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The minimalist comic book philanthropist

9 mins read

Dr. Paul Rashid is what you would call a minimalist, or one who owns few possessions. What motivated his lifestyle was his adventures as a traveling doctor in New York who did not stay in one place and practically lived with a suitcase. He is also a psychiatrist.

Before that, he was a comic book collector who took a personal attachment to heroes such as Spider-Man and others. Paul conveyed to us that he still enjoys reading a comic or two. However, that alone does not scratch the surface of how comics truly resonated with Dr. Rashid. 

During the duration of the interview; Paul would give context to why he made the choice of committing a collector taboo of giving away his collection. It was truly an interesting thought to ponder about. I mean as a fellow collector, it’s a choice I could never make. 

Photo curtest Dr. Rashid

Of course the reasoning behind his motive was to make an impact on his community of Charleston, West Virginia. He explained by giving his comics away to children he felt a sense of mentorship, and a sense of pride overtook him. Which led to a streak of amazing and noble acts that spanned the course of six months. However it would lead to being chronicled and made into a short documentary film, dubbed “The Comic Book Collector: A Journey of Letting Go.” In addition the film garnered excellent reception, and acclaim to the point of it being adapted into a comic book. 

A screen grab from the short documentary film, “The Comic Book Collector: A Journey of Letting Go.” Photo curtesy Dr. Rashid

When I interviewed Dr. Rashid about his mission, he mentioned that he consulted with a Rabbi who used to be a regular customer at Comic World, a now closed down comic shop that was on the westside of Charleston. I explained to him I found it unusual that a rabbi, or a religious leader, of all people, would frequent a comic store and collect comic books. However, I was more amused when Dr. Rashid said that this Rabbi would award his students comics if they completed their assignment related to scripture.

“’Oh no Paul, what are you talking about?’” Paul recalls Rabbi Urecki asking him in shock at the doctor’s mission to give away his comic books. “’That’s like giving away a child.”

Dr. Rashid noted that when Rabbi Urecki said this, he knew that there was something to his mission.

I first learned about Dr. Rashid when I stumbled across his Kickstarter page which promoted his film. I was instantly impressed with the story behind the mission. I told myself it was a crusade to give up a part of his childhood passion to make a difference in the lives of the next generation. The project has a feeling of mentorship attached to the concept. 

A screen grab from the short documentary film, “The Comic Book Collector: A Journey of Letting Go.” Photo curtesy Dr. Rashid

Which invoked the thought of being able to interview Dr. Rashid. I contacted fellow Daily Planet journalist Brendan Rooney and he agreed.

“I came up with the idea in 2017 and I was thinking about it,” said Dr. Rashid. “I’m born and raised in West Virginia and I came across a West Virginia filmmaker John Matthews and we had a few conversations about this idea.”

Dr. Rashid revealed that he could have sold his comic books on eBay, but he thought that the idea of giving them away to children would be a better choice of distribution. Which led to Matthews being sold on creating a film for the duration of this journey. Due to the fact the message, and execution, was not only brilliant, but it was an act of true self kindness.

A screen grab from the short documentary film, “The Comic Book Collector: A Journey of Letting Go.” Photo curtesy Dr. Rashid

In addition to connecting with Rabbi Urecki and Matthews, Paul also felt a bond with the manager of a community center for higher risk youth who also came on board for the giveaway. Paul explained to Brendan and I that he got a local news crew to film a majority of documentary footage which helped promote the story and give insight to his vision. 

He also shared the idea with a journalist named Chloe who also admired the idea. In the podcast, he mentioned that he took her to go see Justice League in 2017.

Brendan asked if Dr. Rashid felt if comic books expanded on how fragile the human mind was and how we can find potential from fictional characters. Dr. Rashid replied that his documentary explores this.

“It’s very much a modern-day myth,” said Dr. Rashid. “And I look to a lot of parallels to Greco-Roman mythology and there’s something just very human about these godlike powerful beings that also have human flaws.”

A screen grab from the short documentary film, “The Comic Book Collector: A Journey of Letting Go.” Photo curtesy Dr. Rashid

Rashid continued to explain that the more he thought about comics as a sense of modern mythology it led to the concept of understanding. As human beings we are not only devoid from flaw, but we also retain strength. Furthermore, he noted that there are some people who would put in 10,000 hours and there are some people that are just more intuitive than others in a different aspect of life. Paul coined it as a super power which could be used to go into the flow state, to go into the meta state, to heal oneself, to create, and overcome.

As the podcast progressed,we discussed how comic books resonate with the real world in terms of current events, mental health, and community.

According to Dr. Rashid’s Kickstarter page, the Comic Collector documentary would be submitted at several film festivals. It won The Best Shorts Competition Award of Recognition: Documentary Short and The Southern Shorts Award of Merit.If you want to listen to the Earth-16 Comics Wire Podcast episode on the Comic Collector, you can listen to it on the Daily Planet audio page. If you want to support The Comic Book Collector: A Journey of Letting Go film or comic book, you can go to the Kickstarter page here.

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