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April 26, 2009

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Some people seem to have a difficult time switching between reading words and looking at pictures. I read this book by a neurologist who had the mental quirk, and he said he couldn't follow subtitled movies as an adult, and hated comic books as a kid.

Maybe you've got that quirk. I think I do. Or maybe comic books and subtitled movies just blow. Who knows.

Were comic books always geeky? I had the impression that they used to me mainstream, possibly even slightly rebellious. Lots of geeky hobbies seem to be things that most kids do, but non-nerds outgrow around puberty or so, when for non-nerds the benefits of chasing girls is higher than the costs.

[HS: I don't think so, because I enjoy Dilbert and other funny comics. I was talking about the super-hero comic books.]

Well, do you enjoy movies with plots taken from comic books (Watchmen, Dark Knight, etc)? That should clear up pretty quickly whether there is a problem with the format, or whether you just don't like the writing/stories that are usually in comic books.

Comic books can be collected like stamps. Stamp collecting is very nerdy. Collecting in general is nerdy. Some comic books have sci-fi-like qualities. I'm a nerd who stopped reading sci-fi at 12 and has never been interested in comic books, so I'm mostly guessing here.

It's definitely childish. Most of the adults I see on the subway reading comic books are idiots (i.e. children at heart), not nerds. The nerds seem to be a minority of the comic book-buying population, though they're probably still overrepresented in it compared to the population at large.

DC and marvel comics are pretty boring, because they are too simple and (not all) have to one dimensional, invincible characters. Japanese manga is much better, stuff like Ranma 1/2 (and all Rumiko Takahashi stuff), or Rurouni Kenshin.

I don't think American nerds read comic books. Nerds are the smart ones. Geeks read comic books. Geeks are the ones with the kind of social ineptitude nerds are perceived to have except that geeks are not very intelligent.

I don't really understand the mind of the male nerd. Presumably, I would be considered a female nerd though I am some rare type of nerd- not the kind that is into science or nerd entertainment.

Comics are kind of the American version of mythology.

"Stamp collecting is very nerdy. Collecting in general is nerdy."

Not necessarily. As I noted in a different thread, stamp (and coin) collecting has been popular for many decades. Generations of fathers have passed the interest down to their sons. As far as I'm concerned, anything with multi-generational appeal is almost by definition not nerdy. Another factor to consider is that some stamp/coin collectors have primarily mercantile goals. Your mileage may vary, and all that, but I find it difficult to classify a money-making activity as nerdy. Finally, while most stamp and coin collectors are men, collecting in general is something that appeals mostly to women.

Posted by: Peter | April 26, 2009 at 10:16 PM

Dork.

"As far as I'm concerned, anything with multi-generational appeal is almost by definition not nerdy."

Come again? You really lost me there. I would guess that an interest in philately or numismatics rarely runs in families. Nerdiness obviously does run in families. It's genetic, so how can it not? I'm a nerd for example, and I had a nerdy grandfather. Ask any nerd - he'll be able to name a few of his nerdy male relatives to you. One indication of the genetic, hereditary nature of nerdiness is that many ethnicities and some major races lack nerdiness completely and consequently haven't been able to make any contributions to humanity's scientific and technological progress.

Perhaps you think that nerdiness can't be hereditary because the word itself is new? The reality described by that word isn't new though. Archemedis was a nerd, so was Newton.

"Finally, while most stamp and coin collectors are men, collecting in general is something that appeals mostly to women."

Wrong again. Not most, all stamp and coin collectors are men. I dabbled in coin collecting a long time ago, so I can verify this. Not even lesbians are into it. And collecting in general mostly appeals to men. By "mostly" I mean "more than 99% of the time".

Why are most collectors men? Because men are more likely than women to be interested in inanimate objects and ideas. Women are more likely than men to be interested in people and their emotions. There are two (normally mutually incompatible) ways of being hyper-male: 1) having a lot of testosterone 2) being a nerd. The nerds have the most interest in inanimate objects and ideas.

Collecting is simply one way to express an interest in objects.

A -

Nerdiness may or may not be hereditary, but an activity that fathers pass on to their sons has something honest and forthright, not to mention traditional, about it. For that reason I would not call it nerdy.

As for collecting in general being your proverbial sausage party, think about which gender collects dolls, or stuffed animals, or Hummel figurines, or Longaberger baskets, or .... you get my point.

"Nerdiness may or may not be hereditary, but an activity that fathers pass on to their sons has something honest and forthright, not to mention traditional, about it. For that reason I would not call it nerdy."

I'm really baffled by your view of nerdiness. You think that nerdiness is the opposite of honesty, forthrightness and traditionalism? Were you mugged by a nerd recently or something? Did a nerd shoot your cat? I don't think we normally do that kind of thing. :-)

If anything, nerds are too literal-minded for our own good. Literal-mindedness and honesty are closely related. Same with forthrightness. Lots of nerds are traditionalist - nerds like routines and prefer structure to chaos.

The DC and Marvel serial superhero comics are formulaic, mass-produced products written for a 12 and under audience.

The form suffered a major setback with the Comics Code back in the 1950s. Comic books were the era's video games in that they were blamed for causing violence, delinquent behavior, etc. The comics industry decided to self-censor via the Comics Code (rather than be dismantled by the government) and essentially neutered itself. If you ever flip through the old pre-comics-code EC comics, they're actually pretty entertaining in a pulp-fiction sort of way--and really they were the continuation of the pulp magazine tradition of the 30s and 40s. The original Creepshow movie (1982)was a homage to EC comics (the movie's screenwriter, Stephen King, and Director, George Romero, both cite EC comics as a major source of inspiration for their work).

In more recent times, artists have occasionally taken up the medium and targeted mature audiences. You find some pretty interesting stuff in the underground comics world. R. Crumb of course being the poster child for freak-out comics. The graphic novel Maus won a Pulitzer Prize back in the early 90s. Frank Miller created some impressive work and Watchmen had a good following.

I've been reading the Walking Dead series for several years now and find it pretty engaging.

As to your inquiry regarding the nerd penchant for comic books: I think it derives from several factors. Comic books provide a convenient fantasy escape for boys at the age when they're discovering that they are, in fact, nerds. The more nerd messages they receive from their social environment, the more intensely they throw themselves into comics. Later, this actually equates to a form of status among the nerd sub-group. The more encyclopedic your comics knowledge, the more vast your collection of pristine Radioactive Mans, the more disdainful you can be toward lesser comics nerds.

All of this said, I have to wonder, do nerds still love comic books as much as they used to?

I got my first paper route when I was 10, and I pretty much plowed $30 a week into comic books from then until high school. My old man kept them, and gave them back to me a year or two ago. I went through them and cataloged what I have. It was over a thosand dollars worth of comics, at the average price at the time of $1 a comic.

They're mostly DC and Marvel, with some early Magna (first run in the US of Akira, Grey, Xenon) and Dark Horse. I loved the first run of Terminator and Aliens. Good stuff.

Funny thing is, I started looking at comics again, and I had a hard time reading them. Rob is right, it IS difficult to go from text to art.

Anyway, I've gone through all the Star Wars "graphic novels" (Dark Empire, etc.) I now get my "graphic novels" from the library, and they even have a decent collection of Magna.

So... does this nerd love comics as much as I used to? No. But they still have an appeal.

My kids don't like them. Maybe they're still a little young (oldest is 7). So maybe the comics time has passed.

A -

It's not honesty and forthrightness that's the point, it's that an activity that crosses generational lines, something that fathers and sons engage in together, simply does not meet my definition of nerdiness. Nerd interests are carried out either alone or in the company of one's similarly inclined peers.

"It's not honesty and forthrightness that's the point, it's that an activity that crosses generational lines, something that fathers and sons engage in together, simply does not meet my definition of nerdiness. Nerd interests are carried out either alone or in the company of one's similarly inclined peers."
You probably didn't have a nerdy dad. While a lot of the popular-culture aspects of nerddom don't cross generational lines (though if I had kids I'd certainly be curious to see the Transformers they buy now), there's a level of technical interest that I'm sure gets transmitted from father to son in some families.

Part of the thing is probably that the particular technology embraced by technophiles changes because of progress. The geek whose grandfather was a ham radio operator and whose father wrote video games in BASIC now writes scripts to win at World of Warcraft.

"I don't think American nerds read comic books. Nerds are the smart ones. Geeks read comic books. Geeks are the ones with the kind of social ineptitude nerds are perceived to have except that geeks are not very intelligent."
Oh please don't bring this discussion here...

I'd propose defining a nerdy interest as any largely male pursuit (excluding Hummel figurine collecting) that does not attract women (excluding football).

Of course, there is the argument that lonely fat women who raise cats and collect Hummel figurines are the female equivalent of nerds, and maybe we need a word for them...they don't really hang out with the nerds much, except for a certain subset who have made the obvious connection.

I liked reading comic books from about the age of 10-17. I mainly read the X-Men and the New Mutants and liked Alpha Flight when John Byrne drew it. The Watchmen and the Dark Knight Returns came out when I was in 9th-10th grade or so and they both blew me away. I also liked 'Nam which was a comic book about Vietnam and liked the Illustrated Classics (Moby Dick especially).

About the age of 17 I started to be able to understand adult non-sci-fi books. For example, I read "The Great Gatsby" in high school and found the book to be totally incomprehensible and found all the symbolism that my teacher was going on about totally idiotic. When I was 21 I re-read it in afternoon and found all the symbolism and themes to be completely obvious. I can't put my finger on what happened between the ages of 17 and 21 except maybe my verbal cognitive abilities just kicked in late compared to my other skills.

I don't really understand the mind of the male nerd.

Since I work with a lot of nerds and geeks (I'm more of nerd myself as is the rest of my family) I have some useful definitions of them

Nerds :
1) Believe the rules are meant to be followed
2) Believe cost-benefit analysis is what separates us from the animals
3) Can't understand why people own so many shoes

Geeks :
1) Believe cost-benefit analysis is for nerds
2) are obsessed with status seeking, but channel it in all the wrong directions (my anime collection is better than yours!)
3) Believe things are better with more features

Really they are very different kind of people and they get on each other nerves quite a bit.

In Finland almost every kid had read Lucky Luke, Asterix or The Adventures of Tintin (all originally french language albums). The writer of the latter is consired very talented and is often discussed in all sorts of culture programs. You can also order all kinds of Tintin stuff (and they often advertise them to you), like all miniaturmodels of all the cars used in the Tintin albums. Some people also read adult (softcore) comics like the ones of Milo Manara. All the kids and older ones too (but this is not consired very adult) order Donald Duck magazine. Some kids also read superhero comics and I did too as a kid, they are sold in Supermarkets also. There where 4 different Marvel universe magazines when I was a kid in our small country, but I think there are fewer now. Only other kid who I knew also collected Marvel comics when I was kid was one slightly retarded kid, so I sold all my collection and got something like 15 euros. It was difficult to get rid of the habit, but I was succesfull, because collecting Marvel comics was consired very uncool. Many guys also read WWII comics, horror comics (though I dont think there are anymore "the tales from the crypt") and western comics "Tex Willer", which are made in Italy.

//The DC and Marvel serial superhero comics are formulaic, mass-produced products written for a 12 and under audience. //

Uhmm. That's not remotely true. Hasn't been true since the bust in the 90's. If it were true, the industry would be in much better shape. Instead, what happened was that comics shifted to older audiences some time back and are not nearly as accessible to young readers as they should be. Storylines get ridiculously complicated, spanning dozens and sometimes upwards of a hundred issues. Collecting and reading requires a degree of commitment not commonly found in kids 12 and under. Go to a comic shop and you won't find many kids under 16. They don't have the time, don't have the money, and don't have the transportation. the industry shift from comics being sold at convenience stores to being sold at hobby shops and book stores is primarily in recognition (and to an extent a driving factor) of the demographic shift.

//DC and marvel comics are pretty boring, because they are too simple and (not all) have to one dimensional, invincible characters. //

Ranma is far more simplistic, both in characters and plot, than comic books. Ranma has all sorts of advantages over comics (and vice-versa), but complexity and depth are not among them.

"In more recent times, artists have occasionally taken up the medium and targeted mature audiences. You find some pretty interesting stuff in the underground comics world. R. Crumb of course being the poster child for freak-out comics. The graphic novel Maus won a Pulitzer Prize back in the early 90s. Frank Miller created some impressive work and Watchmen had a good following.

I've been reading the Walking Dead series for several years now and find it pretty engaging."CQ

R Crumb, and the other geniuses who founded ZAP Comix, is hysterically funny, and a first-rate artist (I believe some of his portraits are in major collections). And if you haven't seen the documentary about hin, "Crumb," I'd highly recommend it. The graphic novels of today are definitely not for nerds.

"I’ve never, not once, in my entire life, read more than one or two pages from a comic book."

I dont see how this can be literally true.

HS and I are about the same age and I dont see how it would be possible for a boy gowning up in that era not to have read a few comics. If you had any kind of circle of friends at all, some of them would be into comic books and have them lying around. Reading the host's comic books is a usually time killer while you await the arrival of more boys so you can start the next activity in kid world. If you were a kid in the '80's I dont see how you couldnt have read a couple of comic books much like I have read Redbook because of a doctor's waiting room.

Trumwill is right though- the comic books were much too disconnected in their storytelling to allow the casual fan entry. I probably bought a couple of mags on an impulse purchase along with balsa wood airplanes, but I didnt have money to waste on stories that didnt explain their context and had no ending. I remember Dr. Strange being the worst for this- it like signing up for a bill and several months wait to find out what happened in the first mag you bought. Who needs it.

"I’ve never, not once, in my entire life, read more than one or two pages from a comic book."--Stigmata

Google Crumb's Ruff Tuff Cream Puff. You'll want to read any ZAP comic with Ruff in it. Or Mr Natural.

Nerds :
1) Believe the rules are meant to be followed
2) Believe cost-benefit analysis is what separates us from the animals
3) Can't understand why people own so many shoes

I think you're onto something, but this doesn't quite get to the quintessentially nerdy trait of collecting things, including obscure knowledge. That really defies cost-benefit analysis.

What distinguishes nerdy (and I proudly embrace the label) collections and curiosities is not what they're of or about, but the fact that the interest so earnest that status is no longer a factor at all. Things that are frequently associated with status can also be quite nerdy:

- Cars. With all of the issues with original detailing and engine modifications. Guys just interested in picking up chicks don't care about that.

- Music. A perennial venue for men to make quantum leaps of status with women - but check out many of the really serious players - go to a jazz club. Nerds abound. Also guys who will talk your ears off about music.

Are hardcore music fans and avid comic book readers analogous in their nerdiness? At first it would seem that music fans, of the variety that work in hipster record stores, represent the opposite of nerdy. But I wonder if that's the case? Both species are obsessive collectors, deeply knowledgeable in narrow domains and probably don't have a lot of mainstream social acceptance. I suppose the big difference with music is that it crosses the gender line.

Similar would be Film Geeks--a niche probably nearly as male-dominated as comic books. I would guess there is some overlap among all three of these areas, especially comics and film. That said, music and film offer a remote possibility of escape. That is, if a film or music geek can channel their knowledge into actually producing a film or music--they have a shot at some sort of social status gain. Comic book artists might as well, but the odds seem even longer there. Someone should investigate this further.

Because nerds like books (being the interest in comic books simply a side effect)?

C_Q:

While most film geeks may be male, the difference between them and, for example, comic book nerds is that women don't reject men because they're film geeks. In fact, being a film geek might actually help attract women, though to a modest extent compared to being an NFL fan.

I find that there is difference between a person interested in music or film that is attractive to females and nerds who collect music recordings and movies who are not. The men who are attractive to women are capable of understanding fashion and see a new band and understanding whether they are "cool" or not. Nerds are totally incapable or those things and focus on collecting and organizing old music or mass collecting without any sort of judgement. Young women can instantly identify the difference between the two.

"High Fidelity" has a good description of the difference between male and female perception of rock music. Males focus on collecting genres and criticism (this is good, this is not) and females devote themselves to one band mainly as a way of decoration. In fact, "High Fidelity" and "Fever Pitch" would be good places to study the nuances of geekery and nerdom.

High Fidelity was a good movie. I'll have to revisit that one. Never saw Fever Pitch. I'll check it out.

The movies are ok, but read the books. Then Englishness of them makes a difference I think.

"Things that are frequently associated with status can also be quite nerdy:
- Cars. With all of the issues with original detailing and engine modifications. Guys just interested in picking up chicks don't care about that."

I'll have to disagree on this one. Tinkering around with cars is not going to hurt a man's chances with women except maybe in extreme cases. Cars have a sufficiently masculine image that there isn't much a man can do wrong with respect to them. It's much the same with sports, in other words even the most detail-obsessed baseball statistician won't pay a price with women on account of his interest.

//It's much the same with sports, in other words even the most detail-obsessed baseball statistician won't pay a price with women on account of his interest.//

Yes... he... will. If he is running six fantasy baseball leagues, can't talk about much of anything except sports, wants to spend in excess of 20 hours a week watching sports, and so on... it will adversely affect his love life far more than will the guy that spends $10 and two hours a week reading comics. You keep thinking that sports fans get a free pass regardless of the circumstances. That's just not so. Nor, much of the time, does interest in comic books hurt in and of itself.

Hour for hour, sure tracking sports will be less harmful than reading comic books. That doesn't have as much to do with masculinity, though. It has to do with social acceptability. Things like WoW and comic books are markedly masculine in content. The difference is that paying attention to sports is something that people that are generally socially well-adjusted do. Comic books and anime fantasy are things that people that are socially mal-adjusted do in mucher numbers. Sports is perceived as of universal interest. Comic books are perceived as something of interest to people that are mentally and socially immature (note the commentary right here... by guys).

"If he is running six fantasy baseball leagues, can't talk about much of anything except sports, wants to spend in excess of 20 hours a week watching sports, and so on... it will adversely affect his love life far more than will the guy that spends $10 and two hours a week reading comics."

You are correct, an excessive amount of time spent on sports can be an issue in terms of meeting (and keeping) women. It's not the nature of the activity that's the problem, but the sheer amount of time. As I noted in a different thread, however, most sports fans don't spend so much time on sports that it interferes markedly with their regular lives (for instance, there are only nine hours of NFL games on TV per week, for a short season).

With things like sci-fi and comics, in contrast, the mere nature of the activities can be a problem, for the reasons you note.

Half Sigma assignment desk:
http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_12240044
The UAW will own more than half of Chrysler. Sic gloria transit mundi

Only a matter of time before they loot the thing bare and then lobby to force the government to award contracts.

It will be interesting to see how their plan of making cheap small cars that no one wants and selling them at a loss works out.

There was a news story last year about a worker who was running on her Quiznos on her own after the owners flaked out and abandoned it. She kept the doors open but did almost the exact opposite of what is necessary to turn a profit. She concentrated all her efforts on the core business of serving subs and didnt restock the profitable items like fountain pop, chips and cookies.

I am not a HBD person but this seems like a classic case of people not being smart enough to run the business that supports them.

//With things like sci-fi and comics, in contrast, the mere nature of the activities can be a problem, for the reasons you note.//

Yes, for the reasons I note... not masculinity.

Anyway, that's why you don't mention it up front and don't make a show out of it. It's only a problem if it's one of the first things that they learn about you. Beyond that, I had trouble with women for all sorts of reasons, but comics and anime were not among them.

It's sort of funny that I've been caught up defending comic book nerds, considering that I last read a comic book when I was about ten years old.

Comics in their creation in the late 1930's and early 1940's (Golden Age) and again in the mid 1960's (Silver Age) were very much a mass-medium, oriented solidly towards boys, and mostly the creation of deeply assimiliated Jews who were extremely patriotic. Comics were unironic and an evolution of fantastic adventure tales that had amused young men for centuries.

Captain Marvel is not that different, mind, in many ways, than Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. Iron Man would be at home in a Jules Verne novel.

As noted, after the Comics bust, comics became the plaything of dilletante writers, a readership over 40, and comic books cost over $5 a copy. Stories are convoluted, "edgy" with the required SWPL PC/Multiculti moralizing.

Nearly all the successful comic book movies take the work of stuff done 70-40 years ago as their source, not the crap of today.

I liked the Hellboy movies a lot and they are based on more 1990s-era comics (unread by me).

Which, amusingly, have Nazis for villains after 60 years...what are we going to do without them?

It is funny how Jewish-created popular culture media like comic books and much scifi are for nerds and black-created popular culture media like hip-hop and jazz are for cool people. Similarly, Asian-created popular culture media like anime remain popular among nerds. I guess cultural values propagate even into subcultures...

"It is funny how Jewish-created popular culture media like comic books and much scifi are for nerds and black-created popular culture media like hip-hop and jazz are for cool people."

Jazz has also a connotation of a music for "intelectuals". Possibly, some jazz listeners were nerds when they were young.

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