By Guest Blogger: Shane Berryhill
Biff! Pow! Boom! Zap!
That’s the sound of the sneak attack that typically begins one’s love affair with the art form inaptly known as comics. I’m no exception.
That’s right. I’m a proud, card-carrying member of the graphic literature fan club. Membership has served me well over the years.
Not only has graphic literature brought me endless hours of entertainment, but it helped me in the classroom during my younger days as well.
I was first introduced to Fredrick Douglass, Matthew Henson, Harriet Tubman, and many other African-American historical figures through a series of comics provided by my third grade teacher. The assignment may have been part of a Black History Month project, I don’t recall. But I do remember that each student was given / required to read only one comic.
That simply would not do for me.
Already having a voracious appetite for graphic literature thanks to Superman and Spider-man, I begged, pleaded, and cajoled my fellow classmates into loaning me their comics until I had devoured each four-toned offering.
This was not out of some innate desire to learn (that would come later thanks to such experiences). I simply loved reading comics, and wished to read every one I could get my hands on. Being made aware of–and becoming caught up in–the struggles and triumphs these courageous people faced were a side effect–but a side effect that irrevocably branded itself into my brain as knowledge.
But let’s give ol’ Supes and Spidey credit where it’s due them. I didn’t have to read nonfiction comics to receive an education from the art form.
I can still remember my fifth grade science teacher, Mr. Lofty, asking if anyone knew what a mutation was. Faster than you can say, “Excelsior!” I raised my hand, visions of Marvel’s X-men and radioactive spiders with a knack for biting unsuspecting teens running through my head.
A sixth grade “unit” on mythology? Check. Jack Kirby and Stan Lee had me running across rainbow bridges with Thor and descending into the bowels of Hades with Hercules before I could I could even spell m-y-t-h-o-l-o-g-y.
Fast forward to my junior high Introduction to Physics class. Once again, comics already had it covered. I’d viewed the Hulk punching it out with the Abomination countless times. I knew exactly what happened when an unstoppable force met an immovable object. And it was from Reed Richards, aka Mr. Fantastic–rather than Stephen Hawking—that I first learned of possible parallel universes.
But even more important than all the above, comics served as the window through which I discovered, and fell in love with, the written word. Comics tricked me into becoming a reader–and ultimately, a writer. Without my realizing what was occurring, comics instilled in me a need to learn more about the ideas, concepts, and foundation material touched upon within their pages.
It was the Illustrated Classics series that spurred me on to read DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN, TURN OF THE SCREW, and innumerable other works of literature. It was Batman who trained me for THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL and THE MERRY ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, Aquaman and the Submariner who dared me to dive TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, Lex Luthor and Dr. Doom who insisted I defy natural law using THE TIME MACHINE, et cetera, et cetera.
So, many years and books later, when I sat down to write the novel about superheroes-in-training that ultimately became CHANCE FORTUNE AND THE OUTLAWS, it was with a sincere desire to give back to the art form that had done so much for me.
My hope is that, someday, somewhere, a comic-book-loving child, intrigued by my novel’s subject matter, will pick up CHANCE FORTUNE AND THE OUTLAWS and read it, unaware they’ve just been tricked into beginning the long list of books he or she will consume throughout the his or her life.
Biff! Pow! Boom! Zap!
Keep reading (with pictures)!
Shane Berryhill is the author of THE ADVENTURES OF CHANCE FORTUNE series from Tor Books. Volume one, CHANCE FORTUNE AND THE OUTLAWS, is a NY Public Library Book for the Teen Age and a Texas Lone Star Reading List Selection. Both ‘OUTLAWS and the second volume, CHANCE FORTUNE IN THE SHADOW ZONE, are part of Renaissance Learning’s Accelerated Reader Program. The audio version of CHANCE FORTUNE AND THE OUTLAWS is now available for download at Amazon.com, Audible.com, and iTunes. All 2012 author proceeds from the audio version of ‘Outlaws benefit children’s literacy. Learn more about Shane and his work while taking advantage of free online study guides and other classroom materials at www.shaneberryhill.com. Shane loves to interact with friends and fans online via Facebook and Twitter.