Friday, January 27, 2012

New Exonauts Image Tumblr!

I love happening upon cool sci-fi images and a great many on this site are responsible for inspiring posts, be they full galleries, or just a quick pic of something cool.

But time being what it is, I don't always have a spare moment to write up something pithy--so I started an Exonauts Tumblr for cool stuff. I'll still do art posts on this site, but if you're hankerin' for some space-y-inspired images, updated regularly (semi-daily) then check out:

I also did one for my post-apocalyptic blog Gamma World War.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

New Featured Gallery: Wally Wood

When I was researching the Space Ranger class for X-plorers, there were three pieces of art that inspired me. Wallace "Wally" Allan Wood's cover for the February issue of Incredible Science Fiction (above) was the first, and most iconic. His view of the sci-fi "spaceman" was dashing all right, but Wood would not be content with the caped swashbuckler that was made popular with Flash Gordon. He brought us the buckle-strapped, bubble-helmeted astronaut adventurers we've come to know by heart. This was "hard" sci-fi in the 1950s, grounded in a more realistic aesthetic than the preceding operatic golden age of space fantasy.

His spacecraft was shiny, but held together with rivets. The insides were twisted greeblings of be-hosed control panels, exposed wiring, walls of dials, and mechanical tissue so highly detailed it was a near blueprint for the coming space age. He may have rendered his visions in comic books, but he might was well have been slaving over a NASA drafting table. Wood's work help define the very template for how we view the astronaut-as-hero archetype in popular art.

His work spanned much further than sci-fi, venturing into fantasy with titles like Valor and The Wizard King, superheroes with Thunder Agents, as well as a slew of children's comics and adult humor books.

He is among my most favorite artists from the pulp era of comics. Head on over to the Featured Gallery page (see the top navigation bar if you're reading this on the site) and see some cherished sci-fi illustrations by Wood now!

Note: When the Featured Gallery rotates to the next artist, I'll archive the art in this post and delete this notation.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New palette and score for first sci-fi epic "A Trip to the Moon"

Cinema pioneer and silver screen sorcerer George Méliès and his science fiction wonder Le Voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon) has been getting a lot of attention of late. Most recently, Méliès is portrayed by Sir Ben Kingsley in the Oscar nominated film Hugo by Martin Scorsese and so the real-life man and his work is having somewhat of a re-introduction to the world.

If you've not seen the Hugo, do make a point to go while it's still in theaters. Scorsese and Kingsley have crafted a beautiful love letter to early cinema and to the artist. I'm a movie nerd at heart, and while I've seen some of his films, it was a real thrill to see Méliès' imaginings and his movie-making secrets lavishly illustrated on the big screen.

More than a century after the film's 1902 debut, French electronica band Air, was asked to compose a score for a restored version of "Trip". The orignal was colorized (hand-tinted) by Méliès before the advent of color film. Black and white copies were easier and cheaper to make and over the years, the color versions were all thought to be lost. But a color print eventually was discovered. From The Guardian:
But that celebrated image was always black and white, as the colour version of the film was thought to be lost for ever until an anonymous collector handed a copy to the Filmoteca de Catalunya in Barcelona in the early 1990s. It was in such a poor state that it took eight years to restore before it was ready to be unveiled in public. Air only became aware of the rediscovered print when they were asked to create the soundtrack. "The first we heard of it was when they asked us to do it, because it was lost, destroyed. Nobody alive had seen it in colour," says Godin. "It was something that only a few specialists knew existed."

There was no original soundtrack, as films were silent. If there had been, Air say they would not have touched it. "If there was an original score, it would be horrible to make new music and destroy a piece of art," says Godin. "I would hate it if someone did that to one of my records. When a piece of art is done, it's done. But the fact that there was no original score was too good an opportunity to miss."
The full article goes into greater detail and I agree with their assessment, that the new music and brightened visuals lend a psychedelic quality to the story--and reveal a whole new depth of appreciation for the film's characters and design.

It's worth noting how remarkable the changes are in contrast to a black and white version of the film:

And now feast your eyes and ears on an excerpt of the newly restored version:

Full article at the Guardian via

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

More Incredible Space Station Inspiration

Wired has a great photo gallery up right now featuring space station concept that didn't pan out. Go check it out for yourself!

Above: An Apollo-era design. Oh hey, you should also check out this awesome blog called Beyond Apollo, which is ALL about concepts and ideas from the golden age of American spaceflight. I was impressed enough to add it to my blogroll. :) Really wonderful stuff!

Below: On cusp of the shuttle-era NASA was working on this "spider" space station that recycles a spent tank for crew housing.

From NASA:
A 1977 concept drawing for a space station. Known as the "spider" concept, this station was designed to use Space Shuttle hardware. A solar array was to be unwound from the exhausted main fuel tank. The structure could then be formed and assembled in one operation. The main engine tank would then be used as a space operations control center, a Shuttle astronaut crew habitat, and a space operations focal point for missions to the Moon and Mars.
Very cool to see them working on not just the main orbiter vehicle but an entire playset--er, family of spacecraft for the then fledgling program.

All images: NASA via

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Alternate Space Odysseys

Two great videos, each with their own take on Stanley Kubrick's classic film.

First, a re-imagining of 2001 had it been done in the 1950s:

Next, a montage of the Kirby comic adaption set to a funky jam:

Great stuff!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tintin's other car is a space tank!

I'd die for a print of this incredible painting by Greg Broadmore of Weta (the visual effects wizards who animated the new Tintin film). I'm already ga-ga over his Dr. Grordbort's line of ray guns and other steampunky works (books, posters, etc.). And since there's talk of a sequel, this gives me huge hope that it might actually appear in a follow-up on the big screen.

This illustration is an homage to a panel from Explorers on the Moon, 17th in the Tin Tin series, and featured in The Art of the Adventures of Tintin.

BTW, saw Tintin last Friday and LOVED it. Apparently others did too--it took home a Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature, Sunday night.

Seeing this has me thinking that it might be time for me to work up some space vehicle posts!

Via io9

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

John Carter's cancelled trip to Mars

Concept art from Conran's version
Before Andrew Stanton took over in 2010, there is a long list of directors, writers, and filmmakers who, at one time or another, had their hands on the slippery reigns that belonged to Barsoom's cinematic rendering. The list itself is a virtual who's who of Hollywood directors and includes Robert Rodriguez, John Favreau (in the last 10 years) but extends back further to aborted attempts with John McTiernan (Die Hard) casting Tom Cruise as Carter. Ray Harryhausen was at one time attached (would have loved to see that one) and we all know already about the first try, which well may have resulted in the first animated feature being an otherworldly epic including 6-limbed green aliens, rather than a fairy story with 7 dimunutive miners and a narcoleptic brunette. ;)

One such attempt included Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow director Kerry Conran, hired to step in for Rodriguez. Conran was asked to present his vision of John Carter's saga and this video is the result:

The video is rich with beautiful concept images, borrowed orchestral scores, and sword fight test footage with a CG Thark!


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sci-Flick Saturday: Darkstar (1974)

Director John Carpenter and sci-fi writer Dan O'Bannon cobbled together this sci-fi treasure with buddies on a meager budget early on in their careers. From Wikipedia:
In the middle of the 22nd century, humankind has reached a point in its technological advancement to enable colonization of the far reaches of the universe. Armed with artificially intelligent "Thermostellar Triggering Devices", the scout ship Dark Star and its crew have been in space alone for twenty years on a mission to destroy "unstable planets" which might threaten future colonization.


UPDATE: Looks like youtube pulled the video, so I've replaced the full-length with the trailer.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Interstellar Inspiration: Space Rangers in Action (Part 4)

And now for your enjoyment and inspiration, a gallery of space rangers! Let's start with a few classic interpretations:
DC Comic's own Adam Strange...
And the original Space Ranger, Buck Rogers...
Here's one peeled from the likes of Fantasy Ink (one of my favorite art blogs). It's a Don Newton cover from Unknown Worlds of Sci-Fi. It's made the rounds, and for good reason:
A still from Robinson Crusoe on Mars
Now here's a good example of an outer space agent of the law: Sean Connery's Federal Marshal O'Niel from the movie Outland. I always preferred this one to the crappy "shotgun" poster which wasn't sci-fi enough for me:
BONUS: Needles over at Swords and Stitchery posted a gorgeous gallery last summer of comic wiz Jim Steranko's interpretation.
Valerian and Laureline take an EVA in an debris field in the French comic:
I think I've mentioned before about my love of Travis Charest's Spacegirl...
This is ol' fashioned video game arcade cabinet artwork:
Fantastic John Berkey painting:
Rangers on the run!
I believe this is a Pathfinder system illustration. Man would I love to see what kind of sci-fi they could whip up with their writers and artists....
As promised 1d30, here's Buzz Lightyear, a fine example of an armored Space Ranger. File these under "nontraditional interpretations"...
Finally, my favorite, recent space ranger incarnation, Heath Huston from Fear Agent (third one is fan art):
Click on images to enlarge.

This concludes the main posts for the Space Ranger Class series, though I wouldn't rule out future supplements. ;)

Now get out those dice and get rolling! 

The Space Ranger Class (Parts 1-4)
Use tags below to see more.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

NASA: 100+ Billion Planets in the Milky Way

NASA has conducted a recent survey of our home galaxy and through the sheer power of statistics, came up with this astonishing find:
The survey results show that our galaxy contains, on average, a minimum of one planet for every star. This means that it’s likely there are a minimum of 1,500 planets within just 50 light-years of Earth.

The study is based on observations taken over six years by the PLANET (Probing Lensing Anomalies NETwork) collaboration, using a technique called microlensing to survey the galaxy for planets. In this technique, one star acts like a magnifying lens to brighten the light from a background star. If planets are orbiting the foreground star, the background star's light will further brighten, revealing the presence of a planet that is otherwise too faint to be seen.

The study also concludes that there are far more Earth-sized planets than bloated Jupiter-sized worlds. A rough estimate from this survey would point to the existence of more than 10 billion terrestrial planets across our galaxy.
They seem to be on to something--three more smaller-than-Earth-sized exoplanets were just discovered.

All of this comes on the heels of last month's discovery of Kepler22-b, hypothosized to be the first habitable planet outside our own solar system.
Kepler22-b; artist's rendering

And the 100 billion+ discovery STILL does't count the billion+ rogue planets thought to be out there as well.

It's such an exciting moment for science and the whole human race. I'm really, profoundly moved just to be hearing news like this. Take a moment and think about this pale blue dot we live on and it's true place in the universe, and sheer promise of what lies out there waiting for us to discover.

The Milky Way study will appear in tomorrow's issue of Nature.

All images: NASA

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mini Mag-Lev Racers

Awesome, now make them full size! Don't forget to outlaw force-sensitive ankle-biters.

And before you get your hopes up, it's really a viral campaign for Wipeout by Sony. But still cool!

/via Boing Boing

Monday, January 9, 2012

Space Rangers in the Movies: Planet of Storms

While I working on a few upcoming gallery posts of space rangers, I stumbled upon this awesome find. It's a 1962 Russian sci-fi EPIC called Planeta Bur a.k.a. Planet of the Storms. Directed by Soviet Era filmmaker Pavel Klushantsev, it features some seriously slick production values in the way of costumes and vehicle designs, but is probably best remembered for it's Robby look-alike "John the Robot". Wikipedia says the costume had over 42-points of articulation, which I'm pretty sure outdoes Robby by about 40 points. [snark!]

Here, our intrepid explorers are beset upon by human-sized Godzillas:

The plot, according to Wikipedia:
In the future, a Soviet-American expedition to Venus encounters problems upon landing and must be rescued by a companion ship already in orbit around the planet. The cosmonauts must overcome adversity and challenges using their courage, skills and technology.
Pieces of the film made their way into the Roger Corman's "Journey to the Planet of the Prehistoric Women".

Vehicle design:

Snazzy space threads:

DVD and movie posters:

And best of all, action shots:

"What's that you NASA punk? You wanna hitch a ride on the Soyuz?"

Here's a moon landing scene from Klushantsev's earlier film Road to the Stars, which was part documentary-part sci-fi imagining. Think Wonderful World of Disney's Tommorrowland for the Soviets.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ray Gun Inspiration: "The Atomic Auditor"

If I had my way, I'd commission an entire armory filled with these babies to be the model for the "Atomic Auditor" carried by every Space Ranger

Here's a small selection of what I'd consider to be "variations on a theme", namely snub nosed, silvery, and wide barreled or flared at the end. Many of them are custom props--the one above is a 3D render by Deviant Artist Polperdelmar and among my very favorites.