I’m a geek. No, really. I know that I seem like the Scandinavian Shaft, but under that cool exterior beats the heart of a true Star-Wars-quoting, comic-reading, twenty-sided-die-rolling geek. I’ve been this way pretty much as long as I can remember.
I saw Star Wars when it was first released in theaters. I was five years old. Back then, we just called it “Star Wars”; not “A New Hope” or “Episode IV”. My dad waited in a line that stretched around the theater for hours to get our tickets. We’d see it every couple of years when it was re-released, and then when it came out on VHS, my parents would rent it and I’d watch it on a constant loop. I’d seen it a hundred times before I stopped counting.
My first comic book was Iron Man #161, with a guest appearance by Moon Knight. It cost $.60 and was printed on the same kind of paper as newspapers, not the slick paper of today’s $3 and $4 comics. I read it countless times, and learned from Marc Specter’s French pilot that the French word for “yes” was spelled oui. Iron Man and Moon Knight would later join Spider-Man as my favorite superheroes.
When I was a kid, I had neither the money nor the access to comic stores to be able to follow any comic regularly. I grew up in a tiny town, and had to make do with whatever I could find on the spinner rack at the grocery store. My meager collection was a grab bag of individual issues. A Spider-Man here, a Power Man and Iron Fist there, maybe a Micronauts in there somewhere. It wasn’t until my teenage years that I was able to turn my occasional indulgence into a full-time obsession, which at its height included three different Spider-Man titles every month. This was a lot more practical when comics cost $.75 a pop, but even so, I eventually had to scale back my comic hoarding.
My comics had ads for whoopee cushions, x-ray glasses, huge sets of plastic army men, Hostess fruit pies, and Dungeons & Dragons. I wasn’t totally sure what it was, but I knew I had to have it. It was instinctual; it stirred something deep in my geeky DNA. So I saved up my money and eventually purchased the red-boxed “basic set” with the Larry Elmore cover art. It came with two paperback booklets and six cheap dice, plus a crayon which was used to color in the numbers on the dice. All I was missing was some friends to play it with.
It’s not that I didn’t have any friends. I just didn’t have the right kind of friends. There were twenty-some kids in my class, and none of them shared my geeky passions. Besides, roleplaying games are hard for a lot of people to wrap their heads around. The action takes place in your mind, rather than on a traditional game board, and there are no winners or losers. (Yes, I’m aware that some would argue that all RPG players are losers, but still…) So it was difficult to recruit people for a game. To make matters worse, I got into the hobby at the height of the D&D-is-satanic hysteria.
So I spent a lot of time reading rulebooks and making up characters, and relatively little time actually playing the game for a while. Eventually I did find some people to play with, but it wasn’t until I had moved out of my backwater home town that I was able to get my game on with any regularity.
Well, I’ve rambled for quite a while just to establish my geek bona fides. Guess I got carried away with nostalgia. Next time I’ll talk about what effects my geekiness has had on my life.