By Jason F.C. Clarke As many readers so gently pointed out, our last list of famous geek arguments may have been incomplete. Well, fear not — we’ve compiled a second list of incredibly nerdy topics for you to hash out in our comments below. Read on, brave geek, and then choose your side — but choose wisely! Or arbitrarily. Whatever.
10) Sub vs. Dub
This was a bigger issue before the advent of DVD with its multiple language tracks and subtitle options, but there was a time when the question of whether it was better to watch an anime dubbed in English or with Japanese subtitles was a very important issue. In order to reach the broadest market possible, American importers of anime videos in the 1980s and 1990s often dubbed their titles using third-rate voice actors and substandard translations. Since the movies were only available on VHS, distributors could only choose one format or the other, so they usually ignored the diehard fans who preferred subtitles. The issue was compounded by the fact that many early anime series were significantly edited and even had their storylines altered when brought to American shores, and therefore it’s arguable that Gatchaman and Battle of the Planets are almost completely different shows with separate fanbases.
But the debate about sub vs. dub continues. Those favoring subtitles cited the greater accuracy of the translation and the often superior Japanese voice acting, while those who preferred dubs point out that it allows you to pay more attention to what’s going on visually and doesn’t require you to quickly scan through a lot of dialogue if, for instance, someone’s giving a quick lecture.Fortunately, now that DVDs allow viewing with subtitles and/or English dubbing, it isn’t nearly as much of an issue. On the other hand, it’s made the accuracy of the translation much more important, giving rise to a new debate surrounding “fansubs” — bootleg anime that’s subtitled by fans.
9) Pirates vs. Ninjas
It’s the question that keeps geeks awake at night. Pirates, the scourge of the seven seas, versus ninjas, those silent, deadly assassins from far-off Japan. The real-life exploits of both have been so exaggerated in pop culture there’s really nothing left to do but wonder who would win in a fight. Given the legendary ninja mastery of all manner of weapons, from swords to throwing stars to poisons, the onus is usually on the pirate fan to explain how their champion would survive, much less win, an encounter with a ninja. My guess? A good flintlock and a fast gun hand.
Of course, there’s also the lifestyle question. While ninjas might have the upper hand in battle, they often lived a lonely, monastic existence when they weren’t spending days in some moat breathing through a tube waiting for their target to walk by. But pirates? Lots of drinking, whoring and pillaging.
8) Robocop vs. the Terminator
The 1980s spawned a number of science fiction action franchises, and as luck would have it, those franchises were often owned by the same company. The now-defunct Orion Pictures distributed both The Terminator, Terminator 2 and all three Robocop films. Since both film series featured cyborgs from the future, geeks immediately speculated as to who would win in a fight between the two. In this corner stands the Terminator, human flesh wrapped around a powerful robotic skeleton with an incredibly advanced AI; and in this corner stands Robocop, human flesh within a powerful robotic shell, with the more intuitive, creative mind of a real human behind it. Physically they’re closely matched, with the Terminator’s advantage in speed balanced out by its greater vulnerability compared to the armored Robocop.
In 1992, writer Frank Miller and artist Walt Simonson created the Robocop versus the Terminator comic miniseries. As Miller was allowed to play outside the established continuity of both franchises, he wove a tale in which Robocop himself was integral to the future creation of Skynet and the Terminators.
7) Unicron vs. the Death Star This is one of those classic nerd debates, meaning practically nothing to the outside world but often spawning lengthy arguments on Internet forums. The question is whether the Death Star, the space-going moon of destruction capable of generating a beam that can destroy a planet, could destroy Unicron, the planet-sized Transformer who tore up the Transformers’ home planet of Cybertron in the animated Transformers: The Movie.
Most sources claim the first Death Star was about 160 km in diameter and the second a whopping 900 km in diameter; Unicron’s size has never been specified, and can’t even really be determined via comparison with Cybertron, since the size of Cybertron itself is up for debate. The Death Star’s main weapon is its superlaser, which takes a few moments to charge up. If the Death Star could hit Unicron with the superlaser, then it’s game over for the super-Transformer. But given how quickly Unicron maneuvered once he’d transformed into robot mode (while the Death Star took half an hour to maneuver into position to blast Yavin) one punch to the concave laser emitter and it’s likely the Death Star would be easy pickings for Unicron, unless the swarms of TIE fighters and station-based ion cannons could do enough damage to stop him. (Of course, this proposed battle ignores any possible interference by the Force, which, according to Darth Vader, is far superior to the power to destroy a planet.)
6) PC vs. Mac
If there was anything that divided nerds during the ’80s and ’90s, it was their preference of operating system. Now that Mac has a larger market share — yet still small compared to PCs — nerds seem to no longer feel the difference is worth screaming at people in order to change their minds. Generally, most nerds can agree that PCs are generally believed to be better for business and gaming, while
Macs are said to be the choice of writers, musicians, and other
creative types. Of course, while the “PC vs. Mac” debate may be focused
on computers, Apple’s other ventures — such as the Ipod –have crushed
their competition, including Microsoft’s ill-fated Zune. Plus, even Mac users would rather hang with John “PC” Hodgman than Apple spokesman Justin Long.
5) MOTU2K vs. MOTUC By the turn of the century, many kids who grew up watching Masters of the Universe and playing with their He-Man figures had become adult collectors, while the action figure industry itself had been transformed by the likes of McFarlane Toys, who had targeted their toys specifically at collectors, not kids. Four of the men who had helped build McFarlane’s reputation left the company and formed their own design group, the Four Horsemen. Hired by Mattel, the Horsemen realized a lifelong dream when they were asked to revamp the Masters of the Universe for the 21st century. The line featured radical redesigns of the original characters and, predictably, He-Fans and She-Ravers were immediately divided over whether the new designs were better than the originals.
The 2002 MOTU line suffered from poor management and marketing; after less than two years it was over. But a funny thing happened on the way back to pop culture oblivion: the Four Horsemen and MOTU supporters at Mattel convinced the management to take a shot on what is now Masters of the Universe Classics — a new line of figures based closely on the original 1980s designs, with more articulation than the 2002 figures but less reinvention in terms of sculpt. And just as the Horsemen’s 2002 designs divided fans of the original and the new, so too did MOTUC get geeks arguing once again. Fans of the 2002 bemoaned the minimalist sculpting and slavish devotion to the original designs, while those who liked MOTUC cheered over the return of the classic looks and the increased articulation. [Editor’s note: The 2002 line is far better, and it’s a crime that the MOTUC isn’t giving us articulated, in-scale figures of those versions. End of debate.]
4) Super Nintendo vs. Sega Genesis
Introduced in the U.S. in 1989, Sega’s Genesis console hit the market almost two years before the Super Nintendo (SNES). However, the Genesis didn’t sell particularly well in its early years and seemed doomed to obscurity beneath the oncoming SNES juggernaut — until it was rescued by a little blue hedgehog named Sonic. Like Super Mario Bros. did for the SNES, Sonic the Hedgehog quickly became the Genesis’s “killer app.” Gamers who bought the Genesis had two years’ worth of games to enjoy, while initially the SNES had to rely primarily on Nintendo’s own titles. As the console wars heated up, games would often be developed for both systems, and gamers would argue over which console’s version was better. While much of the SNES’s hardware was technically superior, Sega fought back by infamously trumpeting the Genesis’s “blast processing.”
Ultimately, Nintendo would claim victory in the fourth-generation console wars by selling 49 million SNES units to Sega’s 29 million Genesis consoles. But while Nintendo was focusing on the SNES, a joint venture they were working on with Sony was falling apart…an event that would lead to the creation of a little console known as the Playstation…
3) Alien vs. Predator
What was that about movie franchises owned by the same company? As soon as 20th Century Fox’s Predator became a summer hit in 1987, sci-fi fans began wondering whether the intergalactic hunters might ever have come across Fox’s even more famous extraterrestrial species, the titular creatures of Alien and Aliens. In 1989 they met for the first time in the pages of Aliens vs. Predator by Dark Horse Comics, followed by books, toys, video games and two big-budget films. At this point, the two races have become so intertwined in fans’ minds they’re virtually the same franchise.
As to who would win in a fight? In most of the media, it’s shown that one Predator can fend off one or two Aliens with relative ease, but a swarm of Aliens will quickly tear a Predator apart. The best fights are usually when a particularly skilled Predator goes up against an Alien Queen. But whatever happens, rest assured most of the clueless humans who get between them will end up skinned or impregnated with alien spawn.
2) TRUKK vs. MUNKY
In 1996, following the unsuccessful attempt to revive the Transformers brand through the “Generation 2” toyline, Hasbro decided to try a massive reinvention of the franchise. Rather than transforming from robots into mechanical vehicles or other devices, the stars of Beast Wars transformed into animals. For example, instead of a truck, the leader of the Autobots (now called “Maximals”), Optimus Primal, transformed into a gorilla. His foe, Megatron, transformed into a Tyrannosaurus. Unlike previous Transformers who had transformed into animals (like the Dinobots), these new Transformers had actual “flesh” over their robotic parts.
Diehard fans of the original Transformers were outraged by this turn of events — Optimus Prime was supposed to be a truck, not an ape (an argument that was sarcastically boiled down to “TRUKK NOT MUNKY” by Beast Wars supporters). Fans of “Generation 1” declared that Beasts Wars had ruined Transformers forever, just as fans of both Generation 1 and Beast Wars would say about Transformers: Armada, and fans of Generation 1, Beasts Wars, and Armada would say about Michael Bay’s Transformers movie. Still, Beast Wars represented the first major reinvention of the Transformers brand, and while ultimately a success, it still divides many fans to this day, and was the first time fans began to identify with a particular era of the brand.
1) Kirk vs. Picard
While the popularity of geeks’ Kirk vs. Picard debates have been somewhat mitigated since the advent of Sisko, Janeway, and Archer (and the Shatner Kirk vs. Pine Kirk debates have already begun), it’s not hard to remember a
time in the early 1990s when Kirk and Picard fans were at one another’s throats. Once Star Trek: The Next Generation had achieved pop culture canonization, Kirk vs. Picard became the most famous geek argument of all time, one that can be referenced in mainstream media without any explanation. Of course, it also became a coded reference to the assumption that geeks have absolutely nothing better to do with their lives than argue about whether fictional captain of the Enterprise is better. And that’s unfair. There are many different fictional characters we geeks argue about aside from Star Trek captains — like who’s the best Doctor, and could Unicron destroy the Death Star.
As for Kirk and Picard, the two captains represent the different approach of both television shows. Kirk is an action-oriented, shoot-from-the-hip cowboy, and a pretty prolific lover too. Picard has his share of conquests — both strategic and romantic–but he’s more of a diplomat and philosopher, preferring to negotiate than fire phasers. Almost every Star Trek fan has a preference, and given the slightest provocation, they’ll argue about it until the tribbles come home.
Robert Bricken is one of the original co-founders of the site formerly known as Topless Robot, and its first editor-in-chief, serving from 2008-12. He brought the site to prominence with “nerd news, humor and self-loathing” as its motto, raising it from total internet obscurity to a readership in the millions, with help from his savage “FAQ” movie reviews and Fan Fiction Fridays. Under his tenure Topless Robot was covered by Gawker, Wired, Defamer, New York magazine, ABC News, and others, and his articles have been praised by Roger Ebert, Avengers actor Clark Gregg, comedian and The Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman, the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax, and others. He is currently the managing editor of io9.com. Despite decades as both an amateur and professional nerd, he continues to be completely unprepared for either the zombie apocalypse or the robot uprising.