"I know who I am. I'm a dude playing a dude, disguised as another dude." -My Life As a Blerd
I think I was about three years old when I was first exposed to super-heroes. This was 1984, the year my sister was born, and the "big thing" was He-Man. That fact that a guy could ride a battle-armored tiger, carry a broad-sword and lift boulders three times his size just did it for me. Later came my appreciation for ThunderCats, SilverHawks, Transformers, and BraveStarr. All of which were reinforced by the popularity of the toys. Toys, which I'm sure I drove my parents crazy about. From calling them into the room whenever a commercial came on, to constantly shoving the Sears Wish Book in their faces of the ones I circled. My affection for all these characters were all pretty vague yet solid, but I can remember exactly how strong I felt when I first saw a man fly.
Do you know what it's like to believe in something completely unreal? To know that it will never happen to you or anyone else but there is a part of you that refuses to release that wonderment? And you don't because it's one of the few things in life that truly brings you joy. Superman: The Movie was released three years before I was born. The sequel was 5 months after my birth. I remember watching both during a free trial weekend on HBO at my grandparents' house. Witnessing Christoper Reeve spin through that revolving door, emerging in the iconic suit(no padding, by the way), and taking to the sky to save Lois Lane was, to put it plainly, life-changing. At that moment, I became a blerd.
From there I poured all of my time, attention, and birthday money into comics and things involved with the culture. When I wasn't eyeball-deep into pro wrestling or out riding bikes with the homies, I was thumbing through pages of Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man. My friends enjoyed these sorts of things also but while they just dipped a toe into comics, sci-fi, and video games, I was neck-deep into X-Men, Star Wars, and The Journeyman Project. Yeah, I'm that old. I never really had someone or a peer group to really share this same appreciation the way I did. Some liked a few of the pop culture treasures I enjoyed, but not nearly enough to have someone truly understand and appreciate these characters, stories, and ultimately, me.
Now, unlike the present time, being a person who enjoyed these things meant to suffer a little ridicule from your peers. Being a "geek" or a "nerd" wasn't as accepting as it is today.
I've had my fair share of name-calling and bullying. Not enough to leave extensive damage to my self-perception but far too much for it to not cut at my emotions. Even my own father who once walked in on me enjoying grunge music told me to "stop acting white". Part of me didn't understand why it was so unlawful for me to authentically be myself. On the other hand, and regretfully chosen, I didn't want to be looked at by the people I knew like something was wrong with me. I put the comics away. I took the posters down. I picked fitting in instead of standing out. I still had a few friends who I hung with to be as nerdy as I wanted, but I kept that part of my life secret to maintain the facade.
It wasn't until I got married in 2008 that I found my way back to one of my first loves. My wonderful wife not only allowed me to be the geek and nerd I truly was, but she encouraged it. She would sit and listen to me talk for hours about this story arc or that comics book movie. I started buying and collecting comics again. I spent hundreds of dollars on trades to catch up and experience what I missed all those years ignoring my passion. I even started listening to artists and music that spoke more to this side of me. It was then I heard the word the first time...
While on the show 'Scrubs", Donald Faison may have been the responsible vessel for the world knowing of the term, but I was enlightened and "shouted out" by Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, on his song 'Bonfire" for "representing the realness". I knew somewhere out there that there were people like me, but the sheer magnitude of the number was not only astounding but relieving. It felt good to see entire social media groups, threads, YouTube channels, and even podcasts dedicated to our voices and full of individuals who looked, thought, and felt like me. I had found my tribe.
Pride is a word I would use to describe my status. I may not be a blerd in a stereotypical sense. Outside of Dragon Ball and My Hero Academia, I'm not a big anime and manga fan. I don't seek out and read as many black stories from black writers and artists as I should. I've never, officially, done a cosplay. I'm just now getting into nerdcore artists. But the journey of blerd is never over and there is always something new coming or an untouched element of the culture that one has yet to discover. Now that I am a content creator, I plan on being introduced to many more black artists, writers, rappers, cosplayers, anime, manga, and fellow content creators.
I've fully embraced this word. This word is me. Right, wrong, or indifferent, this is who I am. I am a Blerd. No longer wearing a mask. This is me and I'm flying!