Artistic Airmen: Security forces by day, comic collector by night

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
Editor's note: This is part three of a series highlighting Airmen who work as artists in their off-duty time.

A fictional young boy was leaving a cinema when his parents were shot and killed in front of him by a criminal. Devastated, traumatized and alone, he swore to avenge their death. Years later, he became the Dark Knight, or Batman - a man of urban legend who protects a city and its citizens from villainy. Secretive to the world around him, he became the unsung hero of Gotham City.

Just as the Dark Knight was not a man of superhuman powers, military members of the U.S. Armed Forces do not possess superhuman powers. But they are unsung heroes who live by the following words: Always ready; always faithful; honor, courage, commitment; integrity first, service before self, excellence in all we do; and this we defend.

"My dad and uncle were in the Army and my brother served in the Marines," said Master Sgt. Joseph Hansen, 341st Missile Security Forces Squadron flight chief. "Their time in the service inspired me to join. My father was greatly affected by the horrors he witness in the Vietnam War. I loved hearing the stories of him jumping out of airplanes and helicopters. Later in my childhood, my dad traveled a lot for his job, and I spent more time with my aunt and uncle."

A native of Detroit, Mich., Hansen says one of his first childhood memories involved his brother and uncle reading him comic book bedtime stories. It was in these stories of superheroes overcoming evil that he found a great escape from the ups and downs of life.

"Batman has always been my favorite comic book hero," Hansen said. "So much so that I even named my [comic book] shop Bat Joe's. I always identified with the fact that Batman has no superpowers besides his mind and will power. He used that to fight crime as effectively as Superman even though he was born with special powers."

Ever since he was first exposed to comic books, Hansen has been collecting, doodling and admiring them and their stories for nearly 30 years. But it wasn't until 2010 when he had an opportunity to pursue his passion.

"In 2010, I realized a childhood dream when I opened up a comic book and sports card shop with my wife and two friends," Hansen said. "It was one of the best and most nerve-racking experiences I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of."

As an active-duty Airman with nearly 20 years in service, Hansen not only has three small children, but his career requires him to post out to the missile complex every week.

"I love being around people and interacting, but the business part of it can be stressful," Hansen said. "It's a lot of sacrifice, and being a full-time dad and a military member can make you start to feel spread thin. Nowadays, I stick to online sales and I've learned time management is very important in our daily lives. Recreation and relaxation are part of an overall healthy life style. I use comics and my online shop as an escape from the rigors of work and life. So I make time for it when I know I need a breather."

Today, Hansen focuses on collecting comic books and appreciating the art and stories they tell.

"I'm proud that as a shop owner I was able to sponsor events on base," Hansen said. "I also love providing an outlet to my fellow Airmen as a place they can come to escape life for a bit and just converse about comic books and other things outside of their daily lives."

Information from this article was taken from the following websites: