My secret identity

Once a geek, always a geek. I can do a million crunches and get high with Marilyn Manson and Limp Bizkit, but I can never shrug off my hideous birthright: I’m a geek.

Every once in a while, an incident forces me to face that cruel reality. Like the casting of Anthony Michael Hall as Bill Gates. Or last weekend, when I went to see The Iron Giant, featuring Harry Connick Jr. as the voice of Dean, a beatnik artist-cum-junk collector.

Once upon a time the New Orleans jazz impresario made me swoon. That was back when he was still a disciple of Monk, capable of pulling off a duet with Carmen McRae. But then he took his Sinatra fixation too far with When Harry Met Sally and started showing up everywhere with that walleyed Victoria’s Secret model, and I struck him from the rolls of my heart.

But suddenly I found myself distinctly turned on by his slick animated incarnation. For a moment, I recoiled at the thought of being aroused by a cartoon. How pathetic! Then the wave of familiarity washed over me. I’ve had plenty of crushes on two-dimensional men in my time. (And unfortunately that’s not a jab at any of my ex-boyfriends.)

Once upon a time, music wasn’t my alpha and omega. My parents’ West Side Story and Sound of Music cast albums, the AM station on my clock-radio dial, and the magic of ABBA were as advanced as my tastes got. My passion lay elsewhere: comic books. While other boys mooned over posters of Farrah Fawcett, I tried to rationalize the stirring in my loins at the way Aquaman’s muscular calves filled out his wet leotard.

My fixation with the King of Atlantis soon waned. He wasn’t enough of a misfit, like poor, misunderstood me. Hungering for a more mature relationship, my attentions turned to The X-Men. The new object of affection? Wolverine, a sawed-off, bloodthirsty Canadian runt who swore like a sailor, swilled Molson’s, and was haunted by dark secrets as unmentionable as my emerging sexuality.

I have no doubts that my fixation with superheroes influenced my listening habits. David Bowie, Klaus Nomi, and Toyah were as weird-looking as any comic character around. But in high school, as my album collection grew, I visited the comic shop less. My two hobbies seemed awkward bedfellows. Remember the KISS special issue (before they became “graphic novels”), drawn in ink tainted by their actual blood? Or the Dazzler, an occasional X-Men affiliate who moonlighted as a disco singer and fought crime on roller skates—in 1984!

I’d like to say that trading in my superhero comics for Adam and the Ants singles and fake Fiorucci trousers made me a new man. But in light of recent developments, a confession is in order: Struggling to come to terms with the unnatural desires sparked by The Iron Giant, I delved back into a clutch of favorite X-Men issues. Imagine my shock upon checking copyright years and realizing I continued to read comics till my senior year of high school, long after I’d seduced my first boyfriend, lost my virginity, and snuck into an X gig with a fake ID.

Like it or not, comics are hardwired into my hard drive. I purport to despise muscle queens in tight spandex club wear, but I’m hopelessly aroused by guys who look like they stepped out of The Super Friends. So when I came down with a cold the other day, I gave into the dark side. I shelled out forty bucks at a comic shop and climbed under the covers with some of my favorite older men.

Aquaman looks awful these days. With his shoulder-length hair, grizzled beard, and overdeveloped upper body, his uncomfortable resemblance to my former physical trainer—a straight guy who slapped my ass in the shower one too many times—cut short our reunion. But Wolverine still cranks my motor. He’s hairy, sarcastic, and chomps cigars—exactly what I look for in a trick at any leather bar (although those retractable metal claws are a bit too kinky).

I feel better for embracing my inner geek again. Spending my lunch money on a Stereolab/Brigitte Fontaine 7-inch single instead of the new issue of The Doom Patrol doesn’t make me any cooler. It’s okay to want a wall-sized color poster of Henry Rollins in full Superman drag from his Moore Theatre show last Halloween. Just don’t ask me to go see Dudley Do-Right—even fanaticism has its limits.