First off I just want to start by saying I am a huge comic book nerd, nerd in general really, but that’s besides the point. I included the noun nerd because for decades it was used to describe anyone who enjoyed comics or anything of the like. Realistically I am nothing like the classical description of a nerd, I played sports all throughout high school, hung with the “cool crowd” and generally kept all my nerdish tendencies to myself. It wasn’t till I graduated that I really started to accept that part of me; and it was at this time that I started to discover the true value of comics, superheroes, or anything beyond the scope of “normal” media. Let’s take Wonder Woman for example; she has been such an influential character when it comes to the empowerment of women. Although she was created by a man in the 1940’s, she showed that women didn’t have to be these helpless creatures forever destined to spend their lives in the kitchen or the bedroom. She has reached and inspired millions of women since her creation, and her influence still grows today with the creation of Wonder Women day celebrated in my very own home town of Portland, Oregon. She is even getting her own motion picture in 2017, which is a big deal considering most superhero movies are dominated by male leads. The value of comics doesn’t stop there though; marvel has recently started changing some of their leads to incorporate more forward-thinking ideals. Some examples are female Thor, further running with the idea of an empowered female lead, and male superheroes who are openly homosexual. It’s not just the superhero sub-genre of comics that are making social impacts; because the comic is such an opened platform for media with limited censorship, most indie comics cover ideas or concepts often too intense for traditional media. One of the first comics I ever read, Saga, combined cursing, uncensored sexual content, and genocide to make for a very impactful message. Going along with the strong female lead, the comic Paper Girls has an entire cast of females, and each one is more strong-willed and kickass than the last.
To be fair, it’s really easy to say that comics are impactful considering I am from the United States, built on all it’s free-speech, and freedom of the press greatness. However, it is not just the U.S. that is seeing the impact of comics. Dr. Naif al-Mutawa created The 99, an Arab style justice league; he is using comics infused with Arabic style ideals to promote tolerance and peace. In an article entitled “Islamic Super Heroes” President Obama is quoted, saying “His comic books (Dr. Mutawa’s) have captured the imagination of many young people. His superheroes embody the teachings and the tolerance of Islam.” This is just further proof of not only the ever growing popularity of comic books, but the significant role they can play on influencing not just the youth of the world, but people of all ages, and religions.