Hello, hello, hello and welcome to Fun-Size
Friday Valentines Day 2020, that wonderful time of the year where I look back at the past year or so of pop culture nonsense and gush about a few personal high points and moments that I loved. None of that “ironic love” hipster nonsense here, friends; these are the things and the moments from 2019 that I genuinely and unabashedly loved, so adjust your expectations accordingly, hypothetical readers! Here they are, in no particular order, my highlights of 2019, each in two hundred words or less! This definitely isn’t a New Years Retrospective that I neglected to post, no sirree, this was aaaall planned out!
how i learned to stop being a snob and love the power rangers COMICS
You know that sobering feeling you get when you go back to something you loved as a kid, only to discover it doesn’t really hold up? Like, it’s not terrible, per se; it’s okay for kids, but it’s definitely not as good as the version you built up in your head. Case in point, I recently went back and re-watched a couple episodes of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers TV show and discovered…well, pretty much what you’d expect. It’s harmless and entertaining enough, but it’s not quite the awesome version I’d over-romanticized for decades.
Fortunately for me, Boom Studios has been putting out a pair of comic book titles – Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Go Go Power Rangers – that took the “awesome version” I had in my head and transplanted it directly to the printed page. Not only do I get the pun-tastic punch-ups my lizard brain craves, I’m also getting honest-to-goodness character development for the entire cast. Finally, I get to learn more about these characters beyond their weirdly specific color-coordinated outfits! Whether you’ve enjoyed them since the 90’s or this is your first exposure to the property, these books come highly recommended.
THe continuing re-invention of the immortal hulk
The Immortal Hulk — written by Al Ewing and drawn by a murderer’s row of talented artists including regular penciler Joe Bennett — is as entertaining for me to read as it is frustrating. The series officially kicked off in 2018, initially positioning itself as a dark, horror-themed homage to the 1978 Hulk TV series with a wandering Bruce Banner on the run. Then 2019 happened and things really started to go off the rails.
What do I mean by that? Ten issues in, Hulk goes to Hell. Real, actual Hell. Most comics would usually end their stories with the heroes taking a trip to The Bad Place, but not this comic, and definitely not this Hulk. The craziest thing is that going to Hell isn’t the craziest thing that’s happened; the less said about poor Betty Ross, the better.
As a guy who’s spent many a fortnight imagining what I’d do if I ever got my hands on a superhero property, the skill and ease at which The Immortal Hulk team establishes a status quo only to kick it over and establish a new, equally interesting one makes me both happy and extremely jealous. God bless The Immortal Hulk: loving a comic has never hurt so good.
pretty deadly returns, just to remind me how much of a “filthy casual” i am.
Pretty Deadly returned with it’s third volume — The Rat — during the latter half of the year and, yeah, there’s no other way to put it: the team of Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios, Jordie Bellaire, and Clayton Cowles are simply on a whole other, much better level than me. Seriously, I want everyone with working eyes to read these comics and analyze them so somebody smarter than me can tell me exactly why I love them so much. Like, I feel like me even attempting to praise it is doing the series a disservice; that is the level of respect I have for the Pretty Deadly team.
I love reading the continuing adventures of “Deathface” Ginny and her encounters with the other Reapers; I love the incredibly complicated and detailed page layouts every issue; I love the wild colors and the inks and the lettering and I love that we live in a world where we get even more of these comics in the future. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face: if there was only one comic I could read for the rest of my life, Pretty Deadly would be it. Amen.
giant days and remembering to enjoy the simple things
Here’s the thing I tend to forget when it comes to comic books: not everything I read or recommend has to be some massive, intricate, boundary pushing artistic “statement” that changes the way we see and read comic books forever. I mean, those are all well and good, but sometimes you just want to read a well-written & well-drawn story about a bunch of entertaining British college students making their way through day-to-day life.
For years, Giant Days — written by John Allison and illustrated primarily by Max Sarin — was my go-to “comfort comic”, never being anything less than simple, charming, heartwarming, hilarious, and only occasionally sad. Every character had their own unique voice, quirks, and foibles they had to deal with and I never got tired of hearing them bounce their problems off each other and figure out a solution.
Although the series came to an end with the close of 2019, it’s left me satisfied and only occasionally bitter than I don’t get to see more of these characters; exactly how the closing of a story should leave you. Thanks for being there, Giant Days, it was a real trip.
thaaat’s pretty much it.
Avengers: Endgame is not, I repeat NOT, a perfect movie. I’ve got problems with it just like any other movie in the MCU, and you know what? I can live with that.
Because I got to see Ant-Man punch out a flying space whale. Because I saw “Cap” vs “Cap”. Because I saw Black Widow be the awesome take-charge leader she was always meant to be. Because “Avengers Assemble”. Because I got to see Nebula transform from a one-note henchman into one of my favorite characters. Because I got to see Captain America prove he was worthy, like we knew all along. Because I got to see Tony Stark make the ultimate sacrifice play to save an entire universe. Because Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter finally got their dance.
(As you may have divined already, I’m a pretty big Captain America fan.)
This movie made me cry tears of sadness & joy in equal measure, and the fact that I got to experience it with my family beside me was one of the all-time happiest moments of my life. So yeah, the movie’s not perfect, but by golly I can’t imagine I’ll be able to replicate a more perfect “fanboy” moment than the day I saw Avengers: Endgame.
finally — finally — going to the toronto comic arts festival
I’ve been meaning to go to TCAF for something like ten years now, but I’ve either been too busy with my day job or too scared to make the grueling three-hour drive across the border and into Toronto. Anyway, last year I finally pulled the trigger, and though I deeply regret driving my car through the hordes of Toronto traffic rather than just taking a bus, it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had as a comic book fan.
It was also, easily, one of the more nerve-wracking experience of my life. To be perfectly clear, the exhibitors I interacted with at TCAF were nothing but pleasant and patient with me as I fumbled with my words and my hastily converted Canadian money. I really thought I’d have something more intelligent to say when I got up to meet these people whose work I’d spent hours reading, but it turns out I’m no better than anyone else when it comes to meeting your heroes. My deepest apologies and profuse thanks to James Stokoe, Afu Chan, Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, Jamie McKelvie, and Kieron Gillen for shaking my hand, signing my books, and smiling patiently at me while I made a fool of myself. You made my day and, as it turns out, my year.
in conclusion, i’ve STILL got a long way to go
While I’m glad I was able to get a little more writing done in the past year, the last couple months have been really tough for me motivation-wise. As my work load has picked up at my day job it’s become a lot harder to commit myself to anything besides personal care in my off-hours, and obviously my schedule has suffered for it. I’ve obviously cut back on the word count this time around and the format is a lot less fancy this week than previous installments, for which I apologize. For now, I just want to focus on the writing again. Maybe once I can get back into the groove of things we can spruce this place up again. I dunno, still playing it by ear.
If you’ve read this much, I appreciate your time, and hope the week ahead is kind to you. And hey, if the last year wasn’t so great, I say take this opportunity to re-evaluate and make it better. You don’t need something as arbitrary as a New Year’s Resolution to start living the best version of your life, you just need to take a step at a time. I’ll try to do the same.