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Category: Con Culture


Never been to a comic book or pop culture convention before?  Always wanted to go to San Diego Comic-Con but you don’t have the vacation time available or the funds?  Planet Comicon is next weekend in Kansas City and although it isn’t as big as SDCC, it is a great way to get a complete three-day convention experience centrally located in the Midwest, ideal for a last-minute road trip for the family or a car full of friends.  It’s less than 8 hours by car from Dallas, less than 7 hours from Minneapolis, a little more than 7 hours from Indianapolis, and a little more than 8 hours from Denver.  And you don’t need to buy advance tickets–you can purchase them at the door.

So why make the trip?  How about meeting Jason Isaacs, the latest captain of a Star Trek television series and star of the Harry Potter movies (and great TV roles)?  Want to compare notes on Doctor Who companions with Catherine Tate (in her first U.S. convention appearance) and Billie Piper?   Want to talk Arrow and Torchwood with John Barrowman, or have another chance to meet Arrow star Stephen Amell?  Are you a Hellboy and Star Trek fan and haven’t yet met Ron Perlman?  It’s the Star Wars 40th anniversary–how about meeting the newest actor to portray Darth Vader, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story actor Spencer Wilding?

Are you a Browncoat? Firefly’s Summer Glau is scheduled to attend, and Supernatural’s Jim Beaver.  Do you want to talk 20 years of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Emma Caulfield?  Are you a fan of Lost Girl and need to get your fae fix with Anna Silk, Rachel Skarsten, Zoie Palmer, and Emmanuelle Vaugier?

Want to buy comics, books, or sketches from some of the best creators from across the country, like one of the all-time greats, Howard Chaykin, or Timothy Zahn, creator of the new novel Thrawn?  Click here to see everyone you can meet at Artist Alley.  Do you collect busts of superheroes and are missing some key characters?  Check out thousands of square feet of dealers selling everything from action figures to T-shirts to limited edition prints and toy lightsabers.  Whatever you collect, crazy or not, if it’s related to TV, movies or comics you’ll likely find something there.  And that’s just part of your day.  There will also be panels, and cosplay is always a highlight of the show.

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Centipede–It was one of the most addictive arcade and home video games in the first generation of video gaming.  Technically a “vertically-oriented fixed shooter arcade game,” it was designed by Ed Logg and Dona Bailey for Atari in 1980.  The player would defend against centipedes, spiders, scorpions and fleas, completing a round after eliminating all the segments of the centipede that winds its way down the screen.  Check out the video below from the Atari 2600 home version and you may remember it well, including the ever quickening, relentless impending beeps.

Co-creator Dona Bailey was one of the first women video game designers.  She intended for Centipede to appeal to female gamers, and it would become the second most popular coin-op arcade game behind Pac-Man for the demographic.

   

Dynamite Entertainment and Atari are releasing a new comic book series this summer based on the game.  Centipede #1 begins a tale of survival and vengeance, written by Max Bemis (Worst X-Man Ever, Foolkiller) and artist Eoin Marron (Sons of Anarchy: Redwood Original).  Dynamite reports the book will blend sci-fi, horror, and action to appeal to fans of Aliens, The Thing, and Predator: “When a terrifying creature from beyond the stars attacks his planet, protagonist Dale’s journey begins, but he is not out to save his world; it’s already much too late for that.  As the lone survivor, the only thing Dale wants is revenge.”

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Happy Easter!  Along with the Easter Bunny, how well do you know the famous rabbits of print and screen?  We thought we’d dig in and see what we found and a few dozen surfaced that you probably know, maybe don’t know, or might want to know.  Americans are raised knowing something about the Easter Bunny from year one.  Are any of these other rabbits even more famous?

We had a hard time finding a photo of one famous movie rabbit.  There he is–Harvey, from the 1950 movie co-starring Jimmy Stewart.

Everyone needs a painting in their home like that.

Since it’s Star Wars Celebration weekend, we won’t forget our favorite rogue rabbit, Jaxxon, from the Howard Chaykin and Roy Thomas 1970s Star Wars comic book series.  (That’s him at the top of this article).

We discussed another comic book rabbit only yesterday here at borg.com, Stan Sakai’s samurai from Usagi Yojimbo.

Usagi is a rabbit you want on your side.  But so is Judy Hopp.  She’s one great cop.

She’s the star of last year’s Academy Award winner for Best Animated Film, Zootopia.  And speaking of zoos, Judy would fit right in with this next guy.

That’s Captain Carrot, from Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew!, the 1980s DC Comics series.

Who could be cuter than Thumper, the rabbit from the 1942 Disney movie, Bambi?

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Perhaps it is in part because of the influence of Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, but it looks like finally, after decades of 100 male Star Wars action figures for every one female figure for kids to play with, times may be changing.  It was sad for two generations of girls–and boys–that you could quickly list all the named women characters of Star Wars, both from the original trilogy: Leia, Aunt Beru, and Mon Mothma, and only a few more with the prequels: Padme, Shmi, Adi Gallia, Zam Wesell, Dorme–and Beru again–with even fewer made into toys that would allow kids to see themselves in Star Wars characters.  Disney was surprisingly slow to integrate Daisy Ridley’s Rey into all the various toy lines early last year, but recent announcements indicate the franchise is trying to catch up.  A new line of 11-inch format dolls from Hasbro looks to be a step in the right direction.

One of this weekend’s Star Wars Celebration 2017 announcements is Disney and Lucasfilm’s Forces of Destiny, a series of animated shorts highlighting the heroism of the women of Star Wars.  Although it would seem adding the women of Star Wars to each of the other toy lines in the franchise also makes sense, Forces of Destiny attempts to bridge action figures and the traditional Barbie-type 11-inch doll.  The release announcing the new doll line made clear that these toys aren’t about make-up, mirrors, and dresses.   “Star Wars Forces of Destiny is for anyone who has been inspired by Leia’s heroism, Rey’s courage or Ahsoka’s tenacity,” said Kennedy.

The toy line is also taking a cue from a successful G.I. Joe toy series, calling the toys “Adventure Dolls,” which will feature hands that can hold weapons and feet that aren’t pointed like traditional dolls (that were intended to allow for high heels).  The Forces of Destiny dolls will be anchored by a web series of animated features in July, followed by an eight-part series on the Disney Channel this Fall that will include the voices of the actual Star Wars film actresses, including Daisy Ridley (The Force Awakens’ Rey), Felicity Jones (Rogue One’s Jyn Erso), Tiya Sircar (Star Wars Rebels’ Sabine), Ashley Eckstein (Star Wars Rebels’ Ahsoka) with narration by Lupita Nyong’o (The Force Awakens’ Maz Kanata).

Here is a preview for the new Star Wars Forces of Destiny:

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Announced at this year’s Toy Fair Funko’s new line of Batman action figures from the 1966 TV series will be making their way to stores this summer with Entertainment Earth beginning to take pre-orders now.  These figures are from Funko’s classic Kenner-style retro line, the perfect styling for the campy show.

The best in the line is this showcase set featuring the Batmobile, boxed with the Batman and Robin figures:

Pre-order the Batmobile set now here.  The line also includes Batgirl in Yvonne Craig’s purple costume (above), plus Catwoman (played in the series by Eartha Kitt, Julie Newmar, and Lee Meriwether), two Mr. Freeze versions (played in the series by George Sanders, Otto Preminger, and Eli Wallach), King Tut (played by Victor Buono), and Bookworm (Roddy McDowell).

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Star Wars Celebration 2017 is almost here.  This year the convention will take place in Orlando, Florida, April 13-16 at the Orange County Convention Center.  Hundreds of exclusive licensed collectibles will be available at this year’s show in light of the franchise’s 40th anniversary celebration.  But Gentle Giant wins the nostalgia award for its choice of throwback exclusive ideas–a reproduction of the Dianoga from the 1978 Star Wars Death Star Space Station playset in a jumbo format.

First unveiled at the Gentle Giant booth at San Diego Comic-Con in 2010, the toy company began to re-create the original line of 3 3/4 Star Wars Kenner action figures in the size of the original large-sized action figures–about 12 inches tall.  The company releases limited numbers of each figure with card backs and packaging reflecting the style of the originals.  The company creates the jumbo figures from digital scans of the small figures.  So if you fondly remember your first figure was C-3PO, you could purchase a giant version of the figure to display, or play with, at home.  We at borg.com awarded Gentle Giant’s prototype, rocket-firing jumbo Boba Fett the best action figure release of the year here back in 2013.

So taking the first Star Wars creature toy ever released and offering it again in this anniversary year is inspired.  The Dianoga was the only included figure in any of the regular release original Star Wars playsets–all others had to have been purchased separately (the only other “monster” from the movie to be made into a toy in the early years after Star Wars would be the Dewback).  The Dianoga came with its own “garbage”–three sheets of yellow, blue, and white Styrofoam broken into bits, to soften the fall of Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewbacca from their famous fall into the trash compactor.  Gentle Giant advertises this new exclusive release, too, will include foam garbage.

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By Art Schmidt

Dungeons and Dragons has long been the most famous and widely-enjoyed of all fantasy role-playing games (RPGs), and for good reason; the various folks who have been behind the brand for the last forty-some-odd years have been putting out quality adventures that capture the imagination and set the standard for RPG campaigns.  From Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson to Tom Moldvay and Dave “Zeb” Cook,  Frank Mentzer, Lawrence Schick, Tracy Hickman, Bruce Cordell and countless others, they all knew one thing: that while the rules are necessary to provide a common framework for play, it’s the adventures that capture the imagination and draw the player into the story.  A good adventure is like a delightful story shared among friends; it entertains while you are lost inside it, and it sticks with you afterward.

Every six months for the past three years, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) has published a thick hardcover campaign book containing an over-arching storyline full of locations, quests, monsters and exotic treasures have which provided players and their dungeon master with countless hours of excitement and enjoyment.  The first was the two-book Tyranny of Dragons campaign, or “storyline” as the publisher calls it, taking player characters from lowly first-level nobodies and allowing them build up through a series of interlocked adventurers into the world’s most formidable heroes.  Then the story pitted those heroes against a five-headed dragon god named Tiamat in a bid to save their world from enslavement and darkness.  Exciting stuff!

Subsequent storylines have followed the same basic formulae, although in vastly different and colorful ways; one storyline pitted the players against elemental cultists bent on (you guessed it) taking over the world, another trapped the heroes deep beneath the earth in subterranean labyrinths in a quest to not only escape the Underdark, but also save the world in the process (of course).  Yet another whisked the heroes away to another dimension ruled by a dark lord, a vampire rivaling Count Dracula in his evil power, and the heroes had to defeat their undead overlord in order to escape.

The last storyline involved rampaging giants wreaking havoc and destruction across the countryside in a bid to rule their kind, and all of the little folk in the process.  Again, players created neophyte adventurers and ran them through a sandbox world full of colorful peoples, quests both simple and majestic, nasty monstrosities and wondrous treasures, bastions of light and dungeons full of darkness, all in an effort to save the world from giant rule.

But not really.  Sure, saving the world is the main goal of the characters in the story, and that’s all well and good.  I don’t know many fantasy novels where the heroes spend three hundred-plus pages saving a kitten from a tree, or ordering takeout, or trying to find the best deal on car insurance.  Saving the world is a noble goal, and will likely be the objective of story-driven fiction for the foreseeable future.  But the objective of an RPG adventure is, first and foremost, to have fun!  This is the main goal of the players, and anything the characters happen to accomplish along the way is just plain gravy.

In addition, the previous storylines all so far have lacked one thing which long-time players have been craving; a big, fat, old-timey dungeon crawl.  Sure, there have been dungeons in some parts of the previous five storyline campaigns, but none really more than a small section of the overall adventure.  After all, dungeon-crawling doesn’t easily lend itself to a big, wide-world-saving tale.  It’s fun and all, but saving the world often requires traversing it to different locales and interacting with the folks of said world which you are striving to save, most of which are above ground.  But still, the call persists.  “Dungeon Crawl, guys!”

NOTE: Yes, the forth storyline “Out of the Abyss” was essentially one huge dungeon crawl, in that the entirety of the adventure took place underground in the “Underdark.”  But really, that wasn’t one big dungeon, it was a world unto itself, beneath the earth, and had very few traditional “dungeons” in it.

So it comes as no surprise that the folks at WotC might be looking to put together a campaign hardcover that maybe, just possibly, doesn’t have an over-arching storyline quest to save the world.  Who would have thunk it?  But that’s just what they’ve gone and done.

Tales from the Yawning Portal is the sixth of the storylines in the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons campaign books, and it is the first to leave out the “storyline” part in favor of providing DMs and their players with seven updated classic dungeon crawls for their enjoyment.  And these are some of the most famous adventures ever written for the game.

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The International Space Station’s Expedition 50, discussed previously here at borg.com, is readying for the 199th spacewalk in support of ISS activities this morning, to be televised at 7 a.m. Central.  It will be the eighth spacewalk for Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson, who will surpass NASA astronaut Suni Williams for completing the most spacewalks by a woman in the history of space travel.  At age 56, Whitson is the oldest woman to fly in space.  Stacking up some impressive space travel records, she is scheduled to command Expedition 51 later this year, which will make her the first woman to command two ISS expeditions.  By the end of her stint on ISS this year, Whitson will have spent more time in space than any other U.S. Astronaut–male or female–to surpass the record of 534 days set by Astronaut Jeff Williams.  Whitson is a biochemist from Mt. Ayr, Iowa.

This past weekend the ISS robotically moved the Pressurized Mating Adapter-3 (PMA-3)–a pressurized interface between the station modules and the docking adapter–between modules.  In what is scheduled as a 6 hour and 30 minutes spacewalk Whitson and Expedition Commander Shane Kimbrough will manually reconnect cables and electronics and install the second of two upgraded computer relay boxes on the ISS’s truss and install shields and covers on PMA-3 and the unused module port.

NASA’s most experienced female astronaut, Whitson has been onboard ISS since November 2016.  This is her third space flight.  Her first flight was in 2002 as a member of the crew of Expedition 5.  In 2007 on her second flight she became the first woman flight commander, leading Expedition 16.  Whitson had previously been tied with Suni Williams for an earlier spacewalk record that Whitson had also surpassed.  Whitson continues to expand extravehicular activity (EVA) duration records.

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As Rock and Roll is concerned, there was no one bigger than Chuck Berry–no one that more great musicians credited with their own successes, and no one more synonymous with the music multiple generations think of when they hear a singer holding a guitar leading a band with a lively, loud, and fast rhythm, bending guitar strings and blending styles, as well as the very image of the brash, cocky headliner across the world today we know simply as the “rock star”.  Berry passed away this weekend at the age of 90.  Unforgettable hits Johnny B. Goode, Maybelline, No Particular Place To Go, Roll Over Beethoven, My Ding-a-Ling, My Tambourine, and Sweet Little Sixteen only highlight his long career.

Even modern generations know his name thanks to a joke in Back to the Future, where Michael J. Fox plays his trademark song Johnny B. Goode with a band that happens to include a fictional cousin of Chuck Berry named Marvin.  The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys all incorporated elements from Berry’s music, including covering his songs.  John Lennon said of Berry, “If you tried to give rock ‘n’ roll another name, you might have called it Chuck Berry.”  Berry never stopped performing.  Only five years ago Berry performed Johnny B. Goode at a concert in his honor with modern legends including fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Darryl McDaniels from Run DMC.  And a new album was in the works.

Chuck Berry with Carl Sagan at a concert commemorating the Voyager accomplishments.

NASA and outer space enthusiasts will remember that Chuck Berry performing Johnny B. Goode is one of only two modern American songs included on the Voyager space probe golden records, which we’ve discussed before here at borg.com.  The Voyager missions are celebrating their 40th year in space in 2017.  The selection of music was made by Carl Sagan and the small team that collected music and images for the records (the complete playlist is listed here).  By our count this leaves only one remaining living performer whose music was featured on the albums: Valya Balkanska, a Bulgarian folk singer whose song “Izlel je Delyo Hagdutin,” was included on the golden records.  Balkanska is 75 years old, and performed the song for the album at age 30.

Where are the Voyager space probes, and Chuck Berry’s historic albums, now?

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You still have 12 days to get in on what has become a fully funded Kickstarter campaign for a new tabletop roleplaying game.  Half wargame, half tactics game, The Terminator: The Official Board Game is an asymmetrical strategy game in the making for 2-5 players played across two game boards: one in 1984 and one in 2029.  It’s all based on the original 1984 science fiction classic, James Cameron film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

One player takes control of all of Skynet’s forces, including Hunter Killer machines and Terminator cyborgs.  The rest of the players take the role of the human resistance, like Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese, struggling against the impossible odds of the machine uprising.  Each of the two game boards play differently: 2029 focuses on light troop and resource management in a lopsided battle for dominance.  1984 focuses on personal missions with high stakes and intense pacing.  Missions arise through the course of gameplay, and have players make decisions in 1984 that will affect the future, erasing and adding components in real time.  You can download and try your own paper version of the game now, including game boards, game cards, tokens, and rules at this link.  Take a look at a full half hour video of gameplay below.

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In well under a month since the Kickstarter began, the crowd-funding campaign was full funded.  A wide variety of game purchase options remain available, as well as great perks for donors.  Check out all the options at the The Terminator: The Official Board Game here.

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