Greg Stargell, a mild-mannered, soft-spoken physicist, helps protect the world from missile attacks. Sound like the premise for a comic book superhero? Sure, but it’s also Huntsville physicist Stargell’s real-life day job. The superhero fictions come during Stargell’s nights and weekends when Stargell composes the jokes and story lines for his alter-ego, Da Spokesman, a stand-up comedian, comic book and video game inventor and writer of “The International Awesomeness League.”
It’s his after-work avocation that, he hopes, will be part of protecting kids from bad choices.
“I’ve been a gamer since I was 5,” Stargell said. “Games can be used to build critical thinking skills, especially when the player is in control of their character.”
Stargell himself got early control of his own character. Raised by his mom with his three younger sisters in inner-city Atlanta, he aimed for excellence, both in the classroom and in life. He was a Boy Scout and involved in other clubs. He graduated second in his class and went on to earn a master’s in mechanical engineering from Iowa State University in 2008 and a doctorate in physics from Alabama A&M University. While he was at A&M, he helped to tutor students, enjoying the challenge of breaking down the topic he knew and loved – physics – into bits that they could grasp and build on.
Along the way, he saw other life skills worth learning that could also be broken into manageable bits.
“When I’m speaking to kids, I remind them that there is a deeper power in them all,” Stargell said. “That’s what I’m hoping to unlock – both the power of the individual and their understanding that they can’t do everything by themselves. You have to build a team.”
Stargell has assembled his own team to bring The International Awesomeness League to life with cartooning and programming. He has built several websites to launch his game, comic book, comedy bookings and motivational work. Despite the time it takes, with his wife, Sasha, to raise his two daughters, both younger than 3, he manages to keep plugging away at his dream – not unlike the sturdy little character that charges around the square sets of his video games.
After all, as his video game character learns, you gain more powers as you struggle – especially when you manage to keep humor in the midst of the fights. Or as one of the characters in “Major League,” the edition of the game in which Da Spokesman is in college, puts it if a player clicks on her: “I sometimes feel like I’m in a video game.”
This story was originally published by AL.com.