When I read this story there were so many words I didn’t understand. This isn’t uncommon, however it wasn’t because they were “hard” words. They were words from a whole different culture, cosplay. I meet Jacob while I was running a summer camp. I was excited to have him as one of my counselors because he wasn’t your typical jock. I knew that throughout the summer he would be able to connect to so many kids who didn’t fit the cookie cutter mold for a teenage boy…and I was right! He was such a great role model the youth we worked with. I think it is so important to do what we love. Jacob does just that.
My beginnings as a kid can pretty much be summed up through Brian Reagan’s iconic comedy bit on baseball. I played sports like most other little boys. I played out in right field… cause I sucked. I was the sort of kid who was more excited about snow cones at the end of the game and fitting an entire roll of Bubble-tape in my mouth than beating our opponents. I guess I just didn’t see the point. If we won, we got snow cones. If we lost, we still got snow cones. I can remember standing out in right field, watching some of these boys stand so intensely in the in-field, focused beyond measure. Then there was me, creating dialogue and soundtrack for the scene, trying to imagine what it would look like if little Johnny smashed the ball into outer space. It was usually during these zone-outs a rare pop-fly to the outfield would come down in my territory, and inevitably so, I would miss it completely. This routine was sort of standard across the seasonal sports. In Spring, it was soccer. (If we win, we get orange slices. If we loose, we still get orange slices.) In Winter, it was basketball. (If we won, we got Capri-sun. If we lost, we still got Capri-sun.) I don’t know when this trend began to wear off. I either got tired of the monotony or my parents were forced to place me in hiding for fear that the other mothers were calling for my execution for causing their all-star boy to be on the losing team this year. I do know this. Life after sports did exist. Now, don’t get me wrong! I don’t “hate” on sports or consider them completely pointless. I just happened to have a different way of discovering self entertainment. When I wasn’t picking dandelions on the field I was creating. Luckily for me, this was a popular past time for many of the other boys, too. It started with trains, as a young boy. Every morning it was a new creation, wooden tracks woven between plastic ones, woven between a city of those little marble-run thingies. About this time, the Star Wars prequels hit theaters. Check out this picture. That is me, with my own hand-built pod racer. Pretty screen accurate if you ask me. Then there were the Legos. Oh the Legos. My collection was beyond incredible, and lucky for me, most of the other neighborhood boys were into Lego as well. We would plan specific days where we would bring our pieces to one pre-determined place and construct from sun-up to.. well, when our mothers demanded we come home for dinner. There were always phases in my life, some new fandom, movie, or genre that I was into.
You know, most people expect that these phases fade and give way into adulthood. Not so for me. Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I’m a superhero nut. More, specifically Marvel superheroes. I can’t pinpoint when this phase started, I know I was a huge fan before I left on my mission. I guess the point where it exploded was the day after I had returned home from my mission to England, where I went and saw the Avengers. Anyone who worked with me over the next two summers at the Especially for Youth program knew me as the “superhero guy,” participants included. I had a different belt buckle each day of the week with a different superhero emblem, and when I wasn’t in uniform, you could bet I was wearing some sort of geeky marvel shirt. I knew I was in the right romantic relationship when after meeting my wife’s parents for the first time, her father took me to his bookcase to show off his display of vintage superhero comics and his 1977 original Star Wars action figures. Lucky for me, my sweet wife buys into the whole obsession a bit herself with very little reluctance. I spent the whole summer of 2014 building metal Captain America Shields, 3D printing lightsabers, blasters and even Thor’s Hammer, and creating my “cosplay” Captain America costume for an event that was months away. We recently moved and renovated the spare room into an official man cave (shown towards the end of the blog), displaying comics, replica props and posters. This past week we attended Salt Lake Comic Con and geeked out for three whole days, taking photos with eager superhero loving kids, attending conferences discussing prop design and finding new things to add to “The Vault” (official name of the Amundsen man cave pending.)
Okay, so I’m a geek. You get that much. My skills on the athletic field are sorely lacking and I make up for that pitiful display by going far beyond what is considered healthy in my obsessions. Whats the point? First of all, let me point out this: Nerds and Geeks are completely different. Nerds are the guys who did your homework problems for you in high school and hyperventilated when looking at a naked computer with all its chips hanging out. A geek is someone who relishes in pop culture, specifically film, television, toys and gadgets. Growing up, geeks and nerds were both looked down upon, the butt of high schoolish jokes, and the last to be on the first few pages of the hallowed yearbook. Yet now, thanks to shows like The Big Bang Theory and the enormous amount of comic based films opening, being geeky has almost become trendy. Just check it out on social media and tell me how long it takes you to find some blonde girl duck facing the camera with gigantic glasses, an Iron Man t-shirt and the cute hashtag #imsuchageek. I guarantee none of them could tell me the difference between Vibranium and Adamantium, what a DL-44 blaster is or the specific type of radiation that Dr. Bruce Banner was exposed to that transformed him into The Incredible Hulk. But when you strip away the big glasses, the movie obsessions, and the infinite amount of Tardis playtoys and more, what is at the heart of Geekdom? Storytelling and Imagination.
Think for a minute upon your childhood. Think about that time mom bought a new refrigerator, and the box it came in suddenly became a starship, a submarine, or in my case, a Star Wars Podracer. Think about the infinite amount of childhood drawings that used to adorn that refrigerator, from T-rexes to Power Rangers to princesses. Children really are the most creative creatures in the world. What happened then? What happened that made us put away those action figures, quit drawing those masterpieces and give up our imagination as if it had died and moved on? Were you told at one point that you were “too old to… such and such?” Did someone poke fun of the decorative doodles that ringed your 5th grade binder? Or did the stress of every day life come in and squeeze the imagination right out of you with thoughts of homework, dating, moneymaking and relationships? The point is, sadly at some point we loose a large portion of this magic. For me, the geeky side of life I hang onto keeps my imagination alive. Even as a 23-year-old, I can surround myself and my office with comic books, props, toys and images that give great inspiration to my creative side. They tell fantastical stories of ordinary humans with extraordinary abilities. The television and films we watch influence us to explore a world that to our knowledge doesn’t exist. Suddenly time travel is once again possible by walking into a rather ordinary blue box. Creatures that once only lived in our childhood imaginations now storm across the screen, pages and even material belongings of our life. Just this past weekend I stood in the Salt Palace Convention Center dressed as Captain America, talking to a press crew about the construction of my costume when I felt a small tug on my pant leg and looked down to see a miniature Captain America. He looked shyly up at me with his small plastic shield, timidly mumbling if he could take a picture with me, the “REAL” Captain America (I was honored.) That one experience made the entire convention a grand success. We live in a world that’s in desperate need of the fantastical and the exciting. As an artist and designer, Its my job to be creative. It’s my duty to bring imagination, storytelling and wonder into the fabric of what could possibly be our rather mundane lives. I do what I can to keep that inspiration alive and surround myself with the very best in storytelling, creativity and imagination. I’ve studied and practiced music, graphics, writing, magic, film-making and more, all fueled by the love of these great stories. This week, standing in a convention center with over 90,000 other geeks it was really brought to my mind that others need this to. So if you find yourself stuck in a rut, bored with your job or schooling, or struggling to see from the perspective of your creative child’s eyes, go be a geek. Go read JRR Tolkien’s masterful Lord of the Rings trilogy and find yourself journeying with the fellowship throughout its pages. Turn on Dr. Who and experience traveling through space and time with your very own British Doctor. Discover your super-powers in the pages of America’s Mythology: Comic Books. But most of all, become a kid again. Build a fort. Make a movie. Get out the Legos. Put on a costume. Be Creative.
I am a working graphic designer and love working on prop design in my spare time. If you’re a geek and want a prop built for your collection or you need some imaginative design work done contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out some of my artistic work here.
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