Australian doctors' new bionic eye implant lets you see like the Six Million Dollar Man @ Syfy Wire

For anyone growing up in the '70s, there was simply nothing cooler than the original bionic human known as astronaut Steve Austin, AKA The Six Million Dollar Man

Of all his badass cybernetic implants and technological enhancements, perhaps the most desired add-on feature was his telephoto bionic eye and until now, existed only as a far-out science fiction dream from somewhere in the deep nostalgia of television's yesterland. While not nearly as eagle-eyed as Austin's upgrade, Aussie scientists have conjured up a miraculous machine of their own!

Thanks to an ambitious team of medical researchers at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, the reality of digitally-fortified vision via the world's first bionic eye implant has finally arrived. Within the school's Cortical Frontiers project, this revolutionary device will be able to restore visual capacities to the blind or neurologically impaired.

Scientists involved are currently prepping for the planet's initial human trials of this bionic wonder while hoping to raise added capital to manufacture and market their invention to a broader customer base.

Credit: Monash University

Employing the innards of a smartphone and aided by brain-inserted micro electrodes, the Gennaris bionic vision system is a complicated endeavor that’s been in the research and design phase for nearly a decade.

It operates by leap-frogging a patient's damaged optic nerves to let signals be transmitted from the retina and delivered to the central vision component of the brain. The pioneering system includes custom-designed headgear, which consists of a camera and wireless transmitter. A digital processor does the heavy data manipulation in conjunction with special implanted tiles to bring forth the electronic impulses and stimulate the brain via hair-thin microelectrodes.

“Cortical vision prostheses aim to restore visual perception to those who have lost vision by delivering electrical stimulation to the visual cortex – the region of the brain that receives, integrates and processes visual information,” Professor Arthur Lowery of Monash University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering.

“Our design creates a visual pattern from combinations of up to 172 spots of light (phosphenes) which provides information for the individual to navigate indoor and outdoor environments, and recognise the presence of people and objects around them.”

Credit: Monash University

The frontier for brain interface devices has certainly been breached, with Elon Musk's Neuralink device still in its testing and developmental phase, and a “visual prosthetic” device recently engineered by scientists at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston enabling blind and sighted subjects to “view" the shape of letters. 

Monash's Gennaris system has had eye-opening results in July test trials when the equipment array safely transplanted into the brains of three sheep, with a total of 2,700 stimulation hours not revealing any harmful health effects.

“If successful, the MVG [Monash Vision Group] team will look to create a new commercial enterprise focused on providing vision to people with untreatable blindness and movement to the arms of people paralyzed by quadriplegia, transforming their health care,” said Monash University's Dr. Philip Lewis.

Tesla on Autopilot hits over 90 mph before police flag down sleepy driver @ Syfy Wire

Earlier this summer, Canadian police received what sounds at first like a routine call. A car was being operated recklessly on a rural highway in southern Alberta. Not too out of the ordinary, right? But the witness who called in the incident went on to report that both front seats were fully reclined with nobody visible inside, and that the car — which turned out to be a Tesla — appeared to be driving itself.

Responding to the call, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) discovered that, sure enough, the offending 2019 Tesla Model S was still still rolling right along when an officer approached, with no one (at least no one attentive) at the wheel. Both of the car’s front seat occupants appeared to be asleep, according to RCMP’s account of the eyewitness’ report.

Naturally, the officer signaled for the car to stop — and that’s when the car, which was operating in Tesla’s proprietary Autopilot driver-assist mode, actually started speeding up. RCMP picks up the tale:

“After the responding Officer activated emergency lights on their vehicle, the Tesla automatically began to accelerate. The Officer was able to obtain radar readings on the vehicle, confirming that it had automatically accelerated up to exactly 150 km/h. After pulling over the vehicle, RCMP charged the driver, a 20-year-old male from British Columbia, with speeding and a 24-hour licence suspension for fatigue.”

Tesla on YouTube

For those of us who still keep score by the British imperial system, 150 km/h is plenty fast, coming out to just over 93 mph. The driver ended up being slapped with an additional charge of dangerous driving, and now faces a December court date. RCMP used the incident as an opportunity to remind drivers that Autopilot and similar driver-assistance technologies “are not self-driving systems,” and that “they still come with the responsibility of driving.”

Despite its name, Tesla’s Autopilot system is intended to aid, rather than replace, a driver’s eyes, ears, and hands. Autopilot’s software even received a post-launch update back in 2018 that prevents drivers from using it at all, unless the car detects a driver’s hand on the wheel — though crafty Tesla owners (and even aftermarket manufacturers) have boasted online that they’ve found ways to circumvent that.

RCMP didn’t say whether the driver of the speeding Model S was using such a workaround to trick his car’s Autopilot system into thinking he was in control. We’re just hoping the extra shuteye was worth it in the end (but here’s a wild guess: it probably wasn’t.)

 

Giancarlo Esposito Discusses His Greatest Acting Challenge Yet: A Cartoon Supervillain @ io9

Giancarlo Esposito is a well respected actor. He played Gus Fring on Breaking Bad. He filled up the screen as Moff Gideon on The Mandalorian. But that pales in comparison to the challenge before him now: playing a cartoon villain on DuckTales.

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Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross Win an Emmy for Watchmen, Coming One Step Closer to the Broodiest EGOT Ever @ io9

The most prestigious award combination in entertainment, the EGOT—Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony—is an incredible accomplishment for any musician/actor/creator. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are a little closer.

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The Ms. Marvel Series for Disney Plus Has a Directing Team, Including Pakistani Filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy @ io9

Kamala Khan’s TV debut is in the works, and Disney has assembled a marvelous (ahem) directorial team.

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Sony Apologizes For PS5 Pre-Order Clusterfuck And Says More Consoles Will Be Available This Year @ io9

Earlier this week, PS5 pre-orders started up at various retailers around the world at different times and with little warning. This created a giant mess and now Sony has officially apologized for the clusterfuck.

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David Harbour Says Hopper Is Going Through a Major Transformation in Stranger Things Season 4 @ io9

Think of it less like a return than a resurrection.

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Raised by Wolves Review: “Lost Paradise” and “Faces” @ Bureau 42

“Hey, buddy. So we shot your mom and dad, and then we spent 13 years lying to your face about it, but you know what, we sure do love you.”

The power dynamic shifts in Raised by Wolves, while the mystery of the planet deepens, and the show grows increasingly mythic.

In the face of danger and threats to the continued survival of the human race, people continue to act like buttheads. It’s depressing, but entirely plausible.

Titles: “Lost Paradise,” “Faces”

Cast and Crew

Directors: Sergio Mimica-Gezzan, Alex Gabassi
Writers: Don Joh, Karen Campbell

Amanda Collin as Mother
Abubakar Salim as Father
Winta McGrath as Campion
Travis Fimmel as Marcus
Sienna Guillory as Mary
Niamh Algar as Sue
Jordan Loughran as Tempest
Ethan Hazzard as Hunter
Felix Jamieson as Paul
Aasiya Shah as Holly
Ivy Wong as Vita
Matias Varela as Lucius
Susan Danford as Justina
Litha Bam as Bartok
Clayton Evertson as Dorian
Cosmo Jarvis as Campion Sturges
Susan Danford as Justina
Loulou Taylor as Cassia
Garth Breytenbach as Den
Anlia van Rensburg as Kroni
Chris Fisher as Halphas
Tristan de Beer as Grigori
Tanya van Graan as Lempo
Tarryn Wyngaard as Vanth
Kabelo Bouga Chalatsane as Eligos
Aaron Muchanyu as Raum
Brendan Sean Murray/Adrian Schiller as cannon fodder Otho
Shoko Yoshimura as Mastema
Jenna Upton as Danjal
Daniel Lasker as Furfur
Avumile Qongqo, Nala Khumalo as clerics
Sienna Hurst as Ghost Child

Premise

Mother learns more about her past, and an increasing number of survivors encounter manifestations of… whatever haunts this planet.

Despite a battle plan that goes disastrously awry, the Mithrains take control.

Nothing, of course, is as straightforwards as it appears.

High Points

Despite the show’s increasingly mythic tone and visuals, the connections to real life cannot be avoided. I found Campion’s baptism particularly powerful. Fanatics, led by people who don’t actually believe, continue to think that forced conversion is meaningful. A young person encounters a reprogrammed family member and realizes they have become strangers.

“Faces” features more weirdness than the last couple of episodes, but it has been effectively directed.

Low Points

When the Mithrain soldiers first begin to fire on Father, they demonstrate a ludicrous lack of skill. Only Imperial Stormtroopers are so imprecise.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6

Acting: 5/6 Travis Fimmel stands out in these episodes, in several difficult scenes.

Story: 5/6

Production: 6/6

Effects: 6/6

Emotional Response: 5/6

Overall: 5/6 The show has been revived for a second season.

In total, Raised by Wolves, Episodes 6-7, receive 35/42

Lingering Questions

1. The show raises a number of questions regarding Mother’s variable power and their application, and more importantly, regarding the manifestations. Do we have literal ghosts? Is this machine intelligence and some manifestation of the ship, a notion briefly suggested in Lost Paradise? Is Sol real? Is the planet an Altair-4, with some remnant of the vanished civilization at work?

2. In a world where we’ve seen no direct references to the currently established Terran religions, why does Mary yell, “Jesus Christ!” when Marcus returns? If that’s a clue, it’s intriguing. If it’s an oversight, it is, in a show so steeped in religious references, a serious error.

I’m betting on allusion-as-clue.

3. Will we ever get a scene where Tempest punches Hunter in the weenie?

Novel Review: Tinker’s Plague @ Bureau 42

This book was first published in 2009, by a small publishing company that went under. It was republished in 2016 by another, more successful small publisher, and the author has since sold a story set in the same world and a sequel, Tinker’s Sea. The setting makes a review timely. A credible future world, recovering from environmental and social collapse, faces a plague.

Title: Tinker’s Plague

Author: Stephen B. Pearl

ISBN-10: 1928011101
ISBN-13: 978-1928011101

Amazon.uk, Amazon.com,
Amazon.ca and as a kindle.

Premise:

In the twenty-second century, a Tinker—a preserver and fixer of old technology—must step up when someone unleashes a plague from a long-concealed laboratory.

High Points:

We’re in a future Great Lakes Basin, not deep space, and Pearl’s environmentalist leanings might baffle certain writers from SF’s Golden Age. Nevertheless, this novel recalls, in its idiosyncratic way, the adventurous SF tales of yore, with a brave, intelligent, independent engineer-hero leading the charge to save the day, in a novel that explores plausible, speculative science and science-based dilemmas. Pearl’s contemporary take on that kind of story will prove irresistible to many readers, and I will be reading the sequel.

Low Point:

Apart from some issues with characterization, discussed below, I had concerns with the presentation of aspects of the future society. I found the world Pearl created to be plausible, and accept that, post-collapse, societies would fragment and some would become barbaric by contemporary standards. But the gleeful relish with which Pearl presents judicial systems worthy of medieval Europe and contemporary Iran left me cold. Over the course of the novel he seems less to be depicting torture-as-justice than celebrating it. I cannot applaud the flogging by bullwhip of a man who is dying of cancer, no matter how evil that man might be.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6

Imagery: 5/6

Story: 5/6 Pearl has written a page-turning tale.

Characterization: 4/6 I like the main character. Indeed, the related short story, “Tinker’s Toxin,” immediately led to my purchasing this novel. Much of the supporting cast lack depth, and the story’s villains all but twirl their various mustaches.

Emotional Response: 5/6

Editing: 5/6

Overall: 5/6 If you want to read a post-environmental-collapse adventure story with a techie hero and a bit of the feel of classic SF, you want to seek out this novel.

Pearl recently gave an interview, which may be found here, in which he discusses the ongoing “Tinker’s World” series.

In total, Tinker’s Plague receives 33/42

Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 2 Is Proof That You Should Skip First-Gen Tech @ io9

The original Galaxy Fold was the most important phone of 2019. It showed how flexible display tech could create a totally new type of device with the portability of a phone and the big screen and improved multitasking experience of a tablet. However, like a lot of first-gen products—especially something that…

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TZGZ: Kat Dennings trucks her way out of a space jam in Dallas & Robo finale sneak peek @ Syfy Wire

Hard to believe, but the Season 1 finale of SYFY’s Dallas & Robo is already truckin' our way this weekend. The animated series’ crowning first season episode is set to make a TZGZ pit stop somewhere around midnight-ish this Saturday, but we've got an exclusive clip ahead of that, just to get your wheels properly spinning.

Kidnapped and lashed to a post in a suspiciously Star Wars-y locale at Phobos Trucking, Dallas (Kat Dennings) barks what may be the most un-motivational escape encouragement in history to friend Freddy Calhoun (Steve Little), as the two make a break for the inner sanctum safety of their spacey big rig. Getting out of this kind of space jam is nothing new to Dallas, but now she’s dead set on beating a path to reunite with Robo (John Cena) — who’s off on Mars, dealing with issues of his own with the Man in White.

All we can say is stick around for the ending, because we’re definitely borrowing Dallas’ buckle-up phrase the next time we rev up our engines. Check it out:

SYFY on YouTube

Titled “The Stranger, The Dummy and The King,” the Season 1 finale finds the Moonshiner Trucking crew up against one of their toughest fights yet when “three big bads stroll into town,” as the network puts it. The penultimate episode left our heroes separated (and not on the best of terms), with Dallas’ idiotic plan of kidnapping her old drag-racing partner, Carol (Jane Lynch), going haywire when she and Freddy end up being double-crossed by gangsters and left to char at Phobos — a place that, for reasons we know better than to argue with, looks a whole lot like the Death Star and Bespin all rolled into one. 

Airing as part of SYFY’s late-night adult animation TZGZ block, Dallas & Robo is a space-trucking comedy that tracks the misadventures of foul-mouthed ex-stock car racer Dallas (Dennings) and her ass-kickin’, artificially-intelligent good buddy, Robo (Cena). Together, they put the pedal to the metal on the lonesome highways of space, all while steering clear of cannibal bikers, rival space truckers, and vending machine burritos — just to make a buck in the seedy world of interplanetary big rigging.

Created by Mike Roberts, and written by Matt Mariska and Andy Sipes, Dallas & Robo features a long list of acting talent we’d be glad to hear on our CB radios, including regular cast members Dennings, Cena, Stephen Root (Uncle Danny Moonshiner), and Tim Blake Nelson (The Woodsman). Other recurring members and guests among the star-studded voice cast include Giancarlo Esposito, Taran Killam, Thomas Lennon, and Ted Raimi.

Tune in sometime ‘round midnight this Saturday (Sept. 19) to catch the 18-wheelin’ Season 1 finale of Dallas & Robo as part of SYFY’s late-night TZGZ lineup.

Saturday's Best Deals: Dyson Hot + Cool Air Purifier, Huckberry Onsen Bath Towels, Beats Solo Pro Headphones, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, USDA Certified Organic CBD Oil, IT Brush Bath, and More @ io9

Lego's New Batman 1989 Batwing Is a Work of Art You Can Actually Hang on Your Wall @ io9

Almost a year after it was first revealed, the Lego 1989 Tim Burton Batmobile remains my favorite Lego set of all time. The model is gigantic, packed with fun details, and a beautiful recreation of an iconic vehicle. So I’m glad to see that Lego has given another one of Batman’s wonderful toys the brick treatment with…

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A Lone Astronaut Traverses a Pop Culture Post-Apocalypse @ io9

The work of artist Scott Listfield is unmistakable. Not because of his vivid landscapes. Not because of his brash exploration of pop culture and advertising. No, it’s that damned astronaut in the middle that gives it away.

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WIRE Buzz: Ms. Marvel series taps directors; Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay; The Suicide Squad @ Syfy Wire

The team behind the Ms. Marvel television show continues to "embiggen."

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the upcoming Disney+ series has already tapped four directors to come on board and direct episodes of the show: Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (Bad Boys for Life), Academy Award winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (for the documentary shorts Saving Face and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness), and Meera Menon (The Walking DeadTitans).

Bisha K. Ali (Sex Education) serves as head writer on the project, which centers on Kamala Khan, a young New Jersey teen who gains the Inhuman ability to alter her size and shape and takes on the mantle of Ms. Marvel, a title previously held by Carol Danvers (aka Captain Marvel) herself in the comics.

Since the debut of her solo series back in 2014, the young Pakistani-American hero has become not only the first Muslim Marvel superhero to have her own comic title, but also the first one to get her own TV show. And while there hasn't been much news about whether the fan-favorite character will be making her way to the larger MCU in any of the upcoming films — more specifically Captain Marvel 2 — Marvel President Kevin Feige has mentioned that all the upcoming Marvel TV series will be better integrated into the larger universe as they're being produced by Marvel Studios.

Kamala Khan was created by Marvel editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker, writer G. Willow Wilson, and artists Adrian Alphona and Jamie McKelvie. She has appeared in different animated Marvel series and video games over the years. She currently stars as the lead playable character in the new Avengers game.

Ms. Marvel is set to premiere in 2021. 


Next, the amazing adventure continues! Michael Chabon has confirmed that progress has been made on the small-screen adaptation of his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, the author and former Picard showrunner said that he and his wife and creative partner Ayelet Waldman are in “a writers room of two” making headway on the scripts for the upcoming series based on his novel of the same name.

“The current status is that my wife, Ayelet Waldman, and I, right now, we are at work,” Chabon told the media outlet. “She's done a draft of the pilot script and I'm now doing my draft of that script, and she's moved on to do a first draft of the second episode.”

The current plan for the series, which has been picked up by Showtime, is to initially have “two eight-episode seasons,” with an option to go further, if “everyone enjoys the show.” Which means that additional seasons past the initial two would serve as a sequel to the original 2000 novel.

“I've had a lot of thoughts over the years about writing a sequel, maybe a novel, and you know, never quite brought myself to that point of doing that,” Chabon said. “So, this would be a way to do that. That might be really fun.”

Paying homage to America’s Golden Age of comics, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay follows the careers of two Jewish cousins and comic book creators: artist Joe Kavalier, a Czechoslovakian immigrant who escaped Nazi-occupied Europe, and writer Sammy Clay, a Brooklyn native.

Chabon and Waldon will both serve as executive producers and showrunners for the series, with Akiva Goldsman and Alex Kurtzman also on board to produce. 

Chabon explained that they’re hoping “to have a season ready by the end of this year,” so that they can start production in 2021. 


Even after some behind-the-scenes footage on The Suicide Squad was unveiled at DC FanDome, we still don’t know a whole lot about James Gunn’s forthcoming film. Well, we know the featured cast, sure. And we know Jon Cena plays “a douch-ey Captain America,” yes. But beyond that, things are still being kept pretty under wraps in terms of story and how it connects to David Ayer’s 2016 Suicide Squad.

Well, today we now know that if the film sticks to Gunn's vision, it should get a hard-R rating, at least according to one of its stars.

Although Joel Kinnaman still makes sure not to reveal too much about The Suicide Squad’s story (because of course he doesn't) in today's interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he does let it be known that the script is “insane,” “funny,” and that the “movie is going to be a f**king monster.” So, a James Gunn film, in other words.

“That movie is going to be insane. The script is so funny. Every page of that script was funny, and every page made me laugh,” said Kinnaman, who plays Rick Flag (reprising his role from the 2016 film), adding that it’s "heavily R-rated."

Whether or not the film will end up being rated R is ultimately up to the ratings board and Warner Bros. But based on the success of the Deadpool films and Logan (and let’s not forget Zack Snyder's Watchmen and Gunn’s own Super), there’s certainly more than enough of a precedent for adult-skewing superhero films. 

The monster that is The Suicide Squad is set to tear its way into theaters Aug. 6, 2021.


She Still Gets Your Money @ io9

A few days ago at Sony’s splashy PlayStation 5 showcase event, a long-rumored video game made its official debut: Hogwarts Legacy, an action-RPG set in the universe created by the current celebrity face of anti-trans hate, J.K. Rowling. Approaching media created by problematic figures is always a messy prospect, but

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Netflix's Away and the working mother @ Syfy Wire

In Netflix's Away, Emma Green (played by Oscar winner Hilary Swank) heads to space as the commander of the first mission to Mars. But throughout Season 1, it isn't smooth sailing, and like so many women in the workplace, Emma finds herself trying to balance her roles as leader, mother, and wife, all while hurtling through space. Yeah, it isn't easy.

Showrunners Andrew Hinderaker and Jessica Goldberg drew from the history of American women in space while researching for the project and depiction of Emma's role — both as an astronaut and a leader.

"I was sort of loosely, very, very, loosely fascinated with Peggy Whitson, the United States astronaut who's had the most time in space and the most time as commander," said Hinderaker. "A lot of people don't know that it's a woman who did that."

Swank spoke with Whitson while preparing for the project too. "She was wonderful and just sharing with me ... From the smallest to the biggest details, I just got to pick her brain, and that was really helpful," she said. "[We discussed] just what it means to be a commander and the responsibility that comes with that, and how does she shape that in a man's world."

Another inspiration for the character of Emma was Mae Jemison, the first Black woman to travel into space. For Hinderaker, Jemison's legacy was in part a more optimistic look at the way Earth should be — one without barriers and not controlled by white men.

"I've always been super-inspired by Mae Jemison who, when she went up to space again ... came up with a number of artifacts. It was like an African American choreographer that she loved that she left there and she sort of said, 'Space should not be the domain of white men.' And that's sort of a philosophy that there was something transcendent about space. What I love about the show is how optimistic [it is], but in a way that's been proven. Like space has shown it, it's done it," said Hinderaker.

Credit: Netflix

While real-life women of space provided a framework for Emma's working life, she also balances her roles as wife and mother. The show begins at her daughter's (Talitha Bateman) soccer game before she rushes to NASA for a press conference. Her husband (Josh Charles) also works at NASA and suffers a health crisis early on in the season. Emma spends the season in space, physically distant from her daughter in order to do her job, and yet still trying to balance her role as mother and astronaut, something Goldberg, herself a working, single mother with a 12-year-old daughter, was drawn to in the original scripts.

"For me, I also just saw on it something I had never seen, which is this sort of revolutionary way of talking about a working mother and a woman who loves her job as much as she loves her family," she said. "So I felt like I had never seen that story of what it is to love your work and your child articulated in that way," Goldberg explained.

Of course, the balance of work and family isn't an issue men typically are asked about, she pointed out.

"I mean, that you do love your work and you love your family and you want both," Goldberg continued. "And for men, that's never really been a question. And for women, it is and you see in the pilot ... [Emma] really has to struggle with that and what to do in this situation. And then that struggle just continues to play out and escalate through the season and that choice."

I'm not a mother, but I was raised by a single mother who continuously balanced her full-time professional career AND her full-time job as a parent. The difficult balance of these roles is something so many women deal with on a day-to-day basis and not one we get to see portrayed enough in pop culture. Away's Emma Green is bringing us one step closer.

Season 1 of Away is now streaming on Netflix.

Your Shelf Can't Escape Spooky Season, and More of the Most Frightful Toys of the Week @ io9

Welcome back to Toy Aisle, where our latest adventures into all things shiny and plastic have taken a turn for the spooky. This week, Hasbro summons up an an entire army of Dinobots, Mattel turns its hand to The Rise of Skywalker, and so much more. Check it out!

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Indie Comics Spotlight: Bigs 'N Tiny is the powered buddy comedy you need right now @ Syfy Wire

A few years ago at East Coast Comic Con, Dimitrios Zaharakis happened to sit next to Larry Lieber (Stan Lee’s younger brother) at a signing and struck up a conversation. Zaharakis wanted to create a series of comics and took the opportunity to ask the Marvel comics co-founder for his take on a few story ideas. “What about making something fun to make people smile and laugh?” Lieber asked. That idea inspired the indie publisher to create one of his newest projects, Bigs 'N Tiny, through his imprint Blackbox Comics.

Zaharakis founded Blackbox in 2016 and serves as editor, writer, and producer. He has five published titles and eight more currently in production at the small company, including Psycho List, a horror mystery comic by writer-actor-producer Kevin Grevioux (Underworld, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans) and artist Johnathan Lau (Red Sonja, Xena: Warrior Princess). Bigs ‘N Tiny, written by Ramel Hill (Pinkwing and the Prime Controller) and drawn by Federico Sabbatini (Angelica Reigns), is much lighter. The new series, funded through a successful Kickstarter earlier this year, launched in July during a challenging season for both fans and publishers. “With everything going on in the world, I’m hoping we’re entertaining the fans and making them laugh a little during these tough times,” Zaharakis says.

In the story, Santino Lugo and Bryan Clay are both from Queens, New York, both have been experimented on by a mysterious syndicate, and both are investigating a series of disappearances. But they don’t meet until the night Bryan is abducted by said syndicate (again) and Santino shows up to save him. Santino (aka Tiny) can change size at will and becomes incredibly strong as he shrinks. In contrast, Bryan (aka Bigs) has developed both pyrokinetic and electromagnetic abilities. It's Lethal Weapon meets the X-Men as this pair bicker with each other almost as much as they fight bad guys.

SYFY WIRE spoke to the creative team via email and discussed the story's inspiration and why “battle art” is excellent comics training.

Credit: Blackbox Comics

Which “buddy comedies” or comics did you look to for inspiration?

Ramel Hill: The two main characters’ relationships had to feel authentic to make the story work, in my opinion. I spent time building how they would interact and communicate with each other, and once it felt natural everything else fell into place. Lethal Weapon franchise and Beverly Hills Cop honestly are what sparked my drive on the series. After starting on it, however, this project had a life of its own.

Did you physically pattern any of the characters after anyone you know? 

Federico Sabbatini: All the main characters are inspired by real people, while the secondary ones are fictional, except for a few who were inspired by the Kickstarter supporters.

Santino, I must confess, is a self-insert, and I have particularly fun drawing him wearing my same style of clothing. Bryan is inspired by a young Kevin Bacon, Ms. Weaver is inspired by Brody Dalle of The Distillers, and Lieutenant Chalmers is inspired by Brandan Schieppati of Bleeding Through. Karen’s inspired by Lili Reinhart, Detective Nolan Kelly is inspired by Charlie Hunnam, and Detective Olivia Silva is inspired by Martina Fari, my beloved girlfriend.

credit: Blackbox Comics

The perspective in this story doesn’t just stick with Bryan and Santino, it shifts to other characters. Is it easier or more difficult telling a story that way?

Hill: I find it refreshing to bring the reader along narratively with other characters. This way we can see the larger world and not rely on the main characters to always be around to reveal what’s going on plot-wise. It’s not any harder or easier; it’s really just what works for this type of story. There are three major forces coming together eventually. We have the main characters in Santino and Bryan, the crime syndicate, and the police force led by Detective Silva and Detective Kelly.

Ramel, we heard you were a DeviantArt “battle artist” before you got into comics. Can you explain what that is about?

Hill: Yes! Battle Artist is a great group for any artist who needs an extra shot of motivation to push their creativity. You are given a theme to work from and pitted against another artist, with a panel of judges picking the winner. There is a real rush when you have an artistic “opponent,” and you also want to just stand out in general amongst your peers. So yes, it definitely helped me before jumping into the world of comics. It also helped me build great relationships with artists in which I have commissioned for paid gigs.

Credit: Bigs N Tiny

You did not draw Bigs ‘N Tiny, however. What made you switch to writing on this one?  

Hill: Timing. I have an all-ages series I’m writing and illustrating at the moment (Pinkwing and the Prime-Controller), and I’ve worked with Federico before and felt he would be a great artist for this project as well. As an artist, I know some styles just work better story-wise, and Federico is perfect for this series.

What was it like seeing those first panels back from Federico?

Hill: Federico and I have a connection. As a writer, I wanted him to not only complete the pages but have a good time working on them. So there are areas where I write what I need in the story and there are areas where I leave it open so he can add his punch. The collaborative approach is what makes our working relationship great. Seeing those panels felt like we hit gold on a wonderful series.

What is your collaboration process with Ramel?

Sabbatini: Ramel is a great friend, he's almost like a brother to me! My first publication for the United States was a comic book scripted by him. Over the years, we've always kept in touch and worked together on other projects. I love his way of writing and professionalism.

Did you suggest the warm/cool noir palette to your colorist? 

Sabbatini: The colors are all picked by my great friend and colleague Andrea Celestini. We've known each other for several years and have worked side by side in the past. He always manages to enhance my pages with amazing and vibrant colors, so I totally trust his instincts.

Credit: Bigs N Tiny

What’s your favorite scene or panel so far to write?

Hill: Each issue actually has a favorite moment for me. I can’t reveal each one, but they usually involve the interactions between Santino and Bryan. I tried my best to have their conversations be organic and feel natural.

Your action scenes are very dynamic. What’s your inspiration?

Sabbatini: There are so many scenes that I love in Bigs ‘N Tiny, especially the fighting parts or the comic skits between Santino and Bryan. Perhaps one of the scenes I'm most proud of is the car chase in Issue #3. [I had fun] watching the Fast and Furious franchise over and over again to reproduce the dynamism and madness that convey the same kind of scenes featured in those movies.

Issue #4 drops next month, but what else are you working on?

Hill: I’m currently wrapping up a 10-page short zombie story for an anthology with (Zombies Were Human Too Volume 3). I’m also wrapping up my Kickstarter campaign, which will have all four issues of my original series Pinkwing and the Prime-Controller.

Sabbatini: I'm currently working on four different projects at the same time!

The Super Mario Bros. Movie Was a Damp, Fungal Love Letter to New York City @ io9

One of the interesting things about living in New York City during the coronavirus pandemic has been discovering ways to experience the area vicariously through different forms of media (because it’s dangerous to be out and about beyond necessary errands). While the 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie might not be the first…

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First look: Agent Carter's James D'Arcy on being a 'luddite' in the dystopian sci-fi future of 'LX 2048' @ Syfy Wire

Seemingly ripped straight out of today’s alarming headlines, a provocative new sci-fi flick titled LX 2048 and starring James D’Arcy (Marvel’s Agent Carter, Cloud Atlas, Dunkirk), Anna Brewster (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), and Delroy Lindo (Get Shorty, The Core) arrives in virtual cinemas and VOD Sept. 25 as an intriguing cautionary tale to be reckoned with — and SYFY WIRE has an exclusive clip to share.

Writer/director Guy Moshe (Bunraku, Monolith) delivers us into a dystopian 2048 where mankind has destroyed the ozone layer to a degree that most humans can’t venture outside during daylight hours and people’s nighttime routines are spent immersed in constant virtual reality realms. Depression has become so rampant that citizens are required to take the state-issued pill, LithiumX.

Credit: Chimera Pictures

D’Arcy plays Adam Bird, a family man who vehemently resists this “new normal” plunge into artificial realities and whose heart condition forces desperate steps to ensure his children’s future. With an organ transplant unavailable, Adam is scheduled to be substituted with a cloned upgrade for his estranged wife as stated in his Premium 3 government insurance plan. Spiraling out of control, Adam struggles to find answers before his clone is sent to replace his existence.

SYFY WIRE spoke with D’Arcy on his performance in LX 2048 and its startling world of enhanced reality, cyber sex, cloning, and designer pharmaceuticals meant to control and reduce humanity down to a sad shadow of its former self.

"Guy’s script had some really interesting ideas, they were dystopian, but not, and put in a really interesting way with this upgraded clone version of you which was clever and funny in places," he tells SYFY WIRE. "I’m reading it and I get to the last 40 pages where it’s me and me, topless, quoting Hamlet to myself, and I thought that this is a narcissist’s wet dream. [Laughs.] We tried to streamline the ideas down, and we talked through what Guy’s vision was. And you don’t know with films like this. This could be wonderful. This is what independent movies are for, so you can explore this kind of stuff. It seemed like a really exciting thing to go do, and it was great fun to be a part of it."

Credit: Chimera Pictures

Aligning with the film's futuristic content and themes, D’Arcy’s upbringing was filled with blockbuster sci-fi flicks and dreams of perhaps someday being an astronaut.

"The first movie I remember watching was The Empire Strikes Back, and my brain exploded because it felt like somebody had filmed my imagination, but only better!" he recalls. "I’m an '80s kid. Back to the Future, The Last Starfighter, and Disney’s The Black Hole. I loved space. I was going to be an astronaut, I was pretty certain of that. I had a big hardback book about space, and I turned a page and got my first paper cut at the age of 7. So I made an identification in my head that astronauting was very painful. I had to abandon my ideas of getting into a spaceship because it felt like it might hurt. The more thoughtful, dystopian sci-fi things came to me later in my life."

Check out our exclusive clip:

In many ways, D’Arcy believes his work in LX 2048 holds a mirror up to today’s virtual-leaning, climate crisis planet.

"When we made the movie there was this day when we were shooting with my kids all on VR sets, and I remember thinking I could see how that could happen," he adds. "Then five months later the kids went from being at school to being on their computers eight hours a day. Some of this stuff is prescient and super creepy. I’m not sure where we are with cloning, but you feel like it could happen. And knowing humans beings the way we do, if you had the opportunity to have another one of you that was a little bit better, that would catch on, that could be a thing!

"I’m a bit of a Luddite, so being Adam was not so difficult. I don’t take any pills, and I’m not very good with technology. And I look at the newspapers today and I think I don’t understand this world. Maybe other people are sitting at home and getting it. There have certainly been times when I’ve felt disconnected from the speed with which the world is changing. In that regard, Adam was not particularly difficult to find a way into. It’s difficult acting with yourself, because the opportunities to upstage yourself are too many. [Laughs.]

"In the end, it’s Guy’s movie, and I’m just there to serve his vision. This is an auteur kind of project, and you just want to lean into it."

Credit: Chimera Pictures

LX 2048 will be available to rent or own Sept. 25th on Amazon, iTunes, Comcast, Spectrum, Dish, DirecTV, Vudu, and more in the U.S. and Canada.

120,000-Year-Old Human Footprints Mark Possible Migration Route Through Arabian Peninsula @ io9

Archaeologists in Saudi Arabia have discovered seven well-preserved footprints belonging to humans. Dated to around 120,000 years ago, these appear to be the oldest evidence of our species in the region.

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Look of the Week: The elevated chic of The Umbrella Academy's Handler @ Syfy Wire

Welcome back to Look of the Week! Celebrating the best in TV and film sartorial excellence, past and present across sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and other genre classics!

The Umbrella Academy's second season swinging '60s location provides an ideal sartorial setting for Klaus (Robert Sheehan), who gets to embrace his penchant for hippie style and vintage threads. But no one looks more at home in this decade than the power-hungry Handler (Kate Walsh), who previously served high drama at every backstabbing turn in Season 1. A little brush with death can't slow down her high-fashion offerings, and Season 2 takes her mid-century aesthetic up a notch as she unleashes a new takeover plan.

Spoilers ahead for The Umbrella Academy.

Credit: Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix

Returning to the Commission should be a momentous occasion, but the Handler's demotion and desk change only make her grand outfit stand out more. Red lipstick and crimson heels paired to the tailed persimmon number with a cinched in at the waist and black vinyl trim doesn't deserve this reception. Not to mention the pinstripe hat that pushes the limits of what can fit through a door. Matching her scarf to this piece is the level of extra we have come to expect from this devilish character. If the Commission has a milliner, then the Handler is keeping them busy, as every single outfit incorporates headwear worthy of a Vogue editorial or royal wedding. Costume designer Christopher Hargadon is well versed in dialing up a villain's closet, having worked on all three seasons of Hannibal, and he brings that level of panache to this stylized world.

Managing the time-space continuum from the 1955 location of the Commission headquarters informs the direction of the Handler's exquisite tailoring, which sees her embracing the following decade's trends when she travels to Dallas to mount her scheme to regain power. Elements of the 1950s remain, but there is a notable turn toward outerwear silhouettes that reflect current first lady Jackie Kennedy. An audacious gold coat worn with her signature scarlet pumps ensures she stands out, even when she is blending in. Fashion is served, and the golden hue of this garment is a lighting dream. Other than her cherry boots, it is notable that her adopted daughter Lila (Ritu Arya) sticks to moody utilitarian black attire — unless the situation calls for an undercover look.

Credit: Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix

One such moment occurs in Episode 3 when Lila attends a fancy event at the Mexican consulate. She doesn't go to the same playful extremes as her mother, but she is just as deadly. Earlier in "The Majestic 12," a flashback montage shows Lila's assassin progression. Doubling as a Handler couture highlight reel, it includes a red polka dot number that alludes to the forthcoming bloodshed.

Later in the season, it is revealed via a flashback sequence that the Handler ordered the death of Lila's parents. Wearing a chic mauve and cream herringbone capelet suit and matching army garrison-style cap, the military influence is favored while she plots her next move. Never without a pair of fingerless opera gloves — also paired to her outfit — this character ignores the Chanel "before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off" advice. And for that, we are very thankful.

Credit: Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix

Always dressing to theme, even the Handler's quilted loungewear as she awaits her double agent daughter is decadent. Whether it is a game of bingo or delivering Five (Aidan Gallagher) the vital briefcase so he can travel back to the present day with his family, a bold style statement is made. On Instagram, Hargadon describes the latter purple ensemble as having "the vibe of an undercover French Resistance fighter."

Five has completed his mission to kill the Commission board members at the behest of his nemesis after she dangled a golden reward if the coup is a success. In exchange for his proficient assassin skills, she gives him the life-saving time travel suitcase device. Unfortunately, even though she is playing the role of an ally in this back alley she has set him up to fail. Giving him 90 minutes to gather the other Hargreaves kids is impossible when they are scattered across the city. Plus, she needs Five to stay close so she can blame him for the bloodshed.

Credit: Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix

Purple and red are two bold colors that run throughout her closet, which includes the Napoleonic get-up to mark her big return to the Commission. The over-the-top gold-accented military aesthetic is exactly what you would expect from a character who will stop at nothing to climb to the top. For a woman who loves to match the outfit to the occasion, this is a symbol of what kind of leader she intends to be.

Putting her stamp of sartorial authority even on the security team's uniform, she quips that she is "a sucker for a beret" when showing Lila the concept art — Hargadon even made a prototype complete with an embroidered collar.

Credit: Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix 

"Is this a swearing-in or a coronation?" Lila asks when she interrupts her mother's fitting in the penultimate episode, which only hints at just how outrageous this garment will become. The Handler is not one for subtle minimalism, opting for opulence and accessories that even Marie Antoinette might consider too much.

Hargadon shared the sketch process of conceiving this ridiculously extravagant gown on Instagram, including how different aspects were incorporated before the final cage and sash details were in place.

Credit: Netflix

French references aren't the only thread weaving through the Handler's Season 2 looks, which also includes a repeat spider jewelry motif. Playing all the angles, she constructs a web big enough to ensnare all her targets — well, until the final episode. Hargadon also shared the mood board used as an initial point of inspiration, which shows how varied his influences are. Despite the differences, the looks are bound by extremes and a love of bold fabrics and textures.

Feathers often suggest a softness, but on the above mood board, this texture reads more like armor. The Handler uses heightened couture to stand out, which also includes the literal battlefield in the Season 2 finale. She uses another animal to signify her strength in this sequence, wearing another striking garment with historical military origins.

The lavish custom-build trench coat has a touch of the Daenerys Targaryen with the choice of shoulder scales — that were painstakingly hand-sewn onto the show-stopping garment. Hargadon also notes in the caption below that this process was replicated on multiple coats to account for the action-heavy climactic sequence.

Standing in the field like a general, rather than brokering a peace treaty, she is marking a moment of betrayal. What better outfit to do it in than one that ticks all the signature Handler boxes? She has the extravagant hat, military theme, spider broach detail, and another flourish of red that she uses to kick off the bloodshed. She has weaponized Lila and has the backing of every single Commission assassin at her disposal.

Credit: Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix

Everyone is in on the all-black attire memo, including Lila, who has more in common with the Hargreaves siblings than they realize. While her leather jacket could be showing solidarity to her in mother in this scenario, it also produces a visual tether to those with powers. And while the Handler is wearing a killer ensemble for this showdown event, little does she know this to-die-for outfit will see her bite the bullet, quite literally.

The Handler has already come back from the dead once, and because The Umbrella Academy plays with the space-time continuum there is always a chance she might return to bestow us with more sartorial highlights. Although, if this is the last of the Handler, her swan-song costume is befitting of the high-fashion flex she consistently bestowed upon us. Proving once again that villains get the best threads — no matter the time period.

When a star dies, does (hypothetical) life go with it? @ Syfy Wire

We already know the answer for Earth. When the Sun starts its death throes and turns into a red giant in about 5 billion years, it will become a gargantuan raging inferno that will easily turn Mercury, Venus, and our planet to ash. But what could happen if surviving planets or moons (like Europa or Titan) that may host life continue to orbit it when it cools into a white dwarf?

That won’t happen for another 10 billion years. Nobody alive now is going to be around to see the aftermath. However, NASA’s James Webb telescope may find the answer to whether anything can live on a planet whose star has died by studying white dwarfs and looking for signatures of life on the rocky planets that orbit them. The gas giant that was recently caught orbiting a white dwarf by TESS doesn't really qualify for life as we know it. However, there might be other planets or moons or asteroids out there within a white dwarf’s habitable zone that are crawling with some sort of life—because dead stars aren’t so dead.

Astrophysicist and astrobiologist Thea Kozakis and her research team created models for hypothetical Earth-like planets orbiting a white dwarf to find out whether the conditions on such bodies could be amenable to life. The team modeled the habitable zone around a white dwarf, which gradually gets pushed closer and closer to the star as it grows cooler. White dwarfs are the exposed cores of red giants that emerge blazing hot but drastically lose heat over time because of the lack of an internal heat source. However, the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere of a white dwarf could extend its habitability.

“We found that a planet could potentially remain in the habitable zone of a white dwarf for at least 6 billion years, possibly 8 billion years with more optimistic limits,” Kozakis, who led a study recently published in The Astrophysical Journal, told SYFY WIRE. “As the white dwarf cools it emits less and less UV flux, so we studied how that would affect atmospheric chemistry and planetary surface conditions, and also how biosignatures would change during this process.”

WD 1856+534 and the (much bigger) gas giant orbiting it. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Red giants may scorch the planets closest to them, and even after they shed their outer layers and become white dwarfs, they may still emit too much UV radiation for anything to stay alive near them. As UV levels plunge, planets and moons further back in the star system might have the opportunity to to move closer. Far-reaching heat from the red giant may even help spawn new life on some of them. Any life that exists on these objects may thrive on a planet orbiting a white dwarf because the planet’s retention of greenhouse gases would keep it warm long after the star corpse lost most of its heat. Earth would stand no chance against a red giant Sun, but Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moons Titan and Enceladus are possible candidates for life that (if it exists) may get a boost when Earth is out of the way.

Planets can also form around white dwarfs, though little is known about how these planets evolve. A second generation of planets would probably have to form in the same type of dusty and gaseous disc where stars are usually born.

“We're not sure how likely it is that planets can overcome these obstacles, but each new planet discovery around white dwarfs will help us better assess the potential for habitability,” Kozakis said.

While the planet orbiting the white dwarf WD 1856+534 has almost no chance at being habitable, Kozakis and her team recently published an adjacent study exploring the possibilities for a hypothetical Earth-like planet orbiting the same star at a slower pace. They simulated this planet around a white dwarf with the same conditions as the one that is now getting media attention from the entire universe.

“While the discovered gas giant has an orbital period of 1.4 days, our hypothetical planet would have to be orbiting in less than 10 hours to be close enough to maintain temperatures that can support liquid water,” said Kozakis. “We simulated how much observing time the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope would need to detect signs of life for an Earth-like planet around this white dwarf, and the results are extremely promising.”

The 10 Best Deals of September 18, 2020 @ io9

Your Name Live-Action Remake Finds a New Director in Lee Isaac Chung @ io9

The live-action adaptation of Makoto Shinkai’s modern classic Your Name has a new director. Lee Isaac Chung (Minari) has been brought aboard to helm this new take on the blockbuster anime, as well as rewrite the script.

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The Origin of the Screen Name @ io9

While many of us use an online moniker that is a version of our real name, there are plenty of sites, services, and video games that require another name: The Screen Name. We tend to use the same one across multiple platforms, and they’re uniquely us—provided you’re not 14 years old, in which case 69 or 420 will…

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Why we love James Marsden and why he deserves better @ Syfy Wire

Boy, James Marsden sure does seem to enjoy being in movies alongside CGI animals, doesn't he?

This strange recurring theme of his career turned a lot of heads when the first trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog dropped online, sending countless viewers into spasms of terror over the sight of a wholly unnatural Sonic with a mouthful of human teeth and uncanny valley eyes that seemed to follow you through the screen. This is what humanity had been reduced to, apparently. Sonic was eventually given a makeover, but the presence of James Marsden remained unchanged. How was it that this actor kept finding himself in movies where he conducted full conversations with computer-generated, often wisecracking animals of fantastical origin? Between Sonic and Hop and Enchanted, this had become a calling card for Marsden. It couldn't help but feel like something of a downturn for an actor who has curiously never broken out into the mainstream despite several prior opportunities to do so and a face that seemed molded by the gods for A-List glory.

Credit: Universal

It's worth noting, however, that whatever you think of movies like Sonic and Hop, Marsden is still great in them. He's easily the best part of Sonic the Hedgehog (sorry, Jim Carrey), blending the straight-man act with enough knowing goofiness and managing to wring out a surprising amount of chemistry between himself and what was probably a tennis ball on a stick on set. Nobody has ever doubted his talent or his versatility. This is the guy who, in 2007, went from playing the ideal rom-com love interest in 27 Dresses to the straight-outta-the-1950s clean-cut, innuendo-spouting Corny Collins in Hairspray to literal Disney Prince in Enchanted, complete with a strong set of pipes and shoulder padding that would put any power dresser to shame. He was Cyclops in the original X-Men trilogy, he was an android in Westworld, and he even romanced Jack Black in D-Train. Liz Lemon married him, Rachel McAdams dumped him for Ryan Gosling (harsh), and he plays twins in Dead to Me. He has, as the kids say, the range, and he's been in enough genre fare for us here at Team FANGRRLS to welcome him into the club. And yet, and yet, and yet ...

It is oh-so-very easy to love James Marsden. We're not just talking about aesthetics here either, although we could easily fill up a few paragraphs talking about that! It's true that Marsden is really really really ridiculously good-looking. Remember, this guy used to model for Versace. Donatella knew what was up. He has the sort of stupidly symmetrical face, dazzling smile, and luscious dark hair that wouldn't look out of place on the album cover of a '50s heartthrob. To sum it up, he's hot in the way that Hollywood loves its hot (straight white American) men. You totally get why he ended up playing JFK in a movie. What's most interesting about Marsden's hotness is how unexpectedly malleable he can make it. He's seldom cast as a normal or unattractive dude, but he can use that face so well for whatever the occasion calls for. Do you need a full-on fairytale prince? Or an absolute douchebag fratboy? How about a classic hero-type? Or maybe a slightly scruffy but casually handsome rom-com hottie? This gives him an ability to switch it up with projects, plus he never feels out of place, regardless of the story or genre. It's an underrated skill and one he uses to its full advantage. Indeed, his talents and his attractiveness are entirely intertwined, which is really the rule in Hollywood and not the exception, but Marsden's utilizing of it feels oddly overlooked.

Credit: New Line Cinema

Granted, it's not hard to find endless numbers of hot cishet white dudes in Hollywood with perfect teeth, good hair, and a towering height of over six feet. I'm reasonably sure there's an assembly line that creates such men, and most of them end up being named Chris. In fact, the current era of the Chris domination may in part explain why Marsden simply never broke out like we all expected him to. I'm not saying that he needed to change his name or anything (but if he were to, he'd immediately become a contender for Top Chris, let's be honest). More specifically, the Chris embodies a hyper-specific kind of masculinity that became the desired norm in the new expanded universe superhero franchise age. Blonde and built and with muscles so well-developed that you could use their pecs to shelter under during a sudden rainstorm. It felt like a deliberate call-back to the '80s era of action men. Marsden is many things, but he's not Schwarzenegger.

There's always a shinier new thing around the corner, a hotter and younger dude who can be paid less and who can be spun into the next big star by an eager studio. All the four major Chrises went through this cycle when they became superheroes (or, in Pine's case, Captain Kirk). By the time Marvel came to dominate pop culture, Marsden was possibly old news, which is a darn shame because he was considered for the role of Peter Quill in Guardians of the Galaxy, a part he would have been far too perfect for. Let's just take a moment to mourn that lost timeline ...

Marsden may just be too handsome for a lot of Hollywood to note how weird and varied he can be. It's easy to look at THAT FACE and peg him as a bland himbo who couldn't pull off the action-comedy stuff of Marvel or esoteric oddities of modern-day Robert Pattinson. Yes, it's hardly the crime of the century that a hot cishet white dude isn't more famous but we can't help but root for him. Who he reminds me the most of is late '90s Brendan Fraser, that kind of old-school attractive leading man who's charming but also a not-so-secret slapstick goofball. Only Marsden can also sing!

Personally, I would love to see Marsden in a role like Rick O'Connell from The Mummy, or perhaps another part like Enchanted that uses his Disney prince aesthetic and subverts it with goofy humor and a self-aware smile. As shown in stuff like Dead to Me, he's also an excellent scumbag, which would be perfect for an Ari Aster horror movie. Coming soon, we'll see Marsden in CBS All-Access' adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand, in which he'll play Stu Redman, one of the survivors of an apocalyptic plague that decimates mankind. It's a good fit for him and hopefully a role that will remind audiences of what they're missing when we reduce James Marsden to that guy who's buddies with Sonic the Hedgehog.

WIRE Buzz: Akira riding back to theaters; Netflix hunts Atlantis; Live-action 'Your Name' finds director @ Syfy Wire

Akira, the beloved and influential anime classic directed by Katushiro Otomo, is riding its motorcycle back into theaters for one night only. Next Thursday (Sep. 24), IMAX is bringing a 4K remaster of the 1988 movie back to big screens across the United States.

Before Warner Bros. remakes the iconic cyberpunk film in the space of live-action (Taika Waititi's involvement is still up in the air), you can return to the original, hand-drawn beauty of Neo-Tokyo.

Credit: IMAX

“Thirty years after its debut, Akira continues to inspire and influence fans and creators around the world,” Mitchel Berger, SVP Global Commerce, Funimation Global Group, exclusively tells SYFY WIRE. “It’s one of the greatest anime of all time and spurred the introduction of anime in the U.S. The remastering process has brought this 1988 classic back to the forefront for a new generation of fans to enjoy, and IMAX theatres provide a unique and immersive experience.”

Tickets for the limited event can be purchased right here. The link also includes participating theaters.


DisneyColin Trevorrow, and James Wan aren't the only ones interested in finding the lost city of Atlantis.

According to Deadline, Netflix has hooked the screen rights to Andy McDermott 2009's novel, The Hunt for Atlantis. A film adaptation, which could launch a mega-franchise, has been in development for a while with Aaron Berg (Borderlands) attached as writer and producer. Now, Matt Reeves and Adam Kassan of 6th & Idaho have also boarded the project as producers.

The Hunt for Atlantis is the first installment in McDermott's 15-book "Nina Wilde/Eddie Chase" series. Similar to Indiana Jones, each book revolves around an epic adventure to find a mythical artifact or city. In the first book, archaeologist Nina Wilde teams up with a reclusive billionaire, his daughter, and an ex-SAS bodyguard, Eddie Chase (he eventually marries Nina), for a globe-trotting race against time that revolves around the sunken metropolis that lies in wait beneath the ocean.

But not everyone wants the city's underwater secrets to breach the surface world. As Nina and her team travel across the globe, their efforts are stymied by a clandestine and mysterious organization.

Credit: Bantam Books

Mike Landry and Derek S. Jancisin are producing the adaptation as well. 

Reeves is currently in the U.K. filming The Batman with Robert Pattinson.


The live-action Your Name movie from producer J.J. Abrams just tapped Lee Isaac Chung as its director, reports Deadline. Based on this development, it sounds like he'll replace Marc Webb (The Amazing Spider-Man), first reported as the project's director last year.

Chung, who is known for helming Minari and Abigail Harm, is also rewriting the latest draft of the screenplay by Oscar-nominee Emily V. Gordon (The Big Sick). Genki Kawamura, producer of the original, is attached as a producer on the live-action translation alongside Bad Robot. Toho will distribute the release in Japan, while Paramount handles all other markets. 

Credit: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Released in 2016, Your Name (directed by Makoto Shinkai) revolves around a pair of teenagers who suddenly swap bodies. "When a disaster threatens to upend their lives, they must journey to meet and save their worlds," writes Deadline.

"You have to find the best iteration of that story based on the fact that they want an American live-action version of the film," Eric Heisserer (Bird Box), who was originally writing the adaptation's script, said in 2018. "They stated if they wanted a Japanese live-action version, they would just do it themselves. But they want to see it through the lens of a Western viewpoint."


A Tribute to Horror Icon Tom Savini's Most Memorable Acting Roles @ io9

Tom Savini is one of the greatest special effects make-up artists ever—a master of masks, creatures, prosthetics, fake blood, and screamingly gruesome ways to die. But he actually got his show-biz start as an actor, and over the years he’s tapped into those talents and popped up in some very cool places.

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The Mandalorian wins big while Liam Neeson is still proud of The Phantom Menace @ Syfy Wire

Time again for STAR WARS WEEKLY, the SYFY WIRE series that rounds up the most important news of the week from a galaxy far, far away.

Think of us as your own personal Star Wars Holocron.

THE MANDALORIAN SEASON 2 TRAILER DROPS WHILE SEASON 1 WINS EMMYS

The trailer for the second season of The Mandalorian has been released, and it’s quite epic. Watch it here and we’ll talk more about it:

The trailer doesn't offer any big surprises we've heard teases of, but it has created new rumors on its own. We saw no glimpse of Ahsoka Tano or Boba Fett or any other clone Temuera Morrison might have been playing (as yet-to-be-officially confirmed reports have suggested we might). The trailer relies mainly on dialogue from the first season of the show. Unless this is misdirection, the thrust of this season implies that Din Djarin, the titular Mandalorian, will be seeking out the Jedi.

Looking at the locales featured in the trailer, Mando and the child seem to be heading to places where Jedi have been. Tatooine seems a likely stop from the trailer, given the banthas and Tusken Raiders native to that planet. The most surprising planet might be Ilum — though we have no confirmation yet that the snowy planet in the trailer is Ilum. Ilum was seen in The Clone Wars as the place where Jedi go to find crystals for their lightsabers. We know, however, from Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order that Ilum was already well on its way to being slowly converted into Starkiller base by the Empire. If this does turn out to be Ilum, then we'll get some very clear ties in The Mandalorian between the sequels and the prequels, and that's always a good thing.

On top of the trailer coming out, The Mandalorian took home five Emmy wins. It won for Outstanding Special Visual Effects, Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series, Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series, Outstanding Sound Editing for a Comedy or Drama Series, and Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Program. The Mandalorian is still up for another major Emmy Award, as it will be a contender in the Outstanding Drama Series category at the Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday night.

Chewbacca himself, Joonas Suotamo, took to Twitter to congratulate the crew by doing his best to recreate the theme song to the show while watching his own “baby Yoda.” 

TALES FROM GALAXY’S EDGE

ILMxLAB offered their first glimpse of the forthcoming VR adventure Tales From Galaxy’s Edge. This trailer shows us that Artoo and Threepio will be central to the story and have players roaming around Black Spire Outpost in a way that will put you right in the middle of the action.

This is particularly exciting because access to Black Spire Outpost is so limited because of the coronavirus pandemic that's made widespread, safe access to Disney Parks out of the question for many people. At the point where visiting the Disney parks simply isn’t feasible, this feels like the next best thing. Tales From Galaxy’s Edge comes out for the Oculus this holiday season.

LIAM NEESON’S PRIDE IN THE PHANTOM MENACE

Liam Neeson, the imposing Irish actor who played Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, appeared on Sirius XM last week, and the subject of Star Wars came up as you might expect. 

"I like the film. I'm proud of it and proud to have been a part of it," Neeson told radio host Andy Cohen. "I got to be a Jedi. I got to play with those wonderful lightsabers and stuff. It was terrific, Andy, it really was.”

It’s no wonder Neeson would be proud of the film, despite its spotty critical reputation. The prequels may have some problems, but The Phantom Menace is fun and kicks off one of the greatest space film sagas of all time. Neeson's Qui-Gon was a highlight, and he’s come back to voice his character multiple times on the animated programs. Neeson also went on in the interview to talk about how dismayed he was by the backlash Jar Jar Binks actor Ahmed Best faced for his portrayal of the Gungan scamp. And his assessment of Best's talent is 100 percent correct.

Neeson can next be seen in the film Honest Thief, which will hopefully get a VOD release so we can see it, since heading to movie theaters in a pandemic still isn’t safe.

STAR WARS: SQUADRON GETS 'HUNTED'

Star Wars: Squadrons comes out next month, and it looks to be something special: a game that captures the excitement and thrill of flight simulators in a way that more sophisticated gamers will respond to. But adding to that is a story. We got our first glimpse of the story with a trailer earlier this year. Now we have an animated short that offers us a window into one of the characters.

Varko Gray is the leader of Titan Squadron and features prominently in the story mode of Squadrons, and according to his entry on the Star Wars Databank, Gray is a cop who transitioned to working for the Empire. He’s also devoted to his husband.

Watch the beautifully rendered short here:

Until next week, may the Force be with you!

Could a super-fish with regenerative powers help humans regrow lost limbs? @ Syfy Wire

Human limitations are part of the reason we conjured up meta-humans with DNA that enables them to do things we could never dream of doing, such as fly, turn invisible, and regenerate.

The West African lungfish sounds like a creature spawned from science fiction. It can regrow its tail and fins if hungry jaws snap a part of it off, much like a salamander. Its incredible regeneration abilities indicate that these particular traits came from a common vertebrate ancestor — and humans are also vertebrates. Now evolutionary biologist Igor Schneider and his research team are trying to understand the mechanism behind this almost paranormal power, and how it could apply to a human.

Since lungfish are our closest extant fishy relative, it's feasible that a superhero-style breakthrough could eventually come out of this.

“Lungfish relate to us in unique ways, including how their fins (equivalent to our arms and legs) have equivalent bones to the humerus in the arm and the femur in the leg,” Schneider, who recently published a study in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, told SYFY WIRE. “They possess true lungs and are obligate air-breathers. They will drown without access to air.”

Regrowing a severed limb doesn’t just happen in a matter of seconds like it does in the movies. Everything that was lost, from muscle to the spinal cord and vertebrate, needs to be replicated cell by cell. Whatever cells are needed migrate to where the limb was bitten off and multiply until the tail fully reappears in a few weeks. Macrophage cells that rush to the wound in an immune response are involved in this process. These cells are responsible for a large part of lungfish and salamander regeneration. They are also found in humans, and while they don’t turn us into The Lizard, they devour pathogens and activate healing by zapping inflammatory and anti-inflammatory signals to the brain.

Though considerable progress has been made in finding out what happens physically when a lost limb is regrown, the genetic mechanisms at work behind limb regeneration are still being demystified. What we really need to figure out is whether the common ancestor we share with the lungfish could also regenerate, and if so, whether the mammalian creatures that would end up evolving into humans either lost this ability as mammals or never invented it. It could be that mammals lost this ability when their ancestors diverged from other vertebrates. Another possibility is that it was never there to begin with, but arose in lungfish and salamanders.

The lungfish has an enormous genome, and whether the genes that turn on are critical to regeneration is another question that has yet to be answered. Schneider’s findings suggest there could eventually be a way of rearranging human genes that will give us this superhuman ability.

Yes, we are actaully related to this creature. Credit: Igor Schneider

“What we’ve learned so far is that many of the genes used in regeneration are also used during embryonic development and in other processes in the human body,” he said. “Currently, our findings indicate that our failure to regenerate is not a matter of lacking the right genes, but failures of activating the genes we have in the correct sequence and correct time.”

There is also a signaling gene, SHH, that sends the brain instructions for making a protein called Sonic Hedgehog. This protein is actually named after the spiky blue character that can roll himself into a ball and speed across video game landscapes in a blue blur. The gene signals formation processes in the embryonic stage, which includes cell growth and specialization, body formation, and development of multiple body parts including the spinal cord and limbs.

Some parts of the lungfish regenerative mechanism are already present in humans. Though we look nothing like this bizarre species, its fins and tail have the same muscle, bone and nerve tissue that are found in our arms and legs. We are also both vertebrates with a spinal cord. The drastic difference is that the lungfish’s spinal cord grows back when it regenerates its tail, but injuries to human spinal cords are often permanent. Unlocking the way that a lungfish regenerates its spinal cord could make irreparable spinal injuries a thing of the past. Future hospitals could have a regeneration wing.

“If we can figure out how they achieve this, we may be able to better understand why humans can’t heal spinal cord injuries and in the future develop strategies to successfully repair this tissue,” said Schneider. “I believe studying regeneration in multiple species will help us discover the key genetic signals required to kickstart regeneration. Once we identify these early signals, we can develop strategies to reactivate these signaling pathways in humans.”

Being related to a weird-looking fish obviously has its advantages

The Thing's 2011 stealth-prequel actually makes both it and John Carpenter's original stronger @ Syfy Wire

When director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s version of The Thing was released in 2011, most viewers probably went in assuming that the movie was a straightforward remake of John Carpenter's 1982 film, itself another adaptation of John W. Campbell Jr.’s 1938 novella Who Goes There? (Blumhouse recently announced another adaptation of the sci-fi classic.) But, anyone familiar with Carpenter’s original would immediately spot the foreshadowing and set-up of later events, starting with the “remake’s” opening title card that indicates that its events occur at the exact same place and time (“Antarctica, Winter 1982”) as Carpenter’s film. The 2011 Thing was a secret prequel, a divisive twist that actually makes both movies stronger.  

The newer Thing doesn’t play up the 1980s setting with kitschy pop-culture references or outdated technology like too many retro horror movies tend to do. There’s a cheeky joke in the scene introducing the main character, Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), as she works in her lab while listening to Men at Work’s “Who Can It Be Now?” on her headphones. But that’s really the only time that the movie mines the setting for laughs, and the nods to Carpenter’s film are all played straight, most of them not even noticeable to casual viewers. 

The location at a Norwegian scientific research base forms an obvious connection to the previous film, but the reveal of a box of grenades, or the placement of an axe in the wall, or the size and shape of the block of ice containing the unearthed alien creature don’t immediately register as placeholders for later developments. Van Heijningen and screenwriter Eric Heisserer incorporate these elements organically within a framework that reinterprets the plot of Carpenter’s film (and of its predecessor, 1951’s The Thing From Another World), and this Thing is an engrossing, suspenseful horror movie that stands alone without those distractions.

As in Carpenter’s film, a mysterious prehistoric monster terrorizes the inhabitants of the remote outpost with its ability to mimic any life form it comes in contact with, and the characters begin to mistrust each other once they realize that any one of them could be the monster in disguise (who can it be now, indeed). Here, the filmmakers add an extra dimension to the character dynamics by placing Kate at the center of the story, surrounded almost exclusively by men. As a paleontologist, she’s recruited by Danish scientist Sandor Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) to help with excavating and studying the creature, but it’s easy to see that Sandor doesn’t much respect her, and his reckless behavior in pursuit of scientific glory is part of what leads to the creature’s escape.

Credit: Universal 

Van Heijningen has cited Ridley Scott’s Alien as an inspiration, and Kate is certainly in the mold of Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley, but not the action-hero Ripley of the later Alien movies. She’s smart, competent, and decisive, but she’s still often in the background, just one of the station inhabitants trying to stay alive as they’re being stalked by a deadly alien. Like Ripley, Kate gradually steps up, asserting herself more and more as her male colleagues devolve into backstabbing and infighting. “You’re not here to think,” Sandor snaps at her when she questions his judgment, but as the movie goes on, it becomes clear that Kate may be the only one who’s there to think, and Winstead demonstrates that determined intelligence in every moment of her excellent performance.

It’s no surprise, then, that Kate is the last one standing at the end of the movie, which closes on a haunted look from her, alone in one of the camp’s snowcats, unsure of what will happen next. Except, of course, that viewers of Carpenter’s film know exactly what will happen next, even if they don’t quite realize it until a scene that runs throughout the credits. A familiar-looking helicopter returns to the Norwegian camp, where Lars (Jørgen Langhelle), previously presumed dead, has been hiding out. Lars emerges from cover and spots his dog, killed early in the movie by the creature, sprinting away from the camp. He yells to the helicopter pilot to follow the dog, which is obviously one of the monsters, and they pursue it from the air, Lars firing wildly, in an exact recreation of the opening scene from Carpenter’s movie.

The realization that the story is about to begin over again may have felt like a cheat to some viewers, especially those who hadn’t already put the pieces together. But that sense of futility is the core theme of Carpenter’s movie, which ends on a similarly grim note. Throughout van Heijningen’s film, the characters have kept the camp isolated, never communicating anything about their ordeal, and the language barrier between Lars and the Americans ensures that he won’t be able to warn them. 

Both of these movies are about people cut off from the outside world dealing with an overwhelming force that could destroy humanity, and the ending here reinforces the horrors of that burden. There’s probably no stopping this creature, which will always find a way to slip through humanity’s defenses, but a whole new group of people is about to try, most of them getting killed in the process. Van Heijningen and Heisserer take what could have been a belabored tie-in to an iconic movie, and they turn it into a bleak expression of existential dread.


 

It's Time to Thwip Our Way Into a Friday Gif Party @ io9

Miles Morales is saving New York City, one bridge at a time, with PlayStation recently sharing exciting new gameplay footage from Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales. So we’re paying tribute to the web-slinger with a gif party. Thwip!

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Ratched. Where do I even begin? @ Syfy Wire

Actually, I know exactly where to begin. I hated this show.

Ratched is like being beaten repeatedly with a roll of beautiful floral wallpaper. Ratched is like being waterboarded with lavender-essenced spring water. Ratched is like being smothered with a truly sumptuous and well-tailored suit, if that suit was also delicately embroidered with all of television's worst and most problematic tropes.

Ratched is a bad, terrible, awful, no-good show. It's pretty, but hateful, confused, and messy. Ratched is the show 2020 deserves. Not us, the year itself. And hasn't "us" suffered enough?

Spoilers below for Ratched.

This show is a cacophony of mess and misery, like the vision board of a chaotic evil gremlin mixed with a fever dream AU fic of American Horror Story: Asylum. So even attempting to describe all the various goings-on and subplots and side plots, all riddled with holes and rips as though it's been attacked by the most enthusiastic of moths, is near impossible. AHS at its wildest and most ridiculous is streamlined in comparison. So I'm going to attempt to list what matters most:

Mildred Ratched is the titular Nurse Ratched of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. She is not a real nurse, she just really likes lobotomies. She is not evil except when she kind of is.

She hatches a scheme to become the head nurse of a mental hospital in order to free her brother Edmund (Finn Wittrock) who brutally murdered a bunch of priests (the first onscreen death is a Black man, giving the show its first of many problematic tropes). Her attempts are foiled by an ongoing subplot involving Vincent D'Onofrio as the governor who alternately wants to put Edmund to death or rehabilitate him using the institution and its head doctor, Dr. Richard Hanover (Jon Jon Briones).

The drug-addicted Dr. Hanover was once the doctor for Henry, the son of Sharon Stone's Lenore. Dr. Hanover, then known by his real name, Dr. Manuel Banyaga, attempted to give Henry a therapeutic dose of LSD to curb his violent tendencies but instead, Henry pours the rest of the drug into Dr. Banyaga's glass, so they both trip out. Henry, despite his lower dosage, cuts off the gardener's arms and then his own arms asking Dr. Banyaga to sew on the gardener's arms. The infection spreads to his legs so now Henry is a quadriplegic, and Lenore wants Hanover/Banyaga dead. She hires Corey Stoll to kill him. Corey Stoll has terrible and creepy sex with Ratched, then he gets boiled alive.

On that note, the patients of the hospital are horrifically mistreated as "treatment," which is the only thing this show shares in common with its film predecessor. A woman is trapped in a burning hot bath, then moved to an ice bath in order to cure her of homosexuality. An older man (played by Joseph Marcell, aka Geoffrey from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, making this extra devastating) undergoes a lobotomy while awake but lightly sedated and clearly in pain, unable to scream.

All of this happens in the first three episodes of the series. I have not gotten to the implied "Mildred is secretly gay which is why she's kind of evil" or the outright stated and performed by puppets sexual abuse Edmund and Mildred experienced as children. I have not gotten to Judy Davis and Amanda Plummer, who are clearly on an entirely different and way better show. I have not gotten to the blonde nurse who gives Edmund a hand job, then runs away with him, shoots a bunch of cops, and dies in a barn for no real purpose or payoff. I have not gotten to Sophie Okonedo turning in a stellar performance in a role that this show does not deserve as a woman with dissociative identity disorder. I have not gotten to Cynthia Nixon being shot and nearly killed, nor the half-hearted patient-of-the-week episode setup that the show does not give the slightest bit of time nor care toward. There is simply too much, but these events of the first three episodes really solidify what is so wrong with this show: it is ostensibly your classic Ryan Murphy camp-fest, but the camp is intermingled with genuine horrors and the two do not fit together, not this time. The pain in every character is so palpable, so when Davis and Plummer dance about screeching gleefully or Paulson fights with Davis about a peach, it feels so disjointed as to be physically jarring.

And — a point that cannot be overstated — none of this has anything to do with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. This did not need to be about Nurse Ratched. This could have been anything. The unnecessary and forced tie to an existing iconic character makes the whole thing even more... what it is. She is not the character from the film by a long shot — the series in no way explains how she became the casual bastion of cruelty, a human example of the broken mental health system. Instead, it both attempts to excuse and explain her while also having nothing to do with the character whatsoever. This Ratched at times cares deeply about her patients to the point of tears, deriding the evil of "hydrotherapy," while at other times gazing lustily at an ice pick to the frontal lobe. This character is all over the map but at no point does that map ever include the actual Nurse Ratched this is purportedly prequelizing.

But ultimately, even that doesn't matter. None of it does. A bunch of things happen, some connected, mostly disparate, none good.

Ratched is the meticulously applied red lipstick on a face that is cruel and confused and lost and messy. And we have enough of that in reality.

WIRE Buzz: Harley Quinn renewed; Hasbro PulseCon schedule; and Smashing Pumpkins animated series @ Syfy Wire

Great f***ing news, Gothamites! Harley Quinn has officially been renewed for a third season, and since DC Universe has gone through a major rebranding, the animated series is exclusively moving over to HBO Max. Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, showrunners Patrick Schumacker and Justin Halpern admitted that they've had a good, long time to gestate on ideas for the next season.

"We're just super excited to finally actually be able to put that into action and actually get the ideas ping-ponging off both the returning writers and the inevitable new writers that we're getting to hire now. I am very excited to finally get those ideas out and about in the ether," Schumacker said.

Credit: DC Universe

The R-rated show follows Harley (Kaley Cuoco) as she breaks up with the Joker (Alan Tudyk) and strikes out on her own. Wanting to carve out her own villainous niche in the pantheon of Gotham City rogues, Harley moves in with Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) and begins a romantic relationship with the mistress of all things botanical. During the interview with EW, Halpern promised that fans will get to see more of Harley and Ivy's relationship in the upcoming season.

"This is the first time they're both going to be in a relationship where they really and truly have affection towards one another," he said. "They have a lot of responsibility. So I think like, 'what is it like to be in a good relationship after you've only ever been in bad relationships with abusive people?' is a big theme we want to play with."

Harley Quinn's supporting voice cast is full of recognizable acting talent like Sanaa Lathan ("Catwoman"), Tony Hale ("Doctor Psycho"), Giancarlo Esposito ("Lex Luthor"), Diedrich Bader ("Batman"), Tom Hollander ("Alfred Pennyworth"), Christopher Meloni ("James Gordon"), Rahul Kohli ("Scarecrow"), and Rachel Dratch (Nora Fries).


Break out that day planner, it's time to start planning your Hasbro PulseCon schedule.

Hosted by SYFY WIRE's own Jackie Jennings, the two-day virtual event will deliver on more than 50 reveals for high-end licensed products based on Dungeons & DragonsG.I. JoeMagic: The GatheringPower Rangers, Transformers, Marvel, Star Wars, and Ghostbusters. The fun begins on the Hasbro Pulse YouTube channel next Friday, Sept. 25, and runs through Saturday, Sept. 26. Day 1 runs between 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. EST, and Day 2 runs between 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. EST.

For every viewer PulseCon attracts, Hasbro promises to donate a game or toy to Toys for Tots.

You should also stick around for special musical performances. Lights will close out the con's first day before Kyle Gass of Tenacious D arrives on Day 2 to take the digital stage at 1:30 p.m. EST. At the same time, John Cena (The Suicide Squad) is set to host a live Q&A. And finally, Saturday evening will close with a bang as Fall Out Boy delivers their own special concert.

Friday, Sept. 25:

  • WIZARDS MAGIC: THE GATHERING PRESENTS: ZENDIKAR RISING LIVE!

Join Magic: The Gathering head designer Mark for a special PulseCon panel, where he’ll discuss behind-the-scenes stories and details about the newest Magic card set, Zendikar Rising. From the origins of the set’s design and the beginnings of his favorite set mechanics to the history of the fan-favorite world of Zendikar, this live event is the best place for exclusive insight on how Magic’s latest set was created. Moderated by Wizards of the Coast’s Blake, the panel will also include a short virtual Q&A for any burning questions about Zendikar Rising.

  • DUNGEONS & DRAGONS PRESENTS: DRAGON TALK

Join us for a special episode of Dragon Talk, the official Dungeons & Dragons podcast. Hosts Greg and Shelly welcome back actor and D&D aficionado Matthew Lillard to chat about playing Dungeons & Dragons for decades and how it inspired him to co-found an exciting, immersive D&D game accessories company, Beadle and Grimm’s, with his gaming group.

  • JOE MANGANIELLO’S GUIDE FOR DUNGEON MASTERS

Joe Manganiello (actor, director, writer, producer) will give players of all skill levels his advice on how to be a great Dungeon Master. Joined by Filmmaker Kyle Newman, one of the authors behind Dungeons & Dragons’ Art & Arcana as well as the upcoming Heroes’ Feast and a regular player in Joe’s home game, the two of them will give you a peek behind the DM screen of Joe’s long-running "War of Dragons" campaign, as well as other fun insights and stories ranging over their long history with the game.

  • HASBRO STAR WARS PANEL

Join members of the Hasbro Marketing & Design teams and Lucasfilm Product Development team as they discuss the popular Hasbro Star Wars line, including The Black Series and The Vintage Collection. Attendees will get an in-depth look at Hasbro’s latest action figure and premium roleplay offerings from throughout the saga. Word on the Holonet is there may also be a few surprises.

  • HASBRO STAR WARS HASLAB PANEL

In 2018, we launched HasLab with a dream: Make the biggest Vintage Collection vehicle ever, the ones fans had been requesting for years, Jabba’s Sail Barge, the Khetanna. Join members of the Hasbro Marketing & Design teams as they reveal the next Star Wars HasLab Vintage Collection dream project!

  • STAR WARS ENTERTAINMENT PANEL

Join Ashley Eckstein, aka Ahsoka Tano, and the Captain himself, Dee Bradley Baker, from Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels to discuss both shows as well as new and exciting Hasbro product inspired by the series. Moderated by Patrick from the Hasbro Star Wars Brand Team, you’ll get the inside scoop on their personal Star Wars collections and a first look at their reactions to seeing their characters come to life in figure form.

  • HASBRO MARVEL PANEL

The Hasbro Marvel product experts will discuss some exciting news around Hasbro’s ever-popular Marvel LEGENDS action figure line! Viewers will also get a sneak peek of upcoming, never-before-seen Marvel action figures plus some special surprises as well.

Saturday, Sep. 26:

  • G.I. JOE PANEL 

Tune in and be the first to see new items, find out which characters will be launched next, and get a peek inside the development process directly from the Hasbro team. And if knowing is half the battle, you’re going to want to join in for G.I. Joe trivia and show off your expertise. Plus a special message from Henry Golding, star of the upcoming film Snake Eyes.

  • THE VOICES THAT INSPIRED GENERATIONS OF TRANSFORMERS FANS! 

The powerful voices behind many of the most iconic characters – the heroic Autobot Optimus Prime and the villainous Decepticons Megatron & Soundwave – come together as friends and share stories around the legacy they have helped create. With more than 30 years of Transformers voice acting history and decades of friendship, this talented duo will fill the air with untold stories and glimpses behind the microphone of some of the most memorable recording sessions. Panelists include: Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, and Ben from Hasbro Transformers Brand Team.

  • TRANSFORMERS WAR FOR CYBERTRON KINGDOM TOY REVEAL!

Join the Hasbro Transformers team as they officially reveal toys from the third and final chapter of the War for Cybertron trilogy, KINGDOM, including the entire first wave of the product line. You won’t want to miss it; it’s going to be a beast! Special guest John will share the inspiration behind the collection and give his final farewell to the Transformers brand! The celebration will continue with the 2020 Transformers Hall of Fame and a well-deserved induction of the newest human honoree ... ME excited! Be prepared for huge surprises, a 10-year anniversary celebration, and exclusive reveals seen first here!

  • GHOSTBUSTERS PANEL

Part 1: Classic Ghostbusters:

Tune in for ghostly surprises, classic toy news, and a visit from a very special guest: Ernie Hudson, otherwise known as Winston Zeddemore from Ghostbusters!  Get ready to hear him answer your fan questions!

Part 2: The Making of Kenner The Real Ghostbusters Toys:

Continue your journey through the ’80s with an inside look at the making of The Real Ghostbusters toys from original Kenner toy designer Mark Boudreaux. Next, you’ll see behind the scenes of sculpting with Dave. Finally, meet the Hasbro team that relaunched the Kenner Real Ghostbusters toys in 2020. Hear about how they answered the call to bring this beloved toy line back for the fans, and be the first to see the next Kenner Real Ghostbusters toy to hit shelves!

 Part 3: Ghostbusters: Afterlife:

The Ghostbusters celebration with a nod to the future … the new Ghostbusters: Afterlife feature film, coming to theaters in March 2021. Academy Award-nominated, Golden Globe-winning filmmaker Jason Reitman, director of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, will take you on a tour of the Ecto-1 that was used in the new film. He’ll end his tour with an exciting reveal! You’ll then hear from the Hasbro team about the next toy inspired by the Ghostbusters: Afterlife film to hit shelves!

  • HASBRO POWER RANGERS PANEL

Featuring morphinomenal news and brand announcements across new Power Rangers product. Be the first to see new Power Rangers Lightning Collection figures and other products yet to hit shelves, as well as sneak peeks of upcoming items. All of this exciting news will be followed by a Q&A with the design, sculpting, creative, and marketing teams from Hasbro.

  • POWER RANGERS ENTERTAINMENT PANEL

The cast of Power Rangers Beast Morphers will be reuniting live at PulseCon sharing-behind-the scenes stories from the set and talking about what life has been like being a Power Ranger! The panel, moderated by Andre Meadows (@BlackNerd), will feature never-before-seen footage and a live Q&A. Hasbro also plans to make a historic announcement … or should we say PREHISTORIC!

Get more info here.


Is it the '90s again?

Variety has confirmed that Smashing Pumpkins plans to release a new double album (titled "Cyr") Friday, Nov. 27. But 20 additional songs isn't the only thing the Chicago-based band (fronted by Billy Corgan) has cooking. The group also produced a five-part animated series called Ashes. Episodes 1 and 2 are scheduled to drop next Friday, Sept. 25. Written by Corgan (credited as William Patrick Corgan), all five installments will feature music from the new album.

Check out the sexy teaser trailer below:

Corgan previously described "Cyr" as "a dystopic folly ... One soul against the world sort of stuff, set against a backdrop of shifting loyalties and sped-up time. To me it stands as both hopeful and dismissive of what is and isn’t possible with faith."


How Is It September and HBO Max Still Does Not Do 4K or HDR? @ io9

Today DC Entertainment announced that its streaming service DC Universe was becoming the comics-only DC Universe Infinite, and while I had the urge to give myself a wedgie just for subscribing to such a truly stupidly named service, the thing that really sent me into a nerd rage was the realization that I would no…

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Through the Ghosts of Revenge of the Sith, Darth Vader Finds a Semblance of Peace @ io9

The third run of Darth Vader at Marvel Comics has done a grand job building on its predecessor’s examinations of the titular Dark Lord. It’s looked at him both as the fascinating figure of power we’ve admired across Star Wars’ long history, but also as the equally intriguing bridge between Star Wars’ original and…

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The Week in Gaming: Digging into Final Fantasy XVI, PS5 launch plan. Plus Oculus gets an upgrade & more @ Syfy Wire

Welcome to The Week in Gaming, the place where we pause each week to take a look at the video game news beats both big and small that you might be missing — while also taking a peek around the corner at what's ahead. Check in each Friday for news (and occasionally even views) on everything from sprawling RPGs to Metroidvania platformers to the latest in VR and free-to-play. We'll even throw in a good old-fashioned board game every now and then!

The stage is finally set. Last week, Microsoft gave us the skinny on when to expect the Xbox Series X and its scaled-down Series S sibling, and this week Sony completed the next-gen picture by revealing a release date and pricing for its upcoming pair of PlayStation 5 consoles. 

Paired with some mega-announcements for new games, Sony’s huge information dump about the PS5 this week just made a year’s worth of next-gen gaming buzz feel a lot more imminent and real. More than 4.5 million people reportedly tuned in live for Sony’s Sept. 16 PS5 event, leading to a frenzied rush to online storefronts that quickly exhausted U.S. retailers’ early supply of pre-order placeholders for both the $499 Standard PS5 and the $399 disc-free Digital Edition. Amazon, Target, Walmart, Best Buy, GameStop and more — all the usual big-box and online retailers theoretically will still take your money in exchange for an assurance that a day-one PS5 can be yours…if, that is, you can refresh their websites just at the right moment when new supply becomes available.

Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Leaving aside early availability (Sony says it’s supplying more PS5s for the system’s Nov. 12 launch than it did when the PS4 debuted back in 2013), how does Sony’s approach to the next generation compare with what Microsoft unveiled last week? We’re not talking about hardware. On both sides, the flagship versions of the machines themselves appear more than capable of seamlessly running the games that’ve been announced. Instead, we’re talking about the increasing shift toward on-demand gaming, whether it’s via a subscription that’ll let you play brand-new titles (Microsoft’s approach with Xbox Game Pass) or a curated selection of favorites from an earlier era (the strategy Sony’s using with its PS Plus and PS Now subscription models).

It all comes down to streaming priorities, as well as which platform exclusives compel you toward one system or the other. If you’d rather sample new AAA releases without committing to a next-gen asking price approaching $70 per game, any flavor of the tiered Xbox Game Pass subscription will have you covered on the Xbox Series X/S. Game Pass also comes with a back catalog of previously-released games, and overall appears to represent a fully fleshed-out subscription platform for people who may shy away from shelling out for individual titles — even if they’re the latest and greatest. But it does have a drawback in the form of exclusivity: No matter how much time passes, you’ll probably never be able to play God of War, Spider-Man, or Horizon Zero Dawn on an Xbox, which is a testament to Sony’s dedication in laying a solid ground game of console exclusives during the PS4’s hugely successful run. 

Both Sony’s PS Plus and PS Now services should work just fine for players who want to scratch a general nostalgic itch for yesterday’s biggest third-party titles and PlayStation classics, especially in the wake of the company’s reveal this week that a mighty selection of big-name PS4 games like The Last of Us Remastered and Bloodborne will be folded in, via the new PlayStation Plus Collection, at no additional monthly charge for PS Plus members. But Sony has been unequivocal about where it wants players to play the PS5’s new releases — and it isn’t via a gaming subscription. “We are not going to go down the road of putting new release titles into a subscription model,” PlayStation chief Jim Ryan told Gamesindustry this week. “These games cost many millions of dollars, well over $100 million, to develop. We just don't see that as sustainable.”

That means you’ll need to pay the full $49.99 asking price for the standard version of Spider-Man: Miles Morales, regardless of whether you grab the digital download or the Blu-ray disc (an Ultimate Edition that packs in 2018’s Spider-Man for PS4 will also sell for $69.99.) No Sony subscription will get you into Miles’ Spidey-suit anywhere near the game’s launch window, even as Xbox Game Pass subscribers sit back and dial up Halo Infinite the same day it’s released next year…without ever committing to an actual game purchase.

Most players likely know which direction they’re headed, and it’s safe to assume that — at least over time — many will end up owning some version of both consoles, and perhaps even ponying up for both a Sony and Microsoft game subscription. In other words, the significance of all this talk of gaming subscriptions may matter more, in the end, to the companies that’re taking your money than they do to players, and especially to Microsoft. Set up with nothing more than an Xbox Game Pass membership, an Xbox owner could go an entire console cycle without ever needing to spend an additional dime in order to play a new Xbox game — and that’s something that definitely won’t be happening on the PlayStation 5. But PS5 owners will be playing a whole lot of AAA games that, at least while they’re new, can only be found on PlayStation. To us, it looks like a wealth of options: No matter which you choose, new consoles and new games are only a couple of months away — and the next-gen glass isn't just half-full; it's nearly overflowing.

The best of the rest

Final Fantasy & God of War — the PS5 waiting game begins

Much of the oomph from Sony’s presentation this week came from the two big teases bookending the showcase; announcements for games that are truly new — as in, no one had any confirmation that they were in development until Sony revealed them on Sept. 16. Adding to the wow factor, it just so happens that the pair of reveals hailed from two of the biggest names in all of gaming — Final Fantasy and God of War — with news that both next-gen titles will be exclusives to the PlayStation 5.

There’s sure to be tons of news about both games in the months to come, but of the two, it’s Final Fantasy XVI that had the most to reveal, introducing itself to the world with an action-filled 4-minute trailer. What can we tell from day one about Final Fantasy XVI? Most of it’s speculative, since what we haven't seen could upend everything we think the clip’s trying to tell us. Still, breathless speculation is the name of the game, right? Here’s a conservative take on what we learned — we think — from the FF XVI reveal.

PlayStation on YouTube

The Final Fantasy XVI announcement trailer contains some interesting teases about what the new, medieval-looking setting will bring to the storied JRPG series. The setting itself is a change from recent single-player Final Fantasy games, which have ventured into stylized versions of present-day sci-fi (as with FF XV), or out-and-out otherworldy sci-fi (in the case of FF XIII, with its Dyson sphere-type engineered world and futuristic trappings). From what we’ve seen so far, magic is the only bridge between old-world primitivism and modern power-wielding in FF XVI, with swords, shields, and spears providing the close-quarters complement to your arsenal of powerful magic and gigantic monster summons (called Eikons in the trailer, similar to the summons in the Final Fantasy XIV online MMORPG).

The story appears to center on a boy named Joshua, the keeper of what the trailer hints may be the power of the Phoenix Eikon — perhaps in long-standing opposition to the other Eikons shown throughout the clip. “I am Joshua’s shield,” says the unnamed narrator, the dark-haired warrior (shown in the image that tops this article) who takes the field against the mountainous Titan Eikon in the trailer’s opening moments. Judging by the time lapse that flashes between both characters as children, and later as young men, Square Enix’s first look may be teasing a story-changing shift in their relationship as time passes — but we’ll have to wait and see.

Joshua, the young character at the center of the story in Final Fantasy XVI. Credit: Square Enix / Sony Interactive Entertainment

While Square Enix has a gift for reserving some content surprises right up until a game’s release day, the first thematic beats for FF XVI bear at least a passing resemblance to the high politics of Final Fantasy XII. That 2006 masterpiece for the PlayStation 2 framed its individual characters’ growth against the larger world-shaping conflict unfolding in the land of Ivalice — a subtle change from the more personal, character-driven stories of earlier FF titles. There’s an evil empire of some kind in the new game; a “blight” that’s oppressing Joshua’s half of the story-verse, and a “Mother Crystal” that occupies a sanctioning role in allowing the good guys (we assume they're the good guys) to fight with legitimacy and honor. Like Final Fantasy XII before it, XVI's power balance, favoring an abundance of resources and might, all seems to lean heavily in the empire's direction.

Naoki Yoshida, the producer widely credited with elevating Final Fantasy XIV from a disastrous early launch to one of the best FF story arcs in years, is producing FF XVI, with The Last Remnant director Hiroshi Takai directing. Takai wrote this week at the PlayStation Blog that Square Enix’s Creative Business Unit III (a completely separate team from the ones handling both FFXIV and the Final Fantasy VII Remake games) is “pouring our hearts and souls into this project each and every day,” pledging that the final product “will be worth the wait.” With his recent Final Fantasy résumé, we’ll take that to heart.

In terms of gameplay, it’s hard to predict where FF XVI will take us based on what the trailer showed. All the combat shown so far pits a single player — not a party — against classic FF enemies like giant Malboros and imperial dragoons, with all the on-screen mayhem looking a whole lot like a Devil May Cry-style action game. That may not be a coincidence: Earlier this year, Square Enix reportedly hired Capcom's former Devil May Cry and Dragon’s Dogma designer Ryota Suzuki, though his direct involvement in FFXVI hasn’t been officially confirmed. At any rate, we didn’t see any health bars or hit points during the trailer’s combat sequences and we did see plenty of one-on-one fighting — though it’s still early days when it comes to trying to read too much into how the game will balance action-based combat with more conventional turn-based battles.

There’s no release date for Final Fantasy XVI, but Yoshida teased this week that the “next big information reveal” is coming sometime in 2021. ’Til then, we’ll keep watching and re-watching the trailer for more clues…while waiting for our turn to team up with a fire-breathing chocobo when the game releases as a PlayStation 5 exclusive.

Ragnarök comes to God of War

Strangely, we know both way more and way less about the upcoming sequel to Santa Monica Studios’ incredible 2018 reboot of God of War than we really know about FF XVI. Sony had no gameplay or cinematic footage to show — only a gravelly Kratos voiceover — but the brief tease seems to confirm the universal fan hunch that the new PS5 game will focus on the logical Norse-tinged story evolution that the previous game all but set up with its surprising ending. We won’t spoil that here, but it involves Kratos’ young son Atreus being much more than he appears, as well as the likelihood that Thor is suddenly super-interested in Atreus and Kratos after the way things ended in the 2018 game.

Sony hasn’t officially confirmed the new game’s title as God of War: Ragnarök, teasing only that “Ragnarök is coming” — but for convenience's sake, we'll probably be using it a lot as a placeholder. Since Ragnarök’s pretty much the Nordic version of the apocalypse, the concept could set up a conflict between Kratos and Thor — which the first game’s Easter egg coda strongly hinted — or, it could even mean that the warring gods might have to team up to keep the world from ending. Either scenario carries plenty of intrigue, especially for those who already know what role Atreus (and his hidden divine identity) might play.

Unlike Final Fantasy, God of War doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel as game director Cory Barlog leads Santa Monica Studio toward the next game’s release date. While we can’t wait to get our first glimpses of Kratos and the rest of the pantheon in all their PS5-rendered glory, we’re pretty much expecting Ragnarök to iterate on the art style and characterizations that its dazzling predecessor firmly established. Better still, Sony’s already teased a release window for the sequel. God of War: Ragnarök (or whatever we’ll end up calling it) is set to come early in the new console’s life cycle with a launch target set for sometime in 2021.

Oculus streamlines the ‘Quest’ for seamless VR

Oculus on YouTube

A new Oculus headset is on the way; one that’ll eventually replace both its namesake predecessor and the Oculus Rift 2 — and in the process streamline the virtual reality experience for anyone who wants to tap the power of VR on both consoles and PC.

The new Quest 2 rings in at $299 for the base model and $399 for an upgraded version that’ll expand the storage space from the base 64GB to 256GB. Both versions come with boosted processing power over the original Quest they’re replacing, as well as higher visual resolution, more memory, and a new white form factor that significantly slims down the headgear’s overall heft — previously an across-the-board gripe among would-be VR adopters that’s never been unique to Oculus.

There’s a potential caveat that comes with snagging a Quest 2 — you’ll have to have a Facebook account to access its features — but it’s a tradeoff that early reviewers impressed by the new device’s higher horsepower and user-friendly comfort for long gameplay sessions seem more than happy to make. The library of VR titles has grown a lot just in the past year or so, breaking into the mainstream with glossy titles like Vader Immortal and especially this year’s Half-Life: Alyx, so as more new game announcements continue to expand the VR-only space, a Facebook sign-in and a $299 entry point may be just the incentive to give tentative players the needed push to get into the world of virtual reality. Pre-orders are already live, with the next generation of Oculus VR set to arrive when the Quest 2 launches on Oct. 13.

Spare parts

Nintendo on YouTube

 

Nintendo on YouTube

- Among the games Nintendo showed off this week at its Direct Mini event were a pair of completely new entries in the Monster Hunter franchise: Capcom announced Monster Hunter Rise, an all-new game heading to the Switch that features an open world, a new canine companion called a Palamute, and some new platforming abilities we’ve not seen in a Monster Hunter game before. Following close behind was Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, the second installment in Monster Hunter’s JRPG-based spinoff series. Look for Rise to hit the Switch on March 16 of next year, with Wings of Ruin coming sometime in the summer of 2021. Also new to the Switch (and playable now) is Ori and the Will of the Wisps, which first debuted on the Xbox One and PC earlier this year.

 

PlayStation on YouTube

- In addition to its big new game reveals this week, Sony also shared tons of updates for games we already knew about. Publisher Bethesda and developer Arkane were among them with a new Deathloop trailer that pits protagonist Colt against Aleksis and Egor, a pair of “Visionaries” who appear on his assassin’s list of targets. Every time we get a new Deathloop trailer, the mystery behind the game’s Groundhog Day-style time trick unfurls a little more, but there’s still plenty we don’t know. An epiphany is likely on the way, though, since more news is sure to drop before the game’s release sometime in 2021.

- In a series known for some of the coolest, zaniest DLC there is, one of the most inspired add-ons for Borderlands 2 is set to get the full Dungeons & Dragons-style board game treatment. Tiny Tina’s Bunkers & Badasses, a sweet tabletop homage to developer Gearbox’s Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep DLC for the 2012 game, is heading our way as an officially-licensed board spinoff from Nerdvana Games. Anyone who’s played the DLC knows Tiny Tina actually has an untapped career just waiting in the wings as a super-creative (if kinda sadistic) dungeon master, so head to Nerdvana’s website for more details, including how to pre-order the version of your choice.

- While we’re still stalking around on Pandora, Borderlands 3 is the latest in a growing list of current-gen games to announce a free upgrade for players who made the move to a PS5 or Xbox Series X/S. Gearbox revealed this week that there’ll be no cost for existing B3 owners to get their hands on the enhanced version of the game, which will arrive with 4K TV-friendly upscaling a new vertical split-screen feature that allows two players to see the action side-by-side — in addition to the current-gen version’s horizontal-split setup.

 

​​​​​​

NieR fans, take note: Wacky masked game creator Yoko Taro is prepping a pair of NieR-themed info drops for next week that’ll unveil updates on Square Enix’s coming remake of the original NieR, as well as the new mobile game Nier: Reincarnation. The names for these events are right out of Taro’s playbook, and likely suggest the opposite of what to expect: The "We Have a Decent Amount of New Info" special hits Twitch and YouTube at 9 a.m. ET on Sept. 24, followed on Sept. 26 at 9 a.m. ET by the “Mostly No New Info” special. With names like that, we’d have to be crazier than Yoko himself to miss out.

- The third Night City Wire webcast for Cyberpunk 2077 is set to go off later today, with CD Projekt RED teasing “a tour around Night City,” as well as a closer look at the game’s gang factions and “a sneak peek into the creation of [the] #Cyberpunk2077 original score.” Tune in starting at 12 p.m. ET today, ahead of the long-awaited RPG’s Nov. 19 release.

PUREARTS on YouTube

- If you’re not tapped out of funds after nabbing a new console (or two), a handful of games, and perhaps even an upgraded TV to play it all on (you can tell all this new-console talk has got us daydreaming), $900 won’t feel like much of a setback for a 1/4-scale statue that’ll put Keanu Reeve’s Cyberpunk 2077 character right in your living room…perhaps somewhere within blasting distance of your Marshall amp stack.

Reeves’ rockin’ likeness as 2077’s Johnny Silverhand takes the stage from PureArts Studio as a tricked-out figure that does more than passively look cool. The statue comes with what PureArts describes as “a complete media experience” that includes a 13.3-inch hi-def LCD screen in the base, as well as a “dual speaker sound system” already pre-loaded with the game’s official soundtrack — as well as “additional media and screensavers.” Reeves’ character just so happens to be the frontman for a band called Samurai in the game (think Monster Magnet and you’re somewhere in the ballpark), so if paying musical tribute to a breathtaking Cyberpunk 2077 hero is your jam, smash the piggybank and head to PureArts’ website to snag your new toy. Appropriately enough, you’ll be the proud owner of one of only 2,077 units that are going up for grabs.

 

Who Won the Week: Life on Venus? @ Syfy Wire

Welcome to the latest episode of Who Won the Week, a weekly podcast in which SYFY WIRE looks back at the week that was and the stories that are blowing up the geek-o-sphere.

Big news in the universe this week: scientists have found phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus! Does this mean there could possibly be life on Venus? Here to help us break it down is astronomer Phil Plait, aka The Bad Astronomer. For the news, Jackie Jennings and associate news editor Trent Moore chat about the upcoming PS5 release and of course The Mandalorian, joined by another special guest: Caitlin Busch, co-host of SYFY WIRE's Jabba the Pod.

Listen below!

 

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To contact us about the podcast, feel free to tweet at us with the hashtag #whowontheweek! Let us know what you think the biggest stories going are, what you might want to hear in future episodes of the 'cast, and whatever else is on your mind.

Poop Knives, Gassed-Up Gators, and More Absurd Science From the 2020 Ig Nobel Prizes @ io9

The winners of the 2020 Ig Nobel Prizes have been announced, and the honored experiments include frozen knives made from poop, an alligator forced to inhale helium, and vibrating earthworms. This annual contest highlights achievements that make “people laugh, then think.”

Read more...

WIRE Buzz: Pixar's first-ever Emmy; Andrew Lincoln almost joined Creepshow; She-Hulk @ Syfy Wire

Disney+'s Emmy winning streak continues! The fourth night of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards saw Pixar make history as it took home its first-ever Emmy Award in the Outstanding Short Form Animated Series category, for Forky Asks a Question, a 10-episode animated series that airs on the streaming platform.

Forky Asks a Question is based on the titular Forky — Tony Hale (Veep) returning as his fan-favorite character from Toy Story 4 — as he focuses on a different question every episode, in a bid to learn more about a subject, be it cheese, time, or in the case of the now award-winning short, love itself? 

Elsewhere, HBO's Watchmen adaptation snagged another win, this time for Outstanding Music Competition, bringing its total number of awards up to five and tying it with The Mandalorian, last night's big winner.

Netflix's Big Mouth also won two awards, one for Maya Rudolph's Outstanding Voice Acting in the episode "How to Have an Orgasm," and the other for an Outstanding Derivative Interactive Program, for "Big Mouth's Guide to Life."  

Finally, NBC's Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist also nabbed a win for Outstanding Choreography for Scripted Programming. 

The 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards will air on Sunday, Sept. 20, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. 


Shudder's Creepshow will return for its second season next year, but sadly it'll be missing a potential guest star in the form of former Walking Dead actor Andrew Lincoln

As revealed in a Collider interview, Lincoln almost starred in an episode of the horror anthology series directed by Walking Dead showrunner (and Creepshow creator) Greg Nicotero. Unfortunately, this was one of many productions plans long since sidelined due to the ongoing pandemic.

Credit: AMC

"That's true," confirmed Lincoln in the interview. "It's really, really true. He did have a great one. And I was thinking about getting on the plane as well, ’cause he’s shooting in Atlanta." 

Sadly, while Lincoln won't be making an appearance on the Shudder original next season, the show has still managed to snag a few horror icons, including Hellraiser's Ashley Laurence

Creepshow Season 2 will return in 2021.


Not long after it was announced that Tatiana Maslany would be playing Jennifer Walters in Marvel's She-Hulk TV show, Mark Ruffalo graciously welcomed the Orphan Black star into the Gamma family.

Ruffalo replaced Edward Norton as Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk in the MCU, starting with 2012's The Avengers. He continued the character all the way through 2019's Avengers: Endgame, where he became Professor Hulk and reversed Thanos's Infinity Gauntlet snap that killed off half the universe. The actor is in talks to reprise the role for She-Hulk, which makes a ton of sense since Jennifer originally got her powers via a blood transfusion from Bruce.

Previous She-Hulk comic book writers Charles Soule and Dan Slott also hailed the casting choice.

"Perfect," tweeted Soule, who appropriately used green heart emojis.

"So excited about this news!" wrote Slott. "Congratulations, @tatianamaslany! I know you're going to make an excellent Jen Walters/She-Hulk!"

While no production start date has been set, we do know that Kat Coiro (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) will direct the pilot episode of She-Hulk, which is heading for a premiere on Disney+. Jessica Gao (Rick and Morty) serves as executive producer and showrunner on the project, which has yet to fill out the rest of its cast.


 

Star Wars Rebels brings in Kanera and Rukh, plus more trailer talk [Jabba the Pod 3.11] @ Syfy Wire

No matter how many times we've seen it, Season 4 of Star Wars Rebels hits us right where we live every single time. Not only do Kanan and Hera finally (finally) display grand PDA for all to see, but we've got Rukh returning to canon, and Loth-wolves run amok. There may not be a ton of boats in Star Wars, but there are plenty of ships. One of the best ones is called Kanera.

Our heroes over on Jabba the Pod are running with the Loth-wolves and nearing the series' end. Brian, Caitlin, and Matt get right down to business, and they discuss all of the above. They also have more ethical quandaries with Saw Gerrera, talk Hot Kallus, and consider that Thrawn probably wishes that Hera was on his side.

There's also so much more to talk about concerning the Season 2 trailer for The Mandalorian, as well as a full boatload of other news. Jump on board this sinking ship and give a listen right here, or wherever you get your podcasts. Many boats.

 

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DC Universe rebrands as comics reader 'DC Universe Infinite'; original shows to HBO Max @ Syfy Wire

Beginning early next year, the DC Universe subscription service as we know it will be gone — but something new is rising in its place. 

DC Entertainment announced Friday that January 2021 will mark the launch of DC Universe Infinite, a new subscription home for the company's archive of more than 24,000 digital comics from eight decades of DC history, as well as the community forums that launched with DC Universe back in 2018. Along with continued access to the comics archive and the community features, DC Universe Infinite will also include special fan events scheduled throughout 2021, unlimited downloads for offline reading, access to new comics six months after their on-sale dates, faster access to digital-first comics, and all-new line of still unannounced DC Universe Infinite Originals comics. 

“Our fans love the platform’s robust library of comic books and, with the transformation, we will not disappoint,” DC Publisher and Chief Creative Officer Jim Lee said in a statement. “I’m excited to share that not only will DC Universe Infinite members still be able to read all of the great comics that they’ve enjoyed but new issues are debuting on the platform quicker than before, digital first exclusives are being created, and the members-only events will begin as soon as possible. There has never been a better time to be a DC fan!”

Fans have been waiting to learn the fate of DC Universe for a while now, ever since WarnerMedia began moving streaming content from the service — like acclaimed original series Doom Patrol and Harley Quinn — over to HBO Max, a new streaming service that's also become the new home for various DC Comics-based movies and future projects like Justice League Dark. Lee confirmed just a few weeks ago, in the wake of restructuring at DC, that the DC Universe original streaming shows would all be migrating over to HBO Max, and that the comics archive at DC Universe would live on in some form. Now, we know what form that'll take, and future seasons of Harley Quinn, Doom Patrol, Young Justice and more will all be HBO Max originals. 

As for the rest of the streaming content at DC Universe, including classic live-action shows and animated series like Batman BeyondWonder Woman, and more, they'll also be making the leap to HBO Max. So, a clear line has been drawn. When it comes to streaming video content from DC, HBO Max is the home base, while DC Universe Infinite will hold down the comic book side of things. 

DC Universe Infinite will be available to pre-order at dcuniverseinfinite.com at the price of $7.99 per month or $74.99 annually. Existing DC Universe subscribers will begin receiving notifications next month asking them to confirm if they'd like their membership to continue into the new service. If you confirm, you'll be able to keep reading comics and using the community without interruption until DC Universe Infinite takes over from DC Universe next year. Plus, from now until October 30, eligible subscribers will be able to add HBO Max at a discounted rate of $4.99 per month, so you can follow the DC streaming series over there. 

DC Universe Infinite launches January 21, 2021 in the U.S. and expands globally next summer. Beginning in February 2021, existing subscribers and people who pre-order the service will be given a "thank you" voucher to the DC Shop, good for $25 for annual subscribers and $10 for monthly subscribers. There are a lot of bells and whistles attached to this news, to be sure, but for comics fans who can't get enough of the DC archive, the headline is that those books aren't going anywhere, and that's a very good thing.

 

The Excellent DC Universe Is Dead, and a Comics-Only Service Is Taking Its Place @ io9

Today DC Entertainment announced that as of January 21, 2021 DC Universe will “evolve” into DC Universe Infinite, a comics only service. It’s a shame, because DC Universe has lowkey been one of the best streaming services you could drop cash on every month—if you’re a giant nerd like myself.

Read more...

Harley Quinn Renewed for Season 3 on HBO Max @ io9

At the end of Harley Quinn’s second season, the show gave fans almost everything they’ve always wanted and closed out on a note that truly works as a satisfying end to the foul-mouthed series. But why be content with just two seasons of damned-good storytelling when you can have a third?

Read more...

Friday's Best Deals: JBL Go2 Speaker, Super Mario 3D All-Stars, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, Fitbit Ace 2, Anthropologie Sitewide Sale, Hand Sanitizer, and More @ io9

Chosen One of the Day: Dard-e-Disco from Om Shanti Om @ Syfy Wire

Hello, it’s me, your resident Bollywood nerd to bring some international flavor to our Chosen Ones of the Day and today, we’re going to take a trip down memory lane to 2008. In that most blessed of years, Shahrukh Khan (possibly the most famous person in the world) did a little movie called Om Shanti Om in which he plays a struggling actor in the Bollywood of yore who dies in a horrible car accident after failing to save the woman he loves from a murderous husband, and then gets reborn in current times to become a very famous actor in the Bollywood of today (again, 2008) in order to exact revenge against the murderer. Truly, it’s great. 

Now, today-today (2020, not 2008), I’d like to celebrate the song that current-day (2008) famous actor Shahrukh gets to dance to in his movie-within-a-movie. It’s called "Dard-E-Disco" (Disco Like Pain) and it is just a wonderful piece of musical expression that was clearly created as a send up of the more exorbitant (read as: absurd) pieces of Bollywood movies. 

What’s the best part, do we think? Is it the inexplicable 1970s part at the beginning? Maybe it’s the Arabian Nights bit? Maybe it’s the part where SRK is dancing shirtless in front of three Celtic cross (???) banners?

Credit: T-Series

Or perhaps it’s the 10-second break where we’re just lookin’ at SRK’s bod, afterward I think they are meant to be outer space maybe? 

Credit: T-Series

No wait, it’s this: 

Credit: T-Series

It’s a weird and great video that ends on a construction site of some kind? (But one where no one is wearing nearly enough protective gear.)

Credit: T-Series

Anyway, this video puts the pain of disco in my heart, but in the best possible way. 
 

Exclusive: DC's Legends of Tomorrow deleted scene gives fans a sharper look at Genghis Khan's Hell-Sword @ Syfy Wire

What would DC's Legends of Tomorrow be without its comic book weirdness? Arrow had its badassery, Flash has its time-warping drama, and Legends...well, Legends gets to be STRANGE.

Season 5 of The CW shows was one of its oddest yet, with experimental episodes, tons of jokes, and drama that took the Waverider crew all over creation. But that doesn't mean everything made the cut. Now SYFY WIRE can show fans a deleted scene from the season that focuses on one of its most bonkers aspects: Genghis Khan's Hell-Sword.

Taken from the sixth episode of Season 5, "Mr. Parker's Cul-De-Sac," the scene between Ava (Jes Macallan) and Sara (Caity Lotz) is a fun little moment for the characters...until the Hell-Sword comes out. Yes, Genghis Khan is in Hell and wields a magical sword.

Take a look:

Hell-Sword, Hell-Sword! Sara's got some skill with it, too.

The episode in question was already bananas enough without more focus on the blade  –– what with Damien's exit, a wedding, and more –– but man, who doesn't want more Hell-Sword? The episode, written by Keto Shimizu and James Eagan and directed by Ben Bray, might not have needed one more scene of sword-swinging, but fans certainly do. Mick wields the blade in the season finale, but still: more Hell-Sword, please.

DC's Legends of Tomorrow: The Complete Fifth Season comes to Blu-ray and DVD on Sept. 22 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. The show looks to return for a new season at The CW next spring. 


Rick and Morty S4 extras reveal interdimensional adventures are hell on background designers @ Syfy Wire

Turn up the volume on that Snake Jazz and break out the limited edition Pringles, it's time to celebrate the impending home release of Rick and Morty Season 4. Acting on the instructions of a death crystal, SYFY WIRE acquired an exclusive snippet from a behind-the-scenes featurette that takes a deep dive into the show's prop and background design.

According to Lead Background Designer Vance Caines, the hit Adult Swim series is different from other animated shows in that it requires "about 130 backgrounds" per episode. "Most shows do about 30 backgrounds, what we call 'key backgrounds,' the main backgrounds," he says in the video below. "Because [on] this show, we jump from environment-to-environment quite often, we've got a lot to do."

That makes a lot of sense when you consider the fact that our titular heroes (both of whom are voiced by co-creator Justin Roiland) are constantly traveling to different planets, dimensions, and planes of existence. Still, that extra effort just highlights why Rick and Morty (co-created by Community's Dan Harmon) is one of the most creatively ambitious and original shows on television right now.

Watch now and replay it as many times as you like (no do-over remote required!):

On sale early next week, the Season 4 home release includes all ten 22-minute episodes and eight special features. Those include: "A Day at Rick and Morty: Inside Season 4"; "Inside the Episode" for each episode; "Creating Snake Jazz"; "Directing Rick and Morty"; "Samurai and Shogun"; "Prop Process"; "Character Creation"; and "Animation Challenges."

"Rick and Morty remains a ratings leader for Adult Swim and retains an enormously loyal fan base season after season," Mary Ellen Thomas, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Senior Vice President, Originals, Animation & Family Marketing, said in a statement. "The award-winning series that has spawned comic books, video games, tabletop games, merchandise, music videos and more brings fans a hilarious fresh slate of exciting adventures this season that is sure to bring laughter into your homes!"

Enjoy the box art, which offers a depraved look inside Chachi's blown-out brain cavity:

Credit: Adult Swim/Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Rick and Morty's fourth season arrives on DVD ($24.98) and Blu-ray ($39.99) this coming Tuesday, Sep. 22. The season is currently available on digital platforms like iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, Vudu, PlayStation, Xbox, and more. Digital redemption codes can also be found in specially-marked Blu-ray copies.


Super Mario 3D All-Stars Is Out, So Where Can You Buy It? @ io9

Matt Kindt on working with Keanu Reeves, turning him into a warrior demi-god in 'BRZRKR' comic series @ Syfy Wire

Hoping to spur a rabid new wave of readership, Boom! Studios has partnered with Kickstarter to present the comic book debut of actor Keanu Reeves (The Matrix, John Wick) in a new battle-hardened 12-issue fantasy series titled BRZRKR.  

Reeves is partnered up with an all-star creative team including Eisner Award-winning writer/artist Matt Kindt (Grass Kings, Mind MGMT, Black Badge) and veteran comics illustrator Ron Garney (Wolverine, Captain America) to deliver a special venture where fans can pre-order graphic novel collections in regular, limited edition, and premium formats through October 1 via their Kickstarter campaign, which will be shipped following the initial single-issue print run. 

The debut chapter of their blood-soaked series arrives on Oct. 7 and also features the work of colorist Bill Crabtree (BPRD), and letterer Clem Robins (Hellboy). Lock and load for SYFY WIRE's exclusive preview of BRZRKR with acclaimed creator Matt Kindt. Whoa!

Credit: Boom! Studios

In Boom!'s brutal new series, the world-weary man known simply as Berzerker is half-mortal and half-God, ultimately cursed and compelled to extreme violence, even at the sacrifice of his sanity. 

Now after wandering the planet for centuries, the immortal Berzerker may have discovered a safe haven by being recruited by the U.S. government to enter battles battles deemed too violent and too dangerous for any living soul. For his bond and his bloodshed, Berzerker will be given the thing he desires most – the truth about his unrelenting combat-centric existence…and how to finally end it.

Credit: Boom! Studios

How did you arrive at this new BRZRKR series and what attracted you most to the concept?

KINDT: Well…I got a call from Keanu – which I’m not in the habit of ignoring (laughs). He had a story idea for a kind of 'immortal warrior.' Which was intriguing to me – I’d been kicking around ideas for that kind of thing for maybe 10 or 15 years. Sometimes with a vampire or something like that – but I could never really get it into an idea that worked for me. So I was super curious to see what he had come up with – honestly hoping he’d cracked it. And he did.

I can’t say too much without spoiling it but he had a great twist on the idea and the origin of the character that was so completely off-the-wall creative I was inspired. Let’s just say…he’s not a vampire (laughs). 

What’s great is – I think Keanu’s focus is [main character] "B," and his inner-life and how he’s dealing with his life and power and fate…but what attracts me to this concept is everything around it. The history that he’s seen and how humanity and those he bumps into – how do they treat him? What do they think of him? Is he a god? Then a monster and then in modern day a scientific oddity? Does a cult or religion grow up around him? Of course it does! I want to know that kind of stuff. When he gets blown up or chopped to pieces…? Where do his teeth go? And his bones? They would become relics during medieval times right?

Can you take us on a speedrun of the plot and your vision for the drama?

Our main character “B” – is born 80,000 years ago and can’t die. He’s used early on in his life as a kind of super weapon – fighting wars and conquering for his father and tribe. But eventually he starts to question his reason for being – his origins – and what his real purpose is. Was he just put on earth to fight and kill and destroy? It’s a fate that is hard for him to escape – and he spends…80,000 years trying to figure out how – bringing us to present day and then whipping us back thousands of years and every time in between.

Credit: Boom! Studios

In crafting the story, were there any references to Keanu's films that you both wanted to replicate in style or tone?

I don’t think we ever really talked about that. The character of "B" is fully of Keanu’s creation – so there is a lot of him in it – so it probably shares some DNA with a few of his other characters – and it has a TON of action – which we’re all fans of – but I really think this is his most personal “role” I’ve ever seen him create. It’s wholly unique. What’s great is – we have unlimited budget – we can do ANYTHING – show anything – go anywhere. 

With Reeves' name attached to the project, does that add an extra level of pressure to deliver?

Not at all. It’s been so much fun. I think if it was just his name attached to the book? Maybe – there would be pressure on me – I don’t know? But if it was just me writing it - I wouldn’t be doing it, you know? The fun of getting together and both of us getting our hands dirty and figuring out every beat of every page? It’s its own kind of fun. One thing we have in common is our love of process. The end product is great – but if we weren’t having fun doing it? We wouldn’t do it. There’s only a few people I’ve worked with in 25 years that share the same crazy work ethic that I have – Keanu is one of them.

This being artist Ron Garney's first major work outside the Big Two, what does he bring to the table?

We talked about the story and the kind of visceral raw nature of it and he’s been able to bend his art into that more immediate frenetic line that this book really needs. It’s pretty dang violent so you can’t be shy about it. We’re literally not pulling punches.

What elements of the story did Keanu add to the project and how did you help shepherd the narrative? 

Keanu just had this torrent of ideas. So I went back to the hotel room after our first meeting – stayed up late typing ideas to add to it – world building stuff and trying to figure out a structure to fit the kind of story we wanted to tell. Every story is different – the idea should dictate the form – and in this case it just seemed too big. Too big for 4 issues or 8 – but 12 seemed do-able. We could span all of time and space and really dig down into what makes B tick. 

A lot of our working relationship comes from just asking questions – back and forth – what music would he listen to? What does he think about music? What about love? Has he had it? Does he still care about anyone – if everyone you love dies and you’re always left alone – what’s that like? We really just started posing all of these questions around the framework of the “plot” – which I put in quotes only because the plot is really just a way to get the character study of B – a guy who can’t die – and in a way he wants to – not commit suicide – but wants to know that there is an end – that there can be an end to it all – like everyone else. An ending gives your story meaning – but if the days are endless – does anything have meaning anymore? We both really have similar ideas about that stuff so those are fun topics to tackle.

Credit: Boom! Studios

 This being Ron Garney's first major work outside the Big Two, what does he bring to the table to enhance the story?

We talked about the story and the kind of visceral raw nature of it and he’s been able to bend his art into that more immediate frenetic line that this book really needs. It’s pretty dang violent so you can’t be shy about it. We’re literally not pulling punches.

Can you see BRZRKR being adapted into any other mediums and are there plans to continue this dream team? 

Of course – I would love to. I just spent this last year adapting two of my other books into screenplays and it’s been an amazing experience. The tools you get to play with in movies are so much fun – and so very different.

I think with Keanu involved everyone assumes there will be a movie – but to be honest – our concern is to really just do the biggest, craziest, epic story in a way that only comic books can do. The other stuff will take care of itself. I love the idea that this is going to be someone’s first comic – they found it because they’re a fan of Keanu and picked it up – and then they fall into a new art form that they’re not familiar with. 

I think a lot of people look at comic books as kind of a storyboard for movies but I think that really does a disservice to the power of comic books. The best compliment you can give a book or comic is that the movie is just as good – but different. Comic book power lies in reader engagement – that magic space between panels that the reader fills in.

And I won’t lie – the comic is challenging – it throws you in the deep end right away. There’s a TON of action and it’s insanely over the top – but the way it’s told is really nuanced – multiple narrators and shifting points of view. The full power of what comics can do is going to be on display.

Boom! Studios' BRZRKR #1 hits comic shops on Oct. 7

New Dune Merch Gives Us Our Best Look Yet at Baron Harkonnen @ io9

The Flash might still have room for a Cyborg cameo. Scream 5's cast continues to expand. Fox gets all artificial intelligence in our latest look at neXt. Plus, what’s to come as The 100 nears its end and a new look at Carmen Sandiego’s third season. To me, my spoilers!

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These 7-foot-tall shelf-stocking robots are invading Japanese convenience stores @ Syfy Wire

Next time you're in a convenience store fortifying your supply of Gatorade and Slim Jims, don't be alarmed to see a next-generation AI robot restocking shelves to keep up with the economic laws of supply and demand.  

To aid in the shortage of service-industry workers in the aging nation of Japan, some the country's biggest stop-n-shop franchises, FamilyMart and Lawson, are going high-tech with new a test trial of leased, shelf-stacking robots that they hope will blend seemlessly into their transient workforce. With Lawson rolling out their artificial clerk this week and FamilyMart bulking up its employee roster with 20 by the year 2022, it seems these sleek machines might become a permanent fixture in retail outlets around the world.

These quick-learning bots called Model-T, after the iconic automobile created by pioneering American industrialist Henry Ford, were designed and developed by Japanese startup firm, Telexistence. They stand seven feet tall when expanded to their maximum height, stroll around the aisles via a wheeled platform, and are equipped with an array of cameras, microphones and sensors. Each Model-T's three-fingered hands can lift a variety of supermarket-style packaged items like boxes, bottled beverages, soup, fruit, and vegetable cans, and rice bowls.

"It is able to grasp, or pick and place, objects of several different shapes and sizes into different locations," Matt Komatsu, Telexistence's head of business development, told CNN Business. "Warehouse robots pick up the same thing from the same place and place it on the same platform — their movement is very limited compared to ours."

Until the android assistants can learn precise human movements and routines by themselves, the Model-T robot is controlled by store staff remotely using a virtual reality (VR) headset and unique gloves that allow them to "feel" in their own palms the particular products the robot is restocking. 

Credit: Telexistence

Their operation is not limited to the shop interior, but can be accomplished anywhere in the world. Telexistence is not selling these handy long-eared robots to each chain, but instead will offer them for a monthly or yearly lease fee which has not been disclosed.

In addition to not taking long breaks or calling in sick, Model-T lets one operator work across several stores at once, with live humans stationed behind the counter to man the cash registers.  

"We have been trying to solve the labor shortage in some of our stores and through this experiment we are going to examine how the robots will help," Ken Mochimaru, of Lawson's corporate communications division, explained to CNN Business.

While there are still many issues and obstacles to vault over in the implementation of worker robots like Model-T, Telexistence hopes this labor-saving tech will also satiate the need for industrial automation in a post-COVID world where human-to-human contact is frowned upon.

Hubble sees Jupiter erupt with storms big enough to swallow Earth @ Syfy Wire

In July, Jupiter, the solar system's biggest planet, reached opposition. That's when it's opposite the Sun in the sky, which is important for two reasons. One is that it rises when the Sun sets, so it's up all night, making it easier to observe.

More importantly, that means that's when Earth and Jupiter are closest together in space — think of it like the Earth passing Jupiter on the inside lane — so the planet appears biggest in the eyepiece as well.

And when your eyepiece is the Wide Field Camera 3 on Hubble Space Telescope, well, the view is pretty dang nice.

Jupiter (and its moon Europa to the upper left) captured by Hubble in visible light on 25 August 2020. Credit: NASA, ESA, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center), and M. H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley) and the OPAL team.

Wow. This image was taken in visible light on 25 August 2020, just a few weeks after opposition. It's part of an ongoing program called OPAL (Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy) to use Hubble to take images of the solar system four giant planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) once per year or so to keep up with their atmospheric antics.

Just in time, too. A big storm plume erupted from deep beneath Jupiter's cloud tops in mid-August, which grew rapidly. It's the elongated blue and white streak to the upper left, and by my eye looks to be nearly twice the Earth's diameter in size! Eleven Earths could stretch across Jupiter's width, for comparison.

Jupiter, I shouldn't need to remind you, is a very big planet.

Several new storms have popped up on Jupiter, including two found by amateur astronomers (Clyde's Spot, and another I don't think is named). That happens pretty often, since amateur astronomers look at Jupiter all the time, versus career astronomers who only observe it when they can get telescope time at big observatories. Astronomy is one of the very few fields of science where it's possible for so-called amateurs to make significant contributions, an aspect of my science I love.

Hubble also took an image in near-infrared, at wavelengths just a bit longer than our eyes can see, as well as in the near ultraviolet, at wavelengths too short for our eyes:

Jupiter in ultraviolet, visible, and infrared light, a multispectral image that helps astronomers understand the atmosphere of the giant planet. Note the new elongated storm to the upper left. Credit: NASA, ESA, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center), and M. H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley) and the OPAL team.

That's enhanced color, since we can't see UV or IR. It also has a visible light image in it as well, so this is a peculiar view. Infrared is displayed as red, and ultraviolet as blue. So, for example, material that looks red is either good at reflecting infrared, or good at absorbing ultraviolet (so there's no blue light to see in that part of the image). This helps planetary scientists better understand the cloud structure on Jupiter.

Another obvious feature is the Great Red Spot. It's been shrinking for the past few decades, and is down to a mere 15,700 km wide, only barely enough to swallow the Earth whole (again, Jupiter = very big). It used to be much larger, but at least it does look like the shrinking has slowed. I was never too worried the Spot would dwindle down to nothing — it's existed for centuries at least, so it seems unlikely it'll disappear down its own belly button — but it's nice to see some observational evidence to back that up.

Crash Course Astronomy Episode 16: Jupiter

You can also see another enormous storm, called Oval BA (which, without evidence, I have assumed is named after me), nicknamed Red Spot Jr. It used to be red but has faded to a more white color in the past few years. Unlike Earth, with continents and oceans, all we see when we look at Jupiter are the cloud tops so things change all the time, even hour by hour. That's one reason people keep their eyes on the planet.

And its moons, too. To the upper left of Jupiter in the first image you can see its moon Europa, which is a hair smaller than our own Moon. Europa is covered in ice, and has a subsurface ocean as well. Could weird alien life be swimming around there? No one knows, though it's possible. We may know soon enough, once the space probe Europa Clipper launches in a few years and heads over that way.

A comparison of the visible light image of Jupiter (left) with the UV, visible, and IR image (right) taken a short time later (note the planet’s slight rotational shift to the right). Credit: NASA, ESA, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center), and M. H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley) and the OPAL team

Jupiter is the fourth brightest natural object in the sky (after the Sun, Moon, and Venus) and is easily visible to someone with average eyesight in the east after sunset right now. With binoculars you can see four of its moons, and with a telescope you can start to see features on the planet itself, like the big whitish equatorial zone and the two redder equatorial belts above and below it. With a bigger 'scope the Red Spot can be seen too, if it happens to be on the side of the planet facing us — Jupiter rotates once every 10 hours. If you observe it early in the evening and then again a few hours later, you can actually see it spin. It's pretty amazing.

If you can, take a look. It truly is an wondrous thing to see for yourself, and you don't even need Hubble for it.

Some of the Coolest Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge Merch Will Soon Be Available to Everyone @ io9

Part of the allure of Disney parks’ Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge has been that you could only get Galaxy’s Edge merch at Galaxy’s Edge. Soon, that’ll no longer be the case. io9 and Gizmodo can exclusively reveal that starting September 28, Disney will put select Galaxy’s Edge merchandise, including those amazing Legacy…

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Sailor Moon’s impact on modern American animation remains undeniable @ io9

Twenty-five years after its U.S. television premiere, the impact of Sailor Moon on Japanese and Western animation remains undeniable. With its distinct visual vocabulary, story structure, and defined character archetypes, the series not only served as the blueprint for the many Japanese magical girl anime series that…

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Aesop’s Fables: The Fox and the Grasshopper @ Bureau 42

Finally, a moral that makes sense! Not enough of those lately…

Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/bedtime-in-the-public-domain/message

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Author: W. Blaine Dowler

WIRE Buzz: The Wolf of Snow Hollow Trailer; Sony moves Connected; McKenna Grace joins The Handmaid's Tale @ Syfy Wire

It's murder most howl in the upcoming werewolf thriller The Wolf of Snow Hollow

The film focuses on a small-town sheriff — the late Robert Forster (Twin Peaks) in his final role —trying to cope with his failed marriage, rebellious daughter, and less-than-ideal workforce, when he's forced to solve a series of gruesome murders that take place when there's a full moon, with all the evidence suggesting it may be caused by werewolves. There's just one problem: He doesn't think they exist, and as the trailer (below) illustrates, he's not going to change his tune anytime soon. 

The film is written and directed by Jim Cummings (The Handmaid's Tale), who also stars as Officer John Marshall. Co-stars include Rikki Lindhome (Knives Out), Chloe East (Kevin Probably Saves the World), and Jimmy Tatro (American Vandal).

The Wolf of Snow Hollow will make its way to theaters and on-demand Oct. 9. 


Following a summer movie season shut down by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it appears that Sony has learned a lesson from the recent theatrical release of Tenet, as the Christopher Nolan-directed blockbuster has performed less-than-ideally at the box office.

Deadline is reporting that Connected, an animated feature from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse) that was set to come out Oct. 23, will now be post released at an unknown later date. This move follows other recent studio changes, like Nia DaCosta's much-anticipated Candyman being pushed (again) to next year, and Warner Bros.'s Wonder Woman 1984 moving back to Christmas Day.

Connected tells the story of the Mitchell family, who must band together and save the world when their plans to drop off the eldest daughter (Broad City's Abbi Jacobson) at film school are interrupted by a technological uprising.

The animated feature is co-directed by Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe, and produced by Lord, Miller, and Kurt Albrecht.

Rounding out the film's voice cast are Danny McBride (The Righteous Gemstones), Maya Rudolph (The Good Place), Eric Andre (Disenchantment), and Olivia Colman (Broadchurch).


Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic (Getty Images)

And finally, The Handmaid's Tale will be welcoming a "gifted" new recurring cast member in Season 4, as Mckenna Grace (The Haunting of Hill HouseCaptain Marvel) joins the cast for the upcoming season.

According to Deadline, Grace will play Mrs. Keyes, an intelligent teenaged wife of a much older Commander who rules over her farm and household with confidence. But under her calm and devoted exterior lies a rebellious subversive streak. 

The Handmaid's Tale was a few weeks into shooting its fourth season when the pandemic caused production to shut down in mid-March. However, the show has since returned to filming, per Deadline, much like a steadily growing number of shows and movies in recent weeks, including Supernatural and Jurassic World: Dominion

No release date has been set yet for the Hulu series. 


First 4 'Welcome to the Blumhouse' trailers invite us into a house of anthology film horror @ Syfy Wire

Halloween is almost upon us, and with it comes the perfect season to curl up with a good scary movie or two. Or more. Enter Welcome to the Blumhouse.

The banner is the result of a partnership between Amazon Studios and Blumhouse — the production company behind recent horror hits like Jordan Peele's Get Out and The Invisible Man. Welcome to the Blumhouse kicks off with two separate horror-filled double-bill features in October, followed by four more films in 2021.

The first pairing, featuring the films The Lie and Black Box, will be released on Amazon Prime Video Oct. 6. The second set, Evil Eye and Nocturne, will become available to stream on the platform Oct. 13.

Check out the trailers below:

Kicking open the door to the "Blumhouse" will be The Lie. Written and directed by Veena Sud (The Stranger), the movie follows two parents (played by The Killing's Mireille Enos and The Batman's Peter Sarsgaard) as they try and cover up their daughter (The Kissing Booth's Joey King) having suddenly (and unexpectedly) killed her friend. 

The second half of the first pairing will be Black Box, written by Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour Jr., making his directorial debut with the feature. The film tells the story of Nolan (Jurassic World: Dominion's Mamoudou Athie), a man struggling to regain his memory after surviving a tragic car accident, so that he can take better care of his young daughter. However, when he starts to undergo an experimental treatment overseen by a doctor (13 Reasons Why's Phylicia Rashad) promising a fix, he's confronted by a past that is too dark to be his own. 

Picking up the fright fest a week later is Evil Eye, written by newcomer Madhuri Shekar, directed by twin brothers Elan and Rajeev Dassani (Scandal) and produced by Priyanka Chopra Jonas (Quantico). The movie revolves around Pallavi (GLOW's Sunita Mani) and Sandeep (Better Call Saul's Omar Maskati), a young couple who begin to break apart when Pallavi's mother (Jessica Jones' Sarita Choudhury) starts to insist that Sandeep has sinister ties to her own past. 

And finally, rounding out the set is Nocturne. Written and directed by Zu Quirke, the movie centers around twin sisters (Jumanji's Madison Iseman and The Handmaid's Tale's Sydney Sweeney) at a prestigious music academy. When one of them finds a notebook belonging to a dead former student, she sees it as a way to finally get one over on her more successful sister, only to discover that the book may have a dark will of its own.

Welcome to the Blumhouse's The Lie and Black Box both premiere on Oct. 6. Evil Eye and Nocturne debut Oct. 13.


Ridley Scott's Raised By Wolves Costume Designer Breaks Down the Show's Alien Style @ io9

Ridley Scott’s sci-fi thriller Raised By Wolves is officially a hit: today, HBO Max announced it’s ordered a second season. The show—about a pair of androids raising human children on an alien planet—distinguishes itself from other sci-fi fare with its striking visuals, and that includes the costumes.

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RIP Nintendo 3DS @ io9

One of Nintendo’s most beloved handheld consoles, the 3DS, has been discontinued. Nintendo confirmed in a statement today to Polygon that “manufacturing of the Nintendo 3DS family of systems has ended.” The announcement comes a little over a year after Nintendo said the Switch Lite wasn’t going to replace the 3DS.

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WIRE Buzz: Boss Baby sequel births Jeff Goldblum; Heroes of the Golden Masks; Fright Club @ Syfy Wire

DreamWorks Animation's Boss Baby sequel, The Boss Baby: Family Business, just added some grown-up voice talent, the studio confirmed this afternoon. Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic World: Dominion), Eva Longoria (Dora and the Lost City of Gold), James Marsden (The Stand), and Amy Sedaris (BoJack Horseman) have all been cast in the follow-up to the 2017 animated hit. Ariana Greenblatt (The One and Only Ivan) is also among the newcomers.

Alec Baldwin (30 Rock) is coming back to play the titular toddler businessman (named Ted Templeton), while Jimmy Kimmel (Jimmy Kimmel Live!) and Lisa Kudrow (Friends) reprise their roles as the baby's parents. The first movie's original writer, Mike McCullers, and original director, Tom McGrath, are returning as well.

"The everyday joy for me is not only watching our actors make a line hilarious or heartfelt through subtle adjustments, but the process they all share of improvisation and character creation," McGrath said in a statement. “They are the heart and soul of the characters they bring to life."

"We are so thrilled to welcome these new additions to our Boss Baby family," added producer Jeff Hermann (Kung Fu Panda 3). "James, Amy, Ariana, Eva and Jeff each bring so much depth, wit and charm to combine with Alec, Lisa, and Jimmy to form an incredibly rich ensemble, one which expands upon the world of the first movie in unexpected and exciting ways."

L-R: Goldblum, Longoria, Marsden, Sedaris, Greenblatt Credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images; Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images; Larry Busacca/Getty Images; Desiree Navarro/Getty Images;  Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Set years after the first installment, Family Business picks up when Ted and his older brother, Tim (Marsden, replacing Tobey Maguire), are now adults, who have drifted apart. Ted has grown into a successful hedge fund CEO, while his brother has become a married father in the suburbs. Things heat up when "a new boss baby with a cutting-edge approach and a can-do attitude" brings them together again, inspiring "a new family business," according to the official synopsis.

Longoria is voicing Carol, Tim's "super-mom wife," while Greenblatt takes up the role of their gifted 7-year-old daughter, Tabitha. She's an incredibly hard worker who idolizes her uncle Ted, but Tim worries that his daughter is going to miss out on a normal childhood. Sedaris will take up the "super-cute" post of Tina, the family's newborn daughter, who is actually "a top secret agent for BabyCorp on a mission to uncover the dark secrets behind Tabitha’s school" — the Acorn Center for Advanced Childhood — and its mysterious founder, Dr. Armstrong (voiced by Goldblum). All of this "will reunite the Templeton brothers in unexpected ways, lead them to re-evaluate the meaning of family and discover what truly matters."

The first movie, which made over $520 million at the global box office and was nominated for an animation Oscar, also received a spinoff TV series on Netflix. The Boss Baby: Back in Business saw the release of its third season in March of this year. In the small-screen iteration, Baldwin's character is voiced by JP Karliak.

The Boss Baby: Family Business is slated for release March 26, 2021.

(DreamWorks Animation and SYFY WIRE are both owned by NBCUniversal.)


In other animation news, Patton Oswalt (The Boys) and Byron Mann (Arrow) have boarded Arcana Studios' Heroes of the Golden Masks, per The Hollywood Reporter.

The film is said to revolve around an American teenager, who is magically transported to a mythical lost city known as Sanxingdui. Christopher Plummer (Knives Out), Ron Perlman (Hellboy), and Osric Chau (The Flash) were previously cast.

Oswalt is playing "Aesopm, a sweet Atlantean hero," and Mann is inhabiting the part of "Jiahao, a noble warrior." Sean Patrick O’Reilly (Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom) is directing the project, which is eyeing a global rollout in early 2021.

Credit: JB Lacroix/WireImage & Adela Loconte/WireImage

"We’re fortunate to once again be working with an incredible cast on what will surely be a milestone for Arcana. Heroes of the Golden Masks is our most ambitious project to date, and we look forward to taking audiences on an action-packed thrill ride next year," O'Reilly said in a statement to THR.

Gordon Mcghie and Troy Taylor of CG Bros are producing the feature.


And finally, the Travel Channel continues its pivot to genre fare with a new paranormal series featuring Jack Osbourne. Only this time, instead of his parents — Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne and The Talk co-host Sharon Osbourne — as co-stars, he'll be joined by Dalen Spratt, Juwan Mass, and Marcus Harvey, the trio of friends at the heart of another Travel Channel original, Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests.

According to Deadline, the new show will be titled Fright Club and will see the four hosts join together to watch paranormal videos before consulting experts on how to handle paranormal experiences, with the foursome providing context for the clips they watch and debunking any myths they encounter.

The series will consist of 10 episodes thus far, all of which have been shot in a studio following COVID-19 safety regulations and protocols. 

The series will be produced by Painless Productions (The Dead Files).


Lovecraft Country's Wunmi Mosaku and Abbey Lee Discuss the Intricacies of Ruby and Christina @ io9

Lovecraft Country is an ensemble show about multiple members of the interconnected Freeman, Baptiste, and Braithwaite families, which made it important for certain characters to be expanded upon from their counterparts in the books. In particular, Wunmi Mosaku’s Ruby and Abbey Lee’s Christina have been given more…

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Breastplate but make it fashion: How Warrior Women influence the runway @ Syfy Wire

Over the years, garments designed for military personnel have trickled down into civilian wardrobes. From the practical (and stylish) bomber jacket to the humble cardigan, the line between original purpose and fashion has blurred. The runway is awash with clothing rooted in combat, which are now sartorial staples. Tailored capes and trench coats are ideal outerwear, whereas the aforementioned knitted cardigans are ideal for keeping warm.

Breastplates made from leather and metal are not only reserved for the likes of Wonder Woman or Brienne of Tarth, and you don't have to be a medieval knight to embrace chainmail couture. While these protective items might not be as practical or comfortable as other battlefield clothing options, this hasn't stopped designers from finding inspiration from warrior women of the past — or even revered fictional fighters.

Credit: Peter White/Getty Images

Clothing that doubles as armor doesn't have to be a literal interpretation. Fatigues and camouflage are far from the only battle-ready attire. In Lovecraft Country, Leti's (Jurnee Smollett) 1950s frocks and cropped pants are part of her overall defense against a cruel and hostile world. However, sometimes fashion spells out exactly what it means with no need for metaphor or subtext. The fighting garments in Warrior Nun have been crafted with combat in mind and take a Joan of Arc approach to the overall aesthetic — a figure who continues to resonate in the fashion world.

Paco Rabanne's Fall 2020 ready-to-wear collection is a marriage of chainmail face coverings (proving how on point Warrior Nun's Sister Beatrice is) with the revered 15th-century adolescent religious icon. Elegant and edgy, these gowns are beautiful while suggesting hardwearing materials are a must-have. The shoe choice styling underscores the utilitarian aspect that runs throughout the warrior woman's influence — this is no place for stiletto heels or delicate sandals.

Credit: Estrop/Getty Images

The relationship between Catholicism and high-end fashion took center stage at the 2018 Met Gala. Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination was a theme that included wide-ranging interpretations, with Zendaya delivering one of the most memorable looks of the night. Doubling as an audition for a Joan of Arc biopic, the actress wore a jaw-dropping Atelier Versace chainmail creation.

Credit: Getty and George Pimentel/WireImage

Working with stylist Law Roach, Zendaya never fails to disappoint on the red carpet, whether it's fashion's biggest night of the year or an award season appearance. In January, she attended the Critics' Choice Awards in a hot pink Tom Ford ensemble that had previously set tongues wagging when it debuted at New York Fashion Week three months earlier. Zendaya's Marvel co-star Gwyneth Paltrow also wore the hot pink $15,000 item on the Harper's Bazaar February issue.

The lacquered chrome acrylic anatomical breastplate — also available in black — combines a dialed-up Ex Machina visual with a dash of legendary warrior woman Boudica. Unlike other military clothing that is now part of an everyday wardrobe, you are not gonna throw this backless top on to watch TV or pop out for a walk. This is high fashion at its most fun, and the out-there nature of this Tom Ford piece is tempered by the flowy feminine energy of the matching maxi skirt (also available in basketball shorts).

Credit: Antonio de Moraes Barros Filho/WireImage

The last four years have seen an uptick in breastplates and chainmail interpretations from designers, which could be viewed as a response to the anxiety of the age we're living in. Reclaiming power is a more positive way to read this trend cycle, which includes the fall 2016 Louis Vuitton's deconstructed layered leather bodice-adjacent styles.

Taking inspiration from great adventures, creative director Nicolas Ghesquière referenced a video game action legend. "We had an idea of this trip, of a woman who could be a digital heroine, like Tomb Raider, when she discovers an archaeological site." Another case of combat boots to emphasize the overall message of the collection.

Credit: Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Also in Paris Fashion Week that same year, Loewe's ready-to-wear lineup features sculpted metal and leather garments that combine frivolity with a warrior influence.

Of course, breastplates as fashion rather than function have existed long before the last four years. In 1969, Yves Saint Laurent debuted a beautiful and provocative gold breastplate that would not pass the Instagram nipple check.

Handcrafted protective garments from ancient Greece through to the medieval era have played a huge role across the vast costume design landscape, including recent warrior women staples like the Game of Thrones metal and leatherwork and the look of Themyscira in Patty Jenkins' 2017 version of Wonder Woman. Costume designer Lindy Hemming turned to London-based leather designers Whitaker Malem for Diana's instantly iconic metallic bodice, as well as her fellow Amazonians.

Dubbed "The Wonder Woman Effect" by the New York Times in August 2017, the pair have also crafted pieces for Aquaman, The Dark Knight, and Idris Elba's slick Hobbs & Shaw suit. A marriage of costume and fashion with specialist techniques, their work has also appeared in Vogue Italia.

The intersection of historical garments and pop culture is no more apparent than in fantasy movies and television. The rules that constrain designers working on a period-set story wanting to depict an era with accuracy don't restrict historical fantasy in the same way. Fashion designers have even less set guidelines to follow and can incorporate materials, techniques, and influences into their work from across a vast spectrum.

Credit: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

Boundaries are there to be pushed, and Alexander McQueen drew on everything from Alien to his witch ancestors. McQueen's Spring '99 ready-to-wear show is best remembered for the balletic robot painted dress display, but the No. 13 London Fashion Week event featured other stunning sartorial moments, including Paralympic athlete and now actress Aimee Mullins wearing a sculpted leather cuirass with a ruffled skirt — again mixing soft with hard materials — and cherry wood prosthetic legs.

A cuirass is a "piece of armor covering the body from neck to waist," which McQueen featured in other collections, including a delicate hand-blown glass stunner from the Voss lineup.

Credit: Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic

McQueen drew on the warrior spirit and silhouette across the years that incorporated leather molding, traditional suit-of-armor components, and sculpting that were all on display as part of the definitive Savage Beauty exhibit at the Met Costume Institute and London's V&A museum.

Resembling a corset, the restrictive nature of a breastplate does draw comparisons to the Victorian era, which also saw the rise in the "cuirass bodice." Hitting the mainstream in the 1870s, "the bodice extends into a point below the waistline in front and back." Military and menswear dictating the clothing of women is nothing new, but the women who fought in these garments like Joan of Arc and Boudica should not be forgotten. Real and fictional warrior women continue to inspire the runway, and battle-ready fashion is a sartorial call to arms.

It's a Wynonna Earp reunion as Melanie Scrofano set to guest star, direct on The Surrealtor @ Syfy Wire

It’s going to take more than the fourth season of Wynonna Earp concluding to keep Wynonna and Doc Holliday apart. That’s right; Season 4 of SYFY's beloved western/fantasy/horror series may be done, but fans can expect to see more with its stars Melanie Scrofano and Tim Rozon — and on the same network, too. Just not in the same roles.

A report from TVLine has revealed that Scrofano will guest-star in The Surrealtor, SYFY’s new horror/drama about a team of haunted-house realtors starring Rozon. Scrofano will play Harper North, a young woman who has been instructed to sell her lakeside family home, yet somehow cannot.

Look, the report doesn't go into details, but based on the show's core premise, it's pretty safe to assume that she can't sell the home because it's haunted. Fortunately, this sounds like just the thing realtor Nick Roman (Rozon) and his elite team of paranormal realtors specialize in.

Not only will Scrofano appear in front of the camera, she’ll be behind it too, as she's also on board to direct two episodes of The Surrealtor. She made her directorial debut with Season 4, Episode 3 of Wynonna Earp, which introduced Sheriff Hoyt Clayborn and Cleo.

The Surrealtor's 10-episode first season follows Roman, owner of The Roman Agency, as he and his team of specialists investigate, fix up, and sell haunted and/or possessed homes. They may not guarantee that your new house is clean, but they may be able to give you a discount if you have to room with a demon.

George Olson is on board as showrunner. The cast also includes fellow Wynonna Earp star Savannah Basley, as well as Sarah Levy, Adam Korson, Maurice Dean Wint, and Tennille Read.

Production on The Surrealtor began this week in Newfoundland, Canada.


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The greatness of Joe Kubert, comics' greatest teacher @ Syfy Wire

I am endlessly fascinated with the founding fathers of the comic book industry. The writers and artists of the Golden Age built an engine of mythology via artistic inspiration fueled by backbreaking deadlines and post-Depression Era economic angst.

Among those great talents at the very beginning was Joe Kubert, who was born on Sept. 18, 1926 and died in 2012. Kubert was such an instinctively talented artist, he started working in the industry when he was just a kid. I don't mean that figuratively, either. He was reportedly just 13 years old when he got his first assignment with a comics publisher. His career would be marked not just by flawless draftsmanship but by his contributions to the industry not in terms of characters (though he did introduce and help create many), but by the creators he taught. Simply put, Joe Kubert may well have been comics' greatest teacher.

His school, the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in Dover, New Jersey, has been teaching students about storytelling since 1976. The list of alumni includes his own sons Adam and Andy Kubert, themselves superstar artists. It includes the great Amanda Conner, Alex Maleev, Jan Duursema, Stephen R. Bissette, Thomas Yeates, Dan Parent, Jenny Frison, Ed Piskor... the list goes on and on. Storytelling was an integral part of Kubert's life, and the school allowed him to impart those lessons to hundreds of students who came through the doors of his school.

"It starts off with knowing how to draw well..." Kubert said during a 2004 feature I produced on his school for WNBC-TV in NYC. "Beyond that, it's knowing how to tell a good story with those drawings." Kubert could draw just about anything and anyone, and he certainly drew all types of characters in his career, spent primarily with DC Comics.

Of course, before he made teaching the next generation of comic artists a priority, Kubert put pencil to paper and taught by brilliant example after example.

His best-known work involved two DC Comics staples who are vastly different types of heroes: the winged Thanagarian Hawkman and the grizzled war veteran Sgt. Rock.

Kubert excelled at drawing fake sci-fi weaponry and scenery just as he did drawing realistic depictions of wartime battles in the war comics he drew for years. And no matter who or what he was drawing, he did it with a practical and nuanced approach to his drawing. Unlike Jack Kirby, whose characters were drawn to evoke power and for maximum comic book effect, Kubert grounded even an inherently bizarre hero like Hawkman with a certain amount of practicality and realism due to his lifework and stylish inks. In short, Kubert's characters looked like they belonged in the same world we did. His style so distinctive, one could instantly spot a Kubert cover on a newsstand or spinner rack (this was back in the days when artists didn't sign their names on covers or receive credit inside the comics).

Credit: DC Comics; Art: Joe Kubert

It was his gift for drawing compelling covers that no doubt endeared him to the DC faithful. Over the years, he drew countless covers for the publisher. One he was supposed to do that ultimately did not happen was the cover to the now-legendary Superman vs. Muhammad Ali comic that debuted in 1978. He penciled the cover but Ali's advisors did not like Kubert's likenesses, so Neal Adams was brought in to do a new cover. Adams, a self-proclaimed huge fan of Kubert's work, liked the original layout so much he decided to keep Kubert's layout and essentially do his version of Joe's cover. He even added Kubert into the famously star-studded audience. (FYI, Kubert's original, unpublished cover to this landmark book resided for years inside a display case in his office at his school.)

"A cartoonist uses his pictures just like a writer uses his words."

Taking his own words to heart, Kubert never stopped using his pictures to tell new stories. The character Tor, which he co-created with writer Norman Maurer in the 1950s, has endured for decades. His work with DC Comics defined Kubert's career, in particular his work on Hawkman and the war comics. Together with writer Robert Kanigher, he helped define that integral corner of the DC universe. His work on titles such as G.I. Combat, Star Spangled War Stories, and Our Army At War are considered milestones in Kubert's career. So is his run on DC's adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan.

The older he got, the more ambitious Kubert's creative endeavors became. In 1996, he released Fax From Sarajevo, the Eisner Award-winning non-fiction graphic novel that was as far removed from the Silver Age superhero covers he used to draw as you could imagine. The story was adapted from faxes sent by Kubert's friend Ervin Rustemagić, a European comics rep who was trapped with his family in the war-ravaged Bosnian region during the Siege of Sarajevo. The book is an incredibly powerful piece of graphic literature that was also a tribute to Kubert's artistic versatility. It's not hard to imagine many Kubert disciples saw their teacher take a risk on a project well out of the mainstream comics wheelhouse, and were inspired to do the same once their careers took off.

Credit: Dark Horse; Art: Joe Kubert

Kubert's ability to create intensely personal stories continued with 2003's Yossel: April 19, 1943, a graphic novel in which he imagined his life if his parents had not emigrated from Poland to America shortly after he was born. Yossel is a story full of emotion, despair, and desperation. Kubert's deliberately spare drawings in the book help the reader imagine what it would be like to look over Kubert's shoulder as he chronicled the experience of being trapped in the Warsaw Ghetto. I remember talking with him when the book was released; it seemed as if creating the graphic novel, essentially his own "What If?" story, was almost cathartic. It was a story that he was dying to tell, so he did it.

Kubert's fellow comics pros revered him and held his work in the highest regard, as comics historian Mark Evanier can attest. Brian Azzarello considers his 2003 collaboration with Kubert on the graphic novel Sgt. Rock: Between Hell and a Hard Place one of the highlights of his career. People just loved the guy, and that is as impressive a legacy as any of the credits on his remarkable body of work.

I was able to see firsthand why so many people adored him back in 2004 when I booked him on the aforementioned NBC morning show for the final segment. The previous guest, comedian Mario Cantone, went long because he was hilarious and no one could stop laughing enough to wrap him on time. The result? We had half the time I had allotted for Kubert, which resulted in an interview that didn't scratch the surface of what I had wanted to cover. When I met him in the green room to apologize for our bungled clock management, he waved his hand and told me, "Don't worry about it. Things happen."

Then he asked me where the comedian who went before him was. During Cantone's segment, Kubert was sitting by the news desk doing a quick sketch of the comic (with a combat helmet, of course) and wanted to give it to him. Cantone was already gone, and I swear, Kubert seemed more disappointed in not being able to give him the sketch than he did at having his TV appearance cut short.

Art: Joe Kubert

As I walked Kubert through the newsroom toward the elevators, a reporter at the station walked up and introduced Joe to her young daughter. She was an artist, and her mother had heard a comic book artist was appearing on the morning show. So the reporter asked Kubert if he could spare a quick word of advice for her daughter. He turned to me and asked, "Can we use your desk for a minute?"

Kubert wound up staying about an hour to give an impromptu art lesson to this young girl he had just met. He did some sketches, explained the dynamics of panel pages... it was a full-blown tutorial about what she could do to improve as an artist. It was incredibly generous of him to do so, especially after his real reason for being at the TV station had not gone as it should.

But that's how it was for Joe Kubert. It was always about the art, and about passing on what he knew to others. Teaching them that stories matter, all types of stories, so go out and do them — that's what made him such a great teacher, and why comics were lucky to have him.

art: Joe Kubert


Let's see your favorite Joe Kubert artwork! Find me on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram and show me all the Tor, Hawkman and Sgt. Rock.

Don't forget that Behind the Panel is a multi-platform series that can help keep you entertained during these strange and stressful times we're in. Our video series is loaded with my in-depth interviews with amazing comic book creators. The Behind the Panel podcast is an audio documentary series that provides unique insight into your favorite creators and stories. Check 'em out, we think you'll enjoy them.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBCUniversal.

She-Hulk series finds its Jennifer Walters in Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany @ Syfy Wire

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has found its She-Hulk, ladies and gentleman. Per Variety, Tatiana Maslany (known for playing several roles in BBC America's Orphan Black) will be taking up the role of Jennifer Walters in the upcoming Disney+ show from Marvel Studios. In the comics, Walters is the cousin of Bruce Banner (aka The Incredible Hulk), who receives her own Gamma powers when she receives a blood transfusion from Banner.

Unlike her cousin's more irascible alter ego, however, She-Hulk (created by Stan Lee and John Buscema) is able to retain more of her human personality and self-control after a transformation into a big, green monster. News of Maslany's casting arrives just one day after it was reported that It's Always Sunny vet Kat Coiro was tapped to direct the show's pilot episode. There's no word on when filming is set to commence, and no other casting announcements have been made.

Jessica Gao (Rick and Morty) led the writers' room, which, based on a tweet from May, has already wrapped. Gao is also executive-producing and showrunning the small-screen comic book project, which will tie into the big-screen efforts down the road. Aside from Orphan Black, Maslany's other TV endeavours include: BoJack Horseman, Robot ChickenDrunk HistoryTrollhunters: Tales of Arcadia, and 3Below: Tales of Arcadia.

Credit: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

It's still unclear whether Mark Ruffalo will make an appearance as Banner (whom he played in the MCU films) on the show, but the odds are decent. If nothing else, he'll certainly be referenced. That said, we haven't gotten an update on that front since early March, when the actor said he was in early talks for some kind of role.

Shows centered around Moon Knight, Ms. MarvelWhat If...?, Scarlet Witch and Vision (WandaVision), Loki (Loki), and Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) are also coming to Disney+ in the near future. WandaVision is expected to premiere before 2020 is over, while The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (originally scheduled to debut in August) just resumed production after shutting down in March over COVID-19 fears.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Jonathan Majors (Lovecraft Country) would play the time-traveling villain known as Kang the Conquerer in the third Ant-Man movie.


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WIRE Buzz: Hip-hop vampire show Thirst to HBO; Hotel Transylvania 4 update; Scream 5 adds Sonia Ammar @ Syfy Wire

Fans of What We Do in the Shadows’ Count Rapula may have a series just for them soon enough. A new hip-hop vampire show is being developed over at HBO and the time for bloodsuckers with attitude is now.

Variety reports that the show, called Thirst, comes from Macro Television Studios and Empire writers Leah Benavides Rodriguez and Carlito Rodriguez, who will operate as writers for the series as well as executive producers and showrunners.

The awesome idea itself comes from Kevin Jordan and is about an Atlanta rapper on his way up, who joins one of the scene’s biggest groups...only to find out that they’re a vampire family who’ve been around for hundreds of years. Interview with a Vampire? Only if those interviews are for a vampire Behind the Music.

“Music has been integral to both our lives, and Thirst is the perfect opportunity to blend genres, while exploring the intersection of fame, culture and what it means to be American,” Benavides Rodriguez and Rodriguez said. “We’re excited to bring it to life with Macro Television Studios and the rest of our dope team, and thrilled it has found its home at HBO.”

Thirst does not yet have a timeline.


Next, an update on the fourth Hotel Transylvania film. The spooky-funny franchise from animation giant Genndy Tartakovsky has named its directors, upgraded its star, and nailed down a release date.

According to Variety, directors Jennifer Kluska and Derek Drymon will take over with Tartakovsky remaining as a screenwriter on the Adam Sandler-starring film. The series — which features Sandler as Dracula and Selena Gomez as his daughter, Mavis — will also see Gomez move up to an executive producer role as well as performing her acting duties.

Hotel Transylvania 4’s new release date is Aug. 6, 2021.


Finally, the next Scream film has added a cast member that’s actually new to the long-running horror franchise. 

After casting returning faces like Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette, the film is fleshing out its cast with Sonia Ammar. The singer and model will join franchise newcomers Jack Quaid, Jenna Ortega, and Dylan Minnette in her first major role in a feature. Looks like the new group of victims and the old group of survivors are finally beginning to take shape.

The latest entry in the winking slasher series comes from directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, who plan to start production this month.

Scream 5 hopes to hit theaters on Jan. 14, 2022.

 

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