Taika Waititi tells Joe Russo how Flash Gordon & Big Trouble in Little China inspired Thor: Ragnarok @ Syfy Wire

The Russo Brothers — the duo who have directed several MCU films including Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame — have a new stay-at-home-inspired YouTube series called Pizza Film School. The endeavor, where they promote their favorite pizza places and talk with their famous friends about some of their favorite classic films, has had some great episodes so far, including one where actor Mark Hamill joins them to talk about The Empire Strikes Backamong other things. 

Today's episode is another fun one, and features Taika Waititi talking with Joe Russo about how two classic genre movies — Flash Gordon and Big Trouble in Little China — captured their imaginations as kids and informed their films as adults.

Those familiar with the bright, campy, yet sometimes dark turns of Flash Gordon won’t be surprised to hear that the 1980 film was a favorite of Waititi’s, who directed Thor: Ragnarok with similar panache.

“I wanted to capture a road trip of people who had no business hanging out with each other,” Waititi explained to Russo about using Flash as inspiration for Ragnarok. “And I put all that to [Led Zepplin’s] 'Immigrant Song.' That song is basically about Thor. Just knowing the tone, knowing that it had to be playful and over the top…that this is unapologetically a space opera, and I’m going to pump this with color and life and energy and humor, and cool music. And the way I feel about that film is like if you’d ask a bunch of 10-year-olds what they want in that movie, we basically said yes to every idea.”

Thor: Ragnarok certainly satisfies the 10-year-old in all of us — it’s got a giant wolf and a zombie army, after all, not to mention the Hulk and Jeff Goldblum. “On paper, it doesn’t make any sense,” Waititi admits. “But with Thor, I think it makes perfect sense.”

Russo and Waititi go on to talk about how they establish the structure of their films (Spoiler: Russo is more deliberate and upfront about it while Waititi develops his structure more instinctually). They also chat about their love of another classic movie, 1986’s Big Trouble in Little China, where Kurt Russell’s performance as a grumpy, reluctant hero inspired the reworking of Thor’s character in Ragnarok.

"[Thor] just wants to get home," Waititi explained at the end of the episode. “All this stuff is going on, even with Hulk… he’s willing to leave people but also he’s trying to keep everyone together. He’s trying to be charismatic, and he’s trying to be a hero. He fails a lot, and tonally, that’s something from Big Trouble that I carried with me into Ragnarok.”

For those looking for something to do this weekend, it might be worth putting together a mini-movie marathon of the two classic films followed by Thor: Ragnarok. The good news is you can easily do so from the comfort of your own home: Flash Gordon and Big Trouble in Little China are available for rent or purchase on iTunes and Prime Video, while Thor: Ragnorak is currently streaming on Disney+.


WIRE Buzz: Toy Story 4 director raising Little Monsters; Monster Hunter delayed; more @ Syfy Wire

First up in this monster-centric edition of WIRE Buzz, Universal continues to go full steam ahead with reviving its stable of classic movie monsters. In addition to having Dracula, Wolfman, and Bride of Frankenstein films in the works (following The Invisible Man's huge success), the studio now wants to make something for the kids. And who better to offer the world a family-friendly monster movie than the director of the Oscar-winning Toy Story 4

Per The Hollywood Reporter, Josh Cooley, who helmed the latest film in Pixar's Toy Story franchise, will write and direct Little Monsters, a live-action hybrid monster feature for Universal Pictures. Todd Lieberman and David Hoberman of Mandeville Films will produce.

Although the plot for Little Monsters is being kept under wraps, the film is being described as a “love letter to classic Hollywood and the history of filmmaking” for audiences of all ages. And apparently it has no connection to either the Fred Savage vehicle of the same name from 1989 or the 2019 zombie film starring Lupita Nyong'o and Josh Gad.

The project is based on the character designs of concept artist Crash McCreery, who worked on Jurassic World, Kong: Skull Island, and Rango. McCreery will executive produce. 

The Invisible Man director Leigh Whannell is now working on a sequel to the hit film, as well as helming the studio's reimagining of The Wolfman starring Ryan Gosling.

Speaking of creature features, it looks like we’re going to have to wait until spring of next year to see Milla Jovovich battle exquisitely designed monsters. Various media outlets are reporting that Monster Hunter has been delayed to April 23, 2021. The film — based on the Capcom video game series that reunites the husband and wife team behind the Resident Evil franchise, director Paul W.S. Anderson and star Jovovich — was originally slated for a Labor Day weekend release on Sept. 4.

In Monster Hunter, Jovovich plays Lt. Artemis, leader of an elite unit of soldiers who find themselves in an alternate dimension full of deadly monsters. Once there, they try to stay alive and find a way back home, relying on the monster-killing skills of a hunter played by Tony Jaa. 

Anderson recently told Empire Magazine that the creature designs for Monster Hunter would have “even more detail than the dinosaurs of Jurassic World,” and described the film as "Lawrence of Arabia ... but with monsters!" 

Tip "T.I." Harris, Meagan Good, Diego Boneta, Josh Helman, Jin Au-Yeung, and Ron Perlman also co-star.

Game developer Ubisoft officially admitted on Twitter that Breaking Bad and Mandalorian actor Giancarlo Esposito will star in Far Cry 6, the latest installment in the company’s popular game series, where each installment takes players to a dangerous, lawless, post-apacalyptic place where they must fight to gain control of an area from less-than-savory folks.

The announcement came a bit early from Ubisoft’s perspective; they were most likely planning to announce Esposito’s role as a CGI character named Anton at their July 12 virtual presentation, Ubisoft Forward. Leaks, however, have shown up all over the internet, causing the company to come clean just days before the planned announcement.

While we still don’t know a lot about Anton or Far Cry 6, it’s clear based on the Twitter teaser video above that the character will be a formidable one — which, of course, Esposito is accustomed to at this point.

Even Superman's X-ray vision can't capture images like this six-month, all-sky shot of the cosmos @ Syfy Wire

The Last Son of Krypton might have enhanced vision capabilities to ferret out criminal activity and hidden weapons, but his X-ray enabled super-peepers pale in comparison to a breathtaking new composite image of the cosmos.

The first all-sky X-ray radiation image of the universe was created by using eROSITA (Extended Roentgen Survey with an Imaging Telescope Array), a specialized seven-camera instrument on board the German-Russian satellite mission Spectrum-Röntgen-Gamma, or Spektr-RG.

To construct this sweeping new outer space panorama, scientists enacted a full rotational scan of the entire sky over the span of approximately six months, searching for electromagnetic X-ray radiation sources, which include neutron stars, pulsars, black holes, galactic star clusters, and the telltale leftovers from massive supernova events.

Credit: Jeremy Sanders, Hermann Brunner and the eSASS team (MPE); Eugene Churazov, Marat Gilfanov (on behalf of IKI)

During its extended 182-day heavenly hunt from Dec. 13, 2019 to June 11, 2020, eROSITA located over a million signatures of X-ray radiation emanating from every corner of the cosmos. The majority of these transmissions were traced back to active galactic nuclei, or the brilliant, dense regions at the cores of galaxies. The team at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Garching, Germany recently announced that this basically doubles the previously recorded number of X-ray sources that have been catalogued in over six decades of X-ray astronomy.  

Galactic clusters of this magnitude are vital in scientists' understanding of how these complex masses of stars evolve and grow.

"This all-sky image completely changes the way we look at the energetic universe," explained Peter Predehl, MPE's Principal Investigator of eROSITA. "We see such a wealth of detail — the beauty of the images is really stunning."

eROSITA's stunning complete sky image is nearly 4 times deeper than the ROSAT telescope's all-sky survey performed back in 1990, and has generated 10 times more active EM sources, which represent the sum total discovered by all previous X-ray telescope undertakings. 

Credit: Jeremy Sanders, Hermann Brunner and the eSASS team (MPE); Eugene Churazov, Marat Gilfanov (on behalf of IKI)

"We were all eagerly awaiting the first all-sky map from eROSITA,” says Mara Salvato, an MPE scientist who spearheaded the task of combining eRosita's 165GB of data with other electromagnetic spectrum telescopes. “Large sky areas have already been covered at many other wavelengths, and now we have the X-ray data to match. We need these other surveys to identify the X-ray sources and understand their nature. eROSITA often sees unexpected bursts of X-rays from the sky. We need to alert ground-based telescopes immediately to understand what’s producing them.”  

According to the official report, the SRG Observatory is now beginning its second all-sky survey, which should be finished by the end of 2020. Throughout the next 3.5 years, the ground team's mission calls for acquiring a total of seven incredibly detailed elliptical maps of the same nature as the mesmerizing images above, providing astronomers, cosmologists, and astrophysicists with a treasure of amazing material to pore over.

"With a million sources in just six months, eROSITA has already revolutionized X-ray astronomy, but this is just a taste of what's to come," adds Kirpal Nandra, head of MPE's high energy astrophysics unit. "This combination of sky area and depth is transformational. We are already sampling a cosmological volume of the hot Universe much larger than has been possible before. Over the next few years, we'll be able to probe even further, out to where the first giant cosmic structures and supermassive black holes were forming." 

Avatar: The Last Airbender's Dante Basco on 'tango' of doing live, audience-driven Twitch show @ Syfy Wire

Actor Dante Basco has a rare claim to fame. Not only has he portrayed an iconic character in live-action over his prolific career — Hook’s Rufio — he’s also provided the voice for a pair of similarly legendary animated characters: Avatar: The Last Airbender’s Zuko and the title character of American Dragon: Jake Long. Having reached such heights in genre entertainment, perhaps it just makes sense for Basco to get increasingly creative with his projects...

Like: What if he focused on something that was more like a live Bandersnatch than a traditional TV series?

That’s what happened when Basco made his debut last night on the third season of Artificial, Twitch’s interactive sci-fi series about futuristic A.I. technology, which occurs live for a streaming audience that helps determine the story. He plays Zander — who was created over a similarly audience-driven livestream with showrunner Bernie Su — a character who possesses a rich quantity of Dungeons & Dragons-like qualities. Zander is a flamboyant medium with a penchant for winking, the rival/ex-friend of Sebastian (Stephen Chang), and, pivotally, against self-aware A.I.

Basco spoke with SYFY WIRE about working in this innovative medium, the connection between acting and gaming, and creating Zander.

What drew you to Artificial?

I've been friends with Bernie Su, co-creator and director of the show, for a while. I've been watching his career and been a fan of things he's done from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries to Emma [Approved] to this now. We've been wanting to work together for years, trying to figure out the right thing, and now, with the pandemic and everyone stuck at home, we needed to figure out how to do this.

He talked to me about coming on the show and I was like, "Hey, man, I'm not shooting anything else right now — let's do it." It was perfect timing and situation.

It's a perfect storm of opportunity for this kind of project. What was it like making your debut in this medium?

It was a little scary and exciting. I've been involved in the digital side of the industry for the last few years now. I had a deal at Maker Studios for a lot of years and did a lot of stuff with them, and after they got acquired by Disney, one of the co-founders of Maker [created something new]. I'm a partner in his company: Rawn Erickson II's TheMachine. We've done a lot of stuff on the digital side of things, but this is pushing it more.

Being involved in this very innovative way — going from YouTube to Twitch, happening live — really is weird, right? It's a dualism. It's innovative and brand new and exciting, but it also goes way back to theater. Live-action, on-stage theater. One take, let's go. It's really fun and smart in the way that Bernie has approached it, especially around artificial intelligence, which is a conversation for right now.

When I was watching, it felt like a combination of your work doing board game stuff with Rooster Teeth, live-action theater, and something like Bandersnatch with audience input. What's it like not knowing exactly where you're going to go?

Like any live theater, when anything happens, you have to tango through it. You saw that last night with Elle; Christy St. John's internet was being wonky, which put everybody else on their toes because we all have to do scenes with her.

That's the old theater saying: "The show must go on." We all learned that growing up in the theater, so we're just back to that.

When you were creating Zander, you were given a lot of arbitrary qualities from the audience. What aspect of the character affected your acting choices most?

They're all in the back of your mind as they're writing and as you're performing it. But the wink thing, I like the wink thing. There's a certain kind of guy that winks a lot. It's kind of an interesting thing. Flamboyance, trying to bring that to the words and the costuming and the jewelry. Playboy: there're all these overly sexualized things that the character is doing that're creepy — actually made extra creepy because the Wi-Fi was wonky.

So I'd say a line that was probably cringey toward a woman and, because the Wi-Fi was lagging so hard, it was extra time just sitting there.

We really got to marinate in it. The pauses were so interesting — how strange to deal with that as an actor.

These are problems I have as a gamer — I'm on Twitch through gaming — where you're playing and someone's lagging or the framerate's low. Everyone knows gamers are talking about this all the time, but [having] the same conversation in filmmaking is hilarious. What happened to Christy last night is like you're playing League of Legends and someone misses a few kills or gets dead or stalls out and they're like, "Oh sorry, I'm lagging." In the game, you'd be like, "What? Restart your computer!" We're doing the same thing as we're shooting a show.

With Twitch, you're also getting immediate feedback from people watching you. And you're not just playing a game, you're in the middle of your craft. Do you pay attention to that or are you thinking about it?

We have people going through the chat because we are interacting, throwing questions and polls at us, which we're reading. I'm not reading the chat live, because it's hard when you're acting. It's one of the things that's weird for me because I do have a life on Twitch with my stream where we stream a few times a week and we do Let's Watch Avatar.

People are very used to me on Twitch as Dante, outside of any of the characters I play. We're hanging out, talking smack, playing video games, having drinking games — it's very interesting for me to be back on this platform, but not being me and acting again. I'm interested to see how audiences take it.

People are like, "Is this fake, is this real?" And you're like, "No, this is scripted." People are reliant on platforms for what things are.

Totally. If you're not there with the stream from the very beginning, it can feel like, "OK, are people putting on a live-read or... ," and you have to keep watching to realize the structure and the branching paths. What's getting the script like?

You get a script with extra scenes, going down those branches, like you said. Basically, you have to be ready for "if they go this way, we have to say these lines; if they go that way we have to say those lines." You gotta be prepared for either way. Which is fascinating, but it's extra work for the actors and the writers because they're overwriting and we're memorizing two scenes instead of one.

Did you get to do any Zoom rehearsals with the cast or was the stream the first time they'd seen Zander?

Yeah, we do. Like theater, we get to run it a bunch of times and work out the kinks. On their end, what they're doing branch-wise and editing-wise, and we have to work out both sides of it.

Also getting a part in character creation has to be novel as an actor.

When I was doing the world-building episode with Bernie, I likened it to creating a D&D character. But, at that time, with 14,000 people watching and throwing out all kinds of ideas. Pretty fun.

You were very close to being able to speak to the dead.

Yeah, and it's very interesting to see what audiences want to see. And also, to see just great regular internet life with people trolling and trying to get the weirdest things out there. Which is cool, that's part of it too! Some trolls, let's roll.

You've got a roster of iconic characters like Zuko or Rufio in your back pocket and pulling from a giant backlog of cameos and supporting performances — is there any character from your past that Zander pulls from?

The flamboyance, the cuttingness of the character. I did a character in Blood and Bone, the Michael Jai White movie, where I play the manager of Michael Jai White and he's kinda streetwise and crazy. There's always little aspects of other things going in there. There's brand new stuff too, which I hope we get more into. He's very spiritual and aura-filled and very L.A. in that way. We're playing with it now and I can't wait until we get more into it in the future.

You talked a little about how you're doing an Avatar rewatch, like many fans are now that it's on Netflix. What’s it like revisiting the show?

The great thing for me is being able to call up a lot of my co-stars from the show and hang out with them online, talk about the show and watch it with the fans. It's great to get everyone's idea of what they remember from the show and how it fits today. It's ironic that it comes out now during these crazy times we're living in and is poignant for a lot of things happening right now.

Beyond that, it's just great to be a part of a great project. Sometimes you know how great it is 10 years after, rather than when it first comes out. This is one of those projects that's definitely like that.

You also had your memoir come out, From Rufio to Zuko, right before the pandemic. Can you tell me a little about that?

I was approached by the indie press company Not a Cult, and they approached me to write a book. I was like "I'm too young to write an autobiography." But they pitched the idea: "We want a book on Hollywood from an Asian American perspective and you're the guy that we all grew up with. What's your story?" I really liked that point of view and I didn't know where to go when I was writing all these essays, until I realized that maybe I can give something to the next generation of artists coming to this city.

Because me and my family didn't know anybody and went through ups and downs — so this is just a little thing I can offer to the next generation. Especially people of color, especially Asian Americans, but any artist coming to town.

Artificial is like the next chapter there, with a large Asian American cast and creative team.

There's always a next chapter in this town.

Artificial airs every Thursday at 6 p.m. PT on its Twitch channel.

The Ninja Turtles Go On Tour (to Your Shelf) In the Most Radical Toys of the Week @ io9

Welcome back to Toy Aisle, io9's regular round up of the latest and greatest in collectible plastic threatening to do a number on your savings. This week, Bandai gives us a totally unnecessary Iron Man and a totally necessary Scarlet Witch, the silliest Hasbro egg cups you’ll ever see, and the ultimate Power Rangers


A Long-Hidden His Dark Materials Short Story Is Now Getting Released @ io9

Lyra Silvertongue’s story continues. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, has announced that a novella set in the world of His Dark Materials, written over 15 years ago and kept hidden ever since, is getting released to celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Golden Compass.


Stephen King's If It Bleeds dripping movies from Ben Stiller, Ryan Murphy, Jason Blum & Darren Aronofsky @ Syfy Wire

In the immortal words of Mel Brooks, "It's good to be the King." And seeing that Ben Stiller, Ryan MurphyJason Blum, and Darren Aronofsky are among the ever-growing list of producers getting in the Stephen King business these days, it's more than good; it's downright great.

Continuing Hollywood’s ongoing love affair with All Things King, three out of the four stories in the author’s latest anthology collection, If It Bleeds, have been optioned. And the fourth? Well, there's no word yet, but it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility, since it features a character who recently appeared in an adaptation for HBO. 

Producers Ryan Murphy and Jason Blum are teaming up with Netflix to adapt King's short story “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” into a feature film, The Hollywood Reporter has revealed. John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Banks, The Blind Side) will adapt and direct. 

Meanwhile, Deadline is reporting that Ben Stiller has optioned another short story from the collection, “Rat,” for a feature that he plans to produce, direct, and star in. And thirdly, Darren Aronofsky’s production company Protozoa has optioned yet another If It Bleeds story, “The Life of Chuck."

The fourth story in the collection, “If It Bleeds,” revolves around Holly Gibney, the clairvoyant detective played by Cynthia Erivo in the HBO limited series The Outsider, which gives the network the opportunity to delve further into the Gibneyverse. So let's make it 4 for 4, shall we, HBO?

(Credit: Scribner)

“Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” centers on a young boy and an older billionaire who bond over the old man’s first iPhone. But when the old man dies, the boy discovers that he can communicate with his deceased friend by leaving voicemails on the iPhone that was buried with him. Mr. Harrigan’s Phone will be the fourth original film based on a King story that Netflix has produced, the previous three being Gerald’s Game, 1922, and In the Tall Grass.

“Rat” focuses on a frustrated writer named Drew Larson who heads out to an old family cabin in the woods to write a Western novel. When severe storms occur, he makes a Faustian bargain with a rat to alleviate his writer’s block. 

“The Life of Chuck” concerns Charles Krantz, a man who dies of a brain tumor at 39 and whose life is segmented into supernatural chapter breaks.

In the fourth story, "If It Bleeds,” private detective Holly Gibney watches a news report of a school bombing and believes that the reporter on that story might not be the most objective of journalists. The character of Holly Gibney was also part of King’s Bill Hodges Trilogy, the Brendan Gleeson series that adapted the novels Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, and End of Watch.

No word yet on a timeline for any of the announced adaptations.

67 thoughts we had while watching Ghost @ Syfy Wire

Full disclosure: when I say I've never actually watched the movie Ghost before, what I mean is it's one of those movies I've watched in passing because it was always airing on basic cable TV.

I decided to change that for three reasons — the first due to the fact this year marks the 30th anniversary of a '90s classic. The second is purely based on the well-known fact that the late Patrick Swayze is so damn beautiful and also such a talented actor. And lastly, I need to know exactly what was going down in the pottery scene, a classic scene that I've seen spoofed countless times.

Plus, who am I to not watch a '90s movie with Whoopi Goldberg in it?

1. This opening is so long. They wanted to get every penny of usage out of the opening song and the room design.

2. Even though he is covered in dust, a shirtless Patrick Swayze is a win. We really won, y'all.

3. I could totally see a home renovation show starring a '90s Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze, and Tony Goldwyn.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

4. Buying a place you have to renovate? The wealth jumped out.

5. A little PDA in front of a shirtless friend who more than likely had something else to do on his day off? Sure.

6. I have to take a moment to remind everyone of how big fine Patrick Swayze was. May the divine creator rest his fine soul.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

7. The elevator scene is hitting different thanks to the pandemic. Sam and Carl pretending Carl has something contagious while Carl coughs is a lot.

Credit: Paramount Pictures 

8. There is no doubt in my mind that Sam and Molly were having some good and nasty sex.

9. For a brief moment, I thought Sam was going to end up a ghost because he lost his grip while swinging out the window to grab the art piece they were trying to get into the apartment.

10. Has Sam been in some of my therapy sessions? Was he a ghost in the room? Because I felt this conversation about being afraid to be entirely happy because you're waiting on the other shoe to drop.

11. A plane crashing just before you have to fly is some next-level stress.

12. Let's talk about the ways this movie impacted pottery culture. Iconic.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

13. Ohhhhhhhhh! So, the sexy pottery scene starts because Sam ruined what Molly was working on? I mean sure. Men, amirite?!

14. I am so profoundly comforted by the fact that they washed their hands before engaging in the secks after playing in that clay.

15. Also! I am so relieved to now know the pottery scene takes place while Sam was still alive and not after he died. This entire time I assumed some haunted dickery was going on. A little haunted peenus, as a treat.

16. I don't like them walking down this dark street.

17. On no! Sam put up a hell of a fight.

18. Damn, he died. I knew it was going to happen, but still, it hurts.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

19. At least it looks like Sam is going to the Good Place. An actual Good Place and not the Bad Place disguised as the Good Place, though.

20. Damn, there is a timer on the portal to heaven?

21. Pets and babies always see ghosts.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

22. I couldn't even imagine being a ghost but unable to keep my loved ones safe. Poor Sam.

23. Small aside, but Patrick is wearing the hell out of these jeans.

24. Thinking of ghosts fighting each other on a packed subway train is really stressing me out. Public transportation is already stressful; adding some ghosts to the mix is a lot to process.

25. Whoopi Goldberg knew she didn't pick characters in the '90s who shied away from giving us fashions.

26. Talk to me, Miss Cleo Goldberg.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

27. This wig is kind of cute.

28. We love a scam.

29. You know, at least Sam died in something comfortable and cute. I would be so upset if I died in some kitten heels and had to finish up my business on Earth in them.

30. "I knew you were a white man!" I mean obviously, look at him requesting labor for free.

31. Sam is a petty ghost.

32. This is kind of Casper, but for adults?

33. I love how Oda Mae isn't scared to mix prints.

34. "White but cute." I felt that.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

35. I'm surprised Oda Mae convinced Molly to listen.

36. Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg are great on-screen together.

37. "Molly. You in danger, girl."

Credit: Paramount Pictures

38. He was set up? The plot thickens. It's from all that shirtless PDA earlier.

39. "Have a nice life. Have a nice death. Goodbye." This ENERGY.

40. It looks like Fitz could use Olivia Pope's help.

41. I knew Carl was a snake!

42. All over 80K??

43. Oops, not this racism popping up in this movie by this Bill Dauterive lookalike at the police station.

44. I know he did not spill hot liquids on himself so he could take his shirt off to entice his friend's fianceé. The man hasn't been dead a whole month yet.

45. Dirty macking after your friend's death? Trash!!

Credit: Paramount Pictures

46. Ghost training.

47. This is getting kind of dark.

48. Oda Mae, being booked and busy after making contact with Sam, is funny.

49. A little warmup body possession in our paranormal romance thriller before THE body possession moment.

50. Run girl! Oda Mae, you are the one in danger!!

51. Oda Mae's bank fraud outfit is everything.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

52. Four million dollars??

53. Carl keeps refreshing this 1990 computer like it's not a 1990 computer.

54. Sam is a wealth redistribution king.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

55. Oh wow. So the demons just come and carry souls right on to hell.

56. Carl is such trash.

57. Sam put in quick work using his new spooky powers on Carl.

58. Yes! Mess him up!

59. Carl got precisely what he deserved, and that's a big shard of glass through his chest. Damn, he died terribly.

60. The demons took him right to hell.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

61. Carl was money laundering. SMH.

62. Why does this music playing while Molly realizes Oda Mae isn't lying about Sam sound like some Disney music?

63. I know this moment should be serious, but the fact that it's Oda Mae touching Molly because Sam took over her body is as hilarious as it is creepy as it is troubling.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

64. Sam went on to glory.

Credit: Paramount Pictures 

65. Now I'm crying.

66. I really enjoyed Ghost. Truly.

67. However, Ghost is in the subgenre of magical negroes who help white people in love.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

WIRE Buzz: Malorie movie in early stages; Roswell creator exits; and Tesla trailer @ Syfy Wire

Sandra Bullock should start practicing her blind acting skills because a film adaptation of Josh Malerman's Bird Box sequel, Malorie, is reportedly in the works.

"I can’t say much, but I can say that it is in development. Sometimes it’s weird, all this secrecy, but I’m game," the author told Inverse.

It's probably safe to assume that Netflix is the one looking (get it?) to bring the upcoming novel to the screen. The movie version of Bird Box enjoyed the streamer's biggest debut for an original film; over 45 million accounts allegedly watched it within the first week.

Credit: Dark Regions Press

Going on sale July 21, the follow-up is set more than a decade after the events of the first book. Now living at a defunct summer camp with her son and adopted daughter, the paranoid Malorie Hayes decides to once again brave the world of mysterious creatures that drive people insane.

Chatting with SYFY WIRE, Malerman described Malorie as "pee-your-pants scary fun."

Carina Adly MacKenzie is vacating her position as creator/showrunner of The CW's Roswell, New Mexico. Per The Hollywood Reporter, her "relationship with studio Warner Bros. Television had been strained for some time."

Based on the report, the final straw arrived when WBTV was forced to do "damage control" after MacKenzie took to Twitter last month to accuse the U.K.'s ITV of cutting a same-sex "love scene" from a certain episode. A rep for ITV2 refuted her claims of homophobia and bigotry, stating that "scenes involving sexual content were edited in keeping with the regulator, Ofcom's, guidelines."

"I have made the difficult decision to resign from my role on Roswell, New Mexico. I do not take this decision lightly, but ultimately due to fundamental differences, I must depart and entrust Roswell, New Mexico to capable hands," MacKenzie said in a statement to THR. "I am so proud of what we built over the last two years, and I believe in the heart and soul of the show: asking tough questions, striving to make the world better, amplifying marginalized voices, and fighting the good fight."

"The third season of the series will return to The CW as part of the network’s 2021 midseason lineup," added a rep for WBTV.

Roswell, NM is the second television translation of Melinda Metz's Roswell High books.

Ethan Hawke is absolutely electric in the first trailer for Tesla, a biopic about Nikola Tesla, the inventor, who often gets obscured by the looming shadow cast by Thomas Edison. Twin Peak's Kyle MacLachlan co-stars as Edison in the unconventional historical flick from Michael Almereyda. 

Utilizing fourth wall-breaking narration, anachronistic technology, and atmospheric backdrops, the film explores Tesla's "uphill battle to bring his revolutionary electrical system to fruition," as well as the "thornier challenges" involved "with his new system for worldwide wireless energy," reads the synopsis.

Watch the trailer below:

Jim Gaffigan and Donnie Keshawarz play George Westinghouse and J.P. Morgan respectively. Eve Hewson takes up the role of Morgan's daughter, Anne, who "analyzes and presents the story as it unfolds, offering a distinctly modern voice to this scientific period drama which, like its subject, defies convention."

"Almereyda lays tracks to take Tesla in a dozen wild directions," wrote Amy Nicholson wrote in her review for Variety. "Early on, Anne whips out a MacBook to use Google image search. Later, Edison kills time on a cellphone. Almereyda’s entitled to meld past and present — Tesla was a man of the future. Yet, having ordered the audience onboard, Almereyda doesn’t go anywhere with the gambit."

This is the second movie in the last few years to depict the professional and scientific rivalries among Tesla, Edison, and Westinghouse. The first was Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's The Current War in 2017.

Hawke and Almereyda previously worked together on projects like 2000's Hamlet and 2014's CymbelineTesla strikes theaters and VOD Friday, August 21.

2020 Prometheus Award Winner @ Worlds Without End

The Libertarian Futurist Society has announced the winner of the 2020 Prometheus Award, honoring pro-freedom works published in 2019.

Alliance Rising prometheus Award



Our congrats to C. J. Cherryh & Jane S. Fancher and all the noms!

'Back to basics': How king of comic book rehabilitation John Byrne saved the Fantastic Four @ Syfy Wire

It took me a minute to become a Fantastic Four fan.

When I first dove into comics, I had several books that demanded my monthly attention. Marvel's flagship comic was not one of them.

Sure, I enjoyed the occasional FF comics I read, especially when Thundra and her unrequited love for Ben Grimm would be part of the storylines. But outside of the epic Reed Richards-Dr. Doom battle in the 200th issue, I never really believed the blurb above the title. To me, Fantastic Four was never "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine!"

art: John Byrne/Terry Austin

Until John Byrne.

It should be fairly clear if you've seen some of my interviews with him for the video portion of the Behind The Panel franchise that I'm a huge Byrne fan. He's on my personal Mount Rushmore of comic book creators, and since he celebrated his 70th birthday on July 6, I felt compelled to focus this week's column on him. In particular, I wanted to discuss his sublime gift for getting to the essential core of a character. If you look at his body of work in his nearly five-decade career, much of it has been spent rebuilding and revamping heroes and villains. His celebrated relaunch of Superman may be the best such example, but She-Hulk, the Vision, Iron Man, Wonder Woman, and Namor the Sub-Mariner have all benefited from his mastery of the makeover. There is no one better at comic book rehabilitation than John Byrne.

For my money, his work on the Fantastic Four was peak Byrne Rehab. At the time he took over the book in 1981 with issue #232, he was the top guy in comics. His run on Uncanny X-Men with Chris Claremont cemented him as a superstar, and when given the chance to take over Marvel's First Family, he went back to basics. As he told me once — during our first interview, actually — the most important element to properly portraying the FF is to present them, first and foremost, as a family. It's a family that loves each other. Do they fight? Absolutely. But they will go to the ends of the galaxy for each other. Anyone who has read Byrne's legendary five-year run on the book understands that.

But it took me a bit longer than others to realize it.

The first Byrne FF comic I bought came nearly a year into his tenure. It was issue #242, and I grabbed it mainly because one of my favorite bad guys, Terrax, was on the cover. He had returned to Earth to force the FF to take on Galactus and threatened to ram the island of Manhattan into the Big G's ship if they refused. That issue had everything a new or, in my case, lapsed reader could ask for. We got a quick, concise setup of each main character, from Ben's eternal struggle to come to grips with being a creature others saw as a monstrous thing, to Johnny's personal life, and the gentle marital bickering between Reed and Sue. I don't know if anyone since has been able to capture Ben Grimm's inner torment as well as Byrne did.

He also tipped a cap to the franchise's glorious past, such as when Johnny Storm walked by the Bowery squat house where he had found the Sub-Mariner years earlier in Fantastic Four #4. Just as important, the greater Marvel Universe was represented by the appearances of the Avengers, Daredevil, and Spider-Man. There was an immense amount of story crammed into 21 pages, and none of it felt forced. It seemed... effortless.

And while it was the first chapter of a three-part epic that is (or should be) on everyone's shortlist of all-time FF stories, the comic didn't feel like an unsatisfying amuse-bouche. It deftly balanced quiet character moments with some colossal fisticuffs, such as when the Thing is pounded through the Baxter Building. Also, Byrne in just a few pages had helped Terrax regain his place as a world-threatening villain. The last two times he had popped up in comics, he had been bested by Rom the Spaceknight and... Dazzler. My love for the singing mutant heroine runs deep, but there's no way she should ever in two billion years beat a herald of Galactus. With this story, Byrne gave Terrax his mojo back.

Credit: Marvel Comics, Art by John Byrne

In interviews then and since, the writer-artist has said his goal when he got the book was to take the Fantastic Four back to its roots. That meant evoking the spirit of the title from when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were breaking ground each month with one new adventure after another. Those were the comics he read when he was a young fan, and you can sense Byrne's affection for the FF on nearly every page, much like it comes across with Professor Xavier's original mutants in X-Men: The Hidden Years. In many ways, Byrne's FF is the greatest fanfiction in history. He loves these characters; it was obvious when he gave me a tour of his studio and he talked about the rare FF original art on his walls.

His passion isn't reserved just for the heroes. The FF's rogues gallery regained its edge under his guidance, in particular Victor Von Doom. Byrne even managed one of the all-time great flexes in comic history when, in issue #258, he corrected a slight to Doom his old X-pal Chris Claremont had scripted in Uncanny X-Men #146, when Arcade lit his match on Doom's armor. The fact that Byrne used an entire page of an FF comic to undo one tiny moment of disrespect underscored just how seriously he took these characters. No one was dissing the FF's greatest villain on his watch!

Credit: Marvel Comics, Art by John Byrne

By the time the Galactus trilogy capped Byrne's first year on the title, the Fantastic Four were firmly ensconced back at the top of Marvel's hierarchy.

Did he save the FF from cancellation? Nope. It wasn't in that bad shape. But he rescued it from something almost as bad: mediocrity. During his time in the captain's chair, Byrne revived the sense of galactic adventure and family dynamics that made the book so unique. He would shake up the lineups, make elemental changes to foes like Galactus and remind people of the four-color magic the FF could conjure.

That is his lasting legacy on that franchise. For me, all of that began with that one single issue and Byrne's mission statement:

Back to basics.

What's your favorite story from Byrne's Fantastic Four run? Find me on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram and let me know. I can talk Byrne comics all day long!

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

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

How the Lonely Island Came Aboard Palm Springs and Pushed for It to Be Nerdier @ io9

The story of how the new sci-fi romantic comedy Palm Springs came to be is fairly typical... until it isn’t. Filmmakers Max Barbakow and Andy Siara met at the American Film Institute, became friends, made a few shorts, and decided to attempt a feature. That’s the typical part. Their script then got noticed by none…


Netflix's Unsolved Mysteries Is Both a Polished Update and Filled With Old-School Weirdness @ io9

True crime is riding a huge wave of popularity, so the timing couldn’t be better for an Unsolved Mysteries comeback. Netflix’s revival brings the 1990s staple into the current moment with a more refined production style, while also keeping things oddball enough to please longstanding fans.


Is space the final frontier for F9? Ludacris is fast and furious to cover up a possible hint @ Syfy Wire

The next Fast and Furious film was one of the theatrical victims of the coronavirus, seeing its release delayed by almost a year after this spring's industry-wide shutdown. However, that hasn't stopped fan speculation about where the over-the-top vehicular madness will go in the next entry of the franchise. Space has often been a theory thrown around by family-not-friends diehards, and F9 star Ludacris may have just confirmed it.

Speaking on SiriusXM’s The Jess Cagle Show, the actor/musician let something slip to co-host Julia Cunningham as she was documenting the outrageous ways the franchise could top itself. Taking Dom and the crew to space seems to be the one he insuinuated was correct.

Take a look:

"Space has to be involved," Cunningham says, before almost moving on to submarines - which would also be cool. But before she can fully explore another theory, Ludacris explains that he "said that six Fast and Furiouses ago. You're saying the same exact thing I'm saying."

Then came the interesting part. Ludacris gets a coy look. "You just said something very important. You're very intuitive because you said something right, but I'm not gonna give it away." "I said space," Cunningham replies. Then Ludacris' mouth makes a perfect O-shape, which he quickly covers with his hand. This is either a grand prank (and solid acting) or a teased confirmation that The Fast and the Furious may be leaving the atmosphere.

This would fall in line with series screenwriter Chris Morgan's answer when posed a similar question: "I will say — what’s the best way to answer this? — you’ll have to wait and see. Listen, as long as the stakes were set up correctly, then I’m down for whatever." And so are F&F fans.

F9 is now scheduled to hit theaters (and possibly return to terra firma) on April 2, 2021.

Look of the Week: Warrior Nun's sparkly dresses and chainmail masks @ Syfy Wire

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

The 2018 Met Gala celebrated the sartorial influence of religion with the theme "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination." Inspiration was derived from artwork, the Pope, and Joan of Arc. Cardinals and bishops have a touch of the flamboyant in their regalia; however, "nun but make it fashion" was not on the menu. Taking this vocation in a different costume direction, Warrior Nun is adding some chainmail and leather to the pious closet, while newcomer Ava Silva (Alba Baptista) discovers a halo is a difficult accessory to pull off.

Netflix's new series takes the “warrior" aspect of its title seriously, which opens with the Order of the Cruciform Sword (OSC) under attack. An ancient religious faction tasked with protecting the world from demons, their uniform mixes robes and head coverings with leather body armor and weaponry. Before Ava can suit up to match the other women in the OSC, she has quite the journey. Costume designer Cristina Sopeña mixes contemporary fashion with battle-ready looks, creating a striking visual palette that defines the conflict Ava faces about who she is.  

Spoilers for Warrior Nun ahead.

Credit: Netflix

Ava's experiences have been limited since she suffered life-altering injuries in a car crash that killed her mother, after which she was taken in by Saint Michael's Orphanage. She spent the next 12 years residing in a place of cruelty, but our time with Ava begins after she has died. Waking up in a body bag is one thing, but possessing superpowers (including the ability to phase through walls) is hard to fathom, so it no surprise she spends the first episode thinking she is actually dead. After all, the 19-year-old has spent the last decade-plus in an abusive environment, so this would be an extension of her personal hell. Clothing beyond plain bedclothes has not featured in her wardrobe since she was paralyzed from the neck down after the car accident. She has not ventured beyond the walls of the callous institution until now.

Acquiring clothes is something Ava does throughout the series, first in a sporting goods store where she selects a beanie, Nike hoodie, Málaga soccer jersey, shorts, and sneakers. Comfort is the priority here, even if she looks incredibly out of place in the bar she ends up in. In a voiceover, she explains her appearance has never been a factor because she never had a chance to look at herself — of course, she is beautiful. Nevertheless, it isn’t surprising her initial outfit has a youthful quality, harkening back to the last time she picked out what to wear.

Credit: Netflix

A chance encounter with a group of seemingly affluent people — they are scamming the rich and famous lifestyle — leads Ava to experience clothing beyond practicality. The designer-label loving bunch is Instagram-ready at all times, but it is Chanel (May Simón Lifschitz) who takes Ava under her sartorial wing, offering her a sequin mini-dress to wear on a night out. Ava instantly trusts Chanel’s style choices because this was never a consideration in the orphanage — and her new friend clearly has good taste. 

Switching from glam garments to comfy oversized striped shirts as a swimsuit coverup, Ava's borrowed closet is a theme throughout the series — she never settles in one place for long. Chanel offers not only great outfit advice, but also imparts some words of wisdom about fashion and identity. In Episode 4, Ava struggles with a closet packed with options because she has never picked her own clothes — the aforementioned sports apparel moment doesn't really count — and asks, "How do you choose who you are?"

At this moment, Chanel explains the joy and power that comes from using clothes as an expression of self (which also doubles as an explainer for the language of costumes designer). "Your clothes don't define you. They define your image for the world. Fashion can be an illusion. A book jacket describing the fun story inside." Lifschitz, a Danish-Argentine model and actress, was only the second openly transgender woman to appear in a Victoria's Secret campaign, which further emphasizes the powerful role of visibility in this industry.  

Credit: Netflix 

Ava's time with the Bling Ring-style group only lasts for so long before demon antics suck her back toward the OSC. Sure, they don't have closets packed with endless designer threads, but they do have an impressive array of buckled leather armor. Sister Beatrice's (Kristina Tonteri-Young) chainmail couture face mask is worn during one of the best fight sequences of the series. Easily pinned back as a sort of headband, this is solid badass look for the OSC.

Meanwhile, Ava doesn't have to worry about not wearing the same garb as everyone else as Shotgun Mary (Toya Turner) is also an outlier. Close to the last Halo bearer, Sister Shannon (Melina Matthews), Mary doesn't wear the robes but is still battle-ready in her muted neutral layers. 

Credit: Netflix 

Warrior Nun is about a young woman finding her power and identity, discovering a support system (or two) she has previously never been privy to. Clothing plays a role as she ventures out into the world and learns the ropes of dating and fighting demons. It is a familiar premise, which will lead to inevitable Buffy the Vampire Slayer references — and a penchant for leather jackets does link the two (the official outerwear of a warrior). Similarly, a push-pull between youthful exuberance and duty to a larger cause lead to challenges for the entire OSC squad. Whether Ava ends up sticking to civilian garments or chooses chainmail and leather, she has found plenty of sartorial strength in both.

Who Won the Week: Virtual Comic-Con and Danny Trejo @ Syfy Wire

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

Almost too much to talk about this week, folks! Jackie Jennings sits screen-to-screen with news editor Alexis Loinaz to talk about what it means to have a virtual Comic-Con, break down some TV trailers, and reminisce over what sort of SIMS overlords they used to be. We're also airing a produced segment about Danny Trejo in celebration of his recently released documentary, Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo, that tells his life story.

Listen below!


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To contact us about the podcast, feel free to drop us an e-mail, or tweet at us with the hashtag #whowontheweek! And if you like what you hear, please be sure to rate and review us on iTunes! Let us know what you think the biggest stories going are, what you might want to hear in future episodes of the 'cast, and whatever else is on your mind.

Masi Oka time-travels for Heroes retrospective — and reflects on diverse superheroes @ Syfy Wire

Heroes premiered on NBC way back in 2006, so long ago that people nowadays forget it was one of the instigators of our current superhero-saturated culture. At that time, straight-up superhero shows were not a thing, especially not on prime time broadcast television. There also wasn’t a Marvel Cinematic Universe, a DC Extended Universe, and The CW network had just launched, so the Arrowverse wasn’t even a glint in its eye. So, it’s fair to say that Heroes becoming a huge pop culture phenomenon at launch was essentially a litmus test for what was to come. 

And, it was also one of the very few series of that time to come out of the gate with baked-in inclusion. The massive ensemble cast offered a lot of unknown, multi-ethnic faces, and more importantly didn’t remand them all to sidekick roles. In fact, one of its anchor characters in the pilot was introduced as the personification of the potential of the show’s own title: Hiro Nakamura, played by Masi Oka

Now, 14 years later, the entire run of Heroes will be available on NBCUniversal's upcoming streaming service Peacock, and a new generation of superhero fans can see some old school history. Having been a part of that ride for the entirety of its history, Oka spoke with SYFY WIRE about the legacy of the show, the impact of Hiro on the superhero culture, and how the show changed his life as a creative. 

You’ve had the rare opportunity to stay with this character over the whole span of his existence. Do you allow yourself moments to reflect on the path you’ve taken with the character?

The whole idea of the superhero genre wasn’t exploited as much back then. Now, we see a proliferation of all these streaming services, including on Peacock, and we see all of these superhero shows on there. But before then, it was a risky proposition. It's hard to believe. So, I remember when we were doing the [NBC] up-fronts [and they] were actually just kind of, “Ehh, we’ll take a shot at these guys and see what happens."

For us, on set, we knew we were making something actually extraordinary. I mean, even look at the writers’ list. We had the Yankees. It's amazing: Michael Green (Logan), Bryan Fuller (Hannibal), Tim Kring (Touch), Jeph Loeb (Smallville), all these guys. Now they are brilliant showrunners themselves and auteurs. And they all came together and created this show. So, we knew we had something special when we were making it, but the people outside were saying, “Now, they’re superheroes. They're not gonna happen.” 

People forget it really wasn’t a landscape where mainstream audiences were immersed in comics culture.

Yeah, I remember NBC put all their chips into Studio 60 at that time. It's Aaron Sorkin; he's amazing, a brilliant writer as well. But then after one night, all of a sudden things have changed for us. It was really interesting because when we went to Comic-Con, all of a sudden after the screening, I remember we just couldn’t walk anywhere. We got bombarded everywhere. That was a turning point. I was like, "OK, at least we have something for that genre crowd."

And then I remember doing my first interview with me, America Ferrara, and Lizzy Caplan [in Ugly Betty and Related at the time, respectively]. We were supposed to be these three breakout characters of the season. And I was thinking, "OK, that's kinda weird." I didn't think of myself as that. But, low and behold, after that first episode aired, our lives all really changed. And especially for me, it was really important because I'm an Asian American actor. There were “diversity roles” back then, but they were like really small roles, these one-liners like the Chinese delivery guy. So, to see a character that was one of the leads and to be able to portray in a positive fashion?

And he was a co-lead on his own hero’s journey, literally, Joseph Campbell-esque.

And there was some stereotypes [to Hiro]. But at the same time, there was a lot more depth to that. Stereotypes are part of who we are as humans. There's a reason why it's called stereotypical because it's part of a truth. But to be able to show a different part, that's what's important about diversity. And Hiro became a hero and one of the co-leads. It's an unlikely journey, especially for an Asian character at that time.

Hiro kept a strong arc that was extremely important to the mythology of the show. Were you able to talk to Tim Kring about that as the seasons continued?

I never really got a chance to talk to Tim about that because it wasn’t, at first, a series regular role, so for me I was just like grateful to be on the show. I was really just ecstatic because it was a great show, and it was fun. I was able to put my spin on it, do my improv and was able to add to the process on set and collaborate with writers and my fellow actors. Only later on did I find out through an interview that Hiro was supposed to be killed like in the seventh episode. If I had known that maybe there might have been a different story. I don't think it would've affected me in terms of changing the way I would play him. But there might have been a little bit more, "Oh, god, what's gonna happen to me!" rather than just really enjoying the moment and just having fun. So, I think that just fed into itself. And I'm just very lucky that things worked out.

Was there a Hiro arc that you felt the most ownership about in regards to how you helped shape it?

Not that I recall, actually. When I'm an actor on a show, I tend to be that. I’ll throw input, but my job is to trust the writers in many ways. It's still a collaboration, so there are some inputs. I remember back in the day I didn't even think about the idea of creating stories and influencing what the writers write. There was a dialogue, but ironically, I didn't inject myself, Masi, as a filmmaker, Masi, as a creator, in Heroes. I literally just followed the process. And being my first show, it's hard to figure out what it is. I guess that's the Japanese part in me where I tend to respect all authority and seniority. People who are bosses are really important to us. 

Ironically, though, when Heroes Reborn came around, I did speak to Tim. I had all these ideas, and I told him I would love to be a producer on the show and then helped shape the show. And he was actually really all for it. Unfortunately, I had a contract with Hawaii 5-0, which I'm especially grateful for as well. But the timing just didn't work out. But if there was another [season of] Reborn, I would definitely have more input and would want to be involved in the creative process knowing how stories are made and how to work with writers.

It's like if I had the knowledge now and the experience, and then if I were to literally go back in time like Hiro did, it would've been different. I think there's a sense of innocence and gleefulness that Hiro is going through where he's discovering everything as I was. I think there was a correlation there and a parallel. If I had known everything now, I think there wouldn’t be that pure joy that Hiro was experiencing.

Credit: NBC

You’re a producer now too, so what did you learn from observing the making of Heroes that influenced how to approach that role now?

I would say trying to avoid a writers’ strike. [Laughs.] Look, the writers’ strike was important. I support the unions, and I have to speak up for that. The problem was it was just poor timing in terms of how unfortunate [it was for Heroes]. I joke, but it kind of killed the momentum, without a doubt. And, it is what it is, like how we have to deal with a pandemic right now. It's part of life, and there are so many other things going on that are more important than your show. We were just blessed to have a great run.

But in retrospect, there are pros and cons. At the end of the day, having great writers is so important. We were very fortunate having great writers in Season 2 to 4. But the first season was just amazing, and we lost a couple of them starting in Season 2. And then that kind of tipped the scales a little bit, to be honest with you.

So, especially when it comes to TV, the writers are literally the kings and queens. They are the creative force behind everything. That's why when I produce with TV, it's really important to have that great visionary who also can work together. As a writer being in the room, I've realized how important the showrunner is, how important that dynamic inside the room is and how you want to make sure everyone’s writing because they want to write, and that they're writing with their blood rather than for the paycheck. That was our show. Our first season, everybody couldn’t wait to see the next script. 

Was there a favorite storyline? 

Oh, wow, I don't even remember the title of the seasons. [Laughs.] I think it was definitely the first season, though. The first season without a doubt has just always been like close to perfect TV. The finale was the only thing that I wish... I'm gonna be perfectly honest with you. I think the writers had all of these amazing things happen in the finale.

I remember [reading] the first draft going, "Oh, my god, this is awesome!" And then subsequent drafts, it kind of whittled down, which I am assuming those were network notes to scale down the budget. I'm sure the budget was crazy. And we probably used so much budget. As a producer, you want to end with a bang. It felt like it could've been better. But that first season was just absolutely amazing just to be able to be part of that. And it's just very special, where we were all discovering things. 

Are you finding that performing is still in your heart? Or are you finding that producing allows you to be more in charge? Where are you at, career-wise?

I love it all. My mind has always been left brain, right brain; in harmony. Producing has a different, varying mindset. You have to be flexible about thinking outside the box but also being able to put out the creative box for people to think in. And acting is a different muscle, which I love. It's very creative, and it's a lot more focused.

SYFY WIRE and Peacock are both owned and operated by NBCUniversal.

Battle Chef Brigade Helps Me Navigate A Complicated Relationship With Food During Covid-19 @ io9

(Note: This post contains discussions of disordered eating.)


Astronomers Have a Plan to Detect a Possible Black Hole in Our Solar System @ io9

You may have heard about Planet Nine—a hypothetical planet thought to exist in the outer reaches of the solar system. One possibility is that it’s not a planet at all but a tiny black hole. New research outlines a potential strategy for detecting this supposed black hole, in a search that could begin as early as next…


Cullen Bunn talks going steampunk in new Kickstarter comic 'Democritus Brand and the Endless Machine' @ Syfy Wire

Prolific supernatural and sci-fi writer Cullen Bunn's Herculean level of creative output has solidified his title as one of the most productive talents in comics after a solid decade of dark-tinted offerings, and he's not planning on slowing down one single page anytime soon. 

The Eisner Award-nominated writer of The Sixth Gun, Harrow County, Micronauts, Uncanny X-Men, X-Men Blue, Dark Ark, Unholy Grail, Sinestro, Deadpool, Conan the Slayer, Army of Darkness, and countless other titles has just launched a tempting new Kickstarter campaign this week for a fantastic steampunk adventure series titled, Democritus Brand and the Endless Machine and SYFY WIRE has an exclusive peek inside the dynamic pages.

Credit: Cullen Bunn

Written by Cullen Bunn and JimmyZ Johnston, who previously collaborated on Micronauts and Wrath of Karza, the wild project includes striking artwork by Federico de Luca (Mindbender, The Barbarian King) and lettering courtesy of industry veteran Simon Bowland. This fresh endeavor will serve to finish up and fund the first two issues of the ambitious miniseries, which already has its preliminary art completed.

Credit: Cullen Bunn/Federico de Luca

Democritus Brand is a bold, truth-seeking archaeologist residing in a steampunk version of England's classic Victorian Age, exploring the planet from the lofty vantage point of his state-of-the-art airship while joined by an unsavory collection of skilled companions. It's an intriguing blend of jolting cosmic horror and steampunk sensibilities set in the year 1891, all wrapped up in a world gone mad with ancient alien technology discovered 30 years earlier at a strange Egyptian burial site.

The initial series is planned for six issues, with additional tales featuring Professor Brand’s adventures to come down the road.

"We were so excited about this book, we couldn't stop at just one issue, not even in the early stages!," Bunn tells SYFY WIRE. "We are thrilled about this story, so we went ahead and completed two issues before starting the Kickstarter. I hope readers are excited about it as we are. We have a really amazing variant cover from Baldemar Rivas. It's in-house, but our plan is to unveil it about a week into the campaign, just to keep the excitement going.

"Democritus Brand is a character we could write about for years to come. I think the world he lives in is ripe with stories. There are so many ghastly secrets to uncover. And he has a really cool support team, too! He is accompanied by the Countessa, a beautiful and dangerous dilettante; Conroy, a cunning street urchin; Zylphia, a soldier of the Crown; and Number 12, a pneumatic manservant. It's a motley crew, but they have exciting adventures!"

Credit: Cullen Bunn/Federico de Luca

Co-writer JimmyZ recalls kicking around this Victorian Era story with Bunn for a few years.

"We even pitched it to some publishers before deciding we wanted to go the Kickstarter route," he explains to SYFY WIRE. "Two years ago I opened a comic book store which has derailed my free writing time just a bit. I’m extremely excited about the project for a variety of reasons. Talking to people in my store about projects I am working on is always fun."

Credit: Cullen Bunn/Federico de Luca

Now check out our exclusive preview of Democritus Brand and the Endless Machine in the full gallery below and visit the Kickstarter page to learn more about this stirring steampunk saga.

Relic director Natalie Erika James reveals the personal origins and FANGRRL path to horror filmmaker @ Syfy Wire

Sometimes the scariest thing we can imagine is coming home. That's the case in the Australian haunted house stunner Relic. Emily Mortimer stars as a divorced mother who travels with twenty-something daughter (Bella Heathcote) to the home of her mother Edna (Robyn Nevin), an ailing widow suffering from dementia. When this muddled matriarch complains that the things in the house move and that someone stalks her in rooms unfamiliar, her family believes it's just the disease attacking her memory. But what if something monstrous really is out to get this beloved grandmother?

Out of its Sundance debut, Relic won resounding praise for its slow-burn style of terror and its thoughtful exploration of the horrors of dementia. All the more impressive, this spooky and spectacular film is a feature directorial debut. Awed by her out-the-gate awesomeness, SYFY FANGRRLS spoke with Japanese-Australian writer/director Natalie Erika James via Zoom to uncover her path into filmmaking and the personal stories that led to Relic.

James' journey as a filmmaker began at 13, growing up in Australia. "I started very young, in terms of making crappy films with friends," she recalls, citing that her earliest efforts were parodies of the Harry Potter films. "Oh God, this is so embarrassing," she laughed. "[We were] clearly taking the piss, even at this age. We rewrote the characters so instead of Harry finding out that he's a wizard, he finds out he's Australian. So then it's this journey about him having to deal with Australian culture at the age of 11."

From silly spoofs with friends, she got more serious, channeling her high school creativity into "a lot of pretentious art films." "I'll never show [them to] anyone," James said with a smile. "But they were enough to get me into film school."

Specifically, these got James into her dream school, the Victorian College of the Arts at the University of Melbourne. It wasn't just her first choice, it was the only film school to which she applied. "I guess my reasoning was, if I wasn't good enough for that school, then I shouldn't be a filmmaker," she shared.

After graduating in 2013, James took production work in advertising, but always with an eye toward her goal to be a filmmaker. "I just made sure I kept directing," she explained. "Which is one of the things that one of my lecturers told me that I really took to heart, to just keep creating your own stuff. Even if that was music videos or short films or low-budget commercials, I just made sure I was in that role."

To that end, she and co-writer Christian White were working on the screenplay of Relic when they decided to create her 2017 horror short, Creswick. Like the feature that would follow, the short film follows a woman into her parent's home, where creepy clues reveal a horrific truth.

Creswick toured festivals, gathering acclaim and attention for James, which was the plan. "We already had the first draft of Relic," she recalls. "Then we very consciously thought, 'Okay, let's make a proof of concept that is more succinct.' So the story and the characters are different slightly, but the same tone, same settings, that kind of thing." The plan worked. Their smart and scary short caught the eye of Jake Gyllenhaal, as well as MCU helmers Anthony and Joe Russo, who all went on to serve as producers on Relic. Still, the film had some of its plans disrupted by other praised horror.

In both Creswick and Relic, the elderly parent has a craft hobby they enjoy. "The original idea came from my cinematographer (Charlie Sarroff), whose dad had dementia before he passed," James explained. "He had been an incredible musician. As his condition worsened, his music started to worsen, but he wasn't aware of that deterioration."

James and her team decided to use a visual hobby to display such deterioration in a subtle yet striking way. In Creswick, it's done with woodworking; in Relic, candle carving. However, the original plan for Relic's matriarch was to have her make delicate dollhouse furniture. "But then Hereditary came out," James said with a chuckle. "When we were close to finishing the script, we, my co-writer and my two Aussie crews as well, went out and saw [Hereditary]. And we all looked at each other at the end of the film and went, 'Yeah, the dollhouse furniture's got to go.'" She adds with a shrug, "So yeah, we still really wanted to give her a craft and that deterioration, so we settled on German candle carving."

The family drama at the core of Relic also came from a personal place. "My grandmother had Alzheimer's, and it was a really prolonged decline for her," James said. "I watched her relationship with my mother shift over time and the dynamic of that point when you have to start parenting your parents. I think my dad had something similar with his parents as well, so that was a really interesting and very heartbreaking kind of subject matter that I thought would be worthwhile exploring."

The haunted house conceit was likewise inspired by her maternal grandmother. "My grandmother lived in Japan in this creepy traditional Japanese house that was probably 150 years old. It always used to freak me the hell out as a kid, because I used to spend my summers there. So I think the combination of those two things, this kind of thematic focus and the creepy setting, was the starting point for Relic."

Tapping into these memories, James sometimes got emotional. "In the writing process, certainly there's some tough times," she said, "If you get emotional and then you know you're hitting on something that's truthful, and that's the most important thing in writing."

Making the film was less emotionally taxing than the scripting had been, James explained, because "there's so much that's vying for your attention and there's so much going on, that that isn't as forefront." Then she added, "I will say that there was one scene in the film when Edna's burying her photo album. I think I cried three times during the shooting of that scene. So yeah, it certainly hits you at certain points, and certainly in the edit as well. When you're just trying to feel it in the watching of it."

James hopes the emotional journey within Relic will prove cathartic for those who've also gone through the pain of losing a loved one to dementia. "You talk about this kind of stuff because it's important, and yeah, it's painful because it matters."

As for what's up next for James, more, more, and more horror. She's got a few scripts in the works, including one about a demon and one that's of the body horror subgenre. "But the one that's furthest along is a folk horror that's set in Japan," James teased. "It's kind of in the vein of The Wicker Man or Rosemary's Baby. It follows a woman who's got this intense fear of motherhood, both in the physical sense and the identity, who marries into the family who worships a fertility goddess."

This sounds similar to another scary short of hers, Drum Wave. James confirmed, "Drum Wave is the proof of concept for it."

If you want a taste of what scares and heartache James plans to bring to theaters next, check out Drum Wave.

Relic is available in select theaters, drive-ins, and on digital/VOD today.

These Pop Culture Besties Are Ready To Fill Your Dwindling Wall Space @ io9

Great art might come from conflict, but friendship is important too. That’s why for their latest gallery show Tom Whalen and Dave Perillo have decided to focus on pop culture’s most famous BFFs.


The Black Ghost boasts the most relatable accidental superhero ever @ Syfy Wire

If Jessica Jones and Lois Lane had a Latinx adopted daughter, she would grow up to be Lara Dominguez, the main character of The Black Ghost. Sans powers, Lara is an investigative reporter on a cop beat by day and a not-so-secret masked vigilante by night. The series is a ComiXology Original co-written by Alex Segura (Archie and Friends) and Monica Gallagher (Assassin's Roommate) and drawn by George Kambadais (Firefly: Outlaw Ma Reynolds, Miranda Turner). At its core, The Black Ghost is about a hero with issues — but Segura and Gallagher’s writing is so relatable that you can’t help but root for her.

Segura is a fan of noir (Double Indemnity and Dressed to Kill are among his faves), and Gallagher loves fun female characters who fight (think Daughters of the Dragon). Their blended proclivities are evident on every page of The Black Ghost. The pair first collaborated on the iHeart Radio scripted podcast series Lethal Lit: A Tig Torres Mystery, about a teen who returns to New York to help exonerate her aunt, who has been accused of being a serial killer with a penchant for literary classics. Lara and her awkward heroism in The Black Ghost were born from that partnership. As Lara tries to solve her brother’s murder and root out the corruption in “The Dregs” of Creighton City, she realizes that she can no longer sit on the sidelines. She goes from reporting the news to donning a mask and becoming the crime-fighting story.

Lara has a moral code and a strong sense of integrity that we’re used to seeing in characters like Superman, but we rarely see that same sentiment fleshed out in female characters. Her vulnerability (she’s a depressed alcoholic), her gullibility (she’s continuously lured into danger), and her absent-mindedness (she forgets her keys, her mask, and even her codename) make her one of the most relatable superheroes in indie comics we’ve seen in a while. Lara is a tenacious accidental superhero with a wicked left hook, and The Black Ghost graphic novel serves as her origin story, and hopefully the foundation of a world that we see more of in the future.

SYFY WIRE spoke with Segura and Gallagher about the collaboration process, why we really need relatable superheroes, and the importance of Latin representation in comics.

Credit: Comixology

How was The Black Ghost born from your Lethal Lit collaboration?

Monica Gallagher: I enjoyed working with Alex so much, we figured why not keep the party going! 

Alex Segura: [On that project] we really learned how to collaborate and brainstorm together, and soon realized we not only had a similar story sensibility and work ethic — but were additive, in that we each brought things to the table that the other didn’t really consider.

Co-writing can be challenging; what was your process like?

Segura: One of us would dive in first, lay out the framework, then tag out and let the other come in and push the boulder up the hill a bit further. Then we’d each take turns reading it over and marking it up. The thing I love about working with Monica is that there’s no ego — we can each slice into the other’s work and know that there won’t be any hurt feelings and it’s all for the betterment of the project. 

Gallagher: We go back and forth a lot. We’re discussing everything going on with the plot and the characters the whole way through. It’s a really lovely change to just working on stuff by yourself! Not that that stops me from talking to myself.

When writing noir, what do you flesh out first? The murder, the victim, or the hero? 

Segura: Good story always comes from character, so that’s what I look at first — who are these people, what do they want/need/fear? The idea of noir is you put a person into an untenable situation and see how they react. Will they be heroic? Will they make bad decisions? What happens when things get worse? I’m a firm believer that character leads to plot, and while I do tend to outline — and I think it’s important to know the ending of your story when you start — I don’t think you need to have every detail mapped out. You need to leave little corners to explore along the way, otherwise you get bored.

Credit: ComiXology

Did you pattern Lara after anyone in particular?

Gallagher: She’s a combination of a bunch of influences of Alex’s and mine, for sure. For my part, Jessica Jones was a big one, along with Misty Knight and, oddly, Anna Lucia from Lost. Lara doesn’t have superpowers, and she has a buttload of her own personal demons. But she also has an extremely strong sense of responsibility and a drive to action that comes from within, even when things are completely falling apart. 

She is also very realistic. Was that important?

Segura: Yes, Monica and I, along with series artist George Kambadais, didn’t want this to feel like a [story where] the protagonist has problems, but the second they put on the costume it’s all good. We wanted to explore the idea of what it’d be like for a real vigilante to survive in a real city — and you see a lot of that in the story. She has trouble keeping her identity secret. She gets messed up a lot. Not every investigation is smooth and direct. 

Gallagher: I love exploring the messy! Characters who grow and change but they earn it along the way. I think sometimes we forget life is change and we want our characters to stay put and predictable. It’s fun getting to remind people not just that characters are flawed, but that they encompass just as many issues as we all do.

Credit: ComiXology

Monica, in Assassin Roommate you are both the writer and illustrator; was it fun letting George Kambadais take over the art in Black Ghost?

Gallagher: So fun! (Poor George!) He’s amazing, and his style took The Black Ghost to a whole other level — definitely inspiring Alex and me to keep up with him along the way. I do think it benefits me a little as an artist, because I understand the amount of work that goes into every comic page. And I know better than to be a jerk and put crowd scenes into the script! 

As a journalist, Lara is a hero with a keyboard. Is that something that you inspire to be as well? 

Segura: I have a background in journalism and find investigative journalists to be the closest thing we have to a street-level superhero. Where, instead of punching the bad guys, you shed light on the wrongs, and so it made sense for Lara to already have that embedded sense of justice and ability to piece things together. And there’s a moment that I’m particularly proud of in the first season where she realizes that, yeah, great, she can keep writing about these crimes — but at a certain point, someone needs to do something ... and then she puts on the mask. It might be one of my favorite moments in the entire run so far.

If Lara and Tig Torres met at a bar, what would they talk about?

Gallagher: Tig’s still a teen, so she’d probably only be at a bar to question someone ... I think Lara would respect her gumption (probably be a little like “s*** I didn’t have my stuff together when I was her age!” to herself) and help her find her mark.

Segura: Well, Lara might ask Tig where she got a fake ID to get into the bar! But I think they’d get along — they’d compare notes as reporters, maybe talk shop. I think Tig would be impressed by Lara’s resume and maybe suss out her true identity. They’d probably talk about Taylor Swift, too.

credit: ComiXology

Alex, you regularly write Latinx characters into your work. What do you think of the recent push in the industry for more diverse characters? Is it genuine?

Segura: It has to be. If diversity is treated as a fad, we all lose. I think it’s important to show people an array of characters that represent the wider world we live in. As a Cuban-American, I wanted to see a character like me.

I wanted Lara to reflect that, too. I never had that as a kid, I never saw people like me in comics or prose, at least not to any meaningful degree — so the hope is that by writing more diverse characters honestly and thoughtfully, you’ll show readers that they do exist — and there can be stories about them. We wanted to have a strong, smart, vibrant Latinx character and not be preachy about it. She just happens to be from Miami and speak Spanish sometimes. The big win is showing a diverse character as a normal, expected part of the narrative, instead of something other or novel.

What are you working on next?

Segura: I finished a Star Wars novel, Poe Dameron: Free Fall, coming out next month from Disney, and I’ve got some comic book stuff happening — plus my next prose novel, Secret Identity, which is coming from Flatiron Books.

Gallagher: I’ve got a few projects in the works, but nothing I can announce. Let’s just say they could or could not involve fairy tale monsters, sea creatures, bumbling teens, musicians, witches, and/or spaceships. No, I’m just kidding — I’m total crap at drawing spaceships!

Fast 9 Going to Space Might Not Be So Ludicrous After All @ io9

With eight core films, one spin-off, and an animated series under its belt, Universal’s Fast & Furious franchise revving up for its ninth installment of the Fast family’s ridiculous story about how a group of street racers ended up becoming...superheroes, more or less, whose abilities all revolve around being real…


WIRE Buzz: Jurassic World: Dominion resumes shooting; crowdfunded X-Men figure; Battlestar Galactica @ Syfy Wire

Jurassic World: Dominion is officially back in production, despite reports that filming shut down again after several crew members tested positive for COVID-19, writes Variety. The dino-centric threequel has been back on set in the United Kingdom for the last five days after Universal announced plans to resume shooting with strict safety measures in place last month.

“Any reports indicating that Jurassic World: Dominion has halted production are categorically untrue,” a Universal spokesperson said in a statement to Variety. “The production is in its fifth day of shooting today, and we’re thrilled to be back in front of the camera on this incredible project.”

Credit: Universal Pictures

Along with James Cameron's Avatar sequels, the project (directed and co-written by Colin Trevorrow) is one of the largest Hollywood movies to resume production amid the global pandemic. Empire's latest issue details some of the on-set precautions like mandatory face masks and "antiviral fog machines" that will sanitize the sets each night.

"It will take some getting used to, but film crews adapt to changing conditions for a living," Trevorrow told the magazine. He added that the weeks of filming prior to the shutdown in March were for dinosaur-heavy sequences, allowing them "to get a head start on VFX and workshop some of the newer elements without the pressure of a looming deadline."

Dominion is scheduled to open in theaters June 11, 2021.

X-Men fans now have the chance to hunt down wayward mutants with a 26.3-inch Sentinel figure from HasLab. The crowdfunding platform (under the Hasbro Pulse banner) revealed the Marvel Legends-branded product during a Fan First Friday livestream earlier today.

Details include: 

  • LEDs in the head and chest (2x AAA batteries required, not included)
  • 18-inch Sentinel “tentacle” accessory; Marvel Legends 6-inch Bastion figure with 6-Inch alternate Sentinel Prime head
  • Marvel Insider Points Redemption code (70,000 points per purchase, limit 2 code redemptions per account)
  • X-Men #14 (1963) digital comic to read in the Marvel Comics app (available in iOS and Android)

Credit: HasLab/Marvel

A minimum of 6,000 backers is required before Monday, August 24 in order for the figure to be mass-produced. You can pledge right here. So far, the campaign has netted over 1,800 backers. If it hits the target number, figures will start shipping around fall 2021.

HasLab was previously behind Jabba's Sail Barge.

In early May, we learned that Michael Lesslie (Assassin’s Creed) had been tapped to write a Battlestar Galactica reboot for NBC's Peacock service. Speaking with Deadline, Bill McGoldrick, President of Original Content at NBCU Entertainment Networks and Direct-to-Consumer, offered an update on the project.

"I have seen an outline that we’re excited about,” he said." “It’s obviously a big undertaking and we’re aware of the importance of that IP and we’re being pretty deliberate but it’s progressing nicely.”

Credit: NBCUniversal

Lesslie is expected to deliver a script to McGoldrick in a few months' time before he gets the green light to put together a writer's room. McGoldrick added that the show "comes with a great deal of responsibility" and voiced the team's desire "to do it great service."

Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail is on board as an executive producer.

Peacock launches next Wednesday, July 15.

Chicken Run's Julia Sawalha says studio recasting voice of Ginger in the sequel @ Syfy Wire

Aardman Animations' Chicken Run sequel is recasting the voice of Ginger, actress Julia Sawalha revealed on Twitter this week. In an open letter to the public, she wrote that the stop-motion studio would not be rehiring her for the part she originated in 2000 because her voice sounds "too old."

"I am passionate about my work and I don't want to go down without a fight, so I did my own voice test at home and sent it to the producers," reads the letter. You can listen to the test here

Sawalha says she "received a very kind and thoughtfully written response from one of the creatives, outlining their decision, most notably saying, 'Some of the voices (not yours, I agree) definitely sound older.'" However, they stated 'We will be going ahead to recast the voice of Ginger.'"

The part of Rocky the rooster (originally voiced by Mel Gibson) is being recast as well.

"I went to great lengths to prove to the production that my voice is nigh on the same as it was in the original film," continued Sawalha. "If they will be using some of the original cast members…let’s be frank, I feel I have been unfairly dismissed. To say I am devastated and furious would be an understatement. I feel totally powerless, something in all of this doesn’t quite ring true. I trust my instincts and they are waving red flags."

She voiced her disappointment at not being able to re-team with Aardman vets Nick Park and Peter Lord (they directed the original) with whom she created the character of Ginger. Even so, she wished the studio "best of luck and the greatest success with the sequel."

Sam Fell (Flushed AwayParaNorman) has been tapped to helm the follow-up, which finds Ginger and Rocky raising a daughter together in a chicken utopia. As she grows, the chick, Molly, yearns of leaving the safety of her island home, while a growing threat on the mainland forces Ginger to rally the egg-laying troops back into action.

Inspired by The Great Escape, Chicken Run (released in the summer of 2000) followed a group of rebellious chickens trying to escape the farm on which they live before they're baked into pies.

Karey Kirkpatrick, who penned the first movie, co-wrote the sequel with John O’Farrell. The film will exclusively premiere on Netflix.

Star Trek's Jeffreys Combs, Ranked @ io9

Star Trek is filled with fantastic guest actors, but there are perhaps few more prolific, as prominent, or as downright varied as Jeffrey Combs.


Baby Yoda is cereal now, and The Mandalorian is a music video @ Syfy Wire

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

Think of us as your own personal Star Wars Holocron.


It was announced on May the Fourth that a cereal featuring the so-called Baby Yoda would be coming out sometime this summer. Well, good news, everyone! The fruity, corn-pop cereal with green marshmallow assets is finally hitting store shelves now.

The initial announcement might have slipped through everyone’s radar because of the pandemic, but seeing it on shelves now has renewed interest.

On one hand, it seems like a very cynical manipulation by General Mills to use branded content to get us to eat really unhealthy breakfast options. On the other hand, Baby Yoda marshmallows.

They’re available exclusively at Sam’s Club and will be available in stores nationwide by the end of the month.

This is the way.


The official The Mandalorian Twitter account dropped a behind-the-scenes music video that documents Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson putting together the iconic theme song for the show.

It’s particularly poignant this week. The show’s music owes an influential debt to the work of Ennio Morricone and his work on spaghetti westerns. The Italian composer passed away this week at the age of 91. In an interview with Vanity Fair this week, Göransson talks about the influence Morricone had on the score. 

“I don’t know how you can be in this field and not be inspired by his achievements and his music," he said. "Just the way he experimented in production, the way he brought in different styles of instruments combined with each other, and he really pushed the envelope so far and he made it also sound so simple and so close. In The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, it’s a similar idea, is that it’s two notes. But immediately when you hear it, it resonates with your whole body. That was a magic power that Ennio had, to be able to make these interesting combinations.”

The second season of The Mandalorian hits Disney+ in October, right on schedule, and will once again feature Göransson’s music.


A new book about Grand Admiral Thrawn is coming out soon, the first of a planned trilogy that will, presumably, deal with the dangling threads about the Chiss Ascendency that author Timothy Zahn has been seeding throughout his tenure in the new canon. 

We got our first excerpt of the story over at StarWars.com.

This chapter brings us the earliest glimpse we’ve seen to date of Grand Admiral Thrawn’s timeline. The prologue to Chaos Rising happens prior to his joining the Empire as the Chiss look to discover who might be attacking them before they send Thrawn to discover the secret (as we read about in Thrawn).

Thrawn: Ascendency: Chaos Rising comes out on Sept. 1 and, hopefully, all of our questions will be answered then. 


Rumors have been flying in the last week or so that Lucasfilm is embroiled in the middle of a creative civil war and that Disney is interested in rebooting the Star Wars trilogy.

Don’t believe everything you read.

For fans concerned about this, don’t be. The story that’s been written up at a lot of websites has been sourced to one errant YouTube video that you would be foolish to waste your time with. As far as we can tell and are hearing, it has no basis in reality and there’s nothing to be concerned about. There’s no civil war brewing, Kathleen Kennedy is still in charge, Rian Johnson is still making his trilogy, and 2022 is still (COVID-19 notwithstanding) going to see the release of the next new Star Wars film.

Pay no attention to the random YouTubers out there claiming they have a source. More often than not, they don't.


With the upcoming video game Squadrons garnering a lot of interest, I thought it would be fun to go back to one of the earliest commercials in the world of Star Wars video games. This absurdist bit of Star Wars history is an ad for the original Star Wars flight simulator for its release in 1984 for the Atari.

It will literally blow your mind.

Isn’t that just completely bonkers?

Until next week, may the Force be with you!

From Bejeweled To Plants Vs Zombies: How PopCap Got Just About Everyone To Play Their Games @ io9

There is a very good chance you’ve played a PopCap game. More extraordinary, there’s a very good chance everyone you know, including your parents, have played a PopCap game. For about 10 years, there was one name in casual gaming, and that name was almost Sexy Action Cool.


WIRE Buzz: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina's S5 'Witch War'; Miles Morales graphic novel; Sandman @ Syfy Wire

After being canceled earlier this week, Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina isn’t leaving its fans high and dry — though it is leaving them without one of the coolest sounding plotlines in spellslinging TV. 

Showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa spoke publicly (on Twitter) about the future of the series, which will have its fourth and final season later this year, explaining what was planned to come — and where it will eventually land. Kiernan Shipka fans should pay careful attention, because this might be one of the simplest, coolest witch-pitches out there.

Take a look:

“Thank you for all the love, #sabrinanetflix fans,” the creator wrote. “Part Four is our best yet and Part Five, ‘Witch War,’ would’ve been AMAZING. To be continued in the pages of #CAOS comic book…”

Two words: Witch War. Sold. A Witch War sounds pretty awesome, and not just in a “grass is greener” way now that fans won’t be seeing the battles in live-action. But at least a Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comic storyline over the same subject matter will help soothe the pain.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina returns to end its TV run later this fall.

Next, Marvel is launching another literary campaign spearheaded by one of its fan-favorite characters who’s recently had a multimedia breakout. Miles Morales, star of Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse and an upcoming Spider-Man video game, will lead a team-up between the comics giant and Scholastic with the graphic novel Miles Morales: Shock Waves.

The book (by writer Justin A. Reynolds and artist Pablo Leon) spearheads the Original Graphic Novel initiative that Marvel explains will be a multi-year program featuring superheroes like Kamala Khan (from writer Nadia Shammas) and Shuri (from writer Roseanne A. Brown). The story follows Morales as he leads a fundraiser for Puerto Rico...but the corporation sponsoring his charity might not be all it seems.

“Ever since he entered the Marvel Universe a few years ago, Miles has struck a deep and personal chord with fans around the world,” said Marvel editor Lauren Bisom. “As Spider-Man, he embodies that classic coming-of-age story. But as Miles, he represents so much more — and his life experiences, his culture, and his ability to embrace his inner strength make him one of the most important and inspirational heroes in the Marvel Universe.”

More info about Shock Waves, which debuts next spring, and the other graphic novels is coming later this year.

Finally, author Neil Gaiman has shed a little more light into the Netflix adaptation of his beloved comic creation, Sandman. The show has been in the writing phase for a while — not helped by the pandemic’s production delays — which has left fans wondering what the live-action series will look like, as it will bring the source’s fantastical characters to the world of flesh and blood for the first time.

According to ComicBook, Gaiman spoke at a virtual roundtable for the upcoming Audible adaptation of the first few books in the Sandman series, also dropping some knowledge on his television thought process. While the audiobook adaptation looks to be a relatively faithful 1-to-1 reading of the books, a series has some wiggle room — especially when it’s being brought to present day.

Gaiman said that when “doing the Netflix TV series, we're very much looking at that as going, 'Okay, it is 2020, let's say that I was doing Sandman starting in 2020, what would we do? How would we change things? What gender would this character be? Who would this person be? What would be happening?'”

Now, the gender of the androgynous, Robert Smith-esque Morpheus could be a very interesting area to play around with — though there are plenty of characters that might be genderbent from the original by Gaiman, David Goyer, and showrunner Allan Heinberg. Gaiman also teased fans’ imaginations by describing some of the concept art he’s been shown regarding the show’s production.

"I get these emails of production design stuff on Netflix and Sandman that I just want to show them to everybody, and I know that I can't. They're incredibly confidential, but I look at them, and I glow,” Gaiman said. “The other day they sent me Lucifer's castle and the gates to Hell and all of these Hell designs, and I'm just like, 'This is amazing. Oh my gosh.' It's like watching Kelly Jones' nightmares and Sam Keith and Mike Dringenberg's nightmares just coming to life.” 

Fans will have to wait a little longer for Sandman to drag them to Hell, but those looking to get their quick fix of the Dreamscape can find it on Audible on July 15.


How everyone failed Wanda Maximoff @ Syfy Wire

Before her recent depowering, Wanda Maximoff was one of the strongest characters within the Marvel universe. At one time, her power was so great that she was the source of several major comic events. On the surface, House of M treats Wanda the same way comic stories have treated most female characters with great power — hysterical women who have no control over their abilities. In Wanda's case, it's this and her inability to keep her desires in check. This is important because Wanda can change reality, and her giving into her desires has a more significant impact.

Avengers Disassemble is a storyline that leads into House of M, and the way the narrative pushes Wanda's loss as the driving force of her mental instability is a disservice. There are entire celebrated franchises built on the centering of men getting revenge for loved ones taken away from them, so why should it be any different for Wanda? Her desire for children comes off as a source of weakness, which is unfair given her history and what actually happens when her children are taken away from her.

Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch, has one of the more depressing and complicated comic histories. While Wanda did not start out as a mutant — she and her brother Pietro gained their powers through experimentation — it is essential to keep in mind that for the majority of her comics history, she has been identified as one. In the Marvel Universe, mutants are a marginalized group and are treated as such. Their lives are filled with varying forms of oppression, taking a mental toll on those who walk that journey. Wanda's assumed mutant identity has dramatically impacted how both she and her brother have gone through life.

Wanda and Pietro were taken from their witch mother by the High Evolutionary. Once he finished experimenting on them and found them to be of no use, he gave them over to their mother's brother and sister-in-law to raise them. They ended up fleeing from the only parents they knew when people of the town violently attacked them because of their homo superior abilities. Wanda and Pietro wandered around Europe for a great deal of time until they are sought after and subsequently saved by Magneto. They joined Magneto's Brotherhood of Mutants for a short time before ultimately leaving and finally teaming up with the Avengers. Years later, they discovered that Magneto was their father — which, in true comics fashion, they learned was false after even more time has passed. Again, Wanda has had a complicated identity and familial baggage from the beginning, and this has had an impact on the choices she's made, for better and worse.

Credit: Marvel Comics

With such a traumatic and muddled past, it's no surprise that the one thing Wanda truly desires is a "normal" life, with a husband and children. Why wouldn't someone who has mostly known chaos crave some semblance of normalcy? It just so happens that for Wanda, for her benefit and downfall, she has the power to will parts of that life into existence.

But before all that, Wanda falls in love with her Avenger teammate, a synthezoid known as the Vision. Because Vision is synthetic, and because her first responsibility is to the Avengers, Wanda must make her peace with not having children. However, she starts to recall moments of her past that include the people who she thought were her family. Those memories, coupled with her brother's impending fatherhood, cause Wanda to question if she actually is prepared to remain childless. Carol Danvers, her only good friend at the time, convinces her otherwise by reminding Wanda of all the good she does as an Avenger. But this isn't meant to last.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Eventually, the idea of having children "naturally" is brought up again, this time from Vision. Wanda is open to adopting a child due to their situation, but when her husband mentions using her powers to create life, she does just that. Keep in mind these are powers she doesn't fully control or comprehend — she's in the midst of training under Dr. Stephen Strange at the time. This lack of understanding contributes to everything going straight to literal hell — Wanda accidentally uses part of a demon's soul for the energy to create her sons.

But who cares! Finally, Wanda has her normal life with her synthezoid husband and magick children she created, and no one bats an eyelash, not even Doctor Strange. It feels as though it's treated as nothing more than a miracle because, after all, the pinnacle of success in a marginalized gendered person's life is their ability to have a child.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Sometime later, Wanda is going through and survives levels of trauma that quite frankly should make others think of her as anything but weak. Vision is dismantled, his memory is erased, and he becomes a husk of his former self. And they're still married. So, she no longer has emotional support from a life partner, and this, of course, takes a toll on their relationship. On top of the marital issues, Wanda is kidnapped and then brainwashed. When this happens, their children, Billy and Tommy, start mysteriously disappearing. Agatha Harkness, Wanda's witchcraft teacher, soon learns the true nature of their existence, and everything in this life Wanda has fought so hard for starts to barrel towards annihilation.

What Agatha found was that an imbalance was created when Wanda willed her children into existence. When Wanda is brainwashed, it affects her ability to concentrate on her children so they keep disappearing, because her focus is the only way they can exist. When Wanda first learned she was pregnant, Agatha Harkness was dead, and even the great Dr. Stephen Strange was either unable or alarmed enough to consider the pregnancy as more than just some miracle. The boys, or better described as manifestations of her will, are taken back by the demon, Mephisto.

This is a major catalyst for Wanda to go entirely off the deep end. Agatha Harkness manages to erase the twins from existence and block off the memory of them from Wanda's mind. To their credit, the members of the Avengers who are present when this goes down do voice how messed up it is, but they also keep what happened to themselves. When this decision is made, her teammates fail her in ways that surpass anything the creation of Ultron could ever mean. Unfortunately for them, what's done in the dark always finds its way to the light.

It's not until years later that Janet Van Dyne lets it some of the past slip to Wanda about her children and the truth comes back to her. She justifiably lashes out, starting with the disassembling of the Avengers.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Agatha did what she felt had to be done, but it comes at such a high cost to Wanda, a woman who wanted what was a normal life in her mind — a life that slowly dissolved right in front of her, as her husband was no longer who she married and her children were taken from her. It's honestly a miracle Wanda hadn't snapped sooner given that she's been through so much, plus possession of powers she never fully controlled thanks to putting others' needs before her own. She had obligations to her brother, her father, her husband, and the Avengers. It's quite tragic that those who were supposed to have her back when it mattered most never did. It's disappointing how little they knew her that they would be so surprised when she breaks in the way that she does.

Everyone present carried on like nothing happened, because for the Avengers, sweeping things under the rug until they become a significant problem is a protocol. They should have been concerned the moment they found out Wanda was pregnant even though it shouldn't have been possible. But instead, it was celebrated, because babies do that, no matter their origin. Wanda even wills a dead teammate back to life, and yet again, the Avengers did nothing about it.

Wanda Maximoff was failed by her own and that led directly to her mental breakdown, which ends up being detrimental not only to the Avengers but the entire world. This isn't just some woman who was too powerful for her own good, or someone who wanted children so severely that they lashed out at the world when they were taken. It's is a tragic story about a woman who needed help where none was given.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Loth-rat, Streetrat, time to buy that and our grand Star Wars Rebels rewatch [Jabba the Pod 3.1] @ Syfy Wire

"If all you do is fight for your own life, then your life is worth nothing." -Hera Syndulla

Our heroes are back! Jabba the Pod returns, and it's time for Brian, Caitlin, and Matt to begin their dive into Star Wars Rebels. Some are rewatching, and some are watching for the first time. They're going through the entire first section of Season 1, with special attention paid to the premiere. Everyone loves the wisdom and heart of Hera Syndulla, though there's not much love for the nightmare-fuel Wookiees. The jury is out on Kanan's one-shoulder-only armor.

Also on deck: publishing news for The Mandalorian, Yoda Baby Cereal (a "fruity" cereal in taste), a new book-based segment, and generally just too much of everything. Let the record show that Matt Romano has agreed to name one of his future children "Commandant Cumberlayne Aresko Romano." It is canon. Karabast!

Take a listen right here, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Matt Reeves sets 'The Batman' spinoff series focusing on Gotham Police at HBO Max @ Syfy Wire

The Batman isn't even out yet, but writer/director Matt Reeves is already cultivating the next phase of his version of Gotham City. HBO Max announced Friday that it has given Reeves a commitment for a new streaming series focused on the Gotham City Police Department, set in the same universe as the upcoming film starring Robert Pattinson in the title role. 

The series will be written by Terence Winter, a veteran of HBO crime dramas The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire, and will "build upon the motion picture’s examination of the anatomy of corruption in Gotham City, ultimately launching a new Batman universe across multiple platforms." 

“This is an amazing opportunity, not only to expand the vision of the world I am creating in the film, but to explore it in the kind of depth and detail that only a longform format can afford — and getting to work with the incredibly talented Terence Winter, who has written so insightfully and powerfully about worlds of crime and corruption, is an absolute dream," Reeves said in a statement

Reeves and Winter are partnering for the new series with The Batman producer Dylan Clark and Warner Bros. Television. While the show does not yet have an official title, The Hollywood Reporter notes that it's being referred to internally as both Gotham Central (a name fans of one of the most acclaimed Batman spinoff stories ever written will certainly recognize) and GCPD. No casting information has been announced yet, so we don't know if the series will feature any appearance from Pattinson or from Reeves' new Commissioner Gordon, Jeffrey Wright. 

We also don't know exactly what tone and approach the series will take at this point, because we haven't actually had a chance to see The Batman yet. That film isn't set to arrive until October of 2021, and it's hard to read exactly what Reeves' version of Gotham City will look like in its wake. That said, stories of Gotham City cops battling supervillains on their own terms without much direct help from the Caped Crusader while also struggling with their own internal darkness and even outright police villainy have proven to be fertile ground in DC Comics before. And with a writer like Terrence Winter in the show's corner, we can expect something that won't shy away from any of it. 


The Batman Universe Will Expand With an HBO Max Cop Show @ io9

Robert Pattinson’s Batman hasn’t even finished filming yet but his world is already expanding. Director Matt Reeves and Sopranos producer Terrence Winter are teaming up to do a Gotham City set police procedural on HBO Max that takes place in the same universe as the upcoming film.


The Week in Gaming: Summer hype for PS5, Xbox X. Plus Crash goes mobile, Tony Hawk doc & more @ Syfy Wire

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

It’s gonna be a long, hot, even painfully impatient summer. The bang of fireworks is still echoing from the July 4th holiday, and already we’re starting to realize just how wide a gulf still yawns between this present moment and the arrival — sometime late this year — of the next console generation.

With the handful of big new AAA games bound for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One getting smaller and smaller as the clock ticks down for their replacements (and with Nintendo rockin’ steadfastly along to Switch our minds away from all the Sony and Microsoft hype), we’re not quite at that tipping point when all anyone’s talking about is next-gen news. In fact, all you have to do is look no farther than next week, when Ghost of Tsushima arrives, to find the next big PS4 release. But that tipping point’s getting closer and closer.

Sony recruited Spider-Man to do the honors this week in showing eager fans what the PlayStation 5’s game boxes will look like. It’s not an earth-shattering change from what we’re used to with the PS4, but there’s one marked difference that’s easy to spot: a white strip across the top that serves up some instant PS5 brand synchronicity. Behold Spider-Man: Miles Morales, swinging onto the scene in Sony’s first official look at a PS5 game box:

Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment / Insomniac Games / Marvel

Simple, clean, and remarkably rich in detail to show off Miles’ stealthed-out electric-capable suit, it’s a killer way to get players ready to clear some shelf space to make room for their budding PS5 collection (if, that is, they’ll be buying the disc drive-equipped Standard version of the PS5). Sure, it’s just a box, and it preserves most of what we’re used to with the PS4’s game box design — but that didn’t stop social media from lighting up this week as fans started mocking up and sharing their own ideas for other PS5 titles like Horizon Forbidden West and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.

Much bigger in Sony’s long-term plan was news this week that the company has bought a $250 million minority share in Fortnite and Unreal Engine maker Epic Games. Details about how the new Sony-Epic union will shape the games we’ll be playing down the road weren’t revealed with the announcement, but it’s a partnership that pairs two companies that, each in its own way, straddle both pure gaming and razor’s-edge behind-the-scenes screen technology. Sony Pictures Animation broke new ground with the animated rendering technique it developed for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, while Epic’s tech has become a must-have for tons of ambitious CGI projects — including Disney’s The Mandalorian, which used a bespoke Unreal Engine platform to create much of Season 1’s stunning digital background scenery.

Xbox saves the date

Microsoft, meanwhile, is charting its own path toward the launch of the Xbox Series X by playing its part in the leapfrog game of Sony-Microsoft info drops that’ll have fans talking about one console or the other all summer long. If you’ve been itching for Halo Infinite news, developer 343 Industries is set to deliver just that at Microsoft’s Xbox Games Showcase, the online event that this week was announced to kick off on July 23.

So far, Microsoft has played it relatively close to the vest with what to expect at its showcase blowout. We know the Xbox Series X will take center stage (as will Master Chief), but beyond that, things get speculative.

With a reported 15 Microsoft studios actively working on new games, internet rumors have fans hyped for everything from a possible new Fable announcement to a mysterious new next-gen project from Wasteland 3 developer InXile. Microsoft’s focus in recent years on highlighting cross-platform games at Xbox presentations (as last year’s Cyberpunk 2077 E3 showcase famously exemplified) could mean a strong showing from third-party developers. The company has also reserved a date with Geoff Keighley’s Summer Game Fest later this month to show off a reported 75-100 new indie games for Xbox, over the course of Game Fest’s July 21-27 online demo event.

Ubisoft looks ‘Forward’

Speaking of cross-platform games, Assassin's Creed Valhalla and Watch Dogs: Legion are set to drop new details Sunday, when Ubisoft hosts its much-hyped Ubisoft Forward online event to unpack what's in store for the PS5 and Xbox Series X. The chance to see more of Valhalla's already cool-looking take on Nordic and Old English legends is reason enough to tune in, but the publisher is sweetening the incentive for anyone with an Ubisoft Uplay account.

Showing up to the party on July 12 while logged in via Uplay (which newcomers can try for free for 7 days) will net you a free digital copy of 2016’s Watch Dogs 2 for PS4, Xbox One, or PC. With that little perk in your download queue, what can we expect beyond new looks at Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Watch Dogs: Legion?

Well, Ubisoft is teasing a new update to Ghost Recon Breakpoint, as well as more details on its super-futuristic new online battle royale shooter Hyper Scape. We can also expect some kind of info on upcoming new content for games like Trackmania and The Division 2 — and, as Ubisoft teases, “a few surprises.” Valhalla is clearly the big star of this show, though. Ubisoft will no doubt pull all the punches to make Eivor — Valhalla’s new Viking protagonist — a household name beginning at 2 p.m. ET on July 12, when the pre-show kicks off ahead of the main event’s 3 p.m. start time.

The best of the rest

Tetris goes Primetime — If you’re ready to take all those years of Tetris mastery to the next level, how about putting someone else’s money where your mouth is and jump in the ring to compete for actual cash prizes?

That’s the idea behind Tetris Primetime, a nightly showdown announced this week by mobile developer N3TWORK that pledges to dole out everyone’s favorite reward for top Tetris performance while the rest of the world watches in real time. More than $1 million is up for grabs as Tetris Primetime (hosted by actor Millen Baird) fires up at 7:30 p.m. local time each night, with the daily event currently slated to launch in anchor cities New York, Los Angeles, Auckland, Perth, Moscow, Berlin, and London — with more on the way.

Tetris Mobile on YouTube

Logging in via the Tetris mobile app gets you access to the free-to-join competition, but it’s not the app's only new feature. Be on standby to jump in the battle royale arena in Tetris Royale, a new free-to-play block skirmish that fields 100 players in an always-on frenzy to find the last player standing. There’s also a new "Tetris Solo Marathon" mode, “a familiar single-player Tetris experience that fans can play anytime, anywhere, even offline,” according to N3TWORK. But if the social experience is more your speed, the app is also introducing "Tetris Together," a new mode that lets players "create sharable Tetris games for friends and family where they can stay connected with voice chat while they play.”

Debuting this many features all at once, says N3TWORK, is a way for Tetris fans to tap the mobile app as a one-stop shop to play one of history’s most successful video games their way — whether it’s on a world stage, with friends in your living room, or the classic you-versus-the-machine style that started it all. Oh — and fear not: The music's as addictive and hypnotic as ever, the better to get you in the zone for all those epic, nail-biting sessions.

Ghost of Tsushima meets the master — In what may be the coolest bit of easy-to-miss trivia we’ve seen in a while, Ghost of Tsushima developer Sucker Punch has scored an awesome nod from the estate of iconic cinema master Akira Kurosawa that’ll show up whenever you enter the game’s stylized black & white “Samurai Cinema” mode.

Actually, “Samurai Cinema” is what the game’s cinematic mode was going to be called — before the Kurosawa estate signed off on allowing Ghost of Tsushima to name its moody, evocative cinematic filter in honor of the Seven Sumurai and Rashomon director. Yep, stepping into the game's high-drama cinematic filter now means you're stepping into "Kurosawa Mode."

Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment / Sucker Punch Productions

Via Entertainment Weekly, the Sucker Punch team — long fans of Kurosawa’s massively influential style — approached the director’s estate with the idea of crafting the game’s cinematic mode to help give players the feeling that they’re really playing inside the kind of feudal Japanese story that Kurosawa’s films recreated in black & white. The result is more than just a monochrome filter, creative director Jason Connell told EW: “We actually did some research on the curves that may have existed on that kind of film that [Kurosawa] might've used,” yielding a cinematic style that features film grain, an amped-up version of the game’s wind mechanic, and even an audio treatment that takes players back to Kurosawa’s 1950s cinematic heyday.

As if we needed another reason to play this game. Ghost of Tsushima arrives next week, debuting as a PS4 exclusive on July 17.

Crash Bandicoot on the go — Crash Bandicoot isn’t just getting an all-new platformer for the PS4 — he’s also getting a standalone mobile game. Fresh on the heels of news that Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time will be coming to consoles this fall, Candy Crush Saga developer King has unveiled the upcoming Crash Bandicoot: On the Run for Android and iOS. 

KingOnlineGames on YouTube

As wild Australian marsupials go, Crash was already a pretty accessible mascot, running, whirling, bopping, and tossing in old-school Mario style. The mobile game looks to tap that easy-to-pick-up vibe, bringing back classic bosses for “high-speed battle runs across Wumpa Island to save the multiverse from the evil Dr. Neo Cortex,” as King teases. 

On the Run has a few new tricks up its sleeve too, including newly designed levels for mobile play, as well as custom skins to set your version of Crash apart, plus a new base building and weapon-crafting mechanic. There’s not a release date yet, but players can already pre-register at the game’s official website. As for its console big brother, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time spins onto PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on Oct. 2. 

Spare Parts

Nintendo on YouTube

- Mario’s next retro-inspired adventure is only days away, and Paper Mario: The Origami King got a new trailer this week that shows off much more of what to expect when the mustachioed one shows up in his skinnier form next week. Check it out and mark your calendar: Paper Mario: The Origami King goes flat-out for the Nintendo Switch on July 17.


Wood Entertainment on YouTube

- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 are getting ready to drop in with completely remastered versions on Sept. 4, but a new documentary that walks with Hawk through his incredible career (as well as the games) is set to kickflip onto digital platforms before that. Check out the trailer for Pretending I'm a Superman, complete with tons of footage of skating legends like Christian Hosoi, Steve Caballero, Rodney Mullen, and more, ahead of the doc’s release to on-demand starting Aug. 18.


Nacon on YouTube

- Bet ya didn’t see this coming: Publisher Nacon and developer Spiders are teasing Steelrising, a new action RPG that puts a totally wacky mechanized spin on history. Your job is to re-fight the French Revolution, but this time against a King Louis XVI who came prepared with … an army of friggin’ robots. Steelrising is a next-gen game, but so far there’s no release date. Watch for it sometime next year for PS5, Xbox Series X, and PC.


Wales Interactive on YouTube

- Survival horror just feels different when it’s based on creepy European tales from the 19th century, and that’s what’s headed our way on July 28, when Maid of Sker — “set in a remote hotel with a gory and macabre history from British folklore” — arrives for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. A Nintendo Switch version is also planned for later this year, according to developer Wales Interactive.


- You might wanna turn your volume down for this one. Nacon also teased the upcoming Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Earthblood this week with a frenzied new trailer that puts you in all three of the forms you'll take to wield the power of lycanthropy against corporate oppression. Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Earthblood comes howling as a multi-platform, cross-generation release on Feb. 4 of next year. 


PlayStation on YouTube

- Bandai Namco and Supermassive Games are showing off a new story trailer from The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope, the upcoming successor to Man of Medan. The second of a planned eight overall games in the Dark Pictures interactive survival horror series, Little Hope arrives on Oct. 30 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

- Consider this our unofficial plea to bring a cool Japan-only release stateside: Via The Verge, SEGA is prepping a mini-arcade console called the Astro City Mini (a throwback to the unique, joystick-equipped “City” arcade rigs that still pepper Japanese arcades to this day) for release later this year, and it’ll come pre-loaded with 36 classic games, including Golden Axe and Altered Beast. Priced at about $120, it’s on our radar for a hopeful U.S. release (make it happen, SEGA!).

- Cyberpunk 2077 is getting a companion hardcover art book to tide us over until the game itself releases on Nov. 19, according to IGN. Produced by Dark Horse in conjunction with CD Projekt RED, The World of Cyberpunk 2077 lands on July 28. 

- PC players can finally see what all the Death Stranding fuss is about starting next week, when Hideo Kojima’s epic walk across the American post-apocalypse releases for PC on July 14.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning has been delayed from Aug. 18 to Sept. 8. It’s a remake of the great 2012 game, and includes all previously released DLC — plus (via Gamerant) a teased additional piece of new DLC to be added at a later date. 


The Last of Us Part II is a beautiful, real story about broken people in a broken world @ Syfy Wire

When The Last of Us came out for the PlayStation 3 seven years ago, it told an ambitious story set against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic America. It was textured, nuanced, and unflinchingly brutal. But, it was only a precursor to the kind of complicated story to come in the recently released sequel, The Last of Us Part II.

**Spoilers ahead for The Last of Us Part II.**

Considering the first game has sold more than 20 million copies and counting, it wouldn’t have been a surprise for developer Naughty Dog and director Neil Druckmann to return to this world with a bigger, louder sequel focused on the same fan-favorite characters that made Part I such a hit. Instead, we got to watch the first game’s main protagonist, Joel, be brutally murdered in the game’s opening prologue — and that was just the first surprise of many.

Video games have increasingly been a venue for complex, admirable storytelling — and few titles have done so much to elevate it as a whole as The Last of Us franchise. In the sequel, fresh off Joel’s death, the game shifts to a tale of revenge, with Joel’s surrogate daughter of sorts, Ellie, setting off across the country to exact vengeance. Joel’s brother Tommy does the same, with Ellie and her girlfriend Dina close behind. This sets up the next half of the action, which finds Ellie working her way through a hit list of sorts, once she’s tracked down the group that traveled from Seattle to Washington to kill Joel.

Ellie’s quest finally comes to a head when her target Abby gets the drop on her, gun drawn.


Fade to black.

Naughty Dog

At this point, the game resets, in a sense, and you once more play the events of the past few days, but from Abby’s perspective — essentially turning the young woman you’ve been hunting the past 13 or so hours into the game’s second protagonist. The narrative here fills in the gaps as to why Abby traveled so far to kill Joel, as we learn Joel actually killed her father in the climax of the first Last of Us seven years ago. Abby’s father was the doctor trying to develop a vaccine from Ellie’s immunity, but the process would have killed Ellie. So Joel killed them all and rescued Ellie, saving her life but effectively destroying any chance at a vaccine to the virus that has ravaged humanity.

Playing through the next half of the game as Abby, you get to know her father via flashbacks and see firsthand how his death affected her and still haunts her. You get to know her friends, the same ones that you hunted down and killed in the first half of the game. You get to know Abby as a person, as she turns against her own people to try and save two young siblings from a rival group. It’s a risky twist, and one that has proven a bit controversial among a contingent of fans who came into The Last of Us Part II expecting to play out Ellie’s full-fledged adventure.

But The Last of Us isn’t a franchise built on safe choices. The first game dealt a messy end, with Joel — unable to sacrifice Ellie after losing his own daughter at the beginning of the outbreak — chooses her life over a potential future for humanity itself. He then lies to young Ellie, telling her the vaccine wouldn’t have worked anyway, so they just left while she was unconscious. We see a game’s worth of that fallout here, with Ellie listless and directionless in this life Joel fought so hard to preserve, slowly piecing the truth together along the way. She’s understandably angry at Joel for taking away her agency to make that sacrifice, robbing her of a way to give her life meaning, even if it would have come in death.

That backstory is slowly filled in with flashbacks, as we eventually see that the night before Joel’s death, Ellie had gone to see him, and was slowly opening the door to forgiveness. He had finally come clean about what happened in the first game, and they were slowly working back toward finding trust. Joel’s death was the next time she saw him. 

As simple as it might seem, Joel’s murder gives Ellie direction. She channels that rage into purpose, seemingly in the hopes that avenging Joel’s death will help her find some sense of closure. Instead, it seems to only make her more angry and broken. No amount of revenge will bring Joel back, and that’s a point Ellie only comes to realize once it’s too late.


Naughty Dog

When the game finally catches back up to the confrontation from Abby’s perspective, Abby shoots and kills Ellie’s friend Jesse, who followed her to Seattle, but shows mercy on Ellie and the rest of her friends after realizing Dina is pregnant. Abby, Dina, and Tommy return home, wounded but alive. Flash forward and Ellie is trying to build a new life with Dina, helping raise her child. Despite the idyllic setting, Ellie is still suffering from PTSD, and when Tommy shows up with a lead on Abby’s whereabouts, Ellie once again sets out to finish things. Even with a new life in front of her, she can’t let that old anger go.

Ellie tracks Abby to Santa Barbara, only to learn she’s been captured by human traffickers. She stages a rescue of sorts, and finds Abby near death, strung up on a post. She helps her down, and Abby leads her to a pair of boats they can use to escape. Ellie threatens the life of the child Abby is protecting to force her into a fight, and Ellie wins — holding Abby under the breaking waves until she is near-drowned and stops struggling.

Then she lets her up, and lets her go. After two cross-country trips for vengeance, and throwing away her new life to make the latest trek, she lets her go. Watching the life drain from Abby’s face, Ellie realizes this won’t bring her peace. But it’s a realization that comes so late, she’s already thrown away the life she was trying to build to chase it.

It’s an interesting counterpoint to Abby’s arc, as she gets her revenge on Joel, but still feels rudderless and haunted in the wake of it all. She only finds some semblance of purpose in trying to save a pair of young runaways who saved her life — despite being from a rival group. She finally comes to the realization that life is life, regardless of faction, and breaks off from her group to search for a better life. But even then, that search is derailed when she’s captured by human traffickers while on the path. Even with the best of intentions, the ugliness of this world can still break it with no warning.

Naughty Dog

Ellie seems to still be looking for that purpose, and after returning to her empty farmhouse to find Dina and the baby long gone, she's now starting from scratch. We see her finally start to let go of the totems from her old life — Joel’s broken watch (itself a gift from his late daughter, which he held onto all these years in her memory). She also revisits her guitar, a gift from Joel, who taught her how to play it. She strums “Future Days,” by Pearl Jam, a recurring song going back to when Joel first played it for a young Ellie. It’s only fitting, considering the franchise’s recurring affection for Seattle.

If I ever were to lose you
I'd surely lose myself
Everything I have found here
I've not found by myself
Try and sometimes you'll succeed
To make this man of me
All of my stolen missing parts
I've no need for anymore
I believe
And I believe 'cause I can see
Our future days
Days of you and me

After playing it herself one last time, Ellie leaves the guitar behind at the farmhouse. We don’t know if she returns home to Jackson to try and find Dina, or strikes out on her own — we only see her leave the totems of her old life behind and walk off into the sunset. Which is the closest thing to a “happy” ending something like The Last of Us could ever really offer.

It’s a story of broken people, fractured by a broken world, trying to find whatever passes for some kind of peace. But even in finding it, sometimes that’s still not enough. Because life doesn’t break into neat chapters and boss fights. It’s messy, and sometimes stories just end. Sometimes the narrative arc doesn’t play out like we’ve sketched it in our minds.

And that’s the legacy of The Last of Us Part II, and the franchise as a whole. It’s unexpected. It's surprising. It’s real.

It’s human.

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The Hork-Bajir Chronicles Was One of Animorphs' Most Powerful Books @ io9

Much as K.A. Applegate’s Animorph series tell a story about a group of kids bonding with one another while adventuring worlds and physically transforming into a variety of animals, the books are also an examination of the devastating impacts that ongoing wars, imperialism, and slavery have on societies.


Ancient human remains have ended up on the black market, but where do they really belong? @ Syfy Wire

Around 2,500 years ago, a young Scythian woman died in the frozen wilds of Siberia. She remained buried until archaeologists came upon what was considered a rare find in 1993, moving the mummy to a museum for study and display. That ignited a raging controversy.

The question of what should happen to ancient bones and mummies has never had a straightforward answer. Some are against scientific study and display, while others insist that they give up their secrets. Then there is the opposite scenario in which these remains end up on the black market. Recently, an undercover LiveScience reporter posed as a collector in a Facebook group where a looter who had stolen an ancient skull from Tunisia was selling it for $550. The investigation revealed more about the questionable ethics of the black market for human remains.

What does any of this even have to do with the Scythian mummy, unofficially named “Princess Ukok”, though evidence suggest she was more of a revered storyteller than a royal? It is proof of the ethical dilemmas associated with human remains outside the grave. Whispers of a haunting started when the plane carrying the mummy to a scientific institute in Nobosibirsk, for study and preservation, hit unexpected turbulence. Princess Ukok became the subject of a debate over whether her body should be returned to her grave post-study. After years at Novosibirsk, she was moved to a special mausoleum near her original burial site and displayed in a glass sarcophagus.

That is still not enough for some. Despite the the study’s contribution to the often mysterious history of various Scythian tribes, there have been calls for Princess Ukok and her grave goods to be returned to their eternal resting place. Russia has now banned archaeologists from the area where her burial mound was unearthed.

“We were really upset when they introduced this ban. It meant curtailing this historic step forward,” said archaeologist Natalia Polosmak, who first discovered the mummified Princess Ukok, in a NOVA documentary. “That is a shame.”

If there was so much tension over a legitimate scientific study, what is there to be said about ancient body parts being sold on Facebook and other shadowy corners of the internet as curios?

Facebook, Instagram and other social media have been actively shutting down sale groups for collectors who feel that something like a Peruvian bound skull (skulls that had been bound at birth have recently been a hot item) is the ultimate prize. The Discovery series Oddities once featured a death enthusiast who displayed the hand of an Egyptian mummy on a shelf as the gem of his collection. The problem with ancient bones as opposed to more modern specimens is that anything thousands of ears old could reveal previously unknown things about humanity.

Unlike modern specimens that are often of dubious origin (such as a stillborn fetus in formalin that was actually for sale online), ancient specimens hold a special sort of value. There are some archaeologists and anthropologists who feel looters and collectors of such pieces are depriving science of potential discoveries. Others in the same field, like some of those involved with Princess Ukok, are convinced that even handling these remains for strictly scientific purposes is disrespectful, never mind displaying an unwrapped mummy or a fully articulated skeleton in a museum.

Even scientists are banned from touching anything in certain sites like the cave of Grotte de Cussac in France. Eline M.J. Schotsmans, lead scientist in that investigation, had previously told SYFY WIRE that the French government’s restrictions were preventing her team from finding out how exactly the Paleolithic people who once buried their dead there carried out their funerary rites. She acknowledged there was only so much they could demystify without an excavation. Hardly anything is known about these people. The reasoning behind who was buried there and why, among many other questions, remain unanswered — but so does the question of whether study and reburial is actually ethical.

Museums themselves have been guilty of a sort of looting in the past. Many mummies and other artifacts from ancient Egypt were taken by the British and other countries during the 19th century. There was one that finally made the journey home to the Cairo museum from the US several years ago, but many, despite requests from the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, were never returned. The 9,000-year-old bones of a skeleton otherwise known as Kennewick Man were finally given a proper burial in 2016, after years of being used for an investigation into the origins of humanity.

The way in which human remains are handled is another thing to consider. Victorian thrill seekers would unwrap Egyptian mummies in front of a live audience, with little regard for the funereal customs of the ancient Egyptians, who intended the body to be preserved eternally so the soul could return to it and use it in the afterlife.

“Once you have been buried, no one should disturb you,” said museum director Rima Eriknova, who was interviewed for the same documentary as Polosmak. “Yet as director of the museum, I am obliged to keep her here and display her. But nonetheless, I believe she should be reburied, returned to where she came from.”

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina's Journey to Hell Could Continue In Comics @ io9

The upcoming fourth season of Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will be the series’ last, as the young Spellman figures out a way to deal with the hide the fact that she created a time paradox in order to live her life as a regular teenager and rule as Hell’s queen simultaneously. Though the show’s well…


Chosen One of the Day: 2-D on roller skates in 'Humility' @ Syfy Wire

I don’t know if this needs a spoiler alert, but 2020 is not what you would call a chill year. So let’s slip into just the ever so slightly (by virtue of not having a global pandemic) chiller year of 2018 when the Gorillaz released the video for “Humility” and we were treated to a low-stakes, bopping your head kind of tune. 

But even better? We were treated to 2-D, the band’s animated lead singer, in teeny, tiny summer sugar shorts sailing along on some roller skates.

...I’m — alright, friends. I’m really listening to the lyrics right now and this is a g*dd*mned 2020 song wrapped in the sweet, smooth blanket of summer of 2018 vibes. 

Calling the world from isolation
'Cause right now, that's the ball where we be chained

Damon Albarn’s lucky I think he’s so great. 

But anyway let’s put all that aside and focus on 2-D and his moves: 

Credit: WMG


Credit: WMG

Look at those moves! That shoulder roll. That hip check across the screen. I am in awe of this animated man. (Yes, also, Jack Black, throw your hands up for Jack Black.) 

Of course, it wouldn’t be 2-D if everything was smooth sailing, so he ends with a Russell-orchestrated tumble to the ground and that might be the most representative part of the video. Let’s be real. 

So hinky: Everything you didn't know about Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills @ Syfy Wire

It's fair to say that Mighty Morphin Power Rangers had more than its fair share of imitators in the '90s. That's the price and the curse of success. But what fans may not realize is that there was a behind-the-scenes rivalry between the Power Rangers' studio, Saban, and animation powerhouse, DIC. Perhaps that's why DIC tried to make two different Power Rangers clones in 1994.

Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad was perhaps the best of DIC's two attempts. But there's no question that Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills had a more memorable name!

Sadly, TTAFFBH doesn't exactly roll off the tongue like the MMPR or TMNT abbreviations. And to be brutally honest, this show was The Room of Power Rangers knock-offs. The limited sets and cheap production values made TTAFFBH resemble a no-budget mix of Saved by the Bell, Friends, and Power Rangers.

USA Network took a chance on the series and it ran for only a single season of 40 episodes. The action may not have been impressive, but at least it didn't lift all of its best footage from Japanese TV shows. TTAFFBH also had the unusual distinction of having lead characters who really didn't get along at all. The show doesn't even pretend that the teenagers with attitude were likable, and their constant bickering may have distracted fans from noticing that the team's low-rent Zordon, Nimbar, was basically a blob of snot-like goo.

For more fond and bizarre memories of Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills, check out the latest episode of SYFY WIRE's Everything You Didn't Know!

Fortnite and dream homes don't mix in Robot Chicken exclusive clip @ Syfy Wire

As Seth Green and Matthew Senreich's long-running stop-motion sketch comedy series, Robot Chicken, continues to skewer pop culture heading towards its landmark 200th episode, gamers are in the hot seat this week. Especially Fortnite players.

In an exclusive clip from Sunday, July 12th's episode, "Ghandi Mulholland in: Plastic Doesn't Get Cancer," we see what happens when a couple tries to hire the ever-hyper "Fortnite Builders" to make their dream home. It's certainly bouncy, but not pretty...

Robot Chicken debuted in February 2005, and now has 10 seasons featuring hundreds of sketches and six Emmy awards to its name. The show even helped make viral videos a thing back in the day, as clips from their series were passed around via emails and on early social media.

Green recently told SYFY WIRE that the secret to staying timely is keeping up a fresh writer's room with younger voices that help to constantly reinvigorate the show. Thus the Fortnite jokes above.

"It’s about finding new, young writers who are as steeped in pop culture, but share a sense of humor with us, so that we’re not just content with making the same joke about The Smurfs," Green said. "We want someone who grew up in the '90s, or even in the 2000s, to steep in our style, but in their own voice about the pop culture that has influenced them."

See what other influences will be skewered when "Ghandi Mulholland in: Plastic Doesn't Get Cancer" debuts on Adult Swim this Sunday at 12:00 a.m. ET. And don't forget to mark your calendar for Robot Chicken's 200th episode airing July 26.

Lucasfim goes classic MTV with a Mandalorian music video spotlighting the main score @ Syfy Wire

Those who love The Mandalorian most likely know the show’s main title score by heart. The music, created by Ludwig Göransson (who also composed the score for Black Panther) is a remarkable song, one that makes the score of The Mandalorian unique while also staying true to the well-known musical themes John Williams created for the original Star Wars films.

We still have to wait until this fall for Season 2, but in the meantime, Göransson along with director Isaac Ravishankara put together a video that has the composer performing an amazing rendition of show's musical theme. 

Given these COVID times, Göransson is the only human who makes an appearance in the video (though we do get a couple of shots of Baby Yoda in the 360-degree green screen studio where the video was shot). What fans do get to see, however, are the instruments Göransson used to create the piece, including a recorder that is the granddaddy of the one we all learned to “play” in elementary school and some odd-looking synthesizers and mixers that are his own creation.

Sold? Check out the video below:

Credit: Star Wars

Those who want more of Göransson can hear his work in the first season of The Mandalorian, of course. But there's also a mini-docuseries on Disney+ called Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian, where one of the episodes goes into more detail on the composer’s work. If you're a fan of the show and/or Göransson, give that Disney+ extra a view or rewatch the YouTube video above. You won’t regret doing either. I have spoken.


Pluto’s far side: Exploring the backside of a tiny iceworld @ Syfy Wire

On 14 July 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto, and for the very first time in human history we saw that distant world in detail.

… or, well, half of it. The probe was moving relative to Pluto at a very zippy 14 kilometers per second — 50,000 kph! The part of the flyby where New Horizons could get the best images lasted less than a day. Pluto rotates once every 6 days or so, which is much slower than the encounter length, so New Horizons was only able to get high-resolution shots of one side of it, what the spacecraft team call the near side.

However, the other side of it (the far side) was in fact observed. When New Horizons was on approach, but still days away, the slow rotation of Pluto presented the entire surface to the spacecraft. Since it was still pretty far out, though, only low-resolution images were taken.

Still, these represent images with 15 to 30 times better resolution than ever seen from Earth, so they're valuable to understand Pluto's geology and morphology (surface structure). In a recently published paper, the planetary scientists on the New Horizons team described these images and what they may be saying about the semi-frozen rock-and-ice world at the edge of the solar system.

An annotated map of the entire surface of Pluto shows the features in the article. The map is centered on the far side, and the arc-shaped white line is the near/far side boundary (near side is above the line). The southernmost portions of Pluto were in darkness and not mapped during the encounter. Credit: Stern et al.

In many ways, the far side looks a lot like the near side. However, some care has to be taken; the lower resolution means very little relief (vertical topography) can be seen, and of course small features are too blurry to see clearly. What we're really seeing are albedo features, changes in brightness across the surface. Still, some interesting things turn up.

The dark regions on the nearside, called maculae (literally Latin for "spots"), are old — craters are seen in them, whereas younger areas like Sputnik Planitia, the western half of Pluto's "heart", is smoother due to changes that erode the surface and erase craters. The big one, called Cthulhu Macula, is relatively smooth and continuous.

These maculae appear to continue at the same latitude onto the far side as well, but their nature changes. They become smaller, patchier, and mixed in with what are called bladed regions. These are brighter areas that have a mottled appearance. They're seen on Pluto's near side as well, and are thought to be fields of penitentes — some of the coolest formations I've ever seen.

A field of penitentes, spiky ice towers formed as ice sublimates into a gas, in Argentina (Earth). Credit: Sastognuti / Wikimedia Commons

On Earth, at high altitudes like in the Andes where the air is dry, very odd spikes of ice stick up out of the ground. They're organized into rows, looking like kneeling people at a religious ceremony, which is how they got their name. They're sublimation features: At these elevations, the ice turns directly into a gas into the dry air. As this happens with a patch of ice, small hollows grow, getting deeper, and a positive feedback mechanism as sunlight bounces around inside them creates rows of them. As the hollows deepen, they leave behind the towers between them, the penitentes.

Fields of these structures form the bladed regions. Interestingly, on Pluto's far side, the maculae and bladed regions appear to be associated with each other. The scientists speculate that maculae are at slightly lower elevations, where bladed regions can form but are vulnerable to climate change. Perhaps something happened to change Pluto's environment (maybe its tilt changed, causing the Sun to warm previously colder places and vice versa) and the penitentes sublimated away entirely there, revealing a layer of darker material, or allowed darker material to accumulate there after the penitentes went away.

Simonelli crater on Pluto’s “far side” is an impact feature about 250 km across. (a) Seen at low angle (remapped as if looking straight down) the central peak is obvious. (b) From a higher angle the ring of bright material around the peak is seen. (c) For comparison, Elliott crater on the near side. Credit: Stern et al.

Only one crater was unambiguously seen on Pluto's far side, called Simonelli. It's big, about 250 kilometers wide — but then smaller craters can't be seen easily in the low-resolution images. It has a central peak, as many large craters do. In a large impact the surface flows like a fluid under the huge pressure, and splashes back to form the peak. Between the peak and the crater rim is brighter material that may be from ice that settled there after freezing out of Pluto's thin atmosphere.

Another intriguing set of features are thick, long, dark linear features called linea. It's not clear how they formed, although one set of them appears to surround a basin. But they seem to cluster around a spot that is almost directly opposite Sputnik Planitia. Sputnik is likely a very large impact feature, caused by a low-angle collision. Such an impact would send shock waves through the surface, which would converge on the opposite side of Pluto and create all sorts of chaos there. The problem is the linea don't quite match the models of how these seismic waves move, so their exact formation mechanism is still a mystery.

Color image of Sputnik Planum, the western lobe of Pluto's "heart", showing that it's smooth and craterless, implying some process has repaved it. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Unfortunately, with these images being as fuzzy as they are, it's not clear how much more we'll learn about this half of Pluto that was facing away from New Horizons during the flyby. Bigger telescopes planned on Earth may help, but there's nothing like being there. At the end of the paper the scientists make a pitch for the need for a Pluto orbiter, something to go there and stay there, mapping the bizarre terrain in detail and over a long period of time to look for changes.

I can't argue against how cool that would be! Actually doing it is another problem; the amount of fuel it takes to slow down makes it nearly impossible to send a chemical rocket orbiter to Pluto. An ion drive should fit this bill, since the amount of fuel needed is low. That would be amazing. But I imagine it would be a ways off, many years in the future.

There's so much real estate in the solar system we still need to see up close! Uranus, Neptune, their weird moons, more comets, and and and. But I have to say, after New Horizons, I'd put Pluto pretty near the top of that list.

Updates From The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Doom Patrol, and More @ io9

HBO Max has tapped Max Minghella for a new sci-fi tinged horror series. Quibi wants to try and bring one of Junji Ito’s most iconic horror manga to life. Another familiar face returns to Agents of SHIELD. Plus, what’s next for Into the Dark. Spoilers now!


Your Summer 2020 Anime Guide @ io9

It’s summertime. In Japan, right now, it’s the rainy season. Wherever you are, it might be hot and maybe even humid. So let’s stay inside and watch some anime!


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

Make sure your audience appreciates you.

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WIRE Buzz: Osbournes getting paranormal convincing; Sam Raimi going back to horror; more @ Syfy Wire

At this point, hasn’t Ozzy pretty much seen it all? When your parents are Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, convincing the ‘rents that the paranormal might seem like an easier task than barking at the moon. But thanks to a new series coming to the Travel Channel, we’ll soon get to eavesdrop firsthand on son Jack’s best efforts to put that theory to the test, as he tries to convert his famous family into rockin’ supernatural believers.

That’s the setup for The Osbournes Want To Believe, a new reality series that puts Jack in the enviable position of hanging out with his parents as they check out creepy scenes where optimal opportunity abounds to catch the Other Side in the act. Dead set on turning Ozzy and Sharon into “full-fledged paranormal believers,” the series will “share the craziest, most jaw-dropping videos of supernatural activity ever caught on camera” as Jack makes his case for the defense that, yes, these things are real.

That means loads of videos of everything from UFOs to poltergeists to possessed talking dolls, with the Osbournes getting into good natured squabbles about the authenticity of it all. Each hour-long episode will feature Ozzy and Sharon patiently wading through Jack’s curated stack of creepy clips, whether it’s legendary species like Bigfoot or ghostly unexplained encounters.

Jack’s paranormal judgment is as much on trial as the mysterious phenomena are: Mom and Dad "will review — and critique — each caught-on-camera moment, a compilation of Jack’s favorite pieces of evidence," the network teases. "But the question still remains if the Prince and Princess of Darkness will see the light when it comes to the paranormal, or if they think it’s just another ride on the crazy train."

Mark your calendars and get ready to crank the creep factor to 11: The Osbournes Want To Believe hits the Travel Channel starting Aug. 2 at 10 p.m. ET.

Sam Raimi (Evil Dead) is reportedly getting set to get gory again, this time with a new supernatural horror movie that he’ll produce.

Deadline reports that Raimi has boarded the unnamed project, which will be directed by Rob Savage — the one-man mastermind behind critically-loved 2012 indie hit Strings, and director of the 2016 zombie horror short film Dawn of the Deaf. Savage, a longtime Raimi fan (as the tweet below indicates), confirmed the partnership on social media, adding that he’ll be making the movie with Dawn of the Deaf writer Jed Shepherd.

Shepherd offered even more details, tweeting that the film will be written by Micah Ranum (The Silencing) from a story created by himself and Savage, with Raimi Productions' Zainab Azizi co-producing the project. Savage and Shepherd will also serve as executive producers. There’s no early info about story, characters, or a release date, so stay tuned — and maybe keep a close eye on Savage’s Twitter feed.

Savage and Shepherd are also set to unleash new horror movie Host, which lands at Shudder on July 30. Created from start to finish during the coronavirus pandemic and inspired by Zoom-style videoconference calls, Host will follow an online seance among a group of friends who watch each other tackle terror through their computer screens.

Finally, who’s up for some silly scares on the small screen? Deadline also is reporting that Sony Pictures Television has picked up the TV rights for Ravenswood Manor, “a camp-horror soap opera” set in the New England hamlet of Ravenswood on the eve of the United States’ 1976 Bicentennial celebration.

Just as the national party’s about to get started, movie star and home-grown hero Bettina Doors returns to Ravenswood Manor after mysteriously departing Hollywood “under cover of night and a veil,” according to the report. She’s a descendant of “the famous Ravenswood sisters, the last women in America to be charged with the crime of witchcraft,” setting the scene for an episodic series that promises to bring to light deep-hidden family secrets amid a new string of “ridiculous murders” that throw the town into chaos.

Ravenswood Manor started life as a live weekly theater production from writer/comedian Justin Sayre, who pledged to bring the same “camp” spirit of the stage show along for the TV version. “It was like living a dream directed by John Waters,” said Sayre of the original, via the report. There’s no word on where the series might land, nor on a premiere date, but we’re definitely down for any zany witchcraft that comes with a Waters-style twist.

This Mandalorian Music Video Featuring Composer Ludwig Göransson Is All Kinds of Awesome @ io9

Music has always been the beating heart of Star Wars. Recognizable themes, mostly by John Williams, are what give everything you see on screen life. Now, the same goes for The Mandalorian, where composer Ludwig Göransson created his own unique Star Wars sound to distinguish this particular story.


Fauci Calls Pandemic a 'Worst Nightmare' Scenario, So Remind Me Again Why States Are Reopening? @ io9

At the Hill’s Future of Healthcare Summit last year, the outlet’s editor-at-large Steve Clemons asked Dr. Anthony Fauci to describe his nightmare public health scenario. His answer: “[A] respiratory borne illness that spreads rapidly, that’s new, mainly, there’s no background immunity in the population, and that…


Miles Morales' Video Game Suit Is So Goddamn Cool @ io9

It’s not been all that long since we got the amazing, spectacular, fantastic, and ultimate news that Miles Morales would be gracing the launch of the PlayStation 5 with his very own video game. And now we know he’s going to be swinging into action in style.


Battleships: X-Men edition @ Syfy Wire

We've had a lot of time to think lately. And, as ever, our thoughts are with our families, our friends, our loved ones, and America's Ass. When the going gets tough, the tough look to the X-Men — for the heroes, the friendship, the heroism, and the ships. On this day, we're focusing on the ships.

We took a look at the biggest ships from canon to fanon to our wildest dreams and discuss them in a very special Battleships: X-Men edition.

Paul W.S. Anderson says Monster Hunter creatures stomp over Jurassic World’s dinos with 'more detail' @ Syfy Wire

Paul W.S. Anderson's Monster Hunter adaptation took the first word in its title very seriously when it came to the creature designs. Chatting with Empire Magazine for the publication's August issue, the director threw some monstrous shade at another franchise with massive, man-eating beasts.

"All our monsters are 50-60 feet tall. They're really amazing. We're building them in even more detail than the dinosaurs of Jurassic World," Anderson said. "And they look even better, because we shot on real locations in South Africa and Namibia, which gives the animators something to really match into: real wind, real dust, real sun-flare. The monsters are the only CG thing in there."

The gauntlet has been thrown. Your move, Mr. Trevorrow.

Later in the interview, Anderson revealed that the crew would jokingly describe the movie and its commitment to realism as "Lawrence of Arabia ... but with monsters!"

Credit: Sony Pictures

For this project (based on the Capcom video game series of the same name), Anderson re-teamed with Resident Evil's Milla Jovovich, who plays Lt. Artemis, leader of an elite unit of soldiers who find themselves in an alternate dimension full of deadly monsters. Once there, they try to stay alive and find a way back home, relying on the expertise of a mysterious hunter played by Tony Jaa. While the character of Artemis is not to be found in any of the games, Jovovich actually played them before filming got underway, picking out specific armor and weapons that could be fabricated for the screen adaptation.

"I always played the twin blades, because they're fastest," she told Empire. "I experimented with the different weapons during the game and was able to kill more monsters with those blades. I thought they'd look really beautiful in an action sequence."

Also written by Anderson, Monster Hunter is currently on track to monster-mash its way into theaters Friday, Sept. 4. Tip "T.I." Harris, Meagan Good, Diego Boneta, Josh Helman, Jin Au-Yeung, and Ron Perlman co-star.

Henry Cavill Went Through Some Shit (and Reddit) Bringing The Witcher to Life @ io9

It’s very clear at this point that Henry Cavill is dedicated to his role as Geralt of Rivia on The Witcher. The man regretted he could not quite exactly replicate a shot of Geralt in a bathtub from The Witcher 3, damn it. But apparently the actor was more than willing not just get down and dirty in the role but... …


Halloween Kills is 'about how fear spreads virally,' says director David Gordon Green @ Syfy Wire

Yesterday, Universal announced that it would be pushing off Halloween Kills to next October. Not wanting to leave fans empty-handed, the studio dropped a 30-second piece of teaser footage that sets the stage for Michael Myers' return in the hotly anticipated horror sequel.

In addition, director David Gordon Green and producer John Carpenter released a joint statement explaining the postponement decision (one derived from the evolving pandemic situation) and confirming the return of "legacy characters" such as Tommy Doyle and Nurse Marion Chambers. Thanks to a new Empire Magazine interview conducted with Green and his co-screenwriter Danny McBride, we now know that these familiar faces won't just be included for vapid fan service.

"It takes place the same night, picking up where the last movie ended," McBride explained. "Events in the film bring together a lot of characters who were in the 1978 film who we didn't see last time. They gather to try, once and for all, to take down Michael, to stop this madman."

"The [2018 movie] was more about Laurie's life of isolation after Michael and her attempts at revenge," Green continued. "It was personal. This is more about the unraveling of a community into chaos. It's about how fear spreads virally."

That's certainly a theme we can all relate to in the modern day.

Credit: Universal Pictures/Blumhouse

Fortunately, they were able to consult with John Carpenter (returning as composer), who faced similar creative challenges on 1981's Halloween II, which also picks up right where its predecessor left off. Wanting to turn the franchise into an anthology, he was forced to bring Michael back for another round when the first film exploded into a cultural phenomenon. Suffering from a bout of writer's block, he famously came up with the twist of Michael being Laurie Strode's brother.

"He'd asked himself the same questions we've been asking ourselves: 'How do you continue this, but make it satisfying and different?'" Green said, adding that he'd send Carpenter certain scenes and get feedback over Skype. "He would jump, laugh, and sometimes give a thumbs-up."

Written alongside Scott Teems, Halloween Kills is now slated to hit theaters Oct. 15, 2021. A threequel, Halloween Ends, is scheduled to premiere Oct. 14, 2022. Per the director, it'll mark a definitive end to the new series.

"The name 'Halloween Ends' is meant to bring some finality," he said. "From our creative standpoint, we wanted people to know that this is a contained trilogy and that after three, we'll be moving on. We're trying to make it a satisfying close to the story we set out to tell."

How to See the NEOWISE Comet, Now Visible to the Naked Eye @ io9

Comet NEOWISE has completed its close approach to the Sun and is now returning from whence it came. Visible comets like this don’t come around often, so you’re going to want to see this celestial wonder with your own eyes before it’s too late. Here’s how.


8 Awesome Games Based on Movies, TV Shows, and Books @ io9

Board games are a great way to pass the time, especially during social distancing. Sometimes, in the case of more difficult board games or tabletop roleplaying games, it’s great to have a baseline of knowledge about the source material. That’s where these titles come in. If you’re already a fan of Game of Thrones, The


WIRE Buzz: Sony buys $250 minority stake in Fortnite's Epic; Woke trailer; Tig N' Seek teaser @ Syfy Wire

One of the titans of console gaming is making a big investment in the company behind one of the world’s most-played games. Sony has acquired a minority stake in Fortnite and Unreal Engine maker Epic Games to the tune of $250M, bringing the two companies even closer as Sony’s next-gen PlayStation 5 looms on the horizon.

Polygon reports that the two companies released a joint statement (cozying up further than the PS5 running the new version of the Unreal Engine in early videos) saying that the deal would allow them to “broaden their collaboration” across Sony’s vast technological and gaming infrastructure and Epic’s own valuable assets, like its digital storefront Epic Games Store.

“Epic’s powerful technology in areas such as graphics places them at the forefront of game engine development with Unreal Engine and other innovations,” said Kenichiro Yoshida, president and CEO of Sony Corporation. “There’s no better example of this than the revolutionary entertainment experience, Fortnite. Through our investment, we will explore opportunities for further collaboration with Epic to delight and bring value to consumers and the industry at large, not only in games, but also across the rapidly evolving digital entertainment landscape.”

The latter piece of that quote, the reference to “the rapidly evolving digital entertainment landscape,” could indicate Sony’s interest in Fortnite’s multimedia experiences. The game has hosted concerts, movie trailers like that of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, and even discussions about social justice. That's a big platform and audience for Sony, and one that likely skews younger than their current demographic.

“Sony and Epic have both built businesses at the intersection of creativity and technology, and we share a vision of real-time 3D social experiences leading to a convergence of gaming, film, and music,” said Tim Sweeney, founder and CEO of Epic. “Together we strive to build an even more open and accessible digital ecosystem for all consumers and content creators alike.”

Next, an upcoming Hulu show that looks to traffic in oddball animation as deeply as progressive social commentary has dropped its first trailer. 

Woke, a Lamorne Morris (New Girl) vehicle based on the life of cartoonist Keith Knight, is blending racial commentary, live-action humor, and talking inanimate objects in the eight-episode first season. Looking at the show’s first footage shows off police brutality, racial profiling, and — in the middle of it all — Keef, who wants to make his art and not be bothered by everything else. That doesn’t stay the case for long.

Take a look:

Co-creators Knight and Marshall Todd, alongside showrunner Jay Dyer, look to address some very real issues in this larger-than-life comedy. What if Pee-wee’s Playhouse said Black Lives Matter?

Woke, which also stars T. Murph and Blake Anderson, hits Hulu on Sept. 9.

Finally, HBO Max is getting another adorable piece of animation—this time from Rick and Morty, China, IL, and Uncle Grandpa alum Myke Chilian. 

Tig N' Seek, a hide-and-seek-esque show where Tiggy (Chilian) and his pet cat Gweeseek work at the Department of Lost and Found. They build gadgets, go on adventures, and otherwise look to solve problems for the residents of Wee-Gee City. The first trailer explains a lot.

Check it out:

So a little weirder even than the upcoming Where’s Waldo? animated series. That’s made clear by the cast, which is full of alt-comedy talent like Rich Fulcher, Jemaine Clement, and Wanda Sykes. 

Fans can find out more when Tig N’ Seek hits HBO Max on July 23.


GRRLTalk: Janet Varney and Mayim Bialik @ Syfy Wire

It's GRRLTalk, where we sit down with some favorite ladies to learn all about their relationship to fandom. Today, let's get to know two upcoming participants on The Great Debate: Mayim Bialik (Blossom, The Big Bang Theory) and Janet Varney (Legend of Korra, You're the Worst)!


Mayim Bialik, Actor/Writer/Neuroscientist/Mom

Janet Varney, Actor/Writer/Producer

What are you currently FANGRRLing over? Why do you love it?

Mayim: The Last Kingdom — I think that counts? And I'm always perpetually watching The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Over. And over.

Janet: I'm currently re-watching Season Two of Dark on Netflix in anticipation of the third and final season. I think I watched the first season three times, just to try and keep everything straight — and because I loved it. It's so smart and weird and it works so hard to really nail the time travel thing, which is so hard to do well in sci-fi since there are so many paradoxes. They lean right into those paradoxes in such a great way.

What was your first fandom?

Mayim: Star Wars, of course. I was born in 1975, so ... yeah. In love with Luke.

Credit: Lucasfilm / Disney

Janet: Definitely the 1982 movie Tron. I would watch it over and over and over once we had it on tape at home. I wasn't even a gamer — in fact I didn't like video games probably because of Tron, because seeing that at such a young age made me go, "Well why would I play a game if I can't be INSIDE the game grid?" So you can imagine the allure VR still holds for me!

When you were a kid, what was your most prized geek possession? Do you still have it?

Mayim: We had the Star Wars figurines from that era of the 1970s. I loved Hammerhead and C-3PO best.

Janet: Hmm … that's a toss-up between my "1st Prize" blue ribbon from my 6th grade science fair and my tattered copy of Ray Bradbury's Golden Apples of the Sun. It's a copy my dad gave to me from the English department library of the high school where he taught, and I was super young — maybe seven? — and the fact that he thought I was old enough to read a high school level book made me feel like the luckiest kid in the world.

Who was most instrumental in getting you into geek culture?

Mayim: My brother! He was four years older and he played D&D and he had all the coolest toys.

Janet: For sure my dad. He falls more on the comedy side of things (so it's no surprise I mostly work in comedy now), but he was such an awesome nerd about even kids' stuff like Sesame Street and The Muppet Show — he would watch all of that stuff with me and would try and do all the voices. He has a similar range to Jim Henson, so he can still hit Kermit and Ernie out of the park! And he's the one who took me to see The Princess Bride and introduced me to a bunch of other cool stuff.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

What are you geek-curious about?

Mayim: Great question! Um, definitely want more sci-fi in my life. Battlestar Galactica — I watched the original but not the newer one.

Janet: I have barely dipped a toe in the GINORMOUS world of anime and am always looking for new recommendations.

Do you collect nerdy stuff? If so, what?

Mayim: YES. Anything brain-related. Love Star Wars clothing, not gonna lie. And Star Wars jewelry. And any jewelry surrounding the brain/neurons or math.

Janet: I have some special collector's-edition Tron "kubrick" toys from the early 2000s that are, if I may say so, f***ing awesome.

Do you cosplay?

Mayim: Nope!

Janet: I don't! When I go to conventions it's as a guest for either comedy or Korra stuff or both, and it never feels like it makes sense to cosplay as someone else, though I love seeing all the amazing cosplay there.

Would you cosplay, and what would you dress as?

Mayim: I mean, I'm super crushing hard on all things Steampunk, so something in that realm I think.

Janet: I love Drag King stuff, so probably some cool male characters. I did my final project in my Makeup class for my Theatre major by making myself look like The Man in Black/Westley from The Princess Bride, complete with a specially crafted mustache and I was so proud.

What's something geeky that you will always spend money on?

Mayim: DICE.

Janet: Korra fan art. Could not be more blown away by the amazing and varied ways these brilliant illustrators interpret the Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra universe!

If you could do a TED Talk on anything fandom-related, what would it be and why?

Mayim: The significance of RPGs for those of us with social anxiety.

Janet: Oh great question! Maybe something about how comedy empowers girls in a really cool and special way, to learn to be totally confident through failure, and how to be quick on your feet and not be afraid to make your voice heard.

What's one moment in nerd history you'll never get over (good or bad)?

Mayim: Oh wow. Taking my kids to see Star Wars after literally seeing the previous movies when I was pregnant with them!

Janet: Well, I was really mad about the third X-Men movie for a really, really, really long time until its entire plot was basically dismantled by future sequels, and then I (and millions of other fans) felt vindicated.

If a studio/company came to you and said they would make anything you want, what would it be and why?

Mayim: !!!!

Janet: Whooooaaaa! GREAT question!

Mayim: So hard to answer!! I mean I would want to work with Art Spiegelman on anything he was doing!

Janet: I think my current gut response on this would be to keep building VR worlds that allow us to really live inside our favorite sci-fi/fantasy/superhero etc. worlds with really smart gameplay, puzzles, character interaction, etc. We have the technology now to really do it right!

Doom Patrol is the most bonkers superhero show that's also about generational trauma @ Syfy Wire

When it comes to superhero movies and TV shows, it seems like we're finally moving away from the seriousness of superhero movies like Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy or Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Nowadays movies and shows based on comic books are finally embracing the spectacular and crazy aspects of their origins, including the Guardians of the Galaxy movies and The LEGO Batman Movie, and TV series such as Legends of Tomorrow, Legion, and Watchmen.

But no superhero show gets as bonkers as Doom Patrol, a show in which a giant cockroach can make out with a giant rat, and the Ghostbusters only hunt sex ghosts. Despite all this, though, the heroes' biggest challenge is in facing their deep-seated traumas.

Doom Patrol is mostly based on Grant Morrison's 1980s run of a '60s-created comic book of the same title, which followed a ragtag group of marginalized outcasts and accident victims with great powers and, yes, a lot of personal issues. There's Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero), a girl with 64 different personalities, each with their own power. Rita Farr (April Bowlby) is a former Hollywood starlet who now battles with a blob-like body she struggles to keep in one piece. Larry Trainor (Matt Bomer) was once a test pilot meant to go to space, but who was hit with a cloud of cosmic radiation and must now cover his entire body with bandages, and keep a sentient being of energy inside of him at bay. And there's Cliff Steele (Brendan Fraser), a former NASCAR driver who got in a car accident, lost his body, and whose consciousness now resides in a clanking, red-eyed robot.

It didn't take long for Doom Patrol to become the weirdest thing in superhero TV. The show introduced one out-of-left-field, fantastic character after the next, including a sentient, nonbinary street named Danny and a vengeful rat named Admiral Whiskers. Most recently in Season 2, we were introduced to the Sex Men, a secret team of ghostbusters who travel around the world and fix sites contaminated by supernatural sexual energy, and also fight sex demons who could destroy the world.

But more so than the quirky characters and the superpowered shenanigans, Doom Patrol's biggest strength comes from its exploration of generational trauma and the difficulties in trying to overcome it. The show may have plenty of comedic and absurd moments — Do I have to remind you of the time Flex Mentallo (Devan Chandler Long) accidentally gave everyone standing on Danny the Street an orgasm? — but it is always in the service of the characters' emotional journey.

The first season dealt largely with a quest to find the team's missing sort-of father figure, Niles Caulder (Timothy Dalton), aka the Chief, as the team members started tackling their pasts. Larry's arc was about coming to terms with the negative energy being residing inside of him, as well as accepting his sexuality (which resulted in two highlights of the show: Larry singing Kelly Clarkson's "People Like Us" at karaoke inside the sentient Danny the Street, as well as Larry's emotional reunion with his former love, John Bowers). Meanwhile, Cliff had to work out his anger issues and face how they resulted in him being involved in the car crash that robbed him of his body and led his daughter to believe him to be dead. As for Rita, she ended Season 1 by starting to accept her new body and the fact that her career died decades ago.

As most reviews of the second season noted, the new episodes don't really advance the characters' stories that much. It feels as if the show was a bit repetitive, or at least backing up some of the progress made by the characters — but the thing is, that's the point of the show. Doom Patrol's main thesis last season was that its main characters were never going to be able to fully erase their trauma, especially not in just a couple of episodes. The best they can hope for is learning to cope with it, and try to work backward to see how their trauma didn't start with the accidents that turned them into the titular Doom Patrol, but way earlier with their previous lives.

Indeed, this season is putting a heavy focus on how trauma extends from parents to children, which is best exemplified by the addition of Niles Caulder's daughter, Dorothy Spinner (Abigail Shapiro), an incredibly powerful little girl who has lived most of her life alone and hidden from the world as her father looked for ways of becoming immortal to keep her safe. 

Credit: HBO Max

By living with Dorothy, the other members of the Doom Patrol are discovering that their messed-up lives didn't just begin with their accidents, but way earlier. Larry may have finally made peace with the Negative Spirit inside him, but he's now realizing that hiding his sexuality and his true self from the world didn't just hurt him, but deeply hurt his children and scarred them for life. Larry has made a lot of progress, and he is even starting to look at what a "normal" future could mean for him, but he first has to come to terms with how his actions and trauma also impacted those around him.

This theme extends to Cliff, who is still trying to make sense of the life he missed because of his accident, which was in fact planned by Niles. After he tried and failed to connect with his daughter last season, he once again makes a rash decision and pays her a visit early on in Season 2, which, of course, backfires. If Season 1 saw Cliff angry and figuring out how to accept his new robotic body, this season is all about Cliff realizing his troubles started way before he accidentally killed his wife, back when he became a crappy dad to the daughter he left behind. Even Rita is starting to discover her problems didn't begin with her Hollywood career, but at home with her mother.

Doom Patrol may have world-ending stakes most of the time, and its villains may be incredibly powerful and terrifying, but the team's real issues are as mundane as they come. It doesn't matter that Larry mustering the courage to attend his son's funeral doesn't involve a fight with a multidimensional being — it feels just as important because it is a result of his own screwups.

Likewise, Doom Patrol makes it clear that people heal in different ways at different times. Sure, Larry seems to have made a lot of progress, but by comparison, Jane is just now starting to try and make peace with her other personalities. Alongside all the weird shenanigans and the bizarre characters, the show's greatest strength is that it understands that sometimes the greatest challenge is simply finding the will to get out of bed in the morning. 

This sleek flock of robotic birds is like something straight out of high-tech Hitchcock @ Syfy Wire

It seems birds of a feather do flock together, but do synthetic swallows follow the same rules? Just ask this flock of robo-birds, which look like they flew out of a sci-fi remake of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.

Festo, a family-owned robotics and automation company headquartered in Esslingen, Germany, has hatched a nest of hi-tech, next-generation bionic birds called BionicSwifts that come fresh out of the inventive incubator full of real-world applications. These realistic robo-birds soar through the air with the greatest of ease on 26-inch wings courtesy of guidance from an ultra-sideband radio-based indoor GPS.

Festo has been dabbling in the miniaturized robotic devices market for years, and some of their earlier innovative creations include robotic jellyfish, butterflies, foxes, seagulls, and even a kangaroo. 

Credit: Festo Inc.

Each of the five BionicSwift swallows are powered by a trio of miniature motors to control lift, descent, and direction. Weighing in at a mere 1.48 ounces, the team's lofty brood vastly improves on more recent robotic avian inventions by showcasing ultra-lightweight manufacturing employing artificial feathers.

Last year at the World Robot Conference in Beijing, a Chinese company called Bee-Eater Technology introduced a much larger robotic bird called a Wind Rider that was actually a high-tech drone engineered to flap its wings and glide like a real bird. But Festo's model is a smaller, more agile entity capable of multiple coordinated flight patterns.

"The intelligent interaction of motors and mechanics allows the frequency of the wing beat and the elevator's angle of attack to be precisely adjusted for the various maneuvers," explains Festo's official site report.

To achieve this level of realism and aerodynamics, artificial lamellae and quills have been used to produce realistic flight motion. As BionicSwift models take to the air, the lamellae contract to assist in providing lift.

These plumage components fan out to let airflow to pass as they smoothly glide back down to the ground, performing sharp turns and loops as they descend. Lamellae are made from flexible foam and are arranged like interlocking shingles on a roof then connected to individual carbon quills.

Festo's synthetic swallows are equipped with a tiny battery that offers seven minutes of continuous flying time, guided along a pre-programmed path via GPS sensors located inside the indoor flight zone.

To provide the juice and navigation, a brushless motor, two servomotors, battery, gearbox, and circuit boards for radio control and localization are all packed into an extremely compact space.

Credit: Festo Inc.

"The intelligent networking of flight objects and GPS routing makes for a 3-D navigation system that could be used in the networked factory of the future," Festo noted. "The precise localization of the flow of materials and goods could, for example, improve process sequences and foresee bottlenecks. Moreover, autonomous flying robots could be used to transport materials, for instance, and thus optimize the use of space within a factory with their flight corridors."

5 Alien Planets We'd Actually Like to Visit @ io9

Sci-fi movies and TV shows love to visit hostile planets filled with violent alien creatures, environmental perils, and an overall vibe of “get me the hell out of here”—not exactly the ideal components for a space vacation. But there are a few extraterrestrial hotspots we wouldn’t mind visiting on our next getaway.


To bring The Witcher to life, Henry Cavill rolled in puddles, wore volcanic contacts & braved Reddit @ Syfy Wire

Noted The Witcher superfan Henry Cavill (Man of Steel) was the perfect pick to bring the mutant monster hunter Geralt to life for a live-action Netflix series, but his dedication went beyond a love of the Andrzej Sapkowski books and CD Projekt Red games source material. From the sounds of it, The Witcher required an exacting toll on his body ... but one he was all too willing to pay.

Speaking to Vanity Fair, Cavill recalled the many physical hardships he weathered to make Geralt of Rivia as faithful an adaptation as possible — and sometimes that weather was literal. Explaining how he kept his Witcher so grimy throughout his adventures, Cavill noted that his makeup team was a little too gun-shy with the dirt and muck.

"The costumers were, towards the end, quite horrified with me," Cavill said. "Before takes I would look at myself and say, 'We need more dirt on me.' They’d come up to me with this tiny little—it’s like a pair of tights rolled up into a ball, with some dust in, and they’d sort of pat it on me. And I’d say, 'Yeah, guys, that’s not enough.' So I’d go stand out in the rain. Sometimes I’d roll around in puddles. I would just try and get as much of the world on me, so this character looked like he had lived within it."

Henry Cavill standing in the rain in full Geralt duds, looking like a high fantasy Shawshank Redemption, is a perfect image. It's certainly far less disturbing than the story he tells about getting his eyes right for the role. The contacts needed to turn Cavill's baby blues into Geralt's yellowish cat-like orbs were apparently pretty intense — like "maybe leave you blind if you wear them too long" intense. And Cavill was stubborn.

"When we went to the Canary Islands, there was lots of very fine volcanic dust flying about in the air, and my eyes were getting more and more sore," the actor said. "I just thought it was because it was so bright. I would literally have to go hide in the shade before each take, and then force my eyes to stay open for scenes because they were burning. I just thought I needed to toughen up a little bit."

Turns out, he had a right to be uncomfortable. "When we went back to Budapest, [my eye technician] took me in to have my eyes checked," Cavill told Vanity Fair. "It turned out that whatever the dust was, volcanic, it ended up scratching my eye, because it got behind the contacts and was just rubbing there for however long. It took about, I want to say three weeks to heal, and then the contacts were back in." There truly is no rest for the Witcher.

Even when he's not actively harming his body to film the series, Cavill is braving the depths of the internet for the role. Not only is he checking out all the reviews of the series, he's digging deep into the fandom to find out what the diehards think. "I know that there’s mixed opinions out there as well, which I really thrive upon reading as well. For me, it’s vital to go about and read—I’m on all the Reddit forums," Cavill said. "I’m reading all the reviews. I’m literally trying to get everyone’s information. Some of it is not useful, and other criticisms are incredibly useful."

So if you've ever complained about a highly specific thing on a Witcher-related Reddit thread, you might want to keep an eye on Cavill's performance whenever Season 2 hits Netflix — perhaps the star will have taken your note.

(via Vanity Fair)

The 100 Discussion: 'Anaconda' takes us back to the beginning @ Syfy Wire

We've reached the halfway point in the final season of The 100, and if we're being honest, we can't make heads or tails of it. While Clarke digests the news that Bellamy is "dead," viewers are taken back to a much earlier point in The 100 lore, where we witness the end of the world and the rise of the Second Dawn cult. Lead by Bill's rebellious daughter Callie, the potential prequel series would explore a faction of the cult that broke off to find survivors of the nuclear blast, eventually becoming Trikru and Azgeda. An interesting concept, so we'll see if it finds its feet.

We're Alyssa Fikse and Jessica Toomer, and we're still holding out for Bellarke crumbs. Let's get into it.

Warning: This discussion contains Season 7, Episode 8 of The 100.

Credit: The CW

Back To The Beginning

Jessica: The 100 makes the truly bonkers decision to devote an entire episode of its final season to setting up a prequel spinoff this week and honestly, I couldn’t be more disappointed. Not in the perspective show’s premise or cast — it looks interesting enough and I genuinely enjoyed some of the new characters — but in the choice to waste valuable time and neglect the stories of some of our favorite main characters to plan for a new IP that might not even make it to a series order. This is what pilots are for. Or streaming platforms. Not final seasons of established TV shows. But, I digress. We get a glimpse of a still-devastated Clarke who confronts Bill (The Shepherd) after learning that her “best friend” Bellamy Blake is dead. Bill knows trideslang, he’s telling a different story about cult life in the bunker, and he wants to know if his daughter, Callie, is still in Clarke’s mind. If that’s what this whole “Chosen One” plot has been about — some miserable old white man who regrets how he treated his daughter centuries ago — just tell me now so I can press pause on my investment in this series.  

Alyssa: Jessica, I nearly howled with rage to have Clarke and Raven’s moment to grieve cut short to introduce a whole new set of characters to care about. THIS ISN’T WHAT I WANT. However, I did enjoy learning that trideslang was made up by a Latin obsessed teen. This makes perfect sense to me. But yes, Callie. Daughter of Bill, who is basically Jeff Bezos with even more of a god complex. They are clearly all planning for the end of the world, and the conversations about political movements and jokes about how fascism isn’t that bad... felt awfully on the nose for now. Callie has plans to drop out of MIT to join the resistance movement (resistance against what exactly isn’t super clear), but her plans are interrupted by the actual end of the modern world. Her dad gets notified that missiles have been launched (by whom? Again, unknown.) so he gives Callie and her mother the password: Anaconda. The helicopter is coming for them to take them to the Second Dawn’s bunker. Her mother drugs Callie’s friend who isn’t in the cult, and they have to leave her behind to die. Rough start. 

Jessica: I suppose one of the bright spots of this prequel episode is the reassurance that we were totally right in hating The Shepherd. Sure, he correctly guessed the end of the world, but his solution was to create a cult, house them in a bunker, and seal it off to anyone not worthy. Callie, being a decent human being, has major issues with this, which is why she left with her mom in the first place, but her brother has injected that psychosis-inducing Kool-Aid straight into his veins because… daddy issues. They’re the worst y’all. Callie and her mom manage to make it to the bunker before the end of the world and the guilt hits hard. Meanwhile, her dad’s gotten his hands on the Anamoly Stone and he’s spent the last decade trying to crack its code, so he could really care less that billions of people just got incinerated by nuclear warheads. Again, f*ck this dude. 

Alyssa: Nothing like finding an alien (?) artifact and using it to set up a police state! Indeed, f*ck that dude. Callie tries to fight the power alongside a hottie in a leather jacket named August who just wants to save his girlfriend, but they’re overpowered by her brother and the other Second Dawn cronies. It’s not ideal. There is a two-year time jump, and while they can go out onto the surface for brief trips as long as they’re wearing the proper gear, things are not going great in the bunker. On one of their recon missions, a pod drops from the sky. Who should emerge from the pod but Dr. Becca Franco. We should have known that The 100 couldn’t end without bringing her back, right?

Credit: The CW

Opening A Bridge

Jessica: Because things aren’t enough of a mess, let’s just add in a genocidal A.I. implant that comes with a well-meaning genius intent on making up for mass murdering the entire planet. My stress levels are maxed out from just writing that sentence, Alyssa. Becca floats back down to Earth like some Nightblood-powered Jesus with promises that she can liberate the Second Dawn from their bunker hell. Of course, Callie’s all about that. She’s had a nerd crush on this woman for years, but Bill being the narcissistic dictator he is doesn’t want anyone wandering too far from his tyrannical reach so he puts the kibosh on injecting radiation antibodies into his flock. Becca manages to dose one guard who’s accidentally exposed, proving her formula works, but it’s her connection to the Stone that really interests Bill and his followers. 

Alyssa: Let’s just say that Bill would be down to slow down testing in order to have fewer recorded cases, if you know what I mean. As soon as she gets within spitting distance of the Anomaly Stone (aka the space ball), she starts to hear some harmonic sounds and uses her mathematical brain to immediately find the 7 unique symbols out of 700 and opens the portal. While they are unsure whether or not the portal is safe for their usage or where it heads, but Bill and Becca are both deeply intrigued by the possibilities that were just dropped in their laps. Bill’s response? Tighten his grip on his followers. Can’t have them tasting from the forbidden fruit of knowledge.

Jessica: Seriously, everything’s a bit too pointed this episode, which makes me worry for the future of this prequel story. Still, I’m having a good time watching a smart, confident woman hand an entitled white man with a fragile ego his ass in front of his friends and family. Becca agrees to help Bill figure out the mystery of the Stone so that the members of the Second Dawn can travel to a new world. Callie thinks the solution is Becca’s Nightblood serum, which would allow them to rebuild the world they were already given. Sounds like a lot of work, but it might be the better choice in the long run, because after the two talk about Becca’s A.I. implant and how it allows her to hear the Stone, she has an epiphany, punches some strange symbols, and gets sucked into a glowing ball of doom only to emerge shaken and convinced this bridge needs to be destroyed. And Bill? Yeah, he’s not having that. 

Alyssa: Bill is of course overconfident in his abilities to successfully lead his people into a new life, and Callie challenges him. This gets Becca thrown in prison, and when Callie goes to try and break her out later (failed mission since Reese has the key), Becca confides in her. Reese and Bill have her notebook, so they know about the Flame, but what they don’t know is that the Flame has a backdoor that allows for its successful removal. Callie, August, and some other young people are ready to flee the bunker with the help of Becca’s nightblood injections, and Becca wants her to take the Flame with her. Not only that, but she wants her to pick the next Flame keeper. Geez, nothing like meeting your heroes and then getting an epic quest thrust upon you! We all know what happens next: Becca gets burned at the stake.

Credit: The CW

A New Dawn

Jessica: Honestly, Callie seems more than capable of handling it. She refuses to worship her father like her brother and the rest of his flock do, and she believes Becca’s telling the truth about the real judgment day. So, her only option is to pick a fight with Reese, use his own toxic masculinity and fragile ego against him to trick him into a duel, shoot him instead, and grab the Flame for herself while her people escape. She begs her mom to come with her but she decides to stay behind and buy them all some time by helping to seal the bunker doors. Bill doesn’t like that, and when he discovers Callie’s made off with the Flame, he shuts his wife in the airlock, basically leaving her to die or venture out on her own without the protection of Nightblood, while he leads his people to some new promise land. And of course, his son follows. Why are men like this? 

Alyssa: It’s messy, to be sure. However, did I laugh when I saw that August had brought his guitar with him into the radiation soaked wilderness? Of course I did. You gotta be able to play “Wonderwall” even if the world’s on fire after all. I see him being an obvious choice to pair with Callie, but I’m pretty sure she can do better. After alienating his daughter and killing his wife, Bill decides to test out the portal, which will surely be the launching point for the series should it get picked up. Any thoughts on potential names? Bill in the distant future asks Clarke if Callie is in the Flame, which she is, but Clarke explains that it doesn’t work quite like that. She demands to see the rest of their friends, and Anders obliges, because who wouldn’t be afraid of Clarke Griffin with a gun in her hand? In strides Octavia flanked by Diyoza and Echo, suited up and seemingly indoctrinated. Not exactly what Clarke was expecting.

Jessica: My money’s on The New Dawn or something similar, though that’s probably because I lack imagination when it comes to titling things. I’m also struggling to understand how Clarke knows about Callie and what happened all those years ago. I know she had the Flame for a hot minute and she was able to shut Allie down, but does that mean she retained all the memories of former Commanders? And she can just access them whenever she wants? How does this work, exactly? And why is it so important for Bill to know that Callie’s in there? Is she who he’s after? Does he want to bring her back somehow? Or does she know something that now Clarke might have access to? I’m just so confused at this point. Worse, I’m legit worried that Octavia, Echo, and Diyoza really have bought in on Bill’s ideology — maybe out of sheer exhaustion because surviving tragedy after tragedy can really take its toll. I can’t take more division in this group. Not now. 

Credit: The CW

What's Next

Alyssa: I can imagine how they would be susceptible to Bill’s message — how much trauma can one person take — but I am really hoping for an inside job of some kind that will end up with them back on Clarke’s side. However, who even knows with this season. We’ve reached the halfway point, and we’ve seen so little of our main characters that I am utterly baffled. The 100 has always been a messy show that I loved in spite of its many flaws, but they are really whiffing the landing. 

Jessica: It’s true. I’ve resigned myself to this season, and I’ll continue watching because I do love this cast, but I’m less and less optimistic about how this thing ends. Still, this prequel episode provided a bit of hope and a nice distraction and I hope some fans truly enjoyed it.

WIRE Buzz: Archie Comics launches podcast universe; Man & Witch goes totally '80s; Tomie casting @ Syfy Wire

Archie Comics is looking to follow their more superhero-oriented comic competitors Marvel and DC into the podcasting space.

Deadline reports that Archie Comics — which has seen its comic properties form a TV universe on The CW and Netflix with Riverdale and the recently canceled Katy Keene and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina — is looking to expand to audio thanks to a new deal with Spotify. This first look deal angles to create an original series of Archie podcasts, in a similar vein to one just signed by DC last month.

These podcasts, which Spotify gets first dibs on, could be about any Archie characters, and would see the comic company’s creatives develop the series with Spotify. Nothing has been solidified quite yet, but the rumblings thus far indicate that the podcast empire will likely look to approach similar demographics as the TV universe: some younger-oriented and some a little more risque and mature.

“Bringing the iconic Archie library of characters to Spotify is a perfect match, and we’re so excited to partner with them to explore new, compelling stories featuring our characters,” said Archie Comics CEO/Publisher Jon Goldwater in a statement.

No timeline has so far been announced for the audio projects.

Next, a few beloved stars of classic '80s pics are teaming up for a new fantasy film featuring lots of nostalgia and some Jim Henson puppets.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Man & Witch (as in, "I now pronounce you Man and Witch") is on its way from director Rob Margolies and writer Greg Steinbruner. The wife of the latter, Tami Stronach, is best known as the Childlike Empress from The NeverEnding Story and will star in the film alongside genre staples like Sean Astin (The Goonies) and Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future). That’s a premium ‘80s trifecta right there.

Veteran actors Rhea Perlman (Cheers) and Michael Emerson (Lost) will also lend their talents to the film, which looks to capitalize on its throwback cast with a similarly throwback plot, promising a “heartwarming homage to the lo-fi fantasy films of the '80s.” The story centers around a powerful witch who falls in love with a goofball goat herder. Expect bumbling buffoonery, warring wizards, and talking animals; a sheep, goose, and dog are all going to get The Jim Henson Creature Shop treatment.

Production looks to begin on Man & Witch this fall.

Finally, the minds behind Crawl and Aquaman are adapting a Junji Ito classic for Quibi—and they just found their lead.

According to Deadline, the shortform streamer will see director Alexandre Aja (Crawl) and writer David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick (Aquaman) adapt the manga Tomie into a series, with The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s Adeline Rudolph starring as the titular high schooler/murder victim/supernatural monster.

Adeline Rudolph in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Photo by Diyah Pera/Netflix)

It’s fitting that an otherworldly horror story about a dismembered person would land on a streamer all about chopping up content, and this is the first news fans have heard about the series in over a year — confirming, among other things, that the show will be live-action.

Tomie does not yet have a release date.

Release the Schumacher Cut, You Cowards @ io9

After years of getting the fandom riled up about the idea of a Snyder Cut of Justice League, Warner Bros. saw fit to move forward with the production of the film for an upcoming release on HBO Max next year. The decision was surprising if only for the fact that Warner Bros. had previously denied that such a cut ever…


Get Rec'd: Six sci-fi and fantasy romance reads to chill out with in July @ Syfy Wire

There's nothing better than relaxing somewhere quiet with a good book, right? And while we might be a little limited in where we can go to get our chill on right now, we're fortunate in that books have been and continue to be here for us. Hence, the latest installment of our monthly romance recommendations, where your resident romance die-hards (that's the two of us) list some of the books we're looking forward to, as well as the slightly older, occasionally non-genre titles that we're reading.

We've got six sci-fi and fantasy romance novels to recommend that are releasing throughout the month of July, as well as the other, occasionally genre-adjacent titles that we've finally pulled from our TBR pile and can't say enough good things about.

Let us know what you're planning on reading on Twitter this month, either individually or via SYFY FANGRRLS using the hashtag #FangrrlsRomance. (And don't forget to check out last month's Pride-perfect releases in case you're looking to add even more books to your to-read list. We won't apologize for anything.)

WIRE Buzz: Charlize Theron still hasn't been asked to be in the MCU; Fantasia Fest films; The Honeymoon Phase @ Syfy Wire

Charlize Theron may have proven herself to be one of the greatest action hero actors of the modern age — with Atomic Blonde, Mad Max: Fury Road, and now The Old Guard under her belt — but there’s still one of its subgenres she hasn’t yet explored: the superhero movie. She was famously asked to play Wonder Woman’s mom in Diana’s first DCEU film (an insult that the Oscar-winner, who’s only nine years older than star Gal Gadot, turned down), but Marvel hasn’t even gotten that far.

Speaking to Variety, Theron confirmed that any and all Marvel rumors are hokum — not because she’s against playing a superhero, but because Marvel still hasn’t called. “I swear to God. I've never gotten anything,” Theron said of being approached to be in the MCU. “No, I'm not lying to you. But that's okay. You know what? I am paving my own way. I'm creating my own opportunities. So it's all right.”

While there are always those looking to stir the pot with regards to fan-casting movies, Theron makes it clear that Marvel has never reached out to her with an offer — which is all the more a shame when reading The Old Guard’s great reviews. At least fans will have one comic adaptation they can watch Theron kick ass in.

The Old Guard — directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and co-starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, and Harry Melling — hits Netflix on July 10.

Next, another virtual film festival specializing in genre fare has released an additional look into its programming slate. The Fantasia International Film Festival, which will host its Canada-only (really, it's geolocked down) virtual event from Aug. 20 - Sept. 2, is going to be a haven for those after the fringes of sci-fi, horror, and fantasy.

The fest unveiled two dozen newly selected films, including the world premieres of Bleed With Me, Fugitive Dreams, The Five Rules of Success, For the Sake of Vicious, Minor Premise, The Oak Room, The Block Island Sound, and Slaxx

A variety of international and North American premieres will also take place at the festival, as the rest of the announced slate includes the following films: Alone, Beauty Water, Class Action Park, Climate of the Hunter, The Columnist, Crazy Samurai Musashi, The Dark and the Wicked, Detention, La Dosis, I WeirDo, Jesters: The Game Changers, Life: Untitled, Me and Me, A Mermaid in Paris, My Punch-Drunk Boxer, Project Dreams - How to Build Mazinger Z's Hangar, The Prophet and the Space Aliens, PVT Chat, Sanzaru, Savage State, and Vertigo.

Fans can read more about this bevy of films with interesting titles (The Prophet and the Space Aliens? Sold!) on the fest’s official site. The rest of the Fantasia Fest lineup will be announced on Aug. 6.

Finally, a twisty new sci-fi horror looks to abuse those isolated at home. Writer/director Phillip G. Carroll Jr.'s feature debut, The Honeymoon Phase, is especially timely as it looks to trap married couples in high-tech homes for a month in order to analyze love (and its disintegration). In the film's first trailer, fans find out it's especially rough if you're quarantined with someone you don't really know.

Jim Schubin and Chloe Carroll play Tom and Eve, who agree to this coronavirus-esque bargain with mercenary motives. The only problem is they're not really married and Eve might not actually know if Tom is...well, Tom. And who are these Director and Handler running the whole shebang? Spookiness is locked in there with the couple in a situation all too familiar to genre fans right now.

Take a look:

The Millenium Project? Yeah, this is a little too familiar. Except for the weird hologram scientists, sci-fi outfits, brainwave scanners, and growing violence. Though, hey, some fans may have been experiencing those too. No judgment.

The Honeymoon Phase, which also features performances by Tara Westwood and Francois Chau, aims to hit both theaters and a digital release on Aug. 21.


More Than 90% of Quibi Users Reportedly Bailed After Free Trial @ io9

Quibi, the video streaming service that no one asked for, has apparently only covered about 8% of early users into paying subscribers, according to a report from mobile analytics firm Sensor Tower via the Verge. That means of the supposed 910,000 people who downloaded Quibi in the app’s early days, only about 72,000…


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