Thursday, November 11, 2010
The Way of the Geek #2 – Reis O'Brien of "Hey, Look at My Toys!" and "Hey, Look at My Art!", formerly of “Geek Orthodox”
Of course, having written that way back when I was writing the article, Reis has returned to blogging, with two new blogs, Hey, Look at My Toys! and Hey, Look at My Art! Go check them out, if you haven't already!
Reis O'Brien was born “after Scooby-Doo, but before the Superfriends,” in his words. His only sibling is his older brother, eight years his senior, which Reis said made it feel like he was an only child. He claims to be married to the greatest woman on Earth (I'm sure many other married readers of mine will contest that claim), and he has two cats. He's employed as a graphic designer and illustrator.
Reis is what I like to call a “polygeek,” being into comics, D&D, toy collecting, cartoons, and about all other forms of geekery except LARPing (Live Action Role-Playing). As to where his geekery began, Reis said, “It probably started when I was 4 years old and I first saw the Batman TV show. I became enthralled with that show and wouldn't stop talking about it and trying to make drawings of Batman. Shortly after that my formative mind collided with the release of Star Wars and it was all over from there on out.”
It seems that Reis' geekery was a lonely one... he said his brother thought he was a freak! “Actually, most of the kids in my neighborhood thought I was a freak, too,” Reis said. “I think my imagination was a bit more unhinged than other kids. I would sometimes lose myself in pretending I was a superhero or a character from Star Wars or something, and the other kids just laughed at me. Once, in 2nd grade, I tried to get everyone to call me Han Solo. It didn't work.”
If you think that was the geekiest thing he did as a kid, think again! “One time, I went to school dressed in my Spider-Man costume and ran through the halls, pretending to stick to the walls. I was convinced that no one would know it was me, and that everyone would be talking for weeks about that mysterious hero who came to their school! I ducked into the bathroom and changed into my regular clothes and then walked out like 'What happened? Was there a superhero here?' but the Principal was waiting for me. I couldn't believe that everyone knew it was me!”
Like many of his fellow geeks, there was a tragedy involving his childhood geek possessions. In Reis' case, it was what he refers to as “The Forced Purge of 1985,” when his dad forced him to throw all his comics, toys and other cool stuff into a dumpster! He was 13 at his time. As an adult, thanks to eBay, he's been amassing what he calls a “killer vintage collection,” many of it pieces replacing those lost in 1985. As of this interview, Reis was still looking for a Shogun Warriors Raydeen and a very specific red Matchbox station wagon.
At the original time of the interview, Reis and his wife and cats were living in an apartment, so most of his geekish possessions were stored away, save for a small bookshelf that, he said, “I rotate my geeky collectibles through.” Fortunately for him, since then he and his wife were able to buy a house, so he is able to now “...have my very own room to dedicate to my geekery! Yaaaayyy!” Among his geek possessions, his most prized items are a 15” Darth Vader figure and a Masters of the Universe He-Man and Battlecat.
The first convention Reis attended was a 1992 Hero-Con in Charlotte, NC. He said, “It was like my life started anew that day.” And these days, he never misses the Emerald City Comicon! And if you ask him what his favorite convention is, he'll honestly answer that the last one he attended was it. Like some of us, Reis has worked at a convention once... at a 1996 Sci-Fi convention, when he helped with security, an experience he described as “boring.”
With attending conventions, there are usually convention stories! Reis has a great one involving an actor from Star Wars! I'll let him tell it in his own words: “Well, I once severely ticked off David Prowse because I had bought this Darth Vader coffee mug and as I was walking by Prowse he asked me if I wanted him to sign it, and then I, not wanting my new mug being marred with silver Sharpie, said no thanks. He then got all indignant and asked what's wrong with me and implied that I wasn't a 'real' Star Wars fan. I then told him that I wanted to save the mug in case I ever met a 'real' star like James Earl Jones. I won't quote what he called me after that.” I think we've all had an experience like that once or twice!
Reis has better experiences and memories with other geek celebrities at conventions. Among his fond memories are sitting at a table in a bar with Joe Quesada, Sergio Aragones, Mark Texiera and several others when he was trying to get his comic published, meeting Mark Hamill, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels and Jeremy Bolloch on the same day, eating a slice of pizza with Adam Hughes, and having Neil Gaiman buying him a beer! Geez, Reis, you'll make everyone jealous when they read this! But his biggest convention memory tops those!
“My biggest memory was meeting Bob Kane. I made such a fool of myself. Despite trying to keep my cool, I acted like a total gushing fanboy,” Reis reported. We've all been there, I think! Reis went on to say, “Also, meeting Ernie Chan last year was an awesome moment for me. What a great guy.”
Like most comics geeks, Reis tried to break into comics, and was somewhat successful, doing some coloring and inking for DC Comics, but never fully breaking through. That's a lot closer than most of us got, though!
Regular readers of Geek Orthodox will recall that Reis is a huge fan of Mexican wrestling masks, and I don't believe there's a single photo or video of him in the entire blog where he's unmasked. But perhaps the most unusual geek interest of his will surprise you: “I also collect those squished pennies that you make at tourist traps. I have about 20 of them from as many different places. I guess I'm kind of a geek about tourist traps, too, now that I think about it.”
Reis' geekery takes up “too much time,” in his words. He's part of a weekly D&D group, and also keeps busy “...writing, shopping, trolling eBay, taking pictures of toys, reading comics. It's a full time gig.” I know he gave up the blog due to time constraints with work and other factors, but I'd imagine he still keeps up a fairly regular geek schedule.
Speaking of Geek Orthodox, why did Reis start it in the first place? He said, “After I moved to my wife's home town of Seattle and suddenly found myself with a totally new collection of friends, and realizing that none of them understood my geekiness, I stumbled onto a few geeky blogs and thought I'd give it a shot. It was my way of getting out all the things I want to talk about without boring my real-life friends and embarrassing the wife.” I think many of us can relate to that.
Like many bloggers, Reis' blog went through an evolutionary process. “At first it was real willy-nilly. Just me talking about whatever geeky thing was on my mind. Swiping pics and just posting them. I now know to give proper credit and other unspoken rules of blogging. My blog has also developed recurring features, which is cool. And I was also surprised to see what things that I originally thought would be large parts of the blog have fallen to the wayside.”
Among the features Geek Orthodox featured was The Big Fat Stupid Toy Show (“Which basically gives me an excuse to take pictures of toys doing stupid things.”) and his Game Night reports chronicling his D&D gaming adventures. In the past, he'd also done a number of other features that lasted for a short period of time or a longer period, depending on how long it would take for him to feel it had worn out its welcome.
Like many bloggers, doing Geek Orthodox made Reis a number of cyber-friends, and he's even been fortunate enough to have some readers sending him gifts of appreciation, which Reis found very rewarding. The blog even led to him landing a part-time job as the Action Figure Collecting Guide at About.com, so it helped put some cash in his pocket!
When asked what some of his favorite blogs are, Reis replied, “Oh boy. This one of course! And Toyriffic, Adventures in Nerdliness, Super Punch, Topless Robot, Calvin's Canadian Cave of Coolness, 3D Monsters, Branded in the 80s, Eclectorama. The list goes on and on!”
As if being a blogger wasn't geeky enough, Reis claims that the geekiest thing he's done as an adult was pretty odd... “I danced in a dance-off in front of a couple of hundred people against a guy in a sheep costume while wearing a Luchador mask. And I'd do it again, too!” I believe you, Reis!
When it comes to spending the long green on his geekery, Reis spends his money locally at Golden Age Collectibes in Pike Place Market, Xanadu comics, Gary's Games, and Half-Price Books, all in Seattle. He's also made a number of purchases through eBay and says, “I love Miniature Market! Everyone go there and buy some single D&D minis!”
The only advice Reis is willing to offer to those shopping on eBay was, “Don't even think about outbidding me, you little punks!” I'd imagine his tongue was firmly in cheek when he said that! So far, Reis has not done any selling online at all.
Reis O'Brien is definitely not apologetic about being a geek, and his various interests are important to him. When asked why this was, he enthusiastically replied, “It all boils down to the pursuit of happiness. In my younger days (high school mostly), I tried to squash my geeky tendencies, tried to be "cool". But now I'm trying to declare it to the world that I'm really just a big geek, to own it and never be ashamed. I LOVE STAR WARS! I PLAY D&D! I WISH I WAS BATMAN! These things make me happy and I don't care who knows it.” Amen, brother!
And I'll let Reis have the last word in this installment, his own statement to his fellow geeks out there: “STAND UP MY FELLOW GEEKS AND LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD!!!”