A one-sided non-orientable surface (also called a “twisted cylinder”) that can be constructed by affixing the ends of a rectangular strip after first giving one of the ends a half-twist. Not considered a true surface but rather a “surface with boundary,” this space exhibits interesting properties, such as having only one side and remaining in one piece when split down the middle. Though named for August Ferdinand Möbius, the properties of the strip were discovered independently and almost simultaneously by both Möbius and Johann Benedict Listing (who published his findings) in 1858. Practical applications of a Möbius strip include a longer-lasting conveyor belt since each “side” of the strip of material gets the same amount of wear, and as continuous-loop recording tapes (to double the playing time).
Short for modulator/demodulator, a modem is a communications device for a computer which can be either internal or external, meaning it can either be located inside or outside of the computer’s central processing unit (CPU). It allows one computer to connect to and transfer data to other computers via telephone lines. A modem performs the digital-to-analog and analog-to-digital conversion while providing error correction and data compression. Until the late 1990s, modems were analog (also known as dial-up), which allowed a computer or terminal to transmit data over a standard telephone line by converting digital data pulses from the computer to audio tones that analog telephones accept, but those models have basically become obsolete due to their slow processing speeds, and have been replaced by much faster cable, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and DSL modems.
Modern Age of Comics, The (mid-1980s–present)
In the Modern Age of Comics, characters were darker and more psychologically complex, while their creators were becoming more well-known and independent comics were becoming more popular. The DC comic book maxi-series Crisis on Infinite Earths became the book that brought the Bronze Age of Comics and the Modern Age of Comics together, and also brought an end to the Superman, Wonder Woman and The Flash series. Before the Modern Age, horror and science fiction comics were not in the mainstream, but the Comics Code Authority was changed, and horror and science fiction comics were able to stretch their limits as never before. Alan Moore’s legendary Swamp Thing run and Neil Gaiman’s masterpiece Sandman were some of the comics to feature elements of horror and science fiction. In the mid-1980s, artist Jack Kirby, co-creator of many of Marvel Comics’ most popular characters, came into dispute with Marvel over the disappearance of original pages of artwork from some of his most famous titles. Alan Moore, Frank Miller and many other contemporary stars became vocal advocates for Kirby.
The interest in the speculator market of a new Spider-Man costume led to other changes for Marvel characters in the 1980s. Iron Man’s armor would become silver and red. Captain America would be fired and then reborn as the Captain, wearing a black outfit. The Incredible Hulk would revert to his original gray skin color. Issue 300 of the first Avengers series resulted in a new lineup, including Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Woman of The Fantastic Four. Also during this decade, Wolverine would switch to a brown and yellow costume, Thor would be replaced by Thunderstrike, Archangel would emerge as the X-Men’s Angel’s dark counterpart, and many other Marvel characters would have complete image overhauls. The changes to Spider-Man, Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Wolverine and most other Marvel characters would later be undone in the early 1990s.
The 1990s would also bring similar changes to the DC Comics universe, including the death of Superman in 1992 and the Knightfall storyline in Batman comics, during which Bruce Wayne’s back was broken and Azrael would become the new Batman. Wonder Woman lost a challenge, and Diana was replaced by Artemis as the new Wonder Woman, until her death in issue 100. Guy Gardner went from being a Green Lantern to becoming Warrior. The only change that would last for more than ten years was when Hal Jordan became Parallax and killed off all the Green Lanterns, resulting in Kyle Rayner becoming the new Green Lantern in issue 50 of the second series.
In addition to makeovers in individual characters and franchises, Crisis on Infinite Earths ushered in a popular trend of rebooting, remaking or seriously reimagining a publisher-wide universe every 5–10 years on varying scales. This often resulted in origins and histories being rewritten, and these reinventions could be on as large a scale as suddenly giving a retroactive continuity (or “retconning”) seminal story points and rewriting character histories, or simply introducing and/or killing off/writing out various important and minor elements of a universe. Crisis on Infinite Earths resulted in several miniseries which explicitly retconned character histories, such as Batman: Year One, Superman: Man of Steel, and Wonder Woman: Gods and Mortals. An example of a less ambitious scale of changes is Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters, which did not explicitly retcon or retell Green Arrow’s history, but simply changed his setting and other elements of the present, leaving the past largely intact. This trend of publisher-wide reinventions, which often consist of a new miniseries and various spinoff storylines in established books, continues today, with DC’s recent Infinite Crisis and the spinoff storylines One Year Later, 52 and Countdown to Final Crisis. The results of Marvel’s House of M and Civil War storylines are still being felt in the Marvel Universe.
By the early 1990s, these events, as well as the influence of vocal proponents of independent publishing, helped to inspire a number of Marvel artists to form their own company. Image Comics would serve as a prominent example of creator-owned comics publishing. Marvel artists such as X-Men’s Jim Lee, The New Mutants/X-Force’s Rob Liefeld and Spider-Man’s Todd McFarlane were extremely popular and idolized by younger readers in ways more common to professional athletes and rock musicians than comic book artists. Propelled by star power and upset that they did not own the popular characters they created for Marvel, several illustrators, including Lee, Liefeld and McFarlane, formed Image Comics in 1992, an umbrella label under which several autonomous creator-owned companies existed. Image properties, such as Gen13, WildC.A.T.s, Witchblade and especially McFarlane’s Spawn provided brisk competition for long-standing superheroes. Image in particular is singled out by some critics for contributing to the conditions which led to the speculator comics crash, as Image titles favored alternative covers, foil covers, and other “collectible” comics.
Many popular creators followed Image’s lead, and attempted to use their star power to launch their own series, over which they would maintain licensing rights and editorial control. Chris Claremont, famous for his long run as the writer of Uncanny X-Men, created Sovereign Seven for DC; Joe Madureira, also made popular by Uncanny X-Men, launched Battle Chasers for WildStorm Productions; and Kurt Busiek, Alex Ross and Brent Anderson created Astro City for Image.
A silver-white metallic element that resembles chromium and tungsten in many properties, molybdenum (Periodic Table of Elements symbol: Mo, atomic weight: 95.94, atomic number: 42) is used (as an alloy with iron) to strengthen or harden metals such as steel to make high-speed cutting tools, piston rings, and bicycle frames. It is also a trace element in plant and animal metabolism.
Monmouth, Geoffrey of
See Geoffrey of Monmouth.
A character from William Goldman’s novel The Princess Bride, as well as the subsequent motion picture, Inigo Montoya spent his entire life learning to be a great swordsman, all in preparation for the day that he faces and kills his father’s murderer. Montoya was portrayed by Mandy Patinkin in the popular 1987 Rob Reiner film.
Satirical and outlandish, the Monty Python comedy troupe formed in England in 1969. Comprised of two friends from Oxford (Michael Palin and Terry Jones), three Cambridge grads (John Cleese, Eric Idle and Graham Chapman), along with American animator Terry Gilliam, the group honed its singular blend of broad slapstick, edgy black comedy and social commentary in a string of successful television programs, films and albums. After meeting during a taping of the British children’s series Do Not Adjust Your Set, the Pythons officially took shape in May 1969, when the BBC contracted the group to produce its own 13-week program. The weekly sketch comedy series Monty Python’s Flying Circus premiered on the BBC on October 5, 1969. It was an unexpected hit in Britain during its four-season run (1969-74), and then gained fresh life when it was rebroadcast in the United States beginning in 1975. After becoming a major hit throughout Europe, the troupe recorded 1970’s Monty Python’s Flying Circus LP, a set of new performances of television material recorded in front of a live audience (including their now-legendary parrot sketch). Their film debut, … And Now For Something Completely Different — a collection of highlights from the series — followed in 1971.
Another Monty Python Record, released in the U.K. in 1971, made its American debut the following year; for most U.S. fans, the album was their first exposure to the troupe — the BBC series did not begin appearing on public television outlets for several more months. After 1972’s Monty Python’s Previous Record, a mixture of original routines and TV material, featuring “Eric the Half a Bee,” “The Argument Clinic,” and “Embarrassment/A Bed-Time Book,” the group issued 1973’s Matching Tie and Handkerchief, which featured a “trick track” gimmick, whereby the second side contained separate grooves both featuring entirely different material; playing randomly depending upon where the needle dropped, the gimmick effectively created a “Side Three”!
A 1973 British tour yielded Live at Drury Lane, released in 1974 to coincide with the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In 1975, the movie’s companion record, The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a reprise of screen material along with new skits, was released. After 1976’s Live! At City Center, a long hiatus followed before the group reunited for the 1979 feature and soundtrack Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album appeared in 1980, followed by the 1982 American concert film Live at the Hollywood Bowl. The 1983 feature Monty Python’s the Meaning of Life was the last official group project, although the troupe members subsequently reunited on occasion. Most famously, Cleese and Palin teamed in the hit comedy A Fish Called Wanda, while Gilliam’s directorial efforts like Time Bandits, Brazil, and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen all prominently featured Python alumni. Sadly, Graham Chapman passed away on October 4, 1989. The surviving Pythons have put on occasional reunion shows (the last being Monty Python Live (Mostly): One Down, Five To Go) and a Broadway show based on their classic routines (the 2005 hit Spamalot, which later toured). Idle anchored a musical extravaganza based on The Life of Brian entitled Not The Messiah (He’s A Very Naughty Boy), which featured cameos by Palin and Jones, while Gilliam dressed in a tuxedo to deliver one line!
Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, The
Published in 1966 by author Robert A. Heinlein, this science fiction allegory of the American Revolutionary War features the moon as a penal colony that revolts against the Earth’s rule.
While he appears to have been a historical figure and possibly Sir Gawain’s brother, Mordred is known mainly as a figure of medieval legend. Traditionally said to be King Arthur Pendragon’s nephew, according to some sources, he was also Arthur’s foster son and the son of Arthur’s sister Morgan(a) la Fey, who, in certain versions of the legend, seduced her brother in order to give birth to a son who would one day defeat him. In Sir Thomas Malory‘s Le Morte d’Arthur, and also possibly historically, Arthur had all children born on the day of Mordred’s birth set adrift. The ship carrying Mordred was wrecked, but he survived and was fostered by Lord Nabur the Unruly. Some claim Mordred was the youngest son of Queen Morgause of Orkney, and was raised as a son of her husband King Lot. As an adult, Mordred became one of Arthur’s knights, and was a companion of Lancelot for a time. When Arthur went off to battle Lancelot, Mordred was left to rule as regent in his absence. He proclaimed Arthur dead and then pursued Guinevere, making Arthur’s return necessary. According to Geoffrey of Monmouth (1100–1155), Mordred seized the throne while Arthur was on his Roman campaign. Ly Myreur des Historires by Jean d’Outremeuse claims Mordred survived the Battle of Camlann, the traditional final conflict between he and King Arthur, and was later defeated by Lancelot. Lancelot later executed Guinevere (possibly because he thought she had willingly complied with Mordred) and incarcerated Mordred with her dead body, which Mordred was forced to eat before eventually dying of starvation. According to Wace’s Alliterative Morte Arthure, however, Mordred was not Arthur’s son, but Guinevere’s brother, and it was their incest that produced a child. In Welsh tradition, Mordred married Cywyllog, daughter of Caw, and they had two sons. In the earliest Welsh sources, Mordred seems to have been regarded as a hero rather than a villain.
One of the two main species of humanoids from H.G. Wells’ classic 1895 novel The Time Machine, the unattractive Morlocks live below ground as the working-class species. This is in contrast to the beautiful Eloi, who live above the ground in an idyllic setting. The race has been depicted in big-screen versions of Wells’ novel in 1960 and again in 2002.
The main circuit board of a microcomputer, containing connectors to attach the central processing unit (CPU) and main system memory, as well as circuitry to control disk drives, keyboard, monitor and peripheral devices.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
Winner of the 1972 Newberry Medal, the Robert C. O’Brien novel relates the adventures of a community of animals on a farm. When widowed mouse Mrs. Frisby must have the cinder block she lives in moved before plowing season starts, she enlists the help of the feared rats. At the mention of the name “Frisby,” the super-intelligent rats are eager to help her … but why? While assisting the Frisbys, the rats develop the Plan: a design for a civilization in which they will grow their own food, make their own tools, and be totally independent far away from humans.
The story was adapted into the 1982 Don Bluth film The Secret of NIMH.
Microsoft’s disk operating system originally written by Tim Paterson and introduced in August 1981, MS-DOS allows the user to navigate, open, and otherwise manipulate files on a computer from a command line. Last updated in 1994 when version 6.22 was released, MS-DOS is no longer widely used, but the command shell (more commonly known as the Windows command line) is still used by many users.
This alcoholic beverage, found on the remote planet Higgin’s Moon in the Joss Whedon series Firefly, was used to simultaneously feed the laborers (also known as “mudders,” as mud was the planet’s only export) and keep them submissive. According to Jayne Cobb, it contains “all the protein, vitamins and carbs of your grandma’s best turkey dinner … plus 15% alcohol!”
In the world of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series of books, a person born with no magical abilities. Colloquially, it is now used as a term for someone who lacks skill in any particular area.
A theoretical version of the universe, in which any number, and even an infinite number, of parallel universes and realities may exist.
Munchkin (card game)
Enter the dungeon … kill everything … backstab your friends and steal their stuff … grab the treasure and run! In this fast-paced and laugh-out-loud silly card game designed by Steve Jackson, players compete to kill monsters and grab magic items with such elegant names as the Horny Helmet, Boots of Butt-Kicking, Staff of Napalm, and the Chainsaw of Bloody Dismemberment. Players start out by slaughtering the Potted Plant and the Drooling Slime, then work their way up to the Plutonium Dragon. Designed by Steve Jackson and debuting in 2001, Munchkin now has twenty different stand-alone spinoff card games (all of which can be combined) and over twenty expansions.
Mystery Science Theater 3000
Begun on Minneapolis local television station KTMA, and later broadcast on cable television giants Comedy Central and SciFi Channel, Mystery Science Theater 3000, or MST3K, as its also known, featured one human and two puppet hosts, who did comedic commentary on schlock science fiction films from the 1950s to the 1980s. First hosted by creator Joel Hodgson and later by writer Mike Nelson, the show ran from 1988 to 1999, and featured the voice talents of Trace Beaulieu and Kevin Murphy.