On Raising Comic Book Nerds

How to keep a nerd occupied for hours.
The moment I realized I failed my children was Friday afternoon at 4:53 PM. We were all piled in the minivan, headed to Michigan to visit family. Conversation, somehow, turned to politics and the current economic malaise. My college student was trying to explain the nuances of his position to his ten-year-old brother and listed Wakanda and Lavaria among the nations particularly impacted by the global economy.

In a single sentence he wore his influences on his sleeve: Politics by Jon Stewart; Geography by Stan Lee.
Comedy Central is the number one news outlet among college students. I get that. But how do I reconcile myself with the notion my son honestly thought Dr. Doom's capital was actually nestled in the Eastern block of Europe? Or that in his nineteen-year-old mind he imagines there's a Wakandan Embassy in D.C?

Unfortunately, I know the exact moment the seeds of comic nerd-dom were planted. It was eleven-years-ago on another trip to Michigan. There were only two sons then and a minivan was not required to sojourn to see the in-laws. But the trips were felt longer due to young bladders  portable DVD players not being invented. Inevitably the cubs would get restless and begin to poke at each other and bicker which somehow bent time in a longish direction. The children were exactly two moments away from setting off mom's string of verbal fireworks.Fraternal intervention was necessary to avoid ugliness, so I asked "Who would win in a fight, Spiderman or Batman?"

My sons forgot their argument and threw their intellect into this puzzle.Spiderman could climb walls and had superstrength. But Batman was a ninja. After three minutes of deliberation, Spiderman was declared the probable victor.

I sensed I was onto something so I asked another: Superman vs. Green Lantern. This led to Teenaged Ninja Mutant Turtles vs. The Power Rangers. Iron Man vs. Batman. Aquaman vs. Thor., etc. ad naseum until we arrived safely at the Upper Peninsula.

I can see how short sighted I was in retrospect. In my attempt to keep the peace I awoke a curiosity in my sons that a small fortune in comic books, graphic novels, and movie tickets have not yet crushed. Consequently, I have raised a young man who can tell you the tentative release dates of every superhero movie slated between now and 2017; a man who knows their no bigotry in Paula Dean that an exile to Wakanda can't cure; a man and can snarkily demonstrate why Marvel will always be superior to D.C. Comics; and a man who has decided his future wife will have to deal with their master bedroom being decorated with Avengers posters.

All this because I didn't stay out of the way and let the battle of Bored Boys vs. Car Sick Mom run it's course.


  1. There's a disturbing Marvel comics bias to this post. I'll just say this: was there ever a story about an aged Peter Parker coming out of retirement and still kicking butt?

    1. My boys are incredibly biased. I'm glad they bumped into Stan Lee before L. Ron Hubbard.

  2. As a child, I was hooked on comics. My comic book collection took up more closet space than my clothes did. But I have a happy result to report. I had a classmate named Sonny Strait. Around the 5th grade, I got him hooked on comic books. By the time 7th grade rolled around, he was an astounding artist. He's become well-known in the nerd world, doing voices for Dragonball Z, and drawing various comics himself. It's nice to know he made a living out what began as a kids' obsession.

  3. In no time or place does Spiderman best Batman. Spidey has superpowers, but I think Bruce is probably smarter, though that's not the clincher. Batman can outspend Spiderman by like 1,000 to 1. Both Batman and Ironman have taught us to bet on the guy who can afford the best gadgets.