Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ten Dorky Things To Be Thankful For

So here we are at the end of Thanksgivin’ weekend. We’ve had a grand ol’ American good time the last few days, and now we thought we’d slow down a little and take stock. Think about the thing this holiday’s really s'posed to be about: the stuff from the precedin’ year that we’re thankful for. There’s friends and family and good health and all that, of course, but... Bein’ on the Nerd Farm really makes us think most about all the dorky crap we loved in 2010. So here, in no particular order, is our list of Ten Dorky Things To Be Thankful For…

1. Mythbusters

There’s nothing dorkier than science, and this show combines science with urban legends AND blowing stuff up! Could documentary television really get much better than that? Not in our eyes, my friends! From the ridiculous concepts, to the fascinating practical science of the experiments, to the genius hosting odd couple of Adam Savage and Jamie Heineman (pictured), we love this show deep down to the core of our dorky little hearts. Even with the cheesy fake enthusiasm of the back-up team (who I like, don’t get me wrong), Mythbusters is like some kind of dork wet dream, and we’re thankful that they’re still making new ones.

2. JH Williams III

The single-best artist working in mainstream funnybooks today. With his innovative layout, mutable style, attention to detail, and talent for visual symbolism, Williams has made every comic he’s worked on twice as good as it might have been without him. This year, that comic was Batwoman, which was to funnybook art what Grant Morrison’s Batman was to funnybook writing: head and shoulders above the competition in the world of corporate spandex.

3. Horror Hosts

Keeping the hand-made spirit of local TV alive, the horror hosts provided me with endless entertainment in 2010, and sometimes even introduced me to cult horror movies I might not have found without them (which is no mean feat). While the combination of horror and humor is universal, the horror host seems to be a distinctly American tradition, much like Thanksgiving itself, and I would feel remiss if I didn’t give it a mention.

4. Creator-Owned Comics

Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Joe Quesada’s assertion that “creator-owned” isn’t a genre is technically true. But for an industry in which work-for-hire writing is the only way for most to make a decent living, comics owned by their creators rather than the corporations that publish them are a welcome sight. Both because it’s good to see comics creators being given the same kind of deals that writers of prose take for granted, and because the creator-owned option means that the best writers in mainstream funnybooks can afford to put out work that appeals to my slightly-left-of-mainstream tastes. Without books like Bendis and Oeming’s Powers or Matt Fraction’s Casanova, books where they can take chances and do things that just aren’t possible with 50-year-old franchise characters, my interest in funnybooks might have waned considerably by now. So bring ‘em on, gentlemen! You keep makin’ ‘em, and I’ll keep buyin’ ‘em.

5. Lost

The first great pulp entertainment of the 21st Century came to a close earlier this year, and it did so in style. The character arcs all ended honestly and with little compromise, and the longshot choice of Hurley as the island’s new protector was a genius move that, in retrospect, seems only logical. Some were upset with the finale’s religious overtones, and others with the lack of concrete explanations for every detail. But I’d argue that the spiritual stuff was built in almost from the beginning, and that concrete explanation wasn’t what the show was about to begin with. It lived in the grey areas, the uncertain places where it’s hard to know what’s real and what’s imaginary, and it ended there, too.

6. Thor: The Mighty Avenger

This all-ages Thor comic from Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee is good in so many ways. While it’s essentially a super hero romance comic, Langridge and Samnee have managed to hide that fact by evoking the spirit of the early Marvel comics. The book has that Stan Lee anything-can-happen sense of fun about it, coupled with a gentle humor and just enough complexity that it keeps my attention and respect even when it steps over the line into “cute” (which it thankfully doesn’t do very often). It’s by far not the best comic out there today, but it has been a great surprise, and a real breath of fresh air in a corporate spandex market that too often lacks the creativity on display here. Here’s to hoping it can survive…

7. The HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast

Chris Lackey and Chad Fifer set out on an insane mission last year: reading every HP Lovecraft story, and releasing a podcast discussion of them, one at a time. Part appreciation, part critique, and part annotation, the HPLLP is presented intelligently and with great humor, and captures precisely why I personally love
Lovecraft’s work so very much. Check out all 60 episodes of the show here.

8. Batman

Endless words have been spilled over the years trying to explain this character’s ineffable charm, why he works -- and works well -- in all the very many different treatments he’s been given over the years. I won’t add too very many words to them, except to say this: Batman just works. Because… you know… BATMAN!

9. The Venture Brothers

If there was ever a better dork show out there, I don’t know what it could have possibly been. I mean, it’s got muscle cars, super-science, clones, guys in weird costumes, the best treatment of henchmen in the history of the concept, David Bowie… It’s even got a goddamn blacula hunter! How could any self-respecting dork NOT love that?! Toss in the show’s penchant for coherent long-term plotting and actual character development, and you’ve got a dork TeeVee juggernaut! My one regret about this year’s obsessive daily Halloween blogging was that I wound up recording all the new “Season More” episodes rather than watching them as they aired. Of course, that only meant that I got to watch them in one big Venture marathon, and that made for a very nice way to start off November, indeed.

10. Grant Morrison

It should come as no surprise to regular readers that I’m a huge Morrison fan. There’s nobody better in mainstream comics right now. Morrison embues even his corporate spandex work with layers of subtext, rewarding re-reads in ways that most comics (hell, most fictions) don’t. But I’ve gone on, repeatedly and at length, about how much I like the man’s work. So I won’t do it again. Suffice it to say that I’m very thankful indeed that he’s out there, writing stuff I wanna read.



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