This idea came from author Gail Carriger’s blog, where she listed the fandoms that turned her into the nerdy/geeky/dorky person she is today. This encouraged me to think back and remember my own nerdy origins. This may not be everything, but these are the things that distinctly stick out for me.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers. My brother and I were oft punished for our epic battles, but one thing guaranteed we’d sit in the same room at peace: children’s action shows. We owned crates of action figures and play sets, would race into the living room to make sure the TV turned on at the proper time, and yelled at the screen in tandem when unimportant garbage like severe weather warnings interrupted the important plot. These shows, along with a lot of others, got me hooked on plot-based character-driven stories with multi-episode continuity where I was heavily, emotionally invested in the outcome. (Power Rangers is also the first example of a show I quit because they axed a favorite character. No Kimberly, no Angela.)
Pokemon. The anime, the video game, even the trading card game. Coming out when I was 12 — perfect age for Poke-fever, I’d say — I was hooked on the cute critters, the customizable team, and the heartfelt, very goofy show. It was the first time I realized I was being manipulated by a company to buy as much stuff as possible, but also that I really didn’t give a gosh-darn as long as I got all that sweet plastic junk. (I ate Burger King for this stuff. BURGER KING.) It was also another thing that got my brother and me to stop fighting for long enough to enjoy together, watching the show, playing the game on our separate Gameboys, or figuring out the weirdly complicated rules of the card game.
Animorphs. While I’d read other series books — Boxcar Children, The Baby-Sitter’s Club — This was the first one I collected not haphazardly, but as it came out. I anticipated release dates for this thing. It would train me for when I became Harry Potter obsessed later in life. Also, it was one of the many nerdy things that bonded my best friend and me together like a good healthy dose of super glue. When the television show came to Nickelodeon, we joined together in what was also our first vitriolic hate of an adaptation of a beloved property.
Comics. I don’t even mean the graphic novels I read now. I mean newspaper comics. Every Sunday I would pull out the section and read every single comic in there — even Doonsebury! (I have NO IDEA what was happening in Doonsebury.) When I’d go to the bookstore with my grandmother, I’d have grandma buy me Garfield collections that I’d read until the shoddily made bindings fell apart. This was just a start of a love for the medium for me, which quickly morphed into Archie and Sonic the Hedgehog comics, then manga, and then…it never ended.
Cartoon Network/Toonami. Okay, okay, mainly Dragon Ball Z. It wasn’t until the middle of high school that my family’s cable package included Cartoon Network. But my grandparents had it in Maine. I would visit them, sometimes with my family, quite a few times just by myself, and that usually turned into a week long marathon of every cartoon I wished I could see on a daily basis. Obviously I’m leading up to this being the time I discovered Dragon Ball Z. The first 2/3 of that series I saw completely out of order, a bit of the Frieza fight on one trip, suddenly back to Gohan running around in the wilderness on another. But I was obsessed, looking up plots online to so I could follow along, and sometimes waking up to catch episodes on the Spanish channel when I was home. The day I saw a commercial announcing Cartoon Network coming to Charter cable I called the aforementioned best friend and we fangirled out like only excited teenage girls can do. Because we could watch Dragon Ball Z.
Cardcaptor Sakura. Right, like I’m going to have a list of nerdy origins without mentioning a single manga. While I have other series that I loved more, Cardcaptor Sakura is the first series I ever bought. One day when at the mall with friends, there was a completely random pile (not even neatly put away) of books on an uncategorized shelf in Walden Books. The first volume of Cardcaptor Sakura was there. I’d seen the hacked-to-nothing anime on WB, and despite knowing what a slap-dash job that dub was I ached for more. I hadn’t even known this manga existed in English, but I bought it in a hot second. I was still a long way off from being unashamed to be buying comics (manga) at my super mature age of 14, keeping my collection in a shoe box (it used to fit in a shoebox!) and asking bookstore clerks where the science fiction section was, since I quickly learned they usually shoved comics alongside that, but CCS was the first rip into a lifelong money hole for me.
Those are the things that stand out for me. What about you — what’s your nerdy origin story? Let me know!