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It’s no secret that I love movies.

There is just something magical about this visual medium that draws you into new worlds, the lives of these people we aspire to be or want to learn about. We want to experience things that we wouldn’t in normal every day life and just escape our every day lives for awhile. I’ve consumed movie after movie over the years and my taste has become a bit more refined (read: cynical) when it comes to the films I watch. Being a filmmaker myself, I tend to break down things like plot and editing structure, effects, creative attempts (and successes), choreography, character believably… I’m constantly comparing it to what I would do, or how I would adapt or change the material to make it better. I’ve spent years consuming every interview, behind the scenes, books, classes, breakdowns, essays, articles, I’ve talked with filmmakers, writers, listened to thousands of podcasts and seen a countless amount of movies in my lifetime all in pursuit of my goal of being a filmmaker. Film is something that is constantly on my mind and a set of skills I seek to refine and improve every single day.

It’s probably safe to say that I love film as an art form, through and through, even the ugly stuff that no one talks about. It is also a good chance that I’ll end up dabbling in the movie industry my entire life and it also means that I have a particular taste that has developed through both my consumption and analysis of the industry…

So when a movie really pulls me in and I don’t sit there wondering why they chose that plot beat, how they cut the movie weird, or how bad the CG was. Instead if I am in awe of how they managed to pull off that incredible effect, what was happening in the story, or what was going to happen next to the characters I was rooting for, or even how stunningly beautiful the cinematography was; that means that I consider that a good film.

This list is comprised of ten of the few dozen films I managed to watch this year, despite being incredibly busy and wishing that I could have watched more. These are the films that sucked me in and made me realize what I loved about film. Believe me, these days, that’s a difficult thing to pull off.

#10: Suicide Squad

Whoa whoa, I know what you’re going to say, this one was going to end up on my list either way, right? You know as well as I do that I am a major DC comics fan, and I really love movies. So this is the golden combo. It was an obvious choice, right?

Well. Honestly, I’ve never been that much of a fan of the Suicide Squad (in the comics). I think the concept is kind of cool, but the insistence of the company on pushing the team down our throats over and over is kind of frustrating, as a long time reader of all things DC I’ve seen more half hearted attempts at making this team cool than the amount of times I’ve seen Batman complain about his parents being dead. Plus the obvious inclusion of Harley Quinn to provide some sort of eye candy to the reader is also kind of frustrating. (But don’t get me started on how Harley has been treated lately. That’s a topic for another day.)

Somehow, though, the title keeps selling and people eat it up. It’s a popular title with them, so it was an obvious choice to convert that into a movie. It was just kind of rushed through production, which is a shame, because you can see a lot of great pieces there that could have made the film great.

So why did this end up on my list anyway? It was a movie that took several risks. They tried something different and ALMOST succeeded. From their unique take on Joker, to throwing an attempt at commentary as to why the world needs Justice League, giving it a unique ascetic and even playing around with the soundtrack.

This is a lot more than what you can say for the majority of big budget blockbuster films that are coming out these days.

Consider that you do not have the ability to remember one Marvel movie soundtrack, but you immediately associate the Bohemian Rhapsody to Suicide Squad. DC attempted something TWICE in one year that most studios wouldn’t even dare. Despite the fact that they got a lot of hate over it, I admire the attempt and consider this one of the great attempts at creative freedom within the superhero genre before the fans ruined everything.

#9: Doctor Strange

This one ended up my list despite being one of those films that felt like a cookie cutter version of Doctor Strange. (I mean, come on, it was Iron Man with magic…) The film was exactly what I expected, then threw in something a bit more elaborate when it came to adapting Kirby’s original (very 60’s) art. The visual effects were seamless and stunning, the final fight was actually pretty fantastic, including the big encounter with the major baddie, and literally every encounter with some sort of magic was filled with an original idea or really attempted to pay tribute to what originally made the character so great. In that, I really respect Marvel and how they treat their content.

I honestly only wished that they had taken a bit more of a risk with the film. They had a lot of potential to go super weird and out there with it, but they chose the safe route, which is basically what I’d expect from a Marvel movie these days. If it ain’t broke; don’t fix it. It really just comes down to this; it’s not how I would have done it, but that’s okay.

#8: 31

I love Rob Zombie movies. Hate if you want, but I love how seriously he takes his horror. There is so much ironic self awareness in movies these days that it’s nice to see a filmmaker work within a genre he has mastered and actually take it seriously. Even with a concept as silly as the one in 31 was. This featured several great actors having fun in their roles, and even some strange bizarro-type moments in it that will get you to either cringe or shake your head as to how disturbing it is. (Hispanic midget Hitler was a nice touch.) Sure he had to censor some of it, but the spirit of the movie comes through and I really enjoyed this flick.

#7: Hush

Upon review, I noticed that this was a great year for horror. It was difficult to not JUST put horror movies on this list. I watched Hush because I liked the concept and I’d heard that it was a filmmakers challenge to himself to write a script that didn’t feature much (if any) dialogue. So after watching this film, I realized that I was immediately sucked into the world and I was completely on the edge of my seat the entire time. Overall, this was a great horror film that featured a surprisingly low body count. If you haven’t seen this and are a fan of horror, go watch it immediately.

#6: The Jungle Book

This one surprised me, actually. After seeing Maleficent and realizing that Disney was going to be pumping out one of these live action remakes of their classic animated films over the next decade, I was starting to get a bit jaded. However, after watching Jon Favreau’s Jungle Book I remembered why he was at one point considered one of the top directors in his field. He basically created the cinematic Iron Man from the ground up, just winging it during production, and it STILL was a solid film. Anyway, I used to love the story of Jungle Book and I’ve likely read the novel a hundred times. Every aspect of this, from the special effects, to the perfectly cast characters, throwbacks to the Disney songs and some flourishes, like making Christopher Walkens King Louie GIGANTIC made this a unique, but also very faithful adaption of the Jungle Book story I love so much.

 

#5: Deadpool

This was one of 2016’s superhero movie triumphs. In this really meta-self aware movie mentality the industry is suffering from right now, this movie (ironically) served to riff on that, as well as provide something that is really difficult to find in many of these superhero movies that have come out over the last several years: a protagonist that is funny and sympathetic. In a world of rich playboys, impossible technology, giant organizations, and world ending plot lines, it was really refreshing to see a story about a guy, trying to get revenge on another guy, and win back his girl.

The entire film is littered with references and hilarious dialogue, a simple plot, but written brilliantly to bring out the most of both Ryan Reynolds performance and to really showcase the character and potential for greatness when you just let people who care about a character or franchise take the reigns and just let them run with it.

#5: Star Wars: Rogue One

I wasn’t expecting much going into this one. After hearing that they were going to do a spin off between actual episodes of the franchise I was hesitant. In fact, I’m kind of going through Star Wars burnout right now, between the constant bombardment of clips, images, and products from the franchise, that on top of the previous movie bringing it to the forefront of pop culture topics once again, I really wasn’t excited to go see this film…

But when I watched it the other day, especially in the aftermath of Carrie Fischers death, the movie made me realize why I loved Star Wars to begin with. I really wanted another film set during the time period of the original trilogy, because that is what I love about the series. That SPECIFIC time period. Stormtroopers, Vader, the Emperor, the weird 80’s ascetic mixed with World War II imagery. It’s all fantastic and it was an exciting moment to revisit that period in Star Wars lore once again. In fact, I want to see another.

Rogue One had some great characters, awesome cinematography that you’d expect from anything but Star Wars (honestly), and a fantastic plot line that really helped to start to flesh out the Star Wars universe BEYOND lighsabers and Skywalkers. I honestly loved this film more than Episode 7 and would love to see more films set during this time period. I hear the next one is a Han Solo spin off, so we’ll see what happens with that.

#3: Yoga Hosers

A lot of people hate Kevin Smith. I’m not really sure why, though admittedly I’ve gone on record by saying that I think he’s great, but I don’t think I could work with him. Mostly because we’d likely clash heads when it came to the direction of where we wanted to take a film. HOWEVER his last two movies, Tusk and Yoga Hosers were unique and hilarious flicks that really made it difficult to see Kevin Smith as someone who cared about what people think. He’s literally making the movies he wants to see; tell me that doesn’t make you a little jealous. I’ll literally support everything he does from now on, as long as he keeps up this honest, pure, unfiltered art he is producing going. I’m crazy excited for Moose Jaws.

 

#2: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

WHAT NATHAN, BvS ISN’T YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE OF THE YEAR?! Nope. But it’s close. First let me preface this by saying: watch the ultimate edition. It sucks that studios can manipulate us into thinking that they’re doing us a favor by releasing pieces of a film in the theaters and then selling us the whole film later on to appease us, but that’s neither here nor there.

Batman v. Superman is number two on this list mainly for the feeling the movie gave me when it started. When, during the opening scene, you see Bruce Wayne frantically attempting to get to the Wayne Building, only to watch it get destroyed in front of him, all during the EXACT time span that the final fight happened in Man of Steel… I literally teared up I was so excited to finally see such a great, cinematic, depiction of the DC universe on the big screen in the hands of such an ambitious director. Sure, he takes himself too seriously. But I’m tired of having to hear how stupid superheroes are every single movie. I’m tired of the jokes and the stupid humor, I want to see an opera, I want to see gods and monsters fighting and the politics of how something as massive as superheroes will effect our world.

This movie also had something major going for it that Suicide Squad didn’t: FANTASTIC cinematography. In fact, when I was watching Suicide Squad I immediately noticed the aesthetic difference and it threw me off a bit. Thinking over my experience (and subsequent experiences) with this film, I realized that this was a fantastic moment in time that we might lose in the future, due to the controversy surrounding it.

It took risks. It had a vision of what it wanted to be and was that thing. It cast villains in strange ways, and spun the familiar lore of the stories in order to bring something MASSIVE to the big screen. Something unrivaled by all other superhero movies up until that point. This movie wasn’t about a beam of energy destroying a city, it was about superheroes conflicting with each other and the consequences of that. It was a marvel of cinema, the ultimate collection of storytelling, cinematography, effects, talented actors, and stunning choreography. Ultimately, this movie was exactly what it needed to be and did a fantastic job of establishing the tone of this brand new DC Universe.

#1: Don’t Breathe

This is my top movie of 2016. Why? It takes a lot of horror tropes and actively avoids them. With an original antagonist and a plot that has an incredible amount of twists and turns for being a film that just takes place in a single building, this entire film had me leaving the theater in shock. I couldn’t believe how incredible this movie was, how well acted, and how solid it turned out to be. I don’t want to spoil too much if you haven’t seen it, but believe me, it is well worth the watch.


Same as last year’s ‘Yearly Round Up’ there were MANY movies that didn’t make this list that likely would have if I had taken the time time watch them.
In fact, having looked over the list of movies I hadn’t seen as opposed to those I had seen, my inner movie nerd-slash-indie movie creator side cringed a little. In fact, I spent more time watching the big blockbuster films of the year, than I did actually focusing on what I’d heard to be the big triumphs in film for 2016, or at least movies that I’d likely have enjoyed enough to add onto my top ten list. This is something I need to address in 2017 and I’ve made a note of it to more actively seek to watch movies that might not be as big or popular as some of the major.

This is also part of my 2017 effort to kind of step out of the mainstream media culture in an attempt to get a more rounded look at movies and art in general in order to grow as a person.

I’ve noticed that I need to learn to take more risks when it comes to things like movies or books, instead of just focusing on what I KNOW I’ll like or what I KNOW will be (at least moderately) good.

While I enjoy the big blockbuster titles, my focus needs to shift more towards supporting these lesser broadcasted movies because in this mid-tier section is where a lot of great, fresh, and innovative ideas in film are being created there amongst the crap.

 

Anyways, here are the movies I REALLY wanted to see, but DIDN’T: Rise of the Legend, The Bodyguard, The Purge: Election Year, 10 Cloverfield Lane, A Monster Calls, The Nice Guys, Moonlight, Hell or High Water, The Forest, Lights Out, Nerve, Swiss Army Man, Spaghettiman, War Dogs, The BFG, The Girl on the Train, The Accountant, The Greasy Strangler, Godzilla Resurgence, The Girl With All The Gifts, Pet, Before I Wake, Snowden, The Magnificent Seven, King Jack, The Girl on the Train, A Girl Like Grace, Railroad Tigers, Hail Ceaser, Midnight Special, The Shallows, The VVitch, La La Land, Nocturnal Animals, Neon Demon, and Green Room.

What are some of your favorite movies from this year? Let me know in the comments below!

“Nathan Seals is an independent filmmaker, artist, and author who has created various comic books, films, role-playing systems, and card and board games throughout the years. He’s either insane, or a genius. Either way he’s having fun.”

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So I learned something interesting today. Do you remember Duck Tales? Of course you do. That show was legendary. BUT did you know that the character Scrooge McDuck was made in 1947 as a comic book character? It was almost 37 years before he’d actually play Scrooge in Mickey’s Christmas Carol, but he was still inspired by the character Ebeneezer Scrooge.

That’s not the most interesting part. After Uncle Scrooge got his own comic in 1950 he became super popular, SO popular in fact that after World War II (when soldiers began leaving their comics behind when they went home) comics in general began to grow a following all over the world.

This included a large following in Japan where a Scrooge McDuck comic fell into the hands of a guy named Osamu Tezuka. This comic inspired him to create Astro Boy.

For those of you not following this, Osamu Tezuka is known as the grandfather of Manga. The Walt Disney of Japan. Tezuka was basically the guy invented Manga and Anime!

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So keep that in mind the next time you’re watching an Anime or jamming to the fantastic theme from DuckTales!

And now for a rant; a modern version of this story would involve a company naming the duck character after an existing literary character, then getting sued and Scrooge McDuck doesn’t exist anymore.

Why?

Because Dickens Corp owns the full rights to the character and names inside of his new Cinematic Dickens Universe.

The most frustrating thing in the world are those companies that hold onto things WELL beyond the intended time allotted by copyright law in an attempt to keep it out of the public domain. (I’m looking at YOU Disney.) Most GREAT characters and stories are inspired by previously existing stories or art… I think that’s a major problem with books, games, and movies now. They all have to be a rehash of an existing property because its safe and no one wants to get sued for attempting something ‘new’ that might accidentally be inspired by something that already exists.

Art doesn’t just serve to entertain us, it inspires us, it helps us take character ideas and stories and reinterpret them in new and exciting ways to create something new. We’re losing that because of the focus on money. Money money money money. All of that instead of spending the allotted time with the rights to the character and stories you made, then letting it go off into the public domain to be reinterpreted and recreated for the next generation.

Just imagine if Scrooge McDuck didn’t exist? Imagine if Disney couldn’t use all of those classic fairy tales to make his movies? What if God of War couldn’t exist? We need to keep all of this in mind for our kids and their kids kids.

Nathan Seals is an independent filmmaker, artist, and author who has created various comic books, films, role-playing systems, and card and board games throughout the years. He’s either insane, or a genius. Either way he’s having fun.

Listen, there’s a lot of great content out there, especially when it comes to animation. Every ten years or so a set of shows comes along that pushes the boundaries of the last and gives us more complex, interesting, and powerful shows that have unique and interesting concepts which is something I really REALLY look for when it comes to story. My main focus, I’ve noticed at least, was set between the late 90’s to the early 2000’s. For some reason I REALLY enjoy these shows and they’ve really stuck with me in my later creative endeavors.

The majority of this list has also inspired my own personal art style, the one that I pretty much dominantly use for anything from concept art, to personal art, and even my comics. There’s just something really clean and awesome about the art style of animation that really meshes well with my personality.

I also set up a few rules for this list; I will not include any anime, or anything that is directly related to DC Comics or Marvel Comics (because trust me, it would dominate this list).

So, saying all of that, here are my top ten Action Animated Television Shows.

10. Legend of Korra

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The Legend of Korra is nearly the perfect television show. It also tops the list on many peoples ‘top 10 animated shows’ lists, so I figured I’d get this one out of the way first. I also didn’t put The Last Airbender on this list for the same reason; I wanted to give some other shows a place on here.

This is a follow-up series to The Last Airbender and is set 70 years after the events of “Avatar”. It follows Korra, the next Avatar after Aang, who is from the Southern Water Tribe. With earth, water and fire under her belt, Korra must master the art of airbending.

What I really liked about this show was Korra herself, her character is strong and independent. She has to find her own way to becoming the Avatar and is pushing the boundaries on what that means in a time where being a bender is starting to be looked down upon. Unlike the previous series, Korra explored a lot of mental and spiritual issues, as opposed to the physical side in which Aang seemed to struggle with. I love how they flipped the formula from the original series to provide something fresh to what could have easily been a retread of an old story line.

Another thing that will ALWAYS get me on board for something, is setting it in a 1930’s or 1940’s style period. I absolutely love the feel and vibes you get from that time period, so that only served to sweeten the deal for me when it came to this show.

 

09. SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron

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SWAT Kats follows T-Bone and Razor, two law enforcement agents who were betrayed by their commander and taken down during a mission after they refused to let Commander Feral capture a notorious criminal. They decided to build their own jet and now fight crime on their own, vigilante style.

This is a real ‘villain of the week’ style series, but is a really fun concept made right smack in the middle of the time period where making anthropomorphic animal heroes was cool. This show has really stuck with me over the years and is still a fun way to spend the evening if you have nothing else to do.

08. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003)

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To me, this is the definitive version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Aside from the ‘Fast Forward’ series (which was awful) this series was fantastic and I’ve recently started to rewatch it. It managed to explore and elaborate the entire TMNT universe, even when it came to space and alternate dimensions. This show expertly told an interesting and fun story with what was, kind of a stupid concept. Let’s be honest, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is very dumb, and recent movies show that if it’s not done right, it’s just going to suck.

Also, dat theme song though.

 

07. Big Guy and Rusty:

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The series focuses on Rusty, the most advanced robot ever built, with a human emotional grid and “nucleoprotonic” powers. The plan is that Rusty will replace the Big Guy, a massive war robot that is the Earth’s last line of defense against all threats alien or domestic. However, Rusty is too inexperienced to stand on his own, so the Big Guy is re-commissioned to teach Rusty the way of trade. The twist is that Big Guy is actually a mech that is piloted by Dwayne Hunter (played by Jim Hanks) and that fact is kept a secret from Rusty, who thinks that Big Guy is a real robot like him.

This show has literally everything in it that I love. Giant robots, alien monsters, more robots, scientists, talking monkeys, a retro 1940’s style setting… Plus, I mean, the robots flex and guns appear from their elbows. THEIR ELBOWS. I love everything about this show, it’s hard for me not to instantly like it.

Plus the theme song. I guess I really like theme songs…

 

06. Samurai Jack

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After being sent into the future by evil wizard Aku, young samurai Jack makes a quest to return to the past and undo the destruction caused by the wizard. Easy concept, massive story. This whole story is epic and just the concept alone provides a driving force and great motivation for the protagonist to continue forward. This series is rumored to have a movie style finale coming up, plus it has a comic series (which I haven’t read yet, but hear is amazing). I love Jack, he’s a powerful and interesting character and the overall Japanese vibe to the series gave the amazing animation a really unique flavor. It really felt like a legend, and still really holds up today.

Plus, dat theme song.

05. Generator Rex

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Rex is infected by nanites and he has been turned into an evo. Now he has the power to grow machines out of his body, canons, blades, wings, boots, he can make it all.

This show is incredibly unique and is one of the reasons I’m a major fan of the Man of Action team and what they do. It’s a really fun series with a great hook; everyone is infected with nanites and can turn into a monster at any time. Literally any time the action dulls, you can pull another monster mutant out of your ass. It’s genius writing. Also it has a fantastic hero who has to grow and learn, Rex has his faults and they often drive things from bad to worse, but that’s what makes it so great. He’s not a perfect hero, he’s a kid and he just wants to have a normal life… And also a super cool one.

 

04. Ben 10 (Whole Series)

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Ben Tennyson, a 10-year-old boy, discovers an amazing device that can turn him into 10 different alien heroes, each with its own unique abilities. With this newfound power, Ben, Grandpa Max and cousin Gwen help others and stop villains and aliens.

This show is amazing. There’s no getting around it. I’ve recently started rewatching it all the way through and I’m really impressed at how they’re taking the time to build their universe out, taking the time to establish characters and ideas, then expanding and developing them. The characters grow and learn, plus, despite their struggles and Bens new powers, they really support and love each other like a real family would. Season two starts out with a big bang, a new alien, plus information on what Grandpa Max actually was in the past. Seriously, it’s a badass series you can’t afford to miss.

 

03. Daffy Duck – The Wizard

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I’m not really sure if this counts, but it’s my list, so screw you. This short is from the incredibly well done Looney Tunes series that I love, but obviously isn’t action. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the Looney Tunes original series (probably more than the original Mickey Mouse shorts), so it wasn’t hard to fall in love with the main series that they gave us and that was cancelled all too soon.

This short is one that I constantly reference as to my frustration to the state of the animation that happens as compared to what we normally get. This also tickles my love of metal and the general nerdiness that surrounds it.

You can watch the whole short here:

02. Steven Universe

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You’d be kidding yourself if you didn’t think that I wouldn’t mention this… Gem… Hahahahaha… Ha ha… Ha. Because they’re the crystal gems? I… Okay…

The Crystal Gems are a team of magical beings who are the self-appointed guardians of the universe. Half-human, half-Gem hero Steven is the “little brother” of the group. The goofball is learning to save the world using the magical powers that come from his bellybutton and he goes on magical adventures with the rest of the Crystal Gems, even though he’s not as powerful — or smart — as fellow group members Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl. Despite his shortcomings, Steven usually finds a surprising way to save the day.

This show has a LOT of heart and is a great example of how far animated stories have come since the 1980’s. This is REAL storytelling with a TON of heart. They take the time to explore the characters, how they feel, interact with each other, they explore a lot of grown up themes and ideas like sexuality, friendship, destiny… The first season blew me away, with the slow build to what was a mind blowing finale. Really, I would have been fine if they finished the series then and there, but they did continue on and I’m really behind on it. I’ve watch most of the next season and I have to say that I’m a little dissapointed, I really hoped they’d keep up the momentum and start revealing more secrets, but it seems like it’s really more of the same thing from last season. Maybe it gets better? Either way, it’s a really emotion and clever show with a ton of great songs and fun animation. It’s hard to hate this show.

Plus the theme song is pretty great.

01. Buzz Lightyear of Star Command

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I know what you must be thinking, “Nathan. I think you picked the wrong number one. I think you made a mistake.”

Well I didn’t. This is literally my favorite animated television show of all time. This animated series, based on the Toy Story movies, features Buzz Lightyear’s adventures as he patrols the galaxy with other space rangers working for Star Command, battling intergalactic crime boss Emperor Zurg and other evildoers.

I’ve seen every episode at least fifty times, I constantly reference the show and even have several action figures from when I was younger. (They’re crazy destroyed though.)

You might not see it like this at first, but this series is actually a brilliantly done love letter to the sci-fi genre. It brilliantly takes and reinterprets the characters established in Toy Story and places them in a sci-fi universe where literally anything can happen. They fight energy vampires that control technology, they’ve transformed into monsters, fought evil toddler versions of themselves, there’s a psycho Frankenstein robot who goes around attempting to find better and better parts for himself because he’s got an Oedipus complex. This show introduced me to the sci-fi genre in a big way and for that it will always be my all time favorite animated television show.

There are a few honorable mentions to this list, like Avatar: The Last Airbender, Rick and Morty, Street Sharks, Kim Possible and Viewtiful Joe. So what shows did I miss? What are some really great animated television shows that I need to watch? Let me know and I’ll check ’em out!

Nathan Seals is an independent filmmaker, artist, and author who has created various comic books, films, role-playing systems, and card and board games throughout the years. He’s either insane, or a genius. Either way he’s having fun.

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So I know it’s a bit late, but I really liked the idea that Shannon Purser would be up for playing Squirrel Girl in either a movie or Netflix series. Honestly, I’d rather see a Netflix series, because I think it’ll give the creative licence to just do what needs to be done with the character… Plus it’s great to be able to spend ten to thirteen episodes getting to know the character, a character that is funny and endearing.

Anyways, I wrote this as a ‘warm up’ for one of my writing days. The story is essentially Doreen at a convenience store trying to buy some nuts, but the place gets robbed by a trio of bad guys, including ‘the Orb’ who is a very D list villain from Marvel. I also introduced a second character, who, in my mind at least, would be an important character in the series.

YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE SCRIPT HERE: squirrel-girl-inconvienence-store