Canadian firm creates IT industry action figure

Faster than a high-speed Internet connection . . . More powerful than a supercomputer . . . Able to leap tall mainframes in a single bound!

Look, up in the sky! It’s a nerd! It’s a brain! It’s . . . GeekMan!

While attendees of Real

World Linux 2004 in Toronto this week were wandering the show floor searching for open source solutions, they were also introduced to an IT industry superhero in the form of a six-inch plastic action figure.

The first product offered by Toronto-based Happy Worker Inc., GeekMan is a thin, white technology employee dressed in blue jeans, running shoes and a black T-shirt with a white pocket protector. His accessories include eyeglasses (which the company calls his “”visual input device””), a handheld that attaches to his belt, a notebook computer, a wristwatch and a coffee mug (“”to re-energize super powers,”” according to Happy Worker).

Product information for GeekMan lists a range of super powers including “”ungodly coding abilities, opposite sex repulsion, ability to create technical acronyms and less than ideal personal hygiene routine.””

Happy Worker founder Kris Schantz said GeekMan is the result of a two-year research and the development process that took place primarily in the evenings and on weekends. Schantz spent about five years in various IT jobs, including the boom-and-bust cycle of the dot-com era, which he said inspired the action figure.

“”I saw my friends and colleagues get the short end of the stick and have difficulty with the technology industry,”” he said. “”I thought that it was about time we create a superhero for ourselves . . . we need someone to come here and save the day, basically.””

The Happy Worker team pored over hundreds of photographs to get the right look and feel, Schantz said, but also queried contacts in the IT industry for their feedback.

“”One of the concepts we toyed with in the early stages was more of a hipper geek,”” he said. “”The feedback we got back from the geeks we talked to — especially the hard-core hardware geeks — was that they really wanted him to be as geeky as we could make him.””

Like any superhero, GeekMan needs an enemy to fight, and apart from e-mail viruses, Schantz said he may soon do battle with the firm’s forthcoming second product, a business-oriented action figure called MoneyMan.

“”He’s a superhero too, but obviously they don’t always see eye to eye,”” he said. “”(Geek Man) doesn’t have sworn enemies per se, but he’s got people who are a little bit villainous.””

Although Mattel came out with a computer-savvy Barbie doll several years ago, Schantz said GeekMan is the first toy of its kind, and reflects the industry’s embrace of what was once a derogatory term.

“”Fifteen, 20 years ago, people in the computer industry really weren’t that happy being called a nerd,”” he admitted. “”It’s really changed . . . it’s not only a term of endearment but also a sign of accomplishment, a sign that you’re being recognized by your peers by doing something worthwhile in the industry or being worthy of this label.””

Happy Worker is distributing GeekMan to approximately 25 retail outlets across Canada and the United States, including a number of comic-book stores. The action figure has a suggested retail price of $19.99.


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Shane Schick
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