Top Ten Moments of 2013

I Will Tell You #91:
Top Ten Moments of 2013

Let’s be perfectly clear about one thing, before you go any further: this column is the latest and yet another best-of-2013 list, but being a somewhat personal one, I can at least say that you haven’t read a list like this anywhere else on the internet.

In thinking back on the past year, I realized that I experienced a lot of pretty cool things; the kinds of things that you like to share with others. So that’s what  I’m going to do here, so if you don’t want to see my year-end Top Ten list, it’s cool, but you will be depriving yourself from  a lot of great racious, fanboy, and otherwise awesome moments. So leave now, or forever hold your piece. Here goes.

JJ chats with Parker Stevenson, but not to become a new Hardy Boy.

JJ chats with Parker Stevenson, but not to become a new Hardy Boy.

10. Meeting Parker Stevenson, Half of the Hardy Boys

If you grew up during the 1970s, you remember Parker Stevenson. And if you’re a woman of that age, you probably had a crush on him. I was at most a casual fan of his and Shaun Cassidy’s Hardy Boys TV series, and frankly struggle to even recall a particular episode. But meeting this guy during last year’s Motor City Comic Con was a thrill, because he turned out to be a really nice guy who was friendly to anyone who approached him. This chance meeting occurred in large part thanks to the press credentials I had to cover the show (coverage of which can be found here, if you want to know more), and he was inquisitive about the show, which was his first of the kind in the Detroit area, asking all kinds of questions about such conventions, and comic book fandom in general. The discussion freed me from the awkward burden of trying to figure out something to say to the guy, allowing me to not be a fanboy but instead an industry guy who could talk somewhat intelligently about it. This encounter gave me a renewed sense of gratitude for being able to work in this industry that we all love, albeit tangentially, and all of the opportunities it has provided me for meeting so many interesting people that I wouldn’t have the means to get to know otherwise.

Bourbon St in New Orleans

Bourbon St in New Orleans

9. Visiting The Big Easy for the First Time

Of course, many who work in the comic industry, and especially those on the fringes of it like me, can readily tell you that it’s not always enough to pay the bills. That’s why I hold a day job, of which I’ve held for 22 years so far, that I not only enjoy almost as much as comics but affords me the opportunity to travel to other cities, both on company business as well as personal vacations. An example of the former was a company-wide conference held this past summer down in New Orleans, giving me a valid reason to visit there for the very first time. Yeah, there was a lot of company talk and sessions to sit through during the day, but the evenings allowed for the chance to take in The French Quarter and first walk and later stumble down the infamous Bourbon Street, and visit many of the fine (and not-so-fine) eating (and drinking) establishments that are housed within. While the revelry got a little excessive on some nights, I managed to not only stay out of jail and keep my job, I still got to see some of the oldest and fascinating history in America, and even took pictures for the next morning so I could remember where I was the night before. It was a great opportunity and a nice perk of the job, reminding me that I have a great job, despite its occasional afterhours hazards.

The annual St Patrick's Day Parade in south Boston.

The annual St Patrick’s Day Parade in south Boston.

8. St Patrick’s Day in Boston

Speaking of revelry in other cities, my fondness for Celtic culture has prompted me to anoint myself as Ireland’s Adopted Son, and in that role there is no better place to be in this country than the city of Boston, and there’s no better time to be there than on St Patrick’s Day. It wasn’t the first time my girlfriend and I had done this, but as this year’s trip there took place only two weeks after the passing of my mother, I was in desperate need of good company and good spirits. While there always seems to be no shortage of mean looking guys in kilts who looked like they could beat me into corned beef hash, the opportunity to visit and have fun in another city chock full of important history was priceless. Still grieving, this trip and Susan’s support came at a time when I needed it most. And once again, I managed to stay out of jail, and since this was a vacation, I didn’t have to worry about what I might have said to a company exec six management levels above me.

Elton John performs at Joe Louis Arena

Elton John performs at Joe Louis Arena

7. Seeing A Legend Live in Concert

Finally, something a little more pop culture-related. You don’t have to be fan of Elton John to recognize that he has become a legend. Seeing as how this guy has been writing, recording, and performing live for over 40 years, he has acquired a status in music not unlike that of Frank Sinatra or Sammy Davis Jr a generation ago, and every opportunity to see him live seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. So when I got word that Elton and his band were going to make a stop in Detroit the day after Thanksgiving, I immediately made plans to attend. I hadn’t seen Elton in over a decade, and as far as I’m aware this was his first show in the area since that time, save for one or two Piano Men shows with fellow pianist Billy Joel. It’s kind of a morbid thought, but Elton isn’t getting any younger, and neither are his fans, so when the opportunity arises to see such an iconic figure play, one almost feels compelled to go, if the excitement of seeing a legend willingly isn’t enough.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra founder Paul O'Neill

Trans-Siberian Orchestra founder Paul O’Neill

6. Talking Actual Business With A Rock God

There’s a rock musician and composer named Paul O’Neill, who is probably best known to most as the founder of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, in turn best known for their Christmas-themed rock albums and incredible annual Christmas concerts. O’Neill has just released a novella entitled Merry Christmas, Rabbi that features a cover by artist Greg Hildebrandt, a name known to many comic fans. After seeing the band perform one of their recent holiday shows, I was able to ask O’Neill if he would be interested in being interviewed about his new novella, and he invited me back to discuss it. Now, I would have been thrilled enough to just hang backstage with a musical visionary whose work I’ve long admired in the capacity of a gushing fanboy, but to actually talk business with him about his new work and discuss a possible eventual feature about him had this so-called professional’s heart a-pounding and hands a-shaking. In the best possible way, of course. The feature may or may not ever come to fruition, but at the very least getting to talk business with a guy I idolize the same way I idolize Stan Lee or Barry Sanders will forever remain one of my favorite memories ever, let alone this past year.

The Boston Red Sox play the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS at Comerica Park

The Boston Red Sox play the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS at Comerica Park

5. The Detroit Tigers Make The Postseason – Again

If you’re a Tigers fan, then you know the team, despite their failure to win the World Series, has nonetheless accomplished the rare feat of winning their division for three seasons in a row, after failing to make the playoffs for over 20 seasons prior. So as a fan starved for playoff appearances, I made it a point to attend every postseason game that I could at Comerica Park, for fear of missing out and having to endure another decades-long drought. You only live once, it’s only money, blah blah blah. If you’re a baseball fan, then you know October baseball is special, and if you’re a Tigers fan, then you know it’s also unusual. So despite having to endure some pretty chilly evening games, it’s an experience that I wouldn’t have missed for anything. And it was fun to imagine that I was sitting there watching them all with my dad. Ironically, the last Tigers game my dad and I ever attended together was their 1984 World Series win.

Brandon Inge Threw Me This Ball

Brandon Inge Threw Me This Ball

4. Catching an Actual Baseball at an Actual Game

My dad used to take me to plenty of Detroit Tigers games at Tiger Stadium when I was a kid. I go to a lot of games at Comerica Park every year. I’ve journeyed out to Chicago to see the Cubs play at Wrigley Field for the past few years. And I’ve even taken in games at ballparks in other cities when the opportunity arises. But in all that time, I had never been fortunate enough to come home with a baseball used in a game, until this past July, when I made one of those trips to Wrigley Field. In the 3rd inning of a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, centerfielder Andrew McCutchen caught a routine fly ball for the final out. Running back to the Pirates’ dugout, he lobbed the ball into the infield, which 2nd baseman (and former Tiger) Brandon Inge scooped up as he also headed for the dugout. Seated behind the that very same dugout, I yelled for Inge to toss me the ball, which he did. And I caught it. It wasn’t any kind of spectacular catch that every baseball fan dreams of making that would get them signed by the New York Yankees, but it was still a catch, which was spectacular enough for me. This was nothing but a fanboy moment, but one that made me feel like a kid again, at least for one afternoon.

3. A Florida Vacation

This has absolutely nothing to do with pop-culture, other than I listened to lots of music on my iPod and caught up on my reading by bringing a pile of comics to the beach. The idea of a week in the sun and surf had been beckoning me for years, and the urge was finally enough for me to give up attending San Diego Comic-Con for the first time in nearly 20 years so that I could save my money and time off for something equally as fun but far more relaxing. I had been looking for a chance to return to Florida for the first time in over a decade, and my return brought me to the Tampa / St Pete area of the state where my grandparents had lived for over 20 years, and where I visited far more frequently as a child and young adult. It still looks like a great place to live, note to self. It was the only time this year where I shut my brain off, although I’m often told that my brain seems shut off at other times as well.

JJ and B2TP's own Dave Marchand at JJ's 50th b-day bash.

JJ and B2TP’s own Dave Marchand at JJ’s 50th b-day bash.

2. Making the Half-Century Milestone

50 years. If anyone had asked me in my younger, dumber, and thinner days if turning 50 would be one of my top moments, I would have thought that maybe they were the ones getting senile, instead of me. But in truth, in the wake of some very challenging family issues over the past few years, I felt incredibly fortunate and thankful to have emerged from them still emotionally intact. My niece threw me the most wild and fun birthday party that I ever had, one that was attended by most of my closest friends, as well as some I hadn’t seen in over half my lifetime. My knees repeatedly remind me of the drawbacks of reaching this milestone, but I’m thankful that I’ve been able to remain otherwise healthy and able-bodied. Emotionally I’ve never been happier, and mentally I’ve never felt younger.

1. Writing About Comics – Even More

It has been a lot of fun writing for Back to the Past for the past few years, and earlier this year, on the evening of my 50th birthday in fact, I was offered the opportunity to write for another great pop culture website, one of the largest such sites on the internet. Writing about comics might seem rather questionable as the greatest moment of the year, but when given the chance to write professionally about such an awesome medium for multiple sites, it’s literally a dream come true, especially for a kid who once did in fact dream of writing professionally in connection somehow with such a fun and incredible hobby. I still plan on writing here at B2TP periodically, and I’d like to publicly thank website overseer and editor supreme C. Scott Lovejoy for his patience enduring me juggling multiple responsibilities.


While the year had its challenges, the above moments and many others made it more than bearable; 2013 was actually pretty good, and I’d be thrilled if 2014 is only half as exciting.

Happy New Year, everybody. May 2014 bring you your own share of cool moments.

About Jim Johnson

Jim Johnson (@quigonjimm) will tell you! He got a chance to write for the big boys at CBR, so we don’t see him around the site as much as we used to. Check out his stuff anyway!

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