Before the age of 10, I was already very much into reading comic-books. I don’t quite recall how it started. Possibly my first illustrated magazine was a Disney-monthly. I can still remember the cover depicting numerous Disney characters posing in front of a backdrop of the iconic castle, with Mickey behind an upright camera ready to take the shot. I don’t know if the Disney periodical still exists as I’ve never seen the magazine on book-stands again. I had since long graduated from the cutesy humorous cast-members of Goofy, Donald, and friends.

My greatest love were superheroes. Back then it was the DC Comic-characters, published under Planet Comics in my early part of the world. The Marvel heroes had not made a great impression on me, although I was familiar with Hulk’s smash thanks to Lou Ferrigno on the tube. I was most enamoured with The Flash, a regular freedom-fighter for the Justice League of America. With bright red outfit and gold-lightning insignia on his chest, The Flash had powers of running at speeds quicker than the eye could see, able to vibrate through solid walls and travel back in time by moving through space faster than light.

These superheroes jump-started my fascination of the human body. The perfect male physique portrayed wide shoulders, thick deltoids, flaring pectorals, long torso, six-pack-abs, tear-drop thighs and sinewed calves. Those were superficial traits of a male-being that I had repeatedly tried to sculpt my body into, but have forever failed terribly with my stumpy 5’7” frame.

There were other types of illustrated books and periodicals that I enjoyed, like Mad Magazine with mascot Alfred E. Neuman, as well as the Archie Digests with my favourite clown, Jughead. I never, however, took to the Japanese Manga.

Fast forward twenty years and I have landed on the soils of North America. Birthplace of Superman. Supposedly the continent that house the legendary locales of Gotham City, Star City and Metropolis. Comic culture has become mainstream and graphic novels have become ever so sophisticated. The artists have never been more creative. With paper slick and glossy, images explode out of the pages. Story lines are more intriguing and emotionally complex. This culture has made legends out of names like Rip Kirby and Stan Lee. 

I got very much into following the series, “Spawn”, the demon-possessed vigilante created by Todd McFarlane. Oh so wickedly violent. Dark, brooding and disturbing. The series put the word “graphic” in a negative sense.

With the boom in comic-culture came the excesses. Merchandising, Hollywood productions and to top them all, Comic Conventions. Oh, these comic-cons. They are what unravelled me. The Comic-Con came to town one day and I thought it would be a shame to forego it. I expected flashy booths of beautiful artwork, intricate figurines and rows and rows of high-value back-catologue comics. Yeah, sure those were there… but most profound was something I didn’t care to associate myself with.

Cosplay participants! The word “cosplay” is either from the Japanese word “kosupure” or a short form of “costume play”. You get the idea. This was no costume-party joke. Not a masquerade ball. These guys (and gals) were serious. Passionate. Perfectionists. What a turn-off! Uber-wierd! These outer-space-heads truly lived and breathed their respective alter-egos. "That’s it", I thought, “no person in an Iron Man or Sailor Moon suit will convince me to be in the same room with them. No geekness in the world will even find me back at the comic book store where I started buying religiously those glossy pages!”


Several years have passed since that traumatic initiation. I still keep my old Spawn collection under my night-table. I’m keen on watching Batman, Thor and Spiderman when they hit the big screen. Once in a while I download graphic novels on my tablet, even though the sensation is not as wonderful as flipping actual paper and smelling ink. But most of all, the inspiration of running with athletic speed and perfect anatomy is still engrained in the mind, and just a workout away. 

January 2014

© Prakoso Sastrowardoyo 2012