THE FUTURE OF THE GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY
WHAT'S NEXT FOR THE GOD OF MISCHIEF ON DISNEY+
A QUIET PLACE
JOHN KRASINSKI AND EMILY BLUNT ON THE SEQUEL
AC TI ON -PAC KE D SU M M ER M OV IE PR EV IE W
MERANG CAPTAIN BOO
RICK FL AG
A RS M E E T T H E GSUTN ’S O F JA M E S E P I CN R-R AT E D
INTERVIEWS WITH JAMES GUNN / MARGOT ROBBIE IDRIS ELBA / JOHN CENA / JOEL KINNAMAN
Mark Millar · Wilfredo Torres
Millar · Torres · Sprouse
Mark Millar · Frank Quitely
Mark Millar · Frank Quitely
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
BY EXPERTS. FOR FANS.
Marvel’s God of Mischief is starring in his own show, heading to Disney+ in June. We investigate what’s in store for Loki now that he’s in the hands of the bureaucratic Time Variance Authority. PG. 44
ON THE COVER
Our wild (and crowded) cover story is the most outrageous assemblage of stars we’ve ever scored. You know these misfit heroes and villains’ names, now here’s who’s who… (From L to R).
Bottom row: John Cena as Peacemaker, David Dastmalchian as PolkaDot Man, Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher 2, Idris Elba as Bloodsport. COVER PHOTO CREDIT: © 2021 WARNER BROS. ENT. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED ™ & © DC
ISSUE 2 | SUMMER 2021
DEN OF GEEK
SUMMER MOVIE PREVIEW
It almost seems like a dream, but at last, movies are coming out again with some big hitters on the horizon. We round up the blockbusters we just can’t wait for including Black Widow, F9, Candyman, and more. PG. 48
A new Pixar movie for the summer is surely cause for celebration. This one follows young teenage friends having fun on the Italian Riviera. The twist? They’re sea monsters. PG. 52
IMAGE CREDITS: PARAMOUNT PICTURES
Top row: Michael Rooker as Savant, Nathan Fillion as T.D.K., Flula Borg as Javelin, Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerang, Sean Gunn as Weasel, Steve Agee performed the motion capture for King Shark, who will be voiced by Sylvester Stallone.
RESIDENT EVIL VILLAGE The next installment of Capcom’s horror franchise arrives in May boasting its most interesting villain yet. Meet the mysterious, murderous Lady Dimitrescu, a 9’6” vampire inspired by real life serial killer Elizabeth Bathory. Brrr. PG. 26
A QUIET PLACE PART II
Instead of beach reads, we’re recommending books set in space, for the ultimate seasonal escapism. PG. 20
We speak with star Emily Blunt and director John Krasinski about their creepy, post-apocalyptic horror sequel. PG. 12
Lucasfilm seems to be following in Marvel’s footsteps as it expands the galaxy far, far away. Here are all the new projects coming your way. PG. 22
NEW FACES OF DC Two new special issues from DC Comics arrive this summer celebrating a diverse range of characters from some of the best talent in comics. PG. 28
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
But not as you know it... We revisit Leigh Brackett’s original draft of the script that would eventually become The Empire Strikes Back to see what could have been. PG. 54 DEN OF GEEK
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
FROM OUR SQUAD TO YOURS We’re celebrating the return of big summer blockbusters with our biggest cover story ever! I mean this in more ways than one. This is our second quarterly issue going directly to subscribers and comic shops, and I think it’s our most ambitious one yet. Of course, to be perfectly honest, I’m probably going to say that about every issue going forward, but I really mean it this time. But “we’re back” hopefully means a “we” much bigger than Den of Geek. As I write this, there are encouraging signs that the vaccine rollout is starting to have an effect on the pandemic. While this summer still won’t consist of the kind of big events we live for, like an in-person San Diego Comic-Con, by the time the season really kicks off it might be safe for more folks to go to the movies, not to mention get together with their friends and family. With theaters reopening just in time for summer, movies are coming back. For real this time! So we’ve got a movie preview full of action-packed goodies on the way. And none of those films is bigger, wilder, or more ambitious than The Suicide Squad (out Aug. 6) which is why it’s our biggest, wildest, and most ambitious cover story EVER. Is that the biggest assemblage of talent we’ve ever had on our cover? Yep! Can you believe we have a dirty
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dozen DC heroes and villains on this thing? Neither can we! Did we score exclusive interviews with James Gunn, Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, and Joel Kinnaman to bring you the inside scoop of what to expect from this R-rated DC epic, put together by a squad of Den of Geek writers and editors? We sure as hell did! Stay safe just a little longer, folks, and it won’t be long before we get to celebrate all the cool stuff we love together again. Mike Cecchini, Editor-in-Chief
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IMAGE CREDITS: JESSICA MIGLIO/™ & © DC COMICS (SUICIDE SQUAD)
AND WE’RE BACK! With any luck,
MAG AZ I N E Editor-in-Chief Mike Cecchini Editorial Director Chris Longo Print Editor Rosie Fletcher Creative Director Lucy Quintanilla Art Director Jessica Koynock Copy Editor Sarah Litt Production Manager Kyle Christine Darnell
DENOFGEEK.COM Editor-in-Chief Mike Cecchini Director of Editorial and Partnerships Chris Longo Managing Editor John Saavedra UK Editor Rosie Fletcher
IMAGE CREDITS: WARNER BROS. PICTURES/™ & © DC COMICS (GUNN)
1) Idris Elba as Bloodsport and writer/director James Gunn giving off serious war movie vibes on the set of Warner Bros. Pictures’ The Suicide Squad. 2) (L-R) John Cena as Peacemaker, David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man, Joel Kinnaman as Colonel Rick Flag, King Shark, and Peter Capaldi as The Thinker 3) In 2019, Den of Geek Editorin-Chief Mike Cecchini visited the set of The Suicide Squad while it was filming in Atlanta. He made it back in one piece.
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Support Your Local Comic Shop!
Got friends looking for their own copy of Den of Geek? The magazine you’re holding in your hands right now is available at these fine comic book stores nationwide.
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ALABAMA (61) Bob’s Comics, (62) Deep Comics & Games
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COMIC STORE SPOTLIGHT
BUILDING COMMUNITY THROUGH COMICS
Every comic shop is different, but they all pointed to one thing as their key to surviving this last year: nurturing their communities. BY JIM DANDENEAU
The past year has seen enormous disruption for every person alive, but it’s changed some habits for the better. For Comics Conspiracy’s Ryan Higgins, it’s all about shifting focus. “We had basically nobody [prepaying for their subscriptions online] before the pandemic, and now it’s like, half our customers,” he says. “Even though we’re now open normal hours, people are still paying online.” And while that shift, along with support from government programs and the BINC Foundation (the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, a nonprofit that has raised more than $1 million to help bookstores and comic shops weather the pandemic), was essential to helping him keep staff working through the worst of the last 10
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MILE HIGH COMICS
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO
William Moulton, Operations Manager at back issue megagiant (and wildly popular in-person shop) Mile High Comics in Colorado Springs, saw the pandemic shutdown coming. “Ten to fourteen days before the store got shut down, we had huge discounts in-store and online,” he tells us. “We had a nice bump of orders when the store shut down.” That enabled the shop to keep staff on and paid for the month and change when no new comics were coming out—and led to an unexpected side benefit that Mile High was uniquely situated to benefit from. “With the pandemic, back issues went way up,” Moulton says.
And while interest has stayed high throughout—the pandemic has been so good for back issues that CGC, the grading-and-slabbing collectible company, is practically begging people to come work for them—it’s no substitute for the community that Moulton hopes will return when the pandemic comes to a close. “[The pandemic] shut down our charity drag shows and poker games,” he tells us, “but that won’t stick.” And with Free Comic Book Day still on the books for 2021, he’s hopeful they can get new and old comic readers alike back into the store.
ALTER EGO COMICS MARION, IA
Alter Ego Comics of Marion, Iowa,
IMAGE CREDITS: ISOTOPE COMICS, COMICS CONSPIRACY
year, since reopening, business has gone through the roof. “May and June were like the renaissance of comic industry sales,” Higgins says. Comics Conspiracy has seen an exponential increase in interest in comics. And with the pandemic receding, Higgins thinks comic publishers have huge plans on the horizon. “Marvel, DC, and Image were a little hesitant at the start,” he says. “[Now] they see the industry is okay, they see people are hungry for everything, I think we’re going to see some bigger events than we’ve seen in a long time.”
ISOTOPE COMICS SAN FRANCISCO
The past year was “unbelievably hard,” says James Sime, owner of Isotope Comics. “Almost every day I think about Dredd carrying that vaccine to save the West Coast in Judge Dredd: Cursed Earth Saga.” But the San Francisco institution has held up well enough through this year of pandemic disruption, and is looking forward to seeing customers face-to-face again, unsurprising for a shop known for its community—the Isotope has hosted countless wild signings and after-hours gatherings with comics luminaries. “More than anything, it’ll just be nice to see people having fun again,” Sime tells us.
shut down for a couple of months when the pandemic began, a statemandated closure that coincided with the shutdown of comics publishing. When they reopened, says Erin Tapken, Alter Ego’s owner, she was pleasantly surprised by the response. “People still wanted to shop,” Tapken tells us. “They needed a distraction.” And like her fellow store owners, Tapken found that the key to persevering through the pandemic was to cultivate community and focus on the present: rather than pushing preorders, she says, Alter Ego is using its online presence to talk new releases and bring their regulars a little levity. That, coupled with their flexibility—giving customers more time to pick up their pull lists, sticking with masks and sanitizer in-store
longer than state rules require—are all about making sure their readers stay comfortable with the shop. And once this is all over, Tapken can’t wait to be back in a movie theater again. “I’d really like to see Black Widow,” she says.
JHU COMIC BOOKS NYC
JHU Comic Books is one of New York City’s biggest and most well known shops, owing in large part to its Manhattan location, which makes it a convenient destination shop for thousands of comics-minded tourists every year. So with Manhattan being a virtual ghost town for the better part of a year, they’ve had some tough times. “We need our commuters back, we need
our tourists back,” Nick Purpura, JHU co-owner tells us. But for JHU, it’s been a tale of two shops. Or three—Purpura tells us their Staten Island location, along with the community around it, has been thriving, and the pandemic spurred the store into developing the web presence they’d been meaning to build for years. “After years and years of talking about doing a web store, within days my partner Ron got us up on Shopify,” Purpura says. And now that the web and Facebook Live sales are out in the world, there’s no going back. But with an end in sight, there’s one big thing Purpura and just about every other comic industry professional is looking forward to: cons. “I miss going to Baltimore Comic Con,” he says. DEN OF GEEK
CANDLE IN THE DARK
Emily Blunt and John Krasinski talk exclusively to Den of Geek about the hopeful horror of A Quiet Place Part II. BY DAVID CROW
EMILY BLUNT WAS in a different first scene is a flashback of the Abbott place three years ago. That applies to family before the events of A Quiet most people. But back then, in Hawaii, Place, enjoying a greater moment filming Jungle Cruise opposite Dwayne of peace than we’ve ever seen with Johnson, she was a million miles them. The monsters then descend. from the hushed hell endured by the Afterward, Blunt could only concede, Abbott family in A Quiet Place, which “So I’m going to be in the movie.” It was becoming the surprise horror hit was instant reverse psychology, as of spring 2018. She had no intention of Blunt describes it. going back. Titled A Quiet Place Part II—Blunt’s The sentiment is understandable. suggestion, since it feels as much like In fact, it was initially shared by the next chapter as a standalone—the her husband, writer-director-actor new film begins in earnest mere hours John Krasinski, who, like his wife, after the events of the last movie. Lee was skeptical about the prospect Abbott (Krasinski) is dead, and his of making a follow-up, even in our family is left to wander the wilderness modern era of shared universes. after strange aliens who lack sight But as Blunt told us when we sat (but have horrifyingly adept hearing) down a year (and a lifetime) eviscerated their farm. Alone in ago in New York’s Dolby the world, matriarch Evelyn SoHo, once Krasinski (Blunt) has a newborn—who gets a new idea, it’s the they must keep quiet at all damnedest thing. times—in her arms and two INTERV “I was the one who young children to protect. IEWS was even more steadfast But the oldest of them, about not coming back,” Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Blunt says. “There was that has never been one to follow feeling of wanting to preserve her parents’ path. the first one.” In the early days of The idea that possessed Krasinski, the original film’s success, she said to the point where, on a Hawaiian no, and Krasinski told Paramount beach, he persuaded Blunt to return, Pictures to court other writers… and was always about Simmonds’ Regan: yet, that kernel of a vision persisted a resilient young woman who, like for Krasinski. One which he couldn’t the actor portraying her, is hearing shake until the day he shared his idea impaired. with Blunt. “The first one is about the promise “I remember him pitching me you make as a parent, that if you stick the opening,” she says. “And I was with me, I can keep you safe forever,” like, ‘Cool, I’m not going to be in the Krasinski says. “That’s a promise movie.’ And he was like, ‘Oh no, I that I think all parents know will be know that.’” He then revealed the broken. I realized when that promise
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Evelyn, Regan, and Marcus Abbott (Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe) are forced to re-engage with the world in A Quiet Place Part II. DEN OF GEEK
is broken, that’s what growing up is… So if the first one is a love letter to my kids, then this is a weird letter to my kids about the dream that I have for them. I hope they’re this positive, I hope they’re this courageous, and they can go into the dark and light a candle.” That image of a candle in the dark, and Regan becoming as brave (and stubborn) as her old man, is what gnawed at Krasinski. “Undeniable” is how Blunt refers to it. “I think it crept up on him. I think once an idea is that good, it clings to you and it’s very hard to shake.” The approach also allowed Krasinski to more fully explore the totality of what the Abbotts lost. For instance, that first flashback scene he pitched to Blunt is partially an excuse to have Lee appear again in the movie, but it also underscores the feeling of an idyllic past life robbed by a global tragedy. Opening on a baseball field, the family watches Marcus (Noah Jupe) play Little League, and the viewer immediately senses paradise will soon be lost. “In the opening of the movie, there are even visuals that I wanted to feel like the sense [you get from] Jaws,” 14
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Krasinski says. “Being on the beach [is like] when we’re at the baseball game. Storytelling-wise, what I learned from it is simplicity.” When we spoke to the pair, as well as with other members of the A Quiet Place Part II cast, it was early March 2020. The full reality of the pandemic had yet to set in, but by virtue of
YOU SEE A FRACTURED COMMUNITY, YOU SEE WHAT IS SHUT DOWN, BUT THEN YOU SEE THE REBIRTH AND THE AWAKENING.” — E M ILY BLU N T
no one shaking hands during the interviews, the significance of the real-life horror was already inescapable. Perhaps, then, the movie’s delayed theatrical release to May 2021 is serendipitous, as Krasinski’s vision for the future is both humanist and optimistic, in
spite of its dystopia. Cillian Murphy, who plays an enigmatic stranger who crosses the Abbotts’ path, certainly thinks so. “The film does delicately explore those themes,” Murphy says. “But these kinds of things have been happening since time immemorial. How do societies react to crises? How do individuals react? Do they retreat or do you offer a hand? I think with my character, he starts at one place in the movie and he ends up at another place without it being heavy-handed or didactic. I think the subtext exists.” Blunt would agree with the sentiment. “I find this a terribly human film,” she contends. “Yes, the creatures are awful and terrifying… but they’re there to offer a backdrop for how humanity withstands. So that’s what I adore about it. You see a fractured community, you see what is shut down, but then you see the rebirth and the awakening. Ultimately, human beings want to feel a sense of togetherness.” Hopefully that includes in the dark of a movie theater. A Quiet Place Part II opens on May 28
IMAGE CREDITS: PARAMOUNT PICTURES
John Krasinski directs Noah Jupe who plays his on-screen son Marcus Abbott. Emily Blunt, Krasinski’s real-life wife, looks on.
FIVE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT…
JESSIE MEI LI
The future shines bright for Shadow and Bone’s Sun Summoner. BY KAYTI BURT
Li’s first “big break” came when she was cast in the supporting role of Claudia Casswell in National Theatre Live’s All About Eve, starring Gillian Anderson and Lily James. “The part in the film is played by Marilyn Monroe, so I thought ‘Really, me?’ So I went along [to the audition] and just had a laugh. I think that tends to be my way: to try to have fun with something.”
For many, Shadow and Bone was the definitive fantasy story of their adolescence. For Li, that story was The Lord of the Rings. “My brother and I and my little cousins would always be running through the park with sticks, and I was always Gandalf. I was a big, big Lord of the Rings fan growing up. I had a little lunchbox with Aragorn on it.”
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Next, Li was cast in Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho. Li will play Lara in the psychological horror, set to come out in October. “Reading the script, I was like, ‘I‘ve never read anything like this.’ And it was such a great experience because I love Edgar Wright. I think I‘ve watched Hot Fuzz more than any other film ever.”
As Li looks forward to the potential further adaptation of the Grishaverse series, she feels a kinship with the Shadow and Bone protagonist. “I think I‘m really excited for us to see how Alina deals with everything. It‘s kind of how I feel at the moment in terms of: we‘ve got this show coming out and [now] people might know who I am. And I feel like that happens to Alina [too].”
SHADOW AND BONE IS AVAILABLE TO STREAM ON . NETFLIX NOW
IMAGE CREDITS: DANNY KASIRYE/NETFLIX
Growing up, 25-yearold Chinese-British actress Jessie Mei Li never thought of acting as a career. Even when she dropped out of college and began taking acting classes while working various jobs, it was Li’s desire to “make friends who were like-minded” that motivated her. “Then, slowly, over time, I was like, ‘Oh, this really makes me happy. I can really express myself doing this.’”
New From Tor Books Available in hardcover, eBook, and from Macmillan Audio
Available in hardcover, eBook, and from Macmillan Audio
“At once intimate and literally operatic…. I loved it.” —John Scalzi,
“Fast and fun and filled with crazy magic.” —Brent Weeks,
New York Times bestselling author of the Lightbringer series
New York Times bestselling author of The Last Emperox
Available in hardcover, eBook, and from Macmillan Audio
Available in hardcover, eBook, and from Macmillan Audio
“Epic, tragic, and gorgeous. It will wreck you, and you will be grateful” —Alix E. Harrow,
“An aching, bruised, white-knuckled symphony.” —Max Gladstone, Hugo Award–winning author of This is How You Lose the Time War
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A LEVEL OF THEIR OWN
Meet the Nintendo fans who spend years making non-licensed games that will never be released. BY MATTHEW BYRD ILLUSTRATION BY JESSICA KOYNOCK
IN 2016, MILTON GUASTI’S Metroid 2 remake, AM2R, was released online after a decade of work. One day later, Nintendo sent DMCA takedown requests to the websites that hosted it. “Throughout the years I started seeing that [a takedown] could be possible,” recalls Guasti. “What I was not expecting was that it happened so fast.” New fan-made gaming projects are developed and distributed all the time, and often embraced by studios, but what makes someone spend years on a game that may survive for only a short while? For Guasti, it was the chance to learn programming within a fascinating framework. For others, it’s about something more. “It was my childhood dream to make my own Pokémon game,” says the fan developer who goes by the name Involuntary Twitch. “Thus began my nine-year journey with fan game development as a hobby.” That hobby became Pokémon Uranium, a Pokémon fan game the size of a major franchise installment. It, too, was taken down by Nintendo shortly after its 2016 release. So why didn’t Twitch and her creative partner JV just make a copyright-free clone of a Pokémon game? “I feel like doing that would’ve drained what drove us to make this game in the first place, which was our love for Pokémon,” Twitch says. That’s the dilemma. These creators are often inspired by their love for Nintendo games, but Nintendo can be hard to love. It will go years 18
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without even acknowledging beloved franchises but then immediately litigate when fans pursue the projects Nintendo won’t. Those bespoke projects are often designed to appeal to a section of the fanbase Nintendo has sometimes ignored. Pokémon Uranium featured a more mature story not commonly seen in Pokémon games. AM2R focused on one of Nintendo’s most complicated (and ignored) franchises. There’s also the strange case of Project M, a Super Smash Bros. mod that acknowledged the game’s competitive play popularity in ways Nintendo did not.
I STARTED SEEING THAT A TAKEDOWN COULD BE POSSIBLE. WHAT I WAS NOT EXPECTING WAS THAT IT HAPPENED SO FAST.” — M ILTON G UAST I
“Project M is definitely our alternate take on what we’d like the series to look like,” says former Project M webmaster Taylor “Warchamp7” Giampaolo. “Super Smash Bros. Melee’s competitive nature is sometimes considered a happy accident, and I’d say Project M is a deliberate execution of those competitive aspects.” The threat of a shutdown
accelerated the end of Project M’s development, but the mod was embraced by the Super Smash Bros. competitive community. They wanted Nintendo to recognize their passion for Melee. That’s when the trouble started. In 2020, Nintendo sent a cease and desist letter to a beloved Smash Bros. tournament that planned to use a Smash Bros. Melee emulator to host a digital event during the Covid-19 pandemic. The letter even targeted the event itself, which meant the hosts couldn’t simply feature the latest Smash Bros. game instead. After years of being ignored, the Smash Bros. competitive community was dealing with the fallout of being seen. “I think a decade ago, the Smash
community felt more desperate for Nintendo’s acknowledgment,” says Smash Bros. modder Dan Salvato. “Once Nintendo stepped in, though, all of the company’s regulations followed, and the Smash community started to question whether they actually wanted it.” Guasti can tell you more about Nintendo’s habit of acknowledging the work of fans in its own strange way. A year after shutting down AM2R, Nintendo revealed and released an official Metroid 2 remake. While different from AM2R in many respects, the timing of its release was seen as bizarre by many fans. You may think Guasti would be angry, but he has a different perspective. “I can’t be mad,” Guasti says. “I
reached the audience that I wanted to reach. I learned everything that I wanted to learn from that... I’m really happy how that stage in my life turned out.” Others share that viewpoint, too. Giampaolo admits he wouldn’t even mind if Nintendo released a copy of Project M without giving the original project credit. “I would be ecstatic,” Giampaolo says. “We created Project M because it was the game that we wanted to play and it is, to date, my favorite entry in the genre. I’d love nothing more than for more players to get to enjoy that.” Just as Super Mario Bros. helped move us from high scores into the age of “beating” a game, many creators say that completing and sharing these
projects is more important than profits and fame. “I hope that it brought them some joy because, to me, creating stuff is something that defines who I am,” says Twitch. “I hope that it can help other people to find out who they are and develop their skills and find a place where they belong.” How can someone spend years on a project that can’t make money, will probably be shut down, and will likely never be embraced by the company that inspired their passion? The answer is surprisingly simple. You can spend years waiting for Nintendo to do something, or you can spend that time doing it yourself and letting the memories, the love, and the quality of the games justify it all. DEN OF GEEK
SUMMER SPACE READS Swap the beach book for space opera, space horror, and mysteries both murdery and cozy. BY NATALIE ZUTTER FUGITIVE TELEMETRY
MARTHA WELLS (TORDOTCOM PUBLISHING) OUT NOW
It was bound to happen: Murderbot solves a murder! Of course, everyone’s favorite antisocial AI would rather be watching space soaps than playing Detective Benoit Blanc for a bunch of humans on Preservation Station. But proving its innocence is less about clearing its name than returning to an unbothered life in this novella prequel to 2020’s novel-length installment Network Effect, that forms book six of The Murderbot Diaries series.
ALASTAIR REYNOLDS (ORBIT BOOKS) JULY 27
The latest in Reynolds’ 20-year-long Revelation Space series inhabits a vast interstellar backdrop (humanity versus alien Inhibitors) but delivers an intimate standalone story. A tiny human colony persists in the airless caverns of planet Michaelmas, but when a random ship threatens to lead their enemies to them, they must make difficult decisions for survival. 20
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PROJECT HAIL MARY
ANDY WEIR (BALLANTINE BOOKS) MAY 4
Weir’s take on the “hero wakes up alone with no memory” sci-fi subgenre has astronaut Ryland Grace coming-to in a ship cobbled together from the last hopes of Earth’s nations, drifting at the edge of the universe. If there’s anything The Martian author excels at, it’s pitting one man against the elements in space—but this time his hero has to crack a mystery that will save humanity from extinction.
THE ALL-CONSUMING WORLD CASSANDRA KHAW (EREWHON BOOKS) AUGUST 17
Accomplished SFF horror writer Khaw takes to space for her first novel, a one-last-job adventure with the familiar trappings of her creepy short fiction. A found family of female criminals—half-clone, half-machine, haunted by technological ghosts and past traumas—must rescue one of their own from the planet Dimmuborgir. All the while, they’re being stalked by a monstrous AI in this shiver-provoking debut.
This standalone cozy mystery in Leckie’s Imperial Radch universe exists far from Ancillary Justice’s selfaware AIs, yet focuses on similar themes of memory and identity. Ingray Aughskold frees a thief to regain a stolen cultural artifact to impress her politician fostermother, but her attempt to rewrite family history gets overshadowed by a foreign dignitary’s murder and a threatened interplanetary war.
Elliott’s delightful space opera is about a gender-swapped, queer Alexander the Great; instead of conquering the known world, Republic of Chaonia heir Sun’s birthright is ruling the entire universe. But when her warrior mother Eirene marries a much younger noblewoman who could disinherit Sun, she grapples with political intrigue by way of her father’s people, the supposedly barbarian Gatoi, amid the ongoing Phene war. This is the first part of a new trilogy called The Sun Chronicles from the bestselling author of The Crown Of Stars series.
KATE ELLIOTT (TOR BOOKS) OUT NOW
ANN LECKIE (ORBIT BOOKS) OUT NOW
SHARDS OF EARTH
ADRIAN TCHAIKOVSKY (ORBIT BOOKS) MAY 27
Tchaikovsky begins his Final Architects Trilogy by departing from his hard-SF work to explore the consequences of faster-than-light travel opening portals to horrible creatures who want to reform Earth into nightmarish art. The war’s aftermath leaves humanity with universal PTSD and super-soldier Intermediaries, like Idris, feeling obsolete when there are no Architects left to fight… or are there?
THE LAST WATCH J.S. DEWES (TOR BOOKS) OUT NOW
Imagine Westeros’ Night Watch stationed on the edge of space, but instead of spotting White Walkers, the Sentinels search the stars for any sign of the alien Viators trying to cross the Divide. Among their ranks are war hero Adequin Rake, who’s accepted being forgotten and her upstart new recruit, Cavalon Mercer, who’s not ready to be cannon fodder.
VICTORIES GREATER THAN DEATH
CHARLIE JANE ANDERS (TOR TEEN) OUT NOW
Like any teenager, Tina Mains, the protagonist of Anders’s first YA novel, is impatient for her destiny; unlike other teens, she’s the clone of an alien war hero. But when her intergalactic beacon finally catapults her off Earth, Tina must deal with adoring allies and deadly enemies who think she is the reincarnation of a captain.
MUR LAFFERTY (ORBIT BOOKS) OUT NOW
There’s something beach-friendly about a good thriller, and Lafferty delivers with this closed-ship murder mystery. Staffed with clones to be copied over every generation for the duration of its centuries-long voyage, the Dormire goes off course when those clones awaken to discover that they’re decades older than they last remember, a killer is among them, and its regenerated self is stalking the ship. DEN OF GEEK
THE FUTURE OF STAR WARS With a whole slate of live-action projects in development, Disney is quickly forming its own Marvel-like shared universe for Star Wars. BY JOHN SAAVEDRA THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT for the Star Wars universe. Free from the Skywalker Saga films, the franchise can now forge a new path, with characters, storylines, and settings that don’t have to tie into Luke and his family drama. In fact, Disney seems to have already planted the seeds for a new type of Star Wars storytelling experience: era-specific shared universes on Disney+ that emulate the interconnectedness of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but inside smaller, more self-contained bubbles. We saw this start to happen in the second season of The Mandalorian, which not only introduced beloved animated characters Ahsoka Tano and Bo-Katan Kryze to live-action but also ended with a teaser for the next Star Wars series, The Book of Boba Fett, which arrives in December. The Book of Boba Fett doesn’t just star the infamous bounty hunter; it’s also a showcase for Ming-Na Wen’s Fennec Shand, an assassin who debuted in the first season of The Mandalorian. Last December, Disney announced even more Star Wars series, including two others set in the same era as The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. Most importantly, the studio teased how these series could eventually form their own shared universes in the time periods in which they’re set.
THE HIGH REPUBLIC
The High Republic era, which is set over 200 years before the Prequel Trilogy, marks a tonal shift for the franchise. Instead of the dreary, rusted feel of a galaxy under the control of the evil Empire, the new High Republic series takes place during a golden age for both the Jedi and the galactic government they serve. There are no Sith to be found (at least not in plain sight), and a progressive Republic is more focused on humanitarian work and the wellbeing of its citizens than fighting destructive wars. A slew of books and comics are already out, with many more coming as the series’ three storytelling “phases” unfold in the next few years.
Ewan McGregor will return to the iconic role of Obi-Wan Kenobi in a new Disney+ liveaction series. Below: The High Republic era is already in full swing with the novels (pictured) and will soon come to TV.
Together, all of these books and comics are meant to tell one complete, interconnected story. Best of all, they share a huge cast of characters that can pop up as protagonists in one tale but cameo in another, just like in the MCU. Making things even more interesting is The Acolyte, a new live-action Disney+ series being developed by Russian Doll co-creator Leslye Headland. The show is teased as “a mystery-thriller that will take the audience into a galaxy of shadowy secrets and emerging dark side powers in the final days of the High Republic era.” The Acolyte sounds like a finale, of sorts, for everything being set up in the High Republic books and comics, while also acting as a bridge to the prequel movies. Mention of the dark side also suggests this series will cover the return of the Sith, introducing the Dark Lords that operated in the galaxy before Palpatine became the Emperor. And because The Acolyte will exist in a predominantly unexplored period of Star Wars history, with characters whose fates won’t necessarily be tied to the movies, Disney could easily expand this particular shared universe further. The High Republic could actually turn out to be Disney+’s most fruitful Star Wars era. For the moment, no release date has been set for The Acolyte, but the next wave of High Republic books arrive this summer.
EMPIRE AND REBELLION
Obi-Wan Kenobi and Andor, a prequel to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, take place several years after Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith but before the Original Trilogy, and there’s a good chance the Lando series will also be set at some point during this era, with Donald Glover likely returning as the charming scoundrel. (While Disney hasn’t confirmed any details about the latter project besides the fact that it’s happening, the studio has been eager to make a Lando spinoff with Glover since Solo: A Star Wars Story.) The timelines won’t line DEN OF GEEK 23
up quite as cleanly, though. Obi-Wan Kenobi takes place nine years before Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, while the events of Andor will unfold four years after that show. But rumors suggest that Ewan McGregor will appear as Obi-Wan in Andor, too. Far from an official confirmation, it’s still an intriguing possibility if true. With these series set to premiere in 2022, Disney could make the Jedi Master the character who ties both (or all three) pre-A New Hope shows together, just like Mando is the common denominator across all of the post-Return of the Jedi projects. Could all of these series lead to an eventual big event that would set Obi-Wan, Cassian Andor, and Lando on their paths to the Original Trilogy era? If Disney wanted to eventually connect the pre-Hope shows to the Mando ones for an even more interconnected universe on Disney+, it wouldn’t even need a specific event or series to bridge the two eras. The Original Trilogy is already there as the connective tissue. New characters introduced in Obi-Wan, Andor, and Lando could jump from one era to the other just as easily as Prequel-era characters Bo-Katan and Ahsoka have. This is especially true for characters
introduced in Andor, which takes place about 14 years before The Mandalorian. That’s a relatively small time gap in Star Wars terms. And the inverse is already happening: Fennec Shand will appear in animated form in May’s The Clone Wars spinoff series The Bad Batch, which is set just after the prequels as well.
THE NEW REPUBLIC
Disney has already ordered two other series set during the same time period as The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett, which take place five years after Return of the Jedi. The intriguing Rangers of the New Republic was reportedly conceived as a spinoff
THESE SHOWS WILL ULTIMATELY CONVERGE IN A BIG STORY EVENT series for Mando associate Cara Dune before actor Gina Carano was fired from the franchise earlier this year, but that probably won’t be the only connection these series have with each other. Meanwhile, Ahsoka is poised to continue the hero’s search for Grand Admiral Thrawn right
where it left off in The Mandalorian. Disney isn’t just trying to cash in on the success of The Mandalorian with spinoffs for the show’s most popular characters, though. The company has also confirmed that these particular shows will ultimately converge in a big story event. Are Mando, Ahsoka, Bo-Katan, Boba Fett, Fennec Shand, and friends eventually going to team up against Grand Admiral Thrawn in an epic Avengers-like finale? It sure feels that way. Today, Marvel fans take this shared universe storytelling structure for granted, but this is still very new territory for Star Wars. Whether it works or not will likely depend on how many Mandalorian fans flock to Boba Fett later this year. But Disney is betting big on this approach. On Disney+, Star Wars has found new ways to explore the galaxy far, far away while introducing us to new characters and places to love. Now comes the next frontier: the shared universe, a first step into a larger world.
IMAGE CREDITS: ENTERTAINMENT PICTURES/AA FILM ARCHIVE/DEL REY BOOKS/DISNEY
Cassian Andor and (right) Lando Calrissian will star in their own Disney+ series that flesh out these characters beyond the movies.
Beloved animated character Ahsoka Tano made the jump to liveaction on The Mandalorian and will continue her quest in a solo series on Disney+.
TH E G A L A X Y B E YON D The dynamic droid duo, C-3PO and R2-D2, team up with an all-new hero in A Droid Story.
NOT ALL UPCOMING STAR WARS PROJECTS FIT SNUGLY IN A PARTICULAR ERA OR SHARED UNIVERSE. There are outliers, like Patty Jenkins’ upcoming movie Rogue Squadron, which will “introduce a new generation of starfighter pilots as they earn their wings and risk their lives in a boundary-pushing, highspeed thrill-ride, and move the saga into the future era of the galaxy.” That last bit suggests that the highlyanticipated film will explore what happens next after the Sequel Trilogy, but we’ll find out for sure when it hits theaters in Christmas 2023. More elusive is Taika Waititi’s untitled Star Wars movie. Besides an intriguing Star Wars logo made of stone, Disney has teased virtually nothing about the Thor: Ragnarok director’s take on Star Wars. It doesn’t even have a release date. All we know is that it’s in development. Meanwhile, Visions, an anthology of anime-inspired short films due out this year, and A Droid Story, which “will introduce us to a new hero, guided by legendary duo R2-D2 and C-3PO,” will join The Bad Batch as the latest animated offerings from the galaxy far, far away. All of these series are destined for Disney+.
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NEW RELEASES Lady Dimitrescu was partially inspired by real life killer Elizabeth Bathory, who supposedly bathed in her victims’ blood because she believed it would stop her from aging.
QUEEN OF THE DAMNED
Why Resident Evil Village’s vampire villain, Lady Dimitrescu, is the game’s most interesting character. BY JOHN SAAVEDRA
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TALLER THAN THE TALLEST HUMAN Before Resident Evil developer Capcom revealed her name, the villain was referred to as “Tall Vampire Lady” on social media, and for good reason: she’s 9’6”! That’s taller than the tallest human in recorded history. That would be “The Giant of Illinois,” a man named Robert Wadlow, who was 8’11” and at one point toured with the Ringling Bros. Circus. Fortunately, his act didn’t involve anything quite as gruesome as what the Lady of Castle Dimitrescu has planned for her prey. Not only does she tower over Ethan but she also has long, sharp claws for fingers. The better to impale our hero with!
THE FIRST VAMPIRE IN THE SERIES Her appearance isn’t the only thing that makes Lady Dimitrescu so interesting. She’s also the first vampire villain in the franchise’s history. Resident Evil has largely avoided the classic monster canon up until this point, favoring zombies and monsters grown in labs over the creatures found in Universal and Hammer horror films. Dimitrescu represents an evolution. However, this isn’t the first time Capcom has considered experimenting outside of the franchise’s wheelhouse. At one point, Resident Evil 4, which clearly influenced Village, was going to feature a killer ghost with a hook for a hand.
IMAGE CREDITS: CAPCOM
ETHAN WINTERS CAN’T CATCH a break. After surviving the horrors of Baker Ranch in Resident Evil 7, it seemed like the everyman hero would finally get to go back to his normal life. But when seasoned zombie killer Chris Redfield shows up at his door with a new mission, Ethan is suddenly thrust back into the nightmare. In Resident Evil Village (out May 7), Ethan is dropped into a haunted European village, where he’ll have to survive a gauntlet of monsters, including werewolves and witches. Then there’s Lady Alcina Dimitrescu, the giant vampire villain who has taken the fandom by storm. Here’s what you need to know.
MEN HAVE THEIR BLOOD DRAINED BY THESE WOMEN. IT’S THE OPPOSITE OF DRACULA. ” — DIRECTOR MO R I MASA SATO
CALLBACK TO CASTLEVANIA While she marks a first for Resident Evil, Dimitrescu’s role as the bloodthirsty Lady of a giant castle full of spooky creatures is rooted in a classic video game trope. The concept of a vampiric final boss was originally popularized by the Castlevania series, which is largely set in Dracula’s haunted castle. What makes Dimitrescu’s lair unique is that it’s populated only by women. “With Lady Dimitrescu as the cult’s guru, we have created this hierarchy of women,” Resident Evil Village director Morimasa Sato told IGN. “Men have their blood drained by these women, so you could say it’s the opposite of Dracula.”
DIMITRESCU’S DAUGHTERS Lady Dimitrescu isn’t the only vampire in the game. She has three blood-sucking helpers she refers to as her daughters. While Dimitrescu’s attire exudes elegance, Bela, Cassandra, and Daniela lean into the grotesque, down to their smiling, blood-covered faces. It’s teased in the trailers that Ethan will have to make his way past Dimitrescu’s daughters before reaching the Lady, and it won’t be an easy fight, as they not only carry sharp weapons but also have the ability to transform into even more hideous forms. The way they creep towards Ethan and huddle over him to feed may remind you of Dracula’s movie brides.
GRUESOME INSPIRATION According to art director Tomonori Takano, the game’s “bewitching vampire” was partially inspired by real-life serial killer Elizabeth Bathory, a Hungarian noblewoman who is said to have tortured and murdered hundreds of women in the early 1600s. Another inspiration was the Japanese internet urban legend Hasshaku-sama, an evil spirit in a wide-brimmed hat who lures her young male victims to her by imitating the voices of their loved ones. Dimitrescu’s victims are men, many of their bodies decorating the outside of her castle, “blood drained, looking like skinny scarecrows,” according to Sato. DEN OF GEEK
THE NEW FACES OF DC Introducing the Monkey Prince: Gene Luen Yang and Bernard Chang bring an all-new superhero to the DC Universe. BY GENE CHING
DC FESTIVAL OF HEROES: The Asian Superhero Celebration is a timely new anthology that spotlights DC’s past, present, and even future Asian superheroes. It features some of the most dynamic Asian storytellers in and out of comics. This 100-page commemorative anthology comes out in May—just in time to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The collection showcases stories about Tatsu Yamashiro a.k.a Katana; Cassandra Cain, a.k.a. Batgirl; Jade Nguyen, a.k.a. Cheshire; Tai Pham a.k.a Green Lantern; Kong Kenan, a.k.a. New Super-Man, and others. What’s more, it includes an original 12-page story by award-winning writer Gene Luen Yang and noted artist Bernard Chang, “The Monkey Prince Hates Superheroes,” which introduces Monkey Prince, a new DC superhero who teams up with 28
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Shazam to battle Doctor Sivana and a Chinese deer demon. Monkey Prince is derived from Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en. Written in the 16th century, this is the story of the Monkey King, Sun Wukong, and it’s heralded as one of the “Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese Literature.” It’s an epic tale of myth and magic that tells of Monkey King’s quest to bring the Buddhist sutras from India to China. Journey to the West is the stuff of legend, where the Monkey King confronts figures from Chinese lore like Buddha, Lao Tzu, and the Jade Emperor. It has been retold in countless films, TV shows, and plays, as well as inspired shows like Dragon Ball, Into the Badlands, and Yang’s own award-winning graphic novel, American Born Chinese. “Ever since American Born Chinese came out, I’ve been a huge fan of Gene,” Bernard Chang says. “When I read that book and then he had Monkey King in it, I was like, ‘This is the shit.’” Both Chang and Gene Luen Yang have fond childhood memories of their parents telling them bedtime stories from Journey to the West. “I got a little Monkey King belt I remember,” reminisces Yang. “I was a really big fan of the character.” They both leapt at the opportunity to reimagine their mythic childhood champion for DC. Just like Shazam and Wonder Woman borrow from Greco-Roman mythology
and more, Monkey Prince rekindles Chinese folklore in comic form. “We’re positioning the Monkey Prince to be a firm part of the DC Universe, so all of that will be in play,” Gene Luen Yang says. “We’re treating Journey to the West as canon, like DC canon. It actually happened within the DC Universe.” For anyone familiar with the classic novel, the title “The Monkey Prince Hates Superheroes” is a clue to the resonance between Monkey Prince and the Monkey King. “That gives
IMAGE CREDITS: DC COMICS/ART BY BERNARD CHANG
Two special issues with an all-star array of talent showcase how comics are truly for everyone.
you a little bit of a hint, too, as far as, would he be teaming up with them, or are there other avenues that this character could go down,” Chang says. In folklore, the Monkey King was fiercely independent and his blatant disregard for divine authority led him to cause “havoc in heaven” at the start of his story. The creators are elusive about how the Monkey Prince is connected to the original Monkey King, saying that the relationship is a little more complex than just father DEN OF GEEK
WE’RE POSITIONING THE MONKEY PRINCE TO BE A FIRM PART OF THE DC UNIVERSE.” — GENE LUEN YANG
to American comics is a great fit for the creative team. “The love I have for Monkey King is very similar to the love I have for superheroes,” Yang explains. “Both of them are these heroic stories that are all about color and brightness and hope and magic. I think this particular project, especially, allows Bernard and I the chance to explore those in-between spaces between these two very different storytelling traditions.” DC Festival of Heroes: An Asian Superhero Celebration goes on sale May 11. 30
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Queering up the Canon: Danny Lore and Sina Grace on their contributions to an anthology focused on DC’s LGBTQ+ heroes. BY ROSIE KNIGHT
DC HAS A LONG and storied history with queer characters, but in the new DC Pride anthology ten queer creators take on LGBTQ+ heroes in a series of stories that center them in a way we’ve rarely seen. The impressive roster includes some of the publisher’s biggest names—in regards to both the people making the stories and the characters they focus on. We spoke with Danny Lore and Sina Grace, who are both taking on exciting stories that feature two very different heroes. Lore’s Flash story plays on one of the more fun traits of the hero: their inability to be on time. As a nonbinary creator with ADHD, Lore says creating a story about the non-binary Flash of Earth-11, Jess Chambers, being late was incredibly relatable. “I always seem to be running late, but I’m running at like 1000 miles per hour so why am I late to this thing?” Lore laughs. While Jess doesn’t think that they’re like those other late Flashes, their prep for date night shows that they might have a little more in common than they thought. It’s a cute slice-oflife story with gorgeous art by Lisa Sterle. And it also introduces a radical new villain in the form of Reflek, a new Mirror Master. From the outset, Lore knew that if they were doing a Flash story they wanted to feature a Mirror Master, so they created a new foe from the future. “I wanted a Black lady. I think the exact words I used were, ‘Cool, mirror, dope, darker-skinned Black lady. Lisa [Sterle], is there a way we can do kind of disco-inspired?’ Because disco balls
and mirrors are awesome.” It was also the chance for Lore to tell a story about a non-binary hero who wasn’t defined by their appearance. That was something Lore could relate to as a non-binary person who loves makeup and colors but was worried about not being percieved as non-binary due to the connotation of those things being “femme.” “This ended up being super personal for a funny slice-of-life thing,” Lore says. “There’s a lot of
IMAGE CREDITS: FLASH DC COMICS/ART BY LISA STERLE, DRUMMER BOY DC COMICS/ART BY RO STEIN, TED BRANDT
and son, and that more will be revealed as the story progresses. Production of DC Festival of Heroes: The Asian Superhero Celebration preceded the wave of anti-Asian violence that has gripped the United States recently. In light of the #StopAsianHate movement, Yang sees Monkey Prince as an opportunity to reduce the dehumanization of racial prejudice. “What Bernard and I want to do with the story is we really want to humanize an Asian-American character. We want to show not just one, actually a set of Asian-American characters in three dimensions. We want them to feel human to the reader. I mean, as comic book people, I think that’s one of the big things that we can do to fight what’s happening in the world right now.” The crossover of Chinese myth
IMAGE CREDITS: PRIDE COVER DC COMICS/ART BY JIM LEE
discussion about what being nonbinary means visually. That was actually something that I struggled with for a very long time. So it was important for me to write Jess as non-binary, as someone who is not restricted by being more or less femme or more or less masculine, more or less androgynous. Sometimes it’s just, ‘Oh, I feel like this today,’ and that was the fun and the secret seriousness of doing a day in the life for Jess.”
Sina Grace was given the task of writing for the villain-turned-hero known as the Pied Piper. The story follows Pied Piper as he comes across a young copycat vigilante (and new character), Drummer Boy. Just like Lore, Grace saw the superhero trappings as a way of exploring a journey that he’d gone on himself. “I was able to talk about two different generations, with two different approaches for how to get things done,” Grace explains. “I really wanted to use a character like Pied Piper—who was once a bad guy and is now a good guy—against Drummer Boy, who is Gen Z to a fault, and have them really get into what it means to be responsible for your community.” That thread was one that deeply resonated with Grace, who connected
it to the conversations that he had with himself about his ideals as a young person and the way that he felt that younger version of himself might view him now. “I think that’s the vibe that’s going on between these two because Drummer Boy grew up seeing Pied Piper on TV and was like, ‘Whoa, it’s me but grown up.’ Then as he grows up and sees Pied Piper evolving in a different direction than what he wanted, he’s not too impressed.” Creating the new character alongside artists Ro Stein and Ted Brandt was clearly a process that the writer was ecstatic about. Based on Grace’s own sketches, Drummer Boy was a passion project. “I got instantly enamored with the idea of someone being a copycat of Pied Piper,” Grace says. “I just made him this adorable chunky boy with empowered electronic drum pads. It came from a place of love and I showed my editor, Andrea Shea, and she was super excited about it. I think we all just sort of followed that bliss of being excited to put a new character on the page and for this character to have real motivations that we can all relate to.” DC Pride hits shelves on June 8. DEN OF GEEK
Sean Gunn, Pete Davidson, Mayling Ng, Joel Kinnaman, Jai Courtney, Nathan Fillion, writer/ director James Gunn, Margot Robbie, Flula Borg, and Michael Rooker share a laugh on the set of The Suicide Squad.
THE SUICIDE SQUAD IS THE WILDEST, WEIRDEST, MOST R-RATED DC MOVIE EVER. JAMES GUNN, MARGOT ROBBIE, IDRIS ELBA, JOHN CENA, AND JOEL KINNAMAN TELL US ALL ABOUT IT.
D AV ID CR O W
A COUPLE OF DAYS. That’s how long director James Gunn had to wait before Warner Bros. and DC came calling in 2018. Up until that moment, it’d been a pretty turbulent July. The iconoclastic filmmaker who made audiences cry over a talking tree in Guardians of the Galaxy was just fired by Disney—temporarily as it turns out—and his name was being besmirched on social media. Yet less than 72 hours after that dismissal, WB was making him an offer that could change the face of DC superhero movies forever. “It happened immediately,” Gunn says with a hint of lingering chagrin. “We started talking about what the project would be. The first thing that was brought up was Superman, but I didn’t know if I wanted to do that.” So the studio suggested a once-ina-lifetime alternative: make whatever you want. Gunn was free to adapt “anybody out of the DC catalogue.” Somehow though, with an entire gleaming multiverse at his disposal, Gunn only had eyes for the filthiest D-listers this side of Krypton. He only wanted to make The Suicide Squad. The team of supervillain rejects has of course been adapted before, with David Ayer’s critically divisive Suicide Squad coming out in 2016. The earlier movie was a hit too, grossing more than $700 million and triggering a small bout of jealousy in Gunn, who even then thought that was the only DC property he ever wanted to do. But the film left something to be desired for many fans and critics. To be clear, there are things Gunn absolutely loves about Ayer’s movie. How could he not, when he incorporated so many of the 2016 film’s cast into his own? In Gunn’s mind, Margot Robbie was born to play Harley Quinn, which he hopes to only further highlight by bringing out her “true lunacy” in the new movie. Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller, meanwhile, was the first character he decided to put in his own film. But Gunn is unambiguous on one point: his The Suicide Squad is going to be its own 31 flavors of weird. DEN OF GEEK
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HE’S A GIANT, CERULEAN BLUE STARFISH, BUT HE’S ALSO FUCKING TERRIFYING. enforcement won’t; her point man on the ground remains Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), a straight arrow surrounded by coerced supervillains, including familiar faces like Robbie’s delightfully demented Harley, and new ones like Idris Elba’s Bloodsport. The genre Gunn and his cohorts compare this to is war movies, but who they’re going to war against isn’t exactly clear. With that said, a trailer revealed a DC comics deep cut, with the villainous alien, Starro, running amok at kaiju-size. “Starro is hilarious because he’s ridiculous. He’s a giant, cerulean blue starfish, but he’s also fucking terrifying,” Gunn says. “When I was
a kid I thought that was the scariest thing of all time… and I think that exemplifies what this movie is: it is ridiculous and it’s also terrifying, and serious. So he works really well as the villain of the movie—as one of the villains, actually.” Ironically, the real antagonists of The Suicide Squad might simply be the flick’s main characters, and Gunn is using the motley crew to unleash his distinctive voice. With an absurdly large cast to pick from, the director has carte blanche from WB to kill any character he wants, and to embrace any level of weirdness. And unlike the 2016 film, or his previous Guardians movies, The Suicide Squad
IMAGE CREDITS: (PREVIOUS PAGE) JESSICA MIGLIO/™ & © DC COMICS, WARNER BROS. PICTURES/™ & © DC COMICS
“It wasn’t something to contrast the first movie,” Gunn says. “It wasn’t about going through a checklist of this is good, this is bad, this works, this doesn’t… but the concept that John Ostrander started with in the comics, that these are B-grade, shitty superheroes who are considered disposable by the US government and are sent out on these black-ops missions, where they probably won’t make it but who gives a shit because they’re pieces-of-shit prisoners without many skills?” That is the movie Gunn wanted to make. And he did so with R-rated glee. Engineered as a standalone epic that might (or might not) be a sequel to the 2016 movie, Gunn’s The Suicide Squad (coming to theaters and HBO Max on Aug. 6) is, in essence, meant to be a spiritual continuation of comic book writer Ostrander’s seminal 1980s run. Davis’ Waller is still the government’s shady lady pulling the strings and recruiting incarcerated sad sacks to do the wetwork law
King Shark, Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), and Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) find themselves staring down something big.
is a big budget superhero flick with an R-rating. A first for Gunn. “Most of my movies have been R-rated,” Gunn laughs when we mention this. He is, after all, a filmmaker who cut his teeth at indie grindhouse outfit Troma Entertainment, and has a history with tongue-in-cheek horror movies like Slither. But whether it’s making an R-rated Suicide Squad movie or a PG13 Guardians picture, it’s all the same to him: telling the biggest-ass version of a campfire yarn. “This is simply a little bit of a higher age bracket,” he explains, “and my audience is a little bit different. They can see a shark tearing someone in half, they can see a penis. It doesn’t matter.” Even so, there remains a sense of human connection among a number of broken Squad members. And those without that vulnerability still allow the storyteller to broaden the moral spectrum he’s playing with. “I think you know from the beginning of the first Guardians that
most likely, in his heart, Peter Quill is good, Gamora is good, Rocket is good, Drax is good.” But with the Suicide Squad, “some are not good people. They’re bad people. It’s less sentimental in that way. King Shark is much less sentimental than Groot.” Some of these bad people will die in presumably horrible ways. Not that Gunn is killing his darlings lightly. “The first thing I had to do was ignore the potential blowback from killing a character,” Gunn says. Instead he focused on following the natural progression of the story, and each character’s arc. “I’m just the servant of the story, so whatever the story says is what I’m going to do, no matter what the repercussions are for anything. I believe in the truth of the story. I believe that there was a story out there that needed to be told that I don’t have any control over.” Perhaps ceding that control is the greatest advantage he’s discovered from making a gross, foul-mouthed superhero movie exactly to his liking. “I wanted to do the things that other spectacle films haven’t been able to do,” Gunn says, “which is really take my time and investigate these characters, get to know them, focus on the character aspects, focus on who they were, and deal with time in a different way than it’s been dealt with in these movies.” Gunn is thus able to let his movie breathe in a way that’s unusual for the superhero genre, but is in line with the more adult-oriented filmmaking he loved as a child. The Suicide Squad may be a war movie, but for Gunn it’s a specific type of throwback. Quick to name The Dirty Dozen and The Great Escape, he becomes audibly excited when discussing those 1960s “war-caper” films from his youth. Recapturing that aesthetic is as much the appeal of the movie as honoring the comics. He even refers to Elba’s Bloodsport as his Steve McQueen. “He’s the unsentimental portrayal of a 1960s action hero but without the moral repercussions of those characters,” says Gunn. Also, he notes, Bloodsport is the guy who shot Superman with a kryptonite bullet. “How cool
is that? And also, what a dick!” When contrasted with Robbie’s Harley Quinn, Gunn even likens the pair’s energy to Abbott and Costello, only now Costello might kill you with a bat. But then, each of the Squad members represent their own genre. They also each leave the door open for further exploration. Hence Gunn’s next project is still not Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but rather an HBO Max show starring one of the nastiest pieces of work in the squad: John Cena’s Peacemaker. Describing the jingoistic flag-waver as if Marvel’s Captain America took a really far-right turn, Gunn saw Peacemaker as the perfect jumping off point when HBO approached him about doing a series. “I think that the actual inspiration for Peacemaker was the shitty 1970s Captain America TV shows that I loved when I was a child,” Gunn says. “Peacemaker exemplifies a lot of things about society that are going on politically, and what people’s beliefs are about America and the world.” Exploring this week-to-week with Cena—an actor whose range Gunn believes audiences have only seen a fraction of—is irresistible. In fact, Peacemaker might mark another turning point in Gunn’s career. “I love doing Peacemaker. I could see just making TV shows after Guardians 3. It’s a possibility,” he says. Three years since Gunn’s one very bad week, the possibilities now seem limitless.
JAMES GUNN ON SAVANT: “I LOVE HUMILIATING MICHAEL ROOKER IN HIS LONG WHITE WIG. [LAUGHS].”
JAMES GUNN ON POLKA-DOT MAN: “THE DUMBEST SUPERVILLAIN OF ALL TIME IS ACTUALLY THE DARKEST SUPERVILLAIN THAT’S EVER BEEN BROUGHT TO SCREEN.”
IMAGE CREDITS: © 2021 WBEI TM & © DC
JAMES GUNN: ON HARLEY THIS “I THINK THATURES HARLEY CAPTNACY THE TRUE LUQUINN OF HARLEY THAT AND SHOWS BBIE MARGOT RO PLAY WAS BORN TO THIS ROLE.”
Did you learn any new kinds of stunts for this movie?
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DEN OF GEEK: You’ve said in interviews that you have to like a character in order to be able to play them. What do you like about Harley Quinn? MARGOT ROBBIE: It’s been so fun
and interesting to play her in three different iterations, under a different director each time, because I really find that people gravitate towards different characteristics of Harley. Different people want to explore different aspects of the character, which is great for me because I want to explore every aspect of her. In The Suicide Squad, she’s single and ready to mingle and kind of exploring love in different places. That side was particularly fun in this movie. I often think of Harley as being like a kid on a playground, where if she’s the only kid there, she’s not going to have that much fun, but if you throw in a ton of other kids, it’s going to be mayhem. She’s always the most fun when surrounded by a whole new group of people. This movie has a huge ensemble cast, and that means so many different characters for her to interact with. I love that you see a very different side to her, depending on who she’s with at the time and who she’s interacting with. She’s psychotic and fun and cheeky and morally ambiguous, and I get to do and say all the things that I would never get to do and say in real life.
You previously drew character inspiration from Harley in Batman: The Animated Series and Karen Hill from Goodfellas. What were your touchstones for this film?
Because James is such a comic book lover, I felt like this iteration of Harley was the closest to the Suicide Squad comics. I feel like I’ve known her for so long now that she’s kind of gone a bit beyond touchstones and she’s pretty fully formed in my mind. Now it’s just about exploring different iterations of the comics and their storylines a little closer. What is Harley’s aesthetic in The Suicide Squad?
For her, she’s going into work. This is mission mode, so she puts on her mission outfit. Then the movie takes an unexpected turn, and she gets put into another outfit [the red dress seen in the trailer]. But happily for us and audience members, it’s very much in the Harley color palette, being such a vibrant red color and the black boots. Everything was kind of crafted within her traditional color palette from the comics. Were your costumes comfortable?
They were pretty comfy. To be honest, being in flat shoes for a lot of this film was a new thing. To do Harley fight scenes in combat boots was a dream. It’s really hard to do months and months of stunts in high heels.
We had a lot of pretty intense fights. We shot one big long Harley fight sequence in a couple of days, which was kind of insane and really fun. This might sound weird, but I did a lot more kicking in her fight choreography than I’d done before. The spear was definitely a new, fun weapon. When it comes to fight choreography and stunt training, you’re not actually learning anything too different from a baseball bat to a spear to a mallet. You’re doing a similar training process, and then you just swap out the weapon and make some slight adjustments. The movie uses a lot of pyrotechnics. What was it like to film those scenes?
As you can tell from the trailer, there’s just a lot of huge stunts and a lot of pyrotechnics… and it was absolutely phenomenal to witness firsthand and to be running through all that. I had things literally blowing up a foot away from me. I had this specific course to run on the beach and real explosions going off everywhere. My adrenaline was through the roof, and it was just so much fun. I told James, “Guys always get to do this in movies and girls never get to. I finally felt like I got to have my war moment just then, and it was so cool.” Can you talk about what James Gunn brought to this world and story?
I can’t think of another director who can execute so perfectly at such a large scale. This film was humongous... I don’t know how else to explain it, but the fact that he can orchestrate something that big and still have such a specific tone and his specific kind of DNA through it, it’s pretty amazing. It doesn’t become some big homogenized mess of big explosions. There are so many massive action beats [and] they pack an emotional punch at the same time... It’s an entirely different skillset to orchestrate something that big and still have it feel emotional and grounded and surprising. I can’t think of someone who does it as well as he does at that scale. DEN OF GEEK
STEPHA N IE WILLIA M S
DEN OF GEEK: How were you first approached for the role for Bloodsport in The Suicide Squad and what made you say yes? IDRIS ELBA: James Gunn reached out
to me and said he had this project that he wanted to work on and didn’t tell me what it was. We had a meeting pretty late at night [and] what was appealing to me was that it wasn’t a continuation of the last film, and this is a new character. I just wanted to see where James wanted to go with this new film and this new character. So that was really what drew me in.
Bloodsport isn’t a very famous character compared to some members of the Squad. What did you learn about him and what freedom were you given to bring him to life?
Like you say, he’s not very well known so I sort of traced his history back in the DC world. He’s popped up in some places. He’s more of the vigilante soldier type. He’s not going to have special powers, he’s just a really good assassin, basically. That was pretty consistent throughout his history. There was a little bit of leniency between myself and James collaboratively just working it out… what we want to bring to life. I felt very involved in that process, so essentially I got to bring him to life the way we wanted to. 38
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You’re no stranger to action movies. You’re an MCU alumnus and in Hobbs & Shaw you played the fantastic Brixton Lore, the “Black Superman.” Did you bring any of those experiences to Bloodsport?
Playing any action character requires a level of real dedication just to the amount of work you have to do. So although I’ve been in the Marvel universe, Heimdall isn’t so much of an action character, despite moments where he’s had action. But Brixton in Hobbs & Shaw was 100% full on. Going from that into The Suicide Squad was a great transition because I basically brought some of the things I learned from the experiences I had on Hobbs & Shaw. It’s not the same character, but the level of effort is the same. This ensemble cast is one of the wildest we’ve seen in a superhero movie. What was it like to work with everyone?
That was a lot of fun. It’s challenging keeping your character in one lane while you’ve got these really largerthan-life characters around you, especially Peacemaker who is a natural rival [to Bloodsport]. It’s kind of hard to stay in your character with John Cena, who is incredible with improvisations. And then everyone else has this quick-fire banter, but
What was it like wearing that intricate Bloodsport costume?
The suit was very tricky to wear. Each component of his costume does something else, so it’s quite a tricky costume to design. I remember speaking to James about the many machinations of designs that he had gone through with this costume. When I came on board, it had to fit to who I am and how Bloodsport moves. It’s intricate but it looks incredible and badass when you see it in the film, but it was a real journey getting there. What are his weapons like?
Just imagine a weapon that can transform from one thing into another and keep going. He’s got a pretty cool array of weapons. In the trailer we see Bloodsport in vacation wear, a nice pair of grilling sandals and linen pants. Do you think Bloodsport is good on the grill? Who would he play Spades with and why?
With a name like Bloodsport he’s definitely going to grill. I don’t think he’s the guy that’s seasoning, but I think he’s behind the barbecue with the fire, making sure that meat and blood are cooking. As far as playing games with anyone, he doesn’t do that, he’s solitary, he doesn’t like company, and likes to be alone. He’s very guarded. He just wouldn’t find it interesting to play cards against anyone. He might play chess, maybe, but I don’t think he’s playing Spades at the barbecue.
IMAGE CREDITS: © 2021 WBEI TM & © DC
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Bloodsport, he doesn’t even like to talk. It’s like, you don’t want to be friendly with these people. But I think that’s what’s beautiful about his arc. He goes on a journey. The dynamic with the actors is incredible. Really good, nice, hardworking people. James was so specific around timing and comedy and how you say lines and stuff. It was great to be a part of that. It’s almost like he’s a comic strip artist and he had these characters to play with and built these amazing frames. I love working with directors that have a complete vision, but allow you a little bit of latitude to bring it to life.
NN JAMES GSUPORT: D ON BLOO L NTIMENTA “AN UNSERAYAL OF T R PO CTION A 1960S AWITHOUT T U B O R E H AL THE MOR NS OF SSIO REPERCU ARACTERS. THOSE CHHE SHOT ALSO T N. HE SHO SUPERMAAN WITH A M SUPER ITE BULLET. KRYPTON] HOW COOL [LAUGHS AND ALSO, IS THAT? A DICK.” WHAT
JAMES GUNN ON WEASEL: “[LAUGHS] BECAUSE YOU ALWAYS NEED ONE ANTHROPOMORPHIC CREATURE THAT’S GOING TO MAKE YOU VOMIT IF YOU LOOK AT IT FOR TOO LONG.”
JAMES GUNN ON KING SHARK: “WHO DOESN’T WANT TO SEE A FISH EAT A LOT OF PEOPLE, THAT SOMEHOW PEOPLE THINK IS INEXPLICABLY CUTE?”
IMAGE CREDITS: © 2021 WBEI TM & © DC
JAMES GUNN ON PEACEMAKER: “WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF CAPTAAIN AMERICA TOOK RN REALLY WRONG TUROR A REALLY FA A RIGHT TURN AT CERTAIN POINT.”
like Judd Apatow and Amy Schumer did in Trainwreck, but man, his preparedness and his commitment to narratives in their entirety, from things as simple as the score— it can’t just be a song, it needs to be this particular song at this particular point. He is passionately immersed in the totality of the experience. I just let go and realize that I am far from the smartest person in the room. I’m going to be my nice little piece, pun intended, on the chess board and let the master figure out what the opening is and what the next move is.
IS P E A C E M A K E R BY
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DEN OF GEEK: How did you get the role of Peacemaker? JOHN CENA: I had tried my hand at
trying to crack the DC code for a long time with multiple failures. It was brought to my attention that James had interest in me playing Peacemaker in The Suicide Squad, and he just wanted to meet with me in person to solidify his instincts. His reputation is one thing, but to see him in action... I got to actually go to the production offices and just see all of their preparation. It’s like nothing I’d ever seen before. He really just prepares as good as, or better than, anyone and adds to that his passion for filmmaking and his passion for storytelling. I think he sees his story and then he puts together a list of suspects that could be possible fits, and I was one of those and we hit it off. Based on what we’ve seen in the trailers, it almost seems like Peacemaker could be a warped version of your character in WWE. Did you draw any inspiration specifically from the “John Cena,” boy scout-esque character?
I remember meeting with James and asking if I should dive into the comics history of Peacemaker, and he specifically told me not to. I think that’s because James likes to navigate his story. He just was like, “you have what
I’m looking for. Just be yourself, and if you’re willing to take direction, I think we can do something special.” I originally had approached this character as much more of an angular, drill sergeant, Full Metal Jacket-esque personality, and about 20 minutes into filming our first scene, James came over to me and was like, “This is not what I’m looking for. I’m looking for a douchey, bro-y Captain America.” We do draw from the do-gooder side of John Cena, who has a strong set of values and doesn’t waiver from those values. So the answer is yes, but not in my eyes. Whenever I play a role in a movie, it really is never myself. Whereas WWE is the odd thing that a lot of times you have to create an extension of yourself because the narrative is just so damn long. The Suicide Squad are a bunch of super villains and every villain has to believe what they’re doing is right and just, and it’s just their warped perspective of society that makes them evil. I think that’s a great way to describe Peacemaker. He thinks what he is doing is right and just. He just has a really abstract perspective. What’s it been like to work with James Gunn and develop this character together?
It’s amazing. He provides you the freedom to take chances, very much
Peacemaker is also getting an HBO Max series. How does it feel to be entrusted with what is essentially the first television series in the DCEU?
I’m very excited. DC has been trying to create excitement and buzz and it has had tremendous success and it has had its share of setbacks, but at the same time [the folks at DC] know what their fans want and they know the satisfaction that their fans are looking for. I really think they’re stepping up to give fans what they’ve been waiting for. They’re taking bold and brave chances with completely new characters, like you see in The Suicide Squad or completely new takes on all the properties that they have in their bank. I think both of these projects, The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker, are steps in the right direction. Dwayne Johnson is also coming into the DCEU to play anti-hero Black Adam. Given the history you share, do you have any hopes for your respective characters to cross paths someday?
Well, like I said before, I think the DCU is making steps in the right direction, and certainly there’s a lot of buzz behind Black Adam as well. We’re all kind of under the same umbrella. So do I have hope? I always have hope. I know audiences really enjoyed what we were able to do [in WWE] and if we’re able to transfer that excitement and passion from live entertainment to the big screen, I think it seems like a pretty logical jump, but I don’t make those choices. So all I can do is just keep doing me, man. DEN OF GEEK
JIM D A N D ENEAU
DEN OF GEEK: What was your journey with Rick Flag like between when the first film came out and when this one started shooting? JOEL KINNAMAN: It was in this sort of
no man’s land in a way. The first film was a big financial success, but I think we all agreed that the end result didn’t really add up to what we had hoped and set out to do. This went through a couple of other directors that were interested in taking it on. But when James Gunn came on board, it got really real, real quick, and everyone realized what a great opportunity this was. When I read James’ first draft... it just had everything that we always hoped that this franchise would be. It really had a sincere love for the characters, and it found some odd emotional depth in it. But at the same time, it was just really funny and silly. Every page made me laugh. I felt maybe on the first movie, I was a little bit of a plot donkey. And here, it’s a much looser, stranger, funnier version of Rick Flag. The first conversations I had with James were how I didn’t really feel like I wanted to be constrained by what I did in the first film. I want to go at this almost looking at it as a new character. He was all for that. What do you see as Rick’s core as a character?
[He’s] a guy who, the military is 42
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his family, and he grew up without parents. So, he is what he does. Of course, you have to find the pain and the emotional depth of any character that you’re going to do. I think over the course of this film... I can’t really spoil it too much, but if the military is his family, Rick Flag, over the course of this film, has a reckoning with his family. You’re no stranger to action or science fiction, but how were those elements different in this film?
The scale on this is just on another level. Because it’s so heavily R-rated, you’re completely free to do whatever and say whatever you want. It just gives you complete free rein to explore this. It really is like a war movie at its center, with so much ridiculous silliness in the middle of all that. And then John Cena has a silver toilet seat on his head throughout the whole film, so you’re balancing a lot of different elements here. Who in the cast do you feel brought out the best in you as a performer?
I definitely had some heavy stuff with John. That was really fun, and I loved his perverted mind at work. Everyone in this movie is fantastic. David Dastmalchian (Polka-Dot Man) is a remarkable actor and he taps into my Swedish sense of humor, where it’s all a little suicidal. It’s just the comedy of some really depressed, depraved
James has said that the action in this movie is going to rely a lot on practical effects. Did you have any particularly challenging moments? How much gore was there during the shoot?
There was quite a bit of gore, but then we also had these little, sort of, Saving Private Ryan beach sequences, where it’s a full-on war, with shit blowing up left and right and we’re running through it. I haven’t really done that on that scale with that many extras before. When James said that he was making it a war movie, I didn’t really think he actually meant a war movie, so that was pretty cool.
The Suicide Squad will be released in theaters and on HBO Max on Aug. 6.
IMAGE CREDITS: © 2021 WBEI TM & © DC
IS RI CK FL AG
person. Idris is a phenomenal actor. Me and Margot always have fun. And also, Steve Agee, who played the physical aspect of King Shark. It’s a very rich cast. Everyone brought something, and it was very high level. Me, Idris, and Margot would talk, because I think we’re actors who come more from a dramatic corner of our profession, and we were paired with a lot of actors who maybe come more from the comedic side. It was a beautiful marriage. I’ve never been asked to say things that ridiculous before, and I realized how difficult it can be. They make it look so easy. It’s really a very advanced art form... even more so being the straight man. It takes a lot of work just dialing that timing in, and it’s really helpful to be around these great comedic actors, but then also to have a director who has such a finely attuned sense of it.
NN JAMES GFULAG: K IC R N O BLE TO “BEING A HE 1960S T UNEARTHVIE GENRE WAR MO MODERN T FOR A WAS A LO AUDIENCEFUN OF ALL E OF TH THIS.” OF
JAMES GUNN ON RATCATCHER 2: “SHE’S THE HEART OF THE MOVIE, AND DANIELA MELCHIOR HAS INCREDIBLE CHARISMA AND EMOTION. SHE’S A TRUE MOVIE STAR.”
BY ALEC BOJALAD
THE MARVEL CINEMATIC Universe’s timeline is a mess. That’s bound to happen when a group of Avengers enter into the Quantum Realm and engage in a time heist to save the world as they did in Avengers: Endgame. Thankfully, the job was done, Thanos was defeated, and the Stones returned to their respective realities. Now, however, there is some 44
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extra chronological cleanup that needs to be done. That’s where Disney+’s next MCU offering, Loki, comes in. While WandaVision and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier got Marvel’s streaming era off to a strong start, the franchise’s most iconic villain-turned-antihero is set to expand Marvel storytelling even further in a six-episode timehopping action thriller. Loki hails from head writer Michael Waldron and
director Kate Herron, and will find the God of Mischief dealing with the most fearsome Marvel antagonist yet: bureaucratic red tape. Though his brother Thor could be forgiven for believing that Loki’s death at the hands of Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War was really the end for the slippery trickster, Avengers: Endgame found an alternate timeline version of Loki doing what he does best: escaping certain death. As we’ve seen
IMAGE CREDITS: DISNEY+
LOKI IS AT THE CENTER OF A NEW ERA OF MARVEL STORYTELLING. JUST LIKE HE ALWAYS SEEMS TO BE.
Vote Loki? That sounds like a horrible idea! Tom Hiddleston stars as the God of Mischief, causing havoc over various timelines in the new show coming to Disney+.
BOOK OF LIES
Marvel’s Loki pulls from a few of the more recent adventures of everyone’s favorite trickster, so dedicated viewers won’t have to delve too deeply into Marvel Comics history to get up to speed on Loki’s current path to greatness! JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY (2011) In Kieron Gillen’s Journey Into Mystery run, a formerly terrible (but repentant) Loki has been reborn, and is subsequently taken under Thor’s wing as a child. Will the God of Mischief capitalize on getting yet another valuable second chance, or is the old Loki much closer to assuming control than anyone suspects? LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD (2014) From there, check out Al Ewing’s terrific Agent of Asgard, in which a young Loki attempts to make up for his past misdeeds and finally finds out the difference between a lie and a story. He also makes a real friend, and no one is more surprised by this particular development than Loki! VOTE LOKI (2016) Since we already know that the silver-tongued master of manipulation will try to run for office in his very own Disney+ show, the election-centric Vote Loki seems like essential reading.
Wunmi Mosaku and Owen Wilson play members of the Time Variance Authority.
in the trailers, after making off with the Tesseract, Loki finds himself in the clutches of the mysterious Time Variance Authority. The Time Variance Authority, or “TVA,” are the pencil-pushers tasked with making sure all the timelines of the Marvel multiverse run smoothly. They were first introduced in Walt
Simonson’s Thor #372 and now they’re set to intervene in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s temporal shenanigans as well. Bringing Loki in on the TVA’s mission is Owen Wilson’s character, mustachioed TVA bureaucrat Mobius M. Mobius (whose appearance is based on comic writer and Marvel
Finally, you mustn’t skip Daniel Kibblesmith’s Loki. You can witness Loki reigning supreme when he achieves a new level of power and responsibility after earning the trust of his peers. Of course, he couldn’t be more bored! —KIRSTEN HOWARD
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TH R OU GH OV E R A DECADE OF S TOR Y TE L L IN G MARV EL C A N ’T S EEM T O Q UIT IT S CH ARI S M A TI C C A D . canon-keeper Mark Gruenwald). Sophia Di Martino, Sasha Lane, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Wunmi Mosaku, and Richard E. Grant all co-star in unspecified roles alongside Hiddleston and Wilson. In the thrall of the TVA, Loki will travel through time, altering events in human history and perhaps within the MCU. Marvel has also referred to the series as a “crime thriller,” which seemed like an odd match for a story about time travel. But that was before the show’s first trailer revealed Loki looking an awful lot like infamous and mysterious plane hijacker D.B. Cooper on one of his missions. It’s only fitting that a TV series bearing Loki’s name would be coming in on the ground floor of a new era of Marvel storytelling. The God of Mischief has been a consistent, 46
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beloved onscreen presence over the past decade of storytelling. Wherever there are big seachanges underway, you will almost certainly find Loki, wearing green and a wicked smile. The character of Loki Laufeyson, created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby, borrowing from Norse mythology, made his MCU debut in 2011’s Thor. For all its faults (and there are a few), this Kenneth Branagh-directed film doesn’t get enough credit for how it grew Marvel’s movie universe. It was the first MCU film that takes place in the cosmos. In fact, Loki isn’t only among the first “alien” species audiences meet, he’s among the first two alien species, holding down Asgardian and Frost Giant dual citizenship. Hiddleston’s first appearance proved charismatic enough that he would soon become
Loki premieres on June 11 on Disney+
IMAGE CREDITS: DISNEY+
The look of Owen Wilson’s character, Mobius M. Mobius, is based on Marvel comics writer Mark Gruenwald.
Marvel’s go-to villain. When it came time for the studio to embark upon its first ambitious superhero team-up with The Avengers in 2012, there was only one logical choice for a big bad. Loki stepped up, staging a grand battle in New York and delighting audiences with his Shakespearean insults and godly joie de vivre. Loki made such a splash as the antagonist of that film (even if he was performing as a villainous middle man for Thanos) that Marvel had Hiddleston make a surprise appearance in character at its 2013 San Diego Comic-Con panel to hype up its 2013/2014 slate of films. Hiddleston, in full Asgardian garb, admonished the audience with decadent line readings of phrases like, “Humanity! Look how far you’ve fallen, waiting all day in the sweltering heat, huddled in the dark! Like beasts!” Surely some Marvel fan in attendance in Hall H had the fleeting thought of “I think this Tom guy might really think he’s Loki?” Hiddleston and Loki are the ultimate team players in the MCU, livening up the kinetic Thor: Ragnarok in 2017 before making a two-part “farewell” appearance in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Through over a decade of storytelling, Marvel just can’t seem to quit its charismatic cad. Nor should it, especially not now, when there’s a whole new era of exciting narrative opportunities afoot. The future of the MCU is tied up in titles like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Concepts like multiverses, quantum realms, and fractured timelines are sure to play an expanded role in Marvel fare going forward. The franchise’s timeline and universe have never felt more exploitable. What better character to exploit them than Loki? Loki can be the audience’s Mephistophelian guide through all the delicious madness to come. For the God of Mischief, he’s shockingly reliable.
BY EXPERTS. FOR FANS. DEN OF GEEK.
Join the pop culture conversation at >> DENOFGEEK.COM
BLACK WIDOW THE IDEA OF MAKING a Black Widow movie has been around since long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe first lifted into the sky on Tony Stark’s repulsors. The character has been onscreen for more than a decade now, starting with Iron Man 2, and whether it was because of Marvel CEO emeritus and chairman Ike Perlmutter (who 48
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didn’t even want to sell Black Widow toys) squashing it or a general fear of female-led action movies, Marvel Studios danced around making a solo Widow movie for far too long. But the standalone Black Widow adventure is here at last, and it now serves as a sort-of coda to the story of Natasha Romanoff, since we already know her tragic fate in Avengers: Endgame. Directed by Cate Shortland (Berlin Syndrome), Black Widow will spell out how Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) kept herself busy between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, primarily with a trip home to Russia to clear some of that red from her ledger. There, she will reunite with figures from her dark past, including fellow Red Room alumnus Yelena Belova
IMAGE CREDITS: COURTESY OF MARVEL STUDIOS. ©MARVEL STUDIOS 2021 (BLACK WIDOW)
AFTER A YE AR WITH BARELY MORE THAN A HANDFUL OF BIG CINEMATIC RELEASES, THE SUMMER SEES BL OCKBUSTER MOVIES RETURNING TO THE WORLD AND THE ATERS. HERE’S WH AT’S COMING YOUR WAY.
SCARLETT JOHANSSON, FLORENCE PUGH, RACHEL WEISZ eta : JULY 9
(Florence Pugh), Russian would-be superhero Alexei Shostakov, aka the Red Guardian (David Harbour), and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz), another survivor of the Black Widow program and a maternal figure to Natasha and Yelena. Nat will also confront a mysterious villain known as Taskmaster and a conspiracy that will likely have ramifications for the MCU later down the line. That’s really the main reason to see Black Widow—well, aside from watching Johansson as the beloved Avengers member one more time. Even if this isn’t exactly a prequel, movies that fill in the backstories of characters who have already completed their arcs are a tricky business; there’s usually no suspense or surprise involved, and more of a resigned sense of pieces falling neatly and dully into place. But this is Marvel and we suspect that the studio has a few tricks up its sleeve. Originally set to open Phase 4 of the MCU’s long game, Black Widow will almost certainly reveal things we’ll need to know later. It’ll also mark the first of the MCU movies to return after a year-long, pandemic-driven hiatus. We can’t wait. —DON KAYE
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings The greatest fighter in Marvel history finally hits the big screen with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Simu Liu (Kim’s Convenience) takes on the title role of a character destined for a bright future in the MCU. Marvel fans might note that the “Ten Rings” of the title is the same organization that first appeared all the way back in Iron Man, and Tony Leung will finally bring their villainous leader, The Mandarin, to life. Awkwafina (The Farewell) also stars. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12), this should deliver martial arts action unlike anything we’ve seen so far in the MCU. —MIKE CECCHINI eta :
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Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins Snake Eyes will finally bring the origin story for the G.I. Joe franchise’s most iconic and beloved member to the big screen. Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians) stars in the title role, with Warrior’s Andrew Koji as his nemesis—conflicted baddie (and similar fan fave) Storm Shadow. Expect a tale heavy on martial arts badassery, especially with The Raid’s Iko Uwais on board as the pair’s ninja master. Samara Weaving will play G.I. Joe staple Scarlett, with Úrsula Corberó as Cobra’s Baroness. Robert Schwentke (The Time Traveler’s Wife, Red) directs. —MIKE CECCHINI eta :
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GAEL GARCIA BERNAL, ALEX WOLFF, THOMASIN MCKENZIE, VICKY KRIEPS eta : JULY 23 starring :
THOUGH HE MIGHT be accused of being a little bit hit-and-miss in the past, the release of a new M. Night Shyamalan movie should always be cause for celebration. Especially one with such a deeply creepy premise. Based on the graphic novel Sandcastle by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters, Old sees a family on vacation discover that the beach they are on causes them to age extremely rapidly and live out their entire lives in a day. This is surely perfect fodder for Shyamalan, who does high-concept horror like no one else. The cast is absolute quality, featuring Gael García Bernal, Hereditary’s Alex Wolff, Jo Jo Rabbit’s Thomasin McKenzie, 50
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NIGHT DOES HIGH-CONCEPT HORROR LIKE NO ONE ELSE Phantom Thread’s Vicky Krieps, Baby Teeth’s Eliza Scanlen, and many more. The trailer is pleasingly disturbing, too, as children become teenagers, a young woman is suddenly fullterm pregnant, and adults seem to be decaying in front of their own eyes. Harrowing in the best possible way. —ROSIE FLETCHER
YOU BETTER START firing up the grill, because the Fast and Furious crew is finally ready to have another summer barbecue. And this time, it’s not only the folks whom Dom Toretto calls “mi familia” in attendance. The big new addition to F9 is John Cena as Jakob Toretto. As the long-lost little brother we didn’t know Vin Diesel’s Dom had, Jakob
VIN DIESEL, CHARLIZE THERON, MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ, JOHN CENA eta : JUNE 25
is revealed to be a superspy, assassin, and performance driver working for Dom’s arch-nemesis, Cypher (Charlize Theron). Everything the Family does together, Jakob does alone, as a one-man wrecking crew, and he’s coming in hot. Fans will probably be happier, though, to see Sung Kang back as Han Seoul-Oh, the wheelman who
was murdered in Fast & Furious 6, and then pretty much forgotten in The Fate of the Furious when his killer got invited to the cookout. It’s an injustice that brought veteran series director Justin Lin back to the franchise to resurrect the dead. So it’s safe to assume he won’t be asking Cypher to bring the potato salad. —DAVID CROW
THE BIG NEW ADDITION TO F9 IS JOHN CENA
Candyman Announced back in 2018, this spiritual sequel to Bernard Rose’s 1992 original is one of the most exciting and anticipated movies on the calendar. Produced by Jordan Peele and directed by Nia DaCosta, the film takes place in the present day, and about a decade after Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing projects have been torn down. Watchmen’s Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays an up-and-coming visual artist who moves to the now-gentrified area with his partner and is inspired by the legend of Candyman, an apparition with a hook for a hand, to create new work about the subject. But in doing so, he risks unleashing a dark history and a new wave of violence. Tony Todd, the star of the original movie, will reprise his role in a reboot that aims to inspire fear for only the right reasons. —ROSIE FLETCHER eta :
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After eight films, a comic, a bunch of video games, and several theme park rides, you might think the announcement of a ninth Saw movie would be received with a groan rather than a cheer. But no. After the reallife horror of 2020, a Saw spinoff starring and exec-produced by Chris Rock should kick off the summer with a bang. Rock plays a cocky detective working under a respected veteran
officer (played by Samuel L. Jackson). Alongside Max Minghella’s rookie cop, the three must investigate a series of grisly murders that are horrifyingly reminiscent of the work of the infamous Jigsaw. Who is this copycat killer and what kind of sick game is being played? Darren Lynn Bousman, who directed Saw II, III, and IV is back at the helm for Spiral, working from a screenplay by Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger, who wrote the previous franchise installment, 2017’s Jigsaw. —ROSIE FLETCHER
JACOB TREMBLAY, JACK DYLAN GRAZER, MAYA RUDOLPH eta : JUNE 18
LUCA DISNEY PIXAR’S HIT rate is frankly with nods to the work of Federico incredible. With each new film Fellini and Hayao Miyazaki. The IT’S A seemingly comes a catchy song, an writers are Jesse Andrews and Mike CELEBRATION OF Oscar nomination, and a flood of tears Jones—Andrews is new to Pixar but FRIENDSHIP WITH from anyone with a heart—and there’s has experience with coming-of-agers, NODS TO FELLINI no reason to believe that its next having penned Me and Earl and the offering will be any different. Luca is a Dying Girl, while Jones co-wrote AND MIYAZAKI coming-of-age tale set on the Italian Soul. Jacob Tremblay and Jack Dylan Riviera about a pair of young lads who Grazer voice the young boys (sea become best friends and have a terrific summer getting into monsters)—13-year-old Luca and his older teenager friend adventures in the sun. The slight catch is that they’re both Alberto—with Maya Rudolph as Luca’s sea monster mom. sea monsters. This is the feature directorial debut of Enrico After a year of lockdown, this could be the summer movie Casarosa, who says the movie is a celebration of friendship we all need. —ROSIE FLETCHER 52
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IMAGE CREDITS:© 2020 UNIVERSAL PICTURES (CANDYMAN, OLD, F9), © 2021 LIONSGATE ENTERTAINMENT (SPIRAL), © 2020 DISNEY/PIXAR (LUCA), FRANK MASI. © 2021 DISNEY ENTERPRISES, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. (JUNGLE CRUISE), WARNER BROS. PICTURES (THE CONJURING)
JUNGLE CRUISE starring :
JUNGLE CRUISE DIRECTOR Jaume Collet-Serra is best known for making slightly dodgy actioners starring Liam Neeson (Unknown, Non-Stop, Run All Night) and halfdecent horror movies (Orphan, The Shallows), so exactly which direction this family adventure based on a theme park ride will take remains to be seen. Borrowing a page from Bogie and Hepburn in The African Queen, it stars the ever-charismatic Dwayne Johnson
THE GANG WILL HAVE TO WATCH OUT FOR WILD ANIMALS ALONG THE WAY as a riverboat captain taking Emily Blunt’s scientist and her brother (Jack Whitehall) to visit the fabled Tree of Life in the early 20th century. Like
DWAYNE JOHNSON, EMILY BLUNT, JACK WHITEHALL, JESSE PLEMONS eta : JULY 30 the ride, the gang will have to watch out for wild animals along the way. Unlike the ride, they’re competing with a German expedition team who are heading for the same goal. A solid supporting cast (Jesse Plemons, Édgar Ramírez, Paul Giamatti, Andy Nyman) and a script with rewrites by Michael Green (Logan, Blade Runner 2049) might mean Disney has another hit on its hands. Either way, a lovely boat trip with The Rock should be diverting at worst. —ROSIE FLETCHER
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
The latest big-screen adventure for real-life ghostbusters Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) sees the two drawn into the unusual case of the first ever US murder trial where the defendant claimed he was innocent because he was possessed by a demon. This is the eighth movie in the Conjuring expanded universe—director Michael Chaves has already made a foray into this supernatural world with The Curse of La Llorona—and as with all the main Conjuring films, the hook is that it’s based on a true case that the Warrens were involved with. Peter Safran and James Wan are back on board as producers. —ROSIE FLETCHER DEN OF GEEK
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) all returned for another adventure in The Empire Strikes Back, and they were joined by Star Wars’s newest character, Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams). 54
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YOU NEVE R SAW L e i g h B r ac k e t t ’ s d r a f t f o r S ta r Wa r s I I wo u l d h av e p r o d u c e d a s ta r k ly d i f f e r e n t f i l m .
by J o h n S a av e d r a
he Empire Strikes Back is a masterpiece of blockbuster cinema and the standard by which we measure all other big-screen space adventures. But before it became the magnum opus of the Star Wars trilogy, the spark that would become The Empire Strikes Back floated in the nothingness of space, waiting for its big bang. When Star Wars premiered in May 1977, the saga’s sequel could have gone either the low-budget or blockbuster route. Although we got the latter, there was already a plan in case the film wasn’t a huge hit. George Lucas hired Alan Dean Foster, who ghost-wrote the novelization of the first film, to write a relatively subdued sequel. That story eventually became the first Expanded Universe novel in the franchise’s history, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, which sees Luke and Leia crash on a jungle planet and face off with Darth Vader in a race against time to find a mysterious gem called the Kaiburr crystal. But since Star Wars was such a huge success, Lucas had a much bigger problem on his hands. He had to follow his beloved blockbuster with an even better
sequel. While planning part two, Lucas was also busy building his very own empire—Lucasfilm—while continuing to foster innovation at Industrial Light & Magic. And as J.W. Rinzler’s The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back points out, Lucas planned to finance his sequel out of his own pocket in order to keep 20th Century Fox from tinkering with the film. As a result, he decided to step away from writing and directing the second Star Wars movie. L E I G H B R A C K E TT, R O G U E L E A D E R Lucas turned to space opera legend Leigh Brackett to pen the script, which was later revised by Lawrence Kasdan and Lucas himself. These days, most fans are familiar with Kasdan’s contributions to Star Wars, but it’s possible that you haven’t heard of Empire’s first scribe at all. Brackett, who Lucas first met through a friend during his search for a screenwriter, was vital to the creative process of Empire, especially in its pivotal early days. Perhaps Brackett isn’t a household name in Star Wars circles today because she died of cancer in March 1978, only weeks after she had turned in the very first draft of the script. But long before she took the gig in
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1977, Brackett was well known in the science fiction community for her pulpy space operas and planetary romance novels and short stories. Brackett also mentored a young Ray Bradbury and traveled in the same circles as Robert A. Heinlein. She was a sci-fi giant. But sci-fi was far from her only claim to fame. By 1977, Brackett had written 10 films, including The Big Sleep, which she co-wrote with Nobel Prize-winning novelist William Faulkner and veteran screenwriter Jules Furthman, as well as classics like Rio Bravo, El Dorado, and The Long Goodbye. Lucas and Brackett met several times in late 1977 to hash out an outline for “Star Wars II.” Together, they figured out the skeleton of the film’s plot, which remained pretty much intact in later drafts, although there were some differences, according to Rinzler’s book. For one thing, Darth Vader wasn’t Luke’s father in the outline.
The Yoda character didn’t receive his iconic name until later drafts of the script. In the earliest outlines, Yoda was named “Buffy,” which was short for “Bunden Debannen.” Lucas writes in the outline, “Buffy very old—three or four thousand years. Kiber crystal in sword? Buffy shows Luke? Buffy the guardian. ‘Feel not think.’” Close enough. From this outline, Brackett set to work on The Empire Strikes Back. T H E I C E P LA N E T A scanned version of the draft includes plenty of (semilegible) handwritten notes and crossed out lines. It’s unclear whether these are Brackett’s notes to herself after meeting with Lucas or if Lucas himself scribbled on the pages, but it’s fascinating to read the notes along with the typed words on the page. Brackett’s draft introduces all of the big moments we’d eventually see on screen. We still get a version of the Battle of Hoth, the wise words of an old Jedi Master,
SPOT THE DIFFERENCE D e ta i l s f r o m t h e r o u g h d r a f t t h at wo u l d b e co m e T h e E m p i r e S t r i k e s Bac k 56 DEN OF GEEK
Han mentions “God” in the rough draft. It would have been the only potential mention of God in the saga. The rough draft also mentions sharks!
IMAGE CREDITS: LUCASFILM/SUNSET BOULEVARD/CORBIS (STAR WARS), PAUL THUABAN/KEYSTONE/HULTON ARCHIVE, (CARRIE FISHER); GETTY IMAGES
The “Ice Planet” scenes in Brackett’s script were notably different to the Hoth section of The Empire Strikes Back. In the first draft, tauntauns were only known as “snow lizards.”
the excitement of zooming through a deadly asteroid field, a love triangle, a majestic city in the clouds, unexpected betrayals, and the climactic duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. The rough draft begins, not with a shot of deep space, but a fade-in on an ice planet, which isn’t named in this draft. Luke and Han are riding their “snow lizards” around the planet’s surface, looking for lifeforms that might endanger their Rebel base, which Brackett describes as an “ice castle.” The writer’s love of space fantasy comes through in her descriptions, which set the tone of the script as a more classic piece of science fiction. Even something as simple as the “ice formations” that catch Luke’s attention while scouting with Han benefit from dazzling detail. “Dimly there appears through the veils [of snow] a formation of rocks,” Brackett writes, “or perhaps ice of exceptional beauty, catching points of fire from the sun.” It’s clear she understands the Star Wars universe, even in its relatively early days, as she instills that sense of wonder for the universe and its exotic locations. But in other places her script more closely resembles the burnished chrome of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials. Barely in sight is the rusty, lived-in universe that Lucas had established in 1977. And there are hints of high fantasy, too. The ice monster, which is not yet called a “Wampa,” that Luke encounters on the planet’s surface can “vanish in a burst of vapor,” more magical wraith than hulking beast. This isn’t the one-off adversary from the film, either, but just one of a horde of ice monsters that later attack the Rebel ice castle. The ice planet segment actually makes up a large chunk of the movie, and you can tell that Brackett loves writing the chaos inside the Rebel base, which is first invaded by monsters and then attacked by the Empire—who bring “tank-type crawlers” to the party, undoubtedly the predecessors of the AT-ATs. And she has fun portraying the Rebellion as a group of bumbling idiots, too. Even though “1,026 systems” have joined their cause since their victory at Yavin, the Rebels in this draft are ill-prepared for war, many frozen to death by burst water pipes inside the base. Their attempt to repel an exceptionally organized attack by the ice monsters is perhaps best accompanied by “The Benny Hill Theme.” Brackett also establishes one of the draft’s major pitfalls during the ice castle scenes: the love triangle between Luke, Han, and Leia, which is about as subtle
as a Vader Force choke. Brackett embraces traditional romance tropes in her approach, as a much more damsel-like Leia falls into the hero’s arms on multiple occasions for a make-out session. Leia becomes the object of male affection and not much else, while Han and Luke are the rough-around-the-edges and babyfaced beefcakes vying for her love. It was the later revisions that introduced a lot of the nuance to Han and Leia’s budding relationship. C A S T L E VA D E R Meanwhile, Darth Vader needs Leia in order to lure Luke to Orbital City, this draft’s version of Cloud City. For a movie eventually called The Empire Strikes Back, the Empire is scarcely in the first two acts of this draft. The villains don’t appear on screen until 20 pages in, and not in a fleet of Star Destroyers in pursuit of the Rebel base as we see in the finished film. Instead, we first meet the titular bad guys in “the administrative center” of the Empire, the planet Ton Muund. There, Vader waits in his castle. Brackett writes, “Ton Muund should have an odd sort of day; perhaps a blue star.” The planet doesn’t appear often in the script, but Ton Muund is as richly realized as the rest of the settings Brackett describes. Ton Muund was also likely a precursor to the Imperial homeworld of Coruscant. Rinzler also points out in his book that Lucas considered putting a “city planet” in the movie and a “water planet” with an underwater city, locations we’d later see in the prequels.
In Brackett’s script, Leia was at the center of a much more overt love triangle between Luke and Han. It was actually a little awkward...
Luke, Han, and Leia accidentally discover a mysterious crystal that resembles “a memory cell” in a lightsaber hilt. It holds coordinates to “perhaps the place where my father was trained.” It’s unclear how Luke comes to this conclusion. This will eventually lead him to the “bog planet” that became Dagobah in the final script. DEN DEN OF OFGEEK GEEK 57 57
L U K E ’S T RA I N I N G One of the crucial sections of The Empire Strikes Back is Luke’s Jedi training on Dagobah, under the tutelage of Master Yoda. Much of this storyline was nailed down in Brackett’s script. Things play out pretty much as they do on screen: Luke crash lands on the “bog planet” and meets a little “frog-like” old man named Minch, whom he doesn’t immediately recognize as a powerful Jedi Master. Minch takes Luke as his student, despite his reservations, in order to prepare the young hero for his fight against the Dark Side. This storyline also features one of the script’s most controversial scenes: after Minch teaches Luke how to summon Ben’s Force ghost (Obi-Wan can’t appear unless summoned through the Force), his old mentor shows up… and brings Luke’s father with him! Only identified as “Master Skywalker” rather than Anakin, Luke’s dad expresses how proud he is of his son. He also reveals that Luke has a twin sister, although it’s not Leia, but a girl named Nellith who’s never mentioned again in the script (a possible thread left over for the third movie). The scene ends with Minch, Ben, and the elder Skywalker “knighting” Luke with their lightsabers, effectively awarding him the title of Jedi, although he must face one final test in order to be a true member of the Order: defeat Vader. That fight takes place on “Hoth,” which movie fans will recognize as Bespin. Like in the film, this is where Luke, Han, and Leia will eventually be reunited.
Han and Leia make out a lot while waiting in the asteroid cave. In several instances, Chewbacca and Threepio watch and comment from afar. Kind of disturbing…. Also, Chewie is jealous of all the attention Han is giving Leia. 58 DEN 58 DENOF OF GEEK GEEK
IN THE EARLIEST OUTLINES YODA WAS NAMED “BUFFY” CITY IN THE CLOUDS Han, who is less mercenary and more proper Rebel soldier, isn’t trying to get back to Jabba to pay off a debt. In fact, there aren’t any bounty hunters in this movie at all. You can thank Lucas and Kasdan for the addition of Boba Fett in later drafts. Before the attack on the ice planet, Leia instructs Han to go on a mission to convince his stepfather Ovan Marekal, leader of “the Transport Guild,” to join the Rebellion. Brackett imagines Marekal as “the most powerful man in the galaxy next to the Emperor,” so he’s probably a good guy to have on your side. But as in the film, you never see that mission play out, since Han is busy running from the Empire and romancing Leia. The final act on Hoth contains the script’s best moments, and it’s where Brackett’s classic sci-fi style really shines through, as the Falcon lands on the planet’s surface way below its blanket of clouds. Brackett gives us a green landscape of ruined cities, where “noble-looking” natives with “white skin and hair,” known as “Cloud People,” ride on flying “mantas.” Han hopes that they can all hide out with his pal Lando Kadar (same Lando, different last name) until their troubles with the Empire blow over. Lando had established a trader’s outpost on Hoth’s surface when last Han saw him, but has since built a huge Orbital City in the clouds above. Lando is still a sweet talker, but infinitely more lonely. Here, Lando is one of the last of a long-forgotten batch of clones left over from the Clone Wars. Lando reveals his backstory to Han’s friends in an emotional monologue: “It didn’t seem strange to us to see our own
IMAGE CREDITS: LUCASFILM/SUNSET BOULEVARD/CORBIS, GETTY
Vader’s basic motivation is established in this draft: he must find Luke. It’s interesting how Brackett plays up Luke and Vader’s connection. While they aren’t father and son in this draft (that came in Lucas’ revision of Brackett’s script), Luke and Vader do have a unique relationship through the Force. Here, Vader can attack Luke with the Dark Side from across the galaxy. There are several instances in the script where Vader manages to get into Luke’s head with the Force. We see this as early as the escape from the ice planet, when Luke is knocked unconscious by Vader while piloting past the Imperial ships. A lot of Vader’s later depth is missing here, as he simply seeks revenge on Luke for his humiliation at Yavin. By the end of the script, though, Vader senses that Luke could be a powerful asset for the Dark Side, and he tries to turn him during their climactic duel in the depths of Orbital City. Yet, without the famous reveal, this confrontation feels a lot less exciting.
Like in the movie, Han and Leia are chased by the Empire in Brackett’s script, and they eventually meet a man named Lando Kadar, who is actually a clone who fought in the Clone Wars.
faces endlessly repeated in the streets of our cities. It gave us a sense of oneness, of belonging. Now, when every face is new and different, I feel truly alone.” Lando has been taken in by the leader of the Cloud People, Chief Bahiri, who considers him a son. Goodwill for Lando doesn’t last long, though, since he still betrays Han in order to protect his interests on Orbital City, getting Bahiri killed in the process. While Han and friends are taken captive like in the film, there’s no torture scene, and no one is frozen in carbonite. In fact, there isn’t much tension in their captivity at all, since it’s more like house arrest. Brackett doesn’t quite provide a dramatic escape scene, although there is a part where Han has to blow open a set of hangar doors with the Falcon’s thrusters. Things don’t pick up during Luke and Vader’s epic confrontation, either. Lando’s betrayal is Brackett’s big twist and the script lacks the epic climax of the final product. Brackett’s draft ends on the Rebel planet Besspin Kaalieda, “an extremely beautiful planet [that] revolves jewl-like [sic] in space.” There, Luke and Leia bid farewell to Han and Chewie, as the Falcon sets off on its mission to parts unknown in order to find Marekal in the third film. As if he were in Camelot at the end of
Darth Vader is considered a Jedi. No mention of the Sith. Minch explains the Dark Side to Luke: “It’s the dark side of you.” It’s the inherent evil that all beings are born with. Minch says Darth Vader was the first Dark Jedi in a long time.
a great adventure, Luke salutes the retreating ship with his lightsaber, the blade pointed towards the stars. T HE C L I F F HANG E R It’s impossible to know how Empire would’ve changed had Brackett been able to work on a second draft. Perhaps more of her pulpy sensibility would have shone through on screen. But when she brought Lucas the draft in early 1978, he was underwhelmed. “Writing has never been something I have enjoyed, and so, ultimately, on the second film I hired Leigh Brackett. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out; she turned in the first draft, and then she passed away,” Lucas said in Laurent Bouzereau’s Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays. “I didn’t like the first script, but I gave Leigh credit because I liked her a lot. She was sick at the time she wrote the script, and she really tried her best. During the story conferences I had with Leigh, my thoughts weren’t fully formed and I felt that her script went in a completely different direction.” But Brackett’s attempt is no failure. In 124 pages, the writer gives us grand adventure, exotic planets, and colorful characters. It’s The Empire Strikes Back… from a certain point of view.
Brackett describes Lando as “handsome, like Rudolph Valentino.” Valentino was an Italian-American actor from the 1920s. He was considered a sex symbol at the time and was nicknamed “The Latin Lover.” DEN DEN OF OFGEEK GEEK 59 59
THE HISTORY OF SUPERHERO TRADING CARDS Here’s an insider’s guide to the incredible world of superhero trading cards. By Chris Cummins This article is part of Collector’s Digest, an editorial series powered by eBay.
FOR OVER 80 YEARS, TRADING CARDS
have been an essential part of collectors’ lives. Whether baseball cards or Garbage Pail Kids, the card collecting bug bites early and often. This seems doubly true when it comes to cards inspired by the beloved heroes and villains of DC and Marvel Comics, who have been the subject of countless non-sport lines across the decades.
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These companies (and their independent peers) have released comic book characters into the pop culture landscape who have impacted our lives in ways that cultural anthropologists are still scratching their heads trying to figure out. And so we wanted to present to you a history of superhero trading cards via some of the genre’s most memorable offerings. Just be warned that we can’t be held responsible for the desire that the following collectibles will stir deep within you.
1966 Donruss Marvel Super Heroes Cards 1940 Superman Trading Cards Price: $150 - $9,000 Look up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… one of the coolest and most collectible non-sport card lines ever made! Originally printed by the Philadelphia-based Gum Inc. company— which subsequently was renamed as the Bowman Gum Company before being bought by Topps in the 1950s— this was the first-ever line of Superman cards. The decades have seen many sets based on the Man of Steel (Topps’ Superman in the Jungle line from the late 1960s is also well worth your time), but this specific line is a souvenir of an era when Supes was the biggest comic sensation in the universe. Since these were released in an age when pop culture was considered ephemeral and disposable, they are rather difficult to find in an acceptable condition, thus the astronomical prices for individual cards in the line. If you somehow manage to compile a complete set, congratulations, for you are truly a Superman of collecting!
Price: $5 - $175 Released just as Marvelmania was truly getting off the ground, Donruss’ 1966 set—which appropriately consisted of 66 cards—marked the first time that some of the House of Ideas’ most iconic characters were included on trading cards. As such, the prices for individual cards fluctuate wildly, and it’s best that you comparison shop various eBay sellers to get the best deal. What makes these cards stand out is the charmingly corny humor on display in many of the cards, as well as several entries that let you fill in the word balloons spoken by your favorite heroes. Nuff said? Probably not, as we could talk about how much fun this set is for days…
Batman 1966 Topps Trading Cards Price: $60 - $250
As Marvel was just getting its feet wet in the trading card game, DC had already established itself as the industry leader. It’s especially easy to understand why when you glimpse the Topps company’s tie-in line for the Batman TV show. Each card features stunning paintings from Topps legend Norman Saunders (the artist who also worked on iconic lines like Mars Attacks and Wacky Packages) featuring Batman and his rogues gallery of villains in action scenes that remain the purest example of how creative trading cards can get. DEN OF GEEK 61
Marvel Comic Book Heroes Sticker Trading Cards
Price: $5 - $8 Iron Man flies through the air asking if anyone has an oil can. Dracula makes jokes about doing the Hustle. The Human Torch advises against getting a sunburn. Yes friends, Topps’ 1976 line of stickers featuring Marvel heroes and villains is easily the goofiest entry on this list. And if you love dad jokes and horrific puns, the best.
Marvel Superheroes First Issue Covers Set Price: $89 - $170 Discussions of non-sport cards tend to focus on the major distributors like Topps, Fleer, Donruss, Skybox, and Upper Deck, which is a shame because sometimes sets released by independent vendors get lost in the shuffle. Case in point, this 1984 release from the Fantasy Trade Company which showcased the first issues of Marvel’s most beloved comics. From Spider-Man to Werewolf by Night and everything in between, this series was packed with unforgettable covers on the front and trivia about their respective books on the back. This is a line that doesn’t have the popularity of its big league brethren, but it is unmatched in terms of its coolness cachet.
Bubble Funnies Price: $10 - $30 We’re flipping the script here for a second to clue you in on a line that may look like trading cards but isn’t exactly trading cards. Amurol’s 1981 Bubble Funnies line was an assortment of baseball card-sized comics with pocket-sized adventures from The Amazing Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Spider-Woman, Archie, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Because they were somewhat hard to find and the retail cost was more than the average wax pack, the line died after its initial six entries. Bummer.
Batman Movie Trading Cards Set Price: $12 - $30 The two sets of cards based on Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film are the most easily available entry in this overview. As common as these things were, they also were the entry point into the world of card collecting for a generation of fans. If you’re one of them, then these are nothing short of priceless.
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THE MOST SEARCHED CHARACTERS IN SUPERHERO TRADING CARDS ON EBAY 1
1. Superman, 2. Spider-Man, 3. Batman, 4. Deadpool, 5. Iron Man, 6. Captain America, 7. Wolverine
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1992 Skybox Marvel Masterpieces Set Price: $39 - $75
The mind boggles at what contemporary trading card collecting would be like without Skybox’s 1992 Marvel Masterpieces line. This set gave a cool factor to non-sport cards that hadn’t previously existed, making long-time hobbyists feel vindicated and new fans eager to get each of the line’s 100 cards. The future began here, and we haven’t looked back since.
Marvel Metal Inaugural Card Set Price: $200 - $350 Along with the various Skybox lines, the so-called Marvel Metal card sets from the Philadelphia-based Fleer Company helped usher in the comics-related trading card boom of the 1990s. These highly coveted collectibles weren’t made of adamantium, but for fans it was close enough. Talent involved in the production of the inaugural 138-card set included George Pérez, Jim Lee, and Adam Kubert, adding an air of authenticity to the proceedings. Looking back at the iconic debut series of Marvel Metal cards nowadays offers a welcome flashback to the frenetic fun of collecting in the 1990s.
Upper Deck Marvel Ages Lenticular Puzzle Spider-Man Cards Price: $150 - $300
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This four-card set from Upper Deck’s current Marvel Ages set recreates one of Spidey’s darkest moments by recreating a legendary scene from The Amazing Spider-Man #50 through four interconnecting lenticular 3D cards. As you can see, these are absolutely stunning. More than that though, they illustrate how far the card collecting hobby has come over the last 80 years. Despite the technological advances that differentiate them from the earlier entries on this list, these cards share the same purpose as their bell and whistle-less counterparts—to dazzle anyone who holds them in their hands.
MARVEL CARDS: THE NEXT PHASE Upper Deck gave us a sneak peek of its next two upcoming sets, Marvel Black Diamond and Marvel X-Men Metal Universe. While no release date has been announced, we have a hunch fans will be scouring the universe (or their local retailers) to secure the Infinity Stones and collect an Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch autograph card.
Marvel Black Diamond
Marvel X-Men Metal Universe
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MOUNT GEEKMORE: THE TOP FOUR OF EVERYTHING, LITERALLY SET IN STONE.
NINTENDO CHARACTERS Plumbers, dinosaurs, bounty hunters... legends.
BY MATTHEW BYRD
ILLUSTRATION BY JESSICA KOYNOCK
Nintendo’s eventual mascot was our guide to a new world of gaming defined by possibilities and discovery rather than the limits of the medium’s perceived role in popular culture. Years later, Mario’s unflinching optimism remains one of the key reasons we keep coming back for more adventures in the Mushroom Kingdom and the other incredible worlds this true gaming icon has explored.
For a generation of Nintendo gamers, the most shocking thing about Samus Aran was learning that the star of Metroid was actually a woman. Years later, it’s the timelessness of her design and the ways her adventures spawned imitators that are hard to believe. Samus continues to stand tall among fellow video game stars, wearing her badass qualities as easily as her iconic armor.
Link’s role as the “Hero of Time’’ has long explained how this young adventurer keeps saving the world across thousands of years and wildly different stylistic incarnations. The implication is that he will always be there. Yet, his title also transcends lore and speaks directly to how the immortal quality of the Legend of Zelda series has made Link the greatest hero of many gaming generations.
Reliable companions are the kind of characters who aren’t celebrated as often as they should be. They’re always there when we need them most. That’s why it’s way past time to pay homage to Yoshi, who has remained a patient partner throughout many of Nintendo’s best games. He waits for our calls for help even as his own games prove that he’s a more than capable lead in his own right.
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Get in on the action The biggest selection of trading cards from blockbuster movies and TV shows is at ebay.com/tradingcards
CAST INTERVIEWS FIRST LOOK IMAGES
THE STUNTS SPECIAL EDITION BEHIND MARK MILLAR EXCLUSIVE
I N PA R T N E R S H I P W I T H N E T F L I X | M AY 2 0 2 1
C O N T E NT S J U P I TER ’ S
JUPITER’S LEGACY: MEET THE UNION
IMAGE CREDIT: NETFLIX, IMAGE COMICS
We speak with the ensemble cast, including Leslie Bibb, Josh Duhamel, and Ben Daniels (above) about playing a super team. PG. 18
MARK MILLAR: ORIGIN STORY
Comic creator extraordinaire Mark Millar shares the beginnings of his superhero saga, his inspirations for Jupiter’s Legacy, and how Netflix is a dream home for the story. PG. 6
Costume designer Lizz Wolf and Jupiter’s Legacy comics artist Frank Quitely on the concepts behind the super suits and the “sacred geometry” built in. PG. 12
CHOREOGRAPHING COMICS Supervising stunt coordinator Philip J. Silvera explains how he brought the frenetic superhero action of the comics to spectacular life on the screen. PG. 30
JUPITER’S LEGACY EDITION | DEN OF GEEK
FROM MARK MILLAR
BEFORE I WAS SITTING WATCHING
cut after cut of this series. Before I read the scripts in their earliest drafts. Before I even sold our Millarworld company to Netflix, Jupiter’s Legacy was a comic book. But before that, it was just a hundred pages of scribbled scenes and Post-It notes all over my office. I’d been working at Marvel for ten years and had a very good run of books, from the reinvention of The Avengers with The Ultimates through Civil War to Old Man Logan, all of which had seen some success and were making their way from page to screen. My Wanted, Kick-Ass, and Kingsman comics showed me there was also a world outside Marvel where my partners and I could own the rights to our creations and be our own bosses and guide the destiny of our characters in another medium. But Jupiter’s Legacy was something different. This had to be the biggest of the lot. I’d been honing my skills for over a decade in the mainstream and I remember the very first line I wrote in my big, thick beast of a notepad, a high bar I set before a single line of dialogue would be written down: This has to be the greatest superhero story of all time. Bold, of course, but if anything this inspired me and I just went crazy, writing notes for two full months and creating an entire universe of characters and how they all related to one another. My office looked like a scene from Zodiac, diagrams everywhere and arrows pointing to characters who might only have a few panels of page time, but thirty years of backstory worked out in more intimate detail than I know some of my best friends. To say this was a passion project would be an understatement. To say it was a labour of love couldn’t capture how excited I was switching my computer on every morning. I was five years old when I remember buying my first superhero comic, but my family has drawings I did of Superman and Spider-Man
I WROTE IN MY NOTEPAD, THIS HAS TO BE THE GREATEST SUPERHERO STORY OF ALL TIME even before this. To say I’d waited my entire life to write Jupiter’s Legacy would be pretty accurate, so you can imagine how pleased I am it’s worked out as well as it has. Nailing the greatest artist in the industry was essential for this project and Frank Quitely bows to no man. He’s beloved. At the top of his game, his peers watch in awe as he does things with a pencil nobody else can even imagine. The only trouble is he enjoys doing his own thing a little
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too much, and is as happy doing a small personal piece as he is an international blockbuster. He and I are old friends and I literally had to trick him into partnering up with me on this. I told him it was a single character and just four issues long. The reality, as you may know, is over a hundred characters and something close to a thousand pages of artwork. He’d have run a mile in the opposite direction if I’d told him this in the Glasgow bar I’d lured him into, but
MAG AZ I N E Editor-in-Chief Mike Cecchini Editorial Director Chris Longo Print Editor Rosie Fletcher Creative Director Lucy Quintanilla Art Director Jessica Koynock Copy Editor Sarah Litt Production Manager Kyle Christine Darnell
IMAGE CREDIT: NETFLIX
Jupiter’s Legacy creator Mark Millar chats to stars Josh Duhamel and Andrew Horton on set of the show.
he was too deep into the story when he found out the truth. There was no going back. As the story grew we had to bring in other genius artists like Wilfredo Torres and Tommy Lee Edwards, who took control of the past and future storylines while Frank worked his magic on the present. But you can see his DNA in every issue of this monster achievement, his designs running through the book from start to finish. There could have been no better partner, and Jupiter’s Legacy remains a high point in both our careers. My wife, Lucy, and I sold Millarworld and all 20 of our franchises to Netflix in 2017. Lucy became CEO and I took the position of President and Chief Creative Officer in a separate deal afterwards. Our first priority was Jupiter’s Legacy, the
jewel in our crown. We had flirted with the idea of a movie, but Netflix afforded us the chance to make this adaptation as big and deep as it needed to be, all those scribbled notes and Post-Its on the wall fully realised into a mammoth series that wouldn’t need to cut the corners a three-act picture would have needed to. Jupiter’s Legacy wasn’t just living but literally breathing, and with a cast and crew to dream of. I’ve watched this grow from nothing into something very big indeed, and though I’ve seen cut after cut since October and helped refine it into something we’re very proud of, I’ve never once grown tired of watching every day. Even after last night, when the show was officially locked and in the can and not a single word of dialogue can be changed, I watched the first three episodes again just because I love them so much. As signs go, that has to be a pretty good one. I hope you love it as much as I do. Mark Millar
Editor-in-Chief Mike Cecchini Director of Editorial and Partnerships Chris Longo Managing Editor John Saavedra UK Editor Rosie Fletcher Associate Editors Alec Bojalad, Kayti Burt, David Crow, Kirsten Howard, Don Kaye, Louisa Mellor, Tony Sokol Director of Brand Strategy Brian Berman Art Director Jessica Koynock Head of Audience Development Elizabeth Donoghue Audience Development Strategist Ivan Huang CEO and Group Publisher Jennifer Bartner-Indeck Chief Financial Officer Pete Indeck Publisher Matthew Sullivan-Pond UK Advertising Director Adam McDonnell Ad Operations Manager George Porter
JUPITER’S LEGACY EDITION | DEN OF GEEK
M A R K M I L L A R O N T H E G E N E S I S O F H I S H I S TO R I C H E R O E S
uperheroes have a long history. After flying onto the scene more than eight decades ago, led by Superman, along with fellow octogenarians Batman, Wonder Woman, and Captain America, the pantheon of capes-andtights characters has expanded to include countless more. And as legendary creators made their mark across decades, the origins and powers of these icons transformed almost as frequently as their costumes.
Meanwhile, the superhero team The Union, from the comic book saga Jupiter’s Legacy, have 90 years of consistent fictional history, with a singular overarching story, envisioned by one man: Mark Millar. After discovering both Superman and Spider-Man comics the same day, at the age of four in Scotland (where he grew up), the now 51-year-old writer would go on to make a significant impact on the superpowered set. But he wanted his own pantheon. And with Jupiter’s Legacy, Mark Millar has created a long history of superheroes of his own—now set to be adapted as a Netflix series. “I wanted to do an epic,” he says. “Like The Lord of the Rings, or Star Wars … the ultimate superhero story.” Co-created with artist Frank Quitely and published by Image Comics in 2013, Millar calls Jupiter’s Legacy his love letter to superheroes—and part of his own legacy. The story begins in 1932 with a mysterious island that grants powers to a group of friends who then adopt the costumed monikers The Utopian,
Lady Liberty, Brainwave, Skyfox, The Flare, and Blue Bolt. Told on a grand scale with cross-genre influences, the story spans three arcs: the prequel Jupiter’s Circle (with art by Wilfredo Torres), Jupiter’s Legacy, and the upcoming June 16, 2021 release Jupiter’s Legacy: Requiem (featuring art by Tommy Lee Edwards). With the May 7 debut of the Jupiter’s Legacy series on Netflix, the story will now also be told in live action. Millar established himself in the comics industry in 1993 and crafted successful stories including Superman: Red Son, Wolverine: Old Man Logan, The Ultimates, and Marvel Comics’ Civil War—all of which have inspired adaptations and films, and led to him becoming a creative consultant at Fox Studios on its Marvel projects. His creator-owned titles Kingsman: The Secret Service, Kick-Ass, and Wanted, have likewise spawned hit movies. But compared to Jupiter’s Legacy, none of those possessed such massive scope and aspiration as the story that explores the evolving ideologies of superpowered individuals, and
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A N D H OW N E T FL I X I S T H E I R N AT U R A L H O M E .
BY A A R O N S AG E R S
Six friends visit a mysterious island in the 1930s. From left: Richard Conrad (David Julian Hirsh), Walter Sampson (Ben Daniels), Sheldon Sampson (Josh Duhamel), Grace Kennedy (Leslie Bibb), Fitz Small (Mike Wade) and George Hutchence (Matt Lanter).
JUPITER’S LEGACY EDITION | DEN OF GEEK
The heroes of The Union change what humanity believes is possible, even as they challenge each other to take a more active role in mankind’s development.
how involved they should be when it comes to solving the world’s problems. Relationships are forged—and shattered by betrayal—with startling violence and titanic action sequences (both part of Millar’s signature style). “From Superman and the Justice League to Marvel to British comics— inspired by guys like Alan Moore, and so on, I’ve thrown it in there… it’s got a bit of everything,” he says. That “everything” extends beyond comic books. Millar drew inspiration from King Kong’s Skull Island, and references the cosmic aesthetic of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which informed the “sci-fi stuff.” The writings of horror author H.P. Lovecraft “were a big thing for me,” when it came to The Island, created by aliens, “that existed before humanity, and that these people are drawn out towards where they get their superpowers.” The character Sheldon Sampson/The Utopian is a Clark Kent/Superman type, but his cohort George Hutchence/Skyfox is more than a millionaire playboy
stand-in for Bruce Wayne. Rather, Millar based him on British actors from the 1960s—Peter O’Toole, Oliver Reed, Richard Burton, Richard Harris—who were suave rascals. “I loved the idea of a superhero having a good time, getting on with girls, drinking whisky, smoking lots of cigarettes,” Millar says. At the risk of sounding “so pretentious,” Millar jokes, he also pulled from Shakespeare. Indeed, the comics are as much a family saga as a superhero one (and written by the much younger brother of six whose parents died before he was 20). Utopian is a father to his own disappointing children, and a father of sorts to all heroes. He is Lear as much as he is Jupiter, the Roman god of gods. The end of his reign approaches, and various factions have their own appetite for power—such as his self-righteous brother who thinks he should be a leader, or Utopian’s son, born into the family business of being a hero, but who could never live
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up to his father’s expectations, or his daughter who is more interested in fame than heroism. He views Jupiter’s Legacy as more thoughtful than Kick-Ass, Kingsman, or Wanted. The plot’s driving action hinges on a debate about the superheroes’ philosophies and moral imperatives. It seeks to address a question Millar asked when he was a kid reading comics. “Why doesn’t Superman solve the world’s problems?” he recalls thinking. “Why didn’t he interfere and stop wars from even existing?... Is it ethically wrong to stand aside and just maintain the status quo, especially when the status quo creates so many problems for a lot of people?” On one side of the debate, Utopian believes interfering too much with society’s trajectory is a bad move. It’s not that he is cynical; quite the opposite. He thinks things are actually improving in the world. His viewpoint is there are less people hungry across the globe than ever before, and less
IMAGE CREDITS: NETFLIX
Below: Brandon Sampson (Andrew Horton) is one of the next generation of superheroes, going by the name Paragon as he tries to live up to his parents’ example.
people with disease. Millar describes Utopian as a “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” kind of hero, to borrow a phrase associated with Superman, and believes capitalism works. As his hero name suggests,
Utopian thinks a better world is within reach, even if it takes generations, and encourages even the heroes to be patient and trust people to do the right thing because they are innately good. “He says, if you look at the
difference somebody like Bill Gates has made in Africa—just one guy—if you look at capitalism taken to the Nth degree, then it pulls everybody up, and poverty in places like India, is massively better just compared to a generation ago.” Besides, as Utopian says to his impatient brother Walter/Brainwave, in Jupiter’s Legacy #1, being a caped hero doesn’t make them economists and, “Just because you can fly doesn’t mean you know how to balance a budget.” Plus, the notion of using psychic powers or brute force to simply make the world “better” is out of the question. Or is it? The mainstream awareness of superheroes baked in from more than 80 years of stories, and the shorthand that especially comes with 13 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe commercial juggernaut, has provided Millar with a set of archetypes to lean into. It was true of the hero proxies in the Jupiter’s Legacy books, and he says it’s true of the show. In fact, he says audiences are so sophisticated with regards to these types of characters they’ll be able to immediately slip into his universe, and that “a lot of the hard work has been done for us.” He adds that audience literacy with superhero tropes also provided him something to push against. “The Marvel characters lock these guys up in prison at the end of these movies,” Millar says. “Everything’s tied up neatly with a bow, the rich are still the rich, the poor are still starving, and the superheroes aren’t really doing anything for the common man in any very global sense. These guys have just had enough of that.” Millar’s comics technically kick off in 1932, when Sheldon first brings his friends on a journey to The Island, but his story goes back to 1929 when the stock market crashed, and the Great Depression began. This is likewise when the Netflix series will begin, and Millar says it’s because of the historic parallels between then and 2021. “We’ve been in a similar situation as we are now: there’s impending financial collapse coming out of a global pandemic,” he says. “The idea
JUPITER’S LEGACY EDITION | DEN OF GEEK
is that history continues and repeats itself, and people make the same mistakes over and over again, and the superheroes are saying, ‘Let’s actually fix everything.’” Continuing the theme of parallels, when discussing the inception of Jupiter’s Legacy with Millar, The Godfather Part II comes up more than once because of the film’s dual storylines following Vito Corleone and son Michael, separated by decades. However, while the comics contain some flashbacks, the plot doesn’t unfold across different time periods simultaneously. But the Netflix series will shift between eras, with half of the show during the season taking place in 1929, for which Millar credits Steven S. DeKnight, who developed the series. “The way Steven structured it was really brilliant, because I saw these taking place over two [different] years,” Millar says. “[But] The Godfather Part II track shows you the father and the son at the same age and juxtaposes their two lives.” As a result, he says the series is a visual mash-up of genres that’s both classical and futuristic. “It just feels like a beautiful period movie, then when it gets cosmic, and it gets to the superhero stuff, it’s a double wow… it’s like seeing Once Upon a Time in America suddenly directed by Stanley Kubrick doing 2001.” This is a notable advantage to bringing the story to television, as opposed to making Jupiter’s Legacy three two-hour films as he originally planned with producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura in 2015. Millar says that to tell the Jupiter’s Legacy story properly on screen would require 40 hours, and with a series, what would have been a one-minute flashback in a movie can now be revealed in two hours of its own. It was another director who has since made a name adapting ambitious comic book properties that extolled to Millar the benefits of television: James Gunn. When Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Suicide Squad) had a chat with Millar about the project, Gunn said it could never be done as a movie. “The smartest
guy in the world is James Gunn,” Millar says. An exciting challenge of adapting his work for television is that the series will expand on the backstories and concepts of the books. For example when Sheldon Sampson and his friends head to The Island in the first issue, it takes up six pages. Within the series, half of the first season is that journey, and what happens when they arrive. “Six issues of a graphic novel are roughly about an hour and 10 minutes of a movie; for something like an eight-part drama on TV, you really have to flesh it out,” he says. “It just goes a little deeper than what I had maybe two panels do.” He emphasizes, however, that these flourishes won’t contradict the comics. Though he sold Millarworld to Netflix, he remains president so he can maintain control of his creations. Overall the series has made the writer realize the value of television, and while a second season has not yet been confirmed, he’s already thinking about a third and fourth, and how it will dovetail with the upcoming Requiem. The story that began in 1929 continued through 2021, and collected in four volumes, will soon continue far into the future in the concluding two volumes. “We saw the parents, then we have the present, and then we see their
WHY DOESN T SUPERMAN SOLVE THE WORLD S PROBLEMS? WHY DIDN T HE STOP WARS FROM EVEN EXISTING? — MARK MILLAR
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Brainwave (Ben Daniels), Lady Liberty (Leslie Bibb), and The Utopian (Josh Duhamel) are the leaders of The Union.
children in the next storyline,” he says. “That storyline goes way off into the future where we discover everything about humanity, superheroes, all these things. It’s a big, grand, high-concept, sci-fi thing beyond that.” Listening to the jovial Millar discuss the scope of his Jupiter universe, which is imbued with optimism, one might not think this is the same person known for employing graphic violence in his works. He thinks his films especially are violent yet hopeful, and fun. Kingsman is a rags-to-riches story, and “you feel great at the end of Kick-Ass, even though you’ve seen 200 people knifed in the face.” But he doesn’t consider his writing to fit under the dark-and-
gritty label, and he’s not interested in angst, which he finds dull. With Jupiter’s Legacy, the comic and the show, he views the tone as complex but not “overtly dark.” Additionally, Millar says he thinks society needs hopeful characters such as Captain America, Superman, and yes, The Utopian in 2021—as opposed to an ongoing genre trend of heroes drowning in pathos. “The Superman-type characters are just now something from a pop culture, societal point of view, we need more than ever,” he says. “The last thing you want is seeing the world as dark, as something that makes you feel bad. Never forget Superman was created just before World War II in the
midst of the economic depression by two Jewish kids who were just scraping a living together... I just think it’s so important when things are tough to have a character like that that makes you feel good.” Even though Utopian suffers for his idealism in the comic, Millar says his ideas are passed on. This is The Utopian’s legacy. “Ultimately, he wins if you think about it,” ponders Millar. After a successful career spent creating characters and re-shaping superheroes with 80 years of history, the new pantheon of Jupiter’s Legacy may become one of the defining and lasting features of Mark Millar’s own legacy.
JUPITER’S LEGACY EDITION | DEN OF GEEK
Lizz Wolf’s costumes for Jupiter’s Legacy on display.
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JUPITER’S LEGACY ARTIST FRANK QUITELY AND COSTUME DESIGNER LIZZ WOLF ON HOW THEY TRANSLATED THE LOOK OF THE COMIC FROM THE PAGE TO THE SCREEN. BY R O S I E K N I G H T
HOW DO YOU bring a comic book to life? It’s a question that studios have been struggling with since they first began making live-action superhero serials in the 1940s. Netflix’s newest comic book series adapts Image Comics’ metatext on the medium, Jupiter’s Legacy. Created by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely, the story centers on two generations of heroes. In its quest to bring this story to life, Netflix has enlisted costume designer Lizz Wolf. Though she’s new to the superhero genre, she has plenty of experience with massive actioners— including Rambo, The Expendables, and Pacific Rim: Uprising—and she dived in head-first to create a unique and vibrant visual landscape which respected the comics while bringing the texture and depth needed to translate the archetypal heroes to the small screen. In an unusual series of events, Wolf was brought on very early in the production in order to allow her to build the sartorial universe of Jupiter’s Legacy from the ground up. It was a rare chance for the costume designer to truly create something immersive and all-encompassing. “This project was an opportunity that very few costume designers get,” Wolf says. “In order to conquer the Herculean task of bringing the vast universe that Mark Millar and Frank Quitely had created to life, I had to strap myself in for the ride of a lifetime.” JUPITER’S LEGACY EDITION | DEN OF GEEK
1) Below: Frank Quitely’s cover for issue #1 of Jupiter’s Legacy features Brandon and Chloe Sampson in front a monolithic statue of their parents. 2) Right: George Hutchence aka Skyfox contemplates his super suit. Lizz Wolf’s costume design for the show is significantly different from the comic.
visual language and start the design process. This design language was a culmination of the extensive research we did for each of the superheroes and their subgroups. I relied heavily on science and nature to guide me. I was inspired by everything from the natural world, architecture, black line tattoos, ancient symbols, alchemy, microbial photography, atomic ordering, complex life forms, and parametric equations.” When it came to directly adapting the costumes from the comics, for Wolf it was a balance of respect and inspiration. “In the beginning, I focused on the story to inform the design,” she says. “In order to achieve a cinematic feel, we had to extrapolate what was intrinsic to telling the story through an emotional color palette, composition, function, and the capabilities of each member of the Union from the source material. Then, of course, we had to pump them into three-dimensional characters.” When Quitely visited the set, he got
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to explore those three-dimensional reimaginings of his art, something that he calls a privilege. While he visited each and every part of the production, and enjoyed it all, the costume department was something of a highlight for the creator. “They were very faithful to all the main costumes,” Quitely explains. “But because there are so many supporting characters, they had basically come up with a lot of costumes that were just inspired by what they’d already found in the comic. That was really great to see.” Discovering the creators were fans of her designs early on was an unforgettable moment for Wolf. She was keen to talk about their impact on her, and what she called a seminal vision of superheroes. So when Millar, Quitely, and the showrunners came back with good things to say, it was “the catalyst of confidence” for her. “It was truly a professional high point to hear that Mark [Millar] had liked the designs and the direction we were going in.” Wolf says. “That
IMAGE CREDITS: IMAGE COMICS, NETFLIX
Seeing that world come to life has been nothing short of a joy for artist and Jupiter’s Legacy co-creator Quitely. While the show does bring plenty of new layers to the costuming and characters, he was blown away by how much inspiration they took from the comics. Even when things were changed he feels it was for the better. “Where they have embellished things, it’s not so much that they’ve done their own thing,” Quitely says, “it’s that they’ve taken what we had in the comic, and they’ve added to it and translated it in a way that’s going to work better for television. It’s a very interesting process for me to see.” So how did Wolf get started on translating such an epic series through the lens of costuming? “As this universe is literally littered with superheroes and villains with varying degrees of power, I created a doctrine based on the character depictions in the comic book,” she says. “A platform of their capabilities and back stories. This was the connective tissue to then assemble a
acknowledgment was everything!” Paying homage to the silhouettes and color schemes of the comics costumes was key to Wolf. But she wanted to amp up the technology and detail. With suits that have to exist over decades, it was vital to make sure that they had durability and that classic Golden Age vibe. “These suits had to travel the expanse of 100-plus years and hold up, as well as remain relevant and be able to inspire generations to come,” she says. “That was a challenge!” Wolf battled through those challenges and found unexpected inspiration in the works of industrial 3D knitters. Diving deep into this new creative process gave Wolf a new insight, and what she called “single thread technology” led to the basis of what she describes as the show’s “suit mythology,” which also shaped the designs of the next generation’s suits. Taking inspiration from anatomical artists like George Bridgman and Andrew Loomis, Wolf crafted a musculature for the super suits that was exaggerated yet natural. And she even built the origin of their powers, imbued following an “event,” into the suits. “This muscular structure was a molecular reaction of this event integrated into the suit itself,” she says. That level of detail was something that immediately stuck out to Quitely. He was particularly excited by the intricate detailing that Wolf and her team added. Though the costumes might look the same from a distance, up close Quitely found an impressive array of subtle details, including emblems and alien patterns built into the material itself. “They’ve put so much thought and love and enthusiasm into the way they’ve gone about recreating this world, making it bigger and fuller in a way that will work for television,” Quitely says. “It’s been fantastic.” Wolf was equally as enamoured with the process, describing it as a highlight of her storied career. “Designing the superheroes was an incredible thrill! I’ve experienced nothing like it. I’d have to say overall that Jupiter’s Legacy is my favorite project that I have ever done!”
Sacred Geometry The hidden detail in Jupiter’s Legacy’s super suits. Lizz Wolf added a unique costume detail which created its own visual language, much of which was inspired by the concept of “Sacred Geometry.” The term references the idea of ascribing meaning and symbolism to certain geometric shapes and proportions. While usually used in religious buildings and art, Wolf strived to craft a superheroic Sacred Geometry for each of the six Union members using symbolic emblems and totems which were later integrated into their suits. “These were extractions or reflections of each character’s individual journey,” Wolf explains. While researching the look of Jupiter’s Legacy, the team discovered amateur micro photography of frozen ice crystals. This naturally occurring phenomenon developed into
the overall language of the costumes. “We created a series of these lichen-like formations that represented expressions or glyphs based on an alphabet of sorts,” Wolf says. “It was used on each of the Union’s super suits as an adornment or to create declarations.” The Utopian signified a particular challenge as his plain white suit was simple yet iconic. But Wolf built on his archetypal comic book silhouette that she felt represented the mythology of the character. While she didn’t feel like he was particularly formidable at first, once they built in Sheldon’s own Sacred Geometry which was built from “extractions from conjured celestial maps that could have guided Sheldon in his calling” the costume designer reveals, “he emerged to be very intimidating.” Fitz Small aka The Flare (Mike Wade), one member of the original group to visit the island.
JUPITER’S LEGACY EDITION | DEN OF GEEK
OLD SCHOOL VS. NEW SCHOOL DRESSING TWO GENERATIONS OF SUPERHEROES. JUPITER’S LEGACY is a story about family, two
generations of distinctly different heroes. The older and more archetypal group known as the Union are shaped by idealistic dreams and Golden Age comics. Then there’s the children of the Union, whose lives have been molded by their parents’ fame, privilege, and celebrity endorsement campaigns. When it comes to costuming, the differences are clear. The Union wear classic superhero suits, making them icons of hope and heroics. But their children rock civilian outfits, still just as recognizable but a clear rejection of the traditions of their family.
For artist Frank Quitely and writer Mark Millar, the Union’s costumes were key, as were their influences. “We went right back to Superman and Batman. The early Marvel and DC heroes. The heroes from the mid 1930s through the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s,” Quitely says. The older generation wear traditional suits making them easily identifiable as heroes. “We were looking at everything that had gone before. We were wanting things that were recognizable and reminiscent of classic superheroes, even for people that weren’t immersed in comic book culture. Most people have got a rough idea of what Superman and Spider-Man are about. We wanted to deal with archetypes and representations of superheroes that would still strike some kind of chord with people that only had a passing interest.”
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IMAGE CREDITS: NETFLIX
1) THE UTOPIAN When it came to designing the Utopian, Quitely looked towards Superman and other classic Golden Age stories. But for costume designer Lizz Wolf, it was all about building only on what already existed in the comics. Keeping his white silhouette was key and Wolf “built on the mythology of the character,” giving him what she calls an “almost archaic, statuesque feel.” She adds that building that texture was key. “This is where the musculature was profound in exhibiting his mortal strength,” she explains. “This brought majesty to his suit, and then Josh Duhamel brought his god-like presence!”
2) SKYFOX One of the most significantly different costumes is that of Skyfox. Gone are his leotard/undies from the comics. Instead, Wolf crafted something with “a rugged sexiness.” The team retained his “iconic color scheme that is certainly a nod to royalty and his social status as George Hutchence.” But rather than drawing directly from the comics, they shifted tactics. “His inspiration was part gunslinger, part playboy, 100% badass,” Wolf says. “His equipment is intentionally worn low on hips to provoke that rock star, cowboy vibe. He also has what amounts to the ‘Rosetta Stone’ of the Union embedded in his suit. The crowning element is his fractal-like Fox emblem. It’s like a talisman inspired by his fox-themed heirloom jewelry pieces from the 1920s.” 3) BRAINWAVE Another slight shift was Brainwave. In the comics, his suit evolves in the modern age. But Wolf decided to keep his iconic early look for the entire series. “This allowed us to really make his suit beam and keep his natural swagger evident. I love his suit and his veining motif. He just lights up in it and it appears to be actively circulating.” Wolf reveals that a strange mistake ended up playing a vital part. “That fabrication was one of those divine accidents. During our R&D period, a run of printed fabric went in an unintentional direction. That material mysteriously became more radiant when stretched over his muscular structure. That mistake became the end result.”
THE NEXT GENERATION
Growing up in Scotland shaped Quitely’s choice to make the younger generation’s uniforms their everyday outfits. “I read a lot of comics when I was younger. Desperate Dan, Dennis the Menace, The Broons. The characters tend to wear the same clothes,” he explains. “It’s the same with your Saturday morning cartoons like Scooby-Doo. Their costumes are part of the aesthetic of each character. They wear the same clothes and colors all the time because it makes them more recognizable. To some extent we did that with the characters in Jupiter’s Legacy that didn’t have a superhero costume. Even if the clothes change, they have a recognizable style. And it’s important to try to stick with that because it helps build the character and it helps make the visual storytelling easy to follow.”
JUPITER’S LEGACY EDITION | DEN OF GEEK
JUPITER’S LEGACY INTRODUCES A SUPER -POWERED ENSEMBLE WHO FORM THE UNION … AND THEIR OFFSPRING. SAY HELLO TO THE NEW HEROES IN TOWN .
NAME: Grace Kennedy Sampson
BY E D G R O S S
Mark Millar’s Jupiter’s Legacy is a multigenerational saga spanning from 1929 to the present, intertwining superheroics with family drama. Brought to the screen for Netflix, it boasts a cool cast of established stars and buzzy newcomers, who we spoke to exclusively to discuss their characters, inspirations, and what we might expect from Jupiter’s Legacy now and in seasons to come. “Audiences are really smart and want good storytelling,” says Matt Lanter, who plays George Hutchence/ Skyfox. “They want characters with depth, and this is a character-driven show, first and foremost.” Leslie Bibb, who plays Grace Kennedy Sampson/Lady Liberty, agrees. “We realize you can be the
V I TAL S TAT S
ALTER EGO: Lady Liberty
strongest person in the world, and yet be weak when it comes to your children. We all have an Achilles’ heel and none of us has the answer. I hope the human story of it translates.” It’s so human that it gives us an unlikely superhero-in-therapy angle, too. “One of my favorite scenes in the show,” laughs Josh Duhamel, who plays Sheldon Sampson/The Utopian, “is when I go to seek therapy—from a super villain. Sheldon’s able to talk to him about the things he’s dealing with. One of the main things he’s dealing with is that he’s the most powerful dude in the world, but has no clue how to deal with his 20-year-old daughter.” Meet Jupiter’s Legacy’s superteam and the next generation following in their footsteps.
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POWERS AND ABILITIES: Super strength, speed, and sight; power of flight; some level of invulnerability; knows when people are lying. NEED TO KNOW: Wife of Sheldon Sampson, mother to Brandon and Chloe, and founding member of The Union. The glue that holds the Sampson family together.
JUPITER’S LEGACY EDITION | DEN OF GEEK
GRACE IS A WOMAN WHO HAS THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD ON HER SHOULDERS.
Have you secretly desired to play a superhero? JOSH DUHAMEL: Not at all. I thought I was too old to play a superhero at this point, but the guy I play is an aging superhero. Plus, they can age me down, too, so I go from my 30s to the present day, which is about 90. That’s quite the span. JD: Yeah, I go from this young man to this grizzled superhero who’s seen it all and has carried the weight of the world on his shoulders for 90 years.
How did you “find” Grace? LESLIE BIBB: My mom passed away unexpectedly a couple of years ago, and I remember being struck with how I saw her change; how fearful she got as she got older. Did you tap into that fear? LB: What I incorporated, probably subconsciously, was the moxie that she had when she was younger; her fearlessness in a world that was very male-dominated. This is especially true for the first season, where it’s so important to show the idealism that they once had. How would you say that Grace evolves? LB: What you see with Grace, especially in the present day, is a woman who has the weight of
the world on her shoulders, which is becoming more difficult, because her husband is digging his heels in and there’s no bend to him. But the world isn’t the same as it used to be. We are bringing knives to a fight where people have drones. As a result, there’s a ripping at the seams and, at the end, her not toeing the company line, not standing in a unified front with her husband. That seems to represent quite the change… LB: By the end, she’s finding her voice and asking herself, “Where’s the fearless girl I used to be? What have I given up for this that maybe I don’t agree with anymore?” The set of rules that worked back in 1929 just don’t work anymore, and she experiences an awakening.
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That must take a toll on Sheldon. JD: There’s a worldweariness about the guy that I love, because this code that he’s lived by for so long, and what he believed in, he’s started to wonder if it’s working. And the younger generation, the public, and even the other original six that he started this thing with are starting to question his leadership. Was that part of the attraction for you? JD: The interrelationships and the dynamics between this family, and how dysfunctional it is in some ways, is what really drew me to it. I loved the idea of a superhero family from a psychological point of view. The superhero stuff is fun, don’t get me wrong—I do really enjoy putting that suit on—but at the end of the day I wanted to be part of a really good story. I think that’s what we have.
JOSH DUHAMEL V I TA L S TAT S NAME: Sheldon Sampson ALTER EGO: The Utopian POWERS AND ABILITIES: Flight; physically the strongest man on the planet; semi-invulnerable; super speed; energy beams from his eyes; telekinesis. NEED TO KNOW: Leader of The Union, Grace’s husband, Brandon and Chloe’s father, Walter’s brother, and the world’s greatest superhero. Sheldon insists all superheroes abide by the code, but times have changed in the last 90 years...
Josh Duhamel plays Sheldon Sampson, aka The Utopian, a powerful superhero who's the leader of The Union.
JUPITER’S LEGACY EDITION | DEN OF GEEK
BEN DANIELS Q:
Walter has an amazing arc—what attracted you most? BEN DANIELS: What fascinates me is that the family drama happening before we go into spandex is so full and rich. You can just mine it like any other drama that you do that hasn’t got flying and fighting or whatever it might be. Do you think that’s why it works so well? BD: Despite the powers, they’re all very human. It has a vibe to me of ancient Greek theater, where the stories were about the same families and were intertwined. There are battles and gods walk the Earth with mortals. All the stories are about the frailty of the human condition under this inescapable hand of fate. How would you describe Walter Sampson? BD: Walter is a mass of insecurities that manifest in very different ways before he gets his super power and then later on in life. But I think it’s all linked to that insecurity. Once I’d unlocked that, it meant that I could push apart, even further, those two different personalities and then link them with this insecurity. When he’s a younger man, he’s this highly sensitive person and finds it hard to process emotion. He’s swamped by it and has been the butt of family jokes since he was a kid and he’s resented it. There’s that famous saying: “Show me the boy at seven, and I will show you the man.”
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MIKE WADE Ben Daniels as Walter Sampson, a founding member of The Union known by his superhero alterego, Brainwave.
What was the appeal of Fitz? MIKE WADE: He’s someone who can take what works and discard what doesn’t. America is an example. Fitz loves his country and sees it as a great nation. He knows there’s work to be done and he’s not just talking about what’s bad, he’s saying: “Okay, I’m willing to step up and do my part.” The story spans many decades, so how do the changes in society affect Fitz? MW: Fitz is impacted because The Union has a code. We don’t lead, we inspire. We apprehend the bad guys, we don’t kill anyone. He lives that, because Fitz has been injured in battle, so it’s not just talk.
V I TA L S TAT S NAME: Walter Sampson ALTER EGO: Brainwave POWERS AND ABILITIES: Flight; acute psychic powers to destroy the mind; can survive as far into space as satellites go. NEED TO KNOW: Founding member of The Union and Sheldon’s older brother. He has his own ideas about how superheroes should conduct themselves, and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.
He goes through a very serious injury as The Flare. MW: It’s a different world than we came up with. Even with his physical injuries, what means the most to Fitz is that his daughter is out there now. It’s one thing for him to be hurt and not be able to perform the same way
V I TA L S TAT S NAME: Fitz Small ALTER EGO: The Flare POWERS AND ABILITIES: Can transform his body into a solid mass of light, which grants him the power of flight and the ability to project energy blasts. NEED TO KNOW: Founding member of The Union and the team’s heart and soul, now supporting his daughter on her own superheroic journey.
that he did, but to see his daughter risking her life—well, that really makes you question the code you live by even more. His daughter is pivotal to him... MW: Seeing things through the eyes of his daughter, who has a heart of gold and is able to forgive him—well, if Fitz can take what works and discard what doesn’t, then she can do it 100 times better.
WHAT MEANS THE MOST TO FITZ IS THAT HIS DAUGHTER IS OUT THERE NOW.
JUPITER’S LEGACY EDITION | DEN OF GEEK
DAVID JULIAN HIRSH Q:
What was the excitement level for you about being cast in the show? DAVID JULIAN HIRSH: There were so many interesting things going on in my life for three months prior to being cast, and it was the first time in my life that I said, “I cannot wait to do a superhero show.” That’s pretty specific. Why? DJH: Just like what Richard Conrad in a way goes through in terms of how they find him and how he hooks up with the rest of the team back in 1929, I’d had an accident in my own life. Something had happened and saved me, and it was the first time I said, “I absolutely want to do something huge, something greater than me, something spiritual, something like a superhero show.” The next thing I know, this script shows up. What was the appeal of this superhero for you? DJH: I was always very drawn to the power of superheroes, but also the
V I TAL S TAT S NAME: Richard Conrad ALTER EGO: Blue Bolt POWERS AND ABILITIES: We don’t know yet! NEED TO KNOW: A founding member of The Union and a neonatal surgeon when we meet him in 1929. However, in the present day, Conrad is no longer part of The Union, and his fate remains unknown.
double lives that they had to lead between their private selves and their public selves. You live as a human, but you also live as a powerful superhero. And not only is Blue Bolt living the life of a neonatal surgeon, but he also has another double life. There are many layers to him, and as an actor that’s what I dream of. The more layers you have, the more there is to work with. The deeper you go, the more you have to understand.
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What appealed to you about George? MATT LANTER: I remember seeing a bit of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in that character. I also kind of saw a little bit of flair, like a Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean. I also wanted a bit of Paul Newman, who’s one of my favorite actors. All of that was my inspiration for George. This is such a great time for fans of superheroes, with Justice League, Avengers, The Boys and, now, Jupiter’s Legacy, and they’re all so unique. ML: They are, and I think in a few years people are going to realize how big this actually is in terms of being the first show that’s opening up “Millarworld.” People are going to realize that it’s DC, Marvel, and Millarworld, and it’s exciting to be a part of that. This show focuses on the relationship between the parents and their kids. ML: Which is what makes this story so unique. We’ve seen the guy in the suit and he’s saving the world, but this multi-generational family dynamic that Mark Millar has created is so interesting. And it’s such a basic idea, in a way. What if Superman had a kid and he’s a jerk and can’t live up to being Superman? And the world Millar’s built has the kids of these six superheroes signing contracts with big companies like modern-day influencers. It’s just a wild, cool idea.
V I TA L S TAT S NAME: George Hutchence ALTER EGO: Skyfox POWERS AND ABILITIES: Flight; super strength; can survive a mile above Earth; uses engineering skills to create tech to use against villains NEED TO KNOW: Another founding member of The Union and Sheldon’s former best friend before they had a falling out. Now considered the greatest supervillain in the world, George hasn’t been seen for years. His whereabouts and his loyalties are still a mystery.
PEOPLE ARE GOING TO REALIZE THAT IT’S DC, MARVEL, AND MILLARWORLD. JUPITER’S LEGACY EDITION | DEN OF GEEK
ELENA KAMPOURIS Q:
Who is Chloe, as far as you’re concerned? ELENA KAMPOURIS: The thing I loved about her is that she has so many layers and a lot of depth. And there’s so much to unpack, because, on one end, she’s unfiltered, quite brash, and her powers are tethered to her emotions, which is fun, because it makes her quite unpredictable. Chloe’s emotions are pretty heightened... EK: Yes, but it comes from a place of just feeling deeply and being so sensitive. She’s very deep-feeling and that’s why she’s so hurt. She’s in a major place of pain and navigating all of these feelings of guilt and dysfunction with her family dynamic at the moment. She’s got a lot of baggage, but that’s what made her so much fun to play, because it’s not the kind of character that you come across all the time. You had the opportunity to pull back her layers? EK: Exactly! You get to see what makes her tick, what’s driving her to act out or rebel against the family code and family dynamic. We explore the dysfunction of the super beings and the idea of perfection versus imperfection. Order versus disorder. Chloe embodies chaos and disorder versus The Utopian’s order and the code and perfection. He’s so caught up in being the symbol and representing invincibility, and she’s so clearly “vincible” and so clearly imperfect.
CHLOE EMBODIES CHAOS AND DISORDER. 26 DEN OF GEEK | JUPITER’S LEGACY EDITION
IAN QUINLAN Elena Kampouris plays Chloe Sampson, the super-powered daughter of Sheldon and Grace who rebels against her parents’ ideals.
What was shooting this show like? IAN QUINLAN: Like shooting three movies. We go back in time, then in the present we have the superhero side of things that feels like Christian Bible Camp, and on the other side is Hutch and the Hutch Gang—it’s like the Sex Pistols meets the Guardians of the Galaxy. What attracted you to it? IQ: When I read the script and realized it was Mark Millar, it blew my mind. I read all of his stuff growing up: The Ultimates, Civil War, The Authority. Once I knew it was him, I was, like, “Oh, I know what this guy wants.”
V I TA L S TAT S NAME: Chloe Sampson ALTER EGO: Unknown POWERS AND ABILITIES: Super speed, strength, durability, stamina, and senses; flight; telekinesis; sonic scream.
Which is what? IQ: When he did Civil War, it asked, “What are our values? Where are we going? Do we want to adopt a new set of codes of conduct?” I found that very similar to The Union in Jupiter’s Legacy, when their children are getting ready to take over and don’t necessarily subscribe to their code. And what happens when they want to make changes and there’s nobody really to hold them accountable?
V I TA L S TAT S NAME: Hutch Hutchence ALTER EGO: None POWERS AND ABILITIES: Possesses the Power Rod, which allows Hutch to teleport himself and others anywhere simply by naming the location. It also emits energy blasts. NEED TO KNOW: Son of George Hutchence. A complex, charismatic wild card who prefers the company of young villains. Hutch didn’t inherit his dad’s superpowers, but relies on his Power Rod, which enables him to navigate life as a con man with a conscience.
And how does Hutch fit in to that situation? IQ: Well, he doesn’t really subscribe to heroes and villains or capes and spandex. That’s what felt like Mark Millar: he’s always talking about this theme of superheroes and how they would fit into the real world and what society would actually have to say to them. I found that very cool and very exciting.
NEED TO KNOW: Daughter of Sheldon and Grace, sister of Brandon. She’s immensely powerful, but rejects everything her parents stand for. Chloe has forged her own path to fame; a path that threatens to go against everything her parents have sworn to protect.
JUPITER’S LEGACY EDITION | DEN OF GEEK
TENIKA DAVIS Q:
How do you view Petra as a person and how would you say she evolves? TENIKA DAVIS: Fiercely loyal and protective of the people she loves, and through the series she determines whether she’s willing to pay the price of protecting her loved ones.
V I TAL S TAT S NAME: Petra Small ALTER EGO: The Flare II POWERS AND ABILITIES: Like her father, Petra can transform into a mass of energy, fly, and project powerful energy blasts.
Petra isn’t a character who appears in the comics, so how did you discover who she is? And what was your feeling about her costume? TD: Asking an insurmountable amount of questions to discover as much as I could about her! And the costume is a beautifully crafted second skin that forces me to have better posture. It’s definitely helped me be mindful of the things it stands for: love, justice, family.
jumping for joy, screaming, “We’re doing it, we actually get to fly!” This is literally the childhood dream. I’m so grateful to be allowed to do this as work.
Q: What was it like dealing with all of the special effects? TD: I’m a die-hard fan; I love superheroes so much that it would only be natural that I become one. And the little girl inside of me is
Q: How would you describe the power of this show? TD: It always comes down to love. We have created a unique family that we’re just hoping you all fall in love with.
NEED TO KNOW: Takes over from her father, The Flare, although there is tension between them; Fitz understands Petra’s doubts about The Union more than Sheldon does his kids’.
THE LITTLE GIRL INSIDE OF ME IS JUMPING FOR JOY. 28 DEN OF GEEK | JUPITER’S LEGACY EDITION
As a relative newcomer, how are you handling being part of what could be a huge show? ANDREW HORTON: Being an actor on any level opens you up to scrutiny, but when you’re on Netflix’s new superhero show, that’s definitely a bit of weight on the old shoulders. It’s intimidating, but also incredibly exciting. How do you view your character, Brandon? AN: Brandon in the comics is kind of like this petulant dick, basically, for lack of a better word. He’s completely disengaged with his father, still trying to be part of The Union and impress, but he keeps failing. How does this affect him? AN: It just makes him angrier and more disillusioned with everything that his father stands for. The series basically sets up the backstory where he gets to that point. In it, he’s incredibly earnest, works really hard, and has still got these rose-tinted glasses on. But he’s still not living up to expectations, though he’s very much in training to take over the mantle of The Utopian. Brandon didn’t have a costume in the comics, but you do on the show. What’s that like? AN: The costumes were immense and imbue so much to the character without even having to try. You see the Superman suit and it’s so iconic. Not saying that this is iconic—I hope it will be—but what an amazing feeling of power.
ANDREW HORTON Andrew Horton plays Brandon Sampson, aka Paragon—a powerful superhero-in-training who's trying to live up to his father's mantle.
V I TA L S TAT S NAME: Brandon Sampson ALTER EGO: Paragon POWERS AND ABILITIES: Telekinesis, which allows him to fly and move large objects; can survive in outer space; can project energy blasts from his eyes; super hearing. NEED TO KNOW: Son of Sheldon and Grace, brother to Chloe. In training to assume the mantle of The Utopian and become the new leader of The Union, he struggles to live up to his father’s mythic legend.
JUPITER’S LEGACY EDITION | DEN OF GEEK
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SUPERVISING STUNT COORDINATOR PHILIP J . SILVER A TALKS ABOUT BRINGING THE GRIT T Y SUPERHERO ACTION OF JUPITER’S LEGACY TO LIFE . BY G E N E C H I N G
tunt teams are some of the hardest working people in the industry. They literally put their lives on the line just to entertain us and yet there’s so little acknowledgment of their contributions. There is no Oscar for stunt work, but there should be. Netflix’s adaptation of Jupiter’s Legacy has secured one of the industry’s hottest stunt choreographers, one who is no stranger to superhero action, Philip J. Silvera. If you’ve read Jupiter’s Legacy already, you know Frank Quitely’s artwork leaps off the page, splattered with intense moments of bloodshed. Quitely’s graphic style is a perfect fit for Silvera, who says he’s always been inspired by the visceral violence of films like Goodfellas and The Godfather Part II. “My action in the past has always had a bit of a lead pipe brutality to it,” confesses Silvera. Who better to choreograph the huge superhero brawls of Jupiter’s Legacy?
SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS
Stunt work has always been Silvera’s destiny. “I always wanted to do stunts, since I was a kid.” Silvera’s father was a boxer who was just about to go pro, but his fortune took a bad turn after he broke his arm and leg. Nevertheless, Philip inherited his father’s fighting spirit. After starting his martial arts training in Karate, Silvera switched over to a Shaolinbased system of Chinese Kung Fu, which he studied for about 20 years. Silvera got his first break in 1997. He was competing in a martial arts tournament in New York City when he was approached to do an off-Broadway show called Voice of the Dragon: Once Upon a Time in Chinese America. It was a groundbreaking show from maverick playwright and noted jazz composer
Fred Ho. Silvera describes it as “a bit of an urban Peking opera, really a martial arts ballet.” The show demanded he play a character, do martial arts, fight, fall, and flip in front of a live audience. As Silvera got deeper into the stunt world, his training diversified to accommodate a wider variety of roles. He studied Kali stick fighting and even trained with Cecep Arif Rahman (The Raid 2, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum). Beyond his film work, Rahman is a genuine master of the Indonesian martial art Pencak Silat. As a stunt coordinator, Silvera must keep pushing his training forward so he can meet the demands of his next project. “I just constantly want to keep learning and evolving.” Silvera began officially working as a stuntman in movies and TV in 2005. You must work your way up to that director’s chair, and in the stunt industry, that means you’ve got to pay your dues and take a lot of hard knocks. By 2010, he got his first action and fight choreographer credit with Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II. That was followed by coordinator roles on more video games like Batman: Arkham City, and Star Wars: The Old Republic. After an uncredited assistant role on Iron Man 3, he got his first credited movie fight choreographer role for Thor: The Dark World.
CHANGING THE GAME
However, it was his work on Netflix’s Daredevil that caught the attention of both action and superhero fans. Silvera served as the Fight and Stunt Coordinator for the first two seasons of the series, and for action connoisseurs, he built a choreographic trademark for the show: the one-take fight scene. In Daredevil’s second episode, Silvera orchestrated a showstopping onetake hallway slugfest and every fan
T HE VAU LT
Ian Quinlan working with our Micah Karns (Fight Coordinator) on 2nd Unit with the rest of the stunt performers. This is truly one of the grittier sequences of the show and Ian s character Hutch didn t come to play nice, but neither did the guys behind him…. — PHILIP J. SILVERA
JUPITER’S LEGACY EDITION | DEN OF GEEK
H IL LTO P S CEN E
Here we have Josh Duhamel, The Utopian, riding our tuning fork rig, designed by Action Factory. It wasn t easy riding that particular rig but Josh knocked it out of the park, as he s seen here flying/ fighting Blackstar (Tyler Mane) in the Hilltop sequence. It s going to set the tone and scope of the show that will truly surprise the fans of the series. — PHILIP J. SILVERA
of fight craft took notice. That scene propelled action in streaming TV to the cinematic level of the big screen. “I think most people would be surprised to hear that we designed that one-shot sequence in a day and a half,” he says. Silvera followed up that hallway fight with a one-take stairwell scrap in season two (an episode directed by Marc Jobst, who also directed two episodes of Jupiter’s Legacy). Hallway and stairwell fights comprise two of the three most common settings for extended fight scenes (the third being warehouses—it’s easy and cheap to find warehouse locations). Hallways serve as a device to narrow the playing field when one person must take on
several opponents. The width of the hallway restricts how many can come at the hero at the same time. Stairway fights showcase technical expertise. The footwork must be precise because one misstep can result in a devastating ankle twist for any stunt person. Additionally, falling down stairwells isn’t easy. It requires top notch stunt people to stage safely. For Silvera to deliver such highlevel fight choreography for the small screen was groundbreaking. Until the rise of streaming, most TV shows were more reserved with their action because it is a longer haul. A featurelength movie might contain half a dozen fight scenes, at best. An action
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TV series might stage that many fights in just two or three episodes, with plenty more over the course of the season. This is what made Silvera’s work on Daredevil so revolutionary at the time. “I really enjoyed bringing Daredevil to life. Charlie Cox was amazing. It was a pleasure working with Steve DeKnight on that show.” Since then, Silvera has tackled several super-powered action icons for the silver screen, like Deadpool, Terminator: Dark Fate, and the Jaegers in Pacific Rim: Uprising. Silvera has fond memories of sitting down with director Tim Miller while working on Deadpool and Terminator: Dark Fate and setting the parameters of
IMAGE CREDITS: NETFLIX, IMAGE COMICS
Above left: The Utopian takes Blackstar to task in Mark Millar and Frank Quitely’s comic. Right: Josh Duhamel re-creates the scene on screen.
superpowers in combat. “It’s always that they’re really good at this, but what’s their weakness?” The audience will accept superpowers if the film stays consistent within its constructs. For Silvera, it’s about finding a new challenge in every sequence. “What I try to do is always make it super relevant to the characters and then make it so that the audience can feel something when they watch it.”
Spanning eight episodes, Jupiter’s Legacy allows Silvera the space to stretch his legs. “I believe the action on our show pushes the story and the characters forward, as much as it does
on any of the other shows I’ve worked on in the past,” Silvera says. “And I’m super excited to see what fans think of the non-verbal storytelling, that happens within our action sequences.” Non-verbal storytelling lies at the heart of every action sequence. The fight scenes are the climax of the story and that unspoken dialogue of conflict must rise to that or else an actioner will fail. “Non-verbal communication,” stresses Silvera, “like The Empire Strikes Back, the scene that happens between Luke and Vader.” His passion for the Star Wars franchise led him to direct “Star Wars: Scene 38 Reimagined.” It was a reworking of the first lightsaber battle we ever saw—Obi-Wan Kenobi
versus Darth Vader. Silvera spliced together footage from Star Wars: A New Hope with new fight footage performed by seasoned stuntmen. “Scene 38 Reimagined” was a huge success with over 33.5 million views on YouTube. “That was a bit of a test for myself, as a second unit director and a first unit director,” says Silvera. “I wanted to see if I could add the emotional content into a sequence, that you know the character’s full story from beginning to end.”
FROM COMICS PANELS TO MOVIE FRAMES
Choreographing superheroes has its own unique rules. A still comic
JUPITER’S LEGACY EDITION | DEN OF GEEK
TOK YO AL L E Y
panel is one thing. Setting that action into motion is another thing altogether. While comics are akin to storyboarding, when it comes to fights, a few panels describe that action. It is then Silvera’s job to unravel that into a fight with a dozen or more beats. One of his favorite examples for Jupiter’s Legacy is the “Hilltop” sequence. In the original comic, it’s a ferocious battle told over only four panels. Silvera saw that raw brutality and constantly built on that mindset with his choreography. “Those four panels really set the tone of our show and you’ll see that in the first episode.” He’s especially proud of this Hilltop sequence and two more scenes that he mentions with pride he dubs “Tokyo Alley” and “The Vault,” but Silvera won’t elaborate on those cryptic titles just yet. “I don’t want to give away too much.” Fans who’ve already read the comic can probably guess what he’s talking about. “It starts off big and it stays that way up to the very end.” And for those fans familiar with Frank Quitely’s spectacular art, Silvera adds, “We do our best to match those panels and the emotion that he puts into them. He really set the bar for us. And I think we met it.”
Anna Akana, our superpowered ninja assassin Raikou. This set was both beautiful and cold to shoot on. This scene was shot in the middle of December at night. It was a true testament to the entire cast and crew’s hard work on the show to see this scene come together the way it did. Anna truly kicks major ass here while looking badass in another one of Lizz Wolf s amazing costumes. — PHILIP J. SILVERA
SUPERHERO BOOT CAMP
As with many casts, most of the Jupiter’s Legacy actors have minimal background in martial arts or stunts. However, Silvera prefers it that way. “You get to figure out their characters and their movement in a different way.” He’d have ideas for them and then see something natural come out of their body language, which he would cultivate into something entirely new. The cast was put through vigorous training where Silvera says they all worked extremely hard. “Literally a month of bootcamp with the lead actors training every day with our fight team and fight coordinator.” The cast would work on basic movements and fight drills. “And then they would ride the wire for hours because there’s a lot of flying in the show.”
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As Supervising Stunt Coordinator, Silvera is quick to credit his fight and stunt rigging team. Micah Karns is the fight coordinator and Jayson Dumenigo is the 2nd Unit Stunt Coordinator and Key Rigger, a critical role for a flying superhero show. The threesome has worked together since Daredevil and teamed up again for several projects including Deadpool 2, and Terminator: Dark Fate. “We have such a tight workflow at this point, from the years of us working together, that we know how to expedite things,” Silvera says. “We know how to keep up the pace. And we’re definitely doing seven days a week on this show.” The stunt team worked hand-in-hand with the cast for months to achieve what they wanted. “I’m super excited to see what they did come together on screen.”
Mark Millar · Wilfredo Torres
Millar · Torres · Sprouse
Mark Millar · Frank Quitely
Mark Millar · Frank Quitely
N E T F L I X
O R I G I N A L
S E R I E S
The Suicide Squad headlines the latest issue of Den of Geek! This issue is packed with exclusive interviews with James Gunn, Margot Robbie,...
Published on Apr 27, 2021
The Suicide Squad headlines the latest issue of Den of Geek! This issue is packed with exclusive interviews with James Gunn, Margot Robbie,...