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The Comics Band-Aid

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By ROLI S

‘ Comics; as we know them are an art form generally visible in daily and weekly newspapers and provides ideas for movies and television programmes. Over the years, proponents of comics have supported their use as a medium to cover a variety of topics, as an aid in vocabulary building, and as motivational material in increasing the interest in reading, etc. However, the lack of a precise definition of the word “comics” is one of the reasons for them being misunderstood and underutilised by readers, especially adults, because often people think about comics just as colourful magazines filled with superheroes, imaginary characters and their adventures. This narrow understanding of the word “comics” has provided anopportunity for opponents to vilify the medium as being “kids’ stuff” (something that children like). The comic books are often considered as a cheap form of entertainment for children and degenerate teens having negligible intellectual or academic importance. Recently, Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, Pradeep Nandrajog, who heads the bench hearing the stalemate between environment activists and the government on the ‘Aarey Metro shed issue’ in Mumbai, declared that a lot of time is wasted in getting to the matter. He said that he would like lawyers to think like “Winnie the Pooh”. “Write the way Winnie the Pooh writes and think the way Winnie the Pooh thinks. It would make things easier. He said all lawyers should read ‘Winnie the Pooh’ – a fictional teddy bear created by English Author AA Milne. And was I not thrilled to read and hear about this mention of ‘Winnie the Pooh’! So many of my own life lessons have come from this lovable comic character. Knowingly or unknowingly, comics and comic characters have influenced people all over the world. ‘The philosophy in the bubbles’ has without a doubt captured the minds and influenced lives of people of different ages. The idea that comics and their characters are something that is ‘kiddie fare’ has already been rejected vehemently as people of all ages read and are motivated by these colourful magazines. With the advent of animation and gaming, the characters from comics have come to life and have become household names. My relationship with comics and the characters dates to long back when, as a little girl, I used to eagerly wait for the latest edition of the Hindi comics such as ‘Chacha Chaudhary’, ‘Motu Patlu’, “Vikram Betal’ and ‘Phantom and Mandrake’, ‘Flash Gordon’, etc. I remember that sometimes we used to travel to the railway stations to get these comics from the only available AH Wheeler book vendor at that time! I felt so liberated reading those comic books. With the advancement of mass communication and technology, the reach and availability of the comics also increased and comics from all over the world became available to the people of India and needless to say my love for comics, as well as millions of followers of comics, grew along with it. Why is it that the comics have motivated and shaped the minds of people? I realised that comics deal with two fundamental communicating devices: words and images and they are derivatives of a single origin, and in the skillful employment of words and images lies the expressive potential of the medium. Most of us who follow comics understand that heroics of the heroes and heroines aren’t bound by capes and masks. What it truly means to be a hero is found not only in the action but also in the words they use to inspire us. Sure, we come to appreciate the powers, tech, and cool suits, but we continue to identify with the character. So, when I read these words by DC’s Superman, “The world is full of exceptional people – the people in the world who do kindness, or search for the truth despite their lives being at risk. The engineers, the teachers, the doctors, and adoptive parents, the scholars and the firemen, and, yes, the journalists. People who risk everything for the sake of others and those who simply try to help the ones whose needs are greater than their own. Those people inspire me, not the other way around.” Similarly Wonder Woman, Aqua Man, Spiderman, Iron Man, all these characters generate a thought process that makes you believe in being good and generous! “Don’t kill if you can wound, don’t wound if you can subdue, don’t subdue, if you can pacify, and don’t raise a hand at all, until you’ve extended it.” This powerful quote by The Wonder Woman though talking about violence (as most of the modern comics are deemed to be violent at some time or the other) gives advice that makes every one of us think! The Spiderman has always remained a character that instils resilience and adaptability. “We’re not just our failures. As much as they hurt, we learn from them. Then we go out there and do our best to make up for them– Even though we never will. We save people. We save as many as we can to make up for the ones we couldn’t. That’s all we do.” Spiderman literally shows us the ropes! So, as a teacher whenever I stood in the classroom surrounded by my students, I used to wonder, “How many of them have come to school leaving behind their souls? Because, at that time, I used to think about the words of a favourite character, Calvin, of ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ by Bill Watterson, “You can drag my body to school but my spirit refuses to go.” This would then inspire me to take a lesson that would engage them body and soul! “The world isn’t fair, Calvin.” “I know Dad, but why isn’t it ever unfair in my favor?” Now these kinds of conversations between Calvin and his dad make you laugh and think at the same time isn’t it? Calvin time and again brings out the issue of consumerism in modern society with these candid remarks, “Oh look, yet another Christmas TV special! How touching to have the meaning of Christmas brought to us by cola, fast food, and beer…. Who’d have ever guessed that product consumption, popular entertainment, and spirituality would mix so harmoniously?” There are many such cartoon characters giving birth to many comics. People pick and choose the cartoon characters that strike a chord in them, so when I began following Peanuts Comics by Schulz, I took pleasure in all its cartoon characters, Charlie Brown, Lucy Van de Pelt , Snoopy, Marcy, Linus, Sally, Schroeder, etc. All the wisecracks of Snoopy kept the writer, romantic and foody in me forever entertained! “You can’t hurry love or pizza. Especially pizza.” So many times, critical and crucial issues in my life have appeared as petty and trite in the company of these Comic Characters. In the midst of the vagaries of life, comics and comic characters provide us a trip to the land of goodness and fairies, of imaginations and possibilities. No wonder Chief Justice of Bombay High Court found his refuge in ‘Winnie the Pooh’ and the life lessons given by this cuddly lovable teddy bear, when no immediate and peaceful end to the ‘Aarey Metro Shed Environment Issue’ was in sight! (Roli S is an Educator, Teacher Trainer, Author and School Reviewer based in Mumbai.)