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A ‘Nerd’ Origin Story – It Feels Good to be Home


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This is my Nerd Origin Story.

I still remember the first comic book I ever bought. (Well, my parents bought me because I didn’t have any money when I was 7, but not important right?)

I was at the local pharmacy, picking up my latest prescription and there she sat in those cool, old comic book spinner racks you don’t really see anymore – Fantastic Four #320.

Not really a historically relevant book, but a damn cool cover and I gave my mom the best puppy dog eyes I could, so she bought it for me. My life was forever changed.

I remember getting home, reading the book cover to cover in about 5 minutes and immediately thinking, “Which issue will mom buy me next?” I was 7, I was a greedy little kid, what can I say.

You have to also understand the circumstances I was under at that age. Remember how I discovered this book at the pharmacy, well, there’s a reason for that.

For years, I had been battling major health issues, my stomach to be precise, had missed months of school during some pretty formative years, and being home for days on end had really isolated me. There was no internet back then, or at least none I was aware of, and I needed an escape. Plus, playing that finger flick football game alone in my room had gotten really old.

Fast forward a few years and my room would be filled with shortboxes, memorabilia, autographs and so much more. And it all started in that little pharmacy with that flashy cover sticking out and calling to me. I also can’t believe books were $.75 back then, but that’s not really important.

I would attend any card and comic show I could, meet some of the best in the business and read everything I could get my hands on, imagining those heroes I loved so much like Punisher and Spider-Man were actually my friends. They felt so real to me. And the world of Marvel felt like home.

A Fan Reborn

Like many kids, I watched as the bottom dropped out for comics in the mid-1990’s and as I grew older and entered high school, I drifted away from reading and collecting and put more time into organized sports and prepping for college.

I wasn’t going to my local comic shop anymore, most had sadly closed down by then, and I had put all that joy and excitement aside as I planned to become a full-fledged adult.

Then, I went off to college, got a job in newspapers covering local news and entertainment (I know … newspapers), but something was ALWAYS missing. I was ALWAYS searching for something.

For years, I thought about leaving media and trying something different, but something I couldn’t quite put a finger on was keeping me in the industry.

Then, I was hired at ABC News about 10 years ago. As a senior reporter and basically the most knowledgable Marvel fan on my team, I had free rein to cover the MCU, new Marvel shows and other sister properties like Star Wars.

I had spent the previous years going to see Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy or new films like Iron Man and Avengers, but only as a casual fan. I had never been able to bring my past love for comics into my professional life.

This new lease on fandom was the closest thing to my time as a kid at the local comics shop, waiting for new issues to drop and reading 10-15 books a week.

I started hosting a show called Inside Marvel, going to conventions again, working with the company to break news on new series (i.e. Civil War 2) and for the first time in 20 years, I felt at home again. I felt like a kid again.

Imposter Syndrome

We often talk about imposter syndrome in fandom, especially among creators.

Are we good enough, why should anyone care what we think, is anyone listening at all?

For a few years while working at and then after leaving ABC, I let these thoughts and personal questions dominate my consciousness. I even let it drive some career choices and away from my passions in lieu of “safer” professional decisions.

After all that enjoyment and excitement I got covering fandom at ABC, I let my fear take hold and suddenly, I was doing something entirely different in my professional life and once again, I wasn’t fully satisfied. I began “chasing” something yet again.

Then, I connected with Tony (MrMARVELite) and an incredible fandom community on TikTok. Suddenly, I was talking about, collaborating with and supporting other fans and creators and once again on this new platform. Or at least new to me.

I was watching and consuming so many insightful videos from Tony, Straw Hat Goofy, Supes, KingVonSchweetz, CBR and the list goes on and on and on.

I was adding my spin on things, involving my wife in these videos and having the time of my life.

Once again, I felt at home. See a pattern forming here?

Only, this time, I was fully aware of how much these characters, comics, movies and the creators who love them like me mean to my happiness.

I’m also aware of how important a supportive, collaborative environment is to me and to all my friends and peers on this platform. We build on each other’s ideas, creativity and consistently push each other to be the best we can be.

And that’s what Nerd Initiative is at its core.

Tony and I started talking about this crazy new concept because we wanted to create a collaborative, fun, accessible space for creators and fans. No toxicity, no negativity, just support, inspiration and love for these books, shows, characters and movies we all grew up with.

This platform and this community is as much about you as it is about us.

The one thing that unites Tony, myself and other creators on the platform is not just our love for fandom, but our love to help and uplift others. It’s the essence of the Initiative.

So, while this may be a story about me, it’s also just as much a story about all of you. And I just want to thank all of you for coming on this crazy journey with us, for inspiring us and driving our passion daily.

I also want to say welcome to Nerd Initiative … Welcome to our home.

Michael Rothman
Michael Rothman
Better known as “SuperheroTok” on TikTok, Michael is an Emmy Award winning entertainment reporter spending over a decade at ABC & Good Morning America, hosting shows like Inside Marvel! Michael brings his unique vision and passion to TikTok, where he also hosts “Shortboxed Presents,” a series focused on everything fans need to know about buying and selling comics in the grading age. He’s also a proud husband, and father to a little golden retriever.

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