Archive for July, 2013

1970s: Space gods to Star Wars

So thankfully we didn’t end up here in 2013 being controlled by our artificial intelligence overlords. Unfortunately, we’re unable to chat up Orion dancing girls, either.

From the 1960s onwards, the design of the future took a more realistic turn. We could now actually make spaceships (well rockets), had the money and resources to research into new fields, and eventually concrete over everything. The future in the late 1960s could be argued to be full of dull greys and diesel, as engineering and manufacturing took off in a massive way.

That’s not to say there were not some quirky and fun designs for the future. For those who thought the reality of the late 1960s and early 1970s was plastic and dull, future thinkers on the printed page added glam, built on psychedelic inspiration and vivid colour, to the worlds of tomorrow.

Jack Kirby

Mind-expanding ideas of secrets, super-gods and aliens are pure Jack Kirby- The idea of giant space gods, superhuman assistance and alien races were greatly influenced by the work of Erich von Danikens book from the 1970s, ‘Chariots of the gods’ in which the author surmised that humanities knowledge was given to use by aliens and that we worshipped then as gods.

Taking this idea of alien races, ‘space based ‘supermen’ and higher beings would not just work in Marvels favour as across at DC Kirby explored the idea of cosmic characters even further under the banner of ‘Jack Kirby’s 4th World’ The first titles from the series consisted of three titles, New Gods, Mr Miracle and The Forever People which were originally intended to be huge mega-series with all the titles linking together in some way and for the books to have a finite lifespan.

The books main themes once again revolved around hidden civilisations and god like creations. With only one book set on earth ‘The Forever People’ the books main role was to tell internal stories of giant alien gods and the battle between good and evil, represented by two planets, the goodies coming from the paradise like New Genesis and the bad guys coming from the industrial hell-like Apokolips. Using advanced technology such as the sentient computers called Mother Boxes and teleport systems called Boom Tubes the comics covered the evil lord of Apokolips Darkseids quest to find the anti-life equation,

Filled with weird and wonderful characters such as Kalibak, Lightray, Big Barda, Granny Goodness and Scott Free aka Mr Miracle the books were off the scale when it came to high-concept sci-fi, intergalactic action and vast space battles that would put Star Wars to shame.

Thunderbirds are gone!


Throughout the 60s and 70s Jerry Andersons work on TV thrilled children and adults alike. Show like Fireball Xl5, Stingray, Thunderbirds, Joe 90 and Captain Scarlet were watched by millions of viewers.

By the early 1970s Anderson moved onto ‘Live Action’ shows such as UFO – Out went ‘Supermarionation’ puppets and in came purple wigs and silver suits. UFO was filmed in 1969-70, and began broadcasting in September 1970 in England and September 1972 in America. The series ran for only a single season, for a total of 26 one-hour color episodes.

By the late 1970s Jerry Anderson productions had all but disappeared from our screens. True there were continual repeats of classic shows but nothing really new. This was because at the time Anderson had taken a very strong interest in the Japanese market. With his futuristic based vehicles, love of technology and team based approach to shows Anderson saw that his style was ideally suited to a huge market that had been bought up on a diet of manga, anime and Kaiju – shows sand films starring men in suits like Godzilla and Ultraman since the 1950s.

In 1977 Anderson was approached by Banjiro Uemura, the head of Toboku Shinsha, the Japanese arm of ITC to talk about potential future projects, Anderson was bought in as a consultant for a new animated show entitled ‘Thunderhawks’. The premise being an updated and tweaked version of Thunderbirds set in the future. Although this project, and others like it fell through these original ideas formed the seeds for other projects to appear, the first being the anime series Thunderbirds 2086 while the other became Terrahawks. (see 1980s)

Gerry Anderson placed his actors in purple wigs to defend the world from UFOs, Jon Pertwee stopped the Silurians and Ogrons wearing lace and velvet, and Jack Kirby was producing some of his best work in ‘The Fourth World’ comics based on aspects and ideas of Chariots Of The Gods? by Erich Von Daniken. The Age of Aquarius hadn’t happened, but instead moved into a ‘galaxy far, far away’ as Star Wars changed the way we saw sci-fi cinema forever.

While the future was being thrown up on screen or in comic books as a mix of Westerns in space, or Time Lords versus well spoken RADA-trained aliens, the real future thinkers, the men who could actually make real changes to the future in which we live, were busy beavering away in garages and research facilities in California. Geeks with second names such as such as Jobs, Gates and Berners-Lee slowly but surely moulded the future design we live in now.



Chariots Of The Gods? (Erich Von Daniken)
Rendezvous With Rama (Arthur C. Clarke)
Dune (Frank Herbert)The Terminal Man (Michael Crichton)
Protector (Larry Niven)


WestWorld (Michael Crichton)
Silent Running (Douglas Trumbull)
Solaris (Andrei Tarkovsky)
Star Wars (George Lucas)
Logan’s Run (Michael Anderson)


Battlestar Galactica
UFO (Gerry Anderson)
Blake’s 7


Where are all the Jack Kirby inspired films or television shows?

One of comicdoms greatest artist and writers Jack Kirby is seen by comic readers as one of the most creative, recognisable and iconic creators of our time, influencing not only the medium of comics but produced work that has inspired music, art and modern literature, however when it comes to a wider ‘geek’ audience the awareness of just how influential Kirbys work is seems to be lacking. While Stan Lee has managed in some ways to ascend above comics to tackle other media Kirbys work has never seemed to work out of the medium of comic books into the wider spectrum of cross-media, television and film. The ‘kings’ vast body of work goes in many ways un-noticed but yet holds so much un-tapped potential and an entire universe of ideas that could no doubt make superb cartoons, shows, films or computer games

Comics that line the shelves also proudly sport the titles, ideas and inspiration from his work with books like Godwar, and Astro City being two great examples that tap into his style and visual storytelling. Indeed his unused work is being re-done by Kurt Busick and Alex Ross in the excellent ‘Kirby Genesis’ but for the man who created icons like the Fantastic 4’ (whose iconic first issue front cover is pure ‘Kirby’ style’ of a huge green monster roaring out of the ground) and then from this an entire line of superhero titles created by the pair that included books starring characters such as The Hulk, X-men, Daredevil, Ant Man and many more the lack of awareness of his influence is a wider spectrum of ‘geek’ culture is shocking.
It is not hard not to find one or two passing Kirby’s influences in today’s comic book shops, but these for the most part are homages to his work, from the obvious album covers Joe Satrianis ‘Surfing with an Alien’ or American geek-punk band Kirby Krackle, or a T-shirts that shows one of the characters he created there are legacies of his work is evidence but once you have left the comic book shop it won’t matter that you knew Kevin Smith’s character in Daredevil is called Kirby his work for the most part has not had the impact that really it should have.

And to me that’s a huge shame for once you did a little deeper you get into the fantastical realms, innovative visual designs, and stunning characters creations that made up the ‘body’ of his work you realise just how brilliant his work is and that really he is are very few people to have had such a massive impact on the comic industry – think of it a ‘adult’ style HBO show based in The Eternals, (in the style of say Tru-Blood), or Kamandi as a post-apocalyptic dystopian future min-series that could give ‘The Walking Dead’ a run for its money.

Along with the more iconic and bombastic Stan lee Kirby helped create numerous a weird and wonderful places and characters that are ripe for further development for both for DC and Marvel, indeed the house of ideas has had its eye on the television market for a while and some of Kirby’s creations would sit very well next to the proposed ‘aka Jessica Jones’, Hulk or Power Pack. Imagine a show set in the mythical mountain of Wundagore (home of the High Evolutionary) where strange beasts battle for power a la or a Kung-Fu esque show starring Iron Fist based in the mythical eastern city of Kun Lun or even a political thriller / West Wing show focusing on the African nation of Wakanda where the Black Panther rules.

Keeping in the current Marvel Universe secret agents of SHIELD such as Ant-Man and the Wasp, or ATLAS led by Jimmy Woo could week by week do ‘a Stargate’ and take a peek into Kirby’s parallel worlds ruled by demons or monsters in the Micro-verse, a sub-atomic dimension filled with creatures like Blastaar and the insect like Annilhius- how would that look as a film designed by the comic-focused eye of Edgar Wright or mo-capped by Robert Zemekis a la Tin-Tin? The potential for visual fun of giant ants, microscopic monsters and liquid universes filled with bug-like critters could be fantastic.

What about a medical drama/supernatural show featuring a student named Stephen Strange tacking the dark corners of the universe using magic against Dormammu or Baron Mordo overseen by Guillermo del Toro?. These other-worldly concepts of course would have to be filled with Kirby’s unique style of drawing and character design, with pages being crammed with ‘Kirby Machines’ – giant futuristic technology filled and detailed with chrome pipes, odd angles and cracking with unknown energy in the form of ‘Kirby dots’ (a method that the artist used to portray energy)

Now think about this – the super-powered equivalent of ‘Game of Thrones’ featuring the Inhumans, Taking Kirby’s trademark ideas, namely superhuman secret civilisations that lived alongside man these secretive beings hailed from the secret city of Attalin and have in the past fought and been allies with some of earths mightiest heroes. But think about a show where the political machinations or royal life, external threats like the Kree or Supreme Intelligence or internal vying for power by Maximus go hand in hand with the personal stories of characters Medusa, Gorgon, Karnak and there mute leader Black Bolt.
Layering another aspect could be the fact that bio-diversity being the main key to Inhuman life each character has to go through the ‘Terrigen Mist’ a mystical substance that through science could unlock their genetic potential. This gave all the Inhumans superhuman powers such as the ability to breathe under water (such in the case of Triton) or to have vocal cords that could shatter mountains (as in the case with Black Bolt) but also in some cases mutations that are next to useless like San who became a dough like rabbit creature, a show that tackles diversity as its main key point, change, mutation and lifestyle choices could all add up to a show that could rival anything seen on television at the moment.

Even if this show proved too costly – what about another a fictional superhuman race, the Eternals first appeared in 1976. Similar in a lot of ways to the Inhumans the Eternals consisted of generically altered proto-humans who had been experimented on by the Celestials, huge skyscraper sized alien gods who wore suits of bizarre stone armour. Seeking to judge earth the Celestials developed the Eternals to help the evolving humanity and to test whether the species was deemed worthy to exist. Therefore characters such as Kronos, Sersi, Ikaris and Makkari assisted humanity in things like architecture, farming and transport. Again these characters names after mythological creations was Kirby’s way of saying that these comic characters were seen by the first civilisations as gods due to there great knowledge. Living side by side with humans these secret super-powered heroes could protect the earth from deviants, aliens and the dark corners of the universe such as the mad god Thanos recently seen in the end credits of the Avengers.

These mind-expanding ideas of secrets, super-gods and aliens are pure Kirby and are ripe for cross-platform development. This idea of giant space gods, superhuman assistance and alien races were greatly influenced by the work of Erich von Danikens book from the 1970s, ‘Chariots of the god’ in which the author surmised that humanities knowledge was given to use by aliens and that we worshipped then as gods. – Taking this idea of alien races, ‘space based ‘supermen’ and higher beings would not just work in Marvels favour as across at DC Kirby explored the idea of cosmic characters even further under the banner of ‘Jack Kirby’s 4th World’ The first titles from the series consisted of three titles, New Gods, Mr Miracle and The Forever which were originally intended to be huge mega-series with all the titles linking together in some way and for the books to have a finite lifespan.

The books main themes once again revolved around hidden civilisations and god like creations. With only one book set on earth ‘The Forever People’ the books main role was to tell internal stories of giant alien gods and the battle between good and evil, represented by two planets, the goodies coming from the paradise like New Genesis and the bad guys coming from the industrial hell-like Apokolips. Using advanced technology such as the sentient computers called Mother Boxes and teleport systems called Boom Tubes the comics covered the evil lord of Apokolips Darkseids quest to find the anti-life equation,

Filled with weird and wonderful characters such as Kalibak, Lightray, Big Barda, Granny Goodness and Scott Free aka Mr Miracle the books were off the scale when it came to high-concept sci-fi, intergalactic action and vast space battles that would put Star Wars to shame –and while the high concept would never make it to a live action scenario imagine a interpretation of this in the style of ‘Clone Wars’ – a beautifully rendered GC cartoon that could bring Darkseid and the rest of the residents of the fourth world to life.

Then of course there are his lesser known books and ideas. For every ‘success’ Kirby had he also produced numerous concepts that fell by the wayside but seem so full of potential that it would be a shame not to develop them. Ideas such as Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers for the relatively small publisher Pacific Comics is a great example and with Marvel moving forward with Guardians of the Galaxy the notion that studios will once again be looking up and into space for their next big franchise could be a great excuse to dust off these lesser known characters and tweak them for the big screen. Think about a kid-focused set of movies w with the same feel as Spy-Kids and have Robert Rodriguez to do the honours for this one (In 3D of course) and what about his other ‘Also Ran’ characters like, Machine Man? Well that honour could go to Seth McFarlane to produce s crude, offensive animates superhero show based on NEXTWave in which the introspective pondering robots was tweaked to be a hard drinking, angrier version of Bender from Futurama.

Finally there are of course the vast archive of non-produced concept of nearly 600 ideas that Kirby created in the late 1970s and early 80s for Sid and Marty Krofft and Ruby-Spears Productions. Ideas such as the magical themed Warriors of Illusion or the sci-fi ‘Bodyguards’ would all make ideal Saturday morning television shows – think Power Rangers only with a much higher concept overseen by Genndy Tartakovsky

For more concepts check out

1960s: The Moon… for real

As sci-fi moves into the 60s we actually get to see what the futurists and thinkers dreamt up and pondered. And as the decade drew to a close, science fiction became reality, and we managed to get to the Moon.

Okay, there are some skeptics out there saying we didn’t go to the Moon, but the efforts of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins brought the dreams alive for everyone who had ever thought of man venturing into space – Quite an achievement, really, as it was only a little more than half a century before that we learnt to fly.

Now, for any sci-fi fan or future thinker, this was a massive learning curve, and one that got imaginations racing – once we got to the Moon, where then? The era’s big question was ‘what if the space race continued?’ Would the future of 2010 have us living on Mars by now? Would we be in slow, beautiful ships rotating around to the tones of the Blue Danube?

Would we have International Rescue….

and would we ‘boldly go where no man has gone before’?

The impact of Trek

Originally, Star Trek was designed by Gene Roddenberry in 1964. Beginning with a single pilot episode, ‘The Cage’, filmed in that year, Star Trek was not placed on the schedule of the NBC network until a second pilot episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” which was produced a year later.

Star Trek officially went into production on April 21, 1966 and ran for three seasons until it was canceled in 1969. Four years later, the series returned to NBC as a Saturday morning animated series which ran from 1973 to 1974.

Real life sci-fi

While the world was watching and looking up at the stars, in stuffy labs across America the space race and the consequent growth in computer technology meant the military could start to build robust networks that linked these basic computers together. What was once thought up as fiction by the likes of Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury was slowly but surely coming to pass with actual machines ‘talking’ to each other.


Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Phillip K Dick)
Dune (Frank Herbert)
The Drowned World (JG Ballard)
A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess)
Macroscope (Piers Anthony)

Barbarella (Roger Vadim)
Planet Of The Apes (Franklin J. Schaffner)
2001 – A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrik)
Andromeda Strain (Robert Wise)

Thunderbirds (ATV)
The Prisoner
Star Trek (Universal)
Doctor Who

1950s: Atomic-powered saucermen and Googie


The 1950s were the time of hair gel, rebellion and the dawn of the atomic age. The design of the future (or indeed Back To The Future) was influenced by rock and roll, new energy sources and, of course, the phantom menace of the Russians and communism.


Who was a communist? Were your friends and neighbours being taken and replaced by pod-people from another planet? Were you or any of your family being visited by aliens hidden in sink holes under your garden, or whisked away with Arian-looking spacemen to battle giant, bulbous-headed monsters from space, or to stop the earth standing still, or even preventing Martian war machines using snotty tissues?

1950s space-xlarge

The greatest sci-fi movies of the 1950s

In the 1950s public interest in space travel and new technologies was great. While many 1950s science fiction films were low-budget, there were several successful films with larger budgets and impressive special effects.

Forbidden Planet

Forbidden Planet is arguably the best science fiction movie of the 1950′s. In an era where Cold War fears materialized in mutated, giant insects, or alien invaders subverting all that was American, Forbidden Planet worked as all good science fiction does: it examines ourselves. Quite literally, it looked into the materialization of our own inner demons.

In the 1950s public interest in space travel and new technologies was great. While many 1950s science fiction films were low-budget B movies, there were several successful films with larger budgets and impressive special effects.

These include The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

The Thing from Another World (1951)

When Worlds Collide (1951)

This Island Earth (1955)

Forbidden Planet (1956)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)


It wasn’t just the west that was scared of atomic power as the 1954 film Godzilla shows.

The original in Godzilla or Godzilla, King of the Monsters! was about a prehistoric monster 50 meters tall and weighing 20,000 metric tons, which terrorized the people of Japan. It was awakened by an American Hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific Ocean. After attacking Tokyo, destroying much of the city and killing tens of thousands, Godzilla was defeated when scientist Dr. Daisuke Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata) used the Oxygen Destroyer, which completely dissolved Godzilla. Godzilla is one of the most recognizable aspects of Japanese popular culture worldwide. To this day, Godzilla remains an important facet of Japanese films, embodying the kaiju subset of the tokusatsu genre. Godzilla has been considered a filmographic metaphor for the United States. The earliest Godzilla films, especially the original Gojira, attempted to portray Godzilla as a frightening, nuclear monster. Godzilla represented the fears of many Japanese of a repetition of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

This was the 1950s, meaning sci-fi turned colour and was full of mod-cons. If we were living the 1950s future, the assumption was that we would be living in houses akin to those in the Jetsons, with robot housemaids and food in pill form.

Actual space Cities

During the 1950s designers such as Darrell C. Romick and Wernher von Braun produced several visionary papers which outlined a future world of ion propulsion, re-usable launch vehicles, manned lunar missions and permanently occupied orbital colonies. The designs for these large, inhabited satellite terminals were to be produced by continual rocket missions by the reusable space-craft called ‘meteor’ a rocket that would over many years take the required material into the atmosphere and allow engineers to slowly put together these fantastical space-stations.

Seen as the first step to explore the galaxy these were the innovators and springboard for Gerard K. O’Neill proposed L5 space colony plans of the 1970s and were seen at the time as the‘stepping-stone to the moon, to the planets, and beyond.”

There would be no need for pavements as we would have conveyor belts everywhere (actually if you go to Vegas, it’s a bit like this). Of course, it wouldn’t all be happy, as even with our future atomic, neon lifestyle full of ray-guns and jet-packs we would still be in trouble, as we would have to deal with the persistent problem of alien invasion from small Martians, who had a penchant for dressing up like Roman Soldiers and always looking for their ‘Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator’.

marvin - images (2)


Foundation Trilogy (Isaac Asimov)
The Martian Chronicles (Ray Bradbury)
Starship Troopers (Robert E Heinlein)
Final Blackout (L. Ron Hubbard)

This Island Earth (Joseph M. Newman)
Invaders From Mars (William Menzies)
The Day The Earth Stood Still (Robert Wise)
Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (Fred Sears / Ray Harryhausen)
Plan 9 From Outer Space (Ed Wood Jr.)

The Outer Limits
The Twilight Zone
Haredevil Hare/Hare-Way To The Stars (Looney Tunes shorts)
The Quatermass Experiment (BBC)

1920s – 40s
As we move into the next few decades of the 20th century, the style changes once again, with the notion of the metropolis and the daring heroes of pulp. Would the technology of the future according to 1920s and 30s mentality lead us into a Flash Gordon-like style of art-deco space-ships with sparklers at the back?


The first science fiction feature films started to appear during the 20s. Post World War 1 there was a notion that technology was becoming a destructive force and that technological advancements had gone mad.

This mistrust of technology can be seen in one of the most innovative and well regarded sci-fi films of all time Metropolis. Set in the year 2000 this was Fritz Lang’ expressionistic, techno-fantasy masterpiece. Considered by many to be the most innovative sci-fi film of all time (aspects and influences of the film can be seen from Blade Runner to Star Wars to Batman) the film is set in a socially-controlled futuristic city where an evil scientist Rotwang and his beautiful but creepy female robot Maria (who looks like a female C3P0)

With a focus that seems to reflect the social outlook at the time (oppression, industry and a subdued society) the beautiful original, futuristic sets, mechanically based society themes and a gigantic subterranean flood not only pushed the boundaries of sci-fi storytelling but was a visual effects and design – Metropolis really is a visual feast and innovative far beyond its time.

Metropolis influenced so much – from the backdrops of Gotham City to the jet-pack heroes such as the Rocketeer to the Cybermen the visual tropes and style of Metropolis has influenced

Gordons Alive

Space exploration was of course decades away however space adventures and the daring doings of outer space heroes shot their way onto cinema screens during the 30s. With the growth of cinema these heroes were perfect characters to make the jump from pulp to the silver screen. Created by Universal from the Alex Raymond comic strip first published in 1934 the serialisation of the adventures of Flash Gordon were produced on a relative shoestring budget but translated the fantastical worlds of Mongo and the innovation of anti-gravity belts and alien races with such great effect that seeing things like lizards and crocodiles with glued on spines, sparklers and washing up bottles as space-ships and household appliances as laser guns it didn’t matter – people had never seen anything like this before and marvelled at the strange new worlds translated to the screen, action packed episodes and climactic cliff-hangers

Flash Gordon checklist

Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers (1936), 13 episodes – later re-edited as the feature film Flash Gordon: Rocketship

Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (1938) – 15 episodes

Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940), 12 episodes

Horror Sci-Fi

It was just Fritz Lang who drew from the nightmares and suspicion at the time of ‘science gone mad’ and while with one part of Universal Pictures was busy producing Flash Gordon’s sci-fi adventures and wowing audiences with far off interplanetary escapades another part of the studio were busy tapping into the terror and fear of the population, building sets and labs for the oncoming storm of vampires, monsters and mad scientists.

With directors like James Whale tapping ‘classic’ horror with films such as Frankenstein Universal became the pioneers of ‘science gone mad’ style of film-making and crossed over sci-fi with horror and fantasy. Using other classical books from authors such as HG Wells Universal gave us Invisible Men, monstrous mummies, lagoon dwelling gill-men, charismatic vampires and sultry undead Brides and showed the worlds the talents of Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr via the use of camera trickery, optical effects and layers upon layers of special effects make-up

With the Universal catalogue of mad scientists and artificially-created monsters that ran amok killing people the studio flourished and the growth of the film and magazines, (with people having money to spend on both the printed page and cinema) led Sci-Fi into the mainstream.

The Aesthetics

This was the time of Alex Raymond, space adventures and of course Batman – this is time would we be living in a Fritz Lang/Gotham city of the future full of airships and towering edifices, using Dick Tracy watches to communicate with fellow ‘Futurists’

Where the menaces came from outer space or from the minds of a mad scientist or from forbidding eastern European castles it was a time of innovation where the enemy could be seen and defeated – but this of course all changed in the 1950s where the paranoia of an invisible enemy reared its foreboding head and atomic power changed the world.


Metropolis (Fritz Lang)
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (Stuart Paton)

Cinematic serial:

Buck Rogers (Ford Beebe)
Flash Gordon (Frederick Stephani, Ray Taylor)
Superman (Max Fleischer)

Podcasts and Blogs

Suicide girls and Generation Me 

The fashion of the 00’s has been one of extremes. There has been no one defining fashion, style or idea that has focused this decade – it was the decade that begged, stole and borrowed everything and everyone had the opportunity to become unique thanks mainly to the internet.

The past decades saw broadband in most homes, music going digital the move away from the High street and purchasing going online. The style copied the Matrix as everyone led virtual lives and the I-Mac and I-pod were introduced. Music was focused at the start of the decade on the ‘stormers’ with Nu-Metal Marilyn Manson

then took a detour via Gerard Way

Amy Lee

and finally ended up here

Web sensations like Suicide Girls and Tattoo and Piercing going mainstream. This however faded through the decade (to be replaced by emo) but overall the ability to go online and tap into any taste and create your own individuality led to eclectic musical and style with no real definition which led to many sub-groups fuelled by social networking, mobile devices and anytime and the anywhere media of generation me -all overshadowed by…

Lack of attention span

For the average fan of sci-fi television there has never been a better time to be passionate about the subject. The airwaves both here and in the US are crammed with superb shows and we know there is a tendency by studios and broadcasters to pull shows far too quickly if they are seen to be not hitting ‘the numbers’. But we are now a current multi-platform audience far too distracted by other things to do and as such indirectly killing off any new shows and ideas – something that only this generation has been able to do.

Shows and films need to make money more than every and the sword of Damocles is continually hanging over sci-fi with shows such as was Carnivale, Reaper, Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls all cancelled.

More prominently the ‘cannings’ of these heavy duty, well advertised and costly shows such as ‘Flashforward’, ‘Stargate: Universe’, ‘Dollhouse’ or for that matter the most loved but studio mauled ‘Firefly’ should not come as surprise and all could be down to the due to lack of viewers. Studios are in a catch 22 situation – a new show they are going to ‘invest’ time and money into but with trepidation as the spectre of cancellation is never too far away for either side due to the said audience not bothering to tune in.

The question is – are we, as a jaded audience not buying into these new shows as much as we did? Admittedly when shows as shocking awful as the last season of Heroes or ‘The Cape’ was you understand but shows such as Caprica and V for that matter got ripped apart both online and review wise, especially by the people that these shows were supposed to sate, have we got to the point that we expect shows now to compete with shows from say ten or twenty years ago which sat in a very different viewing landscape.

Here in the UK we have had the privilege over the past decade to have shows such as Sherlock, Being Human, Torchwood and Dr Who all of which are some of the most intelligent and well written ‘genre’ shows ever to appear but instead of an all encompassing geek embracement we are all too keen to attack them as not being what we expect, they do not in many ways compare to our nostalgic view of ‘classic’ Who, Sapphire and Steel, Thunderbirds and Quatermass.

Shows need to be put in context, it was a whole different television landscape back as to when these shows were originally run, we had a lot less to do and a lot less in the while away our time and I wonder that the continual comparison to older shows ‘numbers’ viewer wise is wrong, as to be frank Warcraft and blu-ray did not exist then.

The growth of quality kids TV

The millennials are also the generation who has have some of the best animation and genre shows to pick from.

top five kids cartoons from the past decade

Powerpuff girls

Blossom, Buttercup and Bubbles ..they are the Powerpuff girls! – yup I know this is supposedly aimed for girls but its just too much fun to be lost on the Brats set. This trio of neon do gooders have been around Cartoon Network for a fare while now bit still continue to entertain week in, week out to destroy the evil forces of (no not the Decepticons) but rather Mojo JoJo, Mr Him and a mix of other cutie based bad guys. Clever, witty and cute with an insanely catchy theme tune that has even had the remix treatment thanks to Rob Zombie the Powerpuff Girls cartoon is just pure candyfloss fun.

Spongebob Squarepants

Ohhhh… who lives in a Pineapple under the sea… why its our number 8 of course. For those thinking that the yellow square of cute-ness should have been higher in the list… tough my list and really even though Spongebob is good, its not that good and has been dominating lists like this for years which are done by people who haven’t don’t THAT much watching of kids telly. Insane, fun and completely bonkers Spongebob has an entire cult fan base and whether you are a fan of Mr Crabbs, Patrick or Plankton there is something for everyone to love in one of the most fun packed and inoffensive cartoons ever.

Samurai Jack

Smooth, cool and much too fun for kids, Jack takes everything that is great about cartoons ( such as Samurais, Ninjas, monsters and erm..futuristic time travel caused by evil warlocks) and adds a good dollop of super coolness. A Emmy award winner the show ran from 2001 to 2004 but is still on nearly every night on Cartoon Network. Even though Jack says very little his actions speak louder than words as week in week out he hacks, smashes and destroys his way through the armies and monsters of Aku, all superbly designed by Genndy Tartakovsky and filmed in such a way that Michael Bay, Tarantino and co all look on with action sequence directorial envy. A pre-cursor to Clone Wars that has let Tartakovsky and his company go onto become one of the biggest up and coming design and production companies in Hollywood (they are supposedly doing Dark Crystal 2) Jack is a superb show that shows that with a little style great stories and a cool concept that you don’t need millions of animators working 24/7 to produce a world class cartoon

Dexters Lab

Another classic from Cartoon Network Dexter as been a staple for the channel for many many year, and there is a reason for this.. its just plain fantastic. Whether its chasing Dee-Dee around to stop her from damaging his lab to trying to defeat his evil nemesis Mandark to starring in parodies of Tron and erm…Primal Rage Dexters Lab is choc full of fun moments and written by a team that seem to have a mixed love of old cartoons, sci-fi and obscure TV with cameos by Blue Falcon, robots that resemble the Phoenix from G-Force and voice actors that include Macho Man Randy Savage the show is a geeks dream.

Invader Zim

Doom to you.. you dirty earth monkeys!. Zim, the evil Irken invaders show is just an insane mix of madness, monkeys and dancing robots. Created by comic artist Jhonen Vasquez for Nick the show was first shown in 2000 bit has reappeared on our screen at various times over the past year or so ( and on dvd too!). Aimed at a older(ish) audience the cartoon appeals to kids, geeks and goths and is crammed full of madness, from Zim creating a Godzilla sized monster out of the schools guinea pig to hypnotic zits to bad bad rubber piggies to Gir the best robot ever to grace a cartoon, the adventures of Zim, Dib, Gaz, mini moose and the rest of the cast is like watching a Tim Burton film mixed with the x-files on a overdose of ki-ora and Chewits.

And finally number 1 – (ok i cheated this is top six!)

Ben 10

Take a bit of X-Men, Men in Black and some Kirby character designs and you get Ben 10, a cartoon about a young boy who finds an alien watch/matrix thingy called the Omnitrix that allows him to turn into ten different superheroes, in a similar vein to the DC comics Dial H For Hero. A great concept that seems to be a perfect vehicle for line upon line of action figures the show is actually really rather good with the writers of the show tapping into monsters, aliens and mythology to bring a great mix of action and adventure for Ben, his cousin Gwen and his grandfather who bears an uncanny resemblance to Jack Kirby himself and happens to be a former MIB style secret agent. Ben’s transformation into the likes of the super-strong Fourarms, to the fire based Heatblast to the slobbering Wildmutt (all of which are designed by comic creators Duncan Rouleau, Joe Casey, Joe Kelly and Steven Seagle) is such a great idea with each alien being unique, imaginative and useful in perilous situations. Not only are the good guys great but the baddies are equally imaginative, from the alien dictator Vilgax to Kevin 11 to Ghost Freak the bad guys, plotting and situations for the show are really well done with each story working as a single episode but with subtle over arcing stories running through the series. With a potential film adaptation on the way this certainly is a cartoon worth checking out for comic and superhero fans.

You could be anyone you wanted to be – both in real life and in a virtual space

Films like Avatar, Alice in Wonderland and Tron showed that VR, 3D and hyperreality were commonplace – you could use your own personal avatars to become anyone. So you could be a dwarf in Warcraft, a warrior in Skyrim or a alien in the Sims or a de-fanged vampire all the time keeping the world updated on your mobile device.

Over the past 100 years we have indeed come pretty far and the ‘future’ of 2010 looks (apart from all the spying) to be pretty good. And while, as I mentioned back at the beginning of this article, we still haven’t got the flying cars of the Jetsons, or the rocket-ships of Flash Gordon, some predictions have come to pass.

Computers and virtual worlds have become commonplace, proving William Gibson right. We have sent probes to Mars, which shows that Arthur C. Clarke and company were on the right lines, and the design of the sleek, pocket-sized gadgets we now use were anticipated, in part, by the designers and pulp writers of the 1920s and 30s.

While it may be argued that we as a generation have cherry-picked the best elements of sci-fi and future predictions on which to build our current aesthetic, and that the shape and design of phones, mobile devices, cars and clothing has borrowed heavily from what has come before, on reflection we have at least managed to circumnavigate some of the worst predictions sci-fi had to offer.

We’ve built on the innovative, creative and fascinating ideas of those who dared to dream that the future would be a brighter and much more exciting place to live. We haven’t yet gone to Mars, created machines that can think for themselves, or even managed to produce hoverboards, but the innovators, future thinkers and creative brains of today have done a pretty decent job of laying out the future.



The Ocean at the end of the lane (Neil Gaiman)
The Mistborn Trilogy (Brandon Sanderson)
Crooked Little Vein (Warren Ellis)


Dark Knight


The Fades