The Avengers. The X-Men. Spider-Man. Batman. Superman. The masses love them, and rightfully so. If any of them were two-dimensional campy annoyances (which sometimes they were…I’m looking right at you, Adam West), they couldn’t possibly have stood the test of time as they have. Millions upon millions of people love these decades-old characters, so much so that a mighty few have poured massive amounts of money into making even more massive amounts of money by turning these characters into film franchises. Lately, even second-tier characters have been coming to the forefront because of in-the-works movies, such as Gambit, Deadpool, and Harley Quinn.
But…what about characters like Phantazia? Marrina? Onomatopoeia?
Since 1st grade, my favorite character of all comic book heroes and villains has been Pyro. That’s nearly 25 years of loving the hell out of the same character (my god I’m old). In my experience, most people only know about Pyro because of the X-Men movies. “But he can’t even make fire,” they shout as they point their fingers at me and kick sand in my general direction. “How could you think someone so lame is cool?” In response, I posit this question:
Having a favorite character that isn’t on every t-shirt in every store is like discovering treasure on a remote island. It’s a secret that you have discovered. Now it’s yours and you don’t ever have to let it go. And that sort of nerd-like thinking doesn’t just apply to a single character. Is your favorite series Young Allies? Great! Own it. Don’t be afraid of what someone else thinks or says about it. You love and find joy in something, so you don’t owe anyone an explanation.
So…let me explain. Pyro caught my eye at the age of 7 because of his costume. IT’S SO COOL! What did 7-year-old me know about stories or mutants or liking nerdy things? I didn’t even know how to tie my own shoes yet! But I knew that he looked cool, and after reading some books featuring him, I’ve come to believe that he IS cool. As I’ve matured (and I use that term so very loosely), I’ve become proud to know all that I know about him because I feel that he’s a great villain. And that’s the point. To me, he is an awesome character, and that’s all that has to matter. The fact that he can’t catch bullets and fly is, to me, part of his appeal. He has weaknesses and that gives him a sense of humanity. I can identify with that because I have weaknesses too. You think I’m going to tell you what they are? You’re kidding yourself. My arch-nemesis may be reading this. That’s right rude guy that works at the college bookstore, you are NOT getting a win today!
The problem is that I used to take people knocking him personally. I was actually picked on not only for loving comic books, but because Pyro was my favorite character. In fact, it took me quite some time to let go of trying to convince people that he was great and powerful when they would give me a hard time. While I do believe he’s a great and powerful character, no one else has to believe that (but you should at least consider it). I didn’t pick my favorite mutant, it just happened this way. Nor will I try to change it. That’s like going to the animal shelter and falling in love with a kitten, then deciding to adopt a dog! (psst…adopt both) Sure, I’ve judged others for their favorite character choices, but I’m no longer vocal about it. I may not be able to change my first thought, but I can at least stop myself from sighing and rolling my eyes when someone has a favorite character that I don’t readily accept. The joy is in the discovery, not in making the rest of the world see things your or my way.
What I’m getting at in all of this, is that it’s okay to like who you like for whatever reason you like them. If you feel that you have a stake in what happens to a character, celebrate the personal connection that has developed. Some mainstream characters have great stories, same with some lesser known ones (I just finished volume 4 of Alpha Flight and I absolutely loved it). Don’t ever feel weird or embarrassed because your favorite character is Random. No, I don’t mean picking something without a conscious decision, I mean the mutant with a protoplasmic body. Embrace it. Love it. Be happy. You read comic books to feel a sense of happiness and escape, so enjoy it, regardless of what the rest of the world thinks.