I’m going to see Captain America: Civil War tonight. Why? Because I’m a nerd of sorts? Sure. But also because life is complicated and the lines between right and wrong or good and evil (not to mention between good and best), seem to always be blurred. So, I’m going to this film for the same reason I read comics and watch the shows or movies based on them; because they help to remind me that, … there is some good in this world… and it’s worth fighting for.” 

While the same themes that dominate comic stories (family, justice, redemption) certainly appear in other books, films and shows, the clarity with which they’re presented in the comic book world moves me somewhat uniquely. Some may see it as “heavy handed” or “black and white” or “oversimplified,” but the way these stories are written and the way many these characters live and think often rescues me from the paralysis that comes from finding things too complicated. 

Stories like House of Cards, Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad have a beauty of their own, in part because they mirror (in an admittedly dramatic way) the messy moral-existential complexity I often face in my day to day. But I don’t find myself inspired by those stories and characters the way I am with… well… Batman, for example. At its root, the Batman story is somewhat simple: 

Bruce Wayne’s father is gunned down by a criminal whose motives are tied to the cycle of poverty and violence the plague Gotham City. As Batman, Bruce has committed himself to fighting that criminal element, down to its roots. 

My father was worn down by the criminal mindset corporate America often infuses its employees with (that a man is worth what he earns) and I will spend my life fighting against that broken narrative. 

Yes, life is complicated. But my heart still holds to the notion that not everything is thoroughly corrupt. That, in fact…

…some things are true…
…some things are false…
…some things are good…
…some things are not…

Part of what I get to do as an artist is partner with agencies like Compassion International, the Blood:Water Mission and the International Justice Mission who rescue children from poverty, provide clean water to those living without it and save people from slavery and exploitation.  Sure, the road from here to the eradication of slavery or extreme poverty is strewn with complications and obstacles, but the core truths that fuel our mission are simple:

– People shouldn’t be owned by other people.
– Geography should never determine a person’s destiny.

and, most vitally…

– Every single human life is of immense (if not eternal) value simply by nature of being human

Perhaps in part because I live and work in that world, I find myself uniquely moved the stories written by Geoff Johns, Scott Snyder and Gene Luen Yang. There is a kind of simple hope and clarity I honestly find very few other places. 

Charlie Schneider runs a YouTube channel called “Emergency Awesome.” It’s probably my favorite internet-thing. On his channel, Charlie breaks down superhero TV shows, movies and other geek-media (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, etc…), providing character background and history as well as a few industry secrets along the way. He’s insanely well-read in the comic world and has a keen sense of story. During a recent video breakdown of “The Flash,” Charlie briefly reflected on the redemptive arc of the show, going so far as to say that  “The Flash is all about redemption.” 

So am I.


NOTE: Check out the podcast interview I just did with Superman writer Gene Luen Yang.