Well, thank goodness that’s over with.
For me, personally, 2014 was a year of running in place. I spent most of the year in a state of resigned depression, and it got worse as the year went on and as it became more and more obvious that nothing was going to change this year.
No change on the job front. Started my seventh year of retail hell this past Black Friday — and, bonus, they made me work Thanksgiving this year. It’s looking more and more like my only way out is going to be the closure of this location — which could conceivably happen in 2015.
No moving back out of the parents’ house. Still uncomfortably lodged in my sister’s old room, surrounded by her clutter.
The medical issues that have plagued me since the winter of 2011 didn’t get any further treatment and, thus, are still causing me discomfort every single night and, likely, will cause further exciting problems down the road.
Didn’t start any comics work. I’d hoped to do a few pages this past year, but I’ve gotten myself into the vicious loop of not drawing because everything turns out looking unsatisfactory, so I don’t draw, so the drawings get worse, and so on. The only way to get off that particular train is to — well, just start drawing again regardless of the results. I’m going to try to do that this week. You’ll know if I do — keep your eyes on scwonkey.tumblr.com.
As happens, I let my blogging “work” trail off at the end of the year, too. I did get busy for a while there, but more than anything I’d say what put me off of doing anything was just how bad ROBOTECH/VOLTRON #5 was. I didn’t want to write about it — didn’t even want to think about it — but I wasn’t about to do anything else until I’d put that behind me. I’ll finally post a review of the last two issues, as well as a review of the state of ROBOTECH in general, by the end of the week. It’s not going to be pretty. (I’m debating whether or not I want to just do this post instead of shooting a THIS ROBOTECH THING Year In Review 2014. I’m planning on changing up THIS ROBOTECH THING regardless of that decision anyway.)
It was a year of change for the things that keep me occupied and amused. TRANSFORMERS did another big budget movie, AGE OF EXTINCTION, and I found it to be my personal favorite of Michael Bay’s run. The robots are finally treated like actual characters, the comedy isn’t as cringe-inducing, the main villain is formidable and interesting, and the movie series’s version of Optimus Prime makes perfect sense in the context of the situation he finds himself in this time out. One of my favorite pieces of writing on the film was this review at the Disaster Year 20XX blog — but I saw a remarkable amount of interesting writing on this one, which is why it’s such a shame that most of the pro reviewers just went, “Ugh, another TRANSFORMERS movie,” and broke out their DARK OF THE MOON or REVENGE OF THE FALLEN reviews and did a little bit of find-and-replace-shuffle. I don’t think there was a great deal of fair engagement on this one. It’s bleak, dark, paranoid, and there’s some bad dialog and some really embarrassing business with Mark Wahlberg’s teenage daughter’s boyfriend just to remind you it’s a Michael Bay film — but, like DARK OF THE MOON before it, it actually feels like a recognizable version of TRANSFORMERS. That’s actually all I ask of these things.
Meanwhile, the far superior ongoing version of TRANSFORMERS offered up by IDW Publishing started the year mired in crossover hell, so I didn’t start reading any of the books again until April, when MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE (written by James Roberts, usually drawn by Alex Milne) picked back up with a reshuffled cast led by a newly realigned Megatron. Yes, the Decepticon leader had flipped sides at the end of the crossover and was now leading (or co-leading, as Rodimus would have you believe) the Lost Light‘s quest to find the Knights of Cybertron. After a bumpy first issue, by the second it was right back into entertainingly quippy character drama, explosive mechanized action, and mind-melting sci-fi puzzle boxes. Right now it’s knee-deep in a time travel story that has solved one of the series’s long-standing mysteries and serves as a sequel to a flashback arc from a couple of years ago. Along with the creator-owned sci-fi series SAGA (by Brian K Vaughan & Fiona Staples — also highly recommended), it’s one of my top-of-the-pile reads every month.
DOCTOR WHO, as I mentioned in my last post on here, introduced a new Doctor in the form of Scottish actor Peter Capaldi. The latest incarnation of the nigh-to-immortal time traveler is rude, abrasive, unsure, and doesn’t necessarily see the best in people — edges that had been sanded off the character off and on over the course of fifty years. And yet, despite all these off-putting qualities, by the end of the season it was clear that one key thing hadn’t changed: his boundless devotion to his dearest friends.
This season was a journey of discovery for both the Doctor and his traveling companion Clara Oswald, as they both confronted what they were really made of, him trying to sort out the kind of man he is now and her trying to juggle all the stuff of a normal life (including a new boyfriend) with trips across all of time and space aboard the TARDIS. A great premise for a season, though the roller coaster of emotions as the two stubborn friends butted heads over hard decisions made for more tense viewing than I was used to out of this show; the Doctor also picked up a hard-line approach against soldiers that had me scratching my head that turned out to be set up precisely to set him against Clara’s new boyfriend Danny Pink, which nearly had me walking away from the show in frustration. (The next two episodes turned out to be among my favorites of the season, so I’m glad I didn’t.)
And while the season proper ended on a downer, with the two friends lying to one another to try and make the other happy, the Christmas special brought them back together and ended on a high, the two scampering off to face the endless possibilities of the universe together in the TARDIS. It was a feel-good ending that reminded me, most of all, of the final scene of season 5’s finale, “The Big Bang,” where the Doctor, Amy, and Rory, still in their finery from Amy & Rory’s wedding, set off into the unknown. Hopefully season 9 isn’t the kind of letdown that season 6 was. (Not that there weren’t any good episodes that season, but this has been a remarkably strong run, and I’d hate to see another “Curse of the Black Spot” break the streak.)
Back to ROBOTECH for just a second — though again, it’ll get its own post later on in the week, Friday I think — y’know, I pledged money to that ROBOTECH ACADEMY Kickstarter in hopes of getting that pilot animation made, and getting a shiny blu ray disc of it, as well as some other knick-knacks. But it was clear from the get-go that Harmony Gold didn’t exactly have all their shit together. Who was going to produce all the animation? Where were these mecha designs coming from? Why weren’t all their cards on the table on launch day? Some months later, comic artist and animation pro LeSean Thomas set out to, very similarly, raise some money to produce an 8-10 minute pilot for an action/adventure/sci-fi animated series — with a much more realistic goal, a sensible rollout of perks, and a murderer’s row of talent with proper credentials lined up. The goal was met, exceeded by about $36,000, and work appears to be proceeding apace. (And get this: MACROSS co-creator/maestro Shoji Kawamori’s studio Satelight is going to be working on it. Go figure.) The project is called CANNON BUSTERS, and you can see the Kickstarter page here. Notice all the animators working on the animation pilot. Yes, he was asking for a more modest amount — he’s only looking to get a short pilot made. Maybe Harmony Gold should have aimed a little lower? All I know is, this team is going to be sending me a blu ray of cool-looking animation sometime next year along with a spiffy hardcover art book. I’m still waiting to hear what Harmony Gold plans to do with the work they’d thrown together haphazardly.
This is getting a little long, so I’ll end with two minor grievances about 2014. The first is that too many movies I wanted to see failed to show anywhere near here. The first that really jumps out right now is THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, which I still haven’t gotten around to seeing despite the fact that the blu ray has been sitting around the house for months. I was super-hyped about it when it was in theaters but, I dunno, the buzz was gone by the time the shiny disc was in the house. Go figure. The second is BIRDMAN, which I’d like to think I’ll still be hankering to see once the disc hits stores. Maybe I’ll make a night of it and watch the two together? (It’s possible that those were the only two and it just seemed like more because I spent weeks tracking their rollout and hoping and praying that they’d at least make it to the multiplex in Joplin, MO. Though I swear there was at least one more.) I’m surprised that in this shiny new digital age we aren’t getting better distribution of more esoteric flicks across the country. I kept pestering my folks to make a trip of it out to Kansas City or Springfield, but they seem to have grown somewhat complacent when it comes to these things — “eh, we’ll wait for it to hit blu ray or iTunes.” I did manage to convince my pal David to hit the road for a theatrical showing of DRAGON BALL Z: BATTLE OF GODS, the first new wide release DRAGON BALL adventure since the end of the (pseudo-canonical) DRAGON BALL GT anime back in ’96, so that was something (and a good time was had by all).
The second is that the announcement of David Letterman’s retirement came on my birthday. That is not a thing that I wanted for my birthday; I’ve been watching Dave do his thing pretty much my entire life and his CBS show since the beginning. I even watched the reruns of his NBC show when they aired on, I think, A&E around the time Leno pushed Carson out and Dave was leaving for CBS. I thought this when Carson retired, and when MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER was cancelled, and when George Carlin passed away: it will be strange not having that voice riffing on the topics of the day. From the moment he leaves late night, the world will be changed.
What I do find funny about this whole late night shuffle that happened in the wake of that announcement, though, is that while his successor Stephen Colbert has ended his Comedy Central show, and LATE LATE SHOW host Craig Ferguson has done his last show as well, we still have almost five more months of Letterman. And you can bet, at least through that last month, I’ll be watching every night.
I leave you with … well, I was looking for the intro, but here’s Craig Ferguson’s whole last show, if you missed it. There will never be a show that hits that sweet spot of surreality and “we have to make our own fun”-style cheapness on network TV ever again. If nothing else, watch the opening number. (I downloaded that song from iTunes the day after and have listened to it on repeat over and over again for days. It’s called “Bang Your Drum” by Dead Man Fall. I wonder if this is the lyric that caused Ferguson to play that song on the last show?
Thinks I have wasted
Wasted every chance I ever had to be somebody
It’s a lovely little song about reflection and perseverance, and exactly the sort of thing to be thinking about as the year flips and we all convince ourselves that we’ve got one more chance to get a fresh start.
Let’s make it, if not a great 2015, then at least a good solid one, OK?