Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Oh yeah, an actually talented writer wrote John Carter!

So io9 has a new interview with John Carter writer Michael Chabon. With all the hub-bub about Disney-is-flubbing-the-marketing and it's-too-darn-expensive there's one glaring fact that people have lost: this movie is made by awesomely talented creatives. Andrew Stanton made two of the most successful Pixar films and Michael Chabon is a superb storyteller in his own right, telling personal stories in a variety of sci-fi settings.

There's been quite a bit written about how John Carter will be "just like Avatar" or Dancing With Wolves, essentially becoming a retread of itself (since those and many other stories have borrowed from the Barsoom tales) all while cries from purists have said it won't do justice to its creator's work

So how about a peek at what they're goals for the film have actually been:
If anything, Chabon and Stanton wanted to show John Carter as a catalyst, who allows the Martians to liberate themselves. "Dejah Thoris and Tars Tarkis are already seeking change. They are already actively working for change, and the appearance of Carter is a catalyst that makes it possible for the Martian characters to continue to act on their own behalf... It is not so much, hopefully, that he's the savior or that he knows things they don't know."

And they were keen to show that Mars saves Carter, even more than Carter saves Mars. Carter is a "lost soul" who is clueless, and just wants to get home to Earth. But when the Martians see what he can do — including his ability to jump really high, in the weak Martian gravity, they're keen to enlist him on their behalf. It's not so much that Carter sees the Martians are doing it all wrong — instead, we see the caginess and "opportunism" of the Martians, who seize on him as a tool for their liberation.
It sounds like they had a tough job, trying to balance the Burroughs voice with something that would be compelling for modern audiences. It also sounds like it's not just a dressed up, B-grade special effects flick.

It's sounding like a movie that I'd really enjoy. I suppose we'll know for sure in a little over a week.

UPDATE: Here's another io9 blurb that popped up this morning about art and production design from director Andrew Stanton.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Galactic Outfitters Sale! B.A.D.G.E.R Class Moon Wagon

The Badger Class Moon Wagon is a new vehicle for X-plorers RPG  
Image: Syd Mead

No planetary excursion would be complete with a little all-terrain action! Enter the Badass All-terrain Defense Geologic Exploration and Reconnaissance vehicle (a.k.a., BADGER) Class 970 series Moon Wagon by Star Prairie DriveSystems based off of a tried-and-true model from the good ol' 21st Century!

This baby is in a league of her own--combining the rugged durability of a classic and the high-performance standards you've come to expect from the Amalgamated Consumer Mercantile Exchange Company. The BADGER sports four independent, G-type wheel servos allowing for maximum traction to mount any terrain that gets in your way. The BADGER is designed to roam over all types terra-firma, including rocky (above ground or subterranean), slick mud, fast sand or ice, thick swamp and marsh, and can even be fitted to tackle a number of aquatic environs.

And who can resist that beautifully vintage BADGER look? Have a look at her specs:
  • Wheelbase: 1.75 meters (approx.) not necessary to know on-mission, but cool nonetheless!
  • Move: 20 over flat ground, slower over rocky terrain, no penalty over slick surfaces (retractable crampons!)
  • Armor type (AC): 16, upgradable to 20 with a -2 Move penalty per AC added
  • Onboard communications/sensor array: 4d10 x 100 meters
  • Standard defensive lasers: two, forward facing 3d6+3
 Other Standard Features
  • Airlock!
  • Doorlocks!
  • Personel armory storage! (gun rack)
  • Adjustable seating (up to 6) with seat warmers!
  • Climate control!
  • Power steering!
  • Mini rover storage! (two slots for the 1-meter long little fella's!)
  • Enviro-mission suit storage lockers (4) with room for helmet, rebreaters, and footwear!
  • 3 extra heavy-duty batteries for special missions!
  • And we'll even throw in a coupla' chamois and some BADGER Wax™ because you're ROBBING US BLIND!!
And if you act now we'll throw in a custom kit of your choice at a discounted price! It's almost a shame to let this lady go un-accessorized--especially where you're going! Take a gander at some of our upgrade options:

Enhanced Sensor Upgrade (double your directional range with this fancy do-dad! We'll throw in the mountable swivel for FREE!)

Primary Defensive Upgrade (turret-mounted MASER; melts targets up to 50 meters away with 4d8+2 dmg)

Cargo Hauler Upgrade (with powered, swivel coupling) hauls up to 12 metric tons EASY (move penalty -1 per ton)
Aquatic Mission Upgrade (one free with every purchase!)

For details and delivery options contact Corky Starbuckle at Amalgamated's Planetary Motor Division. Special pricing up to 3d10% discount on last year's and earlier models!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thark Thursday: Bronze Age Miniatures

Thought it'd be nice to see some sculptural interpretations of our favorite four-armed friends. Lead sculptor David Soderquist at Bronze Age Miniatures has crafted some mightily impressive Barsoomians (or their nearest stand-ins as they're called "wasteland mutants" on the site). These are among, if not the, best Thark minis I've come across.

I own a few of these myself and they're just wonderful. They stand taller than normal minis being cast in 32mm scale--don't ask me if that's true to the source material, I'm not a good enough judge of that. But I can say that your average 25-28mm is going to look pretty shrimpy next to these dudes.

Following are some superbly painted figs that show off the detail and extraordinary musculature of the sculpts:

Love the hands on this guy 

He's got several mounted ones as well, including this sentry-like fellow 

This one's painted to be a Jeddak, who can only be Tars Tarkas


Finally, a trailer that makes sense, builds anticipation, and looks fantastic.

And it was cut by a fan over at the John Carter Files. I really wish this was the way it was first presented, but what's done is done.


P.S. Let's just nip the negative attitude with hyperbolic press in the bud while we're at it too. I suppose this is the most press the film has garnered to date though. Can't we be excited about something momentous, just once? 


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Watery Exoplanet Discovered!

Hubble Telescope scientists are reporting the discovery of a new class of expolanet--a water world. Planet GJ1214b is larger than Earth but smaller than Uranus (tee hee!) and orbits a red dwarf star. From
They found the spectrum of GJ1214b to be featureless over a wide range of wavelengths, or colors. The atmospheric model most consistent with the Hubble data is a dense atmosphere of water vapor.

"The Hubble measurements really tip the balance in favor of a steamy atmosphere," Berta said.

Since the planet's mass and size are known, astronomers can calculate the density, of only about 2 grams per cubic centimeter. Water has a density of 1 gram per cubic centimeter, while Earth's average density is 5.5 grams per cubic centimeter. This suggests that GJ1214b has much more water than Earth does, and much less rock.

As a result, the internal structure of GJ1214b would be an extraordinarily different world than our world.

"The high temperatures and high pressures would form exotic materials like 'hot ice' or 'superfluid water,' substances that are completely alien to our everyday experience," Berta said.

Theorists expect that GJ1214b formed farther out from its star, where water ice was plentiful, and migrated inward early in the system's history. In the process, it would have passed through the star's habitable zone, where surface temperatures would be similar to Earth's. How long it lingered there is unknown.

GJ1214b is located in the direction of the constellation Ophiuchus, and just 40 light-years from Earth. Therefore, it's a prime candidate for study by the planned James Webb Space Telescope.
So a few important items to note here beyond the facts and figures.

1: At first glance it appears that the intense atmospheric pressure could be hostile to most life on Earth, but if you recall, we've found microbes, worms, and other simple organisms thriving in heat vents on the ocean floor, so anything is possible.

2: Hubble is still a relevent and extraordinary piece of equipment for finding planets--and not just an instrument for deep space only missions. It's a shame that its life expectancy won't be lengthened, but it's nice to know that the exoplanet work carried out by the James Webb Telescope can earmark GJ1214b for future study.

Bonus excersise: If life does exist on this steamy, high-pressure world, what form do you think it takes? Feel free to speculate in the comments....

Read the full article on

Friday, February 17, 2012

Working on my first adventure...

So I've decided to put together an adventure module for X-plorers. I have a kernel of a "cool idea" but it's turning out to be tougher than I imagined. Here's a quick, high-level glance at what I've got so far:
  • New alien species? yes
  • Weird technology?  yup
  • Strange alien environment? affirmative
  • Initial hook? yessiree
  • Chapter hooks? Possibly...
  • Artwork? Not yet (though I've been working off some inspiring pieces but I'll need some created at some point)
It's the melding of all these elements together that's kind of bogging me down a the moment. Frankly, part of this is that I'm stuck, spinning my wheels at the moment. So some sage advice (even if I've heard/read it before) would be motivating right about now.

With a dungeon enviroment, it would be simpler--just cordon off areas and drop in the baddies. But sci-fi kinda needs a bit more of a push. So does anyone have a favorite sandbox module or adventure resource that they like as far as structure goes? Layout suggestions would be a bit premature at this point.

Right now I'm looking for a good solid format for the info itself (organizing descriptions, stats, etc.).


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thark Thursday: Michael Whelan

Illustrator Michael Whelan's renderings are the first impressions I had of the Tharks and their gangly, four-armed physiologies. It's my opinion that the cover of A Princess of Mars (above) did justice to their physical description more than some of the steroid-induced and hulking versions we see in comics today. Whelan's Tharks are tall and slim but still muscular.

At the same time, this portrayl is almost jarring to me after having read it--since the Tharks appear to be more sniveling and weak. While an arguement can be made that this is showing them at their weakest--when John Carter has asserted his military prowess and Mars-enhanced strength over them, the scene doesn't do much to illustrate their reputations as mighty warlords. From that perspective it's perplexing why the scene was chosen.

Still, it's an awesome painting!

Later renderings depicted mainly Tars Tarkas in a buddy role--and even as a third wheel. At least we got to see Whelan's Thark in a more adventerous posture.

This last piece is a character study (Tars?) and shows off some of the more alien features of the Tharkian face. The displaced eye socket in the top version makes them appear more like a preying mantis and it's a feature that I wished had stuck in the final renderings. Perhaps the eye was kept forward to humanize the Tharks a bit more with the assumption that "more alien" = enemy and "more human" = ally.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Space 1999 Getting a Reboot: 2099

Man, I must be slipping, I just heard about this--the classic sci-fi TV series Space 1999 is getting a reboot by the same outfit that revised "V". io9 has a Q&A interview with one of the producers, here's an excerpt:
What fun aspect of the original show are you most excited to feature in Space: 2099?
The near future plausibility of it all. Space: 1999 presented a very near future societal depiction where a moonbase had been established, and the show worked to successfully convince us that it was a reasonable vision to have given where the world was in the 70s. In a similar but much more emphasized vein, one of the key elements in our depiction will be as much plausibility as possible. Since we are dealing with a future timeframe of only around 80 years, there will still be plenty of familiar things around – however evolved they happen to be. It is this kind of projected iteration and future evolution that can be fun to depict as well as very thought-provoking. We consciously understand that a future projection must be comprehensive and not just focus on technology. Corporations, governments, social issues and day to day concerns all must be considered. No one was worried about their Facebook wall activity 80 years ago! My, how things change! It is exciting to imagine the various extrapolations from now until 2099.
It also looks like, judging by the poster, that the Eagle ships are making a comeback! Here's hoping there's a toy line in--oh, I don't know--1:72 scale?

Read the rest on io9.

Friday, February 10, 2012


Though it's not canon, I'd be willing to consider this part of the Multinauts "expanded universe".

Thursday, February 9, 2012


In just one month--John Carter will wake on Barsoom! Enjoy the extended Superbowl trailer to whet your appetite.

Thark Thursday: Artist - Operation GutterBall

Okay, I have no idea what this dude's real name is, but in just a few strokes of a sharpie marker he's rendered some really inspired illustrations of our favorite green martians. I particularly love how the eye defines the shape of the head--gives a good alien-from-another-world feel. And while that's not the first time I've seen a Helium-style helmet on a Thark, the overall effect with the roundish head is magnificent.

Great work on the physique too--quite believable compared to others I've seen that come off a little forced. Getting those extra arms in there can be tough!

Finally, we have an action shot:

Great stuff, head over and check out Operation Gutterball's other work!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

SPACE NAZIS! Official Iron Sky Trailer

Holy S#!t this looks amazing! It's incredible to think this is NOT a Hollywood film, but an independently produced feature from Finnish filmmakers. In case you haven't heard of it, or just want a refresher, here's the synopisis:


...oh, the official synopsis:
In the last moments of World War II, a secret Nazi space program evaded destruction by fleeing to the Dark Side of the Moon. During 70 years of utter secrecy, the Nazis construct a gigantic space fortress with a massive armada of flying saucers.

When American astronaut James Washington (Christopher Kirby) puts down his Lunar Lander a bit too close to the secret Nazi base, the Moon Führer (Udo Kier) decides the glorious moment of retaking the Earth has arrived sooner than expected. Washington claims the mission is just a publicity stunt for the President of the United States (Stephanie Paul), but what else could the man be but a scout for the imminent attack by Earth forces? The Fourth Reich must act!

Two Nazi officers, ruthless Klaus Adler (Götz Otto) and idealistic Renate Richter (Julia Dietze), travel to Earth to prepare the invasion. In the end when the Moon Nazi UFO armada darkens the skies, ready to strike at the unprepared Earth, every man, woman and nation alike, must re-evaluate their priorities.
The fact that German character actor Udo Kier makes an appearance is a stroke of sheer genius--on his part and the filmmakers'.

The film opens sometime this April.

Iron Sky official website

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Video: Newbies guide to John Carter

Disney's produced a super short primer for anyone not familiar with the John Carter series. For me that includes just about everyone I know, so I'll be forwarding this to peeps in hopes they get excited about seeing the film too!

For everybody else, it sports some quick clips you may not have seen yet.


Also on io9, an article on why Edgar Rice Burroughs' work story is still relevant today.

Thark Thursdays!

There's not much time left until the new John Carter of Mars film hits theaters (March 9). So starting now through March 8, every Thursday from here out will feature some fantastic Thark art. (Say that five times fast: tharkart, tharkart, tharkart....).

Today's Tharkworks are brought to you by the bold imaginings of illustrator Thomas Denmark, who's working on a new Barsoomian RPG, Warriors of the Red Planet, with Al from the Beyond the Black Gate blog.

Gotta love those action poses!

Oh, and don't forget to check out the Barsoomiology page a top for more John Carter of Mars links and goodness!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Weren't they making a Buck Rogers movie?

I seem to recall, circa 2009, this clip surfaced with word that an independently produced film about Buck was in the works.

Here's a scene that was apparently shot for the film:

I remember James at Grognardia had done a post about it. When I went to the offical website, which is run by the rights holders (The Dille Family Trust) there's nary a word about it. The uploader of the video has zilch as well.

Anyone else recall this or have info?