Newsletter #45: Things I Liked in 2021
Listing some of my favorite media consumed in the last year, plus the first annual Quinny Awards!
[Apologies in advance for the scratchy audio quality, I had to record while driving around and my car loves to make every awful noise imaginable. I got myself a new microphone for the New Year, so hopefully you’ll all notice a jump in quality going forward!]
Hey guys, it's Scott.
I thought I'd do a fun post today, something light. I'm back in the writers room with Tyler for the Wytches TV show, and it's a blast but it's super intense. So, I feel like I have two jobs right now, if not three or four, where in the morning I'm working on comics, by 12:00/12:30 I’m in the writers room with Tyler doing TV work for the first season of Wytches with Jock as well, which is huge fun, but it's like a whole other use of our brains, then I am dad from 5:00 to 9:30, and then at 9:30 I sort of collapse or do something completely mindless. That's my life. But I love the work and I can't wait for you to see what we're building in on all fronts.
Also, Nocterra: Blacktop Bill Special, detailing the origin of our illustrious villain Blacktop Bill, just came out from Image Comics. It's got the legend Denys Cowan on pencils, Kent Williams on inks, another legend, Chris Sotomayor, who’s just one of the best colorists in the business, and Deron Bennett, who letters a lot of our stuff, is lettering it as well. So, it's a stellar issue, Tony co-wrote it with me, and it brings all of the kind of twisted dark fun of Nocterra to the page. And next month, we start our second arc in earnest and then it runs monthly for five straight months with Tony back on art, Marcelo Maiolo on colors, and Deron on letters. It's called Pedal to the Metal and I genuinely believe it's better than our first arc, so I can't wait for you to see it!
So, I thought I’d do a thing about some of my favorite stuff from the year. It's interesting because a lot of the things that I thought were going to be my favorite cultural touchstones wound up not being—not because they weren't great, but I liked other things better. And I found this odd thread where it was like, the things that I thought I was going to like the most were kind of comfort food things, like Spider-Man: No Way Home (which I did love) and Matrix Resurrections and Ghostbusters: Afterlife are things that would bring back a kind of childhood joy, but also do it in a new way. And some of them were super effective. But what I realized, I think, over the course of the year was that I just have loved things that have been surprisingly new and daring this year even more. Like, I went and saw No Way Home, and I love No Way Home, but I still loved Spider-Verse more. And I know it wasn't this year, but the joy of walking out of Spider-Verse or Lego Batman, something that took a superhero that I thought I knew and did something fascinatingly different with them on all fronts (aesthetically, story-wise, intellectually), all of it was just so cool. And so my favorite things this year, I realized as I was going through, kind of reflect that a bit.
My favorite King of Comics this year is James Tynion, best friend and former student. His titles The Department of Truth and Something is Killing the Children have been favorites of mine for a while, but now he started in on The Nice House on the Lake, and it's amazing to me that one person can write three series that feel so of the moment and yet so different. Each one sort of tackles, I think, this particular moment from a completely different angle—one from a fun, soapy, big mythology, not YA but young adventure book (Something is Killing the Children), the other from a book that’s incredibly intellectual, ideological, rigorous and challenging as much as it is fun (The Department of Truth), and another, I think, in this really piercingly personal way about what it feels like to slouch towards the end of the world (The Nice House on the Lake). So, again, he's my pick for King of Comics.
[To view the certificates for all the winners of Our Best Jackett’s first annual Quinny Awards®, click on the image below!]
I think, for me, Visionary of the Year was Ram V. I loved The Many Deaths of Leila Starr, I love what he's been doing Catwoman, I read Blue in Green at the beginning of the year and thought it was fantastic, and he brings an integrity and a passion to his work that I feel is so crucial in comics. And I was lucky enough to get to talk to him a few times and become friendly and I can't say enough good things about him.
I think Breakout, for me—Steph Phillips. And I'd have to say that I love seeing Vita Ayala and Danny Lore, both friends of mine, get such great work across the board, but Steph was somebody I wasn't really aware of until this year and then read Nuclear Family and loved it. And then now I'm reading We Only Kill Each Other and what she's been able to do at DC, and she's just a great person all around, too. So, having new blood, new voices come in that are going to invigorate comics from all sides, is always a thrill.
I think other people that have broken out this year that I'm really proud of (some of whom are former students)—Philip Kennedy Johnson on Action Comics and The Last God (that book was fantastic) and Michael Moreci with The Plot and now Barbaric (he was also a student, far surpassing anything I could have taught him).
Two people who've had a banner year, who are old friends of mine and I think should get an award for always topping themselves and never letting the work slip, are Chip Zdarsky and Jeff Lemire. Chip has Afterlift, Stillwater, and Newburn (which is fantastic). Jeff has Primordial, Swamp Thing: Green Hell, and Mazebook. Just really inspiring stuff.
And then I think another couple awards for people that have been around a while and are now breaking out in superhero comics in a big way and getting their year—Joshua Williamson on Batman. You should definitely check out his run. He's been an architect of of DC stuff for years, especially the last five or six years, and one of the mainstays behind the scenes of building story superstructure, and a great writer in his own right on his books. But what he has planned for Batman and how it builds the big things of DC—it's really impressive, you should check it out.
And Tom Taylor, an old friend as well who's having such an incredible year between Superman: Son of Kal-El and Dark Knights of Steel and Nightwing, of course (one of the best books on the stands). So, right now comics to me are so exciting. I mean, people that have deserved a shot seem to be getting a shot and new voices are coming in and being celebrated and given a chance to tell epic and passionate stories.
And TV-wise, the shows that I thought were going to bowl me over didn't as much as the ones taking some risks. I really loved Succession and Ted Lasso for reasons I explained earlier. They defy my logic of storytelling where they essentially have main characters who have almost no arc, but everybody around them has arcs because of their steadfastness. One seems to be about the worst people in the world (Succession) and the other about one of the nicest people on Earth (Ted Lasso). And I think they exist in this incredible barbell of space-time.
Another TV show I really loved was Landscapers with Olivia Coleman, who's in everything and always amazing, but it's about a couple who kind of live in a fantasy world because of some of the trauma that the wife has suffered. And structurally—
[You can hear Quinny in the background now…]
—some of the decisions they make on how to formally present the story, breaking the fourth wall, all of it, really fits her psychology. It's amazing, I thought it was great.
Also, movie wise, I think westerns are going to come back because it's a good time to reexamine the American character. And The Power of the Dog and Old Henry were both really interesting and flawed movies that I liked.
And if you're looking for a really unsettling horror film from 2013, I thought Under the Skin was really visionary and bold, and again, had its issues but was sort of stunningly original.
Book-wise, I read The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles, which I really liked a lot. It's a great sleight of hand road trip book set in the 1950s that investigates the whole mythology of the American Road.
And I read a fun fast paced mystery called Shiver by Allie Reynolds about snowboarders who reunite after years apart after a tragedy to rekindle a friendship up on a mountain and instead find themselves to be the target of a murderer. Really fun book, and I love mysteries. I feel like that's my comfort food, too, is finding a good mystery where everything is empirically solved and it's like a closed system where all the oxygen in the room is just sealed. It's fun.
It's like watching Forensic Files, except I feel like I watch Forensic Files and then they always, like, hide things until the end that make the whole case obvious. There was one—maybe you guys have seen this if you watch Forensic Files at all, but it was like: a husband was a suspect, but they threw all the suspicion away from him and they checked out all these other people. And then at the end of the episode, they're like, “oh, but police found records on his computer of him buying, like, rope and lye to dissolve a body and a Google search ‘how to get rid of human remains,’ and he had only downloaded one song on iTunes and it was I Used to Love Her (But I Had to Killer Her)…” And it was so comically over the top that I was like, come on. But anyway, I love mysteries because they're like closed box systems. And in times of uncertainty, I think we gravitate towards things that are reassuring in their structures that way.
Another book I'm reading right now, I'm only a little bit into it, but I really like, is Hyperobjects by Timothy Morton. Charles Soule recommended it. It's super academic, annoyingly so at times, and a little haughty, but it's a great philosophy book and the thesis is fascinating to me: that one of the reasons we have so much anxiety these days is because we live in a time when we're aware of all these things that are called hyperobjects, which are things that are bigger than our comprehension that threaten us (climate change, nuclear war, a comet hitting the Earth, economic strife), that we have no control over, that are bigger than us, that generations before us, especially back when we were hunter-gatherers, had no concept of. The idea is that more and more knowledge you have the things that are out of your control causes anxiety. So, interesting book.
Music-wise, I mean, I'm a big old school hip hop guy, I don't listen to a lot of ton of new stuff. But there were a couple bands I really loved this year—I liked girl in red and Snail Mail, and I still love the Fontaines D.C., probably my favorite band in a while. Car Seat Headrest. I really love Big Thief, that’s probably my favorite, right up my alley. Sturgill Simpson is super interesting to me and somebody Mark Doyle and I bond over a lot.
And hopefully that's a good start! Let me know in the comments about things that you loved and think I might like. And again, I just want to say thank you for a fantastic year. And yeah, I'll be back in a couple days!