On January 8th, 2014, something special happened. January 8th was a Wednesday, and it was also the second day back to school for my son after the winter recess vacation. School resumed on Monday, January sixth, but due to extreme frigid weather school was cancelled on Tuesday the seventh. With this day off we used Tuesday to continue our clean up. This year my son had two full weeks off of school, after a very exciting holiday break our home still looked like Christmas morning. We tend to celebrate the entire month of December, which makes December a very crazy but extremely fun month.
As Tuesday night came to a close my son and I followed our normal ritual. After he showers and brushes his teeth I meet him in his bedroom, we exchange thoughts about the day; I always ask him if he is ready for tomorrow and then I tuck him in with our last verbal exchange being, “I love you, buddy,” followed by my son saying “I love you, too.” During our exchange my son reminded me that his Batman comic would be released for sale on Wednesday, even without my son finishing his statement I knew he wanted to know if I could go and get one for him during the day. His anticipation for wanting me to go early was due to this being the 27th issue of the Batman Detective Comic Book series.
Back in 1939, Detective Comics (better Known as DC Comics) introduced one of their most famed Characters, Batman, created by a gentleman named Bob Kane. Batman would make his first appearance in the 27th issue in May of 1939, some 75 years ago. In September of 2011, DC comics made a business move that would help the company reach a new demographic of comic book readers while simultaneously revitalize their beloved roster of superheroes. This campaign was called “The New 52,” which began with DC “cancelling all of their existing titles, revamping them and then relaunching all  of these titles” again with each title starting with issue number one. When this happen my son was nine years old and in his third year of collecting comics and this unprecedented moment allowed him to purchase number one issues of his favorite superhero characters. His three comics he wanted to follow were Action Comics, which features Superman, Detective Comics, which features Batman and Justice League, which include them both.
Since the launch of The New 52 my son had anticipated that when Batman reaches his beginning issue (#27) again DC is going to create a special comic, and he was right because when I bought the comic for him it stood out among all other comic books on the stand, it was gorgeous. Not only was the comic gorgeous it was bigger than the previous comics in this series. I knew my son might die from excitement when he saw the cover. In my adulthood I have found extreme, personal joy when seeing the excitement of my son or wife when I can surprise them, and even with just celebrating the holiday it was still priceless to see my son’s reaction when he got home from school and said, “Dada, YOU GOT IT.” And yes, my son calls me Dada— not dad, not Daddy, not my first name or last, but Dada (it sounds more like, Data). And being Dada has come to represent something unique in how I relate to my son as his parent.
For whatever reason, at the age of twelve my son’s interest is Batman, the story of a young Billionaire named Bruce Wayne, who at the age of six loss both of his parents to violence. In Wayne’s quest to find resolution to the tragic death of his parents he becomes Batman. This tale and all that is connected to it is a major part of my parenting, and in taking up the task to meet my son in this fictional world creates a unique relationship for us in our reality.
There are so many concepts and behaviors to parenting, but for me one important aspect of parenting centers on how we identify what our children value. For example, all of the information I have provided about Batman and this 27th anniversary issue is all coming off the top of my head, an extemporaneous writing based on my conversations and comic book shopping trips with my 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and now 12-year-old son; a six-year excursion that allows me to understand the importance of Wednesday, January 8th, 2014.
Years of intimate conversations about Bruce Wayne (Batman), Dick Grayson (1st Robin) and Alfred Pennyworth (World famous Butler of the Wayne family) allows a dad a glimpse into the mind of his son, enough access to know the reason his son wanted him to go get the book early was because he thought this comic book was going to sellout, and if we waited until he got home from school (4:30pm) the true comic book fans would have already emptied the shelves. Without any details my own presumption of what my son would be thinking the night before one of his treasured book series came out already provided me this insight and, whether my assumption was wrong or accurate at the very least I would be present in some form.
Knowing your child is not always about the collective. Every year we receive so many mixed messages as parents as to where we should place value and what should be important to our children, but one important aspect of knowing your child is recognizing what has peak their curiosity in our 3 dimensional world and as a parent how can I help foster this interest (in some cases how can I detour this interest). Bruce Wayne might be fictional to the world around us but he is real in our household, I know the man’s educational background, his family history, workout regiment, his company’s business model and I even know his diet. Bruce Wayne’s world has bridged a number of conversations between the world of Gotham City and the world my son and I inhabit, and this allows me a multitude of conversations that helps me better know my son in a way that is unique to us.
As an African-American father it is very important for me to respect this uniqueness. At twelve years old my son is coming closer and closer to entering the prime of adolescence and it is only a matter of time before his social community becomes somewhat more central than his dad. And unfortunately that community is still disproportionately govern by white citizens who struggle, and flat-out fail to embrace a more complex or, at the least a humane imagination in regards to how they view Black children that cross their path–in particular, Black males. This is compounded with a significant amount of the Black community, who in pure Hiphop technique and fashion have sampled some of the core tenets of white supremacy, accompanied with a list of “respectability politics” they believe the millennium generation needs in order to reclaim the dream of the civil rights generation.
This heavily complicates the community my son will be developing his independence in; a young man with unlimited mental ink and the natural ability to create the character and write the script of his heart’s desire will still have to set up production within the location of unresolved racial history and arbitrary scripts of white superiority and black inferiority, with way too many casting directors and producers. If Janelle Monae is right and life “is a play with no rehearsal,” my son and I will not only have to “dance,” but live “apocalyptic” with the complexity of love that will still positively nurture our culture in the face of this racial assault, for it will always allow us to read from the page of our unique relationship.
Bruce Wayne will not always be central to the dialogue between my son and I, but he is a part of the trajectory of intimacy that began when my son was born, when it wasn’t about “Master Wayne,” but it was about Elmo, Simba, Dora, Mickey, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, Popeye, Tom & Jerry and Scooby. Good old Scooby and Rhaggy. In the years to come the sharing of Bruce Wayne sets us up to remain in conversation for the bigger challenges, the sharing of personal joys and a level of trust in the times of vulnerability, never taking for granted that each raindrop of experience has allowed us to remain visible to one another in the storm of life. So no matter how small Bruce Wayne might appear to other communities I have to respect the man because he has a positive relationship with my son.
For the rest of the world Wednesday, January 8th, 2014, was just another day. The most pressing issue on the news was the frigid weather across the nation and former defense secretary Robert Gates’ inclusion of President Obama in his memoir, but we didn’t see any national discussion on Batman, nor the significance of this anniversary issue, but for my son that day was extraordinary and in knowing my child it was important for me to know that, even more important than buying him the book. But I did buy him the book, because I’m a unique Dada!!!
Love & Harmony (Fighting for the preservation of Childhood memories.)
Thank you, sir!