Friday, July 29, 2011

Rocket Raccoon = My New Hero

Sometimes you just have to buy a comic because of the cover.
RR and Groot on a recent issue of The Annihilators
Nevermind the fact that I currently don't read this series and couldn't care about the other characters. It has a picture of a ray-gun wielding anthropomorphic raccoon on the front, with rocket ships and some sort of wooden dude in the background.

$3.99? Sold--I can't get my debit card out fast enough.

Image: OHotMU
I vaguely remember reading about Rocket Raccoon in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (OHotMU) series from the late 80s. I thought he was a little childish then. I was into Star Wars and Avengers comics, so I couldn't be bothered with "kiddie" comics.

Part of my prejudice may be blamed on Howard the Duck. Not the laudable comic book, but the dismal movie that was relegated to cinematic shovelware as soon as it hit theaters. I'm not gonna lie, I looked at the raccoon and saw a man in a duck costume. 

Was I ever wrong. RR is about as pulpy-adventure as it gets. The  latest Annihilators issue (pictured above) has a solo adventure that's not to be missed.
Rocket's comeback is now in full swing. At San Diego Comic Con, Hasbro revealed that they're giving the lil' guy an action figure--which is like saying "you are now worthy to be duplicated thousands of times and lost in playground sandboxes all over the country". And really, that's something special.

In any case, RR is okay in my book.

Props to Cool Toy Review for taking great photos ad SDCC '11.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Battleship" board game turned into a movie--with aliens?

If you're in Google Reader you'll need to read this on Exonauts to see embedded video.

WTF? Seriously, this is just weird. Battleship is based on the board game of the same name. No, I'm not making this up. Even better it's about the US Navy battling aliens at sea! While the concept doesn't seem to be anything better than what's usually vomited onto SyFy by Asylum Entertainment, it does have higher production values and (inexplicably) Liam Neeson. Perhaps Stephen Colbert and Jeff Goldblum should have been cast instead? (Skip to 3:20 for relevant bit.) No word on if giant red and white pegs will be depicted.

MTV has a few assumptions based on the trailer:
Speaking of alien weaponry, the ship is capable of unleashing some kind of bubble force field that encompasses an enemy and, so it seems, destroys everything within it. We'll just ignore, for now, how the bubble reminds us of that containment unit in "The Simpsons Movie." Instead, let's concentrate on the alien tech. We're hoping for originality and cool visuals to join forces and deliver us a satisfying early summer movie experience. The bubble, perhaps, is the harbinger of fun, absurd, eye-popping stuff to come.
Comes out May of 2012 which seems like a long time to promote a stinker (or is that sinker)? Then again, I'm all about the alien invasion genre.

Friday, July 22, 2011

New Star Wars Deleted Scenes Trailer

The official Star Wars website has posted a deleted scenes teaser trailer for the upcoming Blu-ray releases of the entire saga. You may recall the deleted scene of Luke building his green lightsaber in Return of the Jedi, that was teased last year, which is included. Feast your eyes on wampas in the rebel base on Hoth and the sandstorm scene from Jedi. But there's also several scenes that took me by surprise--some that I've not even heard of (I won't spoil them here so you can have the pleasure of seeing them yourself!)

One that I'm pleased to see make the cut is my personal favorite, the deleted sequence with Luke on using macro binoculars watching the star destroyer chase and capture the rebel blockade runner above Tatooine. Here's hoping Biggs' scene is there too!

UPDATE: the trailer is now embedded for your viewing pleasure.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

July 20, 1969

Image: NASA, obviously!
Hat tip to the real Exonauts, and the people who put them there.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Barsoom link round-up

Okay, okay, so I've been on a Barsoom kick lately, who can blame me when the trailer just came out? Speaking of which, I don't recall a trailer having such a short-lived excitement, met by seemingly tepid aftertaste. The blog community is a fickle mistress, no?

In any case, one shouldn't let this trailer, that blog post, or whatever this or that dude says overcome the general awesomeness that is outer-space barbarians. I took the liberty of creating a resource page here on Exonauts--mainly to satisfy my own need to have a central location--but I figured others out there might appreciate a point from which to dive back in to Burrough's Mars mythology.

Just click the Barsoomiology button there up top to see what I've dug up so far. Feel free to let me know in the comments if I missed any biggies.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunday Space: A Look Back at NASA

Hope everyone is enjoying their Sunday (it's oppressively hot and humid here in the upper midwest!). Here's a few videos looking back at NASA over the last several decades. The first is film from the 1970s on space colonization. It's fun to see the optimism of what might have been.

This next clip is from a recent CBS News report on a great exhibit on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. NASA Art: 50 Years of Exploration.

If you've ever been, you may recall the incredible murals there illustrating the wonder and excitement of the program in it's heyday. This latest exhibit includes pieces by such artists as Annie Leibovitz, Nam June Paik, Robert Rauschenberg, Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol, and Jamie Wyeth.

If you can't make it to D.C., there's also a book of the exhibit.

Props to Boing Boing for the colony video, and to my father-in-law for alerting me to the CBS news report.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Is that you Tars Tarkas?

Here's a screen-grab from the new John Carter trailer of a thark warrior who just might be our green Barsoomian hero. According to a behind the scenes look that io9 writer Meredith Woerner published earlier this week:
Stanton and team figured out a way to humanize the aliens, thus giving this alien species the ability to emote. As you can see in this little hint of a picture here, the creatures are slender but they're rocking the leather strap costume that is the uniform of Barsoom.

But, as a result of making them a bit lankier, the whole world feels a lot less like something you'd paint on the side of your van, and much more tangible. And even though they have four arms, green skin and giant tusks (on closer inspection I noticed that a few of the Tharks had carved their tusks, etching out interesting patterns barely visible to the eye) the most striking thing about this alien race were their eyes. Stanton had literally overlaid Willem Dafoe's eyes over the flat face of this warrior, and lightened the iris with a striking ice blue. Why blue?

"Because they arrest you," Stanton explained. "We had all these eye colors. Fortunately, Defoe is getting so defined and wrinklely so there is a lot of Defoe in that face so it translates really well."
So the question is, is that Willem Dafoe behind those tusks? I'll tell you what I think, but you go first in the comments...

Here's a bunch more over at io9.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Early John Carter Animation Attempt

This isn't new to the internet, but given the release of the trailer for the new film, I thought it'd be nice to see again. This particular clip of the old JCoM test by animator Bob Clampett, features footage for a never-realized adaption of the saga. It also includes narration from a gentleman who worked on the project in the 30s. It's fun to think what may have been. Reminds me a lot of the old Max Fleischer Superman cartoons from the same era.



Tuesday, July 12, 2011

WANT: Wall-sized Touchscreen Star Wars Game!

So this is awesome. What exactly is it? It's a giant touch display where you can play an interactive Star Wars game like you're pretty much in a galaxy far, far away controlling your space armada with simple gestures. Check out the project's website. The YouTube page gives a good overview:
Developed at the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) by MS graduate candidate Arthur Nishimoto, "Fleet Commander" explores how a real-time interactive strategy game that would typically rely on complex keyboard commands and mouse interactions be transferred into a multi-user, multi-touch environment.

Originally designed for use with TacTile, a 52-inch multi-touch LCD tabletop display, "Fleet Commander" game play has been ported to EVL's 20-foot wide multi-touch LCD wall, Cyber-Commons.
Very cool to see games reach this level of sophistication. Reminds me of the touch screen D&D project:

Surfacescapes Demo Walkthrough from Surfacescapes on Vimeo.

Props to Boing Boing

Monday, July 11, 2011

John Carter Update: io9 goes behind the scenes with Dir. Andrew Stanton

Concept Art of Barsoom's City of Helium
There'a a really wonderful article on io9 right now detailing a good long look at next year's John Carter film (formerly titled John Carter of Mars--yes, he addresses the title change) directed by Pixar virtuoso Andrew Stanton. I have to say they're doing everything right. Lots of little things to imbue a sense of authenticity, including getting Tars Tarkus voice actor Willem Dafoe to do his lines on stilts in 100 degree desert heat so Taylor Kitsch's Carter can have a real person to interact with (the Tharks will be all CG in the film).

He worked with production designers to create something that he hopes will truly feel like a real place in a real era--and not be derivative of every other movie sci-fi/fantasy land. From io9:
I want to feel like I'm really there. I want to feel like it's really happening." This is not what somebody wished for; this is what really happened. This is the source of the book. Then I realized that's what it is: It's a period film, of a period we just don't know about. It's as if somebody has done their research really, really well and called in all the authorities. I thought that's the way to approach this. I don't want it to seem like this is images of creatures that people have been drawing on their notebooks their whole life and just want to selfishly see realized on the screen; I want you to go, "No, sorry, this is actually how people dressed in Aztec times" or "This is how people bargained in Japanese feudal times." Can we capture that faux authenticity? Breaking that down was making things weathered, aged, having limitations, a sense of deep-seeded culture that you don't really ever get to explore to the depths you'd like to, a sense that much has gone on in the world long before the times that we're present to. Setting the time period on earth to match the books helped.
Sounds like he's really pouring his heart into this one. And really, as a movie lover and lover of Burrough's work, that's all I ask! :)

Here's to crossing all 20 fingers.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Video: pulp sci-fi art through the ages

This is a great video introduction to the evolution and influence of pulp science fiction illustration from the Golden Age of sci-fi. If you don't know much about the era (I'm certainly no expert!) or just want to feast your eyes on some incredible and long-forgotten artwork from the heyday of space fantasy, have a look.

Friday, July 8, 2011

One Final Mission: Ad Astra

I grew up looking to the heavens and dreaming what it would be like to take a space walk or fly a spaceship to another world. It's safe to say that my formative years were totally dominated by the image and presence of the shuttle orbiter program throughout its triumphs and tragedies.

In grade school I dreamed of one day seeing a shuttle launch in person and of going to Space Camp in Huntsville Alabama to "train" to become an astronaut. I played Luke Skywalker on my school's playground and in the dirt lot behind our development. I consumed all things space--library books, comics, movies, action figures, trips to the Science Museum of Minnesota, and more, like some sort of 10-year-old science/pop culture junkie.

When I was in junior high school I learned that my grandfather--who had owned an aluminum foundry--had made parts for the first shuttle to enter orbit, Columbia. That filled me with immense pride because not only had he been a part of something truly incredible (where the human race is concerned) but because he came to this country through Ellis Island, met my grandmother, raised a family, and started his own business. In his vocation, he not only provided mechanical parts for the war effort in the 40s, but along with thousands of other Americans, helped NASA sew together the noblest of human endeavors--the scientific pursuit of human spaceflight using reusable spacecraft. He lived the American Dream without ever really trying; he just loved to make things with his hands and he was lucky enough to make a life out of it and provide for his family.

Today, marks the beginning of the final mission of the Space Shuttle Program as the shuttle Atlantis takes her final voyage--THE final voyage for the shuttle program: mission STS-135. While we can debate the cost in both economic terms and human lives, the program brought us closer the deep reaches of space by extending the life of the Hubble Space Telescope and sustained a long-term human presence in orbit through continued support of the International Space Station (among many other missions).

For all her faults, the shuttle has continued to bring unbridled hope to a generation who grew up on copious doses of stargazing whether it was in the back yard on clear night or in front of the VCR on a rainy one. How fitting that the final mission is flown bearing the name of a world that has transcended into legend and continues to inspire us.

I look forward to a new era of space exploration, but I will always remember our space shuttle as the vessel that carried my grandfather's handiwork to the final frontier...and me along with it.

Expiscor Eternus.

Wishlist: Plastic Sci-Fi Minis

I've been wanting some decent 1:72 scale sci-fi minis for a while now. But alas, they don't exist. At least not in the style that I'm hoping for. See, what I need is something akin to pulp science fiction rendered in a cheaper plastic format like these from Caesar Miniatures:

...that look like these:

Robot on left

These are from Bronze Age Miniatures but they're metal :(

Here's an alien...

Hydra Miniatures makes awesome stuff, but again--all metal. I'd buy their entire catalog if I had my druthers.

And we all know this guy should really be holding a gun or a lightsaber:

I just can't seem to find a good cache of pulpy space-opera-y minis out there. And the key here is in PLASTIC. Preferably a box like Caesar, but I'm not choosy. Does anything like this exist? Any sculptors out there want to take a crack at this?

Aliens: Space Strigoi

Consider this FREE and OPEN content for X-plorers or whatever sci-fi game you prefer. ;)

Space strigoi are particularly devious, shapeshifting space vampires that leech lifeforce from other sentient beings. They are phasic in nature and feed off the psionic energy of their victims. They resemble hideous, fluorescent-skinned goblins that can disguise themselves  as attractive humans (1d6 rounds), near-humans (1d10 rounds), a variety of small, pet-like animals (1d4 rounds) in order to lure their prey closer. They need a round to rest in native form between adapted forms.

Space strigoi have redundant anatomy--two pulmonary systems, two two metabolic systems, and several neural nodes throughout their body to enhance brain and coordination functions--making them quite difficult to kill. This unique physiology allows them long life of several millennia.

In order to be completely put down they must be disintegrated whole. Dismembering will only trigger regeneration and piss them off.

AC 18
HD 3d12+2
THB -1
ATT (see below)
ST 17
MV 5
XP 500

Psionic Leech
Space strigoi will sap the lifeforce from their prey via psionic attack. They must be within 1 area in order to siphon the life energy of a given target at a rate of 1d4 HP plus 2 PRE per round. Drained victims will become empty husks that will revive in 1d8 rounds and rise as hungry strigoi at half the hit dice of their "parent".

Molecular Rearrangement
Strigoi can reorganize their own bodily mass to shapechange into any creature they have personally touched. Often they choose the guise of an attractive humanoid or a cuddly or wounded pet. Their ability to alter their molecular makeup also allows them to "phase" through solid matter (e.g., a ship's bulkhead), though this takes extreme concentration and can only perform the feat twice per day.

Regeneration is another ability gained by controlling their own matter. They appear ageless even in their native form and may regrow limbs and even a head with brain in 1d12 rounds.

Detect Lifeforce
They have an innate ability to locate sentient beings or creatures of sufficient psionic energy from which to feed. This is automatic and they will likely target those closest or most vulnerable.

Psionic Invisibility
They may make themselves "invisible" to those around them by way of a mental block. For this reason they often do not appear in person except to their immediate victim, but can be captured as a non-identifiable florescent blur by electronic recording devices. 

Psionic Grasp
Strigoi can lure their prey through psionic manipulation resembling seduction. Victims will obey the vampire so long as they fail a Presence (PRE) or comparable attribute save with a -1 handicap to their roll.

Goblin Form - Claws & Fangs
In their native form they can bite and scratch with 1d6+1 and 2d4 damage respectively.

Rumors from the Reaches (for GMs)
  • Space strigoi will try to set up a lair in an uninhabited corner of a spaceship, space station, or other stellar craft. They will often lure victims to the lair and hold them prisoner through Psionic Grasp for later feedings. 
  • Space strigoi who are not completely vaporized should be flushed into space through an airlock to prevent them from regeneration and claiming more lives.
  • Space strigoi are highly intelligent and have in-depth knowledge of spacecraft mechanics and technology. They will often disable propulsion, communications, and emergency escape systems to prevent a pool of potential victims from escaping.
  • Space strigoi can enter a hibernation phase and persist for eons in interstellar space until found by unsuspecting travelers. 
  • Space tramps, smugglers, and cowboys are prone to tell tall tales of strigoi encounters, but are also more likely to be superstitious and hang all manner of emblems and graffiti strange written characters on their vessels to ward off the dreaded space vamps.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Luke Skywalker is a Psionic Monster

This is a great Twillight Zone meets Star Wars mash-up. It'd be an interesting take on a psionic character or monster, yes?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

POLL RESULTS: What sci-fi character do you typically play?

Last week I asked readers "What sci-fi character do you typically play?" in a poll on the top of the blog. Here are the results:
Click to embiggen

If you didn't get a chance to participate, you can still comment here. In fact, the more input the merrier!

NEW! Featured Gallery: Syd Mead

I've added a new feature to Exonauts by way of a "featured gallery" button on the top nav. I can't think of a better way to kick off the gallery than with a few pieces by or inspired by the legendary Syd Mead.

*other artists who seem to be basing their art off Syd Mead's style.

UPDATE: These were previously shown in the Featured Gallery and are now archived in this post. Check out all the art posts on Exonauts!