About ComicsVerse

Comics Saved My Life: Image of the ComicsVerse Family at Special Edition: NYC 2015.

In countries like France and Japan, comic books are considered a great art form. Manga from Japan is used to illustrate everything from novels to recipe instructions. The painted panel is considered the ninth art in France. While comic books and graphic novels are a growing and more recognizable form of art in the United States, ComicsVerse and our comic book podcast sincerely believe comics are a rare and beautiful form of art that deserves inspection and admiration not only in the United States, but all over the world, an end which we vigorously work towards.

ComicsVerse is committed to the serious study of comic books as an art form and relishes in comic book theory. We analyze not only comic books from publishers like: Marvel Comics, D.C. Comics, IDW, Dark Horse Comics, Image Comics, and more, but we will focus on the independent comic book/graphic novel publisher and the artists and writer that work to bring us original material. ComicsVerse is a place for deep introspection about ourselves as human beings and how we express our nature through the art of the graphic novel.

Click here to meet the rest of the ComicsVerse team!

Message from the ComicsVerse CEO: How Comics Saved My Life

When people ask why I started ComicsVerse, my response is simple: I started ComicsVerse to help people.

Comics made me who I am today; more than any other form of media, more than film or TV, more than traditional literature, more than fine art. Comics contributed to developing more of my personality, outlook and perspective than anything else (with the exception of my parents). I can honestly declare comic books saved my life, and if it weren’t for them, I would not be here today.

That sounds cheesy, I know, so let me backtrack:

The middle class Westchester County, New York community where I was raised (coincidentally, one town over from where the X-Men’s X-Mansion is located) was 95% caucasian and just under 3% hispanic or latino. Even though I was surrounded by second generation Italian immigrants (my great grandparents immigrated at the turn of the century), I felt strange and/or awkward for a lot of reasons. Being Puerto Rican was certainly somewhere on that list. Also on that list were my taste for theatre, art, and reading — all things I would soon be bullied for — in addition to my being overweight, having copious amounts of dandruff (which was totally just 90’s hair spray!) and my complete lack of physical prowess (I couldn’t catch a baseball if my life depended on it).

HEAR: AMERICAN BORN CHINESE? Even if you aren’t, listen to our AMERICAN BORN CHINESE Comic Book Podcast which is all about self acceptance.

I remember when the bullying started: I was in the fourth grade, and one of my best friends turned to me at lunch and started laughing because of the way I looked and acted. The stigma of being strange and uncannily different from my peers continued through high school where I was pelted with gum right out of people’s mouths while other students spit at me through straws in front of teachers who either turned a blind eye or directly participated in my torment by laughing at me while it happened (all this in just first period Biology class). A girl I’d never spoken to before told me that if I died or killed myself, she would laugh.

There were in fact many days I thought of ending my life.  I thought of myself as some sort of monster for being overweight. My parents are truly my best friends now and could not have loved me more to this day or growing up, but we weren’t always a great match when I was younger. My father, a shrewd, fair, and powerful NYPD detective, and my pragmatic and practical mother, an accountant, didn’t have coping techniques (through absolutely no fault of their own) for dealing with a social pariah interested in acting and art; not sports, like my father, who played minor league baseball and was an All-American basketball player, something that, in addition to being pushed and punched in the halls of school between classes, caused me a great deal of shame. So I hid the bullying I was going through at school from my parents. I grew up depressed, anxious and honestly, not wanting to live very long. To me, a step outside of my bedroom in my parents’ house was an opportunity to be ridiculed, physically abused or torn down for the betterment of others’ self esteem. The only way to ensure my safety was to never leave. Unfortunately, that’s what I did for too long. The reality is that I wanted to end my life.

Then I discovered comics.

cover of UNCANNY X-MEN issue #137 written by Chris Claremont, something we discuss in our comic book podcast
One of the first X-Men comics I ever read.

 

The first comics I picked up were UNCANNY X-MEN, X-FACTOR and NEW MUTANTS. Though I was often confused by X-Men’s sophistication, I was quickly entranced by Marvel’s idea that mutants were people who had powers and used them for the betterment of the world. Sadly, there haven’t been any socially awkward obese Puerto Rican/Italian mutants for me to connect with, but I was still enamored.

I didn’t understand at the time, but now I realize what I was doing: I was learning. I was learning French phrases that writer, Chris Claremont, had the X-Men say. I was learning about cultures and people that I had only a brief overview of in school. I was learning that a person could be different and hated, yet maybe they had something special. At a time when I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere, when I didn’t feel like I had a family or community, I had X-Men, and they were my family. It wasn’t just an escape from anxiety and terror at school, but a way to focus on being a better person, despite what people said about me and how they treated me. There were communities that became families like the X-Men and accepted each other and their faults and physical and racial differences and learned to love one another. That was how I learned how to treat a romantic partner the right way. That was where I learned how to be a better human being. That was where I learned to accept myself.

LISTEN: Grant Morrison’s NEW X-MEN Analysis Comic Book Podcast 

At ComicsVerse, we consider our role with the comic book community to be gate keepers of comic book mythology. We want to help people like me who went through difficult and turbulent times have a place to commune with the kinds of comic books that saved me.  In my case, as I know in many others, the crux of that offer, the promise, is ever intertwined with what can be as profound as life itself.

I never forgot what comics meant to me. In 2012, after my first semester at Columbia University, I enrolled in a course titled “Comic Books and Graphic Novels as Literature.” It was there that I first read Scott McCloud’s definitive graphic novel on comic book theory — UNDERSTANDING COMICS, and comics opened up to me, a second time in my life, in an entirely new and fascinating way. I became aware of the visual language of comics and began to understand facets of its nature, piece by piece, for the first time. Through the class, I was treated to learning about all new and different types of comics from around the world as well as America. I saw comics as what they were, a medium of expression with superhero comics and memoir (something the comics medium does best) as genres of that medium.

cover of UNDERSTANDING COMICS by Scott McCloud, what we based our comic book podcast on
Read UNDERSTANDING COMICS by Scott McCloud, it will change the way you look at comics.

 

It was in that class that I met then graduate student and current Marvel Comics Assistant Editor, Kathleen Wisneski, with whom I instantly bonded over mutual love of comics. Together, we created the ComicsVerse comic book podcast, and I created ComicsVerse.com. Little did we know, ComicsVerse would grow into a community of thousands across various social media platforms, and our comic book podcast would be listened to internationally. Our podcast aims to do two things: have fun and talk about comics in the way we want to talk about them.  That means an analytical and in-depth discussion that takes comics seriously as a high art form.

A year or so later, Travis Czap joined the team as Editor-in-Chief, ensuring all written content on ComicsVerse adheres to our policies of fun and in-depth inspection. After setting up our editorial system, we brought Jake Grubman on as Editor-in-Chief when Travis decided to move to the comic book movies and television section. Recently, several interns have risen to top positions in the company: Jamie Rice (content editor) and Kay Honda (Production Coordinator) .  Together, as comic book enthusiasts and creators ourselves with deep ties to the comics medium, we make up the executive core of ComicsVerse to this day.

Through exhibiting in New York City at the Special Edition: NYC Comic Convention (where we covered the event more than any other news source twice in a row) and conducting interviews with creators from Marvel, DC, Image and indie comics for the last several years while attending New York Comic Con, Boston Comic Con and Wizard World: Philadelphia, ComicsVerse has developed into a community of comic book fans, collectors, artists, writers, educators and theorists that ever aims to achieve the goal of greater comic book acceptance by increasing awareness of the depth of the medium to levels seen in Japan or France where one out of every fourth book sold is a graphic novel or comic book.

READ: “No More Mutants” Why the X-Men Should Stop Creating New Characters and Focus on Old Characters

ComicsVerse has achieved a place in the comic book industry as an influencer that guards and protects the medium for readers and takes it, and its creators, seriously as artists and writers. Our analyses and reviews never insult or demean a comic, story arc or creator. If we disagree with something, we back it up with constructive criticism and love for the talented people who put themselves out there (and many times in not great working conditions) to create comic book works of art. While we revel in geek and nerd culture, that’s not what we’re doing at ComicsVerse. Our focus is on how comics are made, the language of comics that tells us about a work, the artistic processes and inspirations behind the creator(s), and simply what comics are about — opening people up to new cultures, ideas, and ways of thinking that could have major impacts on how they live their lives and perceive the world.

We thoroughly enjoy being in a position to help creators raise awareness and draw attention to their work. Whether it’s helping an up and coming creator by featuring their Kickstarter campaign in a blog entry, or in our comic book podcast about a graphic novel you may not have heard of that has a deep emotional core that bares examination, or if we’re making a video about a popular Marvel or DC comic book that would be great for those new to comics to read, we love helping people. After all, that’s why I created ComicsVerse, and our comic book podcast, to begin with, and that’s why I was lucky enough to discover the amazing team of people I currently work with who share the same ethics, goals and connection with comics as I do.

The ComicsVerse Family at Special Edition: NYC, many of whom were on our comic book podcast
A small portion of the ComicsVerse Family at Special Edition: NYC.

 

Recently, an intern approached me after conducting an interview and sat me down. They began to describe how they were feeling. Working a job surrounded by narcissistic, selfish people and feeling lost after graduating university with degrees in art, film, and writing, they were no longer creating art of any kind. This person told me that they had surrendered themselves to the world, giving up on their dreams as they endured a devastating depression and crippling anxiety they had trouble escaping.  I was instantly reminded of, not only myself, but the mutant experience in X-Men comics I grew up reading as the person continued to describe how they didn’t fit in anywhere. Before I went to console them, they told me that ComicsVerse had, in a way, “saved [their] life.” How, by exposing them to writing about comics and a community of people who feel the same way about them as they do, they slowly began to write again and make art, allowing for the self-expression so necessary for an artistic and emotional mind to survive in a world full of public personas and find joy and peace. They told me that they finally felt part of a community that understood them, a community that was a family, a family exactly like the one I read about in X-Men comics.  Upon hearing the end of the sentence, I was holding back tears.

The next day, I texted my father as I always do. This time, I said I had something to tell him. I told him what our intern told me. Knowing the depression and unhappiness I lived with before starting ComicsVerse myself, my father said he was moved. Then he said something an awkward, dorky, untalented and completely non-athletic son of a sports figure and confident, tough NYPD detective always dreamed of hearing:  “I couldn’t be more proud of you if you were the best football player in the world.” Again, I found myself holding back tears. Not only did I gain an escape from my life and a route to a better and more educated way of thinking but the life changing moment with my father was almost equally joined by another realized experience, helping others against all odds, against humanity’s own nature of self-preservation and penchant for self-absorption, being a part of helping another human being lift themselves from the depths of despair and self-loathing we all understand too well as people is the most divine experience we can have on this earth. No matter what religion or lack of religion or culture or race or sexuality or gender or part of the world you live in, helping people is the pinnacle of the human experience, not because of how gratifying or validating it is, but because the act of helping someone, as cheesy as it may sound, is truly and honestly it’s own reward, and, in my case, it’s all because of comics.

Very truly yours,
Justin Gilbert Alba, ComicsVerse CEO