My friends, the end of the year is bearing down on us like a horde of angry Tharks (hey man, I liked John Carter ) and so a geek’s mind turns to the year that’s just gone and its highs and lows. Having seen Rise Of The Guardians recently I can confirm no one wants to be on steampunk, sabre-wielding Santa’s Naughty list but hey, someone has to be, right? So, don ye now your gay apparel and fa la la la la laaaa la la la la along as we answer the twin question that the SFX Bloggers must answer:
Who made Santa’s Naughty and Nice lists this year?
Tru Topham : Santa, let's talk. You and I, we have different opinions from time to time, but I'm hoping we can agree here.
I'm talking about the BBC. Yes, the entire BBC. They're right off my Christmas Card list. I don't want to hear any of this "Merlin was always meant to be a five-year story arc" nonsense. It's clearly lies and wind. Under one month to go until the very last episodes of Merlin ever and you decided to tell us now that that's all there will be?
You knew. You knew, BBC. It takes time to write, schedule, and film these things. You don't just whip a two-parter out of your butt in time for Christmas. "Rumours of spin-offs"? I don't bloody want spin-offs! I want Merlin.
Go away. I'm not talking to you.
You've been very, very naughty, and you will be getting a lump of coal.
John Cooper: I don't know if it was real or I imagined it, but I have an image in my head of Marvel uber-villan Galactus dressed as Santa. Jack Kirby era art, with the mighty purple one floating through space with a red bobble hat on bringing Christmas to the universe. For my naughty list I want you to imagine Galactus delivering the news. Pointing a finger the size of a house and asking, Have you been good? (No they haven't) Ok, here goes.
Yes it looked great but the story didn't hold much water and I'm sure I wasn't the only one in the cinema internally screaming at Charlize Theron to, “Run to your left!” to escape the giant steam rolling donut spaceship. Has she never watched
• Chuck series five: Sorry mate, I stopped caring at the beginning of series three when the Buy More doubled as the secret base.
• Anyone not watching Fringe : You're crazy.
• The Secret Circle : Not I never watched it either, but it's on my list simply because it exists. Destroy Galactus, DESTROY!
• Steven Moffat: Galactus is going to pay a visit to the Moff. They'll have a nice sit down and a chat with the wonky hatted bibilical badass asking the Moff for a bit of consistency in how Doctor Who is put together. Series six was narratviely complex and satisfyingly involved, series seven was overly simple and inconsistant. Can we have some consistency? Please?
Stacey Whittle: Mike Carey is top of my naughty list. His Felix Castor novels are top of my must -ead genre fiction list and I have now been waiting three blummin years for the next one. Three! I miss Felix, what's happening? What's going on, I have a million unanswered questions. All I want for Christmas is a “Fatal Legacy” but I shall have to wait patiently (well, I'm calling this patiently) until May for the next one. Hopefully May, well look, it says May on Wiki so it has to be true right? Hello? Give me my book!
Lee Harris: Can I say Santa himself? As a fictional entity he is qualified to appear on this list.
He never used to be fictional, of course – oh, no! When I was a lot younger, he'd be there for me every year, bringing me toys, games, a bicycle. It never occurred to me that an old man breaking into folks' houses in the middle of the night in order to empty his sack for the children was a bad thing. No, I was always happy to receive his bounty.
But since then? Not a dicky bird! Not a bloody sausage! Seems when you get older he loses interest. You'd think the Daily Mail would have started a campaign, at least!
• It's probably just because it's recent, but I'd definitely put George Lucas on my Naughty List. It's one thing besmirching the franchise you created; it's another thing entirely snagging a massive paycheque to threaten Star Wars' future forevermore by cashing in and selling out.
• Twilight – Thankfully, it's finally over. But we've had to put up with so much movie guff in the process that Breaking Dawn Part 2 was – fittingly – the final straw. That ending, ay? *SPOILER ALERT* I know it's technically the book's fault, but spending God knows how many hours getting to an apocalyptic end game, only to cop out with an imaginary ending so naff even Dallas would've thought distasteful? Boo you.
• Every Single Movie Casting Director: WHY ARE WE STILL WAITING FOR NATHAN FILLION TO BECOME THE BEST BLOCKBUSTER MOVIE LEADING MAN EVER? There's always next year, I suppose *crosses fingers for Guardians Of The Galaxy*
• Pixar : Controversial, I know. But while I enjoyed Brave , it all just felt a little too generic for Pixar's traditionally exceptional standard of filmmaking. Oh, and John Carter ? Let's just all forget that ever happened. ( *Cough* nothing to do with Pixar *Cough* – ed)
Will Salmon: I was kind of sad to see Christopher Priest dissing this year's Clarke Award nominees. He's entitled to his opinions, of course, but it just came off as a bitter rant against younger talents like China Miéville and Charles Stross. At least he had some nice words to say about Lavie Tidhar's Osama . Book of the year, that.
Also, and I hate to say it, Alan Moore. Sure, he's got reason to be pissed off, especially in the year that Before Watchmen dropped. But his continuing dismissal of modern comics as essentially worthless says more about his ego than it does the state of the industry.
Oh, and Giles Coren. For being Giles Coren.
Steven Ellis: There's not much on my naughty list this year. Most of the films I saw had already been out a while when I saw them so I'd heard a little about them and my expectations were usually downgraded somewhat. So even the disappointing ones were less disappointing because they weren't as bad as I was expecting, even Prometheus . My biggest film disappointment of the year was The Dark Knight Rises . I thought it was such an over-blown, over-long, convoluted mess, I was very surprised when so many people were singing its praises.
TV I've been generally happy with this year. All the returning programs have been going from strength to strength, and I've been pleasantly surprised by some of the new shows. Warehouse 13 is probably the only real disappointment of the year for me. It used to be so fun and zany and now it's just lost up its own "dark" arc plot ( ah, an opportunity to drop in my “vanishing up its own arc” quip again, hurrah! - ed ). They should bring back the fun.
If I had to single anything out for naughty list attention it would be the whole 3D thing. I'm sick of it. And I'm sick of the way it's being forced upon us more and more. I wish 3D would just crawl away into the corner and die. Disney should also get a mention for their cock-up of the Avengers DVD/Blu-ray release and the Joss Whedon commentary controversy too.
Oh, and this year's Lego Star Wars advent calendar has been a bit of a disappointment so far. Last year's didn't have a fantastic toy every single day but it was more hit than miss. As I write this I'm on day six and so far I've only had one gift that isn't going to end up in the bits box. Lego is usually so reliable.
Laura McConnell: I know it's cliche, but I've got to go with Joss Whedon . No, The Avengers wasn't perfect, but was pretty damn close in my opinion, so I'll go ahead and give credit where credit is due. Though I'm generally hesitant to jump on the "everything Joss touches turns to gold" bandwagon because it's impossible for anything to live up to those standards, this he nailed it with The Avengers , and I hear that Cabin In The Woods is nothing to scoff at, either.
Matt Risley: The obvious and most immediate choice is undoubtedly Joss Whedon . Not only did he achieve the impossible by crafting an Avengers movie that tied together everything cinematic Marvel had done to date, but he had the chutzpah to weave everything into the most entertaining blockbuster of the year. Throw in The Cabin In The Woods , and his amazing “Vote for Zombie Mitt Romney” campaign video, and I'm fairly sure I now love him more than some of my own family members.
Brian K Vaughan deserves a place for creating the best new comic of 2012, the sci-fi insta-epic Saga , as does everyone involved with the TV version of The Walking Dead , who revitalised the show after a beleaguered second series, into a shocking, surprising and constantly gripping third series.
• Toby Whithouse et al , for Being Human series four. Nearly a full cast change on the show could have spelt doom, but instead it rebooted with a fresh new energy. The Tom and Hal scenes in the diner were often a highlight. More please.
• Arkane Game Studios for the sublime Dishonoured . When Bioshock Infinite was booted into 2013, this relative unknown slipped stealthily into the gap for those gamers feeling deprived of a first person shooter with a good story and emerging combat options where you can do a level whoever you like. A cracking bit of steampunk, it rightly deserved the praise it received, and your secret base was in a pub, how cool is that?
• Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard for Vol 17 of The Walking Dead (issues 97-102). Damn you Robert Kirkman, I thought you were done. How far can The Walking Dead go on, I thought? Surely we're just repeating now, a steady cycle of “find a place to live”, “develop characters”, “get attacked by zombies/people”, then repeat. I love TWD , but it had become a little samey. Then vol 17 arrived and had one of the worst incidents in it since Rick lost his hand. A proper gut churner. I read it late at night in bed, and was sure it would give me nightmares. I couldn't believe a comic could disturb me like that, but it did. Damn you both and well done.
• The nice people who finally, finally released both Manimal and Automan on DVD. So they're both cheesier than a fried cheese sandwich on an episode of Man vs Food , but they are also awesome. I'm well aware of the dangers of looking at your own childhood through rose tinted goggles, and both these shows rank highly as better in the memory, but they're both on my DVD shelf now and I can look at Chuck Wagner and Simon McCorkindale's shiny face and perfect teeth on the box any time I like. That's what matters; that's where they belong.
Steven Ellis: Hmmm. A nice list eh? Well, let's see. Who's impressed me most this year...?
Perhaps the biggest news of the year is the acquisition of Lucasfilm by Disney, and while I'm still not certain exactly what I think about this, I do think George Lucas should be singled out for praise. Not for selling the company, but for what he's done with the money from the sale; Disney paid $4.05 billion and the majority of that money is being given to various charities. With the tinkering efforts and re-releases of the Star Wars films people have often called Lucas money grabbing and other insulting names, I think this act of philanthropy proves those people wrong. Well done George.
Another filmmaker worthy of praise is Joss Whedon . With the Avengers movie, Cabin In The Woods and the forthcoming Marvel’s SHIELD TV show his star is definitely on the rise. It's nothing that discerning sci-fi fans didn't expect but it is heartening to see such a brilliantly creative person receive more widespread acclaim. Well done Joss.
I'd also like to mention Fringe . With just four episodes left to air the end is nigh for this brilliant TV show. Since it first began in 2008 it has been a show that challenged and entertained viewers in its own unique way. I'll be sad to see it go, but I'm happy it's been given a chance to end properly and that it seems to be going out on its own terms and with little compromise. I'm also really going to miss Walter Bishop; he's been brought to live amazingly by John Noble. So well done Fringe and well done John Noble.
Finally I'd like to heap praise on the various writers and artists of 2000AD and Judge Dredd . For the 35th anniversary of the comic, and it's most famous character, the creators have really pulled out all the stops. For a comic which has been around since the late '70s this anthology is still at the cutting edge of creativity and innovation. Well done 2000AD , Judge Dredd and all involved in their stories. The Dredd film wasn't that bad – 3D notwithstanding -– either; definitely in my top five movies of 2012. So well done Pete Travis, Alex Garland, Karl Urban, Oilivia Thirlby and all involved in the creation of that too.
• Dredd : The fact this was such a financial disaster is cause, I feel, for the studio to hang their heads in shame. This was one of the best straight-up sci fi action movies in years. It was a perfect set-up for a series of movies to follow. It was smart, it was nasty and…it was sabotaged by a combination of idiotic screening times, an insistence on 3D over 2D by the studios and a refusal to bow to that by the fans. The last is admirable and I support wholeheartedly but still…DAMN this is a good movie. It deserved to be so much more successful. And no “cult classic” on blu ray does not come close to the level of success it could, and should, have got.
• Fringe : It’s like someone pulled every dystopian daydream from my mind and made them real! I love season five so very much, it feels like a sequel show almost but it’s so smartly written and designed and so unerringly bleak I honestly find myself worried for every single character. Olivia, Astrid and the Bishops will be sorely missed, but they’re going out in style.
• Kelly Sue DeConnick: The writer of Captain Marvel has worked miracles, taking a character who was previously known for being a superpowered version of Ann Coulter in thigh high boots into one of the Marvel universe’s most entertaining, and endearing, characters. The first collection of her run is out very shortly and it’s essential reading, as Kelly Sue explores Carol’s mindset post AvX , her past and her acceptance of the role of Captain Marvel rather than simply Ms. Oh and also there are gigantic alien war machines, banter, beautiful old planes and frequent cameos by other Avengers. It’s wonderful.
• Matt Fraction: Mr DeConnick has had a pretty great year too. Fraction and David Aja’s run on Hawkeye is frequently published the same week as DeConnic and Dexter Soy’s Captain Marvel and the titles are a double header of fun that’s very difficult to beat. Fraction has cleverly recast Hawkeye as the ultimate down on his luck hero, a man who cannot help but help, even if it’s going to hurt him. The taciturn, forlorn archer of The Avengers has never been so relaxed or so much fun to read.
• Jeremy Renner: Three franchises! Mr Renner is the poster child for three major franchises and he’s excelled in each one. His work alongside Paula Patton and Simon Pegg in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol was a vital part of making it the most fun entry in the series to date and his turn as Aaron Cross in The Bourne Legacy was far more nuanced and fun than it’s been given credit for. Then, of course, there’s Hawkeye. Renner had the least to do out of the Avengers but he more than made up for it with a fascinating arc, a credible turn as a bad guy and chemistry with Scarlet Johansson that was so strong even Joss Whedon commented on it. Roll on Captain America 2 and, hopefully, a return for both of them.
• The UK Small Press: From comics to novels, the UK small press has impressed me time and again this year. Pete Crowther’s endless enthusiasm and good taste has ensured PS Publishing had a great year but it’s the individual creators who’ve really stood out for me. Jon Lock’s wonderful Afterlife comics are some of the best work I’ve read in years, whilst the Professor Elemental and Doctor WTF titles have given a raft of talented writers and artists a chance to shine, with Owen Watts’ work particularly standing out. Meanwhile over in print Anachron Press have turned out endlessly great titles this year including the superb The Red Knight by KT Davies, and Fox Spirit have set up a small but diverse and fascinating array of titles in less than a year on the scene. With Titan Publishing making serious inroads too with the likes of Danie Ware’s excellent Ecko Rising and Snow Books putting out the fascinating Resurrection Engines anthology, a series of steampunk retellings of classic literature edited by Scott Harrison, genre fiction has rarely looked this vibrant and fun. I can’t wait for 2013.
Trudi Topham: Nice? Nice? Well, that would have to be everyone ever involved with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Hush now, it was tremendous fun, and that's worth a tenner of anyone's money!
So there you go, whilst North hands his sabres to a nearby yeti to be sharpened, we take our leave. Thanks for reading in 2012. Happy festive season, whatever you choose to call it, and we’ll see you in 2013!
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