Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Before Comics Were Cool - The Gen-X Recollection Project: My Brother! Jason S.

Well, well, well.

My brother, Jason "Steanso" Steans has decided to show up and get his two-cents in before I have a chance to set the record properly.

There's no doubt that having an older brother was an advantage in getting introduced to things a couple of years before others of my peers and friends.  Jason's almost exactly two years older than me, so we were in the same school sometimes, and close enough in age that we shared interests and did a lot of things together, even if I was on the losing end of any brotherly fist-fights over the years.

When it came to sci-fi, in particular, while growing up, we were often of one mind on what we liked.  We usually had to jointly agree on what movie we were renting until some time in high school, so we had moments like the time we decided to just spend the summer watching James Bond movies.  But he also was the person who told me to check out Evil Dead, brought home a lot of sci-fi classics from the video store, and, as he'll mention, was key in my transport to the comic shoppe once he had a driver's license.

He got into some things I didn't care about, and I was always more of a comics devotee than him.  And he's always been more willing to try on sci-fi TV shows than myself.  But to this day we compare notes on movies and TV, even if we're watching them on separate sofas in our respective homes.

He'll never mention it, but in high school he won a state-wide award for his short story, Death of a Netrunner, his, ahem, homage to the Cyberpunk works of Bruce Sterling, et al.

Here he is.  My brother and nephew, two of my favorite people.

Master Blaster

Your name:  Jason Steans
Your current occupation:  Mental Health Prosecutor- Travis County Attorney’s Office
Your current place of residence:  Austin
Your current personal family status:  Married with one child

What was ground zero for you getting into comics/ science-fiction/ fantasy? About what year was that? Do you remember what was going on in your life?

I don’t honestly remember a time without comic book characters in it. I remember watching the old Batman TV show in syndication when I was like 4 or 5. I remember running around in a Superman Cape while Ryan wore his Batman cape (yes- he used to favor Batman!). I got story books of each of the Star Wars movies and read them so that I already knew the plots when the movies came out. I remember playing Dungeons and Dragons (but probably not getting the rules quite right) in the third or fourth grade. Some of my first driving experiences were to take my brother and one of my friends to comic book shops and comic conventions.

Why did comics/ science-fiction/ fantasy have such an impact on you?

I always loved a good story. I read a lot of books, in general, as a kid, but fantasy and sci-fi opened up a world of possibility that made the real world seem sort of dull by way of comparison. My Dad was fairly interested in science fiction, so it was also an experience that I could share with him. And obviously, Ryan…

What was it like trying to find the sorts of things you wanted to get your hands on back then? Were comics available? Did your library carry science fiction and fantasy?

It was much more difficult than it is now, but probably much more rewarding. Somehow digging through dusty cardboard boxes for hours to find particular back issues and/or driving to different stores in search of a particularly issue made collecting a very satisfying hobby. And you had to get out into the world and rub elbows with other people in order to engage in it. You couldn’t search the entire country (or world) for issues, and you didn’t just click on a button and put in your credit card info…

Growing up, I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy, and played a lot of different role playing games. My room had large bookshelves filled with all of that stuff. I had a comic collection, but it paled in comparison to my brother’s.

What was your parents’ or guardians’ opinion of your interest?

Dad always enjoyed the sci-fi movies. Mom got into Star Wars because of our interest, but that was about it. They didn’t always understand out level of involvement, but they didn’t seem to mind much. But I had this little brother who was more addicted to the whole thing, so if they were gonna worry about anyone…

Did you have friends who shared your interest, or was it something you did on your own?

Always had friends who were into it. When we were little, we pretended to be superheroes with the various kids from our neighborhood. Later, with other kids, we were Star Wars characters. In junior high and high school I had friends who were into comics. I also played a lot of role playing games with my brothers and friends. The role playing games actually wove themselves directly into my interest in the comics and movies. We had a Marvel comics role playing game, a DC game, a Star Wars game, and even a Star Trek game (in addition to many other games that weren’t based on particular, specific works). The games fueled some of my interest in the comics since they introduced me to characters and gave background information on them.

But, yeah, for me the whole thing was social. Small group social, but social. I don’t think that when we went to school we advertised the fact that we were playing role playing games at home, though, so we must’ve felt awkward about it on some level.

The image of the protagonist in a great deal of comics, science-fiction and fantasy centered on characters that were straight, white and male. You may not fit all or any of these categories. How did you relate to these characters and stories?

I fit into all of these categories. The heroes were usually a lot cooler than me, though, and the comics depicted people with amazing physiques that, strangely, I didn’t seem to see very often in the real world (and obviously didn’t possess).

To greatly generalize, the media and society at large considered genre media to be the domain of fringe personalities, developmentally stunted people, etc… What did you think of this portrayal then and now? How did you mediate that in your own life? Did it create any issues for you either with authority figures or peers?

The comic/fantasy/sci-fi genre tended to be sort of fringe on some level. Comic books especially so. By the time I was in high school, though, people were already seeking out music, art, movies, etc. that were outside of the mainstream, so comic books were just another splinter subculture. They were maybe considered nerdy by some, but there were a couple of popular kids who were into comics, and just those couple of cool kids kept a lot of other people from getting too judgmental about comics. People didn’t want to be too openly critical of something that they didn’t understand (and which might have a small chance of turning into something hip).

What impact did comics/ science-fiction and/ or fantasy have on your budding romantic life? Did you share your interests with significant others? Then or now?

Probably made me have an unrealistic expectation of how relationships work. In a lot of the stories the protagonist earns the affection of his romantic interest through some heroic act or series thereof. It took me a while to learn that people are actually just attracted to each other, mostly, because of who they are. You can ruin your chances at a romantic relationship by doing something dumb, but you rarely make someone interested in you through some complicated series of plot points.

Nowadays my wife is sort of into sci-fi and fantasy, but not at the same level that I grew up with. I’m still more into that stuff than she is. Still, she enjoys the genres, and we share various movies and shows together. It’s really nice to have someone who have someone who shares an interest in those things!

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