Best Moments in Fandom, 2009

8. Paramore in concert (again)

This made my Best in Fandom last year. What can I say? I really like Paramore. This time they opened for No Doubt, and the concert was incredible. The last Big Name, Big Venue concert I’d seen was Depeche Mode in, erm, 1989? And I had lousy seats that time. So the video effects and such of No Doubt were really damn awesome. And Gwen Stefani is astonishing.

My opinion of this tour, though, was unavoidably shaped by Twitter. I’d been reading Hayley Williams’s tweets all summer. I’d read her fangirling of Stefani, and how much she and the band were learning from an experienced band like No Doubt. I’d read which shows were great, and which she felt she could have been more on for. I read what it was like to do interviews in the afternoon, perform at night, and get up in the late morning to work out. I had a sense of investment in this tour, in Hayley’s experience of it — despite that fact that she doesn’t know me from Adam. The Twitter Effect.

But, anyway, when the first opener left and, after a bit, Paramore came out onto their set — much bigger than the year before, much fancier, and still NOTHING like No Doubt’s set still to come — I was willing this to be a great show. I whooped, sang along, hopped up and down, yelled when my section was pointed too, all the antics of a Fan.

No Doubt was also incredibly great. But I was there to see Paramore.

7. Big Finish Productions’ Seventh Doctor audioplays

I spent most of the first few months of 2009 catching up on the Seventh Doctor audioplays of Doctor Who, by Big Finish Productions. And by this I mean I didn’t listen to much music, I didn’t keep up with the podcasts I listen to, I spent my drives to and from work listening to Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, and Phillip Oliver save worlds. Save worlds, and mete out justice.

It’s fascinating to me, as someone who has come to Doctor Who fandom via the Ninth and Tenth Doctors, to see the Seventh Doctor taking on his role as moral judge. I don’t know exactly when this started in the Doctor’s various incarnations. I just know he didn’t start this way, but is a judge by the time we meet the Tenth Doctor. There seems to be some fascinating differences, though — Seventh Doctor relishes the role of moral authority. Ninth Doctor, we know, had recently seen the horror of that path. Tenth Doctor prefers to give people more chances than Seventh, but is still willing to make the extremely hard choices.

Anyway. I’m loving the evolution of Hex and Ace, their acceptance of The Doctor’s foibles paired with wariness of his secrets and manipulations. I’m loving the way the Doctor’s know-it-all-ness works for both good and ill. I particularly liked “Angel of Scutari” — excellent supporting cast, great plot, excellent acting. More Seventh Doctor from Big Finish is one of the things I am really looking forward to in 2010.

6. Dollhouse

This is not the best show I watch. It is, however, a fannish delight. It is, in the words of my friend Caroline, Big, Sexy Hospital. It’s a show starring lots of my favorite actors from different fandoms, with guest stars from other fandoms, written by some of my favorite writers, talking about important themes of identity and autonomy using inappropriately overly-sexual moments of tension. Plus, funny dialog. The show has not quite lived up to what I hoped it could be — it is definitely flawed. But in exchange for that, I get weirdly inappropriately sexy half-naked scenes where characters HAVE to cut each other FOR THE PLOT.

I feel like Dollhouse is trying to do two things, and the whipsaw between them weakens the show. On the one hand, I love the plot and the things the show is trying to say about autonomy and personal power. On the other hand, I also love the way the show is groping around in the dark of fandom’s collective subconscious, and serving up images from fanfic. River Tam vs. Faith. Wesley and Faith trusting each other knives. Helo and Faith sparring instead of screwing. I have always loved cross-over fanfic, and here it is, on Hulu, every week.

5. Jennifer’s Body

I reviewed the movie Jennifer’s Body here. I loved it. As I say in that review:

“Kusama, Cody, Fox, and Seyfried have put on the screen a movie about a kind of relationship between two women that I have rarely seen in film. That kind of relationship is called “complex”. So many times women’s relationships in film are two-dimensional, caricature, or merely serve as a prop in a movie about men. Not so here. The friendship between Jennifer and Needy is not perfect — they are occasionally thoughtless towards each other, or hurtful, and there’s a wealth of unseen history in the way Jennifer taunts Needy with their past sexual explorations together. But it is friendship.”

I still say this is the absolute best feminist horror film since Gingersnaps. After the no-buying-myself-things-near-Christmas ban passes, I am racing out to get this on dvd.

4. Batwoman, Greg Rucka, and J.H. Williams

In the pages of Detective Comics in the second half of this year, Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams have put out a comic unlike anything else out there. The story of Batwoman, of Kate Kane, is being told in art that is not groundbreaking, it’s genre-changing. Comic art should not be allowed to remain as it has been, now that Williams’s panel structure, narrative sequences, and color palettes have come to light.

But I’m always and forever a sucker for stories.

This story — the story of Kate Kane as Batwoman — is a story about family, and loss, and what a person finds in the world in order to make them get up in the morning. It’s a story about What Happened Next. Being Batwoman, it strikes me, is not Kate Kane’s goal in life. It’s the thing she does with her life after the worst things could happen to her. After she lost her mother and sister and career and relationships. It’s a story about the fact that one doesn’t conveniently die when one loses everything important, however much one might wish it. And, eventually, you get up and out of bed and have to do something. This appears to be Kate Kane’s story, told expertly by Greg Rucka, and it’s one of my favorite fandom things in 2009.

3. Plants vs. Zombies: Bedtime

This is all me, but I’m still damn pleased with what happened.

This summer I wrote a script for a four-page comic. My family was obsessed at the time with the PopCap Games’ “Plants vs. Zombies.” The idea hit me while I was sitting in the audience at the Como Park Bandshell, waiting for J’s dress rehearsal to get started. I wrote a little comic about a kid, about my son’s age, who lives in the house that is attacked by zombies in the game. The story was light and short and cute. The Best Moment in Fandom moments happened next.

What happened next is that PopCap Games agreed to let me produce this work. I emailed them, got reply, explained my project, and then — poof. They said go ahead. So what happened next is that Erika Moen agreed to draw it. Her art was fantastic — perfect for the tone of the story. And what happened next is that my contact at PopCap was so pleased with what he saw that PopCap included the comic in their Halloween promotional materials.

This was one of my personal best moments in fandom, albeit professional fandom.

2. Baltimore Comic-Con

I went to a few conventions this year — Microcon, Wiscon, CONvergence, Supercon. But the one I’d never been to, the one new to me, was Baltimore ComicCon. It was great. Not only did I get to meet all of the Fantastic Fangirls in person, I got to meet and see other friends from online.

But the thing that really, totally made the convention great for me was the generosity and friendliness of the creators. I’m not going to name them all here, for fear I might forget someone. But everyone had time to chat, however briefly. Even those with the biggest names/lines/crowds were extremely generous with their time.

1. Marvel’s consequences

I remember when Secret Wars II was playing out in the pages of Marvel comics. I never actually read the core books, the limited series in which all the heroes of the Marvel Universe tried to deal with The Beyonder come to Earth for a rematch. What I remember is that The Beyonder killed and resurrected the New Mutants. What I remember is that Rachel Summers was going to end the entire universe in order to kill The Beyonder, and that the love and compassion of her fellow X-Men stopped her — and then stopped The Beyonder from killing them all, right there, on the spot. What I remember, from that story and from all my most beloved X-stories from the late 80s and early 90s, is that the world of the Marvel Universe was a whole thing. It was all of a piece. When Kulan Gath (a Spider-Man villain) took over Manhattan Island for a couple weeks, the X-Men were trapped there, as were the Avengers. When two of the New Mutants got drugged by the same guy that attacked Cloak and Dagger, Tandy and Ty were there to help. I loved Mutant Massacre, I loved Fall of the Mutants, I even found Inferno fascinating — though frustrating. I loved the whole world of it all.

I later came to understand that the “world” events in Marvel tended to only apply within certain spheres. The mutant line, the heroes line, the spider-man line, the cosmic line. I grew, in the mid-90s, sick of crossovers that didn’t really affect anything except sales figures. I became disenchanted with the idea of a complete Marvel Universe. But I still remember how it felt, looking at Kitty Pryde in Uncanny X-Men as she mourns the death of her best friend, Illyana, who no-one remembers — wiped from the universe by the petulant thoughts of The Beyonder.

A new world lay in those panels. A complete world, rich and vibrant and alive and whole. And I could visit it any damn time I wanted to.

In recent years, Marvel has put forth a series of “world-changing events.” And I viewed these all with incredible skepticism, due to my feelings regarding the late 90s. But I read them. Avengers: Disassembled was good — I like it a lot. But I was profoundly and unexpectedly pleased when the Avengers stayed apart, the mansion was not rebuilt, and there were extended consequences. The Young Avengers formed. Isiah Bradley’s legacy as the black Captain America was retained and used. Character deaths — whether or not they stayed dead — had repercussions in the paths their friends and families took. And then, a bit later, we had House of M. In which the consequences of Disassembled unfolded to destroy a whole people. House of M was another world-changing crossover event — and we still haven’t seen it taken back. We still haven’t really seen Wanda, and there are still no more mutants. Civil War happened, and The Initiative came out of that. Not to mention Captain America’s death — long live Captain America. Events kept occurring, with consequence piling on consequence. The world of Marvel kept changing as a result of what had happened before. As Secret Invasion was about to launch, I was excited and pleased — this, this was the kind of Marvel storytelling I loved. A world at stake, really, with everybody’s fates on the line.

I wish Secret Invasion had been published as a single trade paperback — or released weekly until it was done. But that’s a quibble. I really liked the story. But more than I liked the actual plot contained in the issues, I liked how it changed the world. I loved Jessica Drew’s face being the face of the enemy, seen around the world. I loved all the “traitors” appearing on television to urge the world to embrace change. I loved the Skrull sleepers popping up in every title. I loved Marvel’s ad campaign – so reminiscent to me of the old “It’s 1984 – Do You Know What Your Children Are?” ads that appeared in the X-Men titles.

More than any of that, though, I loved What Happened Next.

The world changed. And I love Bendis and Marvel for it. The world of Marvel changed. And, sure, it’ll change back. That’s not my point — I don’t want Marvel to stay this way forever. But I want, I crave for the plots in these comics to have some sort of meaning. Repercussions. Consequences. If Norman Osborn saves the planet on international television, I want that to have an effect for more than one month. I want this, the Dark Reign. And then I want the Dark Reign to end as a result of Norman Osborn’s actions. I want his personal consequences to unfold as surely as Wanda’s did.

This current consequence-laden universe at Marvel fills me with joy in all sorts of ways. I love that Kieron Gillen’s S.W.O.R.D. is a result of Astonishing X-Men and Secret Invasion. I love that Jessica Jones shows up in Young Avengers and that the Young Avengers have been scattered into the other Avengers titles. I love that the Silent War of the Inhumans led into War of Kings. The interwoven, interconnectedness of it all makes me damn pleased.

I’m looking forward to The Siege, very much. I am not really invested in the “core Avengers,’ I don’t care much about Steve Rogers or Thor. But I am happily waiting to see what Marvel is going to do next to my beloved, much-abused, living Marvel universe.

3 Responses

  1. Great list, and very eloquent explanations. I particularly agree with your number 1, but you already know how I feel about the connected Marvel U.

    And congrats again, on the Plants vs. Zombies!

  2. Your point 7 makes me happy, for obvious reasons: )

    Incidentally, did you listen to what is basically a 6th AND 7th Doctor adventure, Project: Lazarus? First part stars Six and his companion Evelyn – that’s the 60-ish historian -; second part takes place decades later, when Seven – on his own at this point – comes back to the same planet. You can tell the difference between the incarnations and also a bit of why Seven became the way he did from this story pretty well.

  3. @Jennifer :) Thanks!

    @Selena Oh yes. :grins: I head a podcast I like, Cadmium II, remarking that “Fearmonger” was one of Big Finish’s weaker audioplays, and I was like “YOU CLEARLY ARE LISTENING TO THE EMO.” Which, of course, they weren’t. :)

    I’ll check out Project Lazarus! I’ve found, through trying, that the Fifth Doctor plays have little interest for me, but I like the Eighth and Sixth okay — well, I like Sixth if Evelyn is in them.

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