Tagged: Space

Vanguard Publishing announces Strange Worlds of Science Fiction – The Science Fiction Comics of Wally Wood

The Science Fiction Comics of Wally Wood


Vanguard Publishing announces
Title: Strange Worlds of Science Fiction
Subtitle: The Science Fiction Comics of Wally Wood
Series: Vanguard Wally Wood Classics

Tales from the Crypt and Weird Science publisher Bill Gaines
called Daredevil, THUNDER Agents, and Mars Attacks co-creator,
Wally Wood “the greatest Science Fiction artist of all time.”
Strange Worlds collects rare 1950s Wood sci-fi comics Strange Worlds,
Space Detective, Capt. Science, Space Ace, and more. If you like Vanguard’s Frazetta Classics, try Vanguard’s Wood Classics.

Partial list of Contents:
The Flying Saucers,
An Earthman On Venus,
Spawn of Terror,
Winged Death On Venus,
The Monster God of Rogor,
The Martian Slayers,
The Insidious Doctor Khartoum,
Time Door of Throm,
Death in Deep Space,
Bandits of the Starways,
The Opium Smugglers of Venus,
Trail to the Asteroid Hideout,
The Weapon Out of Time,
Kenton of the Star Patrol,
Sirens of Space,
Rocky X: Operation Unknown

Author-Illustrator: Wallace Wood
Editor: J. David Spurlock
Cover: Steranko & Wood
Hardcover: 200 color 8.5 x 11 pages
HC Retail: $39.95
Publisher: Vanguard
Release: October 31, 2011
Language: English
HC ISBN-10: 1934331406
HC ISBN-13: 978-1934331408
Printed in: China


“This isn’t about humanity! This isn’t about the future!”

So said a member of the Outcasts cast late in the show’s abbreviated run and it’s a shame because a story set in the future should be about that very thing. Creator Ben Richards wrote earlier this year,

“The inspiration behind Outcasts was the desire to tell a pioneer story, and the only place you can do that really now is in space.

“I wanted to explore second chances, most fundamentally whether humanity is genetically hardwired to make the same mistakes again and again.

“The stories that kick start the series are intense, and hopefully moving, but the world view is never cynical or willfully pessimistic.”

In other words, he was hoping for the critical success of Battlestar Galactica but told stories more worthy of Space: 1999. The BBC series ran eight weeks earlier this year while it came to America in June to meet the same dismal critical reception. Now, BBC Video releases the complete series on a three-disc set.

Never heard of the show? That says a lot about how poorly received it was on both sides of the Atlantic. It was a serious-minded SF series, a counterpoint to the more over-the-top SF from England including Doctor Who, Torchwood, and Primeval. Sadly, it may have suffered more from self-importance than bad production.

Set in the middle of the 21st Century, mankind has ruined the Earth and its survivors have been coming in drips and drabs to the world of Carpathia, a mere five years’ travel distance. The remnants of humanity are trying to forge a new society but they all come with such baggage that fresh starts seem impossible. We join them ten years after the first colonists arrived and long after regular contact with the nuclear-devastated Earth was lost. A ship, perhaps the very last from Earth, arrives as we begin the series. We then see how life tries to work with the Protection and Security team keeping the peace while the Expeditionaries goes foraging for foods and medicines while studying their new home.

Richards wrote five of the eight episodes and may have had good intentions, but his internal story logic and execution left a lot to be desired. There’s a sprawling, attractive cast ill-served by their individual storylines and they never really gel as an ensemble. His talkative scripts rob the show of momentum and its slow pacing, reminiscent of 1999, doesn’t help.

His characters all feel like ones we’ve seen before, in far better science fiction concepts. There’s the President (Liam Cunningham), the madman (Jamie Bamber), the better former VP (Eric Maibus), the man with a secret past (Daniel Mays), and so on. It’s an international group, trying to reflect humanity so there’s Maibus the American, Bamber the Brit, and the South African (busty model Jeanné Kietzmann). If only we grew to care about them.

About the freshest element in the series is the notion of the Advanced Cultivars, artificially created humans designed to survive in the alien environment and blamed for unleashing a virus that killed many of the colony’s children, threatening the humans’ future.

The thing is, each episode should be advancing stories and themes but there are a lot of retreads and flashbacks and no real sense that the society is settling in. Still, there’s something, some quality to each episode that keeps you watching, keeps you hoping things get better. By the sixth episode, things feel like they are finally coming together then the subsequent episode spins its wheels and the final episode ends on a less-than-compelling cliffhanger. One that will never be resolved because the ratings dropped so dramatically that the series was yanked from its high profile time slot after five airings and dumped on late Sunday nights when good British telly watchers had gone to sleep. The day after the finale aired, the BBC announced the show’s cancellation.

The episodes look fine in high definition and there was at least some interesting thought into the colonization of this alien world that is as bleak as the stories told on its surface. One of the set’s extras if a set tour for Forthaven, which details the thinking.  The other is “Reach to the Stars”, a featurette that has cast and crew try to convince you they’re doing something unique and wonderful.

You can judge for yourself whether this was a missed opportunity or hidden gem. Either way, these eight installments are all you’re ever going to see of this world and its dreary inhabitants.

Lucasfilm and Sony Partner to Release Alembic 1.0 Software

We love cool, new technology, as much as the next guy. But when the technology comes from Lucasfilm, where so much movie magic has been conjured up since 1977, it caught our attention. This press release just arrived:

VANCOUVER, B.C. – August 9, 2011 – Alembic 1.0, the open source project jointly developed by Sony Pictures Imageworks and Lucasfilm Ltd. was released to the public today, it was announced at ACM SIGGRAPH conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Alembic is the computer graphics interchange format developed by the two entertainment giants last year and focused on efficiently storing and sharing animation and visual effects scenes across multiple software applications. It was designed to handle massive animation data sets often required in high-end visual effects and animation, which are routinely developed and produced by companies such as Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic and Lucasfilm Animation Ltd and Sony Pictures Imageworks. The studios each saw the need for a tool like Alembic, something that would fit within existing pipelines and allow for customization at the facility level without impeding the ability to share work.

In addition to the features announced at last year’s SIGGRAPH, Alembic 1.0 includes automatic data de-duplication. The software automatically recognizes repeated shapes in complicated geometry and only writes a single instance to disk. This makes Alembic 1.0 use dramatically less disk space than promised without requiring any extra steps on the part of the user and can improve both write and read performance as well. In the case of hero deforming humanoid characters, including hair, shot caches have been reduced by more than 70%.  For complex, deeply hierarchical and mostly rigid assets like the Transformers characters, tests have shown cache reduction in the order of 98%.

The code base for Alembic is available for download on the project’s Google Code site and more information can be found online at: http://www.alembic.io

Joint development of Alembic was first announced at last year’s Siggraph by Lucasfilm’s visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic and Sony Pictures Imageworks. The companies joined forces when it became apparent that they were independently developing software designed to solve a problem universally faced by the visual effects and animation production community: how to easily share complex animated scenes across a variety of disciplines and facilities regardless of what software was being used.

Alembic includes tools that allow collaboration while working with a generic, extensible, data representation scheme. In essence, it distills complex and often proprietary, animated scenes into application-independent files with baked geometric results. These baked results can be fully re-importable across the range of supporting software.

Alembic addresses a fundamental issue in a world where assets are shared across many companies. Alembic’s production-ready ability to seamlessly translate shapes across a wide variety of applications saves time and resources,” said Rob Bredow, CTO of Sony Pictures Imageworks. “By releasing Alembic as an Open Source project, users have the opportunity to improve the software based on their needs and experience. We’re really starting to feel the positive effects of Open Source, as a community of visual effects and animation professionals come together to solve problems more effectively today than ever before.” (more…)

DENNIS O’NEIL: Not Dennis O’Neil

When is a Denny O’Neil column not a Denny O’Neil column? When it’s being written by Man-Child editor Gold. Denny is under the weather – hopefully no longer in pain, as the only thing worse than being sick is being in agony. I know, because that was my situation for half of June and July.

All this means Denny and I are old and, obviously, decrepit. Let me tell you something, kiddies: that sucks. I’ll tell you two other things: it beats the alternative, and therefore if you live long enough for it to happen to you, you’re lucky.

But since we have this space that’s Denny’s, I’m going to say a few words about the old geezer. I can do this because he’s even older than I am, and I was a teenager when I started reading his stuff. I loved his work (and continue to do so) since before there was a Dennis O’Neil byline in comics. His phenomenal work for Charlton, Children of Doom (Charlton Premiere #2 November 1967, drawn by the late-great Pat Boyette and edited by the similarly late-great Dick Giordano), was published under the pen name Sergius O’Shaugnessy.

Jeez, Denny. Can you get any more Irish?

Anyway, if you can beg, borrow or steal a copy, do so. Go to your local schoolyard or crawl under the covers with a flashlight and read the thing. You will be amazed, entertained, edified, and overwhelmed by the succulent smell of deteriorating newsprint. And as I recall, Charlton used pre-deteriorating newsprint on their presses.

Denny and I became wall-mates during our respective tenures at DC Comics in the mid-70s. When we both returned to those hallowed halls (well, they had moved but DC is always doing that) we became office-mates for several years. And here’s a shock: I was totally honored to be sharing space with the man.

In fact, when I became his editor on [[[The Question]]] (yes, I’m bragging), I was totally intimidated. How the hell could I edit this man? Now, this is a fanboy response and not a professional one: I edited Will Eisner and even Peter O’Donnell, and those were not self-intimidating experiences. Then again, I didn’t live with them eight hours a day.

I had a great time on The Question. At a few points, it was an almost volatile experience – DC is known for its office politics and fighting with the bureaucracy and particularly with our crack marketing department was an ongoing thrill. Some are convinced I enjoyed that.


I don’t get to see Denny enough, but when I do I feel a strong connection to a kindred experience – one who, on his worst days (we both have a background in “journalism”), can write rings around me. So when his wife Marifran told me he would miss this week’s column – as saintly as Denny is, his being married to Marifran is an act of astonishing luck – all this dribble immediately popped up in my brainpan.

Thanks for letting me share. And Denny, get well soon or I’ll have to write that Dark Denny piece!

Recommended Reading: Charlton Premiere #2 November 1967, “Children of Doom,” written by Sergius O’Shaugnessy, drawn by Pat Boyette and edited by the similarly Dick Giordano.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

Review: “The Warrior’s Way”

Mixing genres can be fun. Take a traditional western story and set it in outer space. Take a submarine thriller and set it during the Civil War. Transplant a samurai to the western frontier. Should work, right?

The Warrior’s Way, a modestly budgeted flop from last year, is such a collection of joyless clichés that a sure-fire gimmick fails to impress, let alone entertain. The film, coming out this week from 20th Century Home Entertainment, had the makings of something fun or compelling or something instead of arriving limp

Yang (Jang Dong Gun) is an assassin for a clan in blood feud with a rival group. Without expression, he slices and dices his way through the opponents, turning the Japanese roads red with spilled blood. All that now remains is an infant girl and rather than kill her, he takes the babe with him and heads east to America. Somehow, other members of his clan find out this innocent child remains breathing and fear a renewal of the rivalry if she’s allowed to live, so they sail in search of Yang.

The stoic Asian arrives in a late nineteenth century town to seek a friend, who has died. Encouraged by Lynne (Kate Bosworth) to reopen the laundry, she teaches him how to wash clothing and a bond slowly forms. The oddball town has the local drunk with a past, Ron (Geoffrey Rush), and a carnival in residence, its misfit performers led by Eight Ball (Tony Cox). Life settles down and Yang becomes part of the fabric, enjoying the simple things such as planting a garden and delighting in the baby’s development.

Lynne, though, is a tortured soul, having seen her family gunned down by the corrupt ex-Army colonel (Danny Huston) who tried to rape her a decade earlier. When the Colonel returns to town, Lynne tries to exact revenge but is endangered. Yang is then forced to unseal his katana and defend her. The act, though, lets the sword sing, a sound heard leagues away by his clan who come seeking the baby.

After that it gets messily predicable until the end credits. We’ve seen the archetype characters before, all better written and the American cast has certainly done better work in similar roles. Even the wire work felt familiar and uninspiring. There’s little wonder the $42 million film grossed barely over $11 million worldwide. Been there, done that and done far better. This is neither clever or original, funny or a touching homage to what’s come before. This is just a clear misfire from the first frame forward.

I will give the video transfer props for looking great and the score sounds lovely. There are scant extras: a two minute production montage and 12 minutes of mildly interesting deleted scenes.

Doctor Who Season To End With The Kitchen Sink?

Doctor Who Season To End With The Kitchen Sink?

The two-part finale to the 31st season of Doctor Who will feature The Daleks, The Cybermen, The Sontarans, and the return of River Song, the woman who may or may not be the Doctor’s mother. Or ex-wife. Or bookie. Whatever.

According to Digital Spy UK, producer/overseer Steven Moffet is writing both episodes, entitled The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang. The Doctor and his assistant Amy Pond have been dealing with a large glowing crack in the space/time continuum all season, along with Amy’s neurotic betrothed. It is expected this two-parter will resolve the former storyline, if not the latter as well. With all those alien bad guys oozing around, there might not be time. Broadcast time, that is: Doctor Who is entirely about time.

The shows will air June 19 and 26th in the United Kingdom and June 26th and July 3 on BBC America. After that, the Doctor zots off to The Sarah Jane Adventures to meet his old friend and former assistant and recurring playmate…. for the first time.

Webcomics You Should Be Reading: ‘Penny Arcade!’

Penny Arcade!
It’s the trifecta of modern comedy: Sarcasm, Near-Cartoon-Levels-of-Violence, and The Deflowering of Fruit. I speak of a web comic that has consistently delivered all these aspects without fail for over 10 years. Since its creation in 1998, it’s spawned graphic novel collections, a charity that has raised millions of dollars for children’s hospitals, nearly half of my roommate’s funny tee-shirt collection, and its own convention to boot. I speak of Penny Arcade.

In concept it is merely a riff on the (now) age-old Beavis and Butthead theorem: Two dudes and a TV. Swap the TV with a video game system (or PC, or Tabletop RPG), and swap the aforementioned dunderheads with the highly sarcastic Tycho Erasmus Brahe and his friend, the sometimes-sharp-as-a-marble Jonathan "Gabe" Gabriel . The two will comment on various video games they are playing, or wax poetic on other whims and flights-of-fancy we nerds take to heart.

The strip is written by Jerry Holkins and illustrated by Mike Krahulik. Over time the strip added an additional (beloved) character or two… and will (from time to time) not include Gabe or Tycho in lieu of an in-game strip. Be forewarned (if you’ve not been clicking on the links above, because you’re patient unlike me) the boys do love the potty humor and foul language. Never-the-less…. violence, swearing, and video games has always made for excellent laughs.

The guys have a wonderful store chock full of tee’s and hoodies adorned with cute catch phrases only "very cool and socially acceptable" people like us understand. They also recently added a feature allowing you to order any of their strips in a nice high res print, suitable for framing and posting with intent to have your co-workers acknowledge your exquisite taste. Suffice to say, the guys over at the arcade have spent a good long time perfecting their craft, and three days a week you can get your fill. There’s a great archive to dig through, and their news posts, while not as auto-biographical as their Texas counterpart Scott Kurtz, offers some great thoughts about the game industry from time to time.

Some Strips of Note:

The Breakdown:

Drama: Well, aside from the "sagas" from time to time, (see Cardboard Tube Samarai above) there is little is any drama. And it’s probably best that it stays that way.

Humor: Covering everything under the sun in nerditry from video games, role playing, computers, to insider-only game industry humor…all under the banner of cartoon-violence, swearing, and general bafoonery.

Continuity: Well, Gabe and Tycho have been long time friends, but that aside, really, there’s little you’d need to know to start laughing your pooper off.

Art: Mike Krahulik’s artwork has taken considerable leaps over the last 10 years. At the beginning, backgrounds were simple, and the colors were flat. Over time, Mike’s character stylings has gotten looser, and to his credit, far better. The exaggerated figures emote wonderfully. i dare you not to laugh at Gabe’s face when he wishes Tycho vast amounts of pain. At present, the strip is a great example digital painting technique, with a vivid color palate that always compliments it’s subject matter; Be it in Fantasy, Space, or just ‘Guys on the Couch’.

Archive: The strip is over 10 years old… Generally three strips a week over the course of 10 years? By my math that’s over a boatload.

Updates: Currently updates on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Risk/Reward: It’s a free web comic folks. By my dime, it’s well worth your time if you like topical nerd humor with a dash of blood, guts and laughter. Plus, every now and then you get a strip like this.


Passover Scheduling of NY ComicCon Sparks Controversy

Passover Scheduling of NY ComicCon Sparks Controversy

Neil Kleid of Rant Comics stirred up some debate in the comics scene Wednesday when he posted an open letter to New York ComicCon calling the decision to schedule the event on the first days of Passover "frankly insulting."

Now, I’m a realist and I understand that the majority far outweighs the minority here. Holding the convention on Passover won’t really affect con attendance one way or another. The number of Jewish attendees who will choose to forgo NYCC this year won’t even make a dent in the turnout. But as a Jewish cartoonist/creator, I have to admit to being a bit annoyed that the folks at Reed didn’t even take the holiday into account. I could understand if they’d scheduled it for the following week, the second days of Passover which are less religiously observed… but the first two days of Passover, the Seder nights, are almost like… Christmas Eve. But with more guilt. And matzah.

The message produced a fairly active discussion on Kleid’s website, with some interesting back-and-forth about the potential effects of the decision.

Shortly thereafter, NYCC Con Director Lance Fensterman posted a response on the event’s official blog.

Needless to say, I’m none too happy about the Passover situation either, so let’s get that out of the way right off the bat – we are really sorry about this and certainly intended no disrespect towards anyone. The unfortunate reality is that these were the dates we were given at the JavitsCenter. Javits is unlike most places in that the demand for the space far outstrips the availability, so customers, such as NYCC, are left with little to no choice as to what dates we are given. To that point, I’ll announce here first that the show will be moving back to February next year – because we want to be in February? Not really. Quite simply, these are the only dates we can get next year.


They Need More Blood in Black Lamb #5

They Need More Blood in Black Lamb #5

In today’s episode of Timothy Truman’s Black Lamb, there will be blood.  That’s what happens when you get a bunch of vampires together.  Add some politics, religion and space travel, and you’ve got yourself a party.