From revivals of beloved childhood characters to surprising encounters between pop-culture icons, 2011 was definitely a key year for Geek. Here's our picks for the ten best moments in Geek in 2011:
The significance of this story was two-fold: both demonstrating the power of Kickstarter as a crowd-sourced project-funding tool, and highlighting the issue of a lack of female creators in mainstream comics. Womanthology -- a collection of comics by women spearheaded by artist Renae De Liz -- raised over $100K in only 30 days, far in excess of its original goal of $25,000. Such a massive show of support for women in comics, including celebrity funding contributors Kevin Smith, Jim Lee, and Neil Gaiman, demonstrated that yes, people do want to read and support comic projects by women. With the massive IDW-published anthology on its way to becoming a reality, maybe the next step will be more women actually being hired by mainstream comics publishers.
With all due respect to Archie Comics, I always figured the most visible gay character in comic book history would have been produced by its marvelous and distinguished competition. Who would have guessed that the 70+ year-old publisher, long thought of as simply the makers of fun but innocuous bits of Americana, would be one of the most brave and revolutionary mainstream comics makers out there -- prominently featuring the openly gay character Kevin as both a integral new member of the Archie gang and giving him his own high-profile solo mini-series. After worldwide press attention and the enthusiastic support of fans, Keller will be getting his own ongoing series in February 2012.
Yes, the cynic in me tends to initially look at these "comebacks" of retro icons with mixed feelings. When they are done wrong -- well, the fans will definitely let you know (and, on occasion, accuse you of forcibly having sexual relations with their childhoods). But not so for this year's ThunderCats simultaneous cartoon/toy resurgence -- a textbook case on how to revamp classic characters for a new generation without alienating its core base. The animated series is tremendous fun, with surprisingly rich world-building and intricate background story, and the toy lines by Bandai and Mezco provide something cool both for collectors and little kids. My votes for similarly-executed retro revivals for 2012: Jem, Silverhawks, and (dare I say it?) BraveStarr.
When the news first broke about the J.J. Abrams revival of Star Trek, there was undoubtedly some tension there -- not just from hard-core fans who objected to "rebooting" the characters from the original series with younger actors, but from "Captain Kirk" himself William Shatner. Adding fuel to the fire, a cameo in the new Star Trek film featuring The Shat was eventually cut from the script. So it was with great joy that I watched the 2011 documentary The Captains, during which Shatner makes his peace with "new Kirk" Chris Pine and even has an arm-wresting match with the younger actor. Let's face it -- I want all my icons to be friends with each other and not fight (well, the Shatner/Takei feud is still fun).
Personal anecdote -- the original post we did on Sailor Moon returning to manga was one of MTV Geek's highest-rated and most commented-on posts ever, placing her popularity on par with Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. The appeal of the character spans generations, attracting both fans who remember watching the cartoon when they were kids and a broad base of younger readers -- so it's probably no wonder that when Vol. 1 of Sailor Moon hit stores in September, it broke sales records. Our wish for 2012 -- hopefully some news about the animated episodes being released to DVD!
The Batman: Arkham City game has done, in essence, everything the 2008 film The Dark Knight accomplished -- putting Batman and DC Comics on the forefront of pop-culture. It is hard to overestimate the influence this best-selling, phenomenally popular game will have in the comics and video game realms. One of the biggest impacts of Arkham City? Re-introducing comic books to mainstream audiences. Like Dark Knight, this game is a "gateway" for millions of people young and old to actually sample and buy the comics-- and in the current comic book market, a bit wibbly-wobbly due to the global financial crisis and the rise of digital over paper, Arkham City couldn't have come at a better time. Also, the game is just really really cool.
I debated putting the debut of the Miles Morales on the list for this reason: surely we have come far enough in this society that having a high-profile comic book character be non-Caucasian -- even one as iconic as Spider-Man -- really shouldn't be a big deal, or "news" in-and-of itself. But, after witnessing the massive, Internet-breaking reaction to the news about Morales, I guess I was mistaken. Fans were torn by Marvel's decision to cast African-American/Latino Miles Morales as the successor to the recently-deceased Peter Parker of the "Ultimate" Marvel Universe, with some praising the move and others having heated (and sometimes racist) objections that quite frankly shocked me. But cool points for Marvel not shrinking away from controversy, and the fact that Miles was at least partially inspired by Community's Donald Glover.
Let it never be said that George Lucas doesn't have a sense of humor about himself. Darth Vader, at the 2011 Scream Awards to pick up his statue for Ultimate Villain, used the opportunity to rant about "digital enhancements" Lucas recently made to the classic trilogy: "Let's be honest: I'm surprised at this point he hasn't added the Ewok pilot to the Death Star trench run scene." The Star Wars Blu-ray controversy was the big elephant in the room whenever the subject of Lucas was brought up this year, and the movie maker decided to face this issue head-on -- literally, confronting his formidable creation at the award ceremony. Perhaps George Lucas is on the only being in the galaxy Darth Vader is truly scared of.
Truthfully, I could have just put the name "George R.R. Martin" as the title of this entry and it would really cover it all. 2011 was, quite frankly, the year of George R.R. Martin, with his long-awaited A Dance With Dragons finally being released, and the TV series A Game Of Thrones launching to tremendous ratings and popularity. Forget Lord of The Rings and Harry Potter -- A Song Of Ice And Fire is the "It" epic fantasy series of the foreseeable future, with a sequel to GoT on its way from HBO and a massive juggernaut licensing program including video games, comics, and, thanks to Dark Horse, pretty much every tchotchke you can possibly think of. Next up for Martin: a movie adaptation of his other signature series, Wild Cards!
I'm going to put this as simply as I possibly can: dumping your entire line of books to release 52 brand-new series in one month is an incredible ballsy stunt. It just is. It is the equivalent of quitting your job and selling all your possessions so you can try your luck at the circus -- it could turn out awesome and inspiring (you become a star trapeze artist), or really really bad (you become an elephant poop shoveller). In September, all of DC Comics' flagship titles -- including Action Comics and Batman -- restarted with new #1s, creative teams, and in some cases, completely different back-stories and characterizations. This was met with both enthusiasm and abject horror by fans, and became the topic du jour all throughout the comic book convention season. Was the "new" Catwoman too sexy? How about those collars on the Jim Lee redesigns? Why weren't there more female creators working on the new batch of comics? And was Barbara Gordon leaving her wheelchair behind to once again become Batgirl a terrible or awesome idea? But whether you loved or hated "The New 52," there is no denying that the initiative actually got people excited about comics again, and sent them into the comics stores. Amidst flagging comic sales and a shrinking (an increasingly older) audience, maybe the shock of "The New 52" was necessary. How did the Joker from the 1989 movie Batman say it? "This town needs an enema!" Not the most pleasant imagery in the world, but really true -- making DC's "New 52" launch our #1 Moment In Geek for 2011.