The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Did You Know Batman’s a Dad?
Comic books got me hooked on reading
Ian Aluns

In elementary school, I struggled with reading. I felt self-conscious reading in the presence of my classmates, who could already read books at grade level. I would look up from my book at the other kids and think to myself, “I’ll never get better at this.”

My mom tried to encourage me to read hoping it would accelerate my progress.

“Iaaaaaan! I need you to cooperate with meeeeee,” she’d sing in a high-pitched voice, dancing back and forth like one of the Supremes, holding some book. This was how she tried to motivate me. “Read these books to excel in your grade lehhhhh-vehhhl!”

“Aw, why do I have to do this?” I’d whine.

Then she’d lose patience. She’d give me a furious look, slam the books down on the table, and say in a threatening voice, “Read. Now.”

So I did. It took a while, but by the time I was 10 I had caught up and was reading just as well as the other kids. I still wasn’t really interested in reading, though. Until I discovered comic books.

Transported to New Worlds

After watching a few comic book channels on the Internet, I decided to check out my local comic book store. Inside were stacks of comics sitting on the shelves with the covers showing different heroes and eclectic styles of animation.

A little voice whispered, “Please buy me.” I whispered back, “Yes I will.” When I opened one called “Batman Court of Owls,” I realized there was more to my favorite superheroes, Batman and Spiderman, than I’d learned from watching movies. I was intrigued enough to buy the book.

When I got home I bolted out of my dad’s car, ran up the stairs to my room, and jumped onto my bed positioning myself to read. Once I started reading it, I was transported to another reality.

I found out so many things about the superhero genre that weren’t covered in the movies I’d seen. For example, I found out that Batman had a son. While I was reading I thought to myself, “Any book that doesn’t make me fall asleep is a stroke of genius.”

image by YC-Art Dept

I discovered that I liked comics that either told stories about a certain superhero’s life, or how humanity survived after an apocalypse. It was interesting to think about the world ending and another world blooming, even if it happened in a dark, grim place.

Writing My Own Comics

Comic books inspired me to read books in other genres, like mystery and fantasy books. And they also led me to creative writing.

I started writing my own stories. So far, I have two ideas for series; one I call “John and Sammy” and another, “Second Coming.” I dedicated myself to learning about the art of writing, like developing characters and the atmosphere and setting of the story. I started paying more attention to how novels are written in a quest to find my own particular style.

The world that I live in is nothing compared to these worlds that were made by a pencil and paper. Comic book writers are always thinking of ways to surprise their readers, like killing off a favorite character like Batman, only to bring him back a month later saying, “Gotcha! He’s not really dead!”

I don’t want to live out my long years being something as common as an accountant. I want my life to be bountiful, limitless, and unique, the kind of existence that will cause me to look back and say, “I lived my life to the fullest.” Comic books give me that feeling of possibility. Now I aspire to be the boss of my own comic book publishing company, a ruler of my own small kingdom.

Toward a Better Planet

Comic books have also helped me imagine how the world could be better. Sometimes I get tired of this world controlled by greedy people like corrupt politicians, and bitter, violent groups like the Islamic State. In the world of comics, the villains always get what they deserve. I want to be a writer so I can make worlds that people wish were possible.

In my comics, I want to create a world of superheroes who are praised and revered like gods for unifying the entire world. They will combat beliefs and conduct that plague humanity like racism, corruption, and greed. These heroes will fight to save us from ourselves and guide us to world peace with their powerful support, a dream I wish would happen in the real world.

In real life, we often revere people who are less deserving of being elevated to hero status than heroic comic book characters, like celebrities and politicians. In my writing, I want to build characters that teach great lessons in true leadership, people who care for the public and show justice, patience, and determination.

And not least, I hope my comic books will inspire struggling readers like me to read more, instead of just calling it quits.

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