Thursday, July 11, 2013

Origin of the Nerd (Part II: Comic Books)

No, I'm not talking about the origin of the word "nerd" or even the origin of nerds as we know them. I'm going to do a three part series about how I got into the things I talk about most on this blog: Video Games, Comic Books, and Movies/TV Shows. I don't often write about myself, so this will be an interesting exercise. And maybe I'll connect with some readers who have had similar experiences, would like to get into new things, or want to talk about how they themselves got into the given subject.
Some of the Nerd-Cave wall.

Last time I defined my favorite definition for "nerd." This week, I'd like to take a look at a related term, the word "geek":

"Geek is a cooler term for a fan. A devoted fan. An over-the-top, obsessive fan of some hobby or media. They are a part of some fandom or speciality, their jokes and allusions no one can get except other geeks, they spend money on their hobby instead of some Serious Business. They waste time debating their favourite media on message boards and writing articles about geeks in Wikipedia and TV Tropes. And if there were no conventions and no Internet, many of them would have never socialized."
-Television Tropes and Idioms

While I feel I have some attributes listed above, I have far too many branching and unrelated interests to be truly obsessive. I have things I consider myself well versed in (Star Wars, Spider-Man, etc...), but not to the degree I feel a true geek would.

Note: These definitions list these words as derogatory. I do not think this is the case -- these are titles to be proud of, at least in this Nerd's opinion.

For this second installment, I want to talk about how I got into Comic Books. Check it after the break.

Trying to Catch me Reading Nerdy

Similar to video games, my interest in comics began with my grandparents. I'm not sure how it actually began, but I vividly remember my grandparents taking my younger brothers and me to a relatively local (everything feels far away when you're young) comic book shop. I believe this was my grandparents attempts to foster reading in us as early as possible. For me, it worked.

My grandparents aren't huge readers. G-ma always loved her trashy romances and G-pa... Well, I know he liked Sherlock Holmes, but I don't know that I ever remember him actively reading. I do remember, however, him wishing he'd finished school, so the drive for us to read may have come from there.

'90s perfection.
My mother, who we lived with off and on, was always a voracious reader, however. While our tastes aren't always the same, I feel this is where I got my over-active desire to read. I was a bit slower with starting to read, but once I got the hang of it, I was always reading above my "level." 

Back to the comic shop with the grandparents. We'd be set free in the store to browse through the long boxes. Invariably, I would go to the Spider-Man bins. I don't know why nothing else appealed to me. I don't have any memory of my first Spider-Man issue. I do remember, however, finding my first ever run that I became the first set I ever tried to collect: Maximum Carnage. Aside from being a very difficult series to follow due to being a massive crossover event, I always loved finding an issue with the "Maximum Carnage" banner across the top. I loved the artwork, the mass of characters, the flashy covers, and the branching story.

This has since influenced my tastes (for good or for ill) to this day.

When that comic book store eventually closed its doors for good, the owner gave me the Spider-Man window cling that I had always admired. I wish I still had it, but it was a focal point of my young collection.

Speaking of collecting, I was a terrible collector as a child. I opened toys to play with them. I stored my books poorly. I cared nothing for organization. Today me cringes at past me. Well, that happens a lot, but especially with the collecting side of things. Fortunately, I don't believe I owned anything of value, but still.

My comic reading did fade as I aged. They were replaced by fantasy/science-fiction novels, which I still enjoy to this day.

Love this series, soon to be a movie!
BAM! That all changed when I began living with The Wife. Well, she wasn't "The Wife" then, but it wasn't terribly far off. I had read something about the Thunderbolts, a super-hero group I'd never heard of. Google must have led me to an eBay auction for the first 50 issues at a really cheap price. With a little encouragement from The Wife (who doesn't enjoy comic books in any way, shape, or form), I put in a bid. And one. Before long, I had a large stack of over 50 comics sitting in my living room. And I loved the series.
Justice, like lightning, yo.

This ignited my inner nerd. I've always BEEN nerdy, but I'd never really had much time or ability to collect things. When I lived with the grandparents, I had collected dragon statues. And I've always had a collection of various trading card games, but that was pretty much it.

Once The Wife knew I was interested in something, she pushed me to pursue it to the fullest. And, now that I was older, had a relatively stable income, and a place to keep things, I was finally able to pursue comic books in such a way that really appealed to me. So we went to our first Boston Comic Con. Then the two local comic book shops (shout out to Rubber Chicken Comics and Friendly Neighborhood Comics in Bellingham). And then anywhere at all that I could find comics.

Now, my collection consists of thousands (I think it is plural at this point) of issues. Some of them worth money, many of them just interesting to me. My interest in comics is manifold. From something as simple as comic covers to engaging, character driven stories, the comic book medium is something I loved as a child and appreciate now as an adult. And it has expanded to encompass so much more than superheroes or pulp fiction.

So... No life altering revelations. No desperate desire to escape. I just like reading, and I love character-driven stories, and I always have. And I have a super supportive wife who loves to enable me.

What about you? Do you have an interesting journey? Or do you want help getting into comic books? Leave a comment below!

P.S. If I had to recommend one comic book series to any adult audience, it would be Saga. Seriously, it is an ongoing series, about 12 or 13 issues in, and is easily my favorite series ever. Trumping even the Maximum Carnage run from the 90s.

Best. Series. Ever.

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