Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Phantom Troublemaker’s Best of 2015

Art by Captain Lovehandles!
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.

This list is generated solely on the basis of what excited and entertained me throughout 2015. As with everything else on Needless Things, there’s no official metric of quality. I’m not writing a comparative thesis on the merits of Citizen Kane versus Big Trouble in Little China (though I’m fairly certain you guys could guess the outcome of that one).

2015 has been a very good year. We got a lot of great blockbuster movies, as well as some innovative and compelling films like It Follows, Cooties, and Creep. In a field full of bland and tired comic books there were still many remarkable standouts, including most of Marvel’s new Star Wars titles. There are a few categories that were tough because of the competition and a few that were tough because of the lack of contenders.

I’ve been working on this list since the end of October and I’ve been waiting until December 18th to write the opening category. I had no idea if The Force Awakens would be good or not, but I didn’t want to write a whole section about one movie only to have it rendered null by an excellent new Star Wars flick.

Essentially, that’s what happened. I adore Episode VII and can’t wait to see it a third, fourth, and more times. As such, I am removing it from contention. It was my favorite movie this year, but unless it tanked that was a bit of a no-brainer.

If you buy anything from the links on this page - or just click them and buy other junk - Needless Things gets a ha'penny!

Art by Trevor Henderson
Best Movie – It Follows

There were some great movies this year that made an impact on me and left me wanting more. As many fun, interesting, and beautiful movies as I saw, It Follows is the one that has stuck with me the most. From the powerful and relatable performances to the timeless setting, this movies delivers one hundred minutes packed with attention-grabbing, unique thrills.

Between bland studio fare and dull, unskilled indie releases I had fallen out of love with the horror genre a bit. There didn’t seem to be anything new that was worth watching over the hundreds of older movies sitting on my shelves. It Follows and The Babadook reignited my interest in the genre, with the former feeling like a genuine eye-opening experience along the lines of my first viewings of classics like The Evil Dead, Phantasm, or Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Obviously it’s a very different kind of movie from those, but it resonated and inspired in a similar way.

You’ve probably seen it by now, but if you haven’t I highly recommend you grab It Follows and see what we’ve all been talking about.


HONORABLE MENTION: The Babadook, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mad Max: Fury Road, Ant-Man, Crimson Peak, He Never Died, Spectre, The Peanuts Movie, Krampus, and of course Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens

Best Ongoing Comic Book – Saga

Last year I sad that I couldn’t see another book winning as long as Saga was still going. I’ll repeat that sentiment this year.

Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples continued their exemplary tale this year. The art and characters are as on point as they’ve always been, but in 2015 the comic truly lived up to its name. The creators have already done a fantastic job of creating a massive universe for their characters to inhabit, but this year I felt the size of the narrative that is being told.

This is the only comic I have ever read where I don’t particularly care about the release schedule. The quality has been so fantastic on such a consistent basis that I want Vaugh  and Staples to take as much time as they need to tell this story. I prefer that consistency over any sort of regular release. That’s not to say that Saga has ever been late, but they do take breaks from time to time. Good for them for knowing the formula and their limitations and respecting the story enough to do what it takes to maintain the quality.


HONORABLE MENTION: The Walking Dead, Batgirl, Spider-Woman, Harley Quinn, Silver Surfer, The Wicked + The Divine

Best New Ongoing Comic Book – Darth Vader

I was initially disappointed (but not surprised) when Marvel got the publishing rights to Star Wars comics back from Dark Horse. Much like the novelizations of the Expanded Universe, Dark Horse’s comics kept me going in the years that we didn’t have movies and helped to build a narrative that I came to love as much as, if not more than, the Original Trilogy.

I never would have guessed that Marvel would be capable of not only making great new Star Wars comic books that were as good as some of the best Dark Horse produced, but that they would actually end up being some of the best overall comics of the year.

Kieron Gillen has managed to take a character that doesn’t necessarily lend himself to exposition, sympathy, or action and craft a compelling narrative that is dependent upon Vader. Gillen formed a cast of characters that are entertaining and interesting. Darth Vader drives the plot, but the characters of Doctor Aphra and her murderous droid companions 000 and BT-1 keep the reader invested. We all know Vader’s eventual fate, but these new players are full of potential.


HONORABLE MENTION: Howard the Duck, Public Relations

Best TV Series – Game of Thrones

I feel a little stupid.

I always leave my favorite TV show off of this post because by the time I’m writing this it has been off the air for months and isn’t coming back for several more. Game of Thrones is awesome. I don’t know that I’ve ever watched a show as compelling. I’d rather watch any two characters on this show talk than see the most action-packed set piece from anything else on television, and I am not generally a fan of talky-talk.


HONORABLE MENTION: The Flash, Arrow, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (which was on fire this season and gave The Flash a run for its money), Parks and Recreation, Key & Peele, Maron

Best New TV Series – iZombie

The middle of the first season got a little heavy with some of the procedural elements, but the fantastic cast kept me excited to come back to this world every week. While the story is compelling, this is the very best cast of characters that was assembled in 2015.

The second season has been fast-paced and world-changing. Rose McIver is one of my favorite people on TV right now, delivering killer performances each and every episode. But I can’t claim that she’s carrying the show, as her supporting cast – Malcolm Goodwin, Rahul Kohli, and Robert Buckley – are all wonderful. She also has some amazing antagonists in David Anders and Steven Weber(!).


HONORABLE MENTION: Into the Badlands, Galavant, Agent Carter, The Last Man on Earth, Killjoys, Ascension

Best Not-on-TV TV Series – W/ Bob and David

Perfection.

I will admit that I doubted the ability of the Mr. Show cast to return twenty years later and deliver the same level of biting, satiric humor. I honestly wasn’t even excited about this show. But once I finished Jessica Jones I saw it on Netflix and watched all four new episodes and the documentary in one evening. Every member of the cast displays a level of maturity and experience that I didn’t expect. And the humor actually exceeds that of Mr. Show. What was once youthful vigor supported by solid writing is now excellent writing supported by wit and impeccable timing.

Perfection.

HONORBALE MENTION: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Master of None

Best Kid-Oriented Cartoon – Teen Titans Go!

I know that some people hate this show and are let down by the fact that it isn’t the same thing as the older Teen Titans (though it does feature mostly the same cast). I don’t feel that way. While I did grow to love the original show, its mixed tones never sat quite right with me. It had great action and solid humor, but the styles were far too conflicting for my taste.

While Young Justice took the concept of teen superheroes and dialed the action and drama way up, Teen Titans Go! has taken the humor and done the same. You can’t go into this thing expecting a DC Animated product. It’s a comedy show. And it’s a great comedy show, full of satire and physical comedy and even some light social commentary. We watch this one as a family and have a ton stored on the DVR so that we can watch them over and over again.


HONORABLE MENTION: Adventure Time, Gravity Falls, Regular Show, Star Wars Rebels

Best New Kids Cartoon – We Bare Bears

I didn’t know a thing about this show going in, but as long as the animation doesn’t look like garbage (Clarence, Johnny Test) I’ll check out any new show on Cartoon Network.

So much animation now feels like an imitation of some other thing. There are so many clones of Ren & Stimpy, Adventure Time, and The Simpsons that it is very difficult to find anything that feels fresh. It’s also tough to find cartoons that don’t employ some manner of snark. We Bare Bears is sweet and hilarious and doesn’t mock in the way that so many shows do nowadays. Grizz, Ice, and Panda are very much archetypes, but they are also unique individuals that allow for new takes on old concepts.


Best Adult Cartoon – Bob’s Burgers

The Belcher family won my heart this year.

H. Jon Benjamin has been working for years, but he first came to my attention for voicing Sterling Archer. It took me a while to accept that voice as a father running a burger joint, but once I did Bob’s Burgers pulled me in to its warm, weird embrace. I’ve watched the four seasons that are available on Netflix several times now and look forward to every new episode.

Looking at the animation I’m still convinced that this show was originally meant to feature puppets.


HONORABLE MENTION: Archer

Best Album – Sol Invictus – Faith No More
It took me a couple of listens, but this album grew into my being and now occupies the same place of reverence as my favorite band’s other releases. I don’t even know how many times I’ve listened to Sol Invictus since it came out, but I have done my best to absorb every note, beat, and syllable. It had so much to live up to and it delivered.


HONORABLE MENTION: They Might Be Giants’ Glean, Calabrese’s Lust for Sacrilege

Best Professional Wrestler – Seth Rollins

I’m not sure any of us realized it until he got injured, but Seth Rollins carried the WWE for the greater portion of 2015. While John Cena was busy bolstering the midcard, Rollins was making an impact as one of the best Main Eventers we’ve seen in the last decade. He is a work horse like few on the roster and is so natural in the ring that you almost don’t realize how good he is. Rollins’ mic work is the same. You don’t doubt his character or his convictions for one second and he generates heat like nobody else on the roster. Despite some questionable handling of his character by the writers, Rollins always shone through as a performer to pay attention to.

HONORABLE MENTION: Brock Lesnar, Kevin Owens, Paige, John Cena, Sasha Banks, Bayley

Side Note: Sasha Banks and Kevin Owens have both been severely undermined by terrible booking. Owens was on fire and had the rug pulled out from under him shortly after hitting the main roster. Sasha Banks had a similar problem that was only made worse by her association with BAD, who are now basically a comedy act. It’s gotten to the point where I dread hearing that NXT performers are being called up to RAW and Smackdown.

Best Live Music Event – Faith No More at The Masquerade Music Park 7.30.2015

The culmination of years of waiting. After picking up an “Import” CD of one of Faith No More’s performances from Germany in 2009 I was very concerned about the quality of this show. I was obviously going, but I did not know how good it might be.

It was incredible. Patton was on point and avoided mangling vocals or spouting too much gibberish. The rest of the band was as tight as I’ve ever seen anyone. They were there to entertain and have fun. You know when a band is into it and when they’re just there to pay the bills. Faith No More was into it and everyone there felt it.

Add to that the fact that I was there with my oldest and closest friends and this was a night that will likely never be equaled.

Best New Toy Line – DC Comics Icons from DC Collectibles

Coming in to take the prize right at the end of the year is this brand-new style of figures from DC Collectibles. I gave glowing reviews to Batman and Deadman and was tempted to go all-in on this one because they were such satisfying toys. While I’m not taking that step, I will be keeping an eye on future releases and picking up any favorite characters that get the Icons treatment.

DCC has had some pretty major missteps over the past year, but the Icons line is not one of them.


Best Toy Company – NECA

This category looks at a toy company in its entirety – as far as the things I follow, anyway – and how it has fared in the areas of quality, selection, and relevance.

Almost every company that I buy toys from had some major fuck-ups this year. Hasbro relegated its classic 3.75” Star Wars line to the hell of being Walmart Exclusives (and those figures are not amazing) and has seemingly discontinued any kind of higher quality line of vehicles. They also put out a huge but bland assortment of Marvel Legends with a wide variety of questionable paint/sculpt decisions. Also they put out some terribly uninspired GI Joe toys for the 50th Anniversary.

DC Collectibles had some horrendous quality control issues with most of its lines. Until they get that under control, I can’t love them.

Funko is mostly fantastic, but my perception of their 6” Legacy line is that we may or may not ever see any more of them. They recovered nicely from the QC issues in the Game of Thrones line, but their release slate is so slow that it’s hard to stay excited about them. Plus, they seem to sit at retail.

Mattel killed my interest in the Masters of the Universe Classics line. The decline in quality of the figures combined with the ever-increasing shipping led to my decision to end it. I’ll talk more about that in next week’s Needless Things Podcast, where Mr. Beau Brown and I will do our annual review of the line.

That leaves NECA. They did a great job of continuing their various Reel Toys lines with solid releases from the Aliens and Predator franchises, as well as the new “Ultimate” figure series with definitive versions of Leatherface,  the T-800, Sarah Conner, and more. NECA also continued their excellent retro cloth line, which are basically Mego-style versions of their Reel Toys figures, complete with all of the excellent sculpt and paint. Finally there were the surprise Fall releases – 7” scale figures of Adam West as Batman, Heath Ledger as the Joker, and Christopher Reeve as Superman. These beautiful figures popped up at Toys R Us and were immediately snatched up by eager collectors. Despite the fact that Superman needed about ten minutes of heating up and flexing, these were still great releases and exciting reminders of the good old days of hunting toys.

Best Toy Line – Batman Animated from DC Collectibles

The early quality control issues seem to have been taken care of. Now we are getting solid, great-looking figures representing one of the greatest comic book-inspired franchises of all time.

While I still hate the hip joints, everything else about this line is outstanding. I look forward to each and every release (well, except for the recent Bane and Scarecrow figures) and keep track of when they’re shipping and how soon I can make it to my Local Comic Book Shop to pick them up.

HONORABLE MENTION: Funko ReAction, NECA Reel Toys

Best Action Figure – One:12 Collective Batman from Mezco

I reviewed it here. This is the best action figure I have ever owned.


Best Individual Toy – Batman: The Animated Series Batmobile from DC Collectibles

While I do like this Batmobile quite a bit, it’s sad that there wasn’t anything better released. There were no Star Wars, GI Joe, or any other kind of vehicles to even attempt to compete. The lines and scale are wonderful and I appreciate the lights, but in all honesty this thing isn’t a great toy. It’s a wonderful collectible, though.

Check out my review here.


HONORABLE MENTION: NECA Aliens Power Loader

Best Thing on the Internet – Sparkle Hooves

Oh, no, hunty.

EXTREMELY NSFW


Best Moment of the Year – The Dirty Dirty Con Con Game Game Show Show At Dragon Con

I want to create things with my DDCCGGSS people always. Every single day I think about meeting with them, planning nonsense, and performing. If this was my day job, I would work 24/7 without ever working. I cannot believe I lucked into not just knowing, but working with such talented and creative people.

2015 was a magical year at Dragon Con. We overcame adversity and put on what I say with all confidence was the most entertaining thing at Con.

4 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Hopefully I'll see you sooner than later in the new year!

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  2. WOW Sparkle Hooves thanks you. He is so excited. You can watch all 10 of his videos here also: https://vimeo.com/album/3286548 and follow him on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/SparkleHooves69

    ReplyDelete