Henry: Geek stigma sticks despite big screen success

Posted on April 21, 2012 in Henry's Head, Perspectives
By Andrew Henry

Andrew Henry
Andrew Henry

There’s no question that geek culture is alive and well as we approach another summer offering a plethora of superhero movies.

But Hollywood dominance aside, there’s still a surprisingly resilient stigma attached to geekdom. “Nerds” never really got a proper revenge. I’m here to debunk some of the lingering stereotypes.

The stigma I speak of is what people typically think of as the “comic book nerd.” You know the type: kind of a loser, obsessed with the most minute details of Star Wars history, oblivious to the larger world around them. Might as well throw in “lives with their parents.”

Superhero movies have both helped and harmed this. I want to make it very, very clear: I absolutely love these movies, first and foremost, and believe that they do far more good than bad.

I think that the boom of the superhero movie has made geek culture as a whole far more acceptable than it used to be. For example, when someone goes to buy comics or graphic novels, they don’t have to slink around as if they’re trying to avoid from an ex-girlfriend at the supermarket. It’s not a big deal, to most of us.

But that’s the problem: most of us. From what I can tell, being a fan of superhero movies is cool, but when someone wants to go beyond that and explore the world of comics they immediately get some sort of negative stigma attached to them. It’s that imaginary line in the sand that is turning people off from the world of comics and fandom, a world that is incredibly rewarding and has a deep history.

What puzzles me the most is this: When a regular book becomes a phenomenon (Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games) it’s far more acceptable to be a fan of the original literature. In the long lines into the premiere showings of these films, you don’t have to strain to overhear chatter about the source material. Yet you’d be hard-pressed to hear any talk about the acclaimed comic series that inspired, say, Christopher Nolan’s soo-to-be-concluded Batman film trilogy.

Part of this is due to the fact that many still consider comic books to be inferior literature. Some think of them as glorified picture books, a genre associated with kids (and even those are falling out of favor with parents for some of the same misguided reasons). The conclusion? Comic books are for kids. Might as well pin criminal behavior on a person for enjoying a game of Grand Theft Auto. It’s total nonsense.

Great comic book artwork is detailed, original and amazing. There’s no “comic book art machine” where you just color in between the lines and send the issue to print. Comic book art is painstakingly hand-drawn, hand-inked, hand colored and hand-lettered. Every issue.

That cover of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows looks really awesome, right? Imagine that on every page. One issue of a comic book, roughly 32 pages of art and text, takes around one month to complete, often more if the art is more detailed.

If issues come out on a monthly basis, you get 384 pages of comic-book glory by the end of the year. You know what else is around that length? A typical novel. What if novels came out in chapter format? Would that be viewed as geeky, too?

As a matter of fact, many novelists and people in the movie business migrate to the world of comics over time. Kevin Smith, Brad Meltzer, Joss Whedon (yes, that Joss Whedon) and Maine’s own Stephen King have all worked in comics. Smith and Whedon actually won several awards for their work on Daredevil and X-Men, respectively.

We’ve all heard of the vampire trend, especially with the Twilight movies and novels. While those books are good in their own right, I (and many others) haven’t warmed up to them as much. If you’re in the market for a great vampire novel, look no further than American Vampire by Scott Snyder and Stephen King. This is a retelling of the history of America since the 1800s, when the first American vampire was born. Vampires aren’t actually the centerpiece but rather a great device to tell a different story about the history of America since the days of the old west.

To those who have trepidation towards the world of superhero lore: Come join the party. With the recent re-launch of the entire line of DC Comics and Marvel’s reboots of old titles, there’s never been a better time to join. You can get caught up just in time for The Avengers or Comic-Con.

To all the current geeks and comic-book fans, I say keep it going with pride! Let your geek flag fly.

Andrew Henry is an English major in his senior year.