This full film is short, but says much on the current human condition, how many of us feel deep inside yearning for more. We feel trapped, bound to duty, ever-dreaming, never-quite reaching. There is a struggle that I feel in our protagonists dilemma. But, then a child’s voice brings us forward.
We figure it out, an imagination in the story and from the storyteller, clueing us on the real dilemma. Not the need to fix a spaceship but to fix the pilot and get back on real course. The one she dreamed of as a child, and eventually gave up on. The curiosity, imagination, and drive to return to that childlike wonder and push to something better, is what brings our pilot back to the stars. But not so much to work, but to something new and daring.
“I am afraid to give up my dreams when I grow up”.
That’s a great line, for those who indulge in their desire to explore, travel, see new sights should push that priority above simple mundane duties of getting by. I love the message here.
I also love the animation. Very fluid character movement with an awesome use of space, colors, shapes, taking us viewers away for about 4 minutes, and then beyond for what our memory captures. I love every second. The music also fits.
Oh 2020, what an unusual year for the comic book industry.
Sadly, there are less comic book stores, less retail book outlets, and those left are mostly now struggling to survive through the ongoing global pandemic. There’s also the freeze on comic cons, potential book signings, promotions. 2020 was a troublesome year for creators, merchants, publishers, and readers.
Yet, the sequential arts shall survive. Graphic novels sales are up by 29% since 2019! Also, there are many fresh reads throughout the year, and more time among the masses to catch up on these and past work with with the quarantines and lockdowns. Also, buying comics supports the industry, among the struggling creators, publishers, distributers, small business dealers.
So below, are my bestest picks released for 2020, based on what I have checked out.
This series keeps on surprising, with twists and turns while presenting a secret world of Black magic that feels more intricate and responsible than your typical Hogwarts melodrama.
BEST COMIC BOOK COVER of 2020
Amazing Spider-Man #55 (latest series)
Artist: Patrick Gleason Publisher: Marvel Comics
I don’t know if the story is good, but the cover is just too awesome to ignore!
BEST COLORING of 2020
MTSYRY: Octobriana 1976
Writer/Artist: Jim Rugg Publisher: AdHouse Books
The black light colors are truly eye-popping, with this modern take on an old Russian superhero from the early Bronze Age. To further the color even more, Jim Rugg also put out a 1970s style coloring issue, and colorless version as well. Masterful stuff!
BEST INSANITY of 2020
Dark Nights: Death Metal
Writer: Scott Snyderand others Artist: Greg Capullo and others Publisher: DC Comics (monthly mini -eries and crossover one-shots)
Also the best guilty pleasure of 2020. As a big DC fan since the late 1980s, the is the most ridiculous and over-the top crossover event yet. Everything has gone wrong in the DCU as an army evil Batman from the Dark Multiverse take over, and things just get crazier from there.
BEST SUSPENSE SERIES of 2020
Something is Killing the Children
Writer: James Tynion IV Artist: Werther Dell’Edera Publisher: DC Comics (monthly series
If you enjoy horror, mystery, stronger and darker content than Stranger Things, than Something is Killing the Children is waiting for you to turn its pages. It’s different, not as spoon fed in pacing, full of mystery, and has a unique protagonist.
I love this story, which feels like a mix of old fashioned pulp, mixed with grit and light campy elements. Great survival story revolving around adventure, danger, friendship. Also love the alien landscapes, designs, and space tech – simple yet escapist pleasure for sure!
BEST CHARACTER STUDY of 2020
DARTH VADER Vol. 1 – Dark Heart Of The Sith
Writer/Artist: Greg Pack, Raffaele Ienco Publisher: Marvel Comics (#1-5 of the latest series, collected in trade paperback form)
This is an interesting read as it delves deeper into the inner conflict of Darth Vader since the events of Empire Strikes Back (but before Return of the Jedi), searching his feelings. This leads to a startling revelation, that you should read to find out. The result, gives more sense to his transition and actions in Return of the Jedi, yet also plays upon his cruel, corrupted nature.
BEST WRITTEN SERIES in 2020
John Constantine: Hellblazer
Writer: Simon Spurrier Artist: Matias Bergara, Arron Campbell, Marcio Takara Publisher: DC Comics (Black Label) (monthly series)
I freakin love Simon Spurrier’s writing from past work and here, also with great respect back to the Vertigo socio-political days of Delano and Ennis!
BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL of 2020
Writer/Artist: Chris Gooch Publisher: Top Shelf (graphic novel)
This was really, really good, and fitting for a pandemic time for themes of lonliness and isolation turning to friendships and communications through restrictive times. In this case, a prison system in a surreal future or alternate present. The artwork is perfect, with a masterful use of blacks and whites…check it out!
BEST REPRINTING OF CLASSIC COMICS of 2020
Mermaid Saga Collector’s Edition, Vol. 1
Writer/Artist: Rumiko Takahashi Publisher: Viz
Many fans of Rumiko Takahashi will know her best for the grander Inu-Yasha anime and manga series. But for me in my older days of when manga felt more fresh to comic books stores, Mermaid’s Saga captured my heart way more. Seeing it all complete, but this time better edited and and presented, is a treasure to behold.
BEST COMICS HISTORY BOOK of 2020
Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books
Writer: Ken Quatro Publisher: Yoe Books
An large book full of lost history detailing the stories and lives of many obscure Black cartoonists and comic creators during comics Golden Age around the Second World War. Full of rare panels, pictures, fascinating facts on multiple genre contributions (some are very surprising!) what would have been lost if not for this book.
And, that’s all my favorites for the 2020 year. I probably missed or overlooked that might have been better. Please if so, let me know in the comments. I don’t want to feel left out on your best books.
Synopsis: The complete anime of Neon Genesis Evangelion done in more than 5 minutes (about 10), in live action but very low budget, abridged comedic fashion by the wonderful Mega54 crew!
Personal Thoughts (from Captain Orion):
I’m a huge fan of Neon Genesis Evangelion since its VHS release. Though there are many deep philosophical insights and discussions on the original anime and manga out there, it’s still something that gives plenty of room to not be taken too seriously. Neon Genesis Evangelion is may things – a visual masterpiece, a game changer for mech and giant robot genre of its time, an emotional roller coaster with complex characters and development. It’s also silly and absurd at times. The gang at Mega64, who I am also a huge fan has brought about the more fun side of Evangelion perfectly in this brilliantly done love letter to its fandom. Tons of in-jokes poking fun at its strange plot devices, weird foreshadowing, and melodrama. I also love the low budget, yet inventive and practical practical effects, costumes, sets. Just awesome, and perfect entertainment for at least 5 (10 minutes) of my time.
A lot of great games were released for this year. Many of them, I wish I got around to or had the consoles including Ghosts of Tsushima, Microsoft Flight Simulator, Doom: Eternal, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and more. We deserved fresh entertainment for this ongoing global pandemic crisis with the quarantines and social distancing shadowing much of 2020. Meanwhile, the interactive industry thrived with consistent sales, new consoles selling out, and plenty of new content for every player of all types.
Many of these fresh screen games set out to be enjoyed alone and/or socially online. We have more advanced gaming technology and means for online downloading, connecting, streaming, social discussing, cheering, and complaining. They all provide great distractions from the current time stresses as we may build upon new and renewed friendships with our shared love of gaming. Or, just pass the time and our best modern remedy for boredom with some single player escapism!
But for me, I’m a little bit of both types. I enjoy gaming alone, and with friends. Such depends on my mood and state of mind. Though, I steered more toward budgeting with big sales in games and freebies. There was plenty out there for those with the thinnest of wallets. I meanwhile, stayed mostly on my PC and Xbox One, no new consoles for me yet. I do want a Nintendo Switch, with time to play the many past games I missed for it.
Anyway, here are the games I personally present as the most important game awards to for 2020!
This is the BEST game of 2020, for many reasons that go back decades in what I ask for in a a best-tier video game. Make it challenging, story-deep, visually awesome, sensible controls, gratifying, constant surprises, great music, unique style, and heart. Hades has all of this and more, with aspects reminiscent of other personal favorites – Disgaea, Diablo, Dark Souls, Smash TV. But with Hades, the more you die, the more the game is revealed with more story and gameplay elements. There is so much more I would like to say, but just go play it if you’re into something that feels both old-school but also super modern in its approach and complexity.
BEST COOPERATIVE?! GAME OF 2020
Developed and published by Innersloth System: PC, Mobile, Nintendo Switch
A surprise that was released in 2018, but earned a huge boost in popularity thanks to its fans, developers, its very affordable price, online streams, and all around fun this game holds; all perfect for this time of mass quarantines and social distancing. Among Us is that connects us, as each game has its own story creating tension on just who Among Us is sus.
BEST KICKASS GAME OF 2020
STREETS OF RAGE 4
Developer: Dotemu, Guard Crush, Lizardcube Published by Dotemu System: All the current consoles and PC
HELL YES!!!! I freakin love the old Streets of Rage games for the Sega Genesis (and later mods, fan-made remakes). Streets of Rage 4 is THE damn great, official successor to all of that, including all that made the game great – action, complexity and variance to the button mashing, awesome musical tracks that your fists can dance to. The graphics are perfect with expressive visual style, vibrant colors, detailed backgrounds, and hella fun for co-op action too.
It’s not really a game, but it should be someday. It’s hard to explain. Just watch the trailer, and from there, explore the crazy insane possibilities and let your imagination figure out the direction. The more you tinker and discover new aspects of the game, the more more awesome your wierd little world. I love the animation, sound effects, every little detail no matter how small; making Townscaper worth checking out.
This particular Japanese anime style visual novel sets itself off apart with a very unique story, and choosy situations that center around mechanics that are very science fictiony, flirty. with deadly sub-games that take a bit more thinking than I would expect. I much enjoyed this all as I watched and chimed in for some very entertaining Twitch streams from a gamer friend that you should follow (twitch.tv/aechonex).
A fun puzzle-adventure with dating and cooking themes game? Helltaker is that and so much more. It’s very unique, with catchy beats, and a whole lot of fun. It’s also free!
BEST FINALLY GOT AROUND TO IT GAME OF 2020
FINAL FANTASY XV
Developed and published by Square Enix System: All the current consoles and PC
Final Fantasy XV came out a little over 4 years ago and has been in constant development all the way until 2019 with tis final DLC. This open-world game is freakin massive, giving its players much homework into other media for a wider complete experience. I found the 19.99 price for the Royal Edition (main game plus mostly all the DLC) the best I can get for my single-player RPG Final Fantasy loving needs. I enjoyed this far more than expected, delve deep into worldbuilding, and will forever treasure what it brought in this tough pandemic time.
BEST DEMO GAME OF 2020
THE LIFE AND SUFFERING OF SIR BRANTE
Developer by Sever published by 101XP System: PC for the demo
A surprise treat among I discovered among the PAX Online demos. It’s a visual novel that reads like a lifetime biography, but with choices that do indeed tell a story of about the life and suffering of (you can choose his name). It’s a series of very unfortunate events, where you do your best to make the best out of it, and find deeper meanings though it all. It’s different and worth checking out for visual novel fans, and something to watch out for when it’s fully released.
BEST GAME OF 2021, MAYBE..
Developer: Playstation, Xbox, and PC
The game I was most excited for its delayed release. And, I still am. But after seeing (and laughing) the glitches, problems, frustrations that seem to be a trend for these big, crazy games where play-testing continues with the player after its release…not playing or judging this until the final product is done with enough updates, patches, DLC, whatever it takes to experience as intended. Maybe it will be awesome as its hype. I will remain excited, and wait till the finished product.
That’s all the game awards for 2020 I got. If there was something else I should have played, please share in the comments below!
Published: June 25, 2020 as a short film exclusive from DUST
Synopsis:An inmate is trapped in his prison cell after an extraordinary circumstance happens beyond his prison walls. With outside forces threatening the ones he loves, he will do anything it takes to escape.
A most interesting story about a young man serving his time, but looking to make a change, biding his time for the future, excepting his isolation in the meantime. But, he doesn’t seem to be a cold-blooded killer, and has a kind heart with humane prospects, as we see though aspects of his room decor and phone conversations. He killed someone, but for reasons that suggest his own sense of justice, but he lives with the guilt in a system that judged him.
But a much bigger story in the outside world changes the conditions of his small room within, by too much. I love the contrast of those outside his micro prison, seemed to be affected less. He is forgotten, and you see his agony through a low deprivation of food, electricity, contact.
But he sees on chance for a way out, though someone who seems to care less for his plight, but with the means for an escape. He goes for his one chance through alien tech, and its gratifying when he takes advantage. The tech at the same time, is a tool of a different system, granting him that much needed extra chance. But to get that, he uses the one thing he does have to his advantage, and that’s the fear he conveys as an imprisoned Black male. That works very well.
What happens is the important resolution of this story, just be his freedom, and that’s enough. But, I also like how he holds on to the alien tech, as a sense of newfound responsibility, likely will put it better use than the former user, who I think probably stole it. Still, there’s much potential for more story with this odd new tech. Many problems can be solves, and created with this.
I love the acting, done very well by the star, Sidney Lawrence Brown, Jr. The use of light, angles, spacing with much of the film being restricted to a very small. And, then the refreshing contrast at the end, to a beautiful, very open world where the alien ship places little less.
Here’s an awesome look from our developing Stranger Worlds Youtube channel at some sample packs of the Mars Attacks Uprising trading cards, currently in Kickstarter development, and eventually released for public consumption. Here, our host, Captain Orion, opens a pack sent in from SideKick Labs, of which we send our heartfelt thanks and appreciation for. Captain Orion loves Mars Attacks, and was quite excited to check these out (but new at this whole YouTube thing). And now, watch the results and share in the excitment!
Writer: Gabriel de Bruin (Gabriel Greenough) and Katy Wang
Sound and music producer: Ambrose Yu
Published: Kingston University/Kingston School of Art 2017
NOTE: Originally a graduation project by Katy Wang, now featured in on a few video streaming pages
Synopsis:Stranded on a distant planet, a lonely astronaut sends out a signal in search of human contact.
Beautiful presentation, especially with the visuals and sound design. Also, I think there is a deeper meaning about loneliness, feeling lost, trying to connect in space where we many of us might as well be on Mars. We use our computers and online connections to reach out, hopefully eventually a stranger from some other world, and then connect. Then, even in the vastness of space, we feel that connection of finding each other. And that’s the best kind of contact!
NOTE: This is a fan film with no official affiliation to Lucasfilm/Disney.
Synopsis:Set before the events of Star Wars: Episode IV, a New Hope, an old Jedi Knight resides on the desert planet of Tatooine. His final duty, watch over, protect a special young boy, from a distance in secret. Agents of the sinister Galactic Empire arrive, to impose their presence and scout the area. What follows, is a danger for the New Hope, perhaps forcing the Knight to reveal himself.
I’m a sucker for anything with the Star Wars label on it. All of it stems from my love of the original movies, and then the immense amount of world-building done via the expanded universe entertainments, then the Prequel trilogy movies…which I have a love/hate relationship too. I would have almost grown tired of it since the overhyped newer movies, if not for the wonderful books, games, TV series spinoffs (huge shout out to the Clone Wars, and Rebels animated series).
But the fan films, and dedication by fans to tell Star Wars stories in their own special way, has kept the spirit of the Rebellion alive. It’s the homegrown nature of it all, that I love and feel open to surprises. Kenobi – A Star Wars Fan Film fits with that tradition, making another memorable piece of many since the days of Troops and Dark Redemption.
Actor Jamie Costa as Kenobi, surprises with a performance that have Sire Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor nod in appreciation. There shows his stoic character with gained wisdom, resorting to non-violence until the tense last minute, where he carefully weighs the stakes. The Empire, as represented here continues to show the true villainy of a fascist, oppressive regime (though a little of it feels cartoonish). There also shows the relationship between Obi-Wan and the Lars…strained and conflicted on the life of Luke, and also well-acted. All resulting in action, and tension, and that when added to the relationship of characters, is what Star Wars is half about.
The other half is cool mechanical and creature/alien designs, and related details not quote shown in Kenobi. For the elements in Kenobi, and the totalness that is the Star Wars universe is shown well with the Disney+ hit, The Mandalorian (which to me comes off as another great fan film with each episode, if I didn’t know any better).
I enjoyed this Kenobi film, especially for its pacing and build. The film directors and writers of the recent films could learn by watching this film and others, where dedication and love for the franchise could inspire better overall construction. This is a pleasant reminder, that the Force of the galaxy is strongest, with its fans.
Pages: 79, Publish Date: October 16 2019, Price: $7.99
Notes: The first of three books, published in a glossy thin paperback, traditionally sized for younger readers.
“The year is 1946, and the Lee family has moved from Metropolis’ Chinatown to the center of the bustling city. While Dr. Lee is greeted warmly in his new position at the Metropolis Health Department, his two kids, Roberta and Tommy, are more excited about being closer to their famous hero, Superman! While Tommy adjusts to the fast pace of the city, Roberta feels out of place, as she tries and fails to fit in with the neighborhood kids. As the Lees try to adjust to their new lives, an evil is stirring in Metropolis: the Ku Klux Klan. When the Lee family awakens one night to find a burning cross on their lawn, they consider leaving town. But the Daily Planet offers a reward for information on the KKK, and their top two reporters, Lois Lane and Clark Kent, dig into the story. When Tommy is kidnapped by the KKK, Superman leaps into action-with help from Roberta! But Superman is still new to his powers-he hasn’t even worked out how to fly yet, so he has to run across town. Will Superman and Roberta reach Tommy in time?
Inspired by the 1940s Superman radio serial “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese, Boxers and Saints, The Terrifics, New Super-Man) presents his personal retelling of the adventures of the Lee family as they team up with Superman to smash the Klan…”
Personal Thoughts (minor spoilers):
Superman Smashes the Klan is a superhero story challenging and exposing of real-life racism-based terrorism. The story for which it’s loosely based on the old radio play, “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” exposed the growing white supremacist group to a wider audience for its evils and inner-workings, giving it a much-needed negative exposure throughout the USA during the Golden Age of comics.
But now, we have the revision of the story, which may not make as big of an impact, but still relevant to our time as racism is still a thing, with many sinister groups out seeking to carry on the original ideals of the KKK, and other hate groups inspired by such and similar.
Which brings about the question…what does Superman have to do with any of this?
And it’s not so much on the whole concept of Superman taking on racism, but his superpowered existence whose skin color and American face of the caucasian male. He lives that privilege of being more accepted in American society of the time. But, he also chooses to be the superhero that has to combat the evils in all its forms, including those who abuse that privilege and imposes it upon others as a symbol of nationalism, and genetic pride.
So, it feels great to have him start this story combatting a cartoonish Nazi villain, perhaps reestablishing the ideal of truth, justice, and the American way. And, he enjoys doing it.
And that is the Superman I love.
Which, leads to a bigger story of where this goes, into the perspectives of the incoming Lee family, the newest immigrants to Metropolis of Chinese descent. They are like any new family moving into a big city, with two kids reacting to a new life ahead, and the father taking on a new job. Metropolis is well-known as this all-American city very similar to New York, and it’s where Superman lives. So here, sets up a dynamic of promise, that life will be exciting for the Lees.
And that’s where much of this story brings a smile to this reader, seeing Superman being more of a neighborhood hero to this large city. Eventually, we get to know the Lees through their perspectives on Superman, Golden Age Americana, and the immigrant reactions they face in Metropolis. This carries on the side story to the center, where the Lees seeks to integrate and become part of the American dream, which includes a typical suburban life and baseball. There is a fascination that what is real, and should be real.
Meanwhile, the human side of Clark Kent deals with his own self of being somewhat a stranger from birth, feeling the inner conflict of being different. His reflection on his past, where the idea of an alien in a magazine is that of a scary monster. He looks to the present, seeing a reflection of might have been. Superman has the luxury of his appearance, but what if he did look more alien? How much would he have to hide, how much would society fear him before accepting him as the premier superhero?
So, the developing story leads to the Lee family being terrorized by the Klan, though their signature cross being burned on their front lawn. Its terrible act leads to elevated threats of lynching. This real-life horror cuts through this otherwise innocent setting of Golden Age heroism backdrop, as the Lees deal with this real problem. The stakes may not be as high as an evil scientist with world-domination plans, but there is a sense of urgency that Superman responds to.
And that’s what I love about this story. It’s Superman standing up for those in need, against a real-life threat to its time, that has changed and shifted into an evil that still festers today.
I also love the art, set for younger readers to enjoy with a slight manga appeal to it, but with solid coloring and traditional sequential art transitions. The facial expressions are defined, given a mix of liveliness and heart to Superman’s world missed in the most recent cinema incarnations. The settings of night and day, suburban and city, home life and work life, add a homely, identifiable nature to Metropolis. The contrast of the Klan presence as dark and fiery shows where the danger is, waiting for Superman to eventually expose it all, hopefully in upcoming chapters.
Superman Smashes the Klan is not a traditional comic book, in both its story and its format. Readers will find in a smaller paperback form similar to a young adult read, targeted for younger readers. There is less collector value and more reading value, and that’s welcome in any format and any age. Also, there is small yet very informative retrospect by Gene Luen Yang, with more a focus on the real-life history of organized racism in the US.
Overall, I like this short read and look forward to the next issue of this three-part series.
Writer: Joseph Keatinge
Artist: Bret Blevins
Letterer: Rus Wooten
Published by: Image Comics, SkyBound Ent.
Published Release Date: January 16, 2019 Pages: 123
Notes: Created by Robert Kirkman, Marc Silvestri. Monthly ongoing series. This volume collects the first six issues
“Stellar was taken as a child and transformed into the ultimate weapon, one that would end an intergalactic war. She succeeded… at everything except finding peace. Reduced to working as a bounty hunter, she scours the worlds she’s broken, searching for redemption. But there are other weapons loose in the galaxy, and some just can’t leave the war behind them. JOSEPH KEATINGE (SHUTTER) and legendary artist BRET BLEVINS (New Mutants, Sleepwalker) will transport you to another dimension, filled with crashed spaceships, fast-talking aliens, and ageless wonders. Collects STELLAR #1-6”
Personal Thoughts (with spoilers):
Stellar is a mix of old school Heavy Metal magazine classic style, gritty spaghetti western feels, and unhinged fight opera.
The artwork here is a beautiful thing, mixed with gorgeous imaginary settings, weird creatures, far-out space-tech that enough to understand, but gives off grander aesthetics to appreciate. Just look at it!
The story of Stellar is not simple or spoon fed to the reader. It’s a heroine’s journey not only in a straight circle but in a twisted cord, where the reader needs to go through and unravel until the linear path is revealed. It’s not a bad thing, as much of it is solid action, some violent gore, and badass posturing.
Meaning, you can really enjoy Stellar for that it is; a good old-fashioned mix of pulp and fantasy set in something that is less science than fiction.
The character of Stellar reminds a bit of the classic early Marvel Silver Surfer tales by Stan Lee with Jack Kirby, and John Romita, Sr. Stellar starts out simple, but harsh circumstances bring her to a journey of many stages leading to a present-day solitary survivalist life until the past comes back. Then come new conflict and challenges, which is very epic at times. She may make a friend or two as well…
Eventually, a grander tale is revealed with a conflict that becomes very personal. It’s awesome, but not for everyone. There are revelations and flashbacks, coming back to a violent confrontation for Stellar to move on. This becomes a guilty pleasure for those wanting their comic book reading to be primal and full of escapism. Stellar gives plenty of that.
So, I really enjoyed Stellar for being something different, but not overly highbrow or pretentious. One can enjoy it for what it is if they love old spaghetti westerns and wrestling smackdown melodramas. The art with awesome colors makes it all better.
However, some of that action results in some gory, violent results. If thrilled by that, then dig in for a good helping. It’s not constant, but such moments can be special.
So, if looking for science fiction that feels more adventurous and action-packed, with a great visual style, do pick up Stellar.