From left: HBO, Fox
Though we’ll miss the many actors, authors, and artists – as well as the favourite TV shows, comics, and characters – who left us this year, at least we’ll always have the joy, thrills, stinging one-liners, breathtaking action scenes, and iconic moments they left behind.
The people we’ll miss
John G. Avildsen
He won a Best Director Oscar for Rocky, but we’ll always know Avildsen best for directing the first three Karate Kid movies, particularly the 1984 original. The underdog tale isn’t technically a genre film, but it’s a touchstone classic for kids of the 1980s, and its many quotable moments (“Wax on, wax off!”) have become timeless. (December 21, 1935-June 16, 2017)
William Peter Blatty with The Exorcist star Linda Blair in 2000. Image: AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian
William Peter Blatty
After his 1971 novel The Exorcist became a best-seller, Blatty wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay adaptation and served as a producer on what would become one of the greatest horror movies ever made. (“To this day, I have zero recollection of even a moment when I was writing that I was trying to frighten anyone,” he told the L.A. Times in 2013.) Blatty continued his association with his most famous title by writing and directing the underrated Exorcist III, which got a “definitive cut” re-release in 2016 — retitled Legion, after his novel. (January 7, 1928-January 12, 2017)
He spent his early career working alongside B-movie king Roger Corman, so it’s perfect that Corman had a cameo in Demme’s greatest success: The Silence of the Lambs, one of only three films in history to win Oscars in all five top categories, including Best Director. Demme also made hits like Stop Making Sense and Philadelphia, but the masterful hand he brought to Lambs — those loaded back-and-forths between Clarice and Hannibal the Cannibal on opposite sides of the prison glass; that agonizing final basement scene — is what we’ll remember the most. (February 22, 1944-April 26, 2017)
Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) and Gordon Cole (David Lynch) in Twin Peaks: The Return. Image: Showtime
Fans said farewell to Miguel Ferrer in January but were in for a huge treat when David Lynch brought Twin Peaks back to the airwaves in May. Ferrer’s no-nonsense yet surprisingly spiritual FBI agent Albert Rosenfield played a key part in the show’s highly anticipated third season, working closely with Lynch’s character, Gordon Cole. While time had softened Albert a teeny bit (he even went on a date!), he was still as razor-sharp and acerbic as ever — and his return to Twin Peaks yielded a fitting, if bittersweet, send-off for the actor. (February 7, 1955-January 19, 2017)
Fisher’s sudden passing came so late in 2016 that we didn’t include her in last year’s version of this post, but her loss was so monumental we wanted to recognise her now. It kind of feels impossible that she’s not still here, considering her powerful presence and inimitable warmth (not to mention all that gorgeous “space jewellery,” a term she coined) looms large in the just-released The Last Jedi. That Star Wars was only one of her many accomplishments is a testament to what a truly remarkable person she was. (October 21, 1956-December 27, 2016)
Though he had to be convinced to take the role at first, Battlestar Galactica‘s O.G. Captain Apollo became so attached to the series during his initial 1978 run that he became instrumental in keeping it alive in the hearts of fans — and, he hoped, television execs. Though Hatch’s own attempt at reviving the series was passed over in favour of Ronald D. Moore’s version, the actor ended up a part of Battlestar‘s return to the airwaves anyway, playing the complex, juicy part of political extremist Tom Zarek. (May 21, 1945-February 7, 2017)
What can you say about the man who co-wrote and directed the hugely influential horror classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the rare film that actually lives up to its insanely gruesome title? How about that he also directed the Steven Spielberg-produced Poltergeist, as well as more than his share of cult films, including Lifeforce and the loopy Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2? Hooper also helmed a lion’s share of spooky TV episodes and movies, including a well-received miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. But the Texas native’s low-budget breakout will always be his most-vaunted project — and with good reason. It’s still just as chilling as it was back in 1974. (January 25, 1943-August 26, 2017)
He would have been an acting legend no matter what, just based on the talent that guided his six-decade career. Though he was a versatile performer, Hurt clearly had a love for genre movies, with memorable turns in Snowpiercer, multiple Harry Potter and Hellboy films, and even the otherwise lamentable Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. But scifi fans will always love him best as Kane in Alien, host of the chest-bursting parasite that launched a thousand shrieks and probably even more barf bags — an iconic moment he gamely spoofed a few years later in Spaceballs. (January 22, 1940-January 25, 2017)
He became a household name thanks to his role as master of disguise Rollin Hand on the 1960s TV show Mission: Impossible; a decade or so later, he also starred in the moon-set series Space: 1999. His varied career (including a stint voicing Scorpion on Spider-Man: The Animated Series) was capped by an Oscar win for Best Supporting Actor, playing Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s biopic Ed Wood. The performance was more than mere imitation; it was the heartbreaking center of the movie, capturing an ageing horror legend far removed from stardom as he faced the end of his life. (June 20, 1928-July 15, 2017)
After Sean Connery and George Lazenby, the dashing Moore brought a dose of humour to the role of James Bond, who he played in seven films through the 1970s and ’80s: Live and Let Die, The Man With the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, and A View to a Kill. Though Moore was also known for his TV work (particularly Simon Templar in The Saint), Bond was his most famous character, and he winked at the iconic superspy with cameos in movies like Spice World and Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore — in which he voiced a bowtie-wearing, secret-agent feline named “Tab Lazenby.” (October 14, 1927-May 23, 2017)
Michael Parks as Earl McGraw, a character he’d play in several films, seen here in From Dusk Till Dawn. Image: Dimension Films
A character actor who got his start in TV on shows like The Real McCoys and Perry Mason, Parks later became a go-to favourite for directors like Kevin Smith (Red State, Tusk), Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill, Django Unchained), and Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk Till Dawn, Grindhouse). He also played the villainous Jean Renault on the original Twin Peaks series, and popped up as legendary comic book artist Jack Kirby in Argo, helping Ben Affleck’s CIA character create a fake scifi blockbuster. (April 24, 1940-May 9, 2017)
Trying to pick a single favourite Paxton character is an exercise in futility — he made so very many awesome movies, and even the somewhat less-awesome entries on his filmography were vastly improved by his presence (ahem, Club Dread). We picked our top Paxton roles in the post below, but you know them already: Aliens, Weird Science, Twister, Terminator, Near Dark, Predator 2, True Lies… the list goes on, and so will the actor’s legacy of intense, energetic performances. (May 17, 1955-February 25, 2017)
The prolific author of both non-fiction (a regular contributor to Byte magazine, he also penned several early computer manuals) and science fiction, including collaborations with Larry Niven and Steven Barnes (The Mote in God’s Eye, The Mercenary, Lucifer’s Hammer), Pournelle was also famed as the first author to publish a novel written entirely on a personal computer. (August 7, 1933-September 8, 2017)
A World War II veteran who began his show-biz career in the early 1950s, Rickles was best-known for his stand-up comedy routines as well as his roles in war-themed movies like Run Silent, Run Deep and Kelly’s Heroes. He was a Hollywood heavyweight no matter how you look at it — but he’ll always have a special place in io9’s heart for one of his sweetest roles, voicing Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story films. (May 8, 1926-April 6, 2017)
Image: Ethan Miller/Getty Images
George A. Romero
The father of the modern zombie movie, Romero changed the horror genre forever in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead — a low-budget black-and-white chiller that couched sly social commentary within its suspenseful tale of desperate strangers who find shelter together in a farmhouse surrounded by the hungry undead. Though he never left his trademark shambling, brain-eating creations behind, adding to his original Dead trilogy with late-career entries like 2009’s Survival of the Dead, Romero eagerly explored other kinds of monsters, too, directing films like Creepshow, Martin, The Crazies, and The Dark Half. (February 4, 1940-July 16, 2017)
Harry Dean Stanton
Though it’s sad to lose any treasured performer, Stanton — who passed away at age 91 — was clearly someone who left this mortal coil with zero regrets, living a robust life fully on his own terms. The phrase “they broke the mould” may be a cliché, but in this case, it truly fits. His incredible career encompassed many different types of films, including some of the greatest scifi and cult entries ever (like Alien, Repo Man, and Escape From New York). One of his final gigs was reprising his role from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me for Twin Peaks: The Return, playing a trailer-park manager who proves to be one of the most solid-gold good guys in the show’s topsy-turvy universe. (July 14, 1926-September 15, 2017)
Steinberg was one of Marvel’s earliest employees, serving as Stan Lee’s right-hand woman, interacting with fans, and generally keeping the office on track during the company’s rapid growth in the 1960s. In the 1970s, she published one of America’s first indie comics, Big Apple Comix; she’d since left her regular gig at Marvel, but continued her association with the company over the years. When she died, the publisher released a statement that read in part: “Flo has always been the heart of Marvel and a legend in her own right. She will be forever missed and always loved by all of us here at Marvel.” (March 17, 1939-July 23, 2017)
He was the co-creator of DC’s Swamp Thing and the editor of Watchmen, and he also had a hand in the 1975 X-Men revival at Marvel. But beyond the impressive list of titles he was involved through his long career in the industry, Wein also continuously “broadened the possibilities of comics-making,” as io9’s Evan Narcisse wrote in a tribute after Wein’s death. DC Entertainment head Geoff Johns praised Wein’s skills as both a writer and editor, noting in a statement, “He helped to revitalize the entire DC Universe.” (June 12, 1948-September 10, 2017)
Sadly, Len Wein’s Swamp Thing co-creator — an artist widely praised for his intricate drawings who favoured horror themes, including his highly acclaimed passion project, an illustrated adaptation of Frankenstein — also passed away this year. His art extended beyond comic books (he drew the iconic poster for Creepshow) and influenced and inspired countless other artists. After his death, his famous superfans took to social media to share their tributes. Guillermo del Toro called Wrightson “the greatest Gothic artist of all,” while Mike Mignola said “He was a genius, and not just a monster guy. Everything Bernie did had soul.” (October 27, 1948-March 18, 2017)
TV Shows We’ll Miss
To the chagrin of its small but passionate fan base, Syfy’s space-intrigue drama Dark Matter — which begins with a group of people waking up on a spaceship with no recollection of who they are, how they got there, or where they’re going — was canceled after its third season.
We never learned what caused the “Sudden Departure” that spirited away a chunk of humanity at the start of the HBO show’s first season. But The Leftovers reached its well-plotted conclusion after three seasons that varied in setting and tone but still stayed true to the show’s distinct flavour of eerie, yet mystical realism.
The cult-beloved BBC America show starring alarmingly talented Emmy winner Tatiana Maslany as multiple identical, but distinctly different, clones wrapped up after five intense, thrilling seasons. The characters of the show were like family to Clone Club and knowing the series was about to come to an end didn’t make saying goodbye any easier. The fact that some main characters also met their ends? Devastating.
Despite a valiant effort to completely retool Powerless after its pilot misfired, NBC’s office comedy set within the DC superhero universe was canceled before all of season one’s episodes had even hit the airwaves. The show certainly had its issues, but it also had some very sly DC superhero jokes and Easter eggs that made it worth the shop-worn office sitcom plots.
Maybe the most insane show ever to air on CBS, Zoo — about a global animal uprising that puts the human race on the fast track for extinction — was canceled after three seasons, ending on a silly cliffhanger that really should have resigned all involved to be eaten by a giant, invisible snake.
Comics We’ll Miss
Black Panther & The Crew
Though it told a timely story that touched on very real current issues, including police brutality in black communities, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Yona Harvey was canceled after two issues and wrapped up its run after six.
The final issue of DC’s tale of kids at a spooky prep school that just happens to be across the street from Arkham Asylum dropped in August, capping a run that began in 2014 as part of DC’s “New 52.” Writers Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher and artist Karl Kerschl created the series, which had a delightful crossover run with Boom Studio’s Lumberjanes in 2016.
Writer Dan Slott and artist Michael Allred ended their run on the Eisner-winning reinterpretation of the intergalactic Marvel hero in October after several years and no regrets. Allred told Entertainment Weekly, “I can’t think of a more satisfying project I’ve ever been a part of… there’s an intoxicating sense of accomplishment, but also crushing sadness, like any end to a beloved era. A happy, satisfying, crushing sadness.”
Characters We’ll Miss (and the Method of Their Demise)
We mentioned a few of these in our video yesterday, but there are more characters we lost this year that we’re mourning.
Bill Potts and the Twelfth Doctor, Doctor Who
Bill and the Doctor were separated and the beloved new companion wound up getting shot, converted into a Cyberman, and then transformed into a sentient oil. It was… a lot. But the Doctor will be back — in a completely new form, of course.
Olenna “Queen of Thorns” Tyrell, Game of Thrones
Poison — but not before getting one last verbal knife-twist into those goddamn Lannisters by revealing to Jaime she’s the one who killed his terrible son Joffrey
Yondu Udonta, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Yondu ended up being the real father figure to Peter Quill (who, as it turns out, had one of the worst biological dads ever) — and sacrificed himself in space to make sure Peter would survive. That was emotional enough, but then came his funeral. Seeing people across the galaxy salute the fallen Ravager was an unforgettable moment.
Logan and Charles Xavier, Logan
Wolverine succumbs after basically fighting time, age, the weakening of his mutant healing powers, and dozens of bad guys as the movie goes on; Professor X is taken down by the evil X-24. They were both near the end of their lives, but their deaths were still hard to watch.
Siobhan, Orphan Black
Murdered by that scumbag Ferdinand — but not before she shot him in the throat and got to see him bleed out in her living room. She seemed accepting of her death in the end, knowing her “chickens” were safer for her actions.
Luke Skywalker and Admiral Ackbar, Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Luke’s done in after using every scrap of his Force powers to astral-project himself to Crait to give the remnant to the Resistance time to escape the First Order. Meanwhile, Ackbar dies (offscreen) after a devastating First Order attack on the Raddus.
Bob Newby, Stranger Things 2
Death by “Demo-dogs.” You were too good for this world, Bob. Much, much too good.
Sasha, The Walking Dead
She committed suicide while being transported in a coffin by the Saviors, in an attempt to kill Negan as a zombie. Of course, the real reason Sasha died is because actress Sonequa Martin-Green was hired to star in Star Trek: Discovery.
Caesar, War for the Planet of the Apes
Succumbs to battle wounds, but not before passing the torch to his son Cornelius.
Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman
Blown to bits after stealing an enemy plane rigged with deadly gas, sacrificing himself to save untold innocent lives, and making Wonder Woman so sad she decided to work on art preservation for about a 100 years or so.