Eric Stettmeier, aka “Bubba Shelby,” is a geek with two very different blogs: There's Art by Bubba Shelby, his art blog (or is that too obvious?), and Toyriffic, which is primarily focused on toys, but he also talks about other geek-related matters, as well. We've been following each other's blogs for a while, although I'm pretty sure Eric comments on mine way more than I comment on his!
Eric was “born a poor Geek child,” he jokes. Seriously, he was born in California in the winter of 1974, and has two sisters (one five years older, one nine years younger). He's not married, and has an eight-year-old daughter. Eric is still living in California, and works at a NorCal summer camp in marketing.
Eric is mostly into cartoons, comics, and toys, but noted that he “dabble(s) in all the Geek arts.” He believes his geekery started with Star Wars, or more specifically, the cantina scene. “That hive of scum, villainy and the weirdest extra-terrestrials my young mind had ever seen forged a love for all things odd and awesome,” Eric reminisced. “Also, my Dad is an epic cartoonist, so his drawings inspired me from day one. His drawing table was a Mecca of imagination, and now I draw on it to this day.” If you ask me, Eric was lucky to have a parent who was a bit of a geek himself!
Eric's older sister was, in Eric's words, “too busy being on the cusp of the original MTV generation to like anything awesome.” He does recall that she did have the Princess Leia doll that you could style her hair. “My little sister won't admit it but she always wanted to be as epic as I. She had a huge love for She-Ra growing up, and on occasion I get her old dolls like Bow so she can stay cool,” Eric said.
Eric admitted that the geekiest thing he did in his younger years was related to the first Tim Burton Batman movie. “All during that time I wore any and every Batman shirt I could get my hands on. Sufficed to say, I didn't date much in High School. And by 'much I mean 'at all',” Eric confessed.
Eric said that he's got many geek-related items from his childhood to this day, including many he bought again as an adult, although he still has many he's looking to yet re-acquire. Actually, Eric didn't use the word “many” – the expression he used was (to put it in family-friendly terms) “an excrement ton,” (I'm sure you can figure out the euphemism). He used the same term to describe how much of his home is taken up with geek-related items. Yes, he gave the same answer to all of those questions (followed by “Monotonous, isn't it?” – gotta love a good Tex Avery reference in the midst of an interview!).
Eric's most prized geek possessions are ones that (believe it or not) he got for free! The first one he mentioned was a complete Castle Greyskull (from Mattel's Masters of the Universe line, he found it on Craigslist), while the other is a blue Snaggletooth (from the Kenner Star Wars line; Eric won that from a contest on the blog Adventures in Nerdliness).
Eric's been lucky enough to sit in K.I.T.T. From “Knight Rider,” shake “hands” with Twikki from “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century,” and seeing the General Lee (“Dukes of Hazzard”) and the Batmobile... when he was a kid, thanks to going to car shows with his dad, who always had a hot-rod or two around, according to Eric. As an adult, he managed to get to WonderCon last year, and hopes to hit it again this year, as it's become his favorite convention. At last year's con, Eric got to witness the Warner Bros. Panel and listen to Chris Nolan talk about Inception.
Eric doesn't just reach his fellow geeks online, oh no! During the summers, he teaches cartooning and animation. “I inject the exercises with a healthy dose of superheroes,” he said. But that's not the most unusual facet of his geekery!
“I am the original Mixed Up Zoo Animals collector, and responsible for all the information in the world that there is about the toyline," he explained. I must confess, this was a line of toys I was not familiar with. With this effort, Eric has had some results he may not have expected: "I'm also inadvertently responsible for all my competition by making the information available online, but I figure it's a small price to pay to be a pioneer. Fortunately a hand-full of us have formed a collector's alliance and we rarely step on each others' toes anymore. In fact, it often leads to trades or even free MUZAs!”
Eric's geekery is rather solitary in the “real world.” He meets up with friends for Guitar Hero on occasion, but the rest of the time, he's a self-confssed “Lone Ranger” of geekery.
Besides Toyriffic and Art by Bubba Shelby, Eric also tries to hit the local swap meet several times a month to seek out geek goodies for a low price. Speaking of his blogs, Eric said, “It started as a self imposed therapy– to stay grounded and true to who I am. I started out with no concern if anyone but myself read it, but I now really enjoy the camaraderie and interaction I get from it.” Since his blogs started, Eric confessed that while his photos have gotten better, he doesn't think his jokes have improved at all.
While Eric's toyed (no pun intended, I'm sure) with regular features over the years on Toyriffic, none of them have stuck until the recent “Harley Qwednesdays,” which focus on Batman villainess Harley Quinn. Why a feature concerning Harley? “Because I think Harley Quinn is the perfect woman: Crazy, sexy, and wearing a domino mask,” he admitted.
Eric said he's “connected with some great, kind and generous folks the world over because of my blogs. People I would never have known existed otherwise. It gives one faith in humanity.” I'm sure many of us can echo that!
Eric hesitated to mention other blogs he reads on a regular basis, saying his list is a mile long. “If you talk about toys, comics or Harley Quinn, chances are you’re on it,” he said.
Eric's daughter shares some of his geekery, he reported, saying that she “is into action figures and all the same cartoons and comic characters I am. She loves Tiny Titans and Batman: The Animated Series and age appropriate superhero movies too. She also likes iCarly, so it's a trade off.”
Eric's geek purchases are primarily made at local swap meet and garage sales. He said he does this because “It makes it more fun when you don't really know what you're going to find, but when you do it's like, a nickel or some ridiculous low price like that.” He has made occasional purchases online, and advises his fellow geeks that when it comes to ebay, “Buy low, sell high.”
Eric said his inspirations are “Anyone who is true to themselves and doesn’t let conventional dogma dictate their personality.” His geek interests mean a lot to him. “To a large extent they define me as a person, they are my likes and my guilty pleasures and my interests and all the things I dig.”
Eric's final words to his fellow geeks who might be reading this? “If you look like and/or dress like Harley Quinn and are available, call me,” he said. Good luck with that one, Eric, and thanks for the interview!