ENTERTAINMENT: Ten Geekdom Heroes We Lost in 2016
Let’s just say it together: 2016 blows.
In my the classic anime spectacle Gundam Wing, 15-year-old deuteragonist Duo Maxwell, a deadly combatant on the battlefield for freedom against oppression, ref The shinigami had a grand time this year reaping away the souls of some of the most important figures in the general world of entertainment (most recently Carrie Fisher, but more on the Princess/General later), and the year is dragging on so slowly that we’ve forgotten earlier in the year.
Sometimes, we tend to give celebrities an unrealistic expectation of maintaining their immortality, assuming their money had allowed them to obtain it in the first place. But these people, who are just people, breathe life into some characters in films, television, video games, and general geekdom who are immortal. We grew up with some of these celebrities and nerd heroes. Others, we may have been introduced to in more recent times. But before the tears start flowing and the grave starts growing, let’s get on with looking a ten nerd heroes and heroines we’ve lost this unforgiving year.
Anton Yelchin, 27
Passed away June 19
Endearing, believable, and unprecedentedly commanding--just a few words that embody the acting presence of the young Yelchin. In his wonderful film career, Yelchin revived iconic nerdom heroes such as science-fiction legends Kyle Reese in Terminator Salvation (2009) and Pavel Chekov in Star Trek (2009), as well as 80’s horror-comedy vamp-slayer Charley Brewster in Fright Night (2011). He was only a month older than I...a successful man, truly gone too soon.
Dave Mirra, 41
Passed away February 4
With all due respect, I didn’t know much about Mirra before Acclaim’s 2000 PlayStation title, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX, was released as a sort of competitor to Activision’s hit 1999 Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. I didn’t know back then about all the decade-plus-long X Games medals he’d earned and the grind (pun intended) he’s been on since he was a teenager to make it in the BMX world. Without his first video game, I know I wouldn’t have been exposed to Sublime’s What I Got, or had great memories watching my brother pull sick moves and reaching achievements I never could back then. Only later did I learn of these things and learn of his inspirational legacy, only to be heartbroken and shocked upon his tragic passing. May the man rest in peace.
Joe Alaskey, 63
Passed away February 3
We may not know the name right off the bat, but if you’ve ever seen a Looney Tunes segment in recent years, it’s likely this man made you smile. This cartoon voice-over legend has brought iconic characters to life like Yosemite Sam in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Plucky Duck in Tiny Toons Adventures, and Grandpa Lou in Rugrats. We owe this man much more than we would ever even know. Salute.
Gene Wilder, 83
Passed away August 29
Willy Wonka, widely known as the lead character of the G-rated horror film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). We may have been living on the moon if we hadn’t seen this film growing up. With two collaborative efforts with Mel Brooks, four with stand-up legend Richard Pryor, about five Broadway shows under his belt, and innumerous, ubiquitous Wonka memes because of the internet, it’s difficult to believe that even someone in his 80’s would leave us so soon.
Steve Dillon, 54
Passed away October 22
Comic book enthusiasts should recognize this name. His most notable works include Hellblazer, from whence the character John Constantine derives, and Preacher, whom he helped create alongside Garth Ennis. Do not miss out on these DC titles if you need some rich storytelling and beautifully, believably dark illustration, especially you Marvel-only diehards. Dillon also put in mad work for around sixteen years on various Punisher titles. Respect this man, unlock his library of works, and enrich your mind with his style.
John Glenn, 95
Passed away December 8
World War II. The Korean War. NASA. United States Senator. Though John Glenn is known to us as the astronaut, being the first American man to orbit the earth, giving children and future stargazers aspirations of adventure beyond our own atmosphere, out there among the dancing stars, Glenn was so much more, and perfectly suited for all the occupations he acquired. He was--is--a dream-weaver, the epoch of the American dream chaser and a standard for any entrepreneur, student, or nerd who daydreams about the planets above.
Richard Adams, 96
Passed away December 26
Adams gave the world a story he knew little of the impact of: Watership Down. The success of the novel, and also that of Shardik, incentivized the icon to leave the British Civil Service in the 70’s and pursue writing full-time. Good move. Both Watership and his third novel, The Plague Dogs, were translated to popular animated films and parents, who mistook the gorgeous cartoons as pandering towards children, accidently gave their kids nightmares for months but also memories of a strong, frightening deep exposure to the power of storytelling. Adams, you lived a long, full life, and you will be missed.
Carrie Fisher, 60
Passed away December 27
For us nerds, this was the big blow of 2016. A key figure at the cores of both the current and former Star Wars canons, Fisher’s immortal portrayal of Leia Organa--Princess in the original series, General in the sequel series, and mere newborn in the prequel series--set the standard for strong, independent female warriors in cinema who could perfectly balance pistol and crown, beauty and brawler, memory and legacy, in and out of the realm of science fiction. There are so few words to define her iconic stature that Fisher’s CGI counterpart from Rogue One (2016) hardly does her any justice. In an fully eerie and heartbreaking sequence of events, Fisher’s mother, Debbie Reynolds of Singin’ in the Rain (1952), also passed away just one day after her daughter. One can be at ease knowing that their separation was short-lived. May the Force be with you both.
Vera Rubin who helped find evidence of Dark Matter (88)
Passed away December 25
It’s okay if this name doesn’t ring any initial bells. I mean, she only confirmed the existence of dark matter in the universe, that’s all. No biggie. The death of Carrie Fisher practically caused so much social media frenzy that any deaths of other important figures around the same proximity saw little to no exposure, shares, or hashtags. But this is not something we can so easily pass up. I only just learned about her myself, and research on her findings proved extensive. Remember the name; Vera Rubin is an astronaut icon and her findings in regards to the galaxy rotation and dark matter can not be overlooked. May she rest well among the stars!
Alan Rickman, 69
Passed away January 14
Hans Gruber. Dr. Lazarus. Marvin the Android. Absolem the Caterpillar. Oh, and the Half-Blood Prince himself, Severus Snape. Rickman has pretty much been with us for as long as can remember him and, traveling back to older cinema, he just seems to pop up. No, I certainly never saw the day we would lose him, and his rich, commandeering charisma. Infused with life were the most static of props exposed to his aura. The world of geekdom owes more than a pretty penny to this gentleman. The characters he brought to the silver screen will never be, can never be, resurrected again.
You may not be a religious man or woman, but as for me and my house, we are praying God doesn’t take away Stan Lee or Bill Murray just yet!! Who did it hurt most to see gone on this list? Perhaps it was somebody not on this list?