It’s a bird… – A graphic novel about not being a Superman

This graphic novel is a biography of its author.

Steven Seagle’s life seems, superficially, perfect. He’s met the love of his life. They are thinking about marriage. He’s writes comic books, and has been offered the chance to write for Superman. He has a little time to think about it. It’s a bird... is the story of how he almost loses both, and why.

Steven’s aunt, Sara, is dying. She has Huntington’s disease. It gradually destroys the motor control of the individual. Sara has had it for a long time. He isn’t sure if her mind is still together, trapped inside a body unable to communicate but apparently in pain, and he’s not sure if he wants it to be.

Huntington’s is genetic.

At the time when this work is set, there is no test for Huntington’s.

Stephen’s grandmother died of Huntington’s when he was five. While they were waiting at the hospital, his dad gave him a copy of a Superman comic.

Steven needs to decide, and soon, if he wants to marry the love of his life, knowing that children are part of the deal. Knowing he could be carrying what Sara has. Knowing that his wife will watch as he writhes to death, and that maybe his children will have it, too.

Steven needs to decide if he can write books about a man who can never get sick, never lose anyone, and can never really be held accountable for his choices. A man who he, frankly, seems to resent.

If you are going to write what you know, how can you write about a super man? What does that even mean? Superman? Like, Nietzsche? Answerable to no-one with the right to tell others what is good and what’s bad, due to his sheer awesomeness? A god of being violent for good reasons? Smiting evil, but not banal, actual evil, just spandexy evil. Like a magical immigrant who is more American than Americans? Both saying they don’t live up to their ideals as well as he does, and yet at the same time endorsing their ideals as the ideals a truly superior man would have?

In It’s a bird…  Steven is working through his fear of his family’s illness and his inability to imagine how a Superman could think, or would act, or what he might mean. It has a foot in the superhero camp of graphic novel reading, but it also has a solid anchor in the real world. Steven tries to find a way to see beauty in the fragile parts of Superman, and from there to an acceptance of his own circumstances.

It’s a great book.