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‘Squid Game,' the Marvel Cinematic Universe, ‘Star Wars: The Bad Batch,’ & More Make Up Fanbase Press’ Top Picks of 2021

As the end of 2021 draws near, the Fanbase Press staff and contributors wanted to take a look back at the year's media from our very own geeky perspectives. Much like our readers and fans, one way we view and connect with the world around us is through the stories, characters, and heroes that we enjoy or look up to, and it’s always interesting to hear other’s opinions when it comes to their favorites of the year. After much consideration, below are a number of moments, stories, creators, and fandoms that we here at Fanbase Press believe were worth highlighting.





Most Emotionally Impactful Fictional Story of the Year

Squid Game.  Initially I thought that I was just in for a splatter-fest, but the surprisingly slow burn series really honed in on an emotional core that was both uplifting and terrifying, truly showcasing the human condition.” - Erik Cheski, Fanbase Press Contributor

Squid Game (Season One, Netflix). I was once accused of having a heart of stone after I revealed that I have never cried during a Pixar movie. Yet, when the marbles came out in Squid Game, I was devastated. Squid Game will likely be remembered for its shocking violence, but the heart of the show is those generational, familial, and societal bonds, all tested to beyond breaking point and distilled into brief, yet irrevocable, exchanges.”
- Carl Wilson, Fanbase Press Guest Contributor

“Honestly, I want to acknowledge all of Marvel’s Disney+ content this year for its continued intention in depicting impactful themes.  From various depictions of trauma to noting the real-world difference that individuals can make in the world, Marvel’s TV content has resonated with audiences on many levels at a time when hope and connection are greatly needed.”
- Barbra Dillon, Co-Founder and Editior-in-Chief of Fanbase Press

WandaVision was so emotionally palpable that I wrote a blog post immediately after finishing the series. Wanda and Vision together is so much more than a simple relationship. WandaVision defines what it means to love someone, while trying to examine the enormous grief that comes with loss. The structure surrounding each episode was unique, the pain hidden underneath passing smiles was real, and the connection I felt to a character seems unfathomable.
- Travis Lakata, Fanbase Press Senior Contributor, Creator of the Geeky Parent Guide

Star Wars: The Bad Batch gets my vote. Initially, I had little interest in following these characters in their own story based on their appearance in Clone Wars, but the first season of the Disney+ animated series blew me away. Not only did I come to know and love the cast of characters, but the show's depiction of the rise of fascism and the theme of broken families was incredibly prescient given current events. It’s an incredibly poignant series for adult viewers and an incredibly important and valuable watch for younger viewers.”
- Bryant Dillon, Co-Founder and President of Fanbase Press




Most Visually Impressive Fictional Story of the Year

Dickinson (Season Two, Apple TV) - This year, we have seen the release of Dune, The Wheel of Time, Foundation, and From Blood and Ash; and while they are all lovely fantasy worlds to look at, they can all also be described with the following two possible-Pantone colours: Bloody Grey and Suspicious Brown. With Dickinson, I don’t want to live in their world; but, in the same way that the poet was inspired by the contours of her environment, I also want to inhale the bold and delicate vibrancy of the show, and allow it to then subtly colour my own outlook (although I do want their wallpaper too).”   
- Carl Wilson, Fanbase Press Guest Contributor

“Other than WandaVision? From episode, set, and costume designs, to watching Wanda’s powers come to life or falter, or simply watching two characters’ facial expressions as they try to figure out what’s wrong with their lives, the story continued to grow and grow. Every aspect of what’s seen on the small screen plays some role in the overall impact to the storytelling, leading to the ultimate emotional realization that takes place in the season finale.”
- Travis Lakata, Fanbase Press Senior Contributor, Creator of the Geeky Parent Guide

Star Wars: Visions and it’s anime re-imagining of George Lucas’ universe and mythology was a visual delight. Allowing each episode and creative team to use their own chosen and distinct visual style was an inspired choice. An absolutely stunning addition to the Disney era of a galaxy far, far away.”
- Bryant Dillon, Co-Founder and President of Fanbase Press

Cowboy Bebop live action.  Like it or loathe it, the visual style was consistent and glorious.”
- Erik Cheski, Fanbase Press Contributor




Standout Geek Hero (Fictional or Non-Fictional) of the Year

“Superman. I have written recently about why I am thankful for Superman in 2021, but nothing has a greater potential in mainstream comics to point the way towards a brighter 2022 more than his new mission statement: “Truth, Justice and a Better Tomorrow.” I enjoy grim-dark shenanigans as much as the next member of a largely unsurprising demographic, but in a race to the depths we still need to remember to find the exit route, and we all know it’s clearly not the one labelled “The American Way.”
- Carl Wilson, Fanbase Press Guest Contributor

“Mark Ruffalo fights for everyone with his platform, and it’s amazing to see.”
- Erik Cheski, Fanbase Press Contributor

“I can’t think of anything other than my two kids. I’m trying to wrap my head around some amazing content in movies, TV, and comics, but the fact is my kids helped me get through this year. They have handled this year exceedingly well, and their thoughtful comments or silly moods helped me when I’ve needed it most. They’ve drawn me pictures, written notes, played games, done dance moves, told jokes, helped bake, put away laundry, played badminton or catch, made each other laugh, watched movies, shared candy, and found ways for me to appreciate them more when I’ve felt like I haven’t been enough for them. My kids are my geek heroes this year, and I think they always have been.”
- Travis Lakata, Fanbase Press Senior Contributor, Creator of the Geeky Parent Guide




Standout Character of the Year

“Can I say The Bad Batch? This series was great and watching Hunter taking on this role as “The Dad Batch” was fun to see. Hunter is literally learning to be a parent on the go, and he’s doing what he can to protect Omega as a new member of their crew. It also means he has to allow Omega to have responsibilities and trust her when it comes to tricky situations, even if he feels it isn’t safe. I look forward to more of this series and see how the characters continue to grow (as a family).”
- Travis Lakata, Fanbase Press Senior Contributor, Creator of the Geeky Parent Guide

“Ali, player 199 from Squid Game. He deserved better.”
- Erik Cheski, Fanbase Press Contributor

“Gawain of The Green Knight film - In a world of superheroes that never fall unless it is to only rise stronger, here we have plucky Sir Gawain (Dev Patel): a masculine archetype who systematically trips over every Epic and not-so-Epic temptation presented before him. And he doesn’t ever really get back up; he just sort of flops about in the dirt. Gawain is far from aspirational, preferring to cast himself to whichever wind he thinks will eventually make him A Man, and it is this inability to escape himself that makes his depiction so compelling, refreshing, and honest.
- Carl Wilson, Fanbase Press Guest Contributor




Standout Geek Romance of the Year

“For me, it was Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ romance between Xu Wenwu (a.k.a. The Mandarin) and Ta Lo guardian, Ying Li, that stood out this year. Actors Tony Leung and Fala Chen mined mountains in mere minutes of film, depicting both a believable and unexpected attraction that grows into a powerful and life-altering love between two individuals who should be enemies. The love’s dual impact on Wenwu is the backbone of the film’s plot, showing how Ying Li’s presence caused this conqueror to wish to be a better man, while also revealing how the trauma of the loss of Ying Li propels Wenwu to make choices that betray her memory in an attempt to escape his pain and anguish.”
- Bryant Dillon, Co-Founder and President of Fanbase Press

“Paul Rudd and the other Sexiest Men.”
- Erik Cheski, Fanbase Press Contributor

“Jonathan Kent and Jay Nakamura. There is something irresistible about the new Superman, the American epitome of righteous masculinity, being officially gay. This is an industry that was side-swiped by the Comics Code Authority in 1954 and, in tandem with wider American cultural discourses, has been oscillating wildly between self-censure and overt sexualisation ever since. Jonathan Kent isn’t the only gay superhero nor the first, but in normalising a homosexual relationship (once the media fanfare and boost to sales have calmed down), he is representative of how the comics industry can respond to the expectations and experiences of their modern audiences.”
- Carl Wilson, Fanbase Press Guest Contributor

“Wanda and Vision. In spite of everything that happened in WandaVision, the truth about their love was never fictional. They are meant to be together and the knowledge of what’s happened is devastating.”
- Travis Lakata, Fanbase Press Senior Contributor, Creator of the Geeky Parent Guide

“It may have ended in 2020, but I arrived late to Schitt’s Creek, and I wholeheartedly ship David and Patrick and will until the end of time.  They are everything.” 
- Barbra Dillon, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Fanbase Press




Standout Fandom of the Year

Star TrekPicard wasn’t the pinnacle, but Discovery and especially Lower Decks have been absolutely stunning.  My partner has no interest in my “space shows”, but she has found herself engaged by the episodes that she catches with me. Star Trek is telling stories that matter.”
- Erik Cheski, Fanbase Press Contributor

“I think Marvel bringing characters from the MCU into television series was quite successful. They generated heartfelt relationships, while examining potential future storylines as various characters struggled with their identities, grief, or the notion that things can be forever altered in the course of a single action.”
- Travis Lakata, Fanbase Press Senior Contributor, Creator of the Geeky Parent Guide

John Featherstone (Yakima Canutt and Zorros Fighting Legion [1939]). Movie stunt teams deserve more credit; for my money, they also deserve Academy Awards. So, while I fully support writer John Featherstone, who has been actively sharing and promoting an animated GIF of “Yakima Canutt executing his famous death-defying feat in Zorros Fighting Legion” to a point where his old black and white clip of a man ludicrously barrel-rolling under some horses has over 14 thousand views, there is one thing that I love more: the infectious joy that his ongoing mission has brought to my own life; this being the absolute essence of fandom.”
- Carl Wilson, Fanbase Press Guest Contributor




Standout Creator/Creative Team of the Year

“Dave Chisholm is the writer and illustrator of Canopus, and it is masterful. It’s a sci-fi story you dive into, read through in one sitting, and instantly hope for more stories from this creator. Outside of WandaVision, this Scout Comics title would be my vote for Most Emotionally Impactful Story and Most Visually Impressive Story of 2021. Canopus is compelling from the start and leads down a rabbit hole that digs at your heart.”
- Travis Lakata, Fanbase Press Senior Contributor, Creator of the Geeky Parent Guide

“Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda (for Monstress – Volume 6: The Vow). Written by Marjorie Liu, with art by co-creator Sana Takeda, Monstress is the Asian inspired fantasy gift that keeps giving, if by “giving” we mean the ongoing adventures of Maika, a feisty and powerfully determined young woman inhabited by a tentacular elder being that craves blood, while Arcanics (magical creatures) battle the Cumaea (sorcerers) over control of territory. We’re at Volume 6, the matriarchs still all hate each other, and it’s bloody terrific.”
- Carl Wilson, Fanbase Press Guest Contributor




Standout Actor/Cast of the Year

"Forence Pugh stole the spotlight this year with her portrayal of Yelena Belova in both Black Widow and Hawkeye. She’s utterly fantastic and I can’t wait to see more of her in the MCU.”
- Bryant Dillon, Co-Founder and President of Fanbase Press

“The cast of WandaVision comes together seamlessly. Throughout the changes, as episodes passed through the decades, the cast was believable and provided a great comical balance to a heavy emotional toll that constantly builds to the very end. Elizabeth Olson is phenomenal as she leads with heart, while finding ways to cope with the odd life she’s surrounded by. Paul Bettany demonstrates how a man-made Vision has the capacity for sincere heartfelt love, while understanding and feeling the impact of having to say goodbye.”
- Travis Lakata, Fanbase Press Senior Contributor, Creator of the Geeky Parent Guide




Biggest Geeky Surprise of the Year

“The announcement of Hayden Christensen returning to his role as Anakin Skywalker in the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series on Disney+ certainly got me excited!  If we’re able to see live-action depictions of Anakin and Obi-Wan during the Clone Wars . . . alongside a certain Togruta . . . then count this Star Wars fan thrilled!” 
- Barbra Dillon, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Fanbase Press

“I had never been a leading fan of Boba Fett in previous years, but seeing the character return in The Mandalorian was one thing. Then, watching Under the Helmet: The Legacy of Boba Fett this year dialed me into the lore behind the character and why many others have loved the character so much. It was a wonderful documentary and further amplified my desire to see The Book of Boba Fett – and quite possibly made me a big fan of 'The Fett.'”
- Travis Lakata, Fanbase Press Senior Contributor, Creator of the Geeky Parent Guide

Fear Street trilogy (Netflix). What’s better than one good movie coming out of nowhere? A trilogy of interconnected films, released in quick succession, all gorging on the blood-warm buffet of classic horror tropes, with a shared charismatic cast, phenomenal pop soundtrack, and more self-confidence than Michael Myers in a kitchen-wares shop. Visit Shadyside for the laughs, stay because the shutters aren’t rising fast enough to escape.”
- Carl Wilson, Fanbase Press Guest Contributor

“Nothing topped the arrival of Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk to the MCU. After so many rumors, to have the character actually step onscreen again in a Marvel Studios project was mind-blowing.”
- Bryant Dillon, Co-Founder and President of Fanbase Press

“Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons. I had been hungering for Krynn without knowing, and this satisfied that hazy itch so much.  The overall trend in Wizards of the Coast removing harmful tropes from the 5e system has also been surprising in its reach and efficiency, though more does need to be addressed.”
- Erik Cheski, Fanbase Press Contributor




Defining Geeky Theme of the Year

“Facing one’s struggles, past or present, seemed to be at the forefront of the Marvel series this year. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has multiple characters fighting their past or present-day circumstances. One struggling with his identity as a brainwashed hitman, while one deals with the reality that bigotry doesn’t stand still. Anthony Mackie as the Falcon is incredible and seeing people question his role as Captain America is at the forefront of real-life struggles. These struggles should not exist, but recognizing them on one of the biggest entertainment stages is a way to tackle such an important issue head-on.

Loki follows a grand path to understanding what it means to trust himself enough to trust another person. The series connects the dots on what it means to have control over one’s life, and whether or not he (or anyone) is happy with the choices that have come (or might come in the future). On that note, What If…? tackled outrageous possibilities, mixed with the return of Chadwick Boseman as he voiced T’Challa for the animated series. I loved seeing a character with good heart make positive change, even when they’re in a role where “scoundrel” is the expectation. Good people do good things, and I loved seeing that and hearing Boseman’s part in that.”
- Travis Lakata, Fanbase Press Senior Contributor, Creator of the Geeky Parent Guide

“Hope and belonging.  So much of geekdom was searching for community and understanding, a palpable antithesis to gatekeeping.”
- Erik Cheski, Fanbase Press Contributor




What Was the Best Representation of #StoriesMatter?

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.  The MCU has not been a paragon of representation for long, and it still has to fight the inertia of the Mouse and White Supremacy baked into the nature of entertainment in this country. The examination of that story, showing what Captain America would mean to a black man, showing that other black men had fought the fight before but had received terrible treatment, showing the analog to how our country rapidly wipes away the contributions of people of color from the record of our 'great deeds'…this was a story that needed to be told, and it was done so very, very well.”
- Erik Cheski, Fanbase Press Contributor

“I loved Raya and the Last Dragon. My whole family watched this together at home and the diverse cast of characters is amazing. The film amplifies the importance of why stories are significant, because they allow everyone, especially kids, to see that anyone can be a hero or friend. The story highlights the burdens of responsibilities, the costs associated with trusting others, and the importance of coping with mistakes. Plus, it’s also important to repeat the old adage, 'Don’t judge a book by its cover,' even if their exterior might be big and gruff like Tong. A phenomenal story that’s wonderfully entertaining!”
- Travis Lakata, Fanbase Press Senior Contributor, Creator of the Geeky Parent Guide

“This is such a tough question, only because I feel like the art that is coming out of the global pandemic is - for the large part - giving voice to the collective trauma that we’re all experiencing in myriad ways.  So much of the media that we’re consuming is speaking to the representation that we clamor for, the outlet that we need to keep going, the frustration or anger that is buried inside . . . and perhaps that is what I take away from this year.  I find myself fortunate that I’m able to consume media that resonates with me, that has a powerful impact, and that can help me in reconciling and healing from the ills of the past two years and counting.  I sincerely hope that others have had access to and found the same in the media of this year.” 
- Barbra Dillon, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Fanbase Press