Comic Book Curious

A Not-Quite Chronological History of Angelee, Geek

February 2, 2023

little girl smiling Angelee was born under a Disco star. When she entered the world, Saturday Night Fever was the most popular movie on show and the BeeGees’ Stayin’ Alive was the number one song on the Billboard charts. And everything was fine for a couple of years. But growing up a Disco girl in a New Wave world is rough on a young person, and so for most of the 1980s, computers and cartoons were her only friends. She started reading before she was three years old, and that made for some funny moments in comprehension. When E.T. released in theaters she saw it three times and proceeded to obsess over it, eh, obsessively. She collected anything E.T. she could, including picture cards showing

Credit: Universal Pictures

scenes from the film. In one memorable instance, she looked carefully at a card bearing the image of a flying bicycle against the backdrop of a giant moon and attempted to read the caption out loud. “NIG-HUT RIDE?” she chirped. All the adults in the room laughed till they cried.

When she was about four, her dad brought home a Commodore Vic 20. A gift for her mother who was a computer programmer! Mom was less than impressed with this toy, but Angelee quickly learned to program in BASIC and delighted in creating conversational programs to chat with. Not too long after that came the Commodore 64 (“comma eight comma one” and “press play on tape” are phrases permanently burned into her memory….heh heh, memory) and the Apple II C. All this was several years before she met the Atari 2600, and her video games were mostly keyboard controlled and run from floppy discs or tapes. 

computer code

Credit: Commodore 64

The house was always full of electronic toys and games, too. Although she had many more stuffed animals than she could count (just kidding, there were 32) the games that lit up and beeped and booped captured her attention most often.

With parents both firmly working in the rapidly growing field of computer science, it makes sense that as she grew up she learned basic computer repair and programming (all forgotten now, she would like you to know) and played a great many games that most people don’t remember anymore. Battle Chess (and its much sillier cousin National Lampoon’s Chess Maniac Five Billion and One), King’s Quest, Heretic, Full Throttle, Sam and Max Hit The Road, and even Leisure Suit Larry were in heavy rotation. But the more epic, serious games like The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery, Alone In The Dark, and I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream (shout out to that sci-fi monolith Harlan Ellison!) were what really kept her attention.

little girl on motorcycle

Speaking of sci-fi, by the time she was in her mid teens she had read Ellison, obviously, but also Piers Anthony, Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey (mom was a fan and so Angelee inherited a giant bound anthology at age ten and devoured it…not literally), and most of what Stephen King had to offer. Stephen King turned out to be the topic that got her talking with her fellow fan and future husband more than ten years later.
[author’s note: one can call herself a nerd but until she has to list her own history she can’t truly comprehend the scope]

Her musical tastes always ran nerdy as well: They Might Be Giants was – and remains – one of her dearest favorites. Angelee’s first concert, age 9, was Weird Al Yankovic and The Monkees. If you don’t think The Monkees count as nerdy, go re-watch that. She’ll wait. She also loved Classical music and made sure anyone listening knew she loved Baroque and Romantic era tunes (think Bach and Beethoven respectively) as well and refused to lump them all together.

Looking back, Autism is a clear topography in her landscape.

two friends at school dance

In her senior year of high school she met the mate to her nerdy soul. Dana and Angelee saw every Lord of the Rings movie together, in the theater, multiple times. When they were released on videocassette (yes, people, it was that long ago), the pair watched and re-watched and then bought the extended versions and watched and re-watched and ended up growing an enormous collection of jokes which they used to heckle the movies as they watched and re-watched, in the style of Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Rocky Horror Picture Show was also a memorable summer in Angelee’s life.

In 2014, the two decided to get matching tattoos, and there was really only one theme that would work. They chose the White Tree of Gondor with the Elvish word for Friend.

Lord of the Rings was not the only saga to earn a matching tattoo. Angelee also bonded with Jenn, whom she met in fifth grade and reconnected with over love of The Avengers. Jenn lived in Texas, and so their long-distance friendship was nurtured with once- or twice- yearly visits to one another’s cities coordinated around the release dates of whichever Marvel movie they most wanted to see together. It began with Thor, but eventually their mutual obsession moved over to Captain America: The Winter Soldier. In 2016, the night before a major (and catastrophic) election, the two took on matching tattoos designed by Angelee, professing their never-ending love for the franchise and their friendship (putting Captain America’s shield permanently on their bodies was also a big middle finger to the upcoming fascist regime).

But through all this there have been comic books! When Angelee was twelve she found EflQuest and it’s likely her love of comics started there. Through the years, before The Avengers reawakened that drive, she read Sandman and Moonshadow and The Preacher. Dana introduced her to Habibi and Dykes to Watch Out For and Maus. After The Avengers broke the movie scene, she found Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye and weirder, wonderful titles like Saga and The Manhattan Project.

Eventually, through the encouragement of her husband Sylas, Angelee began playing Dungeons and Dragons regularly. It seemed to bring everything together into one hobby. Storytelling, being an action hero, laughing with friends, inventing things, and generally doing whatever came to mind to see how it would play out. It’s creativity, socializing, and some kind of therapy.

Tragic things happened. Dana died very suddenly in 2019 and broke everyone’s hearts. Angelee coped, barely, by making art and playing her games and drinking too much. In 2022 her stepmother passed away and her father slid rapidly into dementia. For this too, games and art and drinking…and cookies were all there to assist. As the sharp edges of these losses began to smooth a bit, the drinking and cookies became less frequent (although..cookies, am I right? Cookies are forever) but making art and playing games remain staples.

And now we’ve caught up with the present: Angelee is still making art, reading books, stimming on music, playing video games and laughing with friends. Her son Micah has become a video game historian (with his parents’ blessings), and brings fresh geekery into her life on the regular. Recently she has begun running the Dungeons and Dragons games, which she thought she would never do. She figures this just illustrates that we have more in us than we imagine, and the things we nerd on help us bring that out.

artwork by Angelee

Credit: Angelee Van Allman

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