The ‘geek’ culture is rising, true believers

“Nerds, geeks, dweebs…” mutters the passing group of jocks. Their attractive cheerleader girlfriends giggle wildly as they hang off the football players’ bulging arms. The thick-framed glasses wearing, Star Wars shirt adorning group on the receiving end of the insults pull their noses out from their comic books to catch the pack of athletes snickering as they walk out of sight…
This was an average day in the life of the geek only but a decade or so ago. Today, being the geek is the new cool as popularity in what makes a geek a geek (interest in comic books, video games and science fiction) has reached an all-time high in mass culture.
One indication of this new rise in popularity in ‘geek’ culture is the recent proliferation in comic book, game and collectable toy stores right here in St. Catharines.
Todd Graves, owner of The Toy Trove on St. Paul Street, opened his toy and game store a year and a half ago seeing a need to meet the new demand for ‘geek’ items in the area.
“It’s something I had an interest in, but also, I knew it was something the area was kind of lacking,” said Graves. “I used to work at EB Games and I knew, just from working there, the people were into these kinds of collectables; and really the only place near that had anything were some comic book stores, but they only specialized in comics and not so much the collectables. There wasn’t really a big supply for [toy collectables] in the area.”
Graves specializes in toys and games, but he also sells trading card games, board games as well as old and new collectables.
Graves said that business was slow upon its opening, but the interest was there which led to its eventual success.
“I’d say that at first it took a while to get people to know I was here. Right off the bat, there was a definite interest, but it was just over time as word spread that it slowly built up. Eventually, it got to the point where the store became so known I actually had to expand. I had to open up the unit next to me within my first year, and that’s when the gaming crowd really took over. I’d say it was a snowball effect once people knew about me.”
Geoff Rousseau, co-owner of the recently opened Sketchbook Comics & Games on Glenridge Avenue, said the shop has been very well-received by the community since its opening, and that business has only been increasing.
“We started off fairly quickly pulling people in, and then it just continued to increase,” said Rousseau. “I think one of the big things in St. Catharines, when it comes to comic shops, is there was really only one option. So, the idea that another store opened at all, especially one with variety, was exciting as it had been years since St. Catharines saw a second shop. When it comes to the gaming side of things, I think it’s similar. There had only been one comic book and gaming store that people had gone to for years, so with us opening up, gamers were just looking for options.”
Rousseau, as well as Graves, host game nights at their shops for players wishing to engage other players in a Magic: The Gathering match, or to simply play board games or other card games.
“In order for Magic to get big, you have to do [game nights]. That was something we always had in our plan. It really wasn’t dictated by the popularity. So, for instance, Wednesday nights we have board game nights; Thursday, Friday are usually Magic nights and then its also usually Magic on the weekends.”
On March 21, Brock University Centre of the Arts will be holding the live action comic book presentation of The Intergalactic Nemesis. Jason Neulander, Creator of The Intergalactic Nemesis project, explained what this performance is all about.
“The Intergalactic Nemesis is an adventure story set in the 1930s that’s performed as a mash-up of radio, play and comic books,” said Neulander. “The way it works is we have three actors who are playing every single character in the story, voicing all the characters. We have live sound effects created and performed by a single person on stage to create all the ambient sounds of the story. We also have a live cinematic score performed on piano. Then, projected onto a two-storey high screen are over 1,250 individual full-colour, hand drawn, high-resolution comic book images which tell the story visually.”
Neulander said that this project came to be at the most appropriate time, at the height of ‘geek’ culture popularity.
“I was not a radio play guy or a comic book guy. I totally stumbled into all of this in some ways. I’m an old movie guy, so that’s sort of my ‘geek’ hat that I wear,” said Neulander. “It’s fascinating for me that I sort of stumbled into this format that I’ve created really kind of by accident, and that it just happens to be at a time when this sort of ‘geek’ thing is wildly popular.”
Neulander said that this new wave of popularity in ‘geek’ culture could be based on a theory of a ‘post-Star Wars generation’ now taking on positions of power in society.
“A common ground, I think, for everybody, is that we’re all kind of a post-Star Wars/post-Raiders of the Lost Ark culture. And, I think that, at this point, the people that are in charge of the big cultural decisions all now are people who grew up on that ‘geeky’ stuff. I think that’s a huge factor that we live in the post-Star Wars pop culture era.”
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