I was always a little nerdy. As a kid, I competed in the Robot Olympics (I was part of a three-man team, programming 'bots to perform tasks of increasing difficulty), attended a summertime "nerd camp" on the campus of Edinboro University, and spent vast sums of time planted in front of my Commodore 64. (I also went to a computer camp to learn BASIC programming.) As I got a little older, though, I accidentally made a few "cool" friends. I played guitar in a high-school rock band, was a college-radio DJ, and eventually became an international motorcycle journalist of some renown. But during all that time I spent rocking out, pumping up the volume, and traveling the world, something was missing. I was only half a person. And now that I've reached my thirties, I've also reached out to that nerdy little kid who so enjoyed collecting Usagi Yojimbo comics and playing LucasArts adventure games. I have re-geeked.
I'll try to cover all the different facets of this transformation in the coming weeks, but I'm starting with the funnybooks.
Aside from Stan Sakai's excellent Usagi series, the younger, nerdier me also had a bizarre fascination with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles parodies and rip-offs that started to spring up when that series was really getting huge (this was the late eighties and early nineties). My favorite was probably Don Chin's Adolescent Radioactive Black-Belt Hamsters and its spinoff miniseries Clint: The Hamster Triumphant. There was also the Pre-Teen Dirty-Gene Kung-Fu Kangaroos, but I seem to remember that one kind of sucking.
I should also at least mention comic strips here - Calvin and Hobbes and Bloom County were two of the most profound non-biological influences on my personality - but that's probably a post for another day. Don't let me forget.
Anyway, while I was perfectly happy reading about anthropomorphic martial artists, comics suddenly got all fucking dark. I guess this started with Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns (referenced awesomely by the cover of Clint #1), and before long, all the brooding and angst and purposeless violence kind of lost me. That, or I just forgot to keep buying comics. I honestly don't remember why, but for whatever reason, I didn't buy a comic book for at least fifteen years. But a whole lot changed while I was away, and I'm going a little crazy trying to catch up; my bookshelf is now bulging at the edges with books by the likes of Ellis, Vaughan, Morrison, Willingham, Gaiman, Whedon (woo, Joss!), Kibuishi, Ware, McCloud, Otomo, O'Malley.... Sweet damn. Anyone else out there experience a similar relapse? It's a little overwhelming, but in a really good way...unless you're my girlfriend and you want to put your books on the shelf too.
Up Next: I start listing comics and you start buying them!
Image grabbed from this site, where you can download full issues of ARBBH!