In 2012, Stan Lee got his own comic book convention, Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo came to town, web sensations like the comic Homestuck and series Dick Figures had wild success on Kickstarter and Lloyd Kaufman put a whole ton of Troma films on YouTube.
Sure, there's plenty more that happened in 2012. This is just the stuff covered in this little ol' weekly column, Cult Stars. Keep reading to find out who made the Top 10 Cult Stars of 2012.
10. The team behind Frankenweenie
This year, Tim Burton brought his cult hit Frankenweenie, originally a live action short, back to live as a beautiful, stop motion animated feature. The film delved into uncharted territory, a stop motion flick that was also done in black-and-white and in 3D. Nobody had made something quite like that before Frankenweenie. In order to get this done, they would need top-notch talent completely dedicated to making the movie happen.
Undoubtedly, everyone from producers Allison Abbate and Don Hahn to screenwriter John August to the animation department and the puppet shop, were committed to Frankenweenie. It's a beautiful movie — quite frankly, my favorite Burton film in years — and it shows how creative teams can push the conventions of stop motion, black-and-white and 3D.
9. Key & Peele
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have a long history together. They actually met back in 2002, before they both landed gigs with MADtv. These days, though, the duo are Comedy Central stars with their sketch show Key & Peele.
Key & Peele made waves before it landed on cable TV, thanks to the viral hit “Obama Loses His SH*T.” But, they've only gotten better since the series debuted late last January. Don't believe me? Just google “Key & Peele dubstep.” You will not be disappointed.
8. Stan Lee
Few people in any industry are as accomplished as Stan Lee, but the comic book legend's resume is still growing. This year, he added his name to Comikaze Expo, the L.A.-based pop culture convention that made a stellar debut back in 2011.
With Lee adding a marquee name to the convention, Comikaze grew with more exhibitors and more people. Lines were long at first, but once those subsided, the excitement inside the Los Angeles Convention Center was intense. Fans of the Generalissimo were the most obvious ones in the bunch. Someone even showed up wearing a wonderfully detailed Stan Lee mask, but it wasn't all about the superhero mastermind. Lee was the catalyst for making things happen on a grand scale, and that creates boundless opportunities for the fans, artists and writers who head out to these events regularly.
7. Homestuck fans
They've been gathering in greater numbers with every convention over the past couple of years. They come dressed as trolls and quirky kids. They are the fans of Homestuck, Andrew Hussie's incredibly popular webcomic, an adventure tale steeped in Internet and video game culture. Their costumes have baffled many a convention-goer — I'm sure I'm not the only one who has asked, “What's the deal with the trolls?” — but their presence has done more to raise awareness for this webcomic than any big publishing house marketing team could do. Certainly, Homestuck fans were the reason I was sucked into the webcomic.
In 2012, though, Homestuck fans did more than just lure in new readers. They're making an actual Homestuck game possible. Hussie announced his intentions to start development of a Homestuck game after the comic ends sometime next year and took the ambitious project to Kickstarter with a lofty goal of $700,00. By the end of the fundraising period, fans had pledged $2,485,506. With over 24,000 backers contributing the campaign, there's no doubt that Homestuck has a lot of incredibly dedicated fans willing to financially support a project they first found online for free.
See also: *Homestuck Has Me Hooked
6. Ed Skudder and Zack Keller
Ed Skudder and Zack Keller created Dick Figures, an animated web series revolving around the antics of stick figures. It's a web series for a generation that came of age online, short, fast-paced and filled with lots of Internet in-jokes. It's also a huge hit, racking up well over a million views per episode.
Last spring, Skudder, Keller and their team raised over $313,000 in pledges via Kickstarter to fund a forthcoming Dick Figures movie. By the end of the year, the show had been nominated for an Annie Award. It's been a good year for Dick Figures, but with the award nomination and a movie on the way, next year might be even better.
5. J.G. Quintel
Regular Show is a slow burn. Over the course of a couple years, this Cartoon Network animated series has blossomed into a major force in the animation fandom. It's a weird, kind of surreal slice-of-life comedy centered on a blue jay and a raccoon who are maybe a little on the slacker side. Adults love it. So do kids. And J.G. Quintel, the series' creator, is now kind of a rock star on the convention circuit.
Mordecai and Rigby, the main figures in Regular Show, live in an odd universe, but it's still a lot like ours. It's a place where fashion missteps will keep you from getting into the club and eating competitions can end badly. In other words, even if the blue jay and raccoon can talk, Regular Show is a lot like regular life.
4. Amanda Palmer
A lot has been written about Amanda Palmer this year. Some of it was good, like the press surrounding her monumentally successful effort to crowdfund her latest album, Theatre Is Evil, on Kickstarter. Some of it wasn't so hot, like the backlash that occurred when she asked for volunteers to play a few of her live gigs. Regardless, the rock star got people talking in 2012. More than that, she got people creating. I saw that in person last summer at Pop tART, the gallery where Palmer held her L.A. Kickstarter backer party.
The event was all about art, from the gallery show that accompanied the performance, to the books that Palmer gave fans to the fact that she let the fans paint her at the end of the concert. Palmer is certainly a controversial force in the rock world, but, for a lot of music fans, she's also an inspirational one.
3. Lloyd Kaufman
Lloyd Kaufman, the man behind such cult classics as The Toxic Avenger, has been proudly independent for decades and frequently speaks out against conventional movie industry wisdom. He's a proponent of working outside the mainstream system and an outspoken critic of multi-national media conglomerates and attempts to use government to prop up the big guys.
This year, he took a huge chunk of the catalog from Troma Entertainment, the company he co-founded, and uploaded it to YouTube where it's available to watch for free. It was a fitting move for Kaufman, as he has often spoke about how piracy isn't the biggest issue at hand for the indies. It was also a smart one. Kaufman is paving the way for independent media companies to think about how they want to get their work out into the world, to create their own systems of distribution in the ways that work best for their needs. He's a trailblazer, for sure, and hopefully more people will catch on to what Troma is doing right now.
2. Katsuhiro Otomo
For fans of manga and anime, few people are as revered as Katsuhiro Otomo. He brought the saga of Akira to life, first as a comic book and then as an animated film. The film itself is a landmark in anime, particularly in terms of garnering attention for Japanese animated works in the rest of the world.
Last fall, Otomo received a rousing welcome, and a “God of Animation” award, when he appeared at Platform International Film Festival in Los Angeles. He was also on hand for the screening of his latest work, a short called “Combustible.” Part of a forthcoming omnibus entitled Short Peace, “Combustible” is a beautiful addition to Otomo's filmography that any anime fan will want to see.
1. Lauren Faust
Lauren Faust is best known for her work on hits like Powerpuff Girls and for reviving the My Little Pony franchise with the series Friendship Is Magic. Sometimes, though, it's the short-lived series that make the biggest impact. I, for one, am hoping that's the case for Super Best Friends Forever.
Super Best Friends Forever is a five-episode short series that appeared within Cartoon Network's DC Nation block last year. The series' protagonists are Wonder Girl, Supergirl and Batgirl as teenagers, all of whom are portrayed with distinct body types that differ from the female superhero ideal. They get into shenanigans and save the day in brief episodes packed with fun and friendship. I loved it. A lot of other people did too. However, as blogs like The Mary Sue reported earlier this month, Super Best Friends Forever won't be returning for the new season of DC Nation.
You can look at this as a defeat for those who try so hard to prove that superheroes are just for the boys. I don't want to think of that way. Somebody, i.e. Lauren Faust, proved that you can make young, female superheroes that look like real life young ladies and that you can make superhero shows that focus on female characters, but with an appeal that crosses gender lines. Point being, Faust broke barriers with Super Best Friends Forever. Even if the show doesn't continue, its legend will.