DID YOU READ

Our favorite comic book moments from 2011

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In a year that gave us big screen blockbusters like “Captain America,” “Thor,” “Green Lantern” and “Transformers,” sometimes it’s nice to take a step back and appreciate the medium where these stories got their start.

With the book officially closed on 2011, I and my fellow contributor, Matt Singer, thought we’d offer up what were some of the best things we saw in comics over the last twelve months. If you are behind on your monthly reads or trade/digital waiting any series, please be advised that there are significant spoilers ahead.


Aunt May Gets A Hug

From “Ultimate Fallout #1”

Let’s face it, at this point, the only truly sad thing about most comic book deaths is the degree of desperation on the part of comic book companies who try to drum up interest in their characters by killing them off. The death of the Ultimate Universe’s Peter Parker in the pages of “Ultimate Spider-Man” is this year’s one notable exception. You could reassure yourself after Peter’s death at the hands of the Green Goblin by reminding yourself that the “real” Spider-Man was still alive and well in the pages of “Amazing Spider-Man,” but that didn’t make writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mark Bagley’s work in the pages of the follow-up mini-series “Ultimate Fallout” any less devastating. In the best scene — one that literally brought tears to my eyes — Peter’s Aunt May reluctantly attends a public funeral for Spider-Man. As she walks into St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a little girl calls out to her. It turns out that Peter had saved this girl from a fire years earlier. If he hadn’t become Spider-Man — if he hadn’t made the same sort of heroic sacrifice that eventually took his life — she would be dead. She offers May a hug and they embrace. Aaaaaaand cue the embarrassing waterworks (“Oh, no, I’m not crying. No, it’s my allergies. Yes, in the dead of winter.”). I’ve been a die-hard Spider-Man fan my entire life and Bendis’ version of Peter Parker might be the best I’ve ever read. I’m going to miss reading his adventures. But it was worth losing him for a scene like that. – MS


A Cowboy in Gotham

From “All-Star Western #1

Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti had been writing the adventures of DC Western bounty hunter Jonah Hex for several years by the time they were handed the reins of “All-Star Western.” Plenty of their earlier Hex books are worth reading, but they really knocked it out of the park with this story, in which Hex comes to Gotham City in the late 1880s to solve a mystery and gets paired with an unlikely partner: criminal psychologist Amadeus Arkham (if you’ve played any Batman games on PS3 or Xbox lately, that name probably rings a bell). It’s an ingenious riff on Westerns and Holmesian detective fiction, with fittingly rough-hewn art by artist Moritat. DC cancelled all of their titles this year and replaced them with 52 new ones. Some were good, some were bad, some were great. Even though it’s set over a hundred years in the past, “All-Star Western” is one of the few that truly feels new. – MS


An Unexpected Sequel

From “Archie #627”

I love bad movies, and one of the best worst ones ever made is “KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park,” a 1978 live action TV movie about the hottest band in the world and their poorly written, even-more-poorly acted battle with an evil amusement park inventor. Everything about “KISS Meets the Phantom” is bad. Even the stunt doubles are bad (unless the movie was made during a brief, otherwise undocumented period of time when Ace Frehley became a black man). This, of course, makes it sublime. Technically the new “Archie Meets KISS” comic isn’t a sequel to “KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park,” but I’d be shocked if writer Alex Segura wasn’t a fan. Instead of a predictable storyline about the band playing a gig in Riverdale with Josie and the Pussycats or something, he concocted a story about the group getting accidentally summoned from another dimension by Sabrina the Teenage Witch. He even gave Gene “The Demon” Simmons “KISS Meets the Phantom”-tastic lines like “We can only slow them down. They have the DYNASTY AMULET!” There’s still a couple issues left to go in this crossover, but I’m already hanging on ever panel. A word of warning: if at some point in the story Space Ace is replaced for a page or two by an African American, my brain might explode. – MS


A Crossover Flies Under the Radar

In “Swamp Thing” and “Animal Man”

We can’t just pick one particular scene here, because different readers discovered this little bit of awesomeness one at different times. If you read “Swamp Thing” first, you discovered about the battle between The Green, The Red and The Rot alongside scientist Alec Holland. If you favor “Animal Man” on your pull list, you made your first journey into The Red with superhero Buddy Baker and his daughter Maxine. The crossover here by “Swamp Thing” writer Scott Snyder and “Animal Man” writer Jeff Lemire is so low-key that you don’t feel penalized if you only read one of the two books. But loyal readers of both were rewarded with an ultra-cool moment of realization when they discovered that these two books — two of the best of DC’s new universe — were covertly working together to lay the groundwork for what looks to be a massive and massively interesting storyline. I fully expect the payoff the wind up on our list of the best comic book moments of 2012. – MS


Meet the Mighty

From “Fear Itself #7”

It was probably inevitable from the moment in “Fear Itself #1” that the bad guys got their own versions of Thor’s enchanted hammer that the heroes would eventually get some badass Asgardian — “badasgardian” — weapons of their own. And they did, at last, in “Fear Itself #7, when Spider-Man, Iron Man, Wolverine, Dr. Strange, received some much-needed Odin-infused armaments and became The Mighty. Admittedly, The Mighty’s role in the “Fear Itself” finale was mighty anti-climactic, and I’m afraid the other sweeping changes made here to the company’s continuity won’t even last a year (some didn’t even last through the end of the series: see the death and return of Bucky). But the sight of all those classic Marvel do-gooders decked out in Stuart Immonen-designed Asgardian finery made for perhaps the coolest visual of the year in super hero comics. – MS

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.