To say that superheroes have found a permanent place in pop-culture is an understatement. The characters - Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, Iron Man, etc. - are some of the most recognizable fictional figures on Earth. Nowadays, comic-book related content is the niche that Americans anticipate the most. But what of the REAL fans - the people who bought the comics and collectibles that kept the publishers in business all those years before those characters went mainstream? The folks who caravan from convention to convention in search of those back-issues that their mother threw away - doesn't their dedication deserve to be appreciated?
IT DOES - and we have been shown some love in the media over the last few years, so let's take a look back at some of our favorite fictional fanboys.
Fanboys - An entire film focusing on geek culture? I'm there. You'll find our heroes Eric, Windows, Hutch and Zoe talk about everything from Batman Forever to the beloved television program The Incredible Hulk, not to mention Raiders Of The Lost Ark, The Rocketeer, Star Trek and many other pop-culture staples of the last 25 years in this road flick that is chock full of glorious, useless information. They are some of the most entertaining nerds ever forced upon the world.
Seth Cohen - I never watched The O.C. until I met my fiancee. It being one of her favorite shows ever, I was dreadfully buckled down for an initial marathon viewing, but was relieved to find one character that I could relate to - a wiry, sarcastic Jew with an affinity for video games and a PhD. level degree in all things comic book. Though Adam Brody has gone on to bigger (Mr. and Mrs. Smith) and better (Thank You For Smoking) things, in my eyes he'll always be the lovable loser living the life of luxury in Southern California. Seth Cohen, I salute you.
Elijah Price - Surely one of the creepiest comic-book nerds ever imagined - he's also one of the deadliest. Samuel L. Jackson, a devout fanboy in his own right, effortlessly portrayed a grown man reeling from the effects of his damaged childhood in M. Night Shyamalan's "superhero movie" Unbreakable. Price's wealth of knowledge helps Bruce Willis' David Dunn open his eyes to the possibility that he may be more than just a normal man and every element of his enigmatic performance channels the arch-nemesis archetype, whether you noticed it the first time or not. One of the rare instances where the fanboy becomes a part of one of the fantastic stories he covets so dearly.
Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can - Back when they were still called "The Funny Pages", adults frowned upon the fantasy found within comics. What better way, then, to conceal yourself from federal agents than to give yourself a secret identity based on a fictional character that no cop could possibly figure out on their own? That's what Frank Abagnale Jr. did, taking on the mantle of Barry Allen (aka The Flash) and had it not been for a nosy waiter, Tom Hanks' Carl Hanratty may never have tracked down the young counterfeiter.
The Big Bang Theory - In every episode of CBS' hit show, housemates Sheldon & Leonard and friends Penny, Howard and Rajesh talk science, girls and comic-books and frequently make their way to the local shop. These guys have done for fanerdity what Tom Cruise did for Scientology - stick it in your face!
Kill Bill Vol. 2 - Bill (David Carradine) engages in one of the most in depth and cerebral discussions about superheroes that I've ever heard with The Bride. Friends of mine have criticized his preference of Superman over the countless cooler characters in existence, but his understanding of the medium and the mythology put him in a class of fandom all it's own. It's too bad he had to go; I would've liked to talk Kryptonian politics with him!
Tobey Maguire in The Ice Storm - Years before he became your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, Tobey played Paul Hood, a disaffected suburban youth and comic book fan, who reads through the pages of a Fantastic Four and is described by the narrator as follows: "sometimes Paul himself was Ben Grimm, and sometimes he was Peter Parker, a.k.a. the Spider-Man". Though he may not be the best example of a fanboy in film, I just find it ironic that film related Maguire's character to the character that he'll forever be remembered as.
Mallrats - The collective works of Kevin Smith represent all things fanboy and this cult classic from earlier in his career focuses on two characters (played by Jason Lee and Jeremy London) who define the culture. Throughout it's 90 minute running time, you'll hear Brodie, Quint, Jay and Silent Bob mention many geek essentials including Batman, Superman II, The Star Wars trilogy and James Bond among others, making the film a virtual checklist for geekdom.
I KNOW I'M LEAVING PLENTY OUT, SO TELL ME: WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE FICTIONAL FANBOYS?