Mercifully, 2017 has begun fading in the distance. It can be easy to look back at the last 355 days or so and see only the bad stuff – super easy, actually – but 2017 wasn’t without its good days, too. We have huddled together to assemble lists of the past year’s happy surprises and disappointments, so pull up a seat and get a big helping of what went down over the last 12 months.
All the Good Omens casting
For oh-so-long, Neil Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens seemed like one of those beloved novels that could never be adapted. But Gaiman became the showrunner on the upcoming Amazon/BBC TV adaptation of the book he co-wrote and started sharing glimpses of miracles happening. David Tennant as Crowley and Michael Sheen as Aziraphale. Jon Hamm as Gabriel. Getting top-shelf talent to sign on to a quirky fiction like Good Omens bodes well for the vision of the folks making the show.
Doctor Who, as a series, hell, as a concept, is defined by change. A new time and place every week, new monsters to face, new stories to tell, and every few years, a new hero to do all that with. But this year, the show took one of biggest and boldest steps since it was first decided to recast an ailing William Hartnell back in the ’60s: On a warm Sunday afternoon, Jodie Whittaker, the first woman to officially play the Doctor, lowered her hood and revealed herself to the world. After years of dodging questions from fans and even playfully indicating its inevitability, Doctor Who took a big step that promises a completely fresh version of itself, even after over five decades of adventures in time and space.
Iron Fist‘s critical backlash wasn’t great for The Defenders going in — after all, he was to be the lynchpin that brought all of Marvel and Netflix’s shows together for the event. But it also presented a cathartic opportunity for viewers: The chance to see their own distastes for Danny echoed on screen by sceptical characters like Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. And boy, did they deliver (especially Jessica, whose mercilessness extended to other teammates as well). From Luke’s scathing first conversation with Danny about his privilege to Jess’ frequent put downs, The Defenders became a cathartic release for fans disappointed by Iron Fist‘s first season. And in the end, it helped leave Danny in a better place for a (hopefully much improved) second season.
— Marvel Entertainment (@Marvel) July 23, 2017
Ever since a solo movie for the King of Wakanda was announced as part of Marvel’s Phase Three slate, fans have been eagerly awaiting a glimpse of the Marvel Universe’s Afrofuturist paradise. The pining-away got really bad for folks who weren’t lucky enough to see the footage shown at a Hall H session of this year’s Comic-Con. However, you could still feel the enthusiasm when a reaction video showed Black Panther cast members getting hyped off a look at their own movie. Even months later, after we’ve seen a lot more of the film in teasers and trailers, the reaction video might be the most effective engine of excitement so far for Black Panther.
Look, nobody can help it. When you read the words “Hellboy” and “movie” together, Ron Perlman’s face pops into your head. It doesn’t help that there was a long, cruel tease that made it seem like Hellboy 3 was going to get made. That didn’t wind up happening. Fortunately, we’re getting an all-new Hellboy movie instead, featuring Stranger Things‘ favourite policeman in the lead role. The first picture of Harbour as Anung Un Rama is a stunning example of a performer transforming their body for a very different kind of role, and just the thing to get fans of the BPRD’s top investigator excited for the movie to come.
Madeleine L’Engle’s classic novel about a girl genius traversing the universe to find her lost scientist father has transported readers to other worlds for decades. When the initial glimpse at the Wrinkle in Time movie hit the internet, it was clear that director Ava DuVernay understood how to make the book’s wild, exotic energy look fantastic on celluloid. Casting folks like Chris Pine, Mindy Kaling, Reese Witherspoon, and Oprah Winfrey is just the icing on the intergalactic cake.
Over the summer, io9's Germain Lussier did the opposite of making the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs. He built that gigantic, 7,500-piece, $US800 ($1,044) Star Wars Ultimate Collectors Series Millennium Falcon over the course of 34 hours, spread over eight days. It was an experience that mixed joy and pain but, at the end of it all, Germain could say that he built the fastest ship (and most expensive Lego set) in the galaxy with his own two hands.
Gal Gadot meets a tiny Wonder Woman fan
The blockbuster success of Wonder Woman makes it clear that the symbolism inherent to Diana of Themyscira makes her an important and inspiring character. Seeing a beloved superhero on the big screen can be a magical moment, and watching a little girl walk up in Wonder Woman’s outfit and get a big hug from the actress who played the Amazing Amazon drives home the fact that these films can be catalysts for a whole new generation of fans. It’s enough to make a mum — and millions of strangers — get all emotional.
One of the earliest glimpses of Stranger Things season two was one of the best, because it used Michael Jackson’s legendary hit pop song as a backdrop to all its plot teases. As an eternal piece of 1980s pop culture that’s also horror-centric, “Thriller” was a perfect song to get people hyped for more Stranger Things. We only wish Vincent Price were around to narrate the entire TV series.
We got an honest-to-God DC/CW crossover
Although last year’s “Invasion” was billed as a crossover, it felt much, much more like four distinct episodes of the four different shows — Arrow, the Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow — but just with more guest stars than usual. (Hell, the Supergirl episode didn’t even have those until the last 30 seconds or so.) But this fall’s massive event felt like the first real time that the CW finally got to do a proper, full on-crossover for its DC superhero shows. And it was amazing! Crisis on Earth-X had all the trimmings of a big multiversal to-do: Barry Allen and Iris West’s wedding crashed by alt-reality bad guys, scaled-up action sequences, great banter, and melodramatic sacrifices. Oh, and Supergirl singing!
The fascinating new take on Harley Quinn of Batman: The Enemy Within
We’ve gotten a bunch of different iterations of Harley Quinn ever since she debuted on Batman: The Animated Series 25 years ago. They have mostly leaned on very similar aspects of the character, depending on intended audience. The Harley we met in Telltale Studios’ Batman: The Enemy Within episodic video game was different. She clearly ran the criminal enterprise the Dark Knight was trying to stop and her relationship with Joker-to-be John Doe was one where she is the alpha partner that pulls another person into orbit. The Enemy Within will wrap up in 2018 but, however it ends, it’s already given players a great re-imagining of a fan-favourite character.
Christmas horror stories are an established story genre, it’s true, but nobody expected the frickin’ White House’s Yuletide decorations to look like the site of a ritual sacrifice. The first glimpse of the decked halls at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue gave off a dark, foreboding vibe straight out of a Silent Hill video game or indie slasher flick. Yes, the subsequent memes roasting this shadowy photograph were exquisite, but the initial look was still a major bummer in a year filled with them.
The many, many sexual harassers in the world of nerd culture
One of the ugliest threads running through 2017 has been the painful revelations of sexual harassment behaviour from powerful, entitled, and privileged men toward women in their social and professional circles. Nerd cultures are just parts of the larger society and they have been rocked by accusations and admissions of guilt, too. Whether it’s Eddie Berganza at DC Comics, CW superhero showrunner Andrew Kreisberg, or Pixar CEO John Lasseter, it sucks to think that the caretakers and decision-makers behind some of our favourite characters and creations can’t be bothered to respect the basic humanity of other people.
Marvel’s new editor-in-chief revealed to have used Japanese pseudonym
Imagine creating a fictional person of another race — not just a name or a concept for a story, but a fully-fleshed out character that you pretended to be on the internet. Now imagine that you began to apply for jobs as this person, all the while you wrote stories about that person’s foreign culture based on a handful of trips you made to the country this fictional person would have been from, if they were real. Imagine building a name and a career for yourself all the while pretending to be this fictional person of another race, while your employer struggles to deal with the perception that it isn’t actually a welcome workplace for the kind of people that you’re pretending to be.
This is effectively what happened with C.B. Cebulski, Marvel’s newly-appointed editor-in-chief, who was recently exposed to have been masquerading as Japanese comics writer “Akira Yoshida.” After being exposed, Cebulski made a lacklustre apology for his actions, though Marvel itself never officially commented on him or its decision to make him the lead of its comics division. What Cebulski did was weird and gross and racist and, but as it stands now, it seems to be the sort of thing that one can get away with with the expectation of being promoted.
In last year’s Highlights and Lowlights, we bemoaned the fact that showrunner/show wonder (see what we did there) Fuller left the Star Trek: Discovery TV series due to creative differences with CBS. Well, it’s a new year and the creator of Hannibal, Pushing Daisies, and more has left another series — American Gods, our very best TV series of the year. The Statz adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s award-winning 2001 novel won over a devoted fan base with cheeky performances, trippy dream logic, and a quirkily philosophical bent. An all-star cast seemed to be giving the show their all, and having a heck of a time embodying the new and old gods who were battling for power. So it was a real shock when the two men responsible for American Gods‘ tones and textures suddenly left in the middle of planning for a second season, due in part to disputes over the show’s budget. American Gods will rise from its celestial slumber eventually but it’s an open question as to whether it will be worthy of continued worship.
In the wake of allegations of domestic abuse against his ex-wife Amber Heard, Johnny Depp’s prominence in the reveal of the cast of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald (as the titular villain, making for a grimly apt title) was met with strong concerns from contingents of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts fans. It didn’t help that those concerns were fanned by a truly awful response to them from Beasts director David Yates. But the biggest disappointment came shortly after, when J.K. Rowling released a statement of her own that, after briefly acknowledging the complexity and sadness of the situation for fans, proceeded to simply say that everything was fine and it was good that Beasts had decided against a recast. It was a statement that did little to heal the growing divide among fans over the casting choice, even if it was an improved statement over Yates’ initial reaction.
In some circles, Star Trek vs. Star Wars is the eternal scifi debate. Just bringing up the idea of Han Solo facing off against James T. Kirk can liven up the mood of a geek-centric gathering. But that’s not what happened at this year’s Comic-Con. When Adam Savage was asked to eliminate either the signature creations of Gene Roddenberry and George Lucas, his response photon-torpedoed the moods of everyone in the room. Savage said that, in his mind, Star Trek loses out to Star Wars because it offers false hope of mankind building a utopia and that our current miserable state of affairs shows that isn’t likely to happen. It was a grim reminder that the escapism we enjoy so much is still surrounded by a real world with plenty of problems.
The insane Rick & Morty Szechuan Sauce debacle
Rick & Morty is a raunchy scifi cartoon with an extremely enthusiastic fanbase. This fall, the Cartoon Network series teamed up with McDonald’s to release a limited-edition dipping sauce and all hell broke loose when it sold out too quickly. Folks threw tantrums, cussed out Mickey D’s staff, and acted a fool so badly that the cops had to get called at some places. The show may be great, but unless it grants access to alternate realities, no condiment is worth having to deal with this many jerks.
Classic fairy tales get re-made and re-imagined all the time in wacky and successful ways. Once the marketing for Red Shoes and the 7 Dwarfs debuted at Cannes Film Festival, however, it killed any anticipation it was designed to build. The billboards boiled down the film’s premise in the worst possible way, by showing two versions of the main character and suggestion that the one who weighed more was “no longer beautiful.” Attempts at damage control tried to trumpet the 2018 movie’s supposedly empowering message, but this was a screw-up that pretty much amounts to a kiss of death.
When the public first learned what Marvel’s Secret Empire was supposed to be about, we had our reservations about what could be gained from a story in which Captain America became a Nazi. But people took Marvel at their word when the company said that Secret Empire would ultimately prove itself to be an important, moving story about the importance of resisting tyrannical systems of power and… they waited. And then Secret Empire ended up becoming exactly what everyone feared: An overwrought, ill-thought-out story that was staggeringly tone-deaf, given the all-too-real fact that Nazi sympathizers have one again become a major part of the American political landscape. (As otherwise fun as Crisis on Earth-X was, it had the exact same problem.)
Marvel’s string of ultra-profitable superhero movies has turned legions of moviegoers into devoted fans. But the comic-book giant still has lots of work to do when it comes to onscreen characters that reflect the make-up of its diverse fanbase. The most glaring example of that shortfall came with Thor: Ragnarok, where Tessa Thompson livened up the proceedings as warrior goddess Valkyrie. When the actress let it be known that a scene meant to convey that the character was bisexual was cut from the film, it was yet another cruel disappointment for LGBTQ fans who want to see someone like them be a superhero in the most dominant movie franchise around.
In the midst of great triumph can come great tragedy. It seemed like a great idea to film io9er Germain Lussier building a pricey, collector’s-edition Millennium Falcon and, for the most part, it was. But after he had completely created the beloved Corellian freighter over that gruelling, 34-hour process, he tried to move it… and one slip did what the Empire had never been able to: Destroy the Falcon. It was enough to make a guy scream “Nooooooooo!” across the entire galaxy.