Nerd Factor: In Praise of the Space Kook

Scooby and Shaggy encounter the Space Kook. 

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

     Over a bleak landscape, an otherworldly vehicle flies across the dusky horizon. Its dilapidated condition creates a haunting sense, amplified by the pulsing red lights from its cockpit and the bizarre electronic sound of its engines. After the craft sets down, a strange figure makes its way up the dirt road towards the viewer. The blue space suit seems to glow in the low light as the being lopes forward with a strange gait. As it nears, a blue skull is visible through the suit’s helmet dome. The dome glows red and the skull screams an eerie laugh.

That scream sent a chill down my very young spine. While there have been many more popular culture frights fired along my central nervous system since then, as the season of scares near, I find myself nostalgic for my youthful first encounter with Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!’s Space Kook.

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Nerd Factor: Hype

Retrieved from

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

     Hype quickens the blood of fans and stirs their hearts. Hype also withers their souls and makes them despair for the future of their favorites. Hype is somehow aqua vitae and bitter poison at the same time.

     The culture industries need their fans to be at least happy enough to keep participating. The relationship is inherently insecure because the fan demands some change. After all, the fan cannot watch the exact same thing over and over again. The next issue, the upcoming sequel, or the next series must give the audience something a little bit new, but not so new that it drives them away.

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Nerd Factor: The Face of the Joker


Screenshot 2019-09-30 23.52.05
Movie Poster for Joker

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

While he has a certain sartorial flare for purple and orange clothing, the truly iconic elements of the Joker are his terrifyingly broad grin outlined in bright read lips, his green hair, and his ghoulish, white pallor. The look puts the clown in the Clown Prince of Crime. Like many other elements of the Joker, this distinctive look has shifted and changed over time. In fact, this fluidity is driving our culture’s unsettled reaction to the character’s upcoming movie.

     In comics, Joker’s visage has changed based upon the artists who drew him. There is some academic and fan debate over the influences that led to that look, from the disturbing face of the protagonist in the 1928 expressionist film The Man Who Laughs to the imagery found in a deck of playing cards. Each artist renders the Joker differently.  A list of personal favorites could fill this whole article, but Jim Aparo’s thin and wiry Joker has always been on the top of the list.

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Nerd Factor: Batman’s Day


Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

Last weekend, major cities across the world held Batman Day events. In ten of these global Gothams, the Bat-Signal was lit in order to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Dark Knight Detective. Was this a commercial stunt? Of course it was. Batman’s corporate owners can always benefit from some more sales of comics, movies, and merchandising. I think, however, that there is something else going on here. After all, Batman is not something we are required to celebrate. We love this Caped Crusader.

One of the enduring appeals of Batman is that he is a human being. No solar rays activated his alien biology. No laboratory accidents or radioactive creature bites gave him superpowers. No mutant genes lurked in his DNA until puberty.

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Nerd Factor: The Eagle Has Crash Landed

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

 On Friday, the social media sphere was abuzz with the portents of a full moon falling on Friday the 13th. But the day was also the fake twentieth anniversary of the day the moon was blown out of orbit on the classic science fiction show Space: 1999.

     The show debuted in 1975 and pretty much from the very beginning it was a mess. Set in the then far off date of Sept. 13, 1999, the series took the audacious premise of our lunar satellite being knocked into a space warp after a disaster involving radioactive material that exploded. That scenario offered a weird combination of previous old school sci-fi hits Star Trek and Lost in Space as the many inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha dealt with the dangers and wonders inherent in living on a former satellite careening randomly into the beyond. 

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Nerd Factor: Henchman Hints

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

Getting started on any career path is challenging, but first steps in the super-crime business are particularly problematic. Unless you are one of the fortunate few who survive accidents with weird radiation, who discover ancient artifacts that unlock secret mystic powers, or who stumble upon alien space weapons, then chances are you will not be starting right at the top. That means you’ll be a henchman, and “henching” is hard.

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Nerd Factor: All’s Well That Endgames Well?

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

[Warning: Spoilers for this summer’s Marvel movies]

     Hurrah! Happy ending! Thanos is beaten and all is well in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I mean sure, heroic sacrifices were made and all that, but such things should be expected when the ultimate evil is engaged. The important thing is that things are back to normal.

     Avengers: Endgame was a movie built upon time travel hijinks and superhero brawls. At three hours long, one certainly can understand that not every aspect of the temporal dilemmas and not every question about alternate universe experiences were addressed in it. Spider-Man: Far From Home did take on some of the problems of half of the world’s population being returned to life after five years. However that exposition was abandoned in favor of a summer class trip inspired adventure. 

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