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What Is Best in Life 2008 : Conan, Lost, Clockwork Storybook
© Mark Finn
January 08, 2009

RevolutionSF drives 2008 before us in our annual look at the good nerd parts of the year we just survived.

What a geek-laden year 2008 was! Lots of highs and lows, to be sure, from those monumental pieces of history we’ll always remember in an “I was there” kind of way (a good Hulk movie! Who knew?) to those earth-shattering events that have dire repercussions we’ll feel for years and years ( Twilight reinvigorating vampires for the next generation of middle school kids), this was a banner year all around.

I’ll call the shot right now: 2009 is going to suck. I will do an All Tree of Woe Special next year, decrying the whole mess.

From Watchmen to G.I. Joe, nothing is safe and nothing is sacred. You’ve been warned. And when you come back from seeing or doing fill-in-the-blank-geekiness later in the year and you need a pick-me-up, turn to this list and recall a simpler time.

Best Genre Movie: The Dark Knight

Was there ever any doubt? This movie turned the notion of what a super hero movie could be on its ear. Batman-of-the-movies at last achieved the operatic gravitas that has always been a hallmark of the best Batman stories, regardless of the era in which they were written. This may be the pinnacle, folks, of the super hero genre for many years to come. I hope not, but when you see what’s coming out in 2009 . . . anyway, we’ve got one more sequel to look forward to starring Bale, with Nolan at the helm. After that, everything resets. Again.

Best Genre Movie without Christopher Nolan as director: Iron Man

Let’s hear it for typecasting! Robert Downey, Jr. as a boozy-party-animal turned socially conscious super hero? What part of that wasn’t going to work? A deft script, and ultra-cool yet still believable armor effects by the late Stan Winston put this film into every geek’s Christmas pile this year. And how about that Sam Jackson cameo at the end? Bring on the Ultimates movie, baby!

Best TV Show: Lost

Now that they have an end point and don’t have to pad out the storyline, every episode of this past season started to matter. Watching everyone on and off the island was very cool, and in fact, this may be the first TV show that changes its structure as the show goes on. The cliffhanger reveal at the end of the season was a jaw-dropper. Here’s hoping that the next two seasons are just as tight and punchy.

Best comic book series: Conan the Cimmerian (Dark Horse)

Dark Horse relaunched and restarted the Conan series (because they could, I guess) with a new creative team headed up by writer Tim Truman, and the results have been extremely entertaining. Conan returns to his native land after having had his first taste of civilization, and battles and chases invariably follow. I love the flashbacks of Conan’s grandfather, drawn by Richard Corben, as well. This is a great jumping on point for folks who want to get in on the new series.

Best Website: RevolutionSF.com

Yep, I said it. Nepotism rules! Over the past year, there has been an explosion of content and commentary, all original, and with no thanks to yours truly. Plus (I know it’s behind the early adopter curve, but content is content) podcasting!

Y’all kicked a bunch of ass, folks. You deserve raises and strippers.

Best Genre Book: The Dragon’s Nine Sons by Chris Roberson

I’ve watched Chris develop his alternate history China-wins-the-space-race stories from a single short story and it’s been a great ride. Definitely worth a look, especially if you enjoy equal parts hard sf and good old fashioned swashbuckling adventure in a really unique political setting.

Best Genre Book Not Written by a Friend of Mine: The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard

For all of you Lovecrafters out there, here’s the most complete collection of stories by Robert E. Howard, Lovecraft’s pen pal and contemporary, and who Lovecraft considered one of the modern masters of weird tale telling. This would make the ninth Del Rey collection of Robert E. Howard material, all with intros, illustrations, and notes on the texts. A terrific package, consistently a great bang for your buck.

Best Geek-Moment You Probably Never Heard of: The “re-forming” of Clockwork Storybook

Again, Nepotism rules! What started two years ago as an annual literary retreat and workshop has transmogrified into not one, but two new websites and a host of original content and conversation. We’ve added a fifth member to our ranks, Bill Williams, and we’ve even generated some fresh press and a fan-generated Wikipedia page. Will wonders never cease' That would be no, they will never cease. Check out the forum and the blog.

Best Game: Harry Potter Clue

There’s two different ways to re-imagine a classic board game. The first way would be to license out Monopoly, but slap a bunch of cats all over the board. It’s Cat-Opoly, get it' It’s just like Monopoly, but ‘cept it’s got cats! Genius!

The other way is to do what Parker Brothers has done, in-house, and that’s rework the graphics and the basic premise to Clue, and add a couple of features that are unique to the Harry Potter franchise.

They did this with great success with the venerable RISK, and now we’ve got a Clue board that changes with each play, allowing Rooms of Requirement to appear and disappear, along with Dark Marks and other magical goings-on. Simple, but really effective. And a whole lot of fun for everyone at Christmas, might I add.

Best DVD release: The Casablanca Ultimate Collector’s Edition

No, it doesn’t have lasers or dinosaurs, you philistines, but it IS one of the most influential movies of all time—and Bogart’s Rick is a large dollop of what went into the creation of a certain Indiana Jones. All right, it’s a tenuous connection, I’ll grant you, but you can’t overlook this pile of coolness from Warner Brothers.

Best Evidence the Geek Have Inherited the Earth: President Obama and his Conan Comic Collection

The Robert E. Howard fandom nearly burst into flames when this factoid, courtesy of the BBC, made its way into the American press. Our newest celeb-president has a collection of Conan comics! No telling what’s in it, or if he prefers Barry Smith to John Buscema.

But the thought that I might one day get to shake the President’s hand and have him say, “Mark Finn! You wrote those great essays in the back of the Conan trade paperbacks!” fills me with such whomp and awe that I don’t quite know what to do.

This will be the first president in American history that I’ll have something in common with.

And it’s all geek, baby. Take that, Popular Kids in High School!


Don't drown in a lake of blood! Witness the rest of RevolutionSF's What Is Best In Life for 2008.

Mark Finn wrote the column Finn's Wake for RevolutionSF. Buy his book Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard. Thank him later.


 
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