If you’re a nerd, the last 10 years have been astonishing. Over the last decade, nerds have conquered pop culture. Superheroes dominate theaters and TV networks. We get a new Star Wars movie every year. A show with zombies, dragons, and people having graphic sex is mainstream. It’s been 10 years of victories, losses, good times, bad decisions, things we thought we’d never see, things we never could’ve imagined—and frankly, it’s time to take stock.
As part of our 10th anniversary, io9 is looking back at the most important things that have happened; decisions that were made; the moments, both good and bad, that have led us from January 2nd, 2008, to now. Today, we’re counting down from 100 to 81; tomorrow we’ll have 80-61, and so on until Friday, when we tell you the 20 most important things that have happened in the last 10 years. It’s going to be… momentous.
Let’s start simply, shall we? In October of 2013, DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson sent a memo to the New York City-based staff of DC Comics, telling them to get their butts to California. Exactly how much DC’s output has benefitted or suffered from the move is impossible to tell, but it had one major impact: Once one of the Big Two publishers left town, New York City lost its title as the comic book capital of America, which it had held since the industry began.
The ass that launched a thousand blogs. Marvel hiring erotic illustrator Milo Manara to do a variant cover for its Spider-Woman title was probably a bad call. Approving what was handed in? Really bad call. The sexualized image was incredibly at odds with the publisher’s mission at the time to bring in new readers, especially more women and young girls, to titles exactly like Spider-Woman. The cover got a lot of people thinking and talking, but also served as an outlet for some of the worst in fandom to prove just how offensive they could be. But the ugliness was ultimately a reminder to publishers that other demographics wanted to read their books, if only they weren’t being actively turned away.
The X-Men have always been one of Marvel’s most popular properties, but they catapulted to new heights during the ‘90s thanks to Fox’s animated X-Men series. After that, the X-Men all but disappeared from television, save for a handful of series like X-Men: Evolution that never quite got off the ground. But FX’s Legion and Fox’s The Gifted have brought Marvel’s mutants back to television, telling novel, innovative stories that represent the still-untapped potential within the X-Men franchise. At a time when TV shows based on comic books are all too comfortable skewing toward the utterly fantastical, both have zeroed in on what really makes genre series like these work: Humanity and compelling characters.
Disney is famous for holding a vice-like grip on its beloved animation properties, so fans were a little perplexed when ABC announced Once Upon a Time, a show that would reinterpret classic Disney characters for a modern generation. (Snow White’s Evil Queen, for instance, was reimagined as a dark but complex single mother.) This wasn’t ABC copy-pasting classic Disney tales to TV, it was a weird, fan fic-esque crossover-palooza. It was also the first time Disney really stepped back and let its characters be used in new and interesting ways. It paved the way for looser, live-action remakes like Beauty and the Beast, as well as the highly anticipated Disney Princess cameos in 2018’s Wreck-It Ralph 2.
When Dan Slott was added to the expanding creative team of Amazing Spider-Man in 2008, it was the start of a decade-long relationship that would see him become one of the most influential Spidey writers of all time. Slott had an indelible impact on Peter Parker, and has made the series one of the most successful comics of the modern age. Though his time on Amazing Spider-Man will come to an end this summer, his work will be remembered for years and years to come.
Rick and Morty has always had very devoted fans—and why not? The Adult Swim show is as hilarious as it is smart and original. Unfortunately, “devoted” doesn’t necessarily mean “reasonable” or “mature.” After a recurring joke in a 2017 episode showered praise on McDonald’s Szechuan sauce, the fast-food chain decided it would bring back the long-gone condiment for a limited time. What was meant to be a fun publicity stunt ended up being anything but fun when demand far exceeded supply. Both social media and the McDonald’s chains then exploded with a whiny outcry from furious fans; the show’s creators, suitably mortified, quickly distanced themselves from the promotion gone awry. But the entire country got a thorough, depressing look at what fan entitlement is, and how awful it can be.
Television shows have been pulling the “Bury Your Gays” trope for decades, but the outcry that met this particular character death actually brought about some change. In season three of The 100, Grounder leader Lexa was killed shortly after having sex with series protagonist Clarke. This was mostly because actress Alycia Debnam-Carey had left for a starring role on Fear the Walking Dead, but that didn’t change the fact that it was yet another example of a LGBT character being murdered shortly after finding love. Fan response was immediate and intense, tuning out of the show in protest, unfollowing the creators on Twitter en masse, and raising thousands of dollars for an LGBT suicide prevention organization. Their reaction led showrunner Jason Rothenberg to apologize in a post on Medium, and Lexa was later brought back in the season three finale, giving her and Clarke the reunion fans were hoping for.
Lost was the first modern genre show that had the ability to turn almost anyone who watched it into a fan. People of every age, gender, race, and level of nerdiness could be heard talking together about about smoke monsters, time travel, and frozen donkey wheels over the course of its 2004-2010 broadcast. When the appropriately titled “The End” aired on May 23, 2010, people all over the world were rapt, waiting for the answers they’d been hoping for all along. That… didn’t happen. But the collective discourse about it—the frustration, the confusion, the anger, even enjoyment—was a singular moment in the expansion of nerd culture to the mainstream, and one not truly replicated until Game of Thrones.
When a publication appoints a new editor-in-chief, it isn’t just choosing a new person to oversee the execution of its larger vision, it’s choosing one of the most important faces that people will associate with the brand. When Marvel announced that C.B. Cebulski—a white man who admitted that he’d created a fictional Japanese persona in the early ‘00s in order to further his career in comics—was its new EIC, it sent a number of messages to the public. On the one hand, Cebulski’s appointment spoke to the work he’d done to cultivate new talent for Marvel and the company’s desire to keep that momentum going. On the other hand, it communicated that Marvel was entirely comfortable with the fact that one of its highest-ranking employees once engaged in a kind of digital yellowface that outraged many of its fans.
When Doctor Who turned 50 years old in 2013, it became the longest-running scifi TV show in the world—and it did so with a celebratory TV special that turned out record-breaking audiences worldwide, proof that the show still had plenty of life left in it. “The Day of the Doctor” saw then-incumbent star Matt Smith team up with former Doctor David Tennant, alongside a new, secret incarnation of the Doctor played by John Hurt. It’s since been revealed by former showrunner Steven Moffat that the production process on the special was so stressful he almost attempted to pitch a script that didn’t feature the Doctor at all. To be fair, though, had that happened, it would also have probably ended up somewhere on this list.
At a time when comics sales were tanking and Marvel had already sold off the film rights to its most popular properties, the Ultimate Marvel universe gave readers a chance to get in on the ground floor of an entirely new line of bold, daring comics. But in 2015, the Ultimate universe was destroyed as part of the latest Secret Wars event that pulled the focus back to its prime continuity. The loss definitely had a powerful emotional heft to it, especially for fans who had grown up with Ultimate as their main Marvel universe. Happily, just last week, Brian Michael Bendis resurrected it with what seems to be a new adventure for Ultimate Spider-Man. Even more promising, though, is the idea that this new Ultimate universe could give rise to the next Miles Morales-esque hero that takes the world by storm.
J.K. Rowling’s eighth and final Harry Potter book ran 759 pages. That’s a long book! Of course, the idea of squeezing an extra movie out of the Harry Potter cash cow couldn’t have been far from anyone’s mind, but it also must have been genuinely easier to have four hours in which to adapt Deathly Hallows than two. Certainly fans weren’t disappointed at Part 1 in 2010, or Part 2 in 2011. But once Warner Bros. did this, the floodgates were open. Suddenly any book could be drawn out into two movies, especially the final volumes of YA series like Twilight and The Hunger Games. But the most egregious example is—well, we’ll talk about it in just a minute.
Nobody questioned the greenlighting of a series adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale—Margaret Atwood’s chilling, eerily timely novel, set in a transformed America where women are enslaved and repressed. But its home on Hulu, a streaming service then viewed variously as a way to catch TV reruns and movies that didn’t make the cut at Netflix, attracted a certain amount of side-eye. All that changed when the show debuted in 2017; it was a top-quality project with an outstanding cast and production values to rival anything on a major network, with an edginess that wouldn’t have been out of place on prestige powerhouse HBO. And it became the first streaming show to win an Emmy for Best Drama—the first of what will inevitably be many, as the inevitable shift from old-school TV to the endless possibilities of streaming continues.
My Little Pony, a 1980s TV series based on a line of Hasbro toys, could be a contender for the most girl-targeted franchise in the universe. However, the 2011 reboot called My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic found an audience no one was expecting: men aged 13 to 35. Calling themselves Bronies, these men flocked to the “tails” of Twilight Sparkle and her pony pals after clips of the show started circulating on online forums. They’ve been responsible for Brony conventions and fan sites that feature art and music inspired by the series. The show may have been intended for young girls and their moms to bond over, but it exploded with this surprising male audience. The creators have embraced this unconventional fanbase, adding nods to Bronies in both the show and its merchandise.
Although some Tolkien purists will inevitably disagree, the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy was, basically, perfect. So when director Peter Jackson announced he was returning to Middle-earth to make its prequel, The Hobbit, everyone was incredibly excited. Flush with the success of the splitting of Deathly Hallows, and Warner Bros. announced it would be two movies. The Hobbit is shorter than each of the books in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but you could argue—and people did—that two movies made sense with Jackson’ epic filmmaking. But then... it became three. It was such an obvious cash grab that almost instantly all excitement and anticipation for the film(s) cooled off. And instead of getting the perfect movie adaptation of The Hobbit the world wanted, we got a bloated, boring mess in three installments.
If the name Satoshi Kon doesn’t ring as many bells as Hayao Miyazaki does, well, that’s the problem. The anime director died on August 25, 2010, at the age of 46, after being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. He had completed only four films and one TV series, a first foray in what should have been the life’s work of one of the world’s best directors, period. Instead, we got the wonderful, Hitchcockian suspense film Perfect Blue; Millennium Actress, the frenetically visual examination of the thin boundaries between art and reality; Tokyo Godfathers, a heart-warming Capra-esque drama-comedy about three homeless people who discover an abandoned baby; and Paprika, which is essentially a dream turned into a film, in a way animation could be capable of. With every film, his prowess and prestige grew, and it would have kept on growing, too. When we lost Kon, we lost masterpieces.
There is only one truly unbeatable superhero, and it’s not Superman, Wonder Woman, or Spider-Man. It’s Doreen Green, a.k.a. Squirrel Girl, a young woman blessed with the power to talk to squirrels and do computer coding. She was created as a silly character, with her power to actually beat toughies like Doctor Doom being part of the joke. But when Ryan North and Erica Henderson grabbed her in 2015 and rechristened her The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, they made that rarest of all comics: One that people of all ages can enjoy. Like its title character, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is a fun, positive comic that teaches the importance of tolerance, diversity, and the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, too. It’s led to a huge renaissance for the nut-eater/butt-kicker, who made her animated debut on the recent Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, and is due to be the lead in the upcoming New Warriors TV series.
Fan fiction—especially erotic fan fiction—is a bit of an odd duck. But when E.L. James wrote her tale of Twilight’s Bella and Edward taking their relationship to a more… arduous level, she wasn’t alone. In fact, we bet there were hundreds of erotic Twilight fan fics that made Edward (or Jacob, or both) and Bella specifically into BDSM. Things only took a turn for the unusual when James removed the Twilight part of her story, renamed her characters, released the result as an ebook from a no-budget publisher—and then sailed from the virtual bargain bin to a series with 125 million copies sold. The only change this may have wrought on the industry is publishers forcing their employees to constantly parse through erotic fan fic sites, but that doesn’t change the fact that what happened is bizarre.
82) The Big Bang Theory mentions a fantastic, acclaimed, progressive non-Marvel/DC comic book… to make a boob joke
The February 5, 2016 episode of The Big Bang Theory had 15.7 million viewers. Interestingly, that’s the same number of people who should be buying and reading every issue of Saga, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ just unbelievably great scifi-fantasy drama about family, war, sex, parenting, and more. To be more precise, it’s the type of comic that when the cover of its first issue—which included a woman breastfeeding her baby—was seen as controversial, Vaughan and Staples responded by making the cover of the first Saga anthology a close-up of that same baby, suckling on that same breast. It’s a comic that’s smart and progressive, and 15+ million people should know this. Instead, it was used for TBBT’s presumably 15 zillionth “nerds sure do like to masturbate to comics!” joke. You can hear it in the video above, although god knows why you’d want to.
In 2011, DC Comics made some bold moves to invigorate its publishing lineup with the New 52. No change was as controversial as returning its genius, wheelchair-using badass Oracle to her previous moniker—Batgirl. It wasn’t just a name change; Barbara Gordon would also be leaving her wheelchair behind 20 years after having been paralyzed by the Joker. It was a disheartening move from DC, which already had very little disability representation in its comics. But just as importantly, Oracle held her own special place in the DC universe. After all, there have been several other heroes that have gone by the Batgirl moniker, but there’s only ever been one Oracle—and her loss has been felt keenly by fans.