Well, maybe the title of this post is a little too dramatic, but it is time for me to share another part of my story about my bullying years. I haven’t shared a personal thought here in a while as I have had so many others who also want to express their feelings about the long-term effects of bullying.
While my bullying ended when I was 13, the long-term effects of those years cannot be denied. As I look back over the 33 years since the last time I was really bullied as a child, there is always one item that sticks in my mind. I moved when I was thirteen and met some new boys in the neighborhood. One of them was a comic collector and while I had read some comics before I was 13, I certainly didn’t find anything in them. Until I discovered what was really being said under the covers. In the early days, it was always Marvel heroes that meant the most to me and it was Stan Lee’s original heroes that I fell in love with.
Spider-Man, The Hulk, The X-Men, Daredevil, and Ghost Rider were all steady collections for me at that age. Then I noticed what they all had in common. They were all bullied and had alter egos that could fight the bullies. This is particularly true with Spider-Man and The Hulk, which were created by Stan Lee. Stan always had a knack for picking up on the fact that people were bullied and he used this knowledge to create characters that those of us could relate to and wish to be.
Oh how I wanted to be like Spider-Man, to go out and offer help away from the bullies. To be able to realize with great power comes great responsibility. Or The Hulk, a relentless monster that could rampage on the bullies, without the guilt of Bruce Banner, who was unaware of the issue for a long time. Stan Lee knew this was what he was writing about and in many ways, I think he knew that he could make a difference for bully victims through these heroes.
I continued to keep up with the lives of these heroes well into my thirties and some still in my forties. While Spider-Man, and there others are no longer on my reading list, I knew that, at least for 20 minutes, I could escape into these stories and had someone who understood the plight of the victim of bullying.
As I now watch the world catch up with these heroes through movies that bring their stories to an even larger audience, I think back to how Stan Lee’s heroes came along when I needed them and maybe helped save me from a life of further bitter disappointment. While its dramatic to say that Stan Lee saved my life, in some ways he certainly changed it and was one of the first to realize how much of an outsider that a bully victim felt. He could write to share this and make a difference. That is the one thing that people never fully understood about comics. While they were written with kids in mind, many of the subjects of comics took on issues to try to help make a difference for kids, not just schlock stories to throw away. That’s why my collection still exists and I do occasionally go back to visit my old friends Spider-Man, The Hulk, and others. They are always there for me to reflect back on.
Ironically, as I write this, I discovered that Marvel is going to do a month with anti-bullying covers on their comics.
The next time you read a comic or watch a comic movie, see if you see these things too. And if you are lucky enough to meet Stan Lee, thank him from me, will you. ‘Nuff said.