics were more than pearls, they were a great deal of how we learned right from wrong and justice over injustice.
I learned to read from these comics, and they were highly valued, especially Walt Disney. Reading them to this day allows all the troubles of the world to vanish and the joy of childhood to renew your spirit and soul.
Created by the genius, Carl Barks, Donald is still impetuous; Huey, Dewey, and Louie are still full of trouble and Woodchuck wisdom. Poor Daisey waits for Donald to become the perfect boyfriend. You know he will not. Uncle Scrooge and his money are bound to fight off the Beagle Boys or Magica De Spell. Finally, Mickey and Goofy will solve all the problems of the world if they can keep Phantom Blot in order.
In 1938, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster came up with bright colors, terrific characters and unique story lines in Superman. “With truth, justice and the American way,” the world would be saved. Comics espoused overcoming evil with good. Evil, be it corporate, individual, or clan, was never glorified. The example in these stories was to help others if they were in trouble. Rich did not mean you got away with it, and poor did not mean you ought to go out and shoot innocent people. Superman even had a day job as a mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, “The Independent.” NO?
Superman in comics or television had the American Way as his theme. Most of comic superheroes had the same goal, “To vanquish evil and save the downtrodden.” During the “Golden Age” of comics, during the Second World War, comics even went to war. It gave a boost to morale to see the likes of Wonder Woman, Batman and the Justice League help save the world. I believe kids need heroes to look up to. Even the Woodchucks knew you should not cheat to get a badge or win a race. They did fool Uncle Donald often, but that did not count.
When I began teaching back at Hayes Junior High in Albuquerque, they put me in charge of kids struggling to read. Here they were in 7th, 8th, and 9th grade and they still had trouble. I brought sacks of comic books in and when we were done, most had a firm knowledge of how to read. The pictures helped explain what their brain was having trouble with and ultimately it did the trick. Plus, the vocabulary level of Walt Disney Comics and Stories was terrific. If you could read the entire comic it was on a 12th grade reading level. Boy, how I wish I still had those comics.
Today the same comics are written by writers from Italy, Vito Stabile and Fausto Vitaliano and drawn by Giovanni Rigano, and Lorenzo Pastrovicchio. New ones go for $3.99 or $4.99 and most for $5.99. My five grandchildren have been the victors, as were my two sons. Arch keeps them in comic books and, while they all can read anything in print they like these treasures almost the same as their grandmother. Oh, for the day of Classic comics. These were famous books shrunk down to cartoon size to explain great literary or historical happenings. The “Iliad and the Odyssey,” “Tale of Two Cities,” “Frankenstein” and “The Three Musketeers” were all there. Schools discontinued using them and no one in education knows why. New comics, or if you will, “graphic novels,” are now popular. The difference is the type of drawings, tons of violence, and harsh realities that parrot the evening news.
Try to make your own comic with your kids. It is easy, and all you need are white paper, pencils, colored markers and a ruler. Have them invent their favorite characters, have those characters overcome problems. When they get done drawing and lettering the stories, staple them together. You can do anything in a comic. Roaring Mouse, reading about my primo, Mickey. Out.