JC Sevcik on the writer in the world, the hero in us all…
All my life, I’ve been a loner. As far back as I can remember, I’ve felt like an outcast. I did not have what anyone could possibly mistake for a happy childhood, but I always had stories.
My father died when I was a baby. My mother, working to raise three children alone and improve her own lot in life, wasn’t around much to stop my older sisters torturing me. When she was, she was the one doing the torturing. And because socially, kids are as adept as sub-Saharan predators at identifying and attacking the weakest in the pack—school did not prove a respite. But books and comics did.
As a child, I spent more hours reading alone than engaged any other activity. It was safe and nurturing and satisfied my deep need for knowledge and knowing nice people. After I read all the Goose Bumps books I got for Christmas the year I was six, I stole and read all of my sisters’ Babysitters’ Club collection. After that, I tore through my mother’s Stephen King and Dean Koontz. After I’d read all the books in our house, I traded them in at a used bookstore for new titles, then rinsed and repeated until the exchange rate ran me out of titles to trade in. Around the same time, I graduated from Saturday-morning cartoons to comic books, found the X-men, and from then on any money I could beg steal or borrow I blew at my neighborhood comic book shop which, Eric, the acne-covered twenty-something owner appreciated by allowing me unfettered access to adult titles.
For the uninitiated, the X-men (should be X-humans) is a story about a world where genetically evolved people with special powers called mutants are being registered and eradicated by a government afraid of the threat these powerful people pose to the status quo. In the mythos, mutants start exhibiting their special powers around puberty, particularly when placed under stress. It is a trope that they are surprised by the immense endowment that until now has lain dormant inside them, have no idea how to control their new capabilities, and often end up hurting someone close to them. (Oh, no! I accidentally irradiated my high school sweetheart!) Enter Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, an academy where students with special talents come to learn focus, discipline, teamwork, and nobility from Charles Xavier, a powerful psychic with a pension for helping empower people to their full potential. Under Professor X’s guidance, the X-men (and women) learn to harness their abilities and self-actualize so they can go be forces for good in the world.
When I hit puberty and my super powers started to manifest themselves in the form of a smart mouth and an unwavering insistence on independence and autonomy, I was shipped to a prison camp for kids in the South Pacific. I spent two years in Paradise Cove, a behavior modification program and part of the Troubled Teen Industry, a billion dollar network of private penal colonies where parents can pay the cost of an ivy-league education to incarcerate their unmanageable or otherwise unwanted kids. This, understandably, did not help me harness my powers for good. Instead it made me into a villain. It filled me with anger and insecurity that caused me to lash out at others.
Ostensibly, X-men is a comic about magical muscle bound men and buxom babes, super heroes in tight spandex, running around blowing shit up with their superpowers to entertain the imaginations of adolescent boys. But we know better now. We recognize the graphic novel as a medium as rich in its examination of the human condition as literary fiction and as prescient and satirically sharp as sci-fi. We know comics are written by brilliant people (Alison Bechdel, Warren Ellis, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Marjane Satrapi to name a few) with a lot to say about life, the universe, and everything. And so we can assume those people used sex appeal to get the attention of adolescents so they could sneak in stories of substance meant to socialize socially awkward, lonely little boys and girls into being better humans.
On the surface, the X-men is a story about outcast superheroes battling evil. Underneath, it is a story about how society, out of fear, suppresses the best and brightest among us. It is a story about realizing your potential and putting it to good use. It is a story about working together with similarly special people to make a difference. It’s about being free to be your best self. And like all iterations of the hero’s journey, it’s about whether you will use your gifts for good or evil.
These days, by day, I’m a mild mannered journalist who writes about issues of equity and covers topics like ubiquitous surveillance, same-sex marriage, the legalization of marijuana, politics, protestors, and the police state. By night, I’m working on a book about tough love and the troubled teen industry. For me, Goddard was Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. The institution’s ethos of equality, equity, acceptance, and inclusiveness gave me a safe and nurturing environment to grapple with my gifts. It also gave me the guidance I needed to gain confidence in my abilities. Goddard not only gave me the focus and discipline I needed to realize my potential, the school’s emphasis on social justice showed me why it’s so important we use our powers for good.
As a writer in the world, how will you use your super power?
JC Sevcik is a writer trying to change the world from his basement apartment. He spends most of his time hunched over a computer. He lives in the Emerald City’s Central district with his guitars and his cat and takes long walks around the neighborhood with a mug of tea in his hand thinking about life, the universe, and everything. He loves the Seattle and considers it a city on a hill, a beacon of hope, a shining example of how great America can be when people care for and about one another and that is reflected in their public policy. He holds degrees in writing from Emerson and Goddard College. He will be the fall Writer in Residence at the Kerouac House and sits on the Seattle City of Literature board of directors. As a digital journalist, he’s covered US News for the Daily Dot and United Press International and likes to write about social justice, ubiquitous surveillance, same-sex marriage, gender equity, the legalization of marijuana, politics, protestors, and the police state. His work has also appeared in the Stranger. He’s currently finishing his first book, a memoir about his experience in the troubled teen industry. He really wishes everyone would be nice to one another.