Monday, September 21, 2009

Checking My Geek Cred

So here I am, calling myself the Working Class Geek, and yet I can’t help but feel like I’m not all the geek that I could be. Like most geeks, most of my friends (real and imaginary) are also geeks, and whenever I interact with them I can’t help but wonder how I stack up. Sure, my knowledge of Star Trek is extensive, my love of Buffy unrivaled, but there are certain geek staples that I just haven’t been able to get onboard with. In some cases they’re things that I’ve made an effort with and just couldn’t get into for one reason or another. In others, they are things that I feel like I would genuinely love, but discovered too late and therefore feel like I could never catch up. In any case, I’ve decided to examine here some of the major deficiencies in my geek cred, and invite you all to laugh and ridicule me because of them.

Dr. Who

As I understand it (and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong), because of the Doctor’s ability to regenerate into a new body, which allows him to be played by different actors, every incarnation of the Doctor from the old show, to the new show, to comic books, to TV movies, is in fact canon. Meaning that it is all part of the same universe, with the same continuity. That’s a pretty tall order for a newbie to jump onboard with, considering that the original show started in the early 60’s. In 2005 when the new show came out, I gave it a go. I watched it off and on, though never really consistently. Between the Sci-Fi Channel and BBC America, I was watching episodes out of order. I saw a few with Christopher Eccleston, a few with David Tennant, and I even watched some of Torchwood. I really like everything that I saw, though because I watched so inconsistently I always felt like I was playing catch up. Eventually that became frustrating enough that I stopped making the effort.

Dr. Who is huge, like Star Trek huge. Not being a fan severely hurts my geek cred. However thanks to my casual viewership and association with a few fans, I know enough to fake my way through a casual conversation. The upside is that Dr. Who fans, like most geeks, won’t shun you if you admit that you’re not a member of their secret cult, for the simple reason that they’ll be more than happy to indoctrinate you. Be prepared for long conversations involving colored scarves, robot dogs, and sonic screwdrivers.


This one I really kick myself for. I watched the show off and on during the first season, and I really enjoyed it. But then I missed a few episodes, and the ‘monster of the week’ plots started to get old, and the show just stopped being a priority for me. And now is my face ever red. If I knew then what I know now, that the show was going to last so long, that they were going to introduce tons of characters from DC comics (including Green Arrow, one of my favorites), that the stories were going to get more complicated and interesting, I would have stuck around. Once in a while I catch a new episode and I wish I knew what was going on. I mean, this is probably the closest thing we’re ever going to get to a live action Justice League show.

I know, catching up is as easy as Netflixing the DVDs and setting aside a few days of my life to watch the shit out of them. I just don’t think I can make the time, I’m not the same geek that I used to be. And once it becomes a chore, and no matter how great the show is watching eight seasons in a weekend is still a chore, it kind of sucks the enjoyment out of it. Maybe I’ll get to it someday. Or maybe Green Arrow will get a spin-off and I can just watch that.

Battlestar Gallactica

Even though I’m too young to have been a fan of the original, when the remake started up on Sci-Fi Channel, I was excited. If anything it seemed like an advantage, considering the changes to the show that the harsh reaction to some of them by the original fans. Starbuck, a woman! Blasphemy! So I started watching the show with interest, but two or three episodes in I bailed. At the time I’m not even sure I knew why, I just couldn’t seem to get into it. There was action, the effects were great, it was dark and raw and realistic, the way the original never was (or so I’ve been told). So why wasn’t I onboard? I didn’t care about any of the characters. Now I know what you’re going to say. It’s dark and raw and realistic, the characters aren’t supposed to be likable. I’m not saying that the heroes have to be stalwart and true and wear white hats, but is it too much to ask that they not all be complete assholes? I respect the show and I respect the fans, but I just can’t get interested in a show when I have no emotional stake in the characters. And maybe I’m wrong about this because I haven’t watched much of the show, but the characterizations seemed inconsistent to me as well. Characters that you thought were smart would do really dumb things, or characters that were nice would do something really mean for no reason. I remember an episode where Starbuck was torturing a Cylon, got in trouble with the president for it, and then the president shoved him out of an airlock at the end, and Starbuck was upset by it. Maybe I’m missing something, but that just doesn’t make any sense.

Do I have some residual anger left at the Sci-Fi channel for canceling Farscape, or MST3K, or The Invisible Man? Perhaps. But I like to think that I’m mature enough not to hold a grudge. Besides, I loved Stargate, so take that imaginary person who asked that question!


This one is a combination of ‘too much back story to catch up’ and ‘I tried, I really really tried’. I remember when I was a kid and I saw a commercial for the movie Dune coming up on some cable station. It was science fiction, Patrick Stewart was in it, it looked right up my alley. I think I made it twenty minutes in before I bailed. I’ve since made several attempts to get through that movie, but I’ve never made it all the way through. All I have now are vague memories that make very little sense. Glowing blue eyes, a floating fat man, giant sand worms, Sting in his underwear. I’m sure it all makes sense to someone, but I left my decoder ring in my other pants.

The movie that I saw had an introduction where they used paintings of all of the key characters and planets and tried to get a lot of the exposition out of the way. I’ve since learned that that isn’t the original cut of the movie, and that it was added to make it less confusing. I can’t even fathom what that first cut must have been like. And I know what you’re going to say, I need to read the books. The source material is always going to be more coherent than the adaptation. And while I’m sure that’s true, and many movies that I’ve seen have made me interested enough to seek out the original work, with Dune I just don’t have the interest.

Comic Books

My secret shame. Before you start putting up the cross to nail me to, let me explain a little. I love comic book movies, I grew up watching the cartoons of comic book characters and continue to watch some even into adulthood. So I’ve always had an interest in comics, I just never bothered to pick up an actual comic book and read it. It was so much easier as a kid to have it all spoon fed to me through TV. And when I finally did wander into a comic book store with the intent to develop my interest, I didn’t know where to begin. I was met with wall after wall of colorful comic book covers, filled with familiar characters and unfamiliar storylines. I ended up picking a couple just based on the cover art, having no idea what they were about, and to absolutely nobody’s surprise, I had no idea what was going on. I needed someone to guide me on my journey, and at the time I didn’t have any friends that were into comics and I was too shy to talk to the people at the store.

I found my guide several years ago in the form of my friend Art (also known as ScarecrowsBrain). He started bringing me books from his own collection, both old and new. I started reading Marvel’s Ultimate line, along with some other X-Men titles. I read classics like Watchmen and The Long Holloween, and I read more obscure stuff like Astro City and Concrete. Then the comics started coming directly to my computer via bit torrent. Astonishing X-Men, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I read comics blogs and watched Justice League Unlimited. It was my own personal golden age. But like all good things, it came to an end. I moved on to a new job, and no longer being coworkers, Art and I no longer saw each other every day. My gravy train ended, and I was left once again to navigate the world of comics on my own.

The intervening time has been spent on other geek pursuits, however I’ve recently decided to delve back into the comics world. A recent conversation with my good friend Glitterrock over at The Gunutook about the new Green Lantern series “Blackest Night” has convinced me to pick up the book, as well as some older Green Lantern stuff to try and get caught up. So you can see that I’m making an effort, you’ve got to give me credit for that. Right?


This list is by no means comprehensive, it’s just a few major examples that stick out to me at the moment. I was going to write an entry for Babylon 5, but decided against it. A Star Trek fan talking less than favorably about Babylon 5 on the Internet is kind of like pitching a Molotov cocktail through a church window. It’s going to start some shit that I don’t need, so I’ll pass.

So what do you think, Sirs? Am I still turtley enough for the turtle club?


  1. Funny, just the other week, Dave was going through your little corner of the office and handed me The Long Halloween. It's sitting behind me right now. I'll give it back to you if you still want it.

    I'm surprised you mentioned Concrete. You didn't seem to take to that at all.

    I've all but given up on buying issues. The only one that's gotten me back into the stores is X-Men Forever. Chris Claremont wrote X-Men for like, 17 years or so, built it up from a 3rd tier book to a juggernaut, then left in the 90's when the franchise started spinning out of control. X-Men Forever picks up from where he left off (more or less). X-Men (2nd series) # 3 from 1991 (last Claremont issue) is followed by X-Men Forever # 1 (2009). Claremont hasn't been a critical favorite in years, but XMF has gotten him some decent reviews. It's also bi-weekly, so they started in June and issue #7 is set to drop this week. Another selling point (for me anyway) is that he killed off ####### right off the bat! Yes, ######!!

    I agree about Battlestar Galactica (just one "l", thank you), but I still liked it enough to watch until Season 3.

    I never got into Buffy, despite Ed lending me his Season 1 DVDs. I know that makes you weep at night.

    How about Heroes? I missed an episode in Season 2 and never bothered to catch up. Do you still watch that?


  2. I forgot that I left "The Long Holloween" there, I thought I gave it back to you. I'll take it if you don't want it.

    I liked Concrete okay, not as much as the others I guess. I really liked Astro City, it was such a weird mix and campy, and yet realistic.

    I'm surprised to hear you agree with me about Battlestar Galactica though, I thought you loved that show.

    As for Buffy, I actually didn't start watching the show until season 2, so there are a lot of season 1 episodes that I haven't even seen. Most of the big events in season one I know about from reading fanfic. You can probably start with season 2 and not miss much, that's when it really picked up I think. And season 3 is still my favorite.

    Heroes, same thing happened to me. I think I made it one or two episodes into season three and then I bailed. It just seemed like the same thing over and over again, they weren't going anywhere new with it.

  3. You guys bailed on Heroes at the right time. As much as I love that show, Season 3 was dreadful. So much so, in fact, that I haven't bothered re-watching any of the episodes to prepare for the season premiere, which airs today. I think at this point, I'm only watching it just to see how bad it really is.

    It's like they never bothered to keep a mythology book or an archive, or even a little manila folder filled with post-it notes and stuff about the characters, their backstories, etc. More importantly, the original premise for the series, about ordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances, seems to have gone with the wind. Did Matt Parkman ever actually spend a day on the job as a NY detective? Because he passed the test for it. And Claire -- when was the last time she was in school? And how come her parents aren't more strict with her in that regard? And when did it become public knowledge that Nathan is Claire's biological father? Wasn't that supposed to be a deep dark secret, buried for the sake of keeping his political image clean?

    Yikes. I'll tell you guys what I thought of the show. I must like torture.

  4. I'd like to think that Heroes is Jeph Loeb's fault. He's well known as a comics writer -- in fact, he wrote The Long Holloween mentioned above. However, he's recently developed a reputation for writing very, very bad comics. To wit:

    He was one of the writers that was let go from Heroes last year.

    If Heroes has gotten back on track now, we can blame the mess on him.

    I couldn't watch it last night -- wife and bro-in-law were watching football -- so how was it Tina?


  5. I was watching House, which I still really like. I peaked in on Heroes once and caught part of a scene with Nathan and his mother eating dinner. Nathan was lamenting about what a horrible bother/father/son he had been. What's this, the fifth time that he's switched sides now?

  6. Doctor Who really isn't all that daunting. Yes, most if not all of it is under one umbrella of continuity, but plenty of it contradicts itself, and only the most diehard Whovian knows it all. It's very easy to jump in almost anywhere, though I'd recommend the new series, beginning with Christopher Eccleston. It's incredibly accessible and a good taste of the series overall. It was only after I got hooked on the new series with Eccleston and David Tennant that I really dared brave the old series. (An acquired taste, and a product of its time, but there are some phenomenal episodes.)

    The third issue of my zine actually had a pretty good top 10 list of good places to start if you're really interested.

  7. Fred put it best in regards to the new series. Davies did a marvellous thing in setting it up so that you didn't have to be familiar with the past 26 years of stories at all.

    The great thing is, you can enjoy it either way. You can keep watching the new series and never once see one episode of the older stuff. Or you can start watching the older stories and see where things got their start (the Daleks feud with the Time Lords, the Master and the Doctor's battles, UNIT).

  8. And I know exactly what you mean inasfar as losing interest in Smallville during the first year. I did that with Buffy. I started getting sick of the non-vampiric monsters being introduced and gave up on it about halfway through. It wasn't midway of the 3rd year that I started occasionally catching it again. I was hooked then.