As part of our 10th anniversary, io9 is looking back at the most important things that have happened, decisions that were made, and the moments, both good and bad, that have led us from January 2, 2008, to now. Today, we’re counting down from 80 to 61—keep reading all week for the rest!
It was a film that some people had been waiting 35 years for, but that others never wanted. There had been talk of making a sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 scifi noir Blade Runner for what seemed like decades; Scott himself announced in 2011 that he would be involved. Instead, he busied himself in his Alien universe and happily gave the keys to director Denis Villeneuve, fresh off the critically acclaimed Arrival. Villeneuve created a film that honored the original film without aping it, and built off its events while still telling a story all of its own. Blade Runner 2049 was not a financial success at all, but it’s as good a sequel as we could have hoped for.
The Fast & Furious franchise began as simple street-racing movies, but that all changed in Fast Five, when Dom (Vin Diesel) and Brian (Paul Walker) drove off a cliff and survived a several-hundred-foot-drop into the water below. By Fast 6, Dom was leaping through the air, off a tank, across a suspended bridge, to catch his girlfriend in true Superman-style. By Furious 7, Dom and Jason Statham’s villain were beating each other with steel rebars and giant wrenches and experiencing neither pain nor injury. And if that’s not enough, all the characters have “cars” as a superpower—how else to explain the time they drove off a plane at 30,000 feet and parachuted to a twisty European road, and not only landed safely but going 100 mph? Fast & Furious is technically a mainstream movie franchise, but it’s stealthily become a superhero series, too—and more proof nerds rule pop culture.
If you’ve seen a piece of pop culture art on the internet in the past 10 years, odds are its origin can be tracked back to one event: An art show held by Los Angeles’ Gallery 1988 in 2009 celebrating the final season of Lost. By collecting the work of various artists together for that group show, their visibility was raised like never before—as was fan interest. Over the years, Gallery 1988 continued showcasing similarly nerdy galleries (in person and online), and the interest in limited edition pop culture art began to spread. New galleries opened. New artists emerged. New fans began appreciating art and following artists. And what was once an incredibly niche industry led only by Gallery 1988 and Mondo became a major craze that’s here to stay.
For years, an ongoing joke held that whatever problems the X-Men movies had, Fox was accurately depicting the franchise by filling them with continuity issues. In part, this was thanks to the half-prequel, half-soft reboot effort that began with X-Men: First Class, set in the ‘60s. That film’s sequel, inspired by the Days of Future Past story arc in the comics, is set in an apocalyptic future where Wolverine’s mind is sent into his past body (long story) to stop mutant-hunting robots from destroying nearly all mutants, connecting both halves of the franchise. And damned if they didn’t pull it off, making two pieces fit together that didn’t particularly look like they were even from the same puzzle. Sure, it created a whole sea of new continuity issues, but one of them retconned the terrible X-Men: The Last Stand out of existence, so overall it was a big win for fans and the franchise alike.
As fandom and fan conventions exploded over the last 10 years, many institutions found themselves ignorant of the need for clear codes of conduct. While some felt attendees already knew to behave themselves, instances of harassment kept happening, proving them wrong. Smaller conventions and grassroots campaigns had already begun ushering in awareness, but New York Comic Con was the first major event to institute an anti-harassment policy. Reedpop, owner of NYCC, also runs several comic conventions around the world as well as the Pax gaming cons, making the change a major victory (albeit also a badly needed one). Since then, other major cons have instituted similar policies, but surprisingly the code of conduct for one of the biggest cons in the world, San Diego Comic-Con, is shorter than its costume props policy and is still fairly difficult to find.
Despite the immense popularity of Suzanne Collins’ book trilogy, Lionsgate was not that excited about making the first Hunger Games movie. It gave it a $78 million budget, measly in comparison to other 2012 hits. A YA book adaptation that didn’t star Harry Potter? An action movie with a female lead... aimed at teens? Why, they might as well have been throwing that money down the drain! But Jennifer Lawrence and The Hunger Games proved them all wrong. The movie ended up making $408 million, and Hollywood immediately rushed to snap up whatever scifi YA book series it could... with varying results.
The 2016 Ghostbusters was fine. It was a movie that, under normal circumstances, would have come and gone with zero controversy. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. Thousands of (largely male) fans of the original Ghostbusters balked at the idea of their beloved film getting a modern reboot, especially one that starred women. They organized an online harassment campaign that included mass downvoting of the movie’s trailers and flooding sites with negative reviews. They also sent rape and death threats to stars of the film—especially Leslie Jones, who also endured a barrage of racial attacks. Even now, almost two years later, any mention of the new Ghostbusters online guarantees someone will barge in to complain about it. The whole thing was—and continues to be—ugly, infantile, and wrong, and indisputable proof of how awful parts of fandom can be.
On November 2, 2015, CBS announced Star Trek would be returning to TV screens for a brand new series, over a decade since Star Trek: Enterprise came to an end. After three blockbuster movies set in an alternate timeline, it was great to see Trek return to its ancestral home, and even better when we learned it would be set in the series’ classic continuity. It would take the best part of another two years until the show, eventually revealed as Star Trek: Discovery, set just before the events of the original TV series, finally made it to CBS on September 24, 2017. Unfortunately, Discovery would only be on network TV for a one-night only event—the rest of the season, still currently airing, rolls out exclusively on CBS’ All Access digital streaming service. But for that night at least, Star Trek was back on TV, and we were in for a pretty wild, if uncertain, ride into Star Trek’s past.
A decade after Tim Burton brought us one of the worst film reboots ever, fresh prequel Rise of the Planet of the Apes seemed doomed for, at best, mediocrity. We were shocked when Rise turned out to be surprisingly poignant. As Caesar, Andy Serkis defined performance capture as an art form, with the movie rightfully centered on his point-of-view as an ape on the brink of personhood. Then, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes brought the series to another level. The film was grim, complex, and thought-provoking, showing how the desperate struggle to survive brought apes and humans into conflict. Finally, War for the Planet of the Apes concluded Caesar’s story but paved the way for the series to continue. And we’re majorly looking forward to it.
After star David Tennant and showrunner Russell T. Davies left the hugely successful series in 2010, new showrunner Steven Moffat had a lot to prove. Under his tenure, Who has grown and changed significantly, dabbling in complex arcs and time-bending mystery box stories that stoked fans while increasingly putting off casual viewers. He made huge additions to the show’s canon—everything from the Doctor having a wife, to the addition of a secret incarnation in the form of John Hurt’s “War Doctor,” and even to the Time Lord’s ability to change gender in regeneration. Moffat himself said adieu to Doctor Who last year, leaving behind a mixed legacy—but also an undeniably indelible mark.
There’s a long history of cinematic horror featuring black people. Most of it gestures at the real-life atrocities of the North American slave trade and its legacies, but Get Out delivered an unflinching headbutt that shoved the realities of anti-black prejudice in audiences’ faces. Earning exponentially more than it cost to make, Get Out is a game-changer because it doesn’t offer any kind of comfortable distance about how systemic inequality steals the souls and minds of black people. It’s a movie with the power to open the eyes of a society that’s been happy to have them sewn shut.
In the comics, the Guardians of the Galaxy were also-rans, a collection of aliens most notable for being weird as heck—when they were noticed at all, which wasn’t often. So when they were announced as an entry in Marvel’s big-budget movie slate, folks everywhere scratched their heads. But director James Gunn whipped up a winning formula for the star-faring rogues when Guardians of the Galaxy dropped in 2014. By doing so, he made it a lot harder to rule out the guaranteed success of any Marvel film project, no matter how improbable the source material may be.
On paper, Green Lantern had all the makings of a would-be Hollywood blockbuster: A scifi superhero premise ripe for amazing special effects, cool aliens, and a sprawling infrastructure perfect for sequels. But the Ryan Reynolds vehicle crashed hard at the box office in 2011, crushing WB’s first attempt to emulate Marvel’s movie success, and stunting its growth for years. Even now the failure of Green Lantern has made the studio so overcautious that while it has announced countless DC movies for years, it seems like one out of every four get made. When Reynolds made fun of the big green flop in Deadpool, everybody laughed… except Warner Bros.
Longtime DC editor Eddie Berganza’s inappropriate conduct in the workplace was the kind of open secret within comics circles that made many people wonder whether anyone actually took the accusations seriously. Multiple women working at DC had complained to management how Berganza not only harassed women working beneath him but created an atmosphere that left many feeling as if there was no way that they could ever hope to work comfortably within the company. It wasn’t until 2017, when multiple women came out and spoke publicly about their experiences working with Berganza, that DC finally did the right thing and fired him—signaling that perhaps the comics community is beginning to acknowledge the widespread issues of abuse that occur all too often throughout the industry.
Fans who discovered George R.R. Martin through the Game of Thrones TV series may think they’ve got it rough, waiting a year or two between seasons. But O.G. fans of Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series are already well-schooled in the fine art of patience, thanks to the author’s now legendarily molasses-slow writing pace. The first three entries were released between 1996-2000, with a genuinely impressive speed. Volume four, A Feast for Crows, took much longer, getting published in 2005. It took six years for A Dance With Dragons to come out on July 12, 2011—one month after the first season of the Game of Thrones TV show ended. The show’s popularity helped make A Dance With Dragons outsell all his previous books, and its shocking cliffhangers made fans new and old alike hunger for his next installment, The Winds of Winter. And on July 12, 2011, that waiting game began.
Marvel licensed the film rights to Spider-Man to Sony long before it decided to get into the movie-making business for itself. So when the Marvel Cinematic Universe began, we knew that the webslinger was never going to appear in it, just like the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, who belonged to Fox. But then, something impossible happened after so-so reboot sequel The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Sony gave up. They gave Spider-Man back to Marvel. Now, this deal wasn’t without conditions; Marvel could use the character in its other films, but Sony retained the character’s individual film rights—so while Marvel would make new Spider-Man films, Sony would still be the ones to reap most of the profits. But that’s the business stuff. For fans, it was a wish that somehow came true.
Novelist N.K. Jemisin made an auspicious debut with 2010's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, which picked up the Locus Award for Best First Novel. But her first huge milestone came a few years later, when she released the first book in her Broken Sky trilogy. Science/fantasy tale The Fifth Season, set on a planet ravaged by climate change that’s home to a mother-daughter duo with a magical connection to the environment, won the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novel—a major honor in any context, but made even more monumental because Jemisin was the first black writer to win it. The next year, the second Broken Sky book, The Obelisk Gate, picked up the same prize—and there’s already speculation that the third book, 2017's much-praised The Stone Sky, will help Jemisin make even more history with a Hugo hat trick.
For 40 years, if a live-action Star Wars movie was on the big screen, it told one story—that of the Skywalker family. But when Disney bought the Star Wars franchise, it announced that while it would be continuing the Skywalker saga, it would also release films that ventured outside of those boundaries. Rogue One was the first. The characters didn’t know Luke. They didn’t have lightsabers. They weren’t saving the galaxy, although they were helping others to save it later. Although it’s basically a prologue to A New Hope, Rogue One is a wholly unique Star Wars movie, and proof that there’s so much more out there to be seen. When Solo comes out this May, we’ll see another new corner of the Star Wars universe—but Rogue One did it first.
In an era of constantly improving examples of representation and diversity, calls for more LGBTQ characters in science fiction have steadily grown over the last 10 years, and Star Trek has helped lead the way. In 2016, it was revealed that John Cho’s take on Hikaru Sulu would have a husband in Star Trek Beyond—although there was some controversy from George Takei, Sulu’s original actor and a prominent gay activist, about the decision. A year later, it was announced that Star Trek: Discovery cast members Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz would portray the first gay couple on a Star Trek TV show. After over 50 years of presenting an enlightened, peaceful future for humanity, the franchise finally took a real step forward in better representing the diverse and tolerant society it had always strived to portray.
In the late ‘90s, Marvel sold off the film rights to a number of its characters, including the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. The subsequent X-Men films, made by Fox, raked in profits and helped kickstart the modern superhero movie craze. Since Marvel couldn’t get the rights back as long as Fox was consistently making X-Men movies, the comics publisher decided to effectively sideline the characters in its books. For ages now, Marvel’s mutants have been stuck in something of a sandbox that’s cut off from many of the publisher’s larger events, like Secret Empire. Mutants have been there, but they just aren’t the stars they used to be, and the X-Men comics have suffered as a result. Perhaps now that Disney is in the process of buying all that intellectual property back from Fox, the mutants (not to mention the Fantastic Four, whose comic was ended in 2015) can step back into the spotlight.