On Top Of The Hill And About To Go Over
I recently turned forty years old. It’s something that I highly suggest all people do at least once in their lives. For some it’s just another trip around the sun. For others, it’s an opportunity to reflect on the life that they have lived and all of the decisions, good and bad, that they’ve made during their time as a living soul. I fall into the latter group, and I’d like to list a few observations that I’ve made over the last few days.
1. Geeks and nerds have it a lot easier these days.
Yep, I know that’s a standard old man saying, but it still holds true. Fifteen or more years ago, anybody over the age of twelve that was still reading comics or playing with/collecting toys had to deal with bullies on a constant basis. Girls didn’t talk to nerdy guys unless they wanted the answer to number seven on the test. A person that rocked DOS back in the day might as well have a big target on their back.
Today, almost everyone under the age of thirty knows their way around a computer, smartphone, or other devices with no problems. Gamers have their own professional leagues. You aren’t laughed at if you wear a Superman shirt and happen to be over the age of fifteen. Tech has advanced so far that even the cool kids use it. The stigma of being a computer nerd, bookworm, or toy collector has gone the way of the dinosaur. People love talking about their collection of Funko POP! figures and can do so with very little chance of being picked on or laughed at because they sold their vintage CD collection to buy them.
In short, geeks and nerds are in and I don’t see them exiting stage left any time soon.
2. It has never been easier to get your geek on.
I attended my first pop culture/comic convention in 2009. Prior to that, I was only vaguely aware of comic conventions that took place on a yearly basis. Sure, San Diego Comic Con has dominated the scene for a long time now, and there are other large conventions like DragonCon that have been around for years, but on the small convention scene, people outside of a certain region probably had no clue that some conventions even existed.
For example, CoastCon will be celebrating forty years in 2017. It is the longest running and largest fan-run convention in the state of Mississippi. I didn’t even realize that Mississippi’s nerd population was large enough to support any type of convention, let alone one that has been around as long as myself! CoastCon has become one of my favorite conventions, and I always try to make it to beautiful Biloxi to check it out. I’ve made excellent friends at the convention, and get excited every time I see good ol’ Herbie Crab, the convention mascot, hailing the next edition of the event.
There have been other conventions, both large and small, popping up within the last decade, that are having varying degrees of success. Wizard World is a relative baby compared to other big events, having only been a part of the convention scene since 1996. Starting out as a magazine in 1991, Wizard branched out into conventions starting in Chicago and started to rapidly expand once the 2000’s came along, putting on new shows and gobbling up established events as it spread across North America. In the last couple of years, though, Wizard seems to be suffering a bit of a backlash from fans that have grown tired of Wizard’s comic conventions that have essentially become expensive trade shows. Some events have been cancelled, and Wizard has made other changes as well.
Smaller conventions such as CyPhaCon, MechaCon, and ContraFlow, have established and growing fan bases. MechaCon is the oldest of these events, having only been around since 2005. Other conventions have popped up, fizzled out, or still haven’t quite found their niche in pop culture. New events pop up each year, such as Southern GeekFest, which held its first event this year and is ready to come back next year even bigger and better.
All of these conventions, coupled with social media, give geeks an instantaneous fix for whatever they fancy.
I blame the web for the fast rise of the convention scene, but I do expect the con bubble to burst in the very near future.
3. We have entered the age of the instant fan.
Just a few years ago, Deadpool was only a staple of comic reader diets and a few kids that caught his cameos on Marvel cartoons. You’d see at least one or two Deadpool cosplayers at conventions, but he didn’t draw the same attention as your standard heroes. Many people that saw his image mistook him for some mouthier, dirtier version of Spider-man minus the wall crawling and web-slinging. Within the last two years, however, Deadpool has taken over. Walk into any Hot Topic store and you’ll find DP merchandise scattered amongst tried and true heroes like Superman, Batman, Captain America, and Spidey. He just had a highly successful film released earlier this year coupled with a highly successful DVD/Blu-ray release just a couple of months ago. Why? The instant fan. That’s why.
Again, I blame the web for this phenomenon. The same thing happened to Iron Man a few years earlier (albeit with a much better film). Social media, brilliant advertising (especially in the case of Deadpool), and the convention scene gave lesser characters like Deadpool and Iron Man a stage to shine on. It became cool to like these characters.
People that never picked up a Deadpool comic suddenly became his biggest fan. I witnessed it personally. They set Wikipedia on fire digesting as much information as they could about Wade Wilson. They bought his t-shirts, toys, and possibly even a comic or two featuring the Merc with a mouth. As a result, Deadpool’s film was a massive success and now DP has his face planted everywhere.
That’s a good thing, right? Yes and no. Why? Because the sad truth is that today’s instant Deadpool fan will most likely be tomorrow’s instant Black Panther fan (Oops! Too late! BP has become extremely popular in recent months thanks to Captain America: Civil War). These folks will move from one latest cool thing to the next. On the surface, it is a good thing, because these characters get some much needed exposure. Below the surface, though, these same characters will fade back into the background in a short time.
These types of fans have been around forever, it’s just a whole lot easier for them to instantly change from one bandwagon to the next.
4. Older fans enjoy new characters, but keep going back to the classics they grew up with.
I really enjoyed The Force Awakens, but no matter how many times I watch it, it still doesn’t grab me like the original films did. I was fortunate to grow up on A New Hope, ESB, and ROTJ, and I will treasure those films until I die. The newest Star Trek films were enjoyable enough, but neither of them have managed to tug at my heartstrings like The Undiscovered Country. I find myself revisiting all of the old Trek shows and prefer the fan-made Star Trek Continues to the current films.
Batman The Animated Series is heads and shoulders above such recent Bat-toons like Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Christopher Reeve will always be Superman and as much as I loved Ben Affleck’s portrayl of Batman, he’s no Adam West or Michael Keaton.
I’ve enjoyed many of the newer Disney films and television shows as well, but I’ll always prefer to watch classics like Robin Hood and Beauty and the Beast as opposed to newer fare such as Inside Out and Big Hero 6.
In short, I’m a nostalgic old fart. New stuff is awesome, but it will never earn my heart like the classics. Keep your new Voltron and Thundercats, I’d much rather watch the old episodes that required foiled antennas and perfect weather conditions!
5. I’ve grown to appreciate the differences in my nerdy friends.
Even though many of them don’t know it, I love and respect all of my nerdy and geeky friends. We often don’t see eye to eye on such important topics like “Who would win in a fight between Batman and Godzilla” (BTW, the answer is always Batman) and “Who was the better Khan?” (Just to tick off old Trekkies, I say Cumberbatch), but we always manage to get along for the most part.
In many cases, I only get to see them at conventions or at group gatherings. Despite the distance that separates many of us, social media has made it easier to stay in touch.
If you take nothing else away from this post, remember this:
Always be the biggest fan of your friends! No matter how bizarre you might be, they are your friend because they enjoy you for all of your bizarreness. They’ll be there long after the celeb has closed up shop and stopped signing autographs. They will be around whenever your favorite character dies on Game of Thrones. They will be the ones that see you from across the building and give you a Vulcan salute.
They are your friends. CHERISH them! We all eventually leave this world, so enjoy your time with good friends!
Thanks for reading. It’s past my bedtime. I gotta get up before 3 AM and get in line for the buffet!
Signed, An Old Guy.