2020 Favorite Things in Books, Movies, TV, Podcasts, and Comics

banner of 2020 favorites

Books

You can follow along with my reading and recommendations on GoodReads. I’m usually talking about them on Twitter and Instagram when I’m not talking about cats and how incredibly fucked up things are.

Scanning over my files, it seems that I have a lot of books started and unfinished. Primarily those are non-fiction which I like to digest sporadically. Unfortunately that means if they are not “completed” they don’t get on my GoodReads Reading Challenge and I’m coming up short (edit: I’ve caught up!). Rest assured, I read more this year than last year even with stretches of time where reading was too difficult.

books read

My favorite novels of 2020:

book covers

Favorite Comics of 2020

Virtually Yours by Jeremy Holt, Elizabeth Beals, and Adam Wollet. This is a heartwarming story bringing classic romantic comedies like You’ve Got Mail or Sleepless in Seattle up to date with modern dating apps, racial diversity, and queer representation.

comic cover

I won’t take up too much space here since I have a post about Virtually Yours from my Vodka O’Clock episode with Jeremy Holt.

Another new comic on the scene that blew me away was Inkblot by Emma Kubert and Rusty Gladd published by Image Comics. They create their issues using the old “Marvel Method” which is working out things through the art first and adding the dialog last. But also, it’s a hilarious, adorable magical black cat creature who only says, “mow” and can move through time and space.

Apologies for the crappy HTML table below. I tried several different ways to embed it and this was the best version. Yeesh.

**The table below has horizontal scrolling features and pagination.

TitleTeamPublisherComments
Action ActivistsFred Vanlente, Ryan Dunlaveyindieavailable for free, School House Rock style explanation of our our government is supposed to work:
Adorable BeastlingJonathan RosenbaumAction labugly duckling but with monsters
An Embarrassment of WitchesSophie Goldstein & Jenn JordanTop Shelffriendship, family and romantic comedy
Ash & Thorn 1Mariah McCourt, Soo Lee, Pippa BowlandAhoy ComicsLottie Thorn is chosen as a champion to save the world from the apocalypse but she's 70 something years old as is her trainer. Definitely something I want to get back to.
Be Gay, Do Comics anthologymassive book collecting queer history and satire comics by The Nib; selected a few stories at random and enjoyed each one.
Big GirlsJason HowardImage Comicsfun sci-fi but it is based on males turning into enormous monsters as they grow up and some girls may get "big" but they stay human and act as the border patrol of The Preserve to protect normal size people. gender binary so far.
Black Panther: Stormy WeatherKyle Baker, Juan Samu, David Garcia Cruz (c), Tom B. Long and Shawn Lee (L)IDWMarvel Action line. Fun, campy evil villain who proves too much income and commercialism leads to the downfall of a region.
Bloodshot definitive collectionWriters: Duane Swierczynski, Matt Kindt; Artists: Manuel Garcia, Arturo Lozzi, Barry Kitson, Matthew Clark, Matt Ryan, Stefano Gaudiano, Mark Pennington, Clayton Crain, ChrisCross; Colors: Ian Hannin, Moose Baumann, Brian Reber, Chris Sotomayor; Letters: Rob Steen, Dave SharpeValiantWorth diving into the tale about Valiant's unstoppable anti-hero filled with nanites that can do just about anything from regeneration to communications to synapse blasts; Bloodshot has been through so many memory wipes, he doesn't remember that the super powered psiot kids he's trying to save are the ones he once kidnapped for project Rising Spirit.
Bog BodiesDeclan Shalvey, Gavin Fullerton, Rebecca Nalty, Clayton CowlesImage ComicsKillian is the young one on a Dublin gang but he botched a job. His older partner Keano and craggy old thug Gerry take him up to the country to kill him. Killian finds Niamh, a young woman who's gone missing and has amnesia. They find an old woman in a cottage.
Devil WithinStephanie Phillips (w), Maan House (a), Dee Cunniffe (c), Troy Peteri (L)Black Mask Studioscary as fuck lesbian horror about haunting and possession
Dracula, motherf*cker!Alex DeCampi, Erica HendersonImage ComicsVisually the best comic of the year.
Forgotten Home 3-6Erica Schultz (w), Marika Cresta (a), Matt Emmons (c), Cardinal Rae (L), ViCes Press/ Comixology Originalswrapped up one my favorite miniseries; incredibly talented team behind this.
Going to the Chapel tpbDavid Pepose (w), Gavin Guidry (a), Elizabeth Kramer (c), Ariana Maher (L)Action Laba heist isn't the real reason for the Bad Elvis Gang to crash the wedding of heiress Emily Anderson and architect fiance Jesse Moore
Goosebumps: Secrets of the SwampMarieke Nijkamp (w), Yasmin Florez Montanez (a), Rebecca Nalty (c), Danny D Jeljosevic (L)IDWgood intro of a disabled character with prosthetic who is an avid gamer, moves to Fever Swamp and meets other Lore Hunt gamers; Blake and Lily go to explore the swamp for monsters.
Livewire vol 2Vita Ayala (w), Kano (a), Saida Temofonte (L)ValiantAmanda McKee is on a mission to find a lost girl who is also a psiot; her parents want her home but Phoebe's side of the story is that her parents want her to be normal and that she is scared for her life out among the normal people so she has joined the PSEP, an academy that harbors and hides children whether or not they are psiots. It turns out that PSEP is actually a branch of OMEN run by Serena Byrne. Livewire faces another devastation from her own loss of control -- in an early story hundreds/thousands were without power and people died; in volume 2, it's her brute force during a fight with Byrne's bodyguard Jada that ends in another loss of human life.
Lizard in a Zoot SuitMarco FinneganGraphic Universe/LernerI had the pleasure of reading and learning from this historical sci-fi by @marco949, Lizard in a Zoot Suit. The back matter explains the real story of the 1943 Zoot Suit Riot and Sleepy Lagoon. I had always thought of Harlem, but the nonconforming style was important in LA.In this OGN,twin siblings, accidentally stumble upon a discovery that the Navy wants. The all white military base clashes with the local Mexican Americans, always looking for a reason to fight. The lizard boy is a symbol of loneliness, alienation, and heroism in surprising form.
Lost Soldiers #1Aleš Kot (w), Luca Casalanguida (a), Heather Marie Lawrence Moore (c), Aditya Bidikar (L)Image Comicsbeautifully made but not a story I feel like getting into.
Man-Eaters one shotChelsea Cain, Lia MiterniqueImage Comicsfilled with fake documents and a contract from the Patriarchy Apology Fund with "enclosed" reparations of shitty gifts.
Man-Eaters vol 3Chelsea Cain (writer, creator, colored pencil art), Lia Miternique (cover, cocreator, ads, supplemental art), Elise McCall (artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (c), Joe Caramagna (L), Stella Greenvoss (additional int art)Image ComicsMaude and her parents plan a revolution to find an individual, Ezra, at the head of the Estro Corp patriarchy. Also Maude's best friend comes out as trans named Kevin with he pronouns.
Mercy #1Mirka Andolfo, Gianluca Papi (color assists), Fabio Amelia (L)Image Comicsa mine explosion kills many. Lady Swanson, secretly a madam, has bloodlust for killing and seems to be responsible for shooting someone in the mine. Lady Hellaine and her butler may be the monsters locals call the Woodsburgh Devil. I'll eventually get to finishing this now that the trade is out.
Nothing SpecialKatie Cook, Nathan PricewebtoonsLove it! would appreciate the ability to pinch zoom on the tiny lettering though.
Punk MamboCullen Bunn (w), Adam Gorham (a), José Villarrubia (c), Dave Sharpe (L), editor Lysa HawkinsValiantstopped reading after a couple pages because main character says Loa, Ayezan "belongs to her" and rather than the loa possessing a host, Punk Mambo possesses the Loa. It's insulting and religiously insensitive. Not my religious niche, but as far as I know, this is not how it works.
Sasquatch in LoveJason Nutt, Alexis Vivallo (a), David Anaxagoras (flatter), Josh Southall (L)Action Labcute & fun; Holden the Sasquatch is friends with veterinarian Felix. Holden likes to break into the library for books and always returns them. Once Holden comes out to the townspeople he gets his own library card and introduces himself to Grace. But then he and Sheriff Judy fall in love while Grace & Felix do.
Tartarus #1Johnnie Christmas, Jack T. ColeImage Comicspretty weird. artwork so intricate it's hard to see what's going on, but character design is uniquely fascinating. Didn't love it, but I see the appeal.
The Kill LockLivio Ramondelli (w/a), Tom Long (L)IDW4 robots are punished for crimes and linked together with the Kill Lock. if one dies, all of them die. they are banished. they go in search of a cure.
The Legacy of Mandrake the MagicianErica Schultz (w), #0 artist Lucas Romero, #1-2 Diego Giribaldi (a), Ramón Bunge (c), Ludwig Olimba (flats), JP Massa (bg), Yasmín Govoni & Martín Casanova (L), Amelia Vidal (cover), Matias Timarchi (ed)Red 5 ComicsBeautiful art and lettering. Check out my interview with Erica Schultz about this one.
The Mueller ReportShannon Wheeler and Steve DuinIDWmakes the conspiracies of the greedy Trump Administration and literally everyone he hired easier to digest than sitting through days of CSPAN.
The Secret Life of Pets #1Stéphane Lapuss' (w), Goum (a), Montana Kane (English translation)Titan ComicsSingle page strips. adorable. fits in with the character personalities from the movies.
UnpresidentedKieron DwyerImage Comicsaw, poignant editorial cartoons about Trump and the GOP on issues from healthcare to immigration to gun violence; in press copies before comics went on hiatus from covid19
Virtually YoursHolt, Beals, WolletComixology Originalsrom-com like an update to what You've Got Mail would be like in today's world of online dating; gorgeous, clean line art and pleasant pastel color palette. Check out my interview with Jeremy Holt about this!
Wellington #1created by Aaron Manhke (story), Delilah Dawson (story & script), Piotr Kowalski (a), Brad Simpson(c), Christa Miesner (design & L)IDWDuke Wellington is a supernatural Holmes type character investigating 3 unusual mysteries linked together
Insider Artedited by Shelly Bond & 100+ creators (including me!)Gumroad & KickstarterAll ages anthology of comics, essays, and crafts. Delightful anthology which I'm proud to be part of.
Lumberjanes vol 3Writers: Faith Erin Hicks, Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters; Artists: Brittney Williams, Carolyn Nowak, Aimee Fleck, Rebecca Tobin, Felicia Choo, T. Zysk; Colors: Maarta Laiho; Letters: Aubrey AieseBoomk! BoxAlways fantastic.
I Can Sell You a BodyRyan Ferrier (w & L), George Kambadais (a) IDWreal tv psychic Denny Little is down on his luck after being outed as fake though he is a true medium; he's not ethical when it comes to interacting with clients or anyone. He has another talent besides speaking to the dead; he can put a soul into another body for a price of course.
On the Stump #1Chuck Brown, Prenzy, Clayton CowlesImagesenators & reps have to fight in an MMA ring called stumps in order to get their legislation passed; definitely want to get back to this one now that it's in trade
The Silver Spurs of Oz (Far Out Classics Series)Erica Schultz, Omar LozanoCapstone/Stone Arch Booksnot only a reimagining of Dorothy and the characters of Oz, but also a helpful instruction guide for kids to learn about the art & storytelling process of comics including a glossary of vocabulary words
Inkblot.Emma Kubert, Rusty GladdImage Comicsfantasy genre about a royal family and a magical cat creature brought to life by the scribe sibling.
PandemicaJonathan Maberry (w), Alex Sanchez (a), Jay Fotos (c)IDWComes with a lot of content warnings about racism, but I did like De'Neesa the main character a lot.

Nearing the end of the year, I also made a trip to Comic Fusion which I hadn’t visited in far too long. I had been emailing with Bill Meccia (the owner) about needing a lot of things. First was putting together a selection of gifts for $100-150 to be donated to the yoga studio’s chosen charity for this year. Second was selecting things for kids in the family but that I only see once a year in a normal year so I don’t know what they like. Bill picked out games with expansions so that each kid would get to open something. I also picked up a new volume of Tiny Titans and the first issue of Batman/Catwoman (the art by Clay Mann and Tomeu Morey is incredible).

If you have a comic shop that’s nearby or not but one you like to support, they will likely be more than happy to put together a package and ship it for you. Comic Fusion has always done a steady mail order business. Due to the constant weekly updates in comics and merchandise, running all of it through a website might not be available for your LCS. If you present them with what you need, a great shop will be able to ask you questions and narrow down choices with you.

TV Shows

I had to return to some comfort watching with my usual “go-to” shows like Psych, Bob’s Burgers, and Brooklyn 99. Psych is occasionally making movies which keeps fans happy. Bob’s Burgers and Brooklyn 99 have had new episodes this year. If you haven’t given Bless the Harts a chance, I recommend it. The seasons are much shorter than Bob’s Burgers but it’s every bit as sweet and weird.

Hannah Gadsby

I enjoyed some stand-up comedy this year on Netflix mostly. What the selections proved was that if you watch one white cis male comedian that’s all Netflix will show you. It may show other men, but their selections will be all men. If you search for someone else like Hanna Gadsby, Ally Wong, Iliza Schlesinger, Kathleen Madigan, or Tiffany Haddish, and actually watch one, then Netflix will show two lists: one of male comedians and one of “because you watched ___” with women and minority comedians. I love the hell out of Jim Gaffigan, Mike Birbiglia, John Mullaney, and Jack Whitehall, but I want to see other people too. Plus, there were several male comedians I turned off after five minutes. We get it: you hate women.

Title
Bosch
Evil
Lincoln Rhyme
Reckoning
Tiffany Haddish: They Ready
Upload
What We Do in the Shadows
Bob's Burgers
Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Deadly Women
Prodigal Son
Supergirl
Batwoman (looking forward to the changes)
Superstore (I cried when Amy left)
The Rookie
Bless the Harts
Paula Zahn: On the Case
American Monster
New Tricks
Cardinal
Truth Seekers
The Good Place
Schitt's Creek
The Mandalorian

Movies

Out of the new-to-me movies I got to watch this year, I am totally surprised that I didn’t love certain ones but did love others. I expected Gone Girl and Blow the Man Down to be favorites for me, but they weren’t. Kill the Irishman is probably the best movie I watched this year.

*Edit: I watched Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max. Yes, there were some annoying problems, but by watching it disconnected from the comics and other things, I loved it. I would have made some other choices, but I’m not the writer.

Title 
AnitaAnita Hill docu dir by Freida Mock
Blow the Man DownSophie Lowe, Morgan Saylor
Gone GirlBen Affleck, Rosamund Pike
Kill the IrishmanRay Stevenson
Psycho documentary
Reasonable DoubtSamuel L. Jackson
Serenity (2019)Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway
Swept Under (Maid for Murder)Aaron Ashmore
The Lincoln LawyerMatthew McConaughey
The WordsDennis Quaid, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Jeremy Irons
WinchesterHelen Mirren
The Old GuardCharlize Theron
ExtractionChris Hemsworth
Wonder Woman 1984Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal

amber with Gus

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