Normally, these posts are meant to celebrate the year that just ended. However, 2020 ended up a year not really worth celebrating; instead, 2020 became a year to survive and move past. Below is a list of the things that motivated and inspired me to continue creating.


Source: History Channel
  • Alone from The History Channel

The one soaring success of 2020 has been tv shows. A lot of new content debuted this year but since everyone was home it was mostly a year about discovery as we searched through our Netflix queues for something different.

I don’t watch reality shows, but when I do they always tend to be a little weird. Alone perfectly captures what I mean. Sure, it’s a contest for money––ten folks are dropped at different sites in the middle of nowhere with a pack of ten items and all they have to do is survive. The last person standing wins $500,000. There are no backstabbing strategies or mid-game surprises; it’s just about who can last the longest.

This show does not mess around––success means doing the best you can with what you have. Source: History Channel

Of course, these are people who, generally, enjoy and thrive in the outdoors––survivalists of different varieties. And while luck plays into the kind of camp you get or if the weather is on your side, what ensure success is how good you are at what you do. Can you find a steady food source? Can you find fresh water? Can you prepare for the coming winter? Not only that, but they have to be their own camera crew as well as they take the title of the show very seriously.

While there is a prize at the end of it, it’s not a game––it’s very dangerous and your really have to know what you’re doing. For me, it becomes a show about watching ten incredibly talented people do what they do to the best of their ability. That’s the kind of “reality” I like to watch––surprisingly, it’s what I also like about The Great British Baking Show––people doing what they like to do and doing it well. It’s an ethos that drives the way I make comics––just do your best with what you have.


Source: Disney
  • Gravity Falls from Disney XD (watched on Hulu Plus)

This show was a revelation and almost took the top spot; however, the show proved to be more of a source of pure and honest joy than providing any inspiration to get up and make comics. It’s absolutely delightful and hurdles the impressive feat of making wonderful week-to-week stand alone episodes while also building a bigger overarching story. It’s truly perfect.

  • New Mutants from 20th Century Studios (formerly 20th Century Fox)

I waited three years for this movie and––through all of its developmental issues––quite enjoyed it. An admirable swan song for this branch of the cinematic Marvel line. Like a lot of the later Fox X-Films, it ends up being maligned for not being enough like the glitsy and successful Marvel Studios movies––not “superheroey” enough––and, instead, ends up being a quite unique and interesting entry into the genre. New Mutants is best described as a psychological superhero thriller where, quite literally, the mind is the villain rather than a big bad guy that everybody has to team up to defeat. On a comic book level, I really like how they captured all the characters and their powers and worked to make a different kind of superhero movie.


Source: Sucker Punch Productions/Sony Interactive Entertainment
  • Ghost of Tsushima from Sucker Punch Productions (on Playstation 4)

When I was a teenager, all I cared about was Japanese history. I wasn’t into anime or manga in particular, I just loved the warrior/poet ethos (and cultural myth) of the samurai and loved how deep and old Japan as a culture and country are. In terms of fandom, I developed a strong appeal to the work of Akira Kurosawa, and have since stated that his aesthetic––especially that found in his late ’50s and ’60s samurai films (called “chanbara” in Japan)––were are particular inspiration on Long John‘s look.

When Ghost of Tsushima was announced, it immediately grabbed my attention for a few reasons. First, Sucker Punch Productions said it was a samurai game set in ancient Japan. Check. Also, there were going to be no supernatural elements to it at all––it will be grounded (as much as a video game can be) in a realistic setting. Also check. Lastly, they weren’t making an authentic historical Japanese game (Sucker Punch is an American studio, after all; you can only get so authentic with that) as much as making a game in the vein of Kurosawa’s chanbara films. Big check. A perfect formula to, at least, get me to try the game.

Ghost ended up being a very fun game that hit its marks admirably and its success (despite some drama, as there always is with every nerdy entertainment nowadays) proved to me that historical fiction doesn’t need to be mashed up with another genre to be accepted and enjoyed by fans as their grounded––but fictional––approach is exactly how I approach Long John.

Source: Thunder Lotus Games
  • Spiritfarer from Thunder Lotus Games (on Playstation 4)

Spiritfarer is a very small and tightly-made game that has you cast as a new “spiritfarer”––one who ferries the recently dead to the afterlife––after taking the role over from Charon of Greek myth.

What I loved about this game is not so much the game it self as it is what it says about the developer of the game. The two games Thunder Lotus made previously––Jøtun and Sundered––are not only very different from Spiritfarer, but are very different from each other. They are always well made and beautifully rendered and animated games, but they are never the same, which is something at the core of all the creatives that have had a profound impact on me. I can’t wait to see what they do next and be surprised by it.


  • Red Dead Redemption by Matt Margini (published by Boss Fight Books)

Boss Fight Books, for my money, is publishing the most interesting and reader-friendly games criticism on the market right now. Their books can be hit-and-miss based on the game a book is about and what you want to know about about that game. That being said, their books are always really well-written, thoughtfully written, and interesting, even if the book wanders astray for you.

I really enjoyed Rockstar Games’ 2010 open-world western, Red Dead Redemption (as well as its 2018 sequel), for its gameplay and deliberate writing, allowing for a game filled with subtlety and personalized ludo-narrative and cinematic experiences.

The world of Red Dead Redemption and its sequel have been many hours well spent. Screenshot from Red Dead Redemption 2, taken by the author on Playstation 4.

Having enjoyed many of Boss Fight Books‘ previous publications, their intention to publish a book about Red Dead Redemption really excited me. Margini is an incredible writer and performed thorough research, crafting an interesting argument about the tropes of the western genre. By the end, however, I felt Margini was more interested in interpreting the genre than analyzing Red Dead Redemption. Despite that, the opening chapters are excellent analysis and fun writing as Margini fully ties a game touted as being “Grand Theft Horse” (because Rockstar Games is also the developer of the Grand Theft Auto series of games) to the history of the genre, making a clear argument for its revisionist approach as well as recognizing it as a legitimate member of the western pantheon. The book stands as a fascinating and compelling resource to go back to for a concise and surgical examination of what makes this genre tick.

My memory of 2020 is comprised mostly of anxiety and exhaustion. To be honest, I reached for anything to take my mind off of what seemed to be the new normal, despite that definition continuously changing from day to day. The things that really kept me going ended up not really having a direct impact on Long John as much as they impacted my drive––my ability to keep pushing forward despite being freaked out, despite being tired, despite not knowing what tragedy would reveal itself tomorrow. I wonder how I’ll remember 2020 years from now if I’m lucky enough to be able to keep pushing forward with comicking. With hope, I’ll look back and, instead of seeing a year of sadness, fear, and despair, see how much stronger it made me.