Readers may want to learn about the writing credentials I earned at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Bachelor’s in English Literature and Bachelor’s in Rhetoric and Creative Writing) and Roosevelt University (MFA in Creative Writing with a focus in Fiction). Or maybe readers may want to know about my journey toward literary publication after having had my screenplay produced for the short film, Faux Pas. But instead of me telling you about my stints as writing instructor for high school students in the Upward Bound and After School Matters Programs at UIUC and Dunbar Vocational Career Academy, respectively, I’d rather continue the storytelling theme to give you an idea of how I respond to the relationship between words, images, and people.
A preteen me knelt at the edge of my bed, in front of a freshly purchased, short stack of comic books. I flipped through each issue, examining the artwork, and used some arbitrary metric to determine the order I would read them; a common practice. This particular afternoon, turning the pages of my new comics left me perplexed for I noticed something I hadn’t paid any attention to before: the women’s bodies. None of the main female characters were shaped like my mother. Somewhere within the fantasy of fighting against evil in an alternate universe was an intersection of reality that divided my desire to want to fight alongside these scantily clad vixens from the realization that none of the superheroes looked like anyone I knew. It shattered the idea that anyone could be exposed to radiation or bitten by an alien creature and be imbued with some unknown power accompanied by the burden of responsibility. Preteen me vowed to write a letter to the publisher to inquire about their insistence on what seemed like every woman being shaped like an hour glass filled with bowling balls dressed in Christmas ribbon. Though I never wrote the letter (mostly due to embarrassment), I remember my visceral response to those drawings and how they triggered the need to write to rectify what felt to be a problem. I still believe in the strength and import of words and images. They do hold within them a power I am more comfortable wielding and with it, the burden of responsibility.
— Aaron D. Coats (post-teen me)