In the past ten years, the world of comic books, video games, sci-fi films, and toy collecting has made tremendous strides in breaking into the American mainstream. Previously, comics etc. made up a small but resilent subculture, whereas now they’re thoroughly integrated into the culture itself. Nerd culture is a phrase now. I feel like I should make posters showing a character with a name like Neddy the Nerdlinger flexing some puny muscles with a word bubble saying “We Can Do It.” The rising popularity of superhero films and the ongoing success of The Big Bang Theory make nerds socially acceptable, and at times cool (although The Big Bang Theory is to nerds what Jersey Shore is to actual Italian-Americans). People are ready to let loose their inner nerdlinger, but there’s one subspecies I’d rather not see more of: the angry nerd.
The angry nerd is someone who takes what is essentially a medium for entertainment and turns it into a deathly serious subject. An angry nerd is someone who discusses comics or movies the way TV pundits discuss the opposite party, that is, with constant scorn and prejudice. I’m sure you know the type: people who boycotted DC comics for the killing of Bruce Wayne (he’s back now so don’t worry), who wrote long boring essays about why J.J. Abrams’ take on Star Trek was blasphemous, who fill up Amazon product pages with 1 star reviews of graphic novels and movies. The angry nerd makes the rest of nerdom look bad.
Granted, every nerd has an inner angry nerd waiting to break free. Our angry nerd is our Mr. Hyde–it’s cathartic to change into him every once in a while, but let him have too much freedom and he ruins everything we care about. I’ve been guilty of letting my angry nerd side take over, such as when I wrote a long post titled The Unlikeable Spider-Man about my disdain for Brand New Day, which is a rather trivial problem now that I think of it. Most of the time, I try to be the opposite: an optimistic nerd. A majority of the reviews I’ve written on this site have been positive. If I read a comic and greatly dislike it, I won’t bother writing about it, except perhaps to warn others not to waste their income on it.
In the 7 months or so that I’ve been maintaining Panel Discussions (this site), I’ve had only a few run-ins with the dangerous angry nerd. Actually, most of the people who’ve commented on this site have been like-minded individuals, and I’ve enjoyed just about every message. The first time I encountered an angry nerd though shocked me to the point where I nearly stopped blogging. It was back around the time that DC first announced it would be doing a massive reboot that I had to let the angry nerd out from within me. I’d been very seriously collecting DC comics for the past year, and spent well over $100 dollars keeping track of the DC continuity, sometimes buying titles I didn’t much care for just to see how the DCU was shaping out. When the reboot was announced, I was floored. Needless to say, I needed to vent. I did so by writing an article I bluntly titled DC Relaunch? Nooooooooooooo!!!
A very short amount of time later, I became aware that someone else had read my post and wrote a counterpoint to my blog on their blog. I wish I hadn’t read it. In one massive unstructured paragraph, a blogger complained about how my views on the reboot were infantile, how I shouldn’t be biting the hand that feeds me, how I should stop whining, and how I was a complete tool because I advertised my own book of fiction within the post I’d written criticizing DC.
First off, I have to advertise my books on my site because I can’t afford to advertise them elsewhere. I don’t have the helpful backing of a corporation to pay for advertisements on sites that receive more traffic. Being independent means I have to find alternative ways to get people to read my books, and by being independent, I’m able to write the books I want to write when I want to write them. How that makes me a tool, I don’t know. Although I do apologize to frequent readers of this site who have to see my ads over and over again. I have to put them everywhere to hopefully attract people who found my blog through search engines. I don’t use Google Ad Sense on this site, so at least no one has to see random ads for Carl’s Jr. or weight loss pills. Again, I don’t see how this makes me a tool.
My second run-in with an angry nerd was more recent. I’m not afraid to admit that I love Superman. Reading a Superman comic is almost always a great pick-me-up. It’s rarely dark and gloomy, and usually the stories have feel-good moments that make life itself seem easier. Superman though is perhaps the most dogged and maligned superhero in comics apart from Aquaman. People love Batman but often hate Superman. Why is that? Batman is a billionaire who regularly beats up people poorer than himself, whereas Superman is decidedly middle-class and often takes on billionaires for the sake of poor people. Batman is who we want to be, but Superman is who we need to be.
Anyways, after writing up a review of some Superman comic or another, I received a LONG comment saying that Superman was a horrible character (actually, the writer used a ton of expletives which I won’t repeat here), that he shouldn’t exist at all, that he’s a moron, and worse than that, he is a loser who only appeals to “losers with low IQs.” After that, this individual found it necessary to copy and paste the word “sucks” about a hundred times, making me wonder if by his definition that meant he loved Superman. Thankfully, WordPress allows bloggers like me to block comments, which I did without hesitation. This is the only time I’ve blocked a comment that wasn’t obvious spam.
I’m perfectly fine with people having opinions contrary to my own. For instance, if this irate gentleman had wrote that he disliked Superman because he had too many powers, and that some of his powers made no sense within his origin story, I would understand that. For instance, I get the skewed science behind Superman’s ability to fly and have super-strength, since he came from a planet with a more powerful force of gravity, but how does that give him freeze-breath? But calling Superman’s fans losers with low IQs is just too much. Many American soldiers fighting in WWII loved Superman. There was a joke going around during the war that you knew a French soldier had passed by because there were books left in the trenches, and you knew if an American was there because they’d leave comics. As a more recent example, think of Jerry Seinfeld. His love of Superman played into some of his show’s funniest moments. Grant Morrison is one of the smartest writers in comics if you ask me, and he’s currently writing Superman’s adventures in Action Comics!
In my own case, let me point out that much of my background is in literature. I’ve read numerous plays by Shakespeare. I’ve read all of Anna Karenina, The Ambassadors, Ulysses, Gravity’s Rainbow and other famously challenging books. Does it make me a low IQ loser to occasionally spend twenty minutes reading about my friend Clark Kent?
In my book A Rapturous Occasion, (and yes, I am plugging it here) I wrote “when you topple Goliath, the first thing you have to do is make sure you do not become Goliath.” I really do believe that. By exercising reflexivity, I realize now that by criticizing angry nerds, I’m on the verge of becoming one, so I’ll go ahead and draw this article to a close. Rest assured I’ll have plenty of positive things to say about comics, cartoons and everything else nerdy soon enough.
———-I have written two books of fiction: The Madness of Art: Short Stories and A Rapturous Occasion. Both are available through Amazon in paperback and as ebooks. I’ve set the ebook prices to be pretty cheap right now (The Madness of Art: Short Stories is $3.99 and A Rapturous Occasion is just $0.99) so if you own a tablet or don’t mind reading on your computer, make sure to check them out before I eventually raise the prices.
Have you had your own experience with angry nerds that you feel okay writing about?