December 2010

The Twelve Geeks of Christmas – Saturday Morning Watchmen

As a thank you for all your support over our first few months of being operational, we’re giving you twelve days worth of geeky videos, hand picked and guaranteed to raise a smile. Enjoy.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDDHHrt6l4w&fs=1&hl=en_GB]

Happy Christmas everyone. Hope you like the first video we’ve picked and that it tastes good with your stuffing. I recommend watching this and then watching the watchmen movie and trying not to laugh. It’s not an easy feat.

Tune in tomorrow for the next vid.

D
x

Practitioners 10: Grant Morrison

With the upcoming Kablam! Comicon in London I discovered whilst rolling through the list of legends that no less than 15 people intended to appear in ‘The Practitioners’ are due to appear there. So over the next… um …. 15 weeks – one will be posted each Tuesday until the big weekend. Excelsior!!

All Star Superman 6 (DC, 2006)

Grant Morrison is a scottish comic book writer and playwright born 31 January 1960 who harnesses and embraces the full power of pseudo-science, age old magic and high end zen heavy weaponry in the pursuit of perfect storytelling in comic books, drawing on a bewildering array of sources to bring forth the borderline lunatic and the emotionally real through storytelling as broadly wild as Frankenstein tearing apart a future-human/insectoid master race three billion years in our future at the end days of Planet Earth or permitting James ‘Wolverine’ Logan a respite as he muses at a pin-up girl above the urinals in the Hellfire Club has ‘got the same eyes as that girl in Arnhem Land, 1943.’

All Star Superman

Never scared of the poignant or the difficult Morrison has the canny knack of shifting seamlessly from the scientific explanation of a Voyager Titan mentally preparing to be launched into deep space for centuries in All Star Superman to the very real failure of Scott Summers to retain his marriage in the wake of post traumatic stress he is unable to express in New X-Men. It his acknowledgment of the need to ground – at least to the degree required for a readers’ mind if not in real terms – absurd statements and events with less abstract and more concise human situations and scenarios, underpinning everything with realistic and recognisable reactions.

He recognises, as all great writers perhaps do – no matter how many stars and space cannons are exploding around the main characters – that it is the individual humanity carefully identified by the writer that each character demonstrates that pins the story to the ground and allows it to resonate with the reader. He understands, in the same way that every great writer in any medium did, that if a magical Tempest circles about a Human soul its abstract nature can only be effectively communicated through the soul through means it retains – not simply through the abstract idea of the wind itself. As such Morrison reminds himself to allow his characters to slap their heads in disbelief at his own words if it is in their nature but to allow them to take it in their stride if it is not. It is in these reactions as Lex Luthor remains steadfastly oblivious to the possibility that Clark Kent has saved him as a prison riot rages around them in All Star Superman – assuming, naturally, that he has the situation well under control when in fact Kent continues to use an array of powers beyond his notice to ease his passage and even save him from a blundering Parasite. Kent remaining true to the honest and unassuming character of Superman to great comic effect.

Arcadia Byron of the Invisibles (Vertigo)

Morrison’s first published works were Gideon Stargrave for the brilliantly titled Near Myths in 1978 at the age of 17. Soon followed Captain Clyde, an out of work superhero for the Govan Press, a local newspaper in Glasgow, plus various issues of DC Thomson’s Starblazer, the sister title to the companies Commando title and the New Adventures of Hitler. He spent much of the early 80s touring with his band The Mixers, putting out the odd Starblazer and Zoids strip for DC Thomson.

In 1982 he submitted a proposal for a storyline involving the Justice League of America and Jack Kirby’s New Gods entitled Second Coming to DC. It was dismissed but his fascination of the New Gods no doubt formed the skeleton of the enormous Final Crisis saga in which Darkseid launches armageddon on an unsuspecting world in a second age of the New Gods using Earth and its inhabitants as hosts and demonic incubators. His desire to write DC’s primary superhero group was no doubt sated with his long run on JLA in 1996 to revamp the team and bring it up to date which he pulled off with Rock of Ages, Earth 2 and World War 3 (in no particular order).

At every stage he proved time and time again that he expanded the material handed to him – writing for 2000AD with Big Dave, Future Shocks and the unusually superhuman for 2000AD – Zenith under his wing before his tenure at DC.

The Filth with Grant Morrison and Gary Erskine (2003)

Upon crossing the Atlantic he demonstrated immediately his capacity for reinventing fringe characters and enhancing them beyond the original idea – taking the near unknown fringe character Animal Man and not only imbuing his character with the real reactions of a man who could channel the powers and thoughts of animals nearby to him but forced him to look through the fourth wall at the reader – breaking the indefinable rules of the medium in the process to brilliant effect.

Morrison is known for treating mainstream established titles in the same way as fringe titles and this has earned him a status as the great re-inventor in Modern comics. He was the man to make Scott Summer’s cool again as he took hold of the X-men universe and rang the life out of it – a process he tried to make un-reconnable – Killing 16 Million Mutants and giving Professor Xavier an unborn, evil sister who returns as a mind slug and unleashes the Shi’ar navy all over the mansion. Introducing a cavalcade of new Mutants some as hilariously and poignantly useless as ‘Beaky’ the featherless, beaked bird boy who batters in the head of the newly uber-feline and faux gay Beast. Jean Grey dies but for once is given no reason to return – as psychic hyper-bitch and new headmistress of Xavier’s Emma Frost sways Scott Summer’s exhausted heart, filling the emotional vacancy usually left by Phoenix every time she summarily carks it. Magneto is beheaded after destroying half of Manhattan and Xavier’s approaches an actual curriculum and focusses on its students for the first time in its history.

Jean and the Beast (New X-Men, 2002)

Morrison often – whether intentionally or not – represents the discussion boards and blogs of the fans – testing theories that are discussed hypothetically on public pages that no one expected to see them on. Batman is killed and returned and given a son in Morrison’s watch. Jason Todd effectively returns breaking the almighty unwritten rule of comic books – partly you suspect out of sheer bloody mindedness. Morrison finally being characteristically brave to investigate the reality of Dick Grayson under the cowl.

Dick Grayson as Batman (Batman, 2009)

The content of his independent titles have become mainstream – for good or ill – leaving many readers of Final Crisis utterly confused as to what was taking place – an abstract Superman tale in which he passes through multiverses in order to combat an abstract thought form made real in storytelling in an ephemeral world populated by reality vampires via a limbo championed by an indifferent Woody Allen-alike in a jesters outfit in order to save Lois Lane in between her penultimate and final heartbeat borders on the lunatic – but is incredibly detailed and worth the three reads it takes to fully grasp the deliberately overlapping realities thrown at it.

Morrison clearly found a like mind in penciller Frank Quitely, bringing to life the inner workings of Professor X’s mind in New X-Men, the gnarled and diseased but lithely libidoed geriatric in Lust for Life from Jamie Delano’s 2020 Visions (Speakeasy comics, 2005), scraping by each other by two volumes of the Authority – Morrison on Volume 4 with Gene Ha and Quitely on Volume 2 with Mark Millar, empowered the new JLA with a little much-needed modern sheen in the book of the same name in the early naughties and reinvented the greatest super hero of them all in All-Star Superman.

But it was WE-3, the story of three prototype ‘animal weapons’ as they flee the project that ‘enhanced’ them encapsulates the creative partnership. Morrison was meticulous as ever with his descriptions and insisted on consistent and protracted revisions of minute details from Quitely in order to produce a work of rare and fine quality. This certainly was achieved as it was released via Vertigo imprint in 2004 to public and critical acclaim. Morrison’s subtlety and nuance of character supplied each of the fleeing and desperate central characters; a rabbit; a cat and a dog a bewilderingly believable character each recognisable as an individual and the drives and psychology of the animal in question. Morrison’s capacity for invention supplied the narrative with a relatively basic speech pattern simulator for each of the animals allowing them to emote through limited cognitive language in a way not human but beyond its species. The effect is a dizzying, gripping and poignant story of extreme science inflicting havoc and chaos on three innocents’ lives – each reacting in their own very specific way. In many ways WE3 is exceptional and as near perfect as a comic book can get because it uses – perhaps most transparently and as such to best effect – Morrison’s greatest creative methodology – to recognise inherent and recognisable characteristics in vulnerable and capable beings and then inflict seven hells of pseudo lunacy on them – in whatever form seems most fun!

We3 (2004, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

Merry Christmas!!

BTB Film – Monkey-Aid

This week’s film is vaguely festive, though whether you shall retain any love for the holiday season once you’ve witnessed it remains to be seen. In 2005 myself and my university comedy group ‘The Monkeyshine Comedy Club’ recorded a song for charity. It ended up netting about a hundred pounds in donations (largely through threatening to play it a second time) and remains a lasting monument to just why I should never again make a foray into the world of musical comedy. Please do watch, enjoy and then kindly try to forget all you saw here.

Seasons joy to you all,

D
x

Marvel gets Fearsome!

Teaser for the X-Men branch of the event. I must admit to geeking out a little bit when I saw this.

Morning chaps,

If you’ve read Steve’s latest post then you’ll probably have guessed that things are getting rather busy here in the bunker. We have a couple of massive announcements due very soon but in the meantime we’ll continue to bring you all the geeky news you can fit in your face.

Speaking of announcements Marvel had a little proclamation of their own last night. After weeks of teasers and hints, Editor-in-chief Joe Quesada finally unveiled Marvel’s big project for 2011: Launching in April, Fear Itself is a seven issue crossover written by Matt Fraction (Invincible Iron Man, Thor) with pencils by Stuart Immonen (New Avengers).

Speaking at Midtown Comics in Times Square last night, Quesada opened proceedings with a rather curious statement: “All you need to do really is turn on a TV, a computer, a radio, and you’re sure to find a pundit, a politician, a prophet out there ready to tell you what you should be afraid of, who’s responsible and why you should be afraid of them. It’s a world divided. At the end of the day, you’ve got to ask yourself who should you trust? Who do you trust? 24 hour news cycles, weather change, WikiLeaks, depression, recession, bailouts, bankers.” He then handed over to a pre-recorded video from Matt Fraction in which the writer hinted at specifics and gave the usual “nothing will ever be the same!” speech that these events require.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4nIDfHA1Y4&fs=1&hl=en_GB]

So should we be excited about all this? Well, right now my personal jury is out on the matter. On the one hand I’ve gotten less and less interested in mega-crossovers in the last few years. By their very nature they tend to be overhyped and because of the difficulty of coordinating so many different titles all telling the same story, the pacing is often a little wonky in places (remember Secret Invasion?) There’s also the issue that in order to really get the most out of an event you have to dump a tonne of cash into buying all the tie in books so that you get the scope. I did that with Civil War and it was a great comic book experience, but I’m not sure I see myself spending this much again.

But then there are some pros too. I’ll be honest, the high gloss, retro feel of The Heroic Age has been fun but it’s not really produced a great deal of ground breaking material and I can’t see myself trying to get a friend to read Avengers in the same way I would with some of the Civil War/Initiative era stuff. For me Marvel comics are at their best when they’re talking about the real world and if Quesada’s speech is anything to go by, this may well signal a return to that.

The team is a good one too. While events are often the great leveller of talented writers, I really really love Fraction’s work and (as much as love Bendis) it’s refreshing to see somebody else get a crack at a big event like this. Immonen is another personal favourite of mine so the thought of him handling a big event like this is pretty exciting (he’s even handing over his spot on New Avengers to give it his full attention).

There are other factors to think about. For example, the title leads to speculation that the villain could be Phobos, child-god of fear from Secret Warriors and if you know anything about Secret Warriors you know that Phobos is freakin cool. But stuff like this will have to wait until we know more details. For now it’s time to sit back, make wild predictions about who dies and enjoy the cascade of parody work that’s already appearing on the web:

Credit for this goes to Ryan Higgins of the bleedingcool.com forums.

D
x

Normal service has resumed – its just not what’s gone before…

Hi, Steve here.

I will be remiss over the next five weeks – thats all there is to it. When we break it all down Dan’s done his job and now its up to me to finish the job as well as I can. The website is mainly in Dan’s hands from here on in. I will be working closely with Ivanna Matilla and Gat Melvyn, respectively the colourists for Moon and Fallen Heroes. Its time to finish both titles as purely by chance both deadlines fall on the last day of January. The only pity is that the same printing firm aren’t receiving them together as both parties have chosen separate printers.

The absence of one half of Beyond the Bunker will be made up with various posts of previous or currently produced art, Moon previews and pre prepared Practitioners post-ups.

Nice talking to you. I’ll see you when FH and M are ready.

Practitioners 9: Chris Weston

Chris Weston – one of the more understated and unreknowned master draftsmen of English comics – was born in January 1969 in Rintein, Germany and lived in various countries as a child. Things changed for him in 1987 when he came to be apprenticed for a year under Don Lawrence, one of the first generation of UK comic book artists and reknowned for meticulously detailed work that is said to have inspired Brian Bolland and Dave Gibbons. Under Don Lawrence’s tutelage Weston gained an insight into the skills that would make him a quiet mainstay of the UK comics scene securing himself a position on the high beam of Judge Dredd under John Wagner in ‘ A Night at the Circus’ in 1988. His arrival in the British comic circuit was complete.

An assured, meticulous and precise artist he appears at first glance a draftsman before he can be considered an artist. The clarity and realism of his images denoting a controlled and technical skill in advance of most other people in his field. However, perhaps more so than his two counterparts – Bolland and Gibbons – Weston has a wry humour that spills out of his panels and a fierce and aggressive imagination that is enhanced by his realism and precision. As a result he has managed to keep up with some of the sharpest and most consistently abstract minds in the medium.

Predominantly working within DC, Wildstorm and DC Thompson titles he has crossed the atlantic several times to team up with Mark Millar on Swamp Thing, brought the hyper-abstract to life acceptable to the Human eye with on the critically acclaimed The Invisibles with Grant Morrison. His ability to imbed real human feeling to the exceptional has since seen him tackling the most popular fringe titles be published in Starman (DC), JSA (DC), Lucifer (DC) and The Authority (Wildstorm) – in which he had the chance to kill the Pope with a train carriage, consume Manhattan Island in a Super-Tsunami and send a gay pseudo Super-man to the centre of the Earth.

The Filth with Grant Morrison and Gary Erskine (2003)

Arguably, one of his greatest works was when reunited with Grant Morrison on The Filth, a 13 Issue Limited Series inked by his regular inker Gary Erskine. Within the run Weston brought to life Human Size Super-sperms rampaging on the streets of San Francisco, super intelligent scuba dolphins, landscapes made of porn and Human skin, a microcosm super Earth, pseudo maniacal Filth uniforms, vehicles and architecture including a precise and beautifully well realised Gilbert and George running things behind closed doors.

Panel after panel of awe inspiring back drops and mindblowing lunatic spectacle that few artists have managed to create. The intention of The Filth was its blending of both real world and super-states that most Super-hero or other comic books aim to create and illustrate the inner mind of Morrison something only the most adept of artists could begin to cope with. It attacks the idea and it is hard to imagine any other artist who could draw you in to the protagonist injecting his cat, pained at causing it discomfort in a non-descript and run down semi detached somewhere in South London and a Super Intelligent Chimp taking pot shots at the President of the United States – now with bitch tits – on the deck of an enormous city-ship the size of thirty city blocks (a scale he realises in one of the most impressive double page spreads in comic book history in which the aforementioned super-ship is docked in Venice – all decks accounted for and surrounded by the city itself, helicopters and boats and ships.

It is in this that Weston illustrates beautifully the disparity between the work of the artist and work of the writer. While Morrison is highly detailed in his descriptions with Weston if you say ‘a building in the background’ you will get a building correct for its geography and setting, period and price and you’ll get it with every brick visible. Weston rests his feet firmly in both fields of draftsmanship and illustration. Realising ideas most artists would struggle with for page after page within a single panel, succinctly, incredibly accurately and always entertainingly. Absurdity and reality as bedfellows in the mind of a true artist.

A scene from The Filth (2003)

Is TV ready for Jessica Jones?

Jessica as drawn in Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos' 2001-2004 series 'Alias'

We’ve spent a month here at the bunker touching upon the portrayal of women in comics and lamenting the lack of strong, believable female leads so today’s announcement from Marvel comes as a rather pleasant surprise. It seems that the merry Marvel marching band have teamed up with ABC and writer/producer, Melissa Rosenberg (you’ll know her from the Twilight movies and Dexter) to produce a prime time TV show based on the character of Jessica Jones.

Now, if you’re not a big comics fan then there’s a good chance that you’ve never heard of Jess so I’ll do my best to give you a quick rundown. Jessica was once a fairly unremarkable superhero by the name of Jewel but she quit that lift following a traumatic encounter with a villain called Purple Man (you’ll have to take my word that he’s scarier than his name implies) and set up her own detective agency. From here she chain smokes and smart mouths her way through a string of super hero related cases with a kind of modern noir feel. Her adventures are all available to read in a series called Alias (no relation to the TV show of the same name) and you should damn well pick them up if you’ve not already.

Alias a solid gold choice for a TV show. It’s a story about a fearsomely intelligent but heartbreakingly damaged woman, trying to leave an old life behind but constantly being drawn back in. It’s witty, it’s sad and it’s got one of the best female leads in comics, a woman who’s problems are her own and a woman who overcomes them on her own. The real question is perhaps, is American TV ready for such an edgy character as Jessica Jones? The themes in Alias are hardly what you’d call family friendly and elements that make the character work (ie the balance of strength and vulnerability) are so specific that a heavy studio influence would likely derail the entire thing.

Jess as depicted in a fabulous cover from New Avengers. (The baby is Jess and Cage's daughter, Danielle)

I’m defaulting to a stance of cautious optimism on this one. There’s a lot of scope to balls this one up but at the same time Rosenberg is a solid choice and since Jess is one of my all time favourite comic characters, it’s hard not to be excited. It’s also worth pointing out that of the four big comic-to-tv projects in the works right now, three of them have female leads (the other two being DC’s Wonder Woman and Raven with Guillermo del Toro’s Hulk bringing in one for the boys). Throw in that a Jessica Jones series has a good chance of featuring Luke Cage and things are starting to look pretty good for moving comic book properties away from the endless parade of white, male front men. Diversification in our industry is an excellent thing and if Jess is a part of that change it then I’m more than pleased.

I wonder if they’ll include that bumming scene though…

D
x

BTB Classic: The Budgie 3

Scratchy sketch of random animal characters. Possibly the inspiration for the Budgie or inspired by the Budgie, I honestly have no idea. Clearly drawn when I should’ve been paying attention to other stuff. Like it says ‘Don’t fuck with the mammals.’

Friday Film – Kucket

Every Friday we descent into the vaults here at Bunker HQ and dig out one of the many fine (and occasionally not so fine) films that we have produced over the years. Come join us for another instalment of cinematic silliness.

http://vimeo.com/338081
Christmas is a time for families to come together and play stupid games and as such this week we’d like to present to you one of the stupidest games you will ever see. This isn’t strictly a BTB film as neither Steve or I made it, but it is the work of some very good friends of ours and it’s so gloriously odd that it deserves to be passed around this festive season. It’s in fact the work of Ben Thompson (brother of that famous comic book writer) and Joe Worters (the brains behind the mindbogglingly good Redwood House of Music).

There isn’t really anything else I can say to explain this madness. Watch, enjoy and remember that there’s still time to add a kettle and a bucket to your Christmas list.

D
x

Page 2 of 41234