Tom Beland is a comic book artist and writer. I met him a few years ago at the MoCCA Fest. He may be best known for his TRUE STORY SWEAR TO GOD series which has gotten multiple Eisner nominations. Maybe you have seen it.
Tom lives in California and writes and draws comics for IDW, and also works sometimes in a comic book store. Tom knows comics, and intuitively understands their appeal.
Here is a true story (Natch!) he wrote on his Facebook page just last week about something that happened there. This will, as they say, warm your cockles. It reminds us of the beauty of diversity and that we are all more alike than we are different, despite what politicians are saying this election year.
I asked Tom if I could share this on my blog, and he said it would be fine, adding, "I think it's been shared it about 700 times. Kind of mind blowing."
Here is Tom Beland:
"On Friday afternoon, a Muslim couple, with their kids in tow, came into the store to look around. Dad wanted to pick up a couple of books and the kids did what all kids do. The younger ones ran nuts all over the place, while the daughter, around 12, was walking around with her mom.
"It's not often you get this type of opportunity, so I walked over to her and asked if she read comic books and the daughter said "a few." She was new to them and was liking a few. I asked her if she's read Ms. Marvel.
"She said no and I said, 'I think it's always cool when you see yourself represented in a comic book with respect.' I told her about Kamala Khan, a Muslim girl living in New Jersey. I told her how the Inhumans' Terrigen Mists triggered her latent Inhuman abilities, which allow her to morph her body in all different ways. I told her it was one of my favorite books because of Kamala and how her family is represented in the book.
"Ms. Marvel, to me, is that perfect book for a girl who wants to read the Peter Parker experience through a female's eyes. Nerdy girl gets empowered and has to figure out how to keep everything a secret while maintaining life at school and home. And her family is beautifully represented in this book, because it shows how normal a Muslim household can be. It takes the veil of mystery out of the family life, which, I believe, makes her one of THE most important characters created in the past decade.
The girl looked at it and then ended up buying all three trade paperbacks to catch her up to the series. Mom and I spoke about my experience doing Ramadan and how amazing the feast was at the end of it. I asked her about her Burqa and does it get hot (nope... keeps her cool as can be) and if her daughter was excited to wear one (yes). They all bought their books and the daughter said to the mom, 'I have a superhero now.' Quietly spoken, filled with pride.
(Above: The cover of the second Ms. Marvel collection, MS. MARVEL GENERATION WHY written by G. Willow Wilson and art by Adrian Alphona. Copyright Marvel, natch!)
"Comics should be about inclusion. Of giving the outsider and chance to be part of the party. It's a community built on the backs of nerds and dweebs and who become creators and fans. I was like that in school and when I discovered Peter Parker, it just felt perfect. I have loved Spider-Man my entire life. He's bigger than Jesus to me. Those books gave me a break from all the bad stuff going on in my childhood. If Peter could get through the day, it was a victory. I learned that from him.
"I don't know... it just felt good to see her walking out the door with a book that did the same thing to a little girl who saw herself in a superhero just like her.
"They invited me to their mosque down the street and I said I'd do it. I hope she digs the book."