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WIRE Buzz: Marvel Comics cancels Ghost Rider; Alexa's 'Starfinder' game; Netflix franchise plans

By Josh Weiss

Amazon invites you to partake in a fanciful adventure of imagination with Starfinder, a brand-new interactive game that can be exclusively accessed on any Alexa-enabled device. Featuring the voice talents of Laura Bailey (The Last of Us Part II) and Nathan Fillion (Firefly), the story is entirely dependent on your choices. With so many narrative outcomes to explore, Starfinder required nearly 800 script pages and over 120 hours in the recording studio. This yielded up to 13 hours of gameplay. Paizo, which created the tabletop RPG of the same name, helped adapt the title for Alexa.

"I’ve always been a big fan of experimenting with new forms of gaming and entertainment. Starfinder is one of those projects that is doing something new," Bailey, who plays Clara-247, said in an exclusive statement to SYFY WIRE. "The team at Amazon created such a cool interactive experience inside this science-fantasy world, and it's been a joy to work on it with them. I’m excited for everyone to experience the alternate endings and see all the scenarios my character ends up in."

"The Starfinder skill for Alexa is a great example of how audio and voice-enabled experiences can create immersive and ambient entertainment," added Marc Whitten, VP of Amazon Entertainment Devices and Services, via press release. "We are thrilled with how incredible sci-fi storytellers and amazing voice talent bring this interactive adventure to life."

Amazon tested Starfinder last December with the release of a pilot episode (“Scoundrels in the Spike") that garnered a favorable 4.6/5 stars rating from Alexa users. Casting was handled by Audible Studios, which was able to tap into its roster of established voiceover performers. Aside from Bailey and Fillion, the game boasts 11 other cast members.

"In the game, a deserted mining ship emerges from hyperspace at Absalom Station, towing a mysterious asteroid behind it," writes VentureBeat. "After battling warring factions on the station, the heroes are recruited to explore the ship and asteroid and discover the fate of the ship’s missing crew. The asteroid is a fragment of a larger, ancient structure — an alien weapon that could threaten the safety and security of all of the Pact Worlds."

The first three episodes of Starfinder (as well as the pilot) are now available. While the pilot is free-to-play, any other episodes will cost you $1.99 apiece. The full season can be purchased for $9.99. Episodes 4-6 are scheduled to drop sometime in October. Those interested can start up the game by saying: "Alexa, play the Starfinder game."

Ghost Rider's eternal flame has gone least for now. Posting on Twitter, writer Ed Brisson confirmed that Marvel decided to cancel the current comic book series about the skull-headed Spirit(s) of Vengeance. With artwork from Aaron Kuder and Juan Frigeri, the short-lived comic explored two different versions of Ghost Rider: OG Johnny Blaze and his brother, Danny Ketch.

"As many have assumed, Ghost Rider #7 was the last issue of the series," Brisson wrote. "I loved writing it; had a hell of a time telling Danny and Johnny's stories; & introducing the Spirit of Corruption. As far as their continued adventures, that will continue elsewhere in the Marvel Universe."

He thanked the illustrative/visual team in a second tweet, writing: "I should have done this sooner, but I wanted to also thank @AaronKuder, @juanmfrigeri, and, @bam_jason. The book would have been nothing without them."

Issue #7 went on sale earlier this month. As GamesRadar points out, it was originally scheduled for April, but got pushed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Two additional issues (#8 and #9) and a pair of one-shots (Empyre: Ghost Rider #1 and Ghost Rider Annual #1) were solicited, but it's unlikely that they'll be published now.

Despite some big hits over the years (i.e. Stranger Things, Bird Box, and, more recently, The Old Guard), Netflix is still on the lookout for a multi-billion dollar franchise that will appeal to an extremely wide demographic. During a lengthy interview with The Hollywood Reporter, VP of Original Films Tendo Nagenda, opened up about the streamer's wider cinematic strategy that looks to Lucasfilm and Warner Bros for inspiration.

"We're looking at big, broad-audience, PG-level adventure films as something that we want to get into," Nagenda said. "Something along the lines of the first Star Wars, or Harry Potter 1 and 2. A lot of family live action, fantasy, spectacle movies that we think are big and can play great. A Jumanji-type of story. That is the next frontier."


Voicing his hope that Jordan Peele, Chris Nolan, or Quentin Tarantino would one day bring their directorial talents to a Netflix movie, Nagenda emphasized that the company isn't averse to taking risks on out-of-the-box ideas.

"Well, we look at it as what aren’t the studios focused on. New ideas," he explained. "We want to encourage great talent to think that way. George Lucas created Star Wars — it wasn’t based on a book. If you have that kind of imagination — like the Wachowskis with The Matrix — we feel like we’re the place to take the chance on those types of innovative ideas and filmmakers. 

In another part of the conversation, Nagenda touched on the recently-announced Gray Man film adaptation, which has the potential to launch a massive espionage franchise with Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, and the Russo Brothers at the helm.

"Well you look at that as a potential investment in a franchise if successful," the VP said. "You also are doing so with the most successful franchise producers of all time in terms of theatrical box office, and there you’re pioneering talent on Netflix since it will be our first film with Ryan Gosling as well as other people we will hopefully put in the movie. So we look at it as an investment in the long-term and not just a per picture amount."