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Category: Con Culture


Review by C.J. Bunce

Queen Elizabeth I, Prince Harry, Winston Churchill, Ron Howard, Ginger Spice, Agent Scully, Chuck Norris, Vincent Van Gogh.

What do they all have in common?  Plenty.

Truly–this latest look at a segment of the Earthling population should have been part of the Hidden Universe travel guides.  It’s Ginger Pride: A Red-Headed History of the World, called “a rallying call and calling card for gingers,” it’s a mix of facts, history, and humor about redheads in society.  Compiling everything you’d ever need or want to know about redheads, this quick guide seizes the day and tackles the segment of the population born with a red coif.  More redheads are around than you might think.  Actually 140 million redheads worldwide, 18 million in the United States alone, and two percent of the world population is born with red hair, with ten percent of the population of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.

Writer Tobias Anthony (a redhead) dives into the history and truths of red hair, with whimsical artwork by Melbourne artist Carla McRae (not a redhead).  He has come up with 20 variants of color of redheads, from auburn to aubergine.  If you don’t know any redheads personally, well, Anthony has a solution for that–a spotter’s guide–where you are apt to find redheads “in the wild” and how to spot a fake redhead or “daywalker.”  (Spoiler: He reports Amy Adams is a fake, Isla Fisher is 100% real redhead).  Anthony even argues why fake redheads should be praised for complimenting the ginger community by trying to join in.  According to the author, if they’re carrying around a lot of emotional baggage, they’re probably a redhead.  And he spotlights the most ostracized of the ginger community is “the Traitor”–what he calls that redhead who dyes his hair another color to hide his gingerness.  Red hair dye amounts to $200 million in sales per year in the U.S., more than any other color.  Surprised “bottled” redheads he has identified in his book include Molly Ringwald, Rita Hayworth, and Lucille Ball.  Why go red?  It looks like it’s the attitude and reputation of redheads that celebrities– and everyone else–is trying to imitate by dying their hair red.

Most useful in the book is the section on etiquette for getting along with gingers.  Key takeaway?  Don’t actually call them “ginger”!  Or carrot top, freckles, or anything else–except their name.  In that way the book successfully uses humor to look at its subject, while also carefully illustrating why singling out anyone for how they look is just wrong.  The author notes there are days of the year dedicated to both kicking (don’t kick anyone, it’s an in-joke) and kissing (get their permission first) gingers.  (Err, wait, don’t we mean redheads?).

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This week Titan Comics and BBC Studios revealed a magic number of 13 covers for the forthcoming comic book series, Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor.  In this year’s preview lunch for retailers hosted by each of the major comic book publishers at San Diego Comic-Con, one creator’s name stood out: Jody Houser, who is writing the new Doctor Who comic book stories.  The Eisner-nominated writer can be found everywhere this year from writing Dark Horse Comics’ new series Stranger Things, to DC Comics’ Mother Panic, to Valiant Entertainment’s Faith, and Marvel Comics’ The Amazing Spider-Man series.  That’s five series at five publishers.  Pretty awesome!  We’ve already seen her work in previous Doctor Who and Orphan Black monthlies from Titan, The X-Files: Origins from IDW Publishing, Supergirl, Justice League of America, and the Batman/Mother Panic crossover for DC Comics, and Star Wars titles Forces of Destiny, Poe Dameron, and Thrawn, and the movie adaptation of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story from Marvel.  She’s definitely the writer to watch for over this next year.

Artist Rachael Stott (Doctor Who, Motherlands) and colorist Enrica Angiolini (Warhammer 40,000) will be giving fans their first look at the 13th Doctor in the new tie-in stories (including all that comes with the new Doctor, like the new TARDIS, the design of that bigger-on-the-inside interior, and her trusty sonic screwdriver, which you can now order here at Amazon).  You can look forward to variant covers from artists including Stott, Babs Tarr (Batgirl, Motor Crush), Sarah Graley (Rick and Morty), Katie Cook (Adventure Time), Ariela Kristantina (Mata Hari), Alice X. Zhang (Doctor Who), Sanya Anwar (Assassin’s Creed), and Paulina Ganucheau (Zodiac Starforce).

  

On televisions across the world Jodie Whittaker (Attack the Block, Broadchurch) will be exploring new places and time periods with new companions Graham (played by Bradley Walsh), Yasmin (Mandip Gill), and Ryan (Tosin Cole).  It begins with Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor–The Many Lives of Doctor Who, which you can pre-order at Amazon now here.

Take a look at all the covers below for Issue #1 and 2.

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Four artists are helping a UK company’s bionic arms become the functioning hands of many with the benefit of stylish designs.  Open Bionics is an entrepreneurial company that has created and fitted hundreds with its advanced, multi-grip bionic arms since their release this April.  Called the Hero Arm,  it’s the next step toward true borg technology and it’s been called a game-changer in health technology alongside genome sequencing, Fitbit, and smartphones.  From kids as young as nine years old who haven’t had arms and hands since birth to amputees of all ages, the 3D printed devices go beyond prosthetics of the past.  With the slogan “We turn disabilities into superpowers,” the company is doing that in more ways than one.  Instead of making the arms look like real arms, they are adding eye-popping designs–a feature praised by their users, who have remarked, “This is a cool way to stand out for all the right reasons.”  Instead of asking “what happened to your hand?” those seeing the Hero Arm on a person for the first time ask “how does that work?”  “Can we shake hands, can we do a fist bump, can I have a photo?”  The difference is a big one for wearers.

Open Bionics boasts the Hero Arm as “the first medically approved 3D printed arm.”  The Hero Arm is a lightweight, powered bionic hand controlled by the wearer’s muscles.  Because muscles generate small electrical signals when they contract, electrodes placed on the surface of the skin can measure muscle movements.  A full suite of tools provides feedback to the user, including posable wrist, posable thumb, and a freeze mode (for use when holding something like a glass), plus proportional control for varying tasks.  Comfortable, adjustable and breathable, the arm can lift more than 15 pounds of weight.  According to the company, the Hero Arm is half the price of its closest competitor.  Still, Open Bionics has stated that it has received donations to be able to provide free Hero Arms for qualifying children residing in the UK–the only place the bionic arms have been approved for sale.  They aren’t covered by the nation’s healthcare system yet and can cost about U.S. $2,500 on up.  Compare that to similar functioning U.S. electrical prosthetics with a cost upward of $50,000 to $100,000, and anyone can see why this product looks like the future of cybernetics.  (You can help a woman get her own Hero Arm via crowdfunding.  Learn more about her story below).

Hero Arms can also be worn with swappable custom covers.  And now Open Bionics has four new styles for wearers to get a Hero Arm that best fits their personality.  Each work shown (above, top, in order), was designed by an artist in Bristol: “Handala” by Daniel Bowler, “Tree Rex” by TRex, “Palette of Patterns” by J West, “Nebular” by Cheba, and “Open Bionics Doodles” by Kid Crayon.  Even more covers are available for the Hero Arm, like the futuristic Deux Ex design (above).  The Deus Ex video games explore human augmentation in a near future world.  Open Bionics partnered with Eidos Montreal, basing the Deux Ex cover on the game’s protagonist Adam Jensen.  (But they issue a disclaimer: It won’t give you the power to smash through walls!).  Check out the future of this technology at the partnership website AugmentedFuture.com.  Candidates for the Hero Arm can see customization options at the Open Bionics website here.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Everything’s connected.  Everything’s vulnerable.

The visionary behind the groundbreaking 1997 science fiction film Gattaca has at last delivered his next worthy sci-fi follow-up.  The direct-to-Netflix movie Anon is equal parts future crime and noir detective thriller.  It stars Clive Owen (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Children of Men, Sin City) and Colm Feore (Thor, The Chronicles of Riddick, Paycheck) as police detectives in a near-future Earth where smart phone and computer technology has merged with the mind.  Technology and science have evolved to allow humans to instantly identify and search their minds and a database shared with everyone as they move through their day–as if Google Glass tech was inside a contact lens wired to the brain.  Written, produced, and directed by Andrew Niccol, writer/director of Gattaca and writer of The Truman Show, Anon features a police detective nicely synthesizing Rick Deckard, Frank Bullitt, and Dirty Harry Callahan.  Only an actor as unique as Clive Owen could pull that off.

With a world similar to Gattaca–but a colder, stark, and concrete-filled version of a rigid, totalitarian future close to that of the Prime side in the world of the Starz series Counterpart–telling lies has become a thing of the past.  The detectives must track down an unidentifiable woman, the anonymous hacker of the title played by Amanda Seyfried (Veronica Mars, Ted 2, Mamma Mia!), sought as the criminal behind a string of murders.  This hacker can erase memories and replace real thoughts with replaced images, and we see the best example of this as Owen’s detective pursues the hacker in a busy subway.  Oddly, this dystopia doesn’t feel as horrible as that of Mad Max: Fury Road, or Blade Runner, or Terminator.  It’s just not that far removed from the wired life of today.  Which should be enough of a cautionary warning.

Stark but slick and cool like The Adjustment Bureau, not only the visuals of Anon but the music is haunting and cold, thanks to an inspired score from Christophe Beck (Ant-Man, Edge of Tomorrow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer).  Surreal camera angles and the use of shadow firmly plant the audience in this future thanks to cinematographer Amir Mokri, and you can credit production designer Philip Ivey (District 9, Elysium) and art director Aleksandra Marinkovich (Crimson Peak, Kick-Ass 2, Total Recall) for a stunning, new vision that leaves behind tech noir for something fresh and different.

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Another “prequel that is also a sequel” is in the works, and this time it’s for one of the action genre’s biggest franchises.  Director Len Wiseman confirmed at a Television Critics Association event that casting for both a young John McClane and young Holly Gennero will be part of a new film: Die Hard: Year One.  Wiseman is waiting for a final script from writers Carey W. Hayes and Chad Hayes.  He said that story will feature both a flashback element and a future story.  The past will focus on McClane in the 1970s.  And Wiseman said he and Bruce Willis want to be part of the process to select the actor who portrays the young McClane.

Back in 2015 when the idea for this movie first surfaced, one logical casting idea was floated:  Why not Joseph Gordon-Levitt?  Gordon-Levitt played a young McClane character in Looper, and he also has the acting chops to come back for more for such an iconic character.  No one else seems that obvious, yet Nicholas Hoult might be a good choice considering his age and significant (and critically acclaimed)action performances in the X-Men series and Mad Max: Fury Road.  Another choice that would be difficult not to rule out is Jai Courtney, who played McClane’s son in 2013’s A Good Day to Die Hard.

It also seems obvious that the script writers should look to the two pieces of source material that have already been written.  First would be the novel that inspired the film series, Roderick Thorp’s Nothing Lasts Forever (reviewed here at borg.com), the sequel to the 1966 novel The Detective, which was turned into a movie starring Frank Sinatra.  If you’re looking to get into the shoes of McClane, this would be the place to begin.  But next would be renowned writer Howard Chaykin’s own take on the same title, his comic book series Die Hard: Year One published by BOOM! Comics in 2010 (reviewed here at borg.com).  It doesn’t appear the new script writers are looking to these two books for ideas, but note the covers above to the Chaykin series have a great vibe fans would no doubt love to see on the big screen.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It only takes a few pages of David Tilotta and Curt McAloney’s new book Star Trek: Lost Scenes to realize this fantastic new book is like discovering the Lost Ark of Star Trek fandom.  Beginning with a spirited foreword by Doug Drexler (life-long Star Trek fan and later multi-award winning creator of later Star Trek series), who provides personal context for the book, it is like no other Star Trek book published in the five decades since the original series wrapped.  As the annual Star Trek convention gets under way in Las Vegas, thanks to Titan Books we at borg.com are providing this first look and review of what is sure to be the biggest hit for fans of the original Star Trek series this year.  For early Star Trek fans who collected original film clips (also called cels) from Gene Roddenberry’s personal Lincoln Enterprises company after the series first aired, this book will be viewed as a gold mine they only dreamed about–an almost archaeological recreation of the lost past.  For fans that have longed for anything truly new from the 1960s series, this is what you have asked for, as it includes images never before published of deleted scenes from 36 episodes, plus never before published angles of actors, sets, costumes, and props from the series.  For fans of Hollywood television history, carefully assembled rare images take readers onto the studio stages, backlots, and on-location sets, providing a detailed explanation of how the production shot the actual visual effects and used the technology of the day to create a vision of the future that continues to inspire generations 50 years later.

As explained in Star Trek: Lost Scenes, “Everything that went before the cameras during the production of Star Trek: The Original Series, both intentionally and unintentionally, can be seen in the film frames.”  In the late 1960s fans wanted any souvenir they could get from Star Trek.  Thanks to Gene Roddenberry and his wife Majel Barrett Roddenberry, a legion of fans could purchase the actual film from the TV show in the form of film clips.  You’ve no doubt heard of the concept of footage shot in TV and movies that “hits the cutting room floor”–parts of film roll footage, called “dailies” or “rushes” that were filmed and then printed in color for viewing the next day by production staff, taken either from bad takes or alternate takes attempted but not preferred by the director, or maybe footage shot that was intentionally deleted from the show for time constraints or editorial decisions, and unused for any number of reasons.  Where every other production threw away these trimmed film roles and segments of footage, show creator Roddenberry was savvy–he collected them and took them home to sell in his side business.   From 1968 through about 1990, Roddenberry’s company sold fans these film clips by the millions, most images containing a single frame from episodes that were seen in the final cuts of the episodes (initially at eight clips for $1).  Because of the nature of the film stock used, most of these film clips are faded, and many simply have been lost to time.  But some collectors over the years, including the books’ authors, chose to focus on collecting and preserving those most rare and obscure images that went beyond the scenes everyone knows so well.  Those otherwise “lost” images are what readers will find collected in this book, and they’ve been methodically restored to reveal their original quality and colors for the first time.

The authors match collected film clips to the actual text pulled from the production scripts that was edited out of the final cut of 36 episodes, re-creating scenes that almost made it into production but didn’t (like more Vina and Captain Pike from “The Cage,” more Romulan footage from “Balance of Terror,” more Khan footage from “Space Seed,” new views of the Mugato from “Private Little War,” more Gorn from “Arena,” and much more footage of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, and the rest of the Enterprise crew).  For aficionados of television history, the film clips and the authors’ commentary provides a film school study guide on Star Trek’s optical effects, demonstrating the use of filming miniatures (models of iconic ships, space stations, planets, and other models), blue screen photography, matte paintings, split-screen effects (as used to see two Kirks in a single frame), superimpositions, animation-based effects, dissolves, cloud tanks, and combinations of these (like phaser beams and the transporter effect), plus make-up, costume, and stunt effects.  Fans of bloopers will enjoy pages devoted to outtakes and production gaffes, plus a section delves into information that tells even more surprising stories from the production via clapper boards and the most obscure details in frames discovered by the authors after years of study.

Check out these preview pages from Star Trek: Lost Scenes (available to order now at a pre-order discount here at Amazon, to be released August 21):

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For decades kids of all ages have awakened to their favorite colorful breakfast cereal.  The best of these not only taste good but they feature some appropriately entertaining mascot, and the very best of these have some kind of prize in the package.  Most of these are forgettable, but there’s a market of collectors who buy and sell these prizes on eBay every day.  Toy company Funko is taking a new approach to the prize-in-the-box cereal with its next product, Funko’s own multigrain cereals, called Funko’s.

These cereals are all about the prize, packing each box with a premium collectible Funko figure.  First to market for Funko’s new superhero cereals are two box options: one featuring the Funko Batman and the other the Funko Batgirl.  And yes, each box features its own prize, the corresponding Pocket Pop! of Batman or Batgirl.

You can pre-order both now from Entertainment Earth (click on each box above for more details and to order).  Each sells for $9.99, a bit much for cereal, but you’re really not buying it for the cereal, right?  Funko tried some other releases of non-superhero brands that already are selling from secondary market sellers at Amazon for more than $30, like Jason Voorhees Funko’s cereal, Freddy Krueger Funko’s, and Cuphead and Mugman Funko’s cereal (all an appropriately blood-red colored cereal), so you may want to get these new Bat-cereals before they are gone.

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We first previewed the Anovos line of licensed replicas back in 2011 here at borg.com.  Since then we’ve built their complete full-sized Star Wars original trilogy Stormtrooper kit and worn the company’s Star Trek: The Next Generation two-piece Starfleet uniform, and found their quality to be the top commercial products available.  Anovos returned to San Diego Comic-Con this year with their most recent line of costumes and helmets and–as with the past products–the company continues to create the best replicas around.

For the most part these aren’t 100% the same designs and fabrics as the original screen-used pieces, but they come as close as most cosplayers will get access to.  The exceptions are the armor kits and finalized sets of the Star Wars line, which are equal in quality to screen-used pieces, and even better quality in many cases.  In the Star Trek line, despite using production-made pieces as a guide, the fabrics and color dyes don’t exactly match and some of the piping and trim is close to the original William Ware Theiss and Robert Blackman designs they are copying, but not dead-on, e.g., the Star Trek movie maroon uniform color is difficult to replicate and current fabrics used show wrinkles more than the expensive fabrics used by the studios years ago.  Also, the blue dye used in the infamous “skants” is also a much lighter blue than original pieces and their appearance on the screen under production lights.  It makes sense that Anovos creations for the more recent Abrams films and Star Trek Discovery series uniforms are closer to the real thing, as Anovos says it has worked with the studios in re-creating the most recent uniforms in both the Star Trek and Star Wars series, like this great command uniform from a design by Sanja Hayes for Star Trek Beyond:

The best bet is ordering currently in-stock costumes from the Anovos website.  For costumes not yet available but sold on pre-order, Anovos has been known to take more than a year for delivery in the past, causing a history of canceled orders, despite warning customers about long projected delivery dates.

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As we previewed here at borg.com, toymaker Super 7 featured great exclusives at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con with both an onsite presence and an offsite store featuring both a Masters of the Universe theme and a Universal Monsters theme.  If you were early enough you could have even scored a pair of four different styles of limited edition Universal Monster-themed Saucony shoes.  We think the best nostalgia draw from Super 7 is their multi-license classic Kenner style 3 3/4-inch ReAction figure line that we’ve covered here at borg.com since Day One.  We previewed some of the latest ReAction figures in our coverage of 2018 New York Toy Fair (here), but Super 7 showcased some brand new prototypes, packaging, and exclusives this weekend.

Probably the best display featured the figures of the new Hellboy line.  These two-pack sets look great in person, and will likely become only more popular as we get closer to the release of the new Hellboy movie.  The Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins prototypes based on the classic arcade game were also fantastic, giving fans a look at the final pieces in the first series (back row) and the next series (front in grey) that’s underway.

Of course the next series of the original Super 7 ReAction line, Alien, looks great and the sculpts and packaging have only gotten better.  We’re going to need to pick up one of those Ripley’s the Jonesy the cat at a minimum.  And Kane after his attack in his spacesuit–Wow!

Below are photographs from the Super 7 booth featuring other figures from the ReAction line: the exclusive convention Universal Monsters, The Fiend and Alien exclusives, Masters of the Universe, and Robotech.

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With 3D imaging and new technologies arriving each year, one of the attractions that just seems to get overlooked is the statue market.  Sure, Sideshow, Gentle Giant, Weta, and several other companies offered up some incredible figurines at San Diego Comic-Con last weekend, and this year the Sideshow booth had so many new creations it seemed like an endless row after row any figure could get lost in.  Yet for the most part we’re seeing new versions of the same characters we saw last year and the year before.  So it’s more difficult for anything to knock your socks off.  It’s rarer to see someone come up with something new, and it’s the rare realization of a fresh idea with new 3D rendered sculpts that has become the real jaw dropper.

This year that surprise was the unannounced preview of a new series of high-end figures from Gentle Giant’s own brand, the Honey Trap Army A tongue-in-cheek throwback mashing the best of 1960s and 1970s design with the spy movie genre, the first series of four figures was a standout among collectible statue figures five years ago.  With the 2013 convention exclusive (discussed at borg.com here) Whisper character, Gentle Giant interpreted the 1960s James Bond–think Thunderball and Doctor No–and created a deep-sea diving superspy who could probably kill anyone with her harpoon 21 different ways.  Right with her, team member Katya was ready to take no prisoners with her trusty Doberman, Lucky was straight out of the Army special forces, and Derby was something else altogether.  With box art by Kevin Dart, we thought the Honey Trap Army was poised to best the G.I. Joe Adventure Team.  Like many a toy line–as many learned over the past year watching The Toys That Made Us on Netflix–the Honey Trap Army was an idea that went straight to the toy (in this case, a collectible) with no backstory, comic book, animated show, or movie tie-in.

So we were happily surprised to see last weekend at San Diego Comic-Con, overlooked by many, the next series of the Honey Trap Army.  It begins with the new British spy with the best spy name not created by Ian Fleming–Brexit, also known as Dani Mint.  She’s the explosives expert, and brings along the fight of Britannia.  She is joined by a new Russian spy with the simple moniker The Russian.  Don’t let her little dog distract you.  And the seventh member of the Honey Trap Army is Junior.  You can find Junior easily.  She’s driving race car number 88.

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