Comics have always been an escape for me. They have gotten me through bullying, adolescence, homesickness, and heartbreak. And now for the second time in my life (the first being Hurricane Andrew when I was a teenager, but that’s a story for another time), they helped me escape from the frightening onslaught of a major hurricane.
If you were in or anywhere near Florida in the past week, the name Irma was probably blaring out at you from every news outlet and social media source. And rightfully so, because as a Category 5 hurricane, Irma was destined to leave a Solomon Grundy-like path of destruction in its wake.
It was on New Comic Book day that we were pretty much told that the storm would be coming our way and for a moment it was hard to be excited about ‘funny books’. But I couldn’t help it because as a comics journalist, I was going to be receiving an advance copy of DC: Metal #2 and that was an especially exciting title. It was a book I had been looking forward to since reading issue one. With it’s over the top plot of a disaster of cosmic proportions coming, with only Batman seemingly able to stop it, it was for me the comic book event of the year. And now, of course, it had been swept by a very REAL disastrous event.
Now I’m not a kid and as an adult (and a home owner) I was very aware of how dangerous the situation with the storm was. The weather experts were using the term ‘catastrophic’ when it came to property damage. Predictions on storm surge were deadly. I both feared for my life and feared for my home. But there is only so much ‘doomsday prepping’ one can do. Only so much “The End is Nigh” (sorry Rorschach!) anyone can take. So I once again I turned to comics. I loaded that copy of issue two of DC: Metal on my tablet, and opened up issue one as a refresher. But then I wanted to go further back, so I found The Casting and The Forge one shots and just started there again. Soon I was transported. Batman’s race to face a catastrophe of his own head on was an eerie parallel for what I felt; city, friends, and family were all in danger for both of us. But Batman’s resilience started to become my own. I started becoming less scared, feeling MORE prepared. In a way, I had started thinking like Batman would. I had contingency plans, I was ready. And then I remembered something writer Scott Snyder had said about Batman in an interview. He said “He’s not a really a figure of intimidation so much as he is this broad almost international figure of bravery. And he says I’m going to fight these incredibly abstract huge monstrous things in the form of my villains so that you will go out and face the things that seem insurmountable to you.” One word stood out from that great quote: seem. It all came together then; it all fell into a very focused perspective. The stories, the title Metal, Batman, the hurricane. And to top it all off, I was even wearing a classic Batman symbol t-shirt (a detail I had forgotten as that morning I just pulled the first shirt I grabbed out of the dryer).
So when the eye of the storm hit, when the wind was howling like an escaped Arkham lunatic, when the roof was shaking like Gotham during the Cataclysm, when the water pushed under the door with enough force to bring in Killer Croc, I felt a sense of calm and focus I honestly didn’t think I would have. I patiently and serenely guided my mother (who was with me) and my dog to gather in the safest spot in the house, the cave-like windowless center. I used my smart phone’s weather radar and the radio broadcast of the coverage to track the storm as it crossed my path (the meteorologist serving as the Alfred Pennyworth in my ear). In short, I felt I was ready to react to anything that would happen, just like Batman in the books.
And then the storm passed. The waters never rose and the wind died down. Yes, there was damage, but it could have been worse. I had gotten through it all with the help of a fictional character. And as I always say, whatever works is always good. Value can be found in anything if it gives something to you. And DC: Metal gave it to me. I don’t know how THAT story ends yet, but I know Batman will pull through. That is the power of comics I think, of all stories really, to remind you of things you sometimes forget. That no matter the odds, we can always pull through.
*I know I was lucky to not have seen the worst of the outcome of this storm and I urge everyone to please research, read and educate yourselves on what happened. I was fortunate and many were not. That is not lost on me. We owe it to everyone to know their stories.
*I didn’t include any pictures of the storm from my end because I didn’t take any. I literally could not go outside. And besides, there are far braver and more talented photographers that captured those images.
*Here is a link to an ABC News article with various places to contribute and help if you can.