Disney has bought Marvel. This merger could stifle new ideas and reduce Marvel and Disney to making “safe” projects. It could also, however, have the opposite effect. The merger of two groups of popular and creative minds could spur new projects and exciting art. And it could get kids reading more. Reading, whether it is Tolstoy or Iron Man, is the exercise to a fit and imaginative mind.

Disney has bought Marvel. A friend asked me how I felt about the sale. To be honest, I have mixed feelings. Big is not always better, especially in the art and entertainment field. This merger could stifle new ideas and reduce Marvel and Disney to making “safe” projects. It could also, however, have the opposite effect. The merger of two groups of popular and creative minds could spur new projects and exciting art.

Disney and Marvel — like many American kids, I grew up with these companies there for me, Disney with the movies and Marvel with the comics. Actually it was a battle between Marvel and DC Comics for my consumer dollar. Comics were my guilty pleasure growing up and later. I enjoyed them on and off until I was in my late 30s. I still have a collection of comics, Marvel, DC and others, that I’ve had since the late ’80s.

Comics or graphic novels, as some want to be called now, are a unique art form. Comics can tell a story in a special way, first the story and then the artwork. Only when both of these are good is the comic great.

Reading, whether it is Tolstoy or Iron Man, is the exercise to a fit and imaginative mind. I worry that our kids aren’t reading enough. Yes, I know they text, but that’s not reading stories. Stories are important in the socialization of our youth. Stories sharpen the mind and challenge the reader. Sure, some stories are much better than others, but in the long run, it doesn’t matter what you read as long as you’re reading.

I worry more about the boys than the girls. For too many young males, reading is seen as a chore. With boys, far too little reading is done just for the enjoyment of reading. I’m not blind. I see the effects of video games, movies and TV. I see a country that relies too much only on the visual. Reading is exercise. It requires the reader to work. That’s what sharpens the mind. Comics or graphic novels can be used to entice the reluctant reader to the pleasure of a good story.

We need more stories about our human battle with good and evil. We need more stories about topics such as Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. And more than anything we need our young men to read them and learn from them.

If you have a son or know a young man who might be having trouble reading, introduce him to comics. It’s a start, a start on a wonderful road to independence. Reading today is a must. We should use all our tools available to encourage reading, whether it’s “War and Peace” or “Silver Surfer.”

I hope the merger of Disney and Marvel ushers in a new age for comics and a new age for movies. I hope to see more science fiction, more Westerns, and more musicals. America is still the most innovative country. Our comics and movies have influenced people all over the globe and can continue to do so. I’m looking and hoping with a watchful eye on Disney and Marvel. My expectations are high.

Ed Wells of Rockford, Ill. writes a weekly column for the Rockford Register Star. If you would like to comment, e-mail opinions@rrstar.com.