Close Encounters of the Non-Nerd Kind

When I began collecting comics in the early 90s, superheroes hadn’t completely penetrated mainstream pop-culture yet. Sure, the comic book industry was booming, but I probably don’t have to remind you how well that turned out (Spoilers: not well). Although there were a handful of comic book-based movies and cartoons at the time, none of them really dominated popular discourse for an extended period. These days, there isn’t just one superhero movie released every few years, there are multiple movies by different companies coming out every single year. Furthermore, those movies aren’t necessarily standalone films – a story may weave through multiple films to form a single, complete narrative. Besides movies, there are musicians who dedicate their careers to comics, T-shirts, Pop figures, action figures, and live-action TV shows just to name a few. Comic book characters are everywhere. 

Doctor what?

Doctor what?

I understand that not everyone loves comics, and that there are quite a few other relatively niche interests that massive amounts of people obsess over: Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Steven Universe, Star Trek etc. Whether I understand why a fandom exists or not is irrelevant, because whatever the particular topic is, it means something special to those fans, the same way comics mean something to me. However, nearly everyone that I’ve had a conversation with over the past decade has had at least some idea of what comic books are about. They know a few characters, the two major companies that produce comics, and they’ve seen some of the movies and/or TV shows. I thought that everyone had a basic understanding of where superheroes and villains come from. Recently, I was proven quite wrong. 

There’s clearly no chemistry between Spider-Man and science.

There’s clearly no chemistry between Spider-Man and science.

Last fall, I started my first semester at Montclair State University. Because I’m a PR major, one of the classes I registered for was Public Relations Principles. The big project for the class was to create a PR plan for a product with a group of classmates, so I was teamed up with 5 young ladies. When my PR team and I first met, I half-jokingly recommended that we do something comic book-related. I was extremely surprised when my team agreed to it, and also very excited. We decided to do the project on Dr. Strange, which was still nearly two months away from its release. However, a few of these women admitted to having no knowledge of comics, which was (somewhat) forgivable, but they also admitted to never having seen a superhero movie. I found that shocking. Some of those movies have been critically-lauded blockbusters, so how come 4 of these girls never saw The Dark Knight or Avengers? (I blame the failing U.S. education system.) One of them even Googled, “comic book.” I don’t know what she expected to find, but she was very surprised when that search yielded nearly 100 million results.  

I explained to them how different movie studios own rights to different characters, and that many popular heroes and villains actually come from completely different companies, but I might as well have been speaking a foreign language to these ladies. They’re all roughly 20 years old, so was the reason for their ignorance of the subject a matter of age? Do people really pay no any attention to mainstream-comic adaptations? With the exception of one of my teammates, we did not become friendly outside of class, so I have no idea what their interests are. They certainly seemed nice, for the most part, but I do wonder what those young women do with their time. (Watch paint dry, maybe?) I know that my own interests certainly aren’t for everyone, but I thought everyone knew at least something about popular superheroes. The day my group and I presented our PR plan to the class, I was proven wrong once again.

It takes all kinds…apparently.

It takes all kinds…apparently.

During the presentation, one of my teammates was listing superhero movies with instantly recognizable characters to contrast them with a relatively unknown hero like Dr. Strange. She mentioned Batman, who’s a DC character (if you’re reading this, I hope you were already aware of that). Our “PR firm” was supposed to be representing Marvel, and she literally mentioned a character from its top competitor. This woman had no idea that Dr. Strange and Batman were characters from completely different universes. Sure, we weren’t an actual firm representing an enormous company with a reputation to maintain, but this whole experience surprised me because of how little the majority of my group knew about comics. 

Seriously?! If they ever add optic blasts to football, sign me up.

Seriously?! If they ever add optic blasts to football, sign me up.

This experience made me realize that maybe not everyone is interested in niche subjects. Maybe some people love dancing, martial arts, cars, and/or celebrities, and get excited over those subjects the way I do about superheroes. I’m sure that each one of those topics even has its own fandom. Hell, there are writers for Geekade who contribute sports articles. (I’m sure you’re all very nice!) I was a musician for a decade, and my guitar was like an extension of myself. There must be people who exist that are just as devoted to music and couldn’t care less about comics or video games (it’s ok to be wrong). So although comics have entered the mainstream, maybe there are people who pay absolutely no attention, the same way that I don’t pay attention to certain subjects – and maybe that’s ok. 

When I was a child, very few of my schoolmates liked comic books at all. Although I was bullied, partially as a result of my interests, it still felt good knowing everything I knew about comic books back then. Today, I have a lot of in-depth knowledge and often surprise my friends with certain facts about a comic book character or company. Sometimes they find it interesting, other times they don’t particularly care, and that’s ok. I’m happy that not everyone has the same amount of knowledge that I do about comics (no one does – it’s tough being so cool). 

One of the first articles that I ever wrote for this site was about the different flavors of nerds out there, which Geekade beautifully showcases. However, this world is full of much more than nerdy interests. People who don’t have the nerd-ucation that I do are still happy with whatever their interests are. Novels and baseball can mean just as much to someone as comics can mean to me. And what about those who don’t have any serious interests or hobbies? I pity those people, because my love for comics is such an enormous part of my life and fills me with joy on a daily basis. I’m a proud and passionate comic book nerd, and have a new appreciation for a place such as Geekade, which exists for nerds just like me, and anyone else with a passion for something too.