2012 was a big year to be a geek, nerd and/or poindexter. This is the year geek culture went mainstream. Like, really, really mainstream. It wasn’t all roses though — there were still plenty of legitimate reasons for nerdrage this year.
We got our rundown of the best and worst of geek culture in 2012 started last week, and now after an unfortunate delay due to me contracting some form of the Andromeda Strain, it’s time for part two…
Best: People Buy Comics Not Published By DC or Marvel
Sure, Marvel and DC still dominate the landscape, but 2012 felt like the first time in a long time comics without the words “Batman”, “Spider-Man” or “X-Men” scored any sort of significant coverage or sales figures.
Of course The Walking Dead continued to be a phenomenon, but Image also scored breakout successes with Saga, Fatale and Happy. Dark Horse’s Hellboy universe stuff continues it’s momentum, and they snuck some new hits like The Massive and Mind MGMT in under the radar as well. Oh, and are you reading BOOM! Studios’ Adventure Time comics? You should — everybody’s doing it.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against the big two publishers, but variety is good. Right now only around a third of my pull list is DC and Marvel stuff — that’s the symbol of a healthy comic book industry.
Worst: Vertigo Is On Death’s Door
Unfortunately as the rest of the comic book industry blooms, DC seems intent on killing off what was the most consistent source of top-quality, mature, creator-driven comics during the industry’s long fallow period. Iconic Vertigo characters like Swamp Thing and John Constantine are being poached for DC’s mainline universe, long-time imprint mastermind Karen Berger is leaving the company and upcoming Vertigo solicits look particularly bleak.
On the one hand, you could make the point that the comic book industry has grown up and changed and doesn’t need Vertigo anymore, but still, it’ll be unfortunate if DC lets the imprint become a husk like Marvel’s ignored, under-utilized MAX line. Unfortunate for DC more than anybody — most of the company’s top talent like Grant Morrison, Brian Azzarello, Scott Snyder, Jeff Lemire, Cliff Chiang, J.H. Williams and more came up through the Vertigo farm system.
Best: The Wii U Arrived and It Was Good
Nintendo’s Wii U has had some early hiccups, but for the most part it’s a well-designed kick off the next generation of consoles. The GamePad controller is beautiful, playing console games across two screens has a lot of potential, and asymmetric multiplayer is actually a lot of fun.
Really, if you’re even a marginal Nintendo fan the Wii U is worth looking into — it’s certainly better and more promising than either the Wii or Gamecube. In fact, it may be Nintendo’s best system since the SNES glory days, and considering some of the wacky, virtual reality rumors swirling about the next Playstation and Xbox, the Wii U may also end up being the most grounded, least gimmicky console of this generation. Been a while since you could say that about a Nintendo system, huh?
Worst: Diablo III Arrived and It Wasn’t Good
So, Diablo III’s launch was a jolly rolling ball of disasters. Server crashes, broken patches, exploits, hackers — the game saw it all. Then things settled down a bit and people actually got to play Diablo III and realized, hey, the game’s just not that good — at least not compared to its predecessors. It’s certainly not good enough to justify putting up with shifty crap like real-money auction houses and always-online DRM.
Worst: Before Watchmen
Hey, speaking of something that launched with much fanfare and controversy and then didn’t end up being particularly remarkable! After all the bluster from Alan Moore, J. Michael Straczynski and other creators and fiery debate from fans Before Watchmen arrived and the comics were…okay. Competent comics from talent who have all done better. Darwyn Cooke’s stuff has been good, but it’s Darwyn Cooke — of course it’s good. He’s one of the few creators with the ability to resist DC Editorial’s medicoritizing rays. For the most part though, Before Watchmen has been bland and easily missable, not something that could be said about the original story.
Best: Girls Are Welcome In The Treehouse
This has been coming for a while, and certain subsections of geek culture have been hashing it out for a while, but 2012 was really the year we decided to clean up the clubhouse and invite some ladies over.
Sure there’s still some cranks in the clubhouse. There’s the “Idiot Nerd Girl” meme and Tony Harris calling cosplayers dumb whores, but unlike in the past the negative memes are being turned on their heads, and opinions like Harris’ are being roundly rejected.
Young female creators are getting jobs at the big two publishers, outfits for female comic characters are getting a bit less ridiculous, and hey, when video game developers threaten to rape Lara Croft or try to sell their games with gratuitous fetish nun murder, people actually get upset, as they should, because come on.
Yeah, I know a lot of girls weren’t that interested in this geek stuff until it became popular, but that doesn’t mean we should cling onto all the most sexist, dumb parts of it to punish them. Give it up. You’ll feel better and hey, Friday night anime and Settlers of Catan night might become a little less sausage-ey.
Worst: Spider-Man Didn’t Have A Great Year
Spider-Man comics, which had been pretty good for a while, unfortunately webslung their way back to gimmicktown in 2012, culminating in Amazing Spider-Man #700, the “last” issue of the series. Spoilers! — the issue featured Peter Parker dying (of course), while in Doctor Octopus’ body, which Peter was in because Doc Ock was in his body. So Doc Ock is now Spider-Man. Because everyone always loves these storylines where Spider-Man’s identity is in question, right?
Best: To Clarify, Spider-Man Comics Weren’t Great in 2012. Movies, On The Other Hand…
Could The Amazing Spider-Man have been the best superhero movie of 2012? As much as it hurts my Batman-loving, DC-loyalist soul to say it, I’m coming around to that point of view. Granted I haven’t seen Dredd, but Amazing Spider-Man was certainly better than The Avengers, and probably better than Dark Knight Rises too. Yes, it was less ambitious than either of those films, and it’s overall plot was very conventional, but it was well acted, with likeable, well-written characters and the action scenes were exciting and didn’t just feel like a bunch of CG randomness. Also blonde, bangs-having Emma Stone. Nothing that cute in Dredd I bet. Take that Seitz!
Best: People Kinda Got Interested In Space Again
For years the only response you got from most people when you mentioned space travel was blank stares or spittle flecked rants about MY TAX DOLLARS, but in 2012 the public consciousness seemed to turn a bit of a corner. Remember how everyone was all excited about the Mars Curiosity Rover earlier this year? That was unexpected, wasn’t it? Then there was all the coverage of SpaceX’s successful launch to the International Space Station. Also, Felix Baumgartner. It seems like people are ready to think space is rad again, which makes somebody like me who’s always thought it was rad happy.
Best, Worst…I’m Not Sure? What’s It Mean To Be A Geek?
As I said at the beginning, this is the year that geek culture went kind of ridiculously mainstream. As much as I don’t care for some of the nasty misogyny behind the “Idiot Nerd Girl” meme, it does raise the question — when pretty teenage girls, the least marginalized social group possible, want to be part of your subculture, it’s really not much of a subculture anymore, is it? What do you do when the guys who used to shout “geek” or “nerd” at you as a pejorative now want to play with your carefully crafted toys? It’s a tough pill to swallow sometimes. Let’s not pretend it’s not.
Maybe it’s time to drop the “geek” and “nerd” designations altogether and everyone can just enjoy inarguably awesome stuff like Batman, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead without labels. Or maybe we can continue to argue about what it means to be a geek for decades to come. That’s fun too.
Anyways, that’s how I thought geek culture did in 2012. What about you folks? What were your highs and lows? Think I’m the wrongest guy to ever be wrong wrong wrong about Spider-Man or girls being cool or whatever? Let me know in the comments.