Marvel Comics changed me, my life, and my future.
Before I was the author of Marvel books, host of Marvel video series and podcasts, or Director of Creative Content for Marvel Entertainment, I was raised to be someone else.
My upbringing was filled with the echoes of the traditional conventions:
“Children should be seen and not heard.” – Adults
“Little girls are sugar and spice and everything nice.” – Kids around the schoolyard
“Lorraine, put your dress down. I can see your underwear.” – My mother
Every day was a reminder that little girls were supposed to be lovely, quiet creatures full of patience and kindness who most definitely didn’t mind wearing scratchy dresses all day. We were being shaped to be future wives or mothers—titles in relation to those we are supposed to serve. Needless to say, this mold wasn’t an easy fit.
I was born “a wild thing.” I arrived screaming into the world, full of curiosity, a little too loud, feeling too much, ready to fight, to laugh, to cry, to love. Over the years, like so many of us “wild things,” the world tried to domesticate me and quiet my voice. I learned ballet, how to share, and when to be quiet (which I struggled with most). But I still couldn’t escape scabby knees from riding cardboard boxes down dusty dirt hills or getting motor oil on my good shirt. Though my wildness was unavoidable, I also worried, “Is who or what I am bad? Is it dangerous to be wild?”
I followed around my big brother, hoping to find an answer or perhaps a bit of adventure. What I found was his comic book stash of him. It wasn’t the adventure I was looking for, but it was more than I could have asked for. Encountering the characters of the Marvel Universe was my introduction to loud, angry, tough, funny, and courageous women who were allowed to exist just the way they were. No one told them that they were weak, incapable things that needed protection—they were strong, adept, and above all, wonderfully dangerous.
That was especially true for some of my favorite characters. While Jean Gray was, in many ways, the bygone feminine ideal, she was also fire, death, and rebirth incarnate as the Phoenix. Yes, Storm was regal and stoic, but she also was a weather goddess who could electrocute anyone who crossed her path. Even Mary Jane Watson, who caught every man’s eye, never cared much for relationships, putting herself and her dreams of her ahead of any Romeo, even Peter Parker. And the blue-skinned, gray-moraled Mystique, who could shapeshift into anyone was beautiful but terrifying. When I read their stories, I knew they were like me; these women were wild things too.
We were dangerous.
In comics, mutants try to survive in a world that hates and fears them because they are different. Being a young person who felt strange, untamed, questioning my sexuality, my purpose, and my innermost self felt much the same. Not fitting the mold felt dangerous. I was different, and if I didn’t comply, I might face an inhospitable world.
But when I turned to the pages and cartoons of the X-Men and other Marvel super heroes, I saw a different path. If they could be heroes and their true selves, perhaps I too could remain untamed and still do good things. I realized my worth was not determined by how well I fit the mold, but rather by my good works.