Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Souvenirs of Geekdom: Who Would Win in a Fight Between Iron Man and Batman's Robot Bastard?

Iron Man by Jamie McKelvie.
Or: The Conversation. Or even: The Conversation. (I would have totally called this blog post 'Souvenirs of Geekedom: The Conversation' if I didn't care about things like getting hits out of Google and giving people any kind of clue at all what they're reading.)

If you're bothering to read this, you've probably had The Conversation. Most likely, you've had it more than once. 'Who would win in a fight between the Hulk and Superman?*' 'Who would win in a fight between Yoda and Dumbledore?**' 'Who would win in a fight between Tony the Tiger and Tawky Tawny?!?!'***

There's a good chance you had The Conversation with a fair amount of gusto when you were a younger nerd (unless you're still a younger nerd, but I have a sneaking suspicion you're not), slapping irony on as an after-thought. Now, you're a bit older and The Conversation doesn't pop up so often. When it does, you go through the motions with a knowing, slightly sardonic tone.

It is often a conversation that's had in the first flushes of nerdishness. After months or maybe even years of nerding it up alone, you'll finally be face to face with someone else who knows the difference between Swamp Thing and Man-Thing, and out pops the question: 'Who would win in a fight - Han Solo or Indiana Jones?'****

What I'm edging towards here is the fact that The Conversation is often the result of a nerdling first joining geek society - it's the first flush of enthusiasm for a newfound sense of community. It's a kind of a debutante ball for nerds, if debutante balls just comprised of a bit of banter in shops. It's also, I think, what people think nerds are supposed to talk about. I have a sneaking suspicion that something like Mallrats has lodged The Conversation in our collective unconscious, but if that is actually the case, the exact source eludes me.

The Conversation can, of course, be a lot of fun. As newer fans, one of the first things we think of when we're suddenly taken by the spectacle of Thor smashing Ego the Living Planet in his massive planet-sized face is, 'what if Thor went up against Unicron?!?' It's about cracking open the fiction we love and poking around inside it. It's about wrestling with it and probing its limits. It also speaks to a quiet desire for a world without copyright, where fans actually own the creations they love and can mash them together at will. It comes from the same impulse that gives us fan fiction. It's this kind of questioning that turns fans into creators. It's important.

Just for the record, it's Batman's Robot Bastard. Tony Stark might be cool now, but: Batman's DNA tangled up in a robot? Hello?

***Tawky Tawny, the surprise breakout character of Final Crisis

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