Atomic Roundtable: The highs and lows of 2018

So we are entering the tail end of 2018, a tumultuous year in many ways; from social change, political upheaval, international crises, deaths of respected public figures, some great comics being released and so on. As is traditional for columnists and writers everywhere, it is time for the learned gentlemen of The Atomic Junkshop to reflect on 2018 and share their high (and low) lights of the past twelve months.

DEATHS AND PASSINGS

Matt: As a species we tend to be a bit morbid so I’ll start with the deaths that impacted our lives in 2018. We lost quite a lot of talented people including Margot Kidder, Steve Ditko, Norm Breyfogle and Stan Lee. I must confess that out of those four, it was Norm Breyfogle that made me take notice the most – his work on various Batman titles was amazing and I still look quite fondly on my issues of Shadow of the Bat. The dynamic use of shadows and outlines to portray both emotion and action was amazing.

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Greg: The depressing reality is that I’ve reached an age now where every week brings news of someone passing who was on my cultural radar in a fairly important way. This week (as I write this) we lost Sondra Locke and Nancy Wilson– the jazz singer, not the Heart guitarist– both of whom were artists I respected. Chances are that by the time this posts there will be others as well.

(Aside: The national gaslighting going on with obituaries portraying Sondra Locke solely as the ’embittered ex’ of Clint Eastwood is really pissing me off but that’s a column in itself. Suffice it to say she was a lot more than that and she did a lot of solo work that was worthy of respect.)

And a couple of days later it was Penny Marshall, someone whose work I’ve liked since she was on The Odd Couple.

So that’s how it is now for Julie and me. Every few days. Not necessarily someone we liked or even disliked but always, someone we KNEW. You know, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, those were our parents’ celebrities, but these are OURS. And they’re dropping dead one after the other. It can get demoralizing.

Harlan Ellison’s passing was a blow, as was Stan Lee’s… but the health of each of them had been so poor that those deaths didn’t come as a surprise. Bill Daily, on the other hand… I knew he was getting up there but I had the vague idea that he was doing okay. That was a shock, as was doing the math when I realized how long it had been since Jeannie and The Bob Newhart Show were on the air.

Honestly doing the math on a lot of these things is a shock. We were watching a concert film with the B-52s– relatively recent, they hadn’t lost a step– and it dawned on me that Kate Pierson is seventy years old this year.

Which means the Stones are, what, ninety? A hundred? And they are touring still. Holy God.

…okay, I’m going to stop now.

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Jim: There were a lot of celebrity deaths this year, seemingly in clusters throughout the year; it seemed like every few weeks, we’d all be asking who was going to write the tribute to the latest actor, writer, artist. For me, the most significant passings of the year were not Stan Lee or Harlan Ellison, though I had met both multiple times, nor Steve Ditko, whom I would have liked to have met. My losses this year were personal.

First, comics legend Russ Heath, a great guy that I am so glad I got to know over the past 10 years.

Brilliant songwriter, raconteur, and confounding philosopher-mystic Thom Moore, a talent who, while hugely respected and admired by others in his field, never got the public acclaim and recognition his staggering catalog of work deserved. I am pleased that I got to know him for over 30 years.

Wally liked to play Santa; eventually he just kept the beard.

And finally, my best friend and brother for over 40 years, Wally Oden. Wally was never a celebrity, never wrote a book, was not an artist; in high school he was a talented comedic actor with a beautiful tenor voice, but it was more important to him to have a family, and he put aside performing, except for periodic stints in barbershop quartets, in favor of working as a pressman printing movie posters and whatever else came through the shop. When we shared an apartment, many days were spent discovering and sharing all the pop culture junk we love. The first time I saw Phantom of the Paradise and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Wally was in the next seat. It was Wally who introduced me to the music of Harry Chapin. We watched UFO Daiapolon and Ultraman on the Japanese TV channel together. We swapped books (he introduced me to Doc Savage and John Carter of Mars), argued about movies and TV, and a huge chunk of my nerdery is courtesy of Wally’s influence. He was a good man with a quick laugh, and I still miss him.

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Edo B.: First, I’d like to highlight Marie Severin here. She never had the superstar status of Stan Lee or Ditko (or Kirby, Buscema, etc. for that matter) in the comics world, but she should have. She was one of pioneering women in the comic book industry, who got her start at EC in the 1950s and then spent the bulk of her career at various posts in Marvel. She was a wonderfully talented artist (on pencils, inks and colors), who was equally adept at doing action and superheroes (Dr. Strange, Hulk, Kull, etc.), and humor (Not Brand Eech, Crazy, Fraggle Rock, Muppet Babies) and pretty much anything else she set her mind to do. Among her other notable accomplishments, she co-created the character Greer Nelson, a.k.a. the Cat, later Tigra, and designed the original costume for Spiderwoman.

R.I.P., Marie

In my opinion, by far the biggest loss in the world of literature and culture and the arts in general this year was the passing of writer Ursula K. Le Guin in January – and that’s the one that probably hit me personally more than any other. She’s best known as a science fiction and fantasy writer, although she was equally adept at writing historical fiction (seriously, Malafrena and Orsinian Tales, although set in a fictional country, are probably the best works of historical fiction I’ve ever read), children’s and YA stories, ‘mainstream’ prose (several short story collections), and poetry, essays, other non-fiction and translations.

(Photograph by Jack Liu, via The New York Times)

She’s been eulogized extensively online and elsewhere by many, so here I’ll just say that I think that she was arguably the best writer working in the English language in the latter half of the 20th and early 21st centuries – yes, I mean in general. If ‘genre’ fiction wasn’t so unfairly looked down upon, she would have been given a well-deserved Nobel Prize in Literature years ago.

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Greg B.: [Edit: I was second in here, so I have to add my last name initial like a sucker, while Hatcher gets to be “Greg.” Damn you, Hatcher!!!!!!] As I’ve noted before, I’m not too bent out of shape when celebrities die, and the people above have noted most of the ones I would think of: Ditko and Breyfogle most notably from the comics world, although Marie Severin was a great artist well before most women were working in comics, so that’s cool for her. John McCain dying was a big story, but I don’t think as much of McCain as a lot of people, although he seemed like an interesting dude. Donald Moffat just died on the 20th, and he’s one of those dudes you always know in movies but never know his name (he’s in The Thing, which is probably where most nerds know him from). So that’s it.

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COMICS

Matt: 2018 has been a brilliant year for comics as far as I’m concerned. Titles such as Monstress and Saga have been very popular and the habit of the Big Two to continually remember their titles seems to have finally been put to bed (or moderated at least). It should be of no surprise to anyone here that my best book of 2018 was Transformers: Lost Light by James Roberts – and I’m glad that it won People’s Choice at IGN for best comic of 2018. Australian writer Tom Taylor has also had a stellar year with some solid work on Wolverine, X-Men: Red and other titles. Gail Simone’s Plastic Man was a hoot to read and she actually made me like X-Men character Domino in a delightfully fun mini-series.

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Greg: This was the year that I let go of the pull list and went completely trades and hardcovers only, so I haven’t really been keeping up with too many new comics.

I find as long as I avoid the event stuff I enjoy superhero books still. I have been hanging in there with Superman and Batman, though I’m about six months to a year behind on them. The run-up to it was great, but the Bat-wedding itself was a fizzle. I thought the reason for not following through was wimpy and stupid. It’s ridiculous how DC writers continue to harp on the notion that Batman is tormented and miserable… we’ve reached the point where that is the default setting. And I hate it. You really don’t HAVE to go there. I thought one of the most delightful and charming Bat stories of the last two decades was the “double date” story with Superman and Lois hanging out with Batman and Catwoman. You can keep Batman ‘dark’ without having him be mopey.

In fact I was hoping this was going to be the new direction, but they chickened out. Even more annoying was when Brian Bendis punted on the whole family thing in Man of Steel. I liked having Lois and Jon in the Super books, dammit, and I’m guessing this development torpedoes Super Sons as well, a book that not only was becoming my favorite current DC offering but also was one of the few DC superhero entries that was genuinely fun for all ages.

But DC has been alternately delighting and disappointing me since I was eight… so that’s nothing new. Marvel comics I haven’t really been keeping up with at all other than the Ms. Marvel paperbacks which are just plain fun.

But as usual, the more interesting stuff I ran across was off to the sidelines with the indies. I was happy to back the Kickstarter for A Wave Blue World’s All We Ever Wanted anthology, especially since I had done a column bemoaning the lack of exactly this kind of SF in popular culture not too long before it was announced. That’s coming out just this month, and I happily recommend it.

I already wrote about The Prisoner from Titan Comics, which I adored. And I’m very pleased with what I’m seeing from Titan’s new Hard Case Comics line. Of course they had me at hello with the Max Allan Collins books like Quarry and Mike Hammer, but I’ve also been really impressed with the other, less mainstream entries like The Prague Coup.

However, since I’ve let go of the Wednesday ritual trip to my retailer, I’ve been more interested in shopping for collections of older stuff. Not only was 2018 the year that DC Archive Editions finally became affordable, but they also started reprinting some of my favorite runs of other stuff. The Tales of The Batman hardcover series is starting to hit some of my favorite material– Matt mentioned Norm Breyfogle, and we also got the second volumes of Gerry Conway and Gene Colan as well. Plus the Aquaman movie has prompted a wave (pun intended) of new reprints, my favorite of which has to be The Search For Mera.

As long as they keep giving me nice collections of the old stuff I can’t get too worked up about how they screw up the current version of the characters; I’d rather invest in these hardcovers and pretend there’s no such thing as Doomsday Clock.

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Jim: I have to be a bit circumspect here; since I currently work for a massive media conglomerate, there are policies in place about what’s appropriate or inappropriate to say in a public forum. Aside from that, I only get out to the funnybookatorium about 4-5 times a year lately.

Fortunately, the brilliant Astro City is switching to annual paperback volumes and foregoing the monthlies, so that works well for me.

A comic I really enjoyed (despite my snarky nitpicking), Kelly Thompson & Leonardo Romero’s Hawkeye, ended this year, but the gap was filled by the equally entertaining West Coast Avengers.

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  Edo B.: Normally, I rarely get any brand-spanking new releases; I’m usually content to wait until things appear on secondary markets. Also, books like those reprint editions of goodies from the ’60s, ’70s or ’80s that Greg mentioned above are more my speed for comics purchases. However, recently, like about two weeks ago, I met up with comic book artist Dalibor Talajić at the studio he shares with several comics professionals here in Zagreb, and he gave me (yes, gave – he wouldn’t let me pay him, which annoyed me) two books he worked on this year: Witch Hammer, written by Cullen Bunn, and X-men Black: Magneto, by Chris Claremont. In the case of the former, you could say it was hot off the presses, as he gave it to me two days before its official release.

I won’t review them here, except to say that I thought both were quite good. Claremont certainly hasn’t lost his touch. And Witch Hammer in particular is a very well-done, if a bit disturbing, horror/thriller. Definitely worth checking out. Dalibor, by the way, was nice enough to sign it for me:

“To a comrade, friend and citizen” – almost brings a tear to my eye…

Also, I managed to get a hold of three more of the new Marvel digests that were published this year – two I ordered from eBay and had them sent to my sister’s place in Oregon, which I picked up when I visited in the summer.

The third one I found in the wild in a store while there, which made me inexplicably happy – of course, anyone who read my post about Marvel digests from late year year will know how much I love these little books. Unfortunately, I recently learned that Archie Comics, which has been putting them together and selling them via its own distribution channels, has decided to pull the plug on the Marvel digests. Well, it was nice while it lasted.

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Greg B.: When I had more time, I would write up a whole thing about the best comics of the year. Man, I used to have more time. Where does it all go? With that in mind, here are just some of the things I dug this year.

Kill the Minotaur is a pretty cool comic, and I reviewed it here.

This post has some good comics in it, like Eleanor and the Egret, Supernaut, Retcon, and Sink #1-5.

Babylon Berlin was a pretty keen book.

In this post I reviewed Young Terrorists, Angelic, and Sacred Creatures, which were very good.

Diablo House was pretty cool, and had great art. Spill Zone volume 1 was quite good, as was Malefic. All of those were reviewed here.

Rob Guillory’s Farmhand is off to an intriguing start. Check out the trade in January!

I haven’t reviewed all of the comics I really dug this year, because I’m so slow. Eight Million Ways to Die is J.K. Snyder’s adaptation of Lawrence Block’s novel, and it’s terrific. The Furnace by Prentis Rollins is a very keen science fiction book.

I’m still reading some Marvel and DC books in trade. Squirrel Girl continues to be an absolute gem, and Ms. Marvel isn’t far behind (although I guess Wilson is leaving the book, so we’ll see how the quality goes when that happens). And the relaunched Immortal Hulk has one trade out, and it’s really good and spooky. Birthright, East of West, and Manifest Destiny keep trucking along, and they’re all very good. As Jim noted, Hawkeye, which was quite great, ended this year, as did Elephantmen, another great title. The final issue of S.H.I.E.L.D. came out after a 6-year hiatus, and while it wasn’t quite worth the wait, it was still a very cool comic. Doom Patrol sadly ended, as did, probably the entire Young Animal line.

Finally, I don’t know if the final issue of Berlin came out this year, but the complete collected edition did, and it’s a masterpiece. Go find it and read it!

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COMIC BOOK CULTURE

Matt: Sadly comic book fandom and culture became embroiled in the rather inane culture wars that have visited so many other aspects of our society. I have written about such movements before and most of it does not bear rehashing but it has been gratifying to watch as comicsgate and it’s motley gathering of trolls has essentially collapsed under the weight of its own ignorance. Meyer’s released title was universally a laughing stock both in terms of writing and art, while Ethan Van Sciver still hasn’t been able to release what he promised. Meanwhile, the group went through its own civil war which ended up effectively killing it off. Meyer has left Twitter and is leaving Patreon, which is indicative and his shrinking relevance.

Also sadly, claims of sexual harassment have continued this year – right now there’s controversy over Border Town writer Eric Esquivel. I was raised in a fairly old fashioned manner so I am always bewildered by such stories, about such lack of common decency towards women. Keep it in your pants and think with your brain, not with your smaller member.

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Greg: I’m right there with Matt on the toxic elements of fan culture. Said my piece on it here, pretty much.

But!

The flip side of this, the thing that brings all these creeps out from under their rocks in a spit-spraying fury, is the acceptance of comics into mainstream culture, and creators responding with a modern awareness of diversity and an attempt to make things more inclusive.

The CW television network has practically morphed into the DC Comics outreach program and by and large we are there for it. I still get annoyed with dumb plot things — looking at you, The Flash — but when they just go for it and embrace the nuttiness that is the DC superhero heritage I can’t help but surrender to it. Legends of Tomorrow is slowly turning into a sort of time-traveling version of the bwa-ha-ha era of the Justice League, except it’s even crazier.

The CW superhero crossovers, in particular, are impossible for me not to love… sure, there are plot holes galore but my basic reaction is that if I had seen these when I was eleven I would have been fucking levitating with sheer joy. And my inner eleven-year-old tends to overpower everything when we are watching them today.

(I am seriously thinking about getting an all-region player just so we can have Crisis on Earth-X in the home library, and Elseworlds had me grinning from ear to ear, especially the Bat stuff.)

Stop and consider this for a moment. An entire television network is currently pretty much built on a foundation of DC Comics superhero adaptations. And not the big guns like Superman and Batman, but second-tier stuff like Green Arrow, iZombie, and Black Lightning. More, the shows are HITS.

Conventions and other fan gatherings are also getting much more mainstream. My Young Authors kids were invited to table at the Ace Comic-Con in the spring, and all I had to do was teach a couple of sessions on creating your own comics.

Two things struck me about the show– it was packed with kids who loved superheroes, including lots of young girls… and there were hardly any comics. Only one booth had back issues that I saw, and the only genuine comics guy there was Dan Parent.

He was great fun to talk to; we reminisced a little bit about Dan DeCarlo and I ended up buying a page of original art and a Batman ’66 print from him. But he pretty much had a corner on the actual comics section of Artist’s Alley.

Some local comics folks were bothered about it. I wasn’t. For one thing, it was a terrific, accessible show, and Ace treated me and the kids like royalty. Further, they were HUGELY invested in making it a fun experience for all the kids that showed up. My drawing classes were just a small part of that effort. There were games, workshops on kids cosplaying, all kinds of things. Also a special outreach to local children’s hospitals and special-needs kids.

Something that seems to continually elude the ComicsGate folks is that if we don’t bring in new folks to be part of the audience, the genre will die out. I’m not at all concerned with preserving the delivery system of 7×10 booklets or comics-shop culture; the more invested we get in that, the more likely it is that we become the same thing as the pulp magazine nostalgia niche market, a tiny group of small-press publishers subsidized by an aging, ever- shrinking fan base.

Besides, that old stuff is available to everyone. I cannot grasp why in the world any old-time comics fan would feel threatened when everything they love is coming back into print in one form or another. I can find almost anything I could ever want without leaving the office I’m writing this in, with a couple of mouse clicks.

(Almost. Still hoping DC will get off the dime on 1970s Superman reprints.) But I don’t need or want an entire industry concentrating on just me. Let the new kids have their own things. It’s not a threat. It’s an expansion. It’s acceptance.

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Jim: I don’t have a lot to add to what Greg and Matt said, except to repeat what I said before: This Shit Shall Cease. I really hope 2019 is the year that comics fans rise up and kick the Comicsgaters, Incels, redpillers, creeps and predators out the door and off the curb to the gutter where they belong.

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TELEVISION AND MOVIES

Matt: One of my all time favourite TV shows, Doctor Who, made insecure fanboys lose their collective minds by having the first female incarnation of the titular character. Jodie Whittaker has done a solid job this season even if the stories themselves have not really hit home for me. I’ve found the change in music to be the most jarring, honestly, with the move from orchestral grandeur to more subdued levels has left action sequences feeling flat. I’m also not keen on having three companions as, like we saw back in the days of the 5th Doctor, it’s pretty difficult to give four main characters enough to do.

The Expanse has been a stand out show for me and I’m glad that it got picked up, the story arc in intriguing while the characters are complex. The Walking Dead has lumbered on but it is well passed it’s prime and should probably receive a spike to the brain. Titans has surprised me in that while I distinctly dislike how it is following the DC Murderverse model, the scripts are excellent and the production values are outstanding – compare the look of Titans to the CW DC shows and you’ll see what I mean. Westworld, that I loved the first season of, fizzled out horribly with season 2. The improved second season of Iron Fist wasn’t enough to save it, same with Luke Cage. Season 3 of Daredevil was the best of the series so I’m still perplexed why Netflix let it go. I generally dislike sitcoms but Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Good Place have both been well worth the binge-watching treatment they received. Marvel has continued its winning cinematic streak with Infinity War and other solid films – I know I’m keen to to see Captain Marvel next year.

 

Greg: Well, I already talked about the CW shows. The only ones I still follow are Supergirl and Arrow (the latter is basically Batman with a bow, something that amuses me no end considering the early years of Green Arrow in the comics.) I still keep up with Gotham, though it runs hot and cold with me; though it has improved considerably since its beginnings. The new season, which is going to be the series finale, promises that it’s going to be all about moving young Bruce to Batman, and I like Alexander Siddig as Ra’s al Ghul. So I’ll probably keep up with it.

Our 2018 entertainment experience was somewhat curtailed by the fact that our work schedule has been so tiring that we are too wiped out to even WATCH a lot of TV or movies. And when we do, as likely as not we are more likely to binge on something older that we’ve recently added to the library. (Lately it’s been a lot of The Saint and Vega$, because they are essentially comfort food; and we haven’t seen these so they might as well be new shows for us.)

Although it’s been an awful lot of fun seeing how many people got their start on Vega$, in particular Michael Mann. And the story editor on that show was the late Robert Earll, who was a really interesting guy; one of these days I’ll get to the column about his life and work, but for the time being let’s just say I knew of him in a completely different context.

We did check out Nightflyers. I love the Wild Cards anthologies but don’t much care for Game of Thrones (a friend of ours calls it “Naked Fucking Murder” and now I can’t see it as anything else.) I do have a fondness for the old Beauty and the Beast with Linda Hamilton, but overall the fact that this is a George R.R. Martin thing is not really a draw. It’s always been fifty-fifty for me with his stuff, more or less. But I was interested because Martin wrote the original novella on a dare, to challenge the idea that you couldn’t do a hard-SF horror story. So far we are digging it; Julie too. We lean towards hard SF in our household, despite my love of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard. And it’s nice to see actual science fiction on the SYFY channel.

The aforementioned work schedule prevents us from getting to the theater so we almost never see anything till it gets to home video. We saw the Marvel movies and enjoyed them very much, but I don’t really have anything to add to all the nice things everyone else has already said about them. We loved the latest Mission: Impossible (you know Tom Cruise has been doing Mission: Impossible longer than Peter Graves did? That is just WEIRD.) Incredibles 2 was worth the wait. Otherwise we are still catching up. Still haven’t seen a lot of the movies we were interested in. Julie loves Winnie the Pooh so we made it a point to check out Christopher Robin, but we both thought it was just okay.

Honestly? As I write this we are four days away from the Timeless finale movie and I’m really more excited for that than anything else this year.

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Edo B.: I’m usually always way behind schedule on movies and television, but a few years ago I finally broke with that tradition and started catching the Marvel Studios flicks in their first run in theaters – so this year I saw and quite thoroughly enjoyed their three releases. I liked Black Panther the best, but Infinity War did not disappoint and Ant Man & the Wasp was a fun romp, just like the first Ant Man movie. So going into 2019, I’m on board for and looking forward to Captain Marvel and the Avengers sequel. I’m also hoping to see that Spiderverse flick sometime soon…

Outside of those, I saw Deadpool 2 in the theater. I’m otherwise pretty indifferent to the other X-universe movies, but the Deadpool movies have been very entertaining, a bit juvenile and crass at times, but entertaining nonetheless. I guess my standards for superhero films are not exacting – I just want some good fun and not walk away from them all depressed, which is why Wonder Woman is the only one of the DC movies I’ve liked so far (and yes, that includes the Nolan Batmans) and I’m hoping Aquaman (haven’t seen it yet as of this writing) and Shazam will be more in that vein.

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Jim: When I accepted my current job back in May, I had to stop writing movie reviews (and TV reviews and comic reviews and anything else that directly or indirectly might reflect on my employers), because if I praise one of our products, I’m toadying to the bosses, and if I praise a competitor’s product, I’m disloyal; if I criticize a competitor’s product, I’m biased, and if I criticize ours, I’m biting the hand that feeds me. So I have limited my posts since then to nostalgia fare and behind-the-scenes stories, or topics outside the sphere of my employers. As a result, I don’t have a lot to say about recent movies. But let’s go ahead and look at what I liked (or didn’t) in 2018 prior to my self-imposed recusal. A quick peek at my posting history here and at GeekDad will tell the tale. I liked Solo and Avengers: Infinity War, respected Red Sparrow, was ambivalent about A Wrinkle in Time, and loved Black Panther. Though I haven’t written about them, I quite liked The Incredibles 2 and loved a lot of Wreck-It Ralph 2. I expect that San Diego Comic-Con 2019 is going to be thick with Pajama Princesses, more than a few Shank cosplayers, and a whole lot of another Disney character I can’t mention yet.

Going into 2019, the films I’m most excited about are Captain Marvel and, surprisingly, Toy Story 4, which one of my witty friends has dubbed “Toy Story: What For?”

Having seen some work in progress on it, I’m happy to say they found a story worth telling. Trust me on this one. Across town at DC/WB, I’m glad Zack Snyder’s reign is over, and hope to see some less bleak films from them, but I’m not 100% on board with Shazam yet; they seem to have overlooked the point that wisdom is the first power in the Shazam arsenal, which I would think might keep the hero from strutting around like a buffoon and acting like a typical teenager. So far it feels like a super-powered remake of Penny Marshall’s Big. But we shall see.

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Greg B.: I don’t really see movies in the theater anymore – too much stuff going on in life to spend that much money and carve out that big a chunk of time. I just wait, man! So no, I haven’t seen Avengers: Thanos Snaps yet, but I’ll get around to it eventually.

I watch a lot of television, and a lot of it is just entertaining, not great. But! There’s still a lot of great television. The Good Place continues to be amazing, while Brooklyn Nine-Nine might have the most laughs per show on network television (and I’m really glad it got picked up by NBC). A few other network comedies I really like are Superstore and Speechless, the second of which manages to be about as realistic a depiction of having a special needs kid as a comedy can expect to be. The funniest show on television is probably Silicon Valley, but Veep didn’t air this year, so that kind of cleared the runway a bit (both are extremely funny, though). Westworld is fun to watch, but I’m not sure I’d call it great. Lucifer was a terrific show with a great cast, and it’s cool that it got picked up by Netflix because it was nowhere near ended. The same goes for The Expanse, which is a phenomenal show that got cut short this year but rescued by Amazon. I really dig Counterpart, the second season of which just started. J.K. Simmons is superb in it. Into the Badlands is an insane show, and I can’t stop loving it! And The Americans ended this year with a wonderful final season, and it’s just too bad it never quite got the love it deserved, because it was excellent throughout its entire run.

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PERSONAL

Matt: 2018 had a lot of firsts and changes for me on a more personal level. In no particular order, I joined the writing crew of Atomic Junkshop, which is something I didn’t think would be a path for me but I’ve been rather enjoying it. I finally managed to catalogue my comic book collection. My contract employment was made permanent. I also became engaged to the greatest woman on the planet and I bought a house. So, all in all, I have to say that 2018 has been a pretty positive time!

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Greg: Well, the first half of the year was a lot of fun. We had several high points with the Young Authors program, culminating in not just the usual anthology but also two full novels. It was just an amazing group and I was thrilled that we got to work a really big show in June so everyone could enjoy it and do a victory lap.

Likewise I was pleased with the way my own various book projects were going. I got to contribute to one of the MX Sherlock Holmes anthologies, and two new books came out from Airship 27 with stories of mine in them. Plus a couple more in press and a commitment for the new novel from A27 sight unseen based on a pitch and what I’d set up in Silver Riders. The new day job had put us far enough ahead that we were even able to go on a couple of trips.

But in June it all started to unravel. The YMCA informed me that they would no longer be doing the after-school program, and the school didn’t seem interested in picking up my classes on their own, so after twenty-four years, we were shut down cold. The kids wanted to keep going and I was desperately trying to figure out some sort of alternate way forward… but there was basically nothing to be done about it until school started again in the fall.

Unfortunately, August brought a whole new set of problems and setbacks. The car needed repairs that would take a lot of money (meaning a lot of extra hours of work to cover it) Julie’s health took a turn for the worse, and we had a whole bunch of other tedious and depressing events with which I will not bore you. The bottom line was that suddenly there was a whole lot of forced adulting to be done. So moving forward on ANY of the extra-curricular things like putting together some sort of Young Authors 2.0 or writing novels or anything like that got back-burnered. It’s only in the last couple of weeks that we’ve managed to get back to something resembling normal. I finally take a breath and look up and, Christ, it’s mid-December.

So here we are. At least I’ve been able to keep up with things here….mostly.

On the other hand, Julie is feeling better and all the scary stuff we thought might be going on got ruled out, the car’s fixed, and there are some possibilities for a new and improved Young Authors program that we are exploring. So 2019 is shaping up to be a year we can be optimistic about. But after the trials of the last few months I won’t be sorry to see the last of 2018.

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Edo B.: At the personal level, 2018 was certainly better than 2017 – I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say that something very devastating happened right at the start of that year and most of the rest of it, until about autumn, passed in something of a blur of negative emotions. So this year was quite a bit better in that regard. Also, I managed to make two trips back home to the US to visit family, the first time alone in January and the second in late June/early July with my partner. And on that first trip, I even got to meet Greg and Julie Hatcher in person, so that was a definite highlight.

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Jim: I’ve commented to friends that I feel a little guilty; despite the fact that the world is on fire and our alleged leaders are doing their damnedest to drive the country into a ditch, I personally am having a great year. After six years of an ever-more-frustrating and ever-less-rewarding job, I have now found myself working for the company whose characters I fell in love with at the age of three. I’m still a production artist, still doing basically the same thing I’ve done for the past 30 years, but let me tell you, it’s a lot more fun doing this work with pictures of my favorite movie and cartoon characters than it is with photos of brass fittings. And now I’m not doing it while isolated in a windowless bunker and working for people who don’t offer any kind of acknowledgement or appreciation. I’m booked through November, and I’m hoping they decide to hire me on permanently before then, because this is the best job I’ve ever had in my life. Giving up press junkets and preview screenings for the gig was well worth it.

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Greg B.: Nothing too weird happened this year. The big news around the house was that we finally got a new chair for my daughter, which is far more exciting than you might think and was far more annoying in the acquisition of it than you might think. If you want to read all about it, you can check out the blog I very rarely update about my daughters and raising them, which you can find here. My younger daughter started eighth grade and is enjoying herself much more than she did in seventh grade, which is nice. We took a vacation to England, which was fun, and because of that I didn’t go to any comic conventions – the last one I went to was Emerald City early in 2017, so it’s been a while, which is too bad because I really dig comics conventions. Such is life. Next year is my 25th wedding anniversary, so we’ll be heading to my old hometown to celebrate. That should be neat!

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3 Comments

  1. “We loved the latest Mission: Impossible (you know Tom Cruise has been doing Mission: Impossible longer than Peter Graves did? That is just WEIRD.)”
    A friend of mine pointed out that out of several TV spy series revivals (Man From Uncle, Get Smart), this is the only one that keeps going.

    I really hate Tom King’s work on Batman. After all these years of “I hate other heroes working in my city” Batman suddenly accepts the Gotham siblings but only so one of them can die and give him more reasons for angst. The double date TPB was great, though.

    And yes, Jon Kent is the best thing they’ve done with Superman in the New 52. Sorry to hear Bendis is screwing it up (but not surprised).

    Greg sorry about your wife’s ill-health. Glad they’ve ruled out the worst possibilities. It’s scary stuff.

    I lag behind so much on current stuff I didn’t feel there was much point to trying to contribute, but this was a good read.

    1. I have a column percolating about how DC’s been screwing up Batman for going on twenty YEARS now but I decided it could wait till next week. But I am right there with you on most of that, believe me. Mopey Batman is not really an improvement on Asshole Batman and lately it seems the solution is to combine the two, which is even MORE annoying.

  2. Louis Bright-Raven

    “I have a column percolating about how DC’s been screwing up Batman for going on twenty YEARS now but I decided it could wait till next week.”

    Only twenty years? Interesting. I’d say they’ve been largely screwing it up ever since the “1-800 Kill Robin” stunt in 1988, making it thirty years. But we all have our different reference points where we feel the proverbial shark got jumped.

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