It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s at Yale!

“Face front, true believers!”

For anyone not entrenched in the comic book nerd realm, that was one of the great sign-offs of the famous Marvel Comics creator, Stan Lee. I’m calling on your attention because everyone needs to know about the comic book and superhero culture that can be found at Yale.

Academically, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to use comic books and Yale has more comic book and graphic novel resources than I ever would have expected. In Bass Library, our underground library with thousands of books and publications, has an entire section at its entrance reserved for comic books and graphic novels. They range from large and independent comic imprints (from Marvel to Dark Horse)  to collections of newspaper comic strips (like Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes) to amazing graphic novels (likes one on Martin Luther King, Jr. or on elaborate fantasy worlds). For the past two years, I have used comics like Spider-Man to write final research papers related to topics of childhood, media and education; each resource I needed to write these were offered to me by Yale’s library system.

The Comics and Graphic Novels shelf at Bass Library.

Apart from what I can find in the depths of Bass Library, New Haven has an amazing comic book store called Alternate Universe, which I visited last week with one of my best friends, Nate. The store has endless rows and shelves of comic books and even holds cool events that comic book creators will come to in order to meet fans. It is right on the corner of Chapel and Park street in New Haven, which is one of the spots where Yale’s campus and New Haven residences meet. So, it not only serves as a place to buy amazing new stories, but also as a bridging location between Yale students and New Haven community members that all love the chance to collect some graphic novels or comic book novelties.

Shelves stocked with comic books, graphic novels and other merchandise.

Even in passing, New Haven and Yale have moments when the heroic and artistic nature of this space is so bright and uplifting. This weekend, when walking through the New Haven Arts and Ideas Festival’s Open Market, I met an artist named RZP from Waterbury, CT who made amazing collage and pop art that was focused on comic book characters. One of his paintings is most definitely going to be the highlight of my suite’s wall decorations in the fall.

RZP's booth at the open market, featuring a painting of Iron Man in a retro comic book style.

Aside from RZP, I’ve had many encounters with two close friends (their names will not be disclosed to protect their secret identities) dressed up as Batman and Robin as they’ve delivered candy and donuts to people on the street and in the libraries during finals period. They love to run around and offer some entertainment and “superheroics” to people as they study for exams or write papers.

"Batman" with a box of donuts, posing with a student with a whole donut hanging out of his mouth.

I’m always reminded of superheroes when I’m at Yale and New Haven, either from conversations with friends, from reading comic books or from seeing amazing New Haven residents and Yale students being heroic and kind on a daily basis. We may not live in a comic book world, but there sure are enough ways to feel surrounded by heroes here.

“Excelsior!” (That’s another Stan Lee thing.)