True BelieversYour loyal critic

"Greetings, True Believers!"

Now read that again, this time in Stan Lee's voice.  That's the meaning of this column.  

Stan Lee, if you don't already know, is the creator of some of our greatest superheroes, and one of the best comic book writers in the history of the genre. He used to welcome his readers to his comic books with catch phrases like "Excelsior!" and "'Nuff said!". But I always liked that he referred to his readership as the "True Believers."  I'm not sure if that was capitalized or not, but my dodgy memory, mixed with the apathy that it takes to Google it says that it probably was. If it wasn't, my choice is better.  

Stan Lee always made me feel like I was part of some special club. Other people thought that his stories were disposable, but I never did.  After all, I was one of the true believers. I felt a part of a secret club that was unabashedly proud of what I liked, and that was always cool for me.  

When my editor asked me for a Catholic title to this new television/movies/media column, I immediately thought about "True Believers." That's what I want this column to be. I want to have this fun little club where we Catholics can discuss movies and comic books and episodes / seasons of TV, completely proud of what we like. We may not always agree on what to like. But I always want my readers to fully embrace and be proud of what they like. Now, if you tell me that what you like is better than what I like, that's where I'll get moody and whine to my wife.

It's weird how Stan Lee has influenced our culture so much. It's mind-boggling to me that people probably recognize a Stan Lee cameo in a movie sooner than they would recognize an Alfred Hitchcock cameo. That guy has got it made. I have a photo of Stan Lee and myself in my classroom.  My buddy Sean is in the photo too. We're both giving the camera a thumbs up. Sean has an intentional deer-in-headlights look.  I have a cheesy, self-aware grin.  

That photo of us and Stan Lee hangs under my framed diplomas and degrees.  My students don't tend to notice all of my accolades. They do notice Stan Lee. I consider that photo of Stan Lee to be on my list of achievements. I met Stan Lee. Sure, I paid through the nose to see him and the truth is that he might have responded when I said "Hello", but that's part of my dodgy memory. That guy is awesome, either way.  

I have his voice so firmly rooted in my brain from the days when I had a stack of comic books piled up on a table, as I waited for my dad to get out of his chemotherapy sessions when I was a kid.  

I have never really gotten into sports, no matter how hard I've tried. I'm not trying to turn away the sports crowd. I always consider that just another kind of nerdiness, despite the fact that it is perhaps the most socially acceptable fandom. I am perplexed that people can wear jerseys to Mass. If I wore a fez, a bow tie, and a sonic screwdriver to Mass, I'd get looks.  And that's even a scenario where I'm still wearing a tie to Church. But stories have always interested me. I invest. I have to.  

I tend to like a lot of things, which may not be the best trait for a critic, but I can't help it. But that disposition also asks me to hold up my views to a higher standard. Characters always need to be real for me.  The world needs to follow a set of rules, regardless of how unrealistic those rules may be. I also tend to look at the morality of the media I consume.  I'm not talking about criticizing Hollywood or about agendas or all of that. When there is an agenda, I tend to roll my eyes and invest in the story, despite this obvious element in the room.  But I try look at a character's sense of morality even when the creator isn't thinking about it.  Don't get me started about Harry Potter and his consequence free use of an unforgivable curse.

I write because I love it. I read because I invest. I watch and allow my cares to fade away. All I ask from you, the reader, is to have fun with the things you consume. Have a good time and talk with others. Be respectful, have fun, and feel free to feel.  Lord knows that I try.

In the words of Stan Lee: "'Nuff said."

True Believers is a new media column from Catholic News Agency.  Look for new columns weekly.

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