From the Mind of Mr. Zeus, part 9

Time for a new episode… er, I mean, issue of the Official Mr. Zeus Fanclub Newsletter…

Anyone else think Thurman looks like this guy?

Anyone else think Thurman looks like this guy?

“Here’s Hopin'”

What do you think of President-elect Thurman?

You may have noticed that I don’t talk about politics or my own political beliefs much in the press or in this newsletter. Ever since my wrestling days, my friends, mentors, and agents all advised me to avoid talking about politics and religion, ‘cuz people are often very passionate about those topics and comments tend to touch off discussions that can get heated very quickly. Some people will go from mega-fan to anti-fan in a heartbeat! Best just to keep my semi-informed mouth shut. (Of course, sports is the third topic you’re supposed to avoid, but since I was a wrestler, people sort of expect it and don’t mind comments on that.) Well, I’m about to violate that rule just a little bit.

Truth is, I’m not a big fan of either of the big two political parties here in the good ol’ U. S. of A. Sure, my positions — those that I bother to think through, anyway — lean more one way than the other. But, I have no party affiliation and remain proudly Independent. Now, I’m not one of those who says there’s no real difference between Democrats and Republicans. Ideologically, at least, there are some quite obvious differences, which is why the true-believers on both sides knock heads so often. The problem is that too many politicians on both sides become more worried about prolonging their political careers than about doing much good in Washington. They make empty promises, go along to get along, and tax & spend without really solving the big problems. Same old, same old, every dang year. Aargh!

Thurman, though, seems to be enough of an outsider that he might be able to shake things up for the better. So, while I wasn’t a huge fan of his and couldn’t bring myself to vote for him, I do want to give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s unconventional (pardon the pun and the understatement) and has some fresh ideas. I think he does have the best interests of this country at heart, and we should probably reserve judgment about his competence, etc., until he’s had some time to implement some policies and make a difference. God knows, there are enough opportunities for improvement in Washington and in the nation in general. I’m willing to put most of my doubts aside and see what happens. It’s not like we have much choice, anyway. The electorate has spoken, and President Thurman will be in the Oval Office very shortly.

Besides, he’s on record as being generally pro the superhuman community and supports ILEAD and the new educational program that I’m co-developing with them. So, that’s a good start! Maybe we’ll get more funding….

hpdseal“Hangin’ with the Local LEOs”

Speaking of law enforcement, here’s something you might find interesting. Several weeks ago, I was called in to consult on an unusual case with the Houston Police Department. Somebody was robbing wealthy citizens of jewelry and other items in their supposedly-secure home safes. After 3 months of such thefts occurring every couple of weeks, they had no helpful evidence and no suspects. Oh, they had trace evidence from most of the scenes, but it was weird and inconclusive. Plus, the perpetrator often managed to avoid or somehow neutralize electronic security measures (e.g., CCTV cameras, pressure-sensitive alarms, laser grids). In half the cases, the cops weren’t even sure how the guy(?) got in and/or out.

For example, in one instance the thief had apparently entered the house through a 3rd-story window; he tripped a motion-sensor alarm on his way out and was trapped in a storage closet. Except, when the cops got there, he had disappeared, leaving only — get this — a small pile of dead skin. (Eewww!) Another time, some cops chased him into a dark alley. They thought he was trapped, ‘cuz there was no way out but past them. Except, he vanished. The only thing the CSI guys found that was out of the ordinary was a strange, slimy substance of unknown origin along the edges of a drainage pipe.

The local LEOs realized they could use a little help but didn’t want to risk the Feds taking over the case. And, since I have a couple friends in the governor’s office, they called me. It took awhile, but eventually I remembered why the case seemed familiar. One of my last cases prior to retiring involved some guy who had recently acquired superhuman powers, but they kept changing every few days, and he had no control over those changes. He managed to figure out how to control each ability just long enough to commit some crime with it, then he’d wake up the next day with a different ability. My friends and I caught him by booby-trapping his three next most likely targets. When he showed up an one of them, he was shot with a dart containing some sort of “mutagenic neutralizer serum” that Doc Matrix cooked up. It stopped his mutations for roughly 72 hours, so we could capture him and ship him off to Stratford Supermax.

As it turned out, the same thing was happening to this guy in Houston, too. His name was Jeremy Craine, and he was a very talented cat burglar who recently relocated from Canada. Somewhere along the way, Craine had been tricked into getting injected with some mutagenic concoction that was rewriting certain parts of his DNA — those that researchers are finding connected with the emergence of superhuman abilities in many cases –, giving him a new ability every couple of weeks. The dead skin we found was a side-effect of using his teleportation power. The slime was something he secreted when he morphed into a slug-like form, so he could escape through the drainage pipe.

Anyway, since I had a hunch that our suspect was experiencing something similar to what that other dude did, I contacted Doc Matrix. Doc used the skin and slime samples to customize a neutralizer serum for Craine, which we injected him with when he fell for a trap we laid. Despite all the money and stuff he’d stolen, Craine was really freaking out about the uncontrollable mutations by then and was actually relieved when we caught him. Another crime spree stopped and another bad guy sent to prison. Doc is a consultant at the research lab at Stratford, and he agreed to make sure they have a regular supply of the serum. As long as Craine gets regular shots, his DNA should remain stable and (mostly) human.

menorahcross3d“Old-Fashioned Values”

A few days ago, I was interviewed for Action Magazine, and they asked if I was dating anyone. Fortunately, Olympia and I had discussed the fact that this would inevitably come up in the press, and we agreed to reveal our relationship to the general public when the time arose. (Of course, you guys-n-gals already knew.) So, I told the interviewer about our odd, long-distance romance. I mentioned that we went on three dates before I even kissed her, and the interviewer was really surprised. When I implied that we haven’t gotten any more intimate than that, and we even kept separate bungalows on our recent weekend getaway, the interviewer couldn’t believe it.

*** PARENTAL ALERT! ADULT SUBJECT WARNING! PARENTAL ALERT! ADULT SUBJECT WARNING!
The fact is, Olympia and I are both what some might call “old-fashioned” when it comes to stuff like that. We believe in self-restraint, personal responsibility, and that sexual intimacy is *not* necessary for a healthy, pre-marital relationship. So, we’ve agreed to take things reeeaaal slow. It sure takes a lot of the pressure off of us, and we don’t have to be pre-occupied with wondering about that stuff on our oh-so-infrequent dates.
***

The reason we both feel this way is due to our somewhat religious upbringings. For my part, I was brought up nominally Christian, with both Catholic and Baptist relatives. I never fully accepted all of the theology, but the conservative, Judeo-Christian values stuck with me. As for Olympia, her immediate family and a few cousins are from the Lutheran and Dutch Reformed strains of Christianity. She spent a couple of her rebellious teen years embracing old Germanic paganism, then became agnostic, until returning — sort of — to her roots while in her 20s. Like me, she’s still trying to figure our exactly what her spiritual/metaphysical beliefs are. But, she has decided to adopt the conservative, Judeo-Christian values instilled in her during her youth.

So,… there ya go! By the way, I am told that my interview will appear in the March 2017 issue, print edition, so keep an eye out!

Look at that! I talked about politics and religion and no fights broke out! No one unsubscribed, either! (I hope….) Stay strong, dudes and dudettes!

Das Ende.

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

More Digital Inspiration

About a year-and-a-half ago, I introduced my readers to aspiring sci-fi writer Andre Davis and some of the amazing digital art that inspires his own writing. As Davis says on his “Artists” page,

“As a fan and writer of science fiction, their work stirs my imagination, and makes me long for distant futures and faraway places that exist only in my mind. Unlike authors in other genres, I can’t travel to the locations I write about to do onsite research. Concept art is the closest I’ll ever come to the fantastic, futuristic places I explore in my fiction, and I’m extremely grateful to all the wonderfully talented artists who share their work online.”

This time, I decided to share one painting from each of the artists featured (some with interviews) on that page, plus one from his “Writing Prompts” section. (Lotta cool stuff there, too!) You may recognize some of their work from various games and books. If you are a fan of any of these artists or someone else you think my readers would enjoy, please share in the comments….

"Perilous Shield" by David Demaret

“Perilous Shield” by David Demaret

 

"Long Way Home" by Christian Hecker

“Long Way Home” by Christian Hecker

 

"The Devil's Teeth" by Sebastien Hue

“The Devil’s Teeth” by Sebastien Hue

 

"Roofers of 2071" by Roman Ignatowski

“Roofers of 2071” by Roman Ignatowski

 

"Fort 23" by Jong Won Park

“Fort 23” by Jong Won Park

 

"The Ore Traders" by Pat Presley

“The Ore Traders” by Pat Presley

 

"Vikings in Space" by Leon Tukker

“Vikings in Space” by Leon Tukker

 

"Homecoming" by Marek Okon

“Homecoming” by Marek Okon

Pretty spectacular, eh?

Jack Bauer and the X-Men: The Sequel

“Tick-choom! Tick-choom! Tick-choom! Tick-choom!” — “24”-style countdown timer

In my “Jack Bauer and the X-Men” post of a couple years ago, I briefly discussed the possibility of “24” returning in some form, with or without Kiefer Sutherland’s involvement. I quoted Dana Walden, Chairman and CEO of FOX, who said,

“First of all, we’re not talking about continuing the show without him. We’re talking about whether there’s one installment that he’s not in. Jack Bauer could come in very organically in the story, or [producers are] prepared to do something that would be the one installment without him.”

24-legacy-promo-posterWe will soon see what this initial, Bauer-less attempt at re-vitalizing the “24” series will look like. “24: Legacy” will premiere on Feb. 5, 2017, on the Fox Network. Corey Hawkins stars as Eric Carter, “A military hero who returns to the U.S. with a whole lot of trouble following him back. With nowhere else to turn, the man asks CTU to help him save his life while also stopping one of the largest-scale terror attacks on American soil.” (IMDB plot summary)

It’s too bad Kiefer Sutherland opted not to return (though he did exec produce 1 episode), but I am still optimistic and looking forward to the new show — even though there are only 12 episodes. Does it bother me that the new central character is so different — younger? blacker? a CTU outsider? Of course not. As long as the actor is talented and a good fit for the (hopefully likable) character, and as long as the story is well-written and compelling, with the usual “24” drama, then I’m more than willing to give it a chance. Some continuity with the original series would be nice, though. (I don’t see any of the recent players in the cast list, but it does look like Carlos Bernard’s ‘Tony Almeida’ will show up in an episode. Isn’t he still in prison?)

In the aforementioned post from 2015, I also discussed the announcement by Gary Newman, Co-chair of FOX Entertainment, that a live-action, X-Men-related TV series was in development. Without further details available, I looked at a few possibilities for what it might be about. Well, Marvel & Fox seem to have had other ideas. (Although, “New Mutants” is being made into a big-screen film!)

One concept that was in development for awhile, “Hellfire” (based on the “Hellfire Club” of elitist, mutant supervillains from the comics), was cancelled several months ago. CBR’s Anthony Couto notes that exec producers/showrunners Evan Katz and Manny Coto left “Hellfire” to work on “24: Legacy”. In its place is an “Untitled Fox Marvel Project” by writer Matt Nix (“The Burn Notice”). As reported by Variety‘s Elizabeth Wagmeister,

“[It] will focus on two ordinary parents who discover their children possess mutant powers. Forced to go on the run from a hostile government, the family joins up with an underground network of mutants and must fight to survive.”

Bryan Singer, Lauren Shuler Donner, Simon Kinberg, Jeph Loeb, Jim Chory, and Nix will all serve as executive producers.

“There’s comic book adventure, emotional and complicated relationships and a rich, existing mythology from which to draw. With the brilliant production crew behind this project, it has all the makings of a big, fun and exciting new series.”  — David Madden, president, entertainment, Fox Broadcasting Company

legion-promo-posterMeanwhile, Fox & Marvel have also been developing “Legion” with Noah Hawley (“Bones”, “Fargo”) over at FX, and that series is going to debut just three days after “24: Legacy” (i.e., Feb. 8, 2017). The executive producers include Singer, Donner, Kinberg, Loeb, Chory, John Cameron, and Hawley, with Dan Stevens (“Downton Abbey”) in the title role. Only eight episodes on order, so far.

“David Haller, a.k.a. Legion, is a haunted man with power beyond comprehension. His power does not come free, but at the steep cost of David’s mind. Plagued by numerous split personalities — each commanding a different aspect of his power — David is trying to find his way back to sanity. But he’s getting tired and about to give up until he meets the girl of his dreams.”

I remember Haller/Legion from my X-Men-reading days, along with the fact that he was Charles Xavier’s bastard son with Israeli diplomat Gabrielle Haller. I remember him being a scary dude, too. (Nothing like an incredibly powerful, mentally unstable, and emotionally volatile mutant to shake things up!) He also had hair that stood straight up about a foot or more atop his head. That eccentricity probably won’t make it into the FX series. In fact, other than his being diagnosed (accurately?) with schizophrenia, it is unclear how closely this version of Haller/Legion will hew to the original or how much it will connect to other Marvel-based shows or movies. According to Hawley,

“It’s a little more of a fable in my mind. If you were to say, ‘Where is it, and when is it?’, it’s not exactly clear, I think. And a lot of it is because he’s not exactly clear. It’s the world as perceived subjectively on some level. The recent ‘X-Men’ movies, starting with ‘First Class,’ are rooted in a time period and a world and playing with history in interesting ways. This isn’t doing that… It’s a standalone kind of thing.”

Here’s the trailer:

I won’t say I’m “psyched” for it, but I am intrigued….

Goodbye, Princess Leia!

“I don’t know where you get your delusions, laser brain.”  — Princess Leia Organa to Han Solo

princess-leia-in-action-by-alex-ross

R.I.P. Carrie Fisher

Pop-culture Icon, Sci-fi Legend, and Hero to many who struggle with addiction and depression.

Thanks for the memories, the humor, and the (often brutal) honesty!

leia-in-braid-white-jacket

leia-in-return-of-the-jedi-long-hair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

carrie-fisher-play-difficult

Merry Christmas 2016!

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived unexpectedly in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” … After hearing the king, they went on their way. And there it was — the star they had seen in the east! It led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed beyond measure.”  — Matthew 2:1-2,9-10 (HCSB)

startrek-magi

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

happy-hanukkah-trek

Cypher

The following piece of original fiction is over 20 years old.

I seem to remember being inspired in part by a TV movie, but the title and plot have long since faded from memory. (Well, mine, anyway.) Originally, I wrote it longhand… in pencil. (You remember those, right?) But that copy disappeared, probably around the time I moved from NJ to FL 8 years ago. I thought it was lost until a few years ago, when I found a partially-corrupted text file version. I managed to salvage it, but the second half was gone. I was considering posting it here, anyway, but held off.

Then, a few days ago, while going through some old boxes of stuff, I found my handwritten copy with both parts! Plus notes to explain what’s going on! Yay! So, I’m able to share the whole thing. (There are additional notes for a Part III, but I’m gonna hold onto them, in case I ever get the urge to continue the story in another post.) Not that it’s anything fantastic. But, it was my first foray into fiction-writing since my college years, and I thought it turned out pretty good.

The style of narrative should be a familiar one: protagonist gets thrown into an awkward situation with little helpful knowledge (and, in this case, a dose of amnesia), and the reader discovers things at the same time as the protagonist does. I tweaked the text just a tad to eliminate an inconsistency and improve the flow, but it’s mostly intact here….

“Cypher”

Part 1:

bald-head-side-view-with-three-question-marks_318-48742Sand.

That was the first thing he was aware of when he came to. It was in his mouth, and it did not taste very good. He tried spitting it out, but he just got more sand on his dry lips. The gritty substance seemed to be all over him. He could feel it on his hands and face and in his clothes. As he started to turn his head, he became aware of a melange of odors assaulting his nostrils. Fish… dead fish and brine. That was most obvious. Wet wood, candy, rubber,… and a faint wafting of smoke.

He suddenly realized he had been lying face down in the sand and, apart from his feeble attempts at spitting, he had not moved since becoming conscious. He tried to open his eyes to see where he was, but there was only a gray fuzziness at the edges of a field of black.

“Am I blind?,” he thought. It occurred to him he should panic at that, but somehow it did not bother him too much. It was as if his subconscious knew the condition was either normal, or temporary, or both.

Slowly, however, his remaining senses seemed to start kicking in. He became aware of sounds, faint confirmations that the world around him was feeling a bit less out-of-sorts than he was. He heard, and then felt, the gentle surf lapping at his feet. His shoes and the lower half of his pantlegs were obviously soaked, but the water was warm and he felt no chill.

Hesitantly, he moved arms and legs into position and pushed himself onto his hands and knees. His whole body felt stiff and he sensed that he had a few cuts and bruises, but he did not seem to be in any real pain. His shoulder bumped something which, upon further tactile examination, appeared to be a log about four feet long and nearly a foot thick, lying on its side and slightly slick to the touch. As he eased himself into a sitting position on the log, he started trying to fit some of the pieces together.

He was on a beach somewhere, but he did not know which beach or even why he was there. Probably not to swim, as he was fully clothed and had no swimming trunks on beneath his pants. Judging by his physical condition, he had either fallen and injured himself, or he had been involved in some sort of scuffle and then abandoned. Had he been mugged? He had no wallet, but that was not proof in itself of foul play. He had no watch, but somehow he knew he neither owned nor needed one. Furthermore, he seemed to know exactly what time it was — 11:23pm on Friday, September 6, 2013.

He was, however, wearing what felt like a man’s wedding band on his left ring finger. Either he had stumbled across some rather inept thieves, or he could rule out being mugged. Beyond that, he had no idea where he was, how he got there, what happened to him, or, despite his uncanny awareness of time, how long he had been lying unconscious in the sand. What was most disturbing, however, was the fact that he had no idea who he was.

Part 2:

under-a-pier-at-night“Young man, I said, ‘Are you alright?'”

He jumped and spun around at the sudden sound, startled out of his introspection. Squinting into the darkness of his slowly clearing vision, he thought he could make out the stocky figure of a dark-skinned man standing less than twenty feet away. He had been so absorbed in his self-examination that he had not noticed the stranger’s approach in the semi-damp sand.

“Easy, son. I don’t want any trouble. I just saw you sitting there on that log with your head in your hands, and I thought you might be sick or hurt or need some help.”

The black man continued to appraise him with a kind but wary eye.

“Hey, is that some kind of karate move or something?”

Only then did he realize he had instinctively gone into a defensive, semi-crouching stance when he first heard the man’s voice.

“Tae kwon do, actually,” he responded automatically while taking note of how dry his mouth was. Sensing an absence of hostility from the stranger, he began to relax a little. How do I know tae kwon do? And how much do I know?, he thought. Judging by his reflexive actions of a moment ago, he was probably well-trained, at least.

“I took a class down at the ‘Y’,” he said. It seemed his instincts were also telling him “Never let the other guy know how much you know until absolutely necessary.” He could hear it in his mind, as if it were part of a lecture. But from where?, he wondered. Was it really from a public self-defense class?

“Say, you do look banged up a bit,” the stranger observed as he approached cautiously. “Why don’t you let me have a look? I’m a doctor.” The black man started giving him a cursory examination, then stopped. “The moon may be ‘big and bright’ tonight, but other than a couple minor cuts and bruises on your face, I can’t see diddly. Why don’t you come back to my place, and I’ll get you patched up and maybe throw in some hot chocolate if you like. C’mon, it’s only about a quarter-mile back up the beach,” he said, gesturing behind him with his thumb. “And, besides, it looks like we could both use someone to talk to tonight.”

He considered his options and, given his situation and the seemingly genuine concern and kind offer from this friendly stranger, he decided not to look a gift-horse in the mouth.

“Alright,” he said, “I guess I could use a little medical attention. And the hot chocolate sound pretty good, too.” Besides, he thought, if this guy was involved with whomever or whatever happened to me, why would he come back now? And why the ‘good samaritan’ act?

“Fine,” said the stranger, taking him by the elbow and leading him slowly back the way from which he had apparently come. “Lean on me if your legs seem weak or you feel dizzy. You may have a concussion. By the way, I’m Amos. ‘Dr. Amos J. Thibodeaux, M.E.’, if you want the business card version. But, you just call me ‘Amos’.”

The two began walking quietly side by side, each immersed in his own thoughts as the surf whooshed gently on the beach, making the occasional bid to caress their feet. The younger of the two glanced back at where he had just been and realized he had been lying just outside the shadow of a huge pier. On the land beyond the pier, he could see and hear the workings of a small amusement park. That would explain the cotton candy smell, he surmised, but there doesn’t seem to be much of a breeze tonight. I wonder how I could smell it so well, especially with the stinky dead fish smell being so strong. But, that should be the least of my worries. I still don’t know who or where I am or why I was lying unconscious under a pier in the middle of the night.

Notes:

bionic-eye-implanted-in-old-blind-man-to-seeo  He, aka “Cypher”, is a cyborg with an organic brain, cloned from one “donor” (supposedly without memories), but partially “programmed” with engrams of another. He has a computer-enhanced memory, processing, etc. Everything that happens to him or is detected with his enhanced senses is recorded and backed up to “the cloud” every hour. [I just added that bit, since “the cloud” wasn’t a thing when I first wrote this.] He can interface and up/download data on any known system.

o  Occasionally, he has memory flashes from both the original brain donor and the engram “model”.

o  Eventually, he will discover that his “creators” were not entirely benevolent and that he was programmed with some rather violent urges and deadly skills.

o  He also discovers that the incident which ended up with him being beaten and left on the beach was due to betrayal by another synthetic human.

Apparently, I later spent some more time thinking about how I might further develop this concept into a complex, three-part story. I had totally forgotten about it, but I found my old notes about this on another sheet of paper just the day before yesterday. So,…

Notes II:

First novel/chapter originally develops that Cypher was created by a benevolent organization, then it ends with a twist to indicate that Cypher was built by and/or working for “bad guys”. Second novel/chapter develops this further but ends with another twist, indicating he may have worked for/with “good guys”, after all. Third novel/chapter expands on this, finally revealing his true origins/mission. It would be something along the lines of:

1) “Created” by benevolent organization that was partially funded by U.S. Dept. of Defense.

2) Top-secret group within the intelligence community convinced (bribed? coerced?) one of the scientists involved to deliver the first successful “product” of the Proteus Project (i.e., Cypher) to them.

3) This group then trained Cypher/Proteus for an undercover mission to infiltrate and expose a rogue faction (“bad guys”) within the intelligence community.

4) While on this mission, he is ambushed, beaten, and left for dead on the beach.

– fake pulse is temporarily damaged
– experiential memory is 99% erased, and link to back-up memory is damaged; so, even if he knew he had it, he couldn’t access it
– eventually, limited self-repair of functions are able to restore the link

5) If Cypher ever gets full (back-up) memory restored, it won’t be until end of third novel/chapter.

There ya have it! The genesis of “Cypher”. Hope y’all found it enjoyable.

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

Fan-Cast: Highlander Reboot

“There can be only one!”

Ah, the Highlander! Great concept, awesome film (1986)! (I’m sure I don’t have to explain what it’s about, right?) Perfect? No. But, despite a few flaws, I would easily rank it among my favorites. The sequels, on the other hand, left a *lot* to be desired. (Not sure I even watched the last couple.) The “Highlander” TV series was fairly popular — my brother was a big fan –, though I never watched much of it or the TV movie follow-up. I’m not sure I ever watched the (ironically) short-lived “Highlander: The Raven” spinoff series, either. (I found series star Elizabeth Gracen quite attractive, however.)

highlander-titleIn case you were unaware, Lionsgate has been trying since 2008 — when they acquired the rights — to breathe new life into the franchise. It was announced last month that Chad Stahelski, one of the John Wick co-directors, has signed on to helm the Highlander reboot film. This follows false starts with various other directors (e.g., Justin Lin). Also, Ryan Reynolds was once attached as the lead, Dave Bautista as The Kurgan, and Tom Cruise rumored for Ramirez. I hope we dodged that bullet! (I’m OK with Bautista, but I think the other two would be big mistakes.)

Here’s what Stahelski had to say:

“I’ve been a huge fan of the original property since I saw it in high school. Such great themes of immortality, love, and identity are all wrapped up in such colorful mythology. I can’t think of a better property that gives the opportunity to create interesting characters, mythic themes and action set pieces.”

The studio is looking for new writers to tackle the project. I know the screenplay probably won’t exactly mirror the original movie, but I really hope they keep at least the main story and characters, not to mention much of the look, feel, and themes of the original. Also, the music in the original was, I think, a big part of its appeal. So, I hope they re-use at least a couple of the Queen songs (e.g., “Princes of the Universe”, “Who Wants to Live Forever”). Unfortunately, Michael Kamen passed away several years ago, so they can’t bring him back as composer/conductor for the orchestral pieces. Maybe Danny Elfman? No news, yet, about potential stars, so I offer my suggestions below.

Note: I am limiting myself to the 4 principal characters — yes, I’m assuming they’ll still use ‘The Kurgan’ — but addressing them all in this one post. So, in an effort to cover multiple candidates for each, I will be much more limited than usual in the accompanying text. Slight change to format, too.

Connor MacLeod / Russell Edwin Nash

Using the 1986 movie as our reference point, the main character is a 30-ish-looking Scotsman, perhaps 6′ or a little less, with a fit but not overly-muscular build. (Christopher Lambert (5’11”,b.1957) was in his late 20s at the time and not particularly muscular.) I’d like to get a native Scotsman for the role, but the important thing is that he can do a good (and understandable) Scottish accent. (Almost anything would be better than the French(ish) accent that Lambert had. Was he even trying?!) Oh, and he should look competent wielding a broadsword.

Not being familiar with a *lot* of actors from the UK, I went looking at the cast of “Game of Thrones” and found one that might fit the bill. Gethin Anthony (5’9.75″,b.1983), who played Renly Baratheon, is the right build and just within height parameters. Canadian heartthrob Ryan Gosling (6’0.5″,b.1980) is my oldest candidate but can still pass for early 30s. He’s a fine actor and even has some Scottish heritage. Then, we have the Australian Jai Courtney (6’1″,b.1986), who is exactly 30 (at the moment, anyway). He is perhaps a little beefier than the other two, but that’s OK, and he has been racking up an impressive genre resume.

Gethin Anthony

Gethin Anthony

Ryan Gosling

Ryan Gosling

Jai Courtney

Jai Courtney

 

 

 

 

 


Brenda J. Wyatt

Miss Wyatt, the love-interest who first gets onto MacLeod’s trail in modern-day NYC, was a forensic scientist working for (with?) the NYPD. I hope they retain that aspect of the character, though “investigative journalist” — however stereotypical — might be acceptable. The only real requirements here are that she be attractive, roughly the same age as the lead, have on-screen chemistry with him, and be believable in the part. Without elaboration, I present the following three lovely and talented actresses who could fill the role: Scottie Thompson (5’7″,b.1981), Sarah Lancaster (5’8.5″,b.1980), Megan Markle (5’7″,b.1981).

Scottie Thompson

Scottie Thompson

Sarah Lancaster

Sarah Lancaster

Megan Markle

Megan Markle

 

 

 

 

 


Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez

Since my ideal pick, Ricardo Montalban, is long dead and gone, I’ve managed to come up with a few more suggestions for this Egyptian immortal who long-ago adopted a Spanish name & identity. I’m flexible regarding height and build, though within reason, but preferably reasonably fit and believable as a master swordsman. Sean Connery was in his mid-50s when he played the part. My preference would be to cast someone pretty close to that, but the right person might convince me to go younger or older. The actor must also be credible in the role of MacLeod’s teacher/mentor, of course, and Connery’s shoes — though he may have seemed an odd choice at the time — will be hard to fill.

Assuming the producers go with a Latino, “Game of Thrones”‘s Pedro Pascal (5’11”,b.1975) might be an interesting choice. The main drawback here is that he’s in his early 40s. Antonio Banderas (5’8.5″,b.1960), on the other hand, is a tad on the short side but might be just right. We know Banderas is adept at both drama and humor, often mixing the two. Also, like Pascal, he has some experience with swordfighting. Finally, while I couldn’t find an Egyptian actor, I found one who once played an Egyptian mummy. Arnold Vosloo (6’2″,b.1962), who is actually South African, could be a great Ramirez. He’s the correct age, and I know he’s got the talent. (Note: I purposely chose pics of Vosloo and Banderas with beards to show the gray, like Connery’s Ramirez, though he had much less.)

Pedro Pascal

Pedro Pascal

Antonio Banderas

Antonio Banderas

Arnold Vosloo

Arnold Vosloo

 

 

 

 

 


Victor Kruger / The Kurgan

The Kurgan, as played by the terrific Clancy Brown, is truly a great genre villain. His imposing physicality, deep voice, Goth-cum-punk appearance, ruthless and somewhat psychotic behavior combine to make him a beloved baddie. I don’t expect the reboot to have the Kurgan look and act exactly the same, but I hope he is still a mix of brooding and psycho-killer. (More than just a “Terminator”, anyway.) Brown (6’3.5″,b.1959) is actually a couple years younger than Lambert, putting him in his mid-20s during filming. However, I think it better to find someone who is in his 30s, possibly 40s. He obviously must be physically imposing, so I propose a few athletic candidates that are over 6’6″.

Ex-NFLer Matthew Willig (6’6.5″,b.1969), whom we saw as “Lash” on Season 3 of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, has the right look. Robert Maillet (6’10”,b.1969), from “The Strain” and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, has a similar look. Of course, Willig and Maillet are already heading into their late 40s; but, they are also still very physically fit and active. Oh, did I mention that Maillet went by “Kurrgan” when he wrestled for the WWF? Now, for someone younger, slightly shorter, but even beefier, there’s always Icelandic Strongman Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (6’9″,b.1988), who played Gregor ‘The Mountain’ Clegane in “Game of Thrones”. Not sure about Willig, but Maillet and Björnsson have each done some swordfighting, too.

Matthew Willig

Matthew Willig

Robert Maillet

Robert Maillet

Hafthor Julius Bjornsson

Hafthor Julius Bjornsson

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK, that’s it for this Fan-Casting exercise. Let me know if you liked any of my picks, OK? L8r…

If I Could Have a Superpower…

Have you ever wished you had superpowers?

Silly question. If you are reading this blog, chances are that at some point — whether in childhood or earlier today or anytime in between — you thought it would be awesome to have some superhuman ability. Superspeed like the Flash, or telepathy like Professor X, or X-ray vision like Superman/girl could all come in handy in the course of your day, whether at school or work or home or… just about anywhere. Of course, if you’re like me, you’ve also imagined patrolling your city/town/neighborhood, maybe while wearing a cool costume/uniform, using your powers for good (hopefully).

little-superheroesSuperhero geek that I am, I was thinking about this again the other day and decided to come up with my personal “Top 5” wished-for superpowers. Not some god-like abilities of destructive power or matter-energy manipulation, but more “average” powers with some sensible limitations. I also avoided things like martial arts and detective skills, since those are abilities that normal humans can gain on their own. A couple of them were easy, but the rest required a bit more thought. Here’s what I came up with:

1) Superstrength: Ever since I started reading superhero comics and watching shows like “The Six Million Dollar Man”, I wanted to be superstrong. I just thought it would be so cool to have the sort of physical strength that could not just beat up bad guys but benchpress large vehicles, rip trees out of the ground, and dig/punch my way through a mountain to save the damsel in distress — or trapped miners. Whichever. Such dreams are not uncommon for skinny, nerdy, unpopular kids like myself. (Ever wanted to teach a bully a lesson?) I’d still like to have superstrength, of course, assuming I could control it and that I wasn’t built like too much of a freak. Twisting crowbars into pretzels and stopping a speeding truck in its tracks are always impressive demonstrations, not to mention intimidating to criminals of various sorts. Yep. This is my #1 wished-for superpower.

2) Invulnerability (aka Superhuman Durability): This particular “power” often accompanies superstrength, sometimes in a rationally connected way (e.g., unusually dense organic tissues) or just ‘cuz the creator thought it would be cool/helpful. But, the two abilities don’t necessarily go together. Obviously, my preference would be to have both. On the other hand, it might be interesting to have some sort of power that granted me a measure of invulnerability — say, from bullets, knives, explosives, etc. — but without any enhanced strength. This could come in the form of an energy field surrounding my body that kicked in within nanoseconds of any ballistic type of threat. (Of course, in this instance, I’d still be vulnerable to slow, up-close attacks.) This ability would come in quite useful for search-n-rescue work, and it would minimize my budget for band-aids and stitches. (An acceptable alternative would be superhuman regenerative abilities.)

3) Flight: Right up there with superstrength, I’ve always thought it would be very cool to be able to personally fly, especially unaided by technology. Used to have actual dreams where I did, though sometimes it was more like “leap(ing) over buildings in a single bound.” Along with the actual flight ability, I would prefer to have other anatomical alterations that allow me to breathe at high speeds and altitudes, and it would be nice if I didn’t need to wear goggles to protect my eyes. Yeah, zipping around through the skies would be pretty sweet! But, as a superhero/adventurer, I would need some other abilities and/or technology to be truly effective. Also, I wouldn’t want to be limited to just moving at a few miles per hour. The faster, the better! And, speaking of fast…

04_11_superheroes_1000x10554) Superspeed: Who wouldn’t want to be able to outrace a train… or a speeding bullet (ave. 1700 mph)… or even approach the speed of light itself? Of course, along with the ability to run (or fly) at such speeds comes associated enhancements like superfast reflexes and a brain that processes information many times faster than normal. Think how many people you could save, how many crimes you could stop, how productive you could be! That’s why it is sometimes frustrating to watch “The Flash” on TV; the writers don’t take creative advantage of the character’s full abilities. (But, I don’t want to get off on a tangent about the show.) As with superstrength, it might take a little while to learn to control the speed powers and adjust to living an otherwise “normal” life, especially if my body’s natural state was no longer in sync with the rest of the world. But, if Barry Allen and Wally West can figure it out….

I’m torn between the next two, so I’m calling it a tie for #5:

5) Shapeshifting: Some people might prefer to have super-stretchy powers like Mr. Fantastic or Plastic Man, since they can often “morph” into different, complex shapes. But, I would prefer something along the lines of what Martian Manhunter does. Namely, he can alter his body’s shape and features to mimic just about any person or creature, ranging in size from a fly to “enormous sizes comparable to skyscrapers”. MM is also quite adept at imitating the behavior and mannerisms of those he mimics. (I haven’t figured out how he alters his clothing, too.) This ability would prove quite useful, particularly in detective work and in going undercover, not to mention avoiding cops, press, bad guys trying to hunt me down, etc. I imagine shapeshifting could be a lot of fun at parties, too.

5) Telekinesis: A very literal example of “mind over matter”… the ability to lift, push, pull, and otherwise manipulate matter — solid, liquid, gas, maybe even plasma — via conscious, directed thought. Regardless of how one might explain such an ability, I’m sure you would agree that it would be very cool to have it. Someone once said, “Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot.” I think I could scare a few into thinking they were encountering a ghost or demon or something. On the other hand, it might be more satisfying to simply batter them with heavy objects while maintaining a safe distance. Either way, telekinetic abilities would be quite useful on many occasions, whether foiling the plans of a criminal overlord or pranking some jerk who used two parking spots for his sports car.

Any one of these would be amazing to have, but multiple powers would, of course, be fantastic! Not sure I’d want to risk an “origin story”, though. Unless you’re “born that way”, those can be rather painful. I’d also prefer to continue looking human, thankyouverymuch.

What about you? If you had a choice to gain one or more superhuman abilities, what would they be?

24 Quotes About “24”

“You are gonna tell me what I want to know. It’s just a question of how much you want it to hurt.”  — Jack Bauer, Season 5

secretsof24Last Christmas (2015), I received a copy of the book Secrets of 24: The Unauthorized Guide to the Political & Moral Issues Behind TV’s Most Riveting Drama as a gift. (Note: It was published prior to the debut of Season 7.) It’s a great choice for me, since it mixes the subjects of my two blogs. I haven’t yet worked it into my reading schedule, but I was recently skimming it and got an idea for a blogpost. This one, in fact.

Interspersed throughout the book’s text — which includes articles by and interviews with various journalists, writers, actors, experts of different kinds, etc. — are little sidebars, “quick takes on the facts, humor, and breadth of voices and ideas generated by ’24′”. So, I have chosen 24 of my favorites to share with you. A few are funny or merely informative, but most give insight into the show, the central character of Jack Bauer, and their influence by and on American culture. Hope you like…

“We do want democratic process, but we also want justice. And the show allows us to have both, and that’s why we love it.”  — David Heyman, terrorism scholar, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Among the boldface names who are fans of the show: Dave Barry, Dick Cheney, Bill Clinton, Jim Cramer, Billy Crystal, Tony Danza, Trent Dilfer, Geena Davis, Bill Gates, Laura Ingraham, Stephen King, Rush Limbaugh, John McCain, Jim McMahon, Donald Rumsfeld, Seal, Barbra Streisand, Clarence Thomas, and Tina Turner.

“We always had the idea of this King Lear story, of Jack being the prodigal son, the guy who was his father’s favorite but turned against his dad, and the less favorite son took over the empire. In some ways, you get to see that his family is his destiny.”  — ’24’ executive producer Howard Gordon on the plan to give Jack Bauer “genetic responsibility for a lot of the misery by association” in Season six, when he duels with both his brother and his father

“An America that looks to Bauer rather than Batman is an altered nation indeed.”  — Ezra Klein, blogger and writing fellow, The American Prospect

o  Jack Bauer has been to Mars. That’s why there’s no life on Mars.
o  Superman wears Jack Bauer pajamas.
o  How many CTU special agents does it take to change a lightbulb? Twenty. Nineteen to set up a perimeter, while Jack Bauer tortures the lightbulb into revealing the whereabouts of the socket. [Ed. Note: I think the better answer is, of course, twenty-four.]
— sampling of Internet humor about ’24’

“The show reflects where we are in the culture at this moment in time. Every generation has it. There’s social transformation going now in the way we see the world, domestic policy, foreign policy, domestic intelligence, and foreign intelligence. All these things are becoming blurred, as are the questions that we have to face on morality. And the show does a really great job of trying to put those questions on a personal level for all of us. We’re all Jack Bauer in our hearts.”  — David Heyman, terrorism scholar, Center for Strategic and International Studies

“I have fallen in love with another man. For the past five months we have been meeting in a dark room every Sunday night, while the children are tucked up in bed and my husband snores upstairs. It is crazy because I know he would love him too, but he lacks the stamina that this relationship requires. So it’s just me… and Jack Bauer…. His sense of duty is unbreakable. His idea of a hot date is to bundle you into the boot of a mercenary’s car and he is more interested in speed-dialing the office than sex. Yet there is a vulnerability about Jack where women are concerned. Tenderness even. He would lay down his life to get you home safely and maybe, just maybe, this time you could make him stay.”  — Sheila McClennan, The Guardian (UK)

24-seasons-1-6“Characters that push things over the limit are interesting characters. It’s very natural to create a character like that in the world of terrorism because there are so many difficult moral, ethical and legal dilemmas, political dilemmas, that constantly arise. You want a character that’s over the edge a little.”  — Robert Cochran, co-creator, ’24’

“When men watch Tony Soprano and Jack Bauer they enter into a contract with the characters. They watch and savor the brutality but recognize how pathetic these heroes are. Guys watch TV shows such as ‘The Sopranos’ and ’24’ and see all the horror, humiliations and complications of being male. Tony Soprano and Jack Bauer are not role models to emulate. They are case studies to brood upon. They are a warning. Every man knows that.”  — John Doyle, Globe and Mail (Toronto)

According to co-creator Joel Surnow, the first few episodes of ’24’ were heavily influenced by the movies Three Days of the Condor, La Femme Nikita, and The Day of the Jackal. But these episodes were “in the can” before 9/11. Afterward, and in fact for every season after the first, Surnow says the plots were influenced by “real events.”

“While we don’t try to represent any kind of real truth — obviously 24 hours in the format makes it impossible — we try to, I think, present an essential truth, or an essential problem. So when Jack Bauer tortures, it’s in a compressed reality… We try to compress these arguments and these issues and dramatize them in obviously very unreal ways, but hopefully in dramatic and compelling ways. And that’s really ultimately our master… making a compelling, ‘adrenalized’ TV show.”  — Howard Gordon, executive producer of ’24’

“’24’ dispenses with the politically correct evasions that pervade prime time episodic television…. It identifies the terrorist enemy without flinching and lets the good guys fight to win — without apologies.”  — Christian Toto, The Washington Times

“In this age of terror and worldwide insecurity, ’24’ created the illusion of an all-American superagent on whose watch the bad guys, whether Muslims or Russians or shady white men, would inevitably blow off their sorry behinds. It was political comfort food.”  — Andrea Peyser, the New York Post

“’24’ was well into production when the terrorist attacks on September 11 happened. The effect on the show was that Fox’s legal department reviewed the first few episodes and made us recut the sequence where the 747 blows up at 36,000 feet (11,000m). Fox did not want to show the actual plane exploding in the air. It also meant that an extensive aerial sequence which was to have been shot by a second unit downtown was shut down and we had to substitute Glendale for downtown.”  — Jon Cassar, director and producer of ’24’

Over six seasons, the enemies depicted on ’24’ have included mercenaries, Serbian nationalists, Arab terrorists, American oil executives, Mexican drug lords, corrupt British businessmen, the Chinese, pseudo-Chechen terrorists, a vast right-wing conspiracy based in the White House, more Arab terrorists, rogue Russian officials, and, of course, Jack Bauer’s own father and brother.

Season 3 cast

Season 3 cast

By inflicting beatings, injections, and the electric shock delivered by a taser gun during an episode in Season 2, the show earned the Parents’ Television Council’s Least Family-Friendly Program citation for the week. The PTC also calculates that out of the 624 instances of torture on TV from 2002 to 2005, ’24’ accounted for more than 67 such scenes, making it no. 1 in torture depictions.

Former president Bill Clinton has said he is a big fan of ’24’, even though the show is run by “an über right-wing guy” (referring to Joel Surnow). He thinks the show is fair in making both Democrats and Republicans look equally evil.

“Bauer keeps fighting, of course, but for people, not politics. “24”‘s ideology — Jack Bauerism, if you will — is not so much in between left and right as it is outside them, impatient with both ACLU niceties and Bushian moral absolutes.”  — James Poniewozik, Time magazine

“What the show tries to do is capture an emotional and psychological reality of living in a world where terrorism is a threat. If you are looking to us for realistic advice on how to fight terrorism, we’re all in real trouble.”  — Robert Cochran, co-creator, writer, and producer of ’24’

“The show may even work as a kind of inoculation, jolting us with a little dose of manageable terrorism or nuclear threat or biological warfare as a balm to our deeper, unspoken anxieties.”  — Charles McGrath, the New York Times

“You don’t need to watch ’24’ as a kind of primer on moral philosophy, but you probably should.”  — Brian M. Carney, the Wall Street Journal

“On ’24’, there are a few very good people, a few very bad ones, and in between a lot of question marks who can upend the plot (and the political analogies). That may be the biggest lesson of ’24’ in the Iraq era: don’t stubbornly hang on to your preconceptions when the facts on the ground change.”  — Time magazine

“I would agree that ’24’ is a genuine New Thing Under the Sun, not really a serial at all, but the world’s first überseries.”  — Stephen King, best-selling novelist and ’24’ fan

“We certainly can’t say with any certainty that cyberterrorism doesn’t exist, and can’t say it didn’t occur… but there is little doubt in my mind that, years from now, this will be a primary method of attack, a primary theater of operations, if you will.”  — Amit Yoran, vice president of managed security services operations, Symantec Corporation

And,… I’ll leave you with a bonus quote (not in a sidebar) from Leslie Hope, who played Teri Bauer in Season 1:

“I may be having the best time of my life…. Kiefer is gracious and generous, has the patience of a saint, is a good listener, and his butt looks awesome in his Wranglers!”

I think I’m gonna move this book up a few notches in my to-read list. Now that I’m in the mood for it, I may have to add the show to my re-watch (again) list, too….

SuperThankful

A little change of pace this week. Given the particular holiday we (in the U.S.) are about to celebrate, I thought I’d name a few things I am thankful for — but, geared to the subject matter of this blog, of course.

Main floor at Salt Lake Comic Con 2014

Main floor at Salt Lake Comic Con 2014

1) I am thankful that being a fan of sci-fi/fantasy and superheroes is much more culturally accepted, these days. It wasn’t all that long ago when such things were considered “nerdy”, “square”, or “uncool” by default. Now, a lot of the “cool kids” like this stuff, too. (Similar thing can be said about computers and other tech.) Comic and Star Trek/sci-fi conventions used to be the domain of Trekkies and other social outcasts. Nowadays, there is a much wider audience and, thus, fandom for such things. We can boldly wear our “geek” hats — and, sometimes, complete cosplay outfits — with much less fear (within some environments, at least) of getting mocked or beaten up.

2) I am thankful that Hollywood has discovered that this growing fanbase makes both small-screen and big-screen genre productions much more likely to make money, especially when done with great care and attention to talent, script, and production values. (Even SyFy Channel is putting out some decent stuff these days.) It used to be that most movies of this sort were pretty cheesey — sorta like the genre TV shows.

I would say that Star Wars (1977), Superman (1978), and Alien (1979) ushered in a new era, showing fans and studios alike what was really possible. On the TV side, while classics like the original “Doctor Who” (1963), “Mission Impossible” (1966), and “Star Trek” (1966) broke new ground, I think shows like “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (1987), “Babylon 5” (1994), and “Smallville” (2001) continued to push the boundaries and gain new fans. Now, we have several genre movies every year and more TV shows (and I include Netflix and cable here), regular and mini-series, than anyone can keep up with.

3) I am thankful for the incredible technological innovations in Visual and Special F/X that allow starships, aliens, strange worlds, magic, and superpowers to come alive in a much more realistic fashion than even just a couple decades ago. These have, of course, been instrumental in the success of many sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure shows and films. (Can you imagine trying to do The Matrix, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Avengers back in the 1980s or before?!) Sometimes they can be disappointing or overused, sure. But, when done right, the F/X can be pretty darn AMAZING!

4) I am thankful for the advent and development of social media — blogging in particular — that allows people of all kinds from all over the world to share their love of and enthusiasm for comics, anime/manga, games, books, TV shows and movies, etc., with each other. And, in many cases, we can do so for free (or very cheap) and nearly instantaneously! Do you realize how incredible that is? When I was a kid, this kind of connectedness was itself the stuff of science fiction. (Even ARPANET was in its infancy.)

5) I am thankful for you, my readers. Yeah, yeah, I know. But, although we don’t get much commentary on the posts, I do see slight increases in page views (and the occasional spike). So, I know you’re out there, reading my rants, opinions, fan-castings, and other “quantum musings” — over 160 of them since I started the blog 2 years and 9 months ago. (Hopefully, you’re also referring your friends, too.) Thanks again, everyone!

Add it all up and I am “SuperThankful” that I live in a time and place where I can enjoy all of the above with all of you….

Happy Thanksgiving!