Biggest Surprise: The Beatles' Appearance in Strange Tales #130
To say the Beatles were a big deal in 1965 would be a ridiculous understatement. The band was frequently mentioned in the Marvel comic books of the era. However, a special treat was prepared for Strange Tales #130: the Fab Four actually appeared on the page!
Biggest Disappointment: COVID-19
This one's obvious, right? I can't say I've been entirely miserable personally with social distancing. To be perfectly honest, it suits me just fine most of the time. But that's the selfish view. People are dying and my own government is doing an absolutely pathetic job of managing the pandemic. I hate when people talk about this as the "new normal," as if we've already embraced it as an acceptable state of affairs. It is anything but.
Best Read, First Time Category: March: Book Two by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
Lewis and Aydin's March series did an outstanding job reminding me how little I know about the American Civil Rights Movement. It's not easy picking a favorite out of the trilogy but, as is often the case, the middle volume represents the heart of the story. In particular, Book Two introduced me to the Big Six: Lewis, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Farmer, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins and Whitney Young. Lewis and King are the only ones I already knew. Biographies for the other four went immediately on the wish list.
Best Read, Re-Read Category: The Calvin and Hobbes Lazy Sunday Book by Bill Watterson
Best Comics Find: Marvel Unlimited
Marvel maintains its back catalog - 27,000 issues and counting - online and available at a highly reasonable subscription rate, especially if your intention is to read one comic book a day for at least a year. My Marvel Immersion Project would have been a lot more expensive and a much bigger hassle - i.e. impossible - without it. An additional benefit I haven't even tapped into yet: Marvel owns all Star Wars comic book series now!
Athlete of the Year: Joe Frazier (1944-2011)
For me, the most sympathetic character in the Ali saga has always been Joe Frazier. Their three encounters are probably the most celebrated matches in boxing history. Smokin' Joe never had Ali's flash but he more than made up for it with a nasty left hook. Beyond the ring, the Ali-Frazier story is one of betrayal. Frazier was supportive of Ali during his exile, even lending him money. Frazier came to see Ali as a friend. In the lead up to each of their matches, Ali resorted to low-ball attacks, calling Frazier out as a gorilla and an Uncle Tom. Ali always defended his actions as gamesmanship. Frazier carried the grudge for the rest of his life.
Best Family Adventure: Zoom Gatherings
Social distancing came with an unexpected silver lining. If anything, I have been more sociable than I was before. Zoom and its many competitors have inspired me to "get together" with several friends I hadn't seen in years. I even have a (more or less) weekly board game night (via Board Game Arena) with a group of childhood friends, all of whom live in other states. Yes, Zoom meetings for work are annoying but as a social avenue, they have been essential to my happiness in these troubled times.