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Monday, January 12, 2009

Is Superman Dead?

When I was 8 years old, I purchased a 12-cent (!) DC comic with the book-length story “The Last Days of Superman.” This was not the amazing graphic-novel blockbuster of 1992, but the earlier Superman, issue 156, October 1962. I must have read that story about 35 times, weeping during the first 20. Of course, Superman didn’t die. How could he? Superman is invincible (except for kryptonite, but that’s not the point).

I thought of that story when I read a recent article in the December issue of School Library Journal. It was titled “Wanted: Male Models” and lamented the lack of male reading models for young children, especially for boys. We definitely need more men to read to their children, to spend more time curled up with a book rather than with a warm TV set or computer monitor. I agree with the writer —we need more male mentors. But I have seen them, and it’s usually at a comic book shop or in the graphic novel section at the local big-chain bookstore.

Wednesday is “new comic book” day across the country. Several of us from the Stone Arch office often visit one of our favorite comic book stores in the middle of the week, either to browse or to get that special issue we’ve been itching for. (For me, it was the new Metal Men by DC artist Duncan Rouleau.) Often, we see other guys there with their kids, all gazing at shiny new covers or vintage editions wrapped in protective plastic.

I frequent another comic shop in downtown Minneapolis, usually on the weekends. I always see dads, and often moms, accompanied by their bright-eyed kids, all of them excited and talking about some new manga adventure or superhero tale. The male models are out there. They are reading, although they may not be in the library. Yet.

Which, I guess, answers the question I posed at the beginning of this posting. Superman isn’t dead. He has a growing horde of new fans. And that makes me hopeful—about reading in general, and in particular, about the imaginations of the young. It also thrills me to partner with DC Comics in our new Super Hero line of original stories about Batman and Superman. This could pull back into the library some of those kids who were looking for their favorite reading material elsewhere. And for me to help create books with the same people who gripped me with their caped crusaders when I was 8 years old . . . wow!

Pastimes and hobbies and ways of spending time will change over the years, but we’ll always need stories. Kids are still reading about superheroes. Maybe they’re hidden in the back corner of a comic book store, or behind a spinner rack blooming with manga, but they are there, and they’re very much alive.

Michael Dahl
Editorial Director, Stone Arch Books

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