“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” was still on my to-watch list. The pandemic didn’t put it on the front burner. Then I read William Evans’ essay, “Into the Spider-Verse Got Three Moments Better Than the Best Moment of Your Favorite Comic Book Movie Not Named Into the Spider-Verse” and I stopped everything to watch that 2018 film. (Don’t judge me, reporting on the pandemic had me occupied.)
The way Evans spoke of Miles Morales and the work’s “perfectness” I couldn’t resist.
In seven pages, and with the words: “My god, Peter Parker is the (expletive) GOAT. I don’t even think it’s up for debate, yo. I don’t know who checkin’ him. Y’all can debate M.J. and LeBron. Have fun. Superheroes? I think that debate is over,” Evans dropped the mic. But he and Omar Holmon do that throughout their recently released book, “Black Nerd Problems.”
The writers of the website of the same name have come up with myriad essays that speak to the blerd aka Black nerd in us all. The pair dive into minutia like: Disney’s Simba and how he’s not worth the hype that has been bestowed upon him, the magnificence of Black representation in “Craig of the Creek,” and the truth about how Black folk survive in horror movies. “I’m not saying we’re better survivors, I’m just ... Actually, yeah, that’s exactly what I’m saying,” writes Holman.
I consider myself a Black nerd, but Holman, a Brooklyn resident, and Evans, of Columbus, Ohio, have taken it to a whole other level. After crossing paths in Madison, Wisconsin, during a poetry slam in 2008, the two bonded over talking nerd with one another. Nerd in reference to this book is defined as being a fan of a genre. And it’s not an individual, but a spectrum that “contains various multitudes and hues.” This book is a welcome, come-in gesture. You may not get every pop culture reference, but you’ll feel it.
“We’re just trying to expand the church — make sure there are more seats for all,” Evans said of the book and expanding the nerdom spectrum. “For us, we just didn’t know how it (the book) was going to hit people. We know we enjoyed the stuff. And we thought people would like a little bit of this, a little bit of that but the reception has been pretty awesome.”
We talked with Holmon and Evans about their cultural work of pop wherein we find out Omar (aka Green Poncho) from “Craig of the Creek” is named after Holmon. And yes, Holmon is an archer, like his cartoon character namesake. The following interview has been condensed and edited.
Q: With the Green Poncho news, does that mean you will go as Omar to all comic conventions from now on?
Holmon: Yeah. I’m gonna try. He wears sandals though, I don’t like sandals. I’m not a big sandals guy.
Evans: Compromise for the art, Omar.
Holmon: Yeah, I know. He’s got a new outfit now too in the next season, so if he has shoes on then I’m all the way there then.
Q: Is there any topic in pop culture that “Black Nerd Problems” won’t touch?
Evans: We didn’t want to necessarily go down the rabbit hole of music coverage because that’s a whole other thing. I think that we thought that would take us away from our geek roots. Which doesn’t mean that we didn’t have … we got plenty of essays written by either Omar, or I or other people on the site that talk about maybe the intersection of like pop culture and music in some specific ways or nerd culture that kind of thing. We have an essay in the book talking about Pusha T I think we just kind of settled into like, we’re defining nerd as something that you could passionately geek out about. And once we kind of had that idea, then it kind of felt like everything was in balance.
Q: I’m curious about your process. Is it one where Omar writes something and Will reads it and vice versa before it goes live or does it all just come from the gut?
Evans: Comes from the gut. Something that I learned; I think Omar and I are similar paths on this — in writing poetry and writing anything intimate, is that the situation is not what people are going to relate to, it’s going to be the emotion that you put into it. I think that works in this kind of writing as well in that you’re passionate about this thing and you explore what is the thing that drew you to write about it in the first place. I think even if people don’t know all the details of what you’re talking about, they’re still drawn in by it. Like, Omar is the biggest “Hajime no Ippo” fan I know and I have never watched a second of that animé, beyond clips on YouTube. I’ve never read a panel of that but I’m there for him because I know his passion, and how he describes it to me, so I’m really hoping that readers get that even if they don’t know the specific animé or comic or whatever that we’re referring to.
Q: Are there other things you just won’t watch anymore? Bandwagons that peer pressure won’t move you to change your mind? Been there, done that, not doing again?
Evans: I have a specific one, even though it’s in the wheelhouse of stuff I should really like. I’m not boycotting it or anything like that but, I can’t get into mostly white-centered period pieces anymore. I’m sure “The Crown” is fantastic; but I’m good. I don’t have any real desire to watch TV with mostly white characters because they act like Black people weren’t invented yet. I just can’t get into it. In the book, I talk about being Black while watching “Mad Men.” That might have been my last bastion of that. I’m not going to find myself as entertained by it as I once was. I can watch most stuff but that kind of just pushes me away.
Holmon: I cannot do slave period pieces. I don’t think these are for us — not written for us. You saw what happened with the Harriet Tubman biopic. But with the “The Underground Railroad” I know that’s good. It’s written well, it ain’t centering around Black pain.
Q: Do you two have one particular actor or actress, where no matter the vehicle, you’ll watch the work because of that person?
Evans: Viola Davis. I cannot stand network dramas. I didn’t watch through completion, but I watched a lot of “How to Get Away with Murder.”
Holmon: Are you serious?
Evans: Bruh ...
Holmon: You’ve never told me this.
Evans: I keep that close.
Holmon: I am telling everybody now. I can’t believe it.
Evans: You know how I know it’s Viola Davis?
Evans: Because I tried it with “Scandal” and I couldn’t get through more than three episodes.
Holmon: You tried “Scandal” too? Why am I just hearing about this?
Evans: Because Viola Davis is the Greatest of All Time (GOAT). I don’t feel like this needs explanation.
Holmon: The more we do these interviews, the more things I found that you’ve hidden from me and I don’t know how I feel about this.
Holmon: We’re going to have to talk about this afterward. Who are you?
Q: Why such the visceral reaction to this news about “How to Get Away With Murder?”
Holmon: Because we could have been tweeting about it and you were on such a stand, ‘you will not tweet about “Scandal,” no. We could have been doing this on “Black Nerd Problems” Twitter. But he was like: Nah, we ain’t doing that. And then I come to find out my man … you were watching it of your own volition ...
Evans: I was watching Viola Davis, who happened to be on the show, “How to Get Away with Murder.”
Holmon: That was seven years ago and you didn’t tell me. You didn’t tell any of us, sir!?
Evans: I feel like Viola Davis is my “Get Out of Jail Free” card.
Evans: People are going to be like: ‘ah, Will don’t like TV,’ but it is Viola, that’s fair.
Q: Everyone needs a guilty pleasure.
Holmon: No, don’t excuse him. Don’t you come to that man’s aid.
Evans: I don’t need no aid, man!
Holmon: I’m going to tell everybody now — everybody.
Q: You say you don’t like network TV, did you watch the Emmys?
Holmon: We used to, just to do jokes and anything like that, but now it’s kind of like ehhhh ... I think it’s the constant struggles to win, we don’t need these things for validation, but then you get one and it’s like ‘Yea!’
Evans: I feel like we’re at this weird crux of the conversation: How do we go about recognizing Black artists in ways that is not dependent upon structures that are not necessarily set up to reward us. The Emmys — you want to root for someone to win. And then someone wins, and you’re like, awesome. But if someone doesn’t win it’s just like, ‘Well, did they actually have a fair shot at winning in the first place?’ It’s that weird conversation. And then there’s always that conversation that we should start our own stuff. But also there’s a reason Omar and I were like: We’re going to write this “Black Nerd Problems” book. We had an opportunity to put this book out on Simon & Schuster. It’s like someone coming to us and saying: Why didn’t you just self-publish? Because it’s on Simon & Schuster, fam. So to say to an actor or actress: The Emmys don’t matter, we should do our own thing. You don’t know how long that person has been training their whole life to be recognized for what they do, they probably want to win an Emmy and that’s completely OK. But I think it’s a really complex scenario especially for marginalized, performers, and how they’re recognized by an academy that is not made up of them.