A lot of kids attach themselves to their favorite comic book series or hero for one reason or another. I attached myself to the wonderful world of fictional characters, superpowers, heroes, and villains because I saw a part of me in them and them in me.
The day I met the X-Men changed my life forever. It was one of those rites of passage or, rather, a whole new chapter of my life just beginning. They sought to find acceptance in a world where they were seen as evil, as monsters, as abominations. I didn’t consciously know it back then but I shared their fear.
I was never an outcast among my peers. Everyone just saw me as the funny, smart kid who gets in trouble every so often due to his loud voice. I had a secret, however, it was kind of like a secret identity, a superpower, that I couldn’t tell anyone about because they wouldn’t understand - and I was afraid they would hate and condemn me for it.
The superheroes, my X-Men on the television screen and in my comic books faced the same challenges I did. They faced adversity, hate, and bigotry. They would fall and be defeated by their foes but every time you could count on them to come right back up, stronger and still fighting.
Jean Grey, also known as The Phoenix, was, and still is, my favorite X-Man. She represented the kind of person I wanted to be: a tall, red-headed bombshell - no, but in all seriousness, I looked up to her. She was strong and confident. She conquered her greatest fears with dignity and grace. It wasn’t like she was fearless. No, she was deathly afraid of losing her loved ones in the process, but she knew what had to be done and fought for it with all her heart.
You don’t need to be a kid to read comic books, look up to superheroes, or wish that you could be one of them - to be stronger. They have a kind of magic. Underneath the flashy costumes, muscular physique, and over-sized breasts, there is a message to every kid out there who thinks they’re alone in this world, who thinks that they are insignificant, who has a secret they can’t tell anyone - that message is hope.