By Odin’s Eye, it looks like Hacksaw Ridge is threatening to restore Mel Gibson to stardom…and that got me thinking about all the other celebs and properties that have faded to obscurity only to return, stronger than before. Behold:
10. Joss Whedon – Serenity
Imagine having not one, but two shows cancelled in same year. After Buffy the Vampire Slayer ended, creator Joss Whedon took the spin-off show, Angel, in a bold new direction and created, possibly, the second finest season of television ever filmed. The finest was, doubtlessly, Firefly – Joss’ unlikely wedding of Star Wars with The Magnificent Seven. Both shows were cancelled in the same year.
Two years later, backed by the biggest gorram fans in the ‘verse, Joss brought Serenity to the big screen and concluded the Firefly story in spectacular fashion. Although the door was left open for new stories, now chronicled in Dark Horse Publishing’s monthly comic book, the crew has yet to reunite outside of convention halls. Although Serenity’s return was short-lived, it catapulted Joss into the director’s chair for Marvel’s Avengers films, making it one of the most significant comebacks in Geek history.
Nintendo’s monster catching franchise never really went away…but it certainly faded from public consciousness – even among Geeks – for a long while. The late 90’s combo of inventive, accessible portable games and heartwarming anime made this franchise an instant hit and, predictably, an avalanche of merchandise, games, and movies followed. Afterwards, a steady – but notably reduced- output of games, collectable cards, and merch kept the wheels turning…but when the franchise’s 20th anniversary rolled around this year, Nintendo stepped on the gas.
The launch of Pokemon GO – a mobile app that brought (lite-) geocaching to the masses and got hojillions of fans outside and active – was a publicity beacon for most of this past summer and, no matter the drop in active players, has granted a great deal of traction to the upcoming Pokemon: Sun and Pokemon: Moon. It’s truly amazing how the franchise has…evolved (AHAHAHAHHAA Szpirs! You so hip and with it! HAHAHAHA!).
8. Image Comics
Think of all the comic tropes of the 1990’s – big hair, cheesecake art, inexplicable numbers of pockets, as much blood and guts as the publisher thought you could get away with. Imagine these tropes crystallised in a single, brand new comic company and you have Image Comics.
Founded by dissatisfied super-star creators – who were tired of signing away their work to Marvel and DC – this new imprint had a revolutionary new ownership model: creators would retain ownership of their individual characters while the publisher took a percentage to cover costs. Although this model changed somewhat as time went on, the basic idea was amazing. The comics, while each had fascinating elements, were firmly products of their time and, by the time Limp Bizkit’s Nookie fell off the Billboard Top 10, so fell the fortunes of Image.
The company bounced back, however, in a big way. Using their creator-owned system, Image was able to refocus their output, picking up new creators and titles that fit with the times. A little comic called The Walking Dead, slowly but surely, took them back to the top and subsequent works like Saga, Chew, Sex Criminals, and East of West are keeping them there (not to mention the excellent The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie…which you must all read NOW). With most of their top-shelf title optioned for TV and film, Image Comics has bounced back and is turning the Big Two into the Big Three.
It’s hard to believe the original series only ran for three seasons. Even when working on the 1986 motion picture, I doubt Hasbro knew what they had on their hands with this franchise. After Optimus and the gang rolled out at the end of Season three’s three-part season finale, they were hardly seen again, outside of Japan, for a full decade. Marvel’s excellent ongoing title and a few fan-imported anime weren’t enough to keep this franchise from fading to obscurity.
There were a few bright spots during this period of hibernation. The excellent computer-animated Beast Wars reminded us of why we loved this show in the first place (and was an amazing story in its’ own right) and Dreamwave’s comic Transformers: Prime Directive kept the fire going…but, for better or worse, it was Michael Bay’s Transformers movie that made Optimus Prime a household name again…and with a new series of films in development now, it looks like there’s no slowing down.
6. John Travolta – Pulp Fiction
The sitcom star and leading man of Grease had been in obscurity for years…until an up-and-coming director named Quentin challenged him to a the board game version of Welcome Back Kotter. Shortly thereafter, John’s subtle and deadly performance in Pulp Fiction rocketed him back to stardom. Although his career has had its up’s and down’s since, there’s no question that John’s performance as Vincent Vega defined 90’s cool… as the 70’s. Hipsters take note; this has happened before, it will happen again.
5. Marvel’s Avengers
Over at Marvel, the 90’s were ruled by the X-men. Writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne had spent the preceding decade taking the revived mutant team book from oddball soap-opera to blockbuster property. The X-men comics were subversive, inclusive (in a hamfisted sort of way), and masters of cliff-hangers and Pyrrhic victories. This was an era of the X-books that a later writer, Grant Morrison, would compare to punk rock: disruptive, popular, and game-changing. So what, you might ask, were the Avengers up to at the time? Operation: Galactic Storm and worrying about how married Vision and Scarlet Witch could be.
One bankruptcy later, Marvel started a few new imprints to try to kick-start their comics line. The much lauded Marvel Knights line introduced the team of Joe Quesada – the visionary who went on to become Marvel’s CEO and CCO leading into the Disney purchase – and writer Brain Micheal Bendis. They also started the Ultimates line: versions of the familiar properties that were continuity free (better for movie-fans) and modernized. Bendis took on Ultimate Spider-Man and, later, this guy named Mark Millar (Kick-Ass, Wanted, Civil War…) did a take on Avengers called The Ultimates…and basically laid the blueprint for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The Ultimates (Millar famously said that no one would see a movie called, ‘The Avengers’) was a cynical, caustically funny, wide-screen action book that is still a page-turning read. Bendis would catapult the original Avengers comic back to the top a few years later…but Millar laid the groundwork in this one-time Marvel must-have.
4. Ben Affleck – The Town
Riding high on the Oscar success of Good Will Hunting, Ben Affleck was on top of the world…until the risible Gigli and too-soon Jersey Girl (sorry, Kev) made him seem more uncomfortable than the back seat of a Volkswagon.
Although he was the bomb in Phantoms, Ben laboured in obscurity for a long time…until he adapted, directed, and starred in 2010’s The Town. He wisely leveraged this success into his Oscar winning Argo and now..it’s made him the goddamn Batman. He’s already been the best part of last year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, is a major part of Justice League, and is set to write and direct the upcoming standalone Batman film. Although his Daredevil may be dead and buried, Ben Affleck has really been Born Again (LOL Comic puns!).
3. Battlestar Galactica
Although copying Star Wars was late 70’s fad, Battlestar Galactica had deeper roots..but a lower budget. The original series, which ran from 1978 to 1980, gave us a few iconic images – the Cylon helmet, for example, but was mostly seen as corny and doomed to the fringes of sci-fi Geekdom.
In 2003, writer Ronald D. Moore and producer David Eick re-imagined BSG as a sexy, gritty space war epic that changed the game for television dramas. It had the continuity-heavy arcs of Buffy, the mystery of Lost, and the look of a big-budget sci-fi movie week after week. The best reboot of all time?
2. Robert Downy Jr. – Iron Man
An up-and-coming young star sidelined by addiction, Robert Downy Jr. was branded as untouchable by most major Hollywood players…until Jon Favreau tapped him to play Tony Stark in 2008’s Iron Man. Now, RDJ is the face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one of Hollywood’s highest paid stars, and a relentless force for good and good-times in the media. He has truly become Tony Stark in all the best ways: a bright, admirable person who overcame addiction to become a real-life hero. ‘Nuff said.
1. Doctor Who
It’s hard to imagine a bigger comeback than the Doctor’s – but it shouldn’t come as a surprise; regeneration is his speciality.
The original series ran from 1963 to 1989 for a mostly-British audience. Although the show had some syndication in the US, here in Canada, and around the world, it was hardly a blip on the Geek radar…and it is a real shame. To paraphrase longtime fan, writer, producer, and showrunner Steven Moffat, he is a hero that doesn’t carry a gun or wield super-powers. He merely has a brain and two hearts.
Since his 2005 return to the BBC, Doctor Who has finally found the global audience it deserves. The stories of the time-and-space travelling Time Lord are remarkably flexible – spanning all genres of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror – and sentimental in all the right ways. If you don’t mist up during the climax of the 50th Anniversary Special, you have no soul (which, by the way, is how it’s effing done, Star Trek). Infinitely adaptable, the Doctor shows no sign of slowing down with a new series on the way and the spin-off, Class, just premiered last week.
Well, how wrong am I, Geeks? Let me know in the comments.