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The Intergalactic Nemesis

on Mon, 10/20/2014 - 00:00

The early-to-mid decades of the Twentieth Century are filled with nostalgia—especially in regards to Geek Culture—and numerous entertainment mediums can trace their “Golden Years” to the time period. The 1920s through the 1950s, for instance, is considered the Golden Age of Radio, when the audio medium dominated household activities around the country with an array of “live dramas” that contained an ample helping of science fiction. The 1950s, meanwhile, have earned the title of the “Golden Age of Science Fiction,” thanks to an abundance of sci-fi films and literature during the decade. Then there’s the “Golden Age of Comic Books,” which began with the appearance of Superman in 1938 and likewise extends into the 1950s.

Many contemporaries have been inspired by the works from these various “Golden Ages,” including the likes of George Lucas and Steve Spielberg, but arguably no one has been able to tie this disparate array of entertainment mediums and genres together in the same way that Jason Neulander has with The Intergalactic Nemesis. A “live-action graphic novel,” The Intergalactic Nemesis began life as a radio drama “performed” live at an Austin, Texas, coffee shop in 1996 before evolving into a comic book adaptation in 2009—paving the way for a multimedia version that includes three actors voicing all the characters, Foley-style sound effects and a series of large illustrated panels displayed above the stage. After an initial performance in 2010 that attracted 2,100 attendees, The Intergalactic Nemesis took its show on the road, appearing in 140 cities around the world as well as an upcoming engagement at the Byham Theater in Pittsburgh on Friday, November 14, 2014.

Exploring Science Through Science Fiction

on Wed, 10/15/2014 - 00:00

Geek Culture has moved beyond the fringes during the Twenty First Century, into the realms of the general population and even infiltrating academia and higher education. The University of California – Irvine, for instance, offers a course on the “Science of Superheroes,” using Spider-Man, Superman and Wonder Woman as a way to understand the dynamics of physics. “Zombies in Popular Media,” meanwhile, is part of the curriculum at Columbia College in Chicago, and explores how the “living dead” relate to such topics as capitalism, individuality and xenophobia. Then there’s Barry Luokkala, a teaching professor in the Physics Department of Carnegie Mellon University, who uses science fiction to explore Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Newton’s Laws of Motion and the very nature of the universe. What started as a mini-course consisting of six classes over the course of a half-semester exclusively offered to first-year science majors eventually evolved into a full-fledged class open to any and all curriculums.

“To my great delight, I got everybody,” Luokkala explained during the 2013 edition of Confluence, a Pittsburgh-based science fiction convention. “I got people from drama and music and art and history and English and business as well as computer science and biology and math and physics, which was the crowd I was used to having. So it was tremendously successful and the evaluations were everything that I hoped for. They said this made science accessible to them, and that’s exactly what I wanted to do—to create a course that could make non-technical people excited about exploring science.”

Shazam: Captain Marvel Fights the Man of Steel

on Mon, 10/13/2014 - 00:00

According to popular myth, Joe Magarac was a man made out of steel, born within a mountain of ore, who would appear at crucial moments to protect steelworkers in the Pittsburgh area. Magarac was first mentioned in a 1931 magazine article that related the folklore of Steel City immigrants. A combination of the “patron saint of steelworkers” and Paul Bunyan, Joe Magarac was even immortalized in a stained glass mural above the entrance to the 300 Sixth Avenue Building, a reminder of Pittsburgh’s past that still oversees its present and future. The exact fate of Magarac is unknown, having either allowed himself to be melted down in order to build a new steel mill, or quietly awaiting for the return of the industry within the walls of an abandoned factory.

In August 1977, Joe Magarac arose once again from the molten steel lava contained within a large ladle at a Pittsburgh steel mill. Instead of protecting workers, however, this particular Magarac’s mission was to destroy all of the factories in the area, and he might very well have succeeded if it wasn’t for the intervention of Captain Marvel. The legendary superhero—who first appeared in 1940 courtesy of Fawcett Comics and resurrected by DC Comics in 1972—visited Pittsburgh in the mid-1940s but made a return visit to the Steel City almost thirty-five years later. It was not the real Joe Magarac that he fought on this occasion, however, but a robotic creation of Doctor Thaddeus Bodog Sivana designed to assist in the archvillain’s ongoing quest for world domination.