The geek heroes of 2011
December 30th, 2011
05:51 PM ET

The geek heroes of 2011

This year, there were many geeks who made good, and some who did extraordinary things, big and small, for nerd-kind.

So we present, in no particular order, our geek heroes for 2011.

Zachary Levi

The first year for the "Chuck" star's "Nerd HQ" – connected with his "Nerd Machine," a "hub for all things nerd" – was a smashing success.

Located in downtown San Diego during Comic-Con this year, it was a top destination for fans, especially those who weren't able to get an increasingly difficult-to-obtain Comic-Con badge. Levi put on panels and events, all for an affordable price, all for the "Operation: Smile" charity.

Steve Jobs

In 2011, we lost an alpha-geek. Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder and the man who guided the company from pioneering personal computers into the vanguard of mobile computing, is gone. But the legacy he leaves will live on for a very long time.

It’s easy to dismiss Jobs as the pitch man - the public face of Apple, while tech geeks like Steve Wozniak worked on the guts of the products. But Jobs held more than 300 patents and was listed as the primary inventor on over 10% of them. By all accounts, he was heavily involved in the development of each new gadget, often sending developers back to the drawing board when he wasn’t 100% pleased.

Regardless of where you stand in the Mac vs. PC or iPhone vs. Android wars, it’s impossible not to give Jobs his due as a true force in the field. He’ll be missed.

Joyce Brabner

Brabner currently manages the estate of her husband and collaborator, comics writer Harvey Pekar. Some may be familiar with Brabner from Hope Davis’ portrayal of her in the film “American Splendor.”

This year, she raised over $35,000 to have a statue built as a monument to Pekar and the comics he made. The statue will be installed at the Cleveland Heights public library, facing their comic book section. The back of the statue will feature slate panels and chalk, encouraging visitors to create their own comics just like Pekar did.

Superfriends of Metropolis and Mike Meyer

When news broke back in September that a "Superman" fan in Granite City, Illinois, had his large collection stolen, the comic book geek community came together to help.

Coordinated by the fan group, Superfriends of Metropolis, collectors donated Superman memorabilia to the victim, Mike Meyer.

When the thief was caught and his collection returned, Meyer donated what he received to the St. Louis Childrens' Hospital, complete with an appearance by Supes himself.

It was a feat worthy of the Man of Steel.

Renae de Liz

On August 7, Renae de Liz raised over $100,000 on Kickstarter for "Womanthology," a comics anthology produced entirely by female creators. The soon-to-be-released book will not only feature female produced comics, but also has interviews with female professionals, as well as a section dedicated to preparing young comics creators for building a career in the industry.

Not only did de Liz work hard in 2011 at getting this anthology published, but she’s also a professional comics artist herself and the mother of two boys.

George R.R. Martin

We knew it. While the doubters doubted and the Internet trolls hurled insults, we knew that George R.R. Martin was going to eventually return us to Westeros, home base for his epic "Song of Ice and Fire" series.

And in 2011, after six long years, he did. If epics like "The Lord of the Rings" frame the classic battle between good and evil, Martin's "Ice and Fire" masterfully weaves together a cast of imperfect and all-too-human characters in a fantasy setting. It's Martin's deft handling of those complex characters that makes it all work, and a rushed, dumbing-down of the series would, for diehard fans, have been heartbreaking.

He could have given in to the deadline pressure. He, as so many authors have, could have sacrificed the intricate story-telling of his first few books and slapped together a plausible-enough conclusion. Instead, he unraveled the Gordian knot and gave us a book worthy of its predecessors.

Micah Baldwin

Micah Baldwin is the CEO and founder of Graphicly, a digital comics distribution platform. You may also know him as the guy who started the #followfriday hash tag on Twitter.

Baldwin is a hero to geeks because of Graphicly’s focus on supporting independent comics creators. With the economic recession making it more difficult for independent creators to get their comics published in print, Graphicly enables them to share their stories with the world digitally.

Moreover, Baldwin himself is focused on the vibrant Graphicly community where he sees his role as the “Chief Community Caretaker.” This isn’t surprising since Baldwin also donates his time to mentoring young entrepreneurs, helping them learn how to run their own companies.

GeekGirlCon founders

After a San Diego Comic-Con panel on female geeks in 2010, a group of the panelists thought there ought to be an entire convention just for geek girls.

So, with the hard work of Jennifer Stuller and countless others, GeekGirlCon was born in October, in Seattle, Washington.

By all accounts, it was a huge success, and plans are underway for the next convention.

George Takei

George Takei is a one-man show that broadcasts equality for all, and he deserves tremendous respect for his efforts. He is known for fighting on behalf of Asian-American and LGBT groups, but this year, when a social media war broke out between "Star Wars" and "Star Trek," via Carrie Fisher and William Shatner, both communities knew that only one man could broker “Star peace,” and that eloquent gentleman was the incomparable Takei.

By emphasizing the greatness of both franchises and managing to combine “May the force be with you” and "Live long and prosper,” Takei soothed tensions on both sides and brought them together against another, greater threat to science fiction: “Twilight.” The video is both hilarious and thought-provoking, reminding us of why we fell in love with our Star series’ in the first place – and at least we aren’t Twi-hards! Takei always uses humor, grace and tenacity to encourage equality, and for brokering “Star peace,” he is definitely one of our geek heroes of 2011.

Chris Hardwick

The Nerdist podcast existed before 2011, but the "Nerdist" empire exploded in 2011.

It wasn't enough for the "Nerdist" himself, Chris Hardwick to be all over G4. He also went over to do a series of specials, and to host the "Ministry of Laughs" on BBC America. Oh, and he hosted the post-"Walking Dead" talk show, "The Talking Dead" for AMC. (And did we mention he wrote a book?)

With his wit, and ability to explain all things nerdy to the masses, Hardwick was a nerd's nerd, spreading the "Nerdist" gospel in every medium possible. 2011 was Hardwick's year, and we were all just along for the ride.

soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. kxzsqaqt


    June 21, 2012 at 6:54 am |
  2. Fenix Flashlight

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    April 21, 2012 at 3:13 am |
  3. Joe Neil


    January 4, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  4. Steve Jobs

    Thank you very much for including me on the list. Of course none compare to how great I am and how much of an impact I made on technology. Everyone just wait for the iDead coming out this year.

    January 3, 2012 at 8:35 am |
    • Rajat

      My point is not necessarily that syanig there will always be objectification because of our biology but just that there will always be objectification of all women, not just nerds, as long as modern culture is the way it is. It's not special just to nerd girls. Objectification happens in all elements of society and I am not quite sure how to suggest we fix that. I don't think we can fix it separately for nerd women until it's "fixed" for all people. Wishy-washy, yes but I don't see any quick fix. I think the more important point that a lot of people are pointing out is the concern over what is happening to the image of a "nerd" in pop culture on a larger scale. I think this is an entirely separate discussion just waiting to happen

      March 5, 2012 at 2:56 am |
  5. Telengard

    What about Jeri Ellsworth?! She is the TRUE nerd answer to the corporate Felicia Day.

    January 3, 2012 at 3:46 am |
  6. binky42

    Come on, admit it! The author of this article had no clue who George R. R. Martin was until the HBO series came out.

    January 2, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  7. birdies

    Takei is the bomb. Love, love, love his geekiness!

    January 2, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • Lora

      I walk up to my middle shcool self and give the following advice:Keep loving your family and friends, even when they hurt you. Use the pain to help yourself and others instead of letting it shut you down.Be excited about homeschooling. It will be one of the best things that ever happened to you.Don't bother with an English major. Lit Theory won't do anything but squash your confidence, and you'll end up majoring in something way cooler anyway.Start NaNoWriMo this year. Don't wait until the last year of high shcool.Here's a list of books and authors you should start reading ASAP; don't let anything get in between you and good literature.You're smart, but you don't know everything even as much as you think you do. Learn some real humility.Put God first. Don't just say you do, actually do it. You won't survive long without him, and it'll all be easier the earlier you start.My younger self politely agrees to all advice and takes the book list in order to get rid of the crazy lady (what could possibly ever get in the way of enjoying good literature??), then proceeds to not change much, except for looking into at least some of the books on the list. Because I wouldn't be me if I weren't just a little hard-headed when it came to that sort of advice, or if I just ignored a book recommendation.Jeff: You have a choice between two comics. The first has the most amazing story ever, but the art is unbearably horrible, to the point that it makes you wish you could feast your eyes on even something by your old pal Liefeld. The second has the most beautiful art you've ever seen, but the story is as worthless as the art of the first one is. If you have to read one of them, which do you pick? logosgal

      July 1, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  8. MathGeek

    Dude... No Neil DeGrasse Tyson? Ah well, everyone probably has a favorite that didn't make it.

    January 2, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  9. Miche

    Yet another list of Geek Heroes that neglects to mention Dennis Ritchie, who died in 2011.

    Ritchie, one of the co-writers of the programming language C, had a far-reaching impact on how computers are used - much more than that of Steve Jobs. Without him we literally would not have computing as it is today.

    January 2, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • Tomas

      Thank you! There are of course several beloved geeks on this list, but Ritche was one of the biggest losses of last year (yes, Jobs too, haven't forgotten about him) and definitely deserves a lot of recognition.

      January 6, 2012 at 6:48 am |
  10. Carmela

    What, no Wil Wheaton?

    January 2, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • Telengard

      He'll get no recognition and like it!

      January 3, 2012 at 3:49 am |
      • janet

        Shut up, Wesley....

        January 9, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • July

      Fiona Posted on This is probably a weird place to rneposd, but I wanted to thank you for your recommendation of Pan's Labyrinth, and I didn't know where else to put it. It really is one of the best movies I've ever seen, and I might not have even noticed it if not for Stephen King's recommendation into the back of Entertainment Weekly, and yours here at Alert Nerd.Also? I feel your pain on the too-many-nerd-toys thing. I'm trying to resist buying that recently released (or at least, recently noticed by me) diecast Galactica figurine, but it's not working. Being a nerd is freaking expensive!

      March 4, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  11. m4ndalore

    Steve Jobs should be on the geek villians of 2011 for having chinese kids in sweat shops building iphones and the kids committing suicide because of it. Somewhere in China little kids were celebrating the death of a tyrant.

    January 2, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • sushifordiner

      Why not let China worry about China and Chinese workers?

      January 27, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  12. Geekz0r

    It was nice to see people mentioned in the article showing their appreciation. You all added a lot to the Geek community at large this year and you all deserve your due recognition. Keep it up and we'll keep reading/listening/watching and generally gush over everything you toss our way.
    Remember, the Geek shall enherit the earth.

    January 2, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • wowspellcheck

      they won't when they can't even spell. idiot.

      January 2, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
      • Miche

        Your shift key appears to be broken.

        Irony doesn't mean "made of iron."

        January 2, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  13. m holcomb

    where's notch?

    January 2, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Shane

      Too nerdy for the list, lol. Most of the biggest nerd heroes naturally wouldn't be on a list like this, if you think about it.

      January 2, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  14. Renae De Liz

    WOW just thank you so much for including me on this list! 🙂 Very very honored! And I hope all the ladies on Womanthology know they are all 2011 heroes to me!

    January 1, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • craig romain

      You deserve the honor! Between you and Ray, I've never seen such dedication towards getting something accomplished.

      January 2, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  15. Jennifer K. Stuller

    What an unbelievable honor! I'm thrilled to be personally mentioned (and may have fainted) but want to say that GeekGirlCon would not exist without each and every person who believes in it – from the hardworking, amazing, and supportive staff to our inspired, talented, and fascinating panelists to all of you who attended in 2011 and those who will see us in the future! To quote Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” And to quote Sarah Connor too – "No fate but what we make."

    December 30, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  16. Micah Baldwin (@micah)

    Stoked to be a part of this list! At Graphicly we are really excited about helping independent publishers and creators bring amazing content to the world. There are some amazing creators that will be putting work out in 2012 that will blow minds!!!

    December 30, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • Mohamed

      perky5 on August 30, 2011 I love that I can be myself wotihut a care. I love about myself that I can be silly in public and not wonder what is that person thinking?

      March 5, 2012 at 7:42 am |