Did You Realize That You Were a Champion in Their Eyes?
Dane Unfairly Politicizes a Non-Partisan Comic Book
Early in issue one of Champions, we see Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) beginning to realize the flawed approach of her elder Avengers. She watches as they continue to punch first and ask questions later with complete disregard for the harm that they may cause, leaving working-class people to clean up their mess. Ms. Marvel soon comes to grips with the fact that the heroes she has looked up to for so long might not be as heroic as she once believed.
Disgusted and fed up with their egotistical, careless ways, Ms. Marvel quits the Avengers and sets out to create a team of young superheroes. They dedicate themselves to stepping up where their older peers have fallen short, to taking charge of their own destinies, to changing the world into a place that they want to live in.
This resonated with me for a couple of reasons.
Earlier this fall, there was a Trump/Pence 2016 sign in the front yard of a home across the street from Night’s Shield, the children’s shelter I work at.
“That means they don’t like me,” a thirteen-year-old African-American girl said one day as we returned to the shelter from school.
“What does?” I said.
“That Trump sign,” she said, tilting her head toward it. “That means the people that live there don’t like people like me.”
I stumbled over my words then, trying to address the semantics of the situation, trying to deliver some nuance where there was little to be found, trying to justify the actions of people I do not agree with, not because I wanted to defend them, but rather I wanted to protect her. I didn’t want her to feel unwanted, but the words didn’t exist for me to make her feel that way. All it took was a sign across the street to undo all of the efforts that Night’s Shield had taken to make her feel like she belonged.
My hope then was that come November 8th, Trump would face a crushing defeat. One so stunning that the culture war would be deemed over and those that supported him would be forced to take a long look in the mirror and reassess many of their wrongly held beliefs. I believed in this fiercely with a faith in humanity that hasn’t been as strong for me since.
That was not the case.
On November 9th, I kept coming back to the way that girl felt about that sign, the way just those names on a cheap, flimsy, plastic sign made her feel like she didn’t belong, and I wondered about what she felt now that our country elected those men.
I couldn’t help but feel like we, as grown-ups, failed her. I couldn’t help but feel like we failed all of them.
The first issue of Champions came out on October 5th of this year. A full month before the election, the comic was very good then. But now, post-election? Post-white-supremacists-in-the-White-House? Post-Nazi-salutes-in-the-Reagan-building? Post-Mitt-Romney’s-dinner-with-the-devil-face? Post-holy-crap-maybe-Elon-Musk-was-right-and-we-really-are-living-in-a-simulated-reality-because-this-is-crazy? Post-our-faith-in-democracy? Post-truth?
Now? The comic is an ultra-light beam of hope.
The same way we needed to see Captain America fighting the Nazis in 1940, we need to see this team of diverse teenagers coming together to make positive changes in this world while the adults are busy fighting amongst themselves.
Maybe by reading this, teenagers can feel empowered and adults can gain some insight into how they can better serve the youth of today.
Of course, I’m not saying that a comic book alone can undo the damage done by a flimsy, plastic sign, let alone that somehow-more-plastic-man’s election, but it’s at least a statement saying: You belong and you can make a positive change in this world for the better.
I believe this comic, for it’s own small part, does that, and that’s what we need right now. I’ll take all the Champions I can get.
I recommend Champions for fans of: Young Avengers, Runaways, Chance the Rapper, Adam Silvera, Jason Reynolds, The Wonder Years (the band, not the show), and Nicola Yoon