Alter Egos is a column that highlights talented geeks in the Chattanooga area, tracing the origins of their favorite pop culture obsessions to their present-day hobbies.
Like many other geeks, Rocky Spurlock’s first nerdy interest was reading and collecting comics—although he didn’t realize until later in life that he was a geek.
“When I got older, I became a professional wrestler and found more people with my same love for all things geek,” Spurlock said. “I did get out of collecting and comics for a while, but when the first ‘G.I. Joe’ movie came out and my 3-year-old son got so excited about it, I got back into collecting and showing him what we had in the 1980s.”
For the 39-year-old cybersecurity and web design instructor at Georgia Northwestern Technical College, nostalgia is the main reason geek culture has become much more accepted these past few years:
People that are my age want to hold on to their childhood. If I have the extra money and I see that Grimlock I had as a child, I will buy it and remember the joy it brought me from then. I think it’s also why Marvel and ‘Star Wars’ movies have done so well. We see the comic books and movies from childhood come to life again. And even others who were not into comics early in life, they still go to see those movies due to the buzz that is created by the marketing and by other geeks.
Digging into the local con scene
Spurlock is also a big fan of conventions and regularly attends both small- and large-scale events in the Scenic City and beyond.
“I like the bigger conventions to see the celebrities that they bring in,” he said. “My daughter was so excited a few years ago when we went to Con Nooga and she got to meet Chandler Riggs [from ‘The Walking Dead’].”
Spurlock said his “fanboy” expo experience was meeting Peter Mayhew, the actor famous for playing Chewbacca in the “Star Wars” franchise.
“That guy was so great with my son,” he said. “He spent about five minutes talking to him. My first tweet I ever sent out was a picture of him holding his hand up to my son’s to show him how big his hand is. It was retweeted by Peter Mayhew. I almost quit Twitter then—I mean, how can you top that for your first tweet?”
“I would like to see more one- or two-day smaller conventions,” he said. “I enjoy going to conventions that are affordable but yet still have something for everyone. As [a] promoter … I know that this is not an easy task … I wanted something for everyone, but something that was still affordable and that you could bring your kids to.”
Honoring a friend’s legacy
The loss of a good friend prompted Spurlock to become a promoter of his own fan event. Spurlock’s friend Jared Allen wrestled under the name of Jay Farley. Later on, the two wrestlers reconnected by attending cons together where Farley was a vendor.
“For a few years, Jared and I talked about doing a comic and wrestling convention, but we just never got around to actually doing it,” he said. “Jared passed away on Feb. 10, 2016. He left behind a wife and three small sons … A couple of friends [and I] wanted to do some type of benefit to raise money to help his wife.”
FarleyCon sponsors small events throughout the year, and the latest—a toy and comic expo—will be held at the East Ridge Community Center Aug. 26 and feature guests such as cast members from “The Walking Dead.”
At their April event, Spurlock and his fellow promoters raised money that went to two charities near their hearts: Fighting for Autism and Pops! for Patients. They also collected 35 Funko Pop figurines in Allen’s name.
Being a convention attendee is one thing, but running one is another, and Spurlock said he is pleased at how welcome he feels.
I had a blast this past year, traveling around to conventions from Knoxville to Atlanta and everywhere in between, promoting the convention at other shows. The thing that has really surprised me is the cooperation and how helpful other, more established conventions have been. Coming from pro wrestling, which is a stab-you-in-the-back business, I was expecting other con promoters to tear down posters or refuse to let you pass out flyers. But everyone has been great and very helpful.
Spurlock hopes he can continue to expand the range of guests at future FarleyCon events, including a mix of fandom favorites such as comic book artists, authors, professional wrestlers and actors.
“You never know what you are going to find, but you will find something for just about everyone,” he said. “The panels were great, and the cosplay contest was a lot of fun. FarleyCon is good, quality family entertainment at affordable prices.”
Rachel Stewart grew up in the ’80s on a healthy diet of pop culture. In 2005, she discovered “Doctor Who” and never looked back. Since then, she co-founded the Tennessee Who Authority—a “Doctor Who” fan group—and has served as a panelist at fan conventions across the Southeast, including Con Nooga, Wholanta, Hurricane Who and ConGT. She also reviews “Doctor Who” novels and “Big Finish” audios at “The Oncoming Storm” podcast. Want to show off your alter ego? Email Rachel at [email protected].