“The Eltingville Club”: When Geekdom Goes too Far

Comic books are meant to be fun. They began as an inexpensive source of entertainment for kids. They were an impulse buy or last minute purchase by parents at the grocery store. Something fun for an adult to gift to their child as they waited in line. Nobody ever expected the industry to expand and become as lucrative as it has in these modern times. DC never expected Superman or Batman or Wonder Woman to be the cultural icons that they are today when the characters were first created in the 1930’s, and Marvel Comics never expected Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s creations to ever be shown on the silver screen when they were first printed in the 1960’s. Comics were an inexpensive pulp action & adventure story made by blue collar guys trying to earn a living as illustrators and artists. Comics were just good ol’ fashioned golden age entertainment for kids, like The Shadow and Flash Gordon on evening radio programs from so many decades ago, or like the serialized stories in periodicals Amazing Stories and Astounding Stories from 1926 and 1930, they were never meant to become high art or praised by legions of pop culture enthusiasts.

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The Eltingville Club gives readers an inside look at comic book geekdom (a.k.a. fandom) by following the misadventures of The Eltingville Comic Book, Science-Fiction, Horror, Fantasy, and Role-Playing Club. Meet its members: Bill, Josh, Pete, and Jerry. Four degenerate and antisocial misfits with hard-on’s for all things comic book, science-fiction, horror, fantasy, and role-playing. They’re pretty cool dudes, if you think that staying at home and bagging and boarding your comic book collection on a Friday and Saturday night is cool. Or jerking off to illustrations of comic book super heroines is cool. Or getting caught shoplifting at the supermarket to collect limited edition trading cards is cool. Or discouraging others from reading comic books because you’re so much more knowledgeable of the stories and characters. These boys are geekdom cranked up to eleven. They are those little shitheads that ruin the fun for every other comic book enthusiast because of their rudeness, arrogance, and over abundance of knowledge and criticisms. They are those self-titled connoisseurs that over analyze everything comic book, science-fiction, horror, fantasy, and role-playing until geekdom becomes a revolting pile of mud. They are the primary reason I remain at a safe and cautious distance from comic book culture and geekdom, too much exposure to this subculture might turn me into one of the members of the Eltingville Club.

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Evan Dorkin, the artist and creator of The Eltingville Club, doesn’t pull any punches or spoon feed to geeks with delicate sensibilities. This book, compiling single stories from Instant Piano, Dork, and Dark Horse Presents dating back to 1994, is an accurate, yet exaggerated portrayal of comic book conventions and comic shops on Wednesdays (when new comic books are released). It parodies geekdom’s dark side and all its intolerable idiosyncrasies with outrageous and absurd humor. It had me cracking up, yet also crying because of its brutal honesty. The stories resonated with me and a couple of times while reading The Eltingville Club I had to stop and ask myself, “Do I sound like these characters?” For those of us that are already immensely involved in geekdom, The Eltingville Club can be a self-reflective portrayal of our obsessiveness and absurd behavior. It parodies our disturbing and worrisome desire for all things pertaining to comic books, TV shows, and movies. It gives us the chance to witness our own irritating and annoying manners and makes us conscious of our immense data bank for cool, yet totally useless information.

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In the early 1990’s, when I began collecting comic books, it was not cool to be a geek. I had to keep my comic book interests and hobbies hidden because I didn’t want to be teased or get my ass kicked. I wanted to hang out with the kids that were popular and those kids did not read comic books or play role-playing games on weekends. However, the artwork and characters in comics and the painted miniatures in role-playing games fascinated me and I felt more comfortable in an environment among kids that read comic books and played role-playing games. Therefore, I lived a double life. I was a normal kid by day, and geek by night (and in some ways I still am). I don’t go blatantly advertising my interest in comic books and geek culture, but I don’t let my interests in geekdom cease to exist either. I maintain one foot inside comic book culture, and the other foot outside, where fantasy must be maintained in equal measure with reality. The boys in The Eltingville Club have an extremely difficult time maintaining this balance. They’ve leaped too far into the world of geekdom and like many collectors and enthusiasts in this pop art culture, they’ve forgotten the original intent of comic books: fun.

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