Published on January 29th, 2011 | by JJ4
Mars Needs Culture #6: Hear Me Roar!
Hello, my name is JJ Hawkins, and I am a geek. I started geeking as a young child and by the time I was in sixth grade, I had worked myself up to a steady habit that included comics, cartoons, television, toys, and many of the obsessions that you may even have in your life. Do not make the mistake, my friends, of thinking that I am ashamed of this admission. By no means am I ashamed. If anything I am asking for a rallying cry. We are on the brink of lifelong legitimacy if we can just keep from imploding.
In the last weeks of 2010, the geek community was rocked by one of our own, Patton Oswalt, who called for the end of the age of the geek. Mr. Oswalt feels that the mainstreaming of geek culture has somehow diluted the pool. He asserts that if everyone can name all the characters in Watchmen, that it somehow challenges his sense of self. I can’t say I feel that way. Actually, I believe he used the word “nerd” but in my experience that word has a negative connotation that I have never been able to identify with, so for the purposes of this writing I will use “geek” as an all encompassing term. Rest assured geeks, nerds, dweebs, poindexters, however you self identify, I have your back. Grab a sign and feel free to join this movement.
Now in order to build my point of view let me give you a little bit of my history. I first read a comic way back in 1985. It was Marvel Team Up #144 starring Spider-Man and Iron Man. (Full geek disclosure, I could not remember the issue number, I had to Google it. How embarrassing.) Spider-Man had just come back from the Secret Wars in his new black and white duds and he and “The Iron Avenger” had to team up to battle one of Iron Man’s bad guys, Backlash (aka the villain formerly known as Whiplash). This was kid crack, as one of comics’ greatest strengths was on display. That one story effortlessly made me feel as if I was reading a part of a greater whole. The two heroes just happened to be at the same place and fought together, that never happened in movies. When was the last time John McClane just bumped into Riggs and Murtaugh? Plus, they were fighting a villain that was a third string thug who had a history with Iron Man. I wanted to know what that history was! I wanted to read the next issue! I wanted to grow up to write a column that used exclamation points!
My parents never gave me a hard time about my love of reading comics. Maybe they didn’t like me constantly asking for 65¢ to buy them, but they were happy I always had my eyes on something with words. School however, was not the same story. It wasn’t cool to be a large kid in Mississippi who didn’t want to play football. It really wasn’t cool to be that same kid who was obsessed with both Spider-Man and Sondheim. When heavy metal came into my life, forget it. As other kids formed the kind of cliques that defended them against the outside world, and other groups of wandering feral classmates, I formed one solid friendship. True, it was based on a fondness of many of the same things and formed so solid a foundation that we are friends to this day, but our defenses at that time were frail, at best.
I don’t think that my story is much different than many of you who are reading this. The details may be different, it may be Dungeons and Dragons instead of comics, but the results are the same. To be a geek is to know what it is like to love something the majority of people around you don’t care about. To this day, even though Patton Oswalt and other elders of the geekverse tell us that geekdom is mainstream, I know that if I were to try to start a conversation at work about why Moon Knight should be a cooler concept, and the 2006 series taught us that the “Fist of Khonshu” might have a chance if we gave it to a writer like Matt Fraction the possibilities would be…and I can see the eyes of my co-workers glaze over.
I guess what all of this means to me then is this: If I love something, I want others to love it, too. Because if it makes money it gets to continue going. That is the way the market works. Not enough people read a well reviewed Thor book, it gets the axe. This says to me that it is lack of interest that dilutes the geek waters. Fewer geeks means fewer geek projects. If only one group of people ever quoted The Knights Who Say Ni, then we would have never gotten The Life of Brian. I, for one, believe the world would be sadly lacking if this came to pass.
There may well always be a part of the culture who needs to take credit for finding it first, but that does not mean that those who find it later enjoy it less. I can’t remember who showed me the first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles anymore, but I remember reading it, and then being wowed when those images first showed up on the screen. My life has been happier because of all of this. So of course I say thank you to the elder geeks. But to those of you who maybe haven’t found your geek entry point, or maybe you just had the electric jolt to your brain that I had back in ’85, I say welcome. The more of you that jump in the pool, the higher the water will rise. Let’s all go swimming