I love comics. It’s a passion that has built over the years and become a part of my everyday routine. Whether it’s reading comics, writing about superheroes, or looking forward to a new Marvel film, comics are a powerful source of positivity for me. In a mental health context, comics can infuse wonder and excitement into the mundane, which is part of why I enjoy reading them so much.
Comics massively influenced the life of the late great Bill Schelly. A comic book historian, biographer and long-time lover of fandom, Schelley passed away in September 2019. But his legacy lives on in the pages of his autobiography, Sense of Wonder: My Life In Comic Fandom – The Whole Story.
In his book, Schelley dives into the magic of comics and how they helped to keep him going through times of hardship. From coming out as gay, to tirelessly self-publishing content until he made it as a successful author, Sense of Wonder is the story of a man who never gave up on his dreams.
The power of fandom and mental health
I was given a free copy of Sense of Wonder to review and I’ll admit that I hadn’t heard of Schelly before reading the book. Schelley’s work has had a profound effect on the comic industry, with him charting the history of comic fandom and gathering key titles from the Golden Age of Comics and beyond.
He takes the reader on a journey through his humble beginnings as a fledging fandom zine publisher to an influential publisher of biographies. Schelly’s first experience with mainstream comics was buying Giant Superman Annual #1. From that day forward, it started a life-long passion for superheroes and helped to drive the direction of his career.
What I find particularly inspiring about the book is Schelly’s candidness about being gay during a time when there was a lot of prejudice against the LGBT community. You can feel the pain in his prose and the passion for which he latches onto comics as a source of mental health positivity.
Overcoming hurdles and adversity
Despite his dreams of working for DC being dashed at an early age, Schelly didn’t let that stop him from embracing new challenges. At one point he took a risk and opened a comic bookstore, only to have that fizzle out. But he found meaning in his work through writing books like The Golden Age Of Comic Fandom and the Eisner-award nominated Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created MAD And Revolutionised Humour In America.
Schelley’s experiences are a powerful reminder that you should never stop striving to find your niche. He became successful by writing about the lives of influential comic creators, artists and the importance of fandom.
Other chapters deal with Schelley’s personal life and his mission to raise children in an LGBT family. He beautifully captures the love and admiration he has for his son Jaimeson, who tragically passed away from cancer at the tender age of 20.
But even through all the heartbreak, Schelley never loses his sense of wonder. He continually worked to get his content published, extoled the virtues of fandom and established himself as a mental health advocate of the comic community.
Reading Sense Of Wonder has made me reflect on the impact that pop culture has had on my life and it will do the same for you too.