Nickname Origin

July 12, 2021

     For nearly as long as I can remember, I have been "Spiderdan". That doesn’t mean I’ve never had any other nicknames or been addressed by any other moniker. Those in my immediate family have also always heard me called, “Baguba” (pronounced bah-goo-bah), as well. But it was clear from the get-go that the name Spiderdan would stick and so it has.


     Well, who cares? I mean, what’s in a name?


     In my case, a whole lot.


     As soon as I could see the images of Spider-Man swinging on his web in between the buildings of New York, I was to be forever influenced and affected by this Marvel character. Now, it may be easy to imagine a good number of kids in the 70’s who read comic books and watched cartoons. I was no different. I collected all kinds of comics, action figures, playsets, etc… Yet, there was something about Spider-Man I always gravitated towards.


     In my earliest memories, perhaps I was 3 or 4 years old, I can recall talking to my dad about having Spider-Powers. You know… all of it: Spider-Sense tingling, super strength and agility, smart-ass quips, web-slinging, and most of all – the ability to climb walls, no matter the height or surface. Somewhere in my young mind, this was the ultimate proof. I had personally attempted to stick to walls many times in those early years. It hadn’t worked, but that didn’t stop the hope I created around the prospect. These conversations with my Dad allowed me to explain my goals and desires. I needed Spider-Man Powers.


     For my father, there was another motive in these discussions.


     He knew I didn’t like going to Catholic mass on Sundays. I had trouble sitting still and would climb along the pews, until eventually forced to sit, and therefore cry. I was a pain in the butt. However, in these conversations over Spider-Man, my dad saw an opening to influence me in perhaps a way no other human could. He told me that if I really wanted Spider-Man Powers, I’d have to start being a good kid at church. If I was able to go, and not have any behavior problems and sit still, THEN I would actually get Spider-Man Powers!


     That couldn’t have been a bigger moment for me. That was my “in.” I thought it over carefully that evening before bed. If only I could sit still. That was practically impossible, but for powers like my hero’s… I had to try.


     So, for days and weeks, upon waking up in the morning, I would check if the palm of my hand could stick to the walls. I’d inspect my wrist to see if there was any new ability to shoot webs.




     But my dad, from those moments onward, called me Spider-Dan. And I’ll be honest, it was quite effective of a parenting tool. It made me remember, there was always a chance. Spider-Man Powers were a matter of impressing God that I could be a “big boy,” but also proof of mind over matter. If I thought hard enough, perhaps I could influence things to happen in real-life?


     So, instead of it just being a story of parental-manipulation (haha) and of being a naïve kid, the nickname followed me throughout the years. All through school, I gained nicknames: Danny-Boy, Danielson, Dan the Man, and more. Yet, Spiderdan was never far away.


     The nickname stuck in a more permanent fashion after I had moved away from home as a youngin'.  I played in rock bands and put myself out into the music scene around me. At one point in my early 20’s, I was staying in an abandoned frat-house in Tucson, Arizona during one of the hottest summers ever recorded. Must’ve been somewhere about the years of ‘91 or ‘92. No coolers, no air conditioning, nothing… And there were about six other fellas (around the same age as me) that were staying there too. The place was a dump! But it had two stories and was super-close to the university.


     Well, the fellows that lived there with me were some tough dudes. Some in bands, all of us worked labor jobs. Most were from the hard-knocks area of life. What I’m trying to say here is that although this was an abandoned frat-house, there was nothing fraternity-like about the guys living here. In fact, these guys hated the fraternity lifestyle, and made it well known.


     Cue a few weeks later, in the sweltering heat of July, and there was somehow a party that was going on at the house. Long story short, a nearby group of fraternity dudes came by the house, and the mix wasn’t good. I remember a fight broke out while I was schmoozing on the 2nd story balcony with folks. I looked down and saw several guys suddenly punching each other. To this day, I don’t know why I felt any camaraderie for any of my roommates to such a degree that I would put my life in danger – but I did.


     I dove from the balcony onto one of the clusters of people throwing punches and kicks, and not only landed on them, but came up swinging.


     I could overhear one of my roommates yell, “Yo! That Spiderdan shit’s for real!”


     Honestly, after that, I don’t remember a whole lot. Haha. I’m sure I came away with a split lip. But, the name stuck again, in a rebranding with the image of a leaping fool from a second story balcony on it. It was after that moment when I was hardly ever without the “Spiderdan” nickname.


     At this time, I have had the name so long that I might as well have it on my Driver’s License. I do still like to write under the name “D. Michael Southard” and will probably use that name for more “professional” exhibitions. But Spiderdan will always be with me. I even allow my cooler students to call me this. Haha. What can I say? Getting rid of the name, or being too embarrassed about it, would be devastating for me. I’ve tried to push it away at various points in my life, imagining that I needed to change or be more mature. And without it, I’m without my core self.  Spiderdan is me, happy.  Spiderdan is me, a youthful spirit.  Spiderdan is me, at my most authentic.


     So that’s why I have kept this name all these years. That’s why when I decided to present myself in music or writing, I felt most at home when I used the Spiderdan name. It’s me. And it’s a reminder of that inner-child… that kid placing his palm on the wall hoping to stick. I may be a 50-year-old man now, but the kid in me won’t ever stop trying to spin a web from his wrists when no-one is looking.


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TAGS: Spiderdan, D. Michael Southard, nickname, nicknames

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