Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fleischer Superman toons now online!

They've been in the public domain for years (and consequently in dozens of DVD compliations) but Warner Bros. has uploaded the classic Superman cartoons from Fleischer Studios.

In my totally unprofessional opinion, these are among the very best early animations of ol' Supes, bringing together the best of the early rotoscope animation style with the classic wonder of the Golden Age. There's no time-defying Kryptonian to wind back the clock by circling the Earth here--just a guy leaping tall buildings in a single bound (okay, he does fly a bit). Oh, and tearing the shiznit out of some robots!

I've stuck with a properly themed sci-fi episode, Mechanical Monsters, which later went on to inspire some even BIGGER automatons in movies like the Iron Giant and Sky Captain: World of Tomorrow.

Check out the full list of the Fleischer toons at Cartoon Brew.

Incidently, Hydra Miniatures has some excellent "warbots" that look like good stand-ins for Iron-Sky-Fleisher-bots!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Wally Wood book collects sci-fi work!

In a previous post highlighting Wally Wood in the Featured Gallery, reader Scott commented that there's a new WW hardcover hitting shelves. Wally Wood Strange Worlds of Science Fiction from Vangard Productions collects several issues of SWSF into a single volume.

Here's the cover on Amazon (and the version that I have):

There's some fantastic stories and art in this, and it's been a great inspiration for ideas for X-plorers. Really, ANY retro-future game setting would benefit from Wood's work.

It's filled with bubble-helmeted heroes brandishing ray guns, flying winged rockets, and sexy space babes. And of course, lots of grotesque looking aliens! But the single most fascinating thing for me is Wood's attention to detail when it comes to the backgrounds. Things like foliage, or a rocketship interiors are incredible. (My scanner isn't up and running at the moment, but if I get it going again I'll post some more images.)

Besides Strange Worlds, the volume also includes issues of Captain Science, Space Detective, Sky Masters, and a gallery of awesome covers. Some day I'm going to run a campaign that's literally based on covers of Wally Wood comics--I'll just point to one and say "...and then THIS happens. ROLL FOR INITIATIVE."

I believe Amazon now has a softcover version for less than $20, which is well worth it (considering the price creep for the hardcover has risen so fast--mine was about $25). Truly great stuff from one of the best sci-fi artists of the 20th!

Amazon listing

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

IMAGE: First exoplanet without a sun spotted!

Feast your eyes on that pale blue dot (lower right) folks--this is the first CONFIRMED rogue planet discovered outside our solar system! We've already detected the existence of billions of others) But this is the first one we've laid eyes on--land it's less than 100 light years away!

Just think: it's out there alone...combing it's pomador...scoping the universe for chicks.

Artists interpretation:

Wait, here's a better one:

So what do we know about the inscrutably named CFBDSIRJ2149? From io9:
Located just 100 light years from Earth, it's the nearest free-floating planet candidate ever discovered. It's big (around 4—7 times the mass of Jupiter), but not too big. Objects more than 13 times the mass of our solar system's largest planet are considered to be not planets at all, but brown dwarfs. It has company; the planet appears to belong to a traveling band of celestial objects known as the AB Doradus Moving Group. It's also very cool. In visible light, the planet would be a dim, deep-red color. In the images seen here the planet appears blue, as light at longer IR wavelengths are thought to have been absorbed by molecules in the planet's atmosphere.
Rogue planets are often dubbed "orphans" having no "parent" star. But it shouldn't be assumed that they're always frozen, lifeless hells, some scientists believe that rogue planets could have their own internal heat that might make for more habitable conditions (think bacteria or sea plankton here).

Meanwhile, back on Earth, there's an effort by space enthusiast group Uwingu to get a book published to help exoplanets get real names that don't resmble barcode vomit. Via NBC News.

Big ol' tip of the bubble helmet to io9.com.

Also, LA times, CBS News, and the BBC.

Video: Space.com

Images: L. Cal├žada, P. Delorme, Nick Risinger, R. Saito, European Southern Observatory/VVV Consortium

Monday, November 12, 2012

New Lucas video on Star Wars, some musings on possible directors

So I've finally come around to this whole Disney takeover thing. I think this might actually be the BEST thing for Star Wars since it means all new blood. Plus, Star Wars will continue to get the bankroll it needs to endure, and I'm not sure anyone other than Disney has the cash to keep a franchise this big going.

Disney obviously did well with the Muppets and Marvel's The Avengers. The Mouse excells at churning out family-friendly fantasy and fun. And THIS is key, as I'll get into a little bit later. Anyway, here's the first news item of the day...

Above is the latest video with George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy about the future of the franchise. Part one is below:

The Hollywood Reporter says that Michael Arndt has been signed to pen the script for Episode 7. This is indeed welcome news as the dude has proven with Toy Story 3 and Little Miss Sunshine that he can write with pathos and still keep things light comedically speaking. Here's hoping he can instill some rousing action scenes as well!

Also, a few of the directors being mentioned (via Collider) include: J. J. Abrams (Star Trek, Super 8, LOST), Guillermo Del Toro (Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth), John Favreu (Iron Man 1 2, Zathura), and (via EW) Matthew Vaughn (X-men First Class, Kick-Ass, Stardust).

Collider also reported that Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) is being considered, but I think that this is really lip service with looking at directors who direct more "independent films". I think he's the longshot by 12 parsecs.

Of all of those, I'd be up for Favreau and Vaughn. I think Abrams is a bit too stylized and what worked for the Star Trek reboot wouldn't necessarily translate for Star Wars. And I'm really iffy on GBT. I liked Hellboy, but didn't love it. I think he does really well on smaller, more personal films, but he made a lot of unneccessary changes to Hellboy that I think actually weakened the character. I think he too would instill too much of his own tastes into the trilogy.

The next director needs to understand why the prequels were failures--because they don't belong to the director--so no lensflares, J.J., and no grown-men with lovesick problems, G.

Lucas was under the gun and had collaborators galore to help him with the original Star Wars. Now, obviously not all films end up becoming blockbusters that redfine the genre--but the alchemical collective genius of early ILM made for success. Follow that up with Irvin Kershner (KERSH!) who invested his energies deeply into the characters for Empire Strikes Back, even more than Lucas did in his original. Kersh had the hardest job of all--to take the biggest movie of all time and make a SAGA out of it and then make it BIGGER than ever.

The director for Star Wars 7 has much the same task.

Compare that to when Lucas began on the prequels created a fortress of creatives willing to do anything to support his efforts (some would call them "yesmen" but I think that's a bit too cynical). The prequels were victims of their own beloved master. I'm sure he showed the script to some close friends--but Lucas' insular ways meant he didn't get the creative push from peer-level collaborators that made the first trilogy great. So the new director needs to take him/her self out of the equation. Here's my case for Favreau and Vaughn:

I like Favreau best of the bunch so far--he's great with getting exceptional performaces from his actors and he's obviously well-experienced with big effects. His movies always put FUN first--somethng that's DESPERATELY needed in what's beginning to feel like a tired and over-wrought franchise.

isn't one to be dismissed though--he's exceptional with ensemble casts and likewise has the knowledge to take on something as visually effects driven as our precious Star Wars. He also has some serious writing chops having adapted material from Mark Millar and Neil Gaiman.

More to come, I'm sure, as the Star Wars announcements are flying at light speed--far faster than they ever did between previous films!

Images: IMDB

Friday, November 9, 2012

Kevin Smith's idea for Star Wars 7...

It sounds like it would make for a better TV series than movie. No, wait! What am I saying? It would make for a GREAT RPG campaign, via GeekyRant:

With no access to the actual Star Wars films until the VCR was made affordable to the average consumer, we'd create our own Star Wars adventures. The best story (and the only one outside of the movie canon that we'd repeatedly play) wasn't about Luke and Leia: It was about inexplicable fan-fave Boba Fett -- the intergalactic bounty hunter who brings a carbonite-frozen Han Solo to Jabba the Hutt.

The plot of our backyard adventure: Boba Fett gets trapped by robotic gunslinger IG-88 in a Star Wars universe time loop, sending him through all the movies as well as moments only referenced in the flicks.

In some eras, he's a hero -- even getting to kiss Princess Leia instead of Luke (this was before Return of the Jedi made 'em relatives). Other times when the chrono-belt pulled him into another era, Fett's the villain he's always known as in the flicks. The time-travel plot allowed us to touch on the well-told stories of the movies we so adored, but it also gave us a chance to mash 'em up with the funkier flights-of-fancy Pete and I would manufacture. It was like an episode of Quantum Leap before that show ever existed, and it was our favorite Star Wars adventure.
Wow, that even seems like it would redeem Fett a little for ending up as Sarlacc mulch. I think I'd rather see an original story for the next trilogy, but there's lots to mine there for a plotline to a comic or game. It would definitely give him back a little much-needed street cred.

P.S. I'm coming around to this whole Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm, BTW. I'll do a more in-depth post soon!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

RAD ASTRA - some ideas on classes, other boring stuff

Rad Astra is short for "PER AUDAX RAD ASTRA" or, as it's more commonly translated "Awesomely, to the Stars!" is based largely on exploitation tropes from terrible movies and other detritus that I love (see previous, all-caps-shouting post).

So the base rules will be X-plorers as it's the simplest solution for anyone else who wants to pick it up and tweak for their game of choice. Plus the game is just super easy/fun to play.

I'm ripping out all the "mega corporations in space!" setting material from the game (which is like, a whole page and a half!) and substituting poorly thought out space opera aesthetics. Here are some planned classes:
  • Starbuckler (rogue/bounty hunter/pirate type, same skills but different sides of the law)
  • Astrosassin (spy, secret agent, ninja, assassin -- formal martial arts training is a prerequisite)
  • Starbarian (space barbarian, -- melee weapon swingin' grunt in a gundark loin cloth)
  • Starlocke (space warlock/witch -- magical manipulator of the physical laws of the universe)
  • Conartisan (noblemen, diplomat, gambler, grifter, huckster, companion, salesforce minion, politician, spam king, Imperial stooge--anyone who wields B.S. as an offensive strategy and manipulates others to get ahead)
  • Scientician (scientists and those who style themselves technical gurus be they mad or just pushed around in high school)
Occupations, titles, and organizations that either act as multi-class options or provide some sort of vocational guide for PCs:
  • Space Ranger Corps. (for "lawful" starbucklers and astroasassins)
  • Warrior of the Warp (space Amazonian-Vikings: highly trained and live by a code and yet very boisterous; e.g., St. Examin, Vultan)
  • Lodge of  the Lost Moon (for starbarians who reach a certain level of notoriety and influence; e.g., Masters of the Universe, Dar from Beastmaster, etc.)
  • Lasersniper League (guild for assassins, bounty hunters, and ex-military; e.g., Boba Fett, the Terminator, and let's pretend Barbarella knew how to use a laser rifle.)
  • Supreme Church of Super Science (the largest scientific research body in the known universe; i.e., Vulcan Science Academy with unlimited funding and unchecked ambition)
  • Paragon of the Power Cosmic (for starlockes of a certain level and prestige; i.e., the Jedi Order as led by Dr. Strange, the Silver Surfer, and Darkseid)
One important note about classes--there are no "pilots". Do you go out to your car and consider yourself a "driver". No, you know how to drive. For those characters who "drive professionally in space" I take no pity. Choose a class and consider "space trucker" a cover for something more interesting.

Military pilots are likely some sort of officer in a regional space authority. To clarify, Luke (circa Episode 4), Han, Starbuck, Apollo, Space Ghost, that dork from the Last Starfighter and even Jim Kirk would be starbucklers. Some might have ranks, others might work for themselves--but in the end, they all have similar skills and functions.

I had a stray thought about including a rule that PCs not revealing their class to anyone but the referee until after the first session or other characters figure it out. Just to make things interesting. Any thoughts on that?

NEXT: Androids, Aliens, and Dimensional Interlopers!

Rights: Just as FYI, I've permission from X-plorers publisher, Brave Halfling to use the game's rules and stats and intend to publish a supplement, using the class names and descriptions above. You may use them in your games, but may not use them for profit. Copyright is claimed.

Friday, November 2, 2012


Have you seen Ben Affleck's film ARGO about how the CIA staged a filmmaking ruse for a nonexistent sci-fi film in order to rescue hostages from Iran? Well there's plenty about that story left to tell--but less than 2 days to raise the money to do it justice.

Filmmaker Judd Ehrlich is working on a documentary entitled "SCIENCE FICTION LAND" based on the real concept that inspired the CIA cover...a sci-fi theme park! The parks creators hired the King of Comics himself, Jack Kirby to design the look of the buildings. From the Kickstarter page:
In the mid-1970s, before STAR WARS, an enigmatic young inventor named Barry Ira Geller options the rights to Roger Zelazny’s award-winning novel Lord of Light, writes a screenplay and sets out to produce a sci-fi blockbuster and the world’s first science fiction theme park – Science Fiction Land. Geller dreams of inspiring the next generation of scientists and bringing the technology of the future to everyone.

A complete unknown, through his passion and determination Geller enlists an all-star team: "King of Comics" Jack Kirby; Hollywood makeup and special effects geniuses John Chambers & Maurice Stein; world-renowned architect Paolo Soleri, visionary author Ray Bradbury; and legendary futurist Buckminster Fuller.

On the verge of success, the project collapses amidst scandal, fraud, and mystery. Years later, Geller learns that his script and Kirby designs were used by CIA agent Tony Mendez as a cover during the Iran hostage crisis – his film's title changed from LORD OF LIGHT to ARGO. 
As of this writing, they're in the close-but-not-quite-there range of the $50k they need to finish the film. I pitch a little scratch their way because I'm dying to see what Kirby's designs would have looked like on a massive three-dimensional scale--and to hear one incredible real-life spy story. The CIA even went so far to create a phony production company and took out a full-page ad in Variety magazine to promote the film.

There's all kinds of great swag of course, but if you're a MEGA Kirby fan, you'll can fund the film AND get yourself a Kirby Museum membership, which includes MORE Kirby swag. (I asked and they confirmed.) I seriously considered ponying up on that one.

Alas, for a mere $5 you can help out, for $25 you get a download of the film (that's what I kicked in). Not a bad entry fee for the ultimate never-never-was-land!


Images: Judd Ehrlich/Flatbush Pictures