Comic books provide incentive for reading

May 3, 2009


If Wonder Woman’s airplane is invisible, nobody really could prove whether or not it was parked outside the Marion County Library on Saturday afternoon during Free Comic Book Day.
But Katie Morgan, 7, of Monongah, dressed as the Lasso of Truth-wielding superhero, gave her assurances that she had left her ethereal flying ride in the shop.
“We just needed to fix it up,” Katie said as she glitter-glued yellow feathers to a mask during the craft portion of the comic book event. “The engine got smashed. There was a big, giant bad guy that ate it, and then he burped it up.”
There was no word if Katie was able to repel small flying objects with the magical bracelets of her chosen superhero, based on the DC Comics character. But Katie took the opportunity to celebrate Free Comic Book Day with her superhero siblings — 2- year-old Amelia “Super Girl” Morgan and 4-year-old Max “Venom” Morgan — and their parents, Larry and Lisa.
Although Katie likes Wonder Woman, she was not able to come as her favorite superhero — a public television character known as “Word Girl.” “I wanted to be Word Girl, but there is no costume,” Katie said.
Word Girl might not be an official superhero, but she helps children learn to read, so in that respect, she fit right in with the event held at two locations. In addition to the Marion County Public Library, superhero and comic book fans also could go over to Comic Paradise Plus at 401 Walnut Ave. and pick up 10 free comic books, everything from “Archie” (and “Jughead”) to “X-Men.”
“For people my age, for a lot of us, that’s how we learned how to read,” said James Wyer, owner of Comic Paradise Plus. “They’ve now started reading comics in school to learn to read. It’s one of the things they routinely suggest for teachers to use.”
Wyer has been participating in Free Comic Book Day (www.freecomic, a national observance, since it began in 2002. The library has been on board for about half that time, supplied with comics by Wyer, who buys them at a greatly reduced rate. This year, he said, he purchased 7,000 comic books for the event, and he expected to have about 3,000 left over, which he plans to use for next year’s Free Comic Book Day.
About 285 people had come to his shop by mid-afternoon Saturday, “Children and adults,” he said. “Actually, there are more adults than children.”
To help prove his point about the educational nature of comic books, a stack of Bluewater Productions’ Female Force series comic books on the life of first lady Michelle Obama could be found by the cash register. The publishers also plan to come out with comic books on other women, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling, Caroline Kennedy and Sarah Palin.
Comic books also permeate popular culture in the form of movies, Wyer noted. Right now, many comic book fans want “Wolverine” because of the just-released film “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”
The Morgans attended the event in both locations, and at Comic Paradise Plus, Max could see a likeness of the head of his hero, Venom, who looked much more menacing than Max, with sharp teeth and a curly tongue. The Marvel Comics character is the arch­enemy of Spider-Man.
Luckily, Venom and Spider-Man, in the form of Michael Morris of Fairmont, did not bump into each other at the library. Michael was leaving with his siblings, Angel and Matt, and their mother, Ruth, just before the Morgan family arrived.
Michael had on his Spider-Man T-shirt, although, “Batman is my favorite,” he said.
“He likes Spider-Man,” his mom explained, “but he changed recently to Batman. But after you’ve bought all that apparatus …”
Matt was dressed in a base­ball uniform, not to celebrate Free Comic Book Day but because he had just won a baseball game with his Little League team, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 69.
The family frequents the library often, Morris said, but she especially appreciates events such as Free Comic Book Day.
“It’s encouraging them to read,” she said.
Also not making an appear­ance with Wonder Woman’s invisible plane was the Batmobile, although Batman was on hand to greet the chil­dren at the library.
The Batmobile might be in the same place as the invisible plane, however.
“It’s in the shop,” Batman said. “I took the bus. Carbon footprint and all.”
And, of course, Batman is accustomed to getting ques­tions about his sidekick, Robin, and he had an answer for that. “He’s working on the Batmobile.”
Christian Cox, who oversees youth services and children’s programming at the library, arranged for Batman’s visit to coincide with Free Comic Book Day, although he noted that events such as the one on Saturday take place once a month.
“Last month, we had live bunnies for Easter,” Cox said. “We have all sorts of different programs that are incentives for reading.”