heroes in 2002
January 2, 2003
By Franklin Harris
More than anything else, people will remember 2002 as the year of Big Business run amuck. From the collapse of Enron to skullduggery at WorldCom and Global Crossing, corporate America's reputation has taken a beating.
But all is not crime and punishment in the business world. So, I'm taking this opportunity to praise the businesses that in 2002 made the world a better place, at least for geeks and fanboys.
Best DVD Label (Major Studio): This is easy. Most of the major studios are spotty at best when it comes to their DVD releases. They may release new titles with all the bells and whistles, but they treat their catalog titles with borderline contempt. But MGM Home Entertainment continues to do an excellent job with both its new releases at its extensive film library.
In 2002, MGM finally released John Carpenter's 1980 ghost story, "The Fog," and it proved well worth the wait.
The disc features extensive making-of documentaries, storyboard-to-screen comparisons and an excellent transfer of the film itself.
MGM was equally generous with its release of Wes Craven's "The Last House on the Left," an infamous and little-seen exploitation film that Craven probably now wishes he'd never made. On the film's commentary track, he is almost apologetic.
And once again, just in time for Halloween, MGM released a wave of "Midnite Movies," budget priced and featuring two films on each double-sided disc.
Last year, MGM also delved into its television library, releasing the first of two "Outer Limits" box sets.
Best DVD Label (Independent): For years, Media Blasters had been something of an also-ran distributor of Japanese animation. But about a year ago, the company jumped into horror with its Shriek Show label.
Now, Shriek Show has an impressive catalog of horror and exploitation titles, ranging from zombie and cannibal films to slasher movies and women-in-prison flicks.
A complete list of Media Blasters' DVDs is at www.media-blasters.com.
Best Book Publisher: Subterranean Press, a tiny specialty publisher, continually impresses with its handsome, limited edition and mass-market books.
Subterranean specializes in horror and dark fantasy and in 2002 released new books by Poppy Z. Brite, Caitlín R. Kiernan and Richard Matheson. It also re-published a long out-of-print collection by Ray Bradbury*.
You can see Subterranean Press' catalog at www.subterraneanpress.com.
Best Comics Publisher (United States): In December, Oni Press marked its fifth year in business, which given the state of the comic-book industry is by itself worthy of praise.
Oni's titles include Greg Rucka's spy series "Queen and Country" and Ted Naifeh's "Courtney Crumrin." And while other independent publishers barely survive, Oni has expanded to releasing eight books a month, a large number for what is basically a three-person operation.
Best Comics Publisher (Japan): Two years ago, TokyoPop was barely a player in the comics market. Now, it is arguably the most successful comics publisher in North America, selling its inexpensive translations of Japanese comics in major chain bookstores, video stores and music stores.
American publishers can learn a lot from TokyoPop's business model.
Jan. 13, 2003
* Contrary to my faulty memory, the publisher of the Ray Bradbury collection mentioned above was actually Gauntlet Press. So, consider Gauntlet co-recipient of the Best Book Publisher award.