When it comes to books with pictures, my tastes are decidedly mainstream. I’ll just be upfront about that: I’m not indie for colored underpants. The same is true for my movie likes and T.V. faves. I dig, mostly, superhero stuff I can do with my two young boys, especially when it comes to reading comic books. So don’t yell at me for not putting Daredevil or Brubaker’s Captain America work here. These are the superest superhero/comic events of the past year, which happens to have been a great one for nerds like me.
Note: The Spirit was released too late to be considered for this list.
10. The Incredible Hulk. (Film.) This movie managed to meld the best of the Bill Bixby TV show with excellent visual effects and a pretty cool Abomination. No, it’s not a great movie, but it was a helluva ride. Honorable Mention: The first six issues of Red Hulk, for the pure adrenaline value.
9. Reruns of Batman. (TV.) After years of legal hassles, and still no DVD in sight, some tiny cable network, American Life, finally gets the rights to broadcast the 1960s Batman series. In color! I don’t know how they did it, but kudos. Now where the fuck is the boxed set of 100 percent West?
8. Marvel Apes. (Comic book.) Is it stupid and silly? Yes! Is it also bizarrely neat, especially seeing the covers of every Marvel title done ape style? Absolutely. Unexpected, weird, and the strangest series I’ve read in years. I loved it.
7. Cartoon Network and Jetix. (TV.) Although it is hard to forgive the fact that they no longer show Teen Titans Go!, the greatest kid superhero toon ever, these networks collectively brought us television premiers of Justice League: The New Frontier (great!), Dr. Strange (very good!), and Iron Man (good, not great!) animated films, as well as the Next Avengers (lots of fun!), all the while running reruns of the great Batman: The Animated Series, Superfriends, Ultimate Spiderman, the Iron Man and Hulk short-lived series, every version of Fantastic 4 cartoon shows and several Superman cartoons, as well as the great Spider Man and X-Men animated serieses. Never a dull moment.
6. Wanted. (Film.) I didn’t expect to like this, didn’t want to like this, but fucking loved it. It’s like the Matrix with a hotter chick and a less-incomprehensible story.
5. Batman: Brave and the Bold. (TV.) A cartoon for kids, with heroes like Green Arrow, Blue Beetle, and Plastic Man, humor, and well-drawn “safe” animation. There have been new Batman cartoons just about every year for the past decade, and this one is among the best.
4. Superman. (Comic books.) Between Action Comics, Superman, and Superman/Batman, D.C. has put some awesome talent to work on what used to be their most famous, most boring character. Great storylines included a Bizarro story arc, the hunt to destroy all kryptonite on Earth, and the story of Braniac and Kandor, which led to the release of New Kryptonians all over the Earth. And this is to say nothing of the Grant Morrison material. I’m hearing, though, that Superman soon will leave Action Comics for the first time since he was created, and that the character will be leaving Earth. Et tu, D.C.? Have you learned nothing from Marvel’s horrible mistakes in killing Cap and making their universe a hopeless place?
3. Hellboy 2 and Iron Man (tie). (Films.) Yes, I know that Iron Man made tons of women happy to see a super-flick, and it deserves high praise for that. But the film had two big weaknesses: First, it had no villain. This led to a lack of climax. Second, as good as the director was at letting Robert Downey have room to be a brilliant Tony Stark, he just can’t film an action sequence. The big fight at the end was dark and impenetrable and, throughout, Iron Man’s movements were hard to follow. But these areas, direction and dramatic villainy, are exactly where Hellboy 2 was a work of chaotic comic art. Of course the acting in Hellboy can’t compare to Iron Man, and the story lacked depth, but Hellboy 2 was tons of fun and is the rare example of a sequel that outshines its predecessor. Two great films, one slightly overrated (but not by much), and one vastly underrated.
2. The Amazing Spider Man: Brand New Day. (Comic Book.) At first, the idea of magically wiping out the huge mistakes made in the life of Marvel’s flagship character over the past years (giving him a black costume and then a robot costume, unmasking him, letting him get married, etc.) seemed like a tremendous cop-out. But fortunately, the crew behind this project has brought back the humor, the suspense, and the brilliant color that made the red-and-blue nerd so much fun to read back in the late 1970s. This is what comic books should be: Something a ten-year-old can read and enjoy, without feeling like he’s being talked down to, and something an adult can read and remember days of lying on the floor dipping Chips Ahoy in milk and wondering how on Earth to survive the 30-day wait until next issue. Best part: It publishes three times a month, as a bow to the impatient internet generation.
1. The Dark Knight. (Film.) Duh.
THE WORST THINGS ABOUT DIGGIN’ SUPERHEROES IN 2008
5. Smallville. (TV.) How did a show that came off its best season ever last year, so quickly go off the rails? And firing Lana Lang should have made it the best show ever! Note to D.C. Comics: The last Superman movie sucked hard. Let Superboy get the costume on this show. It won’t take viewers away from your films, any more than Lois & Clark stole audiences from Richard Donner, and superhero stories are better told in a serialized, episodic format. And as for your rumored replacement show, Grayson? Please don’t. God, please don’t.
4. Heroes. (TV.) Too many heroes. All feel tortured. None enjoy having abilities. Themes and stories that are derivative of X-Men, The 4400, and other, better shows. The show lost it’s way last year and never came back.
3. Speed Racer. (Film.) No story, blinding visuals, terrible acting . . .
2. Fox Ends Saturday-Morning Cartoons. (TV.) Granted, Fox hasn’t had a great toon in a long while. But still. It’s the tradition of it all. Now they’ll be running infomercials instead. I guess kids will have to go play outside
1. Skaar: Son of Hulk. (Comic book.) Planet Hulk was one of the greatest comic book sagas of the past thirty years, but it was obviously derivative. Still, Marvel got away with it because the book was so awesome. Then they make this cheap knock off that looks like Conan, only green. And stupid.
Runner up: Cloverfield. A movie that literally made me motion sick.