Fast & Furious driving into the sunset with two final, Justin Lin-directed films @ Syfy Wire

The Fast & Furious franchise is speeding to an end, but not until we get two more movies. According to Deadline, director Justin Lin — who helmed the first Fast & Furious film as well as Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6, and the upcoming F9 — is in talks to direct the tenth and the eleventh films as well.

Little is known so far about what the last two installments will entail, though it’s fair to bet that there will be lots of car chases (and probably chases with bigger, badder vehicles — maybe tanks? Or helicopters Or submarines? Or who knows what?!), and lots of big, unbelievable stunts that try to outdo what’s been done in films past. (How you can beat a car chase that starts with the vehicles being dropped from a plane with parachutes, however, is beyond us.)

Deadline also reported that the final films will revolve around star Vin Diesel (Dominic Toretto) and will include other longtime Fast & Furious actors Michelle Rodriguez (Letty Ortiz), Tyrese Gibson (Roman Pearce), Chris “Ludacris” Bridges (Tej Parker), Jordana Brewster (Mia), Nathalie Emmanuel (Ramsey), and Sung Kang (Han).

It’s not clear, however, whether Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham will make an appearance in the last two films, since they’ve peeled away from the main franchise to star in Hobbes & Shaw. Deadline notes that Johnson and Diesel are known to have issues with each other, so perhaps the two newcomers won't be along for the ride, though there’s definitely still a chance they'll help see the mega-franchise over the finish line.

At $5.7 billion, the Fast & Furious franchise is Universal Picture’s largest grossing IP to date. And with the pandemic pushing the release of F9 to May 2021 along with the confirmation of two more movies, it’s likely to keep that position for at least the next few years, although Jurassic Park may give it a run for its money.

And even though the core Fast films are driving into the sunset, that doesn’t mean that additional spin-offs like the incredibly popular Hobbes & Shaw won’t be in the works — there will still likely be insane, action-packed, FF-adjacent content in the future, and that should be enough to keep fans’ engines running for awhile.

The production and release dates for the tenth and eleventh Fast & Furious films are unknown. The ninth film, F9, premieres on May 28, 2021.


Why does evolution keep turning different species into crabs? @ Syfy Wire

This one may come at you sideways: Given enough time, Mother Nature has an unexpected gift for turning its little living creations into seafood. A new report has cracked open the discovery that, in no fewer than five documented cases, species that started out as something else ended up evolving into the same crab-like animal — hard shell and all.

The study, which got the internet boiling with buzz after being picked up recently by Popular Mechanics, was originally published in 2017 in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, and finds that “amazingly similar structural coherences exist” between a number of crustacean species that evolved separately to share “crab-like forms.”

The studied species all developed the same basic “crab-like habitus,” or basic outer structure that defines their body, despite having differing evolutionary ancestors. With some degree of specific variation, they all evolved similar hardened shells, in the same familiar broad, flat shape. But in a first discovery for the scientific world, the study even found that their internal anatomical structures — things like the vascular and nervous systems — also began to arrange themselves similarly over time.

The process by which this keeps happening, according to the study, is carcinization — literally, according to its Greek etymology, the crab-ifying of species. Researchers believe that, despite local differences, the reasons carcinization occurs are all physical: time, temperature, gravity, and the similar conditions of life in shallow aquatic reaches all converge — time and time again, it seems — to take a perfectly good original crustacean and pressure it into becoming more crab-like.

Parallel evolutionary traits aren’t unheard of across other species (with PM noting marsupials’ separate pouch development in different times and places, as one example). But if you’re an upstart species somewhere along the shore who’s looking to make waves in the evolutionary timeline, watch out — your descendants may just end up studying their distant family history through a pair of beady eyes.


The Fast and Furious Saga Will End With a Two-Part Mega Finale @ io9

All good things must come to an end and such is the case with the Fast and Furious. Universal Pictures has decided that two more films will be needed, after 2021's F9, to close out the epic action franchise that began back in 2001.

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WIRE Buzz: Old Guard, Cobra Kai dominate Netflix; Snow White retelling 'Poisoned' heading to big screen; more @ Syfy Wire

First up in this evening edition of WIRE Buzz, Netflix has revealed that its subscribers want genre films and television more than anything else the streamer has to offer, or at least they did last quarter. In its recently released earnings report, the streaming giant revealed that its most watched film was the Charlize Theron-led sci-fi actioner The Old Guard, garnering 78 million views in its first four weeks. 

Other original genre films have drawn in similar numbers. The company revealed that Project Power, starring Jamie Foxx, clocked 75 million views in the same timeframe. And the higher-ups at Netflix are expecting Enola Holmes, starring Millie Bobby Brown and Henry Cavill, to get 76 million households to watch within its first four weeks of being on the streaming service. 

Meanwhile, Cobra Kai continues to sweep the leg of other shows, being the streamer’s most popular series (hey, people loved it when it was originally on YouTube) with 50 million accounts tuning in to see the further adventures of middle-aged Danny and Johnny. The Karate Kid sequel series beat out Ratched (48 million views), The Umbrella Academy (43 million), and Lucifer (38 million).

And clearly Netflix plans to keep the party going, as it assured shareholders in a letter that production on future seasons of Stranger Things, The Witcher, and Cobra Kai are all underway. Clearly the company knows that genre fare is what’s keeping the lights on.


Speaking of genre fare, Endeavor Content has acquired the film rights of another YA novel by Jennifer Donnelly that revamps a classic fairy tale. This time, it's Poisoned, Donnelly’s feminist take on the tale of Snow WhiteDeadline is reporting that Lynette Howell Taylor’s 51 Entertainment and Bruna Papandrea’s Made Up Stories will produce.

Described as “an empowering re-imagining” of the classic story, the Scholastic novel follows a girl named Sophie after she’s sent off into the forest with the queen’s huntsman. Upon surviving an attempt on her life with the help of seven strangers, Sophie realizes that the jealous queen may not be to blame, and she may be facing a far greater foe.

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Poisoned marks the second novel by Donnelly that’s been optioned for adaptation by Endeavor and the producers; the first being her 2019 novel Stepsister, a feminist take on Cinderella. Emma Frost has finished a script for that film, and the producers are in discussions with possible directors. This is all part of a plan to create a universe of films and TV shows based on Donnelly’s feminist retellings of venerable fairy tales, where the main characters are badass heroines rather than weak victims awaiting rescue from handsome princes.

Deadline has quoted Donnelly as describing Howell Taylor and Papandrea as “two extraordinary women with an immense passion for telling stories that challenge us, inspire us, and forever change us,” before adding: “Poisoned’s fierce, formidable, feminist characters are in incredibly talented hands, and I’m so excited to follow them on their journey from the page to the screen.”


Finally, Amazon Studios has picked up a sci-fi anthology series from the creator of the streaming giant’s hit series Hunters, Deadline is reporting.

The as-yet untitled series from writer David Weil will tell seven standalone character-driven stories in which each character will embark upon a journey “in an uncertain future.” And although each episode will tell separate stories, they’ll all follow the theme of showing how our humanity connects us all even when we feel most alone. 

The series, which is part of an overall deal that Weill signed with Amazon Studios in November, is scheduled to premiere on Prime Video sometime in 2021.


6 Video Games Where Dressing Up Is Part of the Fun @ io9

Video games are a great way to explore unique worlds and test the limits of your abilities—but let’s be honest, they’re also about wearing cool outfits. Some games have taken this to the next level by featuring not just great outfits but also fantastic costumes.

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An ode to the power of Clancy Brown’s voice @ Syfy Wire

There are a lot of reasons that one falls in love with a particular actor. Sometimes, it's as simple as physical attractiveness — some performers are simply so good looking that it’s practically impossible to look away from them no matter what your personal aesthetic preferences might be. (Look, there’s a reason that Chris Evans is Captain America, is what I’m saying.)

Often, we realize that a performer we loved in our youths has adapted to a new era of their career in a particularly interesting or appealing way that makes us reconsider them with fresh eyes. (Hi, Keanu. May the John Wick franchise go on forever.) And still other times, there are those that you literally just can’t get out of your head, for whatever reason.

These are the Hey! It’s That Guy types, actors who show up often in the films and television properties you most enjoy. You may not know their names precisely, but you recognize their faces and know that — whatever their name is — they’re definitely talented in some particular way. Usually, it’s that they have a familiar face, or tend to play the same sorts of parts across platforms and genres. But, sometimes, it’s because they have a voice you would know anywhere.

Which brings us to Clancy Brown, one of the all-time best examples of this latter group.  

This is not to imply that Brown is somehow unattractive or uninteresting — far from it, in fact. Truthfully, for those of us with a certain established interest in silver foxes, he’s now situated squarely in our personal thirst wheelhouse at the age of 61. And, in all honesty, he’s making more interesting choices now as a performer than he ever has before. But, as an actor, he does have something of a track record in terms of picking the sort of dark, messy, character-driven parts that aren’t anything close to what you might call heartthrobs or heroes.

And that’s largely because of the power of that voice. 

Brown’s voice, which resonates at the sort of ridiculously deep and, quite frankly, often terrifying timbre that has kept him in constant work as a variety of video game villains and cartoon henchmen over the years, can generally be described by no word other than 'epic.'  

Credit: Nickelodeon

As a result, his catalog of voice work is positively massive, ranging from 20 years as Spongebob Squarepants’ money-obsessed employer Mr. Krabs, to nearly a dozen as the villainous Lex Luthor across a variety of DC animated properties. He’s had roles in franchises that range from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Incredible Hulk to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Star Wars: The Clone Wars (where he, of course, voiced Darth Maul’s brother). 

In terms of pop culture impact, Brown is probably best known for his role in the award-winning film The Shawshank Redemption in which he plays Captain Bryon Hadley, a sadistic prison guard who delights in lording his power over Tim Robbins’ unfairly imprisoned Andy Dufresne. But outside of a few rare roles in which he gets to play the occasionally nice guy, like Sleepy Hollow’s poor doomed Sheriff August Corbin, you’re much more likely to have witnessed Brown playing a wide variety of terrible men. From Billions’ swaggering Attorney General Waylon "Jock" Jeffcoat to villainous antagonist The Kurgan in Highlander, Brown’s voice has helped him become a go-to guy when someone, anyone at all, needs a convincing baddie. 

Even Brown’s turn on the popular medical drama ER, where you’d think he'd at least get the chance to play a nice guy who dates a doctor or something, instead involved playing a sleazy corporate representative for a business that helps hospitals streamline operating costs (read: fire people). So, you’d be forgiven for basically automatically assuming that when Brown’s name appears in the credits, he’s probably playing a less-than-savory character. 

This is why his best television turn is actually found on a show most people probably haven’t seen — one that offered him not just a chance to show off his bombastic vocal range, but to use it as just one element of a complicated, multi-dimensional man (or monster, depending on what episode you watch).

The 2003 HBO drama Carnivale only ran for two seasons, but was something of a herald of the puzzle box prestige genre series that would come after it. The show forced its viewers to tackle complex storytelling and solidly gray characters with selfish and/or inscrutable motivations. Baically a battle between good and evil played out against the bleak backdrop of 1930s Dust Bowl America, the show follows the story of Ben Hawkins and Justin Crowe, two men gifted with powerful supernatural abilities. 

Credit: HBO

One is a carnival worker with the ability to heal the sick, and another is a Methodist preacher with the power to compel and manipulate others, largely through — you guessed it — his voice. Both are initially presented eerily, if not disturbingly similar, and Carnivale delights in suggesting at various points that though one man may technically be an avatar of light and the other one of darkness, they can often feel fairly interchangeable (at least, initially). Every prophet in his house and all. 

Rarely has the combination of role and actor worked so well as it does in Brown’s portrayal of Brother Justin, a man of frequently admirable intentions, but dangerously ruthless will. His fire and brimstone-laced tirades and ominous yet constant scripture quoting are wonderfully entertaining, but it is in Justin’s quieter moments — oddly, enough in the silence — that Brown’s performance truly shines.

Perhaps for a man who so often plays dark characters, there is something especially fascinating about getting the chance to portray one who wants so badly to be a champion of light and goodness (only to turn out to be the dark Usher of the Apocalypse in the end). The tragedy of Brown’s Justin is not that he is evil, but that he truly believes he has been sent to do good. 

The tragedy for us, of course, is that Carnivale was canceled before we ever got to see the end of Justin’s story, or how Brown’s performance would have evolved as the character slipped further into darkness (and, you know, was resurrected from the dead, but that’s neither here nor there). And though Brown’s career has continued along successfully ever since — his role in horror anthology film The Mortuary Collection is here just in time for the spooky season on streaming platform Shudder — it’s hard not to wonder what might have happened in a world where Carnivale was the hit it deserved to be.


Lou Diamond Phillips Wrote a Sci-Fi Novel and We Asked Him All About It @ io9

Everybody has a favorite Lou Diamond Phillips performance—ever since his breakout in 1987's La Bamba, he’s worked steadily in movies and TV, including his current gig on Fox crime drama Prodigal Son. This week, he’s embracing yet another new role: sci-fi novelist, with the release of his first book, The Tinderbox:

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Frog Brothers Corey Feldman & Jamison Newlander reunite for more Lost Boys hijinks @ Syfy Wire

Vampires and other ghouls beware! The Frog Brothers are back to fight the supernatural forces of darkness. Bloody Disgusting has confirmed that Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander will be reprising their famous Lost Boys roles in a new, Ghost Hunters-esque reality series: "Corey & Jamison’s Real Frog Adventures." Feldman will debut the first episode on his YouTube channel this Thursday (Oct. 22) at 9:30 p.m. EST right after the Child USA Awards. New installments are scheduled to premiere every four days until the finale on Halloween (Saturday, Oct. 31).

"Although Jamison and Corey both know the sorrow and emptiness that comes with losing a brother on the field, in this exciting, entertaining and fun miniseries, the two are combing their vampire hunting skills and sensitivity towards the spiritual world, with some good old fashioned technology," reads the official synopsis provided by BD. "The 'brothers' will travel to Pennsylvania to investigate the Farrington House/Inn from the Civil War era. There, they will team up with a Ghost busting hunter and retrace every step of his discovery to find out if ghosts really do exist."

Watch the teaser trailer below:

Feldman and Newlander came together as the Frog Bros. last fall for a cameo in an Ekho music video.

"I do love Edgar Frog. Edgar Frog is certainly one of my favorites, because it was for me crossing a bridge as an actor. There's a thing that they do in the studio system where they fight you expanding from who you are. In other words, they want you to play as close to yourself as you are, because that's why they cast you, because they want you as your type," Feldman told SYFY WIRE over the summer. "But then you, as an actor, you want to expand because you don't want to just play yourself, you want to play these great performances, you want to do these great characters, these ideas… so it's always this kind of tug of war creatively. So for me, Edgar Frog was great, because it was like Joel Schumacher did the exact opposite. He gave me rein. He was like, 'Here you go, here's what I want, go create this character for me."

A TV show based on the '80s classic is currently in the works at The CW. Following several script delays, production once again hit a snag in the form of the COVID-19 delay. Its future remains uncertain at this time, but we do know that it is set to bring the Frog siblings back as the Frog Sisters. Speaking with SYFY WIRE over the summer, musician G Tom Mac (who is writing songs for the series) described them as "really cool" and having "a very girl power factor going on with them." Mac is also working on a Lost Boys musical for Broadway, another project that's stuck in limbo.

Lost Boys director Joel Schumacher passed away in late July at the age of 80. He was remembered by fans, Feldman, and the oiled-up sax man, Tim Cappello. The movie's cinematographer, Michael Chapman, died last month.


The Old Guard, one of 2020's few 'blockbusters,' is now the blueprint for representation in tentpole films @ Syfy Wire

As a gay genre geek who loves comic book movies and tentpole films, I’ve longed to see superheroes and space warriors on the big screen who represent me. Thankfully, The Old Guard, one of the few big movie events of 2020, gave me a chance to see myself and presented a loving queer relationship in a refreshingly nonchalant manner. Both Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli) are two openly gay immortals who’re in an interracial, and inter-religious, relationship. Most importantly, their relationship isn’t made out to be a big deal, a shocking reveal, or a background set piece. And months after the film first premiered on Netflix in July, The Old Guard has snatched up several E! People's Choice Awards nominations, including "The Movie of 2020," proving just how hard it hit.

In 2020, showing two men in love shouldn’t seem like a big deal. Yet, given how the realm of tentpole fare is predominantly heteronormative, Joe and Nicky’s relationship was monumental — a moment that set social media ablaze — and serves as further proof that LGBTQ+ fans don’t have to lean into subtext or queercoding to see themselves represented. In addition, studios shouldn’t have to make any more preannounced empty promises of queer visibility; as SYFY FANGRRLS has written, “after literal centuries of queer representation being stifled or outright destroyed by the Bury Your Gays trope, maybe immortal queer superheroes who fight for their love and murder homophobes is exactly what we deserve...”

What fans don't deserve are queer characters in films who only occupy the “blink and you’ll miss it” background moments. For instance, it was revealed that 2016's Star Trek Beyond would portray Sulu (John Cho) as a gay man with a family before the picture’s release. Yet, it only showed him reuniting with his partner and their child as a literal background moment to the larger plot at hand.

Then there’s that time before Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hit theaters, and director J.J. Abrams promised that the Star Wars franchise would be more queer-inclusive. But when The Rise of Skywalker did come out, it didn’t entirely live up to that promise. The queer-inclusive moment turned out to be two women kissing in celebration in another “blink and you’ll miss it” sequence. 

It’s as if filmmakers are saying they know that LGBTQ+ people exist, yet are willing to hastily put them on the sidelines to avoid any backlash from hate groups or avoid risking poor financial results. Given how tentpole films have large budgets and rely on overseas box office revenue,  LGBTQ+ people are easily underrepresented since countries like China, which is on track to be the world’s largest cinema market according to a CNBC article from last year, have strict, homophobic laws. 

Because The Old Guard is a Netflix film that lives outside the studio machine, it doesn’t have to worry about such restrictions. As a result, the filmmakers have free reign to show characters expressing their queerness whether it’s through a discussion of their relationship woes or a passionate kiss. Not to mention, the marketing team had some leeway to show a promo clip of the pivotal kiss between Joe and Nicky before the picture hit streaming. It felt as though this quick, one-minute clip served as an antidote to the preannounced “exclusive gay moments” or “first gay character” brownie point reveals we’ve gotten in the past.

Remember when the Russo Brothers hyped up the first openly gay character to appear in the MCU when promoting Avengers: Endgame? That character was a grieving man, played by Joe Russo, who appears in a therapy scene with Captain America and talks about his former partner. After appearing in that one scene, he doesn’t appear and plays no key part in the storyline. He was a background character who the directors might’ve felt was a way of expressing allyship, but ended up feeling more like forced window dressing. 

Ultimately, there’s a big difference between tokenism and integration. Tokenism would be when a gay character doesn’t contribute to the story and exists just to be “the gay character” like the aforementioned character in Endgame known only as "Grieving Man." But the depiction of Joe and Nicky in The Old Guard is an incredibly fine example of integration — they’re vital to the storyline by combatting the main antagonist along with their comrades without their queerness being defining characteristics. We get small moments of Joe and Nicky acknowledging their sexualities, but their defining traits are how they act as a source of humor for the group during the most dramatic moments — and of course, their passionate chemistry. 

Before The Old Guard, we have recently gotten small hints of queer visibility in the realm of tentpole cinema. A few years ago, Deadpool 2 brought back the sidekick Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), who had a less prominent role than she did in the first film. But in her first scene, she casually introduces fellow mutant Yukio (Shiori Kutsuna) as her girlfriend. Thankfully, the film didn’t allow them to serve as token queer characters since they got to fight in the final battle. They may only appear in a handful of scenes, but the presentation of their relationship still proved to be a small yet crucial step forward.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

That being said, The Old Guard proves that we don’t need to take any more small steps toward open visibility or need to wait for the right time for it to happen. Joe and Nicky got to share an on-screen kiss while kicking a**, the DC heroine Batwoman had her own CW series (before Ruby Rose left the role), and the animated series Harley Quinn features the titular villain in a same-sex relationship with Poison Ivy. As realistic and respectful queer representation starts to creep in from the television and streaming side, it becomes more and more clear that the major film studio system has plenty of catching up to do.

Now, with Joe and Nicky’s touching romance, any excuse for not portraying queer love, or an openly queer character, on such a large-scale picture is void. This isn’t to say that such films should have graphic physical content to prove a character’s queerness. Rather, show characters freely discussing their sexualities while being genuinely well-rounded characters who just happen to be queer. 

Those involved in tentpole properties like the DC or Marvel Cinematic Universes may have talked about being more representative, which is better than not discussing it at all. But as The Old Guard director Gina Prince-Bythewood and co. have proven, it’s best to have this discussion no longer be just a discussion. 

Representation indeed matters and a relationship like the one Joe and Nicky have should be shown more often to strike a chord with people who love as they do. It certainly meant a lot to this writer. 

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

The Best Thing About Marvel's Very Loud Warhammer 40K Comic Is the Quietest Detail @ io9

Games Workshop’s dystopian Warhammer 40,000 setting is comically, ear-splittingly loud. Its grimdark sendup of over the top excess means everything is slammed so far beyond 11 that 11 is a mere dot to the denizens of the 41st millennium: violence, aesthetic, characters, scale. Marvel’s new Warhammer comic gets this,…

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The Blob? Life-forms on early Earth were probably blobs of bacteria @ Syfy Wire

When the first life-forms spawned in the primordial soup that eventually became what we know as our planet, what were they really like? It could have been something that at least looks as if it came straight out of a sci-fi-horror double feature.

Whatever the Blob was really supposed to be, it is unknown whether that thing — which famously terrorized a movie theater in the 1958 film (and its 1988 remake, above) — was just one massive alien amoeba or a monster conglomeration of amoebas. Life-forms like this are not so fictional if it was the latter. Biofilms are globs of bacteria that can function as a single multicellular organism. Until now, unicellular microbes were thought to have been the first life on Earth. New research has found that some biofilms not only grow like animal embryos, but possibly evolved like them.

“It is undisputable that the cell is the basic unit of life; however, that does not readily imply that the first life was strictly unicellular. At least some models envisage that protocells were organized in biofilm-like structures,” said biologist Tomislav Domazet-Lošo, a professor at the Catholic University of Croatia in Zagreb, who recently led a study published in Molecular Biology and Evolution.

You will never, ever escape from microbes. No living thing possibly could. They crawl all over your body, inside and out, from the tiny dinosaurs that clean your eyelashes to gut bacteria that keep you from getting indigestion. Previous studies that looked at the behavior of bacterial biofilms proved that bacteria can be social. However, they never really went so far as to determine how the ontogeny of biofilms, or how they develop, compared to their phylogeny, which is how they have evolved over billions of years. Being multicellular seemed to be something exclusive to plants, animals, and fungi. That thinking was about to get attacked by a microscopic version of the Blob.

Using genomic phylostratigraphy, a computational method that dates genes and proteins by making the connection between them and their oldest ancestor, the team was able to find out which bacteria in which biofilms were linked to particular ancestors. This kind of analysis can reveal the evolutionary periods when an organism made important adaptive changes. They then investigated biofilms of the bacteria Bacillus subtilis, which showed that genes which evolved later were also switched on in the later phases of biofilm development. It was proof that B. subtilis ontogeny mirrors its phylogeny.

Bacteria turned out to be much more complex than anyone would have thought before. Biofilms actually develop like a multicellular organism—without a brain, they can still send messages like our brains do, are able to divide labor, and even recognize themselves. Other aspects of the biofilm that were eerily close to a developing embryo included its stages of growth and certain changes in morphology. The most critical transitions in the B. subtilis occurred twice, when genes changed transcription (how they copied information). Even genes that were thought to be used only by multicellular organisms were found in the blob.

“Multicellularity is not a rare evolutionary transition as it has independently evolved many times in various lineages,” Domazet-Lošo said. “However, at every independent occurrence, it seems to be governed by the similar basic principles that include a macroevolutionary imprint.”

So does this mean that we’re going to be seeing massive blobs of bacteria oozing into movie theaters and diners and other places where they definitely don’t belong? Probably not, unless they actually breed with alien amoebas. However, the find could revolutionize how pathogenic biofilms are approached in the medical field. If the bacteria behind a disease are approached as a biofilm that grows in stages instead of billions of individuals that keep multiplying to no end, it could mean a change in treatment that possibly thwarts that disease before it turns lethal.

If you do want an extraterrestrial Blob experience, though, there’s always (when the pandemic finally gets off this planet) Blobfest.

The 10 Best Deals of October 20, 2020 @ io9

Not even science can figure out which horror film is the scariest ever made @ Syfy Wire

It's October once again, which means that genre fans are of course looking towards the spookier side of cinema for all their chills and thrills. Hardened members of the horror film fandom are probably searching for some movies that will push them beyond their already warped comfort zones. Unfortunately, those seeking the most frightening, the scariest of the scary, probably shouldn't turn to science for recommendations.

BroadbandChoices recently held a study trying to pin down the scariest horror film, subjecting a panel of 50 people to 50 different horror films while monitoring their heart rates. Aside from already limiting their scope to a preordained 50 (allegedly compiled from "critic's lists and Reddit recommendations"), this seems like a flawed methodology. Scary movies don't rest entirely on pulse-pushing fright or dread, though sure, some do.

Of the ones tested here, Sinister topped the ranking, beating out the others in the top five: InsidiousThe ConjuringHereditary, and Paranormal Activity. A pretty serious modern trend, if nothing else. While Sinister was the most consistently scary, with the highest average difference between resting and in-movie heart rates, Insidious actually had the biggest jump scare spike at 133 BPM.

But then you have GIGACalculator's study, which completely contradicts it. Their study gave 150 volunteers just ten films to watch, curated by "2,542 horror film fans" who took a survey asking for the "top 10 scariest horror films of all time." Already, the data seems limited. These 10 — which, listed in order by results, are Hereditary, Saw, The Babadook, Insidious, A Quiet Place, The Descent, Us, It, The Conjuring 2, and The Exorcist — are also hyper-modern and have a glaring flaw if looking for a definitive answer: Sinister wasn't even in the running! Instead, Hereditary took the top spot with an average BPM of 115. That's a full 29 beats per minute higher than the average for the previous study's leader. Were these participants just an unhealthier group?

Regardless of the reasoning, simply comparing these two studies illuminates tons of flaws with letting science pick your content for you. Truly finding the scariest film probably isn't possible because defining the parameters and methodologies won't solve the biggest problem: horror is subjective. Looks like fans will need to watch most things themselves to find out what really scares them the most...science be damned.

 

Disneyland Finally Has a Path to Reopening, But It's Not Going to Be Easy @ io9

California’s theme parks have been waiting months for a reopening plan from the state’s governor, and it’s finally arrived. California’s Health and Human Services Agency has unveiled what it will take for Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, and other theme parks to open during the novel coronavirus pandemic—and…

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So what’s Captain America’s daily caloric intake? New book The Wakanda Files digs into the MCU @ Syfy Wire

Since Wakanda (FOREVER!) is the most technologically advanced nation in the world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it only makes sense that the country would have an ever-expanding archive of scientific data at their disposal. Indeed, Shuri (Wakanda's princess and also its brightest mind) has been keeping a close eye on empirical and theoretical advancements that date back to the 1940s when Howard Stark assisted in the creation of Captain America.

All of her research is compiled into one convenient database known as The Wakanda Files — a brand-new book from Epic Ink. Described as a "A Technological Exploration of the Avengers and Beyond," the 160-page tome (now on sale) helps flesh out the MCU with insights on human enhancement, transportation, weapons, artificial intelligence, weapons, and mind control. It covers everything from the birth of Captain America to the time-traveling possibilities of the Quantum Realm. There's even an explanation for what happened to that bottle of soda containing a droplet of Bruce Banner's gamma-irradiated blood. Plus, make sure to scour each page for hidden messages with a Kimoyo Bead-shaped UV light.

SYFY WIRE has only just scratched the surface of The Wakanda Files, but here are five tidbits we learned from our first read-through...

Shuri's breakthroughs

Credit: Marvel Studios/Disney

According to The Wakanda Files, Shuri began looking into a way to synthesize the Heart-Shaped Herb (the plant that gives the Black Panther their abilities) after Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) burned the entire supply following his usurpation of the throne. She even considers stabilizing the effects of her synthetic herb by adding some vibranium into the mix, but notes that she can't do much until she has studied a sample of the original botanical.

Shuri later notes that she finds herself fascinated with the Extremis research done by Aldrich Killian's colleague, Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall). While Extremis ended up causing people to explode, it follows the line of thinking that if you treat "the human brain like a supercomputer" you can make it think "that it has the abilities of cytokini and auxin in plants," which then allows the body to regrow lost appendages. Shuri states that the idea "has potential," hinting that she'll be picking up where Hansen and A.I.M. left off. M.O.D.O.K. here we come!

Oh, and you know that cool remote driving Shuri did in Seoul? Yeah, that tech only works on cars made in the 1970s or later, according to The Wakanda Files.

Captain America's body is insanely strong

Credit: Marvel Studios/Disney

OK, yeah — we already knew that Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) was a "super-soldier," but what exactly does that mean? Well, after being injected with Dr. Erskine's serum and exposed to Vita-Rays, Cap's metabolism became so fast that he can burn almost 8,000 calories a day, simply by resting! That increased metabolism is also why he was able to survive in the sub-zero temperatures of the Arctic without dying. According to a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. memo sent to Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) from Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), "his increased metabolism and his increased immune system put him into a cryogenic hibernation."

Even the Nazis thought Red Skull was nuts

Credit: Marvel Studios/Disney

When Nazis (yeah, those guys) start thinking you're too hardcore, then maybe there's something wrong with you. In a telegram to Doctor Zola (Toby Jones), Gestapo chief Heinrich Müller accuses Johann Schmidt (aka Red Skull, played by Hugo Weaving) of madness. After diverting money and resources to HYDRA, the German High Command was becoming very impatient with waiting for Schmidt to fulfill his promise of delivering wonder weapons. Little did they know that Red Skull was planning to double-cross them. 

Like Steve Rogers, Schmidt was given a dose of Erskine's serum, albeit a prototype version. This gave him the "strength of 10 men or more," according to some World War II-era testimony from Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). However, there were unforeseen and "extreme side effects," Carter says, "including the burning away of the skin and tissue surrounding his skull and nasal cavity [which] left an unpleasant red scab."

A possible Shang-Chi tease?

Credit: Marvel Studios/Disney

In the book, the opening chapter on "Human Enhancement" features a memo from the office of President Ellis (William Sadler) to the U.S. Secretary of Defense that mentions "the current threat of the Mandarin and the Ten Rings." While this is framed within the context of Iron Man 3 (in which the Mandarin was revealed to be a two-bit actor named Trevor Slattery), there's no way that this isn't a clever nod to fans excited to see the real Mandarin played by Tony Leung in Destin Daniel Cretton's Shang-Chi movie. The threat is still out there!

As the Marvel one-shot All Hail the King revealed, the actual Mandarin (and by extension, his terrorist group known as the Ten Rings) wasn't happy about being impersonated. In the comics, the rings are alien-made objects that grant different abilities to the person who wields them. With that in mind, it's no stretch of the imagination to think that Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) will be tasked with overcoming the otherworldly powers of the Mandarin's hand bling.

Tony was aware of branching realities

(Credit: Disney/Marvel)

Thanks to some wisdom from the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), we know that the Infinity Stones create the literal flow of time. If one is removed from the past, it doesn't alter the present, but creates an entirely new reality that branches off in its own unique direction that often leads to disaster. That's why it was so important for Cap to return each one to their respective time periods following the "time heist" in Avengers: Endgame.

That said, the book makes it seem like Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) was already aware of this fact in an encrypted message sent to Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), in which he shares his findings on the time-space GPS. Using David Deutsch's model of Quantum mechanics, Tony writes that "altering events of the past could never affect the continuous loop. Though, it could create tangential split-timelines." He quickly follows that up with: "Let's not worry about that for the time being, right? One reality at a time. For all our sanity."

It's morphin' time: Power Rangers franchise getting new film, TV reboot @ Syfy Wire

It's morphin' time! The Power Rangers, who have taken innumerable forms since they made their Stateside transformation from Japan's Super Sentai into the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, are getting another reboot — this time under the command of one creator.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Jonathan Entwistle is taking over the colorful '90s franchise on both film and TV. Entwistle is the creator behind Netflix's It’s the End of the F***ing World adaptation and director of its superpowered I Am Not Okay With This series — two teen-centric shows with a genre bent. Now he's set to create a new shared universe of adaptations for the Rangers on screens both big and small under Hasbro's recently acquired production banner eOne.

Entwistle had been planning and developing a Rangers movie at Paramount, but now things have grown in scope and shifted under eOne — bringing the project even closer to home for toy titan Hasbro.

“Jonathan has an incredible creative vision for this iconic and hugely successful franchise, and is hands down the right architect to join us as we reimagine the television and film worlds of this property,” eOne film president Nick Meyer and eOne global television president Michael Lombardo said in a joint statement. “Across our slate, we are looking forward to working with the most talented storytellers as we take on Hasbro’s rich fan-favourite brands and build entertainment universes around them."

The first of those storytellers is Entwistle, whose plans for the beloved and nostalgia-laden franchise involve bringing "the spirit of analog into the future, harnessing the action and storytelling that made this brand a success."

No word on when these plans may start heading into fruition, but here's hoping they're more successful than the 2017 film reboot that tried a darker PG-13 tone — and had a so-so box office and critical reception.

Power Rangers' Newest Movie Reboot Is Now a TV Franchise, Too @ io9

The man previously attached to make a new Power Rangers movie has just powered up into something much more.

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Why every horror fan owes it to themselves to check out Archie Horror @ Syfy Wire

What comes to mind when you hear the words Archie Comics? Archie and Jughead? Betty and Veronica? Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe? Good wholesome comics? Maybe the ever-popular CW series? But did you know that something more sinister exists beneath the surface in Riverdale if you dig deep enough — vampires, werewolves, the undead... even satanic cults?

Whether you’re a Riverdale fan, an Archie Comics fan, or most importantly a lover of horror, the Archie Horror line has something for you. Whether your preference is the zombie apocalypse, a teen vampire slayer, killer werewolves, or satanic cults, there’s literally something for every type of horror fan. With Halloween right around the corner, there's no better time to check out these fantastic books. You can find them at any comic book retailer or at Archie Comics’ online store.

The Portable Atari Mini Pong Jr. Is Like a Nintendo Switch That Only Plays Pong @ io9

Atari continues to struggle with getting its long-promised throwback console to consumers, but in the meantime it’s turned one of its most iconic games into a portable gaming machine that allows two players to smack a blocky ball back and forth across a virtual ping-pong table. Pong is back...again...but now in a more…

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WIRE Buzz: Jamie Foxx in vampire comedy 'Day Shift'; X-Files creator says future is 'unwritten'; & Wicked @ Syfy Wire

Vampire hunting business is in season with Halloween around the corner, and for Jamie Foxx, business is good.

Variety reports that the actor will star in and executive produce Netflix's vampire comedy Day Shift, teaming up with the streamer once again after appearing in its superhero film Project Power. Now there's a new genre beast to tackle: the vampire. Foxx is playing a secretive vampire hunter whose business (cleaning pools) acts as a front for his real line of work. He's got an 8-year-old daughter and plenty of expertise killing bloodsuckers — sounds like a What We Do in the Shadows subplot if there ever was one.

JJ Perry is directing, making his feature debut after being a stunt coordinator and second unit helmer on things like Bloodshot and the John Wick series, from a script by Tyler Tice and Shay Hatten.

“I’ve known and worked with JJ for a long time. His unique vision of Day Shift makes it such a great first directorial project for him," said Wick's Chad Stahelski (who's also producing Day Shift).

No timeline has yet been announced for the film.


Next, the man behind The X-Files gave fans an update about the franchise's future.

Speaking on The Conspiracy Podcast, Chris Carter addressed the future of the main series now that Gillian Anderson has made it clear that she's no longer interested in continuing the role of Agent Scully. Carter said that's not a total dealbreaker for the show.

“Skinner, Mulder, Scully, and William’s stories are still unresolved. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to do that," Carter explained. "Being that Gillian has decided to move on with her career, we certainly couldn’t do Mulder and Scully again. But that’s not to say there isn’t another way to do The X-Files. And so right now I think the future is unwritten.”

But there is the upcoming animated spin-offThe X-Files: Albuquerque, which has gotten traction at Fox. "That came as a result of COVID-19 and as a way of putting some people to work," Carter said. "I've always wanted to do an animated project and this seemed like an interesting opportunity...I haven't read a script, so it's really hard to say what my involvement will be, but I will say this: it needs to be funny."

No word on The X-Files: Albuquerque timeline.


Finally, Wicked seems to have lost a little of its magic (and its director) on its way to the big screen.

Deadline reports that Stephen Daldry has dropped out of the adaptation, leaving the hit musical about The Wizard of Oz's Glinda the Good and Elphaba, the would-be Wicked Witch of the West, in the wind. At least it's not a tornado. Based on Gregory Maguire's novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, the musical adaptation was set to follow in Cats' footsteps onto the silver screen...with hopefully more success.

The reasoning behind Daldry's exit is a mix of problems spanning creativity and COVID-19: Universal was apparently pushing for a quicker production pace than Daldry wanted, and his London shooting stage locale hit a shortage. Whoever snaps up the job, the new director will be working with stage scribes Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman's script.

Universal hopes to start filming late next year.

Gillian Anderson returns to Dana Scully. 

Disney+'s Willow Series Has a Director, a Start Date, and One Warwick Davis @ io9

Here’s a spot of good cheer amid the general chaos of life lately: not only is the Ron Howard-produced, Warwick Davis-starring Willow sequel series for Disney+ moving full steam ahead, it’s just added an excellent director to its ranks: In the Heights and Crazy Rich Asians’ Jon M. Chu.

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Disney officially orders 'Willow' sequel series; Ron Howard and Warwick Davis returning @ Syfy Wire

Our return to the Nelwyn Valley is assured! Disney+ confirmed today that it has officially given the green light to a sequel TV series based on 1988's Willow. The beloved fantasy movie was co-written/produced by George Lucas and directed by Ron Howard. The latter is returning to executive-produce the show, while Warwick Davis is locked in to reprise the titular role of Willow Ufgood.

Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians, In the Heights) will sit in the director's chair for the pilot episode, written by co-showrunner Jonathan Kasdan (Solo: A Star Wars Story). Chu will also executive-produce, alongside Kasdan and co-showrunner Wendy Mericle (Arrow).

"Growing up in the ’80s, Willow has had a profound effect on me," Chu said in a statement. "The story of the bravest heroes in the least likely places allowed me, an Asian-American kid growing up in a Chinese restaurant looking to go to Hollywood, to believe in the power of our own will, determination and of course, inner magic. So the fact that I get to work with my heroes from Kathleen Kennedy to Ron Howard is bigger than a dream come-true. It’s a bucket-list moment for me. Jon Kasdan and Wendy Mericle have added such groundbreaking new characters and delightful surprises to this timeless story that I can’t wait for the world to come along on this epic journey with us."

Marking Lucasfilm's first foray into non-Star Wars storytelling since 2015, the Willow show takes place several years after the events of the movie and will introduce brand-new characters into the mythos of fairy queens and two-headed Eborsisk monsters. 

"So many fans have asked me over the years if Willow will make a return, and now I’m thrilled to tell them that he will indeed,” Davis said. “Many have told me they grew up with Willow and that the film has influenced how they view heroism in our own world. If Willow Ufgood can represent the heroic potential in all of us, then he is a character I am extremely honored to reprise."

"This is an exciting new era for storytelling at Lucasfilm," added Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, who is producing as well. "Jon Chu's vision, coupled with the writing of Jon Kasdan and Wendy Mericle, is going to take Willow into new and exciting directions for the series. Reuniting Ron Howard and Warwick Davis in the world of Willow is something that they've both wanted to do for some time, and I couldn’t be more proud of the incredible team we’ve put together to bring this series to Disney+."

Production on the Willow TV show is scheduled to kick off in Wales (where the first movie was shot) sometime next year. Bob Dolman, who wrote the original film, is attached to the project as a consulting producer. Released in May of 1988, Willow was met with mixed critical reception (it currently holds a 51% on Rotten Tomatoes) and made $57 million at the domestic box office against a budget of $35 million. Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley, Billy Barty, and Jean Marsh co-starred alongside Davis. By all accounts, however, the effort was a failure, but like Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal, Willow is another '80s-era fantasy flick that's only grown in popularity over the years after an underwhelming theatrical debut.

Disney has been flirting with the idea of a follow-up for some time now. Our last update came over the summer when Howard admitted that the sequel series was "in very active development." The scripting process began in early 2020.

"What's lovely about Willow is that there's so much love for the film, so much excitement about the possibility of there being more Willow, and there has been for years and years and years," Davis told SYFY WIRE in January. "So now, when there's a little bit of work being done to actually develop this and make this something that will be a reality, the internet has got ahead of itself a little bit and the excitement of the fandom has got ahead of where we are."


WandaVision explores themes of mental health present in the comics, says Elizabeth Olsen @ Syfy Wire

Don't be fooled by the quiet suburban life enjoyed by Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) in the WandaVision TV series coming to Disney+ later this year. There's a darkness lurking beneath the veneer of their idyllic existence that continues to hop between genres. Speaking with The New York Times, Olsen revealed that the show tackles some heavy topics like mental health, which is a big part of Scarlet Witch's character in the Marvel source material.

"WandaVision is such an incredible concept," the actress said. "It’s the first time we get to understand her as the Scarlet Witch that she is in the comics, and that’s exciting for me, because I haven’t yet been able to give her that time onscreen. So that’s going to be fun. She’s always been a representation of mental health and illness in the comic book series, and her major role is handling that stigma within Marvel."

When pressed for details about Vision's place in the story, Olsen clammed up. "That I can’t answer, because he died in [Avengers: Infinity War]. I'm sorry," she said, quickly apologizing with a laugh. "I know you wouldn’t care. I tell my friends, but I can’t tell you. They’re like you — they know nothing, so I just tell them everything because it doesn’t matter. I know it will go nowhere."

WandaVision Trailer | Marvel Entertainment

She also couldn't say much about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which WandaVision ties directly into. "Doctor Strange, I don’t know too much about, because it’s still kind of early. And then after that I would really love to do a five- or six-week independent film, with a beginning and an end," Olsen admitted.

"I really love working for Marvel. But the time part of it requires you to not be available for certain things, and that’s been heartbreaking," she concluded. "I think work is exciting as I get older. I’ve never really felt like a 20-year-old onscreen, and I’ve always felt excited to age. But when it comes to a career trajectory, I also really admire people who have lived many different lives in a lifetime, and I do want to play around with that. I have a lot of things I would like to do in my life, and it’s not just based in acting."

Credit: Marvel Studios/Disney+

During an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! earlier this month, Olsen recounted how she thought she was in trouble when Marvel Studios Kevin Feige president first called her to talk about WandaVision. It turns out she (and Bettany) had nothing to worry about — Feige is seemingly a pretty cool dude and doesn't expect his actors to completely accommodate their lives around the MCU.

"The thing that’s amazing about Marvel is that they never as producers tell anyone to get into any kind of physical shape," she told the NYT. "They don’t have expectations of you being thin or strong. They just assume that if you think your character needs that, that you will do that. It’s not something that they hold over you. I literally asked [Kevin] at one point, 'So when can I have kids? When can I be pregnant?' And he goes, 'Live your life, and we’ll work around it.' I don’t think it’s happening within the next five years, but it’s something I’m really excited for."

WandaVision is expected to premiere on Disney+ sometime in December. Showrun by Jac Schaeffer, it co-stars Teyonah Parris, Kat Dennings, Randall Park, and Kathryn Hahn. Multiverse of Madness is scheduled to open in theaters Mar. 25, 2022. Sam Raimi has been tapped to direct.


Billie Piper Reflects on Doctor Who, a Reboot She Didn't Think Would Last 3 Months @ io9

Doctor Who has become an international sensation ever since it was rebooted by the BBC in 2005, turning actors like David Tennant and Billie Piper into household names around the world. But Piper, who played the reboot’s first companion, recently shared how she didn’t think it was going to last three months, let alone…

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Scrapped Wonder Woman TV pilot came 'one or two' years too early to be a 'shoo-in,' says star Adrianne Palicki @ Syfy Wire

The year was 2011. The CW wouldn't kick off Arrow (or even think of its Arrowverse) for another year. The Avengers had yet to assemble on the big screen. And NBC was putting together a new Wonder Woman pilot. Adrianne Palicki, now known for playing Bobbi Morse in Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., was set to star as Diana Themyscira/Prince. David E. Kelley was putting it together. Cary Elwes, Elizabeth Hurley, Pedro Pascal, and more were involved. Then, after seeing the pilot, NBC passed. It could've been for any number of reasons, but for Palicki, it just seemed like it was a little before its time.

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, the actor looked back on the pilot that never went to series. “I feel like maybe if it had been [made] one or two more years [later], it would’ve been a shoo-in,” she said. “It was fun for me to get to play three different characters,” she said. “I loved that David E. Kelley is really great at writing really strong women, and I found he did that beautifully in all of the different personas. What they all still had was this beautiful vulnerability of isolation.”

Five years later, Gal Gadot took the world by storm with her big-screen portrayal of the classic character in the film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. NBC's would-be Wonder Woman was a fan. "It's so great to see this character come to life because it is important for young girls. She changed my life," Palicki said of Gadot's performance.

She also acknowledges the bright spots in not seeing the pilot continue to a full series. "I would not have had a life between the stunt rehearsals, being in every scene. It would’ve been worth it, but it probably would’ve aged me massively in three years," Palicki said, noting the expectations and workloads of actors playing TV superheroes. Back in a 2013 interview, Palicki noted that "it was probably a blessing" it didn't get picked up, even though she was "devastated when it didn’t go."

But working with Elwes made even the pilot worth the disappointment: "That and wearing the costume.” Who knows what would've happened had the pilot come after Arrow laid the groundwork for a DC TV universe? Perhaps Palicki would've dominated the small screen while Diana waited a little longer to hit the silver screen.

Those looking to see more Wonder Woman can catch the Amazonian warrior in Wonder Woman 1984 when it finally hits theaters on Dec. 25.

The sexiest monsters of Guillermo del Toro's filmography @ Syfy Wire

Tis the season for spookiness, thrills, and chills, and for all of us to stand up proudly and announce our love of sexy monsters. Do not worry, for you shall not be judged here on SYFY FANGRRLS for your tastes. Hell, we’d be major hypocrites if we started spreading our scorn on said subject. We here at Team FANGRRLS have expressed our great respect and not-so-subtle appreciation for vampires, werewolves, strutting robots with impeccable posteriors, Venom, Thanos, the occasional killer clown, and giant man-eating/f***ing spiders.

Of course, if you want to discuss sexy monsters then you must consider the work of the one and only Guillermo del Toro. The multi-Oscar-winning writer-director has been a crucial and pioneering voice in genre cinema for over 25 years. He is a lover of the magnificent dark, the underworlds of fairy tales and classic horror, and the beauty of the grotesque. He’s also arguably our generation’s greatest lover of sexy monsters. We guarantee you that nobody else, living or dead, loves and supports hot creatures as much as del Toro. Remember, this is the guy who made a romantic drama where a woman has red hot shower sex with a fish-man whose penis pops out when the occasion calls for it, and then won an Oscar for it. Truly, he has cracked the code.

Now, with Halloween on the horizon and the director celebrating his 56th birthday this month, it is only right that we dedicate some time to the sexiest monsters of Guillermo del Toro’s filmography. Frankly, it’s a real delight that there’s even enough of them for such a list. Bless you, Guadalajara's finest.

Police Violence Sparks a Werewolf Rebellion in This Excerpt from Cadwell Turnbull's No Gods, No Monsters @ io9

After the success of his 2019 debut The Lesson, speculative fiction author Cadwell Turnbull has a timely new fantasy novel on the way. It’s titled No Gods, No Monsters, and though it won’t be out until next fall, io9 has an excerpt to share as well as a first look at the cover.

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Back to the Future 4K: Watch how a sci-fi refrigerator evolved into the iconic DeLorean @ Syfy Wire

Deservedly so, Back to the Future perhaps has more dates worth celebrating than any other franchise. To name a few… there’s July 3, on which, in 1985, the film first opened in theaters. There’s Nov. 5,  when, in 1955, Doc Brown’s (Christopher Lloyd) toilet seat inspired him to invent time travel.

And, more pertinent to today, there’s Oct. 21, the day, in fictional 2015 at least, that Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc travel to the future to go see what’s up with Marty’s rotten kids. Ostensibly, it's the same reason that five years ago, in the actual 2015, a bunch of PR folks got together to declare it the official Back to the Future Day. 

So without further adieu… happy Back to the Future Day!

To celebrate such an important date, as well as the 35th anniversary of the gold standard of time-travel trilogies, Universal is releasing Back to the Future: The Ultimate Trilogy on 4K Ultra HD (for the first time ever). And SYFY WIRE has an exclusive look at one of the bonus features below, which reveals a woulda-shoulda-coulda alternate title. It also shows off the original design of the time machine, which let’s just say wasn’t exactly a DeLorean right out of the barn.

Check out the exclusive clip below:

“In the first two drafts of the script, the time machine was actually a time chamber built out of an old refrigerator which Doc Brown had to drag around on the back of a pickup truck,” co-writer/producer Bob Gale says in the clip.

But when they got into pre-production, Gale says it was director/co-writer Robert Zemeckis who figured out they had an opportunity to create something truly iconic, that kids, who would eventually become DeLorean-craving adults, would actually want to consume en masse.

“When we finally got the movie to pre-production, director Bob Zemeckis was starting to think about how he was going to film some of these scenes, and he came up with the brilliant idea it would make a lot more sense for Doc Brown to have built the time machine into a car,” Gale says. 

Granted, Gale doesn’t mention the appetite for time-travel the DeLorean incited, and instead focuses on what that meant practically for the production company: that it could be more easily moved from location to location. 

But he doesn’t really have to mention the results of said change, does he?

Not today, the official Back to the Future Day, which also happens to be the day you can finally go out and nab yourself a copy of Back to the Future: The Ultimate Trilogy on 4K Ultra HD4K.


 

Anthony Mackie Is Stuck Between an Alligator and an Armored Soldier @ io9

Stuck between a gator and a man charging at you in a suit of armor? I mean, really, who can’t relate?

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The World of Critical Role traces the series' journey from 'The Shire' to 'Mount Doom' @ Syfy Wire

The fantasy land of Exandria — a place that would eventually be the home of the adventurers of Vox Machina and The Mighty Nein — was created ages ago by the Prime Deities and the Betrayer Gods. Critical Role, the massively popular Dungeons & Dragons actual play streaming series, has a bit more mundane of an origin story, at first blush. It started when a group of friends decided to play a one-shot game of D&D to celebrate one of their birthdays. From there it evolved into a weekly show with hundreds of episodes, legions of fans, a record-setting Kickstarter campaign, upcoming animated series, and no end in sight. The World of Critical Role, a new hardcover book out today, tells the real-life story behind the series in a way that’s as impressive as anything that happened in Exandria’s fictional past.

“It very much feels like you’re looking at the map of the adventure that our adventuring party went on, our circle of friends,” Liam O’Brien, who plays the wizard Caleb Widowgast in the current campaign, tells SYFY WIRE ahead of the book’s release. “It’s really like seeing the group start in the Shire and eventually making our way to climb up Mount Doom.” 

Credit: Ray Kachatorian LLC

In many ways, The World of Critical Role shows how often the real story of the Critical Role cast and the story of the adventures they play in the weekly games overlapped. The book, which was written by Liz Marsham, features interviews with all seven players and Dungeon Master Matthew Mercer, giving longtime fans and newcomers alike a glimpse behind the scenes and exciting retellings of the events of the campaigns. Just as it’s a big deal for a sorcerer to go from slinging measly first-level spells to unleashing reality-changing, ninth-level arcane power, so too did the Critical Role crew level up as their game — and the company it spawned — evolved.

“The way in which we are an adventuring party with each of our own individual skills in the game ended up translating in real life, in the way that we work together as a company and we all have our individual strengths,” notes Marisha Ray, who currently plays the monk Beau and also serves as Critical Role’s creative director. “Hearing everybody’s perspectives of falling into that is very fun.”

One section of the book is full of pictures of that first game, meant to be a one-shot for O’Brien’s birthday, held in what was then Mercer and Ray’s small L.A. apartment. O’Brien took pictures of the game on a somewhat fancy camera as a joke, not knowing that years later they would serve as documentary evidence of Critical Role’s humble beginnings.

“That apartment ...” O’Brien muses. “I feel like we all remember the kill box fight with Kevdak, and we remember running after Raishan as she flew into a cave, we remember these iconic moments, but I remember that apartment very much the same way as part of the same story that evolved over the past five or six years. It’s all wrapped up together.”

“Back then too, there were no epic Dwarven Forge maps. Back then, Matt was drawing maps by hand on grid paper. We weren’t sitting at a fancy Wyrmwood table, we were sitting at a pop-up card table that we’d take camping with us,” Ray says, adding that when she looks back the way the book does, “you can see the kind of acorn, the seed of where it’s all going. Everything just grew up a little bit.” 

Credit: Oliver Barrett

In addition to recounting Critical Role’s early days (although not a full history — longtime Critters will probably be unsurprised to know that controversial moments like original castmember Orion Acaba’s exit are largely glossed over), The World of Critical Role offers insights into why the cast made their characters make certain decisions during iconic moments from the campaigns, and it explains how the real-life biographies of the cast influenced their character creation.

“If you’re interested in knowing why the cast members play the way they do, it’s worth looking at the things they value, and how they came to value them,” Masham, a longtime Critter who makes a tiny cameo on page 296, appearing in the back row of a picture of Critical Role’s first-ever live show, tells SYFY WIRE. “They trust each other, and us [viewers], enough to bring some deep vulnerabilities with them to the table, and that trust deserves serious consideration.”

“Our characters, especially in the first campaign, really reflect what each of us was going through while we were playing the game,” says Sam Riegel, who plays the rogue Veth (aka Nott the Brave) in the current campaign. “Becoming better friends, getting more comfortable in our own skin, becoming confident players, and relying on each other inside and outside the game. All that stuff comes through in the stories that we told together. That's why so much of what we do on the streaming show is so emotional for us. These characters are us. It's so personal.”

Riegel adds that his favorite part of the book is the section where his fellow castmembers talk about how they created their characters. “When you're playing the game you're mainly worrying about your own character. But to read about all the other details that I missed in the moment — all the energy, anxiety, and joy that my friends were going through — was an incredible glimpse into their heads,” he says. “I mean, how often do you get to read a book about your best friends?”

Credit: Penguin Random House

It’s worth noting that The World of Critical Role is, in Ray’s words, “not a complete history of Critical Role in one little book, because there’s a lot more history to be written.” The second campaign (which almost certainly won’t be the last) is still ongoing, and there’s that whole Amazon animated series on the horizon. For Masham, this was a little bit of a challenge while writing the book. During the writing process, she had to keep making last-minute edits as major plot developments like Fjord breaking his warlock pact or Nott’s transformation into Veth occurred on the stream. Then, after it went to print, she had to hope there wouldn’t be a Total Party Kill the Thursday before it came out.

“The point of this book isn’t to be an up-to-the-minute account of the show; it’s to celebrate it,” Masham says. “So even if Jester dies (oof I hope Jester doesn’t die), the book is still a celebration of how amazing she was. Is! Is.”

Despite being burdened by the linear constraints of time and a hard publishing date, The World of Critical Role is the book equivalent of rolling high on an insight check when it comes to the popular series. 

And, if nothing else, as O’Brien jokes, “It is such a good primer for the uninitiated that I am looking forward to my father reading it so he can finally fully comprehend what it is we do.”

The World of Critical Role is out now.

Oh No, Spider-Man's New Video Game Face Continues to Not Be It @ io9

A few weeks ago, fans of good video games, good video game faces, and Marvel’s Spider-Man were shook by the revelation that for the game’s leap to Playstation 5—and the arrival of Spider-Man: Miles Morales—developers Insomniac Games had completely changed the face of its excellent take on Peter Parker. The more we see…

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Watch Live: NASA Spacecraft Is Going to Scoop Up Some Asteroid @ io9

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is finally ready to collect surface materials from asteroid Bennu. You can watch the action live right here starting at 5:00 p.m. EDT.

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Magic: The Gathering breaks the trading card mold in stunning first look at 'Legends: A Visual History' @ Syfy Wire

Magic: The Gathering is breaking free of its trading-card borders in a new visual history published by Abrams Books. Written by Wizards of the Coast and Jay Annelli (writer of the upcoming second book in the M:TG: Rise of the Gatewatch series), Legends: A Visual History goes on sale on Oct. 27 and contains nearly 300 pages of beautiful character and creature-based artwork, some of which has never been seen outside the context of the card game.

"I had a lot of freedom with choosing the characters. We tried to highlight Magic’s vast array of characters developed over the decades to give newcomers a sense of scope," Annelli tells SYFY WIRE in this exclusive sneak peek inside the book. "After a couple months of writing, we honed the book to be as newcomer-friendly as possible. The final character selection is based around both characters who are important to the story — past and present — and popular Commanders. My hope is that anyone can pick up the book and get a sense of the characters, while existing Magic fans might learn something new about the cards they see across the table."

While Annelli says that he's "been pretty consistently terrible at Magic" for the last two decades, he began writing articles about the game in 2015, around the debut of the "Gatewatch" story arc. "Five years later, I’m fairly well known as a lore guy from both my articles and my podcast, The Vorthos Cast — at least among Magic’s content creator community," he adds. "Commander, as it happens, is also my favorite way to play Magic and has kept me engaged in the game for a long time."

Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite – Igor Kieryluk Courtesy of Abrams ComicArts, Wizards of the Coast, and Jay Annelli ©2021 Wizards of the Coast LLC.

 

Emmara, Soul of the Accord – Mark Winters CCourtesy of Abrams ComicArts, Wizards of the Coast, and Jay Annelli ©2021 Wizards of the Coast LLC.

"I was more prepared for the process of writing a book than I thought I’d be," Annelli admits. "I’d been writing articles for long enough that while 20,000 words sounded daunting at first, especially when I was squeezing in writing time around a full-time job and parenting, but once I got in the groove I was writing a few thousand words in a day. I also thought I’d be lost in the logistics of putting a book like this together, but it turns out my graphic-design jobs in college prepared me for a lot of that, too. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a challenge, but I thought by the end of the process I’d be relieved to be done. Instead I wished there was more space to talk about characters!"

Erebos, Bleak-Hearted – Chase Stone Courtesy of Abrams ComicArts, Wizards of the Coast, and Jay Annelli ©2021 Wizards of the Coast LLC. 

 

Avacyn Concept art – James Ryman Courtesy of Abrams ComicArts, Wizards of the Coast, and Jay Annelli ©2021 Wizards of the Coast LLC.

 

Avacyn, Angel of Hope – Howard Lyon Courtesy of Abrams ComicArts, Wizards of the Coast, and Jay Annelli ©2021 Wizards of the Coast LLC.

 

Ulamog concept art – Sam Burley Courtesy of Abrams ComicArts, Wizards of the Coast, and Jay Annelli ©2021 Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Annelli's favorite M:TG entity is Krenko, a goblin featured on the book's front cover (see below) in the bottom left corner. He says he believes that the character has been "unjustly maligned as a 'mob boss.'"

"As an Italian whose grandmother once described Al Capone as 'such a nice man,' I take exception when a legitimate business person and pillar of the goblin community like Krenko is slandered with false accusations about alleged ties to organized goblin crime," Annelli quips. "Goblins don’t often get a fair shake in Magic, and Krenko provides his community with protection against the authoritarian guilds of Ravnica, encourages entrepreneurship, and stands up for the little guy."

Standing front and center is Sisay: "[She's] the captain of the skyship Weatherlight" — it's the vessel everyone is aboard on the cover — "which was the core of 'The Weatherlight Saga,' the most prominent storyline of Magic’s early years in the '90s," Annelli explains. "Looking back, it’s pretty clear that Sisay was way more interesting than the somewhat bland Gerard, the '90s fantasy hero archetype who stole the spotlight back then. Sisay herself has received a brand-new Legendary Creature card in the last year, and alongside Krenko is the Commander of one of my favorite decks."

Courtesy of Abrams ComicArts, Wizards of the Coast, and Jay Annelli ©2021 Wizards of the Coast LLC.

"Rethinking how I presented information for an audience that might know nothing about Magic was a challenge, but a fun one that I think really helped my writing overall," Annelli notes. "Suddenly, I had to think about all that jargon that I take for granted in Magic and that my readers were usually familiar with, and figure out how to write about everything without needing a glossary in the back. As someone who has always been about making things accessible and removing more gatekeep-y aspects of the fandom, it definitely pushed to me to rethink how I approached the lore."

Magic: The Gathering: Legends: A Visual History goes on sale Tuesday, Oct. 27. You can pre-order a copy on Amazon for $18.99.


WIRE Buzz: Netflix cancels 'Away'; AMC renting out theaters; and Peanuts to Apple TV+ @ Syfy Wire

Away is going away because Netflix has decided to cancel the astronaut drama series after just one season, Variety confirmed early this morning. The news comes only four weeks after the show's first 10 episodes made their debut on the streaming service. It joins a growing list of Netflix cancellations that include: GLOWTeenage Bounty HuntersThe Dark Crystal: Age of ResistanceAltered CarbonThe Society, and I Am Not Okay With This.

Created by Andrew Hinderaker, Away takes inspiration from an Esquire article written by Chris Jones and centers around a female astronaut (played by Hilary Swank) leading humanity's first manned mission to Mars. 

"Whether we're telling a story of the families on Earth, whether we're telling a story between the crewmates in space or telling those stories between space and Earth, you're really just trying to tap into human, messy relationships between people that, depending on the people and the relationship, involve this trust and love and fear and betrayal and all of those qualities," Hinderaker told SYFY WIRE in early September.

The cast also featured Josh Charles, Vivian Wu, Mark Ivanir, Ato Essandoh, Ray Panthaki, and Talitha Bateman, Monique Gabriela Curnen, Michael Patrick Thornton, Martin Cummins, Gabrielle Rose, Brian Markinson, Fiona Fu, Nadia Hatta, Alessandro Juliani, Felicia Patti, Veena Sood, Anthony F. Ingram, Adam Irigoyen, Diana Bang, John Murphy, Derrick Su, and Olena Medwid.

Jason Katims (Parenthood), Matt Reeves (The Batman), and Edward Zwick (Defiance) served as executive producers.


As the U.S. box office continues to get pummeled by declining sales caused by COVID-19, major theater chains like AMC and Alamo Drafthouse are allowing customers to rent out entire theaters for $100 - $150.

For Alamo, there's also an additional ticketing fee and the expectation of purchasing snacks, but the deal is rather affordable. Sure, it's a pretty gonzo strategy, but at the same time, it offers better peace of mind for anyone still worried about visiting a theater amid the pandemic. 

Credit: Warner Bros. & 20th Century Studios

If you want to see Tenet or The New Mutants in an AMC auditorium, however, you'll be asked to shell out between $150 and $350 (before tax) depending on the theater's location, writes Gizmodo. Of course, that could just be the reservation fee, with additional payments required for each person attending and a "food minimum."

With most major releases pushed to 2021, theater companies are scrambling to stay afloat. Cineworld, the owner of Regal in the U.S., decided to temporarily shut down its locations across America and the U.K. There is some hope that the situation will start to improve once New York theaters outside of Manhattan resume operations this Friday (Oct. 23). Along with Los Angeles and San Francisco, New York accounts for the brunt of ticket sales in the United States.


Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Woodstock, and the rest of the Peanuts gang have found an exclusive streaming home on Apple TV+, the platform announced Monday. In addition to nabbing the original series and holiday specials, Apple is also working with Worldwide and Lee Mendelson Film Productions to produce more Peanuts content like a second season of Snoopy in Space and more specials centered around Mother’s Day, Earth Day, New Year’s Eve, and going back to school.

"It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" is now streaming on Apple TV+ and will be free to watch between Oct. 30 - Nov. 1. "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" makes its debut Nov. 18 and will be free to watch between Nov. 25 - 27. "A Charlie Brown Christmas" arrives Dec. 4 and will be free to watch between Dec. 11 - 13.

Credit: Apple TV+

Previously announced Peanuts projects include: The Snoopy Show, a 70th-anniversary documentary feature (produced by Imagine Documentaries and WildBrain), and the Daytime Emmy Award-winning Peanuts in Space: Secrets of Apollo 10.


Step Into the World of Oculus Quest 2 Accessories: Everything Your VR Headset Can’t Live Without @ io9

The Fantasies That Made Sense of a Senseless Year @ io9

There’s a feature of old Irish folktales, which is the notion of a land somewhat parallel to our own that belongs to a magical, beautiful, aristocratic, and frequently cold and remote people called the fae. It’s over the hill and around the bend, or in the vicinity of an ancient barrow, or across the ocean—somewhere…

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A Busted Toilet Kicked Off a Seriously Crappy Night on the ISS @ io9

It was another long night aboard the International Space Station, as the crew had to deal with a series of minor problems, in what is starting to sound like a broken record.

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How Over the Moon Changed a Disney Legend's Perspective on the Future of Animation @ io9

Glen Keane is a name you might not know by heart, but his work is certainly in your heart. A veteran of Disney animation for almost 40 years, Keane designed and animated characters like Ariel in The Little Mermaid and Elliot in Pete’s Dragon. He worked on Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, and Tangled, just to…

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Tuesday's Best Deals: LG CX 55" 4K OLED TV, Rosetta Stone, Halloween Pet Costumes, Inflatable Skeleton Unicorn, Batman Beyond Blu-ray Set, and More @ io9

The 55" LG CX 4K OLED TV and Rosetta Stone software lead Tuesday’s best deals.

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Chosen One of the Day: Brodie Bruce's cousin Walter @ Syfy Wire

As of this very day, Mallrats is 25 years old, a thing that seems entirely impossible, and yet here we are, the scourge of time relentless and ever-present. Anyway. Would you like a chocolate-covered pretzel?

Inarguably the MVP of the mall-com, a genre we frankly deserved way more of, was Brodie Bruce as portrayed by Jason Lee. The actual lead of the film is in theory T.S. Quint played by Jeremy London who was not the twin who was in Dazed and Confused, but here's the thing: no he isn't. It's all Brodie. But the unseen hero is of course the Tino of the View Askewniverse: Cousin Walter. 

We first learn of Cousin Walter in Clerks, as the cousin of Randal Graves, making Brodie and Randal cousins, which makes a lot of sense. The posthumous tale tells of the goodly Walter who died attempting to reach a very specific kind of heaven (what? Like the back of a Volkswagen?). But we learn far more in Mallrats, such as Walter's penchant for near-death self-love and his, um, appreciation for animals.

Look I'm not saying I approve, I'm just saying at least he tried really hard to get the gerbil out. Valor.

In fact the tale of Walter's plane ride to pleasuretown is basically the...climax...of the movie. The movie knows we really don't care about the lesser London twin and Claire Forlani, so during their TV game-show-based reconciliation, Brodie starts talking about Walter's near-death experience being its own kind of petite mort if you will. I mean, in theory. We don't actually know how things ended technically. Because decorum.

Credit: Grammercy

Happy 25th anniversary, Mallrats. Snootches, bootches, and stay the hell away from the cats.

Gaming: Keanu Reeves in Cyberpunk 2077 teaser; Hyrule Warriors trailer brings Zelda’s past to life; more @ Syfy Wire

He’s been at the top of his sci-fi action cool game since The Matrix (heck, he was already getting there with the original Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure). Now that we’re in the home stretch before Cyberpunk 2077 hits consoles, Keanu Reeves is firing up his mellifluous pipes once again to raise the neon-lit stakes as fans get ready to dive deep into Night City.

With a month left before the hugely anticipated RPG arrives to vacuum up hours of our lives, developer CD Projekt RED puts Reeves at the center of a new action-packed trailer to assure fans there’s no wrong way to play. “Why do you come here?” teases Reeves, who brings his voice and likeness to one of the game’s key characters. “For fun? For power? Looking for a shock to your system?” Whatever the answer, it’s probably right:

Cyberpunk 2077 on YouTube

The new clip gives some quick new looks at protagonist V dodging and weaving his way out of one mean-streets jam after another like some futuristic Fast & Furious antihero. But Reeves will be there to help get V out of (or maybe into) trouble as the voice and face of Johnny Silverhand, a too-cool musician who fronts Night City rock band Samurai, and has ambitious ideas of his own for how V might be his ticket to more than fleeting stardom.

If that recently leaked map of Night City is what we’ll be exploring when Cyberpunk 2077 arrives next month, we’re in for a long, wild ride. Based on the board game created by Mike Pondsmith, Cyberpunk 2077 cranks things to 11 when the game arrives on Nov. 19 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Google Stadia, and PC (with a free next-gen upgrade coming soon for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S).


Nintendo teases its newest trailer for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity as “the Hyrule you know, a story you don’t,” but the upcoming prequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild brings more than just a dusty history lesson. Set 100 years before the calamitous events of BOTW, Age of Calamity may play like a frantic action game, but as the the new clip shows, it’s grounded firmly in the same story world — right down to the adorable leafy koroks — that enthralled fans in its 2017 Switch predecessor.

Nintendo on YouTube

The newest clip for Age of Calamity is all about the action, showing off new looks at Link and his sizable party of friends (including the four Champions), all taking the fight to mobs of moblins in the same Hyrule setting we first explored in Breath of the Wild. This time, though, we’re back 100 years before Ganon seized power over the realm, teaming up for what we know (thanks to the first game) will ultimately be a temporarily losing battle to keep the forces of evil at bay.

Even after we’ve conquered every conquest in the upcoming game, developed by Omega Force in collaboration with the original BOTW team, we know the story won’t be over. A Breath of the Wild sequel, one that moves the timeline forward beyond the ending of the first game, has been in the works at least since its announcement at last year’s E3. At least we’ll be caught up on Hyrule’s deeper history by the time we see Breath of the Wild 2, which hasn’t been given a release date yet. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity fills us in on the complete BOTW backstory when it hits the Nintendo Switch on Nov. 20.


Believe it or not, it’s still Go time — more than four years after the original Pokémon Go first got us outdoors, phone in hand, to chase down new monsters. With the haunted Halloween weekend bearing down fast, Pokémon Go isn’t leaving all the spooky-season Nintendo fun to the likes of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Niantic and Nintendo’s venerable location-based mobile game has unveiled its Halloween plans in the form of a 10-day timed event, bringing new raids, new costumes, and new ghost-hunting adventures.

Credit: Niantic / The Pokémon Company / Nintendo

Kicking off at 9 p.m. ET on Oct. 23, the Pokémon Go Halloween 2020 event will send players on the hunt for ghost-type Pokémon, which will spawn with increasing frequency in the wild, while also being featured in themed raids. Hopping in during the limited window will serve up the chance to nab some sweet Pokémon-themed tricks and treats, including Halloween-costumed versions of Gengar and Sableye. There’s also scary new Field Research to do (which brings the chance for a rare encounter with a Shiny Spiritomb) and tons more.

To check out everything on tap for Pokémon Go Halloween 2020, check out the event’s landing page and then mark your calendars: you've got until Nov. 3 to catch 'em all.

Fear the reaper, because scimitar-tooth cats were death on four legs @ Syfy Wire

With Halloween sneaking up on us, visions of the black-robed, scimitar-wielding Grim Reaper are everywhere from party stores to Family Guy, but none so scary as one predator that terrorized most of the planet around 50,000 years ago.

Teeth like the Reaper’s iconic scimitar made Homotherium latidens the embodiment of death rising out of the snows after Earth froze over and the dinosaurs were no more. This scimitar-tooth cat — basically a sabertooth on steroids — could easily take down other megafauna like giant ground sloths and mammoths by hunting them to exhaustion before sinking its enormous teeth into their flesh. Its jaws were so powerful it could just carry its meals elsewhere to feed. Now that the genome of Homotherium has been sequenced for the first time ever, it reveals which genes made them the apex predators they were.

“They possessed large, saber-form serrated canine teeth, powerful forelimbs, a sloping back, and an enlarged optic bulb, all of which were key characteristics for predation on Pleistocene megafauna,” said University of Copenhagen postdoc Michael Westbury, who co-led a study recently published in Current Biology.

Homotherium was no kitty. Previous studies assumed it was highly divergent from any species of cat alive today, even lions and tigers and jaguars and other notoriously fearsome felines, and Westbury’s team also found it to be a distant sister lineage to extant cats. Another thing their genetic analyses revealed is that it diverged from other cats around 22.5 million years ago. Humans only diverged from gibbons about 17 million years ago. These monsters skulked around during the daytime with others in their packs (they are thought to have been social creatures) until they seized the chance to chase prey at breakneck speed. They had excellent vision, meaning they could spot a moving meal from a distance and go for it. Even animals that were decent runners didn’t have much of a chance against the Grim Reaper bolting after them. Forget ground sloths.

It also appears that Homotherium had competition. The ancestors of lions, including the extinct cave lion, leopards and jaguars, as well as other prehistoric sabretooth cats, such as Smilodon, would all try to outrun it to catch a meal. Fossil evidence has shown that despite the pressure to beat out other carnivores, Homotherium succeeded enough to spread throughout most of the continents we know today until it went extinct after the last Ice Age.

Further analyzing Homotherium DNA, Westbury and his colleagues found that there was a significant difference between this beast and the furry things we make endless memes about. However, something unexpected that came out of genomic sequencing was that Homotherium were much more genetically diverse than any species of cat still alive, so it had enough subspecies that stalked in enough regions to make the world a dangerous place for many large herbivores. Any hybridization that might have happened from interbreeding with other cats still remains unknown.

A comparative genomics analysis was needed to find which genes separated the leader of the pack from the rest as the result of positive selection, or the process which gives an entire population of organisms genetic advantages. Analyzing DNA with this method involves comparing genes, sequence and regulatory regions in which RNA and other proteins bind and interact with each other to transcribe RNA (ribonucleic acid). RNA gives DNA directions on how to arrange amino acids into proteins. Some of the 31 genes that stood out in Homotherium were those associated with vision, socialization, endurance and diurnal behavior, which differs from many extant felines who are nocturnal hunters.

“The fossil record and paleogenomics can be used synergistically to better understand the evolution and ecology of extinct species that lack extant close relatives for comparison,” Westbury said.

Just be sure any Grim Reaper you see around this time of year doesn’t have enormous fangs. Bonus points to anyone who can excavate both song references in the title.

Nothing Quite Says I'm Spooky but Cute Like a 6-Foot Inflatable Skeleton Unicorn, Now 55% Off @ io9

Inflatable Skeleton Unicorn | $45 | Amazon Gold Box | Clip Coupon

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The Batman Flies High and Rides Fast in New Set Photos @ io9

Bette Midler offers a tiny look at her one-off Hocus Pocus reunion. Get a glimpse at the reboot of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Legends of Tomorrow adds a new character. Plus, John Boyega teases his clone action movie, and somehow the cast of the Avatar sequels just keeps growing. Spoilers now!

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Unsolved Mysteries is back with a 'corroborated' ghost story to creep up your October @ Syfy Wire

Netflix’s iteration of the classic cold-case docuseries Unsolved Mysteries returned Oct. 19 with a second volume of six new cases that remain conundrums for their investigators. And as always, that includes cases involving the paranormal or sighting of UFOs. In the show’s 33-year history, there have always been cases peppered into each season that delve into topics that seem best suited to fans of The X-Files or Ghost Hunters over true-crime fanatics.

As it turns out, Unsolved Mysteries executive producer Terry Dunn Meurer admits to being a “true believer” and is a big reason the docuseries has always included tales of the metaphysical or UFO sightings. “Until somebody proves to me that ghosts don't exist, or UFOs don't exist, I will just believe that they do,” she admits to SYFY WIRE.

In Volume 1 of Netflix’s Unsolved Mysteries (released in July), the show painstakingly laid out the “Berkshires UFO” case in the late ‘50s that’s since been corroborated by dozens of eyewitnesses including a radio DJ. And in this new volume, the “Tsunami Spirits” investigates the many eyewitness accounts of ghosts haunting the Japanese town of Ishinomaki in the aftermath of the cataclysmic tsunami that killed 20,000 people.

Meurer explains to SYFY WIRE how Unsolved Mysteries has evolved with the times in presenting its special niche of “cases with no endings,” the latest chilling episodes, and how they choose their spooky cases that have given generations of watchers the heebie-jeebies.

For context, you’ve been a producer, writer and now executive producer on Unsolved Mysteries for 35 years. How has the evolution of the internet and now Netflix as a global programmer changed how you make the series?

Before, we didn't have the internet. We would literally use a newspaper clipping service. Or we would reach out, just cold-call local law enforcement trying to find cases. As the show picked up in terms of popularity, then people would send in stories. We would get mailbags full of mail tips and story suggestions.

Now, I think the thing that was so overwhelming in a good way when the first Netflix episodes premiered in July was how engaged the audience is because of social media. Now they can get into chat rooms and talk, and Reddit. They just get so involved in the clues and the leads, and what they think happened. It's wonderful to see the viewer engagement. We're hoping that that just generates more news, and more leads, and more buzz so that more people will watch. It just takes that one person to watch who has that clue. That's what we're always looking for. I'm always worried that people think, "Yeah, something bothers me, but I'm not going to say anything. I don't know. It's probably nothing." Then they don't send in their tip. We want people to send in their tips because you just never know, that one little piece might match with another piece that somebody sent in.

The show’s style and technique of recreations and even talking head interviews have evolved into really polished and cinematic episodes for the current series. What were the big decisions on what a 2020 Unsolved Mysteries would look like for audiences?

The first one was [former host] Robert Stack had passed away and we had to make a decision. Are we going to have a host or a narrator, and, who could fill Bob's shoes? There was a list of no one. There's wonderful people out there, of course. But in terms of filling his shoes, and to anybody who might even want to step in and try, we just felt that hosted shows like we had done in the past were not what was the very contemporary approach to the documentary-style show.

It's that, but it was also the fact that we liked the idea of the people whose mysteries these are and whose stories these are, having them be the storytellers. Bob Stack did a lot of heavy lifting on the storytelling aspect of the cases. We like that the people themselves are telling the stories because you get to know them a little bit more. And that means you're rooting for them and hoping that their case gets solved even more.

In terms of the visual style that the old shows had, we look at them now and we chuckle sometimes at the reenactments. We were filming in small towns with local theater actors, and sometimes they worked better than others. I think that what we did back then was appropriate, but I think the new look of trying to be more evocative and have more of a documentary feel is where it felt like we should be, and not being too literal with the reenactments.

What’s the biggest carry-through over all the seasons?

One of the things that I think is consistent across all the episodes, past and present, is the emotional content. We really try to tell the emotional story and a personal story as much as we can. That was true then, and I think that's true now as well.

Unsolved Mysteries Volume 2 (Credit: Netflix)

Let’s talk about your off-the-beaten-path episodes that delve into the unexplained. What are the criteria for it being a worthy case to explore?

We were always looking for credible stories. We have different categories because you have the creatures like Bigfoot, and then you have a story about reincarnation, or you have a haunting story. We did a possession story. We tried to mix up those kinds of stories and have one of those out of the four stories in each episode. And that's kind of what we've done with the Netflix episodes, one out of the six. In the first volume, it was the UFO case. Then in the second volume, it's the “Tsunami Spirits” story.

Was the “Berkshires UFO” case one that just needed more years of accumulated stories to make it a strong episode?

Actually, a lot of the people in that episode came forward right before we were filming, [with] the story producer who did a lot of digging to find other people saying, "I think this person had seen the same thing."

In terms of the updates from [July], we were surprised to get a lot of people who wrote to us on the website about having had the same exact experience on the same day, Sept. 1, 1959. They experienced the same thing, or they remember their parents talking about experiencing the same thing. If we were going to do an update with that, we would go back. That was really interesting. They corroborated what the people in our episode had experienced.

The “Tsunami Spirits” episode is all in Japanese and uniquely captures the intimacy of this local event, and how the people culturally process death. Could you talk about its evolution as an episode?

We really wanted to embrace the culture. Part of the challenge of that was, in the Japanese culture and in this community, people just didn't really want to talk about it too much. They had had experiences, and we knew they had.

We worked with Reverend Kaneda, who is featured in the piece. He introduced us to some people, and he was actually very influential in getting people to trust us with their stories. We found some of the incidents from him. Then there was this woman who did a study through her school about the taxi cab drivers. We got some of the information from her about what the taxi cab drivers had been experiencing. It was just putting all these different pieces together, but it was challenging because people were hesitant. They don't want anyone to think, "You're seeing ghosts. You're crazy." That was one of the more challenging episodes.

Do you have a favorite spooky episode that you’ve done in the run of the series?

I think the reincarnation stories are the ones that, to me, are the most chilling and amazing. We haven't done one of those for Netflix, but those, especially back in the day, when there was no way to do any kind of internet research, and they had facts about somebody's life that there's no way they could have known unless there was something spiritual or channeling, some psychic something going on. Those are the cases that I find the most interesting

There was this one story of a mom and she actually died in childbirth. Her kids were scattered to the winds. I will say that she came back through this other woman in a different country. This woman had such details about the older son. She remembered that he used to rub the bottom of the edge of his coat as a nervous habit. That's not something you can find on the internet. Those are little details, where you just go, "OK. I buy that."

Last but not least, this series is about solving the unsolved, so how do you keep audiences up to date on what comes to light now?

We have unsolved.com, which is our website. We have updates on all 1,300 cases that have ever been done there. We keep that very, very up to date. Then, in the original shows that are streaming on Amazon, the original Bob Stack episodes, those we update at least probably twice a year.

With the Netflix episodes, we were hoping that this will happen this week, that something will be solved and the world will find out in a much bigger way because of social media now. We can push those updates out like we couldn't before.

Unsolved Mysteries Volume 1 and Volume 2 are available on Netflix.

No, an asteroid is not likely to hit Earth the day before the election @ Syfy Wire

I can always tell when astronomer Neil Tyson tweets something about the sky. Within minutes, the emails and tweets to me start pouring in.

In this case, a few days ago, seemingly out of the blue people were asking me if it's true that an asteroid might hit Earth the day before the elections, on 2 November, 2020.

And, sure enough:

Now, right away I should note that Neil mentions the name of the asteroid — 2018 VP1 — so simply typing that bit of alphanumeric salad into a search engine will yield lots of info.

But I'll note that while Neil's phrasing is that the asteroid "may buzz-cut the Earth" reads pretty clearly to me, I can see where others might not see it the same way.

So, to be clear, I'll refer you to the headline of the article you're currently reading (i.e. scroll up; I'll wait).

I can also refer you to an article I wrote about this rock (and another, called 2011 ES4) back in August. But since it's come up again, and the election is in just a couple of weeks, let's give this one another go.

2018 VP1 is an asteroid that orbits the Sun, probably a chunk of rock (or, less likely, metal; those kinds of asteroids are much more rare). Its orbit is elliptical, and stretches from between the orbits of Venus and Earth to out past Mars. It crosses Earth's orbit, and can get close enough to qualify being called a Near-Earth Asteroid, or NEO.

In fact, there's one point in its orbit that intersects Earth's, meaning it can potentially hit us. It reaches that point on or about 2 November, 2020, at the same time Earth is nearby in its own orbit.

Yikes! Are we doomed?

Don't panic! The answer is no, for two reasons.

The orbits of Earth and the asteroid 2018 VP1 (with their positions on 20 Oct. 2020) intersect, and both will be close to that point on 2 November 2020. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

One is that we can calculate the chance of it hitting. The orbit of an asteroid can be calculated mathematically by measuring its position in the sky over many days or even years. The more observations we make, the better we can calculate the orbit. But, we can't measure the position perfectly accurately, so there's some fuzziness to the predicted orbit. The farther in the future we try to make that prediction, the less certain we can be of its exact position.

Here's an analogy:

As I've written before, when an asteroid is first discovered, the orbit calculated for it is pretty fuzzy, because we don't have a long enough arc to really be able to predict where it will be in the future. Small uncertainties in the position early on add up to big ones later. The analogy I like is if you're an outfielder in a baseball game, and as soon as the batter hits the ball you close your eyes. Now, predict where the ball will be when it lands. Yeah, nope. But if you keep watching it you'll be able to see its trajectory much better.

So we can know it'll be near the Earth on 2 November. But will it hit? We can only make statistical predictions. But when we do, we find that the chance of an impact is only 0.41%.

That's small. Put it this way: There's a 99.59% chance it'll miss! The best guess is that it will miss us by 420,000 km, farther away than the Moon.

Now, this is based on observations made shortly after it was discovered in 2018. It hasn't been observed since, so it's hard to say exactly what the odds are of a miss. Generally speaking, Earth is a small target and space is big — I mean, why else call it space? — so after more observations are made the chance of an impact will probably go down.

A good idea, but I suspect Photoshop. Credit: Not an Exact Science Show, used by permission

But why haven't more observations been made since 2018? Ah, that brings us to the second reason not to panic: 2018 VP1 is tiny.

Like, really tiny: Probably about 2–4 meters across. That's very roughly the size of a small car (up to about the size of a somewhat less small car). When you look at the asteroid's orbit, it spends most of its time pretty dang far from Earth, hundreds of millions of kilometers. Its small stature makes it far too faint to spot.

This is kinda crappy news for astronomers who might want to study it, but good news for people worried about an apocalyptic impact. It can't make one.

And that's because even if it does hit it's way too small to make it down Earth's surface. Instead, it'll disintegrate high up in the atmosphere, probably 70–90 kilometers up. It's just too dinky to survive the immense pressure and heat of ramming our air.

Astronaut Alexander Gerst took this spectacular photo of an Orbital Sciences Corporation Cygnus spacecraft burning up as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere on 17 August, 2014. This photo is commonly mistaken for a meteor — they do appear very similar — though natural space rocks don't usually have bright bits flying off them like this. Credit: NASA/ESA

It'll make a spectacular fireball — bright enough to read by — but only for a few seconds as the air above us slows its descent violently. After it breaks up it might drop some small meteorites that fall much more slowly to the ground, which would be nifty. That's happened with minor impacts like this before.

So, to reiterate: 1) It almost certainly won't hit, and 2) even if it does it can't hurt us, and might actually be cool.

I mean c'mon, seriously? Credit: TMZ

This hasn't stopped tabloids and other related sites from playing this up like it's potentially doomsday. TMZ, for example, has the headline "NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON [,] COVID, Trump, Economy, Racism, Add This To 2020 ASTEROID COULD HIT U.S. DAY BEFORE ELECTION!!!" in font that increased in size with each line until it got so big I literally had to scroll down to read it all.

And check this one out for those of you who prefer their tweets to be entirely fact-free:

[Cue me screaming into my meteorite collection.]

Yegads. That's the opposite of what he said. Finding more goofiness like this isn't hard, either.

Look, big impacts are something to be concerned about — you could ask a dinosaur if any were still around* — but small ones like this happen all the time, and seriously aren't a big deal. Still, they're interesting, and may even be of scientific value.

... though I wonder if their greatest value is to media who produce clickbait. After seeing enough of those, I sometimes pray for a good impact.

Self-explanatory. Credit: Phil Plait


*Yes, I know, non-avian dinosaurs, I know, but that messes up the joke.

Aesop’s Fables: The Ploughman, the Ass, and the Ox @ Bureau 42

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WIRE Buzz: The Mandalorian seeks his peeps in new spot; Avatar 2 drops first look at Edie Falco; more @ Syfy Wire

This Clan of Two might just grow bigger, if this special look at the second season of The Mandalorian is anything to go by.

In the clip (below), which aired this evening during Monday Night Football, Din Djarin, aka the titular Mandalorian, declares his intentions to go seek out his people, as part of his quest to find Baby Yoda’s the Child’s people. 

Of course, Mando won’t be able to complete his quest without a little extra help. That's probably where previous allies Cara Dunne (Deadpool’s Gina Carano) and Greef Carga (Rocky’s Carl Weathers) come into play, as they both helped him retrieve the pint-sized Force user at the end of the first season. (Though Carga had initially planned on betraying them.) Not that this is too much of a surprise, seeing as they both have their own character posters.

Not featured in the footage — unlike Djarin’s new jetpack, a gift courtesy of fellow Mandalorian the Armorer — is Moff Gideon (The BoysGiancarlo Esposito), one of the major villains who emerged at the end of last season wielding the Darksaber, which itself has ties to the Djarin's homeworld of Mandalore.

According to Esposito, Season 2 of The Mandalorian will expand the show's universe and set up the next few seasons, with Season 3 possibly going into production at the end of the year. No news yet on when they plan on filming Season 4 of what has quickly become Disney+'s flagship series.

Season 2 of The Mandalorian premieres Oct. 30 on Disney+. 


And in more news on a film that continually provides proof of life yet still seems nowhere near ready to be released, the official Twitter account for James Cameron’s upcoming Avatar sequels has released a new promotional pic for Avatar 2. And no, there's nary a tall blue cat person, aka Na'vi, to be found. (Hey, they only just recently finished principal photography. Giant blue cat people come next.)

The latest behind-the-scenes still shows Edie Falco in her role as General Ardmore, the new head of Resources Development Administration activity on Pandora. The RDA was the source of strife for the Na'vi in the original film. Although the Na'vi were successful in protecting their home against the RDA, clearly the organization is not quite ready to give up on its quest for the Unobtanium found upon the world of Pandora.

Check it out below.

Falco joins a cast that includes Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington, Kate Winslet, Giovanni Ribisi, Michelle Yeoh, Stephen Lang, Sigourney Weaver, and Jemaine Clement.

Despite repeated delays, Cameron recently announced that filming on the long-awaited sequel to the 2009 blockbuster is “100 percent complete,” with the bulk of live-action filming for Avatar 3 also done.

Avatar 2 plans to debut in theaters in December 2014 on Dec. 18, 2020 Dec. 17, 2021 Dec. 16, 2022


Elsewhere in the galaxy far, far away, filmmaker Rian Johnson gave fans a dose of modern nostalgia as he posted some blasts from the recent pasts on his Instagram page. While cleaning out his closets, The Last Jedi director found Polaroids of Kelly Marie Tran (Rose “Deserved Better” Tico, with producer Ram Bergman) and the late Carrie Fisher (General Leia “To Me, She’s Royalty” Organa), along with some of his writing notebooks for his Star Wars film.

“Closet cleaning, found my Last Jedi writing notebooks,” Johnson wrote alongside the pictures. “Such a trip flipping through them. Bonus: a few polaroids stuck in the pages.”

Alas, the notebook photos only show them on the outside, and not the greasy guts within. Still, that B&W photo of Fisher, which appears to be a candid shot, is making us all here at SYFY WIRE quite emotional, as Fisher passed away on Dec. 27, 2016, almost a full year before Star Wars: The Last Jedi was released.


Experts agree real-life satellite space combat will look nothing like Star Wars @ Syfy Wire

In the vacuum of space, no one can hear you blow up a Star Destroyer!  

Although interstellar combat sounds far more interesting and visually stunning with brilliant green fireballs, blinding supernovas of debris, and epic mega-explosions, reality may be something much different and boring, according to a recent Aerospace Corporation report. 

Putting aside our inaccurate childhood daydreams of thrilling Star Wars-like dogfights and Star Trek-ish photon torpedo volleys with swarms of starfighters engaged in furious melees, actual modern space warfare (if it ever occurs) will likely be a completely different experience as the world slowly comes to terms with the militarization of space, defensive satellites, and the formation of the U.S. Space Force.

Credit: Paramount/CBS All-Access

In the detailed Aerospace Corporation report titled, The Physics of Space War: How Orbital Dynamics Constrain Space-to-Space Engagements, experts weighed in on the specifics of geopolitical skirmishes amid the stars in aggressive orbital encounters involving the clutter of future satellites — and the results aren't nearly as exciting as one might think. 

According to the study written by Rebecca Reesman and James Wilson, any sort of outer space missions or military operations must be well coordinated and planned out far in advance. After satellites are deployed in low-Earth orbit or geosynchronous Earth orbit, they don't routinely zip around changing directions to counter threats like a hyperactive video game, reducing the likelihood of random assaults on other satellites to inflict harm or gather intelligence.

Credit: Getty Images

“Any conflict in space will be much slower and more deliberate than a Star Wars scene,” report co-author and Aerospace Corp project engineer Reesman told Ars Technica. “It requires a lot more long-term thinking and strategic placement of assets.”

Reesman and Wilson's comprehensive study points to future space warfare as a situation of reducing or eliminating enemy satellite capabilities while protecting one's own ability to operate unmolested in roles like military intelligence acquisition, communications, ground tracking, and observational activities.

Credit: Getty Images

One of the key points discussed in their research reminds us that satellites move very fast and predictably. Satellites in normal circular orbits travel at speeds between 6,700 mph and 18,000 mph, dependent upon altitude. But an average bullet moves at approximately 1,700 mph. Deviations from their predetermined orbits require an engine to maneuver, making intimate close-quarter satellite combat difficult and expending of enormous amounts of time and energy.

Also, the playing field of space is enormous. Just the volume of space between low-earth orbit and geostationary orbit is nearly 200 trillion cubic kilometers, which calculates out to 190 times larger than the volume of Earth.

Credit: Getty Images

Finally, satellites are extremely limited to making changes of direction and, under the influence of gravity, are constantly freefalling in either a circular or elliptical path around our planet. 

If any satellite attempts to move close to another, its motion becomes all-important, and the notion of perfect timing becomes everything. Aligning a pair of satellites in the same position isn't impossible, but it's a tricky maneuver dependent upon precise factors and a whole lot of advanced math. 

But that's not to say we can't still dream of colorful, fantasy-fueled space battles erupting in exotic galaxies! 

The Mandalorian's New Teaser Ups the Stakes for Heroes and Villains Alike @ io9

It’s a tough world out there when everyone wants to get their hands on Baby Yoda.

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11 great horror comics to read for Halloween this year @ Syfy Wire

2020 has been the scariest year on record for many people, but that doesn’t mean comic book fans don’t still want to be creeped out. In fact, horror books have made a huge splash over the past year or two, with creators and readers flocking to books featuring decomposing zombies, hungry vampires, and monsters that only the cursed can see.

While both DC and Marvel went back to the zombie well with new volumes of DCeased and Marvel Zombies, respectively, the former also launched the horror comic-centric Hill House imprint last year. Smaller indie labels like Boom and Image doubled down on horror titles like Something Is Killing the Children and Killadelphia, which have both seen critical acclaim.

Ahead of Halloween 2020, SYFY WIRE assembled a handful of some of the newest comic books that will keep you up at night. From the "Carpenter-esqe" feel of Plunge to the gothic horror of Mercy, these stories are not only some of the scariest stories you’ll read, they're some of the best comic books being made today.

These Amazing Mandalorian Outfits Will Help You Prepare for Baby Yoda's Return @ io9

The Mandalorian is set to return with season two on October 30, but it’s never too early to prepare for the Child’s arrival. Hot Topic and Her Universe have unveiled a bunch of new Mandalorian outfits and accessories, and we’re abuzz with excitement. After all, it is the way.

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UK Authorities Allege Russian Hackers Targeted the 2020 Olympics @ io9

As if the 2020 Olympics haven’t had enough hurdles to contend with, it looks like we can add cyberattacks to the list. Earlier today, UK officials put out a memo noting that hackers working with the GRU—Russia’s military intelligence agency—had carried out numerous cyberattacks against major sponsors, organizers, and…

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Back to the Future 4 Is Still Not Happening So Please Stop Asking @ io9

In the modern Hollywood era, when seemingly every major franchise has been rebooted or sequalized, it’s kind of surprising that we haven’t seen another Back to the Future movie. Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale’s time-travel trilogy remains as popular today as when it began 35 years ago and both creators have been asked…

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Why The Boys Season 2 finale fight scene is so satisfying @ Syfy Wire

Nobody loves a superhero team-up more than Ashley, Vought International's former publicist turned vice president for superhero management. If asked, she can rattle off the figures to prove how popular they are among the key demos. It is unlikely she would demonstrate this level of animated enthusiasm regarding the surprise superhero squad formation in the Season 2 finale of The Boys. But for audiences watching the hit Amazon Prime series, seeing Stormfront (Aya Cash) take a beating is incredibly satisfying.

Spoilers for Season 2 of The Boys ahead.

Credit: Amazon Studios

Unmasked as a literal Nazi, the 100-year-old original Supe is hellbent on getting her revenge on her former colleague Starlight aka Annie January (Erin Moriarty). Correctly deducting that she is the source of the leak (with an assist from A-Train), this open field provides the arena for this showdown. Stormfront and Starlight have been an integral part of the Girls Get It Done campaign that was introduced in the episode "Proper Presentation and Planning." The pithy marketing slogan was created to celebrate the Seven milestone — this is the first time three women have been in the active line-up — using "girl power"-heavy language.

Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott) bailed on the junket due to a family emergency — her girlfriend had been taken to hospital with appendicitis — which left her fellow supes fielding a range of eye-roll-inducing questions. This is indicative of how companies use female empowerment to sell a product and is a continuation of the conversation about Annie's Starlight costume in Season 1.

Credit: Amazon Studios

This episode was written by Rebecca Sonnenshine — who also wrote the finale — which turned Stormfront into a new "feminist" hero. Her unfiltered responses at the junket, including a diatribe about her costume lacking pockets and pointing out the very obvious factor that neither gender makes a better hero lay the "shero" groundwork. But it is her inspiring Pippi Longstocking speech to Starlight that truly sells her as a feminist badass — a status that was short-lived, thanks to the racist hatred she unleashes in the following episode when she slaughters innocent people before killing Kimiko's (Karen Fukuhara) younger brother. People who are familiar with the comics (in which Stormfront is a guy) or the Third Reich connotations of this character name were prepared for this reveal, but not all viewers were.

Since then, the jigsaw pieces of the Nazi-Vought puzzle have fallen into place with each episode pulling back this swastika-emblazoned curtain. The switch from the all-at-once drop of Season 1 to a weekly release schedule on the streaming platform may have been met with boos from some fans, but it undoubtedly helped raise the tension which quite literally explodes in "What I Know." Stormfront's plan to divide a country aided by an online army and ramp up hatred was going swimmingly until her true origin was leaked to the news. Branding has a way of building someone up, but it can just as easily tear someone down.

Credit: Amazon Studios

"People love what I have to say. They believe in it. They just don't like the word Nazi, that's all," she tells Annie who has been working with the titular Boys. Bolstered by weapons — including something Frenchie has rigged up to weaken Stormfront's powers — it looks like it will be a relatively easy fight during the final confrontation. Two supes plus three locked-and-loaded guys versus one original Vought-made superhero doesn't sound too tough, all things considered, except Stormfront has decades on them and quickly destroys the weapons cache. Starlight's power and Kimiko's strength are not enough, which leaves Kimiko temporarily dispatched while she recovers from death by broken neck. When all seems lost, the surprise arrival of Queen Maeve is a cheer-inducing moment.

Cue a walloping punch worthy of a Batman '60s graphic and the start of an incredibly satisfying fight. When Aya Cash recently spoke to SYFY FANGRRLS, she discussed the viewer's reaction to her character, saying, "She's a vile, horrible, disgusting person. So it's very intense, because people hate me, as they should as that character." The jubilation and meme-filled reactions to this sequence on Twitter further emphasize how much the audience wanted to see Stormfront taken down. It isn't just Indiana Jones and Captain America who get to beat on Nazis in pop culture.

Credit: Amazon Studios

In fact, another satisfaction sweet spot is reached before Maeve even shows up, when Kimiko laughs at the mere presence of Stormfront. Previously, her consuming rage has rendered her frozen, and Kimiko has expressed concern to Frenchie that she will crumble again. Instead, as a silent tear for her brother rolls down her face, this mocking laughter marks the first time we have heard any sound come from her mouth, a defining moment that is further elevated when Frenchie translates where she is going to stick her boot.

"Boys Wanna Be Her" by Peaches kicks in as the three-on-one unofficial team-up gets to work on Stormfront. Is this song on the nose? Sure, but sometimes subtly gets thrown out the window for an excellent soundtrack choice. "Eat my s***, you Nazi bitch," Annie emphatically yells, and it is extremely cathartic to witness this no-frills fight, given that the show has been building to this moment all season. It is gratifying to see the three women who have been wronged by the very machine that made and emboldened Stormfront collaborating against evil. Knowing it is a lost battle, Stormfront makes her escape and Frenchie gets to use the Vought tagline, "Girls do get it done." Unlike the cheesy "Dawn of the Seven" movie scene that tried to make this tagline happen in Episode 5, Frenchie's awed line reading is the icing on the cake.

Credit: Amazon Studios

Between Kimiko's bold "Bossy" ring, the press junket, and the Nazi-bashing fight, this season has explored the marketing and portrayal of strong women. The first season depicted the inner workings of toxic workplaces and how these environments thrive, as Annie found herself without any allies within the Vought HQ. Madelyn Stillwell had no time for her legitimate complaints and Maeve was a nihilistic shell of a person. After Annie called her personal hero out, Queen Maeve responded by standing up for her young colleague against Homelander's rage. Weariness and self-loathing has threatened to consume her once again, and the Seven veteran is leaning into a vaping DGAF attitude: "It doesn't matter what we do. Nothing changes. Nothing ever changes or gets better. And I'm tired of it."

It is unclear exactly what tips Maeve into action but her timely arrival is unexpected because of this earlier conversation. However, it also fits her pattern of doing the right thing and Annie's ability to get under her skin. While this team-up is on a much smaller scale with somewhat lower stakes — the fate of the world does ride on whether Compound V is kept under lock and key — it has drawn comparisons to the Avengers: Endgame arrival of Captain Marvel and every other female Avenger when the odds are stacked against them. Because The Boys is a satire of the superhero genre, it is impossible to ignore these connotations, particularly as the "she's not alone" scene was on the receiving end of both cheers and cries of "token female empowerment." But unlike the overt skewering in the "Dawn of the Seven" movie with its very obvious nods to the DCU and MCU, this fight sequence isn't as obvious in its critique — even if Eric Kripke has noted the aforementioned Avengers scene is a "satirical target."

Credit: Amazon Studios

Another factor that cannot be disregarded is how women are always pitted against each other, as if it is a Highlander scenario where there can be only one. The first season of The Boys showed the toxic side effects of this outdated notion in how Maeve first responded to her younger colleague with derision. Because it took Marvel so long to have a female-fronted movie (another reason why some thought the Endgame moment rang hollow), the future of women getting to headline a superhero film was put on Captain Marvel's shoulders — something Wonder Woman also faced. No doubt if Black Widow and WW84 had been released earlier this year it would've been a similar tale of which woman fared better at the box office. But both can exist simultaneously without turning it into a "who did it better?" moment.

One reason why The Boys feels like such a breath of fresh air is that it doesn't have the same kind of baggage or pressure on its caped shoulders. The writers have the space to explore performative feminism and deliver a physical sequence that feels earned. Girls can and have always been able to get it done.

Synchronic Tells a Dramatic Time Travel Story That Could Have Used More Time @ io9

Time travel is a drug and the results can be deadly. Anthony Mackie (Avengers: Infinity War) and Jamie Dornan (50 Shades of Grey) star in the new sci-fi film Synchronic as two best friends, and New Orleans paramedics, who begin to notice kids dying in horrible, improbable ways. Stabbed through the chest with a sword,…

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Hershey's Invented a Creepy Rolling Door to Force the Worst Halloween Candy Onto Unsuspecting Kids @ io9

It’s going to be a challenging year for trick-or-treaters, given that the safest approach to collecting candy is to simply not to. But that hasn’t stopped Halloween die-hards from finding clever ways to distribute treats while still social distancing, including Hershey’s. The company invented a rolling door with a…

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In the Wander Darkly Trailer, Diego Luna and Sienna Miller Navigate Love in Limbo @ io9

Sometimes, the darkest times in our lives can lead to moments of clarity. In the first trailer for Lionsgate’s Wander Darkly, a couple that’s struggling to define their relationship gets a jolt of (sur)reality when a car crash leaves one of them on the brink of the unknown.

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Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel poster revealed during Call of Duty's Halloween crossover @ Syfy Wire

Nothing says "2021 sequel to a 1974 slasher" like a poster reveal inside an unrelated, non-genre shooter video game! That's how the upcoming Texas Chainsaw Massacre film, which recently lost its original directors, showed off the first piece of art associated with the film: as an Easter egg hidden inside a trailer for a Call of DutyWarzone Halloween event.

Titled "The Haunting of Verdansk," the event runs from Oct. 20 to Nov. 3 and features all sorts of freaky things like zombies, a trick or treat system, and skins allowing players to conduct war as both Saw's Jigsaw doll Billy the Puppet (big and without the tricycle) or Chainsaw's Leatherface.

Here's the trailer:

The trailer doesn't just contain murder and mayhem, but a URL secreted away in flashes and segments. A URL leading fans to TexasChainsaw.com, where they'll find the below poster for the film now helmed by David Blue Garcia:

Source: Legendary

"In 1974, the world witnessed one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history. In 2021, the face of madness returns," the poster reads. This is in keeping with the film's plot, which is said to take place directly after the events of Tobe Hooper's original. It's certainly freaky and abstract - maybe writer Chris Devlin is doing a deep-dive into Leatherface's psyche.

The cast for the sequel includes Elsie Fisher, Sarah Yarkin, Mark Burnham, Moe Dunford, Olwen Fouéré, Alice Krige, Jacob Latimore, Nell Hudson, Jessica Allain, Sam Douglas, William Hope, and Jolyon Coy.

As of August, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel was in production in Bulgaria.

 

AMC Will Let You Rent Your Own Theater—But Tenet's Gonna Cost You @ io9

In these pandemic times, the best way to watch a movie is alone rather than squished between strangers. Theaters are making that possible—but you’ll have to pay a small fortune to make it work.

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The Best Computer Desk Is a Standing Desk: Your Top Options to Reach New Heights @ io9

Could super flares have obliterated all the aliens on some Earthlike planets? @ Syfy Wire

Somewhere in the universe, there could be organisms capable of surviving things we couldn't even dream about, but some planets are so inhospitable that even a vacationing tardigrade might want to pack its bags and rocket on out of there.

Earth can endure the Sun having tantrums otherwise known as solar flares (above), even though they can mess up signal transmissions. We are too far away to really feel the effects of the searing heat and massive amounts of UV radiation (and get a protection boost from the ozone layer and SPF in a bottle). Some planets are much less fortunate — they might be orbiting their stars in the habitable zone, but these stars burst out in super-flares that can be 10 to 10,000 times more intense than anything the Sun can belch out. That’s about 15700 to 71500 degrees Fahrenheit. There is no sunblock that could possibly save you from that.

Life as we know it would perish on such a planet. For the first time ever, a team of scientists from UNC Chapel Hill have measured these flares to determine the chances of habitability, if there even are any, on planets constantly exposed to super flares. There are at least twice as many of these planets than previously thought. It could save time for planet-hunting telescopes like TESS that are seeking out more habitable worlds. Cooler flares tend to burn orange, but the hottest glow blue.

“Some flares are so hot and so blue they emit most of their energy in the ultra-violet where DNA and cell damage occur and where molecules in Earthlike atmospheres are broken apart,” doctoral student Ward S. Howard, who led a study recently published in The Astrophysical Journal, told SYFY WIRE. “The flare temperature tells you exactly how much energy gets emitted as ultra-violet light.”

Even if an Earthlike planet is orbiting in what should be its star’s habitable zone, frequent super-flares that obliterated its atmosphere mean its habitability factor is just about zero. That doesn't necessarily rule out every possible type of organism. If scientists are speculating that alien microbes could be thriving in the toxic clouds of Venus or the frozen wastelands of Mars, some sort of microorganism might still make it on planets bombarded by super-flares. Life can survive far beyond the surface. Extremophiles on Earth can thrive everywhere from the darkest caves to hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean. Mars barely has any semblance of an atmosphere, which is why the search for any life or at least evidence of extinct life is turning its focus underground.

But what would happen if Earth were suddenly thrown that close to the mouth of the super-flare dragon? These are nothing like solar flares. Maybe we’d get through one after trillions of dollars’ worth of damages to our electrical and telecommunications grids, Howard believes the future would be grim.

“The biggest ones might cause a really bad sunburn, but that's all because of Earth's ozone layer—without the ozone layer such a flare would be lethal,” he said. “That's where repeated flaring comes in. These superflaring stars will destroy planet atmospheres over time, leaving the surface potentially unprotected.”

But wait. What about planets that are so far from the offending star that what causes devastation to nearer planets could possibly unfreeze them? Think of something as far from a super-flaring star as Neptune is from the Sun. It might seem like an opportunity for ice to melt and life to possibly emerge, but Howard believes these planets are much too far from the liquid-water habitable zone for it to make any difference. Even super-flares would not be powerful or frequent enough to morph a frozen planet into an orb of liquid water. However, maybe if something is on the outer edge of the habitable zone, about the distance of Mars, it might have a chance if it already has life hiding from the radiation in its depths, or at least the chemistry necessary for life to spawn.

There is also the possibility of life thriving on the dark side of a tidally locked planet, which always has just one side facing its monster star. Life can adapt to darkness. If there are sightless cave fish that have no problem surviving in the bowels of Earth, there might still be a chance for life on flare-bombed planets to make it where the destructive forces can’t reach.

“The combination of atmosphere loss and surface flux may prevent life from ever getting started on these planets in the first place,” Howard said, “But most Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones of flare stars are tidally locked, so that only one side of the planet ever faces the star. You could imagine a giant plant living on the dark side and reaching tendrils around to the light side and growing new ones after each flare.”

Maybe TESS should go over to the dark side even if this is just speculation. There might not be Sith lords, but there might be alien life-forms.

WIRE Buzz: Netflix's Sandman shooting; Eva Longoria boards Timur Bekmambetov sci-fi; Batman @ Syfy Wire

The Sandman series adaptation on its way to Netflix has had fans on the edge of their seats as they wait for a first look at the ambitious, delayed project. Now they've gotten the first in what is sure to be a series of positive announcements: production has begun on the show in the U.K. And this isn't from some no-name source, it's from the source author himself, Neil Gaiman.

Gaiman, posting about the adaptation of his beloved comic documenting the interconnected adventures of Dream/Morpheus/The Sandman, gave fans an inside look at the production process in two tweets — one on Saturday and one on Sunday.

Take a look:

"I'm just about to watch the first day's 'dailies' from Sandman, and realised that the people reading Sandman now are the last ones to get to read it in a world where there's been no Sandman adaptation, where you can't see it on a screen," the author wrote. "I heard the groaning hinges of the world."

The key element here is that Gaiman is actually getting a look at the first time his Sandman work has been adaptated to the screen thanks to enough production work being done for daily footage to be sent his way. Clarifying, Gaiman wrote that, "Oh, we started shooting on Thursday [October 15]. Dr John Hathaway has brought a book from the museum in which he works, to Roderick Burgess."

A small nod to the plot's instigating factor before doubling down on a promise: fans will get some solid casting information soon from the highly-anticipated Netflix series.


Next, the man behind films like Unfriended is getting back in the genre mix with an ambitious untitled sci-fi film — and the cast list is getting more exciting by the day.

Deadline reports that Timur Bekmambetov is producing a new film "in the vein of District 9" dealing with privacy issues through a sci-fi lens. Now Eva Longoria and Ice Cube have joined the cast, and the film will be directed by Rich Lee. The film has a script from Kenneth Golde. Aside from these details, the plot is still a closely kept secret — though it's a Universal project greenlit after Bekmambetov signed a package deal with the studio this summer.

The production, which is set to start this month, looks to be fully remote: actors and crew all work separately, keeping costs low and COVID-19 at bay. How that will actually look and work remains to be seen, but fans should see it sooner rather than later.


Finally, The Batman and Baby Yoda will end up having something in common...besides driving genre fans wild.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Matt Reeves' upcoming Batman film is using some of the same VFX production techniques as Disney+'s Star Wars series, The Mandalorian. That live-action show works with an LED wall that can adjust effects in real-time during filming, effectively creating realistic effect-driven backgrounds without post-production CGI. The Batman DP Greig Fraser is a Mando vet and also shot Rogue One, so he's used to some of this cutting-edge tech from Industrial Light & Magic.

For their Bruce Wayne story, the production had an LED wall built around practical sets so that virtual production could be done in certain scenes - presumably using the same Unreal engine tech used by Mando and The Lion King. Perhaps the Gotham cityscape, a terrifying hideout, or another location where the surroundings need to be big and flashy would benefit from this technique, though ILM chief creative officer Rob Bredow wasn't divulging specifics.

Fans will just need to wait until The Batman hits theaters on March 4, 2022.

 

Unsolved Mysteries' Co-Creator on True Crime, Ghosts, and Netflix Success @ io9

Six new Unsolved Mysteries episodes just hit Netflix, building on the success the first batch of episodes—a revamp of the hit series that’s been around since 1987—we enjoyed back in July. We’re obsessed, so we hopped on the phone with co-creator and executive producer Terry Dunn Meurer to learn more.

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Why George A. Romero remade his biggest hit, Night of the Living Dead @ Syfy Wire

When news emerged in 1990 that a more expensive, full-color Night of the Living Dead remake was on the way, it appeared as though Hollywood had once again simply run out of ideas. Released just 22 years earlier, the original was already considered a masterpiece, essentially introducing the concept of the modern-day zombie and inspiring a generation of filmmakers: Wes Craven and John Carpenter were just a few of the future horror maestros who watched in awe.

Yet further inspection revealed that this wasn't a simple case of creative bankruptcy. In fact, far from trying to cash-in on the legacy of George A. Romero's cult classic, Night of the Living Dead 2.0 was a concerted attempt to protect it.

Remarkably, the film only needed protecting in the first place thanks to a routine clerical error. Romero's directorial debut was initially named "Night of the Flesh Eaters." But to avoid confusion with 1964's Flesh Eaters — one of the first examples of the splatterfest — the auteur agreed to adopt its more familiar title. Unfortunately, its lackadaisical distributors forgot to transfer the copyright notice over, and as a result, the rechristened horror became part of the public domain. Cue a lengthy and costly court battle.  

Indeed, Romero, and the Image Ten production company he formed alongside friends Russell Streiner and John Russo, spent decades battling to retain the rights and recoup some of their lost earnings (Night of the Living Dead grossed $30 million on a budget of just $114,000, making it one of the most profitable horrors of all time). Of course, during this period, anyone who'd grown up watching Night of the Living Dead was entirely free to put their own spin on it.  

In fact, Hal Roach Studios had already released a colorized version of the black-and-white original four years before the Image Ten team reunited to deliver the first full remake. Only this time around, their roles were notably different.

Previous co-writer Russo joined Streiner as producer. The latter also switched his on-screen part from the opening scene's ill-fated brother to the finale's sharp-shooting sheriff. Yet the most surprising part of this behind-the-scenes merry-go-round was Romero's move away from the director’s chair.

The man dubbed King of the Zombies took sole responsibility for the screenplay. But already tied up with making The Dark Half, he entrusted Tom Savini, a special effects and cosmetics artist without any experience of helming a feature-length film, to transfer it from the page to the screen.

A bold decision, for sure. But Savini wasn't exactly a stranger to Romero's undead universe. He’d been recognized by the Saturn Awards for his makeup work on both 1978's Dawn of the Dead and 1985's Day of the Dead, also appearing in the former as biker Blades. And he'd cut his directing teeth on three episodes of Romero's '80s horror anthology, Tales from the Darkside.

Unfortunately for Savini, his time on set would soon have him scuttling back to the day job. In a 2003 interview with Film Monthly, he blasted the "two idiot producers" that constantly interfered with his vision, argued that only 40 percent of his ideas made it into the final edit, and described the whole process as "the worst nightmare of my life."

The underwhelming box office receipts (it grossed just a sixth of the original's on a budget 40 times bigger) and mixed reviews ("a crass bit of cinematic grave-robbing," claimed Variety) suggests that the efforts to maintain Night of the Living Dead's reputation had backfired. However, watching it three decades on, you get the feeling that early '90s audiences simply weren't open to the prospect of a Romero film directed by someone other than Romero. 

Savini's direction may be more conventional than the cinema verité style that thrust '60s moviegoers into the thick of the action like no other horror before. Even so, there are still some interesting stylistic choices: the opening scene, for example, shows how the undead can be just as menacing under glorious sunlight. And with $4.5 million to play with, the zombies themselves — all bloated heads and discolored, disfigured limbs — are inevitably far more unnerving than the original's lurching monsters adorned with Bosco chocolate syrup and roast ham.   

The professional cast is also much better equipped to deal with all the chaos than the largely amateur lot that often had to pull double duty on set. Tom Towles (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer), William Butler (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III), and Bill Moseley (Silent Night: Deadly Night 3) all had horror form, and Tony Todd would soon cement his status as a genre icon with his terrifying turn in Candyman.

It’s Romero's updated screenplay, however, that truly justifies the remake. Sure, it still hits many of the same beats as its predecessor. But it also subverts several key scenes (Ben is shot by fellow survivor Harry rather than the trigger-happy cops), boasts a darker comic streak (the getaway car keys were in the cellar all along!), and fleshes out characters that were previously entirely one-note.

None more so than Barbara, who spends most of the original rooted to the sofa in shock before meeting a grisly end at the hands of her reanimated brother. Taking over from Judith O’Dea, future Star Trek regular Patricia Tallman, however, was given the chance to morph from a meek and mild victim into a Ripley-esque badass who turns out to be the last one standing. The rise of feminism obviously had an effect on Romero.

Of course, despite his best efforts, the late filmmaker didn't deter others from further reviving Night of the Living Dead. There's since been several other colorized and 3D versions, a collaborative animated take, and too many indie low-budget remakes to mention, none of which have involved Romero. Even his old screenwriting pal Russo couldn't stop himself from getting in on the action, overseeing a 30th-anniversary edition featuring newly-filmed scenes and an alt score. Yet, as you'd expect, only the man himself has managed to both recapture and build on the original's thrilling sense of dread

Judge Rules Disney Free to Fire Employee Who Took Paternity Leave Because His Wife, Not Him, Was Pregnant @ io9

A U.S. District Judge has ruled that a former Disney Streaming Service employee “isn’t a member of a protected class” in a lawsuit claiming the employee was fired after the company possibly found out his wife was pregnant by hacking into his personal emails and phone. Obviously, this is not normal workplace behavior,…

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Marvel's Digital Comics Subscription Just Got Even Better @ io9

As the digital comics marketplace has become a bigger and bigger part of the way we all read our favorite books, publishers have been working to make accessing the latest print releases through digital subscriptions easier than ever. But Marvel, already a pretty strong supporter with its Unlimited sub, just made it…

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