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Thursday, 14 July 2011

Yes, I Am Comic Book Guy

The Simpsons is a global phenomenon, we all know this, and while it can be patchy at its worst or jaw-dropingly wonderful at its best, it has to be said that the characters that populate Springfield are pretty close to the bone. You gotta love stereotypes. The thing is, we can see bits of ourselves in so many of those stereotypes that some characters become synonymous with us as people. I'm sure we all know a Homer or a Bart, but for me, I cannot escape the comparison to Comic Book Guy, that chubby, pony-tailed, bearded ubergeek that runs the Android's Dungeon.

Now, let me clarify, I'm not skinny, but I'm not fat. I have a shaven head rather than a ponytail. My girlfriend has threatened me with physical violence if I ever have a beard again (it wasn't pretty – it was 'A moth-eaten chin fringe' as my lady describes it). Aside from those points, I do cringe whenever Comic Book Guy shows up on The Simpsons because, well , it's me. I fear that somehow, Matt Groening saw inside my head or glimpsed my life and stuck it in Springfield.

I spent nine years of my adult life working in a comic store that I shopped religiously at as a child. Comics, geek merchandise and the whole way of life is in my blood. I blame my mum for taking me to see Return of the Jedi when it first came out back when I was an impressionable five-year-old. That's where it began. Then came Transformers, M.A.S.K., Masters of The Universe, The Centurions, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, Visionaries and all of the other delights of the 80s.

There was no hope for me, really. I was always destined to end up working in a geek's paradise, and that's what I did. The thing is, the lifestyle inevitably leads to the development of sarcasm, a biting tone of voice and a blatant disregard for the opinions of others. When you find yourself on the business side of a comic book store counter, you develop the stoop and the attitude of our animated friend here, and before you know it, you're correcting people's references to old Star Trek episodes, X-Men lineups and 'Best Doctor Who Companion' lists while complaining that 'It was MINT before you opened it. Have you no respect?!'

I became one with trading cards, the term 'Bagged and Boarded' was a mantra, and it was perfectly normal for people to come up to me and ask in which run of the X-Men Emma Frost wore the least clothes. Jokes would be shared about the way Rob Liefeld would draw feet, or the constant gnashing of teeth on the covers of Image comics, or the subtext beneath the Kirk/Spock relationship. Ad nauseam. For nine years.

The thing is, it wasn't confined to my time working there. This is something I've spent my life doing, and I fear that one day soon I may well wake up bright yellow and complaining of the WORST... EPISODE... EVER! I tell myself I can break this cycle of geekery, I can be normal and sensible, I don't need to collect everything under the sun, but then sense hits me and I realize that, y'know, I'm perfectly happy with the fact that I am Comic Book Guy.

The store I worked in may be long gone now, but I can still feel the counter under my arms sometimes when I'm buying my fix of printed matter and someone misquotes the Green Lantern oath or argues about the age-old problem of who shot first- Han or Greedo? So now I embrace it. I know what the future has in store for me, and I am resigned to my fate as a cartoon character. Hell, that's how people have always seen me, anyway. I might as well enjoy it. Now get away from my comics and action figures, lest you sully them and reduce them from NM to VGC.

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