When I was 8 years-old, I started collecting comic books at a supersonic rate. No one had more or knew more about comics than me (this was all speculative, I was 8.) While other kids my age were busy spending time with other kids, I stayed home in my room reading my comic books over and over again. I devoured each story line and spent hours daydreaming about superpowers and secret lives. The characters struggles became my own, but none more so than their “outcast” status, constantly struggling with their own identities.
For a little Asian kid growing up in a predominantly white area, with a bad Bruce Lee haircut, who was always mistaken for a boy, and spent more time with senior citizens talking about the war and the most recent episode of NOVA on PBS hosted by Alan Alda than doing normal “kids stuff,” an outcast was exactly what I was. The word “weird” and I became synonymous, as I struggled to figure out who I was suppose to be instead of what I actually was.
Much to my father’s chagrin, I looked to comic books instead of Confucianism for answers on my path to pre-teen self discovery. As he spouted zen teachings about all men being born with intrinsic similarities, I contemplated getting bitten by a spider that I had bombarded with radioactive waves a.k.a. putting it in front of the microwave, so I could “sling web” into peoples faces. When he described the differences between external and internal behavior to explain why kids were mean, all I wanted to do was fly away to Superman’s crystal sanctuary and be comforted by the giant floating head of Marlon Brando…
Things were tough for Joy the Boy, but as I got older, “weird” was no longer a problem. Instead, it became an integral part of who I was. It allowed me to embrace both worlds… real and fantasy, comics and Confucianism, young and old, and remain the same, but with a better haircut.
Nowadays, I still think back to my comic books in search of answers, for even the most mundane day to day issues. Magneto’s powers to help with traffic and finding parking spaces, Wolverine’s powers when dealing with medical care in the U.S. (everyone needs superpowers to deal with this!), Quicksilver’s speed to finish an article on time, etc. And though I’m older and wiser, it doesn’t hurt to daydream a little, even if its just to help pass the time.