Tournament of Nerds at Meltdown and UCB Theatre

Tournament of Nerds at Meltdown and UCB Theatre
(L-R) Justin Donaldson, Linda Pine and Hal Rudnick, co-producers of Tournament of Nerds, show off a few of their favorite superheroes in front of Meltdown Comics & Collectibles. The tournament features comic book fans debating the merits of various superheroes in a bracket-style competition. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Wolverine's adamantium claws or the Terminator's metal endoskeleton? A telepathic Amazon with a magic lasso or a 1970s Ugandan dictator? Freddy Krueger or Gandalf the Grey?

Combine the greatest hypothetical battles into a March Madness-style bracket, invite movie and comic book nerds to make their case and you'll have the Tournament of Nerds, a debating competition that attempts to answer once and for all the most baffling existential dilemma facing humanity: Who is the greatest superhero of them all?

"Personally, I hope the Alien Queen eviscerates Pikachu. I want to see him get a mouthful of acid blood," says Hal Rudnick, one of the tourney's co-organizers.

Rudnick once worked as an entertainer at children's birthday parties, which included occasional stints playing Pikachu, an experience that was like "wearing a suit made of carpet while sticking your head in a giant fishbowl on the hottest day of the year in the Valley."

Rudnick's hatred for the cuddly Pokemon avatar is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the profound passions evoked by this debate.

"I've never been one to have these kind of arguments, but twice in the last week I've gotten into vicious debates about the best season of ' The Simpsons,' " tournament co-organizer Justin Donaldson says. "Season 8. Definitely. Not Season 4."

Teaming up with actress Linda Pine, who produces a monthly stand-up comedy show at Meltdown Comics, Rudnick and Donaldson created 16 improbable battles and recruited passionate fans to argue the merits of each character at the live events. Think of it as the ultimate crossover. Voltron will fight Thor, the Thing will fight the "Cloverfield" monster, the Borg will try to assimilate "Battlestar Galactica's" Starbuck.

[Click here for a downloadable PDF of the Tournament of Nerds bracket.]

A trio of celebrity judges culled from the overlapping worlds of comedy and comic books will judge the merits of the arguments, and the eight survivors will head to the finals a week later.

"All hell is going to break loose," Rudnick predicts. "I want to see nerds screaming, nerds crying and nerds laughing maniacally after victories."


WHERE: Meltdown Comics, 7522 Sunset Blvd., L.A.
WHEN: 9 p.m. Thursday, July 3, 2008
INFO: (323) 851-7223, Meltdown Comics & Collectibles

WHERE: UCB Theatre, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, July 11, 2008
PRICE: $8.
INFO: (323) 908-8702, Upright Citizens Brigade