Confessions of a comic book nerd

Okay, this has little to do with comics, so I'm not sure if it's appropriate for the blog, and it's bound to get ugly, but that's just the way it is. Let's delve into the darkness!

I have mentioned a few times on this blog that the first comic I ever bought was Batman #426, the first of the four-part "Death in the Family" storyline. This was in autumn 1988, when I was 17 years old. I had read comics before, but never in great quantity. I hope I've made up for the lack of comic-book geekery in the first 17 years of my life with a good deal of comic-book geekery in the last 20 years. With that in mind ...

I have never watched an episode of Dr. Who, nor do I have any intention of doing so. Therefore, "Dalek" jokes and references go so far over my head I can barely see them.

I have never watched an episode of Battlestar Galactica. Well, the new series. I watched one or two of the old series.

I have never watched a full episode of Star Trek. Any of the iterations. I've seen the first four movies, but none of the others. (I have seen, however, Free Enterprise, which is frickin' hilarious and features the Shat rapping Shakespeare. It's brilliant.)

I have never watched a full episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I've probably watched more of the movie than any of the series.

From 1975 to 1979, I lived in Liederbach, West Germany, therefore missing most of the formative pop culture experiences of the 1970s. I was never a fan of The Six Million Dollar Man, Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, the aforementioned Battlestar Galactica, or any other television show of the mid-1970s you can name. We had a television, but German television back then didn't feature much from the States. The first television show I watched with any regularity was The Dukes of Hazzard in 1979. Can you blame me?

I have an inordinate love for Manimal. That's right, bitches, Manimal. Where's my DVD collection?

I have an inordinate love for Double Rush. That's right, bitches, Double Rush.

One of the great tragedies of American television comedy is that It's Like, You Know ... never found a bigger audience.

I got into science fiction when I was about 9 or 10. I started reading Arthur C. Clarke and still consider him the best sci-fi writer of all time. The Fountains of Paradise is my favorite Clarke novel, and "The Nine Billion Names of God" and "The Star" are two of my favorite short stories ever.

I discovered Orson Scott Card around 1983 or so. He remains one of my favorite sci-fi/fantasy writers. Yes, I'm aware of his politics. But that doesn't bother me too much. I met Card briefly at the World Trade Center in 1986. He seemed nice.

I have never read any book that features Thomas Covenant.

I have never read Dune or any of its sequels. A few years ago I tried, got about 100 pages in, and abandoned it. It was just so boring. It's odd, as I really like Herbert's The White Plague, The Dosadi Experiment, The Jesus Incident, and The Lazarus Effect.

I have never read anything by Isaac Asimov.

I'm not a huge fan of Robert Heinlein.

In the mid-1980s, another author I read ravenously was Robert Ludlum. The Gemini Contenders is his best book. Why that hasn't been made into a movie is beyond me.

I have never played video games with any kind of enthusiasm, and never will. I had an Intellivision when I was 10 or so, but I have no idea if I bugged my parents to get it or if they just got it because they thought I'd like it. I played it a bit, but never really got into it.

Or role-playing games. I have never played Dungeons and Dragons, for instance. The closest I've come is Risk.

The first album I ever bought with my own money was Genesis by, surprisingly enough, Genesis. That was in 1983. Prior to that I just listened to whatever my parents or my sister had. My parents, who are remarkably uncool in their musical tastes (they graduated from college in 1964, just before rock and roll got good), actually do have a first edition of The White Album (I guess its official name is The Beatles, but what the hell). I used to listen to that, while my sister had the Grease soundtrack (I can still sing along to most of it), the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, and The Grand Illusion and Paradise Theater by Styx. When I started wanting my own music, around 1982/83, the first two albums I got from my mom were Pac-Man Fever by Buckner and Garcia (yes, the entire LP) and Cargo by Men at Work. "Dr. Heckyll & Mr. Jive" and "No Sign of Yesterday" remain my two favorite Men at Work songs.

I saw Star Wars exactly once in a movie theater. It was in Austria (or possibly Switzerland), and it was dubbed into German with English subtitles.

I didn't see Jaws until the late 1990s.

My favorite cartoons when I was growing up were, in order: Star Blazers, Transformers, Battle of the Planets, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, G. I. Joe, Super Friends, Jonny Quest, Thundercats, The Mighty Heroes, Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse, and Secret Squirrel. Obviously, I watched some of these when I was young and some when I got a bit older, but that's the order I would put them in for general fondness at any particular point in my life.

I watch very few cartoons these days (I still watch The Simpsons, mostly out of habit). The words "Robot" and "Chicken," when placed together, have no significance for me.

I do not watch South Park.

Or Family Guy. I wish Seth MacFarlane had decided to become a monk at an early age and spared the world his creation.

When I was younger, I read a lot about dinosaurs and sharks. I don't know as much as I used to, but I can still get through a discussion about them without making a complete fool of myself.

I read a lot of history books and sports books in my youth (I still do). Therefore, I am full of arcane knowledge. I can:

Name every English monarch and their regnal dates from the Conquest (William I, 1066-1087) to the Glorious Revolution (James II, 1685-1688). After that, I can get most of the rulers, but the dates get fuzzy.

Name most of the pre-Conquest rulers from Alfred the Great (871-899) to Harold Godwinson (a few months in 1066).

Name the Roman Emperors and their regnal dates from Augustus (27 B.C.-A.D. 14) to Septimius Severus (193-211) (okay, I often forget the three emperors in 69, but come on - Galba, Otho, and Vitellius don't really count, do they?).

Name almost every World Series winner (the early 1960s are a bit fuzzy).

Name every Super Bowl winner.

Name the last player to hit .400 (Ted Williams, .406 in 1941), the last American League Triple Crown winner (Carl Yastrzemski, Boston, 1967) and the last National League Triple Crown winner (Joe Medwick, St. Louis, 1937), the last 30-game winner (Denny McClain, Detroit, 1968), and I know Bob Gibson's ERA in 1968 (1.12).

In the past year, the books I've liked the most are: Nanjing 1937: A Love Story by Ye Zhaoyan, Pontius Pilate by Ann Wroe, Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded, August 27, 1883 by Simon Winchester, Love and Death in Katmandu: A Strange Tale of Royal Murder by Amy Willesee and Mark Whittaker, Breaker Boys: The NFL's Greatest Team and the Stolen 1925 Championship by David FLeming, From Jesus to Christianity: How Four Generations of Visionaries & Storytellers Created the New Testament and Christian Faith by L. Michael White, Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell, and Crusader Nation: The United States in Peace and the Great War, 1898-1920 by David Traxel. (Yes, those are links to my own blog. It's shameless self-promotion!)

The point of all this is to highlight some of the ways comic books nerds are different and the same. Greg Hatcher's column about kids last week kind of inspired me, as he talked about things that really grabbed you when you were a kid and made you a fan. It got me thinking about the various comic book blogs I read and how monolithic they often make the fan base sound. This is a problem with any group of fans - just because I read comic books doesn't mean I like, say, Dr. Who. People like to pigeonhole fans of a certain thing, and although it's not terribly original to complain about it, I still get bothered by it. It's getting better, I think, mostly because of the movies that are being made from comic book properties, but it's still a prevalent attitude, that if you read comic books, you must be some kind of science-fiction-loving role-playing cartoon-watching arrested adolescent. I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but sometimes that's comfortable.

So let your voices be heard! What non-stereotypically comic-book nerd things do you love (opera, watching tennis, shooting small animals)? And what stereotypically comic-book nerds things do you absolutely abhor? Don't be shy!

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