Nerd Factor: Awkward Easter Bunny Photos

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Illustration by Nicole Freewalt 

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

In malls across the country, kids are lining up for the annual tradition of the photo with the Easter Bunny.  In recent years, another tradition has sprung up in parallel with this ritual. Thanks to internet sites and social media, it is also time for the annual sharing of awkward Easter Bunny photos. Pictures of overwhelmed little kids encountering the terrifying costumed rabbits fire about cyberspace to the amusement of viewers everywhere.

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Nerd Factor: Shazam!

Dr Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication

This weekend, Shazam makes his first return to the big screen since his 1941 movie serial. Here are some useful things to know about thunderous homecoming.

He is the Original Captain Marvel:  Shazam’s name is a tricky tale of corporate skullduggery and trademark carelessness.  When the character debuted in Fawcett Comic’s Whiz Comics #2 in 1940, Bill Parker and C.C. Beck’s creation had already faced a number of name changes and finally settled in as “Captain Marvel.”  That seems strange to us today because we habitually divide the superhero universes up between DC and Marvel. But back then, DC was mostly called National Comics and Marvel was known as Timely.  

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Nerd Factor: Batmans Best

Dr, Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

This week, DC Comics is celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Caped Crusader’s debut in Detective Comics #27.  To honor the Dark Knight’s eighth decade, Nerd Factor presents the best of the Bat.

The Best Comics Run:  Obviously, the Dark Knight has appeared in countless stories over the past eighty years.  When recommending Batman in comic book form, many fans will point to some of the most legendary comic stories out there.  Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (1986), Batman: Year One (1987), and Batman: The Killing Joke (1988) are amazing examples of graphic storytelling, but they are special events and limited editions.  There is something to be said about the monthly work of producing a serial narrative. The story now collectively known as “Strange Apparitions” (Detective Comics #469-476, 478-479) by writer Steve Englehart and artist Marshall Rogers in 1977-1978 re-established everything amazing about Batman.  This also includes “The Laughing Fish,” one of the best Joker stories ever written.

The Best Gadget:  The Batmobile is a legendary pop culture vehicle, but it’s too big to be a gadget.  Therefore the honor goes to Batman’s most versatile tool, the batarang. A distance weapon that is also a sharp knife and that returns if the shot is missed?  Yes, nothing is cooler than that.

The Single Coolest Move Batman Ever Made: Batman can do anything an Olympic-level athlete can, all while billowing a huge cape behind him.  In the epic, cross-company Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk (1981), when Marvel’s enraged jade giant whips a whole car at Batman, our hero jumps through the sedan’s closed windows.  Cars were bigger then, but still, that was something.

The Best Substitute: From time to time, for various reasons, Batman has to stop being Batman.  When that is necessary, the best stand-in is none other than Dick Grayson, the original Robin.  It only stands to reason. Grayson is the guy Batman trained his whole life. The runner-up though is Superman, who takes an amusing, out-of-his-element turn pretending to be the Bat in “Knight Time,” a 1998 episode of Superman: The Animated Series.

The Best Book About Batman: Unsurprisingly, Batman has generated a lot of academic interest over the years.  While many great books are out there, I strongly recommend Glen Weldon’s The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture (2nd ed., 2016).

The Best Adam West Moment:  West’s campy comedy skills are on full display in the 1966 Batman movie.  Search for “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb.” You’ll see.

The Best Movie:  Batman is lucky.  Most of his movies have been pretty good.  Batman: The Dark Knight (2005) rises to the top with its grim assessment of the hero’s order versus chaos struggle against the Joker.  Second place goes to the amazing Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993).

The Batman Actor:  All that said, I go with old school favorite Michael Keaton.  The definitive, serious movie Batman set the standard that all others must follow.

The Best Lego Batman: Lego Batman

The Consistently Best Batman You Will Ever Get:  We are lucky to live in a world that has Batman: The Animated Series (1993-1994) in it.  There will probably never be a more accurate and entertaining version of the legendary hero than what this series and its sequels gave us.  Most episodes are perfection.


First Year Vibes: Inevitable Things in College

Anna-Catherine Kueng ~ Assistant Editor

When I visited U of L as a high school senior, my tour guide told me that I would get sick at least once during first semester. I did not want to believe her, but by September her prediction had come true for me. People will tell you a lot of things that will happen to you in college, and I am about to be one of those people. Believe it or not, the following things have likely happened to you or will happen to you before you graduate.

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Nerd Factor: The Prophecy

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

I’m not sure if technically it was a curse or a prophecy, but it went something like this:

“One day, you’ll see Doctor Doom come back from the dead one too many times and that’ll be it.”

The source of this ominous portent was a curious one.  This was not some grizzled old fan complaining about the good ole days.  Bumper was the co-owner of The Twilight Zone, my beloved first comic book shop in downtown Annapolis.  If memory serves, Bumper’s real name was Roger. He had a kind of young Bill Murray vibe about him. Along with the other co-owner Scott, Bumper had shepherded my early fandom since my friends and I discovered the shop in my high school days.  To me, Bumper and Scott were like the cool, older brothers of comics.

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Nerd Factor: Bothered by Strong Women

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Professor

Recently, the website Rotten Tomatoes closed down features of their website and pledged to control the ability of users to comment on movies before those movies were actually released.  Sadly, the reasons for this were not just common sense. No, this move was the response to an effort to ruin the success of Captain Marvel before the release by deliberately going after the film with negative comments and ratings.

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