When I was young I endured one failure after another. I skated around C’s, D’s and E’s on report cards from grade school through high school, unable to interest myself in anything I was being taught. And that’s a key point, if I wasn’t interested in what I was learning, I seemingly couldn’t or wouldn’t learn it. I was diagnosed with Dyslexia and sent to a boarding school to address my problem. I was expelled from the 1st and 2nd boarding school because, like before, I wouldn’t learn and just kept getting in trouble with the other dysfunctional rebels around me.

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Hindsight being 20/20, I recall that what I was able to focus on was only that which intrigued, interested, or fascinated me. At the time it was comic books only ! One of the comic drawings that sticks with me to today, that really moved me, was this one below of the Dark Phoenix consuming a populated world from another solar system, full of life, to satiate her pain and uncontrollable desires. I’m reminded of it because just last month a 200 million dollar feature film was created by 20th Century FOX (the company I work for) based on this very 25 cent comic book that inspired me as a 10 year old kid when nothing else could.

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Now the film was not a commercial success, and I’m sure it does not resonate with others, especially adults as it did with me at 10. However, what is attempted here, successfully or not is of primary interest to me, the underlying narrative. This exhausting (for some, not me) deluge of Marvel Comics films was going to happen as from a young age I could see there was a treasure trove of stories in these 25 cent comics. Especially these stories from Marvel were infectious because they dealt with the plight of the antihero, the disenfranchised, the outcasts. And like me, and a lot of you I’m guessing, at some point or another you simply didn’t fit in, and felt marginalized. Maybe that you had power that nobody could comprehend, or was willing to acknowledge ? Whatever the case, these universal desires and reflections resonate within all of us.

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For me, the comics paved the way to other art forms which dealt with similar themes. Rock and Roll and the Blues came next, which resound with stories of the underdog eventually becoming liberated and empowered. The “failure” to rise to his/her true station ! And something even more substantial and of underlying psychological import, that individuals who are depressed, alone, independent thinkers, could find another path to the light. That for those the path prescribed simply could not suit them, yet the path less travelled was accessible, even preferable, was open to them. This road was reserved even for the rebels, the outcasts, and the anti-hero’s.

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So it was down this road I went, and through this path I found artists who turned me on to all the forms which inspire and lift me up to this day. Movies, Music, Literature, all fill me up and carry me through the struggles we all endure, and ones with these themes I suppose attract me the most. Through reading biographies of Bob Dylan and others I came back around and was turned onto literature and poetry which I’d never been interested in before. One line from a poem by Dylan Thomas I’ve always related to, which encapsulates the theme of this article is :

“In shapes of sin forked out the bearded apple”

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I took that to mean that it is through our failures and our sins, as we reflect on them, do we become wise, ironically through our innocent, uncontrived experience. Now whether Dylan intended it as such or not, I don’t care, because like most works of art and expression, our imagination draws its own pictures and conclusions. The point being, that in my early years feeling like I could do nothing right, I was drawn or headed down a path which led me to what I was ultimately looking for, and presumably wouldn’t have arrived at such without those seemingly unfortunate feelings and estrangements.

 

As the late Joseph Campbell wrote of an Eskimo Shaman “the only true wisdom lives far from mankind, out in the great loneliness, and can be reached only through suffering. Privation and suffering alone open the mind to all that is hidden from others”.

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So if you watch, or ignore altogether, these Superhero movies and quickly discount them as being worthless commercial fodder, as being juvenile, know that sometimes there is gold in them there woods, if only for the lost kid whose looking for something to relate to in this sea of confusion that is today’s landscape. These are universal ideas, myths of today reflecting our current affairs, and myths of yesterday being retold through film. When they are done right, they can transcend, when done wrong they are nothing more than silly commercials with odd characters dressed in spandex hawking toys and lunch boxes.

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But for me, I remember what they were, and like that recent film “The Dark Phoenix”, a troubled soul with power she is unable to control, who must die to be reborn from the ashes of her prior life … and then (sorry, I won’t spoil it)… for me they were an escape into something … somewhere … more interesting than where I was. A path forward through my imagination as opposed to arrested development, stuck in the prison of my mind. And if you have kids who aren’t “taking the program” (in Matrix terms), consider that whatever interests them is keeping their mind flowing, their imagination working, and it is Good!

Dylan Thomas – Incarnate Devil
https://hellopoetry.com/poem/134/incarnate-devil/

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