Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Best Headlines of the Year 2014

So early in the year, I started sharing headlines that I thought were funny and saying "Contender for headline of the year." A friend wondered if I was actually keeping track... so I did.

So... presented for your approval, the contenders for headline of the year 2014. If I do this again next year, I'll probably leave Gawker headlines out, since those are purposefully exaggerated for linkbait purposes. The Guardian from the UK might also be too good at this.

As for what caught my eyes (and the eyes of others)? Sex, genitals, murder through unusual means, bestiality, drugs and unusual uses for animals.

My favorite? I still have to go with the very first one, which is the last one on the list.

Husband arrested for attacking his pregnant wife with a McChicken sandwich because "he doesn't like them"

Snake Thrown in Tim Horton's after diced onion dispute

 "Cannibal" Eats Woman and then dies after being tasered in Welsh Hotel

Male SF startup promises to make women's vaginas smell like ripe peaches

Nude man falls through ceiling at Logan, assaults bystander

Nervous Chinese Officials Search Pigeon Anuses for Bombs

Teletubby Breaks Into Home, Dumps Chinese Food In Purse, Leaves

Farrah Abraham Dressed Up As Frozen Elsa to Sell Molds of Her Asshole

Polygamist women dressed 'like ninjas' attack home of witness in Utah sex assault case

Nude Beach Blow Job Jet Ski Fight Leads to Wife's Death

Kid Rock subpoenaed to produce glass dildo as evidence in Insane Clown Posse lawsuit

Chubby Checker, HP settle lawsuit over penis-measuring app

American Exchange Student Pulled out of Giant German Vagina

Captain America Arrested for sending dick pics to teenage girl

High Elf High on Acid Attacks Woman's BMW with a sword

Woman killed with banjos

Topless Florida Woman Destroys McDonalds, Stops To Eat Ice Cream

Police Cite Texas Man In Banana Costume With AK-47 Across His Back

Norwegian Mass Murderer Refuses to Eat Until Prison Upgrades His Playstation Console

Man Covered in Jelly Had Sex With Cow While Friend Recorded It

German Barn Explosion Caused by 90 Farting Cows

Woman Pulls Gun from Vagina After Dispute Over Space Aliens: Cops

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Best of 2014 - Top 10 Ongoing Comics

Image had 7 of my top 10 in this category, with Archie Comics sneaking one in and Marvel claiming the other two. There are also three more Image comics that didn't quite make the top 10. So yeah, it's pretty easy to call Image my favorite publisher. There are two superhero books in this list, 6 sci-fi/fantasy (fudging to include Rat Queens and Manifest Destiny in that latter category), 3 horror (fudging to include Fatale), 1 action/crime (Velvet) and then whatever category Chew is. I suppose you could call it sci-fi... or superhero. At any rate, it definitely fits in the category of comedy, as does Sex Criminals, Rat Queens and arguably Hawkeye.

Something interesting to me is how many books on this list are on the "also appeals to women" list. Notably Saga, Sex Criminals, Alex + Ada, Velvet and Rat Queens, but every book on this list has a strong female following. I don't know what that says about my tastes, but I think it says something for the health of the market that my top 10 contains a lot of female-friendly titles in genres other than superheroes and that unlike in past years, these are series that are doing well in the market. I'm used to loving series that get cancelled too early, and there was a lot less of that in 2014.

Interestingly, only one of the series in my top 13 published 12 issues this year, and that's Daredevil. The rest were at about six, eight at the highest. Maybe as a general rule, the monthly grind doesn't produce the best books anymore?

1. Saga #18-24 (Last year: #1)
Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples continue to tell the best story in comics. They've built up an expansive cast and fascinating setting, and feel free to screw with reader expectations, often to heart-breaking effect. Like Game of Thrones, Saga is not a series where you want to get too comfortable with any characters, because nobody is really safe. That sense of danger, along with deep characterization that gives a strong sense of humanity to these alien characters, Staples's lush and distinctive artwork and Vaughan's gift for clever dialogue make this the best comic on the stands.

2. Sex Criminals #4-9 (Last year: #1 on My New List)
Last year this was shiny and new and shocking and I didn't know where it was going. This year it was more familiar, but still outrageously funny, surprisingly smart and serious at times and still one of the best comics every month. The letters column is almost as good as the comic itself, and I'm glad they decided to collect those as well as the comics.

3. Daredevil #35-36, 1-11 (Last year: #2)
Waid wrapped up his run on Daredevil and then immediately relaunched a new series with Chris Samnee on board, relocating Daredevil to San Francisco, and the results have been terrific. Very strong use of a couple of traditional Daredevil villains in untraditional ways, the change of locale has worked out well... next year they're closing out the run, but that's a good long run of pretty consistently great comics.

4. Afterlife with Archie #3-6 (Last year: #3 on My New List)
The second half of this one was every bit as good as the first, and the single issue Sabrina vs. Cthulhu a surprising and entertaining change of pace. I sure wish the production was a little faster, as this is pretty much a quarterly book, but I'll take what I can get.

5. Alex + Ada #3-11
Didn't make the list last year because I'd only seen two issues. Now that I've seen more, this definitely ranks among my favorite series. Great speculative technology, meditation on the nature of A.I. and the nature of love and life and human emotions. Probably my favorite things the Luna Brothers have been involved with, I don't know if that's co-writer Sarah Vaughn or what, but this is a really great series. It also happens to be the first one in my top five that was closer to monthly.

6. Chew #39-44 (Last year: #4)
Big, big things happening in Chew this year. Family Recipes starts positioning the main conflict of Tony vs. the Vampire, and shows us a lot more about Olive Chu, not to mention bringing back Savoy in a major way. And Chicken Tenders just rolls on and builds that momentum. With a year and a half worth of issues to go, this book definitely feels like it's hitting the home stretch. Still plenty of mysteries, but the character arcs are dovetailing nicely, and there's still plenty of room for weirdness and humor, a lot of it in the form of the increasingly present Poyo.

7. Velvet #3-8 (Last year: #5 on My New List)
As always with Brubaker's work, I like this more in collected format where the stories and characters are easier to keep track of. I look forward to the first hardcover, maybe in 2015, maybe in 2016? At any rate, this post-Cold War spy thriller remains a favorite book.

8. Fatale #19-24 (Last year: #5)
Closing out in fine style... I can't quite rank it higher than previous Brubaker/Phillips collaborations like Sleeper, Criminal and Incognito, but it was an interesting ride that ended before it got too long in the tooth. I'll definitely be picking up the second hardcover.

9. Rat Queens #4-8
This one didn't make my best of last year because I hadn't read it yet. Now that I have, I love it for its attitude, its over-the-top humor and its perfect portrayal of fantasy adventurers from every RPG you've ever played, except with female leads instead of the guy-heavy dynamic.

10. Hawkeye #15-20 (Last year: #3)
Truthfully, this one has lost some luster with me. Only five issues this year, with a book that really needs to be read closer together to get the full effect, and it seemed like the creative team just kind of ran out of steam. Each issue is still good, but it doesn't have that great charge it had early on, perhaps because Fraction's Sex Criminals feels like a purer version of what it was doing in terms of quirky character-driven storytelling. Still really good, mind you, which is why it's in my top 10, but... not as amazing as it was, which is why it dropped out of the top 5.

Just outside the top 10: Manifest Destiny #8-12, Lazarus #6-13 (Last year: #6 on My New List) and Revival #17-26 (Last year: #6).

Best of 2014 - New Comics

Best New Series:
Marvel has six of my top 10, three of which feature female protagonists (and only one of which has already been cancelled, although I wouldn't bet on Storm finishing out 2015 either). Image has two new series to add to the 7 in my "new" top 10 and Dark Horse has the other two (you can credit Dynamite for The Shadow, but it's the Grendel part that really got me.)

Unlike my ongoing series for the year, six of these books were superhero books, with Grendel vs. Shadow and Wayward arguably in that category as well, albeit more modern or deconstructionist superheroes. The Spread is horror, and Usagi is... well, Usagi. Sci-fi flavored this time, I guess.

1. Ms. Marvel #1-10 (Marvel Comics)
This book is amazing, as original and fresh as Runaways was at its time. It shares an artist with that fondly-remembered book, Adrian Alphona, whose work here is just stunning, even better than his previous work. And G. Willow Wilson does a great job of making the very specific story of a Muslim teenager accessible and fun to everyone. Then there's the addiiton of Lockjaw, which is like the perfect cherry on top of the sundae.

2. She-Hulk #1-11 (Marvel Comics)
Come and gone too quickly. She-Hulk has actually had two great series already, Byrne's fourth-wall-breaking weird '80s run and Dan Slott's equally weird She-Hulk in a legal office run from a few years back. Charles Soule and Javier Pulido have a run that stands right up there with those two, backed up by Soule's legal knowlege and full of weird and fun cases, notably the Latverian case and the run-in with Daredevil on behalf of Captain America. I'm sad to see it go, but glad I have two trades on my shelf to read and reread. (Yes, technically, there's one more issue to come out next year that will finish it, but it was more or less started and finished this year.)

3. Storm #1-6 (Marvel Comics)
I can't believe I wanted a solo Storm series, but Greg Pak has nailed what works about the character. From her punk days with Yukio to her relationship with Wolverine to her background in Africa to her relationship with Forge, in these six issues he hits everything while telling interesting, mostly self-contained stories. And the artwork, by Victor Ibanez, Matteo Buffagni and other folks I've never heard of before but will definitely follow from here, is top notch.

4. Usagi Yojimbo Senso #1-6 (Dark Horse Comics)
Again, didn't think I necessarily needed to see a match-up of Usagi and his friends in the future versus H.G. Wells's Martians, but... this is so good. As fun as Space Usagi, but dialed more into the characters and their ongoing story arcs, a potential future and finale for Usagi combined with a cross-genre masterpiece.

5. Amazing Spider-Man #1-11 (and Edge of Spider-Verse #1-5, Scarlet Spiders #1-2, Spider-Verse #1-2)  (Marvel Comics)
Continuing the trend... if you'd told me I would love a story about interdimensional monsters trying to destroy all the Spider totems and Spider-people from every corner of the multiverse going to war against them, I would have said it seemed unlikely. But the sprrawling Spider-Verse story is a great read, with everything I love about Spider-Man, plus old favorites (Spider-Man 2099, Ben Reilly) and new favorites (Spider-Gwen). That's not even mentioning that Slott's return of Peter Parker to his own body, dealing with the trouble Doc Ock caused him, was highly entertaining as well.

6. Punisher #1-13 (Marvel Comics)
The Punisher is one of those characters I don't have an innate fondness for, but I've really liked a lot of the takes on him, from Garth Ennis's violent crime style Punisher Max to Ostrander's Punisher on the run from the '90s. This new take, setting up Punisher in Los Angeles taking on a vicious cartel and their super-powered muscle all while dealing with the spec ops team that is the modern-day Howling Commandos, is another great addition to the Frank Castle canon. Terrific art (mostly by Mitch Gerads with a few notable guest artists in the mix) and writing by Nathan Edmonson.

7. The Spread #1-4 (Image Comics)
"What if The Thing spread throughout the world, leading to a post-apocalyptic Lone Wolf and Cub type set up" is the easy pitch on this book from Justin Jordan, who is establishing himself as a unique voice with books like this and Luther Strode, and artist Kyle Strahm.

8. Spider-Man 2099 #1-6 (Marvel Comics)
They say you can't go home again, but with a boost from Dan Slott's Spidey stories, Peter David has proven that adage wrong, serving up a fresh and fun take on the Spider-Man of the future currently trapped in our present. The artwork, from Will Sliney and others, also has nicer colors and production than the original '90s run (which was still pretty solid, don't get me wrong, Rick Leonardi's stuff was great and he designed the memorable costume). A surprise treat that has proved an important cornerstone of the Spider-Verse event.

9. Grendel Vs. The Shadow #1-3 (Dark Horse Comics/Dynamite)
Matt Wagner's Dynamite work hasn't really had the spark for me of his creator-owned work on Mage and Grendel, so I wasn't sure about this one, but pitting a time-lost Hunter Rose against Lamont Crantson turns out to be just as perfect as when Wagner pit Batman and Grendel against one another many years back.

10. Wayward #1-5 (Image Comics)
A must-read for fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Jim Zub and Steven Cummings are setting up a beautifully realized Japan that digs deep into the supernatural mythology and the real-world culture to make something that feels unique, authentic and fun. And did I mention that the artwork by Cummings is drop-dead gorgeous?

Just outside the top 10 are all Image books, notably Copperhead, Starlight, Nailbiter and Stray Bullets The Killers.

New Series That Are Too New To Judge:
These series are not quite far enough for me to judge them Best New Series yet, but I really like them all, and I can see any of them making my Best Continuing Series next year. Because I don't think it's fair to compare a single issue or a two- or three-issue run to the more extended runs above, I'm ranking these separately.

1. Batgirl #35-37 (DC Comics)
2. Birthright #1-3 (Image Comics)
3. Dungeons & Dragons Legends of Baldur's Gate #1-3 (IDW)
4. Sabrina #1 (Archie Comics)
5. S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 (Marvel Comics)
6. Superior Iron Man #1-3 (Marvel Comics)
7. All New Captain America #1-2 (Marvel Comics)
8. Rumble #1 (Image Comics)
9. Bitch Planet #1 (Image Comics)
10. Wytches #1-3 (Image Comics)
11. Fade Out #1-3 (Image Comics)
12. Shaft #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)
13. Graveyard Shift #1 (Image Comics)
14. Deathlok #1-3 (Marvel Comics)
15. Hellboy and the BPRD #1
16. Gotham by Midnight #1-2 (DC Comics)
17. Kitchen #1-2 (DC Comics/Vertigo)

Best of 2014 - Graphic Novels

Best OGN:
Last year I couldn't slim down to a top 10, this year I couldn't even get to 10. Not as many original graphic novels for me, which makes me think I missed some things. I'll be keeping an eye on others' lists.

1. Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Such a great follow-up to Scott Pilgrim. It's not as ambitious as a six-volume series, of course, but it's focus and tighter page count make for a story I might like just a touch more (and I love Scott Pilgrim.) O'Malley's art and Nathan Fairbairn's colors work great together, and I love that the story involves cooking and food, since that was one of the flavors of Scott Pilgrim and it's nice to see it move to the forefront a bit more here. A great, realistic messy romance with fantasy elements, very like what I liked about Scott Pilgrim but in no way a retread of it.

2. Little Nemo Dream Another Dream HC
This oversized gem, full of tons of great art, was a labor of love that I backed on Kickstarter and I'm so glad I did.

3. Cleopatra in Space Vol 1
Been following Mike Maihack's work for years, and I was glad to see his all-ages sci-fi adventure graphic novel come out this year and just live up to all the fun and imagination that you can see in his art.

4. Rise of Aurora West
I was nervous about this one, because it's Paul Pope being relatively tangentially involved (it was co-written with JT Petty) and a completely different artist (David Rubin) doing the art chores. As it turns out, I almost like this better than Battling Boy, which it spun out of. Weird, beautiful superhero sci-fi character-driven storytelling at its best.

5. Amulet Vol 6: Escape from Lucien
Another great volume in Kazu Kibuishi's Miyazaki-esque sci-fi/fantasy epic.

6. The Shadow Hero
A riff on family and pulp heroes by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew. Liew is a guy I've liked since his creator-owned work Malinky Robot and My Faith With Frankie with Mike Carey, and he's great here. Yang, meanwhile, just never misses, whether it's his work on Boxers & Saints or his work on Dark Horse's Avatar series.

7. Shoplifter
I love Michael Cho's artwork. To be honest, I wish this had been less of a slice-of-life story, a genre that I think is often a little on the bland side, and had a little bit more of the fantastic to it, but... it's a gorgeous book.

8. Nocturnals Legend
Almost more of an artbook than a graphic novel, but there are letters and interviews from Halloween Girl throughout that recap and hint at new stories, so... I'll call it an OGN.

Best Collected Editions:
On the other hand, last year my list of collected editions was cut off at 25, this year? Almost 40. And I'm sure I missed a few.

1. Daredevil by Mark Waid Vol 2-3 HC
2. Saga Vol 1 HC
3. Ms Marvel Vol 1
4. Afterlife with Archie Vol 1 TP
5. Sex Criminals Vol 1 TP
6. Just the Tips HC
6. Daredevil Vol 1 TP
7. Chew Omnivore Edition Vol 4 HC
8. She-Hulk Vol 1 TP
9. Lazarus Vol 1 HC
10. Revival Vol 2 HC
11. Velvet Vol 1 TP
12. Rat Queens Vol 1 TP
13. Manifest Destiny Vol 1 TP
14. Daytripper Deluxe HC
15. Jonah Hex Shadows West TP
16. Avatar The Last Airbender The Search HC
17. Manhattan Projects Vol 1 HC
18. Fatale Deluxe Edition Vol 1 HC
19. Marvel Covers Artist's Edition
20. Steranko Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD Artist's Edition
21. Hellboy Artist's Edition
22. Hellboy First 20 Years HC
23. Usagi Yojimbo Saga Vol 1 TP
24. Usagi Yojimbo Vol 28: Red Scorpion TP
25. Mind Mgmt Vol 3: The Home Maker HC
26. By Chance or Providence
27. Guardians of the Galaxy by Abnett & Lanning Vols. 1 & 2 TP
28. Batman Adventures Vol 1 TP
29. Nightwing Vol 1: Bludhaven TP
30. Zenith Phase 1&2
31. 47 Ronin HC
32. Serenity: Leaves on the Wind HC
33. Southern Bastards Vol 1: Here Was A Man
34. Stray Bullets Uber Alles TP
35. Escapo HC
36. Green Arrow Vol 2: Here There Be Dragons
37. Astro City Vol 9: Through Open Doors
38. Murder Me Dead
39. Courtney Crumrin Vol 6 HC

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Best of 2014 - Television

Best Shows (Every Category):
Note: I know that The Knick probably belongs on this list. I haven't made time for it yet. So fit it in wherever you think it belongs. Also, Ground Floor (TBS) would have made this list but only three episodes aired in 2014, so it really doesn't count for this year. Sleepy Hollow (FOX) fell off because I fell behind, it may or may not wind up on this year's list retroactively. And Doctor Who isn't on here. It's not that I don't like Peter Capaldi or Jenna-Louise Coleman, it's just that the show isn't firing enough for me to consider it a best anymore. It's watchable, it's still on the DVR... but it doesn't belong on a best list.

In general, this list is the "If I had to cut back to a certain number of shows, based on money, time, etc., this is the list of shows I'd cut first (starting with #37) to shows I'd cut last (starting with #1).

When we did our "Best Of 2014" podcast a couple weeks ago, I said that Game of Thrones was #9 on my list, but after some reconsideration and favoring personal taste a little over critical acclaim (meaning things like Rectify, Mad Men and Transparent all slipped a bit) I decided this really ranked higher. In fact, it's arguable that it belongs above The Daily Show, but that show has done so much this year that I found important *and* entertaining that I can't quite nudge this any higher.

Similarly, Flash was #16 when we talked "Best of 2014" but upon reconsideration, and using the "If I had to pick only 10 shows to watch" instead of "What is more objectively critically great" standard, The Flash moves up quite a few notches. I always watch it on the night it airs, it's one of the shows I discuss most with friends and it just hits the marks it's aiming for so perfectly. Great cast, lots of good DC Easter Eggs, but it doesn't *just* offer Easter Eggs, it offers a fun, clever take on the superhero genre. Probably the best superhero show ever done on television.

1. Fargo (FX)
2. True Detective (HBO)
3. Last Week With John Oliver (HBO)
4. Orange is the New Black Season Two (NETFLIX)
5. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (COM)
6. Game of Thrones (HBO)
7. The Flash (CW)
8. Mad Men (AMC)
9. Hannibal (NBC)
10. The Americans (FX)
11. Rectify (SUNDANCE)
12. Transparent (AMAZON)
13. Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX)
14. Community (NBC)
15. Louie (FX)
16. You're The Worst (FX)
17. Rick and Morty (CARTOON)
18. Key & Peele (COM)
19. Arrow (CW)
20. Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC)
21. The Walking Dead (AMC)
22. Review (COM)
23. Silicon Valley (HBO)
24. Inside Amy Schumer (COM)
25. The Leftovers (HBO)
26. Justified (FX)
27. 24 Live Another Day (FOX)
28. Veep (HBO)
29. Bob's Burgers (FOX)
30. The Newsroom (HBO)
31. Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
32. Enlisted (FOX)
33. Married (FX)
34. The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail  (COM)
35. A to Z (NBC)
36. The League (FXX)
37. Orphan Black (BBCA)

Best New Show:
1. Fargo
2. True Detective
3. Last Week With John Oliver
4. The Flash
5. Transparent
6. You're The Worst
7. Rick and Morty
8. Review
9. Silicon Valley
10. The Leftovers
11. 24 Live Another Day
12. Enlisted
13. Married
14. The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail
15. A to Z

Best Comedy:
1. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
2. Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season Two
3. Community Season Four
4. Louie Season Four
5. Key & Peele Season Four
6. Inside Amy Schumer Season Two
7. Veep Season Three
8. Bob's Burgers Season Four
9. The League Season Six
10. Archer Season Five

Best Drama:
1. Orange is the New Black Season Two
2. Game of Thrones Season Four
3. Mad Men Final Season
5. Hannibal Season Two
6. The Americans Season Two
7. Rectify Season Two
8. Arrow Season Three
9. Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season Two
10. The Walking Dead Season Five
12. Justified Season Five
13. The Newsroom Season Three
14. Boardwalk Empire Season Five
15. Orphan Black Season Two

Best Ensemble:
1. Fargo
2. Orange is the New Black
3. Transparent
4. Game of Thrones
5. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
6. You're The Worst
7. Veep
8. Mad Men
9. Silicon Valley
10. Rectify

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Best of 2014 - Restaurants

I am way less foodie than a lot of my friends, and I'm not qualified to give a list of objective best restaurants in Austin.

However, I did eat out well over 50 times this year, so I've got no problem offering up my top 10 favorites. Not necessarily because they're the best, but they're the ones that hit that sweet spot of accessible, affordable *and* delicious enough that I went there numerous times during the year.

1. Michi Ramen
2. Sushi Nini
3. Noble Sandwich
4. Chuy's
5. Jack Allen's Kitchen
6. Torchy's Tacos
7. Easy Tiger
8. Lucy's Fried Chicken
9. PizzaRev
10. Haymaker

Monday, December 01, 2014

Monthly Update - November 2014

Comics I Read And Liked:
Alex + Ada #10
All New Captain America #1
Amazing Spider-Man #9-10
Batgirl #36
Birthright #2
Captain America and Mighty Avengers #1-2
Capture Creatures #1
Chew #44
Copperhead #3
Daredevil #10
Death of Wolverine Weapon X Program #1
Deathlok #2
Dungeons & Dragons Legends of Baldurs Gate #2
Fade Out #3
Gotham by Midnight #1
Grendel vs. The Shadow #3
Hack Slash Sons of Samhain #5
Kitchen #1
Lazarus #13
Punisher #12
Revival #25
Scarlet Spiders #1
She-Hulk #10
Spider-man 2099 #6
Spider-Verse #1
Spider-Verse Team-Up #1
Spider-Woman #1
Storm #5
Superior Iron Man #1-2
Usagi Yojimbo Senso #4-5
Velvet #8
Wayward #4
Wytches #2

Resolutions Update:
1. More games - Up to 20 with Roll Through the Ages Iron Age, King of New York and Telestrations.
2. We're mostly accomplished here, aside from one or two that fell by the wayside. All that's left is to stay under 200 lbs. Currently at 194-195, and holiday eating threatens to wipe this one out at the 11th hour. We'll see.

Where I Ate This Month:

1. Sushi NiNi
2. PizzaRev
3. Chili's
4. Terry Black's BBQ
5. Kin and Comfort
6. Torchy's Tacos