Peter Capaldi is on his way out as the Twelfth Doctor, but he has one more adventure before his inevitable regeneration. At Comic-Con today, BBC unveiled the trailer for this year’s upcoming Christmas special. The Twelfth Doctor will meet the First Doctor (Game of Thrones alum David Bradley), and the pair will try to fix time itself — with a little help from the Doctor’s newest companion, Bill (Pearl Mackie).
Today’s Comic-Con panel was a chance for fans to say goodbye to Capaldi, who’s served as the Doctor for the last three seasons. Leaving with him is showrunner Steven Moffat, who’s handing the reins off to Broadchurch showrunner Chris Chibnall. All this paves the way for Jodie Whittaker to come aboard as the Thirteenth Doctor, the first woman to fill the role in the show’s storied history.
The Doctor Who Christmas special will air later this year.
During Warner Bros.’s Hall H panel at San Diego Comic-Con yesterday, the studio confirmed that the upcoming The Flash movie is still on track, even though the movie has yet land a director. But one thing stuck out: the movie will apparently be known as Flashpoint.
The title alone should be a shock. The 2011 Flashpoint event has risen to iconic status in only six years because it took a deeply personal Flash story and used it to rewrite the entire DC comics universe, taking Flash to an alternate universe where the Justice League doesn’t exist and the world’s heroes are on the brink of war.
Flashpoint certainly sounds like the kind of story that deserves the blockbuster treatment. And as it happens, it’s already been adapted into an animated movie and was incorporated into the most recent season of The CW’s The Flash. But at a time when the DC Extended Universe is still struggling to get off the ground, isn’t it a little too soon to give it the live-action movie treatment?
Flashpoint starts with Barry Allen waking up in an alternate timeline, where everything he knows has changed. Superman doesn’t exist. Bruce Wayne is dead, and Dr. Thomas Wayne is Batman. Wonder Woman is at war with Aquaman. And crucially, Barry’s mother Nora is still alive. Readers soon learn that Barry actually used his powers to go back in time to stop his nemesis, Reverse Flash, from murdering Nora, altering the timeline in the process. It’s only by time traveling again and merging with his earlier self that he’s able to undo the damage he’s done.
If that sounds incredibly convoluted, it should. Flashpoint is convoluted. However, it works, because it relies on the readers’ base-level understanding of not only the Flash, but also Reverse-Flash, the Justice League, and how they all connect. All of the characters involved, even if they’re alternate versions of the ones fans know and love, are impactful because they reflect some aspect of established canon. Take the Wayne family: not only does Thomas Wayne become Batman after his young son Bruce is killed, but his wife, Martha, is pushed so far into madness by of her grief that she becomes the Joker.
Appreciating these story beats requires time and investment in the characters and the events they’re caught up in. Having a strong relationship with a character and their actions makes an alternate version of them hit that much harder. Think about it: encountering a Batman who kills only resonates if the Batman you know goes out of his way not to kill. With that in mind, how can a Flashpoint movie in the DCEU ever create that kind investment? Even after Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, Wonder Woman, and Justice League, how much will we really know about any of these characters? Don’t they need more time to develop as characters before they’re flipped upside-down? In the end, choosing Flashpoint sounds like choice of a studio more committed to adapting recognizable stories at the expense of the characters in them.
There’s an argument to be made for how Flashpoint might present an opportunity for Warner Bros. to change course for the DCEU after its previous stumbles. (Rumors that Ben Affleck is on his way out at the studio make this strategy sound somewhat reasonable.) Consider the story: after the Flash returns to his proper timeline, he discovers that his world has been transformed into what fans came to know (and, in many quarters, hate) as the New 52. But that would be a tacit admission that everything the studio has attempted on the big screen has been a failure and needs to be reworked from the ground up. Wouldn’t it be better to make better movies with the characters they have, instead of starting all over again?
Comic book superheroes are defined by the stories that shape who they are and how fans relate to them. Warner Bros. should be making movies that build their characters up, helping to foster that relationship. Making a universe-flipping movie like Flashpoint too soonruns the very real risk of undermining that.
When Star Wars Battlefront II hits stores in November, it will present the Star Wars universe in a way that’s seldom seen: from the viewpoint of the Empire’s soldiers, who are fighting against the characters we usually root for. Next week, the game will get a prequel in Christie Golden’s Inferno Squad, which will unveil the origins of the game’s characters, and set after the events of Rogue One and A New Hope.
Del Rey Books published a special San Diego Comic-Con edition of the novel this week, and Golden was on hand to sign copies and meet fans. I sat down with her to talk about how she tackled writing Inferno Squad, working with the video game designers, and why the lead character, Iden Versio, brings a new level of complexity to the Star Wars Universe.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. There are some minor spoilers for the book.
Tell me a little bit about what Inferno Squad is about and how you got involved.
Inferno Squad is a prequel to Battlefront II, which is coming out in November. The book takes place four years before the events of the game, and it’s where we’re really introduced to the characters. Two of them already know one another, while the other two are new to the squad. We see a little bit of them in their native environments before they answer the call, and then we see them going off on some of their first few missions together, getting their feet underneath them and learning how to work together as a team. They’re then given their pivotal mission, which is to take down and recover information from the remnants of Saw Gerrera’s Partisans, which we saw in Rogue One.
What is it like introducing a new, major female character, Iden Versio, to the Star Wars universe, and what can you tell me about her?
I love it so much. Iden grows up in a city that was willing to join the Empire, and benefited under it. Her father was an Admiral and her mother painted propaganda posters. All she knows is the inside of ships and school rooms that have drilled this into her. She completely believes in the Empire.
She’s so strong, because she’s been battered, emotionally and intellectually. Her father doesn’t want to be seen as someone who was nepotistic, so she has to work so hard her entire life. She was in this military school, she has killed by the time she was 15, and she had to be an overachiever to get any sort of acknowledgement.
Your book and Battlefront II span the franchise from the end of Rogue One all the way up to The Last Jedi. How did you pick up after Rogue One, and how did you integrate your story into that timeline?
We open with the destruction of the Death Star, and Iden Versio, our heroine, is survivor of that because she gave in to an impulse and chased a Rebel starfighter a little further away than she should have. That’s how she wasn’t close enough to be caught up in its destruction.
This is something that I do a lot. I’m a tie-in writer, so I sometimes come in during a certain break in a video game. In the case of World of Warcraft, for example, I’ve written novels filling in gaps between games, so this is something that was kind of old hat to me.
What’s it like working in such an interconnected universe and add to it?
You have to not get overwhelmed by the amount of information there. You have to figure out what storyline you want to do, and what you need to bone up on in order to tell that storyline really well.
I’ll find out what characters or events [there] are that I’ll need to be conversant with in order to write the story well, and then I’ll watch the show or movie. Sometimes, they’ll send me some of the other books. I read [Beth Revis’s] Rebel Rising, and there is a character from that book that we see in Inferno Squad, and there are some other characters that people recognize too.
The game script was pretty much set when I started writing the book, but the actors hadn’t been cast, so that was a challenge.
When the actors were cast, did that change anything in the story?
No, the book was pretty much set in stone. Once I learned who the actors were, I was able to research them and listen to them to hear their cadence, whether their voices are higher pitched, guttural, gravelly, or what have you. I also watched how they move, which really helps when you’re doing media tie-in work, because you’re able to really delve in deep into the physicality of the actor, because that’s what a lot of people are going to relate to.
Did you speak with the actors at all, or did they read the book to research their characters?
Oh my God. Janina [Gavankar], who plays Iden, found out there was a prequel, and reached out to me. Next thing I know, I’m talking to her via Skype, and she’s still got a little [motion capture] marks on her face from a filming session. I went over the events of the book with her and the main plot points that I thought would be pertinent to her performance.
Do you do you think that the book impacted her performance?
I do. She did know all of the story going in, but now there would be certain scenes that now have this extra gravitas to them in her mind.
Star Wars has had this level of close–knit kinship with their tie-ins before. (The X-Wing novels are one example), but has there been this level integration before?
I’ve been writing for 25 years and have published over 50 books, and I have never seen anything [at] this level. I was really invited into the family, and was even on the stage at Celebration for the big reveal of the game.
Not only do they not have to do that, but nobody usually does. Nobody has bothered. As a media tie-in writer, you don’t have the luxury of writing for yourself. You have so many other people who are involved, so you’ve done your job well not just when you’re happy with the book, but when all these other people are happy with it. It’s their book, [and] they’re hiring you to write it. That’s different from original fiction when you’re writing your own book.
How is the media landscape changed since you started?
I think a bias is lifting. There was genre fiction, then there was movie novelizations, and at the bottom there was gaming fiction. And now look where we are today! It’s right below movies in popularity. My Warcraft books have sold amazingly well, the Star Wars books have sold incredible well. We’re seeing people growing up who weren’t taught that, “Oh that’s that’s junk, that’s crap.”
There are very few Star Wars novels out there that take the point of view of the Imperials. So what is it like writing a story that asks the readers to empathize with characters on a side that does horrible things?
You know, at first I was a little bit leery, because I am a total Jedi and I’m all about The Force. To me, it’s been very interesting to write about its mythic overtones, and I really enjoy that.
I think it was a great idea to put them up against the worst the Rebels had to offer. They were capable of doing some very cruel things on the same level of the Empire — they were just on the other side of it.
The thing is, there’s a person under the helmets. I was trying to build up their quirks, their sense of humor, the things that are important to them, because everyone’s got them. So you take these two super-gray sides and put them together, and ask, “Okay, who’s the bad guy?” And then you’re like, “uh?” and have trouble picking out who is on the right side.
That’s interesting to hear because Star Wars presented these very clear–cut morals that harken back to the Second World War. Nowadays, the battle lines are very fuzzy. Do you see the franchise as being influenced by this?
I think so. The world was a very different place back then. We now have a better chance than ever to know the people who aren’t like us. We can watch their movies, listen to their broadcasts, and we can do things to reach out to any part of the globe. It’s not as easy to demonize people and make them one dimensional any longer, because you can look at them as people. To be sure, we’re more polarized than ever, but the opportunity to see and get to know other things outside of your world view is there.
After writing Inferno Squad, did you find that you look at the Empire differently now?
I kind of do! I now have an idea of all of those nameless people just sitting on the Star Destroyers, and it reminds me that everyone has a story. So I think if I were to watch the films again, I’d be a lot more aware of the extras in the movie.
San Diego Comic-Con is wrapping up, and it’s been a crazy week of news from across the entertainment industry. But in recent years, the show has become just as much about the big trailer reveals for upcoming blockbusters as it has been about panels for fans and, you know, actual comic books.
Just in case you managed to lose track of a couple of the biggest announcements, we’ve rounded up all the biggest and best trailers from Comic-Con in one place for your viewing convenience. Dive on in below:
Marvel may unfortunately be keeping its trailer for Avengers: Infinity War under wraps for now, so fans will have to take solace in the neon-soaked synthesizers of a new Thor: Ragnarok trailer, which might just be the most fun a superhero movie has had in a long time.
Coming off the massive success of Wonder Woman, the biggest question for DC going into Comic-Con was whether or not it could make lightning strike twice this year with its own superhero team up, Justice League. The new trailer gives us our first look at villain Steppenwolf, while showing off some of the superhero action that you’d hope for from a film the features DC’s biggest heroes.
Stranger Things, Season 2
Netflix came to Comic-Con to play ball, and nothing made as big as an impression than the Thriller-scored trailer for Stranger Things, season 2, which looks like it’s ramping up the supernatural craziness of the first season to a whole new level. October can’t come soon enough.
Marvel’s The Defenders
Marvel’s Defenders TV series on Netflix is just a few weeks away, and this new trailer should serve as the perfect tide-me-over while we wait until August to arrive to unite Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist.
Westworld, Season 2
Westworld won’t return for its second season until sometime next year, but HBO showed up with a surprise first look. It seems that the robot uprising that began last year is in full swing,
Star Trek: Discovery
The jury is still out on Star Trek: Discovery — the show has been plagued with tons of difficulties in making its way to our screens — but the new trailer CBS showed off at Comic-Con goes a long way toward quelling those doubts, with a look at a Star Trek universe unlike any we’ve seen before.
Ready Player One
Ernest Cline’s popular ode to the 80s is getting a big budget feature film — directed by none other than Steven Spielberg — and Warner Bros. took some time to give fans the first look at the upcoming movie. In short: this movie looks like a wall to wall nostalgia-fest, that’s stuffed with action to boot.
The Walking Dead, Season 8
The Walking Dead is back for its eight season, and war is coming to the zombie-infested apocalypse. As for the mysterious flash-forward look at elderly Rick? We’ll have to wait until the show returns to find out.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
20th Century Fox only had one movie to show off at Comic-Con, with a new look at Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Fans of the first movie pleased with the franchise’s frenzied action scenes and winking sense of humor should have a lot to look forward to when it arrives this fall.
Netflix didn’t just bring a slew of highly anticipated TV shows to Comic-Con this year — it had Bright, a Will Smith-starring, big-budget urban fantasy film that looks to prove that the streaming service can compete with big studios when it comes to offering blockbuster-level fare.
There are too many trailers for even a roundup post like this to cover, but we’ve compiled a list of all the ones that didn’t quite make the best of the best over here so you can easily catch up on all the Comic-Con craziness.
Steve Jobs isn’t the only famous Apple figure that can be turned into movies (or an opera, evidently.) Tomorrow, your favorite bad listener voice assistant Siri will star in its own film featuring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. I wish I was kidding.
The “movie,” titled The Rock x Siri: Dominate The Day, is a collaboration between Johnson and Apple — think of it as an extended commercial similar to what the company did with Taylor Swift and Apple Music last year. Except instead of a series of short, cringeworthy clips, the ad arrives with an over-the-top poster featuring various types of automobiles, a stage, space, and… Chinese lanterns? Here’s the full poster if you want to take a stab at guessing what it all means.
And no, asking Siri “What is The Rock cooking” will not lend you helpful answers.
All we can tell you is that according to his Facebook page, The Rock says the movie will be the “dopest” and that it was made to “motivate you to get out there and get the job done.” Leave it to the man who will try anything, even attempting to pass as Pikachu, to tell you to put in the work.
Haha it’s a crazy fun commercial we’ll drop tomorrow. Dominate your day brother
To put it lightly, Pokémon Go Fest, Niantic’s first in-person event for the game, did not go as planned. Roughly 20,000 fans came to Chicago’s Grant Park for the fest, which promised Trainers (the game’s name for players) a chance to catch a variety of pokémon, team challenges throughout the day, an exclusive medal to unlock, special rewards, and of course, the opportunity to meet and spend time with Pokémon Go community members from around the globe.
Unfortunately, the event was plagued with limited cellular reception and server problems, which rendered the game unplayable for the most of the day. Many couldn’t even log in, and those who could found the game crashed within seconds. To appease disgruntled attendees, Niantic offered ticket refunds, $100 of in-game PokéCoins, the automatic addition of Lugia to accounts (the game’s first legendary pokémon), among other things.
Though some remained unimpressed with the fest’s results, most tried to look on the bright side, happy to be in the company of thousands of other Pokémon Go fans. As I wandered throughout taking photos, I was approached by dozens of people who simply wanted to strike up a conversation and make a new friend. Sure, people hope Niantic’s future fests go a little smoother, but as DJ Mascarenas, who came dressed as a punderful Magikarpet, told me: “It’s more about the experience.”
On the first day of San Diego Comic-Con, director David Ayer took the stage before the massive crowd at Hall H. A year prior, he’d been there to promote Suicide Squad for Warner Bros., but this time he was discussing a different project: the $100 million fantasy-action film Bright. “What’s up, Hall H?” he shouted into the microphone. “This is the house of Netflix! This is Netflix right now, we’re here to represent Netflix!”
As Comic-Con winds to a close, it’s hard to argue that Hall H ever truly became the “House of Netflix.” HBO’s Game of Thrones still filled the hall with adoring fans, Warner Bros. and DC thrilled the faithful with footage from Aquaman and Justice League, and Marvel blew the roof off with a parade of announcements and the first trailer for Avengers: Infinity War. The traditional Comic-Con favorites still ruled the day. But it’s also impossible to look at the size and resonance of Netflix’s presence this year and not come to the conclusion that something has shifted. As many studios are pulling back from Comic-Con, Netflix decided to lean in — and pulled off a major strategic victory in the process.
Netflix has become such a respected creator of original television and movies that’s easy to forget just how new the streaming service actually is to this side of the business. The first season of House of Cards only premiered in 2013, and up until very recently the company didn’t have much of a reason to attend events like Comic-Con. (According to Sense8 co-creator J. Michael Straczynski, Netflix actually wouldn’t let cast members attend to support that show back in 2015.) That changed last year with the streaming service’s heavy investment in Marvel shows, with Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Defenders touted during a presentation in Ballroom 20 — the second-largest room of the convention.
That was just a prelude. This year, Netflix was everywhere at Comic-Con. An off-site installation promoted its most fan-friendly properties, a screening of Death Note gave fans an early peek at Adam Wingard’s upcoming adaptation, and panels for different projects littered the schedule — including two high-profile Hall H appearances.
The first of those was the Netflix film panel, which covered both Bright and Death Note. Netflix is only now starting to step up its game with bigger-budgeted films, with War Machine and Okja both hitting the service recently. Bringing two films to the biggest stage at Comic-Con was a way to instantly put Netflix on the same playing field as Marvel or Warner Bros. A big-budget Will Smith fantasy-action film is a big-budget Will Smith fantasy-action film no matter who produces it or where it’s released, and the approach underscored the opportunity that an event like Comic-Con provides for the service.
Traditionally, movie studios have used Comic-Con as a way to build intense fan buzz, which they hope will then spread to the mainstream, resulting in greater awareness and bigger opening weekends at the box-office. But Comic-Con hype hasn’t always translated to success, and in some recent years studios have skipped the show (Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Lucasfilm), or saved big announcements for their own events (Disney, with its D23 Expo). Comic-Con’s schedule alone tells the tale: In 2013, 11 different Hall H panels were focused on films. In 2015, that number dropped to nine. This year, only five film panels took the stage at Hall H, with television shows picking up the slack.
Netflix, however, is operating with a completely different set of goals than other studios. With most of its movies foregoing any kind of theatrical release, Netflix doesn’t have to worry about opening weekends that may ultimately disappoint. Granted, a film that nobody watches isn’t of much use — the service has been swinging the axe on underperforming TV shows lately — but its larger concern is cultural awareness and building Netflix’s brand as a viable creator of original films. In that sense, Comic-Con was custom-tailored for its purposes. The Hall H stage legitimized its output, and with both David Ayer and Will Smith taking time to point out the creative freedom they enjoyed while making Bright, Netflix had the chance to appeal to other big-budget filmmakers, as well.
If film represented a new opportunity, then Netflix’s Stranger Things Hall H panel was an impressive display of the cultural cachet it has already attained. The Saturday panel was part of the convention’s most high-profile day, sandwiched between Warner Bros. and D.C., Westworld, and Marvel’s victory lap presentation. It not only held its own; the response the show received seemed more fervent and passionate than even Game of Thrones was able to muster during its Friday presentation. I’ve seen plenty of big films get the Hall H treatment, and the response the Strangers Things season 2 trailer received was up there with the best of them. The online reaction tells a similar story. As of this writing, yesterday’s Stranger Things season 2 trailer has more than twice the views of the Game of Thrones Comic-Con reel in less than half the time.
Driving home just how important Stranger Things and Bright were to the company’s Comic-Con strategy was the Netflix brand activation itself. Marvel shows may have been the focus last year, but across the street from the convention center this year, they were afforded little more than some costume displays and selfie photo ops. Stranger Things, on the other hand, featured a small tent with props, promotional giveaways like Stranger Things hats, a VR encounter with the Demogorgon, and a funereal tribute to Shannon Purser’s Barb. (The company was working the “justice for Barb” angle throughout the convention, with Purser herself popping up as a surprise guest during the audience Q&A; the Hall H crowd booed when told Barb would not be returning for the new season).
Every year a slew of stories get written about whether film studios are giving up on Comic-Con. (I’ve written my share.) But Netflix’s impressive performance this year puts the conversation on a different path. It may not be that Comic-Con is no longer the best platform for promoting big genre properties. It may be that Comic-Con’s allure and reach has simply become a bad fit for the needs of major movie studios that live or die by IP-driven projects whose success or failure is often determined by the performance of a single weekend. That’s arguably a Hollywood system problem, not a promotional one, and it’s a knot that no event — not even Comic-Con — can untie on its own.
But for services like Netflix that operate with a different model — one that relies on subscriptions and a broad slate of programming that discretely targets a variety of demographics — it seems to have been a perfect fit. Bright and Death Note may end up getting critically panned and vanishing from the public consciousness when they’re released; the second season of Stranger Things could crash and burn to the ground. (I highly doubt that second one will happen, but go with me for the sake of argument.) Even if those things were to happen, however, they would be failures of the projects themselves, not of a marketing campaign and certainly not of Comic-Con.
Netflix’s Comic-Con presence can already be considered a success because film projects that people may not have been aware of a couple of weeks ago are now firmly planted in people’s minds, and they’re alongside movies from the likes of Marvel and Warner Bros. Will Smith commented during the Bright panel that he did feel that theatrical moviegoing was different; a larger-than-life experience that left more of an impact on audiences than watching at home did. I happen to agree, but that doesn’t change the fact that audiences growing up today see little difference between a movie theater, a TV, a laptop, or a smartphone. They’re all just screens, competing for attention in an increasingly frenetic media landscape.
Netflix’s presence this year proved that it understands exactly that, and when all screens are equal, San Diego Comic-Con can become an extraordinarily effective opportunity to cut through the noise.
They say art is a good outlet for expressing your thoughts and feelings, but since I’m not one to keep a notebook full of doodles, I have found peace within Passpartout: The Starving Artist, a recently released game where you make MS Paint-style drawings and sell them for your digital livelihood. The game is super simple: you start out in a garage with nothing but your canvas and small art stand, painting away until local Parisian passerbys stop to offer you money.
At first it felt like one of those time management games where your garage is an art factory, and you’re encouraged to churn out as many paintings as possible to make your weekly bills (which consist of rent, wine, and baguette. Passpartout is all of us.) As bill notifications continually pop up, I found myself spewing crappy splatters every 45 seconds, hoping anyone would give me cash to stay alive. Sources of inspiration ranged between static objects to pokémon to everyone’s favorite sexually suggestive emoji.
Sometimes this strategy worked. Benjamin, in particular, frequently returned to the stall and often shared a little too much about himself.
But despite a variety of subject matter, haters would still stroll by and give rude, non-constructive criticism. They say I’m “not making art.” That the paintings lack “passion.” That I’m a “sellout.” It’s an experience not unfamiliar to those of us who spend a lot of time promoting their work on Twitter.
Overtime, you earn new painting tools, such as a spray paint can and a pen. (Your color selections remain the same throughout the game, which might feel limiting.) Eventually, a critic comes by and tries to make you famous by reviewing your work on on the newspaper and moving you to a nicer gallery with better foot traffic.
The game is broken up into three acts, each with a higher scale of clienteles who are willing to shell out more money for your work — even if they exhibit the same mediocre level of artistry. But as paintings go for more cash, I found more time to devote to the craft, experimenting with new styles. There’s an art pop-py period where I used hella colors.
And a transitional phase when I realized button smashing a ton of dots make for a rather weird texture and shadowing / highlighting technique. My colleague Thomas Ricker once told me taking a painting class taught him to become more aware of the colors surrounding him. The same felt true in the game for various patterns and shapes.
Combined with the classical music and the satisfying colors that emit from each brush stroke, the game quickly turned from mildly stressful to zen. I found myself playing for hours at a time, completely forgetting about the noisy world beyond my screen and just blotting and swishing away at the canvas. The haters kept coming, but they ended up becoming an inspiration for work that sold for several months’ worth of wine and bread.
There’s a lot to like about Passpartout — you can beat the game in under three hours but it’s worth taking your time and just tuning off into a world where life is as simple as pretending to be an art master with a watermelon for a face, and learning to brush off those who aren’t here to root for your success.
Passpartout: The Starving Artist is available for PC and Mac via Steam for $9.99.
Adam Savage loves space suits. When I interviewed him in March, he spoke about how safety equipment appealed to him, whether it was firefighter gear, the protective armor that bomb disposal personnels wear, or space suits of the fictional variety.
For the last several years, Savage would attend San Diego Comic-Con dressed up in a costume that hides his identity, something he calls Adam Incognito. This year, one of the costumes he suited up in was one used in the production of Alien: Covenant.
After he returned from the floor, I spoke with him about why he’s so attracted to these galactic wear.
This interview has been condensed for clarity.
Looking back to how you said you’re attracted to safety equipment, how did you find wearing the Alien space suit while walking around the floor today? Were you impervious to the crowds?
Well, I’m not impervious to the crowds, because about 75 people came up to me and said “you must be Adam.” I’ve definitely spoiled my own thing because I’ve done so much cosplay now that any time people see an elaborate, full suit, they ask if it’s me.
However, the guys at FBFX did a nice job [with this suit]. This fabric looks heavy duty. It looks like ballistic nylon, but it breathes quite well.
To you, what makes up a good spacesuit costume? What components do you look for?
The stuff that I really like in a space suit is the detail. In a NASA suit, I love the high-level details that tell the story that this was made by people. If you look at NASA hardware really close up you really can sense that these aren’t production-made items. They’re one-offs, each one handmade by a machinist, designed by engineers. And, the best movie space suits are the ones that also communicate that same kind of hand-hewn attention to detail.
What’s an example of a detail that you found stands out in a real or fictional suit?
Right now, I’m totally obsessed with the [Alien] Covenant stuff. They have a number of things like little brass tags and tiny markers, and even things like pressure readings that are based off of what the real pressure of that suit would probably be.
So what can cosplayers learn from real suits, and what can real suit makers learn from science fictional suits?
It’s funny because real space suits almost never have lights in the helmet. [They’re] a totally a movie trope because you have to see the actors. There are almost no lights on any NASA suit.
There is a simplicity to NASA hardware and it’s required: you need that simplicity. A film like Alien: Covenant is layering in [details] because they’re thinking of a future where these aren’t one-off items: they are [mass-produced.]
With its reveal of the latest Z-2 backpack entry suit, NASA is definitely trying to sexy it up to garner a bit more public excitement. They gave it some color, called it the Mars Colonization Suit. I think that’s a reasonable thing for an organization like NASA to do, and the positive benefits from The Martian, I think, led — if not directly then we’re at least partially responsible for — the increase in NASA’s budget a couple of years later. These things capture the public’s imagination.
NASA is behind in their space suit production. It’s over a million dollars to make a space suit. They now have a set of replacement parts where they can fit together a suit that fits an astronaut by adjusting the arms and the legs and the various geometries.
But yeah, NASA uses a ludicrously complex set of procedures to make this the multilayer, air-proof suits it uses.
What what trends are you seeing in costume manufacturing that has changed how people are making suits?
There’s two major leaps. One is from cosplayers: the advancement of foam building technology using camping mats, hot glue, and contact cement to make really elaborate costumes. It’s unparalleled: this is a really exciting time, and budgets are going lower because the materials are more easy to come by. It’s just about the sweat equity of making sure the forms look great and curves are good.
The other major advancement that I’m really excited about is screen-printing dimension and texture onto lightweight fabrics, so that they look heavy-duty. Captain America’s Winter Soldier costume was an early, excellent harbinger of what’s coming. They took four-way stretch dance fabric, which is really light and easy to wear for the actor, and they printed it with texture that made it look like the old ballistic nylon, which is much heavier and harder for the actor to wear, so it’s much more comfortable.
It turns out that a primary cost on making feature films is just getting the actors out and back into their costumes so they can eat lunch. No actor wants to sit in some giant space suit and try to eat a burrito. It sometimes takes an entire special effects team half an hour or maybe more to get an actor out of a cumbersome costume.
So, working with lighter-weight materials that breathe more definitely increases the the length of time the actors can spend in those suits, and then increases the amount the production can get done.
How about 3D printing and rapid prototyping? I know for some productions, they end up printing up a number of components or props.
3D printing has totally revolutionized both cosplay and costuming for movies. I know that neck rings that FBFX effects made for The Martian and for this suit were 3D printed. [Even] when you machine something and then cast it, trying to get the parts to couple back together is difficult, with the shrinkage inherent in casting and the shrinkage is dependent upon the volume of the material you’re trying to cast. That means that some of these are straight 3D printed high strength resins, and that’s kind of the only way you can do stuff like this.
[Pointing to the Alien Covenant Helmet on the table] How about this helmet in particular?
I think this helmet is largely 3D printed. Some of the forms for the carbon fiber pressure panels… the neck rings are totally 3D printed, and then there’s all this brass etching and all this custom detail. FBFX and companies like it all around the world are using this to radically increase the shapes and the stuff they can produce, lowering the amount of time they need to make it.
Do you see this trickling into the cosplay consumer market?
It’s totally trickling in the consumer market, because you can now buy an Ultimaker printer for a couple of grand, and get really impressive resolution for effectively a prosumer model 3D printer.
Last question: right now, what’s your favorite space suit?
Currently right now, it’s both of the suits from Alien: Covenant: the hard suit that Tennessee wears, which has all 3D printed bearings. It’s an absolute masterpiece of engineering. Those were not off-the-shelf components. That suit would have cost tens of thousands of dollars if they were. That was a completely wearable hard suit. That’s simply because those guys wanted to push the envelope of what was possible in movie costumes.
A shoebox-sized satellite caught a glimpse of a Soyuz rocket launch that sent 73 satellites flying into space last week. Snapping one photo every second, the tiny Dove satellite caught two and a half minutes of the Soyuz rocket’s flight — starting with liftoff.
The timing was serendipitous. San Francisco-based satellite company Planet learned only five hours before the launch that its Dove satellite could be in the right place at the right time to catch the rocket’s flight on camera. The company maneuvered the little satellite over the launchpad in Kazakhstan. Traveling at more than 15,000 miles per hour, the Dove shot enough pictures for the company to assemble the stills into a short video.
The launch itself was a space-bound ride-share. The Soyuz rocket ferried a stack of 73 satellites into space for several different companies. One of the satellites was the massive Kanopus-V-IK, which is intended to spot forest fires on Earth’s surface. Another 48 of the satellites were a new flock of Doves for Planet, which deployed into a Sun-synchronous orbit.
The video has been sped up, so you have to watch closely or you’ll miss the tiny rocket shooting through the clouds entirely. Fortunately for us, though, the Dove’s sharp shooting managed to catch the entire thing.