Wednesday, May 17, 2017

My Interview with PopNerdTV's Alex Thompson

I recently interviewed the perpetually positive Alex Thompson,  Chief Content Coordinator with PopNerdTV, and co-host of Nerd Portalfor an article I'm working on for the July issue of K Magazine. I will cull some quotes from the interview for the piece, but I decided to go ahead and publish the entire interview here in order to give fans of comic books, video games and geek culture in general a little behind-the-scenes info on the website, YouTube channel and Alex himself. Enjoy!

BRETT WEISS: You live in Keller, correct? Did you grow up in this area?

ALEX THOMPSON: We film in Keller and our CEO, John Martin, currently lives in Keller. I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico and moved to Temple, Texas at the age of six. It wasn't until I finished my associates degree that I was accepted into the University of North Texas as a music major, which quickly changed to a broadcasting major, that I moved to Denton where I still currently live.

WEISS: Are you a millennial? What does that label mean to you?

THOMPSON: I guess I am technically labeled as a millennial, but I was raised by my grandparents, and most consider me an old soul. The term millennial has its negative connotations with a group of people born in a certain time, but weren't the baby boomers saying the same things about the Gen-X crowd back in the '80s? It is all just a cycle--millennials grew up in a time of technology that I think causes some to believe in instant gratification. Success only comes from time and hard work, which is something my grandfather always told me.

WEISS: Did you grow up reading comic books?

THOMPSON: Surprisingly, I did not grow up reading comics. I did spend a lot of time in front of the TV set, though, and shows like X-men: The Animated Series, Batman: The Animated Series, Super Friends, and Spider-Man all inspired my love for comic characters. It wasn't until I moved to Denton, and not knowing anyone,  that my now-fiance decided to go on eBay and buy me a box of Venom comics to read that my love for comics blossomed. She recalled me talking about how at the time Venom was one of my favorite comic characters and how I disliked his portrayal in Spider-Man 3 that she randomly decided to buy the box. I think she saved me from a lot of bad things in my past by doing this though. Comics can change old habits by forming new hobbies.

WEISS: Did you grow up playing video games?

THOMPSON: In my childhood, video games were life. I had my group of neighborhood friends who each had different systems and games. We would get together and bike from one person's house to the next to spend hours playing games. I can recall my aunt having an NES that I would just push buttons on because I was too young to know what I was doing. Another thing that I miss so much is the time I would spend with my grandfather in the arcades. He would play Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter II, Primal Rage, and all kinds of arcade games with me. I don't think my love for games really blossomed, though, until I got a Nintendo 64 for Christmas. It was my first console just for me, and after I played Super Mario 64, I was hooked. Later on I had my phases with Tony Hawk, fighting games, first-person shooters, and whatever my friends or I could get our hands on. I will say the arcades of the '90s influenced a lot of my choices, though.

WEISS: What comics and games do you enjoy now?

THOMPSON: Currently, I am still a Marvel fan boy. I'm really into the classic cosmic Marvel stuff done by Jim Starlin, Ron Marz, Roy Thomas, and more. I have also always been an X-men fan, and even though they aren't very popular now a days, I still read almost every X book that comes out. On the DC side of things, you can't go wrong with Hal Jordan. In the video game world, I still play my original N64 very often. I have started to collect old systems now since I am an adult and can afford things,  but for new games I'm stuck on playing Overwatch and Grand Theft Auto V.

WEISS:What has geek culture meant to your life beyond entertainment value?

THOMPSON: Back in high school, most people would see me as the complete opposite person I am now. I used to go out a lot and party with no real care about the world that was going on around me. Most people think that starts in college, but for me, college was where I kind of found a new hobby with fandom, and I used this to try to make my life more meaningful. I have always been a social person, and growing up I was always into the geek culture, but doing the full 360 and coming back to it really impacted my life.

WEISS: What is your day job? Is it related to your interest in geek culture?

THOMPSON: My day job is kind of similar, but the topics are different. I am a web content coordinator for a digital marketing firm that deals with insurance companies. I oversee and edit what goes on company websites and manage a numerous amount of blogs for insurance. Never did I think I would end up in an office reading about insurance all day, but the job has its perks, and my coworkers are great!

WEISS: What is PopNerdTV? How does it stand out from similar YouTube channels?

THOMPSON: PopNerd is a labor of love that is made by fans for the fans. We started out as a project among a group of grad students at the University of North Texas before I was even involved. Eventually they ended up getting busy with other adventures and projects, leaving PopNerd kind of on a hiatus. Later on I met John as a student of his. I presented a short documentary to him as a final project over the rise of comic culture in the Denton area and how the rise of diversity in comics was becoming more and more relevant at the time. This was when Jane Foster ended up becoming Thor and Marvel was doing their big switch up with characters. John had mentioned the site before, and I needed an internship, which lead to me becoming a writer for the site. After about 5 months of me doing what I could, John asked me to become editor in chief, and we put together a writing team of students and fans to front the push for nerd culture that seemed to be lacking as a media outlet in the DFW area. Soon we started adding video content, and from there we pushed off on our journey. I would like to think we stand out from other YouTube channels because we all have this vision of what we want to be. Like I said, most of us are just big fanboys and girls with a love of expressing ourselves and entertaining others. We don't want to feel like all the other sites who like to use click bait and spoilers to drive traffic. We want to be organic and genuine with our movement and show the world that fandoms are still around and loud in the DFW area.

WEISS: What is your current role with PopNerd?

THOMPSON: Awhile back, I gave up my responsibilities as editor in chief to my good friend Jake Combs and started to focus on video content as the Chief Content Coordinator. I am responsible for making sure things get done on time and managing the interns and production teams. I like to think of my self as a multi-role kind of guy. We all do this for free so sometimes you have to take on multiple jobs.

WEISS: What are your plans for PopNerdTV moving forward? Where do you see the channel and website five years from now? Do you hope to make it a full-time job?

THOMPSON: Moving PopNerd forward has been a challenge because no money is involved. We are trying to focus on quality and content for now, and social media has been a big help for advancing our material to larger audiences. We have a great social media team and set of content creators who I am thankful for. Every day we see the progress made and continue to research and brainstorm ways to promote ourselves and the DFW area. I would love in five years to be doing this full time. I can see the website and channel blowing up, but it takes time and hard work. Finding advertisers and people who want to invest in us is tough for a company that has only been pushing content for a little over two years. I love the involvement from the students in the DFW area and the creators and shop owners we come across daily. We have high hopes that PopNerd can eventually be built into something that will not only represents the DFW area but Texas as a whole. We want to get our voices out there.

Check out a recent episode of Nerd Portal:

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