Welcome to the Era of Orbital Publicity Stunts

Space Graffiti

. Objects placed in orbit for the sole purpose of being seen from Earth.

In January a company called Rocket Lab secretly added an extra point of light to the night sky. Dubbed the Humanity Star, it was a faceted carbon-fiber sphere parked in low Earth orbit, designed to twinkle as it caught the sun’s rays, thus creating a “shared experience for everyone on the planet.”

Astronomers were not amused. Some saw it as a publicity stunt, confirming their worst fears about private spaceflight. What’s next, they fumed, billboards in space? (Two weeks later, Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched a Tesla Roadster into solar orbit.) Others called it vandalism. The epithet that stuck was space graffiti.

In truth, the Humanity Star posed no real threat to astronomy, and it soon fell out of orbit, as planned. But the image of a giant disco ball hung in the firmament—that icon of humanity at its silliest and most joyful—raised questions that won’t go away: Why are we indignant over read more

Comic-Con 2018: ‘Glass’ Is the Movie M. Night Shyamalan Wanted to Make For Comics Fans

In 2000, when writer-director M. Night Shyamalan released Unbreakable, comic book movies weren’t a sure thing: Iron Man was still eight years away, and the larger-universe model that the X-Men franchise hinted at had yet to be fully realized. So even though he’d made a movie with strong comic book themes, no one wanted him to emphasize that point.

“I was on a conference call with the studio, and they were saying we can’t mention the word ‘comic books’ or ‘superheroes’ because it’s too fringe,” Shyamalan told the crowd at Comic-Con International’s Hall H on Friday. They didn’t want to, he continued, attract “‘those people that go to those conventions’—that was literally a quote.”

As turned out, Unbreakable faltered when it was released. Despite starring both Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, it garnered about a third of the box office take of Shyamalan’s knockout studio debut, The Sixth Sense. “It was disheartening,” read more

By Firing James Gunn During Comic-Con, Marvel’s Reckoning Came at the Worst Time Possible

Just a few years ago, James Gunn was a champion of the Comic-Con cosmos, having arrived at the convention in 2013 to show off early footage from Guardians of the Galaxy, the Marvel adaptation that would become the director’s breakthrough hit. But on Friday, the 51-year-old filmmaker pulled out of a convention appearance, where he was to make a surprise announcement at a Sony Pictures panel. Whatever that particular revelation was, it paled in comparison to the day’s breaking news: Disney, which as Marvel Studios’ parent company had released both Guardians and its 2017 sequel, had fired the director after a series of years-old tweets had resurfaced. “The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James’ Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values,” noted Disney chairman Alan Horn in a statement. “And we have severed our business relationship with him.”

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Comic-Con 2018: James Wan Knows About Your ‘Aquaman’ Memes—and He Likes Them

James Wan is having a very busy Comic-Con. As the convention was getting started, he announced a new collaboration with his old Insidious partner Jason Blum for a horror-thriller called M3GAN. Then he showed up at Scare Diego, New Line’s horror showcase, to talk up projects like the Conjuring continuation The Nun and a third Annabelle movie. Now, he’s prepping to take over Hall H tomorrow to give fans their first look at his forthcoming Aquaman standalone film.

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In other words, he could be forgiven for being a bit stressed out. Yet Wan, the Australian director who got his start in the grimy world of horror with the Saw movies, isn’t sweating one bit. Instead he’s tweeting, laughing about the dyed hair on his little Funko Pop! vinyl figure, and inviting read more

Exploji! A Timeline of Emoji’s Sudden, Drastic Rise

Emoji are used so often and in such volume that it feels as though they’ve been with us forever. In fact, it wasn’t until Apple released an emoji keyboard in 2011 that the Cambrian exploji ensued, a flowering to rival the birth of any language. Linguists might dispute the term—languages have verbs, emoji (probably) do not—but the emojicabulary continues to expand every year.

About That Eggplant …

Angela Guzman was an intern at Apple when she helped design about 500 of the company’s early emoji, including one very explicit piece of fruit. —Ellen Airhart

Q: At the time, did you think the eggplant looked phallic?
A: It literally never crossed my mind.

What was your intention?
To make all the fruit and veggies part of a single set, visually. That meant they all had to take up the same amount of space. To make the eggplant fit, I placed it diagonally.

Which, uh, triggered certain associations.
It’s grown in popularity in ways that I did not anticipate.

What emoji do you want to read more

‘No Man’s Sky’ Finally Gets Multiplayer, and Everything Else in Games This Week

Welcome to Replay, our weekly roundup of all the gaming news and happenings you might’ve missed while you were, y’know, playing games. This week, we’ve got some big growth for some big titles, alongside a very late bug fix and an excellent Nintendo Switch port.

No Man’s Sky Is Finally Adding Multiplayer to its Giant World

When it was released, No Man’s Sky was subject to no shortage of controversy—some of it justified, a lot of it not. One that had some meat to it, though, was the issue of where everyone else was. Am I going to get to run into other players? In a giant shared world, it’s a justified question. Hello Games was cagey at first, avoiding answering directly, until players experimented by setting up meeting places, only to find out the truth: you couldn’t. Which was certainly disappointing, though given the scale and expense of No Man’s Sky, it’s not exactly something one could fault the studio for.

Hello Games

Except now that’s gonna change. With the upcoming No Man’s read more

Comic-Con 2018: *Doctor Who*’s First Female Doctor Will Bring a New Generation of Whovians

A fun game if you ever find yourself at a comics convention: Try to spot as many gender-swapped cosplayers as you can. Throughout years of going to Comic-Cons and other fan gatherings, I’ve spotted women in drag as Loki, Harry Potter, and—before Paul Feig’s reboot—various Ghostbusters. (However, this tends to be a one-way phenomenon; rarely, if ever, have I seen men dressed as Catwoman or Stranger Things‘ Eleven, at least in a way that wasn’t going for laughs.)

And one of the most popular targets for women in male cosplay have been the Doctors. Doctor Who’s main character, who gets regenerated every couple of seasons, is essentially an alien—a Time Lord—so is strictly speaking genderless, but the previous dozen Doctors have all been played by men. Which of course means the BBC show’s fans, both male and female, hit convention floors dressed as one of those dudes. But today, when BBC brought their new Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker, to Comic-Con read more

The Stars of the Comic-Con ‘Predator’ Panel? Thomas Jane’s Feet

Over the course of five Predator films, the titular alien hunters have taken on jungle grunts, LA cops, and even a few xenomorphs. But at a panel for the forthcoming sequel The Predator at Comic-Con International, it was revealed there was an equally super-powered warrior residing among the movie’s cast: Thomas Jane.

“Thomas,” asked Sterling K. Brown, The Predator‘s Will Traeger, “would you do everyone a favor and show them your feet real quick?” Jane, the star of such Comic-Con-beloved hits as The Expanse and The Punisher, obligingly propped his bare toes on the table. “Thomas doesn’t wear shoes!” Brown exclaimed. “He walked everywhere in Vancouver, in the middle of winter, with nothing on his feet. I thought, ‘You should be cold right now!'”

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Tired of Waiting For ‘Kingdom Hearts III’? Check Your Phone

Kingdom Hearts 3 was announced more than a decade ago. It was never intended to come out immediately—instead, it would follow a planned series of spin-offs and side games from Square Enix, each of which would fill in gaps in the story and set in motion important plot threads, all of which would eventually be resolved in the third numbered installment, the finale of the current major narrative arc.

In truth, the publisher probably didn’t intend to wait a decade. But due to a bevy of complicated factors, here we are, in 2018, awaiting the release of Kingdom Hearts 3 next January. Finally, KH3 will join The Last Guardian and Final Fantasy XV in the pantheon of vaporware made flesh, (or at least made data). If you, like me, are a bit cowed by the prospect of these final few months of that wait, though, there may be respite—in the form of a two-year-old mobile game?

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One Young Boy’s Magnificent Obsession with Fans

When Leo was 2, after he had mastered words like no and cat, he began saying “Akamahn!” The word baffled me and my husband, Karl. What was our son trying to tell us? He said it with such frequency—Akamahn! Akamahn!—it was as if he were summoning a god. Only after I heard our apartment’s maintenance man in the hallway did I put it together: vacuum.

Leo’s fascination was, it turned out, not with the gods but with the suction power of a Dyson—or, more generally, anything brought to life by energy. Once I figured that out, I spent hours with him, carrying around a desk lamp from outlet to outlet throughout our apartment lobby. Each time the light came on, it illuminated his ecstatic face, and often a slender thread of spittle that hung from his mouth. After Karl came home with a bag of extension cords, Leo linked them together and proceeded to wrap our lobby in one uninterrupted cord like a Christo installation.

One muggy summer day, after we’d been kicked out of the lobby, we stopped by a neighborhood consignment shop. The owner had set up a battalion of oscillating fans on just about every available surface. Leaning over a table to get a closer look at, say, a set of linen tea towels meant holding back hair, necklaces, fingers, to avoid the high-speed blades. Leo, though, was fearless, running laps, hands first, around the read more