Andrew A. Smith

Tribune Content Agency

It’s customary to look back at this time of year, and as it happens, 2017 was pretty good to fans of nerd culture. Here’s the Captain’s Top 10 list:

10. HORN OF PLENTY: At the beginning of 2017, comic-based shows had already taken over TV. Seventeen shows filled my DVR: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Arrow, Daredevil, Fear the Walking Dead, The Flash, Gotham, Iron Fist, iZombie, Jessica Jones, Legends of Tomorrow, Lucifer, Luke Cage, Outcast, Preacher, Supergirl, The Walking Dead and Wynonna Earp.

At the end of 2017, 10 more had joined that list. American Gods, Defenders, The Gifted, Happy!, The Inhumans, Legion, The Punisher, Riverdale, Runaways and The Tick all debuted, with varying degrees of success. (Yes, American Gods is based on Neil Gaiman’s novel, not Dark Horse’s comics adaptation. But 10 is a nice round number, so I’m including it.)

9. “WHAT TH-?” MOMENTS ON TV: Given all those shows, it’s difficult to narrow down a list of heart-stopping moments. But here are a few:

  • Carl’s reveal on the The Walking Dead mid-season finale was as shocking as it was unexpected;
  • The season premiere of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was one wild discovery after another. By the mid-season finale, S.H.I.E.L.D. was must-see television.
  • Time stood still when Jim Gordon (and the audience) suddenly realized how thoroughly he’d been played in the mid-season finale of Gotham.
  • The Punisher was a brutal, irresistible narrative that was good TV. But the PTSD subtext elevated it to Art.
  • Showrunner Noah Hawley expanded the tools and language available to tell stories on television with the unreliable reality of Legion.

Copyright DC Comics Inc.

Batman/Elmer Fudd turned out to be a lot better than it had any right to be.

8. DYNAMIC DC: Despite tepid response to its movies, DC Comics had some of the best moments of 2017:

  • Shockingly, Mr. Miracle tried to commit suicide in the first issue of his new series. Did Darkseid make him do it? Or was it something more mundane, like depression or PTSD? Plus, what is real and what is he imagining? DC’s Mr. Miracle is a complex, hallucinatory, troubling experience that may be the best comic book in America.
  • Batman proposed to Catwoman. That’s not really new, as it’s happened before. What’s new is writer Tom King’s exploration of the relationships and personalities of the Bat-family and friends as Bat and Cat embark on a life that appears based on an impossible compromise. Is that the definition of love, or just a surrender to need?
  • Playing with other Warner Bros. properties has paid off, especially Future Quest, a 12-issue series teaming up Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, the Herculoids and other Saturday morning staples in a well-received adventure. Scooby Apocalypse, a serious take on the Mystery Machine gang, also received good response. And one of the best books of the years was, believe it or not, the Batman/Elmer Fudd one-shot.

7. MARVEL MISERY: Fandom Assembled rejected Marvel’s “Secret Empire” crossover event, at the center of which was a fascist Captain America. Is that event fatigue, or Trump fatigue? Either way, it left Marvel begging fans to give the story a chance and read it to the end.

To right the ship, Marvel booted Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, and promoted an outsider to the U.S. wing of the company, C.B. Cebulski. who was previously Vice President Brand Management and Development, Asia. But the honeymoon ended quickly when it turned out Cebulski had used a Japanese pseudonym to write for Marvel a few years ago while keeping his day job as an editor. What’s the Japanese equivalent of “Oy vey”?

Meanwhile, Marvel tried to counter DC’s successful “Rebirth” initiative with its own back-to-basics soft reboot called “Marvel Legacy.” However, the effort seemed lackluster and superficial to critics, leaving some retailers calling it more label than labor. Sales did not improve, and almost a dozen titles have already been tagged for cancellation.

Whatever happens in 2018, it will probably seem like “up” to Marvel Comics.

6. MAYHEM IN THE MULTIVERSE: All the DC heroes on The CW – from Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl – teamed up to fight Nazis on a parallel Earth where evil versions of themselves ruled with lethal efficiency. Even if you don’t watch the four shows regularly, “Crisis on Earth-X” is a must-see.

5. HORN OF PLENTY, THE SEQUEL: 2017 was perhaps the biggest year yet for geek fandom, with more than 30 genre movies. Adaptations led the way, including:

  • Children’s books (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle)
  • Comics, American (Atomic Blonde, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Justice League, Logan, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, Wonder Woman)
  • Comics, French (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets)
  • Comics, Japanese (Death Note, Ghost in the Shell)
  • Fairy tales (Beauty and the Beast)
  • Mythology (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, mother!)
  • Novels (Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, IT)
  • Toys (The LEGO Batman Movie, Transformers: The Last Knight)

Franchises like Alien, Blade Runner, Kingsman, The Mummy, Planet of the Apes, Power Rangers, Pirates of the Caribbean, Resident Evil, Star Wars and Underworld all provided new entries. And Hollywood even managed some original SF/fantasy material, like Bright, Downsizing, Life, The Shape of Water and The Space Between Us.

(For the record, my definition of “genre movies” excludes most horror and animated films. Why? Because it’s my list, and those are my rules. Feel free to make your own!)

Copyright Marvel Films Inc.

Thor: Ragnarok was the best Thunder God movie yet, aided by Hulk, Hela and humor.

4. “WHAT TH-?” MOMENTS IN FILM: Among those many movies were some jaw-dropping scenes at a theater near you:

  • Thor: Ragnarok blew our minds with the (supposedly impossible) destruction of Mjolnir. Toss in the incineration of Asgard, Hulk vs. Thor, a lot of humor, Loki being Loki, the deaths of the Warriors Three, Valkyries in larger-than-life battle and every single thing Cate Blanchett said or did, and the Thunder God will never be quite the same again.
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi seared our eyes and ears with the spectacle of two ships trying to occupy the same space at the same time. There were also some notable deaths (no spoilers!) and an expansion of, and possible re-definition of, both The Force and what a Star Wars movie can be. Bonus: lovable, ice-covered dogs/wolves that would feel right at home with Thor’s frost giants.
  • Logan drew unexpected tears with the death of a beloved character many thought couldn’t die. (“So this is what it feels like,” he muttered at the end.) Also, the terrible fate of the X-Men? They died as collateral damage, and are largely forgotten. Ouch.
  • Kong: Skull Island and War for the Planet of the Apes suckered us into feeling real emotion for fake simians.

3. WELCOME HOME, SPIDEY: Spider-Man: Homecoming had a lot of great bits. The scene where Adrian Toomes (The Vulture) realizes the kid he has in his back seat is Spider-Man was terrifying. The scene where the web-spinner is trapped under rubble was straight out of a famous issue of “Amazing Spider-Man” from 1966. But this movie’s (metatextual) triumph is Marvel’s flagship character returning to the fold.

2. MOUSE EATS FOX: Disney buying Fox’s entertainment production facilities, platforms and intellectual property happened off-screen, but is such a big story that it makes this list anyway. The good news: X-Men and Fantastic Four return to Marvel. The bad news: Fewer studios, less competition, reduced experimentation. Cross your fingers.

Clay Enos/ TM & © DC Comics

Is there anyone who doesn’t get a little shiver now when Gal Gadot climbs out of the trench into No Man’s Land in Wonder Woman?

1. SHOW-STOPPER: From performances to imagery to soundtrack, Wonder Woman was easily the best superhero movie of the year, and gets its own entry on this list at No. One. When Diana shrugged off her coat and advanced fearlessly into No Man’s Land, it was easy to forget that was this was the first time we saw her “in uniform.” When Amazons battled Nazis so ferociously, it was easy to forget that they brought swords to a gunfight. When Gal Gadot inhabited the charming and principled Amazon so effortlessly, it was easy to forget how ridiculously beautiful she is.

Wonder Woman’s greatest feat, though, was not just crashing through Nazis – it was thoroughly demolishing the glass ceiling. Hollywood was long convinced that women couldn’t headline big superhero movies, an idea now residing in the ashcan of history. And with powerful men falling right and left on charges of sexual bullying, Wonder Woman becoming the symbol of superhero success in 2017 is timing so good, one wonders if Athena has taken a hand.

In comics, movies and TV, at least, 2017 was a very good year. Bring on 2018!

Find Captain Comics by email (capncomics@aol.com), on his website (captaincomics.ning.com), on Facebook (Captain Comics Round Table) or on Twitter (@CaptainComics).

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Time stood still when Jim Gordon (and the audience) suddenly realized how thoroughly he’d been played in the mid-season finale of Gotham.

I need to rewatch the mid-season finale episode to remind myself of everything Sofia said. I remember it was pretty impressive.

The Punisher was a brutal, irresistible narrative that was good TV. But the PTSD subtext elevated it to Art.

Your recommendation makes me want to watch this soon. It has been languishing on my Netflix “to be watched” list.

But the honeymoon ended quickly when it turned out Cebulski had used a Japanese pseudonym to write for Marvel a few years ago while keeping his day job as an editor.

This is the first I’ve heard of this.

All the DC heroes on The CW – from Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl – teamed up to fight Nazis on a parallel Earth where evil versions of themselves ruled with lethal efficiency. Even if you don’t watch the four shows regularly, “Crisis on Earth-X” is a must-see.

I wonder how many viewers realized that the triangle badges on the gay prisoners (paralleling the Stars of David for the Jews) was actually what the Nazi’s did in the camps? They apparently had a slew of different badges for the many categories of death camp inmates. They murdered six million Jews in the camps and about six million non-Jews.

Spider-Man: Homecoming had a lot of great bits. The scene where Adrian Toomes (The Vulture) realizes the kid he has in his back seat is Spider-Man was terrifying.

That was a scary scene. Anyone who still thinks Michael Keaton can’t do ANY acting part is nuts.

Disney buying Fox’s entertainment production facilities, platforms and intellectual property happened off-screen, but is such a big story that it makes this list anyway. The good news: X-Men and Fantastic Four return to Marvel. The bad news: Fewer studios, less competition, reduced experimentation. Cross your fingers.

I think Disney’s previous acquisitions of Pixar and Marvel prove that they live by the axiom “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” The movie versions of Fantastic Four are broken, so hopefully they will take their time and do it right.

When Diana shrugged off her coat and advanced fearlessly into No Man’s Land, it was easy to forget that was this was the first time we saw her “in uniform.”

This is the scene the director really had to fight for. The studio didn’t want it!

But the honeymoon ended quickly when it turned out Cebulski had used a Japanese pseudonym to write for Marvel a few years ago while keeping his day job as an editor.

This is the first I’ve heard of this.

I hope you Googled it. It may at first blush not seem like a big deal, but what Cebulski did is A) deny actual Asian writers a few jobs, and B) defraud his employer. The employer he is now charged with rescuing from a series of self-inflicted wounds the likes of which Cebulski did to himself!

The Hollywood Reporter wrote an article, 2017: The Year Where Almost Everything Went Wrong for Marvel Comics.

I wonder how many viewers realized that the triangle badges on the gay prisoners (paralleling the Stars of David for the Jews) was actually what the Nazi’s did in the camps? They apparently had a slew of different badges for the many categories of death camp inmates. They murdered six million Jews in the camps and about six million non-Jews.

You're right, of course. What's industrial murder without proper labeling? Chaos, that's what. If you're going to murder 12 million people, you've got to be organized. (/bitter humor)

Anyone who still thinks Michael Keaton can’t do ANY acting part is nuts.

And you can just picture him saying so. "You want nuts? Let's get nuts!"

 

This is the scene the director really had to fight for. The studio didn’t want it!

Studio execs are irredeemable idjits. They prove they are, unbidden, over and over again. What else is there to say?

Captain Comics said:

It may at first blush not seem like a big deal, but what Cebulski did is A) deny actual Asian writers a few jobs, and B) defraud his employer. The employer he is now charged with rescuing from a series of self-inflicted wounds the likes of which Cebulski did to himself!

The Hollywood Reporter wrote an article, 2017: The Year Where Almost Everything Went Wrong for Marvel Comics.

Did he "really want to write" or ""really want two paychecks for possibly sitting at his editor's desk while writing stories?" All very interesting.

Marvel probably would have canned him if they weren't desperate for someone to turns things around. I am going to make a point of checking the Hollywood Reporter's Heat Vision site so I don't miss things like this.

Not only are you very likely correct that Cebulski was double-dipping -- writing stories on the clock as an editor -- but it was also company policy at the time that editors were barred from being writers as well. So there's that. Also, while I don't know for sure, I think it's a safe bet that Cebulski was the editor on "Akiro Yashida's" stories, which would be another violation of company policy.

All of this can be summed up nicely as "defrauding your employer." 

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