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Making Friends With Your Ghosts

Editor’s Note: I’ve been working on this since the beginning of April, well before the recent knowledge of Jason Latour’s behavior became public knowledge. I believe and support all of his victims and victims of anyone else. 


Recently I was a guest on Bipolar and Surviving to talk to Dan Lis and his listeners about my experiences with anxiety and depression. That’s nothing new. I’ve talked about it before and I’ll probably talk about it again, and I’ll be as open as the host wants me to be about it.

Spider-Gwen #4 written by Seanan McGuire, art by Rosi Kampe and Takeshi Miyazawa

But Dan asked me an interesting question, one that he’s probably asked a ton of people but nobody has asked me yet. He asked if I would get rid of the anxiety and depression aspect of my life if I could, and I’ll give you the pretty much the same answer here as I did on Dan’s show. I really don’t think I would despite how much I hate having to deal with it.

Its given me a fear of asking people to do things because of so many times where I thought I’d made plans with people only to discover later that nothing would ever be happening. But that also means that I’m careful to make sure I try to follow through with things when I make plans with people. I’m by no means perfect, nobody is. I’ve double booked myself for podcast recordings because I wasn’t organized enough, I’ve forgotten to record things for people when I said I would get them something, I’ve even totally forgotten about appearing on someone else’s show despite the fact that it was in my calendar and I had no excuse to just somehow miss it. But I know the pain of getting yourself hyped up for something fun and then having it not happen because people just don’t show up. It sucks.

It’s given me entire school years basically without any friends I saw during the day. But that also means that I try to make an effort to keep up with people because I know how much hearing from a friend can mean. When I started middle school pretty much everyone I became friends with was in the other set of classes from me. So I know how important it is when you actually get to hang out with people who enjoy hanging out with you.

It’s given me a giant sense of dread because I didn’t want to go places which I can pretty easily trace back to going to school. Yeah, 7th, 8th, and 9th grade sucked. It’s made me not want to move anymore despite going to an obviously better place. It’s made me really want to get home when I do go out places and really accept a place as my home when I’ve accepted the fact that I have a new home now. Growing up in a military family meant that ever 3 or 4 years we were off to a new city. Home for me was always the house and never where the house was.

So how am I going to connect this to games or comics? Well, let’s get the games out of the way: they get no connection here.

Getting into comics inevitably means that you’ll find new characters to love. I’ve always been a Hulk guy and read an anxiety/depression metaphor into those based around the dealing with your inner hidden demons idea. I’ve been a Spider-Man guy because of how human and everyday a lot of his problems are (i.e. dealing with going to school or having a cold) and balancing that with being a super hero. It’s the human part that gets to me, the part where despite being able to do so much good with their abilities, there’s still those human insecurities to deal with.

I knew nothing about Gwen Stacy as Ghost-Spider when I bought it. Well, basically nothing since I had seen Into the Spider-Verse. I’m not living under a rock or something. I had basically no concrete reason to buy it though except that something about it just felt right. But that’s about it. Plus I knew Seanan McGuire is a good writer so having her name on there didn’t hurt either. But that’s about it.

But what I do know is when a character connects with me. It happened with Hulk and Spider-Man. It happened with Jessica Cruz (and I’ll write a whole article about that). And it happened with Ghost-Spider.

Spider-Gwen #4 written by Seanan McGuire, art by Rosi Kampe and Takeshi Miyazawa

For me, it’s the fact that she’s been through some pretty rough times but still has to keep going because of her overwhelming sense of responsibility that just won’t let her quit. It’s the flipping around between having to be the grown up who who has to go and tell the families of her Spider-friends that their loved one is never coming home and the kid who just wants to hang out with her friends and play drums just for a bit not have the fate of the world decided by her own actions.

It’s the fact that I can pretty easily read a mental health aspect into it. I’ve talked about my battles there in other places (including the above linked podcast) so I won’t go into too much detail here. But I will say that I appreciate when I can find that kind of character. Especially when it’s written well. For whatever reason most of the time when I catch a character with a mental illness it’s either handled poorly or only brought up when it’s plot convenient. Spoiler alert: That’s not the case with Ghost-Spider.

But most of all for me it’s the acceptance that she can’t change what’s happened to her no matter how much it sucks. It’s also the wisdom to know that if she could change things it could fundamentally change the person she has become.

Being able to read into things like this is part of why I really like comics. Something about the combination of words and art just makes that really easy, plus a decade’s long history of subtext being used for everything from a not straight relationship being portrayed to using prejudice against mutants or alien species as a substitute for racial issues. And the fact that different writers and artists having their hands on a character means that nothing is ever truly set in stone.

When I end the episodes here by saying to grab a stack of comics and find yourself a new favorite character, I mean it. Give them a chance to grow on you and find the character that you need. It might not be who you thought it would be at all but once you find them it’s a magical feeling.

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