Before Atlanta-based writer Robert Venditti had a publisher for his graphic novel, Surrogates, Bruce Willis topped his rather fantastical wish list of actors to play the lead. Seven years later, guess who’s starring the film version.
Surrogates—which opens September 25—features a world where people jack into robotic avatars and send the bots out into the world in their stead (trailer here). Not only was this Venditti’s freshman graphic novel, but it’s publisher Top Shelf’s first credit as a film producer.
“Bruce Willis is one of the few actors who can do the action sequences and personal moments,” Venditti told me during a break signing his novel at Comic-Con. “A big theme in the book is the relationship the main character has with his wife. He’s a police detective who can do his job without worrying about the hazards of his job. He’ll go home to his wife and she’ll only react with him through her surrogate, because she’s uncomfortable with aging. So it’s a strain on their marriage.”
The great thing about Batman, is that anyone, if sufficiently dedicated and wealthy, could become him. He doesn’t have any superpowers, magic rings, or radioactive rays turning him into a hero. He’s just a dude with an extremely narrow-minded focus on the martial arts and law and order.
Dr. E. Paul Zehr, a professor of neuroscience and kinesiology at the University of Victoria, presented his analysis of the possibility of developing Batman skills at Comic-Con, and he concluded that most of what Batman does can be achieved through long years of training, a fair amount of cash, and the right genetic traits promoting excellent coordination and strength. But getting there will take a long time:
At yesterday’s Comic-Con panel Unlocking Arkham: Forensic Psychiatry and Batman Rogues Gallery, three psychiatrists—H. Eric Bender (UCLA), Vasilis Pozios (University of Michigan), and Praveen Kambam (Case Medical Center)—applied real-world psychiatric standards to Gotham to see whether whether Batman’s enemies were really criminally insane, and belonged in Arkham Asylum, or if they were just mean and belonged in Blackgate Penitentiary.
The trio paraded out a series of cases: Maximillian “Maxie” Zeus, who thought he was Zeus and above the law; Victor Zsasz, who killed people to spare them from the misery of life; Joker groupie Dr. Harleen Quinzel (aka “Harley Quinn”); and the Joker himself. The charges were your standard supervillain fare: kidnapping, conspiracy, murder, a raft of unpaid parking tickets, etc. The docs broke down the scientific criteria needed to gauge whether each had the competency to stand trial and the nuances between personality disorder and severe mental illness.
Turns out, Gotham and New York forensic psychiatry don’t exactly see eye to eye.
Zeus was deemed delusional because, well, he thought he was Zeus; what’s more, he couldn’t tell right from wrong. Verdict? Insane. Back to Arkham, would-be lord of Olympus.
Zsasz, on the other hand, was deemed delusional but still cognizant of right and wrong. Verdict? Sane. To prison with you, Vic.
This morning, io9 demonstrated that in addition to putting out an awe-inspiring blog every day, they could also put on a mind-expanding Comic Con panel. With no Hollywood celebrities and just a couple of special guests, our favorite sci-fi bloggers ran through the TV shows, movies, comics and books of the past year that “blew our minds without blowing up any giant robots.”
Here are a few of their recommendations:
Moon -Duncan Jones’s new movie topped the list for both Annalee Newitz and Meredith Woerner. Like a lot of the works recommended by the panel, Moon explores what it means to be human in a rapidly approaching era where humanity can be technologically upgraded or artificially created (note: this is not a spoiler, the lead character realizes very early in the film that he is a clone).
Julian Comstock – In this novel, Robert Charles Wilson depicts a 22nd century American that has sunk into barbarism and theocracy. In response, the hero undermines the regime in part through trying to popularize ideas about Darwin in a world that has forgotten about science.
Rest – What if someone invented a pill that meant no one would ever have to sleep, with no adverse side effects? Panel guest Bonnie Burton from StarWars.com picked the Devil’s Due comic Rest, which explores this idea and its implications on society, the environment and mental health.
Wonton Soup – James Stokoe’s comic, recommended by Graeme McMillan, investigates what humans would do if they had to be out in space for a really long time. Apparently the answers are get high and cook alien recipes.
Infoquake – io9 editor Charlie Jane Anders picked a series of novels by David Louis Edelman. In Edelman’s future, people can hack and upgrade their own bodies and brains, impacting human relations in both the literal and business senses of the phrase.
We all know the routine with super powers: a mutated gene, alien origin, or a magic object are required, and usually some cataclysmic family event for motivation. Matt Murdock, better known as Daredevil (and hopefully never again known as Ben Affleck), lost his sight to an accident with a truck carrying radioactive muck. The incident heightened the rest of his senses, which allowed him to use a small radar device and super hearing to allow him to “see.” But guess what? We don’t need a tiny radar, super senses, or even a death in the family to see with sound. We normals can do it already.
How, you may ask? Pretty much just like Daredevil (or bats, or dolphins) do, by bouncing sounds off the environment and listening for the echoes. Blind people have been doing something similar to this instinctively, usually describing how they can “feel” a nearby obstruction like a wall or door. What they’re actually doing is hearing the changing sound of their footsteps as they approach the obstacle. A recent study led by Spanish researcher Juan Antonio Martínez at the University of Alcalá de Henares tested a series of different sounds and techniques designed to teach people how to use echolocation for their own ends. The most effective sound we can make, they discovered, is clicking sound of the tongue pulling away from the roof of the mouth.
“The almost ideal sound is the ‘palate click, a click made by placing the tip of the tongue on the palate, just behind the teeth, and moving it quickly backwards, although it is often done downwards, which is wrong,” Martínez said in a press release.
Normals, bereft of super senses as we are, must resort to gumption and stick-to-itiveness to actually learn how to echolocate effectively. Martinez said students needed two hours a day for two weeks to learn to tell when an object is in front of them, and a few more weeks to be able to identify trees and pavement. A 2000 study found that listeners in motion are able to take advantage of the Doppler effect to locate objects more effectively.
Then again, when there’s a powerful need to learn how to echolocate well, it can be done with astonishing virtuosity. Ben Underwood, who died just last month, became blind at the age of two from cancer. He learned to rollerblade and play Foosball just through sounds and echolocation (the video is pretty amazing). He walked down the street making just the sort of clicks Martinez recommended, and he could tell parked cars from fire hydrants from plastic garbage cans.
So for those of us who didn’t manage to get bitten by a radioactive puppy or hail from a distant asteroid orbiting a purple sun, there’s hope yet! Seeing with your eyes closed is a pretty nifty superpower we can all have… with a lot of practice.
We are teaming up with Jennifer Ouellette and the crew at the Science and Entertainment Exchange to produce a panel on “MAD SCIENCE,” i.e. Science as a double-edged sword, ethically and morally neutral in and of itself, but dependent upon who wields it, and how.
Beloved Internet Personality Phil Plait is lined up to moderate (after he gets his tattoo) and we’re expecting guests from Eureka, Battlestar Galactica, Fringe, Stargate: Universe and more. Watch this space for additional details.
Recently released scenes of the upcoming remake of V combine two of our favorite things: creepy aliens and Party of Five! [via thrfeed]
By now, every sci-fi devotee and his grandmother has sounded off on Watchmen, Zack Snyder’s big-budget big-hoopla film version of the eponymous graphic novel. Love it or hate it (and most fans seemed to do one or the other) we can all admit that the movie remained faithful to the book, minus a few scenes and the absence of [spoiler alert] one giant alien squid.
We’ll leave the debates over the acting, direction, and overall adaptation to others (except to say that Jackie Earle Haley stole the show). But one aspect worthy of analysis is the story’s main conflict—the constant “looming” nuclear holocaust. Granted, we never actually see any evidence that the aforementioned holocaust is looming, save a few shots of Nixon upping Defcon levels—but we’ll address that later. When Alan Moore first published the book in 1986, the apocalypse on everyone’s mind was Cold War atomic bombs—which, as we’ve noted, no longer pack quite the same anxiety punch as, say, biological weapons. Today, gas masks and duct tape have replaced air raids and backyard shelters in the popular conscious, to the point where seeing mushroom clouds onscreen feels like you’re watching an ’80s homage.
Of course, none of this means that the nuclear threat is any smaller now than it was three decades ago: The danger of nuclear war is still present, and fear of missile attack still drives plenty of policy and military tech decisions worldwide. But, like Bird Flu, nukes seem to have a PR problem: Despite the fact that they could wipe us all out, the thought of them isn’t all that scary.
The second issue of the Eureka comic book series is out. Our favorite small-town-that-happens-to-border-the-government’s-most-advanced-research-facility-sherriff, Carter, and his deputy, Jo, are continuing a manhunt.
Because they are interested in taking their quarry alive, Carter is equipped with something he has taken to calling a “bubble gun.” The gun immobilizes its target by shooting out a temporary force-field that forms a bubble. In the real world, bubbles—or more accurately, foam—actually are the basis of a gun designed to immobilize enemies.
The future belongs to the post-human, suggests an increasing number of science-fiction writers and serious futurologists (in some cases, they are one and the same person). Post-humanity arises when people and machines merge to create sentient individuals that have capabilities (and possibly motivations) that are so far beyond our current scope as to represent a new stage in human evolution. Immortality and the ability to exist entirely as software within a computer network are only two of the more pedestrian possibilities that may be open to the post-human.