7.19.2009

Comics or Food? My Year without Comics



Here Kevin, one of my students and I discuss superheroes and whether or not they should kill. Conversations like these are why I dropped comics for a year and became a broke student again.

by Cindy Cooper

Last year I made the decision to leave my secure, but painfully dull desk job behind, forever, and finally answer the calling to become an art teacher. Of course this involved going back to school for a year. There were many things to consider in making this very serious decision. How would I feed my rapidly growing 13 year old son? What would we do for healthcare coverage? Would my family be able to put up with me as a student for a whole year? Finally I decided it was the right thing to do. However in all my pondering, I neglected to consider the most important question: how I was going to keep feeding weekly comic book habit?!

Sadly, I had to quit comics cold turkey. Well, maybe I did buy a copy of Neil Gaiman’s “The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch”, but no monthlies were possible on what I was making grading for art history classes and working 8 hours a week in the Art Education office at Pratt Institute. Even if I had found the money, I was too busy reading educational theory, writing lesson plans and papers to catch up on what was happening in Daredevil, but he was always in my thoughts.

The last comic I read was Daredevil # 109 on the way to South Africa, for my first semester at Pratt as part of their Pratt in South Africa program. I was too excited about new experiences to think about what I’d be missing. I had other questions in my mind. Were there comic book stores in South Africa? Would they read the same comics we did? While in South Africa I bought a beautiful graphic novel about the life of Nelson Mandela that was created by a company called Umlando Weizethombe, a South African comic book company that puts out graphic novels about South Africa’s history. I highly recommend their work if you come across it. I found one comic book store when we stopped through Cape Town but we did not have time to visit it. I could find no comic book stores in Port Elizabeth. The kids did read comics though. There were often sports comics, usually about soccer, sorry, I mean football, and tucked into the newspaper. My students were not very familiar with superhero comics and I delighted in sharing the myths behind the characters I love. They were fascinated in particular by Captain America. Go figure.

I was so busy with experiencing comics in a new culture that the absence of comics in my own culture did not begin to truly haunt me until the fall when I was teaching Drawn to Stories, a visual storytelling class in Pratt’s Saturday Art School, for neighborhood kids. The middle school kids I was teaching were anxious to get to work creating their own original comics, and were full of thoughts and questions about the comics I brought in for inspiration. Their enthusiasm reminded me of the stories I’d left behind. Suddenly I needed to know: would Captain America stay dead? What would become of the New Avengers? What would become of the regular Avengers? Would Peter and Mary Jane ever get back together? And how long would I wait before I ever found out?! The withdrawal symptoms finally began to surface.

Suddenly, I felt taunted by friends on message boards who were actively reading and posting about comics. The words SPOILER ALERT took on new meaning for me and I began to feel as if I’d never be able to read another thread or blog about comics ever again. Information about my favorite comics started filtering through to me. What was this Dark Avengers? Aren’t there enough Avengers in the Marvel U? Marvel Pets? Really?

Then I discovered some comics went up a dollar in price! What was the world coming to?

Plus, I’m such an addicted reader that I missed my comics like they were good friends who suddenly stopped calling me. You get used to those characters inhabiting your brain space. They take up residence in your thoughts, and when you no longer share time with them you feel their absence. They kept me entertained on the subway to and from work. They provided an escape on a lazy Saturday afternoon or at the end of a tough workday. And, in the end, the truly good stories became a background to my life, like a soundtrack. They were part of my story as an individual. A really good story, whether it be in the form of comics, music, plays, TV or movies will live with you like that.

But, school is over now and the only thing keeping me from catching up with my favorite storylines is the lack of funds that comes with being a newly graduated teacher, two months from gainful employment. I’m temping now and therefore able to blog about how I miss comics. But soon, I will have a Big Girl job teaching! There is a school I will hopefully get a job with in September. Said school would like me to start a comic book club when and if I get a job there. “My kids want one. Would you mind?” asked the principal. Is she kidding? It’s practically what I was born to do. I figure if you start a comic book club, for your students, you actually have to read comics, right?

Needless to say, things are looking up and comics are hopefully about to be back in my life in a big way. Now if we can just get Mayor Bloomberg and Co. to lift the current hiring freeze on new teachers, I’ll be in business. Currently he and Joel Klein, New York City’s Chancellor of Education, are all that stand between me and Comic Book Wednesdays! Still, no one can come between a fangirl and her comics for too long.

7 comments:

Brandon said...

Welcome back into the fold! Leaving something you love to pursue another goal is very tough. Even though I'm a huge comic fan, I know that it would be the first thing to go if necessary. Good luck on your return to life as we know it.

Vocal Minority said...

Come back, but come back to trades.

It's the way forwards m'dear.

Cindy Cooper said...

Thanks guys.

I do love the trades, but I do get impatient sometimes.

SamsonSavage said...

Hello, first time poster to this website. I know a little of what it's like to stop buying comics for a while. If money is tight,you could also borrow TPBs and comics at your local public library.

Best of fortune on your teaching career.

Cindy Cooper said...

Thanks, Samson. Welcome!

While I was at Pratt the trade collection in their library supplemented my own collection in the classroom as inspiration for the kids.

I have a feeling the public library will definitely be a resource for me in the future. Both for the kids' inspiration and for my own. :-D

May said...

You are going to make a wonderful teacher! Dress that way everyday! You will need your Super Hero protection! Welcome to your new chapter. It truly was great seeing you. Love ya girl!
May

John Ross Cocozza said...

Here's what's funny--I did a search on "year without comics" as I'd just completed one--the first one since I was 3 or so and starting reading them. No, that's not particularly funny, I admit. What's funny is I think I know you! I believe we met at one of Mark Millar's Christmas parties, and may have even taken a limo ride--but don't quote me on that. Not "ha-ha" funny, but definitely "the internet is a strange place but NYC might be stranger" funny. Stay with me, because here's the punchline: I just took the plunge and quit my job and a career of 13 years to become a teacher. Yeah, I know--funny.

Judging by the date of this, it might be a while before you see it. I'd be curious to know how your transition has gone, and if anyone here knows Cindy, please pass on a suitably funny greeting for me.
--John