Issue #9: An African Future + Writing on Walls

SFATW 3 Stars

Contents of This Issue

(1) A Special Introduction: Don’t Miss Our New Publication
(2) An African Future: Graphic Novel Trilogy Launches in Nigeria
(3) Writing on Walls, Part 1: Under the Surface of Batman Graffiti
(4) Writing on Walls, Part 2: Peace Be With You Pratchett
(5) Writing on Walls, Part 3: Namaste Nimoy

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(1) A Special Introduction: Don’t Miss Our New Publication

Artificial human beings are a staple of speculative fiction, whether they consist of a natural consciousness uploaded into an artificial body or an entirely synthetic consciousness housed in just about any form you can imagine.

Increasingly, though, the technologies that could make them possible are emerging in the real world, in fields as diverse as robotics and medicine.  And as our science progresses, our art adapts to that change and invents yet more new possibilities.

Homo Artificialis is a new publication from Hipper Tiger, the publisher of SF Around the World, that deals with the science and culture of artificial humanity, as portrayed in fiction and as it increasingly comes to be fact.

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Homo Artificialis is free, and is published online six issues a year.  The inaugural issue is available now.

Contents of the first issue:

(1) H. Artificialis: Handmade Humans
(2) Robophilia: Synthetic Intimacy and the Erotic Turing Test
(3) Robophobia: Enhanced Workers and Killer Robots
(4) Artificial Evil: Red Flags and Storm Warnings
(5) Creating and Critiquing: H. Artificialis and the Arts
(6) Expanding the Umwelt: The Reality Behind the H. Artificialis Video Logo

Take a look!

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(2) An African Future: Graphic Novel Trilogy Launched in Nigeria

SFATW looked in on South African comic book culture in issue number seven (SFATW Issue #7, “South Africa: Comic Book Culture”).  Now it’s Nigeria’s turn.

EXO: The Legend of Wale Williams is an upcoming graphic novel that will arrive this summer, with a further two installments expected later.  If the novels can establish a solid foothold, they may also be adapted into a film project, and a test animation has already been released.  The entire slate of projects has been developed by Lagos-born digital animator Roye Okupe, founder of and YouNeek Studios.

Wale (pronounced Wah-Leh) Williams is a young man who comes home to a near-future Nigeria after a five-year absence. He investigates the disappearance of his father, an inventor who worked for a dubious tech company. Wale finds his country transformed by new forms of corruption and an increasing gap between the thriving rich and the desperate poor.  He also finds a legacy from his father: a nanosuit that confers superhuman powers upon the wearer.

Like any good Joseph Campbell monomythic hero, Wale at first refuses the call of destiny. As the YouNeek home page puts it:

Initially, Wale does not embrace the suit or the idea that he could be a “hero,” but his journey takes him through a crucible of events that prepare him, and he slowly begins to realize he needs the suit’s powers to unravel the mystery behind his father’s disappearance and save the city from grave danger.

The danger takes the form of CREED, a radical organization led by Oniku, an extremist who wants to bring down the government and take over the country. Wale must rise to the challenge of stopping CREED, in the process becoming a superhero, EXO.

exo01
exo02+03

The animation (embedded below) includes a lot of standard tropes and familiar lines, but perhaps that’s to be expected from a work-in-progress that’s intended as a starting point for a more fully realized and original animation.

The test for EXO will come in at least two parts.

First, can the graphic novel deliver a compelling story that’s well realized in a way that plays to the strengths the graphic novel format?

And second, if it can, will the animated version come into its own, delivering the familiar thrill of a superhero saga combined with original elements that make the genre its own?

SFATW will keep an eye on Wale’s progress.

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(3) Writing on Walls, Part 1: Under the Surface of Batman Graffiti

Graffiti artists tend to be a very international bunch, so they fit right in here at SFATW, at least they do when they cross-pollinate with the genre culture that’s at the heart of the SFATW mandate.

This month our cup floweth over with a hat trick of graffiti-related stories.

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PeteOne and Belgian Batffiti

First there’s a collection of images that has recently made the round of several web sites. It consists of several photographs of graffiti in an abandoned medical building in Belgium. As Lost at E Minor reports:

Redditor sneakylawyer and his girlfriend were out ‘urban exploring’ … in Ronse, Belgium when they came across the message, ‘There’s beauty in destruction’, painted on an abandoned hospital. Like the characters in a horror movie, they did the most logical and safest thing to do, go in the abandoned, structurally unstable, evil lair-ish hospital.

Inside, they did find the most villainous of characters. But not what you might expect. Painted on the walls were graffiti art of Gotham’s villains, i.e. The Joker, Bane, Poison Ivy. But nothing to fear, there were also murals of Gotham’s Dark Knight. The graffiti were signed by a guy named ‘Peteone’.

The spate of articles about the Belgian images got me wondering: can Bat-Art really be confined to a single lonely building in Belgium? That seemed improbable, and as I dug around for an answer two things quickly became clear.

First, the Belgian art has a backstory.  It’s not the work of a random, unknown artist, but of a painter who’s relatively well known in his country, and whose paintings in this particular building have just been memorialized in film–moments ahead of the wrecking ball.

Second, Batman clearly has minions in a variety of nations, emblazoning surfaces with his image.  And sometimes with more tactile forms of homage.

First, a few of the images that set the thought in motion.  I have gone back to the original photographs so I could reproduce them in full size–click on any image to enlarge it a lot.

Bgraffiti01 Bgraffiti02
Bgraffiti03 Bgraffiti04

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PeteOne, the Movie

Digging a little deeper, it turned out that PeteOne is not only a well known graffiti artist in Belgium, but also the subject of a short film, There’s Beauty in Destruction, which is embedded a little further down the page.

Screenshot from "There's Besuty in Destruction."  Click to enlarge.

Screenshot from “There’s Besuty in Destruction.” Click to enlarge.

On the Reel King Media web site the filmmaker, Raine McCormack, gave some details of the shoot:

In January [2015] I was hired to shoot a video for Triamant.

Pete One is a very well known urban artist in Belgium and it was Triamant’s wish to capture the work he had done in a building that they were soon to demolish. Time as usual was of the essence on the shoot.  I only had 4 hours to shoot as the winter light was failing me. I had an idea before I wan on the location of how I’d like to capture it, pans, slides, etc., but it wasn’t until the edit that I started to really get the feeling this was far more nostalgic than I had first thought.

Above the building’s main entrance are the words “There’s Beauty in Destruction,” and it is right (to a degree, subject dependent!). The one thing that struck me the most as I edited the piece was how the artist had a leaning towards beautiful, powerful women and comic books. My mind got swept away with the nostalgic trip of childhood.

I started to see the sadness in the loss of these great pieces of art and it felt so similar to the loss of that child-like innocence that we all experience as adults. The pieces of art became ghost like memories that spoke of adventure, imagination and unhindered child-like energy.

I tried to portray this in my final edit, instead of just documenting a building in a dull almost lifeless way. The use of cross fades, the music choice and the angles all add, I feel, to those sentimental memories of childhood.

Did McCormack succeed? See for yourself.

Meanwhile, over on the FatCap street art site, there are at least a few sketchy details about PeteOne:

Pete One was born in Ronse, Belgium in 1982.  He started graffiti in 1999 and like every graffiti artist, he developed his artistic skills and graduated in what we can call the Urban Academy,  the streets!

Pete is an active member of the Ai-Lab crew, he unchains his artistic devils onto canvases as well as walls. He fulfills projects on demand.

His ultimate goals are travelling through graffiti-art, spraying on outsized objects [such] as windmills, watertowers and big buildings.

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Batminions the World Over

And people aren’t just sneaking around Belgium with spraycans painting frescos of Batman, they’re sneaking around the whole damned world.  Here are a few examples.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania actually has a Google map showing the locations of local Batman graffiti, which is not quite as awesome as it first sounds once you realize that the “graffiti” is official, placed there as part of a publicity campaign for The Dark Knight Rises in which people had to find and tweet images of hidden bits of Batffiti.

Still, the fact that such a map exists, complete with multiple Batlabels, is a tiny bit of awesome all on its own.

Batman graffiti locations in Pittsburgh, PA, USA.

Batman graffiti locations in Pittsburgh, PA, USA.

Probably the most ambitious project–if not the most visually impressive at first glance–is the one carried out by infamous Toronto street artist, Posterchild, called “Evidence of Batman,” in which Batman himself is never seen.

Instead, the Dark Knight leaves behind indications of his having been present in multiple locations, in the form of several different styles of Batarang (Batman boomerang, for the uninitiated), and footprints bearing Batman’s famous crest in the tread.

Click the image below to enlarge and see the details of each component photograph. You can learn more about the project on the Comics Alliance page.

A montage of work by Posterchild in the "Evidence of Batman" project: Batarangs and bootprints.

A montage of work by Posterchild in the “Evidence of Batman” project: Batarangs and bootprints. Click to enlarge.

Here are a few of the other instances of Batman street art from around the globe.

Batman on a scooter by another Toronto artist.

Batman on a scooter by another Toronto artist.

Baby Batman in Melbourne, Australia, by Fintan Magee .

Baby Batman in Melbourne, Australia, by Fintan Magee.

Batman in Bristol, UK, by an unidentified artist.

Batman in Bristol, UK, by an unidentified artist.

Batman by French artist Anthony Noble.

Batman by French artist Anthony Noble.

And, last but definitely not least, there is Batman Alley, a multi-artist graffiti panorama right here in my second home of Brazil.

Beco do Batman, as it’s called in Portuguese, is an area in São Paulo that’s entirely covered in street art, one image lying on top of another, each new one covering up an old one, like a medieval palimpsest.

This is also an open project, to which anyone can contribute, so the images on the walls change day by day, the entire montage morphing through an endless series of alterations and mutations.

It got its name because of one image that endures: a pants-less, cigarette-smoking Batman, with his mouth wide open and his Havaiana flip-flops dangling, reminiscent of a Mad Magazine cartoon, who presides over the entire funky mess.  Many of the other images are more beautiful, but this is the one that remains stable through the project’s ongoing evolution.

The Brazilian Batman of São Paulo's Beco do Batman.

The Brazilian Batman of São Paulo’s Beco do Batman.

Batman Alley is officially condoned, and while it began as a local project it now bears work by artists from all over the world.   As I said at the outset–graffiti artists are an international bunch.

Here are a few of the non-Batman images you can find in Batman Alley.  At least, you could at one time–by now any or all of them may have been covered up by new ones.

BA02 BA01
BA03 BA04

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(4) Writing on Walls, Part 2: Peace Be With You Pratchett

On March 12 Sir Terry Pratchett, the beloved (and prolific) fantasy author, died of Alzheimer’s disease, with which he’d been diagnosed in 2007.  Although he had discussed using assisted suicide to end his own life in a manner of his own choosing, ultimately his death was natural.

By March 18, the first graffiti tribute to Pratchett had turned up.  There are now at least two, both in the UK: one in London and one in Bristol.

The one in London shows Pratchett surrounded by images inspired by his work.


Pratchett01
Pratchett 02

The one in Bristol bears the legend “R.I.P. Terry Pratchett.”

PratchettBristol01
PratchettBristol02

I’ve never been a Pratchett fan–his fiction simply wasn’t to my particular taste–but by all accounts he was not only a stellar writer but a very nice guy.

Peace be with you , Mr. Pratchett.

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(5) Writing on Walls, Part 3: Namaste Nimoy

Of course, Terry Pratchett isn’t the only SF icon we’ve lost so far in 2015.

Leonard Nimoy, who portrayed Spock on the original Star Trek television series, died in February. Famous admirers–from U.S. President Obama to Marie Osmond, from Kevin Smith to Steve Martin, from his Star Trek co-stars to the man who took over playing his iconic role, Zachary Quinto–paid tribute.

And, of course, fans the world over created their own diverse memorials, many of which–as with Pratchett–took the form of graffiti.

One thing that Pratchett didn’t get, though, was his image on legal tender.

In Canada there’s a long tradition of altering five-dollar bills–which bear the image of Canada’s seventh Prime Minister, Wilfrid Laurier–so that the serious-looking politician is transformed into Spock.  There’s even a longstanding Spocking Fives Facebook page that’s been around since 2012.

When Nimoy died, Canadians began “Spocking” the heck out of their money in tribute. So much so, that the Bank of Canada had to ask them to stop (Spocking Canadian currency isn’t illegal, so asking was the only thing they could do). There’s little sign that the appeal had any significant effect, and Trek fans in other countries soon followed suit.


Spocked fiver

There are several different styles of five-dollar bill, but fortunately Laurier is an adaptable Spock substitute, so all the styles work.

Spocked Fiver (2)

As for the more traditional, painted graffiti, here are a few of the better memorial images.

spock01 spock07
spock03 spock05
spock08 spock02
spock04 spock06

Unlike Terry Pratchett, Mr. Nimoy was someone whose work I actively followed and admired, from his acting to his photography to his writing to his occasional forays into–um–music, yes let’s call it music (I’m looking at you Ballad of Bilbo Baggins).

Like Mr. Pratchett, however, he seems to have been a genuinely nice man.

Namaste, Mr. Nimoy.  I am surprisingly filled with Earth emotions at your passing.

SFATW 3 Stars

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And so, until next month amigos, adiós!


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