Colorado Gov. Jared Polis didn’t have to establish his geek cred when he delivered his first State of the State address.
The 43-year-old tech entrepreneur from Boulder, who served five terms in Congress before being sworn in as governor on Jan. 8, has been getting his geek on in public for years.
This is a guy, after all, who built a corner of the original consumer internet out of spare parts in his college dorm room.
When Robin Williams died in 2014, Polis paid his respects in front of Boulder's "Mork and Mindy" house dressed as Mork, the alien from Ork portrayed by Williams in the 1978-82 sitcom.
"Nanu nanu," Polis wrote in a tweet commemorating his visit.
At around the same time, Polis was hauled before the House Ethics Committee and subjected to a four-month investigation after he appeared in a video with his partner, Marlon Reis, describing his devotion to the popular multi-player online game League of Legends and extolling the power of the community formed by the game's players.
"I've been a gamer pretty much as long as I can remember," Polis said in the video. "After a long day of fighting in politics or whatever, gaming is great. Nothing else is really on your mind, and it's just a great way to not have to focus on the fights of the day and get a balance in your life."
He added: "When you win, it's just a great feeling. It's like passing a bill or making a sale in business."
In the video, which was promoted by Riot Games, the company that produces the game, Polis compares legislative maneuvering to tactics he's honed in League of Legends — "I kind of swoop in to gank them on lots of different things" — and credits fellow League of Legends players with helping block anti-piracy legislation opponents claimed would have ground the internet to a halt.
It made an impression, leading Reason magazine to dub Polis the "Gamer Congressman" and encouraging Roll Call to document his gaming history. (The very first computer game Polis played was Dungeon! on an Apple II+, the publication discovered.)
In true geek fashion, Polis was also called out around the same time by GQ for his questionable sartorial taste after being spotted wearing a purple polo shirt and a — gasp! — clip-on silver bow tie while speaking on the House floor.
"Worst Congressional Style Ever? Yeah, Probably," judged the men's fashion magazine.
A year and a half later, GQ featured Polis sporting a "style upgrade" in a photo spread featuring the results of a makeover accomplished by the Boulder-based boutique Ninox. Polis appeared in a video documenting his new duds, which look a lot like what he wears to this day.
The House Ethics Committee investigated that, too, to determine whether Polis had run afoul of federal rules prohibiting the use of official resources to promote for-profit businesses. (Ninox briefly promoted an “$89 Polis Special” on sunglasses, featuring shades worn by the congressman in the photo-shoot.)
Eventually, the ethics poobahs determined it was OK that Polis appeared in the videos, accepting Polis' argument that it was a way of interacting with the community, the same way a lawmaker might hold a press conference about energy efficiency at a Home Depot in his or her district.
So when Polis referenced a beloved character from the Spider-Man comics during his first official address to a joint session of the General Assembly, it came as no surprise.
In a section of the State of the State speech about education policy, Polis quotes Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben, who is widely credited with saying "with great power, comes great responsibility." It drew chuckles and knowing glances throughout the House chamber, and, while a bit on the nose, it made the governor's point.
Probably nearly everyone knows the iconic line. It’s what haunts Peter after he discovers that the two-bit thug he’s just captured and strung up in a web for the cops to apprehend was the burglar who killed his uncle and sent Peter on the path to be a crime-fighting web-slinger.
As it turns out, however, Uncle Ben didn't actually say those words to Peter in the original comic. Rather, it's a line spoken by the narrator in the final panel of Spider-Man's 1962 origin story, and it's worded slightly differently: "... with great power there must also come — great responsibility!"
The quotation cited by Polis, it's true, was later spoken by Uncle Ben in flashbacks and film versions of the story, and also shows up in other later comics, though it has also been variously attributed to Voltaire, Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill.
But, although Polis answered one question (Marvel or DC?), he raised another.
Even if he only serves one term, Polis has three more State of the State addresses to deliver, and if the voters are happy with him, he'll get another four after that. Is it too much to hope that he'll dip back into the Spider-verse for more wisdom?
A quick glance through a pile of old Spider-Man comics yields plenty of potential one-liners Polis can use to pepper his speeches.
Here are a few we might hear from the governor in coming years:
• "Fate gave me some terrific super-powers, and I realize now that it's my duty to use them ... without doubt ... without hesitation!!"
• "We're not just our failures. As much as they hurt, we learn from them. Then we go out there and do our best to make up for them — Even though we never will. We save people. We save as many as we can to make up for the ones we couldn't. That's all we do."
• "Anyone can win a fight — when the odds — are easy! It's when the going's tough — when there seems to be no chance — that's when — it counts!"
And who can forget:
• "I have to go make the world safe for truth and justice and like that. Hope I didn't infringe on any copyrights with that line!"