Category Archives: Geeks You Should Know

Geeks You Should Know: Ralph Baer

Americans love a good rags to riches story, especially when the protagonist has to work hard, pull himself up by his bootstraps, and eventually makes it big.  Horatio Alger sold dozens of books based on this very formula.  There’s also a Geek You Should Know that did this very thing! Ralph Baer is credited with creating the world’s first gaming console, the Brown Box–later called the Odyssey–but he didn’t start as a technological guru.

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Geeks You Should Know: Jean Giraud

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Any comic books fans in internet land should make it a point to know the work of Jean Giraud, better known by his pseudonym “Moebius.” By far, Moebius is one of the all time greatest French comic artists. His work on the western book Blueberry brought him to the attention of film maker Alejandro Jodorowsky who quickly employed him to work on storyboards for his ill-fated Dune project. After working with Jodorowsky on Dune, Giraud went on to found the comic magazine Metal Hurlant which translates to “Heavy Metal.”

By 1980, Moebius was reunited with Jodorowsky and the two created The Incal. Giraud eventually made a small jump to mainstream American comics in 1989 when he did a two part Silver Surfer mini-series with Stan Lee called Silver Surfer: Prelude, which won an Eisner award, and he continued to make comics until his death in 2012.

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When I say that Moebius is one of the all time greats, that is no understatement. Though very different in style from most of them, he is absolutely the equal of any great American comic artist, including the king himself, Jack Kirby. I would go so far as to say that he is not only a great comic artist, but just a great artist, regardless of the medium. There is an amazing detail and quality to his work that is incredibly distinctive.

Not only has Giraud’s personal work been influential, it’s possible that Metal Hurlant has been even more influential. The publication and it’s American cousin Heavy Metal have introduced many European artists to audiences as well as influenced up and coming artists to different styles and story telling ideas. In addition to his work in comics, Moebius’ work in film has been pretty amazing too. He provided quite a bit of design work for Alien and The Fifth Element. Without his work, neither of these movies would have the amazing visual appeal that they are known for; and while his work on Dune may not have seen the screen in its original form, the book that he and Jodorowsky put together made its way around the Hollywood studios and many of the scenes can be found in the biggest films of the last few decades. It is truly unfortunate that the comic community has lost someone as immensely talented as Giraud, but so long as people keep looking to his work for inspiration, Moebius will be a Geek You Should Know.

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Geeks You Should Know: Dan O’Bannon

In general, a person is rarely considered to be influential when they have contributed only a small handful of works to a particular field, especially when those works are not considered to be complete game changers. I would argue, however, that Dan O’Bannon is one of a few people who are very influential on the world of film.

Dan O'Bannon as Sgt. Pinback in Dark Star

Dan O’Bannon as Sgt. Pinback in Dark Star

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Geeks You Should Know: Gary Gygax

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I think it’s appropriate to bring back Geeks You Should Know with one of the true heavy hitters, Gary Gygax. Gygax is best known as the creator of Dungeons & Dragons, the mother of all roleplaying game. Growing up in Wisconsin, Gygax developed a love for games of all kinds which eventually led him to find more complex miniature war games. Unsatisfied with the games that existed, Gygax began to develop his own game which didn’t require expensive, detailed miniatures and that allowed for more freedom of play. Through several iterations and in collaboration with fellow gamers, Gygax gradually developed the rules that would become D&D. Eventually Gygax, along with Don Kaye, founded Tactical Studies Rules (TSR) which soon published the initial run of D&D rulebooks. In 1986 Gygax had a falling out with TSR and resigned all his positions in the company. Gygax passed away in March of 2008.

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Gygax is the one person most responsible for the development of Dungeons & Dragons. While the initial run of D&D was more of a collaborative effort, by the time Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) rolled around, Gygax was doing nearly all the writing. For geeks raised in the 80’s there is nothing quite like AD&D. Many of these people didn’t even realize they were geeks until they set eyes on their first “red box.” Not only is D&D still a significant part of geek culture, but it also inspired all manner of other roleplaying games. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the direct connection between those first games in Gygax’s basement and modern roleplaying games like World of Warcraft. Gygax was also not afraid to be a geek publicly, even voicing his animated self in an episode of Futurama.Gary_Gygax

In addition to co-creating Dungeons & Dragons, Gygax is also the founder of Gen Con, the annual gaming convention. Lake Geneva is Gygax’s home town and the location of the very first convention, from which the name Gen Con is derived. It’s worth noting that although they are moderately different in focus, Gen Con pre-dates San Diego Comic Con by two years.

If Gary Gygax had one major flaw, it was being a geek and a gamer first, and a business man somewhere else, way down the line. Due to his less than ideal leadership, TSR was eventually forced to sell out to Wizards of the Coast, though doing so allowed D&D to continue through many updates to this day. Several generations of geeks owe the foundations of their identity to the efforts and imagination of Gary Gygax.

 

 

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