?Even if it proves to be the end of history like the Mayans predict, 2012 is going to be one hell of a way to go out… at least for nerds. The coming months will see the return of fan favorite shows like Doctor Who and Fringe, new programs like Fox’s new Lost-esque thriller Alcatraz, tons of new mainstream and indie comics, and of course videogames and blockbusters aplenty. Needless to say there are going to be plenty of entertainment options begging for your time and money. But which of these are especially noteworthy? Fear not, because just as we did last year, Topless Robot is once again helping you separate the pop cultural wheat from the chaff with this list of 17 nerdy things to look forward to in the next 365 days. Think of this list as a primer for the best ways to geek out and spend your cash this year.
17) PS Vita
The Lowdown: What would a new year be without a wholly unnecessary portable gaming system? Joking aside, Sony’s PS Vita will attempt to take some of the handheld gaming market back from Nintendo thanks largely to the device’s use of Augmented Reality — a technology that utilizes the built in camera to juxtapose gaming action with real world environments (imagine Seaman on this thing? Trippy). Starting at $249, the PlayStation Vita also is backwards compatible with PSP titles and features iPhone-inspired apps as well. It’s a mighty little bugger indeed, just probably not enough of one to considerably damage Nintendo’s bottom line. Speaking of which, sales in Japan thus far have been disappointing in comparison to those of the 3DS. This trend that will most likely continue when the Vita debuts here, so meet 2012’s first underdog. Release Date: February 22nd.
16) Star Trek: The Next Generation on Blu-ray
The Lowdown: Screw space, high-def is the final frontier. The long-overdue Star Trek: The Next Generation Blu-rays will finally be making their way onto store shelves this year. Fortunately, it looks like they will be worth the wait. Paramount has been painstakingly recompositioning the special effects to and remastering the visuals from the original studio negatives in order to ensure that the episodes will adhere to Blu-ray quality standards and look and sound better than ever before. Alas, no amount of tinkering can make “Shades of Gray” watchable. Release Date: The Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Next Level sampler Blu-ray (featuring “Encounter at Farpoint,” “Sins of the Father” and “The Inner Light”) will be released on January 31st. The individual season sets will be made available throughout the year with the exact release dates to be decided.
15) Grand Theft Auto V
The Lowdown: The next entry in Rockstar’s seemingly unkillable Grand Theft Auto franchise has the action once again returning to the San Andreas area. (Specifically the Los Angeles-inspired city of Los Santos). Expect the requisite violence, humor and general misanthropic behavior that you’ve grown to know and love from the series. Complete details about exactly what GTA 5 remain shrouded in mystery. One thing is clear however, in these heady post Saints Row: The Third days; Grand Theft Auto V will have to really ramp up the anarchy or completely reinvent itself in order to remain relevant. Release Date: You’ll be able to legally indulge in your favorite criminal activities some point this summer.
14) Tron: Uprising
The Lowdown: This 10-part animated series bridges the gap between Tron and Tron: Legacy by telling the story of a young program’s revolution against the tyrannical Clu 2. Despite having a new character in a leading role, the toon will feature familiar faces like Kevin Flynn and Tron himself. As you can tell from the video above, the show takes its visual cues from the sequel film as opposed to the retrotastic look of the original Tron. Not that I’m complaining. The animation on display here – a mixture of 2-D and 3-D – is stunning. Better still is that the show’s voices are provided by Elijah Wood, Lance Henriksen (fuck yes!) and Bruce Boxleitner. Even though this is conceived as a limited run series, any additional exploration of the Tron world is a good thing. End of line. Release Date: Summer.
13) John Carter
The Lowdown: Does anyone else hear this title, think about how good ER was in the early years and smile? Having absolutely nothing to do with NBC’s seminal medical drama, this John Carter is Disney’s eagerly anticipated adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars. So far, it’s looking amazing. This is a budding franchise for the company, whose non-Pixar projects haven’t exactly impacted the pop culture zeitgeist of late (with The Muppets being a noteworthy exception). It may seem like an odd decision to have Wall-E helmer Andrew Stanton make his live-action directing debut here, but once you see the sheer volume of effects in the trailer it’s clear that his CGI-heavy background makes him more than up to the challenge. His obvious skills aside, it remains to be seen if audiences will actually turn out for this given the fact that John Carter doesn’t have the mainstream awareness level of some of the other entries on this list. If crowds do turn out, expect to see cinematic adaptations of the rest of Burroughs’ throwback sci-fi adventures… and hear plenty of bitching from purists. Release Date: March 9th.
12) Avengers vs. X-Men
The Lowdown: Never one for hyperbole, Marvel is billing Avengers vs. X-Men as “the biggest comic book event in history.” It’s questionable if the 12-issue miniseries will even come remotely close to impacting the comics industry as much as DC’s recent New 52 initiative, not that it matters because the Avengers and the X-Men are going to be pummeling the living shit out of each other as they try to keep Hope Summers from becoming the next Phoenix and destroying mankind. Just another day in the Marvel Universe really. The above video gives you more information than you could possibly want about the series. To bottom line it, expect lots of surprises, action and far-reaching ramifications for both parties. Not to mention plenty of trouble for your wallet. Release Date: April.
The Lowdown: Ridley Scott is still refusing to call this Alien prequel an Alien prequel even though it clearly is. Sigh. Anyway, there’s a cloak of secrecy surrounding the project that is surprising given our spoiler-driven times. That’s nice I suppose. Yet as interesting and undeniably visually stunning as this project appears to be, the question should be raised if we should have the mysterious elements of Alien’s back story explained (Space Jockeys, I’m talking about you). Scott recently went on record saying that the Aliens we all know and love won’t be making an appearance in Prometheus. Don’t believe his lies. The smart money says that not only will the creatures turn up, but we will discover that humans are directly responsible for their creation in a none-too-subtle twist given the Greek myth the film was inspired by. Release Date: June 8th.
?The Lowdown: Fact: Legos are pure joy. Even more so when they are Legos based on licensed properties. In 2012, Legomaniacs will have more to look forward to than ever as toys and playsets based on DC superheroes, Avengers, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings hit store shelves. Also on the slate are X-Men and more Spidey offerings, marking the first time since the golden age of Mego that one company has held the rights to so many beloved genre characters. We all know that the Legos themselves will be terrific, and making a sweet deal even sweeter is the prospect of more Lego videogames spun off from the aforementioned licenses (that persistent throbbing in your nether region is a direct result of the upcoming Batman 2: DC Super Heroes game). If Lego’s past handling of high-profile properties is any indication, it’s a pretty safe bet that we’ll see titles based on everything from Avengers to The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings saga as well. Yes friends, you can finally own a Lego Legolas. Release Date: Summer, but expect lots more information on these wonders to be revealed at Toy Fair next month.
9) The Hunger Games
The Lowdown: To be honest, The Hunger Games phenomenon is a total nerd blind spot for me. It’s about competitive eating competitions, right? My obliviousness aside, I’m pretty sure that a good deal of you are anxiously awaiting this adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ Orwellian novel (as for the tie-in nail polish, probably not so much). Between this and the equally anticipated — yet couldn’t be more different — adaptation of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, there will be plenty of book vs. movie debates breaking out amongst tween lit lovers in the coming months. Release Date: The games will commence on March 23rd.
8) G.I. Joe: Retaliation
The Lowdown: After the underwhelming (but not as bad as its reputation suggests) G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, a sequel seemed like a dicey prospect. Then something miraculous happened: A-listers the Rock and Bruce Willis were brought on board and Zombieland scribes Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese were hired to pen the screenplay. But just as Joe fans started getting their hopes up, it was announced that Justin Bieber: Never Say Never auteur Jon Chu had been hired to direct. Panic and rage followed this announcement. Yet shockingly, there was definitely a method to the madness of Paramount studio execs, as the flick looks like the G.I. Joe big screen adventure we have all dreamed about since the 1980s. The nerdgasm-inducing moments in the preview — including a quick shot of Cobra Commander in his trademark mask and shots of Cobra banners being draped on the White House — prove that this franchise is resuscitated and ready for duty. Yo Joe indeed! Release Date: June 29th.
7) Mass Effect 3
The Lowdown: Truth be told, I have never played any of the Mass Effect games. Now I realize that this is a completely shameful admission, especially given the fact that most of my gaming time of late has been spent playing Smurf on Colecovision. Nevertheless, this trailer for the latest attempt to keep milking the Mass Effect cash cow has me downright impressed (the graphics are stunning and “holy shit” is the perfect response to the robotic beastie featured in the above footage). Bioware and EA swear that this will be the last game in the franchise. At least it appears that if this truly is Commander Shepard’s swan song it will be an impressive one. Release Date: March 6th.
6) Game of Thrones Season 2
The Lowdown: Last year, HBO redefined “must see TV” with their ultraviolent (and all-around awesome) Game of Thrones. The show is something of a genre miracle in that it manages to please both diehard fans of the George R.R. Martin source material and mainstream audiences alike. Obviously, this is an impressive feat for a balls-out fantasy series that juggles complex characters, numerous plotlines and tons of political intrigue seemingly without effort. By the time the growing tension came to a, er, head in the final two episodes of the first season, Game of Thrones had proven itself to be the year’s most visceral series. Even though the first ten episodes have set the bar for season two impossibly high, a sophomore slump seems inconceivable. Release Date: You’ll be able to return to Westeros in early April when the second season debuts.
5) The Amazing Spider-Man
The Lowdown: Peter Parker’s back… and his hair is ready to rock out at a She & Him show. I kid! The appropriately named Marc Webb will be trying to get moviegoers to forget about Sam Raimi’s three Spider-Man flicks with his new take on the character — one that includes an exploration of Parker’s parents’ role as spies. Webb has a, um, great responsibility to audiences, and so far some inspired casting and a fun first trailer suggest that this version of Spidey will equal the success of his cinematic predecessor. If there’s a complaint to be found here it’s that the Webhead is still too brooding. Spider-Man has always been one of comic-dom’s most wisecracking characters. It would be nice to finally see this crucial personality trait play out on screen, but I’m not holding my breath. Release Date: This swings into theaters on July 3rd. Sorry.
4) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Lowdown: A welcome return to Middle Earth for the first installment of Peter Jackson’s two-film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. What was truly unexpected about this project is just complicated the pre-production process turned out to be. But once Jackson reclaimed his rightful place behind the camera, the rest of the puzzle assembled itself. The debut trailer for the film oozes with the unbridled joy of allowing viewers to get reacquainted with Frodo, Gandalf, Galadriel and Gollum and introducing them to new characters such as the dwarf Kili (played by Aidan Turner of the UK Being Human). It’s a mystery as to how Jackson is going to stretch The Hobbit into two films… one that will be joyous for audiences to watch resolve itself. Sometimes you really can go there and back again. Release Date: December 14th.
3) The Dark Knight Rises
The Lowdown: Batman Ends. I don’t envy Christopher Nolan right now. With the upcoming release of The Dark Knight Rises, he must deal with the impossibly high expectations of Batfans the world over while trying to complete his story entirely on his own terms. The first full trailer came packed with a sense of foreboding (and some timely Occupy Wall Street reverb) that made it feel like the logical continuation of The Dark Knight. Bane’s off-putting voice aside, this is shaping up to be the most subversive and downbeat blockbuster in the history of cinema. Cast aside any doubts you may have, Nolan’s got this all figured out. Release Date: July 20th.
2) The Avengers
The Lowdown: This is what all Paramount’s Marvel movies have been building towards, and what comic fans have been waiting decades to see. It’s hard to mentally process the fact that we are now just a few months away from an Avengers movie. If that notion doesn’t fill you with frenzied excitement well then I genuinely feel sorry for you. Thor! Captain America! Iron Man! The Hulk! Nick Fury! And the rest! All fighting together on the big screen. Yes please. If he pulls it off, Joss Whedon will be the patron saint of nerds the world over (and if he doesn’t then maybe we will get Dr. Horrible 2 sooner rather than later). The most uncertain aspect remains how the film will give all of the characters an adequate amount of screen time as they face off against Loki — and, most likely not a spoiler alert to you at this point, Skrulls. There’s a lot to juggle here, so expect this one to be either a triumph or an unmitigated disaster. I’m crossing my fingers for the former. Release Date: May 4th.
1) The Singularity/Rise of the Machines/The End of the World
The Lowdown: In a little less than a year, the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar will draw to a close and with it all hope that humanity will carry on. How exactly will mankind be snuffed out? Theories range from a new age-y global change of consciousness to the “technological creation of smarter-than-human intelligence” known as the Singularity (although the possibility of alien invasion and/or the Rapture shouldn’t be dismissed either). Any way you dice it though, we are all way fucked. But hey, at least we will get to see Avengers before we go! Release Date: December 21st.
Chris Cummins is a pop culture writer and Archie comics historian who has contributed to The Robot's Voice, Den of Geek US, Philebrity, Geekadelphia, Uproxx, and Unicorn Booty. He is the co-producer and co-host of Nerd Nite Philadelphia, and is regularly involved in producing and hosting New York Super Week events. In 2014, Chris began Sci-Fi Explosion, a mix of live performance, trivia and funny clips celebrating the weirdest in science fiction that regularly travels around the United States. He wrote the introductions to the compilations Archie's Favorite Comics From The Vault and (with Paul Castiglia) Archie's Favorite High School Stories. You can find Chris on Twitter at @bionicbigfoot and @scifiexplosion.