2020 Favorite Things in Books, Movies, TV, Podcasts, and Comics
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.
My favorite novels of 2020:
- Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman
- Tricky by Josh Stallings (technically it’s not out until Jan 2021)
- Drawn by Carsen Taite
- Don’t Look Down by Hilary Davidson
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.
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.
|Action Activists||Fred Vanlente, Ryan Dunlavey||indie||available for free, School House Rock style explanation of our our government is supposed to work:|
|Adorable Beastling||Jonathan Rosenbaum||Action lab||ugly duckling but with monsters|
|An Embarrassment of Witches||Sophie Goldstein & Jenn Jordan||Top Shelf||friendship, family and romantic comedy|
|Ash & Thorn 1||Mariah McCourt, Soo Lee, Pippa Bowland||Ahoy Comics||Lottie 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 anthology||massive book collecting queer history and satire comics by The Nib; selected a few stories at random and enjoyed each one.|
|Big Girls||Jason Howard||Image Comics||fun 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 Weather||Kyle Baker, Juan Samu, David Garcia Cruz (c), Tom B. Long and Shawn Lee (L)||IDW||Marvel Action line. Fun, campy evil villain who proves too much income and commercialism leads to the downfall of a region.|
|Bloodshot definitive collection||Writers: 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 Sharpe||Valiant||Worth 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 Bodies||Declan Shalvey, Gavin Fullerton, Rebecca Nalty, Clayton Cowles||Image Comics||Killian 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 Within||Stephanie Phillips (w), Maan House (a), Dee Cunniffe (c), Troy Peteri (L)||Black Mask Studio||scary as fuck lesbian horror about haunting and possession|
|Dracula, motherf*cker!||Alex DeCampi, Erica Henderson||Image Comics||Visually the best comic of the year.|
|Forgotten Home 3-6||Erica Schultz (w), Marika Cresta (a), Matt Emmons (c), Cardinal Rae (L),||ViCes Press/ Comixology Originals||wrapped up one my favorite miniseries; incredibly talented team behind this.|
|Going to the Chapel tpb||David Pepose (w), Gavin Guidry (a), Elizabeth Kramer (c), Ariana Maher (L)||Action Lab||a 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 Swamp||Marieke Nijkamp (w), Yasmin Florez Montanez (a), Rebecca Nalty (c), Danny D Jeljosevic (L)||IDW||good 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 2||Vita Ayala (w), Kano (a), Saida Temofonte (L)||Valiant||Amanda 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 Suit||Marco Finnegan||Graphic Universe/Lerner||I 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 #1||Aleš Kot (w), Luca Casalanguida (a), Heather Marie Lawrence Moore (c), Aditya Bidikar (L)||Image Comics||beautifully made but not a story I feel like getting into.|
|Man-Eaters one shot||Chelsea Cain, Lia Miternique||Image Comics||filled with fake documents and a contract from the Patriarchy Apology Fund with "enclosed" reparations of shitty gifts.|
|Man-Eaters vol 3||Chelsea 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 Comics||Maude 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 #1||Mirka Andolfo, Gianluca Papi (color assists), Fabio Amelia (L)||Image Comics||a 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 Special||Katie Cook, Nathan Price||webtoons||Love it! would appreciate the ability to pinch zoom on the tiny lettering though.|
|Punk Mambo||Cullen Bunn (w), Adam Gorham (a), José Villarrubia (c), Dave Sharpe (L), editor Lysa Hawkins||Valiant||stopped 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 Love||Jason Nutt, Alexis Vivallo (a), David Anaxagoras (flatter), Josh Southall (L)||Action Lab||cute & 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 #1||Johnnie Christmas, Jack T. Cole||Image Comics||pretty 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 Lock||Livio Ramondelli (w/a), Tom Long (L)||IDW||4 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 Magician||Erica 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 Comics||Beautiful art and lettering. Check out my interview with Erica Schultz about this one.|
|The Mueller Report||Shannon Wheeler and Steve Duin||IDW||makes 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 #1||Stéphane Lapuss' (w), Goum (a), Montana Kane (English translation)||Titan Comics||Single page strips. adorable. fits in with the character personalities from the movies.|
|Unpresidented||Kieron Dwyer||Image Comics||aw, 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 Yours||Holt, Beals, Wollet||Comixology Originals||rom-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 #1||created by Aaron Manhke (story), Delilah Dawson (story & script), Piotr Kowalski (a), Brad Simpson(c), Christa Miesner (design & L)||IDW||Duke Wellington is a supernatural Holmes type character investigating 3 unusual mysteries linked together|
|Insider Art||edited by Shelly Bond & 100+ creators (including me!)||Gumroad & Kickstarter||All ages anthology of comics, essays, and crafts. Delightful anthology which I'm proud to be part of.|
|Lumberjanes vol 3||Writers: 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 Aiese||Boomk! Box||Always fantastic.|
|I Can Sell You a Body||Ryan Ferrier (w & L), George Kambadais (a)||IDW||real 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 #1||Chuck Brown, Prenzy, Clayton Cowles||Image||senators & 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 Lozano||Capstone/Stone Arch Books||not 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 Gladd||Image Comics||fantasy genre about a royal family and a magical cat creature brought to life by the scribe sibling.|
|Pandemica||Jonathan Maberry (w), Alex Sanchez (a), Jay Fotos (c)||IDW||Comes 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.
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.
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.
|Tiffany Haddish: They Ready|
|What We Do in the Shadows|
|Batwoman (looking forward to the changes)|
|Superstore (I cried when Amy left)|
|Bless the Harts|
|Paula Zahn: On the Case|
|The Good Place|
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.
|Anita||Anita Hill docu dir by Freida Mock|
|Blow the Man Down||Sophie Lowe, Morgan Saylor|
|Gone Girl||Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike|
|Kill the Irishman||Ray Stevenson|
|Reasonable Doubt||Samuel L. Jackson|
|Serenity (2019)||Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway|
|Swept Under (Maid for Murder)||Aaron Ashmore|
|The Lincoln Lawyer||Matthew McConaughey|
|The Words||Dennis Quaid, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Jeremy Irons|
|The Old Guard||Charlize Theron|
|Wonder Woman 1984||Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal|