Tales of Adequacy No. 1000 (I’m Still Standing)
I’m writing this post, the thousandth installment of Tales of Adequacy, listening to Elton John. His lyrics speak pretty directly to the milestone feeling that this HUGE issue number has attached:
“Don’t you know I’m still standing,
better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor,
feeling like a little kid
I’m still standing
after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life
without you on my mind.”
The lyrics speak to me on multiple levels. Adequacy is a huge project, one that has made me a better artist, and at the end of the day, a fundamentally better person. It has provided an outlet for frustration, for anger, for professional discomfort that is both harmless and constructive. It has provided a way by which I can comment on the failures of the educational system with a bit of sarcasm, a dash of hope, and hopefully some whimsy. It has given me a platform by which I can focus on what is best and worst in the medium that I love, comics.
This past year, Adequacy got me in no small amount of trouble. Even without any names attached, there was an attempt to use against me in the educational arena. I’m still not going to get into those details here, and I’ve never mentioned it before. As soon as I found out about that, I considered taking the site down, for a few tough hours.
Free speech is important, though. It is our FIRST right, in the First Amendment. My political views, my right to artistic expression…they are Constitutionally protected. The thing is…it’s scary when that comes up. A bit terrifying.
The whole thing actually blew over without me knowing about it. I found out afterward, and it still scared me a bit. Still…it made me think about what I’m trying to teach my students. The idea that their opinions matter, and that by writing something, they have real power in the world. The concept that art and literature give them a voice, a voice more powerful and important than they can imagine.
It would have been hugely hypocritical of me to “blink” on that point. To flinch, and silence my own voice, because of politics, or pressure. In order to be a teacher that isn’t completely full of @#$%, I couldn’t fold on my own creation because of those things…even if the kids would never know about it.
The fortitude to stick with it was huge. More than anything, it has made me a better, stronger person, and a better teacher. Not enough of us in the profession do what we ask students to do, and actually stand up for things we believe in, despite pressure.
I think that’s what superheroes exist to teach us. Simple moral stories about standing up for what’s right. Basic moralistic tales about the few standing up to the many, especially when the many are wrong, or corrupt. Luridly told stories of courage, of how the best of us would behave under perfect conditions.
Clark Kent doesn’t reveal his sources. Bruce Wayne would never tell anyone that Clark is really Superman. Mr. Spock sacrifices himself so that everyone else on the Enterprise can live…and then in turn, his friends break every rule to come to his rescue, because it’s what you do. Comics are about values, at their core.
Now, after about a year worth of time with naught but conflict at school, that conflict is over. At the end of it, I’m still there, my co-teacher is still there. Adequacy is a concern that goes on. Over half the staff are gone or replaced, and we have another principal. There is a huge amount of rebuilding to do.
I’ve been thinking about Star Trek a whole lot, and reading a lot of Star Trek comics. Watching episodes. When the Enterprise is blown up, destroyed, or run aground on a planet, they either fix it up from scratch, or build a new one. Both of those things take time, but they speak to the idea of renewal, of rebirth, that is important for me to keep in mind.
The whole thing gets me thinking of part of the poem “If–” by Rudyard Kipling:
“If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;”
My students had done a huge wall mural project of this poem…which was recently torn down and replaced by tagging from local gang members. That was depressing, but I have more or less gotten past it, because of the section quoted above. According to Kipling, you need to get past it, it is imperative. The section of the poem though…it speaks to how some people tried to use Adequacy itself, to change the meaning, the purpose. It speaks to the gamble that going on embodied, and the hard work that goes into both teaching where I do, and the Adequacy project.
With all of the setbacks, unlike some, “I’m still standing.” Once again, thank you, Elton John.
Sadly, the New 52 is a bit of a problem to me in this context. Action Comics, by DC, would have been the single highest issue number superhero comic in publication, without the New 52 coming. About when I started teaching where I am now, DC cancelled and renumbered their entire line. Tales of Adequacy started to post three months later.
Without that interruption of service, Action Comics would be at Issue No. 943 this month. Instead, I am staring at Issue No. 37 on stands. It would have been a milestone, months ago, to have more issues in the hopper than Superman (he first appeared in Action Comics No. 1, 1938) but the date blew by, unnoticed. There was too much work drama, and the renumbering removed the “event” status.
Still…this is the One Thousandth issue. Even with adversity and potential censorship, we are here…and Action comics isn’t Given the very Marvel-centric nature of the lead art…I felt I needed to draw something that reflects the deep influence that DC Comics, and Superman, have had on me.
I also felt that it should reflect my feelings on the New 52.
Without further preamble…
I still wear the Silver Age Superman’s symbol on me, in some way, every day. I’m still committed to the idea that I need to hold to its values at school, more than any other thing. The Documentary about Charter Schools, “Waiting for Superman,” provided my main reasoning…although I’d been wearing the symbol for long before.
In it, a grown man explains how the worst day of his life was as a boy, when his mother told him that Superman wasn’t real. He had been waiting, in a bad neighborhood, for Superman to show up, and fix everything. When he found out that no one was coming, and no one was powerful enough to fix those problems, it broke his heart.
My students deserve a superhero. Maybe everyone does. Teachers were mine…so its all about paying it back. That having been said, I’m STILL not fond of the New 52. This Superman is too “rough around the edges,” and I hate the idea that Superman is distrusted in the same way that the X-Men are. He’s Superman. When the big red S shows up…you’re going to be okay. That’s what it’s all about.
Still…even with DC Comics not being something I’m easily able to get behind, even with the trials and tribulations of the past year or so at school, it’s hard not to feel like the proverbial Belle of the Ball. At the end of a huge, acrimonious conflict on site, my co teacher and I are back to doing truly rewarding student activities, such as Hobbitpalooza, our Japanese Tea Ceremony, and Mock Trial. All of this in the past six weeks, once a sort of cloud had been lifted.
All in all, despite the harsh daily trials, it seems like we might be entering a fair time, a “building of Camelot” sort of era. That also might be far too positive…I know for a fact I was ready to quit on the spot about two weeks ago. Still..it’s one thing to want to quit, and another to actually do it. Since then, I found a class set of “The Once and Future King” hidden away in a forgotten room on campus. Maybe that’s where this “building of Camelot” feeling has come from.
Regardless, now in the middle of my co-teacher’s Medieval Europe unit in history, I’m thinking I’d like to do some faux stained glass window art with a few students. It’s not all that hard, really beautiful, and would allow me to spend quality time with some excellent young people. The new principal loves the idea.
For me, it came from this art. One of my closest friends is a huge fan of Disney and Disney Comics, and another dear friend has played the Kingdom Hearts game all the way through, as I have. That game has some beautiful faux stained glass art as scene transitions. I took some real time on this, hoping that they would like it, and it would keep me motivated.
I’ve already made a pin of that, which I have been wearing. On the right side, in one of the circles, is the half robot @#$%bag from the first ever image. The man that inspired the whole endeavor is gone now…he passed on in the first year. I miss him…he was a controversial guy, who challenged me intellectually on a regular basis. Good people like that are hard to find.
The team that allowed our school to be successful has been dismantled. That doesn’t mean that we can’t be successful…it’s just that there was a team in place that got results. Those people have been driven out, have moved on. When I think of the people, and the comraderie in that early meeting where I drew the first Adequacy ever…its a good memory. It seems like so long ago, really, when it was only about three and a half years or so. Four at the outside…since this is our fourth year there, we that remain.
One Thousand issues is a lot of posts. The site is pretty popular, and there’s a bunch of hits every month. that’s from you, the readers, and for that…I have to say thank you. A lot of blogs and webcomics die out early on from a lack of reader support, and we haven’t had that. Still… the way I’ve had to write it, with no names of anything, ever, is restrictive in a different way. Several people that know me have no clue that the site even exists, or the kind of work that has gone into it. That’s pretty odd, and sometimes a little sad…it’s the largest single thing I have ever done. Well…with the exception of teaching.
They look happy, if just for a moment. Celebrating the thousandth issue, to be sure.
The question Ben Grimm has is pretty salient though…”What now?”
Right now…for about the next week, I’m creatively on fire. Given the way that the strip happens, I never really have any ideas past about a week in advance, so I can’t speak to any grand direction. I can say that for the forseeable future, Adequacy will continue to run…if only because I enjoy it, and a few months ago I briefly wondered whether I shouldn’t. That debate about my own free speech, where I almost blinked…sort of renewed the motivation to discipline myself to it.
Make no mistake. Six posts a week, with new art, is a brutal schedule with a day job. Still…it’s an excellent labor.
I considered doing a survey of popular posts, and so forth, like I have done in the past. That seemed less like what was needed here. I took some real time looking at the archives, and picking some images to put together into a big retrospective graphic. The selection criteria was idiosyncratic, with the one rule being about three images from each semester that the strip has been running. Here’s the image…
Never the End, indeed. Thanks for reading our humble strip, True Believers. Looking at that image, and seeing the depth of the archives, it’s has been a long, strange path.
As Stan Lee would say…Excelsior.