15 pop culture milestones marked in 2012

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The year 2012 marks significant anniversary milestones for several iconic pop culture characters and institutions. These fantastic figures and guilds of geekery have survived the test of time to become permanent fixtures in our society and their legacies continue to ripple across our collective cultural consciousness, certain to inspire generations to come – providing that the pending Mayan Apocalypse is an epic failure.

Here is a quick look at fifteen major pop culture mileposts that have, or will be, past in the year 2012:

15. Firefly — 10th AnniversaryFirefly premiered on the Fox television network on Sept. 20, 2002. Joss Whedon’s space-western was short-lived on TV, but has since developed one of the most amazing cult followings ever. The crew of Serenity has inspired a feature film (Serenity), games, comic books and a scruffy band of die-hard fans called the “Browncoats,” who perform a plethora of good charity work. You can learn more about Firefly’s tenth anniversary by watching the Firefly: Browncoats Unite special on the Science Channel, November 11 at 10 p.m. (ET/PT). Learn about the Arizona chapter of the Browncoats at azbrowncoats.org.

14. Buffy the Vampire Slayer — 20th Anniversary — Opened in theaters on July 31, 1992. “Homework. Cheerleading practice. Killing vampires. No one said high school would be easy.” The original Buffy the Vampire Slayer film was Joss Whedon’s first feature film as a writer and initiated his status as one of the most prominent genre creators ever. He went on to write & direct the popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series that ran from 1996 – 2003, which led to Firefly, this year’s movie blockbuster The Avengers, the upcoming S.H.I.E.L.D. television series and the planned Avengers sequel (2015).

13. Reservoir Dogs — 20th Anniversary — Opened in theaters on Oct. 23, 1992. Reservoir Dogs introduced the world to writer/director Quentin Tarantino and movies have not been the same since. Tarantino’s tale of pop culture quoting criminals turned the crime-drama genre on its head and made it cool to be a film nerd. Most of the incredible dialogue from this movie can’t be repeated in a family blog, but here is one of my favorite quotes by poor Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi). “Yeah, that’s easy for you to say, you’re Mr. White. You have a cool-sounding name. Alright look, if it’s no big deal to be Mr. Pink, you wanna trade?”

12. Street Fighter — 25th Anniversary — First appeared in arcades in August 1987. It’s amazing how far video games have come since the original Street Fighter made its debut, but in its hero Ryu and his opponent Ken were all the rage as they punched, kicked and special-attacked their way into video game history. The game inspired at least four sequel games (with dozens of colorful characters – my favorite is Blanka), several animated series and one really bad movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme (1994).

11. Poltergeist – 30th Anniversary — Opened in theaters on June 4, 1982. Directed by Tobe Hooper (famous for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre), written & produced by Steven Spielberg, Poltergeist remains one of the scariest movies ever made. Most kids today have never experienced the white noise of a television set after the network signs off the air – and after seeing Poltergeist they’ll never want to either. I’ll never forget little Carol Anne voicing those infamous two words that became part of our national lexicon, “They’re here.”

10. E.T. the Extraterrestrial — 30th Anniversary — Opened in theaters on June 11, 1982. Steven Spielberg blew the world away with his friendly little alien creature, E.T. the Extraterrestrial. The film launched the career of Drew Barrymore and made Reese’s Pieces every kid’s favorite candy. I’ll always have a soft-spot in my heart for this sappy sci-fi movie about a lonely and isolated creature trying desperately to get back home. Spielberg gets credit for preventing a sequel from ever being made, but loses points for the 20th Anniversary edition of the film where he digitally removed guns from the policemen’s hands and changed the Halloween scene’s line “You are not going as a terrorist!” to “You are not going as a hippie!” The original film has fortunately been restored on its recent Blu-ray release.

9. Rambo — 30th Anniversary — Opened in theaters on Oct. 22, 1982. First Blood was the first Rambo movie and introduced the world to the troubled Vietnam War veteran whose name would become synonymous with reckless American cowboyism overseas. Rambo originally committed suicide at the end of the 1982 film, but test audiences hated that ending; so the surly soldier would live on –being called upon when the government has dirty one-man-army work to be done – or when Sylvester Stallone is running short of cash.

8. Judge Dredd35th Anniversary — First appeared in the British magazine 2000 AD (issue #2) on March 5, 1977. Judge Dredd is probably one of the United Kingdom’s best known comicbook heroes and has inspired two feature films; 1995’s Judge Dredd, starring Sylvester Stallone as the futuristic judge, jury and executioner, and the recent Dredd 3D starring Karl Urban and Olivia Thirlby, which is a very good and highly-recommended sci-fi action flick. The Dredd comics are a great read and full of fun action and dry-witted British humor.

7. James Bond (Dr. No) — 50th AnniversaryDr. No, the first James Bond film, premiered in London theaters on Oct. 5, 1962. James Bond was created by British author Ian Fleming in 1953, but the world at-large was introduced to the character when Sean Connery portrayed 007 on the big screen in the classic Dr. No spy thriller. Since then the Bond franchise has seen 6 different actors fill the super-spy’s shoes in 22 different films. The world just recently celebrated a global James Bond Day and the 23rd James Bond saga, Skyfall, hits theaters on November 9.

6. Spider-Man — 50th Anniversary — Spider-Man first appeared in the August 1962 issue of the Amazing Fantasy (#15) comic book. Spidey would go on to become the iconic face of Marvel Comics and next to Superman, probably the most popular comic-book character ever created. Peter Parker has faced everything from high-school bullies to intergalactic evil-doers and the undead, while proving that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Last summer’s The Amazing Spider-Man film reboot and the upcoming 700th issue of the comic-book series will spin the wall-crawler well into the 21st century. Read more about Spidey’s 50th Anniversary.

5. MAD Magazine — 60th Anniversary — First published in August 1952. The story of MAD magazine is one of the greatest anti-censorship tales in print history. When Bill Gaines, publisher of the infamous EC Comics horror books, was taken to task by the Congressional hearings on juvenile delinquency, he thumbed his nose at the establishment and created a magazine specifically designed to “to corrupt the minds of children.” MAD still remains one of the sharpest, smartest and wittiest print parody books in existence, routinely spoofing American politics, celebrities and popular culture.

4. The Hobbit — 75th Anniversary — First published in Sept. 21, 1937. This J. R. R. Tolkien classic has inspired untold legions of fantasy tales, including the author’s own Lord of the Rings trilogy. The beloved story of Bilbo Baggins’ epic adventures on the world of Middle-Earth is cherished by children and adults alike. It’s the only reading assignment I remember from high-school that I actually enjoyed and I can’t wait for the Peter Jackson film adaptation, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of a three part film series, set to be released on December 14, 2012.

3. Conan the Barbarian — 80th Anniversary — First published in December 1932 in the Weird Tales pulp magazine story, The Phoenix on the Sword. “Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet.” Robert E. Howard’s barbarian was one of the first sword & sorcery heroes and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s portrayal of the surly Cimmerian launched his movie career (in 1982’s Conan the Barbarian – a film celebrating its 30th Anniversary this year.) I think it’s safe to say that if you connect the dots and trace the history back, without Conan, Schwarzenegger would never have become Governor of California. And then where would we be? Now that he’s retired from his political post, it looks like Arnold may be picking up the broadsword once again as King Conan. [Fingers-crossed!]

2. Tarzan — 100th Anniversary — First published in the The All-Story pulp magazine in October 1912. Tarzan of the Apes, the Mangani tribe to be exact, has been thrilling adventure fans in magazines, books, comics, movies and television shows for one-hundred years. He’s the creation of pulp author Edgar Rice Burroughs, and the man raised by apes is one of the most legendary and enduring characters in all of popular culture. There is a German animated version of this timeless story in the works and author Robin Maxwell has just recently published the book Jane,  a look at the jungle man’s tale as told from his romantic partner’s viewpoint.

1. John Carter — 100th Anniversary — Edgar Rice Burroughs published his first John Carter story in the pulp magazine The All-Story in February 1912 as the story, Under the Moons of Mars. John Carter of Mars is the grand-daddy of almost every science-fiction adventure saga of the past century. Everything from Superman to Star Trek to Avatar has been influenced by the Carter stories of Mars. Untold numbers of real-life authors and artists have been inspired by John Carter and prominent Americans from the scientist Carl Sagan to President Ronald Reagan are fans of the John Carter stories. The 2012 movie has been widely panned for its failure at the box-office, but not necessarily for the content of the film (which in my opinion is incredible.) Some have even criticized the film as a rip-off of Star Wars. No, no, no my friends – George Lucas has admitted to being heavily influenced by the John Carter stories of a hundred years ago. So if you haven’t given the John Carter books or the movie a try yet, you’re missing out on one of the greatest tales ever told.

So what is your favorite memory of these classic pop culture achievements? Is there an anniversary milestone that we missed? Let us know in the comments below and join us in thanking all of these institutions for making our world and our times a much cooler place to live in.

NERDVANA BONUS LINK: Have you ever wondered what might have happened if John Carter and Tarzan ever met? You can find out for FREE on the ERBZINE.com website that has all of the pages chronicling the two Edgar Rice Burroughs’ heroes’ team-up from the 1994-95 Tarzan Sunday comic strip. ENJOY!


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Bob Leeper
Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.