For some of us, it might've been a gradual slide into geekdom, for others, it was like the switching on of a light. Here's when I knew for certain there was no going back.
The first inkling came for me when I was about 12. I'd been a fair-weather comic book reader for a while — supermarkets used to sell DC comics in plastic-wrapped three-packs that my mother would buy and I'd read and release ‘em back into the wild — but I was never a collector, really. Not until Marvel's Secret Wars came out.
I became a Secret Wars nut: I cleaned off my dresser — and given that I was a par-for-the-course pre-teen slob, that was no easy feat — and displayed my comics on the surface, like tiled wallpaper on a computer desktop. As each new issue of Jim Shooter's magnum opus came out, it found a hallowed place on the dresser. Luckily, I discovered long-boxes before I discovered girls.
But that wasn't the moment that cemented it for me. Nor was it the weekly D&D sessions, or the single-quarter-playthroughs of Contra at the local mom-and-pop video store.
No, it was in 1989, when I skipped my high-school senior prom to go see the midnight opening of Batman.
See, my girlfriend at the time — who knew that there were five or six long white boxes in my closet, but never once motioned to open them — had come down with the chicken pox. After I rented the tux and paid to share the limo and bought the flowers. So, I did what any guy who'd dropped six-months-worth of mowing lawns and bussing tables on one night would do: I got dressed up, hopped in the limo, went to the prom, took my solo picture, immediately dipped outside into my friend's waiting car, and drove to the Sunrise Multiplex Cinemas.
(Which should speak to my commitment to the Dark Knight. If you're not from the New York metro area, you won't know this, but the Green Acres Shopping Mall in Valley Stream, Long Island is home to the gun-fightingest theater outside of Kabul. Seriously. When I drive past it now, on my way to visit my folks, I don't slow down.)
And still, I went. We got there at 9:15 and joined a growing mass of like-minded nerds. Some of us skipped out on proms, others escaped from bedrooms, while others still were dodging house arrest. But we waited the three hours until showtime as unified as the Mongol hordes. Given that I didn't hit a comic book convention proper until decades later, this was the first time I'd felt the kinship of a geek crowd. Sure, the public at large would see Batman over the course of that opening weekend, or the balance of the summer...but we few, we happy few, we came because we wanted to dance with the devil in the pale moonlight.
I'd found my band of brothers and never looked back.