Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

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February 26, 2014

Comic book display garners attention

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — When Jay Berent was a child, teachers at his school thought he had a reading comprehension problem. As it turned out, the problem wasn’t Berent’s inability to comprehend the reading material, it was the reading material itself.

“I didn’t care to see Dick and Jane run,” he said. 

Berent’s father bought him some comic books, and he was instantly hooked. The reading comprehension problem quickly became a thing of the past.

“I went through stack after stack after stack,” he said. “They turned my life around.” 

Now, almost 30 years later, Berent, who works for Niagara County as a fraud investigator, wants to help other kids who may be having the same issue he had. Through an exhibit at the library, a raffle and a comic book seminar in August, Berent is trying to instill a love of comic books in children who may need them the same way he did. 

Berent, who grew up in a family of traveling magicians, spent a lot of the money he made doing short stand-up bits in between magic shows on comic books to keep himself occupied on long road trips. The exhibit at the library, which runs through Friday, displays five decades of comic books. It includes everything from the hand painted covers of the 1960s to the digitally colored comics of today.The display also includes various comic book and movie action figures. 

Berent donated over 100 books to the library for a free-entry raffle. 

“Whoever gets it will have an instant collection,” he said. 

There are a lot of valuable lessons in comic books, Berent said. From lessons about discrimination in the X-Men comics to broaching tough subjects like drug abuse and homosexuality, comic books represent a microcosm of everyday life, he said. 

“Comic books have been addressing social problems for years and years,” he said. 

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