by Adam Thas and Mike Pomaro
Instead of answering a question this week, we here at Growing Up Nerdy decided (we are contractually obligated) to submit our Top 10 list for 2014. This, however, will not be our 10 favorite movies of the year. Instead, we will list our 10 favorite nerdy things that we moments or discoveries in 2014. Many of the things on this list pre-date this past year, but we’re slow and are only catching up now. Deal with it, nerds.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Like most of you, I was burnt out from comic book movies a bit. That burnout, and the news that Edgar Wright was no longer directing Ant-Man, made me downright crabby about the whole genre. Captain America: The Winter Soldier helped remind me why I liked comic book movies in the first place and Guardians of the Galaxy did that to an even greater extent. A property I knew little about before seeing the film, Guardians wound up being the most fun I had all summer at the theater.
9) Locke & Key
It had been a while since I was hooked on a comic book series, but buying the first volume of Locke & Key over the summer changed all of that. Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s haunted house tale has everything I want in a comic book: great characters accompanied by wonderful art and storytelling.
8) Christmas 2014
My wife rules and feeds my nerdy addictions. I’m a 12-year old at heart, so don’t even think about giving me socks or a belt or tools for Christmas. I can buy stuff that I need 364 days a year. On Christmas, give me things that I want. Again, I’m a child. In addition to some Blu-rays and Game of Thrones figures, a White Sox keychain from my daughter and a Tardis pillow, my beautiful wife got me a Captain Kirk yellow Star Trek zip-up hoodie. You didn’t get a Star Trek hoodie for Christmas? Well, sucks for you.
I’ve been listening to podcasts for years, but in 2014 I found a handful that I really, really like. Next to our own F This Movie! podcast, my favorites right now are The Canon with Devin Faraci and Amy Nicholson and Killer POV that our own Patrick Bromley has told you guys all about. My current favorite right now, however, is a podcast that I’ve only recently listened to. Being a big Game of Thrones fan (more on that later), I started listening to A Cast of Kings podcast with David Chen of Slashfilm fame and Joanna Robinson from VanityFair.com. Since my wife and I began watching Game of Thrones from the beginning again (we’re crazy people), I decided to give A Cast of Kings a listen as I go through the episodes. Starting with season two of Game of Thrones, A Cast of Kings breaks down the series episode by episode. Dave approaches the podcast as a fan of the show only, having never read George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series on which Game of Thrones is based. Joanna Robinson is also a fan of the show, but has read the book series in its entirety so far. Between the two of them, they offer a wonderful discussion of that week's episode with detailed analysis. The conversation is always light and the chemistry between the two is great. It should be noted that Joanna does an amazing job of not spoiling anything from the books, instead offering a great perspective of the episodes from someone that has an idea where the show is going. If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, do yourself a favor and check out A Cast of Kings.
Anyone who has read Growing Up Nerdy knows what fans Adam and I are of nerdy conventions of all types. I was lucky to have been able to attend four conventions in 2014 – C2E2, Wizard World Chicago, Flashback Weekend and Chicago Tardis. At these conventions, my goal is to add to my autograph collection. Yes, they’re overpriced and yes, I’m paying for someone to simply sign their names, but I like it so LEAVE ME ALONE. This was a banner year for having been able to meet the likes of William Shatner, Matt Smith, Billie Piper, Don Coscarelli, Karl Urban, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Gates McFadden and Jonathan Frakes. With the exception of one of them, and no it’s NOT William Shatner, everyone was really nice and warm. Also, Frakes complimented me on my beard. Let me repeat: COMMANDER FUCKING RIKER DUG MY BEARD.
I love Doctor Who, but this last season was less than thrilling for me. I think Peter Capaldi is…fine as the Doctor, but for a number of reasons it’s been almost a chore to get through the latest Doctor Who stories, and would be near impossible for me to garner any sort of excitement were it not for Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald, the Doctor’s companion. Coleman had a difficult task following beloved companions Amy and Rory, and while I liked her enough at first, she didn’t exactly win me over. This past season that changed completely. In my world, Jenna Coleman is the MVP of Series 8 of Doctor Who, bringing emotion and humor and LIFE into a pretty lifeless season of a show that seems to be spinning its wheels a bit. Much like Series 1 of Doctor Who for me (the Christopher Eccleston year), I’ll be tuning in for the companion more than the Doctor himself for the near future.
4) Five Year Mission
On paper, Five Year Mission is too nerdy even for me. A band that writes a song about every episode of Star Trek: The Original Series and performs those songs live while wearing Starfleet uniforms was too much for me at first. Thanks to Patrick’s urging (ordering?), I gave them a shot and changed my mind pretty quickly. They were good! This past year, I watched TOS in its entirety and listened to Five Year Mission albums as I went through the series and discovered how great they really are. The biggest compliment I can pay Five Year Mission is to say that their songs enhance the episodes that I already love. "The Menagerie Parts 1 and 2" are heartbreaking songs, making me rethink what are essentially clip show episodes of the show. "City on the Edge of Forever" lives up to one of the greatest Star Trek episodes, while a song like "The Apple" is maybe better than the episode it’s based on deserves. I went from being somewhat embarrassed to say I liked a “Star Trek band” to proudly displaying their CD’s alongside the rest of my collection. Five Year Mission rules.
3) Martin Freeman
I could put Martin Freeman on here for any number of reasons from Fargo to Sherlock, but I want to take a moment to point out how brilliant I think he is in The Hobbit films. While I’m one of the few people that doesn’t hate The Hobbit movies (The Battle of the Five Armies tests that statement a bit), I also don’t love them. There are a number of reasons why that is, however maybe the biggest reason for me is the under utilization of the Hobbit himself, Martin Freeman’s Bilbo. We spend entirely too much time with love triangles and the dwarves, specifically the boring Thorin Oakenshield, when Bilbo sticks out in every damn scene he’s in. Sadly, he’s not in enough scenes. He’s the only character I root for, the only character I care about, and it’s a shame that for all of the running time The Hobbit movies rack up, too few of it is spent with Martin Freeman.
2) Star Trek
My nerdiness was born at an early age when I was first shown Star Wars and given action figures to play with. It really blossomed in junior high when I discovered comic books. My nerd peak came in high school and college when Adam and I hung out at our local comic book store every free moment we had, reading any comic book I could get my hands on. Over time, that love died down. I still dig comic books, always will, but since those days I’ve been chasing the nerd dragon, trying to find my passion all over again. Enter 2014 and Star Trek.
If you’re a fan of this column, you know that Adam and I love us some Star Trek. While I’ve always considered myself a fan of Trek, it wasn’t until this year that I fell in love with it. I’ve written about this romance before for Growing Up Nerdy, so I won’t do it again. All I’ll say is I’m grateful to have found Star Trek again and I hope we never break up.
1) Game of Thrones
I know Game of Thrones (and A Song of Ice and Fire for us book snobs) has its fair share of detractors, but I am not one of them. Before Season two premiered on HBO, my wife and I caught up with the first season on DVD. We blew through it, loved it, and have been in awe of it ever since. After watching that first season, I decided to give the book series it’s based on, A Song of Ice and Fire, a try. The first book is called A Game of Thrones, and that’s obviously where I started. I got no more than a quarter of the way through A Game of Thrones when I decided to bail on it. The book didn’t click with me and I figured I’ll just stick to watching the show. For whatever reason, I’ve had a nagging urge to give the novels another try and I started again earlier this year. Boy, I am glad I did. I’ve since read all of the books and re-watched the series a number of times. Reading the novels has made me appreciate the television series even more and vice-versa. It’s been years since I’ve had this much fun reading, watching, dissecting and just CONSUMING anything and everything associated with a franchise. It has me excited again about being a fan of something. Between Game of Thrones and Star Trek, I feel at peace with my nerdiness again.
Mike and I devoted an entire column to trailers a few weeks ago but didn’t really talk about this year. I think that most of us can agree that 2015 has been a really good year for movies and has been a great year for trailers! The Fury Road trailer might be the all time greatest trailer of all time: it’s epic, it’s exciting, I go to the highest highs, the lowest lows, and apparently there is a movie called Fury Road as well. We got to see a short and extended trailer for the sequel to the biggest super hero movie of our time in Avengers: Age of Ultron, which has one of the most badass robots since the T-800. Speaking of the T-800, I got to bask in the prospect of another Terminator movie. Even though I’m a bit skeptical about it after the last Terminator movie shit the bed, I’m still excited. I know I’m going to see the new Jurassic World based solely on how fun I thought the trailer was, not to mention there is this tiny movie you may have heard of called Star Wars? I’d say based on the trailers alone, the future is so bright I’m going to wear 3-D glasses (there it is folks, we are one paragraph into 2015 and I’ve told the worst joke I’m going to tell all year. Besides, I don’t want to see these in 3-D).
There is a Fantastic Four movie slated for 2015. I hope I won’t regret saying this, but I don’t think it can be much worse than the first two. So I’m excited to see my favorite Marvel heroes on the big screen once again. However, that’s not why I’m mentioning them. Fantastic Four has gone through a rough spot the last few years, to the point they got desperate and killed off a character (only to bring him/her back) and even though I’ve collected it religiously for the past 15 years, I almost dropped it. I had heard that James Robinson was going to be taking over writing the book so I stuck in there, and I am so happy I did. If you aren't reading the new release of Robinson’s FF, you should give it a try. Essentially, the FF has been sued by the city of New York and are no more. It’s fascinating and told in a way that only a seasoned writer like Robinson could pull off. It’s amazing, the art is solid, and I’m so happy to finally enjoy reading this book because I want to and not because of some self-imposed obligation.
When I originally picked up Netflix it was because I wanted to watch all the Star Trek shows without paying the HUGE cost of buying the seasons. For a while, it was strictly a TV show thing, and then I started with the movies. Most of you on this site have Netflix, and most of you (I hope) read Netflix This Movie! every week, to which I am a contributor, so I’m not going to go on and on. How great is it, though, that we live in an age where I can pick up my iPad and watch any one of thousands of movies any time I want? Money well spent.
7) Old Stuff
In August of 2013, my wife and I moved into a new place while she was pregnant. By November, I was a daddy. There was the business of moving in and then having a newborn...somewhere around April my wife and I had realized that we hadn’t unpacked. To make matters worse, my parents moved out of their house of 30 years and finally got around to cleaning out old boxes of mine from the basement, attic, and my old closet. It has been a treasure trove of memories and old stuff. Unfortunately, I had to go through the gut-wrenching task of getting rid of some of my old stuff in a garage sale that was just heartbreaking. I still got to finally organize my comics, still managed to keep some amazing stuff, and made some money. All in all it’s been a good time going through some old nerdy stuff.
6) Superhero Movies
Unlike 2013, I don’t feel like we were beat over the head with Superhero movies this year, and the ones that came out were great. When the worst of the major ones is X-Men: Days of Future Past, it’s been a good year. X-Men was great and I enjoyed that movie though and through, but when you hold it up against Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s hard to compete. I’ve maybe watched Guardians of the Galaxy four times since I bought it at the beginning of December. I love showing that movie to people; it’s amazing in so many ways with its humor and retro feel. It may be my all-time favorite superhero movie. It’s so good it makes Captain America take a back seat, and Captain America is great. Despite what Patrick and Mike had to say on our podcast, I sincerely enjoyed that movie and it was refreshing to see a superhero movie that tries to say something more than what it is. However, as we wrote a few weeks ago, there are a TON of new superhero movies coming out over the next few years from both Marvel and DC, making this a great year to love superhero movies.
5) Star Trek
In 2011, I watched all of Deep Space 9. 2012 it was all of Voyager (Ugh!) and Enterprise. In 2013. I finished Enterprise, Star Trek and The Animated Series, and finally in 2014 I re-watched The Next Generation all the way though with all the movies. I have spent the past four years watching every single thing Star Trek related and I miss it so much I’m thinking about going back and starting DS9 again. It probably won’t happen, but the idea that I can if want to is a thought I enjoy having. I’m so sad that the last movie wasn’t very good, and that right now there is nothing new Star Trek related out there and any prospect of something new is strictly rumor. I want more Star Trek in my life. I NEED more Trek in my life and I’ll go to any length to get it...I might even stoop low enough for fan fiction. Okay, probably not that low, but you get what I’m saying.
EVERYTHING IS AWESOME WHEN YOUR NAME IS CHRIS PRATT! Seriously, though, 2014 has become the year of Chris Pratt. Two of the best movies of the year had Chris Pratt in them. I love, love, love The Lego Movie, and not at all for nostalgic reasons. That movie is genuinely good and hysterical. Chris Pratt heads up The Lego Movie and then follows it up with just being amazing in Guardians of the Galaxy. As if 2014 wasn’t great for the guy, the little cherry on the top of his cake is that the Jurassic World trailer has become one of the most viewed trailers of 2014 and most anticipated movies of 2015. It’s very rare that we get to see a person become a movie star, but Chris Pratt is no longer “The guy from that Parks show.”
3) DC Television Shows
I have watched Marvel: Agents of Shield from day one and it’s...fine. Just when I start feeling like the show is starting to build momentum, it just misses the mark. After the events in Captain America the show started to got better, but it’s still not great. DC comics, in the meantime, has four shows out and, while I haven’t been able to catch up on Constantine or Gotham, I can assure you that Arrow and The Flash are worth your time. The Flash is good and charming, with my only complaint being that all the “bad guys” come from a single event, kind of like how all the bad guys in Smallville were somehow related to Kryptonite. Arrow, however, has been great from day one. It’s so interesting and doesn’t slow down at all during Season One, managing to top itself in Season Two. It’s got a really strong cast and uses them well while still grounding them in reality. If you aren’t watching Arrow, you should really start.
2) Baby Stuff
As mentioned earlier, I had a kid in late 2013 and I’ve been able to watch him change from an infant to a full out walking toddler. Do you know what the best part of having a baby boy is? Cool baby nerd shit. I cannot tell you the number of awesome things directed squarely at nerd parents like myself. I have the entire Justice League in little plastic figures, and a little Batman and Joker driving cars. I have so many nerdy shirts for this kid that I can’t keep up with how awesome it is. The very best part is that I finally have an excuse to buy nerdy shit again. I got to a point in my early 30s where I became self aware of my finances and it sucked. Where 24-year-old Adam with his brand new job and no responsibilities had no problem throwing down a few hundred dollars on meaningless shit that I would end up just selling for pennies on the dollar at a garage sale, 30-year old me had some serious moral problems spending money. Morals are a thing of the past (if you could see me right now I’m literally holding up my middle finger to the computer screen, because apparently that’s where morals are located). I see a sweet toy, a great shirt, some Captain America jogging pants; I can buy them for my kid! I feel so rejuvenated.
With the success of The Walking Dead, I’ve got the feeling that more comic companies are giving chances to creators to do something innovative. After years and years of the same old crap in the comic stores, I can say that comics are going through a bit of a Renaissance. Right now I cannot get enough of three “Indie” creator owned comics: Saga, Invincible, and East of West. Invincible is the property of The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, and while he falls in love with his own words in TWD, the superhero genre of Invincible forces him to move a bit faster. Because Kirkman owns all the characters, he can do anything he wants with them without the bigwigs telling him no. Invincible is over 100 issues in and still feels fresh, constantly keeping a veteran comic reader like myself guessing. I’ve spoken many times about Saga, and from a standpoint of story and art, it is the best comic out there right now. Then there is East of West. Jonathan Hickman’s story of an alternate reality where the Civil War ended in a draw and the coming apocalypse is my favorite book out right now. Go out to the comic store right now and pick it up; it’s only on issue 15 and I PROMISE you will not be disappointed in this book. As if the creator-owned books weren’t doing well enough, DC doubled down a few years ago rebooting their entire universe with the New 52 and kind of forced the hand of Marvel to become a bit more innovative. While the DC books like Justice League, Green Lantern and Aquaman have been incredible, Marvel has been doing some great things in re-launching X-Men, Fantastic Four, and what may be the best of the mainstream books in Ms. Marvel. The comic TV shows are kicking ass, the movies are doing great, and now we get the actual comic books to complete the Trifecta of awesome.