A Tribute to Hans Ruedi Giger

Hans_GigerLast month, the Swiss surrealists Hans Ruedi Giger – a painter, sculptor, set designer, and the Academy Award winning visual effects master who brought the world the Alien – died at the age of 74 in Zürich, Switzerland. After suffering injuries he sustained in a fall, the man who mined his own nightmares in creating phantasmagorical works finally passed away on Monday, May 12th, and leaves behind a robust legacy of inspiring people’s imaginations and striking fear into their hearts.

Describing his friend, American psychologist and psychedelic writer Timothy Leary was quoted as having praised the artist by saying:

Giger’s work disturbs us, spooks us, because of its enormous evolutionary time span. It shows us, all too clearly, where we come from and where we are going.

And though he is well known within the artist community for his ability to turn nightmarish visions into works of art, some of which were oddly sexual, it is his contributions to the movie industry and science fiction franchise that are arguably the most well known. As the man who created the title character of the 1979 horror sci-fi classic Alien, he and the film’s visuel effects team won an Academy Award and spawned a genre that would have enduring influence.

SpaceJockeyIn addition to personally designing the Alien through all stages of its life – from egg to eight-foot tall monster – he was also responsible for the design of the Derelict (aka. the Space Jockey/Engineer spaceship) and the Space Jockey/Engineer itself. While some would describe these as “surrealist” or “Lovecraftian” in design, Giger preferred to call his art “biomechanics”, with its subjects often appearing to be hybrid creatures that had bodies that melded the organic with mechanical parts.

Nowhere was this more clear than with the design of the Alien itself. Combining elements of biology, technology, skewed sexuality and nightmarish visions into its design, it was this creation itself that the entire movie was built around. In fact, screenwriter Dan O’Bannon began crafting the script for the movie with neither a story idea nor a hero protagonist in mind. All he wanted was the sense of fear that came from more and more revealing glimpses of Giger’s creation.

Original alien concept, entitled Necronomicon IV
Original alien concept, entitled Necronomicon IV

And after seeing Giger’s first book, “Necronomicon” – a collection that was published in 1977 and named in honor of H.P. Lovecraft’s fictional grimoire of the same name –   Director Ridley Scott immediately decided to hire Giger, who began producing artwork and conceptual designs that were essentially refinements of the work found in his dark collection. As Mr. Scott would later say of this fateful decision: “I’d never been so certain about anything in all my life.”

The end result was a huge and harrowing success, with the setting of the Derelict ship providing a sense of awe and wonder, not to mention foreshadowing the sense of terror and darkness that would follow. And combined with O’Bannon’s vision and Scott’s cinematography, the brief glimpses we get of this ancient and dark looking creature only help to augment the sense of terror and claustrophobia that would come from being trapped aboard a spaceship with it.

HR Giger's concept for a Sandworm of Dune
HR Giger’s concept for a Sandworm of Dune

He would also collaborate on many other films of the horror and sci-fi genre. These include designs for the unproduced Alejandro Jodorowsky adaptation of Dune, which would later be made by David Lynch. Other examples include Poltergeist II: The Other Side, Killer Condom, Species, Future-Kill, and Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis. Unfortunately, for all concerned, one movie he collaborated on  would ultiamtely reject his design – the updated Batmobile for the Batman Forever movie (picture below).

Beyond his work on the Alien franchise – which included designs for Alien 3, Alien: Resurrection and Prometheus – Mr. Giger published around 20 books of art, and his works were exhibited in Paris, Prague and New York. He also created many album covers, including one for the singer Debbie Harry’s 1981 album, “Koo Koo”, Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s 1973 album, “Brain Salad Surgery,” and a poster titled “Penis Landscape” for inclusion in an album by the punk band Dead Kennedys.

Batmobile concept
Giger’s Batmobile. Tell me it’s not better than the one we saw in Batman Forever!

And over at deviantART, artist techgnotic has arranged a tribute to the artist that embraces the many personal tributes that this art community have made toward the late Giger. Describing Giger’s enduring legacy, techgnotic says that:

Giger was a touchstone artist for those in the 70s & 80s who sought to shake up the establishment with a walk on the wild side. Today he is thought of by many artists as being one of the exemplars of letting the mind go free—to explore either the light or the darkness—and be fearless in sharing what was found there in one’s art. His art might be considered “safe” today, but he was a real inspiration to many of today’s artists.

And as he puts it in the prologue: “He was an artist you might not know. But you’ve met his children…” Be sure to go and check it out, as it does a very good job summarizing his life’s work and influence, and contains some pretty interesting and inspired tribute pieces! And while we’re at it, I suggest we set aside some time to rewatch Alien or one of the many other movies he collaborated on to create the dark, nightmarish sets or costumes that would help establish the tone of the film.

Brain_Salad_SurgeryAnd while were at it, perhaps we should take a page from Giger’s book and keep a nightmare journal. Not only did this man record all the dark visions he would experience in his sleep, he would use them to create artistic and cinematic gold! But if you’d rather leave that to the dark souls of this world and just enjoy letting them scare you, so much the better. RIP Giger, you will be missed!

Sources: nytimes.com, io9.com, techgnotic.deviantart.com

Batman: Assault on Arkham

Assault_on_Arkham_-_BatmanDC Animated Original Movies has put out some fairly decent flicks in recent years, especially when it comes to the Batman universe. These include Batman: Gotham KnightBatman: Under the Red Hood, Batman: Year One, and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. And in this latest installment, which is based on the popular Batman: Arkham video game franchise, we see Batman and the Suicide Squad team up to take down the Joker and stop him from blowing up the asylum and Gotham City.

In anticipation of its upcoming release, which is scheduled for August 12, 2014, DC Entertainment released the following teaser trailer a few weeks ago. I just stumbled onto it myself, and so I pass it on to all those fellow fans who – if they are like me – would not dare miss this! Enjoy!

O

Video Short: Batman Vs. The Terminator

batman vs. terminatorIt’s the kind of question philosophers have pondered over for millennia. Who would win in a fight: Batman in  a powered exosuit, or Skynet with it’s army of Terminators? This is the question that is explored in this new animated short by Mitchell Hammond. Set in the year 2029, we see Bruce Wayne, who has survived Judgement Day of ’97, fighting alongside the resistance against Skynet and its machine army.

Given Christian Bale’s involvement in both franchises, a crossover of this nature was inevitable. But I can honestly say that this five minute short was way better than watching Terminator: Salvation! Nothing cooler than Batman with all his high-tech gear kicking Terminator ass! Not to mention taking the fight directly to Skynet. Sorry, John Conner, ol’ Batsy beat you to it!

Check it out and enjoy the show. And be sure to comment and join me in demanding a sequel!

The Future is Here: The Pulse-Tech Car Stopper

safe_stop1High-speed car chases could become a thing of the past, thanks to new technologies that are making unsafe driving a thing of the past. First, there was the joint project being developed by Emotiv and the Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia. Known as an “attention-powered car”, the driver of this vehicle wears a headset that measures their brainwaves and shuts down the engine in case of inattention.

And now, there’s a technology being developed by UK’s E2V which could shut down cars from the other end. That is to say, a technology aimed at detecting speeding cars and stopping them by electronically neutralizing their systems. It’s known as the RF Safe Stop, a system that uses electromagnetic pulses to confuse the systems of car and force its engine to stall.
Safe_StopAccording to the BBC, the technology has piqued the interest of the military and police:

In demonstrations seen by the BBC, a car drove towards the device at about 24km/h (15mph). As the vehicle entered the range of the RF Safe-Stop, its dashboard warning lights and dials behaved erratically, the engine stopped, and the car rolled gently to a halt. Digital audio and video recording devices in the vehicle were also affected.

There are concerns about the technology’s effects on electronic braking and steering systems, but EV2 says the risks are low. Because RF Safe-Stop works on electronic systems, it can also be effective on boats. If adopted, the technology could find its way into road stops and traffic points, where it could be used to target people breaking the speed limit and force their cars into a shutdown until police arrive.

rf_safestopThere are drawbacks, of course. Older vehicles, which are less dependent on electronic systems, will be immune to the Safe Stop’s signals. In this respect, low-tech trumps high-tech due to a lack of complexity. However, given the sheer proliferation of modern vehicles, and their growing dependence on electronic systems (and engines), the Safe Stop technology is likely to be adopted all across the UK in the coming years.

Looking farther down the road, its not unlikely that advanced traffic systems and countermeasures will be featured on highways and waterways all over the world. In addition to being able to monitor traffic patterns, read license plates and registries, and tag those of offenders, it will also be able to deploy a targeted EM burst on vehicles that are identified by police as criminals or possible terrorists, and stop them in their tracks.

Batman_EMPgunAnd of course, a militarized version of the technology is a no-brainer, given the military’s long-standing love affair with EM technology. Imagine, if you will, vehicle-mounted electromagnetic weaponry that will be capable of taking out a column of enemy vehicles simply by neutralizing their systems. Or possibly a handheld device used by infantry (like Batman’s) to defend themselves against tanks and helicopters!

It’s important to dream big! And in the meantime, be sure to enjoy this BBC video short that demonstrates the technology in action:


Sources: fastcompany.com, e2v.com

Back From Vacation!

ottawa-panoramaHey all! I just got in last night from Ottawa and let me tell you, it was quite the trip. We managed to do many things while we were there, including visiting my childhood home, my old neighborhood, my favorite watering holes and restaurants, and visited with many of my old friends! But at the same time, it’s good to be home. Visiting your old hometown and friends can be wonderful, but so can being back in the place you love with your wife and cat.

And I can tell, I have a lot of catching up to do. Seriously, if I thought I was behind before I left, I’m way behind now! Luckily, I have a revised to do list that covers what I hope to do in the coming weeks. While I was away, I actually managed to get some serious reading and editing done, and decided it was time to get back to a few ongoing projects that also begging for completion.

  • Catch up on sleep
  • Cut back on beer (sampled too many this time around!)
  • Watch the season premier and episode 2 of The Walking Dead
  • Review of the Akira graphic novel
  • Review of the Batman graphic novels – Arkham Asylum, The Killing Joke, The Man Who Laughs
  • Review of Rami Ungar’s The Quiet Game (overdue)
  • Catch up on Yuva stories
  • Catch up on other people’s posts

Sound like a plan? Good, then let’s get this party started! Good to be home…

Superman vs. Batman Anyone?

superman-vs-batmanWord around the comic book community of late is that the sequel to The Man of Steel will involve a bit of a crossover. Apparently, an aged Batman will be making an appearance in this movie, and the story may very well focus on a rivalry between the two. The news came earlier this month at Comic Con when director Zack Snyder announced that he had something of this nature in mind, taking many by surprise.

One such person was Frank Miller, the man who brought us The Dark Knight Returns, the classic graphic novel where Batman and Superman have a climactic showdown. with uber-freaking awesome results! For fans who were thinking this means that Snyder is looking to create a live-action version of TDKR, this is certainly good news indeed.

Sure, the animated version was certainly good, and the graphic novel itself is a wonderful standalone piece that really needs no adaptation. But I’m thinking few fans of either franchise would pass up an opportunity to see the big showdown between the two superheroes in Crime Alley on the big screen!

tdkr_batman_superman1And as if wanting to throw some gasoline on those flames ahead of time, Snyder even had actor Harry Lennix, who played General Swanwick in The Man of Steel, read a passage from TDKR. The line comes from the very climax of the fight scene between the two, where a victorious Batman is standing over a weakened Superman and is ready to deliver the coup de grace:

I want you to remember, Clark, in all the years to come… In your most private moments, I want you to remember my hand at your throat. I want you to remember the one man who beat you.

After the reading, Superman’s big S appeared on the screen behind the interview panel while the Batman symbol quietly superimposed itself. Fans were naturally excited and expressed themselves accordingly!

superman-vs-batman1Well, according to the latest industry gossip, a live-action version of TDKR is not quite had Snyder and the studio had in mind. David S Goyer, who co-wrote The Dark Knight trilogy with Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan, recently revealed the Superman and Batman film may use a ‘versus’ in the title. But he was explicit about the fact that the film will not be adapted from Miller’s work.

At the same time, however, sources close to Miller confirmed that Snyder asked for a sit down to discuss what this crossover movie would involve. The source made a statement of this impending meeting, claiming that:

Frank had no idea the announcement in San Diego was going to happen so it did come as a surprise. He’s going to be meeting up with Zach in the next few days to go over the plans for the Superman film so things should be clearer after that.

batman_baleSet to be released in 2015, the Superman vs. Batman movie is likely to be a loose adaptation, from the sounds of things. And the very latest in industry gossip says that Christian Bale may be coming back to reprise the role of Batman, to the tune of $60 million! No indication has been given if he has chomped at the bit yet, but Bale did indicate that he might not be finished with the role.

As Bale said in a recent interview, when referring to the price tag, “Let’s not get greedy”. But at the same time, he didn’t rule out the possibility, claiming that “it all comes down to Chris [Nolan].”

Personally, I think this “loose adaptation” talk should be ditched in favor of a full-on TDKR adaptation. There’s plenty of potential to update the story, which was written in the late 80’s and featured a very Reagan-era Cold War-esque story, but with a few tweeks, it could easily be adapted to fit in the current era.

the-dark-knight-returnsAnd it might even tie the two franchises together nicely, with a supposedly dead Batman coming out of retirement, and a Superman who has been enlisted to serve the government finding themselves at odds. And since the storyline involves the Joker, it could be a fitting tribute to Heath to have him brought back for one final dance with the Batman.

It’s a tall order, I know, and like I said, it was already done. But if you’re gonna go big, Snyder, go REALLY BIG. Or just go the hell the home! You’re making some tall promises, and fans are expecting better from you after that bit of a letdown known as The Man of Steel. You got Batman and Superman in your hands now. Don’t screw it up!

Sources: indepedent.co.uk, badassdigest.com

Real-Life Batman Found!

batman_soloIt seems superheroes are becoming a real life phenomena, or at least vigilantes who insist on impersonating them. Not long ago, it was Pheonix Jones taking up the cause of justice in Seattle, and appealing to the public to join him. And now, over in Bradford, England, another would-be hero has shown up on the radar.

In an event that was caught on video, a man dressed as the “Caped Crusader” entered the Trafalgar House Police Station with a wanted man in tow, turned him over to police, and then disappeared into the night. Apparently, the wanted man in question was being sought by police in conjunction with theft and fraud, and was charged accordingly.

Despite speculation on some social media sites that the masked man might know the offender, or was himself known to police, the West Yorkshire Police spoke on record as saying:

“The person who brought the man in was dressed in a full Batman outfit. His identity remains unknown. We do not know the identity of the man dressed as Batman and do not know if he is friends with the man who was handed in.”

However, a local dress store owner believes she may have been the one to sell the costume to the local crime fighter. Kathryn Sutcliffe, of Kirkgate Market’s “The Joke Shop”, said she sold a Batman outfit to a man in his 20s a couple of days before the incident.

“Usually they want the Dark Knight costume but he wanted this one. He wanted the one with the muscly chest as well. It’s like the one Del Boy wears in Only Fools and Horses.”

Mrs Sutcliffe said the man had a local accent and was tall with curly black hair. She may be one of the few people who knows the Bradford Batman’s name, as he paid with a credit card and she has the receipt. But of course, she said she would keep his identity a secret.

Good for her! As we all know, art often imitates life. And in a world like ours, with such a rich tradition of superhero comics, movies, and television series’, the rules are pretty clear… with the exception of social media! Sure, we all know that you don’t go divulging a superhero’s identity and you don’t get in their way, but what are the rules regarding posting updates on Twitter and Facebook?

I’m thinking hating, second-guessing, jpegs and video clips are all fair game. Superheroes do depend on word of mouth-type publicity after all. But don’t post any info relating to their actual secret identity. That’s just plain wrong!

And a special shout-out to Nicola Higgins for bringing this story to my attention!

Source: BBC.news