Dinobots’ triumphant return!
Grimlock is back, "Transformer" fans!
June 21st, 2012
02:35 PM ET

Dinobots’ triumphant return!

“Me, Grimlock!”

That T-Rex shaped Transformer and his pals are back in a new video game and fans say it's about time.

The Transformers are reaching back into their “prehistoric” past and bringing the Dinobots – Autobots in dinosaur form – to their next video game. Grimlock, Slag, Sludge, Snarl and Swoop are returning in the new “Transformers: Fall of Cybertron."

The group of dinosaur-shaped robots hasn’t been around for many years, only making small appearances in comic books after being prominent in the Transformer cartoon series in the mid-1980s. They were the first mini-team in the Transformers universe, and their shape and rugged attitude made them enjoyable for kids.

Ryan Yzquierdo, a self-proclaimed Transformers guru, has been a fan of the “Robots in Disguise” since the cartoon. He runs a website featuring galleries of Transformer toys, most of which (nearly 4,000) he currently owns. He says it was hard not to be a fan of the Dinobots.

“If you were a fan in the '80s, you knew who Grimlock was,” he said. “He is every bit of a character as some of the frontrunners like Optimus, Megatron, Starscream or Bumblebee. He’s right there at the top of one of the best Transformers of all time. FULL POST

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Nate Simpson on 'Nonplayer' and the art of creative perseverance
Nate Simpson's "Nonplayer" comic book won immediate praise for his artwork. He's also a video game concept artist.
June 20th, 2012
05:00 PM ET

Nate Simpson on 'Nonplayer' and the art of creative perseverance

Editor's note: Erika D. Peterman is a Florida-based writer and editor and the co-creator of the comics blog Girls-Gone-Geek.com.

In spring 2011, “Nonplayer #1” (Image Comics) generated the kind of excitement that independent comics creators dream of.

Written and illustrated by video game concept artist Nate Simpson, the series introduced readers to Dana Stevens, a tamale delivery girl who escapes her mundane reality through the full-immersion online game “Warriors of  Jarvath.” The praise for Simpson’s story and lush illustrations was immediate and plentiful, making it one of the most critically lauded comics of the year.

By that summer, Warner Bros. acquired the film rights. Simpson, a newcomer to comics, had a huge hit on his hands and a highly anticipated second issue to finish.

Then, that fall, Simpson crashed his bicycle, an incident that could have been fatal if he hadn’t been wearing a helmet. As the right-handed artist wrote on his Project Waldo blog, “Every bone connecting my right arm to my torso was broken.” His arm in a sling, he was physically sidelined. But Simpson began to write candidly about the other obstacles he had to confront, namely, the enormous pressure he felt after “Nonplayer #1” hit the shelves, and the moments of frustration and outright panic while writing the second issue.

Those blog entries were a window into the reality of making an independent comic and the weighty expectations that accompany success, but they were also highly personal essays about creative perseverance. Fittingly, Simpson compared his craft to riding in the Tour de France.

“(No) matter how much the world begins to feel like a demense-covered treadmill, you remind yourself that the finish line is up there somewhere. It may be far away, but every turn of the pedals brings you a little bit closer. It took Lance exactly the same number of foot-pumps to get there as it'll take you," he wrote.

“The only way to fail is to stop.”

“Nonplayer” fans will be happy to know that Simpson hasn’t stopped. He has healed sufficiently to spend many hours a day working on the comic, even with a day job at online game company PopCap, and the second issue is in progress. Simpson talked to Geek Out! about being a professional comics and gaming geek, how immersive gaming inspired “Nonplayer,” coping with sudden success and having an honest dialogue with his readers about the challenges behind the curtain. FULL POST

When animals light up: Bioluminescence
June 19th, 2012
04:48 PM ET

When animals light up: Bioluminescence

I can see them hovering in my Brooklyn yard: tiny balls of yellow light that flicker on and off in the dusk like lighters at a rock concert.

Fireflies are quite a common sight, although for how long we don't know. There have been widespread reports that firefly numbers are dwindling. The reports are all anecdotal, but they were enough of a concern for entomologists and biologists to hold a symposium in Thailand in 2008 entitled, "Diversity and Conservation of Fireflies." If fireflies are under threat, it's a terrible state of affairs.

Fireflies belong to a very exclusive group of land creatures that exhibit a phenomenon known as bioluminescence.

In simple terms, bioluminescence is technique certain organisms have developed to create energy, in the form of light, through a chemical reaction. This reaction often involves a chemical called luciferin.

Fireflies are unique because most bioluminescent creatures – 80% – live in the sea. On land only certain insects and fungi are bioluminescent.

It was in the ocean that I first found out about this phenomenon.

I grew up in England where we don't get fireflies. We get things called glow-worms, which are not worms at all but flightless insects. They're hard to spot because they're usually hidden away in long grass or hedgerows. Consequently most Brits will probably tell you that their only recollection of a glow-worm growing up was via the pages of a cute children's story.

It was a few years ago and I was on Lombok, a tiny island next to Bali, when I first experienced the weird spectacle of nature flickering to light in the darkness. I went for a midnight swim and started to feel a strange prickling sensation and when I dipped my head underwater and ran my hand in front of me it was as if the Milky Way had been miniaturized and liquified at the same time.

The trail of sparks left by your moving hand in bioluminescent waters is caused by single-cell organisms called dinoflagellates. They're a mysterious organism scientists don't fully understand. They're a form of plankton and while they feed on prey and move around like animals, they can also convert the sun's rays into food using chlorophyll in the same way plants do.

If you want to see the coolest bioluminescent creatures, though, you've got to go into deep water.

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The best dad of fantasy fiction
Arthur Weasley (Mark Williams) holds Ginny back after Voldemort claims Harry Potter is dead in the "Deathly Hallows, Part 2" film.
June 19th, 2012
02:44 PM ET

The best dad of fantasy fiction

Like so many others, my thoughts were about celebrating with dad last weekend. But when you live on the opposite side of the country from your parents, one has to make do with a phone call.

I couldn’t help but reminisce during my chat with Dad. One particularly strong memory from when I was 11 came to mind. To trick my parents into thinking I was fast asleep instead of reading “Harry Potter” well past my bedtime, I would frequently use a blanket to keep lamp light from escaping under my bedroom door.

One evening, my dad encountered the makeshift barricade. Less than amused, he forbade me from reading late into the night again. Since I'm a nerd, I naturally found my way around his command.

There were plenty of reasons to disobey Dad when I was 11: Death Eaters, magic wands, Polyjuice Potions and Norwegian Ridgebacks. There was also Arthur Weasley, who reminded me so much of my father. Slightly bumbling and a kid at heart, he always put his family first.

Much like his enchanted Ford Anglia, there’s no real cause to notice something special about him until you take a closer look. FULL POST

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June 18th, 2012
01:11 PM ET

'Game of Thrones' fan art explodes online

You've heard of fanfiction. Meet fan art -  an established but less celebrated subculture of fandom.

Often inspired by a favorite science fiction or fantasy franchise, fan artists gain exposure for their work on social media sites like Deviantart, Tumblr and Etsy. One of the most popular franchises permeating fan art territory today is the imaginative world of Westeros in George R.R. Martin's "Game of Thrones" book, now an HBO TV series that recently completed it's second season. (HBO is a Time Warner network, as is CNN.)

The result: artistic renderings, costumes, clothing accessories and even food concotions based on Westeros are all over the internet.

But what motivates fan artists to go beyond passive viewing to creating something new (one of the ultimate hallmarks of a hardcore fan)?

Erica Batton of Kansas City, Missouri, has drawn scenes for multiple fan favorite series. She says lots of fan art creators discovered a new-found artistic passion only after being inspired by their favorite shows or books.

Bratton – one of many artists who submitted their work to CNN iReport – pointed to the characters of "Game of Thrones" being "complex but believable" as one source of inspiration.

"The world of Westeros as portrayed in George R.R. Martin's 'A Song of Ice and Fire' books are so vast and immerse it is hard to not feel sucked in when reading them," said Veronica Casson from San Francisco, California.

The show lingers in her mind, she said, ultimately motivating her to create something new. FULL POST

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