A Séance Goes Alarmingly Awry in This Spooky Excerpt From A Lesson in Vengeance @ io9

A crop of A Lesson in Vengeance’s cover.Image: Delacorte Press

It’s a known fact that we here at io9 are quite fond of stories set at spooky boarding schools, so we’re very excited to be sharing an exclusive excerpt from Victoria Lee’s witchy new boarding school-set novel A Lesson in Vengeance, which blends queer themes with Gothic chills.

Here’s a plot description to set the scene:

Felicity Morrow is back at the Dalloway School to finish her senior year after the tragic death of her girlfriend. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches.

Felicity was once drawn to the dark legacy of witchcraft. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; but it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget it.

It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway—and in herself.

And here’s a look at the full cover, designed by Regina Flath, followed by a sneak peek at A Lesson in Vengeance’s wonderfully atmospheric eighth chapter.

Image: Delacorte Press

Chapter Eight

Here is the truth.

What happened to Alex was no accident. Not just because she fell, because we’d fought, or because I cut the rope—but because of what happened last October.

I’d recently decided on my thesis project: “I caution you against this,” Wyatt had said when I told her I wanted to study representations of witchcraft in literature. “You will struggle to get a thesis on witchcraft approved by the administration, no matter how good your scholarship. Dalloway is a respectable school—this isn’t the Scholomance.”

“I don’t see the problem,” I’d said. “I’m not claiming the Dalloway witches were real. Just that conceptualizations of witchcraft existed in the eighteenth century, and that those were influenced by perceptions of female agency and mental illness at the time. I want to connect the reality of their lives to the fantasy of how women were presented on the page.”

Wyatt had fixed me with a lancet gaze and said: “So long as you focus on the literature, Miss Morrow—not on flights of fancy.” And she’d signed the papers.

But when I’d told my mother about my plans, she’d been appalled.

“That school is a bad influence on you,” my mother had told me while I was home for Thanksgiving break a few weeks later. “I thought you knew better than to believe all that nonsense about witches.”

Perhaps she was right to be afraid. Of course, at the time I’d scoffed. I don’t believe in witches, I’d insisted, and it was true. Before Dalloway, I had fancied myself a rationalist—too rational, in fact, to entertain the possibility that reality might contain more mysteries than my feeble mortal mind could understand. But there was something about the Dalloway Five that drew me in, embraced me in their cold dead arms. They were real: there was historical evidence for their lives, for their deaths. And I imagined their magic stitched like a thread across time, passed from mother to daughter, a glittering link from the founder to Margery Lemont to me.

That had felt like a comfort once. After Halloween, it felt more like a curse.

By that night, I’d had plenty of opportunities to embroil myself in lore and legend. My room at Godwin House was littered with scanned grimoire pages and notes on the uncanny. Alex watched all this with a sort of academic fascination; she’d never been able to understand why I was so drawn to darkness. She had always belonged in the light of the sun.

“Don’t you think you’re taking this a little too seriously?” Alex asked the night everything went wrong, waving a match through the air to extinguish the flame. “You’ve been kind of over the top about this thesis business. Like, do you think you’re starting to get a little confused about reality here? Magic doesn’t exist, Felicity.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“I mean . . . yes?”

She held my gaze for a long moment; I looked away first, back to the Ouija board set up between us. “This is important to me,” I confessed to the planchette. I dipped a cloth into salt water and wiped it over the board itself, cleansing it for the summoning. “Not because I believe in it, necessarily, but because they did.”

“And you’re obsessed with them. The Dalloway Five.”

“I’m not obsessed. This is our history—Godwin’s history. They killed a girl. That really happened, whether we believe in witchcraft or not. And we know they held a séance—that was documented in the trial. Whether they thought it was real or just make-believe, they performed a ritual to raise a ghost. And Flora died a few days later.”

The primary sources I’d read in Dalloway’s library were inconsistent as to the nature of Flora Grayfriar’s death. The account I’d read in the library described an almost ritualistic killing, Flora’s throat slit and her stomach cut open, stuffed full of animal bones and herbs. But other contemporaneous writings said she was found with a musket ball in her gut, dead in the forest, shot like a beast. It should have been a simple thing, to determine how a girl died: Was she shot, or was her throat slit? Do I trust the trial documents, or the letters written by Flora’s mother? Who had more motive to lie?

Either the Dalloway girls were witches, and they’d murdered Flora in some arcane deal with the devil, or Flora’s death had a far more mundane explanation. A hunting accident, maybe. A lovers’ quarrel. Or even a bigoted townsperson who heard about the séance and wanted to see the girls punished for meddling with powers they couldn’t contain.

After all, Flora was the first death, but she wasn’t the last. Following her, every one of the Dalloway witches died in ways that were impossible to explain. All of their bodies were found on the Godwin House grounds, like the house itself was determined to keep them. It was almost as if they were cursed, as if they’d raised a spirit that was determined to see them all dead.

The more likely explanation—that they’d been killed by religious mountain folk who feared women, feared the magic they’d assigned to women—didn’t hold the same appeal.

Regardless, Alex was right. I hadn’t been able to get the Dalloway Five out of my head for weeks. I’d even dreamed about them the previous night, Beatrix Walker’s hair like spun corn silk and Tamsyn Penhaligon’s bony fingers trailing along my cheek. They had found their way inside me, like fungal spores inhaled and taken root. Sometimes I felt like they’d always been there. I’d read about reincarnation, about girls born again and again, and imagined Margery Lemont whispering soft words in the back of my mind. Every time I touched her skull at Boleyn House, I felt her in my blood.

Maybe I was losing my mind. Or maybe this was what it was to appreciate history, to truly understand it. When I read books, the boundary between my world and others shifted. I could imagine other realities. I envisioned the tales so clearly that it was as if I lived them.

The story of the Dalloway Five was a story born in Godwin House. Why shouldn’t their legend be real?

And if this ritual worked—if we spoke to them—we could put the mythos to rest once and for all.

The scent of sandalwood rose in the air. We’d already turned off the lamp; I could only see Alex by the flickering candles, her skin glowing warm silver in their light.

“All right, then,” Alex said. “Let’s summon old dead witches.” I’d written the summoning spell in my moleskin notebook: an incantation copied from an ancient tome in the library’s occult section. The process had been painstaking; no one in the eighteenth century, it seemed, had been possessed of legible handwriting. Of course, they didn’t have Ouija boards in the eighteenth century either, and this Hasbro-branded contraption I had bought at the independent bookstore in town hardly qualified as an accoutrement of real witchcraft. But it was better than nothing.

I propped the notebook on my knees, and me and Alex both placed our fingers on the Ouija planchette, barely touching it.

And even though I hadn’t spoken yet, all at once the room seemed darker—the corners deepening, the air heavy against my skin. I took in a shallow breath and read the spell aloud.

“Nothing happened,” Alex said after several seconds. “It’s not moving.”

“You have to wait for it.”

“You know that when the pointer moves, it’s because we’re moving it, right? Like, they’ve done studies on this.”

I ignored her and closed my eyes. I’d stolen the Margery Skull; it sat at the head of our altar, close enough that I could have touched it. A part of me wanted to. The urge was almost overpowering. Maybe if I did . . . Maybe that’s what this ritual needed. I shifted forward, eyes still shut, fingers reaching. My touch grazed cold bone, and in the same moment, the planchette moved.

My eyes flew open. The pointer had darted across the board to cover the number 5.

“What does that mean?” Alex said, and I shook my head.

The Dalloway Five.

The candles guttered as if from an unseen wind. The room had gone chilly, and a strange sensation crept up my spine. My fingers quivered with the effort of keeping my touch on the planchette light; I refused to lend any credence to Alex’s theory. If the board spoke, it wouldn’t be because I forced matters into my own hands.

I’d never tried this kind of thing before. I didn’t know what to expect.

Be real. I need you to be real.

“Are you really here?” I whispered. “Is this . . . Margery Lemont? Or—”

I stopped myself midsentence and stared at the lettering on the board indicating the word yes. But the planchette had gone still, the numeral 5 still visible through its aperture.

This wasn’t enough. The incense, the candles—even Margery’s skull smooth against my palm. It wasn’t enough.

I’d read about this. I’d read dozens of books, hundreds, researching for my thesis. I knew how magic worked. I knew what these kinds of spirits required.

“We have to make a sacrifice,” I told Alex abruptly. “Like the original Dalloway Five did in their séance, with the frog. If the Dalloway Five really were witches, they were powerful. Why should they speak to us if we don’t give them something in return?”

Alex’s mouth twisted, skeptical. “Well, I forgot to bring along my handy-dandy sacrificial goat, so . . .”

But I already knew what Margery wanted.

I released the planchette and grabbed the letter opener—the one I’d used to open the Ouija board box.

“Felicity, don’t you dare—”

I sliced the blade into my palm. White fire cut along my veins, dark blood welling up in its wake. Alex lurched back as I held out my arm, but she didn’t leave the circle, didn’t retreat—just watched wide-eyed as my blood spattered the crown of Margery Lemont’s skull.

The candles blew out.

Even Alex yelped. My heart pounded in my chest—too fast, too wild. Was that a figure stepping out from the shadows, eyes gleaming in the darkness like polished coins?

Alex struck a match, and the specter vanished. The place where it had stood was pitch black, and yet I could still feel its presence. Maybe it hadn’t disappeared. Maybe instead it had expanded, consuming us.

Alex and I stared at each other across the board. Alex’s shoulders shifted in quick, shallow little movements, her tongue flicking out to wet her lower lip. It felt colder now than before, like the temperature had dropped several degrees when the candles went out.

It’s all right, I wanted to tell her, but my tongue was a dead thing in my mouth, heavy and ill tasting. As if I’d swallowed grave dirt.

Margery Lemont had been buried alive.

My blood was sticky against my palm, the scent of it high and coppery in the air, overwhelming the musk of incense. Alex lit the candles again—just the three nearest her. Their light cast unnatural shapes along the board, most of the letters fallen into darkness.

Neither of us were touching the planchette anymore, but its aperture was fixed over the word yes.

“Did you move the pointer?” Alex shook her head.

My teeth dug into my lower lip. Together, we both tilted forward once more, our trembling fingers meeting atop the wooden planchette.

“Are the stories true?” I asked. “Were you really witches?”

If the ritual account of Flora’s death was true, it had been clearly Druidic in inspiration: some bastardization of Greco-Roman reports that the ancient Celts performed human sacrifice at the autumnal equinox—that the future could be read in the way the victim’s limbs convulsed as they died. Even the way in which the sacrifice bled had prognostic value.

The town midwife’s diary told a version of the story in which Flora Grayfriar’s body was found with her skin half-burned and her clothes in ashes atop a wicker altar. Silver mullein leaves were strewn about the ground, a wormwood crown laced through her hair, her throat wet with blood.

I knew the answer to my query, but I wanted Margery to say it nonetheless.

The planchette shifted under our hands, my breath catching in my chest—the planchette moved aside, then returned immediately to yes.

So many new questions swelled inside me. Too many. It was impossible to ask all of them. Impossible to ask with a board and a pointer the question I really wanted to know:

What can you teach me about magic?

I was about to ask the Dalloway Five the purpose of Flora’s death, what ritual they were trying to perform that night at the autumn equinox—if they were even responsible for her death at all—when the planchette moved again.

“Get the notebook,” Alex gasped, and I snatched my moleskin back into my lap and uncapped my pen with one shaking hand.

The planchette shifted across the board in jagged jerks under our touch.

“I . . . A . . .”

The air was frigid now, a bone-deep ice that crystallized in my blood. I didn’t dare look away from the board, which meant that when the planchette finally went still—when I finally turned my gaze to the notebook—I could barely read my own handwriting. “What does it say?” Alex urged after I’d been silent for several seconds.

“It says . . .” I shook my head, swallowed; my throat had gone dry. “It says, ‘I am going to kill you.’

I looked up. Alex stared at me from the other side of the board, both her hands clenched in white fists against her knees. Her face glowed greenish in the candlelight, eerie, and—

Something grazed the back of my neck, a cold finger tracing down my spine.

“Alex,” I choked out. “Are you okay?”

The touch vanished; I felt a breeze ripple through my hair as it passed. I was too afraid to look over my shoulder. “I swear, something just—”

The shadows deepened, coalescing like smoke. A figure rose behind Alex like a ghastly silhouette, long hair undulating like waves about its head, its hands like sharp claws reaching.

Reaching for her throat.

“Alex, behind you!”

She spun around, and in that same motion the specter vanished, bursting into shards and scraps of shadow that faded into the night.

Margery.

“Nothing’s there,” Alex said.

But I could still sense her: Margery Lemont’s spirit had its talons dug deep in my heart, my blood turned to poison in my veins.

I shook my head. “It was . . . She was there, I swear. She was right there.

How did the poem go?

And then the spirit, moving from her place,

Touched there a shoulder, whispered in each ear, . . .

But no one heeded her, or seemed to hear.

“This is bullshit,” Alex declared. “No! Alex, don’t—”

Too late. She swept the planchette from the board and stabbed the incense out. “It’s not real, Felicity. Calm down.”

No. No, this was all spiraling out of control. We had to end the séance properly. Margery was still here, lurking, the veil between our world and the shade world gone thin and diaphanous at Samhain. It was only too easy for her to shift into our sphere. I’d prepared for this possibility: a tiny bowl of ground anise and clove to be ignited over a charcoal briquette—enough to protect against the cruelest spirit, or so I’d been assured by the library’s copy of Profane Magick.

Alex scattered the spices across the floor, rendering them useless.

That was the moment, I decided later, that set everything in motion, the moment the devil’s wheel began to turn, my blood spilled on Margery’s skull and Margery’s hands tangling in the threads of our fates. We’d cursed ourselves. I am going to kill you, she’d made me say. And she was right.

It had an absurd sense of inevitability about it. I kept thinking about the séance the Dalloway Five had held, the one that was interrupted. About Flora, dead three days later. How each girl died in mysterious circumstances which couldn’t be explained, until finally Margery herself was buried alive. It was almost like whatever spirit they’d raised had cursed them—and wouldn’t rest until every one of those girls was dead.

But at the time, I let Alex convince me. Once the lights were on, it all seemed rather ridiculous: The candles had guttered because we’d left the window open, which also accounted for the chill. The figure I’d seen behind Alex was her shadow stretching and shifting in the candlelight. Everything had a reasonable explanation, and Alex was right. The spooky atmosphere, the old school legends, Samhain: we’d let it get to us; that was all.

I didn’t tell her how I couldn’t stop dreaming about Margery after that night, or how I slept with anise and clove under my pillow to keep her away.

A few months later Alex was dead, and now . . . Now I can’t hide from the truth.


Extract copyright © 2021 by Victoria Lee. Published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

A Lesson in Vengeance will be released August 3; pre-order a copy here.


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Dwayne Johnson says first Black Adam costume was 'terrible' so he redesigned it and ditched the padding @ Syfy Wire

Dwayne Johnson went au naturale for his role in next year's Black Adam. No, not that kind of au naturale — get your mind out of the gutter! We mean his bulging comic book muscles won't be the result of clever costume design, but of Johnson's actual well-toned physique.

“I wanted to come in the best shape of my life. I wanted to raise the bar," Johnson remarked during a recent interview with ExtraTV. "When we tried on the first costume that they had made for me, it was padded. All the superhero costumes are padded. But when you have padding, it actually takes away from your real body, so all this went away and it had this fake padding that looked so terrible. So, we removed all the padding [and] redesigned the costume."

A darker reflection of Billy Batson's Shazam, the character of Black Adam hails from Ancient Egypt. He began life as a man named Teth-Adam, who was bestowed with the magical powers of the wizard also known as Shazam (try to keep up, won't you?). While Black Adam started off as a clear-cut baddie, the years have softened him into more of an antihero. That moral gray area will most likely carry into his solo film, which is set to introduce the Justice Society to the big screen.

Speaking with Collider, Johnson's Seven Bucks co-founder/producing partner, Hiram Garcia, teased the use of groundbreaking visual effects to depict Adam's abilities, which include super speed and flight. 

"It’s common to see abilities fall to the wayside when dealing with characters like that, but one of our many goals was to keep continuity there and push the bar in terms of how we do it," Garcia explained. "For example, the technology we're using to make Black Adam fly has never been done before. It's completely unique. It was critical for us to ensure that it felt special, authentic, and real. [Director Jaume Collet-Serra] took that to heart. Our special effects' team are Oscar winners, and we certainly put them to work."

Production on the movie wrapped earlier this month. “I can’t thank you enough from the bottom of my heart for this experience," Johnson said in a message to the crew. "This has been a once in a lifetime for me. I’ve been a lucky, lucky guy to have the career that I’ve been so blessed with. But it doesn’t happen without teamwork and so many of you have been my family members over the years ... Black Adam, it’s a career-definer for me."

Black Adam hits theaters everywhere July 29, 2022.

You won't have to wait that long to smell what The Rock is cooking, though. The wrestler-turned-actor can currently be seen as wisecracking boat captain Frank Wolff in Disney's Jungle Cruise (now playing in theaters and on Disney+).

Black Widow Lawsuit Escalates as Scarlett Johansson's Team Fires Back at Disney @ io9

Black Widow is taking on her greatest opponent yet: Mickey Mouse.Photo: Marvel

Like a battle in a Marvel movie, Disney and Scarlett Johansson continue to exchange punches.

It all began Thursday when Johansson filed a lawsuit accusing Disney of breaching her contract for Black Widow, which guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release. Disney then replied with a statement that accused her of “callous disregard” to the covid-19 pandemic and revealed her salary on the film: $20 million. The haymakers have continued Friday when Johansson’s agency, Creative Artists Agency, released a statement firing back. “I want to address the Walt Disney Company’s statement that was issued in response to the lawsuit filed against them yesterday by our client Scarlett Johansson,” Bryan Lourd, co-chairman of the Creative Artists Agency, said in a statement obtained by Variety. “They have shamelessly and falsely accused Ms. Johansson of being insensitive to the global COVID pandemic, in an attempt to make her appear to be someone they and I know she isn’t.”

“Scarlett has been Disney’s partner on nine movies, which have earned Disney and its shareholders billions,” Lourd continued. “The company included her salary in their press statement in an attempt to weaponize her success as an artist and businesswoman, as if that were something she should be ashamed of. Scarlett is extremely proud of the work that she, and all of the actors, writers, directors, producers, and the Marvel creative team have been a part of for well over a decade...This suit was filed as a result of Disney’s decision to knowingly violate Scarlett’s contract. They have very deliberately moved the revenue stream and profits to the Disney+ side of the company, leaving artistic and financial partners out of their new equation. That’s it, pure and simple. Disney’s direct attack on her character and all else they implied is beneath the company that many of us in the creative community have worked with successfully for decades.”

In case you don’t remember Disney’s statement Lourd is referring to, here it is in full: “There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Disney has fully complied with Ms. Johansson’s contract and furthermore, the release of Black Widow on Disney+ with Premier Access has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date.”

This is certainly going to be the beginning of a long battle, though the results could prove dramatic for the entertainment industry at large, especially if Johansson wins the lawsuit instead of settling or having it dismissed in court. You may recall a recent big push from authors who were uniting to fight Disney over royalties after Alan Dean Foster accused the company of withholding Star Wars book royalties post-Lucasfilm acquisition. Johansson has a big enough name (and certainly enough money) to make this a very public and dragged-out fight, unlike countless others who don’t have the privilege of going up against a company worth an estimated $122.18 billion.

And it doesn’t end there. Matt Belloni, former editor at the Hollywood Reporter, said in his newsletter (posted by Screenrant) that Emma Stone might be considering a similar lawsuit with regards to Cruella which Disney released exclusively via its streaming services’ “Premier Access.” Emily Blunt and John Krasinski may have also looked at similar options with their Paramount film, A Quiet Place Part 2, and that’s with Blunt’s latest film, Jungle Cruise, coming to theaters and Disney+ Premier Access today. Grab your popcorn. Unless you’re Disney. Cause it’s going to be very interesting.


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NASA’s new AI can stare at the sun without shades - and without damaging its vision @ Syfy Wire

When you were a kid, were you ever told not to look directly into the flaming eye of the Sun? It can be almost as dangerous for solar telescopes.

The Atmospheric Imagery Assembly or AIA has been staring right into those flames for over a decade aboard the Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO). AIA can see in 3 UV wavelengths and 7 extreme UV (EUV) wavelengths, and anything in the UV range is too short for the human eye. AIA has to suffer for science. The intense light it faces degrades its instruments. Because of this, a sounding rocket flies new AIA instruments to the SDO every year.

Sounding rockets also observe the Sun and compare their observations to what AIA sees. Unfortunately, they aren’t exactly the answer, either. They do calibrate AIA images and let scientists back on Earth know how much those images need to be corrected, but are expensive to launch and unable to calibrate images continuously. Another downside is that deep space missions cannot use them so far from Earth.

Uncorrected AIA image of the Sun. Scroll down for the corrected version. Credits: NASA GSFC

These setbacks inspired solar physicist Luiz Dos Santos of NASA Goddard to create an AI that can do the same thing — but keep going. He led a study recently published in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

“The artificial intelligence we developed is a machine learning model which identifies how much calibration AIA data needs,” Dos Santos told SYFY WIRE. “After the AIA produces an image from the Sun, our model identifies how degraded this image is and how much correction it needs, enhancing and expanding the capabilities of AIA and possibly future missions.” 

On the Sun, things often show themselves in more than one wavelength. Each of AIA’s 8 cameras observes in two wavelengths. It has allowed scientists to observe the solar outer atmosphere, or corona (which is mysteriously hotter than the surface), like never before. Phenomena from flares to solar rain occur in the corona. AIA data is meant to give more insight into the physics behind these phenomena and their impact on space weather that can mess with our power grid and satellites, and emit radiation hazardous to astronauts.

The same AIA image from above, corrected with AI. Credits: NASA GSFC

The AI program for AIA was conceptualized and developed at Frontier Development Lab, where AIA Principal Investigator and study co-author Mark Cheung first brought up the issues with AIA instruments degrading. It was then that Dos Santos and his team searched for the type of AI program whose capabilities were most in line with accomplishing what they had in mind. They wanted an algorithm that would be able to see what AIA sees, figure out what needs to be corrected because of degradation and regularly beam that information back to Earth.

“We trained the model using single- and multi-wavelenth observations,” said Dos Santos. “After the training, we observed improved performance when using the multi-wavelength trained model. We induced it to ‘pay attention’ to the structures across different wavelengths instead of just a single wavelength.”

Seeing in multiple wavelengths also gives the computer brain an advantage when it comes to making sense out of how AIA sees the same solar structures in a literal different light. It had to be taught to recognize what an image of a solar flare looked like without degradation in order to determine the level of degradation reflected in AIA’s images, and therefore, how much calibration was needed. Dos Santos checked the algorithm’s results against those from a sounding rocket. The AI had succeeded at identifying what it was programmed to.

The Sun observed in different UV and extreme UV (EUV) wavelengths. Credits: Luiz Dos Santos/NASA GSFC

“Our AI allows for a correct brightness intensity value of solar images and opens a new section of studying spectrometry using AIA images, which was previously impossible due to the degradation,” he said. “It will also allow the calibration of EUV images in deep space missions.”

Obviously, this tech will not stop at the Sun. The researchers want to see the model used with other spacecraft, especially STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory) and the Solar Orbiter. In the meantime, keep your shades on.

Batman: The Movie Remains as Goofy and Entertaining as Ever @ io9

Our feelings exactly, Dynamic Duo.Photo: Fox

Even if you know what to expect, watching 1966's Batman: The Movie today is shocking. After years of being pummeled with serious, gritty, big-budget superhero spectacles, it’s hard to fathom a film as innocent and self-aware as the one based on the popular TV show. Everyone involved is so game for silliness, so excited by the wild ideas, so absolutely aware this is complete nonsense, that the result is not just a time-capsule of another era in comic book movie history, but a reminder of why comic book movies are great in the first place.

Released July 30, 1966, Batman: The Movie—directed by Leslie H. Martinson and written by Lorenzo Semple Jr.—came out between the first and second seasons of the hit TV show, which itself ran three seasons, from 1966 to 1968. I wasn’t born until 1980 so, obviously, it wasn’t something I was aware of until decades later. But growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, especially with the Tim Burton Batman films rejuvenating interest in the character, the original show was on TV a lot. And I watched it a lot. And, eventually, I saw the movie. But that was probably the last time I saw it before this week to celebrate its 55th anniversary. Of course, I carried not just a nostalgia for the show, but many more decades of superhero baggage, into the viewing. Which is important to mention here because, holy crap. I knew Batman: The Movie was going to be campy—the show is campy, the memes and pop culture references from the movie (the bomb, the shark, etc.) are campy, I had prepared myself for campy—but it went way beyond even that.

The villains are everything in Batman.Photo: Fox

In Batman: The Movie, Adam West and Burt Ward star as Batman and Robin, as well as their alter-egos Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. But instead of fighting just one supervillain—like they would on TV each week—their four biggest adversaries team up against them: Penguin (Burgess Meredith), Catwoman (Lee Meriwether), Joker (Cesar Romero), and Riddler (Frank Gorshin). That alone is movie-worthy and a nice level up from what you’d get on TV. From there the plot is, well, almost too elaborate to explain. Basically, the villains—who call themselves United Underworld—have an overly complex plan to take over the world, which Batman and Robin continue to foil. The whole thing plays out a bit disjointed, with the movie almost mirroring a TV show as the villains set up elaborate schemes only to be foiled again and again, with the bigger picture lingering in the background.

Anyone watching a regular movie with a plot that was this convoluted and filled with this many tangents, would probably just dismiss it. The beauty of Batman: The Movie is that it’s made with such joy, it’s entertaining anyway. You can’t help but DC marvel at the absurdity of everything happening driven by the elevated performances of all the villains. Because make no mistake, while West and Ward are great as Batman and Robin, it’s the villains who make the movie so fantastic, much as they do on the show. Whether it’s the distinct, gleeful laughs of Riddler or Joker, the way Catwoman always rolls her R’s in a “purr,” or Penguin’s...everything, all of it is an absolutely delight. Then there’s the fact that they’re all so, so bad at being supervillains. Seriously, every hair-brained scheme is too elaborate, every chance at killing Batman and Robin takes way too long, every riddle way too obtuse to actually be linked to anything. But the actors are all so engrossed in these characters, all of it works.

Name a more iconic duo. We’ll wait.Photo: Fox

If everyone in the film wasn’t buying into how ludicrous everything was, there’s no way it would work; like the opening sequence where Batman is hanging from a ladder on the Batcopter and a shark bites him, so he asks Robin to bring him the Bat-Shark Repellent spray they just so happen to have. Or how that spray, along with everything, everywhere, is labeled perfectly, even inside their own home. Or how Robin and Alfred follow Bruce out on a date and have a perfectly framed camera on him at all times and get uncomfortable when he starts nuzzling. Or when the four deadliest villains in the world are standing in a room with a huge gun and no one notices. Seriously, you could go on and on describing all of the unfathomably ridiculous scenarios that happen in the movie and you’d never get bored.

Which, of course, is the point. This isn’t a movie to be taken seriously. Batman running around with a lit bomb and continually finding people or things in his way that won’t let him get rid of it isn’t meant to be dramatic. It’s meant to be funny. The whole movie puts the “comic” in “comic book.” All the over-the-top absurdity, ineptitude, completely impossible things that happen, are there on purpose to make you revel in their hilarity. When Batman and Robin just so happen to crash into a foam rubber convention, it’s so beyond the scope of reality that you have to love it.

Basically, every scene is like that on some level. Batman fighting on a submarine holding a cat. He and Robin just happening to own a Super Molecular Dust Separator to put the world leaders back together again. The multiple shots of Bruce Wayne clicking the Instant Costume Change Lever. That Bruce and Dick wear their costumes even when they’re alone. The out-of-place stock footage of different countries waiting for Batman and Robin to revive their world leaders. Truly, watching Batman: The Movie after a long time away was akin to standing on a beach and wave after wave of wild, funny things crashing over me again and again. It’s not like anything a modern audience would be able to stand in terms of characters of this stature. Christoper Nolan’s Batman movies or Todd Phillips’ Joker are so far removed that to put them in the same category is almost a disservice to them all. But I’m glad they all exist and I’m glad this incredible palate cleanser of stupidity is something that, after over half a century, still works its boy wonders.

The movie in a nutshell. Or should we say bombshell.Photo: Fox

Assorted Musings:

  • Though the movie is only 100 minutes long, I feel like a good 10-15 minutes could’ve been cut from some of the bigger budget scenes—mainly those involving the Batcopter and Batboat. Each is undeniably cool but we don’t need two minutes of flying or zipping across the water every time we see them.
  • Oh, also cut out the torpedoes being shot from Penguins’s submarine. There are so many scenes of torpedoes being shot from Penguin’s submarine and five people need to approve it each time. It’s excruciating.
  • Also, cut the entire subplot where Penguin dresses as a human and goes back to the Batcave. It’s like a 10 minutes scene that’s there only to set up how the de-hydrator gun works, but we’ve already seen how it works, and it goes on forever with zero payoff.
  • You could also shave a few minutes off if the villains didn’t celebrate every time they think they killed Batman and Robin. It happens a lot.
  • If these villains wanted to do some damage, maybe they should use those rockets they’re very, very good at shooting to kill people instead of exploding into clouds that spell out riddles.
  • The scenes of Adam West as Bruce Wayne are interesting in that they show him struggling with the secret identity, which adds some depth to the film, but also just how much more comfortable West seems as Batman instead of Bruce. The Bruce scenes are all very, very awkward.
  • Everything in the film is obviously dated but few things are as bad as the headlines when Bruce Wayne is kidnapped. They read “ Bruce Wayne and Girl Companion Kidnapped” followed by “Attractive Girl Friend Seized in Brazen Snatch.” Glad she was just his companion and her looks were more important to mention than anything else. But hey, it was the 1960s, which is basically what you can say about the entire movie.

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Marvel plays up Shang-Chi's Iron Man connection in new Legend of the Ten Rings featurette + poster @ Syfy Wire

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, all roads eventually lead back to Tony Stark in some way, even the ones that take us where we've never been before. Even Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Marvel's next origin story that looks and feels about as different from Iron Man as it possibly could while still taking place on Earth, carries an important connection to the very first MCU film.

In a new featurette just released to promote the martial arts-laden film directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and starring Simu Liu in the title role, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige plays up the film's connection to the "keystone event" that is Tony Stark becoming Iron Man. Back then, Stark was building weapons for the Ten Rings, which appeared to be a wilderness-bound terrorist group at the time, and the film didn't really play up the organization much beyond their ability to hold him hostage for a while. Now, of course we know that despite that minimal attention and the fake Ten Rings set up in Iron Man 3, that the shadowy group has been behind the scenes all along, waiting for their moment. At last, that moment is here.

The featurette below, titled "Destiny," doesn't spoil exactly why the Ten Rings and their powerful leader, the Mandarin (Tony Leung), decided to pick this moment to come forward, but it definitely has a lot to with the Mandarin's attempts to reclaim his son, Shang-Chi. It all adds up to the story of a powerful warrior asked to make a bold choice about his own future, and becoming a new MCU hero in the process. Check it out:

To further emphasize the impact of the Ten Rings and their leader on this story, Marvel also dropped a new poster for the film Friday, which you can check out in the tweet below.

As the MCU moves deeper into the post-Infinity Saga Phase 4 of its existence, it's fascinating to see how many of these new stories are reaching backwards almost as much as they're reaching forwards. With its incorporation of the Ten Rings and the Mandarin, Shang-Chi is giving us not just the rise of a new hero, but the exploration of some of the MCU's earliest loose ends. Those loose ends also extend to The Incredible Hulk, thanks to the reveal that the film will also include the return of the Abomination. Add all of that to Black Widow's exploration of the Red Room and its far-reaching explorations, and Eternals' entire premise of a group of beings who've been watching the MCU unfold for years without intervening, and you've got a key moment in the MCU that hopes to enrich the past even as it looks to the future, in ways previous films (aside from prequels like Captain Marvel) haven't.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings arrives in theaters September 3.

Star Wars: The Bad Batch Finally Reaches the Conflict It's Been Waiting For @ io9

The Batch find themselves severely outnumbered, if not outclassed.Image: Lucasfilm

After many episodes of bounty hunting chases, Rylothi insurrection, and the briefest snifter of mounting resistance, Star Wars: The Bad Batch returned this week to a concept it fascinatingly pondered early on in its debut season. We know, as the audience, that the Clone army is destined to be replaced by the human recruits of the Stormtrooper legions. But how are they going to feel about it?

Image: Lucasfilm

When Bad Batch first explored this idea, we got what is arguably still by far the strongest episode of the season, “Replacements.” There, its exploration was not the expected resistance to such a changing of the guard, but about the dark road Crosshair took himself on to prove that a clone could still be a useful weapon for the new Empire. “War Mantle” might not quite hit the same highs in telling that expected story of resistance this time around—occasionally tripping up on a few of the problems that have hampered the show this season—but in returning to such an idea in the first place it laid the groundwork for some very interesting conflicts to come as the season entered its endgame. Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, however.

The episode opens, as many Bad Batch stories do, with the same old premise: the team, mid-hyperspace on a mission for Cid, find themselves offered a chance to help someone in need. This time, it’s Captain Rex asking, requesting a pickup for a clone on the run. Like always, Hunter is skeptical about the risk, like always, Omega is willing to override that risk because someone needs their help—and, like always, Hunter relents. This particular Bad Batch indulgence is followed up by another when, upon arriving on the planet Daro, it’s quickly revealed that the team’s extraction target is none other than former Clone Commando, and one-day Rebel agent, Gregor. Thankfully, like its recent use of Hera, this particular penchant of the Bad Batch to lean all the way in on familiar faces from other Star Wars content is less about “Hey, you know this one!!!” and more about using who Gregor actually is to help flesh out the world Bad Batch deals with. In this case, it’s Gregor’s former status as a Republic Commando.

Image: Lucasfilm

We learn over the course of the attempted escape from Daro’s secret Imperial training facility that the Commandos—the closest thing the Batch has to direct brothers in the old Grand Army—have been roped in by the Empire to train the next generation of soldiers: the first true Imperial Stormtroopers. They have the new armor, a mix of classic Stormtrooper and familiar clone gear that’s just dying to be turned into an action figure at a moment’s notice. They have what Rampart wants, as we see him begin to make his own moves to lock down the Kaminoans on their rainswept homeworld: a human element of loyalty, people directly answering the Empire’s call rather than being born or brainwashed into it. But even if Bad Batch doesn’t really dwell on it in its dialogue—our heroes are, of course, too busy blowing their way out of Daro to actually talk much beyond Gregor’s initial distaste for training his own replacements—it’s there in the visual storytelling of the action: Stormtroopers, no matter who trains them, just aren’t the clones.

We see it in the ease with which the Batch pick apart fireteam after fireteam, we see it when the only people capable of catching up with them as they flee through Daro’s facilities are the Clone Commando trainers themselves. The difference is stark, and telling. But it also, crucially, doesn’t matter. It comes up time and time again during the team’s escape attempt, a grim reminder of the Empire’s dread inevitability. They don’t need Stormtroopers to be as good as clones in martial skill. They don’t even really need the homegrown loyalty Rampart desires for his new legions. They need, and already have, the sheer mass of bodies to oppress through unrelenting, overwhelming force.

Image: Lucasfilm

No matter how many troopers the Batch stuns as they flee through the Daro base’s hallways, there’s more around the corner. Whenever they’re pinned down at a dead-end or a tight spot, Stormtroopers just keep coming. When things go sideways as Wrecker and Omega attempt to extract the rest of the team and Gregor in the shuttle, it’s wave after wave of V-Wings—waves that grow from a handful of fighters to a swarm—that pose the greatest threat. Even as Wrecker’s canons pick them apart one by one, more come shrieking in. That’s the true shadow of the Empire more than even the replacement of the clones that “War Mantle” excels in showing here, and it’s that which ultimately undoes our heroes. The numbers too many, Hunter is forced to tell his friends to leave him behind, surrounded by a sea of Stormtroopers that he could try and overcome with his heightened skills—but knows he can’t.

And there, the stage is set for multiple ticking time bombs to go off as we conclude this rocky first season—both in whether or not our heroes will be able to liberate Hunter from the Empire’s grasp (and Crosshair’s, who shows up to gloat at his capture as the episode closes) and when and how the Empire will make its full move to push out the clone army in favor of its new recruits. Hopefully, these last two episodes will bring as many of the interesting discussions about the future of the clones to bear as they do the big explosions though—if so, we could be in for a treat.


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Jodie Whittaker is leaving Doctor Who in 2022, but she's changed the Whoniverse forever @ Syfy Wire

There was a lot of noise when Jodie Whittaker became Doctor Who's 13th Doctor. Many were excited, not only because Whittaker was a great actor, but because she'd be the first female Doctor in the show's almost 60-year run. With her now plotting an exit from the TARDIS, let's dig into the impact she'll leave behind on the legendary sci-fi series as it charts a path forward.

This week, the BBC announced she and showrunner Chris Chibnall would be leaving the show after the upcoming 13th season. Both Whittaker and Chibnall signed on in 2017, and — according to a BBC press release — made a pact to only do three seasons together before bowing out.

The end of Whittaker's soon-to-be three-season run will likely be sad for many who loved the 13th Doctor. The announcement, however, also calls for a time for reflection and celebration of how Whittaker has impacted Doctor Who's timey-wimey universe.

Fans had been asking for a female version of the Doctor years before Chibnall cast Whittaker. Previous showrunner Steven Moffat has started down the road of broader gender representation by making the Master — the Doctor's nemesis — a woman in his later seasons. Missy, as she went by, was wonderfully played by Michelle Gomez. But having Whittaker wield the sonic screwdriver was something different; a true chance for the show to let sci-fi fans finally see someone outside the casting pool of white men to see themselves in the Doctor.

Chibnall also gave Whittaker's Doctor a whole "family," not just the solo companion usually (but not always) at previous Doctors' sides. Her three original companions — Graham (Bradley Walsh), Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Yaz (Mandip Gill) — also make the Doctor more like the weird relative at family dinner.

Whittaker's Doctor is more than that though — she's exuberant and hopeful, a creature of the cosmos ready to embrace change and have new experiences. She is, in short, a delight, whether she's dealing with Daleks or putting her found family in trouble and then trying to get them out of it.

Some episodes of the last two seasons were admittedly better than others. And as the show goes into Whittaker's last season, she'll start out with only Yaz at her side, although it looks like she'll get an additional companion as well, played by John Bishop. No matter what the last season has in store, however, I've no doubt that her impact on the Doctor Who world is a positive one.

Whittaker and Chibnall's last batch of new Doctor Who in 2022 will have three feature-length specials rather than the episodic form of seasons past. Where the two take the show in their final romp around the universe remains to be seen. What also remains to be seen is where the show will go next — it'll have a new Doctor and a new showrunner at some point. Who those two will be, however, is anyone's guess. (Having another Doctor who's not a white dude though, would continue to be welcomed by many who have pushed for more Doctor diversity).

One thing, however, is certain — the world of Doctor Who will continue to reinvent itself. That's what Doctor Who is, and as Whittaker said in the statement announcing her departure: "I know change can be scary and none of us know what's out there. That's why we keep looking. Travel Hopefully. The Universe will surprise you. Constantly."

Doctor Who returns this fall on BBC America.

A Shang-Chi Featurette Explains the Ten Rings' Larger MCU Connection @ io9

Screenshot: Marvel

As one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s newest heroes, the responsibility to save the world (presumably) will fall to Shang-Chi in director Destin Daniel Cretton’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. But unlike many of Marvel’s other upcoming projects that have previously-established roots in the MCU, Shang Chi is set to introduce a slew of new characters whose lives haven’t exactly revolved around the Avengers.

While Shang-Chi’s title gives you a pretty big clue about the chunk of Marvel’s comic lore that the film explores, some of the major questions about the story have revolved around what exactly this incarnation of the Ten Rings are/is, considering that a terrorist group by the same name was previously dropped way back in Iron Man 3. It always seemed a stretch that Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin would end up factoring into Shang-Chi in any significant way, and in a new featurette for the upcoming film, the cast explains a bit more about how Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) ends up becoming a pivotal figure within the MCU in his own right.

In the featurette, Kevin Feige explains how the Ten Rings featured in Iron Man 3 have a direct connection to the organization at the center of Shang-Chi. Tony Stark may be dead and gone, but Shang-Chi further explores how the Avenger was once forced to develop weapons for the Ten Rings, and how Shang-Chi has to deal with the consequences. The video also spotlights a few shots that tease Shang-Chi’s fantastical/magical elements, but it stops just short of explaining whether the weaponized rings that Shang-Chi and his father Wenwu (Tony Leung) fight with are advanced (Stark) tech, or if their power is mystical in nature.

Even though Phase 4 is meant to be about ushering in the new guard of heroes, it’s good to see that Shang-Chi’s being given a story that will establish him as a proper presence in the world who’s up to the challenge of putting things right when people—including the Avengers—drop the ball. But with that all squared away, now the interesting thing to look forward to seeing is just how tightly crafted and impressive a standalone story Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is when it hits theaters on September 3.


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Why 'Free Guy' director Shawn Levy says Taiki Waititi's over-the-top baddie is a 'villain for the ages' @ Syfy Wire

It's been almost two decades since director Shawn Levy made his feature-length debut with 2002's Big Fat Liar. Since that time, the filmmaker has go on to become a super-star producer, overseeing massive hits like Stranger ThingsI Am Not Okay with This, and Shadow & Bone.

While Levy's Hollywood star may have risen, his keen eye for sleazy and over-the-top villains that we love to hate has not. In a brand-new featurette for the director's latest project, Free Guy, the spotlight shines brightly on Taika Waititi's Antoine — a baddie who feels like a worthy spiritual successor to Big Fat Liar's Marty Wolf (an unscrupulous movie producer played to perfection by Paul Giamatti).

Antwan is the egotistical mogul behind Soonami, the studio that makes Free City, the open-world video game in which Guy (Ryan Reynolds), a happy-go-lucky NPC bank teller, resides. When Guy gains sentience through a pair of special glasses reserved for human players, Antwan sets out to wreck the hero's entire existence.

“Antwan is the villain who effectively co-opted and stole the game code of Millie [Jodie Comer] and Keys [Joe Keery], and he’s reaped tremendous wealth, royalties and fame, but without giving them any credit or money,” Levy remarks in the film's production notes. "He’s just a bad dude, and kind of deliciously so, but he’s played by Taika, who, in addition to being an amazing director, is one of the most gifted comedic performers I’ve ever worked with."

Watch the featurette now:

“Taika takes an already funny script and is riffing on a level that is frickin’ sublime," Levy continues. "His mind is so fast, and so Antwan is, I think, a villain for the ages. Someone that you delight in but also hate to death, and the fact that Taika is able to walk that razor’s edge and make him both loathsome and hilarious, is a testament to that guy’s talent."

Sounds like Antwan could give Marty and Mr. Funnybones a run for their money!

Disney, which is releasing the long-delayed film under the 20th Century Studios banner, also debuted a first look clip in which the main protagonist is confronted by two of Free City's developers: Keys and Mouser (played by Keery and Utkarsh Ambudkar, respectively).

This scene clearly takes place after Guy breaks free of his video game constraints and as you'll see, the developers mistake him for a player that has hacked one of the NPC avatars. The whole exchange is taken to a whole new level of absurdity due to the fact that Keery and Ambudkar are dressed in customized skins of a mustachioed cop and flamboyant pink rabbit.

Check out the clip below:

 

"Free Guy is very much the journey of a man who has only ever existed in this very kind of curated, fake world and who has the innocence and the goodness of spirit of an innocent,” Levy adds in the production notes. “As a result, you get the humor that we all love in characters like that, but we also have an incredibly root-able protagonist, a hero who we champion and whose struggles we feel viscerally, and whose ultimate triumphs we celebrate very passionately."

Get Out's Lil Rel Howery rounds out the cast as Buddy, a security guard at the Free City bank that gets robbed on a regular basis.

Free Guy signs into theaters everywhere Friday, Aug. 12. Click here to check out some early buzz.

Clone replacement is already well underway on Star Wars: The Bad Batch @ Syfy Wire

One of the biggest loose ends Star Wars: The Bad Batch was primed to tie up was the question of what happened to the Clone Army following Order 66. We knew that some of them survived to appear in other stories, but for the most part, they were phased out in favor of enlisted troopers. 

"CT"s became "TK"s. As many installments of Star Wars prove, TKs (Stormtroopers) are nowhere near as capable as Clones, but they make up for that in numbers. As one character says in the latest Bad Batch episode, there’s an endless supply. That's good because they suck on their own. We’ve been waiting for the new series to show us this transition, but surprise, it’s been going on for a while now. 

***WARNING: From this point onward there will be spoilers for Star Wars: The Bad Batch Season 1, Episode 14, "War-Mantle." If you haven’t watched yet, turn back.***

Credit: The Walt Disney Studios

The episode title is “War-Mantle,” which clues us in immediately as to what we’re dealing with: Tarkin (Stephen Stanton) talked about “Operation War-Mantle” with Vice Admiral Rampart (Noshir Dalal) earlier in the season. As the conscript vs. Clone debate has gone on in the rains of Kamino (and the Kaminoans have tried to stave off the inevitable), the mantle of war was being passed on to an entirely different planet. 

The Bad Batch (all members voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) and Omega (Michelle Ang) get swept up in all of this after Rex (also Dee Bradley Baker, he’s every Clone) comms them and asks them to check out a distress signal on the planet Daro. They find the Clone in question, and a whole lot more. 

There’s a hidden military base on Daro that would make a James Bond villain blush. Inside, Clone commandos are training Stormtroopers. Their armor has been changed (getting closer to classic Stormtrooper armor) and the musical riffs on the base (courtesy of Kevin Kiner) lean on John Williams’ pre-"Imperial March" themes from Star Wars: A New Hope

Credit: The Walt Disney Studios

One of the commandos here is the one Rex sent them after — he’s having none of this, so he tried to escape. It turns out the commando in question is Gregor, who, in terms of the timeline, was blown up on the planet Abafar in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 5 episode “Missing in Action.” We knew he survived that thanks to Star Wars Rebels, but this fills in the gap. 

As he says, “I got blown up once and survived.” He’s not alone in that, as Echo (also blown up and still around) is standing right there. Gregor lays all of the information out for the Batch, telling them (when they discover a non-Clone within the newly designed armor), “These are our replacements, if you can believe that.” 

According to him, the Empire called in commandos to train these recruits and he was among them. The Kaminoans probably didn’t know about it, as they only find out in this episode that their Clone contract has been canceled by the Empire. Prime Minister Lama Su (Bob Bergen) is in deep kriff. 

Credit: The Walt Disney Studios

“The Empire is not like the Republic,” he says. “We have empowered them to our own detriment. I fear they will destroy us rather than allow this operation to continue.” 

He’s absolutely right, because now that the Jedi are gone, why wouldn’t the newly established Empire wipe up any and all loose ends? The Kaminoans have played their part, so they can go and die now. 

Nala Se (Gwendoline Yeo) is a scientist, so she may be of use. She will be spared. A politician like Lama Su? He can go the way that the entire Imperial Senate is eventually going to go… right out the window. We don’t see him get killed, but Rampart really implies that he’s toast as some troopers converge on him and the doors of the glowing white ladle-chair room close. 

The TKs may have been trained by Clone commandos, but they’re nothing when put up against the Batch. Their strength, as Gregor has said, lies in their numbers. There are endless waves of them, and there are also endless waves of V-Wing fighters in the skies. Eventually, these TKs will don the classic Stormtrooper armor, and the Empire will switch out the V-Wings for the truly cheap (and disposable) TIE Fighters. Who needs skill when you have endless bodies? 

The Batch does get Gregor out and they all manage to escape, except for Hunter, who falls behind and orders them to leave without him. He ends up in a cell being visited by, who else, Crosshair. He was hoping for the whole squad, but Hunter alone will have to do. 

Credit: The Walt Disney Studios

If this operation on Daro isn’t “Operation War-Mantle” then what the kark is? The episode revolves around it and again, it’s the title. The Empire is building itself into the more-familiar fascist band we see in the Original Trilogy, and baggage like Lama Su will continue to fall away. 

It is troubling that they kept Nala Se around, and also that Hunter is now a prisoner. We saw Nala Se give Crosshair his extreme conditioning in the premiere, so we worry she’ll do the same to Hunter. He no longer has a chip, but that may not matter. 

Still, life (and the Force) could find a way. Nala Se is no longer fully loyal, and she could prove to be the wild card in this scenario. The fly in the ointment. The pain in the a**. She’s also a font of information about Omega, so it makes sense that she’s one of the last Kaminoans left standing. 

What did the Empire do with those squads of Clone children that we saw early in the episode? They must all be very happy on a farm somewhere. 

New episodes of Star Wars: The Bad Batch stream on Disney+ every Friday. 

From Hulk-induced trauma to Time Door scuffs: Pulling back the curtain on Loki's killer look @ Syfy Wire

There's a clever meme currently making its way across the internet that essentially blames the creation of the entire Marvel Multiverse on Hulk's fury over having to take the stairs in Avengers: Endgame.

It's actually quite ironic that Bruce Banner's (Mark Ruffalo) angry alter ego violently subdued Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in 2012's The Avengers only to help facilitate the villain's Space Stone escape in his very own TV show on Disney+. This leads to the arrival of the Time Variance Authority, which leads to Loki meeting Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), which leads to Sylvie opening the door to infinite timelines. Well, there were a few other steps in between, but you get the point.

"With reference to trauma caused by Hulk on Loki's face, I never dreamed in a million years that wounds created a decade ago would come back into play again and serve as connective tissue to different stories," Douglas Noe, a makeup artist who has worked alongside Hiddleston since the first Avengers movie, tells SYFY WIRE during a Zoom interview.

Noe describes Hiddleston as "an encyclopedia" of Marvel Cinematic Universe wisdom. "Nobody knows more about the Loki-verse than Tom, so it made perfect sense. There was never gonna be any breaks in communication or miscommunications because I'm with him all the time," he says.

Unlike previous Marvel projects where he only served as the sole makeup artist for Hiddleston, Noe got to run the entire (makeup) show on Loki. "I think [Tom] knows that the artistic integrity is gonna be tighter because we have a very cohesive and fluid line of dialogue," he explains. "Sometimes, we don't even have to say anything, we just understand each other. I think that's only natural after you spend time with somebody. But that was Tom saying, 'OK, you're gonna take care of me, but you're also gonna take care of it, and here we go.'"

While Noe focused on the actors, visual effects vendor FuseFX set out to define the sci-fi capabilities of the TVA. Chatting with us over the phone, Fuse supervisor Wayne England reveals that the studio helped develop the look of important narrative elements like the pruning effect that occurs when a variant is deleted from existence (and as we later learn, sent to the Void).

"There was evolution in terms of the concept, but it wasn't too long until we were arriving at conversations that were speaking to the look of [a] nebula," he says. "I had in my mind that image of the show Cosmos, where it looks like something has exploded and has left an energetic trail. It leaned with a kind of plasma, white-hot energy that was transitioning into a different state of energy that was, in a sense, a trail of the leading edge that was transporting the person to somewhere else."

One of several VFX houses drafted into the massive Loki effort, Fuse worked closely with the show's lead visual effects supervisor, Dan DeLeeuw (an alum of several MCU projects, including the latest two Avengers films). "He was very appreciative of the efforts that we were making," England continues. "His direction was subtle and I really appreciated how his feedback was so nuanced and in a few words he would say a lot. Those are the kinds of things that I was really appreciating. He's very relaxed, very relatable — and it was always toward very sensible good ends that he was directing."

Credit: The Walt Disney Studios

Fuse also proved instrumental in the rendering of the Time Doors the TVA personnel use to travel between realities and branching timelines. "It was a lot to do with the echoing of time, so that when somebody approached the door you would see an echo of the person shifted in time before they actually passed through the threshold of the Time Door," England adds. "And then it was the same once they'd passed through; there was a ghosting of their effect, a kind of a blurring out."

A subtle aspect of the Time Doors is that they appear worn and used upon further inspection. It's a rather negligible detail, but one that connotes the eons-old nature of this temporal bureaucracy that runs off a combination of analog machinery and a science so advanced, it's pretty much indistinguishable from magic (just like Thor told Jane Foster in 2011).

"Because they were kind of a utility function — they were kind of beat up and used a bit, so they did also appear to be a little bit worn in a sense," England says. "It wasn't this pristine [thing]. Even though it was a dimensional portal, it was contextualized as a utility, and so it had scuffs and marks. Even though the surface was somewhat mysterious, given what it did in terms of being a literal threshold portal, it nevertheless seemed like a utility device."

Another resource used by the organization is the Time Theater, in which an analyst can revisit the "greatest hits" of a variant's life. These moments appear as holographic projections on a screen made up of dozens of ever-changing squares.

"We had been given reference of murmurations — like Starlings when they're flying in the sky and then all of a sudden, you see a shift and there's a coordinated patterning," he says. "That was a really nice reference that we were given for the Time Theater for when it's in its default state. We'd also programmed its ability to take on different forms, so another shot we worked on was when it formed from its default state and transitioned into forming the TVA logo."

Credit: Disney/Marvel Studios

Meanwhile, on the non-digital side, Noe's directive for TVA employees was "to keep them naturally beautiful." It's a rule that applied to Sylvie, Revonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), and Mobius (Owen Wilson).

"Mobius being a little bit of a rebel had some scruff," Noe explains. "The nice thing about Renslayer, [is that] she is in a higher level than the hunters, so we did a little more to her. Just turned up the volume on her own beauty just a bit and just accentuated what she had."

In other instances, the makeup team took suggestions from the actors, such as Neil Ellice, who played Hunter-90. "If you see any close-ups of him, you'll notice that he's got some scars on his forehead and eyebrow from previous conflicts. That was Neil's idea," Noe explains. "There are other things, but more creative character conversations are had based on what we learn after viewing the footage from the camera tests. From there, just prior to beginning principal photography, my team and I discuss the looks for actor and determine an approach that utilizes artists' talents to suit actor needs."

Credit: The Walt Disney Studios

The sixth and final episode confirmed a major fan theory with the introduction of He Who Remains (played by Lovecraft Country's Jonathan Majors). It turns out the TVA was not the product of the Time-Keepers, but the brainchild of a brilliant 31st-century scientist who decided to prune other timelines in order to prevent an inter-dimensional war between his more belligerent variants. Like Kang the Conquerer, for instance. Despite this major reveal, however, Noe didn't need to exaggerate the look of the mysterious man behind the curtain.

"I just wanted him to look clean and well-kept," he says. "I think makeup artists and hair stylists know this: There's a time when the most important thing we can do is nothing. Just let it be. It wasn't broken, if you will. All we did was even him out and make sure he wasn't shiny."

Credit: The Walt Disney Studios

The Season 1 finale confirmed that Loki will be the first MCU show to officially return for a second season, but Noe and England aren't entirely sure if they'll be asked back.

Luckily, Noe has a pretty effective strategy for not getting his hopes up. "I don't assume anything, and I'm never disappointed," he admits. "One of the many wonderful reasons I love the Marvel Universe [is because] I'm in the dark until the first production meeting. I'll get a call six or eight weeks out. I suspect I'll get that call [but] when I'll get that call, I don't know."

When the phone does finally ring, the makeup artist will be ready to jump back into the fray. "I really am allured by the unknown," he continues. "I've never done anything else in my life, so career-wise, whatever they dream up, bring it on. I'm not gonna speculate on what they'll do because they've got a handle on it. I'll do whatever they want ... It really is attractive because they're not gonna hurt you. They just keep raising the bar."

"The bigger, the better — just in terms of the scope of visual effects," England declares when we ask about what he'd like to see out of the next season. "If we can find ourselves doing more inter-dimensional wondrous shots, that's exciting. Any opportunity, I would say, to continue working with Marvel is a win because of the nature of the content, because of the quality of the work, the franchise. How significant it is relative from our day and age and the love for Marvel is so big, so the idea of working on more Marvel [content] is fun to think about."

All six episodes of Loki's debut season are now available to stream on Disney+.


Archer Threatens His Fellow Nerds and Fights Climate Change in an Explosive Season 12 Trailer @ io9

Screenshot: FXX

Let us put away all thoughts of the “coma seasons” of Archer, which were only intermittently fun—season eight’s retro private-eye Dreamland had some good moments, but season 10's 1999 got lost in space rather quickly. Really, all they did was make us miss Archer (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) and his Archer comrades in their element: slinging suggestively dirty jokes, merciless insults, and far too many cocktails while still managing to be mostly successful international secret agents.

Season 11 saw a revived Archer likewise revive the FXX series as it returned to form; now, with a brand-new, hilarious trailer for season 12, the very adult animated series looks poised to deliver more vintage-style Archer. To which we say, bring on the PAM-PAGE!

Man, that just looks so, so good. We’ve got Archer threatening a bunch of tabletop wargame players, Dirty Harry-style (“Call. Me. Knave. Again.”), the return of phrasing (with extended gestural accompaniment), and the “second-biggest lube wall” Cheryl Tunt (Judy Greer) has ever seen, plus some kind of plot about fighting climate change—which in this context means Archer gets a gorilla friend and everyone gets to run around punching people in the jungle. Here’s the official season synopsis: “In season 12 of FXX‘s comedy Archer, Sterling Archer and gang face a new threat: a spy conglomerate known as IIA (International Intelligence Agency). With a limited number of spy jobs up for grabs, can the Agency compete against the soulless vultures of IIA, or will our mom-and-pop spy agency be the next to get swallowed alive?”

There’s some uncharacteristic poignancy to go along with this trailer, since the wonderful Jessica Walter (who voiced Archer’s mother, Malory) passed away earlier this year. It’s unclear yet how the series will handle her death, but the actor will still appear in season 12—as the instant classic moment in this trailer (Malory on butterflies: “What’s with all these overly decorative pests?”).

Archer season 12 premieres August 25 on FXX, with episodes arriving on FX on Hulu the following day.


Wondering where our RSS feed went? You can pick the new up one here.

Luca: Splash down with a monstrous deleted scene from Pixar film's home release @ Syfy Wire

Silenzio Bruno! SYFY WIRE is excited to transport you back to the seaside Italian hamlet of Portorosso with an exclusive deleted scene from Pixar's Luca ahead of its home release next week. 

The clip presents an alternate introductory sequence with the film's young protagonists: Giulia (Emma Berman), Luca (Jacob Tremblay), and Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer). In these unused storyboards — complete with temp dialogue — we see Giulia learning about the boys' sea monster identities a lot earlier than she does in the finished movie.

"This was my favorite Pixar film experience," character art director Deanna Marsigliese tells SYFY WIRE. "I thought the crew was amazing and warm and extremely talented. It was challenging in a lot of ways — I grew a lot, but one thing I continue to say is that everyone on the crew genuinely loved working on the film and you could feel that. There was a lot of warmth and I loved it."

"Collaborating with [director Enrico Casarosa] was great and I’ve always admired his comics and illustration work," adds sets art director Paul Abadilla. "To see a feature film that he led and created was an honor to be a part of."

Watch the deleted scene below:

 

Luca's home release features a total of six deleted scenes, which are introduced by Casarosa:

  • Starfish Hunt (Alternate Opening) – Luca explores the shore and the sea, gathering mussels and starfish, in this serene alternate opening to the film.
  • Isola Del Mare (Alternate Opening) – Luca welcomes viewers to the quiet island he calls home.
  • Festa Del Mare – The boys go to a festival filled with fun...and danger.
  • Here Comes Giulia (which you see above) – Giulia explores Isola Del Mare, where she meets Luca and Alberto, and asks so many questions.
  • Gelato Trouble – Giulia offers to treat Luca and Alberto to something called "gelato."
  • Sea Monster Cannery – Luca dreams about a magical place filled with Vespas and gelato, but things aren't quite what they seem.

Credit: Disney / Pixar

According to Marsigliese and Abadilla, there is even more content that didn't make it into the movie, stuff you won't find among the list above. For example, Concetta and Pinnucia Aragosta — the two elderly sisters who pelt Luca and Alberto with cones of gelato — once had a pet donkey named Paolito.

"I remember designing him for a time," Marsigliese reveals to us. "We even had makeup on him — he was a prized donkey that they would enter into competitions. Kind of like a dog show. That never made it into the film, but it was pretty cool."

"Similarly related to those two characters, they had a home that we spent some time in," Abadilla continues. "We kind of follow Luca throughout the village and he has to go to the sisters’ home, and it was brilliantly designed by [set designer] Kristian Norelius and it was such a beautiful set."

In addition to the deleted scenes mentioned above, the home release also includes the following featurettes:

  • Our Italian Inspiration – Experience the joy of discovery as Pixar artists travel to Cinque Terre, Italy, to absorb the beauty and culture of the coastal region which inspired the characters and the quintessential Italian backdrop of Luca.
  • Secretly A Sea Monster – Explore the artistry and technical innovation of Luca's transformation from sea monster to human, and how the theme of transformation is central to the emotional journey of the main characters.
  • Best Friends – Best friends can challenge us, inspire us, annoy us, and encourage us. The cast and crew of Luca share their own stories about how besties influenced their lives, and how those experiences informed the creation of screen pals Luca, Alberto, and Giulia.

Credit: Pixar/Disney+

"The more people that watch it, the better," Marsigliese concludes. "I just want to make this available for everyone to have in their homes. It’s a beautiful film that will take you on a vacation, so I’m just excited for folks to be able to experience it."

Luca splashes onto Digital, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD Tuesday, Aug. 3. The film can also be streamed on Disney+ for platform subscribers.

Updates From Doctor Strange 2, The Walking Dead, and More @ io9

Doctor Strange’s return is going to be stuffed to the gills with weird friends and foes.Image: Marvel Studios

Get caught up for what’s coming in the season finale of the CW’s Superman & Lois, and what happens when the Legends of Tomorrow get caught up in a murder mystery...board game? Plus, what’s next for Apple TV+’s See when it returns for season two. Spoilers now!

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

According to CBR, actress Yenifer Molina’s Mandy profile states she’s been cast as “Gargantos 2" in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. In the comics, Gargantos was a cyclopean, squid-like sea monster who first appeared in Sub-Mariner #13 in 1969.


Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer has been renewed for a fourth season at TNT ahead of its third season premiere.


Legends of Tomorrow

The Legends play a murder mystery board game in Comic Book’s synopsis for “Bored On Board Onboard.”

WATCH YOUR BACK – The Legends are ready to get back home, but after Constantine (Matt Ryan) overloaded Gideon, they are going to have to go the old fashion way to preserve the ships energy. Trying to entertain themselves, tensions start to grow high, so Gary (Adam Tsekham) suggests playing a murder mystery game to pass the time. Constantine decides to make the game more interesting, which makes Behrad (Shayan Sobhian) worried about him but is met with pushback from Zari (Tala Ashe). Meanwhile, Rory (Dominic Purcell) and Gary (Adam Tsekham) deal with an unexpected guest that arrives on the Waverider. Caity Lotz, Nick Zano, Lisseth Chavez and Olivia Swann also star. Harry Jierjian directed the episode written by Keto Shimizu & Leah Poulliot.

DC’s Legends or Tomorrow airs on Sunday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW. “Bored On Board Onboard” is set to debut on August 15.


Superman & Lois

Comic Book also has a synopsis for “Last Sons of Krypton,” the season finale of Superman & Lois.

SEASON FINALE DIRECTED BY TOM CAVANAGH – In the action-packed season finale, Superman’s (Tyler Hoechlin) worst nightmare comes to life, and Lois (Elizabeth Tulloch) confronts Leslie Larr (guest star Stacey Farber, “Degrassi: The Next Generation”). Meanwhile, Lana (Emmanuelle Chriqui), Kyle (Erik Valdez) and Sarah (Inde Navarette) agree to stay to help General Lane (Dylan Walsh). Jordan Elsass, Alex Garfin, Wole Parks and Adam Rayner also star. The episode was directed by Tom Cavanagh with story by Kristi Korzec & Michael Narducci and teleplay by Brent Fletcher & Todd Helbing. Every episode of Superman & Lois will be available to stream on The CW App and CWTV.com the day after broadcast for free and without subscription, log-in or authentication required.

Superman & Lois airs on Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW. “Last Sons of Krypton” is set to debut on August 17.


The Walking Dead

TV Line has new photos from the final season of The Walking Dead, including our first look at Laila Robbins as Governor Pamela Milton.

Photo: AMC
Photo: AMC
Photo: AMC
Photo: AMC

See

Apple TV+ has a trailer for the second season of See starring Jason Momoa.


Stargirl

Pat recognizes “a mysterious antiques collector” as The Shade in Comic Book’s synopsis for “Summer School: Chapter Two.”

UNEXPECTED ARRIVALS — Still on the lookout for evil in Blue Valley, Courtney (Brec Bassinger) grows suspicious after an unexpected visitor shows up at the Dugan house. Meanwhile, Barbara (Amy Smart) and Pat (Luke Wilson) become concerned after a visit from a mysterious antiques collector named Richard Swift (guest star Jonathan Cake). Elsewhere, Cindy (Meg DeLacy) puts her plan in motion. Yvette Monreal, Cameron Gellman, Anjelika Washington, Trae Romano and Hunter Sansone also star. Andi Armaganian directed the episode written by James Dale Robinson.

Elsewhere, two new featurettes discuss Stargirl’s cast and Courtney’s troubled time in summer school.


Roswell, New Mexico

Michael “makes a disturbing discovery” in the synopsis for “Walk on the Ocean” airing August 16.

DAY TRIPPIN’ – Isobel (Lily Cowles) and Maria (Heather Hemmens) take a trip together to look for answers. Kyle (Michael Trevino) receives a message from his past and Michael (Michael Vlamis) makes a disturbing discovery. Starring Jeanine Mason, Nathan Dean, Tyler Blackburn and Amber Midthunder, the episode was directed by April Winney and written by Onalee Hunter Hughes & Christopher Hollier (#304). Original Airdate 8/16/2021.

[KSiteTV]


Riverdale

Finally, Hiram reveals his origin story to Reggie in the synopsis for “Citizen Lodge,” the August 18 episode of Riverdale.

MICHAEL CONSUELOS GUEST STARS AS YOUNG HIRAM LODGE — Hiram (Mark Consuelos) shares with Reggie (Charles Melton) his origin story and how he went from a young Jaime Luna (guest star Michael Consuelos) to the powerful kingpin of Riverdale. Elsewhere, Reggie reflects on his relationship with his father. James DeWille directed the episode written by Brian E. Paterson (#512). Original airdate 8/18/2021.

[KSiteTV]


Banner art by Jim Cook

Why Jimmy Palmiotti and Scott Hampton's new comic 'Rage' probably wouldn't have happened if not for COVID-19 @ Syfy Wire

Jimmy Palmiotti finds inspiration for his stories in the world and the people around him.

No, really. It may seem hard to believe, considering some of the outlandish characters and concepts he's worked on. But even when he and Amanda Conner, his wife and creative partner, were in the midst of their bestselling run on Harley Quinn, a good number of ideas for some of the absurdity Harley found herself tangled up in came from the things Palmiotti observed and the people he talked to. It's just how the guy works.

That's how Rage, the new Kickstarter-launched original graphic novel from Palmiotti and co-creator Scott Hampton, came to be. The new 68-page graphic novel (fully painted by Hampton, by the way) launched this week and in less than 12 hours exceeded its initial goal. As with all of Palmiotti's crowd-funded books — this is his 16th Kickstarter project — it's available in digital and printed editions. You can learn more about it and back Rage here. Also, we have some exclusive art showing how Hampton brought these characters to life down at the bottom of the page.

Art by Scott Hampton / Credit: Paperfilms

While the majority of us spent the past year and a half rage-tweeting about some thing or another, doing long-neglected home improvement projects, or binge-watching every single Jason Statham movie on Netflix (don't judge me!), the comics veteran got together with Hampton to brainstorm ideas. The duo had previously tag-teamed on G.I. Zombie (along with co-writer Justin Gray), one of the more memorable entries from DC's The New 52. 

This time they were kicking around ideas that were high-concept yet much more grounded, and personal. As Hampton tells SYFY WIRE, "Jimmy and I batted ideas around for a concept and Jimmy came up with Rage, in the vein of the classic seventies disaster films like The Towering Inferno, etc."

Rage is a rip-roaring action story with a central theme that grabs you instantly. Braden Radovick is a broken man who finds himself across the country from his daughter, as the world begins to fall apart. Fueled by a father's desperation, he sets off on a frantic mission to find and save his daughter. Think of a film like Taken, but set in America and on a much bigger scale, and you get an idea of what Rage is about.

"What makes Rage unique is that it's an adult graphic novel that focuses on a father and a daughter separated by a worldwide disaster that is more about how fast the human race can adapt to a disaster while at the same time what really is important in our lives and the importance of the connection between people," Palmiotti says when asked to describe this new project. 

Art by Scott Hampton / Credit: Paperfilms

Palmiotti tells us that the story's big action beats combined with the personal story at the heart of the book were an ideal fit for Hampton's storytelling skills. "What made Scott the perfect choice when putting together Rage for Kickstarter," the writer explains, "is we are both at that point in our lives where we are seeing the big picture much clearer after this pandemic and understanding what really is most important. This step-back storytelling had to be less about explosions and more about connection and emotionally driven reactions."

The story's juxtaposition of a big global event with the story of father and daughter trying to find each other allowed Hampton the chance to push his artwork in several directions. "I wanted to slow the pace down whenever the imagery was more romantic and speed it up with the action. I'm not sure exactly why, but I equate romance with paint and action with line so there's a real mix here," he says. "As a reader, I like the visual curveball that comes at you unexpectedly and adds variety to the story, so I tend to move in that direction if the story seems to call for it." 

Along with his work on the book they did together, G.I. Zombies, Palmiotti saw Hampton's work on Dark Horse's American Gods comics (adapting Neil Gaiman's legendary novel) as emblematic of the style he could bring to Rage and its travelogue adventure.

"Since this is set in contemporary America and is a road story, I see similarities with American Gods, but trying to evoke the day-after-doomsday feel makes it a bit more raw and [more like a] horror story," Hampton says. "American Gods is an incredibly textured tale that takes room to breathe — a little like the way Sting described jazz, and I'm paraphrasing here, but having the luxury to get into different grooves at a slightly relaxed pace. There's an immediacy in Rage and it needed to hit the ground running from the first scene with very little let up."

As I mentioned above, Palmiotti finds his inspiration anywhere he can. It's why he says this new project likely would not exist if COVID-19 hadn't upended the world for the past 16 months. "Since we were and still are dealing with the pandemic, a lot of us had time to think about the possibility of how things might get worse and are we prepared for it, which I have learned since, most of us are not," Palmiotti says. "These thoughts snuck their way into the book and can be seen in fringe details."

Some are obvious, such as the fact that the world is gripped by a global disaster. Of course, COVID didn't develop out of nowhere overnight, as the triggering event in Rage does. Still, readers who pay attention will see how real-life influenced some of the story beats in the graphic novel.

"Because it’s a story about people dealing with a disaster that literally happens overnight, the reactions are different than the slow crawl we have been going through," Palmiotti says. "I think there are a few quiet moments in the book where we can see exactly how some of the interactions between characters is a direct reflection of what all of us have been going through in real life, though I never thought we would be in a world where a cure is given and a percentage of the people decide against taking it."

Palmiotti has been vocal about his desire to step back from doing work-for-hire projects for DC and Marvel and focus on creator-owned works through his and Conner's Paperfilms label. And he's not alone. Scott Snyder and his just-announced creator-owned line of books for ComiXology, as well as fellow superstar writers Donny Cates and James Tynion IV putting out their own projects via Image Comics proves this is not a fad, but an industry-wide shift. Creators are seeking more control over their careers. For Palmiotti, that's the goal.

"Kickstarter — the people behind it and the supporting community — has been a real blessing for the crew here at Paperfilms," he says. "It has given us a chance to experiment, get feedback and create books and products worlds better than any mainstream publisher with content, format, and production. It is books by creators and not corporations and stockholders hoping to just make money. Kickstarter gives us the opportunity for us to truly connect with the audience. We love it."

Rage is available now. Along with Hampton's main cover, backers can also get one of the variant covers drawn by Amanda Conner or Bill Sienkiewicz. Check out Bill's stunning cover here:

Art by Bill Sienkiewicz / Credit: Paperfilms

And because I know some of you are process junkies like I am, we have an exclusive look at Hampton's character designs. The way he works is a stark departure from the way most comic artists do it. Hampton breaks down his pages and panels separately and then assembles them, creating a much different look to the graphic novel. 

Check them out below.


Do you support Kickstarter comics projects? If so, which ones? Find me on Twitter/Instagram and let me know.

Check out past videos and podcasts from Behind the Panel, loaded with my in-depth interviews with some of the best comic book creators in the business.

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

Psyche is the most metal asteroid: It may have volcanoes that spewed molten iron @ Syfy Wire

I'm very excited about the Psyche mission. Due to launch next year, this NASA spacecraft will arrive at its target in the main asteroid belt four years later: The odd asteroid 16 Psyche.

Most asteroids are rocky, and some even have ice under their surface, but Psyche is an M-class asteroid, meaning it’s highly metallic (mostly iron and nickel). It’s big, over 200 kilometers across, and quite shiny — a typical asteroid reflects roughly 4% of the sunlight hitting it, but Psyche reflects 16%. Again, that makes sense if it’s metallic.

All asteroids visited by spacecraft so far are rocky, so Psyche will be the first of its kind to be seen up close. It’s always been a fascinating object, but the upcoming mission has ramped up interest in it as well.

A paper just published by a team of scientists* has some interesting updates on this odd little metal world.

The asteroid 16 Psyche is ~250 km across and — unlike most asteroids — is made predominantly of iron! Although it's too small to see details of its surface directly, observations of it using various telescopes have allowed astronomers to build a model of its shape. This animation, created by planetary scientist Michael Shepard, shows the model spinning (first looking up from the south then down from the north). The red stub marks the long axis of the asteroid. Credit: Michael Shepard

They used observations of Psyche by the Very Large Telescope, the enormous Keck telescope, ALMA, Arecibo, and even stellar occultations to determine the size, shape, and surface topography of the asteroid. Their results are quite interesting.

Overall, Psyche is shaped like a flat potato, measuring 278 × 238 × 171 km in size (± roughly 5 km), consistent with though more accurate than previous measurements made in the past, and it spins once every 4.2 hours.

They find several large surface features, including a large depression they call Alpha (they designate the features using radio call signs for the alphabet) and two large flat regions called Bravo and Charlie. At the asteroid’s north pole is a 50-km feature (Foxtrot) that may be an impact crater, and another near the south pole (Eros).

A surface map of the asteroid Psyche made using visible light and radar observations. The brighter colors are were it’s more reflective in visible light, and the white spots where it’s radar reflective. These may be ferrovolcanoes. Credit: Shepard et al. 2021

The next features need a bit of back story. As Psyche spins, it gets brighter and dimmer in visible and infrared light over time as more and less reflective spots on the surface come into view; the observations using Keck and VLT can be used to map out where they are.

The Arecibo observations use radar. These radio waves were sent out by the huge dish, hit the asteroid, and are reflected back to Earth. This can be used to map out the shape of the asteroid (a radar ping that hits a depression has to travel a slight bit longer to get there and back, for example, so timing those can generate topographical maps), but the strength of the returned signal also can give clues about the surface composition as well.

And this is where things get interesting indeed. In several spots on the asteroid, they found both visible light and radar were reflected well. This means those spots are shiny in both wavelengths.

Why is that significant? It’s not clear how Psyche formed. Billons of years ago smaller bodies called planetesimals slammed into each other and grew. Some of them were rocky, some metal. Once the growing object started to get big enough to have noticeable gravity, the molten metals would sink to the core and the lighter rocky material would float to the top. This process is called differentiation.

An idea that’s been around a long time is that after this happened Psyche suffered a monumental impact that sheared off its outer layers, leaving behind just the metal core. But estimates of its density put it around 4 grams per cubic centimeter, while iron has a density twice that. If it’s a pure metal world, that density hard to explain.

Artwork of what the metal and rock asteroid Psyche might look like. A new hypothesis is that the craters depicted here may actually be ferrovolcanoes, volcanoes that erupted molten metals. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/Peter Rubin

But there are other ideas, too. One is that it had multiple impacts that shattered it into smaller chunks that reaccumulated. That would mean it’s porous, like a box of rocks and metal chunks instead of one solid body. We see smaller asteroids like that, but Psyche is 100 times larger than those, and it’s not clear that anything that big can be that porous.

The paper authors have another idea: Psyche is still a differentiated world, with a metal core and rocky crust… but it’s ferrovolcanic.

I’ve written about this before. On Earth, volcanism is from molten rock, and on some asteroids and icy moons (and Pluto of that matter) we see evidence of cryovolcanoes, eruptions of liquid water that freezes into a solid. Ferrovolcanoes are eruptions of molten iron, which is one of the coolest things ever. Their idea is that the core stayed molten while the surface cooled into a rocky crust, but the molten metal would have erupted out where the crust was thinner.

That would explain the observations: It’s been shown that there’s plenty of rock on the surface, but it’s liberally mixed with metal. The surface regions they found that were bright both in visible light and radar would be the locations of these ferrovolcanoes. The metal flowing out would solidify and be reflective to both wavelengths of light.

The beauty of this is that it makes a clear prediction: When the spacecraft gets there, if it sees those spots are ferrovolcanoes, it’s strong support that Psyche is differentiated, and not the naked core of what was once a much larger object.

So, in just a few years, we’ll find out if they’re right.

Now, as far as my excitement over this mission and asteroid go, I’m biased. I collect meteorites, which are chunks of asteroids that have fallen to Earth. I have a few rocky ones, but I prefer the metal ones. To me they’re just intrinsically cooler. Metal asteroids are rare, and Psyche is by far the largest one. It’s possible that some meteorites are actually from Psyche.

I’m not saying any of the meteorites I have are from Psyche, but it does make the connection to the asteroid more tangible to me. And in just five years, we’ll have our first close­-up images and data from an M-class asteroid. I cannot wait to see what it looks like.


*My thanks to lead author Michael Shepard for sending me a note about this paper.

July 11 (Biltmore Oswald: The Diary of a Hapless Recruit, by Thorne Smith) @ Bureau 42

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Fossil of the most ginormous vampire bat ever just flew out of 100,000 years of darkness @ Syfy Wire

There is a reason vampire bats are associated with Dracula, and other fictional vampires that don’t sparkle. They actually do take wing at night and suck the blood of unsuspecting victims.

Whether you think these bats are real life horror movie extras or unconventionally adorable, they are rather small and are more like mosquitoes than monsters to the animals they feed on after dark. However, during a time when everything was massive — from sloths to mammoths to cave bears — so were vampire bats of the extinct species Desmodus draculae. Their size must have made them look more frightening if nothing else.

Now, the largest D. draculae individual ever found has shown exactly how huge they could get. You can probably imagine how much blood it took to keep them flying around. Researcher Santiago Brizuela, who led a study recently published in Ameghinia, was able to find out some previously unknown things about this mega-bloodsucker from just its 100,000-year-old fossilized jawbone, which was recently discovered deep within an Argentinian cave.

“The size of D. draculae suggests a 25-30% larger skull than extant vampire bats,” Brizuela tells SYFY WIRE. “We are unsure of the volume of consumption, though daily blood consumption for vampire bats is around 13.4 ml. One would infer, based on size, that D. draculae would have consumed more.”

Jawbones of the terror from deep time were found in the burrow of a giant ground sloth. While Brizuela and his team are not exactly sure if it was an abandoned burrow the bats roosted in, or if they flew in there when they were hungry, giant sloths are believed to have been on the menu for D. draculae. It lived in parts of what is now Central and South America from the Pleistocene era through the early Holocene era. Meaning, early humans might have chanced upon the bat, though we will never really know. Instagram didn’t exist back then.

So how big was this actual vampire? D. draculae’s 20-inch wingspan must have cast an eerie shadow from above. It weighed about slightly above two ounces, which sounds like nearly nothing, but compare that to extant vampire bats, most of which are barely over 3 inches with a 6-to 7-inch wingspan. Many don’t even reach two ounces and can easily fit inside a teacup. What they can do is easily double their body weight depending on the amount of blood they ingest that night. Like most bats, vampire bats are nocturnal, and so was D. draculae.

“There are minor (but clear for systematical assignation) morphological differences in the osteology of the extant and extinct vampire bats, but overall they would be similar,” Brizuela says. “I speculate that their large size was in the general trend seen in the Cenozoic megafauna.”

Credit: Daniel Romero/VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

 

Another thing D. draculae must have had in common with its living Desmodontinae relatives was the heat sensor on the end of its nose that would have allowed it to smell fresh blood. It might be great nightmare fuel, but it really just helps the bat survive like anything else that needs to eat. While there are misconceptions about vampire bats being as violent as some of their namesakes, they actually prefer to live, feed, and hang upside down in peace. It is from this known behavior that the research team inferred D. draculae must have behaved similarly despite its size advantage. Everything was humongous back then.

Why megafauna like giant vampire bats dominated the planet millions of years ago still remains shrouded in mystery. Some believe mammoths and woolly rhinos, among others, would still be around today if early humans hadn’t hunted them to extinction. Others believe they were already on the decline and would have eventually vanished anyway. What Brizuela does know is that D. draculae was the last giant flying mammal that would ever exist, and while it was still around until 1820, the Little Ice Age probably froze out this tropical creature.

“There is some uncertainty regarding its extinction,” he says. “Nonetheless, D. draculae must have suffered with the rest of the megafaunal extinction, and the cooler environmental conditions must have finally affected higher-latitude populations.”

That probably won’t stop someone out there from making a B-horror movie about a swarm of enormous vampire bats, if they haven’t done so already.

11 Actors Who Should Play Doctor Who's Next Doctor @ io9

Who’s next?Image: Marvel Studios, Paramount, BBC, MGM, and Lucasfilm

Jodie Whittaker is Doctor no more. Well, she’s actually very Doctor for the next year and a half, but with today’s shock announcement that both she and current showrunner Chris Chibnall will be departing Doctor Who by the end of 2022, we’ve come to the time-honored tradition of dreaming buck wild over who could replace her (while being completely ignorant of how the BBC, most importantly its budget, actually works).

Ever since the news broke this morning, we’ve asked editors and writers at io9 and Gizmodo to come up with their own hopes and dreams for the 14th Doctor, whether they’re Doctor Who diehards (me, Jill Pantozzi) or Whovian neophytes (pretty much the rest of the staff, it’s fine, there’s too much TV to watch anyway). What follows is our list, so, I don’t know, do what all good Doctor Who fans do—harshly judge us and get loud about it in the comments?

Wunmi Mosaku

Image: Marvel Studios

“Oh that Loki, it’s just like Doctor Who but Marvel, innit,” people who’ve never seen a second of Doctor Who in their lives said as Tom Hiddleston and his many multiversal selves jaunted across Disney+ for a month and half. But you know how you’d make Loki actually feel a little more Doctor Who? You take Wunmi Mosaku, criminally underutilized as Hunter B-15 in the Marvel series, and you give her the keys to the TARDIS.

Daisy Ridley

Image: Lucasfilm

She knows a thing or two about taking on the legacy of a ginormous sci-fi icon with a legion of ever-demanding, sometimes loving, sometimes bonkers fans. She knows a thing or two about starring in some pretty duff sci-fi shenanigans, too (we say it with love). Hell, a lightsaber is basically a meaner sonic screwdriver—they both open doors, from a certain point of view.

Tina Desai

Image: Netflix

What is a Doctor’s relationship with their past incarnations if not an extended episode of Sense8 anyway? Desai’s debut as Kala in the the mind-bending Netflix series gave us plenty of promise; we’d love to see her tackle a role like the Doctor.

John Boyega

Image: Sony

Turns out Star Wars is chock full of potential Doctor Who stars, and thanks to Attack the Block, Boyega has the bonus of a) knowing Jodie Whittaker well, and b) being very good at running around British council estates to avoid being killed by aliens. That’s basically a Doctor Who resume, right there.

Dame Harriet Walter

Image: BBC

Walters may have just recently appeared as the ill-fated British politician Jo Patterson in this year’s “Revolution of the Daleks”—in which she gave us the wonderful image of a Prime Minister being zapped by Daleks on the steps of 10 Downing Street—but when has being a guest actor on Doctor Who stopped you from becoming the Doctor before?

Sacha Dhawan

Image: BBC

Speaking of Doctor Who guest stars as the Doctor, imagine this twist: after everything the 13th Doctor and Dhawan’s Master went through with each other during season 12, what if, after his seeming demise on Gallifrey, as the Doctor regenerates, she thinks of her long-time frenemy and finds herself regenerating into his likeness? What if people think the Doctor is the Master? How would they feel having taken the Master’s face? Do I just want an excuse for more Sacha Dhawan? So many questions, so little time.

Dame Judi Dench

Image: MGM

I can’t tell which version of Judi Dench I’d want in the TARDIS more, something akin to her time as M in the Bond franchise, or just like Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Judi Dench. She could be either. She could do both! Time Lords have layers.

Jessica Henwick

Image: Marvel Studios

Look, I just want justice for the fact that Henwick never got to be the true Iron Fist we wanted on Netflix’s up-and-down Marvel adaptation, nor did she get to return as X-Wing ace Jess Pava after The Force Awakens.

Henry Golding

Image: Paramount

Golding may have hoped that Snake Eyes could be his next big action franchise, but given that it hit theaters with all the boom of, well, a very quiet ninja, maybe he could pivot to time travel?

Kirby Howell-Baptiste

Image: Disney

Ah, if only Neil Gaiman hadn’t nabbed her for Death on Netflix’s Sandman adaptation already. Maybe we could get him to write for Doctor Who again if Gaiman and the streamer let the BBC borrow her for a few seasons in Time and Space?

Bonus Round: Michelle Yeoh, Because Michelle Yeoh Should Be In Everything

Image: Paramount+

I mean, come on. She’s got Star Trek. She’s in a Marvel. She’s doing The Witcher. Disney are too busy being cowards to have not yet cast her as some piratical smuggler queen in Star Wars or something. Let Michelle Yeoh kick a Dalek, even if the Doctor is meant to generally be against kicking things, even the Daleks. It would be very funny.


Anyway, those are our outlandish dream picks. Who do you want to be Doctor Who’s 14th Doctor? Go wild with your suggestions in the comments below!


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Waterworld being developed as streaming series with 10 Cloverfield Lane director set to steer the ship @ Syfy Wire

We’ve got some good news for fans of the Kevin Costner-starring post-apocalyptic sci-fi actioner Waterworld (and yes, the film does have fans): the film’s producer is working on a streaming series (get it?) set in the world where pee-drinking man-fish set sail in a world where dry land is a myth and money is no object for film studios

Speaking with Collider, John Davis, producer of the original 1995 film, revealed that he’s developing a Waterworld series that will be a “continuation of that movie” set “20 years later.” Davis didn’t specify whether original stars Costner, Jeanne Tripplehorn, or Tina Majorino are involved, but did tell the media outlet that it would focus on their characters from the film. Just, y’know, “20 years later.” 

Davis' producing partner John Fox added, "We're not 100% sure on the approach to the show. But definitely, we're in the building stages right now.”

As such, there’s no showrunner attached yet. But Dan Trachtenberg of 10 Cloverfield Lane and The Boys fame is on board to direct. Davis also said his team is putting the show together at Universal Television and that they’ve landed a streaming service for the series, but he declined to reveal which one.

Kind of like a reverse Mad Max where the world is submerged underwater instead of being a giant desert, Waterworld envisions a future where the ice caps have melted and dry land has gone the way of the dodo. Costner plays an unnamed drifter known only as The Mariner, who has gills and drinks his own pee (yeah, no, we’re not letting that go). He reluctantly agrees to help a woman (Tripplehorn) and young girl (Majorino) escape a group of evil "smokers," led by the late Dennis Hopper, and seek dry land.

Waterworld’s troubled production caused its budget to reach $175 million, making it the most expensive film in Hollywood history at the time. Although it did wind up turning a profit (primarily due to home video), toxic advanced word-of-mouth and mixed-to-negative reviews made Waterworld synonymous with Hollywood excess and hubris; not to mention it severely damaged Costner’s reputation.

But that isn’t deterring Davis. In fact, having recently given it a rewatch, he “was surprised at how well it held up,” adding: “this movie ages great with time.”

No word on a timeline for the project yet, but for now you can get your fill of wet and wild fun at the Waterworld: A Live Sea War Spectacular show at various Universal Studios around the world.

 

(SYFY WIRE and Universal are properties of NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation.)

A Waterworld TV Show Is in the Works @ io9

A streaming series based on Waterworld is currently in the works. Photo: Universal

It may end up taking 30 years—but Waterworld could finally get the sequel it so desperately wanted. Collider reports that a streaming TV show take on the infamous 1995 Kevin Costner film is now in the works, which would pick up the story in that film 20 years after its ending. 10 Cloverfield Lane and The Boys director Dan Trachtenberg is reportedly attached to direct.

“We’re not 100% sure on the approach to the show. But definitely, we’re in the building stages right now,” said John Fox who, along with John Davis, is producing the series. Davis produced the original Kevin Reynolds-directed film which famously cost $180 million in 1995—the most expensive movie ever at the time— but grossed only $80 million domestic.

The show is being set up at Universal Television and is reportedly close to having a streamer in place, though Fox and Davis didn’t confirm which. No one else is attached besides Trachtenberg but things are in the works. “Dan’s attached, we’re breaking the story now and we’re talking to a few different writers. And we should have a writer locked in, I would think, over the next couple of weeks,” Fox said.

Waterworld tells the story of a future where the polar ice caps have melted, covering all of Earth in water. The main character is “the Mariner” a half-fish, half-human (played by Costner) who begrudgingly teams up with a woman and a child (Jeannie Tripplehorn and Tina Majorino) because the child might have a map to dry land on her back—a map that everyone on the planet wants. Though the film was a bomb upon release, it’s kept a certain cult status, in small part due to its long presence at the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park, and in large part to just how ambitious and beautiful the movie is, even if there are some hugely problematic elements.

This version of the story would keep that movie in canon and just pick up the story later. “We’re going to do the streaming version of that movie, the continuation of that movie,” Davis said. “Twenty years later. All those people, 20 years later.” Now, whether that means we see Costner again as the Mariner seems doubtful. The film ends with the heroes finding dry land and the Mariner going back off to the water. Nevertheless, a cameo could be nice. That is, if this show ever gets above ground.

What’s your level of interest in a Waterworld streaming show? Let us know below.


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Spock’s Famous Gesture Imagined Like Never Before in this Star Trek Time-Lapse @ io9

A crop of something you’re going to want to see in full.Photo: Roddenberry Entertainment/Jade Alayne Photography

August 2021 is a big month for Star Trek fans. Yes, your favorite Paramount+ shows are slowly beginning to trickle back onto the service (Lower Decks returns Augsut 12), but beyond that it’s the 100th anniversary of something even more special: the birth of Gene Roddenberry. Star Trek’s creator was born on August 19, 1921, and the company named in his honor is celebrating in some clever, fun ways.

Roddenberry Entertainment has been promoting a year long celebration called “ThinkTrek” in which Trek fans, stars, and more come together to share their love for the franchise on social media. One of the coolest facets of this is “MakeTrek,” which encourages artists to create fun things to celebrate what Star Trek means to them. One example is Brick Builder Samuel Hatmaker (who some may recognize from the first season of the U.S. Lego Masters) who has been building incredible works of brick art. He did the groundbreaking kiss between Lieutenant Uhura and Captain Kirk, followed by a piece expressing the Vulcan philosophy of IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations). And now, io9 is excited to exclusively reveal Hatmaker’s third build, of a certain most famous Vulcan, doing a certain gesture, which conveys an unforgettable message.

Yes, it’s Spock telling us all to live long and prosper. And while the image of Leonard Nimoy is certainly impressive in the build, it’s the 3D hand that really makes it pop, figuratively and literally. Here are a few more images of the piece.

And again, this is just one brick in a much larger mosaic that is the ThinkTrek initiative, which you can get all the details for at this link. With this, and the return of Star Trek: Lower Decks, August is going to be a great month of Trek fans, and a lovely way to celebrate 100 years of Roddenberry and his creation.


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David Ayer issues final word on his 2016 'Suicide Squad' film: 'Studio cut is not my movie' @ Syfy Wire

With a week left to go before The Suicide Squad brings its band of misfit heroes back to theaters, reviewers are already effusive in their praise. James Gunn’s fresh take on Harley Quinn and the rest of DC’s potty-mouthed destruction posse is getting an exuberant critical response far different from the one director David Ayer received, drawing upon the same source material, for his 2016 Suicide Squad.

But Ayer has long maintained that the theatrical version of his Suicide Squad differed vastly from the movie he wanted to make, and that the studio pressures to get the movie finished yielded compromises in the final version that ended up polarizing moviegoing fans. Those are compromises Ayer’s also said he’d love to untangle (if the studio would allow it) for a “director’s cut” version of the movie — a version that currently, and probably for the foreseeable future, has no plan for release.

With social media freshly abuzz with the fawning reception over Gunn’s new movie, Ayer has chimed in on Twitter — seemingly for the last time on the topic — to defend his larger creative vision for the 2016 film. And while he extends Gunn and the new movie warm hopes for success, Ayer sounds far less cordial toward the critics.

Warner Bros. Pictures on YouTube

“The studio cut is not my movie,” Ayer flatly wrote in a lengthy, emotional open-letter media tweet he titled “My Turn.”

“I put my life into Suicide Squad. I made something amazing. My cut is intricate and emotional journey with some ‘bad people’ who are s*** on and discarded (a theme that resonates in my soul). The studio cut is not my movie. Read that again.

“And my cut is not the 10 week director’s cut,” he added. “[I]t’s a fully mature edit by Lee Smith standing on the incredible work by John Gilroy. It’s all Steven Price’s brilliant score, with not a single radio song in the whole thing. It has traditional character arcs, amazing performances, a solid third-act resolution. A handful of people have seen it. If someone says they have seen it, they haven’t.”

That last line likely refers to the various versions of Suicide Squad that Warner Bros. authorized ahead of its release, bringing in multiple editors to experiment with different cuts ahead of debuting the finished film — a movie that the studio nevertheless maintained was Ayer’s. “We did a lot of experimentation and collaboration along the way. But we are both very proud of the result,” Warner Bros. production president Greg Silverman and Ayer stated to The Hollywood Reporter near the time of the 2016 movie’s release. “This is a David Ayer film, and Warners is proud to present it.”

Back in the present day, Ayer’s conviction that fans ultimately missed out on a great Suicide Squad movie sounds firmer than ever — though the director seems resigned to let the box office tides sweep fans’ attention away from his unreleased edit and toward Gunn’s new movie. “I will no longer speak publicly on this matter,” Ayer wrote, while saying he still supports the studio and freely offering that he’s “so proud of James and excited for the success that’s coming.”

While it famously green-lit and released Zack Snyder’s marathon cut of Justice League, Warner Bros. has given no hint that it plans to release an Ayer-approved director’s cut of Suicide Squad. And whatever secrets an Ayer cut might hold, well — they’re likely to stay hidden. “I’ve never told my side of the story,” he wrote, “and I never will.”

As for Gunn's new movie, the wait's almost over: The Suicide Squad crashes the comic book party in theaters and at HBO Max beginning Friday, Aug. 6.

If we put an observatory on the Moon, these are the awesome things it could see @ Syfy Wire

Observatories on Earth almost have to squint to see what’s out there. Even in the most remote areas of the planet, light pollution, seismic noise and other interruptions can get in the way.

Wait. What if we put an observatory on the Moon, where there is almost nothing obscuring the view of the night sky? The concept, developed by astrophysicists Karan Jani of Vanderbilt University and Avi Loeb of Harvard University, is called the Gravitational-Wave Lunar Observatory for Cosmology (GLOC) and would use the Moon’s orbit and environment to its advantage, finding and analyzing mind-blowing phenomena we otherwise might miss.

GLOC would have a view of around 70 percent of the observable universe. It could detect everything from gravitational waves to dark matter, black hole mergers and neutron stars. With no atmosphere, light pollution or noise from the ever-shifting tectonic plates to contend with as it would on Earth, its sensitivity would be unprecedented.

“Our Moon is seismically much quieter than earth in the frequency ranges that are crucial for hunting black holes,” Jani told SYFY WIRE.” The natural vacuum on the lunar surface allows for a much longer interferometer at essentially no additional cost. With no environmental or human disturbances, Moon is an ideal destination to study the nature of spacetime.”

Imagine being able to prove astrophysical theories that would have otherwise been impossible to find evidence for right or wrong. That might still lie in the distant future — but that future might be nearer than we think. Jani, who coauthored a study with Loeb that was recently published in Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics, wants to go beyond measuring black hole and neutron star signals for only seconds at time. For now, that is the longest we can catch them for on Earth. These signals manifest as gravitational waves that vary depending on the object that is emitting them.

Credit: NASA

 

GLOC would be able to observe gravitational wave signals for weeks because the Moon’s orbit is short enough for it to pick up signals coming in from many different directions. It orbits Earth every 27 days. Neutron stars tend to produce continuous gravitational waves that are always at the same frequency and amplitude, since they are massive objects which constantly spin. Binary black holes, white dwarf stars and neutron stars, which are forever orbiting closer and closer to each other, each give off their own type of gravitational waves. The lunar orbit can also help the observatory figure out almost exactly where the signal is coming from.

“Because gravitational waves simply pass through the Moon, it doesn’t matter where GLOC is located,” said Jani. “The observational abilities will remain the same. From an experimental perspective, it will be simpler to place a triangular interferometer around a large crater.”

So unless we build a lunar city anytime soon (not about to happen), GLOC doesn’t necessarily have to be built on the dark side of the Moon. Speaking of dark, Jani sees it as potentially groundbreaking when it comes to dark energy. As cosmic expansion keeps accelerating, scientists are looking at dark energy as the mysterious, but still hypothetical, force behind it. There is no way to actually observe dark energy. It can only be inferred by observing gravitational interactions between objects in space. GLOC will be able to use the signals from black hole collisions going far back in time in order to investigate dark energy.

This could mean a new frontier in multi-messenger astrophysics. This emerging field uses information from gravitational waves and other things that travel through space and time, such as cosmic rays and photons, to make observations that allow for a better understanding of phenomena such as black hole or neutron star mergers. Even the National Science foundation sees it as a priority.

When you consider that both physicists who study high-energy phenomena and the Department of Energy are anxious to understand dark energy in more depth, you know it’s kind of a big deal. Jani believes it is.

“A lunar observatory such as GLOC fits this niche overlap that serves all three US science agencies' funding goals,” he said. “A potential pathfinder has will be developed to fit within a lunar lander. This study is just the beginning.”

49 New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Keep You Turning Pages in August @ io9

Crop of the cover of The Tale of Princess Fatima.Image: Penguin Classics

The end of summer is approaching, but there’s still a full month of what we can technically refer to as “summer reading.” Good thing August has a galaxy’s worth of new sci-fi and fantasy book releases, with parallel universes, ghost hunters, supernatural battles, deep-space intrigue, all manner of witches, and so much more. Read on!


Image: Scribner

Billy Summers by Stephen King

The best-selling author’s latest page-turner is about a war vet turned assassin, prized for his skills as a sniper. He’s ready to leave that life behind until what should be his final job brings him into contact with an extraordinary evil. (August 3)

Image: Wednesday Books

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould

When famous TV ghost hunters arrive in a small Oregon town, they’re pulled into a mystery involving missing teens who are seemingly haunting those they left behind. A local girl and the ghost hunters’ daughter forge an unexpected bond as they race to uncover the truth. (August 3)

Image: Del Rey

The Desert Prince by Peter V. Brett

The author kicks off a new series set in the world of his Demon Cycle novels with this tale of two young people—a princess and the son of a hero—growing up in the wake of a supernatural war that might not actually be over. Read an excerpt here. (August 3)

Image: Dutton

Holdout by Jeffrey Kluger

After an accident aboard the International Space Station, all the astronauts evacuate except for a single American, who realizes she now has the perfect platform for righting an injustice back on Earth. (August 3)

Illustration: Delacorte Press

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee

At a boarding school rumored to be haunted by the ghosts of witches, two students set out to research the past when its dark mysteries seemingly start invading the present. (August 3)

Image: Solaris

Monkey Around by Jadie Jang

This San Francisco-set tale follows the adventures of a “barisa, activist, and were-monkey” who gets political in the streets when she’s not being drawn into supernatural matters, including a rash of shapeshifter murders. (August 3)

Image: Orbit

Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky

With Earth destroyed, the few remaining members of the human race are adrift in space—along with “enhanced humans” engineered for an alien war that’s now far in the past. When one such crew discovers a relic seemingly abandoned by their alien foes, they must figure out what it all means before it’s too late. (August 3)

Image: Harper Voyager

Starlight Enclave by R.A. Salvatore

Celebrate the “Summer of Drizzt” with the first book in the author’s latest adventure trilogy featuring Drizzt Do’Urden and other characters from Dungeons & Dragons’ Forgotten Realms. (August 3)

Image: Penguin Classics

The Tale of Princess Fatima: Warrior Woman: The Arabic Epic of Dhat al-Himma edited and translated by Melanie Magidow

Touted as “the only Arabic epic named for a woman” and being published in English for the first time, this tale explores the life of Dhat al-Himma, also known as Princess Fatima, a skilled rider and swordswoman who fought against oppression and persecution to become a legendary warrior. (August 3)

Image: Margaret K. McElderry Books

The Wild Ones by Nafiza Azad

A group of teenage girls gains magical powers from a mysterious boy who rescues each of them from dark situations—then must band together to rescue him when he’s captured by malevolent forces. (August 3)

Image: JAB Books

The Hand of the Sun King by J.T. Greathouse

A boy torn between his father, whose family has long served the empire, and his mother, the latest in a long line of rebellious sorcerers, must decide which path to follow as he forges his own future. (August 5)

Image: Angry Robot

The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston

A band of warriors led by a demonologist general must reunite in a small town 40 years after their first victory to make (what else?) one last stand. (August 10)

Image: Berkley

The Other Me by Sarah Zachrich Jeng

When a Chicago artist suddenly plunges into an alternate version of her life, she must figure out how to negotiate her new existence—all while dealing with strange memories and blips in reality that make her unable to trust even her own perceptions. (August 10)

Image: Del Rey

Paper & Blood by Kevin Hearne

The Ink & Sigil series continues, as do the adventures of Al MacBharrais, a Scottish “sigil agent” who can craft magic spells using ink and paper. When a colleague vanishes in Australia, he must travel halfway around the world to solve the supernatural mystery. (August 10)

Image: Tor Books

The Rookery by Deborah Hewitt

The Nightjar series returns to London’s magical Rookery as Alice Wyndham, who can see people’s souls, struggles to get a grasp on her powers while striving to overcome her troubled past. (August 10)

Image: Forge Books

She Wouldn’t Change a Thing by Sarah Adlakha

A woman who suddenly wakes up as the 17-year-old version of herself—except with all her adult memories intact—must figure out how to reunite with the husband and children she’s unwittingly become separated from. (August 10)

Image: Tor Teen

The Sisters of Reckoning by Charlotte Nicole Davis

The sequel to The Good Luck Girls returns to the fantasy-tinged Wild West, where Aster and company fight to help magical “dustbloods” escape oppression and cross the border, where freedom and safety await—at least, until a new threat begins to rise. (August 10)

Image: Wednesday Books

Cazadora by Romina Garber

This follow-up to Lobizona takes more cues from Argentine folklore as it follows Manu—whose half-human, half-supernatural status marks her as “illegal”—as she enters a cursed realm trying to find allies and fellow revolutionaries. But the malevolent Cazadores are in hot pursuit, and Manu’s not entirely sure who she can trust. (August 17)

Image: Gallery Books

Chasing the Boogeyman by Richard Chizmar

A recent college grad hoping to spark a writing career returns to his Maryland hometown right when a serial killer—whose crimes are so awful it’s rumored the perpetrator may not be human—starts stalking local teens. Inspired, he starts penning a true-crime tale about the events he’s in the midst of. (August 17)

Image: Tor Teen

The Endless Skies by Shannon Price

This standalone epic fantasy is about a city of shapeshifters and the human warriors sworn to protect them, including a teenage girl who discovers a terrible truth just when she’s about to take her oath of service. (August 17)

Image: Tor Books

The Exiled Fleet by J.S. Dewes

The Divide series continues as the survivors of the events of The Last Watch find themselves stranded at the edge of the universe, where they’re forced to make new alliances and dodge their enemies if they want to stay alive. (August 17)

Image: Atria Books

The Family Plot by Megan Collins

A woman raised in isolation by true crime-obsessed parents (alongside true crime-obsessed siblings) develops an obsession of her own that just might involve her unusual family: tracking down whoever killed her twin brother when they were teens. (August 17)

Image: Harper Voyager

King Bullet by Richard Kadrey

The Sandman Slim series concludes as half-human, half-angel Stark confronts mayhem in Los Angeles, where a dangerous virus has everyone on edge—as does a supernaturally-powered gang leader who’s eagerly exploiting the chaos. (August 17)

Image: Tor Books

Neptune by Ben Bova

The late Hugo winner’s Outer Planets trilogy continues with this posthumous entry, as Ilona Magyr heads to Neptune to search for her missing father—but instead finds an alien ship that’s crashed deep within in the ice giant’s ocean. (August 17)

Image: Tordotcom

Never Say You Can’t Survive: How to Get Through Hard Times By Making Up Stories by Charlie Jane Anders

This nonfiction book from the acclaimed novelist (and co-founder of io9) is described as “a practical guide to storytelling” during dark times, reminding readers that “writing can be an act of resistance that reminds us that other futures and other ways of living are possible.” (August 17)

Image: Amulet Books

Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko

The Raybearer duology concludes with this YA fantasy following Tarasai’s struggle to survive as she sits upon her new throne—and strives to change her fate, which requires eventual self-sacrifice into the Underworld. (August 17)

Image: St. Martin’s Griffin

Requiem of Silence by L. Penelope

The Earthsinger Chronicles series concludes as Elsira surges toward unification under the magical Queen Jasminda. But there are forces determined to keep that from happening that only Kyara and the other Nethersingers can stop. (August 17)

Image: Berkley

A Terrible Fall of Angels by Laurell K. Hamilton

A new series begins with Detective Zaniel Havelock, who can talk to angels in a world plagued by demons—one of whom just might be the perpetrator in his latest murder case. (August 17)

Image: Redhook

Wildwood Whispers by Willa Reece

A young woman visits an Appalachian mountain town to fulfill her late best friend’s final wish and discovers she has a deep connection to the area’s special folk magic—as well as a less enticing link to a dark presence in the local forest. (August 17)

Image: Dial Books

Burden Falls by Kat Ellis

A year after the death of her parents in a terrible accident, a young woman who’s been plagued by ghostly nightmares suffers another loss—this time, the murder of someone close to her. Could the ghost, a figure tied to her hometown’s spookiest legend, be responsible? (August 24)

Image: Razorbill

Devil in the Device by Lora Beth Johnson

The Goddess in the Machine duology concludes as Zhade takes the throne and Andra goes into hiding—but they’ll have to work together if they have any hope of stopping the rogue technology that’s threatening to end humanity. (August 24)

Image: Tor.com

Light Chaser by Peter F. Hamilton and Gareth L. Powell

This sci-fi adventure follows a Light Chaser as she travels around the universe collecting stories. Over time, though, she begins to realize there’s a pattern emerging within the stories—foretelling a dark future she’s uniquely poised to prevent. (August 24)

Image: Orbit

The Pariah by Anthony Ryan

A one-time outlaw’s quest for vengeance leads him down an unexpected path: fighting in the king’s army. But when a demonic threat rises, he must decide if he’s willing to fully embrace life as a warrior. (August 24)

Image: Skybound Books

The Second Rebel by Linden A. Lewis

The follow-up to The First Sister finds Astrid working hard to overthrow the religious order she’s managed to infiltrate, Hiro hunting down a digital woman to help the rebellion’s cause in deep space, Lito orchestrating a prison break, and Luciana pondering whether to join the fight. (August 24)

Image: Angry Robot

Twenty-Five to Life by R.W.W. Greene

After a colony mission aimed at preserving the human race departs Earth, everyone left behind must bide their time until the inevitable end of the world. Weary of her oppressive family, one young woman decides to ride it out with a nomadic group of outsiders. (August 24)

Image: Titan Books

Alien 3: The Unproduced First-Draft Screenplay by William Gibson by Pat Cadigan and William Gibson

How’s this for a cool collaboration? “The first-draft [and eventually, never-adapted] Alien 3 screenplay by William Gibson, the founder of cyberpunk, turned into a novel by Pat Cadigan, the Hugo Award-winning ‘Queen of Cyberpunk.’”

Image: Razorbill

Dark and Shallow Lies by Ginny Myers Sain

In this supernatural thriller, a 17-year-old goes missing in a small Louisiana town known as “the Psychic Capital of the World”—but for some reason, nobody’s come forward with any clues. The girl’s best friend turns detective and discovers dangerous secrets in her midst. (August 31)

Image: Tor Books

The Devil You Know by Kit Rocha

The post-apocalyptic Mercenary Librarians series continues with the author’s latest entry, which sees Maya’s team fighting to save a group of genetically-enhanced children. (August 31)

Image: Wednesday Books

Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche by Nancy Springer

In this first Enola Holmes adventure since the Netflix adaptation, Sherlock and Mycroft’s 15-year-old sister takes on a new case involving a woman who’s convinced her twin is still alive, though her sibling’s very suspicious husband claims otherwise. (August 31)

Image: Subterranean

Everything in All the Wrong Order: The Best of Chaz Brenchley by Chaz Brenchley

This retrospective collects more than 30 stories from the speculative fiction author’s 30-plus year career. (August 31)

Image: Tor Teen

Forestborn by Elayne Audrey Becker

An orphaned shapeshifter is called upon to use her gifts when a magical illness takes hold of her best friend, who happens to be the prince. She’ll have to make a perilous quest into the wilds of her former forest home to find the cure. (August 31)

Image: Tor Books

Fury of a Demon by Brian Naslund

The Dragons of Terra series ends with this tale. War continues to rage, the Witch Queen continues to struggle with her powers, and “exile turned assassin turned hero” Bershad continues to wonder if there’s all that much value in being human. (August 31)

Image: Andrews McMeel Publishing

The House of Untold Stories by Peter Chiykowski

This collection takes place within “an enchanted mansion of pocket universes and miniature tales, where each door leads to a micro-fiction story. With tales about anger thieves, a deadly pizza delivery service, haunted music boxes, and more, each room will take you on an unexpected journey.” (August 31)

Image: Tor.com

In the Watchful City by S. Qiouyi Lu

When an outsider arrives in a city that’s protected by a living network—designed to keep its people safe but also sheltered and controlled—a mysterious visitor turns up with some startling truths about what exists beyond its borders. (August 31)

Image: Soho Press

Malefactor by Robert Repino

The War With No Name series—about an epic battle between animals and humans—ends with this entry, which sees some weary survivors hoping that peace can finally be achieved, while others hold fast to the idea that only one side can win. (August 31)

Image: Gallery / Saga Press

My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

A girl uses her favorite horror movies as a way to escape the real-life horrors that surround her, including an abusive father. But when a killer begins to terrorize her small town, her coping mechanism becomes even more of a survival strategy. (August 31)

Image: Knopf

Revelator by Daryl Gregory

When a woman returns to the isolated mountain town where she grew up, she realizes the “Ghostdaddy”—the god that leads her family’s religion, and with whom she had a personal encounter when she was a child—is as powerful as ever. (August 31)

Image: Dark Horse Books

Triumph of the Wizard King by Chad Corrie

The Wizard King trilogy ends with this volume, which sees the mercenaries who helped the king find success readying for another new conflict. (August 31)

Image: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith

In this historical fantasy, a seamstress in 1911 New York discovers rather suddenly that she’s a powerful witch and is whisked away to witch school—where she must make some quick decisions about her future and decide where her true loyalties lie. (August 31)


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The Suicide Squad Is How You Pull Off a Spectacular Plan B @ io9

Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) stares at an out-of-frame Bloodsport (Idris Elba), who’s threatening to kill her with a penImage: Warner Bros.

As hard as Warner Bros. and James Gunn fought to convince the public that The Suicide Squad wasn’t a proper sequel or reboot of the studio’s previous DC villain-forward film with a nearly identical name, the new movie is both of those things in the most positive sense.

The Suicide Squad—written and directed by Gunn—is undoubtedly its own film with a distinct sense of itself. But it’s also an impressive example of Warner Bros. successfully coming back to a property that’s always been interesting, and putting the right team together to actually turn that property into a compelling feature. While The Suicide Squad’s story is self-contained, it’s not so much so that it feels like it’s meant to exist in a vacuum that erases the existence of Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment’s other live-action films.

Returning characters like Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman), and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) all know one another in the way that on-again/off-again industry colleagues often do, and there are tidbits of the larger world that pop up in small, contextually significant ways. Before The Suicide Squad gets anywhere near close to putting too much energy into reminding you how it’s a very small crossover of sorts, it gets right into the meat of its own multiple, interconnected stories stemming from Waller’s latest covert mission. After a military coup changes the balance of power in Corto Maltese—a fictional South American country also namechecked in 1989's Batman, Smallville, and Arrow—Waller must insure that a Nazi-era secret laboratory there is destroyed. If you’ve watched the film’s trailers, it’s obvious what the monstrous secret lurking in the Thinker’s Corto Maltesean lab is. But the movie handles its multiple guest stars less as surprises and more as a wild celebration of semi-deep cut characters you might not expect to see get this kind of big-screen treatment.

Image: Warner Bros.

Never one to get her own hands dirty, Waller puts together the latest incarnations (plural) of Task Force X, her squad of imprisoned villains whose sentences she promises to lessen if they obey her commands. As always, the “Suicide Squad” missions come with the warning that if any of them wander off the beaten path in Corto Maltese, they’ll be murdered remotely, and the movie makes clear how serious that threat is almost immediately to spectacular results. (The movie is very gore-heavy, squeamish people should know.) A member of the team actually having the bomb in their head detonated is just one of the many core elements of creator John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad stories (including Ayer’s movie) that the film hits during its two-hour and 12-minute runtime. But the movie expertly avoids ever feeling like a presentation of the Suicide Squad’s greatest hits by understanding when to poke fun at itself and the larger franchise and how to actually create space for its characters to become compelling.

Along with the return members, the film’s sizable bevy of new characters immediately works to address one of the core issues of the previous film, which was an odd blend of lower power sets matched up against an outsized opponent. Newcomers like Mongal (Mayling Ng), Black Guard (Pete Davidson), Weasel (Sean Gunn), TDK (Nathan Fillion), Javelin (Flula Borg), King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone, physically portrayed by Steve Agee), Savant (Michael Rooker), Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), Polka Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), Peacemaker (John Cena), and the Thinker (Peter Capaldi) round out the cast as highly expendable characters whose collective presence makes sense for this film.

The Suicide Squad’s ambitions are also every bit as grandiose as its predecessor’s, but where the first film shot for pure otherworldly spectacle almost from the jump, Gunn’s film instead builds to a ridiculous finale by presenting itself as a kind of semi-grounded war movie. However, the countless colorful (literally and figuratively) characters make sure the film and its stakes never feel too heavy. As the Suicide Squad infiltrates Corto Maltese and begins dispatching the locals, the film repeatedly slows down the villains’ present-day violence to offer different kinds of glimpses into their pasts that flesh out their characters. Thankfully, The Suicide Squad knows that no one is interested in yet another superhero montage, and its flashbacks are peppered throughout the film in moments that both make sense and serve to bond the characters together as a team.

Image: Warner Bros.

One of The Suicide Squad’s more impressive feats is using individual characters’ expendability as a way to underline how none among them can really be considered the “leader” of the film despite the titles that are assigned to various people. Everyone’s meant to listen to Flagg, of course, who’s just as committed to protecting his country as ever. Things always go left in the field, though, and because so many of these people are impulsive psychopaths, it doesn’t take much for them to toss plans out the window, and for the movie to spread its focus around to more of the cast. With new characters like Bloodsport—whose similarities to Will Smith’s Deadshot from the last film are so glaring that The Suicide Squad almost has to crack a joke about it—the plot revisits familiar conflicted villain territory that’s meant to make you sympathize with a killer. With some returners (Harley in particular), The Suicide Squad gets a bit more experimental to an impressive effect. With both Harley and Captain Boomerang, the film leads with the idea that you probably know just enough about them that it doesn’t really need to explain things—like why Harley occasionally hallucinates cartoons, or how Captain Boomerang’s boomerang isn’t just a throwing stick.

Gunn’s fondness for all of these characters is evident in the script—no lack of heart or laughs here—even as they’re being killed off. Indeed, its body count is high and the deaths extremely bloody. And while you won’t feel the DCEU looming over the proceedings, the film’s final action sequence leads to a turn of events that might change how Waller puts Task Force X together in the future. It all works to create the sense that this movie’s the beginning of a new era for the Suicide Squad as a franchise.

This isn’t the first time that DC’s ended up dropping a surprisingly solid movie that could have ended up being a dud. Hopefully, the studio brings this sort of “Hey, let’s try to do this differently” energy to more of its comic adaptations in the future. The Suicide Squad will hit theaters and HBO Max (for no additional charge) on August 6.


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Scarlett Johansson sues Disney over Black Widow’s hybrid Disney+, theatrical release @ Syfy Wire

Marvel movie icon and Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson has filed a lawsuit against Disney for premiering her juggernaut superhero movie on streaming platform Disney+ as well as in theaters, accusing the company of breaching her contract in making the film by allowing it a simultaneous debut on a home streaming platform.

In a statement to SYFY WIRE, The Walt Disney Company pushed back, objecting strongly to Johansson’s lawsuit accusations.

“There is no merit whatsoever to this filing,” a Disney spokesperson said. “The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Disney has fully complied with Ms. Johansson’s contract and furthermore, the release of Black Widow on Disney+ with Premier Access has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date.”

A copy of the lawsuit has been uploaded for online viewing at Deadline. Listing two separate complaints, the suit accuses The Walt Disney Company of “intentionally interfering with contractual relations” by inducing Marvel “to breach its agreement with Plaintiff [Johansson] by releasing the film on Disney+ simultaneously with its release in theatres.”

It also alleges “breach of contract” on the part of Disney, for “releasing the film on Disney+ simultaneously with its release in theatres, in violation of the Agreement which required a ‘theatrical release of the Picture’ as the parties understood that term at the time of contracting, meaning an exclusive theatrical release of the Picture.”

Representing Johansson, attorneys for Periwinkle Entertainment, Inc. argue that Johansson’s contract with Marvel had stipulated that her earnings from Black Widow “would be based largely on ‘box office’ receipts,” rather than on the revenues Disney earns through the movie’s $30 premium pricing at Disney+.

“To maximize these receipts, and thereby protect her financial interests, Ms. Johansson extracted a promise from Marvel that the release of the Picture would be a ‘theatrical release,’” the suit states. ”As Ms.Johansson, Disney, Marvel, and most everyone else in Hollywood knows, a ‘theatrical release’ is a release that is exclusive to movie theatres. Disney was well aware of this promise, but nonetheless directed Marvel to violate its pledge and instead release the Picture on the Disney+ streaming service the very same day it was released in movie theatres.”

 

Actors and directors attached to other major films have publicly objected to the recent move toward sharing their productions’ theatrical debuts with affiliated home streaming services. But Johansson’s lawsuit marks the first legal action taken by an actor.

Denis Villeneuve, director of the upcoming Dune film adaptation, published an open letter late last year at Variety, criticizing Warner Bros. for allowing his film a split release at HBO Max. “Warner Bros.’ decision means Dune won’t have the chance to perform financially in order to be viable and piracy will ultimately triumph,” he wrote. And Wonder Woman 1984 director Patty Jenkins, along with star Gal Gadot, each was compensated $10 million, via CNBC, in the wake of the studio’s decision to stream their film at HBO Max on the same day it released to theaters.

Delayed three times due to COVID-19 concerns from its original May 2020 release target, Black Widow was among the earliest blockbuster films to greet post-pandemic guests when it finally arrived on July 9, releasing at once both in theaters and to Disney+ subscribers as a premium streaming purchase. The movie has since amassed more than $150 million at the global box office. CNBC reports that it also earned an additional $60 million during its debut window at Disney+, though the company has not shared overall revenue figures for the movie’s home streaming run.

Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

Commissioner Gordon returns: J.K. Simmons to reprise Justice League role for HBO Max's Batgirl film @ Syfy Wire

The Batgirl movie just got its Commissioner Gordon, and he's a familiar face. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons is in talks to return to the role of Jim Gordon, which he previously played in Justice League and reprised in extra material for Zack Snyder's Justice League, for the upcoming HBO Max film.

If continuity holds, this would make Simmons the father of the new big-screen Batgirl, played by In The Heights star Leslie Grace. It would also tie the film to the same universe where Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Aquaman and Justice League took place.

Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (Bad Boys for Life) are directing the film from a script by DC mainstay Christina Hodson, whose other recent credits include Bumblebee, Birds of Prey, and the upcoming Flash film, which also features the return of Ben Affleck as the DCEU version of Bruce Wayne. Batgirl's plot details are still a secret, but the film is expected to hit Warner Bros.' HBO Max streaming service sometime next year.

A Batgirl film has been slowly taking shape for the last four years, after initially surfacing as a proposed project for Joss Whedon in the wake of his contributions to the theatrical cut of Justice League. Whedon eventually backed away from the project, and it bounced around for a while before Hodson began working on a new script, and El Arbi and Fallah signed on to direct after Bad Boys for Life's successful box office run in early 2020. Grace, who was one of the standouts of In The Heights upon its own theatrical/HBO Max dual release earlier this year, was announced as the lead a little more than a week ago.

Now, with Simmons in line to return as Gordon, the film is starting to take an even more intriguing shape. The DC Comics film slate has largely stuck to a standalone approach in the years following Justice League, with movies ostensibly set in the same universe that nevertheless seemed to rarely reference each other, apart from occasional callbacks to Harley Quinn's time in Suicide Squad, for example.

That seems set to change in the coming years, particularly with The Flash's efforts to unite various DC Comics film characters under the umbrella of one multiverse. Affleck, who seemed done with playing Bruce Wayne after backing out of his own Batman solo movie, surprised fans when he signed on to appear in that film, alongside 1989 big-screen Batman Michael Keaton reprising his own Bruce Wayne role for the first time in three decades. Now, the stage seems set for another reunion in Gotham City... if Affleck is willing to make yet another cameo, of course.

Of course, the DC multiverse remains squarely in play: Yet another version of Batman, played by Robert Pattinson, is set to hit theaters next year in The Batman, featuring a different Jim Gordon played by Westworld star Jeffrey Wright.

Batgirl does not yet have a firm release date, but is expected to arrive on HBO Max sometime next year.

Black Widow's Scarlett Johansson Is Suing Disney Over the Film's Streaming Release [Updated] @ io9

Natasha’s next fight probably can’t be solved by a few Widow’s bites.Image: Marvel Studios

Scarlett Johansson has spent nearly a decade in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the Black Widow, culminating in her long-awaited solo movie that was finally released earlier this month after multiple covid-19-induced delays. Now, the actor has announced she’s suing the Walt Disney Company—for a breach of contract related to the movie’s day-and-date debut on Disney+.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, Johansson’s lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles’ Superior Court today, alleges that Disney refused to re-negotiate part of her contract with Marvel Studios to accommodate the fact that Black Widow, due to theatrical restrictions brought about by covid-19, debuted simultaneously in theaters and as part of the streamer’s Disney+ “Premiere Access” program on July 9. According to the suit, this breached an agreement she had with Marvel that Black Widow would have an exclusive theatrical debut.

Johansson’s contract for the film also tied her salary into the film’s box office performance, a common stipulation for talent in major blockbusters beyond their usual payment. Because of Black Widow’s simultaneous streaming debut, the film’s box office performance was heavily blunted, leading to a week-on-week drop from its $80 million domestic theatrical box office debut to just $26.3 million in the film’s second week—which also lead to theater owner associations blasting Disney. A source familiar with the contract speaking to WSJ claimed Johansson stands to lose roughly $50 million from the move, while Disney itself touted that Black Widow made around $60 million in initial streams, from the $30 buy-in required for Disney+’s “Premiere Access” titles, which have previously included Raya and the Last Dragon, Cruella, and Mulan.

Compounding the issues Johansson has with Disney’s conduct is that her suit further alleges that the company wouldn’t re-negotiate her deal after the studio finally decided to move Black Widow to a simultaneous theatrical and streaming release—a decision made after months of stalling in March this year. While other studios who moved to streaming to account for the pandemic re-negotiated deals with talent to account for the changes—Warner Bros. shockingly and, to some creatives controversially, moved their entire 2021 slate to full or simultaneous debuts on HBO Max—Johansson’s suit claims that Disney and Marvel were unresponsive to requests by her representatives to alter her agreements.

Furthermore, the suit notes that Johansson’s representatives had had prior concerns about the film heading to Disney+ as far back as 2019, quoting an email from Marvel Chief Counsel Dave Galluzzi included in the suit that says Marvel “understand that should the plan change, we would need to discuss this with [Johansson] and come to an understanding as the deal is based on a series of (very large) box office bonuses.”

Speaking to WSJ, John Berlinski, an attorney at Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP who represents Johansson said, “This will surely not be the last case where Hollywood talent stands up to Disney and makes it clear that, whatever the company may pretend, it has a legal obligation to honor its contracts.” io9 has reached out to Disney for comment on the lawsuit and will update this post if and when we hear more.

Update 7/29/2021 5:30 p.m. EST—In a statement provided by a Walt Disney spokesperson, Disney has responded to Johansson’s suit to say that it has “no merit whatsoever” and that its allegations are “sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Disney has fully complied with Ms. Johansson’s contract,” the statement continues, “and furthermore, the release of Black Widow on Disney+ with Premier Access has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date.”


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Batgirl's Bat-Signal to Be Lit By J.K. Simmons' Commissioner Gordon @ io9

Commissioner Gordon is back for Batgirl.Photo: Warner Bros.

When J.K. Simmons plays an authoritative figure in a superhero movie, he doesn’t let anything take that role away. He’s not just J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films, he reprised the role in the Marvel Studios Spider-Man films. He’s Commissioner Gordon in Zack Snyder’s Justice League and now, he’ll return to the role for HBO Max’s Batgirl. Give the guy a suit and a tie in a superhero movie and he’s likely to keep the role forever.

Directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (Bad Boys For Life), Batgirl will star In the HeightsLeslie Grace as the titular character, from a script by The Flash, Birds of Prey and Bumblebee writer, Christina Hodson. It’s one of several DC projects that will skip theaters and be created exclusively for HBO Max.

The Hollywood Reporter broke the news of Simmons’ likely casting, saying he’s “in negotiations to reprise the role.” That just means a few details need to be finalized before it’s ready to go. On a larger scale, the casting does make you wonder if Batgirl is going to exist in the DC Universe that Zack Snyder created, or if Gordon will be sort of like Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) or Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), who reprised previous roles in a new film that doesn’t quite fit into continuity. In their case, James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, which is out next week.

Simmons, who won an Oscar for his performance in 2014's Whiplash, is one of those actors that no matter what the canon, you just like to see him. He’s not only fantastic at bringing a character to life, he’s got a certain grounded, relatable presence that makes everything he touches that much more powerful. He simply becomes his characters. Which is why he reprised his Spider-Man role in two different universes and will do the same in, we think, two different Bat-Universes as well.

No release date is set for Batgirl but it’s reportedly eyeing a 2022 release.


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Marvel's 'Hawkeye' series takes aim at November premiere on Disney+, first pic reveals Kate Bishop @ Syfy Wire

Clint Barton's MCU return is only a few months away. Marvel Studios confirmed Thursday that its Hawkeye series on Disney+ will hit the mark on Wednesday, Nov. 24. The show is expected to be the next new live action MCU series, following up the animated What If...? series that debuts August 11.

Fans in the U.S. won't have much of an excuse not to check out the first episode since it drops the day before the Thanksgiving holiday. Marvel celebrated the announcement with the release of the first-ever teaser image, which shows a tense-looking meeting between Barton (Jeremy Renner) and his talented young protégée, Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld).

Check it out:

Credit: The Walt Disney Srudios

"[Kate is] a 22-year-old kid and she's a big Hawkeye fan," Renner explained to Entertainment Weekly, which first debuted the image. "She has a wonderfully annoying and equally charming manner about her, because she's such a fangirl of Hawkeye. The relationship grows from that, but the biggest problem for Clint is Kate Bishop and the onslaught of problems that she brings into his life."

Thanks to Black Widow's post-credits scene, we know that Clint is wanted by Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) for the alleged murder of Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers: Endgame. This isn't great news for the arrow-happy Avenger because he's now being tracked down by one of the deadliest assassins on the planet: Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh).

Pugh is just one piece of the supporting puzzle that also features Vera Farmiga (Kate's Mother, Eleanor Bishop), Tony Dalton (Jack Duquesne), Alaqua Cox (Maya Lopez/Echo), and Zahn McClarnon (Maya's father, William Lopez).

Filming for Hawkeye kicked off in New York last December before wrapping up this past April. Mad Men and Bridgerton vet Jonathan Igla serves as head writer and executive producer.

Along with Hawkeye, Disney is also in production on several more live action MCU shows, including Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight and She-Hulk. Additional projects like Ironheart, Secret Invasion and Armor Wars are further down the calendar.

All aboard! 'Snowpiercer' will leave the station for fourth season at TNT @ Syfy Wire

TNT's Snowpiercer won't be slowing down on the tracks anytime soon. The dystopian series has officially scored an early fourth season renewal ahead of Season 3, which recently wrapped production. The news also comes just four months after Season 2 aired its final episode.

Snowpiercer has been an incredibly successful series for us that continues to capture the imagination of viewers, grow audience and maintain strong ratings,” Sam Linsky and Adrienne O’Riain — co-heads of scripted original programming for TBS, TNT, and truTV — said in a joint statement. “All of our seasons embark on an emotional, unexpected ride and the well-plotted storylines will continue to evolve and remain relevant to audiences. We’re excited to keep the train running into Season 4."

TNT

Based on the Bong Joon-ho film of the same name (as well as the French comic that inspired the movie), Snowpiercer takes place aboard a futuristic locomotive that continuously encircles a frozen Earth. Over the years, the train's occupants have been divided up into an unfair class system — the wealthy up front and the destitute in the back.

Those lines begin to blur and a rebellion starts to foment in the first season when the world's only surviving homicide detective, Andre Layton (Hamilton's Daveed Diggs), joins up with the train's head of hospitality, Melanie Cavill (Labyrinth's Jennifer Connelly) to solve a killing.

“Layton’s idea of Snowpiercer is that it is a fortress to class,” Diggs told SYFY WIRE last May. “He is fundamentally opposed to that, and is using this opportunity to try to figure out a way to make things better for his people in the tail and dismantle this class system.”

Sean Bean joined the cast of Season 2 as Snowpiercer's eccentric inventor, Mr. Wilford. The sophomore outing ended just as Layton took control of a "pirate train" of 10 cars with the help of Ruth (Alison Wright), Javier (Roberto Urbina). and Alexandra (Rowan Blanchard).

TNT

Season 3 finds "Layton and his inner circle commanding a small pirate train in search of Melanie and a possible warm location to restart civilization, aided by a newfound survivor," reads the synopsis provided by TNT. Back on Snowpiercer, Mr. Wilford is consolidating power, foiled only by secret allies of Layton’s hidden on the train, committed to the cause."

Archie Panjabi and Chelsea Harris join the new season as brand-new characters, while Mike O’Malley (Sam Roche) is bumped up to a series regular. Rowan Blanchard,  Alison Wright , Mickey Sumner,  Iddo Goldberg,  Katie McGuinness,  Lena Hall, Annalise Basso,  Sam Otto , Roberto Urbina , Sheila Vand, and Steven Ogg round out the rest of the ensemble.

Snowpiercer is executive produced by Graeme Manson, Aubrey Nealon, Christoph Schrewe, Marty Adelstein and Becky Clements, Matthew O’Connor,  Ben Rosenblatt, and Scott Derrickson. The movie version's producers are also on board: Joon-ho, Miky Lee, Jinnie Choi, Park Chan-wook, Lee Tae-hun, and  Dooho Choi.

Vivo's First Trailer Is About the Power of Music (and Adorable Honey Bears) @ io9

The show must go on for this little Kinkajou.Screenshot: Netflix

We’ve known for years that the idea behind Vivo—and its Lin-Manuel Miranda-created original soundtrack—laid dormant until Sony Pictures quietly picked up the project five years ago. Now, we’ve finally got a glimpse of it, and perhaps a cute Kinkajou was worth the wait.

Netflix has just released the first trailer for Vivo, directed by Kirk DeMicco and Brandon Jeffords, based on a script by DeMicco and In the Heights’ Quiara Alegría Hudes, and featuring a long-in-limbo original soundtrack by the ever-busy Lin-Manuel Miranda. The film follows the titular young Kinkajou Vivo—a tropical rainforest mammal also known as a honey bear, native to Central and South America—voiced by Miranda himself, when he befriends an elderly musician in Havana named Andrés (Juan de Marcos). After Vivo learns from Andrés about a wish to declare his love to his former singing partner Marta Sandoval (Gloria Estafan), Vivo goes on a quest to take him from Cuba all the way to Florida and deliver Andrés’ love song to Marta’s farewell concert—with a little help from an unruly young girl named Gabi (Ynairaly Simo) along the way.

Vivo’s had a strange path to its eventual release. Dreamworks animation originally hired Miranda to soundtrack the movie back in 2010, but for myriad reasons—including in part, Miranda’s ride into the musical stratosphere with the success of Hamilton, leading to the man seemingly never stopping for a second to breathe ever since—the project lay dormant for years, until Sony Pictures picked up the film in 2016 for a projected 2020 release. Last year was, well, last year, so Vivo got pushed more. Now, as part of a wider relationship Sony has had with the streamer recently—smash hit Mitchells vs the Machines, for example, was originally a Sony theatrical release before it debuted as one of Netflix’s most successful animated movies earlier this year—the movie will debut on the streamer early next month.

Vivo, also starring Zoe Saldaña, Brian Tyree Henry, Michael Rooker, and Nicole Byer, will hit Netflix on August 6.


Writer of graphic novel that inspired M. Night Shyamalan's 'Old' has two sequel ideas @ Syfy Wire

Never underestimate the power of French comic books. In less than a decade, two graphic novels published in France — Le Transperceneige and Sandcastle — have given us a pair of incredibly unique genre films: Bong Joon-Ho's Snowpiercer and M. Night Shyamalan's Old. Snowpiercer received a follow-up series on TNT and Old could possibly get the same treatment if there's enough demand for it.

Speaking with SYFY WIRE, Sandcastle writer Pierre Oscar Lévy reveals that he has at least two sequel ideas that would return readers to the time-dilated beach. "I have had a sequel written for a while that takes place 40 years after Sandcastle and a third installment that takes place even further after that," he teases.

Unlike its big-screen adaptation, Sandcastle (illustrated by Frederick Peeters) ends on a more ambiguous note, though Lévy does promise that there is an explanation.

"Everything that happens as an event in Sandcastle has a precise explanation," he says. "If you look at the comic, certain [clues] are there. If I were to ever publish the sequel, upon a re-read, all will become clear. Fred was really happy to give no explanation and he changed two details — if I recall correctly — so the clues were less clear. But other than that, he respected the script to the letter. His desire to not be explicit goes well with his personal taste for mysterious and fantastic stories ... I have an absolute need to understand the world, what is happening, why."

Inspired by a real-life beach Lévy and his parents would visit in Asturias, Spain every year, Sandcastle originally started out as a screenplay "that I wanted to film myself in the '80s," the writer admits. "Which [goes to show] how long, torturous, and romantic its history is — and how happy I am that Fred illustrated it and that M. Night Shyamalan adapted it."

On the subject of Peeters' artwork, he adds: "He told me at the time that he wanted to work on the question of how characters age, and that my story was perfect for that. It was a brand-new challenge for him in the development of his art. He did what he wanted. So well, in fact, that even today, I have the feeling that in writing it, I saw exactly the same things that he drew."

Credit: Self Made Hero

Lévy, who is also a documentarian with a passion for topics relating to climate change and environmental conservation, describes the graphic novel as a "Trojan Horse" concealing a dire warning that it's not too late to come together and save our home.

"That it is urgent to act in order to respect our Mother Earth," he explains. The concept of rapid aging and death is meant to reflect the "present acceleration of biodiversity’s destruction" that stems from our greedy mistreatment of the planet and its natural resources. 

"Sandcastle was written to shock and to elicit questions from the reader," he says. "For them to enjoy reading an out-of-the-ordinary story. It is about understanding that we are primates who live on this earth for such a short time and that we are an invasive, destructive, parasitic, reckless species."

Lévy has yet to check out the finished movie and while he notes that "the trailer already shows several added elements" that do not appear in the graphic novel, he is very much excited about the prospect of another creator putting their own unique twist on his ecological parable.

"I feel as though when I direct a film and I have finished it, it no longer belongs to me — for the audience member projects more onto the film. More than I had put in it," he concludes. "I am certain that M. Night Shyamalan, with whom I only spoke pleasantly with on the phone, saw in our work something else that we hadn’t put in, and it seems legitimate to me to give him complete freedom to do what this story — which is a metaphor — inspired him to create."

Old is now playing in theaters everywhere. Since debuting on the big screen last Friday, the movie has made a little over $25 million at the global box office. A special hardcover English edition of Sandcastle is currently available to purchase from Abrams Books. Head to the gallery below to check out five interior pages...

(Universal Pictures & SYFY WIRE are both owned by NBCUniversal)

Important Toy News: Ghostbusters, Star Wars, Dolls, Games, and MOTU take over the week @ Syfy Wire

Welcome back to Important Toy News, the SYFY WIRE column that shows you all the best and coolest happenings in the world of amazing toys and collectibles for the week.

Get ready, my fellow lovers of toys, because we are heading right back into that toy box for another week of newly announced toys and collectibles that are heading your way soon. Join me, your resident if not favorite toy journalist, while we collect all the righteously cool things we love, now in toy form.

Our assortment of toys, games, and collectibles for the week might seem like wild random pickings selected out of the sky — and to the untrained eye, one might wonder what they have in common. But to me, the answer is simple — it’s the art of play. There is something about all of these items in today’s column that harken back to those long, slow summer days where you wake up with the sun and spend the entire day eating popsicles, running through the sprinklers, and jumping from one game and toy to the next. Therefore, my toy collecting friends, we will kick off with some cut and dry toy news that is sure to give you THE POWER!

Credit: QMX

MASTOYS OF THE UNIVERSE

Quantum Mechanix (QMx) is one of my favorite manufacturers in the collectibles game. And just this week, the Q-Fig Diorama creator announced that they have successfully entered into an agreement with Mattel to bring fans new collectibles from Masters of the Universe. While QMx does have plush in its stock, the company will indeed kick off with Q-Fig Diorama statues for fans to enjoy. I’m personally hoping we see both their standard edition versions and premium dioramas like the amazing Avatar Aang one that was released not too long ago. But I think my mega-supreme MOTU wish list from QMx would be one statue with the Snake Mountain crew, and another with the Grayskull crew. That would indeed be a most advantageous journey.

Credit: Hasbro

GHOSTBUSTOYS

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do during the summer was going to the movies endlessly. And when that new Ghostbusters: Afterlife movie trailer dropped this week, my heart grew three thousand sizes, filled with magic, and reminded me to believe in ghosts again. Perhaps Casper can get the 2021 treatment, too! Enter Hasbro with a phenomenal reveal at the exact same time the new movie trailer dropped — talk about a choreographed dance! Upcoming Ghostbusters products include a Mini-Puft Popper (which shoots out foam “marshmallows,” Nerf-style), a new edition of Clue (one of my favorite board games of all time), a new version of the Ghost Trap, a wave of Fight Feature Figures, which are 4-inch cartoony versions of the human characters that come paired with a ghost friend, and lastly — a new wave of Plasma Series figures. Ghostbusters Plasma Series is the Marvel Legends/G.I. Joe Classified/Star Wars Black Series/Power Rangers Lightning Collection flavor of collectible action figures from Hasbro. But what is especially fun here is that these figures have the new human characters from Afterlife in Ghostbusting gear, as well as older versions of our original Busters (Peter, Ray, and Winston) all back in their suits. Does this new Finn Wolfhard in a Ghostbusters suit conjure memories of his Halloween costume in Stranger Things? Indeed — it absolutely does. These new toys will be available this Fall everywhere toys and collectibles are sold.

Credit: Jada Toys

ECO-FRIENDTOY

Staying on the topic of things you can play with mixed with companies I admire, let’s give some love to Jada Toys and see what they are up to. While the company was once most famous for its Hollywood Rides and small Diecast cars and Nano Figs, Jada has shown that they’re no one-trick pony. First, they announced the return of its action figure line with the acquisition of the Universal Monsters line. And now, Jada Toys is entering the doll market with B-Kind, a new line of eco-friendly dolls. The gimmick with these new dolls (which I just think are so adorable) is to promote children to be creative, kind, and compassionate. According to an official press release from Jada Toys, “the line features five, 12.25-inch dolls — Brianna, Koral, Ivy, Nora, and Daisy — all of which are eco-friendly, from the recycled materials with which they are made, to the eco-fashions they wear, to the reusable packaging created from ink made from soybeans.” I think the names being right on the nose (to spell out B-Kind) is smirk-worthy, but there’s something delightfully '90s about it. It reminds me of something that would be in a Sleepover Friends book or one of those similar serialized kids' books from my childhood. PUNS! The B-Kind dolls will make their debut online and on shelves exclusively at Walmart.

Credit: Iron Studios

THE MANDTOYLORIAN

Iron Studios (the Brazilian company that makes awesome pop culture art statues) is showing off another statue reveal and honestly, it might be my absolute favorite one of theirs so far. Just like many of you, I excitedly watched The Mandalorian with complete devotion. While I enjoyed both seasons very much, I personally feel that season one was some of the best television I’ve ever seen in my life. For me, it was largely due to IG-11, the killer droid-turned-nanny-droid that stole every scene he was in. One of the most memorable parts of his story (save for the lava sacrifice which legitimately made me cry) was when he rescued The Child on his speeder bike while shooting down stormtroopers. Iron Studios has captured that moment in statue form and the teaser images are just so incredibly beautiful. This statue is hand-painted, stands nearly 8 inches high by 16 inches wide, and costs $319.99. It will be available in Q2 of 2022. Keep your eyes on IronStudios.com for preordering information, because you seriously don’t want to miss this one.

Credit: Ravensburger 

JUNGAME CRUISE

We’re nearing the end, my toy-loving friends, and we are wrapping this issue of Important Toy News with some love for games! Disney’s Jungle Cruise movie is hitting theaters this week and fans can relive the fun with Disney’s Jungle Cruise Adventure board game from Ravensburger. It costs $29.99 and is available for purchase from Amazon. “You’ve been hired to transport a boatload of cargo and passengers down the river to Jungle Navigation Company Headquarters," the game's official description promises. "There, company president Alberta Falls will appoint one family of passengers as temporary caretakers — and your new bosses — while she goes on a much-needed sabbatical. Be prepared to lose passengers and cargo to dangers hidden in the jungle, but don’t worry — you’ll find more along the way! Find clues along the river to see which family Alberta has chosen. Transport the most valuable boatload of cargo and passengers to Headquarters to win!” That’s a premise as deep as a film, and I’ll tell you that no game made by Ravensburger disappoints!

Credit: Hunt a Killer

NANCY DREW MYSTERY AT MAGNOLIA GAME

Remember earlier in the column when we were talking about serialized books from childhood? Move over Baby-Sitters Club, because Nancy Drew is back on the scene with Hunt a Killer’s Nancy Drew Mystery at Magnolia Gardens game. Is that one classy premise or what? You can purchase this one from Amazon as well for $29.99. In this game, Nancy Drew needs your help. Via Hunt a Killer’s press release, “When Nancy Drew begins to investigate a potential poisoning at the botanical garden known as Magnolia Gardens, she soon becomes poisoned herself. In the small window before her symptoms take hold, Nancy manages to collect all of the evidence the player will need, and to interview the potential suspects. Someone at Magnolia Gardens is using the facility’s dangerous plants for nefarious purposes, and Nancy needs your help to find out who before the culprit strikes again. To unearth the culprit, the player must figure out which suspect had the means, motive, and opportunity to commit the crime”. If this isn’t a kiss to cozy mysteries turn board games, I don’t know what is!

Credit: Mattel

UNOBEY

And the last game on our list is nothing new, but the most popular card game is getting an artsy facelift with UNO Artiste Series. UNO’s latest deck was created in collaboration with contemporary artist, activist, and illustrator Shepard Fairey who is known for the iconic images of Andre the Giant's face with the word "OBEY" underneath and the Barack Obama "Hope" poster. According to Mattel, the company will be making a donation on behalf of Fairey to the Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the oceans through federal and state legislation. The UNO Artiste Series: Shepard Fairey deck is available at creations.mattel.com for SRP $20.00.

The Green Knight is the next great fantasy masterpiece @ Syfy Wire

Near the end of The Green Knight, David Lowery's ambitious, immersive new fantasy film based on the chivalric romance Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, the embattled Gawain (Dev Patel) is sharing his experiences thus far with another character. I won't name that character here, nor will I expound on the circumstances of their meeting, for fear of spoiling too much of Lowery's dark, sensuous journey. What I will do, though, is recount a line spoken in this scene that, for me, encapsulated the film's core appeal at this point in my moviegoing life.

"This world is fit for all manner of mysteries."

Like the legendary anonymous poem that inspired it, The Green Knight is full of memorable lines like this, spoken by Gawain, by his uncle King Arthur, by a half dozen other core characters, and for you, it might be another of those lines that carries the most meaning. Or it might be none of them, as your brain may instead carry a singular image or a series of images out of the theater instead as the greatest token gleaned from this chivalric game.

That is, at least for me, the point.

The tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is roughly 600 years old, and yet somehow Lowery's film — dense with visual meaning and crackling with Patel's boundless, soulful energy — arrives not a moment too soon in the modern fantasy landscape, proving the timelessness of his source material yet again. At a time when genre storytelling has reached new heights of continuity-laden detail, and we're surrounded by fictional worlds that thrive on constant over-explanation, The Green Knight is brave enough to lay all manner of mysteries at our feet and simply ask us to reckon with them. For this reason, and many, many others, it is the next great film in the modern fantasy canon, one we should be talking about for decades to come.

While the film keeps the framework of the classic poem and the yearlong game that transpires between its title characters, much of its strength is derived from the ways in which Lowery, Patel, and their cast and crewmates reinterpret and enrich the source material. Lowery not only plays up Gawain's youthful carelessness, but contrasts it with the trappings of an aging Camelot, punctuated by Knights of the Round Table with long gray beards and an Arthur (Sean Harris) who can barely lift his legendary sword. Through the women surrounding Gawain, among them Guinevere (Kate Dickie) and Morgan Le Fay (Sarita Choudhury), the film strikes an intriguing balance between Christian and Pagan, magic and prayer, asking us to consider which might be stronger while also wondering if they might be one and the same. And, most notably, the poem's brief allusions to Gawain's many struggles on the long road to the knight's Green Chapel are greatly expanded, laying down a path upon which the young would-be knight could find anything from ghosts to bandits to giants stalking the valleys.

The less said about the details of these expansions, the better, but it's here that the film really earns its place among the great 21st-century fantasy movies. As Gawain moves through a landscape that feels equal parts enchanted and cursed, he's forced to reckon all over again with the driving force of his quest, what he really wants from it, what he really hopes the end result will be. It becomes a fixation not just of the character, but of the camera, the script, and the audience. Gawain's obsession becomes ours, and yet even as we watch him, even as we root for him, we're left to wonder if any of it is what we really want, if it's really worth it. It's a fascination that Lowery himself described in a foreword to a new edition of the poem, published in conjunction with the film, saying the stakes of the game were "as bewildering to me as they were beguiling."

"That Sir Gawain would willingly hold himself to the terms set by this mystical knight, that he might spend an entire year waiting to embark upon an adventure that could only end in death, implied an entirely different standard by which to measure a quest (and, indeed, a life) than a traditional hero's journey might prescribe," Lowery writes.

Of all the things Lowery preserves, highlights, and heightens over the course of his adaptation, it's this combination of bewildering and beguiling stakes — "all manner of mysteries," you might say — that stands out the most. Characters wonder aloud not just what purposes Gawain hopes to serve by undertaking his quest, but also what exactly the Green Knight himself (Ralph Ineson) is and represents. Is he growth, nature, the renewal of life after a long winter? Or is he death, rot, the ability of the natural world to swallow up all our achievements in the end, no matter how great our deeds?

There are, along the way, answers to these questions and more, particularly as Gawain himself must reckon with that final encounter with the title menace. It's not The Green Knight's preservation of every single mystery that makes it a masterpiece, but the mysteries it elects to carry along the way. It's easy to imagine a version of this movie in which a screenwriter deemed Gawain the ultimate savior of Camelot, who must take the great sword Excalibur into the woods, fighting the forces of evil along the way, in order to face a great showdown with the Big Bad in the grand finale. It's also easy to imagine an expanded universe that tells us not just why Gawain is the one who must do this, but what each of the other knights thinks about it, what they do while he's gone, and how it all fits into the larger picture of Arthurian continuity. After all, it wasn't too many years ago that a King Arthur Shared Universe was an actual Hollywood prospect, so why not try that? Why not make the most famous throne in literature into the next Game of Thrones?

The Green Knight isn't interested in these things, this tenuous connective tissue that often adds meaning to stories but just as often only adds the illusion of it. This film doesn't need you to know what Arthur was doing right before the story started or what he'll do after it. It doesn't even necessarily need you to know that it's Arthur. Nor does it need to tell you where each of the strange encounters Gawain meets along his way or originated, or why they came to be in those places, or what they really want. Instead, it trusts the dreamy, fairy tale logic of chivalric romance to point itself in the right emotional direction, and leaves the rest in the capable hands of its captivating star. In a time when fantasy stories often take a "the bigger, the better" approach, this is a film bold enough to step out into the dark on its own, and sound a life-affirming bellow across the countryside without explanation or justification. 

Because the world is fit for all manner of mysteries, and sometimes the best fantasy stories are the ones that simply remind us how true that is.[blastr_related:{"auto":"1"}]

The Green Knight opens in theaters on Friday.

Marvel's Hawkeye Aims Kate Bishop at Disney+'s November Schedule @ io9

Hailee Steinfeld, Jeremy Renner, and a bunch of archery stuff in Hawkeye.Photo: Entertainment Weekly/Marvel Studios

The night before Thanksgiving usually means getting together with friends and preparing for the feast to come. This year though, it means Hawkeye. Marvel Studios just revealed that its fourth live-action series will debut on November 24, with new episodes coming each Wednesday after that. If the series is six episodes (like the previous two were) that would give us Hawkeye right into the new year.

Along with the news, which was first reported by Entertainment Weekly, came the first official image from the show, which you can see above. It’s Hawkeye himself (Jeremy Renner) and Kate Bishop, played by Pitch Perfect’s Hailee Steinfeld, along with a bunch of archery equipment. “[Kate is] a 22-year-old kid and she’s a big Hawkeye fan,” Renner told EW. “She has a wonderfully annoying and equally charming manner about her, because she’s such a fangirl of Hawkeye. The relationship grows from that, but the biggest problem for Clint is Kate Bishop and the onslaught of problems that she brings into his life.”

This is a nice start to the series but it leaves a bunch of unanswered questions. Like, where is Clint’s family? Are they in this? How did they cope with being snapped? And how is Clint doing now that his family is back considering he spent five years as a murderous, vengeance crazed assassin? Oh, and what about that other assassin who is apparently going to be coming after him, Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh, who was sent after Clint in the end credits of Black Widow)? So many questions, not many answers, but seeing Clint with a potential protégé sounds like a great way for fans to see his softer side, which we know is there, but only see in small doses.

Also, with the November 24 release date, any rumor that Ms. Marvel would be coming to Disney+ in 2021 is probably kaput. A six-week Hawkeye run would hypothetically put its finale on December 29. With an Assembled the week after that, the earliest Ms. Marvel could debut is January 12.


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Step Inside the Wondrous World That's Inspiring Hayao Miyazaki's Final Film @ io9

A crop of the purrfectly splendid How Do You Live? cover.Image: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

Genzaburō Yoshino’s How Do You Live? has become a classic in Japan since it was first published over 80 years ago, but until now it’s never seen an English translation. Though it’s a little outside the realm of io9's usual sci-fi and fantasy fare, we’re thrilled to be revealing the cover and sharing an excerpt today for one big reason: How Do You Live? will be the basis for Hayao Miyazaki’s final film, capping his career by paying tribute to what was his favorite book as a child.

The new edition, which is translated by Bruno Navasky and features a foreword by Neil Gaiman, comes out this October. Here’s a brief synopsis for some context: “How Do You Live? begins with fifteen-year-old Copper, who has recently suffered the loss of his father, gazing out over his hometown of Tokyo, watching the thousands of people below, and beginning to ponder life’s big questions. How many people are in the world? What do their lives look like? Are humans really made of molecules? The book moves between Copper’s story and his dear uncle’s journal entries, in which he gives advice and helps Copper learn pivotal truths about the way the world works. Over the course of a year in his life, Copper, like his namesake Copernicus, embarks on a journey of philosophical enlightenment, and uses his discoveries about the heavens, earth and human nature to determine the best way to live. Yoshino perfectly captures the beauty and strangeness of pre-war Japan—the changing of the seasons, the fried tofu and taiyaki stands, and the lush landscapes, as Copper explores the city on his bike and learns from friends and family what really matters most in life.” And here is the lovely new cover, with art by Yuta Onoda.

Image: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

Gaiman, who worked on the English-language script for Princess Mononoke, writes in his intro: “Miyazaki makes films for whole people and makes films about consequences ... In How Do You Live?, Copper, our hero, and his uncle are our guides in science, in ethics, in thinking. And on the way, they take us through a school story set in Japan in 1937, to the heart of the questions we need to ask ourselves about the way we live our lives. We will experience betrayal and learn about how to make tofu. We will examine fear, and how we cannot always live up to who we think we are, and we learn about shame, and how to deal with it. We will learn about gravity and about cities, and most of all, we will learn to think about things—to, as the writer Theodore Sturgeon put it, ask the next question.”


Chapter One

A Strange Experience

It happened one October afternoon last year, when Copper was still a first-year student. He was with his uncle, the two of them standing on the roof of a department store in the Ginza district of Tokyo.

A fine mist fell quietly and ceaselessly from the ashen sky, so that it was hard to tell if it was raining or not, and before they knew it, small silver droplets had fastened everywhere on Copper’s jacket and his uncle’s raincoat, and they looked as if they had been covered with frost. Copper was silent, gazing down at the Ginza Boulevard immediately below.

From seven stories up, the Ginza was a narrow channel. At the bottom, cars streamed past in great numbers, one after another. From Nihonbashi on the right side, flowing beneath him to Shinbashi on the left, and from there in the opposite direction, from the left side back to Nihonbashi, the twin currents slipped past each other, waxing and waning as they went. Here and there between the two streams, a trolley crawled sluggishly by, looking somehow world-weary. The trolleys looked as small as toys, and their roofs were slick with rain. The cars, too, and the asphalt road surface and even the trees lining the road and all else that was there were dripping wet and gleaming with the brightness of daylight shining from who knew where.

Tokyo was submerged, motionless at the bottom of the cold and damp. Copper had been born and raised in Tokyo, but this was the first time he had ever seen the streets of Tokyo show such a sad and somber face. The hustle and bustle of the city came welling up endlessly from the depths of the heavy wet air to the seventh-floor rooftop, but whether this registered in his ears or not, Copper just stood there, transfixed. For some reason, he had become utterly unable to look away. At that moment, something began to happen deep inside him, a change unlike anything that had happened to him before.

Actually, this change in Copper’s heart is related to the story of how he got his nickname.

What happened first was that Copper saw, floating before him, the rain-beaten, dark winter sea.

That image may have come back to him from memories of a time Copper went with his father to the Izu Peninsula on a winter holiday. As he watched the streets of Tokyo spreading far away into the mist, the city beneath him came to seem like a vast expanse of ocean, and the buildings standing here and there looked like crags jutting up from its surface. Above the ocean, the sky hung down, threateningly low.

Copper, lost in the grip of his imagination, thought vaguely that there must be human beings living at the bottom of this ocean.

But when he came to, for some reason, Copper shivered. Those little roofs packing the earth just like sardines—under those innumerable roofs were any number of human beings! While that was a natural thing, at the same time, when he thought it over, it gave him a sort of scary feeling.

Right now, beneath Copper’s very eyes, as well as in places he couldn’t even see, some hundreds of thousands of people were living. How many different sorts of people were there? What were they all doing now, while Copper watched from above? What were they thinking? It was an unpredictable and chaotic world. The elderly in their eye- glasses, little girls with bobbed hair, young women with their hair done up, shopkeepers in aprons, office workers in their Western clothes—all manner of people were at once materializing before Copper’s eyes and again disappearing.

“Uncle—” Copper started to speak. “I wonder how many people there are just in the places we can see from here. I mean, if we estimate that we can see one-tenth or maybe one-eighth of the city of Tokyo from here, then wouldn’t the number of people be one-tenth to one-eighth of the population of Tokyo?”

“Well, it’s not quite that simple,” Copper’s uncle replied, laughing. “If Tokyo’s population were an average, even distribution everywhere you went, that would be correct—just as you say. But in actuality, there will be areas of heavy population density and, consequently, light areas as well, you see? So you ought to give proportional weight to these areas in your calculations. And what’s more, you have daytime and nighttime—the number of people will vary immensely, you know.”

His uncle went on. “I suppose, to hazard a guess, one could say that there are some hundreds of thousands—no, maybe even, say, more than one million people—flowing in and out, rising and falling like an ocean tide, hmm?”

Above the two of them in their conversation, the misty rain continued to fall. Copper and his uncle stood awhile in silence, gazing at the city of Tokyo laid out below them. Beyond the falling rain, shimmering and trembling, the darkened city streets continued to run off to places unknown, where not a single human figure could be seen.

Yet below them, without a shadow of a doubt, hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of people were thinking their own thoughts, doing their own things, and living their lives. Yes, and those people, every morning, every evening, were rising and falling like the tides.

Starting to speak, Copper turned a bit red. But he pulled himself together and spoke. “People are . . . Well, they seem a little like water molecules, don’t you think so?”

“Indeed. If you are comparing human society to oceans and rivers, individual human beings could certainly be considered to be their molecules.”

“And, Uncle, you’re a molecule, too, aren’t you?”

“That’s right. And you are, too. An extra-small molecule, in fact.”

“Don’t make fun of me! Molecules are automatically small, aren’t they? Uncle, you’re too long and thin to be a molecule!”

Copper had an odd feeling. The watching self, the self being watched, and furthermore the self becoming conscious of all this, the self-observing itself by itself, from afar, all those various selves overlapped in his heart, and suddenly he began to feel dizzy. In Copper’s chest something like a wave began to pitch and roll. No, it felt as if Copper himself were pitching and rolling.

Then, in the city spreading boundless before him, the invisible tide welled up to its highest point. Before he knew it, Copper had become just another droplet inside that tide.

From How Do You Live? © 2021 by Genzaburo Yoshino, translated by Bruno Navasky. Reprinted by permission of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. All rights reserved.


How Do You Live? will be released October 26; you can preorder a copy here.


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Netflix announces Sweet Tooth Season 2 in true Sweet Tooth fashion: With lots of candy @ Syfy Wire

Get ready for another season of Gus and the Big Man. Netflix announced Thursday that Sweet Tooth, the acclaimed post-apocalyptic adventure series based on the comic of the same name by Jeff Lemire, will return for a second season of eight hourlong episodes. The renewal comes less than two months after the show's series premiere on the streaming site, which garnered views from 60 million households in its first weeks and made the adorable deer-boy named Gus a fan-favorite character. 

“It’s been equally thrilling and heartwarming to experience how people around the world have been falling in love with our deer-boy," showrunner Jim Mickle said in a statement. "We couldn’t be more excited to continue our collaboration with Netflix and keep following Gus and his friends on their extraordinary journey.”

The cast of the series also celebrated Thursday, unwrapping special packages sent to them by Netflix which revealed gigantic candy bars embossed with the words "Sweet Tooth Season 2." Because in the world of this show, there's no better way to celebrate than with a whole lot of candy. You can check out their adorable reactions in the video below. 

As Season 1 wrapped up, Gus (Christian Convery) was in big trouble after accidentally giving away his position to the Last Men. When last we saw him, he and various other hybrids had been captured, leaving Tommy (Nonso Anozie) and Aimee (Dania Ramirez) searching for a way to rescue them. At least now we know they'll get the chance.

Sweet Tooth's second season does not yet have a release date, but you may as well crack open a candy bar of your own in celebration today anyway.

Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall to leave Doctor Who @ Bureau 42

Current (and first female) Doctor Jodie Whittaker and controversial showrunner Chris Chibnail will both leave Doctor Who after the forthcoming short season and three planned 2022 specials.

As with the original run, the revived series has had its highs and lows, and the most recent season met with decidedly mixed responses. What’s next for the Doctor?

'See' vies for control of a blind world in epic trailer for Season 2 on Apple TV+ @ Syfy Wire

See starts to encroach on epic Game of Thrones territory with the official trailer for Season 2 on Apple TV+. A war between the Kingdom of Paya and the Trivantian Republic is brewing in this world where people have lost their eyesight, as Baba Voss (Jason Momoa) sets out on a solo, samurai-style journey to rescue his daughter from his estranged brother, Edo Voss (Dave Bautista).

Edo is a cunning Trivantian military leader whose long-simmering hatred for his siblings puts Baba's entire family in danger. Bautista isn't the only newcomer for the show's sophomore outing. Eden Epstein (Sweetbitter), Tom Mison (Watchmen), Hoon Lee (Warrior), Olivia Cheng (Warrior), David Hewlett (The Shape of Water), and Tamara Tunie (Flight) also appear as series regulars in Season 2.

Check out the trailer now:

"I just think there's a lot of things I've done in my career that may mimic or look like this because [I'm] covered in fur with a bunch of blades [and] fighting battle scenes," Momoa, who appeared in Game of Thrones' first season, told Collider in 2019. "I've just never been able to do the whole father aspect of it and the sensitivity that you get with playing Baba Voss compared to the other ones I've done. Not having vision, you're gonna be heightened in the other sense and so being that ultimate warrior of having all these senses heightened, I never played anything like that before."

See is executive-produced by Steven Knight (also creator of the project), Francis Lawrence, Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping, Jim Rowe, and showrunner Jonathan Tropper.

Consisting of eight episodes like its predecessor, Season 2 of See premieres on Apple TV+ on Aug. 27. New episodes will debut on a weekly basis. The entire first season is currently available to stream on the platform.

Apple renewed the series for a third season last month.

Sweet Tooth Season 2 Is Set to Give Us More Animal-Hybrid Adventures at Netflix @ io9

We bet Stefania LaVie Owen and Christian Convery are pretty happy right now.Screenshot: Netflix

Some extra saccharine news to report this morning: Netflix has renewed Sweet Tooth for a second season of apocalyptic adventures.

The series is a live-action adaptation of Jeff Lemire’s DC Comics series Sweet Tooth, which centers on a human/deer hybrid named Gus (aka Sweet Tooth) who was sheltered from the world by his father after a deadly pandemic killed countless humans. Somehow, children start being born as animal hybrids—who are immune to the disease—and Gus eventually sets out into a world he’s never known to find out what he’s been missing. As you’d expect, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops, as certain humans blame the hybrids for the virus and hunt them for sport.

The series is produced by Susan Downey and Robert Downey Jr., and its showrunners for season one were Jim Mickle and Beth Schwartz (Schwartz will not be returning for season two, however, as she has other projects in the works). Schwartz spoke to io9 about the show in June saying, “The thing for me originally was the question [of] if you could make an apocalyptic story that took you to a place that you wanted to go, or actually gave you a little bit of a sense of hope or optimism, which felt like a rarity and felt like a real opportunity with a character like Gus.” To celebrate, here’s a video of the cast getting chocolate bars the size of their heads:

Sweet Tooth turned into a critical success but wasn’t without controversy. Netflix marketing paid for an advertorial in the weekend edition of USA Today timed to the premiere on June 4. It acted as the front page in some markets and featured photos and several tabloid-like stories about human-animal hybrids—even calling them a “national security risk.” In the time of “fake news” and conspiracy theories run rampant, it felt extremely ill-advised. There was also a poorly-thought-out Netflix video surprising unsuspecting pedestrians with a lifelike hybrid. Not to mention a few days later Fox News broadcast an unrelated story about “opening the door for human chimeras.”

The series stars young Christian Convery, Game of Thrones’ Nonso Anozie, Adeel Akhtar, Aliza Vellani, Stefania LaVie Owen, Dania Ramirez, Naledi Murray, Will Forte, Neil Sandilands, and is narrated by James Brolin. All season one episodes are streaming on Netflix and we’ll be sure to bring you more on the casting and production of season two as we know it. Are you excited for more Sweet Tooth?

Correction 7/29/2021, 3:00 p.m. ET: A previous version of this post misstated that Schwartz was a current showrunner of the series.


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Doctor Who: Jodie Whittaker, showrunner Chris Chibnall set 2022 exit with trio of specials @ Syfy Wire

We're coming to the end of yet another era of the time-spanning BBC classic Doctor Who. On Thursday, star Jodie Whittaker — who's played the Thirteenth Doctor on the series for the last three years — and showrunner Chris Chibnall announced that they will leave the iconic sci-fi series together in 2022, after three seasons of episodes and a final round of feature-length specials to close out the story. 

"Jodie and I made a 'three series and out' pact with each other at the start of this once-in-a-lifetime blast," Chibnall said in a statement. "So now our shift is done, and we’re handing back the TARDIS keys."

Announced as the new Doctor in the summer of 2017, Whittaker made history as the first woman to be cast as the iconic Time Lord known as The Doctor, something fans had long hoped to see. Since then, she's made her time on the series a remarkable one with Chibnall in the storytelling driver's seat, and while they're both leaving soon, there's still quite a bit of story to tell. 

Though we've had just one episode of Doctor Who — the "Revolution of the Daleks" special last January — over the past year, Chibnall and Whittaker are gearing up to make their exit a rather eventful one. Doctor Who will return for a new season of six episodes, described by the BBC as an "event serial" made up of one long story, this fall. During the show's Comic-Con@Home panel last weekend, Chibnall noted that he'd "changed the shape" of the show for this final season (though he didn't confirm it was his final at the time), which will pick up on the Doctor and current Companion, Yaz (Mandip Gill), in the middle of an adventure, when they return into a new companion in the form of Dan Lewis (John Bishop). We should also expect a number of key guest stars to pop up in the new season, including Game of Thrones and Broadchurch star Jacob Anderson as a new character named Vinder. Then, it's time for the specials. 

Chibnall and Whittaker were already planning two feature-length specials for 2022, but now that their departure is confirmed the BBC is requesting an additional special to round out their tenture on the show. So, much as David Tennant did before his departure as the Tenth Doctor, Whittaker will leave us with a trilogy of specials in 2022, then make way for the Fourteenth Doctor.

"In 2017 I opened my glorious gift box of size 13 shoes. I could not have guessed the brilliant adventures, worlds and wonders I was to see in them. My heart is so full of love for this show, for the team who make it, for the fans who watch it and for what it has brought to my life," Whittaker said. "And I cannot thank Chris enough for entrusting me with his incredible stories. We knew that we wanted to ride this wave side by side, and pass on the baton together. So here we are, weeks away from wrapping on the best job I have ever had. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to express what this role has given me. I will carry the Doctor and the lessons I’ve learnt forever.

“I know change can be scary and none of us know what’s out there. That’s why we keep looking. Travel Hopefully. The Universe will surprise you. Constantly.”

Doctor Who returns this fall.

Vivo: Lin-Manuel Miranda voices a singing kinkajou in trailer for Netflix's animated musical @ Syfy Wire

Lin-Manuel Miranda once again shows his incredibly prolificness with the official trailer for Vivo. Hitting Netflix next Friday, the animated musical stars the Hamilton creator as the voice of the titular character — a talking kinkajou (sometimes known as the rainforest "honey bear") living in Cuba.

Vivo spends his days in the town square, entertaining the masses with his beloved owner, Andrés (Juan de Marcos). When Andrés is invited to the farewell tour of his old partner, the famous Marta Sandoval (Gloria Estefan), he instructs Vivo to deliver a message he never could: a confession of love in the form of a song. To fulfill his mission, the talented honey bear teams up with Gabi (newcomer Ynairaly Simo), an enthusiastic tween who dances to the beat of her own offbeat drum.

Watch the trailer below:

DreamWorks Animation veteran Kirk DeMicco (The Croods) directed the movie, which he co-directed with Brandon Jeffords (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2). DeMicco co-wrote the screenplay alongside Quiara Alegría Hudes (she wrote the book for In the Heights). Naturally, Miranda was on deck to provide some original songs.

“I was able to write in many different styles and really explore the rich vocabulary of Cuban music,” he says in the production notes. “I had so much fun working again with my frequent collaborator, Alex Lacamoire, on this project. To dive into the songs of musical giants such as Celia Cruz and the Buena Vista Social Club was such a formidable experience. Alex grew up in Miami and his parents are from Cuba, so he helped us get that real authentic flavor and sound throughout the whole movie."

“There is such richness in Cuban music," adds Lacamoire. "The people of Cuba have this fire and passion in their songs and rhythms, and you want to honor that on the big screen. There is pride in seeing yourself and your family represented in the arts."

Zoe Saldaña (Rosa), Brian Tyree Henry (Dancarino), Michael Rooker (Lutador), Nicole Byer (Valentina), Katie Lowes (Becky), Olivia Trujillo (Eva), and Lidya Jewett (Sarah) also lend their voices to the project.

Vivo lands on Netflix Friday, Aug. 6.

Doctor Who’s Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall to Exit in 2022 @ io9

Goodbye, Doctor.Image: BBC

The BBC has announced that current Doctor Jodie Whittaker as well as showrunner Chris Chibnall, will depart Doctor Who in 2022. The duo will, after the upcoming season 13, will say farewell with three special episodes to air throughout next year.

“In 2017 I opened my glorious gift box of size 13 shoes. I could not have guessed the brilliant adventures, worlds and wonders I was to see in them. My heart is so full of love for this show, for the team who make it, for the fans who watch it and for what it has brought to my life,” Whittaker said in a statement released by the BBC. “And I cannot thank Chris enough for entrusting me with his incredible stories. We knew that we wanted to ride this wave side by side, and pass on the baton together. So here we are, weeks away from wrapping on the best job I have ever had. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to express what this role has given me. I will carry the Doctor and the lessons I’ve learnt forever. I know change can be scary and none of us know what’s out there. That’s why we keep looking. Travel Hopefully. The Universe will surprise you. Constantly.

According to the corporation, Doctor Who’s 13th season will air later this year as a “six-part event serial”—the season, truncated by filming restrictions due to the covid-19 pandemic, was previously announced as being eight episodes long—with two previously planned specials to air in 2022. Those specials will now be joined by a third “feature length adventure,” which will bid farewell to Whittaker’s incarnation of the Time Lord and see her regenerate into a new form.

“Jodie and I made a ‘three series and out’ pact with each other at the start of this once-in-a-lifetime blast. So now our shift is done, and we’re handing back the TARDIS keys,” Chibnall said in an accompanying statement. “Jodie’s magnificent, iconic Doctor has exceeded all our high expectations. She’s been the gold standard leading actor, shouldering the responsibility of being the first female Doctor with style, strength, warmth, generosity and humour. She captured the public imagination and continues to inspire adoration around the world, as well as from everyone on the production. I can’t imagine working with a more inspiring Doctor–so I’m not going to!”

Whittaker and Chibnall’s first two seasons of the show were defined by a push and pull between a view of Doctor Who as either a tool for explicit social commentary about the world in which we live (and its past) or the more traditional, monster-forward action that typified both the show’s classical roots and its modern incarnation when it first began in 2005. While their first season, struggled to find a balance, often choosing either at the expense of the other, season 12 brought with it a better handling of these two sides of Doctor Who—along with some big, sweeping revelations about the Doctor’s relationship with their past that will no doubt play a part in Whittaker’s swansong next year.

And if you’re already wondering what’s next, Radio Times cites the BBC as saying: “We will announce plans for the new generation of Doctor Who in due course – watch this space!” You can also keep your eyes on this space, of course, as we’ll always keep you up to date on the latest in the world of Who. What do you think of today’s big news?


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Disney's Haunted Mansion Movie May Have Found Its Stars @ io9

Ladies and Ghouls, the mansion has new guests...Image: Disney Parks

Moonhaven’s cast continues to grow. Issa Rae and J.J. Abrams are working on an adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Fledgling for HBO. Plus, new pictures from Day of the Dead and Legends of Tomorrow’s return, and what’s next for American Horror Stories. Spoilers get!

Haunted Mansion

THR reports Tiffany Haddish and LaKeith Stanfield are now in talks to star in Disney’s Haunted Mansion movie from director Juston Simien. Stanfield will play “a widower who once believed in the supernatural but is now a rather lifeless tour guide in New Orleans’ French Quarter” while Haddish has been cast as “a psychic hired to commune with the dead.”


Evil Dead Rises

During a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Bruce Campbell re-iterated that he does not appear in Evil Dead Rises but went on to hype the upcoming Evil Dead video game.

I won’t be appearing in it, no. I will be in the upcoming Evil Dead game, which I think is due for February 2022. I just finished the voice for that. The nice thing is, your voice doesn’t age as much as your body, so I can milk that for a few more years. I’ve got to say, I’m pleasantly surprised by the game. When you have merchandising and stuff that comes from your movies, you want it to be good, you don’t want it to be garbage. In this case, it got delayed and delayed and delayed, like several years, but what happened is, they were trying to do it right. They got basically all the characters from the universe, from the movies, the TV show, it’s impressive who they’re bringing back. I’ve seen the gameplay and it’s finally like any great game that’s out there. The Evil Dead, we’ve had three, four or so games in the past. They were okay, they were a little clunky, but I think they’re now up swinging with the big boys. Everything in it is exactly what gamers expect as far as quality. It’s really cool and they have young, medium, and old Ash, which makes sense if you’re going to cover the whole Evil Dead. Some people I think probably want to play the crabby, older, trash-talking Ash. I think most gamers will go, yeah, this was worth the wait.


The Suicide Squad

In conversation with Comic Book, Peter Capaldi stated he “stuck to” James Gunn’s script for his interpretation of the Thinker after finding it “quite difficult to pin down” the character from his “various” and “confusing” depictions in the comics.

My introduction was the script. I just read the script. James asked me to do it and then sent me the script, and I thought the script was great. And that’s really where I took it from. I dug into some of the comics, which is an archeological dig to have a look at his various in comics. It was quite difficult to pin down exactly who he was because he changes so much. And also, he seems to be quite old and then he disappears, and then he comes back again. And I thought it was quite confusing. I thought I’d be better just to cleave to the script. Stick with the script and try and conjure up that Thinker, as opposed to making a connection with the comics. The first thing when you go on the internet and call him up, you get a little drawing of him in the orange jumpsuit, which kind of is iconic for him and did, I think, influence James and our Thinker. But yeah, no, I just tried to do what the script tells me to do. It’s quite tricky. I mean, James is brilliant, I think, but it’s a very heightened sort of world that you have to try and exist in and be funny and scary at the same time.

James Gunn himself also shared a new Suicide Squad poster on Twitter.


Untitled James Gunn DC Projects

On the same subject, Gunn revealed he’s spoken to Warner Bros. about future DC projects following the Peacemaker TV series.


Moonhaven

Joe Manganiello has joined the cast of AMC’s Moonhaven as Tomm Schultz, “an ex-military” personnel “with a philosophical bent” who serves as “the right hand of the lead Earth diplomat to the moon.” Shultz will “find his ambitions changed when he’s injected with a mind-altering moon drug.” [Deadline]


From

According to Deadline, Shaun Majumder, Avery Konrad, Hannah Cheramy, Simon Webster, Ricky He, Chloe Van Landschoot and Pegah Ghafoori have joined the cast of From, a “contemporary sci-fi/horror series” about “a nightmarish town in Middle America that traps all those who enter.” Cheramy will play Julie Matthews, “the daughter of Jim (Eion Bailey) and Tabitha Matthews (Sandino Moreno)“ and sister of Webster’s character, Ethan. He will play Kenny, “Sheriff Boyd’s deputy” while Van Landschoot plays Kristi, a student “trapped in town during her 3rd year of med school.” “Majumder will play the mysterious Father Khatri while Ghafoori is Fatima, “a resident of Colony House and an Iranian immigrant to the US.” Konrad rounds out the cast as Sara, “a true wildcard among the town’s residents: some think her mind was simply fractured by the nightmare of the town; others wonder if, in her madness, Sara is closer to the secrets of this place than anyone else.”


Fledgling

Deadline also reports HBO is adapting Octavia Butler’s vampire novel, Fledgling, into a TV series from Issa Rae, J.J. Abrams, and Lovecraft Country’s Sonya Winton-Odamtten and Jonathan I. Kidd. The story follows “an apparently amnesiac young girl whose alarmingly inhuman needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: She is in fact a genetically modified, 53-year-old vampire. Forced to discover what she can about her stolen former life, she must at the same time learn who wanted — and still wants — to destroy her and those she cares for and how she can save herself.”


Stargirl

At a recent press event covered by Comic Book, Geoff Johns stated John Wesley-Shipp’s upcoming appearance as Jay Garrick “opens up the door” for future Flash crossovers on Stargirl.

I grew up watching The Flash TV show, he was my favorite superhero when I was a kid and I was blown away by John Wesley Shipp when he played The Flash and then was lucky enough to work with him on The Flash. And when he started playing Jay Garrick and we introduce our version of the Justice Society and we’re on earth-2 like the comics, we’re on our own Earth separate from the rest of these shows, but to have John play Jay Garrick The Flash in Stargirl, it connects our universe directly with the other shows and also shows that we’re part of a grander universe. And it opens up the door to opportunities for us to eventually interact with those characters. And that was important, just like the comics, and when we do do it, we’ll do it in a hopefully very special Stargirl way.


Legends of Tomorrow

Comic Book has photos from “The Final Frame,” the August 8 return episode of Legends of Tomorrow. More at the link.

Photo: The CW
Photo: The CW
Photo: The CW
Photo: The CW
Photo: The CW

Superman & Lois

Comic Book also has photos from “The Eradicator,” the August 10 episode of Superman & Lois. Click through for more.

Photo: The CW
Photo: The CW
Photo: The CW
Photo: The CW

Day of the Dead

Elsewhere, Bloody-Disgusting has photos from the premiere episode of Day of the Dead.

Photo: Syfy
Photo: Syfy
Photo: Syfy
Photo: Syfy
Photo: Syfy

Roswell, New Mexico

KSiteTV has new portraits of Roswell, New Mexico’s third season cast. See the others at the link.

Photo: The CW
Photo: The CW
Photo: The CW

Riverdale

KSiteTV also has a new poster for the upcoming episodes of Riverdale.

Photo: The CW

American Horror Stories

Santa Claus curses a group of social media influencers who livestream a man’s suicide in the trailer for “The Naughty List”—next week’s episode of American Horror Stories. 


Motherland: Fort Salem

Finally, Raelle wakes up three times in the trailer for “Irrevocable,” next week’s episode of Motherland: Fort Salem.


Banner art by Jim Cook

This is the best time all year to see the ringed magnificence of Saturn @ Syfy Wire

On Sunday night, August 1, the incredible beauty that is Saturn will be the closest it gets to Earth all year.

At that time it will be about 1,336,700,000 kilometers from Earth. That's still a long way — space is big, hence its name — but the planet will look incredible and gorgeous even through a small telescope.

We call this event opposition, because Saturn is opposite the Sun in the sky. Another way to think of it is that Earth is directly between Saturn and the Sun, so our two planets are as close as they can be. At any other time in its orbit the Earth will be farther from Saturn, making it appear smaller, which is why this is a great time to look at Saturn. You can't see the size directly by eye — it's still pretty far away, so it appears as a star-like dot — but any sort of magnification aid like binoculars will help. Bonus: because we're closest at opposition Saturn appears brightest, too.

Also, since it's opposite the Sun in the sky, it rises when the Sun sets, and sets when the Sun rises. It's up all night! So by the time the sky gets good and dark Saturn should be up high enough off the eastern horizon to see, and will continue to rise until shortly after 01:00 local time, when it's due south and as high as it'll get in the sky.

So it's up all night, as big as it gets, and as bright as it gets. Win win win.

A 9-image mosaic of Saturn as seen from the Cassini spacecraft, which orbited the planet for 13 years. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Saturn takes about 29 years to orbit the Sun once. Earth is closer to the Sun and moves much more rapidly, completing an orbit in one year. If Saturn didn't move then opposition would occur once every Earth year. But Saturn does orbit around the Sun, in the same direction as Earth does, so we have to spend a little bit of extra time catching up to it. It's just like the hands on a clock; the big hand sweeps around once per hour, but the little hand moves a little too during that time, so the big hand doesn't meet up again with it for a little more than a hour.

That 29-year orbital period of Saturn is measured against the background stars, so we call it the sidereal period (from sidus, meaning "star"). The time it takes for Saturn, Earth, and the Sun to line up again is about 378 days (1.035 years) and that's the synodic period (from target="_blank", "related to a meeting", which is rather poetic).

I'll note that this doesn't mean you have to rush out and see Saturn at that very moment! It'll be bright and essentially up all night for weeks, even months (as it has been for a while, too). For example, back on July 22 it was 1,339,200,000 km away, and on August 15 it'll be 1,340,700,000 km. A million kilometers here or there hardly makes a difference (like, 0.1%), so no biggie if you can't get out to see it for a while. I'll note the next opposition of Saturn after this one is August 14, 2022.

Saturn on July 21, 2021, taken by expert astrophotographer Damian Peach using a 35-cm telescope. Credit: Damian Peach

If you do want to see it, go out once the sky is good and dark (roughly 10:00 p.m. local time, depending on your latitude) and look to the south/southeast. It'll be the bright "star" not far from the horizon.

… but be careful! Jupiter is approaching opposition as well (that's on August 19) and it rises an hour after Saturn does. It's much brighter — Jupiter is bigger and half the distance — making it a bit easier to distinguish from Saturn. If you spot a really bright object near the horizon, it's likely Jupiter, and Saturn will be a bit higher and to the right (for northern hemisphere viewers).

Mind you, waiting until later in the evening means both Saturn and Jupiter are up higher, and you don't want to miss the Big Guy either.

Saturn’s face can change: In 2010 an enormous storm broke out in Saturn’s northern hemisphere, discovered by an amateur astronomer. This Cassini image from 2011 shows the tail of the storm wrapping all the way around the planet. The shadow of the rings can be seen on the cloud tops as well. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

If you need help, try using some online planetarium software like Stellarium or The Sky Live (make sure you enter your location, too). Searching for "web planetarium software" will give you more sites if you like. I like the app Sky Safari, too.

With COVID still a big problem I don't recommend going to any star parties or such, though it's possible there might be local astronomical societies or observatories that will have telescopes out to see Saturn over the next few weeks. If you're looking to buy a telescope then my buying guide should help (and the links therein, too).

Having said that, it's hard to put into words what it's like to see Saturn through a telescope, especially for the first time. I've told this story many times, but my parents bought a cheapo department store telescope when I was kid (probably due to Saturn being at opposition then, and them seeing something about it in the newspaper) and set it up on the driveway. The moment I saw Saturn hanging there against the black of space, a perfect tiny ringed jewel, I knew I wanted to be an astronomer. Turns out, yup. I was right.

If you have a telescope, now is the time to use it! Jupiter, Saturn, the ever-changing face of the Moon… astronomy is a fantastic hobby.

You could say it's looking up.

July 10 (Biltmore Oswald: The Diary of a Hapless Recruit, by Thorne Smith) @ Bureau 42

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Shang-Chi's life is anything but normal in Marvel's new Legend of the Ten Rings teaser @ Syfy Wire

Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) just wants to live a normal life. A new teaser trailer for the upcoming MCU film, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, however, suggests that the opposite of normalcy is in his future.

The one-minute clip packs a lot into it. There’s Awkwafina’s character, Katy, asking Shang-Chi why he’s going into a cage fight shirtless (Shang-Chi just shrugs), for one. And there’s also lots of familial strife with his father, Wenwu aka “The Mandarian” (Tony Leung), who tells his son he can’t outrun his destiny.

Check it out here:

We’ve seen similar footage before — the fight cage, the subway brawl, Shang-Chi underwater face-to-face with a dragon — but we also got a bit more about Shang-Chi’s family history with the magical and mythical Ten Rings, as well as his not-so-great relationship with his father.

“Show me you are strong enough to carry them,” Wenwu says to his son. The “them” Wenwu if referring to are the legendary Ten Rings. Shang-Chi doesn’t want them, it seems, but his dad reminds him about that pesky destiny issue.

The end of the teaser has what appears to be Shang-Chi landing with his own set of rings circling him, as he faces off against his father. Looks like a fight between the two is inevitable. Who will come out on top? The teaser acts like a good teaser should — it doesn’t tell us! We’ll have to wait until the Marvel movie hits theaters this September to find out.

In addition to Liu, Awkwafina, and Leung, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings stars Fala Chen, Meng’er Zhang, Florian Munteanu, Ronny Chieng, Benedict Wong, and Michelle Yeoh. It's directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, and premieres in theaters on Sept. 3, 2021.

Tiffany Haddish & LaKeith Stanfield looking to move into Disney's Haunted Mansion @ Syfy Wire

The Haunted Mansion movie, an adaptation of the popular Disney theme park ride, is looking to scare up a rebooted cast. Comedian Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip, Keanu, Solar Opposites) and Oscar-nominee LaKeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah, Sorry to Bother You, Yasuke) are in negotiations to star in the film, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Dear White People's Justin Simien is on board to direct in his big-budget studio debut, from a script by Ghostbusters scribe Katie Dippold.

The Haunted Mansion theme park ride is a bastion of Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Those that brave entering the very haunted-looking house travel in a "Doom Buggy" car that takes them to rooms with floating heads, hitchhiking ghosts, a murderous bride, and other spooky things.

The movie will follow the story of a family who moves into a mansion that happens to be haunted. Stanfield would play a widower who once believed in ghosts but is now a jaded tour guide in the New Orleans French Quarter. Haddish would play a psychic hired to commune with the dead, though we don’t know yet if her character is a “real” clairvoyant or not in the film.

This isn’t the first time Disney has adapted the popular theme park attraction into a movie. In 2003, the company put out The Haunted Mansion starring Eddie Murphy. With a Rotten Tomatoes critics score of 14% and an audience score of 30%, however, the movie didn’t fare well critically or commercially.

With Disney’s movie adaptation of Jungle Cruise  — another popular theme park attraction — coming out this week, however, it appears the company is dipping its toes back into making films out of theme park rides, as it did so successfully with its Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

We don’t know the timing on when this Haunted Mansion movie will come out, though THR is reporting it will begin shooting in Louisiana this fall.

In the meantime, to get your fix of hitchhiking ghosts, you can always watch ride-throughs of the theme park attraction on YouTube or even — if you’re brave — give the 2003 version of the movie another shot.

Ghosts! Demons! Very annoyed spirits! Download SYFY's free app and let the hauntings begin.

What If...?'s Marvel Legends Figures Are a Weird, Wonderful, and Only Slightly Decaying Delight @ io9

“What if,” Hasbro asked, “we just take all your money now?”Image: Hasbro

Ever since we got our first look at Marvel’s animated Disney+ series What If...?, the company has also been teasing merchandise based on its multiversal take on the MCU. Hasbro’s Marvel Legends line is no exception, and at a special livestream today, the company dove deep into the first look at an entire wave dedicated to the new show.

T’Challa Star-Lord

Image: Hasbro

Done in the stylized vein of the company’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse figures released earlier this year, the wave kicks off with T’challa as Star-Lord, based on his episode where Yondu’s Ravagers appear in Wakanda rather than in the midst of Peter Quill’s tragic loss of his mother. He comes with two blaster pistols, and both masked and unmasked heads.

Heist Nebula

Image: Hasbro

Following him up is “Heist Nebula”. We have no idea if this version of Thanos’ less-admired daughter appears in T’Challa’s episode or the one focusing on Gamora as a Warlord of the Mad Titan, but she basically looks like Nebula but wearing a borrowed a wig from Wandavision’s earliest episodes. She packs a small pistol, as well as some alternate hands for posing in all those “what do you think of my new ‘do” poses.

Captain Carter

Image: Hasbro

Back down to Earth we get the one, the only, Captain Peggy Carter, who is ready to kick Hydra Butt with her very own Union Flag-themed shield.

Doctor Strange Supreme

Image: Hasbro

Next up is the direct opposite of something looking heroic—the “Doctor Strange Supreme,” which suggests that old Stevie’s gone a bit off his magical rocker. Aside from the bags under his eyes and the dishevelled clothing, the green magic rings summoned in one of his alternate hands seems to hint that this is a Sorcerer Supreme who’s tapped into some dark powers in his quest for knowledge.

Zombie Hunter Spidey

Image: Hasbro

It’s probably for the best then that there’s another caped hero in this wave and it’s... Peter Parker!? Yes, the “Zombie Hunter” Spidey seems to be wearing Strange’s enchanted cape, suggesting he might have a few powers beyond the proportional strength, speed, and senses of a Spider in his reality. Aside from the cape, Peter comes with alternate hands for thwiping (or casting?), and a masked head. Interesting factoid: his costume seems to be based off of the version of the Homecoming-style suit seen at Disney California Adventure’s Avengers Campus!

Zombie Captain America

Image: Hasbro

Zombie hunters need a zombie to hunt, and Peter’s gonna have his hands full with this undead Captain America. Zombie Cap still has a shield to fling, his only accessory, but the spartan additions are made up for the fact that the figure itself looks wonderfully gross, from the slack-jawed head to the hunks of flesh missing all over.

Sylvie

Image: Hasbro

Rounding out the wave and actually entirely unrelated to What If...?—although it’s kind of funny that she’s snuck herself into this multiversal branch of nonsense—is Loki’s Sylvie, who was previously revealed after Sophia Di Martino’s debut in the Disney+ series, but now confirmed as part of this wave. And you’ll need to get her if you want all the What If...? figures, because...

Build-a-Figure Uatu The Watcher

Image: Hasbro

Collecting the parts from multiple figures in the wave—Sylvie, T’Challa, Captain Carter, and Nebula at the least, judging by the in-packaging pictures—will let you build a bumper-sized version of Jeffrey Wright’s connective tissue between the various stories in the show, Uatu the Watcher. He’s not the only big What If...? figure though!

Deluxe Hydra Stomper

Image: Hasbro

Separate to the wave itself is a deluxe Hydra Stomper, based on the suit of armor Steve Rogers wears after Captain Carter becomes the super soldier of his reality. Aside from being a large hunk of plastic at around 9", the Stomper also includes FX pieces to replicate its jetpack firing off, as well as grip points on the armor to pose Peggy holding onto it as she and Steve rocket into battle.

Hasbro’s What If...? Figures will go on pre-order at HasbroPulse.com and other retailers at 1:00 p.m. ET on July 29.


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Star Wars: The High Republic's Most Interesting Jedi Embraces His Failings @ io9

What a Mann, that Elzar Mann.Image: Joseph Meehan/Del Rey

Star Wars’ High Republic era is meant to be defined by the apex of institutions that we have, for most of Star Wars’ recent storytelling (cinematic or otherwise), seen in great decline. The Skywalker Saga laid the frayed Republic low twice, and the Jedi Order was all but stamped out, with only the hints of its return left lingering by the saga’s end. But it’s presenting that apex by introducing a sense of failure.

If The Light of the Jedi and its fellow novels and comics in the first wave of Star Wars: The High Republic focused more on the nobility of this more civilized age, its second phase—spearheaded by Cavan Scott’s novel The Rising Storm—begins to throw things into immediate disarray that, in a lot of ways, feels much more like the Star Wars we’ve seen before.

By the end of Rising Storm, the Republic’s grand efforts to host a unifying fair on the planet Valo turned catastrophic. There are thousands dead in the wake of an assault by the piratical Nihil, who are now essentially in open conflict with the Republic and with Jedi dragged into the crossfire. The Jedi are given dark visions of a terrible new foe beyond the Nihil or the plant-hivemind Drengir that has wrapped up so many of their number in the Outer Rim, halting the Republic’s plans for expansion into new territory. Even factions of the Senate have begun to grow untrusting of relying on the Jedi, and perhaps on each other, as threats inside and out begin to show that the ideals held dear by the Republic’s greatest advocates are simply that: ideals rather than practical solutions in a galaxy suddenly wracked by chaos.

It’s an interesting turn, especially as The High Republic was introduced—and distanced from the Star Wars storytelling before it—by defining itself around an idea of conflict that was less about lightsaber battles and spaceships exploding, and more about philosophical debates and humanitarian struggles. But even as The Rising Storm sets the stage for darker chapters to come, one of its central characters’ struggles reflects on a Jedi Order that is infinitely more open-minded, loving, and enlightened than the order we meet in the prequel trilogy: Elzar Mann, introduced in Charles Soule’s The Light of the Jedi through the perspective of one of his closest friends in the Jedi Order, Avar Kriss.

While Kriss has become something of an icon among the Jedi and the Republic agents they liaise with—the closest thing the Jedi of this era have to a public figure, almost a celebrity—Elzar, both in his relationship to Avar and the order at large, is defined by his unorthodoxy. His views of connecting to the Force and exploring that connection brush against the status quo, positioning him as an outsider. His willingness to bite a thumb in the face of council authority holds back his vast talents to rise through the ranks and become a Master himself. Most interestingly of all, we learn that Avar and Elzar were once romantically entangled as Padawans—breaking off their relationship as they become Jedi Knights, even if it’s left clear that the emotions connecting them still run very deep... especially for Elzar.

Stellan Gios and Avar Kriss, Elzar’s closest friends in the Jedi Order.Image: Mike Mayhew/Marvel Comics

At the end of Light, Elzar receives a horrifying vision of an untold threat from the Dark Side, and it’s the trauma from this vision that we see him deal with throughout The Rising Storm. His brush with the Dark Side becomes an undercurrent he has to deal with as the Nihil wage war on the Republic Fair, but also something he tackles in ways that make Elzar a Jedi far more “human” than we’re used to. We see him get angry, we see him be impulsive. We do indeed, at one point, see him give in to temptations that would shock even the least conservative Jedi of the prequel trilogies. Having been assigned to the order’s outpost on Valo to oversee construction of the fair, Elzar falls for and eventually sleeps with a young Valon administrator named Samera Ra-oon. However, their romance is cut short by the Nihil attack. Elzar acknowledges that all these feelings he has, good or ill, are not necessarily becoming of a typical Jedi, but he equally acknowledges that he is human, and that the order’s view of cutting off all kinds of attachment is flawed.

That humanity becomes especially interesting when, shortly after waking up in bed with Samera, the Nihil attack occurs. He’s left on the back foot and in a moment of emotional compromise that, filled with the anger of the slaughter, he uses to reach out into the Dark Side. He utilizes its power to hurl the massive floating islands hosting the fair in an attack to blunt at least some of the Nihil’s attempts to butcher civilians fleeing. If Elzar were a Jedi in the time of the order’s true decline in the prequel trilogy, this would be a moment of massive failure for him. He’d see it as an act of giving in to an impulse, no matter how fleeting, damning himself forever—as would the rest of his friends and allies within the temple. That Elzar, and his weird ideas, his unwillingness to cut himself off and follow the rules, laid his own sinister bed and lay in it. We know this because, well, it’s what Anakin Skywalker goes through hundreds of years later when presented with a similar scenario. In that case, it was compounded even further when the fear of his reprisal sees Anakin hide his struggles with his emotions, and the fallout of those struggles, from everyone but his wife—who also has to be kept secret, because, y’know, the Jedi Order would hate that too.

But one of the most fascinating moments in The Rising Storm comes in two pieces of introspection. Instead of choosing to hide what he did—or claim to not understand what he tapped into—Elzar makes a promise to himself to report himself to the Jedi (and his friend on the council Stellan Gios, in particular) to explain. Secondly, when he does so, Stellan doesn’t chide Elzar for what he did, or treat him as some heretic destined to fall to the ways of the ancient Sith or something... instead, he accepts that the moment has passed, and what Elzar needs isn’t punishment for a sin but help and reconciliation, and a chance to understand what he went through. Before the events of Rising Storm’s climax get in the way, Stellan ponders taking Elzar to a spiritual retreat on Jedha, partially as vacation for the two old friends rocked by recent events, but also offering a chance for the Jedi to explore his feelings in a way that is healthy for a Jedi and healthy for who he is as a person beyond the order. At no point is there talk of a potential reprisal, or casting Elzar out from his recently-earned title of Jedi Master, or out of the order completely. Nor is his scenario treated as alien or unusual. It’s just... a Jedi thing to have moments when you stumble, and your friends help you pick yourself back up again, to help understand what happened.

It’s the compassion the Jedi of the High Republic has that makes this era of Star Wars feel so much more like a reflection of the Jedi’s apex rather than as grandmasters of power force abilities or deadly lightsaber combatants. It’s a small, but incredibly effective moral contrast to the Jedi we’ve seen in the Star Wars movies—and a compelling reminder of why that order found itself where it did.


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Now we know what the guts of Mars look like @ Syfy Wire

The reddish, radiation-blasted surface of Mars has become iconic after years of landers and rovers photographing it, and even taking selfies at some of its more intriguing locales. But what lies beneath that surface?

NASA's InSight might have been hanging out in the same place since 2018, but the lander that measures Marsquakes has now given us an idea of what is in the depths of the Red Planet. Its SEIS seismometer was able to figure out what the crustal subsurface, mantle, and core of Mars must be like, even though there is no camera that can actually image them (or the innards of Earth). Spoiler alert: the core is fiery and molten like the pits of Mordor.

What InSight found out was that Mars has a rather thin and layered crust. Under that lies a thick mantle and that literal hell of a core. The SEIS (Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure) data went into such depth that researchers actually published three studies in Science — one each for the crust, mantle and core — and a fourth that goes into the overall composition of Martian innards.

“Seismic waves are a great tool to tell you about the interior of a planet,” researcher Bridgitte Knapmeyer-Enddrun, who led the crust study, tells SYFY WIRE. “They travel through the planet and on their way from the source of the quake to the seismometer, where they are recorded, and pick up information on the materials they are traveling through."

SEIS can tell seismic events are happening up to thousands of miles away. Out of the 733 Marsquakes it has recorded so far, 35 of them provided enough data to come up with an idea of not just what happens inside Mars, but what actually exists beneath all that reddish dust. Techniques similar to this have been used on Earth. The type of material that waves travel through determines their velocity, which is one thing that told researchers what was in the subsurface, and there were also two types of seismic waves that SEIS picked up on.

Seismic waves known as P-waves and S-waves gave away things that otherwise couldn’t be seen. P-waves or compressional waves are primary, and also pressure waves, which shake the crust back and forth. They are the fastest waves that end up being what SEIS or any seismometer ”hears” first. S-waves or shear waves are the secondary kind, and shake the crust in a direction perpendicular to the one they are moving in. P-waves can zoom through the low resistance of liquids and gases, something S-waves are unable to do. P- and S-waves can be generated simultaneously. When they reach SEIS depends on what they travel through.

SEIS checking out what is happening beneath the surface of Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

“We used this effect to detect individual layers within the crust and estimate their thicknesses,” Knapmeyer-Enddrun says. “Both P- and S-waves are radiated from the source, and the time difference between their arrivals gives an indication how far away this quake was.”

Mars is thought to have once been another Earth that might have even been teeming with life billions of years ago. Unlike the Martian core, Earth’s inner core is solid but surrounded by a molten mantle, which is sometimes aggravated by shifting tectonic plates that cause volcanoes to spew out lava. Mars once had volcanic activity (evidenced by the lava tubes that habitats may someday be built in) and seems dormant, though there may be eruptions we haven't caught yet. Another thing it is missing is a dynamo that creates a magnetic field, which could have saved it from morphing into a frozen desert.

Earth’s magnetic field originates from its fluid outer core. Interactions between the outer core, or dynamo, and the solid outer regions can tell us about our planet’s evolution. The liquid inner core of Mars could give us more understanding as to why it never formed a dynamo and therefore a magnetic field. Earth’s formation was chaotic because of an active mantle and plate tectonics. Mars is thought to have grown hotter as its insides separated into distinct layers, but stayed more stagnant.

“Mars has a thicker mantle than Earth, though on Earth, heat seeps through to the surface as tectonic plates move,” researcher Amir Khan, who co-led the mantle study, tells SYFY WIRE. “Even if the thickness of its mantle is similar to Earth’s, the physical makeup highly differs. Mars may have once had a dynamo powered by heat in its mantle, but that dynamo no longer exists.”

Looking deep inside Mars could eventually reveal more comparisons to our own planet, starting from when they both evolved in a massive cloud of gas and dust now known as the solar system. Maybe then we will know where its habitable ancient self took a wrong turn.

Stargirl is back with a Flash, Starman's return(?!), and more in Season 2's 'Summer School' @ Syfy Wire

A year to the date since the Stargirl Season 1 finale aired, the series is back on August 10 with 13-new episodes in a somewhat modified format. Named much like a summer sequel film would be, Stargirl: Summer School is the official title of this season’s serialized arc.

Teen superhero, Courtney Whitmore (a.k.a. Stargirl), is back patrolling the streets of Blue Valley, Nebraska with her fellow new Justice Society of America (JSA) super peers. But series creator/showrunner Geoff Johns told reporters today in a press panel that audiences can expect to see new characters, and even familiar faces, like the original owner of the Cosmic Staff, Starman played by Joel McHale. 

“In the best comic books, I love long-brewing stories,” Johns teased. “And you’ll see the return of Starman in Season 2.” 

Watch the new Season 2 trailer:

Johns confirmed that Joel McHale will be in the later half of this season. He added that episode nine this season will flashback to show more of the original JSA members and founders including Dr. Jay Garrick (a.k.a. The Flash) who will be played by OG and Arrowverse-era TV Flash, John Wesley Shipp.

“John playing Jay in Stargirl connects our show to the Arrow universe and open doors to eventually interact with those characters,” Johns shared. “When we do it, we’ll do it in a special Stargirl way.” 

Johns also said comics writer James Robinson’s take on the character of The Shade (played by Jonathan Cake) will also be a player. “We had already planted him in the mural of the ISA,” Johns revealed. 

It’s looking like Stargirl is going to need all the help she can get as the first episode back, "Summer School: Chapter One,” reveals a spine-chilling new tone, and threat for the season: Eclipso (Nick Tarabay).

Credit: The CW

Johns said he was looking to change up the tone of the series so they didn't repeat what they achieved in Season 1. Comparing Season 2 to some of his favorite movies as a kid, Johns said there’s more menace to be found along the lines of The Lost Boys and Young Sherlock Holmes

“Eclipso as a character is from the ‘60s and is more of a demonic source like Pennywise [from IT],” Johns said. “To have our kids go up against that where he gets into their heads and exposes their guilt and fears, and uses it against them, was all about telling a story of darkness vs light. Eclipso allowed us to crack open our characters.”

And while Eclipso is more of a specter in the early episodes, John said he’s definitely appearing in the flesh in Season 2. “We wanted to build up to it so when you see him manifest, it feels deserved and scary. And the feeling will be everything has changed. Hopefully, audiences will be both happy and scared.”

Stargirl returns Tuesday, August 10th at 8:00pm ET/PT on The CW.

The Lord of the Rings Studio Wanted to Kill Off One of the Hobbits @ io9

Hobbit bros, through thick and thin.Image: New Line/Warner Bros.

Although Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings saga makes many tweaks in bringing J.R.R. Tolkien’s world to the big screen, it is by and large a faithful adaptation. But pressure from the studio in one weird way would’ve taken it down a very different path: a bit of halfling havoc.

Speaking to IGN about their new Lord of the Rings podcast series—called “Friendship Onion”—Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd (who played Merry and Pippin) touched upon a time when pressure from executives above the Lord of the Rings production team wanted to amplify the stakes of the series by killing off one of its four smallest stars. Apparently, the tall folk were off-limits, and the stakes of, say, a massive war between the forces of good and evil for the fate of all Middle-earth could only be raised if you found one of the cutest hobbits around and stabbed them to death or something.

“It’s a good job that didn’t happen, because it would have been me,” Monaghan joked to IGN. “It definitely would have. There’s no way they are killing Frodo and Sam, and the only ones that would be left would be Merry and Pippin. They wouldn’t kill Pippin because Pippin has a really strong story with Gandalf. It would have definitely been me.”

Both Merry and Pippin find themselves placed into the kinds of peril that might undo even the bravest of Shirefolk as the trilogy builds to its conclusion, of course. In Return of the King, Pippin is roped into the servitude of Denethor and fights alongside Gandalf in the siege of Minas Tirith, while Merry, hoisted to the side of an in-disguise Eowyn, rides with the Rohirrim to flank the forces of Mordor on Pelennor Fields. But... c’mon. You can’t kill them! It’d go against the spirit of the books! And not just because they survive alongside Sam and Frodo to return to the Shire—and in the books face the forces of “Sharkey” and “Worm” (a.k.a. Saruman and Grima Wormtounge) as they assault the Shire—but because one of Lord of the Rings’ most beloved themes are about “small folk” rising to the occasion and enduring in the face of monumental odds.

Killing one of the hobbits might grant momentary shock (and a lot of anger from fans of the books), but it robs the point of their survival: that the bravest among us can come in unlikely shapes and sizes, and that those “unimportant” to the world at large can play grand roles in saving it. Thankfully, as we know, these demands never made it far. “I think Pete quite rightly was like, ‘This is a luminary piece of written work, and we need to stick close to the text,’” Monaghan added. “So, he stuck by his guns. Yeah, I’m thankful that didn’t happen.” We’ll raise a full pint of the Prancing Pony’s finest to that.


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Jeffrey Wright, aka Uatu the Watcher, teases emotional Doctor Strange episode of 'Marvel's What If...?' @ Syfy Wire

Doctor Strange doesn't just have the ability to conjure up portals to other dimensions. According to Jeffrey Wright, the Sorcerer Supreme also has the power to make us cry. Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Wright (who voices Uatu the Watcher) alluded to the strong emotional core of the Strange-centric episode for Marvel's What If...? TV series, which arrives on Disney+ in just a few weeks.

"I was really taken by the Doctor Strange episode, which you will see when you get there," teased the Westworld alum. "For some reason, it just really pulled at my emotions. And as well, it becomes a story of interest to The Watcher too, so in that way, we kind of see things from a similar perspective. So yeah, check out the Doctor Strange one when it comes. When you land on that one, you'll land in a place where I sat up even further in my seat."

The actor went on to admit he was "really moved to hear Chadwick Boseman voice T'Challa again," while recording lines for the episode in which the Wakandan prince is abducted by Yondu and becomes Star-Lord instead of Peter Quill. Boseman tragically passed away last August after a secret battle with colon cancer, making What If...? his final MCU role.

"I actually first met [Chadwick] when Black Panther was being introduced at Comic-Con," Wright continued. "We saw each other from time to time after that and just to watch him grow as an actor and watch him take on this character, to see what that character meant, and to understand that he was doing that while facing serious challenges, I just find to be on the level of heroism that Black Panther himself is on. So to be a part of just a little bit of what some of his last work is is really special. And I can't wait for folks to just hear him."

The animated anthology features Wright as the voice of Uatu the Watcher — an omnipotent being whose job it is to observe the Marvel Universe without interfering in its affairs. "There was a lot of discussion about how does this guy talk?" Wright explained of the host/narrator. "How does he sound, this extraterrestrial celestial all-knowing being who has powers in some ways beyond most of the characters that we've seen from the Marvel films? So how does he speak? I wanted to make sure that the tones of the character were new, that they were born of the moment now."

Victoria Alonso, executive VP of film production at Marvel Studios, recently let slip that Disney is currently developing several more animated projects set within the MCU. “We’re going to have our animation branch and mini studio, and there will be more to come from that as well,” she said..

Marvel's What If...? premieres on Disney+ Wednesday, Aug. 11.

Once and Future's Next Arc Begins With an Important Reminder: Don't Wake the Fairies @ io9

Something’s awake in the woods... and hungry.Image: Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora, and Tamra Bonvillain/Boom Studios

We’ve been enamored with Once and Future’s modern twist on Arthurian fantasy ever since it kicked off and gave us a sweeping tale of magic, terror, and shitty nationalists being thwarted by grandmas with machine guns. But now the series is heading into a new chapter that’s more mystical and dangerous than ever, and we’ve got a look inside.

io9's got your first exclusive look at next month’s Once and Future #19, kicking off a new arc for the Boom Studios comic. Set in a retelling of British medieval folklore where the legend of King Arthur is not only very much real, but a demented spirit who’s risen from the grave by occult British nationalists to enact his own dark plans, the series follows Duncan and Bridgitte McGuire, as the latter, a retired monster hunter, thrusts her grandson into a battle he could never have imagined in his life in academia. Many issues of monster slaying antics later, Duncan, Bridgitte, and their friend Rose have found themselves on the other end of a nightmare: Arthur’s plan has worked, and all of Britain has found itself pulled into the dark fantastical realm of the Otherworld, filled with mythical threats that our heroes are going to need a lot more guns to deal with.

A lot. Before you get a glimpse of Duncan and Bridgitte’s quest for more things to shoot monsters with below, check out two covers for Once and Future #19 below, one by series artist Dan Mora and a variant from Christian Ward!

But now, here’s your first glimpse inside the issue itself, as Duncan and Bridgitte stalk through the Otherworld in an attempt to locate Gran’s cache of armaments to survive the onslaught of the mystical beings that call Otherworld home (alongside the rest of modern Britain at the minute, that is). Turns out all the guns in the world can’t save either of the McGuires if the denziens of the fay get their teeth on them first though...

Once and Future #19 hits comic book stores on August 25.


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The Nerd's Watch: Best Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror Streaming in August @ io9

The original Jurassic Park trilogy, starring shirtless Jeff Goldblum, will be on HBO Max this month.Photo: Universal

Though a lot of movie theaters are back to full function, the safer option for entertainment remains streaming, and fans who choose to stay home and take advantage are constantly rewarded with tons of new content. At the start of each month, most streamers—Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Disney+, and HBO Max—do a little shuffle, adding new movies and taking some away. io9 is here to help you narrow down your decision-making.

Welcome to the Nerd’s Watch, our monthly column where we curate the most interesting sci-fi, fantasy, and horror movies (and television shows) coming to the biggest streaming services. There is lots of new content to be had for August 2021, so let’s get to it.


What’s coming to Netflix in August?

America. F-Yeah. Photo: Paramount
Available August 1

Beowulf - Though this was part of Robert Zemeckis’ “Let’s make performance capture a thing” phase, Beowulf is a star-studded, highly entertaining retelling of the well-known epic poem.

Deep Blue Sea - Super smart killer sharks. LL Cool J theme song. Samuel L. Jackson getting eaten early in the film Psycho-style. What more could you ask for?

Inception - We’ve covered this many times but Inception is probably Christopher Nolan’s best movie. It’s back on Netflix (as well as HBO Max).

The Losers - If you said “Oh, here’s a comic book adaptation starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, and Idris Elba in a story about a ragtag group of assassins” in 2021, people would go nuts. But The Losers, which is exactly that, was about 11 years ahead of its time.

Magnolia - Most of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia is about as grounded and dramatic as films get. Very un-io9. But then, frogs rain from the sky and a film about family, loss, and coincidence in the San Fernando Valley becomes something more. Truly a masterpiece.

The Net - Joy is watching this Sandra Bullock thriller in which ordering a pizza on the internet is treated like someone cured a disease. Truly a product of that time in the 1990s right before the internet took off. We have a nice Retro Review of it too.

Team America: World Police - Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s marionette epic about a team of elite soldiers is packed with songs inspired by Rent and Pearl Harbor, and, of course, montages. If you’ve never seen this movie, and don’t offend easily, you have to see it.

Available August 6

Vivo - Lin-Manuel Miranda stars in and produced this animated film about a cute animal who goes on a vast journey to deliver a special song. Zoe Saldana also provides a voice in this film that was supposed to go to theaters, but Netflix scooped it up. It should be pretty good.

Available August 23

The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf I’m the one person at io9 who doesn’t know anything about The Witcher but I take it people are probably excited about this brand new anime? Will coins be tossed? You tell me.


What’s coming to Amazon in August?

Predator and Predator 2 coming to Amazon.Photo: Fox
Available August 1

Aliens - One of the greatest sequels ever just celebrated its 35th anniversary and we wrote all about it.

Anaconda - Like Deep Blue Sea above, this is one of those movies that doesn’t need much to sell it. Ice Cube. Jennifer Lopez. Big ass killer snake. Need more? James Wan referenced it when we were on the set of Conjuring 2. Read the story here.

Attack the Block - One of the best sci-fi films in recent memory (according to the website you’re currently reading) is coming to streaming. A sequel is finally in the works too so revisit this gem and get ready for more alien killing. (Also on Hulu)

Elektra - Almost two decades before the first Marvel Studios film with a woman in the starring role, Marvel made a movie with a woman in the starring role. No, Elektra starring Jennifer Garner isn’t part of the MCU. Yes, it’s a spinoff of Ben Affleck’s Daredevil. Yes, the character got recast for the Netflix shows, but this film is still a part of history no matter what.

Hook - Steven Spielberg’s Peter Pan sequel is one of those very divisive films from the 1990s. Some people hate it, other people love it, and we kind of agree. There’s a lot to love and a lot to question. Time for a rewatch. Oh, and remember the time we interviewed Rufio? That was awesome.

Jaws, Jaws 2, Jaws 3, Jaws: The Revenge - In 1975, a killer shark came to movie theaters and changed the entire industry. Then three sequels followed, none of which come even close to the perfection of the original but hey, now you can enjoy a full-on Jaws marathon.

Knowing - Nicolas Cage stars in this twisty-turny film about a young child who writes down numbers that line up with tragedies across history, and begins to predict the future.

Predator, Predator 2 - Not feeling a killer shark marathon? How about a killer alien? The first two Predator movies, both of which are good albeit different, are coming to Amazon, so you can cheer for Arnold Schwarzenegger for a bit, then Danny Glover for a bit after that.

Slither - Before he brought us the Guardians of the Galaxy or The Suicide Squad, James Gunn was an up-and-coming filmmaker with a twisted sense of humor. It comes across perfectly in this gross, funny horror movie about killer slugs.

Available August 13

Evangelion: 3.0+1.01 Thrice Upon a Time - Already a hit in Japan, Hideaki Anno’s fourth and final film in the Rebuild of Evangelion series will finally be available to Neon Genesis Evangelion fans stateside.


What’s coming to Hulu in August?

Zack Snyder’s WatchmenPhoto: Warner Bros.
Available August 1 

Bram Stoker’s Dracula - Francis Ford Coppola put togethera stunning cast—Gary Oldman as Count Dracula, Winona Ryder as Mina Harker, Anthony Hopkins as Professor Abraham Van Helsing, and Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker—for this gothic retelling of the Dracula story which continues to gain fans today.

The Final Girls - If you’re in the mood for a horror movie that’s sort of in the mold of Scream, in that it’s self-aware and clever but also kinda scary and cool, may we recommend this underrated 2015 gem?

First Knight - Did you really make a King Arthur movie in the past 50 years if Sean Connery wasn’t King Arthur? Probably not, and this one goes full 1990s with Julia Ormond and Richard Gere too!

The Grudge - The 2004 remake about an unspeakable evil that made moaning and clicking forever terrifying.

I Know What You Did Last Summer - The quintessential 1990s hot people cast (Hewitt, Gellar, Phillipe, Prinze) got together for this Scream knockoff about a man that a bunch of kids think they mistakenly killed. But they are sorely mistaken. There’s an Amazon TV series coming soon, by the way.

Mad Max - The film that started it all. The first in George Miller’s post-apocalyptic saga starring Mel Gibson, featuring lots of leather and cars.

My Bloody Valentine - Not to be mistaken with the inferior remake from a few decades later, this is the 1981 original slasher film that didn’t quite hit Halloween or Friday the 13th status but is still pretty great.

Watchmen - Before the HBO TV show or Zack Snyder tackled more traditional superheroes, he adapted the legendary, subversive Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons comic with surprisingly solid results.

Available August 26

Love and Monsters - One of 2020's unseen gems, this Dylan O’Brien adventure film features lots of love and monsters, as advertised, and has many fans in the people who caught it last year. And now it’s streaming, destined for even more.

Available August 27

Chaos Walking - Hopefully you didn’t go to a theater to see this Daisy Ridley-Tom Holland misfire of a sci-fi action film, because if you didn’t, you’ll get to watch it on Hulu soon. It’s not not worth watching for free, is the best thing we can say. Read our review here.


What’s coming to Disney+ in August?

No more fees on Cruella.Photo: Disney
Available August 11

What If...? - WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki and now, What If...? Marvel Studios’ latest Disney+ show debuts August 11 with new episodes each Wednesday. The animated show takes classic stories from the films and changes one or two things to see what would happen. Also, it ties into the multiverse that’s slowly building.

Available August 20

Eragon - Disney+ continues to benefit from the company’s acquisition of Fox by adding this would-be fantasy franchise-starter based on the popular novel series by Christopher Paolini. It’s filled with magic and dragons and all that.

Available August 25

Disney Gallery: Star Wars: The Mandalorian - Wait, didn’t this already happen? Yes, after Mandalorian season two finished, there was a full Disney Gallery episode about it. But one thing was not mentioned, and that was the surprising reveal of Luke Skywalker coming to save Grogu (née Baby Yoda). Now, a whole new episode has been created to explore that and only that.

Available August 27

Cruella - If you missed it in theaters, and didn’t pay $30 for it with Premier Access, this live-action Disney prequel to 101 Dalmatians will soon be part of the full service. And it’s absolutely worth watching. Divisive, but much better than you’re expecting.


What’s coming to HBO Max in August?

In theaters and on HBO Max? The Suicide Squad.Photo: Warner Bros.
Available August 1

The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl - Last year, a Netflix film called We Can Be Heroes was super popular for about 35 seconds. It was a sequel to this movie, written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, sort of in the mold of Spy Kids, but with more superheroes.

Constantine - As the years move on, this Keanu Reeves DC adaptation continues to gain fans who didn’t quite get on board with the bold, dark adaptation from director Francis Lawrence when it was originally released in 2005.

Freejack - In the far away future of *checks notes* 2009, Mick Jagger, Anthony Hopkins, and Emilio Estevez star in this sci-fi thriller about people from the future stealing people from the past to use their bodies.

Last Action Hero - At the time of its release, many joked about this Arnold Schwarzenegger film where he plays an movie action star come to life. But the meta-cleverness of its premise was certainly ahead of its time and today it enjoys much more reverence.

Popeye - Robert Altman, Robin Williams, Shelley Duvall, and a whole lot of spinach. A classic.

Red - Though director Robert Schwentke didn’t quite hit a home run with his latest film, Snake Eyes, this star-studded comic book adaptation about secret against who are “Retired” and “Extremely Dangerous” is actually pretty decent.

Scary Movie - Spoof comedies have been going on for decades, from the Zucker Brothers and Mel Brooks, to Abbott and Costello and beyond. But for the 2000s, Scary Movie set the bar for offensive, super dumb comedies based on popular movies. The franchise itself is all over the map but this first film is strong.

Spawn - Eleven years before Christopher Nolan changed the game with The Dark Night, Todd McFarlane’s classic Image Comics character got his own dark comic adaptation. Spawn isn’t a particularly good comic book movie but it’s not awful either. A worthy stream.

Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo - I haven’t seen this particular Teen Titans film but the ones I’ve have seen have been great so I’m guessing this one is worth a shot.

Available August 5

The Suicide Squad - James Gunn’s brand new DC team up movie is hitting theaters and HBO Max on the same day. It’s really funny and gory and if you’ve seen the trailers, you know exactly what to expect.

Available August 14

Jurassic Park, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park III- Take a trip to Isla Nublar with the first three films in the Jurassic Park franchise. Universal films, on the Warner Bros. service. Streaming is weird. But hey, you’ve got one masterpiece, one mostly disappointing sequel, and one very bad sequel. What could go wrong?

Available August 17

Godzilla vs. Kong - Did you miss Godzilla vs. Kong when it was on Max earlier this year or in theaters? Well, now it’s back, available to all.

Available August 20

Reminiscence - August’s second big theatrical/HBO Max release is this Lisa Joy (Westworld) sci-fi film starring Hugh Jackman as a man who can let you relive your memories. It all goes wrong when he meets up with a mysterious character played by Rebecca Ferguson.

Available August 22

San Andreas - The Rock saves his family during the destruction of the West Coast of the United States in this big, dumb, sort of fun action film. Maybe try Jungle Cruise instead?


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How did life spawn on Earth? This meteorite might know the answer @ Syfy Wire

Space rocks are so common, you can even find them on eBay, but some meteorites that fall to Earth are invaluable. An eerie greenish-yellow fireball streaked across the sky one night back in February.

Almost certain it was a meteorite and eager to find out where it would crash, analytical chemist Derek Robson and his research team of the East Anglian Astrophysical Research Organization (EAARO) drove out to see if they could find any surviving pieces. Thousands of minor meteors never make it to Earth because they burn up in the atmosphere before they have the chance. 

The researchers weren't sure they would find anything. After no fragments turned up, they left the site behind just as another meteor blazed through the atmosphere. It was as if it was an omen to return. Fast-forward a month and they were back at the same site, searching through the mud for any signs of a meteorite. This time, something surfaced.

Credit: Derek Robson / EAARO

What Robson saw at his feet was a small crater in which was embedded a piece of rock with a telltale iridescence, shifting colors in the sunlight. They knew they had found what they were looking for but had no idea what it was made of. When they took it back to the lab for testing, they realized just how much it stood out. This meteorite had shot at least 110 million miles through space from the asteroid belt, somewhere between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. It also had a distinctive smell that gave away volatile (easily evaporating) organics that could tell the team where it came from.

This meteorite was hiding something else. It had an unusual composition unlike anything else they—or anyone else—had ever seen. Though much about it is still unknown, that could mean that its chemistry, physical structure or both are something entirely alien to us.

Credit: EAARO

There are many different types of asteroids, with varying compositions, floating around in the asteroid belt. Some formed close to where they are orbiting now. Others emerged from the edge of the solar system and carried water and frozen carbon dioxide with them. Some meteorites that have landed on Earth were found to have traces of these substances, meaning that our own water may have come from somewhere nowhere near the one planet in the universe we know of that can support life. The asteroid Robson found was like a cosmic time capsule: a rare form of carbonaceous chondrite.

Credit: EAARO

 

Carbonaceous chondrites encompass some of the most primitive meteorites that exist. They are made mostly of olivine and pyroxene and full of tiny spherical embeds, or chondrules, of minerals, but also tend to have high levels of carbon. While carbon itself isn't necessarily organic, the carbon found in certain carbonaceous chondrites has proven to be attached to complex organic molecules such as amino acids. DNA is made of proteins that are sequences of amino acids. It is possible that meteorites like this one could have transported the necessary ingredients for life to Earth. 

Credit: EAARO

The scientists subjected the rock to almost every test imaginable, from X-ray diffraction to vibrational spectroscopy, which studies how atoms in a molecule move. It was observed on a micro and nano scale. What they found was nothing short of incredible. This meteorite had remained pristine for billions of years. Most debris from space that ends up on Earth has taken a beating. When the solar system was still forming, things were constantly crashing into each other, sometimes so hard that pieces of one object would transfer to another or melt into another surface from the heat of an impact.

What else will this meteorite reveal? Whether or not it discloses the secrets of life, there is bound to be something in this deceptively unimpressive piece of rock that will make time travel possible.

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