James Gunn Answers Guardians Holiday Questions and Teases DC Connections @ io9

James Gunn (with Chris Pratt and Dave Bautista) on the set of the Guardians Holiday Special.Image: Marvel Studios

It’s fitting that James Gunn just released a holiday special because he’s currently the bright star at the center of the superhero movie world. Not only did Gunn just release The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special ahead of next year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but he’s also the new co-head of DC Films, currently working out how to compete with Marvel across all media.

If those types of things interest you—and if you’re reading this, they probably do—Gunn’s Twitter is a must-follow. He’s one of a very, very small handful of powerful geek creatives who still actively engages on the platform, and this past weekend Gunn was in full force, answering fans’ burning questions about the Guardians and even teasing some larger generalizations about the future of DC.

Starting with Guardians, Gunn did his best to clear up one of the bigger questions surrounding the special, which is when and how did the Guardians of the Galaxy buy Knowhere, the huge celestial skull where the Collector resided in the first film. “Although the Guardians are sometimes heroes, they work as mercenaries & it brings in a fair amount of money,” Gunn tweeted. “So after Thanos attacked Knowhere they bought it from the Collector. It was a burnt out husk & they’ve been rebuilding it.” On Knowhere, we see the Guardians are now friends with Cosmo, the dog briefly seen in the Collector’s collection in the original Guardians. Gunn confirmed Cosmo hadn’t left, and met the Guardians on the planet.

In terms of timelines between the Holiday Special and the Guardians’ last appearance in Thor: Love and Thunder, Gunn was a little less clear. “I’m not sure how it works out in the timeline (these things aren’t discussed) but in my mind they were only with Thor a few weeks,” he said. He was clear though on why Peter Quill is less OK going back to Earth than he is other places. “Because when we’re 8 years old we process trauma much, much differently than we do when we’re 38,” Gunn tweeted. 

There also seemed to be many, many questions about the new Groot, which Gunn has lovingly dubbed “Swole Groot.” In his mind, this is not the same Groot we saw in the first film who lovingly sacrificed himself for his team. And with a new life and experiences, that explains why his body has developed differently. “I think it’s explicit in the movies,” Gunn tweeted. “As Baby Groot was explicitly a baby without the knowledge of OG Groot. But now that Groot’s body is developing differently it’s more obvious.”

Answering questions about the practicality of the special, Gunn confirmed what was, and wasn’t real, in terms of shooting locations. “Knowhere was mostly practical with some extensions & the spaceship (& Hollywood Blvd) were all practical,” he said.

Just a bevy of Marvel information. Since it’s much newer in Gunn’s career, his openness about the future of DC Film was certainly less specific, but no less exciting. “The DCU will be connected across film and TV (and animation),” Gunn said, kind of wrapping up a slew of tweets where he said there would be 2D and 3D animation, that some of the animations would tie into the world of the movies and TV (while others won’t), future video games will tie into the larger DC Universe, he expects to write and direct some DC projects in the future, and while there is communication between film and comics, he is only involved with the films.

Finally, while Gunn is honest that he’s only been at DC a few weeks and plans are in place, he expects at least some news to be out about his and co-chair Peter Safran’s plans well before next year’s San Diego Comic-Con. But in the meantime, he’s got to finish and promote Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which will tie up not just the story of the Guardians, but Gunn’s at Marvel too.

What’s the main takeaway here? Well, follow James Gunn on Twitter for one. And two, everyone please keep being nice to him so he doesn’t leave. Because it’s incredible to have someone with such influence be so accessible.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water. 

Wednesday Misunderstands Its Misunderstood Protagonist @ io9

Image: Netflix

While Tim Burton’s Wednesday certainly attempts to imitate the aesthetic of the ‘90s Addams Family films, the surrounding plot and characters of Netflix’s newest teen drama fails to capture the morbid charm of Charles Addams’ gothic family.

The eight-episode Netflix series follows Wednesday (Scream’s Jenna Ortega) as she attempts to solve a grisly murder that occurred in the woods outside of her new school, Nevermore Academy. She also digs into the history of Jericho—the small town that plays host to the school—and its founding father, Joseph Crackstone, a notorious witch-hunter who has a bloody connection to one of Wednesday’s ancestors.

At Nevermore Academy, the boarders move well beyond creepy and kooky; werewolves, vampires, sirens, gorgons, telekenetics, and shapeshifters are all in attendance. What this means is that Wednesday Addams is no longer an outcast among “normies,” supported by her family of fellow weirdos, but is positioned as an outcast among supernatural creatures, without the support of her family and with a track record for preferring the company of disembodied hands to her fellow students.

It’s a frustrating watch; Jenna Ortega does the absolute best she can with her lines, but Wednesday’s trademark deadpan sarcasm and never-ending misery makes her a painful lead character. The one-liners that worked when Wednesday was part of an ensemble cast simply do not land. She’s emotionless, selfish, and self-obsessed. She uses her friends, dismisses the boys who are trying to take her out on dates (for some unknown reason, since she hasn’t so much as said a single kind thing to anyone), and routinely accuses her parents of various acts of sabotage, smothering, and even murder.

The point of the Addams Family is that they are just acceptable enough to be tolerated by their normal neighbors, while also staying true to their weird and wacky roots. They teach “normal” people how to interact with people unlike themselves, and accept every kind of person into their arms wholeheartedly. The problem with Wednesday is that it constantly reinforces the differences between “normies” and “outcasts,” going so far as to make a very trite twist at the end, because of course it’s the normies who were the real monsters all along. If I could roll my eyes hard enough to have them fall out of my head they would have been spinning on the ground by the second episode.

This is a frustratingly simple takeaway that is emblematic of the show itself. It talks down to its teenage audience, presenting banal black-and-white issues of morality and melodrama with the kind of grim determination of an executioner’s axe. Will Wednesday go to the school dance with tortured outcast artist Xavier or the earnest townie barista Tyler? Is the monster in the woods being controlled by an outcast or a normie? Did Gomez Addams really kill a romantic rival while attending Nevermore or not? All of these questions are answered, and none of the answers matter. With lock-step predictability, you could probably guess the answers right now and be right, without any nuance attached whatsoever.

Enid, baby, you deserve better than this. I would die for you.Image: Netflix

And then there’s the style of this show. The costumes certainly do a lot of work—both Wednesday and Enid (Wednesday’s bubbly werewolf roommate, played by Emma Myers) are exceptionally well-dressed—but there isn’t a lot of design happening elsewhere. This was perhaps the biggest let down for me, especially as I went into this series hoping that Tim Burton’s aesthetically pleasing, overly stylized taste would make this at least a visually-interesting watch. Not so. Wednesday is disappointingly bland.

Without the restriction of condensed sets, and with a lot of important conversations taking place in a Jericho coffeeshop rather than in Nevermore Academy, there is little flourish to the overly-dark scenes. Shot in low lighting and amid a lot of rain, doom, and gloom, Wednesday rarely makes herself memorable, disappearing into the shadows of her own show. The exceptions to this occur during the two scenes where she is playing the cello, and her intense resting corpse face actually works with Danny Elfman’s occasionally-magnificent score. However, the real death knell for this show is the fact that Wednesday is supported by a killer cast that includes both Christina Ricci and Gwendoline Christie, and still nobody stands out.

The forgettability of Wednesday is probably a result of this character getting a whole series dedicated to her personality, which, as it turns out, isn’t that funny when her schtick just repeats itself a dozen times each episode. The character commits to the gothic/morbid bit, but fails to pursue any interests that are truly macabre. The best example of this is when the school dance is pranked and red liquid pours from the sprinkler system. Wednesday licks some off her finger and sighs—it’s not even real pig’s blood!

Girl, did you think it would be? This is basically a CW show. Dyed water is the closest thing you’ll get to real macabre humor the whole series. The show is much more concerned with Wednesday’s multiple no-chemistry love interests and building up to a massive, CGI-heavy, end-of-season fight sequence (yes, really) than it is making any real attempt at romanticizing the macabre.

The closest pass this show has with wit is through dry and humorless twists on idioms. “I don’t bury hatchets. I sharpen them.” “If you hear me screaming bloody murder, there’s a good chance I’m just enjoying myself.” “Tortured writer, emphasis on torture.” These lines, delivered gracelessly and with maudlin teenage self-importance, should have been kept to elevator advertisements and twee billboards. Instead, Burton has taken these pale imitations of the ‘30s and ‘40s New Yorker one-liner style of the original Addams Family comic strip and imagined it could last through an eight-episode show. Like many of these overwrought jokes, he is gravely mistaken.

Wednesday is now streaming on Netflix.


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Strange World Likely to Lose Disney $100 Million @ io9

Disney won’t want to hear it after this weekend.Image: Disney

In the grand scheme of things, a new Disney animated film opening over a holiday weekend sounds like a sure bet. Kids are home from school, parents are looking for things to do, so traditionally the combination has been a winner. But that was not the case for the latest film from Disney, Strange World. 

The movie opened second at the box office on its opening weekend, but failed to gross $12 million over the three days. Add in Thursday and Friday, and the number didn’t even cross $19 million. For a movie that was originally projected to make closer to double that, and cost a reported $180 million, that’s not good. At all.

According to Variety, the math on an opening that low with a budget that high (which doesn’t include publicity and marketing) equates to a loss of about $100 million for the company (welcome home, Bob Iger!). Now, that could change if the film does better in subsequent weekends—which it could, considering it doesn’t have much competition—but almost always, the opening weekend is the most successful one, so it’s unlikely. Also, while the international box office can often help immensely in cases like this, in the case of Strange World, it only grossed a bit over $9 million from 43 markets.

So what happened? Some experts are pointing to Disney’s recent pattern of fast-tracking new releases for Disney+, instilling a “Wait for it to come home” attitude. Others say there are still fears of going to theaters due to the pandemic and the reviews, which were solid (75% on Rotten Tomatoes), were not quite eye-grabbing. All of which is absolutely true and were certainly factors to some degree. Not to mention, it was a weak weekend at the movies in general, with basically every new release severely underperforming.

Another factor though, and one that’s much more difficult to quantify, is the general excitement for the movie. While Disney certainly spent plenty to get the word out about the film (I saw its title all over TV the past few weeks), none of those materials seemed to connect with audiences. You watched them, they looked cool, but never really hooked you in. “It’s about a father and son and the world is pink... okay” was my basic reaction. Again, that’s hard to quantify but if you’re reading this, just think about it. Did you see a commercial or trailer for Strange World and give it a second thought afterward? If so, odds are you’re in the minority.

To be fair though, Disney isn’t always sure what it has with these big animated films. The company famously underestimated Frozen and Encanto only to have the quality of the films, stellar reviews, and word of mouth breathe new life into them. And, over the years, with Disney+, Blu-ray, licensing, and more, maybe Strange World ends up losing less than $100 million. In Hollywood though, the life of the film can be largely predicted by its opening weekend, and the picture here isn’t a bright one.


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Lego's Potential Dungeons & Dragons Sets Are Critical Hit or Miss @ io9

Image: Lego

A touch less than two months ago, Lego’s Ideas division announced it would be holding a contest where fans could submit their own potential playsets based on the venerable role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons to celebrate its upcoming 50th anniversary. Now, the submissions have been winnowed down to five, and per usual, your vote will determine what will actually be made. Care to check them out?

Click through to see the possible sets, along with their official descriptions. But I will say this—while I believe two of these are pretty great, the others are more ornamental than playable. Not that that’s usually a bad thing, but there are so many possibilities with D&D in terms of playsets, and using them to augment your RPG sessions instead of sitting on a shelf, that I wish there were a few more options. There’s only one dungeon here, for goodness sake!

Anyway, your saving throw results may vary. Enjoy!

Dragon’s Keep by BoltBuilds

Image: Lego

Hello and welcome to Dragon’s Keep. Green Dragons are usually subtle in their behavior, but it seems serious this time. Or is he working with the wizard? Do you dare venture in the depths below the rocks to find out what creatures and traps will test you?

Here is my take on the amazing Dungeons and Dragons theme. The set is just under 3000 pieces, but we were asked to build your dream set, no?

It features great routes with changeable doors each time to always have a story with different goals to tell!

  • The Witches Tower An old ruin that has a lab, armory, a waterwell, and a trap door to deter unwanted visitors.
  • The Tavern, where many stories begin and are concluded, maybe there is something lurking in the basement, or other passages leading to treasure.
  • The Dungeon underneath the tower is a massive cavern where many things can be found, and not all are good things. A beholder lurks here and can be floated by a rope.
  • The Crypt has also got treasure, but is it worth risking your life?

[Click here to vote and see more images.]

Tiamat’s Dice Tower by tcompton1234

Image: Lego

To celebrate 50 years of DND, 4 brave adventurers storm the tower of the Dragon Queen Tiamat!

The goal of this idea is to allow for consistent use in tabletop DND games. Featuring a working dice tower, removable stands for minifigs that are compatible with standard 1-inch grids, and space to store 2 full sets of dice on each side of the tray, any player or Dungeon Master will find a use for this dice tower. Also included is a way to mount Tiamat to the rear of the tower and a customized stained glass print.

Harkening back to Dungeons and Dragons’ formation, the adventuring team is composed of a Dwarven Fighter, a Human Cleric, a Halfling Rogue, and an Elvish Wizard. In the original 1974 core book, only 3 classes and 4 races were available for players to use, with the Rogue being added to the game in 1977. Luckily Tiamat’s horde offers plenty of customization for players to mix and match to represent all the current classes of the game!

[Click here to vote and see more images.]

Xanathar, the Beholder by Shaddowtoa

Image: Lego

Add Xanathar to your tabletop game! This figure of the Beholder comes with a desk and a bookshelf to not only highlight him and make him shine on your display, but also to enhance your Dungeons & Dragons games!

Features :

  • Turn the gear on Xanathar’s back and make his eye move from left to right!
  • Xanathar’s Jaw and eye stalks are articulated and the display stand is removable!
  • Store all of your role-playing dices inside of Xanathar’s desk!
  • Put all of the desk’s accessories on the bookshelf and easily transport the desk as a dice storage unit!
  • The bookshelf doubles as a dice tower! Open the trapdoor on top using the crate, and the small doors on the bottom, and throw the dice, but beware of critical failures!
  • The bookshelf contains plenty of cool details and nods to Dungeons & Dragons, like a small chest with dice, a Tiamat replica, a Dungeon Master Screen, a small gelatinous cube and more!

[Click here to vote and see more images.]

Transforming Mimic by farmfarm

Image: Lego

Is that a treasure chest? What kind of awesome loot might we find inside?

Wait... It’s a Mimic!!

One of the most iconic monsters in D&D, the Mimic can change its shape at will. This set is meant to be transformative, where you can display an awesome treasure chest - or turn it into a Mimic!

There are 3 hinged sections, 2 in the lower chest and 1 in the lid.

The bottom panel is hinged to allow room for the lower teeth to flip.

The top of the chest has the same functionality allowing the Mimic’s fearsome upper teeth to appear. Once the top is lifted, there are axles that can be inserted in the interior to hold it in an open position. And of course it has to come with a changeable sign that you can also flip around based on your display preferences.

This set is 2152 pieces and includes one printed tile for the display sign. I’ve included a gif to showcase the transformation along with some renders of the set in the “normal” chest state and the Mimic state.

[Click here to vote and see more images.]

The Monster Manual by KolonelPureCake

Image: Lego

Open up the Monster Manual and unleash some of Dungeons and Dragons greatest villains! Featuring:

  • The Demon Prince of the Abyss: The Demogorgon.
  • The Kingpin of his own Thieves Guild: Xanathar, the Beholder.
  • The Vampiric Count of Barovia, riding his dreaded Nightmare: Strahd von Zarovich
  • The Witch Queen from the Feywild: Iggwilv or Tasha as she’s also known.
  • The scary and ever hungry chest: The Mimic.
  • The all consuming green Gelatinous Cube.
  • And last but not least: The classic Red Dragon, who’s fiery breath still strikes fear in the hearts of many adventurers.

You can display all of these monsters together or play with them individually. All models are scaled to be usable in most D&D games.

[Click here to vote and see more images.]

Gotham Knights Is Messy, But Brings Some Heart to Batman Games @ io9

Image: WB Games Montreal/WB Games

At a time when superheroes are ridiculously omnipresent in popular culture, Batman is among the most prevalent of all. No matter the medium, stories starring or featuring DC’s flagship hero come out with such a frequency that it can sometimes be hard for particular stories to stand out. Even in the stories that focus on his supporting cast, you can bet that he’ll make an appearance at some point another, it’s just a coin flip as to whether or not his presence will overwhelm everything else.

This is the case with WB Games Montreal’s Gotham Knights, which was released towards the end of October. Before it came out, I was on the fence about it; I like Batman, and I like superhero games, but what I was worried about was that Knights would prioritize its gameplay loop and RPG loot over its narrative potential. Beyond that, the game comes nearly a full decade after Rocksteady ended its series of Batman Arkham games with 2015's Arkham Knight to focus on the Suicide Squad. WB Montreal previously created 2013's Arkham Origins, and while that game has been reexamined more favorably in the years since, its existence arguably put the developer in a similar position as the heroes of its new game.

Image: WB Games Montreal/WB Games

Having played nearly 20 hours of it at the time of writing, the game manages to find successfully carve out its own identity, primarily by shining a light on places the Arkham games would often not touch on. Set shortly after Batman’s death following a fight with Ra’s al Ghul, it falls on the Bat’s four disciples—Nightwing (Dick Grayson), Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), Robin (Tim Drake), and Red Hood (Jason Todd)—to defend Gotham in his absence. “Batman being dead” is a well-used story conceit, and Gotham Knights solidly hits all the beats that come with that territory. Tim (a high schooler in this universe) is openly uncertain if the team is up to protecting Gotham and his place in the team, Jason’s pissed off and working through his still fairly recent resurrection and subsequent rejoining of his family after previously being on the outs, that sort of thing.

What helps Knights stand out is how much WB Games truly commits to this being an ensemble story. The dialogue between the foursome feels cut from recent team-up comics, particularly in the optional character beats scattered around their headquarters and parts of Gotham. Everyone’s given time to interact with each other; one scene will see Barbara vent to Jason about how she’s beginning to forget the face of her late father Jim Gordon, and in the next, Dick will pester Jason as the latter’s silently brooding on rooftops in Gotham. In story cutscenes where the group debriefs their findings, Tim will accidentally bring up Jason’s resurrection, or have some brotherly ribbing with Dick. Sometimes the voice acting can be hit or miss, but the group as a whole is well-characterized and play off each other well.

The primary villain of Gotham Knights is the Court of Owls, but the game also features a small selection of Batman villains in their own isolated questlines, dubbed “case files” in-game. I committed myself to using one specific hero who’d be the best narrative fit: Jason would deal with Clayface, who’s recently resurfaced after being thought dead; Barbara gets the tech-heavy Mr. Freeze and his gang of Regulators; Tim gets wellness guru Harley Quinn; and Dick often takes the lead on missions involving the Court. Since dialogue varies depending on the character used, it’s become satisfying seeing a particular hero contend with a villain I’ve made their temporary personal nemesis, not unlike tie-in stories during comic event storylines.

Image: WB Games Montreal/WB Games

Another way in which Gotham Knights makes its own mark is how much more personable it is compared to Rocksteady’s Arkham games. Those titles seemed mostly afraid of the idea of Batman having his costumed allies to rely on, and were similarly very eager to make Gotham City as vacant as possible in its sequels. That kind of isolation fit with Rocksteady’s intended atmosphere, but at a certain point, you want to be Batman in Gotham at its fullest. Knights doesn’t fully make Gotham a vibrant city worth protecting—one that feels like its own character, similar to what Insomniac Games has done with its two Spider-Man games—but there’s enough here to work with, thanks to a civilian information network that previously gave tips to Batman and have now chosen to work with the Knights. When returning back to base, the loading screen displays, among other things, a list of crimes thwarted during the night, which provides a further sense that the team is making some kind of effort in keeping the city safe.

Gotham Knights lacks the polish of its other superhero contemporaries, and in terms of gameplay, it feels like it’s caught between the worlds of a superhero co-op brawler and a potential live service alike. Still, it’s hitting at just the right time when the year is winding down and I’m in the right kind of mindset to be pleasantly surprised. Like its lead quartet of emotionally compromised young adults in colorful costumes, Gotham Knights has its heart in the right place and has a strong foundation for future adventures.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.

Harrison Ford Escapes the Past in New Indiana Jones Production Images @ io9

Image: Disney

Avatar: The Way of the Water officially gets a PG-13 rating, surprising no one. Tobin Bell is back as Jigsaw in some behind-the-scenes Saw X photos. And our first look at the new Transformers in the new ˆmovie—Optimus Primal, Rhinox, Airazor, and Cheetor—may have come from... a promotional coffee mug? Please buckle your seatbelts, we will be experiencing some spoilers ahead.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Director Peyton Reed revealed the fantasy artist Mœbius, Heavy Metal magazine, and electron microscope photography inspired the look of Ant-Man’s Quantum Realm in a recent interview with Empire.

We wanted to explore the Quantum Realm. It’s a massive, massive world-building undertaking. It owes in equal part to electron microscope photography, ‘70s and ‘80s Heavy Metal magazine stuff, a lot of my favorite science-fiction-book cover artists, and there’s a little Mœbius in there. Fantastical realism is the vibe.

[Empire]


Avatar: The Way of Water

Avatar: The Way of Water has been rated PG-13 for “sequences of strong violence and intense action, partial nudity, and some strong language.”

[Comic Book]


Transformers: Rise of the Beasts

A tie-in coffee mug seemingly offers the first look at Optimus Primal, Rhinox, Airazor, and Cheetor as they appear in Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. 


Saw X

A set photo also has our first look at Tobin Bell’s triumphant(?) return as Jigsaw in Saw X.


Indiana Jones 5

The latest issue of Empire (via Collider) also has five new images from the latest Indiana Jones movie.

Photo: Disney
Photo: Disney
Photo: Disney
Photo: Disney
Photo: Disney

Dune: The Sisterhood

Deadline reports series creator Diane Ademu-John is “stepping down as co-showrunner” of Dune: The Sisterhood, although she “will remain creatively involved in the prequel as executive producer” while focusing on “other commitments.”


Untitled Witcher Spinoff

According to Redanian Intelligence, Netflix is developing a currently untitled Witcher spinoff focusing on the “infamous group of young Nilfgaardian misfits called The Rats.”


Let the Right One In

Interpol goes after Naomi in the synopsis for “Monster,” next week’s episode of Let the Right One In.

Mark turns to his faith for guidance, but Eleanor risks her life to help him instead; meanwhile, Naomi is visited at work by a formidable new Interpol agent and Isaiah gets heartbreaking news.

[Spoiler TV]


Reginald the Vampire

Reginald is assessed in the synopsis for his first season finale, “Reginald Andres Beyond Thunderdome.”

The much anticipated Assessment finally arrives and the only open question is whether or not Reginald will survive it.

[Spoiler TV]


Titans

Spoiler TV also has photos from “Brother Blood,” this week’s episode of Titans. More at the link.

Photo: HBO Max
Photo: HBO Max
Photo: HBO Max
Photo: HBO Max

The Mayfair Witches

AMC has released three Mayfair Witches motion posters showing off the stately exterior of Mayfair Manor.


Hot Skull

Finally, a linguist is humanity’s only hope against an epidemic that spreads through verbal communication in the trailer for Hot Skull, coming to Netflix on December 2.

Hot Skull | Official Trailer | Netflix

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.

1963 – Tom Jones @ Bureau 42

Sense and Sensibility – Chapter 36 @ Bureau 42

For Kevin Bacon, Joining the Guardians' Holiday Special Was the Easy Part @ io9

Image: Frederick M. Brown (Getty Images)

If there’s one thing you can count on the MCU to often provide, it’s often a callback. The recently released Guardians of the Galaxy holiday special offers maybe the greatest callback of the whole enterprise by bringing in Kevin Bacon as himself. You may recall that Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord is deeply enamored with the Friday the 13th and Footloose actor, and has made that well-known to his alien companions throughout the Guardians’ many appearances.

For Bacon himself, he told IGN that he genuinely had no clue he’d be name dropped in the 2014 Guardians film until he got the chance to see it. He called it a “very strange experience, but cool.” So when he was approached with the possibility of actually being in the MCU nearly a decade later, he jumped at the chance. “I didn’t really read the script. I just said, ‘Oh yeah, that sounds great.’”

The Guardians special was one of the first things Marvel planned to make for Disney+, but you might not have known that. Between director James Gunn’s firing (and rehiring) from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, his subsequent jump to DC, and then the pandemic, it’s taken time to get this project off the ground. Bacon acknowledged that it was “quite a few years” when he was pitched the idea, and back then when he initially signed on, he wasn’t fully sure if he’d actually be playing himself.

It was after Gunn gave him the script and the actor learned that he’d also be singing, that he was even more in on the project. “Gunn referenced all the tunes, so I immediately made myself a playlist just to feel the vibe of the whole thing and listen to it a lot,” Bacon said. The big musical highlight of the special is a rock-and-roll carol he does with the MCU’s version of the Old 97s, a sequence he called a joy to make. “I think it’s got a really nice combination of sweetness and sentimentality without being a corny take on Christmas. And it rocks, and I loved it.”

Talking about Gunn, Bacon described him as “a powerhouse...He’s just got a great voice and a great eye, and he’s super smart.” His experience with the director and the rest of the Guardians crew, he continued, was like an office Christmas party where “everybody had a blast, and most of all, me.”

You can watch Kevin Bacon in the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special on Disney+, or listen to its soundtrack on the music platform of your choice.


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Albert Pyun, B-Movie Film Director, Has Passed Away @ io9

Image: Sthanlee B. Mirador/Sipa USA

Filmmaker Albert Pyun passed away on Saturday in Las Vegas at the age of 69, reports Variety. The news was confirmed by his wife and producer Cynthia Curnan on Facebook, and comes years after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and dementia.

“I sat with him for his last breath that sounded like he was releasing the weight of the world,” reads Curnan’s post.

Born May 19, 1953, Pyun got his start in the industry by working in various production houses in Honolulu, Hawaii, and later as an intern in Japan for a TV series starring Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune. After years as a commercial film editor in Hawaii, he moved to LA to become a full-time movie director. His debut feature, 1982's The Sword and the Sorcerer, gathered a strong cult following after its successful theatrical run and remains his highest-grossing film.

Throughout his career, Pyun became best known for both collaborating with action movie stars of the 80s and 90s such as Jean-Claude Van Damme and Christopher Lambert, and his quick production turnarounds. During the 90s, he directed 22 films, including the second and fourth Kickboxer films, 1992's Nemesis and its three sequels, and the 1990 Captain America film. Much of his 90s films, such as Captain America, were produced by The Cannon Group.

But from the 2000s and onwards, Pyun would go to self-finance his films. His output slowed down considerably during the last two decades, with only five films in the 2000s and four in the 2010s. It was during 2013 that he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but his condition had improved by 2014 to where he could direct The Interrogation of Cheryl Cooper and 2017's Interstellar Civil War.


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Open Channel: Pick a Marvel Hero to Headline a Future Holiday Special @ io9

Image: Marvel Studios

Amongst the cinematic and television hits that made up the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s 2022 output, the megafranchise got into the holiday spirit with a pair of one-hour specials. The Guardians of the Galaxy headlined the recently released Christmas special, while Werewolf by Night kicked things off with one for Halloween, and it’s reasonable to assume that future specials are in various stages of conception as we speak. Given that Marvel is slowly but surely making its way back into animation, there’s a solid chance that some of those specials, when they release, will wind up being animated rather than live action.

At this point, the MCU has long become a cultural institution, and the releases for its films certainly count as holidays in and of themselves. The two specials released so far give us an idea of what we could reasonably expect from upcoming installments: some specials will feature some legacy characters getting up to shenanigans, others will introduce a specific character and supporting cast for audiences to be introduced to. And this is only mentioning single-day holidays; Marvel Studios may take a page from the Marvel Voices anthology comics and release a special for the celebratory month of a particular minority group.

The MCU has a large roster of characters that grows on a pretty regularly basis, and there’s plenty of holidays for Disney to make worthy of a seasonal one-shot. With that in mind, for this week’s Open Channel, we want to know what Marvel character you would choose to star in a hypothetical holiday special. It can be a legacy MCU character, it can be someone who hasn’t gotten the headline boost that you think they deserve, or a wholly new person that could make their MCU debut through this.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.

Great, Now We're Getting a Horror Movie Where Bambi's Killing People @ io9

Image: Disney

You may recall that earlier in the year, news broke of a horror movie based on Winnie the Pooh, of all things. With the character having re-entered the public domain after Disney let the rights lapse, Pooh: Blood & Honey took the children’s character and made him a serial killer, at which point the internet freaked the hell out. If you thought that would be the last we heard of such a concept, well, I don’t know how that’s possible if you read the title of this article.

So yes, some horror filmmakers are gearing up to give a similar treatment to Bambi (which Disney’s working on a live-action remake for). Originally reported by Dread Central earlier in the week and later corroborated by Entertainment Weekly, director Scott Jeffrey is helming Bambi: The Reckoning, wherein the titular deer will be a “vicious killing machine who lurks in the wilderness,” per the director. “The film will be an incredibly dark retelling of the 1928 story we all know and love. [...] Prepare for Bambi on rabies!” Given the subtitle and the fact that “Bambi’s out for revenge against the hunter who shot his mom” is a common joke, you can probably guess what the film’s plot may end up being.

Further details on the film are scarce ahead of its start date of January 2023. But Jeffrey did say that the design of Bambi would take inspiration from the 2017 horror film The Ritual, for those who’ve seen that. Additionally, it’ll be produced by Rhys Frake-Waterfield, director of Pooh. Jury’s out on if this all leading to some sort of weird Freddy vs. Jason crossover involving other childhood characters in the public domain, though. (There’s no way that isn’t being kicked around, right?)

Like with Pooh, you’ll probably get a kick out of this if you were big on the idea of children’s characters being secretly twisted. If you’re not in that camp, well you’re already against it on principle from the start, so continue to ignore it. Either way, if characters are going to continue being in the public domain, stuff like this is what we’ll get, if only because they easily grab attention.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.

Assessment Part 3 of 9 is on YouTube @ Bureau 42

The third part of the assessment series (dealing with reliability, validity, and bias) is now available on YouTube. Following this, I will be adapting either the Quantum Mechanics or Theory of Relativity series to YouTube. If you have a preference for which of those comes first, please let me know!

Bureau’s Breakroom’s Television Table – Week beginning 2022 November 27 @ Bureau 42

Last week, we missed the Guardians of the Galaxy’s Holiday Special being dropped, but if the breakroom has a ten year old kid who knows how to work the remote like mine, then odds are good it will be on the television at least once this week.  When we can wrest control back, Let The Right One In has Mark and Naomi going on a date.  Sylvester departs StargirlTitans get some blood between brothers.  Star Trek: Prodigy keeps its secrets.  The Peripheral is planting trees.  At My Hero Academia, there’s an outbreak of parasites.  If this wasn’t enough to keep you entertained, you can always catch up on Wednesday or Staged from last week.

[All synopses (and titles) from Trakt.tv below the cut, except when there really aren’t any. (If a show’s synopsis is a spoiler to you, do not click Continue reading →)]

Let the Right One In – S01E08  – Or Stay and Die – Mark goes on a date with Naomi, but Eleanor realizes his motives might not be as sincere as they seem. Naomi and her partner, Ben, close in on their suspect, Claire, who has found a terrifying new way to advance her research.

Stargirl: Frenemies – S03E12 – Chapter Twelve: The Last Will and Testament of Sylvester Pemberton – As the team devise a plan to deal with their latest threat, Sylvester takes matters into his own hands and leaves Courtney, Pat and the JSA fearing for what comes next.

Titans – S04E06 – Brother Blood – [No Description Given]

Star Trek: Prodigy – S01E16 – Episode 16 – [No Description Given]

The Peripheral – S01E08 – The Creation of a Thousand Forests – [Season Finale – No Description Given]

My Hero Academia – S06E10 – The Ones Within Us – [No Description Given]

Wednesday – S01 – Wednesday Addams is sent to Nevermore Academy, a bizarre boarding school where she attempts to master her psychic powers, stop a monstrous killing spree of the town citizens, and solve the supernatural mystery that affected her family 25 years ago — all while navigating her new relationships.

Staged – S03 – David Tennant and Michael Sheen (playing themselves) were due to star in a production of ‘Six Characters in Search of an Author’ in the West End. The pandemic has put an end to that, but their director (Simon Evans) is determined not to let the opportunity pass them by.

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special – On a mission to make Christmas unforgettable for Quill, the Guardians head to Earth in search of the perfect present.

Missing Christmas Cards @ Bureau 42

Anime Explorations Podcast – Episode 2: Boogiepop & Others (2019) @ Bureau 42

This month, David, Tora, and I look at the 2019 adaptation of the successful adaptation of some of the Boogiepop light novels – Boogiepop & Others.

Boogiepop & Others is available:

In December we will be talking about Nutcracker Fantasy which can be found:

Opening:

Donut by Anozira
Bandcamp Link: https://anoziramusic.bandcamp.com/track/donut
Used with permission

Send feedback to: animeexplorations@gmail.com

Weekly New Releases – November 29, 2022 @ Bureau 42

Annika
Amazon
Borgias
Amazon
Cat’s Eye
Amazon
Comments The second season of the action-comedy heist anime, from the creator of City Hunter (Nicky Larson for our French readers).
Detective Knight-Rogue
Amazon
Comments Starring Bruce Willis
Detective Story (Kino-Lorber)
Amazon
Don’t Worry Darling
Amazon
Emily the Criminal
Amazon
Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema XI (Kino-Lorber)
Amazon
Comments Includes A Woman’s Vengeance, I Was a Shoplifter, Behind the High Wall
Flight Attendant
Amazon
Free Guy
Amazon
French Noir Collection (Kino-Lorber)
Amazon
Comments Includes Speaking of Murder, Back to the Wall, Witness in the City, Le dos au mur, and Un temoin dans la ville.
Fruits Basket
Amazon
Comments The limited edition release comes with figures for the Dog, Cat, and Boar on the Chinese Zodiac (yes, the Cat isn’t on the Chinese Zodiac – that’s relevant to the plot of the show).
Ghosts
Amazon
In the Soup
Amazon
Ip Man
Amazon
Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds
Amazon
Listen to Me, Girls. I Am Your Father!
Amazon
Comments A college student has to take over raising his sister’s children when she and her husband go missing. Hilarity ensues.
Love Live! Superstar!!
Amazon
Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon
Amazon
Mysterious Circumstance, The Death of Meriwether Lewis
Amazon
Offer
Amazon
Peking Express (Kino-Lorber)
Amazon
Picpus / Cecile is Dead! – Inspector Maigret Double Feature (Kino-Lorber)
Amazon
Resurrection
Amazon
Riverdale
Amazon
Sherlock Hound
Amazon
Comments One of the first anime series that Hayao Miyazaki worked on, with the series itself being directed by Isao Takahata.
Smile
Amazon
Symphogear AXZ
Amazon
Comments The second-to-most recent Symphogear series to date
Tales of Symphonia the Animation
Amazon
Comments Anime series based on the video game.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
Amazon
Tom and Jerry Snowman’s Land
Amazon
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan
Amazon
Train to Busan
Amazon
Unguarded Moment (Kino-Lorber)
Amazon
Urusei Yatsura Always My Darling
Amazon
Comments The Urusei Yatsura film after “The Final Chapter”, with Ataru getting dosed with a malfunctioning love potion that causes him to act like a dog, causing Lum to have to restore him to (relative) normalcy, while hilarity ensues throughout town.
Westworld
Amazon

Finally, the picks of the week. Alex says, “On the anime front, I’m going to be picking up Cat’s Eye Season 2, though parents looking for something a little more kid-friendly will want to go with Sherlock Hound. For people with the ability to watch 4K UHD disks, I’d go with Ip Man – it’s a solid start to the series.” Blaine says, “of the titles I’ve seen, Free Guy was the most impressive, partly because the trailers ended up giving away so little of the actual plot.”

Rian Johnson on Knives Out's Future Inspirations and Keeping the Franchise Fresh @ io9

Image: Netflix

When the original Knives Out released in 2019, it received such a strong, mostly positive reaction that it wasn’t a surprise when a follow up was eventually announced. Glass Onion, which recently began its one-week theatrical run before it goes to Netflix on December 23, is the first of two Knives Out sequels that director/writer Rian Johnson has already been tapped to make for the streamer. Both films, and much of Johnson’s previous works (for better and worse), have been praised for playing around with expectations of the genre or franchise he’s in.

But as part of a recent story from Deadline, Johnson admitted that Knives Out lacks a strong foundation for where to go next compared to his earlier films. “[Mystery’s] not an expansive genre,” he said. While he acknowledged the countless adaptations of mystery novel series like Agatha Christie, the genre itself isn’t known for its innovation. “It’s not like there are thousands of classics, like film noir, where it feels like there’s unlimited amount of stuff to draw from. [...] In terms of actual innovative stuff in the genre, you do find yourself coming back to the same titles.”

On that front, Johnson said he’ll look for hidden gems within the genre as inspiration. But he also talked about wanting to avoid resting on his laurels, particularly as he’s also working on Poker Face, a separate mystery show for Peacock starring Natasha Lyonne. “Daniel [Craig] and I have talked a lot about that, how the instant we feel like we’re turning the crank on another one of these, we have to stop.” When asked by Deadline, Craig gave a similar sentiment: the duo will keep making Knives Out films if the demand is there. But both of them have agree to pull the eject cord should the franchise begin to feel like an obligation rather than something they loved doing.

Johnson’s currently in the early stages of writing Knives Out 3, and has been since the press tour for Glass Onion. Calling it his “most exciting creative thing” at the moment, he teased that he wants to make the film as distinct from its predecessors as possible. “It’s very important with each one now, and the third one especially, that it feels kind of scary and dangerous,” he said. “You have to shake the box.”


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.

Despite Wakanda Forever's Success, Namor's Still Off Limits for a Solo Film @ io9

Image: Marvel Studios

Before Black Panther: Wakanda Forever released in theaters and became a juggernaut in the way most Marvel movies do, there was plenty of anticipation to see how the film would handle Namor the Sub-Mariner. Now that the film has come out, the character’s received a new surge of attention thanks to his portrayal by Narcos: Mexico’s Tenoch Huerta Mejía and his reworked origin as the ruler of the underwater kingdom of Talokan.

With how Marvel Studios prepares basically anyone to step up for a solo adventure after being a guest star in someone else’s story, you’d be right in thinking we’re due for a Namor spinoff in the near future. But longtime Marvel Studios executive producer Nate Moore told The Wrap that Disney remains barred off from giving the character his own standalone feature on account of Universal Pictures continuing to own the movie rights to the Sub-Mariner. (By that same logic, you can presume a Disney+ series is off the table.) Back in the 90s when Marvel Comics was in danger of going bankrupt, it sold off character rights to other studios, like Fox or Sony. Universal got Namor and the Hulk, and even though they’ve tried over the decades to get a movie for the underwater antihero off the ground, nothing really came of those efforts before the Black Panther sequel.

As it stands, Marvel’s deal with Universal even affected Wakanda’s promos: Moore continued that Namor couldn’t even be alone on marketing materials unless it was for a poster. You know how some Marvel movies have commercials that hype up the danger of its villain? This was why Wakanda Forever did one for the Talokanil overall and not their leader specifically. “There weren’t really things we couldn’t do from a character perspective for him,” he explained. “But we also made some big changes to really anchor him in that world in a truth that publishing never really landed on, I would argue, in a big way.”

It’s currently unclear how long Marvel Studios’ deal with Universal will continue, or if the studio is actively trying to make a play to reacquire Hulk and Namor. Likewise, it isn’t known if it’s possible for Marvel to use a Namor-adjacent character as a lead and have Namor show up, as we saw with She-Hulk. Unlike with the Netflix characters, it might not be possible for the studio to just run the clock until such a time when the rights revert to them. “Namor will return,” promised Moore, but in what capacity will be unclear until Marvel straight up says so, or it gets leaked in merchandising material.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.

Tony Gilroy on Andor's Post-Credits Scene and Season Two Time Jumps @ io9

Image: Lucasfilm

It doesn’t feel like that long ago that the idea of Diego Luna’s Rogue One character Cassian Andor getting a solo series felt strange. But over the past two months and change, Andor has proven itself to be a pretty great show. Not just “great for Star Wars,” but legitimately great in a way that could easily make you forget you’re watching a prequel about a guy who’s fated to eventually die as part of a larger effort to save the galaxy.

Andor was given a two-season order from the jump, and showrunner Tony Gilroy has been up front in the past about how the sophomore season in particular will lead directly into Rogue One. But the recent season one finale, the incredible “Rix Road,” uses its final moments to truly make clear what awaits Cassian and the rest of the show’s principal cast.

After Cassian commits himself to joining Luthen’s rebel cause, the post-credits scene for “Rix Road” shows that the Death Star is in active production. What’s more, it’s being made using the assembled machinery that Cassian and his fellow prisoners were forced to work on during the “Narkina 5" arc, meaning Cassian was essentially creating the means to his own destruction.

In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Gilroy explained how its continued assembly will be a “looming threat” and drive the show going forward. The next season, he said, “is about who picks up the final breadcrumbs that lead to the beginning of Rogue One. [...] Cassian knows some shit, but he’s looking for answers.”

One thing he won’t ever know, added Gilroy, is that he had an unwilling hand in the device’s creation. Similarly, the filmmaker said that the show will won’t create new scenes for within the movie’s timeframe, and will progress “linearly” into the film. “[The show’s end will] be him walking out to get on the ship and go there. So we’re not going to go into Rogue One.” Cassian and his team discovering in full what the Death Star is won’t be tweaked by the show’s existence, and likewise, his introduction in that movie will remain intact.

Before season one of Andor even aired, it was reported that season two would be spread across four years, with every three episodes covering a year of the titular hero’s life. When asked, Gilroy described the timeline of those arcs as “super condensed. [...] They won’t be spread out.” While there’ll be some focus on what happened in between those time skips, he referred the second season as more concentrated compared to the first.

As for what that means for Cassian as a character, Gilroy told Entertainment Weekly that we’ll see him grow into his leadership role that eventually sees him put a crew together to steal the Death Star plans. “He has to negotiate his way through the Luthen experience and the benefits and disasters that that means and that relationship,” said Gilroy. “Our show’s gonna end up in Yavin and he’ll walk out and he’ll be there to be the guy who gives his life.”

Much of season two will also see how these disparate rebel factions come together for something greater. This is something season one briefly touched on in Luthen’s scenes with Saw Gerrera, who has no love for some other rebel cells hitting the Empire. Season two intends to further expand on that tension between those groups, and it’ll fall on Cass to help get everyone to see eye-to-eye.

“How do you operate when your business is paranoia?” asked Gilroy. “How do you collaborate when paranoia and secrecy are your product?...And how does the empire exploit those differences?” Amidst all of this, the season will feature “all the relationships and all the love and all the betrayal” that defined some of season one’s quieter, strongest moments. But one thing that won’t be up for questioning is Cassian’s loyalty to the cause. “He’s in, he’s committed. So now it’s what do you do with it?”

Andor’s first season is available in full now on Disney+.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.

Netflix's Ad-Supported Tier is Messing with Its Anime Catalog @ io9

Image: Studio MAPPA/Toho Animation

Similar to what HBO Max did back in 2021, Netflix launched an ad-supported plan at the start of November. At a cheaper price, it’s the streamer’s way of bringing in more users to balance out its loss of subscribers from earlier in the year. That alone would be notable, given Netflix’s prior comments about bringing ads to its service, but the new plan’s existence also has some unintended consequences for the streamer’s anime selection.

Recently, The Japan Times reported that the country’s broadcasting network NHK (Nippon Housou Kyoukai) requested that Netflix remove 22 anime titles previously aired by NHK from its catalog, even for the ad-free plans. This all stems from NHK’s standards for internet services: it doesn’t distribute programs if there’s a chance viewers will believe the network’s directly recommending a specific product. Beyond that, NHK was allegedly misled on what the Basic with Ads plan actually was. While the network initially agreed on its shows being included, NHK claims that Netflix didn’t really explain the service’s purpose until shortly before launch.

In a statement provided to The Japan Times, Netflix said it’s since stopped showing ads on NHK programs. The shows currently or previously aired on NHK that are featured on Netflix include Vinland Saga, To Your Eternity, and Attack on Titan. For those who have multiple streaming services, there’s some some good news: Attack on Titan is also on Crunchyroll and Hulu, and Vinland’s second season will premiere on Crunchyroll in January 2023, so its first season may jump ship. But at time of writing, neither party have said what shows may be affected as they continue negotiations.

The possibility of Netflix losing nearly two dozen anime is definitely a setback, as it’s been adding anime to its lineup pretty regularly in recent years. With how popular anime’s become over the years, and how weird streaming rights can sometimes get for shows, other services could easily snatch up any affected shows and their specific fanbases, providing another hit to Netflix’s subscriber numbers.

[via CBR]


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.

Crossword Clues – A | Dorky Geeky Nerdy Mini #7 @ Bureau 42

Time for another minisode! This time, we’ve got crossword clues starting with the letter A. I’ll give you the number of letters in the word and a clue, you just have to guess the word that starts with A. Nice and simple, right? Let’s get started.

 

Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/dorkygeekynerdy/message
Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/dorkygeekynerdy/support

This Weeks Toys Rip, Tear, Swindle, and... Comfort? @ io9

Image: EXO-6, Cellutane, and Bandai

Welcome back to Toy Aisle, io9's regular round up of the coolest toys around on the internet. This week: Star Trek’s 1/6 figure line goes to Deep Space Nine, the hottest anime of the season gets a hot new figure, and sit back and relax Pokémon style. Check it out!


Image: EXO-6

EXO-6 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Quark Sixth-Scale Figure

The latest addition to EXO-6's Star Trek line tackles its first major alien addition to the series: Deep Space Nine’s beloved, irascible Ferengi bar manager, Quark. Aside from a host of alternate hands, Quark naturally comes with a few bars of gold-pressed latinum to add to his coffers, a Ferengi-style PADD device, and even a book of the rules of acquisition. He’s set to release in autumn 2023, and will cost around $215. No haggling! [TNI]


Image: Cellutane

Pokémon Slowpoke Armchair

With a large chunk of the 1,000+ Pokémon creatures being amorphous blobs, we’ve seen quite a few of them mish-mashed into furniture pieces, including Slowpoke who’s now a beanbag arm chair that looks like a comfy place to plop down and let life slow down. Inside the pink polyester sack is nothing but polystyrene beads which means that over time Slowpoke’s shape is probably going to shift and change, possibly looking nothing like an arm chair eventually. We’ve got nothing against bean bag chairs, but dropping $200 on one is a tough sell. Ikea’s cheap furniture might not last forever, but at least a chair will always look like a chair.


Image: Bandai

S.H. Figuarts Chainsaw Man

Bandai is also hopping aboard one of the biggest anime of the season with its own figure of the titular devil hunting fiend. Unlike Figma’s recent reveal, the Figuarts Chainsaw Man is strictly that—no parts to swap him between Denji and Chainsaw forms. What you get instead is alternative hand parts to have Denji with closed fists or splayed out and ready to carve, an alternate tie posed to look like it’s fluttering in the air, and an alternative lower jaw to display Chainsaw Man either with an open or closed mouth. The figure will cost around $50 when it releases in Japan next April—but good luck finding pre-orders still available for it. [AmiAmi]


Image: Blitzway

Blitzway Kurt Cobain Sixth-Scale Figure

Action figure makers tend to stick to fictional characters, but many real-life personalities have had just as much an impact on their fan bases. So while we’re used to seeing Marvel heroes or DC villains painstakingly recreated as detailed and lifelike 12-inch collectibles, Blitzway has given musician and alt-rock icon Kurt Cobain the same treatment. The worn sweater and torn jeans are a perfect recreation of Cobain’s iconic look, while Blitzway has created a pair of swappable head sculpts inspired by Cobain’s performances. The $319 figure, expected to be available sometime in the second quarter of 2023, also comes with all the accessories needed for posing the figure as if it was performing, including stage gear and an electric guitar.


Image: Spin Master

Rubik’s Phantom

The secret to the Rubik’s Cube’s enduring success is a simple design that will continue to make it a challenge to puzzle solvers for generations to come. It doesn’t get any easier to solve with age. But that’s not stopping companies from coming up variations to increase the challenge, like a Rubik’s Cube with tiles that change color as you move it around. The Rubik’s Phantom’s twist is tiles printed with thermochromic ink that all look black until heat from the solver’s fingers causes them to change color, revealing how the cube is scrambled. It’s diabolical, and for $15, a solid gift for that one family member who’s convinced they’re a genius.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Movie: The Retro Review @ io9

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

So much has happened to the Star Wars franchise in the last 14 years that it can be difficult to remember that the new canon actually began with Dave Filoni’s Clone Wars cartoon. It was retroactively added into Disney’s new Star Wars stories by virtue of being a pretty good show helmed by the guy who would eventually be the driving force behind Star Warslive-action TV series. It can be even harder to remember that The Clone Wars kicked off with a movie—a theatrically released movie—that was absolutely terrible.

The film, released in 2008, came together somewhat literally when then-head of Lucasfilm George Lucas saw the footage of the CG cartoon set between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith and became completely enamored of it. He suggested a smattering of the earliest Clone Wars episodes together and releasing it in theaters. If you’re wondering, “Wouldn’t that just feel like four episodes of an after-school Star Wars cartoon smashed together instead of a real movie?” you’ve found its first fatal flaw.

While the second, third, and fourth episodes tell one continuous story about the kidnapping of Jabba the Hutt’s son, the first is a standalone story about Republic clones fighting a droid army that necessitates Anakin and his new padawan apprentice Ahsoka hiding in a box and creeping down the street like they’re in a Looney Tunes cartoon (or Metal Gear Solid game). It’s needlessly goofy, but the “main” story is just as goofy and feels even smaller in scope.

Count Dooku has kidnapped Jabba’s infant son Rotta in a needlessly complicated plan to frame the Jedi and get the crimelord to allow Separatist forces to use the interstellar trade routes in his territory. The Republic also wants access to the trade routes, so they send Obi-Wan to talk to Jabba, while Anakin and Ahsoka track down the horrible little slimeball with arms that is Rotta, a.k.a. “Stinky.” What may have worked as three episodes of a cartoon becomes a mess when watched back-to-back, as “plots” quickly arise and resolve themselves. Obi-Wan leaves Tatooine to help Anakin, but Anakin is already leaving when he gets there. Rotta is sick, but there’s medicine on the ship random ship the Jedi commandeer. A bunch of Grievous’ Magnaguards accost Ahsoka on Tatooine, but she kills them with ease.

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Speaking of, Ahsoka has since become one of the most beloved characters to not debut in a live-action movie, but I’m not exaggerating when I say she is terrible in the Clone Wars movie. It’s not voice actor Ashley Eckstein’s fault, who does the best with what she’s given. But what’s she given is dialogue written by 40-year-old men who are utterly confident they know how a 14-year-old girl talks. It’s atrocious. She calls Anakin “Skyguy” and R2-D2—who already has a very established nickname—“Artooie.” She’s overconfident and pouty and precocious and smarter than everyone sometimes and dumb as rocks at others.

There’s also Ziro, Jabba’s uncle, who turns out to be partially responsible for Rotta’s abduction. He comes across as a stereotype, speaking Galactic Basic (as opposed to Huttese) with a lisping, high-pitched Southern drawl, based directly on the openly gay author Truman Capote. Ziro is covered in glow-in-the-dark make-up, wears feathers on his head like a 1920s flapper headband, and smokes from a long cigarette holder. Now, whether you’re offended by this or simply delighted by the fact that 2008 Star Wars had any semblance of queer representation is up to you, but there’s still the fact that George Lucas specifically requested that his kids’ movie include a caricature of a writer who died more than 20 years prior.

But that’s hardly Clone Wars’ only adherence to things its young audience wouldn’t know or possibly be interested in. If you’re a fan of the TV series—because it certainly improved in this regard as it went on—you may not remember that the animation and look of Clone Wars was inspired by 1960s British marionette shows like Thunderbirds and Space Patrol. These puppets were visibly wooden and moved in awkward, janky ways, which were lovingly and inexplicably recreated in the 2008 cartoon. Sometimes, I swear you can see the woodgrain in the solid chunks that made up the characters.

Again, thankfully, Clone Wars got better, both in the animation and storytelling departments. Now it’s remembered for how it went on to develop Ahsoka Tano into one of the franchise’s most beloved characters, how it humanized the Clone Troopers, its evolution of the Mandalorians, and so, so much more.. Well, at least until Dave Filoni makes The Book of Boba Fett: Chapter Two, in which Stinky the Hutt returns to claim his father’s throne.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water. 

Nina West on the Importance of Kindness and Embracing Being a Fantastical Fan @ io9

Photo: Max Fleury

Being a multi-hyphenate performer is something Nina West knows well. Winning Miss Congeniality on Ru Paul’s Drag Race season 11, partnering with Dolly Parton on a kindness campaign, making music for kids, acting opposite Daniel Radcliffe in Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, becoming the LGBTQ face of Disney’s Pride campaign, and releasing a children’s book—West is doing it all in heels and a wig that touches the sky.

Speaking of that children’s book: with The You Kind of Kind, West aims to spread awareness that kindness is needed more than ever, especially with legislation all over the U.S. with the potential to endanger LGBTQ youth. io9 recently sat down with her to talk about its inspiration, working with fellow Disney creative illustrator Hayden Evans, what the season means to her, and her favorite things to do at Disney Parks during the holidays.

Sabina Graves, io9: Hi Nina! I have to start off by saying I loved seeing you in Weird as the iconic Divine at the eccentric celebrity pool-party scene. How did that come about? 

Nina West: I’m on tour right now with Hairspray and I got a call at the end of January, beginning of February from my agent saying, “Hey, we have an offer for you to come do this project that’s kind of top secret, but they want you to play [drag legend and John Waters muse] Divine.” I think the day that I went to set was the day that TMZ or somebody posted a picture of Daniel [Radcliffe] as Weird Al.  I was there like in the heat of the secrecy behind the project. And it was just a dream come true to be asked to play such an iconic role and with pure camp and pure fun celebrating the life of Weird Al, with Daniel Radcliffe and with Jack Black. It’s just one of those things that I never thought would ever happen. Dan Radcliffe is like the most charming, the sweetest, most disarmingly kind and wonderful person. He was really interested in my drag career. The director, Eric [Appel] is just a really incredible guy and obviously Weird Al is so amazing. I feel like there’s this really cool storyline that’s about celebrating your authentic self and celebrating weirdness and celebrating what makes you you.

io9:  On the note of being kind, let’s talk about the book The You Kind of Kind. Congrats on the release, this is incredible. I love Hayden Evans’ art. I’m a big Disney fan as well so I’m familiar with his work and your work with Disney. So when I saw both powers combined, I was like, “Oh, this is going to be good.”

West: The project came about after I was eliminated from Drag Race. I released this EP of kid’s music called Drag Is Magic. Then the pandemic hit, and it allowed me to settle into it and give myself over to it in a luxurious way that I would never have had otherwise. I started working on the book really full time in maybe like April 2020, and Hayden came into the picture relatively late in the game. Hayden was someone that I brought to the table because of his artwork. I love the storytelling that he’s able to capture through his artwork and there’s the Disney connection, right? There’s something about Hayden’s artwork, which is similar to [legendary Disney artist] Mary Blair’s. Mary Blair, but there’s a whimsy to it, and there is a wonderment to it and an excitement to it that is captured in how Hayden does his artwork.

Hayden really informed how I had to edit the manuscript and how I had to really think about the presentation of it in a new way, which was really exciting. And he really encapsulated the energy of the character little Nina and the energy of my drag character of Nina West—I mean, really captured at every page turn through its vividness. The text really also does support it. Another Disney connection would be that I was really inspired by the Sherman Brothers who wrote a lot of different [Disney] songs from Bedknobs and Broomsticks, but probably most famously Mary Poppins’ “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

Image: PA Press/Hayden Evans

Mary Poppins is my favorite Disney film and it always inspired me and encouraged me to just kind of think outside the box. I really wanted to tip my hat to that and give little Nina her own energy and her own ability to have the license to create the world she wanted to live in; part of that is how we speak in our language. And in turn, I wanted young readers. I want to reconnect to that, because when I was a kid and I heard “Supercalifragilistic” the first time, I was like, “but this isn’t a word, and it’s okay.” It was permission to dream and to be creative. And I really wanted to also have that impact in my book.

io9: Let’s dive into your first fandoms. Which ones would you say most inspired your career?

West: It was The Muppets. I’m of the Sesame Street generation and that evolved naturally for me because The Muppet Show was in syndication—that was my first real love. When I was a kid at that time, there were these really kind of major moments in the Jim Henson Company, it was Little Shop of Horrors, it was Labyrinth, it was Dark Crystal. They were all kind of circling around my childhood.  It was all these like presentations of Jim Henson. So I would say my ultimate first fandom and obsession were the Muppets. And I think Gonzo might have been [the] first real moment where I think I saw myself, because he was so different and he was an outsider. Here’s this thing or this it that loves a chicken, and it’s just kind of accepted in the same world where a frog and a pig are in love with one another, right? Like there was just this whimsy and natural logic to it that really didn’t make any sense, but it did. 

The Great Muppet Caper is one of the best movies ever made. Little Shop of Horrors is one of the best movies ever made And then it all extended and all went to my Disney love.  So these are all connections, right? For Little Shop of Horrors, Jim Henson Studios created [the Audrey II puppet], but it’s also the music of [pre-Little Mermaid’s] Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, and [The Muppets performer] Frank Oz directed it. It’s really amazing. This past fall in September, at D23 Expo, I got to host a Muppet Christmas Carol 30th anniversary panel! I performed with the Muppets. We sang a medley from the movie. I interviewed [Muppets songwriter and famed music man] Paul Williams and [director] Brian Henson, [voice of Gonzo] Dave Goelz, and [costumer] Polly Simmons. As a kid, I never thought I’d grow up and be sitting on a couch talking to the son of my hero. To sit next to his son, who directed The Muppet Christmas Carol and directed Muppet Treasure Island, it was just like this crazy moment.

And interviewing Paul Williams, who wrote “Rainbow Connection.” We did a Disney Pride special during the pandemic in 2021, and I sang “Rainbow Connection” with Kermit the Frog, which like, “this doesn’t get any better than this” somehow got better than that. We’re all in this room together. I’m sitting there talking to the man who’s been Gonzo since Gonzo was Gonzo created. And these things that are synonymous with who I am intrinsically at the core of my being.

io9: Since this will be coming out near the holidays I have to get your tips as you’re a Disney Parks expert. What are your festive must do’s at the parks during the holidays?

West: At Disneyland, they have special churros for every season, and I am like seriously obsessed with the churro in general, so I have to find them. I have discovered over the last several years at Disneyland The Nightmare Before Christmas overlay on Haunted Mansion is the best. Haunted Mansion is my very favorite and then to put Nightmare before Christmas on top of that? It’s fantastic.

io9: Love Mansion.

West: And then what they do with it seasonally also makes it super fantastic and wonderful. I love the holiday parade [and] the magic of the parks when it snows on Main Street, U.S.A. whether you’re in Southern California or the heat of Orlando. It’s wonderful and incredible. There is something about even the music that they pipe in at park opening and it feels just so holiday, it’s so wonderful and perfect. If you can experience the candlelight processional, it’s fantastic. Do holidays around the world at Epcot, or take the monorail around the Polynesian and Grand Floridian [hotels] and see the trees. Go from resort to resort and look at the beautiful decorations—that’s a way to experience the parks and the magic of Disney. Or do Disney Springs or do Downtown Disney—there’s just so may ways to do it where you can really feel the magic of the season, and also be fiscally responsible if you need to be. I think that’s really what’s wonderful about Disney is they provide an experience and they are storytellers. And that’s what I love about them.

Image: PA Press/Hayden Evans

The You Kind of Kind is available now at booksellers and online.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

Transformers: Earthspark Twists the Franchise In a Great Way @ io9

Screenshot: Paramount

The new Transformers animated series, Earthspark, is doing a lot of things that might make dyed-in-the-wool fans wary at first. It’s a family show, in that its primary focus is on its robotic heroes as they sit hand-in-hand with two young kids and their parents. It’s also not about Autobot/Decepticon conflict, in so much as it is about a new generation of Earth-born Terran Transformers. But it is also this: a kind of fascinating sequel to the classic cartoon.

Earthspark is set in contemporary Witwicky, Pennsylvania, and does not re-litigate the arrival of the Transformers on Earth or the war with the Decepticons. That, in Earthspark, has already happened. Told to us via a cutesy riff on the 2D aesthetic of the classic cartoon series, Earthspark is set in a world where the Transformers and Decepticons did indeed arrive in the 1980s, and fought a brutal war over the new world they had found, roping in humanity along the way.

Screenshot: Paramount

However, 40 years later in this world, things are very different. The war is over, people know Transformers exist, and culture has developed an awareness of them akin to our own, through comics and toys as well as actual history. Perhaps best of all, the war ended in relative peace: Optimus Prime (Alan Tudyk) ultimately managed to convince Megatron (Game of Thrones’ Rory McCann) to come to the negotiation table and form a new alliance to both rebuild the new home they had fought over and to maintain peace, allying with a human taskforce named GHOST to bring in any lingering Decepticon agents who wanted to continue hostilities.

It’s in this fascinating premise we meet Earthspark’s protagonists, the Malto family—Dot Malto, a former soldier in the Autobot/Decepticon war and now an undercover agent for GHOST, her husband Alex, a history teacher and avowed Bumblebee stan, and their children Robby and Mo. Recently moved to Witwicky (where Dot’s new job as a local park ranger turns out to be a ruse to bring her unknowingly back to GHOST), Robby and Mo explore their quiet new town only to come across a miraculous evolution: a cave that gives birth to the first two Transformers ever born on Earth. Empathetically bonded to Robby and Mo through two gauntlets that emerge in their creation process, the two “Terran” Transformers, Twitch and Thrash, are kept secret by Optimus and Megatron from their human colleagues at GHOST, not just so they can remain with the Maltos, but so the Cybertronians can safeguard the secret of a new generation of their kind from the shadowy machinations of their tenuous alliance.

Screenshot: Paramount

It’s in this balance of the familiar and the new that Earthspark creates a compelling family show that jukes where Transformers reboots typically jive. Loosely treating the classic show as a historical event, and tying two generations of the Malto family’s relationship to it, the series creates fertile ground for enough nostalgic elements—although stylized, the classic Transformers and Decepticons are largely close to their Generation 1 designs—to lure in older fans, while also giving an earnest new perspective for viewers in Twitch and Thrash, largely unaware of their kind’s past, with Robby and Mo acting as a bridge between those two perspectives. As someone with a passive familiarity with Transformers, there was enough allure here of the worldbuilding to draw me into the show immediately, and the charm of what’s new—especially Twitch and Thrash, who make for a cutesy, tween-esque lens into the Transformers world—was enough to keep me watching.

But while their antics with Mo and Robby are going to be the draw for younger audiences, there’s enough meat on Earthspark’s bones beyond the typical family show stuff to keep old-school fans intrigued as well (beyond the occasional very cool action scene, many of which see the Transformers creatively use shifting between their vehicle and robot modes as part of their fighting styles). By largely pushing the Autobot/Decepticon conflict into the past, room is created for new pressure points in the narrative. On a macro scale, there’s the new villain Mandroid, a former veteran of the war who now sees the only way to drive the Transformers off of Earth is by becoming increasingly like them, adapting parts of his damaged body with Cybertronian technology. But lingering in the background as well is not just Decepticon holdouts from the war, but GHOST as an organization, and Optimus and Megatron’s disparate views of their alliance with it.

Screenshot: Paramount

There’s something fascinating in watching Megatron wrestle with the idea of imprisoning his former soldiers, especially as friction is created between him and Optimus with how GHOST treats detained Decepticons. A potentially lesser show might use this to eventually play into a re-heel turn for Megatron, but Earthspark smartly sets itself apart by having Optimus and Megatron’s friendship challenged yet ultimately strengthened by this friction, the former realizing that his friend has a point about GHOST’s politics, and the latter embracing that he has changed as a being since he took the steps to work with Optimus.

As Earthspark continues, and more Terran Transformers are born, it’s going to be interesting to see just how the show evolves in its relationship with the classic Transformers story. Right now, there’s a lot of potential for the show to balance a love letter to Transformers nostalgia with something that feels like a genuine step forward for the franchise—all while the series remains an action-packed adventure show for families along the way.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.

DROP's Gorgeous Lord of the Rings Keyboard Broke My Elvish-Loving Brain @ io9

Photo: io9 | Linda Codega

When I first received my DROP x Lord of the Rings keyboard, it was one of those packages that you come home to after a trip: a delightful surprise, and one I had been looking forward to since I had first agreed to write a review of the new Lord of the Rings special edition. I debated between the Elvish and the Dwarvish, and finally decided that despite how much I loved the illustration on the Dwarvish keyboard (a rendering of the door to Moria), I was really an Elf Boy at heart, and requested that version for review.

I wasted no time setting it up. Sure, I had just come off an international flight three hours beforehand, but I figured why not, let’s get crack-a-lackin. I immediately replaced some of the green keycaps with the additional orange caps (thank you, YouTube, for the helpful tutorial which generally boiled down to “the keycaps will pop off before you can break them, so grab a pry and just go for it”). I plugged everything in, and immediately started typing away.

All was well. I summoned no evil shades from ages past, the Valar remained in the Undying Lands, dead Númenórean kings remained undisturbed, truly it seemed perfect. The tippy tappies were tip-tapping, and for a full 12 hours I remained delighted, so pleased with this neat little keyboard that was aesthetically pleasing, gave me so much room and allowed me to write quickly and with the deep-seated satisfaction that comes from hearing keycaps go clicky-clicky.

The DROP x Lord of the Rings keyboard also has some cute little extras—an illustration of the twin trees of Valinor over the arrow keys, a broken Narsil on the enter key, the One Ring on the command key, the eye of Sauron on the the escape key—charming additions that made my little nerd heart go pitter-patter as I, wonderfully besotted with the beautiful mint green base, ivory keys, bright orange additions, saw nothing amiss.

I was blinded by a combination of nostalgia and feeling like a professional writer, with my big keyboard that demanded attention and focus to write on. Every word, every letter, needed to be pressed down, not just tapped, and I reveled in this sense of power and control, ignoring the darkness that grew in a land far to the east. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the way that mechanical keyboards feel. I’ve never owned a mechanical keyboard, at least not since my family computer back in the early aughts, and while I was still in my post-travel phase I didn’t notice what was right in front of my eyes. Yet, in the darkness of my office, with the backlights off, the shadows waited.

In the cold morning after receiving this delightful little thing, this wonderful piece of technology, I noticed something passing strange. First, last night, I had noticed that the function keys were presented F#, using the commonly-accepted Tengwar for F (formen) and the subsequent Elvish numeral. This originally assured me that all was well with my cute little keyboard. (A fun fact! Elvish math is developed on a base-12 system, which is reflected in the function keys.) What I didn’t notice the night before was that the number keys directly below the function row did not correspond to the Tengwar numerical system, and were entirely different symbols. I paused. I checked the F key.

The F key, which has both the latinate and the Tengwar legends printed on the cap, displayed the latin “f” alongside the Tengwar letter anca, which transliterates as the voiced valar fricative “ɣ” or “gh”—a digraph that does not exist in Modern English, and is definitely not the letter formen that the keyboard used to precede the numbers on the function key. For the big language nerds, I want to say that there is another Tengwar letter, unquë, the labiovalar nasal “gh,” which we do use in English (Hugh)—but regardless, this is not the Tengwa formen. I pulled up a Sindarin translator (some of the keycaps had Sindarin phrases, so I assumed the keyboard would use the Sindarin-Tengwar transliteration) and to my growing dismay I realized… none of these Tengwa legends matched the Latin keycaps.

Yes, the vowels in Sindarin are generally indicated by graphenes that adjust the pronunciation of the succeeding phoneme letter, but by and large, you can imitate a one to one transliteration, or, at the very least make an attempt. Also, if you wanted to write in the Beleriand style of Sindarin (which is completely useless, even moreso than writing in a fictional language might be in the first place, considering Beleriand fell into the sea at the end of the First Age), you could use letters as vowels and ignore graphenes entirely. But besides the fact that Beleriand-style Sindarin is again, utterly without a usecase, I love little dots and swirlies and will not give them up.

This keyboard, for all its delightful presence, its charming mein, its wonderful sounds and well-translated Sindarin phrases, ultimately fails in what should be the basic consideration of this keyboard: to match up similar sounds within phonetic alphabets. While the configuration of the keycaps seems, at first glance, to be a totally random assortment of letters and sounds, I attempted to make sense of it. It took some digging, but finally, I realized… this was a keyboard sorted according to the sound series of each individual letter, as outlined by J.R.R. Tolkien in his explanation of Quenyan syntax. If you weren’t off the deep end of Tolkien’s collection of Middle-earth language already, brace yourselves.

Entry for nerds only, I’m so sorryImage: J.R.R. Tolkien

Above you can see a chart of how to group the individual letters of Tengwar according to the glottal sounds they make, which are reflected in the shape of the letters themselves. The first sound-considerations are divided up in each column, which, when letters are written downwards, are called témar. In short:

  • Tincotéma: dental sounds such as /t/, /d/, /n/
  • Parmatéma: labial sounds such as /p/, /b/, /m/, /f/
  • Calmatéma: velar sounds such as /k/, /g/
  • Quessetéma: labiovelar sounds such as /kw/, gw/, /ñw/
  • Tyelpetéma: palatal sounds such as /sh/, /j/

Additionally, looking at the rows, you can see the témar crossed against the “manner of articulation,” called tyeller.

  • Series 1: voiceless plosives such as /p/, /t/, /k/
  • Series 2: voiced plosives such as /b/, /d/, /g/
  • Series 3: voiceless fricatives such as /f/, /sh/
  • Series 4: voiced fricatives /v/, /ð/, /ɣ/
  • Series 5: nasals such as /n/, /m/
  • Series 6: approximants


So, looking at DROP’s keyboard it appears that the first row (which would typically start with a tilde or dash) starts with the vowel control symbol (a straight line over which the vowel indicator can be drawn), and then proceeds down the tincotéma column for the first six letters. The first row then continues in kind of a random assortment of additional sounds–the seven corresponds to the romen, eight to the silme, and nine to the hyarmen Tengwar. The second row of letters starts similarly, going down the parmatema column and including, once again, a rather random assortment of additional sounds, none of which correspond to any of the English legends. This occurs again for the third and fourth rows, which are both filled up with the extra letters in the spare keys after the six Tengwa from each glottal sound.

So I figured out why the keyboard is arranged this way—mostly—but it still doesn’t make sense. Why structure the letters to align with the constructed sorting of the phonetic breakdown of the Tengwar alphabet, a detail maybe three people will notice, and not align the Tengwar to the QWERTY keyboard? The QWERTY keyboard is, after all, not an alphabetized keyboard; why then did these keycaps come, more or less, alphabetized according to the Tengwar?

I consulted with my colleague Florence Ion over on the tech side of Gizmodo. She’s been doing keyboard reviews for years, and helped me figure out exactly what to do for this one (within my limited knowledge of such things) and how to test everything out. What Ion also told me was that mass-produced custom keyboards have led to a decline in quality for fandom die-hards. When the hobby was smaller and the barrier for entry higher, custom keycaps had to be crowdfunded via a mass preorder/buy-in, but this mean that the keycaps produced were of a much higher quality. While these keycaps are clearly of a perfectly fine quality, the thematic clarity of them is not expressed well. DROP hasn’t let their production slip, but the fact is that this keyboard is—at least to me as a die-hard language lover—aesthetically incorrect.

How could you fix it? There is an issue of space, the main Tengwar alphabet includes twenty-four letters, plus an additional eight symbols for more nuanced diphthongs and distinctions that only a man like Tolkien would feel the need to identify within an alphabet. As an example, the difference between the “n” in nigh and the “nj” in new is reflected in Tengwar, with n as in nigh represented by the numen letter, and nj as ñoldo. However, it’s worth noting that numen and the ñoldo are literally reversed characters, so feasibly these two could have been illustrated on a single keycap. There are plenty of these that are identifiable if one had just taken the time to go through and line up a few key similarities. If this was truly meant to be a usable Tengwar keyboard, there are options for space-saving within the keyspace provided, especially considering that there are some punctuations that English uses that have never been recorded in Sindarin or Quenya.

So what I have is a phenomenal little keyboard that is delightful to use and cute to have on my desk, but if I were to attempt to transliterate anything from English into its phonetic match in Sindarin, I would have to go through a whole song and dance to attempt to find the temar and teyeller, attempt to use a chart to find the correct glyph on my keyboard, and then figure out whatever English letter in any given font corresponds to the Tengwar I’ve found on my chart, rather than just referencing my keyboard itself. I would be better served creating a glyph map on my own that corresponds to this setup rather than attempt to go through three layers of translation.

I’m so sorry that I’m like this, I really am. I just wanted a transliteral Elvish keyboard, and what I have is an expressed thesis of Tolkien’s constructed Elvish languages. I know it’s simply the easiest solution done well, but there is a part of me that remains annoyed. There is a version of this keyboard that might exist in another timeline that is innovative and clever, utilizing both the Tengwar and Latin glyphs to create a usable Elvish keyboard that you could use to write in Sindarin, should you have the alt/command control to adjust the vowels or indicate whether you wanted the numen-n or the ñoldo-n. We could have had it all.

I do really love this packaging, it’s quite charming.Photo: io9 | Linda Codega

I mentioned that this keyboard comes in Dwarvish—or Khudzul, if you’re being Tolkien about it—and I regret to inform you at first glance that it does not appear as if the Cirth letters line up with any approximate latinate transliteration either. But Khudzul does have 50 Cirth, so the phonetics might have been a little trickery. I won’t get into a breakdown of the Kudzul keyboard here, as I’ve already gone wildly obsessive enough.

Essentially, this cute little clicky-clacky mechanical keyboard is great for anyone who desires the Elvish aesthetic, with no way to use the keyboard efficiently to imitate Sindarin, either in translation or transliteration. The salt in the wound is the Sindarin printed on the translated keycaps like home, end, delete, and insert. I didn’t go through all of them, but I picked out some that showed the breadth of their rightness and wrongness. The Sindarin word bâr for is used for home, which is correct. However, they printed the Sindarin word meth on the end keycap, which is incorrect because meth is a noun and not a verb! The Sindarin verb for end is a transitive prefix tel- or something like metta, which is translated closer to ‘ending’. Another example is the insert key which reads, in Sindarin ‘nest’ but whose Sindarin letters correlate to no Sindarin word, as far as I can tell. So it seems like we have some correct words, some incorrect forms, and some keycaps that just have a phonetic substitution.

It is, however, pretty well made (I did notice a little bit of separation between the metal chassis and the cover, but it’s minor), and has a bunch of cute additions in different colors and fun designs. I received the standard version (with both the Latin and the Tengwar legends) but I’ve requested the hardcore version to see if I can program this keyboard to write in a transliterative Sindarin--we’ll see when that gets here. But ultimately, this Elvish version of the Drop ENTR keyboard is nice. I like it, I’m going to keep using it. It does what it’s supposed to do. It’s a great starter keyboard for a newbie like me, but I weep for the keyboard I could have had.

Various Lord of the Rings keyboards, including Elvish, Dwarvish, and Black Tongue (Quenya but worse) are available from DROP.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.

'This is the Best Film I’ve Seen in My Life' @ io9

Chris Hemsworth Discusses What It Would Take For Him to Return as Thor @ io9

Image: Marvel Studios

Chad Stahleski talks about the influences on John Wick 4. Get a new look at HBO’s The Last of Us. Plus, a look at what’s coming in Doom Patrol’s fourth season, and new pictures from the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. Spoilers, now!

Devil Inside

Bloody-Disgusting reports Caitlin Stasey (Smile), Ryan Kwanten (True Blood) and Lou Taylor Pucci (Evil Dead) have joined the cast of Jonathan auf Der Heide’s Devil Inside, a new horror film about Devil facial tumour disease. In the film, Stasey plays Eva, “a young virologist who helps the local park ranger (Kwanten) research the Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease – a contagious cancer that has wiped out nearly 90% of the population. But when her husband, Alex (Pucci), is bitten by a sickly stray dog, Eva suspects the virus has mutated across species and is causing violent outbursts in the hosts. Infection soon spreads through the locals and Eva must choose between saving the man she loves or the rest of humanity.”


John Wick 4

Chad Stahleski compared John Wick 4 to a cross between The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsman during a recent interview with Empire.

If you took The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, crossed it with Zatoichi, and threw in a Greek myth, you’d probably get something close to this. And who else f-cking says those kinds of sentences? Now you know why I like doing John Wicks.

It gets a little scary after the third one. Because now we have a formula that works. But you have to throw caution to the wind and say, ‘F-ck it, we’re not doing that again.’ So now, on number four, we have multiple storylines. The movie feels different. It feels more epic.



Thor 5

During a recent appearance on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, Chris Hemsworth stated Thor 5 would have to be “drastically different” from the last two Taika Waititi movies for him to return.

I mean you look at Thor one and two, they were quite similar. Ragnarok and Love & Thunder: similar. I think it’s just about re-inventing it. And I’ve had such a unique opportunity even with [Avengers] Infinity War and Endgame to do very drastic things with the character; I enjoy that, I like keeping people on their toes, it keeps me on my toes, keeps me invested. And I’ve said this before: when it becomes too familiar, I think there’s a risk of getting lazy I think, like ‘Ah, I know what I’m doing,’ you know? So I don’t know – again, I don’t even know if I’m invited back. But if I was, I think it’d have to be a drastically different version – tone, everything. Just for my own sanity [laughs].


The Mean One

Bloody-Disgusting also has word the “unofficial” slasher movie based on How the Grinch the Stole Christmas starring David Howard Thornton (that’s Art the Clown from the Terrifier movies...) will release in select U.S. theaters this December 9.

In the audacious new parody, The Mean One (Terrifier 2‘s David Howard Thornton) is a hairy, green-skinned grump in a Santa suit, living on a mountain high above the town of Newville, despising the holiday season. Young Cindy You-Know-Who (Krystle Martin), whose parents were butchered by The Mean One twenty Christmases earlier, is returning to town to seek closure…but when the Mean One launches a new reign of terror that threatens to destroy Christmas, Cindy finds a bold new purpose – trapping and killing the monster.



Daredevil: Born Again

During a recent appearance at Salt Lake City FanX (via Comic Book), Vincent D’Onofrio stated fans “have no idea what” they’re “in store for” with Daredevil: Born Again.

You guys have no idea what you’re in store for with [Daredevil: Born Again]. I know a little bit more than you guys and all I can say is, during that next series, you’re not going to be thinking about anything but the next episode. I promise.


The Santa Clauses

A synopsis for the final episode of The Santa Clauses reveals exactly how the series ends.

Chapter Six: A Christmas to Remember

The Calvins race against Simon to find the Santa coat in order to save Christmas. Simon realizes the error of his ways and steps aside to let Scott be Santa again. The elves return and everyone hustles to get this year’s Christmas deliveries pulled off in time. Scott takes his family on the delivery run, then they return to retake their place as the first family of the North Pole.

[Spoiler TV]


The Last of Us

HBO Max has released a new poster of Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey in The Last of Us.


Doom Patrol

Spoiler TV additionally has photos from the first two episodes of Doom Patrol’s fourth season. Head over there to see the rest.

Photo: HBO Max
Photo: HBO Max
Photo: HBO Max
Photo: HBO Max

Ghosts

Spoiler TV also has photos from “The Christmas Spirit,” the two-part Ghosts Christmas special. More at the link.

Photo: CBS
Photo: CBS

The Christmas Spirit: Part One

In part one of a special one-hour #Ghostsmas episode, Jay’s sister, Bela (Punam Patel), visits Woodstone Mansion and brings along an adoring male friend, inspiring Sam to spark a romance between them in the spirit of the holiday rom-coms she loves. Meanwhile, the ghosts have conjured up a very different holiday plan for Trevor and Bela. Also, Isaac has an awkward encounter with Nigel that forces him to look back on events in his life, on the CBS Original series GHOSTS, Thursday, Dec. 15 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network, and available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+*.

The Christmas Spirit: Part Two

In part two of a special one-hour #Ghostsmas episode, Sam and Thorfinn get caught in the crossfire as the scheme Jay’s sister, Bela (Punam Patel), and the ghosts have conjured up goes awry. Also, Isaac’s marriage to Beatrice sheds light on how apprehensive he has been in communicating his feelings to Nigel, on the CBS Original series GHOSTS, Thursday, Dec. 15 (8:30-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network, and available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+*.


The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

Comic Book additionally has a few new photos from the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. Head over there for more.

Photo: Disney
Photo: Disney
Photo: Disney
Photo: Disney

Copenhagen Cowboy

Finally, a figure from “Copenhagen’s criminal netherworld” teams with her former nemesis to embark on an odyssey of revenge “through the natural and the supernatural” in the trailer for Nicolas Winding Refn’s new Netflix series, Copenhagen Cowboy, premiering January 5 on Netflix.

Copenhagen Cowboy | Official Trailer | Netflix

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.

Assessment Part 2 is on YouTube @ Bureau 42

The second part of this YouTube series is about the various types of reporting.

Sense and Sensibility – Chapter 35 @ Bureau 42

Read a Story of Queer Love and Hope for the Future in the Apocalypse @ io9

Photo: David McNew (Getty Images)

Now for something a bit different to distract you this Thanksgiving. io9 has run short fiction before, from our collaborations with Lightspeed Magazine to excerpts from novels big and small. But here’s “Post-Nihilism,” an original tale of love and hope in a near-future world ravaged by climate disaster, from Gizmodo’s own Blake Montgomery. Enjoy! - James Whitbrook, Deputy Editor


Professor Francis Jude arrived from Oregon at the Golden Fields Tower flustered, winded, alone. His train had been delayed. He ran to the class he was supposed to be teaching.

Late, he stood in a semicircular lecture hall before three dozen students. He was overdressed in a tie and tight blazer of radiant orange. His students wore neutral tones: loose-fitting jumpsuits of beige, brown, blue, and gray, checkered with wide pockets. His long arms, though thick and strong, appeared gaunt and gangly as they extended too far out of his orange and blue sleeves. Sweat ran down his angular face. His gold glasses fogged under his untrimmed brown hair.

He shuffled through his papers at his desk. Out of breath, he said, “I apologize for my tardiness. Welcome to Historical Philosophy. As I’m sure you read in the course description, our class will delve into philosophical movements while also studying contemporaneous events and societal shifts.

“We will begin by discussing Post-Nihilism, one of the least-known intellectual undercurrents of the century leading up to 2200, but, I would argue, one of the most essential and most closely tied to history.

“The first examples of what scholars would later call Post-Nihilism were memoirs documenting the authors’ own individual experiences, an uncommon beginning for a philosophical movement. These authors had been actively and intently suicidal as they observed the deteriorating state of the natural world, but they all emerged alive from their severe battles with depression and went on to chronicle their experiences. As Benedict Dymphna wrote—”

A student in the front row raised her hand.

“Yes?” asked professor Jude.

“I’m sorry professor, but I think we’re out of time. I have to get to my next lecture.”

“Ah, of course. We will pick up on the same topic when class reconvenes.”

The classroom emptied, and professor Francis Jude sat, breathless and alone.


Francis screwed up the courage to eat dinner at the tower cafeteria, which was open to all every night. He had not yet stocked his fridge, and though the city in the wind turbine offered several restaurants, he thought his chances of meeting new friends better at a long table. He signed up for pasta and sat among the other residents. He had forgotten to change into the olive-green jumpsuit issued to him and still sported his fluorescent outfit.

The gargantuan white wind windmill soaring above the flaxen Oakland hills contained an entire community: apartments, schools, restaurants, a hospital, grocery stores, pharmacies, shops, nightclubs, libraries, a city hall, municipal agencies, utilities, recreation centers, businesses, a university, and more. At its base, parks and farms, the only locales of life that now required sprawling horizontal real estate, occupied a limited circle. Its massive blades thrummed past windows at all hours. The town in a tube drew its power from the wide circuits of the windmill, which cranked three enormous generators in its skull.

Dozens of mammoth city-cum-turbines like Golden Fields Tower pocked the landscape, and each rested within its own 25-mile radius, allowing a wide and undeveloped green divide to stretch between. The framework arose from a rigid lattice of laws dictating city structure. Rails connected them like the roots of aspens. The windows of a train car would offer passing views of the parched and charred hulls of old metropolises.

Though the dinner seating order was assigned—each thing and each person in the compact city had their exact places and appointed times—the chair across from Francis remained empty as the table filled.

“It’s Maximilian. He’s often neither here nor there,” said the young woman sitting next to Francis through a mouthful of noodles. The brown profusion of curlicues on her head bounced as she chewed and spoke, not dissimilar from the pasta on her plate. She wore a tan jumpsuit. Francis caught the aroma of the astringent sauce through his hooked nose. She continued, “If you don’t tell the quartermasters where you’re eating, they sign you up for the cafeteria by default. Maxi never goes to restaurants, but he doesn’t often show up here either.”

“I’ve seen him stumbling around the hallways coming back from the turbine,” said a man in a nearby chair. He wore jumpsuit the dark brown of tree bark. In a hissing whisper, he said, “It’s Magentol.”

“Really?” said the woman.

“Magentol?” asked Francis.

“The turbine lubricant that makes you hallucinate like you’re in a soft dream. Makes you loopy and talkative. Makes your body feel like it’s calm and glowing. Best you’ve ever felt. Addictive as anything. Surely people used it in your tower. It’s everywhere,” the man replied.

“Ah. In my old home we simply called it Grease,” said Francis. “And its devotees ‘Grease monkeys.’”

The man said, “We call them that, too, but be careful. Those words will get you into a fight. It’s more like a slur here.”

“I’ve never seen it in person. I heard it does horrible things to you,” whispered the woman.

“That is true,” said Francis. “My tower was evacuated due to a rapidly spreading pathogen, but those who had already been infected were forced to stay. The quarantined residents often turned to Grease. Their hands and feet calcified, not unlike sclerosis. It was very sad and painful for those who had to remain and those who had to leave them behind.”

“What happened to them?” asked the woman.

“They’re still there. Most succumbed to the mania of Grease overdoses and killed themselves,” said Francis. “The despair at their circumstances drove them further into their addictions.”


Francis returned to his apartment to find that the plumbing below his bathroom sink, unsupervised and rambunctious, had boiled over in his absence. Though the water had receded, a thin brown residue remained. He discarded his teaching clothes in favor of a sleeveless shirt and attempted to scrub it away with the thin bandana he had brought with him. The anemic fabric failed him, and he grew frustrated again with how little the authorities had allowed him to bring with him from his home. His apartment had only a bed and one chair. With a sigh and an exclamation of disgust audible two units over, he left for the communal cleaning supply closet.

Within the large storeroom, Maximilian Kolbe slumped against a dark wall in a ragged posture. His head swayed to a wild, invisible tango as he drank from a hefty, conspicuous flask. His shaggy blonde hair glinted even in gloom. The telltale liquid merriment sheened his smiling lips a reddish purple.

Francis heard Maximilian’s gulps as he entered. The saccharine scent of Magentol filled his nose—soap and rotting fruit. “Hello? Is someone in here?” he asked. He flipped the light switch and brought down jarring fluorescent beams.

“Piss off. And turn that off,” said Maximilian.

Francis did not know where the supplies he needed were shelved. He flicked the switch down in hopes of currying favor.

“Where would I find disinfectant and sponges?” he asked.

“I’m a repairman in work hours, but I’m off now. I’m not a janitor at any time”—here Maximilian slurred—“Good luck finding a cleaning closet librarian.”

“Why are you in here?” asked Francis.

“Because not many people come in here. When they do, they’re in and out. No one comes to a cleaning closet for a leisurely stay, so no one bothers me,” said Maximilian.

“Your apartment is private, too,” answered Francis.

“That’s true, but somehow it feels more sad to drink there alone than do it in here, and the clubs are closed. I’m older than you, I think, and I remember when I could drink in my own damn yard, whether I was alone or with my friends,” Maximilian said.

“Were you the empty seat at dinner yesterday?” Francis asked.

“Good guess, glasses.”

“My name is Francis Jude.”

“I don’t care,” Maximilian said as he took a deep draught. Bright liquid dribbled through his thick beard and splattered on his chest. The drink gleamed like neon blood. “This stuff kills my appetite. One good thing about it. You may be younger than I am, but I’ve still got the body I had a decade ago.”

At Maximilian’s remark, Francis noticed the unzipped crag in the other man’s jumpsuit, black in the light of the dim alcove, that opened to the underwear at his waist. The wiry muscles were indeed there. Francis stirred.

He asked, “What is it you’re drinking?”

“Come on, you know. I’m sure people chugged the turbine cleaning fluid in your old tower, too. Want any?” asked Maximilian.

“You call it Magentol here, I hear? Why do you take it?” Francis sat on a creaking crate. He did not think he would ever learn where the supplies were, though as his eyes adjusted, he enjoyed looking at Maximilian more and more. He could make out the strength of the repairman’s jawline and neck, the veins that led into the hairy chest.

“I’ve got an endless supply of it as a turbine repairman. And because we’ll destroy the whole world someday, just like we almost did before. We’ll finish the job. I’ll be done with it then. Or maybe I’ll be done with life. But while I’m here on earth, I like to hear music, to dance… ‘To and fro in the seven chambers, there stalked, in fact, a multitude of dreams, and these, the dreams, writhed in and about, taking hue from the rooms, and causing the wild music of the orchestra to seem as an echo to their steps…’”

“Poe. ‘The Masque of the Red Death,’” said Francis.

“Right on the money there, Dr. Brains. That’s the best description of what this red-pink mess feels like. Nothing beyond me and the party. What I see is different every time, something like another line from that story: ‘There were much of the beautiful, much of the wanton, much of the bizarre, something of the terrible, and not a little of that which might have excited disgust.’ It’s a ball for one.”

“Do you dance yourself?” asked Francis.

“I am dancing, can’t you see?” replied Maximilian.

“You are sitting.”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” said Maximilian. “Right now I’m two-stepping down the line with quite a few handsome cowboys.”

“That does sound lovely,” said Francis.

“You might be the first person to say so. Everyone else tries to scurry away when they see what I’m sipping,” said Maximilian. “You sure you don’t want some?”

“No, thank you. But I do love dancing,” said Francis. “I have been looking forward to your tower’s party on Saturday. We did not have them in my tower for fear of spreading infections.”

“Yours was the bad one in Oregon?” asked Maximilian.

“Yes. I left before it was declared a pandemic,” Francis said. “Now it is locked down. It grows less and less likely anyone will ever leave or be permitted to return.”

“I’m sorry,” said Maximilian. “That’s a damn shame.”

“Thank you. It has been very difficult leaving my family and my old university behind,” said Francis.

“Will you dance with me?” asked Maximilian. “I like how your arms look in that shirt. You seem quite strong.”

“What?”

“I asked if you’d do a dance with me.”

Francis had expected to ogle Maximilian from afar. The prospect of touching flustered him. He said, “I, uh, I don’t, uh…”

“Oh, fine, never mind, professor. The sponges you need are on the second shelf up to the left.”

“I did not mean to offend, I simply, uh, I…” Francis grabbed at the disinfectant and scrubbers. Several tumbled down around his embarrassed head. He flushed in the darkness as he scooped them up.

“Thank you for helping me, Mr…?”

“Maxi. Maximilian Mary Kolbe.” The slouching man drank deeply. “Everybody seems to have some plumbing issues their first days, and I’ve cleaned up more of that poop-hued scum I’m sure you’ve got than I care to remember. See you around.”

Francis, still blushing, returned to his apartment.


Professor Jude continued his first lecture in his second class. A dozen students in a semicircle scribbled notes.

“The dominant theme of Post-Nihilism is ecological devastation. The immolation of the natural world we see all around us poisoned the writers against themselves, as they saw no hope for humanity and therefore no hope for themselves as individuals. The movement’s most famous practitioner, Benedict Dymphna, coined the phrase ‘The Unworlding’ to describe both his own deteriorating mental state and the fraying of the natural world. The term is the title of his best-known work. Dymphna found himself suffering inner crises that reflected the destruction of the earth around him, mental breakdowns induced more by the events of the world than the ontological frictions of consciousness, though he was not so circumspect at the time. One of his most famous vignettes described him going for the same morning walk every day but returning home covered in more and more ash than the day before. The darkness of the burning world quite literally weighed on him and clouded his sight.

“The writers explained their post-depression emotional and mental state as a synthesis. Theirs was a newfound enthusiasm for life that recognized their previous despondency. Each rejected the label of ‘optimist’ with vehemence and disdain. One writer, assuming the name of the poet Mary Oliver as an homage, described her emotions as ‘tempered, blackened happiness,’ ‘singed sincerity,’ and ‘burnt joy.’ Many began to see the phenomenological world in similar terms. Another, Teresa José, was more blunt, calling her approach ‘mutant pragmatism.’ Dymphna popularized bodily metaphors among major voices in the movement. The most common comparisons in his work are to scar tissue or to broken bones healing. My favorites, though, are his descriptions of eyes: ‘Sight and the sky are blinding after cataracts. How brilliant, how blue, how beautiful.’

“Academics soon noticed the themes of the memoirs and codified them in literary analysis papers, which gave rise to strident critiques of the philosophy the writers expressed. The new worldview had struck a nerve.

“Post-Nihilism was itself a reaction to other ideas, the antithesis to a preexisting thesis. The memoirists and then the literary theorists found ethics rooted in despair to be cold comfort in the face of worldwide environmental catastrophe. The ideas of Existentialism and Absurdism, for example, proved useless when faced with a literal, global crisis of existence rather than one rising from within the self. As Dymphna defiantly wrote, ‘There will be no meaning in our world only if there is no survival.’ He was at once bleak and bold.”


Francis arrived early at the all-tower party too early. He dressed in the formal fashion of his tower—loudly patterned jacket and tie—but as more residents filtered in, he realized that they wore cleaned versions of the same muted, casual clothes they donned every day.

He approached Maximilian, who wore his same dirty black work jumpsuit, matte but for the glossy stains left by turbine repair.

“May I lead you in a dance?” the professor asked.

“Hey there, glasses. So you’ve got dancing feet now?” asked Maximilian.

“You seem less indisposed,” said Francis. He hoped the joke did not poke too hard. He wondered if the tower’s gossiping residents would stare as they joined hands and began the steps of the dance.

“And you seem less embarrassed,” replied the smirking repairman.

“Both can be true,” said Francis.

“Fair enough. I’ll give you one dance, but I’m leading,” said Maximilian.

Francis smelled chemical sweetness on the other man’s breath. “Are you high?”

Maximilian did not answer.

“Why do you take it?” asked Francis.

“I told you, I like to dance,” Maximilian replied.

“But we have music here,” said Francis. “And won’t you lose your legs?”

“Do you know how ‘The Masque of the Red Death’ ends, professor?”

Goosebumps pricked the back of Francis’ neck. “The guests of the prince die of the plague.”

“Yeah, they do,” said Maximilian.

“The allusion hits somewhat close to home, so to speak,” said Francis.

“What? Oh, my god. I’m so sorry, professor. That’s not where I meant to go.” Maximilian missed a step. Their left feet bumped each other.

Francis sighed. “Then what did you mean?”

“The ebony clock is the only thing left standing, towering over all the dancers and ticking the time away as everyone falls,” said Maximilian.

“And?”

“And that’s what’s going to happen to us. The windmill will loom over us, white as death. I’m a fair bit older than you, I see in the light. I used to reside in a proper city. These towers may be a big shift from how we lived before, but they don’t really do anything. They’re just a bandage on gangrene. We’re the same destructive, sicko species as when we nearly ended the earth. So might as well have a magenta drink while you can, right?”

Francis kissed him. The professor did not want to answer the charge. Maximilian reciprocated the affection.


Two weeks later, professor Jude said, “Good afternoon, students. We will be continuing our discussion of Post-Nihilism today.”

“The writers we have covered are tied to a specific generation of Americans, one that lived in both the country as it was before The Unworlding, largely uncaring and indifferent to the natural world’s status, even as our environment descended into chaos, and as it is today, far more concerned with the global harmony of humanity and the earth. The most prominent and visible example, of course, is the reimagining of our cities inside massive windmills.”

Maximilian swaggered into the classroom through the door behind Francis. His heavy boots hit the floor with declarative thuds as he sauntered to the back row.

“Students, this is, uh, this is my boyfriend, Maximilian Kolbe. I did not expect him here today. Welcome.”

Francis’ students lit up at the prospect of their professor’s personal life interfering with their class. Their glee made Francis nervous. Maximilian took no notice, gave a languid wave.

Francis continued, “You see the societal shift in attitude most evidently in the way our cities are now structured. In California and the western United States, for instance, we live in densely populated wind turbines for three primary reasons: to minimize any use of fossil fuels, to maximize the use of scarce water resources, and to mitigate fire danger. We originally implemented interstices of 25 miles between each tower so as to allow for recovery from the huge rashes of fires that plagued our region. Over time, however, we discovered that the ecological recuperation that the spacing permitted benefited human beings as well as the earth as water and air became cleaner. The integration of cities into cohesive units, though a bumpy migration, engendered a more egalitarian understanding and led to more comprehensive care for citizens overall. Though sensitivity towards the planet’s climate may prevail among your young cohort and even among much of mine, I would advise you not to take it for granted, as it came at a great cost.”

“Ha!” Maximilian barked a laugh in the back row. “Kids, let me pose a question to you.”

“Mr. Kolbe, please, I am not finished with the—”

“Do any of you believe this junk? That we’ve moved past what happened to the world into a sunnier future where everyone won’t kill themselves?” he asked.

The students, a frozen Greek chorus, did not answer.

“Anybody want some Magentol? It’ll make you imagine the world isn’t ending. You’ll feel better, I promise,” Maximilian asked his rapt, speechless audience. He pulled a flask from a pocket and guzzled. He leered at the students, and his teeth glowed pink.

Francis flamed red. He stood stiff behind his desk. He said, “Students, we will finish this lecture in next week’s class. Do not forget the reading assignment.”

“No, stay! I want to hear whether you believe humanity has any kind of future. I certainly don’t,” said Maximilian.

The students did not move.

Francis swept the papers from his desk in a loud gesture that turned the heads of the entire class.

“Leave, now!” he shouted, trembling.

They shuffled forth. Some left their books in their muffled hurry. Maximilian stared at Francis and felt ashamed.

“Why did you come to my class? And why did you do it high?” asked Francis. His question echoed through the lecture hall.

Maximilian did not answer. He looked down.

“Answer my question,” said Francis.

Maximilian did not meet his boyfriend’s gaze.

“This is where I work. I cannot have you disrupting my class with drunken rants, embarrassing me, and offering my students Magentol.”

Maximilian, so gregarious a moment before, said nothing as he watched the floor.

“Answer me, you stupid Grease monkey!” Francis yelled. “Or are you good for nothing but turning screws and drinking? Did that slime make you mute?”

Maximilian looked up in awe and pain. Francis saw, for the first time, disgust and hurt overtake his boyfriend. Maximilian’s face fell again, this time into a wounded glare as his shoulders rose in a gesture of protection. Where before there had been a permanent and assertive thrust of the chin, there was now only downtrodden, aching rage. He stood and walked to the exit.

“Maxi, wait!”

The repairman did not. He slammed the door of the classroom.


Francis returned to his apartment expecting a tirade from the other man. Only a note met him.

“Don’t call, and don’t ever call me a Grease monkey again.”

Francis found Maximilian sitting alone at the scene of the party, now an empty room, swilling and slumping, leaning to and fro on top of an empty folding table.

Maximilian did not turn to Francis when the latter came in. He stared out a window at the stars.

“I can’t believe in that Post-Nihilism stuff, Francis. This world’s just as bad and messed up and doomed as it was before,” he said.

“You have survived greater disasters than I, Maxi. Do you see no power or appeal in returning to hope?” Francis asked

“You wouldn’t understand. What you think of as a new day I see as the slow ending of my life and the world. You don’t know what it was like moving from a city to whatever this tower is.”

“I left many people I loved behind as well,” said Francis.

“You know I used to be married to one of the writers from your class?” asked Maximilian. “I read your syllabus one night while you were asleep. Benedict Dymphna. My Benny. He’s the one who read ‘The Masque of the Red Death’ to me. I never would’ve picked it on my own, but sometimes, if I glug enough of this muck, I hear him saying, ‘All is still, and all is silent, save the voice of the clock. The dreams are stiff-frozen as they stand.’”

“I did not know that,” said Francis.

“I thought everyone had forgotten about him except me,” said Maximilian. He took another drink. “I haven’t seen a copy of his book in years. One that wasn’t mine, anyway. I kept them all. They’re in a sealed box. I can’t bear to open it, but I can’t bear to throw it out.”

Francis said, “His work is very much alive. He is the first Post-Nihilist I talk about because his descriptions of his project and the aims of his writing capture the movement so well.”

Maximilian said, “Do you know what happened to him after he stopped writing? After he put down all those killer lines about hope in that book you teach?”

Francis, silent, put his arm around Maximilian.

“He couldn’t stand how much the world was changing. He was so depressed, then he wasn’t, then he was again,” Maximilian said. “He wouldn’t move into a tower with me, wouldn’t give up our life together in Oakland even as it fell apart around us. Finally, he was forced to. Our old apartment building burned down, so he came to my little cubby in the turbine. I was already working there. He saw that I was happy, and then we both were for a while. That’s when he wrote ‘The Unworlding,’ that little intermission between his despairs. I like to think I was his inspiration. He’s the one who gave me the nickname Maxi. I called him Benny.

“We would drink Magentol together. He’s how I got into it, but he would always drink more of it than I would. We didn’t know how bad it was for you then. It made his moods worse, and he would rant and rage around the tower. It was embarrassing, and now I’m just like him. He grew to hate it. He would quit and relapse, quit and relapse, always so depressed and angry with himself. I tried to make him stop drinking… Then one day I came home and he was gone.” Maximilian grew quiet.

Francis knew what came next. He answered the silence: “He drank so much he threw himself from the tower.”

Maximilian began to weep. “I’m sorry I ruined your class. I really made an ass of myself,” he said. “I don’t want to drink this stuff, but I can’t stop. I don’t want to lose my hands. I don’t want to lose my legs. But I can’t stop. I’ve been so lonely without Benny.”

His sobbing intensified, and he buried his face in Francis’ shoulder.

“I am sorry for what I said to you after class, Maxi. It was cruel,” said Francis.

“Do you tell your students what happened to him? To Benny?” Maximilian asked into Francis’ shirt.

“I do not,” said the professor.

Maximilian drew back. “Why not? How can you keep that from them?”

“Dymphna meant to impart hope at the time he wrote ‘The Unworlding,’ no matter what he may have felt or chosen to do afterward. You know that. Life is very long. Hope is vital, but likewise is it fragile. We must learn the story before we learn why the story may not be the whole truth. If my students are to understand the almighty impulse that powers Post-Nihilism—and I want them to, I desperately do—Benedict’s work must stand as a beacon. He wrote about a willingness to endure even the end of the world. His books remain an inspiration, even if his life does not.”

“‘We must hope to live.’ He would say that to me a lot. I didn’t believe it most days. Sometimes I did, and those days were better than the others,” said Maximilian.

“Exactly,” said Francis.

“I’m glad you know him,” said Maximilian. “You’re not too jaded to dance, and you read, and you’ve got some hope. Benny would’ve liked you.”

“Will you dance with me, Maxi? And stay here with me?” asked Francis. He stood to plug in a speaker.

Maximilian put down his bottle and rested his head on Francis’ shoulder. The two stepped together slowly. Francis led. Maximilian sighed with relief.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.

More Spider-Man: No Way Home Funko Pops Are Swinging Your Way @ io9

Image: Funko/Marvel Studios

It’s weird. While Funko Pops are ubiquitous—they’re about the closest thing to real-life Tribbles, in my opinion—the company doesn’t always make them easy to track down. While a few more Spider-Man: No Way Home Pops will be widely released next year, there’s a huge assortment of figures exclusively going to a variety of retailers. Here’s what’s coming, and where you can get ‘em.

Spider-Man

Image: Funko/Marvel Studios

Here’s the red, blue, and gold outfit the MCU’s Spidey begins the movie in. Like all the non-exclusive Funko Pops shown here, they should be available early in 2023.

Doctor Octopus

Image: Funko/Marvel Studios

Otto’s looking good in his green glasses.

Amazing Spider-Man

Image: Funko/Marvel Studios

Andrew Garfield’s increasingly beloved Amazing Spider-Man leaps into action.

Green Goblin (Metallic)

Image: Funko/Marvel Studios

This shiny version of every Spider-Man’s greatest foe is a Box Lunch exclusive.

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man

Image: Funko/Marvel Studios

Sony’s original movie Spidey also leaps into the fray with his other Spider-Pals. A metallic version will be made available later exclusively at Hot Topic.

Doctor Strange (With Spell)

Image: Funko/Marvel Studios

A chill, shovel-holding Sorcerer Supreme has already been released, but you might want to hold out for this second figure, seen casting the spell that screws everything up.

Spider-Man (Unmasked)

Image: Funko/Marvel Studios

Having tussled with Doc Ock and Green Goblin, the MCU’s Spidey is a bit worse for wear in this Funko Store exclusive.

MJ (With Box)

Image: Funko/Marvel Studios

MJ wields the Macchina di Kadavus, the only way to send the various Spider-villains to their home universes.

Green Goblin

Image: Funko/Marvel Studios

Norman Osborn dresses for comfort (and murder).

Electro

Image: Funko/Marvel Studios

This infinitely better design/outfit for Electro definitely needed to be a Pop... if not a Marvel Legends action figure.

Amazing Spider-Man (Unmasked)

Image: Funko/Marvel Studios

I know the No Way Home scene this figure is referencing, but it looks for all the world like someone caught Andrew Garfield trying to eat his Spidey mask.

Ned With Cape

Image: Funko/Marvel Studios

Ned gets his Sorcerer Supreme on in this Wal-Mart exclusive.

Spider-Man (Finale)

Image: Funko/Marvel Studios

Arguably the best MCU Spider-suit of all time gets a metallic upgrade to represent its shine.

Spider-Man: No Way Home 3-Pack

Image: Funko/Marvel Studios

Want to capture all three leaping Spider-Men in a single web? Keep an eye on Amazon for this exclusive three-pack.

Spider-Man: No Way Home 8-Pack

Image: Funko/Marvel Studios

Need more than a trio of big-noggined Spider-Men in your life? This Wal-Mart exclusive set contains the three heroes and all five of the villains from No Way Home, including your only chance to snag the film’s version of the Lizard and Sandman (at least for the moment).


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.

Chucky Season 2 Gave Us the Child's Play Christmas We've Always Wanted @ io9

You better watch out!Image: Syfy

It was festive, it was gory, it was campy, and it left the door open in the likely event Chucky gets a season three. The Christmas-themed “Chucky Actually” wrapped up a satisfying season two for Don Mancini’s horror comedy, but if the show does return, it’ll be without several of the show’s core characters so far.

The reason for that, of course, is season two’s outrageous body count, which knocked out quite a few major cast members. The most spectacular death scenes were reserved for Father Bryce (Devon Sawa), who exploded mid-exorcism; Jennifer Tilly (as “herself,” albeit with her soul trapped in a Tiffany Valentine doll), who was splattered by a truck; and the chainsaw-bisected Mayor Michelle Cross (Barbara Alyn Woods, real-life mother of Chucky cast member Alyvia Alyn Woods, who plays Michelle’s daughter Lexy). Amid all the carnage (and those listed above were just a handful of the corpse parade this season), there were also multiple resurrections, most notably Glen and Glenda (Lachlan Watson), who made a life-or-death decision to return their souls to the doll we first met in Seed of Chucky (voiced by Billy Boyd), newly rechristened “G.G.”—and, well, Chucky himself (voiced by Brad Dourif), whose gotcha! return in the final scene was just as cheesy as it needed to be.

The penultimate episode, “Goin’ to the Chapel,” devoted itself to tying up most of the plot threads we’ve been following all season, culminating in the characters facing off at the Catholic school run by Father Bryce (RIP), where Lexy, Jake (Zackary Arthur), and Devon (Björgvin Arnarson) were compelled to enroll after being blamed for one of Chucky’s early-season kills. The season’s biggest set piece was the existence of multiple Chucky dolls with a shared soul but different personalities, including a vaguely “Good” Chucky, an alarmingly buff Chucky, and a Chucky molded after Marlon Brando’s character in Apocalypse Now, and yes Dourif did a Brando imitation in his Chucky voice for that one. “Goin’ to the Chapel” streamlined all the Chuckys—including the one squatting inside of Nica Pierce (Fiona Dourif)—into a single soul once again, and gave us a sweet, Childs Play 2-inspired send-off for fan-favorite characters and staunch Chucky survivors Andy (Alex Vincent) and Kyle (Christine Elise). It also got all the kids out of the school and back home to Hackensack... just in time for Christmas.

Chucky never says die.Image: Syfy

As “Chucky Actually” begins, the characters all believe Chucky is dead—though the audience knows he escaped the Catholic school thanks to the nefarious Dr. Mixter (Rosemary Dunsmore), who just so happens to have a pristine Good Guy doll tucked away in her office. As the episode counts down the “chopping days” until Christmas and the confrontation we all know is coming, we see Lexy emerging from a successful stint in rehab and reuniting with Jake and Devon to celebrate the holidays at Mayor Michelle’s aggressively festive McMansion. There’s finally a sense of moving on, as “Jevon” rekindles their romance and all three teens begin to realize Chucky isn’t the only thing they have in common—though Lexy raises the concern that they’ll end up like Andy and Kyle, spending their entire lives paralyzed by “a complete obsession with all things Chucky.”

Honestly, it’s something to worry about... especially as “Chucky Actually” roars forward to remind us that no sense of closure in the Child’s Play universe is ever permanent. After seeing her mother in pieces on Christmas Eve, Lexy pounces on “the last Chucky standing” and rips him to pieces. But any catharsis she feels from that evaporates when her younger sister Caroline (Carina London Battrick), who had some Bad Seed vibes in season one but has been mostly absent from the story this time around, emerges with her own sinister agenda. Early in season two, Dr. Mixter gave Caroline a “Belle” doll—the exact same type of doll that played host to Tiffany Valentine before she transferred her soul into the human Jennifer Tilly. Tiffany-Jennifer wants to return to doll form, and—since the doll containing Jennifer Tilly’s soul got smashed by a truck—she needs Caroline’s Belle. Lexy, Devon, and Jake watch in horror as Caroline willingly leaves with Tiffany-Jennifer, her Belle doll in tow. But they’d be even more horrified to learn, as we do in the final scene, that Belle is actually yet another Chucky doll in disguise, and creepy Caroline’s been Team Chucky all this time. Not only does Tiffany not get to transfer her soul into the doll, it’s implied that Chucky’s finally gotten vengeance against his double-crossing bride. And it goes without saying, his killing spree is absolutely back on track.

Glen and Glenda make a choice for their future.Image: Syfy

With some huge questions left unanswered at the end of season two, it seems a third season is definitely in order. Is Tiffany really dead? Will pint-sized maniac Caroline help Chucky get revenge against the Hackensack kids, as well as the wandering G.G.? How will Lexy, Jake, and Devon survive this latest round of trauma? What will happen to Nica? Will Kyle and Andy ever be able to leave all things Chucky behind? What new role will Mancini cook up for Devon Sawa, who’s now died three times on Chucky as three different characters? Can any future installment top a season finale that included Chucky reciting not only his own version of “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” but singing us out with a “12 Days of Christmas” that tallied up every single one of season two’s gruesome kills? Honestly, it’s doubtful. But we’d sure love to see where this wild, hilarious, sometimes incredibly earnest, other times incredibly blood-soaked ride goes next.

Chucky seasons one and two are now streaming on Peacock and Syfy.com.


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The 25 Greatest Moments From Andor's Incredible First Season @ io9

Image: Lucasfilm

The first season of Andor is over, putting an end to one of, if not the best, stories in the Star Wars franchise. While we have a very long while to see where Cassian’s story will take us in season 2, let’s take a look back at some of the best moments from its stellar debut.

Of course, if you’re not all caught up yet... you’ve been warned.

1) B2EMO Stuttering His Way Through Life

Image: Lucasfilm

From the minute we met the boxy little red droid with the most accurate name in Star Wars—being intimidated by a pack of alien hounds on Ferrix—we knew he’d worm his way into our hearts. But then he’d speak in mopiest stuttering droid voice and the love was immediate. Protect B2EMO at all c-c-c-costs.

2) Cassian’s First Meeting With Luthen

Image: Lucasfilm

The first three episodes of Andor are a slow burn, and much of it involves watching Cassian be not just far from the daring spy we met in Rogue One, but actively the hottest of hot messes. And yet, in desperation as the net of Pre-Mor rent-a-cops closing in on him, we get his tense, edge first meeting with Luthen Rael. “Don’t you want to fight these bastards for real?” Maybe not quite yet, but he will real soon.

3) The Closed Caption “(Corpos Wailing In Pain)”

Image: Lucasfilm

I mean. That’s it, that’s the moment. You love to see it.

4) Luthen’s Mask

Image: Lucasfilm

After he’s despatched Cassian to assist the cell on Aldhani, we get to witness the miraculous transformation Luthen makes as he returns to Coruscant, re-disguising himself as a charming, gregarious antiquities merchant. The rings, the wig, the practicing of a fake smile—it’s a tiny moment that tells us so much about his character.

5) Cereal Karn

Image: Lucasfilm

Look at this pathetic little man and his bowls of space cereal! There’s a profound joy in watching a fascist like Syril Karn just have the most miserable home life, and nothing hits that home harder than when we see him berated over his bowl of space puffs by his mother Eedy. A joy to watch this man suffer, every week.

6) Nemik’s Manifesto

Image: Lucasfilm

Andor’s grasp of politics is razor sharp, and none more profoundly shown than when, through the eyes of idealistic firebrand Kasin Nemik, we get presented with his writings that will fuel the Rebellion. “The pace of oppression outstrips our ability to understand it. And that is the real trick of the Imperial thought machine—it’s easier to hide behind 40 atrocities than a single incident.” In a franchise about the struggle against authoritarianism, it took this long to have someone actually speak to its evils and ideas so plainly.

7) The Threat of the TIE Fighter

Image: Lucasfilm

Andor’s scale is a personal one, and for much the series, the Empire appears undefined by the familiar iconography that is plastered over the rest of Star Wars—Stormtroopers largely replaced by lightly armored grunts, Star Destroyers fleeting, and then the TIE Fighter, so rarely seen that when one does appear, flying over the Aldhani cell’s encampment, it’s the scariest a lone, screeching starfigher has ever been.

8) Cinta and Vel

Image: Lucasfilm

Star Wars’ rocky history with LGBTQ representation largely leads to a “take anything you can get” philosophy, but while Cinta and Vel might not have explicitly kissed on screen or anything like that, the fraying relationship and love we saw between them as freedom fighters and as a couple was far more profoundly welcoming—simply allowing them to exist as people in this world, instead of a prop.

9) “Climb!”

Image: Lucasfilm

It’s almost unfair to not nominate the entirety of “The Eye”, one of the tenses hours of Star Wars ever, but the exhilarating, awful, beautiful escape of Vel, Cassian, Skeen, and the dying Nemik with their Imperial Payroll through the beautiful-but-deadly stellar phenomena the Aldhani religiously revere? From the visuals to the tension to Nemik’s pained howls commanding Cassian to fly higher and higher to their freedom, it’s an incredible sequence.

10) Party at the Mothmas

Image: Lucasfilm

Luthen Rael isn’t the only one wearing a mask on Coruscant, and the fraught social gathering Mon and Perrin Mothma hold so the senator can court resistance to Palpatine’s law-and-order rule is a masterful display of the many masks she wears. Trying to appease recalcitrant politicians, trying to be the happy mother and wife, and then, when she encounters old Chandrilan friend Tay Kolma and sees an opportunity to mask her Rebel funding in her homeworld’s banking system, we get to see the real fire behind Mon’s steely exterior—a rebel playing the world for fools around her.

11) Dedra’s Gambit

Image: Lucasfilm

One thing that the Disney era of Star Wars has really captured well is the inherent in-fighting of an organization like the Empire, sycophants and power-hungry people climbing the ladder over each other. But the denouement of the competition for Major Partagaz’s favor at ISB between Dedra and Blevin—where the latter’s attempt to get the former chided for going around ISB protocol to continue her own investigation connecting rebel activity across the Empire goes very poorly for him—is a perfect example of it. You almost feel good for Dedra, as much as you can, before immediately remembering how vile all these people are... even to each other.

12) Cassian’s Arrest

Image: Lucasfilm

Cassian Andor fleeing to a party planet for bangin’ tunes, space drugs, and sex is perhaps the last thing you might have expected after the Aldhani heist, but it’s what we get—even if it’s short lived. A trip to the store goes very badly for Cassian as the Empire begins tightening its grip across the galaxy, leading to his detention for simply walking past potential rebel activity, and a nightmarish encounter with a K2 security droid.

13) Syril Shows His Loyalty

Image: Lucasfilm

Syril Karn’s increasing obsession with Cassian almost undoes him when, having been interrogated by Dedra and rebuked for his aid, he shows up to stalk her on the way to work. It’s an incredibly chilling scene, where even someone as routinely pathetic and looked-down upon as Syril has been up this point becomes a dangerous threat, blinded with infatuation to the fascist cause he sees Dedra as the symbolic form of. Once again, that pang of sympathy with her, despite knowing what a horrifying person she is, makes for a compelling, gutwrenching moment.

14) “Never More Than Twelve”

Image: Lucasfilm

Spending two full episodes with Cassian locked in the harsh prison of Narkina 5 at his lowest makes this moment—where he finally breaks down his section supervisor and fellow prisoner Kino Loy, played to perfection by Andy Serkis, to help start formulating a plan to break out. Cassian tries earlier in the episode to poke and prod at Loy, get him to see the horror he’s helping maintain, but it takes the tragic death of their fellow inmate Ulaf, and the evil realization that the Empire ‘frees’ prisoners on Narkina 5 to simply re-assign them to another prison, to crack him and tell Cassian how many guards are on each level.

15) Kino’s Speech

Image: Lucasfilm

An episode later and with the riot/breakout plan in full swing, Cassian compels Kino to take over the prison’s comm system to rally the prison complex against their guards—and the initially timid man gives a barnstormer of a missive, reminding his fellow inmates that there’s more of them than their enemies, that they need to show compassion and help each other to perform a miracle and get out alive, and that, of course, there is only one way out: together.

16) “I Can’t Swim”

Image: Lucasfilm

... Which of course, makes the climax of the breakout so tragic. Cassian and his fellow prisoners are overjoyed to make it to the outside world, seeing that all they need to do is swim away to freedom. And then Kino breaks his heart, telling Cassian he doesn’t know how to. It’s the last we see of him, as Cassian is dragged over the edge by the pull of the mass of other inmates. Did Kino know all a long? Had he forgotten? What happened to him next? We’ll never know.

17) Luthen’s Speech

Image: Lucasfilm

“One Way Out” gives us not one, but two incredible monologues, as Luthen ends the episode meeting his contact within the ISB—a contact who wants out, and questions Luthen’s sacrifice in comparison to his own. A big mistake, as Stellan Skarsgård delivers the performance of the year in a haunting, melancholic, fiery soliloquy about the life he has cast aside in order for generations beyond him to see the light of freedom.

18) Mon Mothma’s Sacrifice

Image: Lucasfilm

Faced with the decision of compromising her morals to work with Chandrilan crime lord Davo Sculden to hide her unbalanced bank records from the Empire, or be exposed as a Rebel financier, Mon chooses to acquiesce to Sculden’s demand that her daughter Leida meet his son as a potential suitor in their homeworld’s traditional teenage marriages. Breaking down to her cousin Vel after, fearing the trouble she’s in, we get a heartbreaking moment to see just what Mon is willing to do for the nascent Rebellion.

19) Saw and Luthen

Image: Lucasfilm

It’s always great to see Forest Whittaker return to his role as Rogue One’s Saw Gererra, but his fiery relationship with Luthen is a highlight, as the latter convinces Saw—who, after rebuffing him, is open to providing air support to another rebel cell—that it’s worth sacrificing 30 men and their commander to maintain Saw’s contact in ISB. It’s a moment that sees Saw pushed closer to the uncompromising warrior we met in Rogue One in the best way.

20) The Fondor Escapes

Image: Lucasfilm

Andor doesn’t have a lot of the typical Star Wars-y hallmarks, but when it goes for it—like the brief, but dazzling escape Luthen makes from an Imperial cruiser that stops him on the way back from Saw’s base is up there as one of the franchise’s greatest little space battles. The Fondor’s flechette-barrage shredding the tractor beams of the Imperial ship, the side-mounted laser beams to slice through incoming TIEs... it’s another layer to Luthen’s mysteries, and just an incredible action scene.

21) Cassian Learns of Maarva’s Death

Image: Lucasfilm

All that horror endured in Narkina 5, only for the truest of all gut punches: having made it back to Niamos with Melshi to retrieve his money and his blaster, Cassian thinks he’s about to return home and reunite with his mother... only to learn that Maarva Andor is no more. Diego Luna plays the moment incredibly well, full of heartbreak and regret, as he parts ways with his fellow escapee and, in a fitting parallel to his final moments in Rogue One, looks out across Niamos’ serene ocean.

22) “Remember This: Try.”

Image: Lucasfilm

Cassian returns to Ferrix to attend Maarva’s funeral after all, only to find the tightened Imperial grip—and his former flame Bix in their thrall. Steeling himself to storm the Empire’s base of operations with Maarva’s farewell ceremony as cover, he turns at last to Nemik’s manifesto—the thing he was gifted by Vel after his death, the thing he was so scared to touch after Aldhani—and we hear the young man’s stirring exploration of the weakness of fascism, how individual insurrection chips away at the fearful oppression of the Empire, and that all rebels need to do to break its siege is a simply thing: remember to try.

23) The Funeral March

Image: Lucasfilm

Is this the most haunting, powerful sequence in all of Star Wars? As all the players of Andor’s season find themselves converging on Ferrix on the day of Maarva’s funeral, its people come together—throwing the Imperials for a loop—to bid farewell to the matriarch with a beautiful march through the streets, punctuated by the stirring music of a marching band. Strings and brass swell in a melancholy chorus, one that steels the crowd to march right to the shields of the Imperials’ hastily-mustered defensive line, a mournful tune that echoes through each of our characters swept up in the sea of the crowd. A community ready to face down its oppressor...

24) Maarva’s Memorial

Image: Lucasfilm

... If only someone’s words uplifted them to do so. Maarva becomes the star of her own funeral via a post-humous hologram projected by B2EMO, a triumphant turn from Fiona Shaw as we see Maarva reflect on her history with Ferrix’s traditions and her own yearning to be inspired to believe in something bigger. And then she turns firebrand herself, as she’d hoped to be all her life, to remind her fellow beings that the Empire’s evil grows stronger in the face of comfortable inaction, rousing them to push back against its influence. She lights the spark, and Ferrix blazes into an all-out battle between the petrified Imperials and its inspired citizens.

25) Cassian Chooses to Fight

Image: Lucasfilm

He’s saved Bix, he’s watched his home rise up against the Empire, he’s lived to see another day. What is left for Cassian to do by Andor’s end? One last encounter with Luthen of course. Sneaking aboard the Fondor as Luthen himself races away from the riot’s aftermath—his mission to kill Cassian incomplete—Cassian makes the man an offer, nudging him towards his pistol: do what he wanted to do in the first place and kill him, or take him in as a new operative. Perhaps inspired by the events of the day, we’re left with Luthen’s wry smile, and the realization that Cassian Andor has taken his first step into a wider world of Rebellion.

In Historical Fantasy, When Does History End and Fantasy Begin? @ io9

Image: Solaris

In its published format, The Hanged God trilogy is unapologetically epic fantasy, featuring Vikings, gods, giants, fire demons, and magical runes, but the story did not begin that way. At the beginning, I believed that I was setting out on an epic quest to write historical fiction, with an emphasis on the historical.

I wanted the story to be as accurate to the time period as possible. Ironically, it was precisely this wish that eventually caused the whole series to pivot into the realm of fantasy. A development I could not have predicted as I prepared to write the tale, scouring through legal documents from Iron Age Scandinavia to discover how the Vikings truly lived.

I researched the Viking Age for months. With my nose buried in research papers, I toured museums, attended Viking festivals and even ended up joining the wonderful crew of the reconstructed Viking warship, the Sea Stallion. I learned not just what the Vikings did, but how they did it. I knew what foods they enjoyed, how they built their ships, dyed their clothes, how they lived day to day, and what took their fancies. As I learned more about Viking Age people, I even began to understand why they raided.

This last “why, oh why” is our main point of interest.

There are many arguments that historians use to explain why ancient Scandinavians started to go on raids. One example is that Viking Age Scandinavia had a growing population that the land could no longer support. Folk needed to search elsewhere for opportunities, so they took to the sea and fought to earn a right of settlement abroad. Others argue that the promise of riches must have lured many out to sea.

These are both great arguments to explain why they—the Vikings—collectively acted as they did. However, what interested me more than their collective choice, was the choice of the individuals. Why would a singular young Viking Age Scandinavian decide not just to leave the shores of home to trade abroad and to see the world, but specifically to pick up a spear, join a crew, and engage in combat, risking their own life?

Many must have left for their first raid and never returned, yet it was a culture-wide movement. So many more continued to try their luck in battles abroad. Were they just violent people at the core? I wondered and pondered this as I turned the page of my newly acquired translations of Old Norse myths. As I stared blankly at the ancient text, the key of eureka turned in my mind and Pandora’s box opened before my very eyes. For here was the justification, lying on the table before me. The myths. The gods. They were the answer.

If the core belief of a regular Viking Age farmer was that in order to get to go to the really cool afterlife where they would get to feast with their mates all night, every night, they absolutely need to die in battle, then that is a good incentive to sail out and find (or start) some battles. I could imagine large bands of friends joining the raids together, because they had decided that there was no way that death was going to be what divided them.

Whether the mythology came first and pushed the Norse people out at sea to search for battles, or whether it came afterwards, as they returned from war, to help justify their actions, we might never know. Either way, the Viking way of life, the life as a Nordic raider, is intrinsically connected to the Norse belief system.

Christian rulers in neighboring lands who suffered the constant attacks of raiding Vikings understood this well. Attempts to convert the Norse attackers were underway for centuries. Some attempts were more violent than others. Eventually the tactic did succeed, although it took centuries to convince the fierce raiders that White Christ could be cool. Soon after Scandinavia officially converted to Christianity (soon in historical terms), raids fizzled out and the Viking Age came to an official close. Without the core belief system, the practice of raiding died out, instead of adapting to the new challenges warriors met abroad.

Of course there is always more than one reason why things happen as they do, but when I looked at Vikings after this, I could so clearly see how many of their actions were deeply rooted in their myths and their belief in magic. Yet, even the learned Christian population had a belief in what we today call magic. Saxo Grammaticus, who wrote the first history of Denmark in the 12th century, wrote that Odin was not a god, merely a wizard and that one must understand before reading his historical account that giants did indeed exist in ancient Denmark. Saxo argued that the presence of giants was clearly evidenced by the stones which had been erected thousands of years earlier to make passage graves throughout the lands.

When even Christian scholar centuries later believed so ardently in magic, how could I ignore it? I took to re-reading the Norse stories with fresh insight. In the myths I found reasons for everything.

A reason they did not feel remorse at killing, a reason to go out and search for battles. Even a reason to value one kind of death over another. There was magic in the stories, and when I walked around the forests of Denmark afterwards, and visited old passage graves built five thousand years ago, the landscape seemed to wake with magic. The roots of the Norse legends were interconnected with the landscape and with their actions in such a way that I could not separate one from the other. I realised that I could not write about the Vikings without writing about their belief systems.

I did try. Yet, it felt disrespectful not to take their belief system seriously. It felt like I was calling my characters stupid for believing in multiple gods, and specifically for believing in Thor who has gained a bit of a different image in modern day media.

By dancing around the question of their beliefs in gods and magic and not fully embracing it, I was making my characters feel like they had no convictions at all and no reason for acting as they did either. I needed more of their beliefs to feature in the story to justify their actions.

That is how I first added a bit of magic. It started as small mysterious occurrences. A belief that the gods were watching. Two ravens cawing in a tree were referred to as Hugin and Munin, the two trusted ravens belonging to the god Odin. Omens and small signs.

Gradually I expanded upon some of the magic I had read about in the sagas, because it felt like it belonged. Runic magic, which could put strength into an object and that quickly evolved. Soon the wind was whispering in Runes and another character had Forefathers stuck inside their mind, and then, it finally happened… a god made a physical appearance on the page.

At that point, I could no longer pretend that I was writing historical fiction. I was like a Norse warrior who had died in bed, arriving in front of Helheim’s gates—I had no choice but to accept my fate.

So, I leaned into the magic and fantasy. I referenced myths, some openly and some in more obscure ways, and I welcomed the gods into the narrative. The biggest irony of all is that it was only when I let the magic take over my story and mixed the myths into the historical research that the story actually felt real and convincing.

Only when I included the real beliefs of people in the Viking Age, did their actions make sense. Only then did the story finally feel exactly as I wanted it to feel—accurate.

The Hanged God trilogy is available now from Solaris publishing.


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The Pop Culture We're Thankful for Getting Us Through 2022 @ io9

A few of the things we’re thankful for in 2022.Image: Various

Thanksgiving is here. A day to sit back, reflect, and think about all the good things in your life. Family, friends, your health—those are all worthy. But what about shows, movies, and comics?

Each year, the io9 staff writes about the pop culture we’re thankful for. The entertainment that has brought us joy over the past 11 months. Things that we’ve not only liked, but that have been so transformative or impactful, we’re actually thankful they exist. So sit back, grab a turkey leg, and see what the io9 staff is thankful for in 2022. (Or, if you want, look back at 2020 and 2021.)

We’re Thankful for Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury

Image: Sunrise/Crunchyroll

I absolutely love Gundam, but with the first mainline series on the horizon this year since Iron Blooded Orphans, I was still filled with a sense of trepidation about The Witch From Mercury. Very little of the franchise in the 21st century has grokked with the things I love most about Gundam as a concept—and the messages that resonate most clearly throughout the earlier works in it—have existed in entries like SEED, Reconguista in G, or the aforementioned Orphans. Would Witch From Mercury follow suit? Had Gundam forgotten how to be Gundam outside of nostalgic retreads of its original self?

Thankfully, I was blown away from episode 1 of G-Witch, as it’s become affectionately known. Not just for the potential sapphic vibes between its female protagonists Suletta and Miorine, nor the incredible design and action of its primary mecha, the Aerial. Witch From Mercury built out a new Gundam world that explored anime tropes that the franchise has not really touched before—mostly a high school setting—with explorations of transhumanism, bio-tech, the future of capitalism, the military-industrial complex’s relationship with class warfare, and more, with the hallmarks and bite I love about Gundam’s core ideals. Finally, there’s a modern series that feels reverent of what Gundam was when it first began, without just directly aping or rehashing it. While there’s plenty of opportunities for Witch From Mercury to fall apart as it continues, for now, I’m grateful for Suletta Sundays having become the highlight of my week over the past few months. - James Whitbrook

We’re thankful for queer media

Interview with the Vampire.Image: AMC

This year feels like we’ve really turned a corner in queer representation in media. No longer relegated to side stories and three-second editable clips, queer stories are finally getting the limelight. From Our Flag Means Death to Interview With the Vampire, even sprinkling in Guillermo de la Cruz’s coming out story on What We Do in the Shadows and the very lesbian-coded Gundam: Witch from Mercury (see above), I feel like I can finally think to myself, “I want to watch a show focused on messy queers,” and I have a plethora of stories to choose from. There’s under-the-radar shows like The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself and children’s animated shows like The Owl House and Paranormal Park that are also doing an amazing job at delivering fully-rounded characters and deeply queer stories. To say nothing of the books that have come out this year. I might not have cared for Nona the Ninth, but in between Taz Muir’s Locked Tomb sapphics, Freya Marske’s horny witches, the Burning Kingdoms’ magical disaster sequel The Oleander Sword, and the final installment of the orc/sorcerer romance of the century The Thousand Eyes, the lesbians ate well in 2022. At the end of the year I’m just grateful that I can see myself, my stories, my friends, and my romances somewhere on screen, depicted in a way that centers the characters themselves and not just the challenges of being queer. - Linda Codega

We’re thankful for RRR

Image: DVV Entertainment

I’ve never had a theatergoing experience like RRR. I’ve seen the film five times and each feels like the first. The epic historical fantasy musical and bromance with blockbuster action from director S.S. Rajamouli is a life-changing cinematic experience like no other. The audience gets on their feet, cheers, laughs, quotes along, and even has a dance-off. I’ve been chasing that movie-audience high ever since and no film this year can compare. N. T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan are instant stars—equally charismatic romantic leads and action heroes. I refuse to watch RRR on Netflix until the streamer offers it in its original Telegu language, but if it’s the only way you can watch, just do it, especially since there is a sequel in the works! Give it all the awards. - Sabina Graves

We’re thankful for weird genre TV that’s not part of a franchise

SeveranceImage: Apple

Nothing against knowing what you like and choosing to stick within those boundaries, whether it’s a show within the Marvel or Star Wars universe, a prequel to a show you once liked but with many more dragons, or a fourth season of a show about raunchy vampires. But 2022 had a particularly high rate of “this show sounds cool, don’t know much about it but guess I’ll take a chance” sorts of genre titles that ended up rather majestically rewarding the viewer. Just to name a few, but Our Flag Means Death, Archive 81, The Resort, and Severance all found their niches quickly with characters we couldn’t stop thinking about, and plots that made us cheer when second seasons were announced (or sigh sadly when the opposite happened). That these sorts of shows exist at all gives us hope that creativity is still alive in Hollywood, and makes the existence of all those freaking streaming services feel a little more justified. - Cheryl Eddy

We’re thankful for the return of the cinematic experience

PreyImage: Hulu

When the pandemic first hit in 2020, and through much of 2021, movie studios made the right call in delaying films until such a time when seeing them in the theater would be a safe endeavor, both financially and for moviegoers. Even though we’re far from out of the pandemic woods, plenty of movies have come out this year (for better or worse) with the intonation of “only in theaters.”

And you know what? For many of the movies that I’ve seen in theaters this year, it really has felt like Theaters are Back. And it helps that there’s been some films worth seeing in theaters: The Batman, Nope, Ambulance, and The Woman King are all crowdpleasers and Movie-Ass Movies, experiences that absolutely hit on the big screen. Top Gun: Maverick takes the top Movie-Ass Movie experience for the year, with a close second being Prey. Yes, it’s strictly on Hulu and will likely never see a theatrical release in its life, but it feels like it was made to be watched in a theater. For those who are vaccinated and feel safe enough to step into a theater again, here’s hoping we get more of these types of films in 2023. - Justin Carter

We’re thankful for Top Gun: Maverick

Image: Paramount

I have to jump off Justin’s pick here but for a different reason. First, I want to fully acknowledge that Top Gun: Maverick isn’t an io9 movie. But part of why I love it and am thankful for it does apply to the movies we cover. You see, so often these days sequels are made to films we loved growing up. Sequels we never, ever thought would happen, be it a seventh Star Wars, a third Ghostbusters, you get the idea. And almost always, those movies do not compare to the originals. How could they? At best they’re solid remakes.

But Top Gun: Maverick was different. Over the years of waiting, the team created a movie that’s almost certainly better than the original. A film that works as a pure action movie, but works even better with that icing of nostalgia. I first saw the original Top Gun when it was released in 1986 with my late grandfather so watching this one brings back all the feels. Probably why I’ve watched this new movie almost a dozen times since its release, both in theaters and at home. - Germain Lussier

We’re thankful for Ghosts

Image: CBS

We’ve spoken about how charming the BBC sitcom Ghosts is before, and you’d be forgiven if you decided to give the American version a try. But it’s such classic TV comfort food that CBS’s Ghosts stands—or at least apparates—just as strongly to its source material. When Samantha (iZombie’s Rose McIver) discovers she’s the owner of a dilapidated Victorian mansion in New England, her excitement to turn it into a bed-and-breakfast with her husband Jay (Pitch Perfect’s Utkarsh Ambudkar) is tempered somewhat when she falls down the stairs, is clinically dead for a minute, and wakes up to find the house is inhabited by a variety of ghosts from different time periods in U.S. history, from an 11th-century Viking to a 1990s finance bro. It’s the sort of show that would have absolutely had a laugh track back in the day, but the classic structure only augments the warmth and heart Ghosts still has under its incorporeal chest. —Robert Bricken

We’re thankful for One Piece

Image: Shueisha

I’ve been recommending people check out the uber-popular manga One Piece pretty much since it was first published in 1997. It’s a job that’s only gotten harder as it has crept up in length, now running more than 1,000 issues. But I’m not fully insane; the reason I want people to spend one million hours of their lives reading One Piece is because it’s that good, and is better than any other series about rewarding long-term fans. This year saw the epic end of the massive Wano storyarc, followed by an expositional lore dump so massive and mind-blowing it’s made my head spin. Calling One Piece a story about pirates is technically true, but it’s also about history, mythology, science fiction, samurai, dragons, robots, mythical creatures, destiny, monsters, world culture, and so much more. Hey, those 1,000+ issues had to be filled with something. —Robert Bricken

We’re thankful for cinematic television

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of PowerImage: Amazon

For going on two decades, television has been getting better and better. And while huge geek shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead brought that to a whole new level, it feels like 2022 has taken that up even another notch. This year we got a show based on Lord of the Rings, a new Game of Thrones in House of the Dragon, an Obi-Wan Kenobi show, soon we’ll get a Willow show, then there’s Andor, She-Hulk, and the list goes on and on. Not only are these all really good genre shows, they almost universally feel like shows that, 20 or 30 years ago, would have been made as movies. And yet, in 2022, we get to watch them in the comfort of our own homes. Massive-scale, big-budget genre movies extended into full TV shows. What a world. (And yes, I do realize this is in opposition to Cheryl’s equally good pick above.) - Germain Lussier


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water. 

11 Thanksgiving Lessons Bob's Burgers Taught Us @ io9

Bob, Linda, and Bob’s true love.Image: 20th Television

“Uh-oh, somebody’s getting excited about Thanksgiving!” As Bob’s Burgers fans well know, Thanksgiving is Bob’s favorite holiday. Given the care and creativity that goes into the long-running Fox series’ Thanksgiving-themed episodes, it’s safe to say the show’s writers are fond of it too—if only for all the, ah, meaty inspiration it yields.

In chronological order, here are 11 nuggests of wisdom we’ve learned about Thanksgiving from all the Bob’s Burgers episodes so far. Which Thanksgiving episode is your favorite?

10. Go easy on the hallucinogens while cooking

Screenshot: Fox

Turkey Day got its first dedicated episode in season three’s “An Indecent Thanksgiving Proposal,” in which the family’s landlord, Mr. Fischoeder, hires the Belchers to pose as his family as part of a Thanksgiving-dinner ruse to win over an old flame. Well, all the Belchers except Bob; Bob pretends to be Fischoeder’s cook while actually tending to the turkey (who is very chatty and named “Lance”). Too bad someone left a bottle of absinthe lying around for a loopy Bob to find... and drink... and dream up a wonderful My Neighbor Totoro homage en route to causing a scene that wrecks Fischoeder’s scheme, but does reunite the Belchers in the end.

9. Beware of sleepwalkers

Screenshot: Fox

Season four’s “Turkey in a Can” sees Bob’s careful, multi-day preparations ahead of the big meal go terribly awry when someone keeps dropping the brine-bathing bird into the Belcher family toilet. A whodunnit swirls around the house (which includes Linda’s high-maintenance sister, Gayle, who’s visiting with her herd of cats) while the culprit remains at large, and a frantic Bob must keep buying replacement turkeys from an increasingly flirty supermarket meat-department guy. In the end it’s revealed to be Bob himself—stressed and hopped-up on allergy medicine—sleepwalking his way to dooming the dinners. Repeatedly. It’s very delightful and heartwarming, somehow.

8. Avoid any and all “Turkey Trots”

Screenshot: Fox

Season five’s “Dawn of the Peck” brings a distinct horror flair to the proceedings. The local “Turk-Tacular Turkey Town Festival and Turkey Trot” careens off the rails when the turkeys (and chickens, ducks, and geese) the Fischoeder brothers unleash as part of the fun run burst forth in a furious, feathery rampage—trapping Louise, Tina, and Gene on one of the Wonder Wharf rides. Meanwhile, Bob indulges in day drinking and disco dancing until he realizes he just can’t give up cooking Thanksgiving dinner... even if there are vengeful turkeys raging through the supermarket.

7. The problem with most sides is that they aren’t dessert

Screenshot: Fox

Is season six’s “Gayle Makin’ Bob Sled” the very best Bob’s Burgers Thanksgiving episode? Votes in its favor: Bob showcasing his superhuman powers of patience and determination while helping an injured Gayle travel from her apartment (with cat in tow) through a snowstorm so she can have dinner with the Belchers; and Linda and the kids doing their best-worst at recreating Bob’s precious menu (including hilariously sugar-laden “side dishes” from Gene and Louise) while the chef himself is in extreme struggle mode. It’s chaos end to end, but somehow finishes on a high note despite featuring maybe the most unappetizing Belcher Thanksgiving feast ever.

6. It takes guts to be yourself

Screenshot: Fox

Season seven’s “The Quirk-Ducers” sees Louise attempting to mastermind early dismissal from school the day before Thanksgiving—by mounting the worst-ever Thanksgiving play in history. The fact that The Quirky Turkey is written by a very earnest Tina complicates things when she realizes her siblings are planning sabotage—via turkey costumes that will spew gizzards and giblets onto the unsuspecting audience. It’s predictably gross, but Tina ends up winning the day and saving her play with a triumphant finale even more show-stopping than Louise ever envisioned. Do you have the guts to be yourself?

5. We all have our “things”

Screenshot: Fox

In season eight, the Belchers gather at a woefully unprepared Teddy’s house to help him stage a perfect Thanksgiving for his unexpectedly visiting family... and soon realize he has a hoarding problem. Over the course of “Thanks-Hoarding” Bob makes two elaborate holiday feasts—including one with a turkey so perfect, it makes him cry—and we learn that everyone has their “thing” to help them cope with the frustrations of the world. Teddy’s is collecting too much stuff; Bob’s is, well, Thanksgiving.

6. Keep your word

Screenshot: Fox

In season nine’s “I Bob Your Pardon,” the Belchers set out to rescue the turkey their town pardoned after they find out it’s secretly destined for the slaughterhouse after the ceremony. Sometimes, you gotta keep your word and save the bird! Even if you’re planning to gobble your own turkey—you know, the one you cooked for Thanksgiving dinner—after your heroics.

8. If a crisis strikes, improvise

Screenshot: Fox

A near-disaster arises in season 10's “Now We’re Not Cooking With Gas,” when a gas outage means Bob must frantically come up with an alternate way of cooking his expensive, much-coveted, much-beloved Riverbrook Lake Farms heritage turkey. Roasting it on a spit in the back alley, over a pile of burning found objects, to the consternation of the local fire department? Why not? It just might turn out delicious.

9. Experiment with new menu items

Screenshot: Fox

In season 11's “Diarrhea of a Poopy Kid,” Gene gets the stomach flu and ends up camped out in the bathroom; most of the episode is Louise, Tina, and Bob’s action movie-inspired storytelling through the door to keep him amused. The episode’s biggest Thanksgiving takeaway, however, is that Bob decides to shake up his traditional menu with some fancy-sounding new dishes: a baked brie and roasted pear appetizer, rosemary bread, sausage and chestnut stuffing... which would sound fantastic, if not for all the poop and vomit elsewhere in this one.

10. Don’t be a “Thanks-zilla”

Screenshot: Fox

Season 12 saw the Belchers head to the Elegant Doily Retirement Home to give back to their community in “Stuck in the Kitchen With You”—and Louise being pressed into service as Bob’s helper, and therefore being forced to reckon with his being an absolute tyrant (his nickname: “Thanks-zilla”) in the kitchen. Though their inevitable argument makes Bob briefly consider leaving his family and running away with the Thanksgiving feast he’s prepared, he and Louise end up sincerely apologizing to each other—and Louise finally gets to live out her crème brulée torch dreams.

11. Don’t mess with the yeti

Image: 20th Television

The current season of Bob’s Burgers just dropped its Thanksgiving entry this past Sunday. While “Putts-giving” was pretty light on actual turkey-dinner content, it did teach a valuable lesson about not screwing around at the local putt-putt course (the delightfully sci-fi themed “Mystery Planet World Mini-Golf”), no matter how cool your scheme to manipulate the hole involving the dancing yeti might be. Ahem, Louise.


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Is it Strange That Idiocracy Kinda Became a Documentary? @ io9

Sense and Sensibility – Chapter 34 @ Bureau 42

“Assessment” Summer School being adapted for YouTube @ Bureau 42

Back in 2011, I wrote a series of lessons about assessment for teachers, students, and their parents, among others. I’ve now started adapting them for YouTube. The first of the nine lessons has now been uploaded in three parts, available here. (Click through to see them if you are viewing from the main page.)

I Tried to Sleep in a Casket and All I Got Was This Story @ io9

Photo: Gizmodo

A couple of weeks ago G/O Media had a casket delivered to the office. We received a crimson red burial fixture from Titan Casket because my colleague, Kevin Hurler, has made Taylor Swift a facet of his personality that can be mined for news, and this casket (in a different colorway) was featured in her Anti-Hero music video. Naturally, he attempted to sleep in it, lasted about 30 minutes, and went about the rest of his day.

I don’t have any particular feelings one way or the other about Taylor Swift (she’s fine, I guess? No shade to Swifties, y’all do you) but I do care a lot about a couple different vampire shows and I have a deep and abiding need to commit to the bit in any situation. Naturally, I scheduled time with the casket and sent a pitch to my editor: “What if I attempted to sleep in the casket like a vampire?”

We discussed a few different options: lid open or closed? (Open, for safety, although this was quickly disregarded day-of.) Would I spend the night in the casket or the day? (Daytime, obviously, that’s when vampires sleep, duh.) Would I be able to deadtweet from the casket? (Absolutely not, said my editor. I did it anyway, because I thought that it would be hilarious. Fuck the man.) Should I dress up as a vampire? (We said yes, but then I realized I would have to wear a vampire costume in a casket for hours and I decided not to. Sorry, I am genuinely upset about this one.) Would Molly Taft, another colleague, dress up as Guillermo de la Cruz and stand guard my casket? (Yes, they would. However, they didn’t.) All these details sorted, I made my way into the office.

There was just one small snag. I was still alive. Everyone knows that vampires are undead creatures of the night, and I was still very much a living, breathing member of the human race. Luckily for me, Death was headed into the office.

Kirby Howell-Baptiste, a British actress who has appeared on Killing Eve, The Good Place, and Cruella, also plays the character Death of the Endless on Netflix’s Sandman, an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s seminal comic. It just so happened that on the day I was scheduled to get into a casket to meet undeath like a gentleman, Death herself decided to stop by. I had to show her my coffin, naturally, and she immediately tried it out, getting it ready for its next inhabitant (me) and generally being delightful. After we spoke (full interview coming soon!) I decided that I was ready. It was time to die.

I got in the casket. I know I told my editor I wouldn’t tweet, but I’m a monster, and I brought my phone, a book, and a flashlight into the coffin with me. My defense is that I’m sure modern vampires have their phone with them and Claudia in Interview With the Vampire has her little notebooks in her casket with her all the time, so bringing a book in was not such a stretch. And then, decision time. Should I close the lid or not?

RIP to Kevin Hurler, but I’m different. I decided that today was the day I was going to girlboss (not a girl) too close to the sun. I closed the lid. If I was going to do this, I was going to commit. The lid closed and I lay on my back, staring at the off-white of the satin that lined the top of the coffin and I thought to myself, you know, this actually isn’t so bad. And then, I fell asleep.

I woke up a few hours later, a little confused, slightly dehydrated, but, for the most part, totally fine. But I had reached a decision point. We had established that I could sleep in the coffin; now was my chance to call this a success, bail from my undead prison, and do actual work. But there were still a good five hours until sunset (at that day in New York City, the sun would set at 4:36pm) and I was already kind of cozy, and you know what, my mother didn’t raise a quitter. I stayed in that casket.

And then lunchtime hit. I slacked my boss who reminded me that under our union contract I was entitled to my lunch break, and as I could not actually subsist on human blood (granted, this was an assumption), I could leave the casket to get food. However, he said, I had to eat lunch in the casket. It was a compromise, but I was starving, and I took the deal. Which is why, about 30 minutes later, I was sitting in the casket with a burrito bowl and a cup of kombucha, and Justin Rodriguez took this very excellent picture of me to send to my editor as proof. I enclose it below.

Now, the home stretch. I slid back into repose and attempted to take another nap. No dice. I did manage to tuck the flashlight against my neck, put the book up right at the top of the casket, and read a chapter or two before my arms got tired. The book was, ironically enough, a horror novel by T. Kingfisher called A House With Good Bones. I recommend it. Very creepy. It comes out in March. Regardless, it did not make me sleepier.

There is something I should mention about caskets. They are not made with consideration towards body heat. I found out, very quickly, that my little body (which already runs pretty warm to begin with) was not made for caskets. I was very warm. Not warm enough to convince me to leave the casket, but certainly warm enough to cause me to become slightly clammy. It was not ideal, but I’m a trooper, and I can genuinely say that I have slept in less ideal conditions than a warm, dry casket in the middle of an open office in midtown Manhattan. Ask me about the summer I spent sleeping outside, in a hammock, on a boat, literally through lightening storms. Now that is an actual challenge.

So I continued to tweet occasionally, a few of my colleagues came by to say hello and talk with me, and I waited out the rest of my day. I opened the casket, just a little, while chatting with my comrades. I figured it was weird enough that I was literally sleeping in a casket in the middle of the workday, I might as well look them in the eye as I talk with them, while lying prone, in a casket. I have a very serious job.

I am in repose and I am doing fine, actually, I was totally normal

And then, as I waited out the final 30 minutes in that warm, slightly humid casket that smelled faintly of ozone and pollo adobo, I asked myself. Could I do this every day? Could I set myself up in a casket, sleep throughout the sunlit hours, and then rise, renewed, a thirsty and fierce emissary of darkness? Could I suffer through the endless grind as the humans around me worked, gossiped, and took union-mandated lunch breaks, doing the very things that once made me human, things that I might never participate in again, as I lived as a devil in the shadows? Would I be able to stand living with myself in the liminal bardo between life and death, torn in between who I used to be and the limitless expanse of an immortal future?

Yeah, man. Absolutely. No question in my mind I could hack it. The casket? No problem. Slice of human pie. Blood? I mean... I’ll get there when I get there, but otherwise? I’m ready. I am fully prepared to take the next steps into undeath, accept the Dark Gift, and be reborn as a goddamn, badass, motherfucking vampire. Consider this test run a success. Give it to me. I’m ready to fully live the night afterlife.

Thus ends my experiment in vampirism, having spent a non-consecutive six hours in a casket. Not bad. I emerged from said casket, as dehydrated as an Arizona cacti in summer, but still I emerged. Maybe that’s why the vampires have such a strong thirst. The casket’s just not built to keep them dehumidified. Something for casket makers to think about. According to What We Do in the Shadows, every actor who has ever played a vampire on screen is actually a vampire just pretending to be a human actor. This makes sense. I’ve met a few of those actors, actually. One or two of them might even remember me. It seems like all I need to do to complete my transformation is to find Sam Reid and ask him to make me a Sampire. I mean, a vampire. A vampyr! You get it. I’ll let you know how it works out.


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Nanny Weaves a Powerful Folk-Horror Tale @ io9

Photo: Courtesy of Prime Video © 2022 Mouth of a Shark, LLC.

Senegalese immigrant Aisha (Us’ Anna Diop) arrives in New York City willing to work hard to achieve her dreams—chief among them making enough money to reunite with her beloved son, who she had to leave behind. But as we see in Nikyatu Jusu’s gorgeous yet chilling Nanny, unexpected malevolence awaits in both supernatural and all-too-human ways.

As the title suggests, Aisha lands a coveted gig caring for Rose (Rose Decker), the young daughter of affluent Manhattanites Amy (The Craft: Legacy’s Michelle Monaghan) and Adam (Morgan Spector). “Jobs like this don’t fall from the sky,” a friend warns her, and we see that Aisha is willing to put up with the bullshit that begins to seep in as time goes on, at least until the couple falls behind on paying her the salary (including copious overtime) that she’s desperately counting on. At that point, Amy’s control-freak tendencies and Adam’s boundary-pushing—and their fondness for using Aisha as a go-between in their obviously strained marriage—become almost too much to take.

Photo: Courtesy of Prime Video © 2022 Mouth of a Shark, LLC.

Thankfully, despite her toxic parents, Rose is a playful kid who quickly warms to Aisha—even preferring Aisha’s spicy Senegalese food to the bland meals Amy parcels out for her to eat. Another bright spot comes in the form of Malik (Sinqua Walls), a genuinely nice single dad Aisha begins dating after some nervous hesitation, and who comes with a bonus: a grandmother (Deadpool’s Leslie Uggams) with intuitive powers that prove valuable when Aisha’s world begins to crumble.

Job stress is a significant part of what causes Aisha’s mental strain, but an even bigger culprit is the torment she feels over her son, Lamine (Jahleel Kamara). She’d intended to move him to America in time to celebrate his seventh birthday, and the boy’s annoyance with her stalling—necessary due to her financial situation—is almost as frustrating as how difficult it is to actually get in touch with him: dropped calls and missed calls abound, as do worrisome periods of Aisha’s cousin, who’s been taking care of Lamine, simply being unreachable.

We learn just a little bit about Aisha’s backstory—back in Senegal, she was a teacher, which makes perfect sense when you see how patient she is with Rose; also, Lamine’s father was a married man who cut her off when she got pregnant, which explains Aisha’s initial reluctance to get involved with Malik. But we don’t need to know more, since Aisha’s character is filled in perfectly by Diop’s nuanced, emotionally layered performance. She’s resilient, she’s hopeful, she’s glad she left Senegal—but she also feels deep regrets and searing guilt over being away from Lamine, who she calls her “greatest work,” for so long.

Photo: Courtesy of Prime Video © 2022 Mouth of a Shark, LLC.

As Nanny’s sinister music and ominous lighting signal from the start, more horrific elements are imminent—things that go far beyond Amy’s “forgetting” what she owes Aisha for overnight babysitting, or the all-seeing nanny-cams that flash from strategic nooks around the couple’s posh apartment. Aisha’s anguish over leaving Lamine begins to manifest in nightmares and visions that writer-director Jusu ties into West African folklore, drawing in figures like the mermaid Mami Wata and the trickster Anansi.

It becomes so distressing that Aisha turns to Malik’s grandmother, who reminds her that “Mami Wata and Anansi are figures of survival and resistance for oppressed people... they challenge the dominant order, subverting it through chaos, anarchy, subversive energy.” So, though they’re scary, these aren’t necessarily bad visions. But the older woman also passes along a gentle but firm warning, noting that it’s not always about what the spirits want from you, it’s what they want for you—and their intentions aren’t always kind, something she had to learn the hard way from her own family trauma. Though there’s a danger of leaning too hard into metaphor here, Nanny is so deftly crafted and beautifully performed it never feels heavy-handed. Like the excellent His House before it—a film about South Sudanese refugees who realize their new home in England is haunted by the terrors they left behind—Nanny chillingly illustrates just how well the immigrant experience can dovetail with horror themes, and how even the most optimistic pursuit of a brighter future can sometimes mean paying a dark price.

Nanny hits theaters today, and then arrives on Prime Video December 16.


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Armand Is the Reason to Re-Watch Interview With the Vampire's First Season @ io9

Image: Alfonso Bresciani/AMC

When Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian) gets whisked off to a Dubai apartment in the middle of the pandemic, we already know something’s up. It’s only the first episode of Interview With the Vampire, but if you are a Vampire Chronicles fan, there’s something strange about this characterization.

After the first episode ends it becomes even more clear that this apartment, which is made of concrete, isolated, and full of incredible art, feels wrong for Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson). That’s because this isn’t Louis’ apartment—it’s Armand’s. The end of season twist/finale revealed that the fastidious and dedicated manservant, Rashid (Assad Zaman), was actually the vampire Armand in disguise. If you’ve never read the books this might have come out of left field, but if you were online or a Vampire Chronicles fan, this wouldn’t have been a huge surprise. One of the best jokes that ever happened on IWTV Twitter was referring to Rashid as “Armand-coded.” So the reveal, while shocking and melodramatic in the best of ways, had been clearly choreographed from the beginning, because it wasn’t just Rashid that had been Armand-coded… it’s that the entire season has been Armand-coded.

If we re-watch the series knowing that Rashid is the vampire Armand and that he and Louis are in an intimate relationship together, the whole premise becomes more and more absurd, and, in a way, terrifying. Interview With the Vampire is, essentially, Louis telling the story of his first abusive relationship to a third party in front of his current boyfriend, who also may or may not be abusive. He recalls the worst parts of his relationship to Lestat (Sam Reid), but also the best parts of his relationship, emphasizing over and over the vampire bond that they shared and the obsessive, narcissistic, toxic love they had for each other… again, in front of the vampire he is currently in a relationship with. The motivation to embellish the worst parts and understate the best parts is literally standing in the room with him.

On top of that, we have clear evidence that some parts of Louis’ story have been practiced, refined, or even editorialized. It happens when Daniel replays the tapes from the ‘70s, then when Louis can’t recall whether or not it was raining on one particularly important night, and then a third time when Claudia’s (Bailey Bass) journals were tampered with. So when it comes to the fact that his powerful, possibly psychopathic, definitely magical, 500-year-old vampire boyfriend is listening in on his conversations, it’s not a stretch to say that what he’s saying is filtered through Armand’s influence.

Then, there are moments that Louis relates that begin to raise some eyebrows. If you’re a fan of the books, you will recall that Lestat and Louis don’t have a fight as brutal as the one depicted in episode five. (They do fight in the books, by the way, it just isn’t quite that bad.) But do you know which vampires actually have a knock-down, drag-out fight? Lestat and Armand. In particular, Louis being dragged along the ground is a very clear visual from The Vampire Lestat.  

Now, this could just be the show’s writers taking inspiration from The Vampire Lestat while writing this season of Interview With the Vampire. They did take bits and piece of lore and world-building and even characterization from six of Anne Rice’s books (Interview With the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, Queen of the Damned, The Tale of the Body Thief, Memnoch the Devil, and The Vampire Armand) so it’s not like they’ve mixed and matched inspiration before. Even the character “Rashid” is, for those who don’t know, a minor vampire in 2001’s Blood and Gold. So we can choose to imagine that the writers have been inspired by additional books, or we can go deeper into this theory and say that this horrific fight was not accurate because it was Armand-coded.

What could be happening is that Armand, another psychopathic vampire, this time with mind-control capabilities, has taken the worst parts of his own memories and coded them onto Lestat and Louis’ relationship. Let’s say Lestat and Louis did have a brutal fight, which is objectively true considering that this part of the series is based on Claudia’s diaries, but the specifics of the fight have been affected by Armand because Armand also had a brutal fight with Lestat. I’m not trying to excuse Lestat’s actions or make him seem like he’s not a monster; he’s very much an abusive jagweed and a horrible partner, but within Louis’ retelling he might not be portrayed in the most charitable light because of Armand’s influence and Louis’ tendency to become subsumed by the wants and needs of his partners.

Going back to the Dubai apartment, there were always a lot of hints that this was Armand’s home and not Louis’: keeping human servants for food, the isolated nature of the apartment, all of the people sworn to secrecy upon entering. It’s all very reminiscent of Armand’s Night Island. In the books, Armand purchases Night Island in order to prevent his companion, Daniel Molloy (yes, the same Daniel Molloy currently interviewing Louis) from abandoning him. Night Island is a vampire’s paradise, but it is also Molloy’s cage. He often runs away only to be dragged back by Armand. The apartment feels like the writers have taken inspiration from Night Island. Louis is trapped here, unable to leave, with nowhere to go, and reliant on Armand’s money and connections to help him survive.

(As a note AMC, announced via press release in April that a digital original titled The Night Island is coming. It’s “about an exclusive resort like no other, open only from sunset to sunrise, catering to an exclusive clientele of vampires and mortals, with strict rules in place that still can’t prevent each night from turning into a near disaster,” and is based on Anne Rice’s Queen of the Damned)

Armand’s apartment is also incredibly sterile. Full of beautiful art, but very little of Louis on display. Really Transformation by Ron Bechet in the dining room is the only piece of art that I can really see being exclusively Louis’ choice. The Basquiat in the living area? Maybe. But Armand was sold and bought in the 1500s too. In stark contrast to this sparseness, Louis’ house on Rue Royal was lush, textured, full of rich colors and warm lighting. He never wore black except to his brother’s funeral. And besides that, perhaps most importantly, he was constantly surrounded by books; in every episode he was reading or was shown with a book in his hand.

Remember when Daniel Molloy asked in episode six why Lestat would hide the fact that he could fly? Louis answered that he thought it was so that he—Louis—wouldn’t feel inferior to him. In the Dubai apartment the only books are kept on shelves that are literally hanging from the ceiling. They are kept out of Louis’ reach, and the only way that he would be able to get to any of them is by asking Armand to fly up and get them. A constant, unnecessary reminder of Louis’ weakness compared to Armand.

Image: Alfonso Bresciani/AMC

There’s even a moment in episode one, as Armand is giving Daniel a tour of the apartment, that he mentions that the architect was a sentimentalist while gesturing to a tree that has been planted inside the apartment, surrounded by sand, with a false sun shining down on it. Louis, despite being a vampire and literally unable to walk under sunlight, is nevertheless a man who is constantly seen outside. He loves to sit in Jackson Square, he takes his daughter for a boat ride in the bayou, but in Dubai—a child-city, one that is was built up in a desert, that is not surrounded by green space so much as it has carefully cultivated its hearty palm and baobab trees among hedgerows—where would Louis go to experience that again?

If this apartment is, like Night Island, a cage and not a paradise for Louis, it makes sense that a sentimentalist would put a tree in the middle of the apartment. It’s very likely that between Armand’s influence, the isolated nature of the city, and perhaps even his own fear at being discovered, Louis has not left this apartment in a very, very long time.

At the end of the night, Armand is not to be trusted! It’s not just that Rashid is Armand-coded, but the entire season is Armand-coded. Armand is a master manipulator, a manifestation of 500 years of traumatic, absolutely batshit insane cult behavior, and the boy has fangs the size of the Ottoman empire. Armand takes mansplain, manipulate, malewife to unprescended levels of insanity. Like, I love him, he’s a weird little gremlin who plays with blenders and starts a podcast, for some reason, but he’s absolutely out of gourd and willing to do anything to keep everything just how he likes it, and that includes Louis.

Who knows why Armand allowed—and it’s clear, in retrospect, that Armand has given permission for this interview to take place—Daniel Molloy, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, to come into Louis’ life and ask probing questions, but he has. On rewatch it seems obviously that Armand steps in frequently, not to stop Daniel, but to control Louis. Louis has jumped from one abusive partner to another, and there’s no way to tell what part of his story is his story and what part of it is due to Armand’s influence.

This whole season has been about the monster that is memory, but when you’re 500 years old, maybe memory makes a monster out of you. Although the signs that Rashid was Armand were there from the beginning, the signs that the entire season has been affected by Armand are really only visible when you rewatch the season, which speaks to the rather incredible effort on behalf of the writers who absolutely knew what the fuck they were doing with this horrible little chaos vampire. Interview With the Vampire is Armand-coded, and I’m sure that season two is only going to reveal more and more ways in which Armand has fucked with Louis, Lestat, and Daniel. I’m very excited to watch it happen.


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Rian Johnson Wouldn't Mind If His Return to Star Wars Was For a TV Show @ io9

Image: Lucasfilm

Rian Johnson has a lot on his plate right now, from the launch of Knives Out sequel Glass Onion to his Peacock mystery series Poker Face. So much so, it’s the reason we’ve not heard a peep out of his plans for a previously announced trilogy of Star Wars movies other than that he’d really like to keep doing them. But Johnson isn’t just down for some more movies.

It what feels like the seven million years since the release of The Last Jedi in 2017, a combination of the culture war harassment firestorm around its debut and Johnson’s ability to remain booked, busy, and unbothered has meant there’s been little time for talk around the director’s previously announced return to the franchise: a theatrical trilogy, revolving around new characters, in a previously untouched part of the Star Wars galaxy. But in those millions of years, Star Wars has evolved into more than a fully armed and operational movie franchise, through shows like The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and now by far and away the best of them all, Andor. And Johnson wouldn’t mind getting in that way, either.

“I would do a Star Wars anything. And if I had an idea that I was excited about, that worked better as a show than a movie, I’d do it that way,” Johnson recently told the Hollywood Reporter about his future with Star Wars. Of course, whatever Johnson wanted to make, he’s just too busy for now. “At the moment, we’re in between making the next Benoit Blanc movie and thinking about Poker Face,” the director continued. “I keep getting together with Kathy [Kennedy] and having conversations. Who knows? Making The Last Jedi was the best experience in my life, so I should be so lucky.”

While it would be nice to eventually get three movies from Johnson to push Star Wars’ cinematic horizons as we thought we should expect when they were announced all those years ago, at this point? I wouldn’t say no to a TV show. Between his history with Breaking Bad and Poker Face he’s a dab hand in the medium, and perhaps what better way to have space to chew on meatier ideas The Last Jedi brushed on than over the course of a season of TV? Alas, all we can do, just like Johnson reminds us, is keep hoping.


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Even the Andor Post-Credits Scene Was Perfectly Andor @ io9

Andor (Diego Luna) looks toward his future. Image: Lucasfilm

As the final credits rolled on what has been some of the best Star Wars of all time, you almost didn’t want to see Andor do anything that might be considered derivative of modern blockbuster entertainment. No big cameos, no huge surprises, just good old-fashioned storytelling. But then something popped up at the end of the credits and, well, it was perfect in a very Andor way.

In case you missed it, as credits ended, we’re cut in tight on some kind of surface. Droids are putting pieces into it and, quickly, we recognize those pieces are the things Cassian and his fellow prisoners on Narkina 5 were making every single day. The camera continues to pull back and, at that point, yes, your guess was correct. The pieces are part of the weapon that’s at the center of the Death Star, which is finally revealed in its full, under-construction glory in the last shot.

Most fans know that chronologically, after the events of Andor season two come the events of Rogue One. Cassian is going to meet Jyn Erso and team up with a group of heroes to steal the plans of this battle station, leading to its destruction, and their deaths. So in that aspect, this scene acts as a perfect tease for the future. Cassian’s destiny is leading toward this, and he had a part in building it. However, if for some reason you were watching Andor and didn’t know that, it also acts as an exciting Star Wars reveal: “Whoa. The Death Star.” So it works on both levels.

It’s coming.Screenshot: Lucasfilm

By putting this scene here at the end of the credits though, the show does exactly what it’s done so well all season. We get a piece of information that we’ve been craving (what were the prisoners building?) in a way that forwards and teases what’s ahead (the Death Star, as well as Cassian’s fate), but also doesn’t reveal anything of true significance to the story or characters. There’s no tease of K-2SO. No hint of Cassian meeting Mon Mothma. It’s a separate, but still rewarding, addition.

Plus, you don’t have to see this scene to understand what’s coming next. If you turned off the episode when the credits began, you can pick up next season and be totally fine. It’s not like a Marvel scene where if you missed it you might be completely lost. “How did Captain Marvel know about this?” or “Wait, when did we learn that T’Challa had [spoiler here]?” No, this is just a bonus. A fun addition for anyone who wants that little bit more, which is simultaneously important and not in the overall scheme of things. And how Andor is that?


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Violent Night's David Harbour Talks Making Santa His Own @ io9

Image: Universal Pictures

Imagine Die Hard except John McClane is Santa Claus and Nakatomi Plaza is a New England mansion. You’ve just described Violent Night, a hugely entertaining R-rated holiday action film that hits theaters on December 2. In it, Stranger Things star David Harbour plays Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick, who is feeling pretty dejected this Christmas Eve. That is until he drops in on a house that is being robbed and its residents held hostage. What will Santa do? Kick some fucking ass, that’s what.

But how do you make one of the most kid-friendly, recognizable characters in the world someone who looks as comfortable feeding reindeer as he does swinging a sledgehammer? io9 spoke with Harbour on the occasion of the film about his new version of Santa, giving the character a dynamic backstory, and some of his favorite Christmas films. Read all about it below.

Harbour with director Tommy Wirkola.Image: Universal Pictures

Germain Lussier, io9: Playing Santa Claus is kind of a big responsibility. It’s something that could potentially stick with you throughout your whole career. Did that come to mind at all when you decided to take on the role?

David Harbour: Worried of being typecast as Santa. [Laughs] Just being like, “We don’t want him for this or that, but if you’ve got a Santa in your movie call David Harbour.” No [but] it’s a concern that I’m retroactively thinking about now, that it was a terrible idea to play his role. But I actually did not think about that. Because the thing is, he’s such a unique Santa. He starts off as the sort of guy with the glasses and the “Ho ho ho.” But then as the movie progresses, he’s such his own beast that it never really crossed my mind that I would be typecast as Santa Claus. But now I’m worried. So thank you.

io9: Well I don’t exactly mean typecast, it’s just that these movies, holiday movies, have the potential to become something more. Like an Elf or a Home Alone. A perennial thing. So are you ready to potentially talk about this role for the rest of your life?

Harbour: [Laughs] I mean, Will Ferrell only did one Elf, didn’t he?

io9: But I don’t think he likes talking about it now. I think he’s sick of it. 

Harbour: I’m okay. We can talk about it for the rest of my life. I’m fine.

Harbour and the film’s villain, played by John Leguizamo.Image: Universal Pictures

io9: The press notes mentioned that you had a lot of input into the early development of the character. What are some of the specific things you kind of added to it?

Harbour: Well, I wanted him to go on a journey. The big thing about a character is you want them to have an arc and to develop, right? And there was something in the original script where there was less of that development. He was kind of a badass throughout the whole thing. And what I wanted was [for] him to start off as the saccharine Santa from the Coca-Cola ads of the ‘30s who had rosy cheeks and little glasses and a smile, “Ho ho ho.” And then to see how much that sickened him, that he had become this thing, and that greed was all it was about. And it was about this saccharine belly and the sweets, and, like, being jolly. And he was just like, “I created this monster... but what I really am about in my core is justice.” I thought that’s where he becomes a badass is by shedding this skin and it requires the little girl to say to him, “We need somebody different.” And he’s like, “I am that guy.” So my contribution was much more about the arc of the piece and the arc of the character, which I was very interested in and I thought was a little undeveloped at the start. It was more just like, “Oh, he’s an action hero.” And I wanted to see him be this guy who was not an action hero [but] who had to spring into it. Then you saw the history underneath come forward from that.

io9: Yeah, that was a pleasant surprise that we actually got to see some of Santa’s backstory and origin, which I read was even more prevalent at one point. How much did that inform your performance, knowing about the character’s epic origin?

Santa and the family.Image: Universal Pictures

Harbour: Yeah, it was fun. It is interesting. There was more that we shot, and then in the final film, we wanted to be more mysterious what that was. But I was really fascinated by all the mythology, all the different cultural mythology around Santa Claus. I mean, one of the things we even posited early on was, I think, he calls himself Nikolaas the Red in this. But at one point he was Saint Nicholas in Christian mythology, he’s Weihnachtsmann in German, there are all these different iterations of him. And so I wanted to flesh out who this guy was. At one point too, I looked up Saint Nicholas, who’s the Christian saint who Santa Claus is based on and was a saint of repentant sinners. So I was very interested in this idea of him [forgiving]. He says to John [Leguizamo]’s character at several points, like, “Give it up. I will take you back. You can get on the nice list.” It’s people that are determined to be naughty that really have to get the axe. So there are all these different character elements that came out of that backstory.

io9:  Yeah, that’s so cool. I think that’s obviously the meat of the story, but on an upper level, it’s so directly influenced by Die Hard movies. Then there’s also Beverly D’Angelo from Christmas Vacation, and the Home Alone scene. So, what is your favorite wink this movie makes to another holiday movie? And what are some of the movies that you revisit that holiday season, besides Violent Night of course?

Harbour: Yeah, I mean, I love the Home Alone sequence. I think it’s extremely well done. The fact that she’s bringing it up at the beginning and then it comes out at the end. The Die Hard references are all terrific as well too. It has the shape of the whole thing around Die Hard. For me personally, the movie that I stayed closest to and was most important to me was Miracle on 34th Street, which is basically this little girl who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus [at first] and at the end of the movie believes. It’s not quite the same arc, but to me the emotional core of that story, of a little girl who needs something because of her crumbling family structure, who needs something to believe in [is important here]. Here’s this guy who now not only will protect her physically but who she can believe in as this source of generosity and justice and kindness. And that very Miracle on 34th Street to me.

Harbour as Marvel character Red Guardian, who is coming back in Thunderbolts.Image: Marvel Studios

io9: Oh, absolutely. That’s a classic. Now I’m going to come back to Violent Night. But just so I don’t miss this—at D23 this year, Marvel announced that your character is coming back for Thunderbolts. How much do you know about that film and are you excited to get back into the MCU?

Harbour: Yes, I’m very excited. They’ve told me the arc of the movie and how it functions. I haven’t seen a script yet. I’ve talked to designers and things like that. And it’s super cool. The idea is really cool. Jake [Schreier], the director is a really interesting, fresh mind to this universe. What he wants to do with Florence [Pugh]’s character is very interesting and how I factor into how we develop our relationship is very interesting. I’ve loved Wyatt [Russell] and Sebastian [Stan] and Julia [Louis-Dreyfuss]’s characters throughout the universe and to throw these characters together feels very random. And then when you see what Jake and Eric Pearson, the writer, is trying to fashion it’s really clever and there’s an interesting thing that we’re going to introduce to the universe that’s profound. So you have this movie that’s, you know, kind of ragtag. It’ll be funny, it’ll be weird, it’ll be action. And then we also are going to drop a bomb, which is cool.

io9: Wow, I’m excited too. Now, I imagine most Christmas movies don’t have weapons training. This one obviously did. Was there anything unique about training this time and did the swordplay from Stranger Things season four become helpful at all?

Harbour in Stranger Things season four.Image: Netflix

Harbour: [Laughs] No, this is far more complex than the swordplay from Stranger Things. The swordplay in Stranger Things was like me picking a sword, the Duffer Brothers and I. It looks super cool. I mean, we did some great stuff in that sequence, but it wasn’t very trained. This, there was a lot of training. The hammer stuff, I did a lot of training with. And then the actual fighting was jiu-jitsu and Greco-Roman wrestling. The stunt team on this have done all the John Wick movies and even, like, the new Matrix and Nobody. Crazy kung fu type movies. And so this was a Greco-Roman version of that, but there was a lot of training and it was very intense. I was very exhausted the entire shoot.

io9: This movie makes a weapon of basically every kind of Christmas decoration there is. What is your favorite and what was the most fun to kind of work with?

Harbour: Hmm. I mean, I’ve got to say that candy cane was pretty fun. It’s established pretty early that he’s just sucking on a candy cane, and you’re like, “Oh, why would he be, oh, no, there’s a reason.” Because it makes a better shank. That was pretty wild. I like a candy cane shank.

Image: Universal Pictures

io9: Yeah, absolutely. So this is my last question first, but I have to say I love this movie and it’s so much fun. Without spoiling any of that though, Santa is pretty resilient in this movie. If this movie is a hit, and I think it can be, would you jump back into the sleigh again?

Harbour: Yeah, I’d be happy to do more of this. It’s a great idea. Again, you get to do a fun action movie and also hopefully make people feel Christmas spirit and Christmas joy. So that is really fun to do. So yeah, if people enjoy it, I’d be happy to do more.

io9: Awesome. Well, I think they will.

Violent Night is in theaters December 2.


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Doctor Who Celebrates Its 59th Anniversary With Hype for Its 60th @ io9

Image: BBC

Fifty-nine years ago today, families across the UK sat down to tune into “An Unearthly Child,” the beginning of an adventure across space and time decades in the making for Doctor Who. We’ve come a long way since then, and gained double the Davids Tennant since we last celebrated, and the BBC really wants you to remember that.

To mark the 59th anniversary of the series today, the BBC has largely celebrated by looking ahead to next year’s big 6-0. You want a new logo? You got it, Whovians, it’s basically the same as the new logo the network just revealed, but it’s diamond.

Image: BBC

You want pictures of David Tennant as the 14th Doctor? Done and done.

Image: BBC

You want pictures of the Doctors, including double the previously allotted amount of David Tennant? My friends, today you feast.

Image: BBC

Oh go on then, you can also have a picture of Jodie Whittaker in her mish-mash of past Doctors costumes from “The Power of the Doctor”, but Doctor Who knows that’s not what you’re really here for.

Image: BBC

It’s a not-unsurprising, if a little weird, way to mark the show’s anniversary—arguably interest in the series hasn’t been as high as it is right now in years, so why not revel in it with teases for next year’s grand celebrations? But if today’s celebration of all things Doctor Who is mostly a preview of what’s to come in the future, that’s also in and of itself perfectly Doctor Who: a glance back, and a glance ahead.


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Andor's First Season Finale Made Star Wars Better @ io9

Image: Disney+

Andor’s season one finale, “Rix Road,” capped off a journey taken by many, not just one, in a perfect hour of television. Diego Luna solidified Cassian as one of the most important characters in the canon—retroactively at that—and the Lucasfilm series, led by Tony Gilroy, proved it’s simply operating on a level that’s unmatched in expanding what it really means to be Star Wars. It’s going to be a long wait until season two.

I’ve watched the season finale, which was directed by Benjamin Caron and written by Gilroy, two times so far—and I’m still stunned.

Everything kicks off with the tuning of musical instruments, as if an orchestra is getting ready to perform; you get hints of winds and the slow and steady beating of drums. It’s the preamble, and we get some quick-fire dialogue in which local Ferrixian Xanwan (Zubin Varla) tells Andor’s longtime friend Brasso (Joplin Sibtain) he talked to Cassian on the comm box and told him about Maarva Andor (Fiona Shaw). Knowing Cassian, Brasso figures he’s on the way back to Ferrix and voices that he may try to show up at the funeral, something that another local overhears. Xanwan is concerned for his friend—you can tell his mind is fixin’ up a plan—and it’s great to see more of the character beyond just catching Andor up on what he’s missed.

Brasso had been helping to look after Andor’s mother whenever Cassian was off on missions, so he was in a way one of Maarva’s kids, and as such would be the one to lead the procession with the Sisters of Ferrix. Here, Varla’s performance really let us in to how important Maarva was to everyone. They’re all getting ready for her funeral, including Salman Paak’s son, who looks to be prepping a space Molotov cocktail. Ah yes, the youth know what’s going down and are ready to use any resources available to learn how to fight back.

Meero (Denise Gough) gets front row seats to her own plan of bringing Andor out of the shadows—or so she hopes. She gets escorted around Ferrix in a red hood, which she thinks is totally inconspicuous, as Cinta (Varada Sethu) follows. This spy moment is so good, it shows Cinta’s been getting shit done while Vel (Faye Marsay) was off on Coruscant trying to ask for more from Kleya.

Definitely the first “fuck yeah!” moment of the finale was Mon (Genevieve O’Reilly) throwing her husband under the bus to throw off the Empire’s scent. Loris, her spy driver, overhears her grill Perrin about his gambling problem as she sets him up to throw him under the freighter, accusing him of lying about his expensive addiction. Loved O’Reilly’s delivery of the dialogue here to cover up Mon’s own money moves, and the sight of Coruscant sizzling by night as Mon becomes who she’s meant to be. Yes, Mon—use that ungrateful family as a shield!

Back on Ferrix, Cinta tells Vel about Dedra’s arrival. Vel realizes they have to take out Andor first before he’s captured and puts everyone at risk. Come on, he’s their old pal Clem, what happened to solidarity? I really hoped that this episode we’d get to see his Aldhani crew begin to question killing him, but Vel appears to be more about following Kleya and Luthen’s (Stellan Skarsgård) orders. Cinta is playing on a different field, one that’s more in tune with what’s bubbling to the surface on Ferrix. Seeing Sethu play Cinta’s subtleties in regards to being with the people of Ferrix showcases that rebellion is a universal language. Hopefully she’ll have a more prominent role next season!

Andor recalls a memory of his adoptive father—the original Clem—who taught him to scavenge things with worth at an early age. It’s a pivotal scene that really breaks down who Andor is, and highlights how much of a masterpiece the show is. Clem’s line, “the man who sees everything is more blessed than cursed” really brings it home; it’s Andor’s main MO, to keep his eyes open to the possibilities everywhere that no one else notices beyond the rust of things around them. This is how you see what’s going on, and nurture the acute awareness that has made Andor a crafty son of a gun (personally, this was my favorite moment of the episode). All of this is highlighted by Nemik’s voice coming from his manifesto, which Andor’s definitely been absorbing. His lines echo, and honestly at this point, we’re all in. “Freedom is a pure idea” he starts off, and reads the Empire for filth by describing oppression as “the mask of fear” that requires constant effort, whereas the rebellion will continuously thrive off the power of the people. Every little insurrection against tyranny will push their lines forward.

As Meero doles out orders, she instructs her goons to handle the mourners led by Daughters of Ferrix, but without snipers. They need Andor taken alive, somthing that seems to make her men restless as they’d rather do things differently. Ah, here’s there’s no united front—even down to the events of Steergard, which happen off camera, when her request to take in someone alive for questioning was ignored. Blevin and the rest of the ISB talk behind her back as she pushes back on the decision to Partagaz, telling him you get nothing from a dead body; however, he explains that it was just about “wiping Aldhani’s taste off the Emperor’s mouth.” Dedra’s make or break moment on Ferrix is at play. She instructs her men to bring Andor in alive.

A spy watches Maarva’s house and there’s no Andor in sight. He’s in the tunnel sewage system and meets Brasso, who delivers Maarva’s heartfelt message from one son to another—“None of this is his fault; it was already burning, he was just the first spark of the fire”—and reassures him that he knows everything he needs to know, having faith that “when the day comes” he will be an unstoppable force for good, followed by this gut-punch: “I love him more than anything he could ever do wrong.” We’re crying for Andor’s loss in this quiet, powerful moment that helps him realize what he has to do—but first, he needs to rescue Bix (Adria Arjona) from hotel hell.

Vel finally gets her moment to talk to Luthen; he gets word that Dedra is on his tail through Andor, so they need to get to him and kill him before he’s captured. Then the anvil clangs. It stops everyone in their tracks as the procession begins, and even good ol’ Syril (Kyle Soller) is on hand to see if Cassian shows. The anvil clangs again, and as the procession begins, the hotel empties to make a perimeter around the people of Ferrix. Fear always gets the best of them.

A harrowing funeral dirge begins that serves as the brilliant score for the episode, amplifying every single moment. Everyone takes their places. What’s wild is that Syril and Luthen stand near one another and he overhears Karn’s enthusiam at seeing Dedra, which unknowingly to him gives her away to Axis. The time grappler highlights the impact of the moment with his anvil. Andor sneaks into hotel; by this point only the kitchen staff is there. The knells continue along with the procession carrying Maarva’s stone. They chant “stone and sky” in cathartic unison, which Bix can hear in her prison. It’s a beautiful moment played by Arjona as her people send her the energy she needs to get up again out of the daze of torture.

Maarva gets her moment on Rix Road; projected by her faithful B2EMO, she delivers her final message to her people. She thanks them for honoring her in her final days and by laying her stone to become a part of the foundations of Ferrix, explaining that the dead would lift her to inspire her to be a part of something more... to do something as the Empire began to grow. She remarks that she wants Ferrix to go on, but that it will require them to wake up. For too long they’ve been asleep, turning the other way to let the Empire do their thing so they’d be left alone. But really, they’d only been letting the “wound in the center of the galaxy” fester and letting the darkness pass over them until it wasn’t “visiting anymore.”

The pulse of the moment is palpable, the energy within the people of Ferrix starts building as if something was about to come up and carry them, versus the growing fear among the Imperial presence. And then she says this: “The Empire is a disease and never more alive than when we’re sleeping.” Shaw’s performance is masterful as Maarva makes her powerful last stand even in death. Even as she says it might be easy for her to ask since she’s dead, she announces in an all-timer Star Wars send-off, “If I could do it again, I’d wake up early and be fighting these bastards from the start. Fight the Empire!”

The moment that an officer strikes B2EMO to stop the transmission, the people rise to meet the first blow. Yes, Bee is one of them and we’d throw hands for him and Maarva too. As the unrest grows, Andor finds Bix, who says she’s seen him come for her before and that Maarva was just there. Andor, as he helps his friend, tells her, “Wasn’t she great?” We’re a puddle of tears at this point as they make their way out of the hotel as the Imperial perimeter closes on in the people. The bell tower strikes again.

Salman Paak’s son has had enough, and invoking the strength of revolutionary youth, throws his bomb at the Imperial troops, which sets off their explosives in an all-out battle. People clamor and fight as the Empire opens fire on civilians. Even Brasso uses Maarva’s brick to help her get her licks in! The anvil clangs again and a Stormtrooper is sent to take out the time grappler, too. So much happens all at once; Luthen, who was moved by Maarva’s speech, watches the people who have been inspired by her family to mobilize and fight back. Cinta, who’s been on their page all along, straight-up murders the spy that had been watching Maarva’s every move.

Meanwhile, Dedra shoots blindly at the crowd all her around her and her little cap falls off in the chaos. That made me giggle as she fell to the ground and was grabbed by the people of Ferrix. That moment is followed by the Stormtrooper making it up the anvil tower and then immediately getting drop-kicked off it by the time grappler, which made me laugh out loud. Hands down the best Stormtrooper death. Alas, our main enemies live to see another day as Syril saves Dedra. His romantic stalker act is perhaps finally working on her as she tells him “I should say thank you,” and he says “You don’t have to.” This twisted relationship pulls a Solo “I know” moment and it’s so wrong yet somehow so right. Gough and Soller nail this real messed up chemistry.

Brasso, kid Paak, and B2EMO are loaded up on a ship by the Sisters of Ferrix, and as if fate steps in, Bee sees Andor as he brings Bix to them. Their reunion gives Bee a great goodbye for now as he tells Andor he never sticks around for him. It’s so sad to see the bestest droid heartbroken, as Andor promises he’ll be back for them, because of course he’s not going with them. Bix reassures Bee he will always come back. He better see them in season two.

Everything falls into place as the episode closes out with Mon and Perrin introducing Leida (Bronte Carmichael) to Davo Sculdun’s son. Leida’s not complaining as she’s being used for something she cares about—appearances which will serve her mother well. The episode ends on Andor turning himself in to Luthen giving him the option to kill him then and there on his ship. Luna instantly becomes one of the greatest heroes in the canon uttering the words, “Kill me or take me in.” Complete chills! What a show and an epic continuation of stories we love being relevant and impactful to the times we live in. Viva los rebeldes! Viva Andor!

And, oh yeah... I knew those bracers were for the Death Star but this rebellion is ready to kill fascists. That end credits scene was a doozy.


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You Cannot Resist the Lure of the New Lego Spacebaby Minifigure @ io9

Image: Lego

Don’t bother putting Lego’s new minifigure collection on your holiday wish list because it’s not slated to hit stores until January 1, but Lego does make up for that unfortunate timing with an excellent roundup of weird and wonderful new figures, including an irresistible Spacebaby.

Although Lego officially refers to this new minifigure collection as Series 24, the company has been churning these out since March 2010, and for some reason doesn’t count themed collections—such as the Disney minifigs or the Simpsons minifigs—as official “Series” collections. So unofficially, Series 24 is actually the 41st minifigures collection Lego has released to date, and while neither 24 nor 41 are significant numbers, Lego has delivered some really fun figures this time around.

No one tell Lego what they could really be charging for its new Brown Astronaut and Spacebaby minifigures.Image: Lego

With one tiny plastic figure, Lego has completely undone all of Stanley Kubrick’s work to make space babies a creepy concept. Collectible Minifigures Series 24 includes our first brown Lego Astronaut with a detailed walkie talkie in one hand, and an adorable Lego baby minifigure done up in full astronaut garb in the other, complete with a tiny helmet and oxygen tank on its back. If there was any reason to be that person who hangs out in the Lego store for hours squeezing and feeling plastic bags to find a specific minifigure: this is absolutely it.

From left to right it’s a Lego Robot Warrior, T-Rex Costume Fan, Orc, and Rococo Aristocrat.Image: Lego

Series 24 includes four other minifigures that are must-haves for any collection. Robot Warrior has one of the best minifigure helmets we’ve ever seen, while T-Rex Costume Fan (not to be mistaken with those actual T.rex costumes, of course, he’s just a fan) would improve any Lego set he’s bundled with. The Orc is magnificently detailed, but somehow completely overshadowed by the Rococo Aristocrat whose wide dress and tiny chihuahua should make her easy to find.

From left to right and top to bottom it’s a Lego Football Referee, Carrot Mascot, Falconer, Potter, Conservationist, Rockin’ Horse Rider, and Newspaper Kid.
Image: Lego

The rest of the Collectible Minifigures Series 24 includes Football Referee (eager to penalize everyone on the field), Carrot Mascot, Falconer (who seems ready to take down the falcon in her care with a bow and arrow), Potter, Conservationist (with a tiny Lego Koala bear), Rockin’ Horse Rider, and Newspaper Kid, who’s ready to cause some trouble with headlines and a slingshot.

As always, each randomized figure is $5 each, and although Lego has already started to switch to cardboard boxes for some of its random Lego Super Mario accessories, it appears to be sticking with the foil bags for its Collectible Minifigures for at least a little while longer.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water. 

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special Is Holly Jolly Good Fun @ io9

Mantis and Drax are front and center in the Guardians Holiday Special.Image: Marvel Studios

Over the past few years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become so popular, the characters have almost become family. Fans know and love them so much, any chance to spend even one or two more minutes with them outside of their own films feels like a gift. And that’s why The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is so, well, special. It allows fans the opportunity to spend some downtime with these beloved characters, resulting in a heartwarming and entertaining but slightly superfluous experience.

Set between the events of Thor: Love and Thunder and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, the Guardians have a new home, new ship, and are going through the daily grind. We learn, via a Spine of Night-esque animated flashback, how Peter Quill first introduced the idea of Christmas to the galaxy, and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Drax (Dave Bautista) are so moved by the story, they want to give Peter a proper Christmas. So they travel to Earth to find him the perfect present.

That present was revealed in the show’s trailer and again in the opening credits, so it’s not really a spoiler—but just in case you don’t know, we’ll drop this.

Drax and Mantis head to Earth to find the great hero, Kevin Bacon, who Quill has been talking about since the first Guardians film. On the quest, the pair traverse Hollywood looking for the actor, getting into all sorts of hijinks. Once they find him, well, imagine you’re Kevin Bacon and Drax and Mantis show up at your door. Things don’t go well.

Peter Quill marveling at the magic of Christmas.Image: Marvel Studios

At the start, part of the joy of the Holiday Special is just seeing the Guardians again. Peter (Chris Pratt) is there, of course, along with Nebula (Karen Gillan), Kraglin (Sean Gunn), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Groot (Vin Diesel), Drax, Mantis, and even newcomer Cosmo (voiced by Maria Bakalova). Where they are and what they’re doing acts as a tease to what fans can expect in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which is exciting, but that quickly gets pushed aside in favor of the holiday story, which is more than welcome. Because this show isn’t meant to be a 40-minute trailer—the aim is to tell a story with Marvel characters of friendship, giving, and love, which comes across in every scene of the special. That the concept of Christmas is so foreign to everyone not from Earth is a bonus throughout, setting the stage for lots of incredibly funny moments and observations, some of which even come in the form of music.

Though all the Guardians play a role, really, this is the Drax and Mantis show, and the chemistry Klementieff and Bautista began to display in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 really blossoms here. For 40 minutes, Drax and Mantis basically act like toddler siblings, running around with no idea about what they’re doing, getting into trouble, and it’s hilarious. They’re beyond lovable. Klementieff especially, whose previous MCU appearances have made her more of a background character, really raises the bar here, endearing Mantis in a way that should rocket her to MCU stardom.

Six degrees of Kevin Bacon just got much easier.Image: Marvel Studios

Writer-director James Gunn crafted the special to fit seamlessly with his Guardians films: lots of great music, beautiful visuals, and an unstoppable momentum, as well as some real pathos, much of which is seen through Bacon’s eyes. The actor, who plays himself, starts scared but as he goes on this adventure, slowly starts to shift. Eventually, Bacon gets a whole new perspective not just on life, but his own career too. Little things like that add some real depth to the special, though they’re occasionally fleeting in favor of the story.

That story pays off incredibly well though, with some truly lovely and magical moments at the end leaving you feeling simply joyous as the credits roll. And really, that’s the whole point of the special: Here are some characters you love, that you usually don’t get to spend a lot of time with, and now to get to see them in this other story. As a whole, there are certainly a few moments that don’t quite fit (we cringed at one scene with police officers) and there’s a chance the special won’t make much sense unless you are very, very well-versed in the MCU and Guardians’ previous stories (a joke from Infinity War pays off in a big way here, for example). But, if you are devoted Marvel fans—as we are—the holiday special amounts to a perfect Guardians of the Galaxy slice of life that’ll instantly get you into the holiday spirit.

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special comes to Disney+ on November 25.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water. 

It Turns Out the Walking Dead Was Me All Along @ io9

Photo: Gene Page/AMC

When io9 co-founders Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders hired me as a Senior Editor back in 2012, I never expected to still be at the site a decade later. I certainly never expected to recap The Walking Dead the entire time, and now that the show is over, I have no idea how to feel about it. But I’m pretty sure it’s not good.

And when I say a decade, I mean 10 years almost exactly. Annalee and CJ made it very clear that one of my tasks upon being hired would be taking on recaps of the then-incredibly popular zombie series. So on my very first day at io9, November 19, 2012, I wrote about the previous night’s installment, “Hounded,” the sixth episode of season three and the 25th episode of The Walking Dead overall. If you remember it, and I know you don’t, you can read my ancient recap here or take my word it’s the one where ghosts keep calling an increasingly unstable Rick on the phone. It was a pretty good episode!

Sunday night, November 20, one day after my 10th io9 anniversary, the final episode of The Walking Dead aired, titled “Rest in Peace.” AMC didn’t send out a screener until Monday, but I got sick so I wrote it Tuesday. The show ended on 177, which means 153 Walking Dead episodes have aired since I started here and I’ve written about almost all of them, minus a few Germain Lussier had to cover when I was sick or on vacation. I feel confident I’ve recapped 148 of them over the course of a decade and three days.

Photo: Gene Page/AMC

If you’ve stuck with io9’s Walking Dead recaps through my tenure, you know I’m obnoxiously verbose. I have utter confidence that the vast majority of these recaps clocked in at least 1,000 words, and many of them hit 1,500. At an estimated 1200 words per recap overall, I’d say I have written over 177,000 words about individual episodes of The Walking Dead. That’s not counting TWD news articles or trailer write-ups, which I’ve also done the vast majority of, because I’m io9’s Walking Dead guy.

This staggers me. I’m 45 years old, which means I have spent 2/9ths of my life on this Earth not just watching but professionally writing about The Walking Dead, a show that has occasionally been great but much more often been awful. I mean, terrible. This is an extraordinary amount of time watching a show I frequently disliked.

I mean, when I began recapping the series, it was entering its heyday. The Walking Dead was never more consistently good than the second half of season three through season five, including the series’ high point, “Clear,” and the heartbreaking “The Grove.” Even the season five finale, “Conquer,” where Rick (Andrew Lincoln) appeared to have lost his mind and uttered the famous/infamous line “I’m wondering, how many of you do I gotta kill to save your lives?” was excellent, showing the protagonist as a man who had been pushed too far by a brutal world and had lost his way. The Walking Dead seemed to be Rick using to ask if survival is more important than humanity, a fascinating question that the show was uniquely positioned to explore.

Classic Scene | How Many of You Do I have to Kill to Save Your Lives? | Season 5 | The Walking Dead

And then… it didn’t. In season six, it turned out Rick’s brutality was apparently the correct answer. Well, let me clarify—Rick’s way wasn’t necessarily the right way to go, because there were usually consequences for his violent actions, it’s just that maddeningly, no one on the show ever mentioned this or confronted him about his actions. The show gave tacit approval to things like Rick’s pre-emptive assault against the Saviors’ outpost, even though it made Negan and the Saviors aware there was a new colony ripe for the picking, which led to repercussions not just for the protagonists, but the show itself.

It was March 2015—more than seven long years ago—when The Walking Dead, in an astounding act of hubris, decided to end season six with a cliffhanger after promising for months that the finale would feature the most shocking, brutal moment of the entire series. Like his introduction in the comics, the villain Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) should have immediately murdered someone upon his arrival—except instead of showing which character died, the episode ended with a point-of-view shot from the victim of Negan’s bat.

It was infuriating then, but it also gave the show’s then 14 million viewers (still an astonishing number) more than six months to speculate who died, thereby ensuring whatever the result, it would be expected to some degree.

Image: Gene Page/AMC

More than 17 million people watched the season seven premiere to discover who the victim would be, only to discover it was Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), a second-tier character who wouldn’t be missed much. Still, fans gave a collective sigh of relief that Glenn (Steven Yeun), the beloved character who Negan killed in the comics and was the heart of the soul of the show, had been spared. And then Rick shot his mouth off and Negan beat Glenn to death as well. It may have been surprising, but it was also infuriating—and more than anything, none of it worth waiting half a year for.

Since then, The Walking Dead has hemorrhaged viewers (to the point that less than 1.5 million people watched the show’s penultimate episode). Sure, it didn’t help that star Andrew Lincoln left the series early in season nine, but it also didn’t help that the “war” with Negan and his Saviors was drawn out to three excruciating seasons. I spent so many of the middle years of The Walking Dead furious at the lack of character development, furious at how padded out the episodes were, and how there was almost no one to root for because the protagonists kept murdering people in cold blood. Then, my partner Loree told me something that has stuck with me ever since: “It must be as exhausting for people to read your angry recaps as it is exhausting for you to write them.”

She was absolutely correct, and I changed my outlook immediately. I tried to find the positives in each episode. I tried to merely point out problems instead of ranting about them. Mostly, though, I just tried to not care about what the show did or didn’t do. That sounds harsh, but what I really mean is that I tried not to let the show affect me or my mood, and to meet it on its own terms. The Walking Dead was gonna Walking Dead no matter what I wrote, I figured, so why should I get worked up over the seemingly permanent reality that the show wasn’t as good as it used to be? Hilariously and predictably, I have had commenters mad at me for both being too nice and still too mean to TWD, but I’ve also slept a lot better on Sunday nights.

Image: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

But I’ll sleep even better this coming Sunday night, knowing that I will never have to recap an episode of The Walking Dead again… well, at least until the Rick and Michonne miniseries comes out, if it ever does. (I have already told my io9 compatriots that I won’t be recapping the Dead City or Daryl Dixon spin-offs, no matter what they pay me or threaten me with.) Having spent 10 long years watching this damned show, I feel chained to it enough that I need to find out what happened to Rick after he was airlifted by helicopter with Jadis (Polly Walker), the leader of the late Garbage Dump Performance Art Troupe.

Looking back at a full decade of recapping The Walking Dead, I can’t help but feel oh my god how did a spend a decade of my life watching this show that overall I don’t think I enjoyed. The fact that it overlaps almost exactly with my tenure at io9 complicates things immensely for me, since overall I’ve enjoyed my time here, minus a real-life supervillain or two. The two experiences are inextricably linked for me, and will be for a while, I suspect. But right now, I have no ability to truly understand what I’ve done or has been done to me. I’m insensate. Numb. Listless. Lifeless. After 10 long years, I am the walking dead. But if nothing else, The Walking Dead has given me one piece of advice to help guide me through this difficult transition in my life, all the way back in the very first episode that aired on October 31, 2010:

Image: AMC

Don’t dead. Open inside.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.

Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Will Have a Lot of Riker @ io9

Screenshot: Paramount

Chris McQuarrie talks about naming the next Mission: Impossible. A Cosmology of Monsters is being turned into a show. James Gunn drops the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special’s soundtrack. Plus, what’s coming on Doom Patrol season 4. Spoilers now!

Humane

Deadline reports Caitlin Cronenberg (daughter of David and sister of Brandon) will make her directorial debut with Humane, an “environment-themed thriller” starring Jay Baruchel, Emily Hampshire, Peter Gallagher, Sebastian Chacon, Alanna Bale, and Sirena Gulamgaus. Said to “take place over a single day months after a global environmental collapse has forced world leaders to take extreme measures to reduce the earth’s population,” the story follows a recently retired newsman who “invites his four grown children to dinner to announce his intentions to enlist in the nation’s new euthanasia program. But when the father’s plan goes horribly awry, tensions flare and chaos erupts among his children.”


Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Phil Lord revealed Across the Spider-Verse boasts six dominant animation styles in a recent interview with Empire.


Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning

Christopher McQuarrie also revealed to the magazine why the new Mission: Impossible movie is titled Dead Reckoning.

’Dead reckoning’ is a navigational term. It means you’re picking a course based solely on your last known position and that becomes quite the metaphor not only for Ethan, but several characters...

[Empire]


The Devil Conspiracy

Elsewhere, a Satanic biotech company plans to clone Jesus Christ so they can sacrifice him to the devil in the trailer for The Devil Conspiracy.

The Devil Conspiracy | Official Trailer HD

A Cosmology of Monsters

According to Deadline, Caitlin D. Fryers (Wyonna Earp) is developing a television series based on Shaun Hamill’s novel A Cosmology of Monsters at Saloon Media. Described as an “elevated family drama,” the series will focus on the Turners who “operate an immersive haunted house experience but begin to realize real monsters are at their door.”


Star Trek: Picard

During a recent interview with Trek Movie, Jonathan Frakes confirmed William Riker appears in all 10 episodes of Star Trek: Picard’s final season.

Ten Rikers! There is one episode where I only have a brief scene, but I’m in all ten. Terry [Matalas] came to me during season 2 and he said, “How do you feel about playing a lot of Riker?” I had already done it in season 1 and said, “Yeah, I’m psyched. I’m looking forward to it.” I had no idea he meant like full Riker [laughs]. But I got to say, it was a blast. It was a blast to work with Patrick [Stewart] again, as an actor. It was kind of emotional. And I had great stuff with Marina [Sirtis] again, who I adore. It was all I could have hoped for and I think the fans are going to go cuckoo. I think season three is going to crush. I had plenty of good Riker stuff during seven years and certainly on First Contact, but the Riker stuff [Terry Matalas] wrote for the character is denser and more interesting. It has a greater sense of irony. There’s a lot of levity. I mean, he just gets the characters in such a positive way.

Later in the interview, Frakes stated the season feels “much more exciting” than Star Trek: Nemesis, but sees it as a way of “moving forward” rather than a definitive farewell to the Next Generation crew.

It is much more exciting for us collectively than Nemesis was. But it doesn’t feel so much as an ending as the possibility of moving forward. I think there’s a future.


The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

James Gunn shared the official track list for the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special soundtrack on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Drax and Mantis steal Christmas ornaments from Kevin Bacon in a new clip.

“Drax & Mantis meet Kevin Bacon” - THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY HOLIDAY SPECIAL Funny Scene (2022)

Star Trek: Prodigy

The crew meets a “rogue geneticist” from the Neutral Zone in the synopsis for “Masquerade,” this week’s episode of Star Trek: Prodigy.

Trapped in the Neutral Zone, the crew encounters a rogue geneticist who sheds light on Dal’s past.

Written By: Nikhil S. Jayaram

Directed By: Sung Shin

[Spoiler TV]


The Santa Clauses

Scott meets his multiversal counterparts in the synopsis for “Across the Yule-Verse,” the fifth episode of The Santa Clauses.

Scott is taken to the Yule-verse where he learns the truth about how he came to be Santa. Meanwhile things at the North Pole get worse as more elves disappear and Christmas spirit is all but destroyed. Scott returns from the Yule-verse and, with Noel, heads back to the North Pole to save Christmas. Before he can, he is quickly captured by Simon. Carol, Cal and Sandra race back to the North Pole to help Scott.

[Spoiler TV]


The Mighty Ones

The Mighty Ones returns for its final season December 9 on Hulu and Peacock.

Season 4 Promo | THE MIGHTY ONES

Chucky

Devon and Jake spend the holidays with Lexy in two new clips from the season finale of Chucky.

SNEAK PEEK: Lexy Reveals the Monster in Her Life | Chucky TV Series (S2 E8) | SYFY & USA
Chucky 208 I “Chucky Actually”

Doom Patrol

Finally, the Doom Patrol must save the world from Immortus in the trailer for their fourth season, premiering December 8 on HBO Max.

Doom Patrol Season 4 | Official Trailer | HBO Max

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.

Why Does Shuri See ____ in the Ancestral Plane? @ io9

Washington DC Trivia | Dorky Geeky Nerdy #200 @ Bureau 42

Two-hundred episodes of the Dorky Geeky Nerdy Trivia Podcast? That calls for something special. So, this week, we’re taking a break from this season’s theme of US States to cover the US Capital with some Washington DC Trivia.

And we’ve got thirty questions all about the capital of the United States. Its history, its residents, and more.

Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/dorkygeekynerdy/message
Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/dorkygeekynerdy/support

Sense and Sensibility – Chapter 33 @ Bureau 42

So You Want to Start Reading (or Writing) Fanfic @ io9

AMC’s Interview With the Vampire has fanned the flames of fan fiction writers.Image: Alfonso Bresciani/AMC

Buckle up babes, we’re all in tonight. In a ridiculous moment of hubris a few weeks ago, I posted on Twitter that I was debating between writing fanfic and doing work while on a plane home from a work trip. My editor saw it, and now, wouldn’t you know it, I’m doing a whole slideshow to introduce you to fanfiction, fanfic, or just fic. Life is funny. (I posted that fic I wrote on the plane last week, btw, I’m very pleased. You will never find it.)

Let me take you on a journey through fanfiction—the history, the drama, the good, the bad, the ugly. All of it deserves its moment in the sun. Or on your screens. We’ll figure it out together.

What is fanfic?

The cover of the Fanfiction Reader by Francesca CoppaImage: University of Michigan Press

Fanfic is simply a piece of fiction that is based on another piece of fiction, done with intention to transform the source material. Easy enough, right? It can be as simple as a “missing scene,” or it can be a “fix-it fic” where an author rewrites parts of the narrative that they disliked. It can also just be straight up porn. Whatever you want to do. It’s all fair game.

Where did fanfic come from?

Image: La commedia illumina Firenze on the wall of Florence Cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore

Fanfic has, in a lot of ways, been around forever. If you take an expansive view of what fanfic is, you could easily argue that Dante’s Inferno is just self-insert Bible fanfic. It is in human nature to tell stories, and retell them, and then tell them again. Fanfic is just a very modern term for retelling old stories with your own spin. I think that contemporary fanfic is also inherently tied to community, fandom, and sharing that fic. It’s not necessary that fanfic be shared, obviously, but I think that it’s a major component when judging where contemporary fanfic started.

So, modern fanfic...

Image: Spockanalia

All right, fine. Contemporary fanfiction—i.e., fanfiction emerging from a collective, community fandom—can be traced to one of two main sources. The first is Star Trek. The second is Sherlock Holmes. (Hilariously, not much has changed. The Star Trek and Sherlock fandoms are still around!) Star Trek fandom is generally credited with a lot of archival work and with producing fanzines that regularly made it into the hands of Gene Roddenberry himself. He even said in a letter to the Spokanalia fanzine publishers that the zine was “required reading” in the office.

In fact, Star Trek: The New Voyages is a collection of fanfiction that was traditionally published by Bantam Books, with a forward by Roddenberry that reads:

It is now a source of great joy for me to see their view of Star Trek, their new Star Trek stories, reaching professional publication here. I want to thank these writers, congratulate them on their efforts, and wish them good fortune on these and further of their voyages into other times and dimensions

Wait, what about Sherlock?

Image: Doubleday & Company, 1930. Book Club Edition.

Okay, this part is great, actually, because it’s part contemporary fanfic history and part historical fanfic. Let’s start with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself. Generally speaking, Sherlock is considered the first contemporary fandom, not only because of the massive fandom that spawned around it, but because of the fanwork that occurred around Doyle’s characters.

So, because Sherlock Holmes stories were incredibly popular, serialized, and the main character eventually killed off by Doyle as he became less and less interested in his work, fandom kicked in. Fanfiction was published in serialized magazines, although back then it wasn’t called fanfic, it was called pastiche.

Pastiche, Peter Pan, and Donan Coyle

Image: The Speaker, 1981

If you want to get a look at the history of fanfic, an incredibly rich place to start is with this archive of Sherlock pastiche, starting in 1888 with a story written by “Donan Coyle.” A particularly famous pastiche was written by J.M. Barrie—yes, the Peter Pan author—titled “My Evening with Sherlock Holmes.” Pastiche is, by many accounts, the start of contemporary fanfic.

Commonplace books

Image: Beinecke Flickr Laboratory

I won’t go into commonplace books, there’s too much, I get too emotional, but just know that in the late 1700s and into the 1800s young girls obsessed with the Romantic Poets also engaged in transformative work by rewriting poems to be about themselves, their friends, and subjects close to their own lives. They also shared these books, trading them with friends, engaging in both transformative creation and distribution, the two key components of fandom. Sadly, this is not quite in io9's wheelhouse enough to go into more detail, but just know I would write 2,000 words about commonplace books, EASILY.

Because we need a little controversy...

Image: Warner Bros.

Here’s the tea. As fanfic became more and more public, not everyone was like Gene Roddenberry. Some authors got, well, a nice way to put it is protective of their work. What this means is that some authors came right out and said they didn’t like fanfic, and some authors did more than that. Enter Interview With the Vampire’s Anne Rice. I really enjoy Rice’s work and her energy was really next level, but in 2000 she began threatening fic writers with legal action. What happened next is going to take up 4,000 words (I’m working on it), but essentially, fandom became tainted by her shame-and-blame letter campaign. She adopted a scorched-earth policy and drove her fandom underground, and this affected fandoms for literally decades. Regardless, fandom survived. Enter... the modern age.

To the internet!

Xena/Gabrielle a classic ‘make the subtext text’ subject of ficImage: NBCUniversal

Sorry for the history lesson. (I’m not sorry.) We’re going back to modern fanfiction. Most modern fanfic is online, obviously, but there are still zines being made and circulated. Online fanfic resides in a number of places; fanfiction.net, Wattpad, Tumblr, Livejournal, and, of course, the Archive of Our Own.

Where to go

Image: OTW

Generally speaking, you can choose any one of those sites (fanfiction.net, Wattpad, Tumblr, Livejournal, and, of course, the Archive of Our Own) and find fanfiction, but really what you want to do is identify the kind of fanfiction you’re looking for and figure out where the fandom is posting. Generally speaking, the Archive of Our Own is probably one of the largest and most active places to find fic, mostly because it does not have a lot of restrictions on the kind of content you can post, which is great! But it can also be... not so great, for the same reason.

So, you want to write some fic

Screenshot: Google Docs

Great! All you gotta do is pull up a Google Doc, Notepad, or even (god forbid) the native text editor in the CMS of whatever site you eventually decide to post on. Your fic can be anything! It can be a deep exploration of a single scene from a minor character’s POV; it can be a fun alternate universe where everyone is in high school (or college, or grad school, or even some kind of magical school for weird kids); it can be straight up smut (I’m not judging); or it can be an entire novel that continues the show you love because it got cancelled too soon.

There is no metric for success

Image: HBO Max | Aaron Epstein

I’m sorry. I know people would love to tell you that hits, comments, shares, subscribes, or even—in Archive of Our Own parlance—kudos means something, but it doesn’t mean anything other than someone clicked, liked, or said something about your fic. Success is what you make it! There is no algorithm on Archive of Our Own or Fanfiction.net. Using a system of tags, fanfiction writers can only hope that their fic reaches its intended audience. But success doesn’t matter, fanfic is written for fandom, for yourself, and for the love of the game. Well, the love of the original media. You get it.

Isn’t there like... a lot of smut on these sites?

Image: Alfonso Bresciani/AMC

Yup. There is. A lot of it is great. It’s NSFW but the fact that it simply exists isn’t that big of a deal, especially considering that it’s all very fictional and usually involves something like... vampires, or magic, or something. Most fanfic writers who do write smutty fiction will tag it appropriately, so if you don’t want to read it, you don’t have to! But if you do want to read that sort of thing, there is, like, a lot to choose from. Go nuts. Explore your own gender. Discover something about yourself.

Dead dove, do not eat

Screenshot: Fox

Many fanfics have a lot of tags. Read them. Heed them. If you see something that squicks you out, makes you feel bad, or is just generally something you’re not interested in reading (for instance: I’m in the minority who does not enjoy a coffeeshop AU and you wouldn’t catch me dead reading one), you should simply move on. Flaming—or leaving bad reviews—is generally considered in poor taste. Fanfic authors, at any level, are giving you art for free, out of the goodness of their hearts and the joy in their lives. Maybe just let people have fun.

The comment section

A comment on an article about Interview With the Vampire, a show I am absolutely obsessed withScreenshot: io9

So here’s the thing—comments are great. But there are some rules; first among them is don’t be rude. Don’t ask for updates (that’s pushy and weird) but definitely say you’re looking forward to reading more (much nicer! grateful!). If you want to point out minor typos this is generally acceptable, but any deeper negative critique of the line writing, plot, characters, etc. is generally unwanted and can be super depressing to read. Keep it positive, light, fun, and energetic. Or, if you don’t feel up for commenting, even leaving a string of emojis followed by a quick “loved this” is perfectly acceptable and absolutely encouraged.

You said something about ugly...

Friends don’t let friends talk shit about Teen Wolf fanfic. Image: MTV

Yes, right. So the greatest thing about a lot of fanfiction sites (including my favorite, AO3) is that they exist to create a safe space for fanfic authors. What this means is that while they protect authors who write fic from corporations and authors who might not like that they are writing fanfiction, they also protect authors who write fanfic that is actively damaging, bigoted, or hateful. There is a moderation process on each of these sites but so far, there isn’t a lot of marked movement that sites have made to actively combat bigotry, more or less relying on a report to spur them into action.

What this means is that you need to actively curate your own experience. Report, block, move on. It’s much less about following the “dead dove/don’t eat” rule and more about reminding the sites that this hateful context exists and they need to do something about it. Report! Block! Move on!

Any other rules?

Image: The CW

There’s really not much else! Fanfic is super fun to write, there are fantastic fandom communities out there, and it’s a wonderful hobby! I love being a fanfic writer—I’ve met some incredible friends through fandom and fanfic was a big part of that. Whatever idea you have, whether it’s requiting that unrequited love, giving a character the ending they really deserved, or even just transing your favorite character in an attempt to explore your own latent gender hangups (who’s done that?? Not me! I’ve never had a gender crises in my life!), fanfiction is a wonderful, storied tradition of playfulness and earnest critique of media. I hope you all try it, at least once. Just to see what it’s about.


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Fill Your Black Friday List With Fandom Finds From Stranger Things, Marvel, DC, and More @ io9

Image: ShopDisney/Loungefly/Netflix/WB Shop

With Thanksgiving nearly upon us, we’re off to the races with holiday shopping. It’s a good time to be a pop culture fan, because not only are we are feasting on dinner, we’re faced with a bounty of options to help flash our favorite fandoms.

Here’s our latest holiday gift guide featuring Marvel, Star Wars, and more!

Represent the Targaryens

Image: Warner Bros. Consumer Products

We love the tight-knit and often terrifying family’s festive knit sweater, available online.

The Black Panther Has Arrived

Image: Loungefly

Celebrate the new Black Panther with this geometric design wallet at Loungefly.com.

For When Your Tummy Goes Wubba Lubba Dub Dub

Image: Warner Brothers Consumer Products

If you know someone who can cook and is a fan of irreverent animation, treat them and yourself with this Rick and Morty cookbook, available wherever books are sold and online. Check out an excerpt here!

Celebrate Endor’s Victory in a Cozy Blanket

Image: Sackcloth and Ashes

This Star Wars line of blankets features Endor, Hoth and Tatooine-inspired designs. Buy one at Sackcloth and Ashes website and the company will donate one blanket to organizations that help the unhoused per purchase.

E.T. Plush for the Collector

Image: Kidrobot

Steven Spielberg’s classic E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial is celebrating 40 years, so get this plush for the Amblin fan in your life who always wanted an alien friend. This Kidrobot release includes a glowing finger too.

An Encanto Costume That’s Cosplay-Lite

Image: CAMP

The folks over at CAMP know what kids like, and have released a gorgeous Encanto line including this skirt and sweater that looks just like Mirabel’s in the Disney animated film. There’s also a set for Isabela.

Get Wild With Antonio

Image: CAMP

The extensive line also features the extended Madrigal family, like Bruno and Antonio, emblazoned on comfy-looking sweaters.

Take a Little Bit of Casita With You Wherever You Go

Image: CAMP

Really love that Encanto is getting lots of love in the merch department for all ages. This backpack is a travel must.

Hellfire Holidays

Screenshot: Netflix

If you buy this stocking an Eddie Munson gets his bat wings. Find it and more Stranger Things goods here.

Needle Drop the Cowboy Bebop Theme

Image: Crunchyroll

Finally, the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack is available to add to your record collection! This one is a hot commodity.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Action Figures

Image: NECA

As part of NECA’s Black Friday sale, the toymaker is rolling out more of those TMNT figures that went by fast on their first release. Keep your eye on the online store if these are on your must-have list.

Frozen Fandom Fashion

Image: ShopDisney

Frozen concept artist Brittney Lee has collaborated with ShopDisney on a line of accessories featuring her gorgeous artwork and designs for the Disney Queens. Find it here.

Wayfind With Moana Earrings

Image: Baublebar

These lovely Moana earrings are perfect for the Disney heroine fan in your life. Buy them on Baublebar’s site.

Turn Things Upside Down

Screenshot: Blackmilk/Netflix

We’ll say it again: long live Eddie Munson! This T-shirt dress is available as part of Blackmilk’s Stranger Things line.

For Your Pet Puddin’

Screenshot: Buckle-Down

Buckle Down products has an extensive line of DC and other franchise accessories for you and your pets, like this Harley Quinn dog collar. (Hyena not included.)

I Would Like to See the Fur Baby

Image: ShopDisney

Get this perfect Grogu-inspired bed for your furry foundling on ShopDisney.

Monsters Live Here

Image: ShopDisney

This cute Pixar Monsters Inc. wreath is available online.

Black Panther Coffee to Power You Up

Image: Blk & Bold

Or at least wake you up. Find it online here.

Lounge Like a Tokyo Ghoul

Screenshot: Hot Topic

Find these at Hot Topic.

Wall-E and Eve Forever

Screenshot: Box Lunch

The Pixar favorite is celebrated on this Box Lunch Loungefly exclusive.

Galactic Pajamas

Image: Smash Tees

Dream of Star Wars adventures in these chill pajamas from Smash+Tees.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.

Watch Power Rangers' Touching Tribute to Jason David Frank @ io9

Screenshot: Hasbro

Power Rangers fans across the world are still in shock from the sudden passing of Mighty Morphin’ star Jason David Frank this past weekend at the age of 49, with tributes rolling in from across the worlds of Power Rangers and Super Sentai to honor the actor—including a touching new video from Hasbro.

Hasbro shared the tribute this evening, after releasing a brief statement over the weekend in light of Frank’s death. “All of Ranger Nation is deeply saddened by the loss of Jason David Frank,” the statement read in part. “JDF brought countless smiles to fans over the years and will be greatly missed.”

Although Frank will be best-known for Tommy’s debut in Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers as first the Green, and then White, Power Rangers, his legacy as the character continued across the franchise, continuing on to lead the Rangers as Zeo and Turbo’s Red Ranger, and then Dino Thunder’s Black Ranger—all of which and more feature in the tribute, including his recent appearances in anniversary episodes of the franchise. It’s a reminder of just how many generations of Power Rangers fans are touched by his loss, and a fitting farewell to a man who helped shoot the series into the stratosphere in the ‘90s with Tommy’s arrival.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.

The Walking Dead Finale Originally Had a Different Ending @ io9

Rick and Michonne’s son had a bigger part to play in another ending.Image: AMC

Did you hear? The Walking Dead, one of our generation’s defining television shows, ended this past weekend. Besides wrapping up as many core stories as it could, the big reveal was something our own Rob Bricken described as “all that anyone still watching the show wanted to see.” However, the ending you saw was not always a certainty. As a result, an alternate, more comic book-inspired ending was filmed, before being cut in favor of what aired this past weekend.

So, as you probably know or don’t care about being spoiled if you’re still reading, The Walking Dead’s big ending was the return of both Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira). Not together, but, in very mysterious individual circumstances which will be explained in the Rick and Michonne TV show. However, there was no guarantee AMC could get those two actors back— so, as a cover, the filmmakers shot a different ending that didn’t make sense with the crowd-pleasing Rick and Michonne ending (which was apparently shot a few months ago).

What was that ending? Well, according to Insider, it would have jumped forward several years and picked up with Judith and Rick Jr. as adults, in the same place outside Atlanta where we first saw papa Rick in the pilot. Here’s the breakdown.

After Daryl rode off, we cut forward to the Freedom Parkway, outside Atlanta — where the iconic shot of Rick rode down from the pilot. See an ethanol-modified van, with a young woman and man in the front seats (in their twenties). And through the scene, we come to realize it’s adult RJ and Judith. Other adult versions of the kids are in the back — Coco, Gracie, etc. They’re out there, looking to escort any survivors back to their communities. Continuing the legacy of their parents. As RJ speaks over the radio, he finishes with: “If you can hear me, answer back. This is Rick Grimes.” (Which, of course, is his name — and the line Rick said in the pilot.) Then we end with the voice of a survivor answering back: “...Hello?”

That ending was more in line with how Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman chose to end his comic book series in addition to being a mirror on the first episode. But, once Lincoln and Gurira came back, the grown-up kids ending didn’t quite fit and was cut. Plus, seeing new actors in those roles was thought to create a disconnect.

Do you think that was the right choice? Was it more important to show the fan-favorite characters or to have a more cohesive, emotional beat? Let us know what you think below.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water. 

The Amazing Art and Toys We Loved at Designer Con 2022 @ io9

A small sample of the cool stuff at Designer Con.Image: io9/Germain Lussier

Imagine a place where monsters live with robots. Where the pinkest, prettiest thing you’ve ever seen is right next to the darkest and most gruesome. A place where art, pop culture, and collectibles collide like asteroids into a planet. That place is the annual Designer Con, and it’s the coolest place you’ve ever been.

DCon, as attendees call it, took place last weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California, and like every year, I made sure to check it out. Two huge exhibit halls get filled up with all manner of artists and retailers, all of whom just have one thing in mind: this is cool. Of course, everyone has their own idea of what cool is, exactly, and that’s what makes Designer Con so amazing. There is literally something for everybody. Fan of tiki bars? There’s something for you. Super into Star Wars? There’s something for you. Like custom action figures mashing up the weirdest brands ever, but also candy? Yup, it’s got that too.

What follows are 21 images that barely even scratch the surface of the weird, interesting, exciting things you can see and buy at Designer Con. Plus they very much cater to my personal tastes. Nevertheless, it’s all super rad. Visit the Designer Con site for news on when it’s back next year.

Everything Everywhere by Jason Edmiston

Image: io9/Germain Lussier

Edmiston has been doing his “Eyes Without a Face” series for years, but this piece from Everything Everywhere All At Once, which includes a 3D googly eye, is an exceptional eye-grabber.

Man-Thing by Mondo

Image: io9/Germain Lussier

Mondo has released a few different Man-Things, but in the wake of Werewolf By Night, this exclusive colorway just hits harder.

Freddy by Creep It Real

Image: io9/Germain Lussier

Creep It Real does amazing paper-art pieces of all manner of characters, including this Elm Street-dwelling fellow.

C3P-Cop by Creep Mode

Image: io9/Germain Lussier

We love a good mashup, and Star Wars and RoboCop is a perfect one.

Wakanda Forever by Patrick Ballesteros

Image: io9/Germain Lussier

Talk about the cutting-edge. This piece is from the #1 movie at the box office when the convention happened.

Spider-Gwen by Tracy Tubera

Image: io9/Germain Lussier

Love this unique, cool take on an amazing Spider-character.

The Iron Giant by We Are Not Toys

Image: io9/Germain Lussier

We Are Not Toys lives up to its name with this amazing recreation of The Iron Giant helmet.

Galaxy’s Edge Coke by Zard Apuya

Image: io9/Germain Lussier

Apuya makes all sorts of sculptures and figures based on food, and this one was super cool, considering it was a take on the special Coke bottles you can only get at Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge.

Mad Max: Fury Road by Nerdy But Still Girly

Image: io9/Germain Lussier

Nerdy But Still Girly makes amazing earrings inspired by basically every single brand, franchise, movie, etc. that you can think of. This is just one of hundreds of amazing examples.

Halloween Haunted Mansion by Mark Tavares

Image: io9/Germain Lussier

Tavares took the iconic stretched-out paintings from Disney’s Haunted Mansion and combined them with Halloween, with excellent results. This was just one of four.

K.E.V.I.N. by 100% Soft

Image: io9/Germain Lussier

Artist 100% Soft was prominently featured on She-Hulk (Avongers anyone?), and he lets that continue with this amazing pin of everyone’s favorite Marvel Studios president.

Stay Puft by Wicked Creatures

Image: io9/Germain Lussier

We’ve never seen Stay Puft quite like this.

Inside Garfield by Mighty Jaxx

Image: io9/Germain Lussier

We all love Garfield, but these particular Garfield statues just jumped out for being so fresh, unique, and weird.

The Giga Horse by LUGOLA

Image: io9/Germain Lussier

The Lego User Group of Los Angeles (LUGOLA) had a ton of beautiful custom creations, but this one from Mad Max: Fury Road stood out.

Alien by James Groman

Image: io9/Germain Lussier

Just a stunning take on Alien by James Groman for 52Toys.

Mario by HoobsGlass

Image: io9/Germain Lussier

Look at this Mario made of glass. Just gorgeous.

Dude Where’s My Arm by DKE Toys and Dollar $lice Bootlegs

Image: io9/Germain Lussier

Never thought I’d see Star Wars mashed up with Dude, Where’s My Car, but there it is.

Carbonite Butt by Brian Cook

Image: io9/Germain Lussier

Brian Cook has a series of art called “Butts on Things” and it’s exactly as described. Butts on everything, from Star Wars characters to household objects—it’s hilarious.

Mega Man by Matan Chaffee

Image: io9/Germain Lussier

Just loved this artistic take on Mega Man.

Papercut Lightsaber by the Loulander

Image: io9/Germain Lussier

This lightsaber made out of physical cuts of paper is just beyond rad.


Bro Thor by Beast Kingdom

Image: io9/Germain Lussier

All four of these little Thors come in a single set. Very chill.

Strange World Is a Wonderfully Weird and Fantastic Family Adventure @ io9

Image: Disney Animation Studios

From the team behind Raya and the Last Dragon comes Strange WorldWalt Disney Animation Studios’ latest feature, an eccentrically excellent pulp sci-fi adventure. It’s a wonderfully weird gem that I hope springboards into serialized tales about the Clade family that anchors the film.

In Strange World, director Don Hall and writer Qui Nguyen explore the relationships between fathers and sons in the large, quirky, multi-generational Clade family, who live in a fantastical world filled with imaginative creatures and inventions. We meet Searcher Clade (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is very different than his explorer father, Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid). The elder Clade is famous in their town of Avalonia, located in a valley tucked among treacherous mountains. Searcher was never too happy constantly joining expeditions through those mountains—so after he discovers an alien electrical plant that could power their world, he opts to become a farmer rather than chasing the next frontier, and Searcher and Jaeger go their separate ways.

The bulk of the story picks up when Searcher is grown with a Clade clan of his own. Since Searcher’s discovery, Avalonia has turned into a retro punk eden that meshes with the environmental thematics of Disney Parks’ Epcot. His wife, Meridian (Gabrielle Union), is an ace pilot who facilitates the business and crop-dusts the fields of green power. Together they’re raising a TTRPG-playing and deeply empathetic son, Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White), who is coming of age and realizing that his calling might not be farming. Clearly, it’d be Searcher’s worst nightmare if Ethan not fell into adventuring like his absent father did, so he overcompensates by being an overly doting good dad. Searcher tries the cool millennial dad angle of playing up to Ethan’s friends, getting a little too cringe when he meets the guy Ethan has a crush on and tries to impress him a little too much. Ethan, thankfully, isn’t the typical rebellious teen archetype—he loves his parents, but wants to figure out who he is outside of them.

Image: Disney Animation Studios

The Clades’ lives get turned upside down when Callisto Mal (Lucy Liu), the badass leader of Avalonia, shows up to enlist Searcher on a quest aboard her fluting ship to get to the root of a pressing issue: something’s wrong with the green plant power’s source. Reluctantly Searcher agrees to help despite not wanting to fill his father’s shoes—he just wants to be a humble harvester. Gyllenhaal nails his anxious, overprotective father character, the anthesis of Jaeger’s “throw ‘em in the wilderness to grow thick skin” gruffness.

The expedition becomes a family affair when Ethan sneaks aboard the ship and his mom chases after them—right before they crash through a mysterious cavern that reveals a surreal, subterranean world filled with wild creatures and lands that are alive. After being MIA for 25 years, Jaeger is found kicking around in these Journey to the Center of the Earth-meets-Meow Wolf realms, where the whole family has to set aside their differences in order to solve how to save their world.

Young-White imbues Ethan with sincerity; he shines as the heart of the film as he tries to bring his father and grandfather together, realizing that the things that have driven them apart may actually help them understand the world they live in. These three schools of thought make the movie a perfect analog to explore the ways each generation treats the world around them, for the betterment of humankind—hopefully inspiring future generations to care about the betterment of the world so there’ll be one left for them.

Image: Disney Animation Studios

Strange World introduces a wildly original story with more to explore that felt a bit constrained as a film, with evergreen themes that maybe would have been better explored in a series. It has fantastic action and relationships that break new ground. I would have loved to see more of Meridian and Searcher working as a team; they’re so cute in the film together. Then there’s Ethan’s crush and his friends, who are introduced as his gaming crew and future team; they feel underused after being perfectly set up. And you can’t claim a queer relationship is a big focus for the film’s lead if it’s not really featured in the film or made official.

Overall, though, the film is a delightful family caper that is full of heart and wonder. I can’t wait to see more of Ethan’s adventures with the Clade clan and let’s not forget Legend (a three-legged good boy!) and Splat, who are instant Disney sidekick heroes. Go out and see this one in the theaters lest it meet the same fate as other severely underrated Disney movies not based on major IP like Meet the Robinsons.

Strange World opens November 23.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.

Hideaki Anno's Ultraman Fan Film Is Now Officially Streaming @ io9

Screenshot: Amazon Japan

Shin Ultraman is the realization of a dream generations in the making for Neon Genesis Evangelion’s Hideaki Anno—working with Shinji Higuchi to craft his own spin on the legendary franchise that inspired legions of his own work. And now, it’s getting even easier to see just how long Anno has been influenced by Ultraman.

At least, in Japan that is. Amazon Japan’s Prime Video service has stealth-dropped an HD remaster of Daicon Film’s Return of Ultraman, the 1983 short film Anno produced for the Osaka-based Japan SF Convention. The short, marking Anno’s directorial debut, also stars the budding director as Ultraman Jack—or really, Anno as himself, rendered giant sized and wearing an Ultraman Jack jacket—as he battles Kaiju in an homage to the ‘70s classic, Return of Ultraman.

“Return of Ultraman” HD Trailer (Daicon Film / Hideaki Anno / Prime Video) 1983 fan film

Although the short has been available in varying qualities over the year, its release on Prime Video in Japan marks the arrival of Shin Ultraman on the streaming service as well—and marks something of a poetic pairing, given that Anno first met his Shin collaborator Higuchi at a Tokyo screening of Daicon Film’s Return of Ultraman, starting a relationship that would culminate with them making Shin Godzilla and Shin Ultraman together. As Anno looks to continue his fandom streak helming Shin Kamen Rider next year, it’s a nice little look back at where he started.


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