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

Calling All Zombie Warriors!

Hello again my friends! After the success of the Revengers, the superhero league I formed and invited people to join, I began thinking about other groups I could start. And the next likely option seemed obvious: a league of zombie hunting warriors! I choose this in part because of some posts I did awhile back about different classes of zombie fighting weapons, but also in honor of Whiskey Delta’s sales record, which is nearing 850!

So in the coming days, I will posting lists of possible equipment and weapons specifically selected for the zombie apocalypse. I invite all of you, the readers, to select items from among said lists and use them to create your own unique character. I will post rules as we go, but I figure a system where you have a limited number of items based on size, weight, etc, would be the choice approach.

And of course, you can make up names for yourself and even back stories. Where were you when the zombie apocalypse happened? How did you come to find your current group of fellow fighters? And what’s your hope in fighting this zombie war? Are you fighting to protect the ones you have left, avenge the ones you lost, preserve the basic decency of mankind, start a new home, or just ensure that the strongest survive? As you may have guessed, much of this comes from the Walking Dead comic/TV series, which I highly recommend reading/watching for anyone interested in taking up the zombie fight!

So the way I see it, any choice of gear for the zombie warrior will need to break down into the following categories:

When fighting the undead hordes, your choice of outfit counts for a lot. If you plan on standing your ground, you’ll need something that can keep your flesh covered from biting teeth and scratching nails. If you plan on outrunning them, you’ll need to dress light. So choose wisely, knowing that your choice of clothing/body armor is the first step in choosing what kind of fighter you want to be.

Primary Weapon:
The mainstay and trusty workhorse of the zombie killer! This can be a shotgun, assault rifle, sniper rifle, bow and arrow, and any other form of ranged weapon. The key word here is primary, meaning its got to have the most bang for its buck and designed to kill at a respectable distance. So what matters here overall is the special balance of ammo capacity, range, stopping power and portability.

Secondary Weapon:
This is your fallback in case you run out of ammo, lose your primary, or just find yourself in a corner and don’t have time to reload. This is generally a handgun, but that provides a wide range of possibilities, including revolvers, automatics, or personal defense weapons. Of particular concern here is the ease with which you can get the weapon handy, how much killing power it will give you at close range, and just many bullets you can get on target before you run out and have to use your weapon of last resort.

Melee Weapon:
The weapon of last resort, or just the weapon you use when you want to be discreet, quick, and not draw attention to yourself. What matters here is zombie smashing power, the ability to either chop off heads or bash brains with relative ease! So your options are likely to include a baseball bat, axe, combat knife, machete, chainsaw or even a sword. Again, portability is a concern too, something that can fit on your person without getting in the way or slowing you down.

Detailed lists of options for each category will be coming in the next few days. Pick one of each, and then you are good to go! And as an added bonus, those characters that are created here will have the chance of being featured in the upcoming third installment of my zombie series, Alpha Mike!

Upcoming Movie: Knights of Badassdom!

Larping_hobbiesI’m not sure why, but I’ve been inundated with movie previews lately, ones which I feel I must pass on to others. And this is just the latest and most awesome! Seriously, it was like this thing was created with me and my fellow nerds in mind! Some might think it an overly-appropriate commentary, others might sense some irony, but I look at it and just see fandom, nerdom, geekdom goodness!

As would be expected, this low-budget indie film was written and directed by relative newcomers, but happens to star some real heavyweights of the sci-fi, fantasy and horror genres. They include Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister from HBO’s A Game of Thrones), Summer Glau (River Tam on Firefly and Serenity) and Ryan Kwanten (Jason Stackhouse from True Blood).

And of course, the plot is something that will appeal to the nerd in all of us. It begins when a group of friends travel into the woods to do some LARPing (Live Action Role Playing for those not nerdy enough to know). After the wizard of the group accidentally casts a real magic spell, the group must contend with a real-life succubus and an army of dark forces that are suddenly summoned to Earth. In short, a group of people who specialize in make-believe are called upon to become real life heroes and save the world from the forces of hell.

See? I told you it was an awesome concept! Between some genuine talent, a hilarious premise, and a metaphor that couldn’t be more frank, this movie has a lot of promise. The film previewed during ComicCon 2011, but is yet to be released to theaters. And did I mention it stars Peter Dinklage and Summer Glau? Their presence alone in this flick alone are worth the price of admission! Check out the trailer below…