First of all let me share with you the definition of escapism as quoted by Wikipedia.

noun: escapism

  1. The tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.
synonyms:fantasy, fantasizing, daydreaming, daydreams, reverie;

imagination, flight(s) of fancy, pipe dreams, wishful thinking, woolgathering;

informal pie in the sky

“romance novels offer a form of escapism that many people thoroughly enjoy”

Like many kids who grew up in a small Maine town in the late 80’s and Early 90’s I didn’t have a lot to do outside of traditional small town entertainment. There were recreational sports, outdoor activities and doing whatever random thing I could find to do with my friends. When I was younger that often meant making up various scenarios and acting them out. Whether it was pretending we were characters from G.I Joe, He-Man, Star Wars or the Transformers or just making up our own things. We always found a way to amuse ourselves.

As I got older and middle-school rolled around those pursuits became in my eyes too childish. I began to find myself more interested in trying to woo my ever changing weekly love interest or being part of the in crowd (Both of which I failed miserably at.) It was an awkward stage of life that we all go through at some point. It is also a point in life that starts to shape our personalities and who we are as people.

It was during that time that I found myself getting seriously interested in comics. I had previously read a few titles like G.I Joe, Spiderman, Superman and The West Coast Avengers at random, but had never seriously gotten into them.

That changed for me in sixth-grade when I discovered two titles: NOW comics Terminator: The Burning Earth and The Punisher. Over the top and rather violent by many standards both of those titles sucked me in and I couldn’t get enough of them. When I read them it let me escape from whatever was bothering me at the time. Whether that was not making the sports team I had tried out for, no longer fitting into the clique with the kids who I had been friends with growing up, getting rejected by the girl I had asked out or a plethora of other things.

Comics became a healthy way for me to deal with that awkward adolescent angst and anger. We didn’t have a lot of options for purchasing comics. A few of the stores had a limited amount of titles so it was always an adventure trying to get the ones I wanted. So when I could get a hold of them I devoured them almost as fast as they were purchased. I’d find myself going over issues of The Punisher, X-Men, Spawn, Cyberforce, W.I.L.D.C.A.T.S and LOBO over and over.

I had a few classmates who were into comics and we’d often spend our time reading and swapping the latest issues in study hall. We’d point out what we thought was cool or didn’t like about a certain issue or new series. While never close with those guys, it gave me a glimmer of hope that I wasn’t the only one who used comics to escape.

While today it is more acceptable to be part of the Geek culture in my day it wasn’t. As I got further into high-school I got caught up in the whole you can’t do certain things and be cool stuff. I began to hide my love of comics and it became a bit of dirty secret. Still, they were a way for me to escape and I’d find myself in my room with music cranked escaping into whatever series I was into at the time.

When I graduated I left my love of comics behind. Life happened and I found myself becoming increasingly interested in music and other things. It wasn’t until I started playing in bands, traveling and establishing a larger circle of friends that I found out so many other people had been into comics like I had. These were the people I had always wanted to be like. It turns out many of them were just like me (Funny how that works) they had used comics as a form of escape just like I had, who knew? Hind sight is 20-20 and I wish I had not hid my love of comics from the world in fear of being ostracized. Maybe, just maybe that would have opened up doors to more friendships when I felt like an outcast and didn’t fit in.

Comics were my escape. They helped me deal with the negatives in my life by letting me get lost in others conquering theirs. They taught me lessons that I may not have understood right away, but became engrained in my subconscious. Treat people the way you wanted to be treated. Stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves and sometimes doing the right thing might not be the popular choice.

In the escapism comics allowed me (I didn’t realize this until years later) the most important lesson I learned was this: Don’t ever be ashamed of who you are. We’re all different; we all have something unique to offer in this life whether we realize it or not, it’s what makes the world a beautiful place.

Thomas Washburn Jr. Is an independent horror author from Maine who has published two novels The Returners and Mr. Witcher along with the short story collections Legend of North Lake & Other Short Stories and Into Darkness. He also keeps one foot firmly planted into his childhood love of comics with his short story series-Santa Claus: Monster Hunter. You can connect with him on FB or check out his work on Amazon