Watchmen (HBO) Season 1, Episode 1 – “It’s Summer, And We’re Running Out of Ice” Written by Damon Lindeloff Directed by Nicole Kassell
That opening is not an alternative history, an invention of the mind of Damon Lindeloff, or some parallel history that made up the backstory of the Watchmen universe. The Tulsa Massacre of 1921 was real, down the plane flying overhead and dropping explosives on the black people that populated the neighborhood of the Greenwood District. This place was known as “Black Wall Street” due to the financial success black people had experienced there, allowed to open their own businesses and create a community that empowered each other. If “separate but equal” would be the law of the land, then the residents of Greenwood would go their own, rejected by their country.
The Best of Both Worlds Part 1 (original airdate: June 18th, 1990) The Best of Both Worlds Part 2 (original airdate: September 24th, 1990) Written by Michael Piller Directed by Cliff Bole
Of all the episodes of TNG, these are the two I remember the most vividly. Here was were the procedural nature of Star Trek on television finally got upended, and it felt like this was a world where events could have long-lasting ramifications. While most viewers might see this as an episode about Picard, writer Michael Piller says this is a Riker-centric entry. The emotional core of the episode is Riker’s decision whether to pursue a place as captain on another starship or remain onboard the Enterprise as second in command.
The Righteous Gemstones Season 1 (HBO) Written by Danny McBride, John Carcieri, Jeff Fradley, Grant Dekernion, Edi Patterson, Kevin Barnett, & Chris Pappas Directed by Danny McBride, David Gordon Green, and Jody Hill
Growing up in the Southern United States, the early morning airwaves, even on weekdays, were populated with televangelists like Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, and Jimmy Swaggert. There was the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) that ran 24-7 with regular sermon segments, a variety show, children’s programming, and always a number at the bottom of the screen imploring you to donate to keep the ministry going. Even as a child, something felt dissonant between the teachings of Jesus and the wealth-obsessed gaudiness of these television ministers. The Righteous Gemstones explores the world of a family involved in this ministry, a global multi-million dollar enterprise.
The Omega Men by Tom King (2015) The latter half of 2015 could be considered the Tom King period for me. I’ve consistently enjoyed almost everything he’s put out, even the stuff that seems to have a significant fan backlash. This 12 issue series for DC Comics takes the Omega Men concept (aliens united as the result of an oppressive force) and revamped it thirty years after its original conception. The Omega Men fight against The Citadel, an interplanetary corporation that uses the destruction of Krypton as a means to sell their services, stabilizing the cores of worlds. The rare metal needed to fix these planetary cores is only found in planets within the Vega System; thus, the inhabitants of those worlds have been enslaved, and in some circumstances, wiped out by genocide to ensure the resources can be harvested. The Omega Men kidnaps former Green Lantern Kyle Rayner so that they might have a witness to the atrocities done to their people and to see their retribution.
Please, Kill Mr. Kinski (1999) Written & Directed by David Schmoeller
In 1986, director David Schmoeller worked with notorious actor Klaus Kinski on the set of his film Crawlspace. As expected, Kinski was a nightmare to direct and continuously tried to find ways to throw a wrench in the production. It became especially terrible when Kinksi learned that Schmoeller went to the producers to get the actor thrown off the picture. This is a short essay film, a docu-comedy, sort of like a story Kevin Smith tells in his live shows. I haven’t seen Herzog’s My Best Fiend yet, but I suspect it covers the same territory with more depth.
These are the comic books that I enjoyed reading the most that were published in the last decade. You’ll definitely see some recurring authors and characters, signifying my personal bias. I know there are a ton of great books I haven’t read from this period and as time goes on I plan on reading some (look for a huge Image Comics read-through in early 2020). Please let me know of any titles not on my list as I may have not read them and always appreciate recommendations.
Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman (2010) Jonathan Hickman came onboard Fantastic Four at the start of the decade with big plans for not just this series but Marvel as well. He adhered to that original Stan Lee/Jack Kirby of exploring the unknown and created an optimistic, diverse possible future. The best thing Hickman gave us, and what has been criminally underused since, is the Future Foundation. The Future Foundation was Reed Richards’ effort to cultivate the next generation of scientists, and it played with reader expectations. Of course, Franklin and Valeria Richards are part of the team, but Hickman also includes some adolescent Moloids, the android Dragon Man, and a clone of Reed’s foil The Wizard. Not only is this a great read, one of the best Fantastic Four runs we’ve ever gotten, but it’s also almost essential reading to understand this last decade of Marvel comics.
Wounds is the film adaptation of Nathan Ballingrud’s fantastic 2015 novella “The Visible Filth.” The story centers on Will, a bartender at a scummy dive in New Orleans. One night, while tending bar, a fight breaks out between his friend Eric and another patron that ends with Eric slashed across the cheek. A group of teens using fake IDs scatter when they hear about the cops. As Will cleans up, he discovers a cell phone he thinks belongs to these young people. It’s only when he gets home that he opens the phone and finds disturbing pictures that hint at some sort of ritual performed to connect with another realm. Will’s life slowly becomes infested with a darkness at the edges, creeping closer, threatening to devour him.