Advertisements

Tag Archive: cyborgs


 

Review by C.J. Bunce

Let’s take a trip back 33 years ago to a galaxy not all that far away.  It was my very first issue of the only comic book I ever subscribed to.  It was the end of the school year in 1986 and at last I took the plunge to send in a check to start getting a comic in the mail.  My first issue?  Star Wars #107, which contained a note from Marvel Comics stating that this was to be the final issue and I was going to be sent something instead going forward from a new universe of comics Marvel was starting called… New Universe.  In the days before the Internet or anyone to call to say “what?” I was then sent eleven monthly issues of Star Brand.  Not quite Star Wars, each issue reminded me of what I was not getting.  I was a fan of the Star Wars comic book (issued as Star Wars Weekly in the UK) since receiving my first ever comic as a giveaway when my mom took me to my local library’s Star Wars Day right before Christmas 1977.  The series would introduce me to a roster of creators (many I’d later meet in person) including Roy Thomas, Howard Chaykin, Steve Leialoha, Rick Hoberg, Archie Goodwin, Donald F. Glut, Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, John Byrne, Michael Golden, Chris Claremont, Herb Trimpe, Al Williamson, Tom Palmer, David Michelinie, Klaus Janson, Ann Nocenti, Jan Duursema, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Walt Simonson.  I read every issue up to Issue #107.

The big surprise?  That original Star Wars series became everyone’s first encounter with the word BORG.  It’s probably the first ever use of those four letters to describe a cybernetic organism, and it was spoken by none other than Luke Skywalker in reference to Valance, The Hunter way back in 1978.  We would learn Valance was a borg who killed borgs, and he became an inaugural inductee here at borg in our borg Hall of Fame, and part of my opening dialogue with borg readers eight years ago here.  This year, through the miracle of an idea worthy of a light bulb floating over your head, Marvel Comics introduced for its ongoing 80th anniversary celebration something I’ve never seen done before: a single, new, numbered issue continuing a series canceled as far back as 33 years ago.  The issue is Star Wars, Issue #108–it’s fantastic and available at local comic shops everywhere now.

 

Providing a chapter by chapter sequel not to Issue #107 of the vintage series, but to the Issue #50 story “Crimson Forever,” Matthew Rosenberg is the writer on the new Issue #108 titled “Forever Crimson,” and along with Valance we again meet some of our favorite characters of the entire Star Wars universe who we haven’t seen in decades:  the villainous Domina Tagge (remember Baron Tagge?), the stylin’ Amaiza Foxtrain, the memorable telepathic hoojib and the red Zeltrons, and best of all, Jaxxon the bounty hunter rabbit, who we last saw on a special variant edition copy of Marvel’s reboot Star Wars, Issue #1.  Plus all the stars of the series we all know and love.  As for the artists, Jan Duursema returns to the series for this one-shot issue, along with Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, Andrea Broccardo, Kerry Gammill, Ze Carlos, Stefano Landini, Luke Ross, and Leonard Kirk, with colors by Chris Sotomayor, and lettering by Clayton Cowles.  The result is everything you could want in a Star Wars comic.  It’s the kind of purely fun story that would make a great monthly even today.  If only they continued this story in an ongoing series!

Continue reading

Advertisements

In the battle between kung-fu grip and the bionic eye, will life-like hair or better, stronger, and faster prevail?

We first previewed this crossover series here at borg back in February 2018.  Now the adventure series is available in a trade/graphic novel edition.  It’s a story that has been played out millions of times in the backyards of kids who grew up with both G.I. Joe and The Six Million Dollar Man.  It’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero vs. The Six Million Dollar Man, last year’s crossover series from IDW Publishing and Dynamite.  Is this merely a crossover or also a team-up?  You’ll have to read it to find out, and you won’t want to miss it.  The villain is COBRA, and that infamous G.I. Joe threat and organization of evil has hacked Steve Austin’s cyborg circuitry to become a tool against Team Joe.

So it’s Colonel Steve Austin, COBRA Commander, Storm Shadow, Baroness, Zartan, and Major Bludd against Hawk, Scarlett, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Snake Eyes, Lady Jaye, Roadblock, and Ace.  But the good guys have more than one ace up their sleeve, as they introduce one of our favorite borgs, borg Hall of Famer, Mike Power, The Atomic Man.  Finally–a face-off between The Six Million Dollar Man and The Atomic Man!

This is as much about toys as comic book characters.  Pitting the famous 1960s-70s 12-inch tall Hasbro “fighting man” G.I. Joe team (or small-scale figures, or animated series, if you prefer) with Adventure Team member (and second cyborg hero) Mike Power against the first cyborg Steve Austin–who appeared on millions of TV sets and produced one of the best selling 12-inch action figures of all time.  This was a fantasy played out in living rooms and sandboxes all over.  Technically this story isn’t the G.I. Joe of the 1970s, but the reboot universe Joes from the 1980s–the animated series, the mini-figures, and beyond.

As recounted in the recent Netflix series The Toys That Made Us, G.I. Joe began as an action figure line in 1963 to fill an untapped niche for boys alongside Barbie for girls. The Six Million Dollar Man began in 1972 as the hero of Martin Caidin′s novel Cyborg (previously reviewed here at borg), and was adapted two years later into a four-season television series starring Lee Majors.  Cyborg Mike Power, The Atomic Man, was Hasbro’s response to the popularity of the Bionic Man on TV.

For anyone not following G.I. Joes in the 1970s, here is the original comic page meet-up and origin story with Major Mike Power and G.I. Joe:

The original Mike Power had a cybernetic “atomic” right arm and left leg.  The new iteration of the character has prosthetics on both legs.

Here is a preview of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero vs. The Six Million Dollar Man:

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

A behind the scenes book for a 2019 movie, which consists of a third or more of its images from 2005?  As fascinating as the special effects developed for the film, the history of the movie merits its own book, and it gets it in Abbie Bernstein‘s Alita: Battle Angel–The Art and Making of the Movie, now out from Titan Books.  It turns out executive producer James Cameron and artists were working on the pre-production of Alita: Battle Angel during the development of his film Avatar.  According to interviews with Cameron and Alita director Robert Rodriguez, in the early 2000s the technology was not yet advanced to deliver what they wanted for their adaptation of Yukito Kishiro’s manga novel.  But now that it’s arrived, fans of the film can trace its development over the past 15 years.

Alita: Battle Angel–The Art and Making of the Movie is filled with concept art, split between 2005 digital ideas in advance of knowing what actors might be cast and final characters developed, and a renewed look at the project as it began to get fully underway only a few years ago.  Key interviews with Rodriguez, Cameron, producer Jon Landau, production designers Caylah Eddleblute and Steve Joyner, art director Todd Holland, visual effects supervisors Richard Hollander and Eric Saindon, costume designer Nina Proctor, Weta Digital’s Joe Letteri, and others tell the story–a marriage of practical effects and CGI.  In fact the commenters almost seem to have a battle between those responsible between the practical effects and CGI–all with an eye toward realism.  The most interesting aspects of the discussion are the incorporation of Alita star Rosa Salazar’s motion capture (or per Rodriguez, “performance capture” since motion doesn’t include the “emotion” element required to make a story come together) with Proctor’s real-world costumes, and the CGI layering that ends up as the final image that made it to the screen.

No doubt a highlight of the film and of the book are detailed images of Alita’s cyborg body shell, as created by the character of Dr. Ido in the film.  In real life it looks incredibly porcelain, but the artists discuss how the body and all the components of the film were actually fabricated.  The commenters don’t reference their inspirations for the look of the Iron City in the film or its cyborg inhabitants, but fans of the genre will no doubt see the influences–from the borg designs to story elements–from films including Chappie, Elysium, District 9, Ex Machina, Ghost in the Shell, Mad Max: Fury Road, Cameron’s The Terminator, and even the light cycles of Tron.  Readers will learn more about the science behind the cyborgs in the film–how Cameron and others estimated weights of body parts, including Alita’s removable metal heart, as an example–all needed for 3D and CGI work and viewer believability.

Take a look inside Alita: Battle Angel–The Art and Making of the Movie courtesy of the publisher:

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

Alita: Battle Angela could be just another space-age story.  It’s full of cyborgs (we love’ em), but it’s not standard fare for frequent sci-fi movie buffs and sci-fi readers.  Without the “distraction” of Robert Rodriguez’s special effects, you can really get to the heart of the movie’s story by going to the underlying source work it adapts, or in this case, its novelization, Alita: Battle Angel–The Official Novelization, by author Pat Cadigan, who also wrote last year’s Harley Quinn–Mad Love, reviewed here at borg.  The film is an adaptation of the manga Battle Angel: Alita by Yukito Kishiro, a story about self-discovery and empowerment via a centuries-old human brain that finds its way into the cybernetic body of what looks like a teen girl.  The film changes enough from the manga, incorporating several new characters and conflicts, that the novelization and film stand apart from Kishiro’s manga.  So how does the new story fare?

Above all, the biggest surprise is that Alita: Battle Angel–The Official Novelization is in every way a young adult novel, based on its protagonist, story structure, and the author’s writing style.  In fact the film may have missed a niche audience–as the studio targeted adult sci-fi buffs instead of fans of stories like the Divergent series, Twilight, The Maze Runner series, City of Ember, and Ender‘s GameEven more on-point, Alita: Battle Angel follows the same emotional highs and lows of The Hunger Games.  Both The Hunger Games and Alita: Battle Angel are teen heroine updates to both Rollerball (1975) and The Running Man (1987), but like some of the best science fiction they are also remakes of the oldest of them all, Frankenstein, and its descendant PinocchioBlend these four popular stories together and you can understand why James Cameron prepared 600 pages of development material for the Alita project he would ultimately produce into the film.

Pat Cadigan‘s storytelling is a mirror of the writing style and pacing of The Hunger Games’ novel writer, Suzanne Collins.  In a significant way, Alita: Battle Angel is a teen romance, a romance between Alita–an amnesiac cyborg who is primarily robotic but has a human brain–and her newfound human boyfriend Hugo.  Hugo is a street kid who helps her learn who she wants to be and how to survive on the streets of a futuristic Earth where everyone who isn’t a cyborg is mugging cyborgs to steal their parts and swap them for cash.  As with Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games, Alita and Hugo fall in love as they help each other and work together when faced with an onslaught of ever-increasing impediments to their survival.  And yes, this is another superheroine with a problem like the heroine in the new Captain Marvel movie.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

We have a review of the first of three tie-in books to the new Robert Rodriguez film Alita: Battle Angel coming your way.  Alita: Battle Angel should appeal to any fan of cyborgs–the story as envisioned by James Cameron was a pet project of the director for several years, one he’d picked up from Guillermo del Toro.  When Cameron decided to pursue management of his several Avatar sequels directly and finally handed over the project to Rodriguez he did so with more than 600 pages of notes he’d prepared.  The film is an adaptation of the manga Battle Angel: Alita by Yukito Kishiro, a story about self-discovery and empowerment via a centuries-old human brain that finds its way into the cybernetic body of a young girl.  A part-time doctor, part-time bounty hunter, Doctor Ido, played in the film by two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz, takes center stage in Alita: Battle Angel–Doctor Ido’s Journal, the new release by writer Nick Aires for Titan Books.

After losing his human daughter’s struggle to live, the Dr. Frankenstein-inspired Dr. Ido finds the “core” of a cyborg in a scrapyard with a surviving, living human brain.  He uses the prosthetics and futuristic body parts he’d designed for his daughter to rebuild a new girl, quasi-Pinocchio style, naming her Alita after his daughter.  The sci-fi story follows Alita as she tries to learn about her past and survive in a dystopian world that mixes inspirations from John Carpenter, Ridley Scott, Neill Blomkamp, and George Miller.  The visions of each of these directors’ best futuristic films comes through in Doctor Ido’s Journal, an in-universe document which reprints concept art, sketches, and photographs from the film, combining them with a diary entry narrative written by Aires in the place of Dr. Ido.  Doctor Ido’s Journal will be familiar to fans of Aires’ past in-universe books, including Oliver Queen’s Dossier, S.T.A.R. Labs: Cisco Ramon’s Journal, and Arrow: Heroes and Villains and works by others reviewed here, including Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report, The Book of Alien: Augmented Reality Survival Manual, and the Batman v Superman Tech ManualFans will first find a cleverly designed flex-cover that mimics metal (a great design effect that would make for an attractive blank journal), followed by pages of dense notebook entries that track the action of the film, all from Dr. Ido’s perspective.

The artwork is exceptional, vivid engineering-level drawings like those found in Mark Salisbury’s Elysium: The Art of the Film, reviewed here at borg, and the combination of horror and beauty found in production artists Dan Hallett and Matt Hatton’s elaborate designs in Alien: Covenant: David’s Drawings, reviewed here (it’s worth noting the Weta Digital created much of the designs for both Alita: Battle Angel and Elysium, and the similarly realized scrap-metal worlds of Blomkamp’s District 9 and CHAPPIE).  At times the gear-heavy animatronics inside the cyborgs echo the real-world 19th century automaton past of these creations, making these modern borgs into something that feels almost steampunk.

Here are some preview pages from Alita: Battle Angel–Doctor Ido’s Journal courtesy of the publisher:

Continue reading

The fate of mankind is in Jackie Chan’s hands.  Sci-fi style.

Jackie Chan has done it all, with his martial arts prowess and renowned stunt team he’s raced cars (Thunder Bolt, The Cannonball Run), survived fantasy and supernatural perils (The Medallion, Chinese Zodiac), been a gunfighter in the Old West (Shanghai Noon), played twins (Twin Dragons), survived partnering with Chris Tucker three times (Rush Hour 1-3, with another sequel in the works), and he’s portrayed revered mentors of the past (The Karate Kid) and modern cops (The Protector, Police Story, Super Cop).  He’s fought in the streets (Rumble in the Bronx), played a spy (The Tuxedo, The Accidental Spy), and even defeated James Bond (or close enough, in last year’s The Foreigner).  But Jackie Chan as hero in outer space?

Sixty-three-year-old international action star Chan is taking on new territory as a special agent in a futuristic vision with space ships and Frankensteinian sci-fi villains in the summer action flick, Bleeding Steel.  Clearly nothing can stop the actor, considering the harrowing stunts in the new movie trailer.  He’s holding his own (and maybe even better) compared to his action star contemporaries Bruce Willis (also 63), Arnold Schwarzenegger (71), and Sylvester Stallone (72).  The trailer for the movie looks to be equal parts Judge Dredd and revenge tale, with Chan back in the protector role again.  The costumes and mash-up of the current world and future Earth of Bleeding Steel has a 1970s B-movie sci-fi look complete with Star Wars, Star Trek, and Doctor Who-inspired costumes and cyborgs.

Bleeding Steel is notable as the biggest budget Chinese movie release ever filmed in Australia, premiering in China late last year. The success of this film in China plus three other films since 2016 starring Chan resulted in more than $500 million U.S. dollars for that nation’s box office.

Check out this trailer for Jackie Chan’s first sci-fi movie, Bleeding Steel:

Continue reading

Reboot.  Recharge.  Rebel.

Next week the Synths return in AMC’s Humans, the series we pegged as last year’s best look at life living with and as a borg.  Humans is back for its third season with its season premiere Tuesday.  When we last left Humans, Lucy Carless’s Mattie Hawkins had uploaded the software to free the Synths–those very human-looking and acting cyborg servants.  Season 3 begins a year later–a year after all the Synths became fully conscious.  Since then life in British society has become strained as the oppressed Synth population fights to survive in a world that hates and fears them.

Similar to iZombie’s shift last season from a normal world to a world living side-by-side with zombies both at peace and at war, the Synths of Season 3 have their own community of outsiders split in two: The original green-eyed Synths are the rogues, not content with their second-tier status, and the new Series 11 “Orange Eyes” are the new, safe, properly configured and upgraded Synths.

The Synth family of Mia (Gemma Chan), Niska (Emily Berrington) and Max (Ivanno Jeremiah) return, continuing to battle for their right to survival,  The rest of the Hawkins family is back, too, with Mattie’s parents Laura (Katherine Parkinson) and Joe (Tom Goodman-Hill) separated because of their divergent views of the Synths, and Mattie’s siblings Toby (Theo Stevenson) and Sophie (Pixie Davies) dealing with the upheavals all around them.

Here is a preview for Season 3 of AMC’s Humans:

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

Bradley W. Schenck’s sci-fi-meets-retro novel Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom: A Novel of Retropolis, was our favorite read of 2017.  Schenck created a unique story within a world we’ve never seen before, a world only hinted at in early 20th century pop culture, early pulp novels, and film.  For fans of classic sci-fi and all things retro, Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom handled science fiction futurism like rarely seen before.  With the same imagination and fun, Schenck is back again in Retropolis with a new book of short stories, Patently Absurd: The Files of the Retropolis Registry of PatentsAll but one of the stories were originally published in 2016 and 2017 in Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, and the new story ties together the other stories in the volume, which all really read like a single narrative with clever titles to the chapters.  As with last year’s novel, it’s all great fun and smartly written.

Readers again revisit Retropolis’s day-to-day, the mundane, and the ordinary, in an uncertain world of tomorrow where nothing could possibly be mundane or ordinary, but this time Schenck hones in on one segment of the city, the Registry of Patents and new heroes of the office: Ben Bowman, investigator of patents, and secretary to the Registrar, Violet the humanoid robot.  Ben does not have aspirations of greatness, he’s content to do his job, but Violet is a robot who knows she was built to be an investigator.  The problem is that she’s gone through more than 14 bosses now–the Registrars–and still hasn’t been promoted.  Is it because they leave each other notes in the locked safe in the Registrar’s office about Violet?  And is it possible the office keeps losing Registrars because Violet is working her way through them?  Nah.

Big, bright, and detailed, like Tron, Logan’s Run, Walt Disney’s vision of Tomorrowland, a bit Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, a larger dose of Metropolis, and an equal dose of Office Space and The Office–readers won’t find anything like Scheck’s world elsewhere.  The final story in the volume, “The Enigma of the Unseen Doctor,” is as compelling, rich, and poignant as any other master of science fiction’s take on what it’s like to be a robot.  Scheck turns the tables as we meet a robot with compassion for what it’s like to be human.  Patently Absurd provides the next step in science fiction’s investigation of the soul.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

YouTube attempts to crack down on misinformation and conspiracy

Facebook officer reportedly leaving over misinformation dispute

The headlines this week speak for themselves–the time seems right for a new understanding of misinformation.  The subject has been written about before and from different angles, and author and journalist Rex Sorgatz includes dozens of references to those previous books that inspired his new treatise.  Part An Incomplete Education, part In Search Of…, part Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader, a new book coming from Abrams Image is also a useful Guide to Living in the Modern World.  It’s The Encyclopedia of Misinformation: A Compendium of Imitations, Spoofs, Delusions, Simulations, Counterfeits, Impostors, Illusions, Confabulations, Skullduggery, Frauds, Pseudoscience, Propaganda, Hoaxes, Flimflam, Pranks, Hornswoggle, Conspiracies & Miscellaneous Fakery.  It’s a smart, compelling mix of information you would find in updates and appendices to college textbooks on advertising, public relations, psychology, criminology, politics, journalism, futurism, and current affairs, with a dose of pseudoscience and other quackery.

For most, The Encyclopedia of Misinformation will get readers caught up on what everyone else has been talking about, or in some places, defining a thing you already know with a succinct word or phrase.  The author puts his own spin on nearly 300 concepts–some terms may be familiar, some newer ideas may be defined with more recent turns of phrase.  Sorgatz discusses many more concepts than the core defined terms as he fleshes out each alphabetized key word.  Happily for any reader, this book does not read like an actual encyclopedia.  Instead Sorgatz interconnects concepts with a series of visual hotlinks that aren’t really links (it’s a printed book, after all), including citations to words not specifically defined in the book.  But it’s very clear that were a reader to read the book cover to cover and actually look up all the linked terms he/she doesn’t know already, that reader would be pretty caught up with current affairs.  Although the author suggests bouncing around and reading whatever seems interesting, The Encyclopedia of Misinformation is one of those indispensable, unputdownable non-fiction books that easily can be read straight through in two or three sittings.

So this book’s for you if you don’t know alien space bats, that an auto-tune has nothing to do with the radio, that canned heat isn’t hot, the difference between modern catfish and Chilean sea bass, who was or still is Tony Clifton, if you can’t tell a cryptid from capgras, what’s a deep state and how you doublethink, that false flags and foreign branding are not the stuff of international relations, the difference between a honeypot and a honey trap, that lorem ipsem is not Latin, if you don’t know the Mandela effect and are concerned you haven’t visited the moirologist lately, what’s a noddy and what’s a nonce, what the heck is pareidolia, plandids, and retconning, sampuru and simulism, or why you should know Zardulu.  Do you want to know how a fake band beat Dylan, Aretha, Elvis, Jagger, Bowie, Iggy, Janis, McCartney, and Lennon for the biggest hit of 1969?  How can the author explain the inclusion of cyborgs and cosplay as misinformation terms?

Continue reading