Category Archives: Nerd Factor

Nerd Factor: Harley

birds

Promotional Photo for Birds of Prey

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

     One of the most fascinating things about Harley Quinn is her origin. Not the tragic tale of a psychological intern who makes the terrible choice to fall in love with her insane patient, the Joker. “Mad Love” is a great story, but by origin this time, I mean Harley’s real world beginnings. Harley is the most successful superhero character to debut outside of comic books.

     These days, the major comic book companies are part of huge entertainment conglomerates. DC Comics has long been a part of Warner Brothers (these days known as WarnerMedia because things always sound cooler when words run into each other). And, of course, Marvel has been owned by Disney for a bit over a decade now. These corporations essentially mine the creative properties of their comic book companies to produce television, film, and video game products. 

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Nerd Factor: Regal Treatment Is Not Royal Treatment

 

knivesout-titlepage-background.jpg

Photo retrieved from https://www.lionsgate.com/

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

     We were finally seeing Knives Out. Plus, this was a date. My wife conspired with the in-laws to take the boy out for food and fun. Excited and genuinely glad to have avoided any possible spoilers after so long, we made our way to the theater in the mall with smiles on our faces. 

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Engage!

Engage!

Picard Movie Poster 

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

     Star Trek used to be one thing. There was only one starship, the USS Enterprise. And there was only one captain, James T. Kirk. Oh sure, we would see other ships and other commanding officers on the show and in the movies, but when the iconic opening narration said, “These are the voyages,” we knew whose voyages really mattered. 

     All that changed in 1987, when Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) debuted in syndication. Suddenly, the Trek franchise opened up to allow the adventures of others. Jumping farther into the narrative’s future, we met the USS Enterprise-D and its new crew. From that point forward, there would be other ships and other officers. We got to know Commander and later Captain Benjamin Sisko, Captain Kathryn Janeway, and we even bounced back a bit in time to meet Captain Jonathan Archer. However, the captain that opened that door and proved that Trek could be something new and leadership could be something other than Kirk was Next Gen’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard. 

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Nerd Factor: Batman Smells?

bat man smells

Photo retrieved from Google images.

 

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

We all know the popular variation of the holiday standard but in our annual rush to mock the Caped Crusader at Christmas time we rarely consider the central issue that it raises. Does Batman smell? And if so, how badly?

     Many elements of the comic tune have certain veracity to them. It is entirely possible for the Batmobile to lose a wheel, although one would assume that some kind of sophisticated WayneTech device would quickly replace the missing tire. And of course the Joker can get away. In fact, he’s ridiculously good at getting away. That is one of many qualities that makes the wily trickster so frustrating. 

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Nerd Factor: Claus-trophobia

 

santa-claus (retrieved from sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com)

Retrieved from sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

     The Nerd Factor is vitally concerned with the public interest. As part of the column’s ongoing commitment to the health and well-being of its readers, an important safety announcement follows. 

     Claus-trophobia is a condition that affects millions of people each year, yet somehow the general public remains relatively unaware of the disorder. Claus-trophobia is a state of heightened anxiety, agitation, and even fright, related to the approach of the Christmas holiday. Like other phobias, Claus-trophobia can manifest in a variety of ways. 

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Nerd Factor: The Annexation of Thanksgiving 

thanksgiving annex

Photo retrieved from Pinterest.

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

     Longtime readers know that I have been fascinated for a while by the so-called War on Christmas. A kind of concocted outrage that seems designed to get viewers to return to certain news stations after the commercial break, drive up page views on websites, and outrage those who like to quickly pass along memes without thinking about them much. The complaint goes that Christmas is somehow being wiped out. 

     This is ludicrously wrong. Christmas is just fine. 

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Nerd Factor: The Imagineeringator

Disney +

Photo retrieved from TechRadar.

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

The Disney+ proposal is announced.

 

The streaming system goes online November 12, 2019.

 

Human decision making is removed from entertainment choices because of nostalgic offerings and strategic cinematic universe-building programming.

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Nerd Factor: Zap!

zap

Photo retrieved from Pinterest. 

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

     In the superhero scene, the ability to project energy from one’s body is nearly a commonplace as super-strength and invulnerability. That does not make such a superpower easy to live with, though. While seemingly desirable, this power set is fraught with problems. 

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Nerd Factor: You Might Be in Trouble This Halloween IV: A New Beginning

nerd factor

Photo retrieved from Pinterest.

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

     Wow, it’s the fourth year. You’ve been surviving these Halloween crises so well; folks are probably starting to look at you as the one who will save them all. But just because you’ve been so successful, don’t think you know it all. The Nerd Factor still has a lot of wisdom to impart that will help you decide if you might be in trouble this Halloween. 

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Nerd Factor: Bad Treats

 

candy

Photo retrieved from Pinterest of candy.

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

     Halloween is a holiday based on generosity, but that spirit is not completely selfless. Born of ancient beliefs that on a certain night, the door between the world of the living and the world of the dead opened, people thought it in their best interest to feed whomever. . . or whatever. . . stopped by. It was just safer that way. In America, that spiritual caution shifted into practical defense when very aggressive traditions of pranking developed, particularly in the Mid-West. The treat quite literally deferred the trick. 

     So while one might justifiably be shamed by others for not appreciating, say, a Christmas gift or a birthday present, I believe the origins of Halloween allow children to be judgmental. Young people should rightly ask if the candy adequately forestalled their holiday chaos. 

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Nerd Factor: In Praise of the Space Kook

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

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

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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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