Why I Will Always Champion You, The Dorky, the Awkward, the Collector of Rare Action Figures
Someone recently asked me if I could talk about what I love about Geek Culture. The answer is yes, and here you go:
Growing Up Geek
What can I say about my love for geek culture? I could start by telling you that I was a geeky kid. Now, I have to say that I grew up long after the time when the word geek meant guy who bites the heads off chickens at the circus, but well before the word was reclaimed to describe a formidable army of gaming and pop culture lovers.
In the late 70's and 80's I loved my BMX bike, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars like dang-near every other kid. I loved my X-wing fighter so much I wanted to eat it (with the R2D2 head that doubled as a candy-like button to pop open the wings?! oh man, tasty!). By Jr. High I was a goofy kid in a converse, pegged jeans, an unbuttoned hawaiian shirt that Mom got me at Ross, and possibly a comic book related T-shirt. This was in the days when wanting a superhero T-shirt meant buying one at a comic book shop (or leaving the house in your Underoos, I guess). The first time I saw a T-shirt of the black Spider-Man logo my pants got all tight and uncomfortable. I know you'll find this hard to believe but dressing like this didn't make me a hit with the ladies. Before the days of blockbuster films about comic book characters, wearing a shirt decorated with Wolverine's fist and claws mostly got you confused looks from the other kids. "Is that Freddy Krueger?"
So there weren't a lot of kids I related to. Everyone else my age had thrown out their G.I. Joes in favor of not dancing at school dances. But I still wanted to hang out at home drawing from He-Man figures or playing "Gumby verses Robots".
Even the few geeky kids I knew didn't read comics. They liked space shuttles and actual science. One time I saw another scrawny kid navigating the crowded halls of my Junior High. He was wearing a backpack twice his size and he had an X-Men Comic tucked under his arm. Could this be a new friend? I said, "Hey do you like the X-Men?"
That's when some random shit pushed the kid down, then ran off laughing.
The kid got up looking rattled and hurt. He just continued toward his next class, but as he walked past me I heard him sadly utter, "eeeex-mheen..." The poor guy. I still don't know if he was attempting to salvage our conversation or calling for help from that band of outcast mutants.
By 9th grade I was spending most of my lunch breaks in the Chess club room. Not because I played chess, but because it was very unlikely I would get my ass kicked there. I hid out there until I met a couple goth girls who (ironically) got me out into the daylight again. They yelled back at the kids who said crappy things to us. They took me to my first all-ages goth club. I danced to Sex Dwarf. That was new. Standing outside the back door, watching the goth kids smoke clove cigarettes and laugh, I realized at least one set of people I had been afraid of was actually really nice. Like those toads with bright markings that make birds think they are poisonous, the goth kids can be kind of scary or off-putting but they are mostly harmless (Hitchhiker's Guide reference, boom). They just have different interests than "the norms" and are pushing away from them harder than others might. That's why I consider goths and other "weirdo outcasts" to be a part of the geekdom.
I don't want to go on a tangent about goths and other geeky sub-gengres but I guess I just did. The point is I think that's when I started learning I could be weird, outgoing, play with people's perceptions of me, and have fun with it. Not fitting in with the masses doesn't mean having to hide in the Chess club room....of life. Hmmm deep.
I think that's when things started to turn for me. I was still a geek, but I was fine about being "out" about it. I wore what I liked and did how I pleased. That meant dressing pretty much like Batman in argyle socks, carrying my lunch in an Ed Grimley lunch pail, and listening to They Might Be Giants. I started drawing my own comics and got strips published in the monthly school newspaper. I drew comics about me and my friends being "wimps", being dorky. Because why not? When you're the first one to make a joke about yourself what is anyone else going to say? Just make it a good one and they've got nothing.
And now, a shameless grab for street-cred with pictures of cool geeks who wear my T-shirts.