Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013’s Best Stuff

Hey, Phantomaniacs - it’s time for the biggest awards event that Needless Things produces all year long! That’s right, just like every other site on the internet, at the end of each year I put together a list of the very best stuff.
If you are a long-time Needless Things reader you might notice the absence of the wrestling-related categories this year. That’s because I stopped watching regularly back in June and quit entirely – aside from the occasional check-in to make sure things hadn’t gotten amazing – in August. And I really didn’t pay very much attention after the Rumble. Right now, off the top of my head, I can’t even remember if I watched WrestleMania or not. If you really need some wrestling stuff from me, here’s my picks:
Best Wrestler – Fred Yehi
Best Tag Team – Washington Bullets
Best Match – Fred Yehi v. Phantom v. Supernatural from Monstrosity Championship Wrestling 3/1
Biggest “HOLY SHIT” Moment – Bigfoot comes to the rescue of Dragula and Johnny Danger Van Helsing at Monstrosity Championship Wrestling 1/4
As you can see, my wrestling experiences have been fairly limited this year. I hope to experience a little more live wrestling in 2014, including a trip out to Anarchy. We’ll see.
For now, it’s time to take a look at all of the awesomeness that 2013 had to offer.
Best Movie – 
Pacific Rim
I was excited about this movie before I saw it and even more excited afterwards. It lived up to or surpassed every expectation I had and made me eager to experience it again. I made a point of taking Lil’ Troublemaker to see it just so he could experience it in the theater. I had no doubt it would be one of those big, impactful childhood experiences along the lines of when I saw Superman II or Transformers: The Movie.
I was right – he loved it. He spent the rest of the day stomping around, alternating between pretending he was a Kaiju or a Jaeger. He wants toys. He wants another movie. And so do I. No other 2013 movie even came close to being as satisfying as this one.
Best Thing That Was In A Theater –
Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor
I think there’s a good chance that I’m going to look back on the Troublemaker family’s trip to see The Day of the Doctor in 3D at the movie theater as one of the big moments of my life. There just aren’t any words for how special it was to be watching Doctor Who on the big screen with my whole family. As an added bonus, the story was great and the 3D was handled quite well.
Best Ongoing Comic Book –
Saga
Last year the first issue got Best Single Issue and this year it’s just the best title all around. I have never read another comic book as good as Saga. Period. You must read it.
Best Story Arc in A Comic Book –
"Death of the Family” – Various Batman Titles
I hate to belabor the point that I was severely underwhelmed by Scott Snyder’s Owls storyline, but it is so useful in illustrating how good or bad other things are. So here goes:
After being severely underwhelmed by “The Night of the Owls”, I wasn’t expecting much out of “Death of the Family”. I thought it would be another unnecessarily bloated crossover. I thought there was a good chance that Joker – now some sort of Leatherface knockoff – would be misused. I thought it was destined to be anticlimactic from the start, because obviously nobody was actually going to die.
I certainly never imagined it would be one of the best Joker stories I have ever read. Possibly one of the best Batman stories overall.
Scott Snyder crafted one of the ultimate Joker stories by playing on our expectations of the character and the recent nature of DC Comics in general. And it worked perfectly. I won’t give anything away here, but if you skipped this one – or just aren’t reading DC comics anymore (and I wouldn’t blame you) – pick up the collected edition.
Best Single Issue Comic Book –
Indestructible Hulk #1
I’m not a Hulk guy. The last time I cared about Hulk was when Peter David was writing him back in the 90s. But the first issue of Mark Waid’s book grabbed me like no other comic this year. He brought an interesting new take to the characters of Hulk and Bruce Banner – bringing Banner to the forefront to remind the world that he is one of the greatest minds on the planet. This Banner is no cowed, secondary character. He is without a doubt the protagonist of the book and for the first time ever I am watching the Hulk smash things as I wait impatiently for the transformation into Banner. Not that the Hulk portions are bad, mind you – the destruction is as big and fun as it has ever been. It’s just that the Banner in this book is so damned good. He has beef with the reps of both Tony Stark and Reed Richards and is out to show that Banner is the smartest there is.
Best TV Series –
Arrow
Watching the first season of Arrow was an amazing experience. It felt fresh and exciting, the cast was strong (with the exception of Tommy Merlyn), the stories were fun and reasonably self-contained while still being part of a larger arc, it was respectful of the source material, and it was absolutely nothing at all like Smallville.
Also, pretty much everybody seemed to like it.
Season two is blowing the first season out of the water. The character arcs are better and deeper, things are getting way more comic book-y, and the action is fast and furious.
Speaking of fast – holy shit Barry Allen.
Best New TV Series –
Defiance
I can’t remember the last time I was as excited about a show as I was about Defiance, and for an odd reason. There were a couple of cast members I was fond of – Julie Benz and (Vincent), but not enough to get me really pumped for the show. The thing that sold me was how effectively the showrunners had built their world. From the costumes to the various species to the setting, it was a unique and memorable look. From the first full preview I knew the show had “It”, as long as the stories were good. And the stories were good. Each character is slowly being explored, but never at the cost of the overall narrative. There’s never an offshoot plot that grinds everything to a halt – the storytelling is very natural and organic.
Best New Toy Line –
Marvel Superhero Mashers by Hasbro
These came out at the tail end of the year and surprised me utterly by, well, surprising me. It isn’t often that a superhero toy can make it to market without me knowing at least of its existence. But this whole line came in under my radar. I happened across them in a forum post on one of the action figure sites and immediately started looking online for them.
I can’t remember anything specifically, but I feel like the most exciting thing Santa Claus can bring is some awesome new toy that you didn’t even know existed. And Lil’ Troublemaker agrees because Santa brought him a full set of Superhero Mashers and he was stoked.
Here’s the deal – these are fully articulated, highly stylized 6” scale action figures of Marvel Universe characters. The first ones to hit retail were Iron Patriot, Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, and Wolverine; with the latter two being deluxe sets. The gimmick is that all of the figures can be taken apart and reassembled, Micronauts style. Each figure comes with various weapons and armor that snap onto them. It all works extremely well and the figures look awesome. I’ll be reviewing them – either as a set or individually – within the next couple of weeks.
Best Album –
Nanobots – They Might Be Giants
My TMBG hiatus ended last December.
I mean, I wasn’t really taking a break from one of my top 5 favorite bands. I was still listening to all of their albums up until Mink Car. But I just hadn’t been keeping up with them like a good fan should. Then I bought their Holiday Gift Pack and got back into the groove. And then Nanobots was released. It’s my favorite album that the band has released since Apollo 18. Every song on it is excellent and several of them have the rare distinction of being songs that I really, really wanted to hear live when I saw them back in March.
Best Existing TV Show
That I Discovered in 2013 –
Sons of Anarchy
This was one of those shows that I never watched because I didn’t think there would be much that I could relate to. I was pretty much right about that, but this is still an excellent show. And it has maintained that excellence for five seasons (I haven’t seen season six yet due to putting off five because I didn’t want to pay for it and then paying for it anyway right before it came out on Netflix only to
Best DVD/Blu-Ray –
Doctor Who – “Terror of the Zygons”
Even without my considerable anticipation for this story’s release (it was the first Tom Baker story I ever saw and the beginning of my regular viewing of Doctor Who), this would be a win. The discs (two of them) are positively packed with bonus features. From a retrospective on the Brigadier to behind the scenes stuff to commentaries, it’s on of BBC’s best standard edition releases to date.
Best Kid-Oriented Cartoon –
Adventure Time With Finn & Jake
Sometimes I get burned out on cartoons. It’s easy for things to get repetitive or for the same themes to be revisited over and over again. Not so with Adventure Time, which is not only the best cartoon, but one of the best things on TV, period.
Best New Cartoon –
Beware the Batman
Yes, really.
I did not like this show at all when it started. And I still don’t like the computer-generated animation. But the show’s characters and stories have won me over. The show’s new takes on old characters are quite interesting and the world that is being built has me intrigued.
Of course, now the problem is that it hasn’t been on for several weeks now (I am writing the initial entries for this in mid-November) and I am missing the show. If you had told me this would be the case three weeks in I would have thought you were nuts. It has now been confirmed that the show will return in January, but I fear that Mattel’s total lack of corresponding toy line will spell doom for it.
Best Toy Line –
Arkham Video Game Lines
From DC Collectibles
This one is an almost unbelievable turnaround.
I never would have imagined that I would be collecting DC’s in-house toys again, let alone awarding them Best of the Year. Everything about this line has been great, from the sculpt and paint to the gradually improving articulation to the durability. Even the timing of releases has been very good, with waves and deluxe figures being spread out just enough to not put too big of a dent in my wallet. There were a couple of disappointing releases late in the year – Joker and Black Mask, but this line has overall been excellent and has kept me excited for more.
Best Online Store – Amazon.com
I accidentally signed up for Amazon Prime earlier in the year, and it ended up being one of the smartest things I have ever accidentally done. The shipping savings alone were worth it, but when you throw in their video streaming service – which has an awful lot of content that Netflix does not – it is a steal.
But even without the magic that is Prime, Amazon is a great shopping site. If you are patient and use their Wish List function wisely you can get rock-bottom prices on books, toys, movies, and pretty much anything else. All you have to do is check in from time to time and see how the prices have changed. Your item will be packed securely and if you use the free shipping option it will typically arrive within a week. Great deal.

Best Live Event –
Le Sexoflex – The Happy Ending
This was the best and most emotionally charged event I have ever attended. I have never been in such an electric environment. You can check out my full write-up here. It’s a crime that this wasn’t released in some sort of home video format, but that just means it’s even more special because if you weren’t there, you’ll never know.
Weird Al at Atlanta Symphony Hall gets an honorable mention.
Best Individual Toy –
Castle Grayskull by Mattel
Interestingly enough, Mattel won this category last year with a different castle. That cost about a fifth as much and was a whole lot more fun.
Sorry, but it’s hard not to have just a few negative feelings about a toy that cost $275. But I have to say that within the context of the Masters of the Universe line and with my expectations managed to the fullest, Castle Grayskull did, indeed, deliver. I’ll have a full review up when I finally get the time to take as many pictures as are necessary and even a bit of video. Until then, just know that this was definitely the big toy of 2013.
Best Podcast – WTF
Maron wins it again. I am positively addicted to this interview format show. I’ve been a fan of Maron’s since I first found him in the 90s and he has truly found his niche with this podcast. He gets the best guests and I would say that a good 80 percent of his episodes are can’t-miss.
Best T-Shirt –
NeedlessThingsSite.com Luchador vs. 
Owlbear
Will you people please buy my fucking t-shirts?
Best Action Figure –
Predator
Jungle Extraction Dutch
From NECA
Dutch was the most impressive figure I bought in 2013. I can’t think of anything that could have been done better on a figure in this scale and price range. Dutch stood on my desk for a long time after I reviewed him because I kept picking him up and posing him in different ways. He’s a fun, great-looking figure. Check out my full review here.
Best Restaurant – Pallookaville Fine Foods
I have eaten at Pallookaville three times since it opened and I can say with confidence that it is my favorite restaurant of all time. The pork burger is one of the best things I have ever eaten, but I can’t order it again because the corndogs are just so damned good. The shakes are badass. I had a vanilla and Mrs. Troublemaker had chocolate. Next time I go I’m going to have to try a Reuben, but no matter how good it is I know I’ll be sad I didn’t get a corndog.
As an aside, we went to Pallookaville for their Breakfast With Santa. Lil’ Troublemaker does not do Santa. He doesn’t like seeing the guy in person, not even his assistants (all of the mall and parade Santas). But he hopped up on Really Big Santa’s lap, talked to him, and had no problems at all. It was awesome.
Best Dragon*Con Costume –
Centurions
HOLY FUCK.
Best Moment of the Year –
Dragon Con Toy Panel Afterglow
I hosted a number of toy panels at Dragon Con this year for the American Sci-Fi Classics Track. They were amazing experiences that you can listen to here:
But the panels themselves weren’t the best part. The best part was that for the rest of the weekend complete strangers kept coming up to me and telling me how great those panels were. I would imagine I was pretty insufferable the whole weekend. Heck, I probably still am.
-Phantom

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