Self-Betterment Through Art: The Bright Side Of Quarantine – Part 2

Lukas Luna, Co-Copy Editor

In my search for another novel that spoke to me in the same way that The Great Gatsby did, I eventually came to the conclusion that no book would ever match it for me. While others may be more sharply written or have more to say, I could not replicate that feeling of having a story “click” with me for the first time. 


For a time, I was very satisfied with that end point. Rather than try in vain to replicate a unique connection, I would use the critical thinking skills Gatsby taught me to enjoy new and wholly different books. 


I cannot discount the joy those new books brought me. With the power of analytical thinking on my side, there seemed to be no story I could not conquer. I eagerly waded through my mixed feelings on Catcher In The Rye, became lost in the dream world of After Dark, and confronted my own deep-seated nihilism through the lens of science fiction with The Three-Body Problem. As someone who has always claimed to be a voracious reader, I found that I was now getting more out of my favorite past time than ever before. 


And it is what I got out of this time that casts it in such an idealistic light to me. For finally, after years of only doing it for fun, I was reading to educate myself. Not paging through non-fiction for statistics and the like, no, I was using fiction to discover how to become a better person. I read deeply into the themes and messages of various writers and felt as if they were personally imparting life lessons to me. Through these stories I found role models to emulate and tragic failings to avoid. 


Despite all these lessons I had learned from novels, what I consider to be the most important two lessons literature taught me did not come from prose. Instead it came from superhero comics. 


Though I had gained a new appreciation for the written word, I never looked down on the medium of comic books. It was a unique and fascinating art form in it’s own right that birthed many characters I love, but I had yet to find a story in the medium that clicked for me the same way all these wonderful novels had. 


Then I read Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman. 


Never did I expect to relive that formative experience of understanding a story for the first time with Gatsby again, but that is what happened here. In tales of The Caped Crusader doing battle with sinister evil-doers, I found themes and lessons that seemed just as deep as the late F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. 


Through these comics, I learned the aspirational power of the hero. How a character could inspire readers to better themselves not through tragic failings like Jay Gatsby, but through their own capacity for good. I learned the power of optimism, how always seeing the best in the world around you truly can lead to a healthy and happy life. And perhaps most importantly, I learned the virtue of perseverance, for most things worth doing are often hard and we can only better ourselves if we face them head on. 


I could wade through the underpinnings of writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo’s seminal work for pages and pages, but in a way, that is a betrayal of the material I praise. As one of the best marks in the comics favor is it’s simplicity. The ability it has to not get wrapped up in itself and let the understated writing and artwork speak for itself. It is because of this powerful trait that I doubt I will ever properly be able to do the genius of this work justice. 


After being thoroughly blown away by Batman, I could sense that my initial phase of literary discovery had come to an end. I would certainly continue to search for more stories that communicated some powerful message to me in the future, but I felt that none of those stories would ever air of newness and excitement that I saw everything with for that three month stretch. 


Instead of painfully choking this seemingly unfortunate development, I resolved that I would show the world this time was not wasted. I praised these stories for the lessons they taught me, so now it was time to apply them to my own life. 


So  here I am months later, changed for the better, all because of some books and comics. It may seem that it was only through some wild cosmic coincidence that I found these stories seemingly at a perfect point in my life, but I cannot discount the very real variables that landed me here. An English teacher who introduced me to one of the finest books ever written, a friendly clerk at the comic book store who assured me that the Batman stories from a few years were “awesome”, and a pandemic that gave me time to wade through all of it.