Monday, February 29, 2016

A trip to Universal Studios Orlando to see the new Kong ride is what I need to make happen this year.

I gotta say, the new King Kong ride at Universal Orlando makes me think I need to make a trip to Florida. If not for that, to see Harry Potter World and of course visit the Disney empire. But as most of you know, there's always a special place in my heart for kaiju themed things. And this video teaser just sounds too cool to miss.
In case you haven't heard, this summer Universal Studios Orlando is opening a massive King Kong-themed ride called Skull Island: Reign of Kong. All of it looks pretty much like the Peter Jackson film King Kong that came out about ten years ago brought to life. I have always loved the King Kong story because I like the period it takes place in (the 1930's), and it kind of reminds me of some H.P. Lovecraft stories I really like--the particular element in this storytelling is that there's some ancient civilization out there in the ocean and we only see the remnants of it (big walls, etc.) and huge monsters. You've got to have kaiju.

Oh and if you watched the Oscars last night, you saw Mad Max: Fury Road get robbed! It was robbed right in front of everyone! Just sayin'...

Friday, February 26, 2016

Is Madame Gao from Daredevil season one going to appear in Netlix's Marvel adaptation of Iron Fist?

As Netflix gets ready to spring Daredevil season 2 upon us next month, I wanted to take a look at one of the most interesting villains of Daredevil season 1 and bounce some ideas off of those of you who've watched it.

Right from the very beginning, Wilson Fisk a.k.a. Kingpin was surrounded by fellow crime lords. One of them was a ninja (Nobu) and another was the enigmatic Madame Gao who (in one scene) declared that she could speak any language. I don't know about you, but that was impressive. And then of course there's the scene where Daredevil confronts Madame Gao in her heroin-stuffing warehouse and she throws him twenty feet with a single punch. But this isn't the last dangling hook this character drops. That particular hook happens when Madame Gao is talking to Leland and she says she's going to be returning to her homeland to reflect upon things. He scoffs and says, "What? China?" And she replies that her homeland is much further away than China and just leaves it at that.

Well...what the hell does that mean? My opinion is that it means K'un Lun.

K'un Lun is the home of the immortal Iron Fists (which we now know Netflix is making into its own series). It is a city of aliens that isn't always where it's supposed to be, sometimes vanishing only to reappear many years later. It's also one of the Seven Cities of Heaven, who all periodically pick champions to fight in a Mortal Kombat-style tournament to decide which city gets to appear once every ten years on Earth. If Madame Gao is from K'un Lun, I'm thinking we haven't seen the last of her and that she's probably going to crop up in the Iron Fist series as soon as it's available to binge watch on Netflix. Perhaps she's even a major villain, but I suppose that wouldn't necessarily be too much of a spoiler now would it?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A short list of the fictional metals and their properties that appear in DC and Marvel screen adaptations as inspired by The Flash

On last night's The Flash, Diggle (who was a guest star crossover from team Arrow on Wednesday's) helped Barry nab King Shark. During the end sequence (clearly an homage to Jaws), Dr. Wells said that the container they had standing by to "hold" King Shark was made of "promethium metal." It got me thinking, why do comic books come up with fictional metals? Well the answer is pretty obvious if you think about it. Fictional metals have to have "super" qualities to match the "super beings" that star in the stories which take place in the universe. It's part of the whole world-building thing. So that being said, here are some of the fictional metals I could think of that have appeared in DC or Marvel television shows and/or movies (leaving off kryptonite because that's too famous and everyone has heard of it):
1) Promethium Metal.
Origin: DC Universe.
Properties: Promethium is nigh invulnerable. The bionic and cybernetic components of Cyborg (the Teen Titans) are made of promethium metal. Promethium is also capable of generating and absorbing near-limitless amounts of energy, and so can be used as a power source for many gadgets. However, this "volatile promethium" is a dangerous mutagen that can be used to mutate living beings or trigger their metagene. It was used in the creation of the super-powered criminals known as Hybrid. Deathstroke the Terminator's mesh armour, sword and staff are made (either wholly or in part) of volatile promethium. He is likely able to use these weapons without suffering the negative sides effects as a result of his healing factors.
2) Inertron.
Origin: DC Universe.
Properties: This fictional metallic chemical substance found is the hardest, densest substance in the DC universe, and is often used by the Legion of Super-Heroes in the 30th century. Inertron is frequently described as indestructible and impenetrable. However, this only applies to regular humans, lesser super humans and 30th century known technology. On some occasions, Superboy and Mon-El could break an inertron container by using all their strength.
3) Adamantium/Vibranium.
Origin: Marvel Universe.
Properties: Adamantium is a virtually indestructible steel alloy named after the fabled metal Adamantine of Greek mythology. The metal has its origins in the work of American metallurgist Dr. Myron MacLain during World War II when the U.S. government assigned him to military research and development. Through a metallurgic accident, MacLain created the indestructible Vibranium-steel compound that was used to create the shield used by the super-soldier Captain America. MacLain spent decades attempting to duplicate the process, and although unsuccessful, he instead created True Adamantium in the 1960s.
     Extraordinarily expensive to produce, Adamantium is created through the mixing of certain chemical resins whose exact composition is a closely guarded government secret. For eight minutes after the resins are mixed, Adamantium can be molded if kept at a temperature of 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Its extremely stable molecular structure prevents it from being molded further, even if the temperature remains high enough to keep it in liquefied form. Hardened Adamantium can only be altered by rearrangement of its cellular structure. Given sufficient mass, Adamantium could survive a direct hit from a nuclear weapon or a blow from the most powerful superhuman. The only known substance able to pierce Adamantium is the compound known as Antarctic Vibranium, also called "anti-metal". Wolverine's skeleton is dipped in adamantium (you would know this if you saw the movies).
4) Uru.
Origin: Marvel Universe.
Properties: Uru is a Norse super-metal. Mjolnir (Thor's hammer) is made of from it. Basically, this metal absorbs magic like a sponge.
5) Amazonium.
Origin: DC Universe.
Properties: The strongest metal known. Wonder Woman's bracelets are made from this stuff.

It's a short list and I'm sure there are some that I didn't touch on, but I think this gets down the basics (at least of what I remember). So what about you? Are you someone that makes up fictional metals for your stories? And if so, what are their properties?

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Walking Dead introduced Jesus and Richonne became a thing so could a tiger named Shiva be next?

Walking Dead spoilers ahead folks. You have been warned.
This is the Hilltop Colony where Jesus comes from. It's full of nice people and
has about twice the survivors that Alexandria does (that's Rick's community).
Yay. For once, the Walking Dead had a relatively good episode where none of the major cast members died, and we met an interesting character (that's in the comic book adaptation) that isn't a total douche bag. For what it's worth, I've been really looking forward to the introduction of Jesus from the comics. And from what I remember, the way in which he is introduced in the show pretty much mirrors how it happened in the graphic novel. For one, Jesus was this guy that could do all kinds of martial arts moves and secondly, he was an incredibly nimble escape artist. We saw both of those in the episode that aired last night.

So the Walking Dead's world is about to get blown up really big. Jesus is from this community that has like 200 people living in it and they have chickens and livestock and a wall and more resources than even Alexandria has. And they're actually pretty nice people. There's also a third community that's called "The Kingdom," which will be introduced through Jesus. So he's kind of a big catalyst to move the show in an entirely different direction.
The Kingdom is ruled by a very colorful character called Ezekiel and he has a pet tiger named "Shiva" that he keeps on a chain. A former zookeeper with delusions of grandeur, in the post apocalyptic world he's essentially a benevolent king with a unique fascination on medieval life, i.e., he holds court, calls himself a king, and has knights. Interesting, right? I guess you gotta do something in the apocalypse to keep yourself busy. And I think it's going to be really cool for the Walking Dead to introduced a tiger...I really do.
All of this is to prepare viewers for basically all out war between those three communities (allying together) to fight Negan because he's that awful. I'll be curious to see how the television show handles Negan because he monologues a lot and says "F*ck! F*ck! F*ck!" all the time. Of course, the show does differ from the comic in major ways. For one, there's no Daryl. And for another, I can't quite remember Rick and Michonne getting together, so I'm glad to see it happen on the show. It seemed very organic and honestly, they're perfect for each other. They're both tough as nails, and she's Rick's moral center for pretty much everything.

I don't think we're going to be seeing the kinds of people that aren't suited for this world anymore. The apocalypse happened years ago and people are adapting to it in so many creative ways. Anyone that couldn't adapt just died so it really is the rise of a new world order doing things in a different way and just learning to manage the zombies. So in a way, Jesus is an obvious biblical symbol. He represents a rebirth for everyone that's made it that far and now will open the minds of those who managed to survive.

This show really is the most brilliant thing on television. Thank you Robert Kirkman. :) You've made Sunday nights so awesome.

Friday, February 19, 2016

This is a really nice picture of Colima Volcano erupting in Mexico

Photographer Sergio Tapiro took this picture. It's of Colima Volcano, and it won 3rd prize in the "Nature" category for the year's best photographs. As usual, click to Embiggen. If you want to check out the other entries, you can go HERE to see them. First place was pretty incredible, but there's something about this one that just electrifies me. :) Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

So Deadpool has been out less than a week and it's already changing the industry

This weekend you probably saw Deadpool. Your neighbor probably saw Deadpool. I saw Deadpool. It's a great, fun time at the movies despite my not knowing too much about the character (other than he breaks the Fourth Wall). But is its success (given its relatively small budget) a clarion call for other movies to take the plunge into rated-R? I guess so, because Wolverine 3 is going to be rated-R. So, is this a marketing ploy? Like how is it exactly that a studio can just decide a movie is going to be rated-R since (I think) the rating gets applied to a film by the MPAA after it's done, right? Or maybe film ratings are completely useless. It's possible both of these situations could be correct at the same time.

So naturally I have questions. What exactly is the new Wolverine going to be packed with? More blood? Because I know it can't necessarily be packed with more action because the last Wolverine was damn near wall-to-wall action. It kind of makes me think that Fox believes that "adult" is the new "dark and gritty" ala the Batman movies by Christopher Nolan. But is it really? Having seen Deadpool I can say that I don't think that movie could have been released as a PG-13 movie and kept it's cool. But would Wolverine really benefit from an R-rating? Are there that many tits that need to be displayed (or that many "F"-bombs that need to be dropped) in a story of our favorite mutant with bone claws?

Or maybe they want to borrow a page from Quentin Tarantino and take the films into some macabre, tongue-in-cheek place where limbs get severed and blood fountains upward like geysers from severed heads. I suppose that could be fun, but it's difficult to capture what gives Tarantino movies that special grittiness so that you can spot them from a mile away. It also makes me beg the question about the X-Men universe. Are we now going to have R-rated X-men movies? How can you possibly integrate characters like Deadpool into a pg-13 universe and not have the character lose all of its luster?

Meh. Maybe all of these changes are a sign that Fox is going to brand itself as the studio that has the dark and gritty characters. I suppose I don't care and I'm somewhat eager to see the result. I'm just surprised that Deadpool had the clout to change the way an entire industry does business.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Is the Batman employing kryptonite gauntlets against Superman in the latest trailer? Or perhaps a kryptonite projectile?

In the latest Batman versus Superman trailer, the Batman manages to block Superman with his power suit, and it left me thinking, "How is this possible?" I think the clue might be in an earlier still from the same trailer which I've included below:
Here you see the Batman firing a projectile at Superman and he catches it. But the big question in my mind is, did he intend Superman to catch it? I know in previous storylines, there have been various projectiles fired at Superman. One of them (from Green Arrow) was of course a Kryptonite arrow. In addition, the Batman has crafted kryptonite gauntlets before and beaten Superman that way. It kind of makes me think they might be employing some comic book trickery to get around Superman's formidable powers.

But it's also possible that the Batman could have found magical gauntlets too. The introduction of Wonder Woman basically introduces magic as that's basically what all her weapons are. The sword she wields was forged by Hephaestus so it can cut Superman's skin open no problem. It'll be interesting to see how the film explains everything that's going on here, and I gotta say that I'm getting pretty excited for this. We haven't even seen any Aquaman in the trailer, and it's confirmed that he's making an appearance in Batman vs. Superman as well. If you haven't watched it yet, take a looksee because it is jam-packed. This is either going to be a complete mess or one of the greatest comic book mashups ever.

I guess it just depends on how much faith you have in Zach Snyder.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Last night's episode of the Flash was a whirlwind of Earth-2 awesome and doppelgangers and Easter eggs and all the comic book love.

WARNING: Spoilers are everywhere!

You know those weird episodes that inevitably occur in a science fiction series where "Kirk gets to meet 'opposite universe' Kirk" (for lack of a better example)? The Flash's insane dynamic allows that to happen all of the time if the writers want to, and it's absolutely brilliant.

Tuesday night's episode of The Flash was the funnest one yet because the whole Earth-2 thing allows the cast to step into roles that they normally would not be able to do. Caitlyn Snow, Cisco, and Firestorm were all evil. And Barry? He was a complete adorkable C.S.I. married to his true love Iris. But let me re-iterate that Cisco was evil! How cool is that?

I loved the doppelganger of Cisco (code-named "Reverb") because 1) he may have been a villain but he was a villain with a certain kind of geeky style, and 2) he was so much more powerful than his alter ego "Vibe." This is going to open up so much potential for the character as (for the first time) Cisco realizes he's got some awesome powers only hinted at in Reverb's monologue. I for one want to know more about how he could short out someone's nervous system and the whole telekinetic push thing he did to the Flash was pretty awesome too (so yeah, more on that please).

Oh and we saw Supergirl! I know the news broke that there was going to be a Flash/Supergirl crossover coming, but it made me squee to see Supergirl in the actual vortex/portal leading to Earth-2.
On Barry Allen's phone were labels that said, "Bruce, Hal, and Diana." If you don't know, those are the alter ego names of "Batman", "Green Lantern", and "Wonder Woman!!!" I just about had a nerdgasm.

And finally, Caitlyn Snow is one step closer to creating "Velocity 9." Now in the comics, Velocity 9 was created by the magic-using Vandal Savage (who is an awesome Legends of Tomorrow villain--that guy is bad ass). However, in the CW's version it could just about be anything that they want. It is interesting that they are going to introduce it though, and I'm excited about the results.

It truly is official: the CW is my FAVORITE channel.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Is 10 Cloverfield Lane a sequel to Cloverfield?

Is the new movie 10 Cloverfield Lane a sequel to Cloverfield? If you know for sure, please let me know in the comments because I liked Cloverfield. I didn't so much like the whole "found footage" aspect of Cloverfield (just to be clear), but I do love kaiju movies and it seemed like to me that the monster, a.k.a. Cloverfield, in the original film didn't get properly dealt with in New York City. But it also didn't seem like it was going to necessarily be completely unstoppable either. I mean...eventually humans would have to be able to stop a huge monster...right? Or perhaps it went on to destroy the world. Hmm. J.J. Abrams has got me on the hook again.

Friday, February 5, 2016

If your science fiction or fantasy story could benefit from an information dump it belongs on the small screen and not the silver screen

The glamour of movies will always shine brighter than what we see on television. However, I think television is by far a greater medium by which to showcase tales from all but the most simple stories. If yours is a story that has a plot with just a few characters in it (and it's fairly straight forward) then that's probably going to translate to film really well. But for just about everything else, there's too much information and too little screen time to devote to proper exposition. Take Game of Thrones as one such example.

George R.R. Martin has been very clear about wanting to have a movie that showcases his work. But most authors are in this camp: "please Hollywood make a movie from my book." But as can be seen with Game of Thrones, the story is too long, too involved, and has too many characters. I've heard from plenty of Harry Potter experts that have said the same thing about the movie adaptations: too much stuff was cut out. Well, television would solve this by making each book a season unto itself.

Another more recent example is Star Wars: the Force Awakens. I read on io9 that there was "going to be a scene in the movie where Leia acknowledged that her former colleagues in the senate were just as likely to want to have her killed as they were to ignore her." All of this is talked about in Claudia Gray's Star Wars book called Bloodline (which is all about Leia Organa). Assumedly, the book is there to show us that Leia really did have a bad relationship with the New Republic. Here's some text from the book:
Leia settled into her chair, picked up her napkin — and stopped.
Something was written on the paper streamer on her plate. Actual writing. Virtually nobody wrote any longer; it had been years since Leia had seen actual words handwritten in ink on anything but historical documents.
But today, someone had left this message on her plate, only one word long:
Leia shoved her chair back, instantly leaping to her feet. “We have to get out of here,” she said to the startled senators at the table. “Now. Go!”
Don't you think that something like what's written above to provide context for the movie should have been in there? But then that opens up a whole 'nother can of worms. How much is too much information? Writers and readers hate the dreaded "information dump" but the thing is, when we create entire universes, we also create a lot of information.

So I guess what I'm saying is that most science-fiction and fantasy should just be abandoned by Hollywood so that television producers can pick these stories up, because television has the time to disseminate information. Leave stories like Seabiscuit to be adapted into movies. No information dump needed. But complex stories like Star Wars should be told in weekly installments of one hour each.

What do you think?

Monday, February 1, 2016

A cliche is only a cliche if you know it's a cliche

I have a friend that's pretty disappointed in DC's "Legends of Tomorrow" that is part of the CW's Thursday night lineup. It's a show that is following Disney/Marvel's formula of introducing characters and then having them come together in one big superhero mashup. We've got Sara Lance from Arrow, reprising her role as a former assassin. We've got Captain Cold and Heat Wave from the Flash, Atom (DC's version of "Ant Man") from the Arrow, and Firestorm from the Flash. My friend says that the writing is derivative and lazy and that the whole thing just offends him. But he also has admitted that he may be suffering from a lack of Vitamin D, working a midnight job and living in Portland where the sun doesn't shine very often. Oh and he's got a PhD in science-fiction fantasy geek, which merely means he's read, seen, laughed, consumed, reviewed, and given serious thought to every single trope of science fiction and fantasy out there. A writer has got to put in OVERTIME for him to be impressed. And that's a problem. I'll tell you why in a moment, but first back to my "Legends of Tomorrow" explanation.

I happen to love the show, but maybe that's because I don't take issue with cliche's anymore. Part of my transformation on how I feel about the subject of cliche came to me as an epiphany: something isn't cliche if the audience doesn't know its cliche. I know on the surface that just sounds like pointing out the obvious. But it's a bit more complicated than that and goes back to my feelings on writing in that you (as a writer) need to know who you are writing for. You need to really identify your audience.

For example, if you are wanting to be a mainstream fantasy writer then you probably should know that dragons are cliche monsters and that fanciful and strange magic systems that no one has ever heard of are important. Why? Because your audience is made up of people who have consumed every Brandon Sanderson, George R.R. Martin, Brent Weeks, and etc. book that's out there (ravenously). Just like in academia, there are geek experts (think "Geek PhD") that have been there/done that on just about every kind of fantasy and are just ready to say the following to your idea: predictable, boring, cliche, saw that coming a mile away, plot's been done a million times, and this is just a rehash of blah blah blah. That's a tough audience to entertain.

Anyway, my point is that "Legends of Tomorrow","Arrow","the Flash", and even "Supergirl" are not shows that are meant to appeal to the PhD's of Geekdom. Sure, some of the audience is inevitably captured, but I think the CW is using sex appeal (because all of its young actors are gorgeous) to rightfully draw in a different audience that hasn't ever heard of these characters. And because of that, these shows are doing really well. In other words, men and women are drawn to these shows because they see some eye candy and are staying because the cliche's grab them. Now I know that sounds weird, but think about what a cliche is. A cliche is something that is basically a good idea and because of that, everybody else got in on it and pounded it into the ground. It's the bread and butter of America. Oh you came up with a phone that allows you to install apps that do other things? Well that's a great idea and I'm going to steal it. Another example: wineries. They started making money a few decades ago and bam...there were suddenly thousands of wineries and because the competition was so vast, no one made any money and wineries started going bankrupt.

So when I see what's going on with the CW, and how I think they are capturing the attention of a whole new audience by hooking them with sex appeal and making them stay with cliche ideas that actually aren't cliche because this audience has never heard of seems kind of brilliant. And I think it's something that all new writers should thing about. Create a hook with your writing. Draw a fresh audience into a genre you enjoy that's packed with experts just waiting to call you on every cliche you could ever come up with, and ignore the experts to cater to the new audience. In my own writing, I've been very satisfied with the results. Basically I've been writing gay fiction, and suddenly I'm finding that I don't have to work very hard on my science fiction and fantasy ideas because to the particular audience I've been writing all the ideas are relatively new. As an example, I've been able to write a fantasy that's pretty much character driven without giving a second thought to magic systems, and I've been getting fan mail about it. I want to use a dragon? The audience I write for says, "OMG I've never seen that," and it's really kind of cool.

Anyway, I just thought I'd share that with all of you because I've thought about it quite a bit this weekend. A cliche is ONLY a cliche if you know it's a cliche. So for me, my ideal audience is to write science fiction and fantasy for people who normally don't read science fiction or fantasy and then discover that they like it. I know that sounds hard, but I think what's harder (for most of us) is writing for an audience that has expert level knowledge of a genre and is hungry for something new. In other words, I'm saying it's harder for most of us to reinvent the wheel. So rather than try, let's use the same wheel (which we all know works) and trudge down a different path.

In conclusion, I'm saying it's not the cliche ideas that are necessarily bad. It's that you would dare to use them in front of an audience that knows better that's bad. Identify your audience first. If you truly want to try and impress an audience of experts with something that even they haven't seen...well that's on you and good luck.

That is all. :)