April 2011

Chameleon vs iPhone – It’s on!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1e9ub-7CFnY&w=640&h=390]

Steve got his first iPhone the other week. Apparently the sight of me constantly tweeting and instagramming at conventions has finally proven too much for his iron like resolves…or it could just be because he loves Angry Birds with a frankly terrifying passion. Either way he’s now one of us and I find myself one step closer on my quest to make him read digital comics. So far, aside from some rampant sabotaging by Ryan Brannon of Cold Callers, he seems to be enjoying his new toy, but I wanted to take a chance to warn him of a key safety point that isn’t covered in the woefully thin instruction booklet:

Chameleons will mess yo phone up, son!

Beware Cold Callers bearing reptiles, Bunkerites.

D
x

(thanks to Geekosystem for the vid)

Kapow Diary 4: Frank Quitely, the Guinness Book of World Records and the Trouble with Gibbons (Pt 1)

You should always try to meet your heroes. There is a reason they’re your heroes. Frank Quitely is a genius. Capable of mixing line work with beautific composition like a parisian master in between the erratic highs of victorian period heroin and a sharp dose of Absinthe. Man’s a magician of the highest order and I respect him greatly. He is an Alan Silverstri. One of those artists that you pull out of the drawer when you want to make a million bucks on a comic book. You could write about Ingrid Bergman’s feet – nobody cares because Silvestri or Quitely’d make them look better than Ingrid’s herself!!

It should also be said that there is a fine art in the meeting of your heroes. One of them is not to tell them loudly about your mate’s baby’s unnaturally hard head. But I did and that was the least of it. I didn’t even limit it to my all time hero, I scattered my absurd intros to any legend of comicdom that’d stop and listen. For f@ck’s sake don’t make eye contact with me – I’ll tell you my Nan’s name!

I arrived at the Kapow Comicon on Saturday with a zen-like attitude towards what would take place. As far as I was concerned I’d roll up with the kit, set up the tables, sell some books and make our way. But this plan was shot to buggery. Firstly, its important to understand that artists do enjoy a certain degree of anonymity as they move around these comic cons. People know them for their work but they don’t know them on sight. Some artists defy this by looking exactly like you think they will. John Romita Jr looks like he’ll plug yer as soon as look at yer on some newspaper strewn street, Dave Gibbons looks like the friendly old penciller you’d expect to see sitting quietly and calmly at a drawing board under a arm lamp finalising the finishing touches on his latest piece, Brian Bolland looks like a gentlemen who can’t let a page go ’til he has lovingly and caringly cross created it like a kindly Gepetto fashioning his wooden boy and so on. Simon Bisley looks like a biker etc, etc. But only when you know who they are – by dint of they’re career they are an invisible presence. They’re an unseen hand, leaving a slap mark on the rump of the comic industry without anybody getting a good look at them.

But they are also the bass guitarist to the Writers lead singer. The artist, at his height is what gives the fans what they need and drives the lyric and lead guitar forward. You get an action sequence, that my friends is the artists guitar solo. Pyow, Nyoooow, rooooooow. (Ahem). They have the capacity to enthrall and infuriate. Its on the strength of their work alone – except for extremely gifted autistics who can read a book front to back in a second – that a book is initially picked up. They’re the good guys who never say a wrong word – cos they never write one down. And I was about to run into a few of them.

The Guinness Book of Records event was being set up at the far end of the event, by the IGN stands and the entrance. An intention to create a comic book using the greatest number of artists in one day. The original script being written by Mark Millar and then possibly expanded upon, I later overheard, by other script writers. It was a great idea. The pages split into three panels, an artist taking on one each and producing a full length comic book to be printed by Marvel comics that afternoon.

Having missed the E-mail I went down to the stand it was all taking place at (by the IGN stand at the front) to sign up which I did. Up on the stage was Leinil Yu and Frank Quitely, quietly finishing their panels. This was a quiet sight with not many people around and the Guinness Book of Records crew oblivious to who was sitting there. They didn’t care. They don’t read comic books. They read the Guinness Book of Records and the Roy Castle Autobiography. Anyway, I found myself in a strange predicament as I was the only one aware of the importance of the two gentlemen sitting in front of me. These were giants of the industry. These were the poster boys for the industry I’m trying to break into. However, they were also practitioners of the art I want to be part of and so should be afforded professional courtesy right. Professional courtesy probably extends to not bothering them while they’re working on a taped off raised table but what the hell – this was Frank Quitely and Leinil Yu.

I said to one of crew ‘, Woah. That’s Frank Quitely and Lienil Yu.’
‘Oh’, he replied politely in a way that I would if someone had said ‘Woah. That’s Tamara Beckwith and Natalie Pong,’ (I made the second name up which gives you some perspective).
‘Who are they?’ The Guinness representative inquire, helpfully, realising he might need to know.
I did well here in keeping calm but I mentioned ‘All Star Superman, X-Men, Hulk, Wolverine’ ‘Geniuses, ‘ and ‘in awe’ at least once.
‘You should meet them.’ the Guinness representative said. What a prick. What f@cking unhelpful, cheerful, friendly prick.
‘No I shouldn’t,’ I said – thinking on some level that I shouldn’t.

In this discourse Leinil Yu stood up. signed off on his panel and started moving off the stage. As he did so Lucy Unwin, the organiser, moved in to shuffle him off. Yu seemed kinda placid and calm. I moved forwards with the intention of talking to him. I stopped short of saying touching him. What would I want to touch him for? Weird. Whatever. It actually wasn’t about touching but by now Lucy was very efficiently whisking Leinil away. However, still sitting unguarded by the surrounding Guinness Book of Records representatives, still oblivious to the pure legend they had sitting amongst them quietly unaware, was Frank Quitely. Now I could be properly mental. As the Guinness representative insisted ahead of me that I should introduce myself as he’s my hero – I felt that pull. The feeling I get when I’m entering uncertain psychological territory and the edges of my behaviour begin to thin. I focussed sharply, trying to occupy my mind on simply introducing myself to my long time hero. So I went the other way. Not wanting to be a fanboy.

So I caught his attention. ‘Vincent,’ I said.

The thing you have to understand is that I had written about Quitely, and Leinil Yu and many other of the other Practitioners present at Kapow (Mark Millar, John Romita Jr, Brendan McCarthy, Dave Gibbons) in a series of articles I’ve written for this site – never once thinking about what it would mean when I met them. I can tell you right now when you’re faced with a hero and hopefully, one day, a colleague you admire and respect the weirdest thing to know – and something I don’t usually – is what school they went to – or their real name. Frank Quitely’s is Vincent, Vincent Deighan. And I’d just used it like I knew him. And I don’t. Never met him in my life. And obviously, neither has he. And now he was looking at me wondering if I knew him.

So things had changed now. I knew Frank Quitely by name and he’d turned and expected a mate or a colleague but it was a man, scruffy like an ancient sheep who came to tell him he loved him. Using your actual name and then telling them you love him didn’t seem apt. So my brain opted for another angle. One that justified the use of his personal name…

BEN MORGAN! Ben Morgan was my partner on the original Beyond the Bunker and lived in Edinburgh. He had claimed a short while ago that he had been drinking with Frank Quitely. ‘If you’re lying Morgan I’ll fly to the South side of the Forth and nut you you bear tree mother f@cker’ I thought at that point. Frank acknowledged the association and said he hadn’t seen him since before he had his son. He then waited quietly while I told him that ‘ things have been rough for Ben recently, he’s only just got a job.’ Who the f@ck cares about Benjamin Morgan my brain was telling me on some level – give him your book, tell him you love him – his WORK – YOU LOVE HIS WORK (F@CK’S SAKE!)

This was supposedly enough of a connection for me so I asked if he was going for a drinks tonight and he said ‘yeah, he most probably would,’ and he asked where was good to go. I didn’t know. I’d been drinking round the area in recent weeks and had completely forgotten the name of any pubs. So now I was arranging to go for a pint with the guy on the basis and that he had had a drink with one of my mates in Edinburgh and a three minute conversation.

I chucked him Moon 1, saying we were making it available to legends (thereby swinging back into fanboy territory again). He seemed to like it, politely flicking through it and nodding occasionally saying it was good.

It’s hard to know what the right response you’re looking for is. ‘This is the finest piece of artwork I have seen for some time! I would like to mentor you and introduce you to the commissioning editors of DC,’ would be nice. So I accepted his acknowledgement that he could see a marked improvement in the work as the book progressed which was nice of him.

I maintained the pub talk and suggested I’d let him know where we were all going if I saw him about the place again. As I maintained the conversation I could feel the dread moment, I could feel mysef heating up as the steady realisation that I was maintaining a sensible conversation with one of my heroes began to dawn on me. I had to back out before I said something stupid (something I proved was an accurate concern later on) and I’m pretty sure my eyes went all boggly. I’m not sure its a visible tick but they were definitely wider than they were meant to be. So I legged it, booked in at 3.30pm to come back and do my stint on the Guinness Book of Records stand.

BE BACK HERE TOMORROW TO SEE WHAT HAPPENED AT 3.30PM

The Many Faces of Moon

Morning chaps,

It’s a well known adage that there is no such thing as a truly original story and that all we do is find new ways of expressing old ideas. With that in mind I thought I’d spend a bit of time cruising Google for examples of other people who have, at some point in history, told the tale of a man with a Moon for a head. I tell you now, it was 10 mins well spent. 😉

The Classic Moon

Those of you of the more literary persuasion will already be familiar  with Enid Blyton’s 1939 Children’s classic “The Faraway Tree“. You may also be aware that the book features a character named Moon-face who has a big round face and owns a house filled entirely with round furniture (and you thought OUR book was mental). What you may not have been aware of is that there exists an entire subset of people who refuse to read Faraway Tree because they find Moon-Face to quite indescribably creepy. Having discovered this picture, I’m somewhat included to agree with them. It’s not so much that he has a Moon for a head, it’s that he appears to have a normal head which has been horrifically inflated in some kind of dreadful chemical accident…and that he’s stealing children…in his pajamas.

The Wrong Moon

Credit for this and the next few images goes to Stupid Comics who are involved in the extremely noble field of “finding examples of how old comics are insane”. If I ever manage to write a line so inspired as “I have no mouth to talk and explain that I’m just an ordinary human with the WRONG HEAD!” then I will be able to retire a happy man. It’s also the best example of a letterer screwing up that I’ve seen, I know that scripts can sometimes be unclear but I’m pretty sure the guy by the billboard is perfectly happy with the state of his head…comparatively so at least.

The Mega-Moon

This is another one from Stupid Comics, the similarities here are frankly terrifying. In this version of the book however Moon appears to spend less time saving people from international terrorism and more time staggering around making stuff wet. But then it was the 50s. People did stuff like that in the 50s. Even Moon.

El McMoon

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzF8cYekNHo&w=480&h=390]

It seems that during the late 80s Moon lost all of his principles, dressed up like Shades Rodriguez and started plugging Big Macs in Mexico. Ok, so there is an English version of this advert but for some reason it’s infinitely funnier in Spanish. The really odd thing is that in the original version of the advert the character is orbiting the earth looking down on the new 24 hour McDonalds (which makes about as much sense as a swing playing astral body can do) however in this version Moon is simply dancing around on a massive burger. God bless Mexicans.

So it’s nice to know that we are a part of a long and noble literary tradition. Long may the Moon-fic genre endure!

D
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Kapow Diary 3: The Isle of Wight Burlesque Stick of Rock, the art of queuing and Steve Dillon

At one point during the weekend as I was sat at the table and having worked my way through a not inconsiderable cup of coffee I was offered a piece of Isle of Wight rock. It was sort of dirty orange and maroon or blood coloured in whirly strips. I was feeling a little sideways at the time as I am not nor ever have been particularly stable on coffee. The other issue was that I had been up at 5.30am – something Dan blames me for for living outside London – as if there’s an invisible barrier around the city outside of which nothing relevant could potentially take place. Anyway – I’d fallen out of bed at 5.30am and made my way steadily in – but in the pursuit of sleep there was no time for eating. I’d taken a coffee on nothing, something I did at LCSPE and started tripping. While this was less severe I was getting the odd rush and feeling pretty uneasy.

In this malais, no doubt I was spotted by a sort of stout girl wearing an uneven black dress with a memorably immense cleavage offered me a stick of rock. This took me by surprise as I was in a really good mood but she insisted and I took it. It turned out she’d got this stick of rock from a burlesque dancer from the Isle of Wight festival which mostly made me wonder if the Isle of Wight festival was what I’d pictured it as. Anyway, I accepted it – because it was weird and weird always gets me through the day. It turned out that she was a child minder, though she was quick to insist she rarely dressed like a gothic steam punk tea lady when she was at work.

Meanwhile, on my travels – trying to work off the first coffee – I went to take a look and see if I could skip the queue for a Steve Dillon autograph. It wasn’t for me it was for some guy who was overly enthusiastic when he came to the table. He’d mentioned the coke in his bag several times with a knowing air that suggested he had something that wasn’t limited to coke in his bottle. He waggled it insistently under our noses until, without much pushing, I took a swig. Dan eventually had a crack too having seen that I hadn’t spontaneously shat myself and fallen over sideways. It was rum and coke. It lacked the shock appeal that his own piss would’ve offered but it was preferable in taste. My explanation that in Australia they sell Rum and Coke ready made in bottles was enough for the lads in question to consider buying tickets. That was enough for me – I liked these guys. They were deliberate idiots (in a good way), embracing every new experience as if it wasn’t something that wasn’t fairly plausible and had no doubt been done many times before – something I try myself on slower days. They were talking about a copy of Ultimate Avengers I think they’d bought that was drawn by Steve Dillon (cover unsurprisingly by Leinil Yu).

I offered, because I was high on coffee and because they suggested it and I’d bought a little too much into their psychology, that I’d see if the flimsy blue plastic band around my wrist that identified me as an exhibitioner would give me access to Steve Dillon who was signing on the far side of the room, in the corner. I tried. Steve Dillon sitting at a table with a queue numbering in the hundreds looping around the outside looked like easy pickings. No obvious signs of security. This was Steve Dillon, not George W Bush. The only person between me and him was a rather pretty organiser with blonde hair and a flowery dress and a badge that said Staff. But this was Dillon. Artist on Preacher. Surely it’d be artistic irony to pop the young lady in the nose and walk over to Dillon’s table as if nothing’s happened like Jesse Custer after the word of God. But I just walked over to the lady and she answered politely, clearly wondering why someone my age would think this wasn’t an obvious situation, that ‘it wouldn’t be fair on the hundreds of other people waiting.’ This I had to concede as I knew it all ready and I sidled off doing my best to let her know I’d clearly thought so.

On the way back I found a man with ginger hair sitting at a table on the end of an aisle. It was a perfect position and laid out in front of him was my artwork on the cover of Fallen Heroes and more importantly in the identification of the man in question a set of piles of Burke and Hare; the book written by Martin Conaghan – who is adapting Fallen Heroes. This made him Will Pickering, the master draftsmen of the title. If you haven’t already, you should pick up a copy of Burke and Hare when you get the chance – its better than the film and not particularly related to it as its based on the facts for a start…. Will’s a nice guy but in this particular case he was struggling with an issue it was hard to see a solution to. Wrapped around the table was a queue for JRJR, John Romita Jr, one of the biggest names in comic book art. Fear that the queue would move on without them had gripped the people inside it as they were now close to the man in question so no sales were being done at all. This is the nightmare scenario as you’re blocked off by the people you’re supposed to be trying to sell to. MyseIf and Dan were concerned briefly about the DC stand opposite for basically the same reason but this was entirely another level. I had a speedy chat with Will and returned to the table.

The lads were on their way away from the table at this point and I pulled them back to buy a copy – the effort I’d gone to alone justifying the sale. But I still had the stick of rock. I hadn’t put much thought into it but it became clear it wasn’t normal. Friends of the Bunker came by to see how we were getting on and I offered it to them. They refused on the grounds that it looked weird and ‘like it had blood in it’. The ongoing tale of Isle of Wight Burlesque rock was beginning to look like it wasn’t going to go any further and get left under a table in Islington. What perhaps didn’t help was that I discovered it was a little bendy. As a result nobody wanted it at all. The day progressed and I had of course unceremoniously arranged to go for a pint with a famous person on the grounds that he drank with a mate of mine in Edinburgh – thereby creating a presumably inescapable bond in my head for those brief moments. As the day drew on and the Rum and Coke and coffee was allayed by a lovely delivery of food and drink (another coffee) by Dan’s parents who were surprised and impressed by how normal the whole thing was, I came to realise that short of pursuing Frank Quitely around the building and making arrangements with him by asking him where he was going and what he was doing and with who – it was unlikely that I would be going for a pint with him. This meant that I stopped thinking too hard about what we were going to do after the shut down on Saturday night and more obvious options presented themselves.

As everyone packed up for the day – putting everything under our table or in a clear indicator of the futility of this act simply putting the table cloth up over it, I noticed that Will was packing his things and was getting ready to head out. He’d had a tougher day than me – most likely, though not definitely without access to rum and coke or a second coffee as his parents were most likely in Scotland, and certainly because of the immense queue around him the whole day. I thought… how to cheer him up and we started making for the door. Suddenly I remembered something and ran back to the table to collect something that might sort him out. As he threw his bag over his shoulder I reappeared, beaming and handed him the Isle of Wight Burlesque Rock that looked like it had blood in it. He duly accepted it and I suspect probably threw it in a bin outside.

Kapow in Pictures

Evening all,

I’m still recovering somewhat from the mania that was Kapow Comic Con. We got a lot of interest in the book over the weekend and it looks like we’re gonna be pretty busy for some time to come, which is rather nice. I’m pretty neck deep in work on the Clancy Wallencheck Fallen Heroes spin off this week, but I have managed to find time to upload some of the many photos from the event so that those of you who couldn’t make it can feel like you were really there.

Seems like everybody took this photo at some point during the day. It’s rare that you get such a good vantage point and can really appreciate the scale of an event like this. It also shows of just what a lovely venue the Business Design Centre really is. I know the temptation is going to be to move it to a bigger venue in years to come, but I really hope they stay put. It’s a splendid place.

The Warner Bros Stand was directly opposite the Beyond the Bunker one. This meant that not only were we driven insane by the Arkham City Trailer but we got glared at disapprovingly by Superman for 2 days straight.

One of our fellow exhibitors drew this fantastic pic of our Moon headed hero which I sat grinning at for the rest of the day. I genuinely love it when people do stuff like this, especially when it’s as good a pic as this one.

The BTB stand at the end of Saturday. We sold almost every copy of the book that we brought with us on the day (and we brought a lot of em). I probably could have retaken this one so it was less blurry, but I don’t think I’d have gotten as good an expression as Steve is pulling here. Really sums up the mood at that time.

Bidding a fond farewell to Kapow at the end of a busy day. It’s odd, I’ve been doing stand up gigs around Angel for years and yet I’ve never once noticed the BDC before. This probably has something to do with it not having a massive Hal Jordan slapped on the front of it during that time but it could also be because I don’t pay enough attention to exhibition centres.

We’ve got a few more pics still to go up (including some of the Beyond The Bunker stand itself) so check back later for those. In the meantime, if you want to really recreate that Kapow experience you can go to the BTB store and buy a copy of Moon for yourself. Always working. 😉

D
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Mortal Kombat Character Auditions

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwO5I4QXmuc&w=640&h=390]

The geniuses over at Machinima have produced a whole lot of amazing stuff over the years, this one particularly tickled me though. Turns out that back in the 90s there were a whole lot of characters who wanted to get into the Mortal Kombat franchise but were turned down. Those audition tapes were kept secret…until now.

The Link one is beautiful.

D
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Kapow Diary 2: What we didn’t see…

Inevitably as an exhibitioner, even one doing the wander around – you miss things inevitably and there was a hell of line up over the course of the weekend. The day was high end and everyone involved (from IGN, Millarworld, Clint and the Business Design Centre) – had pulled out all the stops. Behind us was Markosia, run by Harry Markos. Markosia is effectively the mainstay of the independent comic book scene. I’d been lucky enough to meet up with Harry once before. We didn’t realise he was behind us until half way through the first day. I arrived at the 2000AD stand too late for a portfolio review because I hadn’t had a chance to find out where it was. The way to define a convention is not just by what you see but what you miss. Turns out, after a little scraping away it becomes clear there were some genuine diamonds just out of sight (if heavily sign posted).

Of course, Mark Millar was present but was effectively operating on an entirely different level to the rest of the place. Like a machiavellian god with Postman Pat hair he was only spotted by us once throughout the entire event. News I had back however was that he was friendly, cordial and helpful about the place. Millar is on a pedestal in an industry populated by people who are often happier being ashamed of themselves and both myself and Dan, when presented with an opportunity to meet him – didn’t want to bother him – advice I could’ve given myself earlier in the day (more on that in another blog). It was inevitable that Millar was going to take some flak across the bows for having the gall to elevate comic books above the level it has been stuck at over the last ten years. Regardless of his intentions or reasons, Kapow was a massive success with things popping out of woodwork all over the joint if you were looking.

Jonathan Ross reportedly nailed a show over on one side of the room while Quitely and Leinil Yu quietly began the proceedings on the Guiness World Record attempt to involve the most people in a single comic book in one day on the opposite side, down by the IGN stand (something I managed to be involved in). The sheer scale of what was taking place was enormous. Chris Hemsworth was in the building at some point for the Thor launch and there was talk of a mystery movie – which clearly was so unimpressive that we still don’t know what it was. Highlighted as Movie X, myself and Dan distracted ourselves from the replaying Batman/ Green Lantern game promos playing repeatedly in front of us by taking guesses as to what it’d be about.

X-Men: First Class? Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman (Jonathan Ross’ wife) have close connections with Millar following Kick Ass last year. Thor? Chris Hemsworth in place you’d think they wouldn’t bother flying him over for that one if they could preview the film. Kick Ass 2 was suggested at one point though the liklihood that messrs Vaughn and Goldman knocked out a major sequel quietly with no PR or evidence of production seemed a little far fetched. Things turned again when it was revealed (by a bloke somewhere) that it was an 18 and involved a guy in cape. At that point we gave up. If anybody’d taken a look at the Kapowcomiccon site it clearly said there was preview footage of Hobo with a Gun. Starring Rutger Hauer as the aforementioned hobo it looks like a breakneck ‘Braindead’/ ‘Bad Taste’ mash up. Someone even lets ol’ Rutger do a little ‘burning off the orion belt’ ad libbing while staring at a baby. Nobody expected this? This looks like a great movie! Why don’t they just call it Rutger Hauer is a vengeful tramp! You wouldf have had to have chained me to something to stop me from kicking the doors down to see it!

But there was bigger news in that the Green Lantern movie looks like its back on track. 8 minutes were played of the film – in excess of the 4 available online and everyone was turned as a result. CG more intact, tone a little heavier and more intelligent and obscure images from the original trailer resolved in the new material. This is good news as we here at the Bunker had dismissed the Green Lantern movie as a disappointer of the masses based on the previous output but right now we’ve got the focus back on. I’ll admit Geoffrey Rush as Tomar Re took me by surprise. The whole thing is

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnSicg5eRsI

Also out there was Attack the Block’s writer and first time director Joe Cornish of Adam and Joe who was doing signings and photos at the IGN stand while I was drawing. The crowd was being ‘entertained’ by a guy who looked and sounded like he’d be happier at the X-Games than a comic convention and locked onto the idea that Spider-man 3 was shit to exactly one person’s noisy agreement. Meanwhile, pleasant man-child Joe Cornish (responsible for my favourite Radio 6 show by the way) was out of sight making geeks happy. Attack the Block is the story of hoodies battling Aliens in South London and was inspired by Joe getting mugged. The empathy of that man is astonishing. But it looks fukkin’ bo muvver! Bare Good! Check it out.

There were folks from Misfits (Iwan Rheon (Simon) and Lauren Socha (Kelly)), Merlin (Colin Morgan (Merlin)), Bradley James (Arthur), Angel Coulby (Gwen) and Katie McGrath (Morgana) as well as folks (Dakota Blue Richards (Franky), Sean Teale (Nick) and Jessica Sula (Grace)) from Skins, World Exclusive Pilot of Falling Skies and Toby Whithouse, the creator of Being Human. Games previews for Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition, Nintendo 3DS, Lego Star Wars 3, Operation: Flashpoint and Dirt 3 from Codemasters.

Present were Mark Gatiss, Lienil Yu, John Romita Jr, Bryan Hitch, Simon Bisley (which was so last minute I couldn’t find him) Olivier Coipel (apparently), Kevin O’Neill, Paul Cornell (sporting a comedy beard for charity much to his own embarrassment), Noel Clarke, Mick McMahon, Brett Ewins, Brian Bolland, David Lloyd, Andy Diggle, Liam Sharp, Sean Philips, Adi Granov, Chris Weston and Eric Stephenson. Not one of these people I saw.

The important thing is who I did….

Practitioners 27: Frank Cho

We here at Beyond the Bunker hope to list the greatest and best creatives in the history of comic books. In a continuing series (available every week on Tuesday) the most innovative, inspirational and important comic book visionaries will be appearing here. Check on the link below to see if one of your favourites has been included yet.

Frank Cho is a controversial character in current comics. In a market where female depiction has been maligned at times and mistreated, female characters often portrayed as goddesses or weak and endangered victims. Some have broken these rules and if considered more carefully, Cho has in some ways. You will not see a continually weakened or needy figure in a woman but neither will you see a dominant and removed amazon at all times. His female characters dominate with their looks, exposing most of all the weaknesses in the surrounding male counterparts and the effect a beautiful woman can have. Not always sympathetic, at times mysoginistic in its post card humour level of nudity, Cho’s work hails back to older (and not entirely gone) ideals. While women now can (and should) enjoy all the same rights as men in society why can we not still marvel at their appearance as an ideal? While both sexes obsess about the ideal image of women in society, Frank Cho has decided on his and he loves them dearly – and frankly would like us to too.

The second of three children, Frank Cho, born Duk Hyun Cho, he was born near Seoul, Korea in 1971, but moved to the United States at the age of six, raised on Beltsville, Maryland. After graduating High Point High School in 1990, he attended Prince George’s Community College where he got a scholarship to attend the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, which he declined because he disliked the school’s academic focus. Cho ended up transferring to the University of Maryland School of Nursing, which he says was his parent’s idea. Cho eventually graduated with a B.S. in Nursing in 1996. None of this is relevant however because his education never impacted on his art work.

Cho received no formal training as an artist. Looking at his work this defies belief as his line work and control of layouts, composition and detailing is level to the most advanced draftsmen.

He got his start writing and drawinga cartoon strip called ‘Everything but the Kitchen Sink’ in the weekly Prince George’s Community College Newspaper ‘ The Owl’ where he was also comics editor. He then started drawing the daily comic strip University2 for the Diamondback, the independent student newspaper of the University of Maryland, College Park. After graduation, Cho adapted elements of his work for use in a professionally syndicated comic strip, in the form of Liberty Meadows, in which Cho created a comedic comic strip about the activities of the staff and denizens of the titular animal sanctuary / rehabilitation clinic.

In it Cho mixed up his styles freely borrowing Walt Kelly’s (classic American animator and cartoonist) style of drawing anthropomorphic animals, throwing in savage muscle men, apes and dinosaurs in an elaborate homage to multiple illustrators, including Frank Frazetta and Barry Windsor-Smith’s original Conan the Barbarian run. Cho even referenced other comic strips in his own with cameos by Calvin and Hobbes, Lil Abner, Hagar the Horrible and Dilbert. He created a weird little world he found personally appealing and others did too. He made cultural references from Michelangelo to the movie Deliverance and adverts for Crest Toothpaste.

But it was Brandy Carter – a beautiful animal psychiatrist and Jen – Brandy’s roomate. A sexy Rocket scientist who enjoys toying with men, the central characters that caught the affections of most of the readership. Many assume Cho began with Good Girl art as he is second only perhaps to the legendary Adam Hughes in reknown for his versions of vaguely realistically depicted (if unrealistically proportioned) beautiful ladies. In this respect, Cho borrowed predominantly from Dave Stevens, the creator of the lavishly designed Rocketeer comic book who died in 2008. His good girl artwork was part of what made Rocketeer a massive success, thanks to clear, beautifully rendered anatomy (male and female) and exaggerated bomber art style.

Cho signed a fifteen year contract with Creators Syndicate, an independent distributor of comic strips and syndicated columns for daily newspapers. Cho has since admitted this seemed a long time eventually but blamed it on ‘having a bad lawyer.’ Getting tored of Newspaper censorship, Cho severed his contract with Creators Syndicate and converted Liberty Meadows to a monthly publication. It was during this period that Cho came into contact with Marvel comics as part of more wide professional material he has worked on independently over the years. For Marvel, in 2005, he completed a 7-issue run of Shanna the She-Devil. His Shanna series was supposed to feature ‘mature’ artwork, including nude drawings of the heroine, but Marvel baulked at the last moment and decided to have Cho censor his already completed pages for the first five issues and the final two featuring no nudity. Cho has since hinted that Marvel plans to release a hardcover version under the MAX Imprint, which’ll contain his uncensored artwork.

Frank Cho pencilled issues 14 and 15 of New Avengers for Marvel Comics. These issues include trademark Cho-isms; the character of Wolverine is depicted wearing a t-shirt that bears the logo “Beltsville”, and many Liberty Meadows characters make cameo appearances.

Cho frequently makes use of absurd or anachronistic elements in his work, such as dinosaurs, pin-up girls, and Pogo-style anthropomorphic animals. He also enjoys breaking the fourth wall, frequently inserting himself into his work in the guise of a talking chimpanzee, and on several occasions he has drawn strips that feature his characters interacting with other popular syndicated features (for example, a character stuck in a pipe being ejected into a nearby panel apparently taken from Blondie).

To dismiss Cho as a good-girl artist is to fail to acknowledge his sheer ability. The most talented artists are always reknowned and gain success by doing what they do best and Cho is globally reknowned for drawing exceptionally beautiful women. For as long as men like ladies, men like Frank Cho will excel. If his words are as much to bring forward a beautiful female form then all the better. No one reads a Frank Cho book for plot or insight. His is a world populated by Garfield and Hagar. What he presents and represents is not a depiction of a world as it is (or as it should be) but as we like it on a page. Frank Cho’s depiction of the female form has become the reason to read Frank Cho works and the reason is that it is art that is worthy of acknowledgment. If you have to alter a plot to incorporate a Cho femme then you will. Much in the same way that you would alter a plot for Frank Miller to incorporate muscle. Cho is not a limited artist that is at his peak, he is an incredible artist that has been limited by popular demand. His good-girl art so strong that a Cho work without a strongly built, busty beauty inside it is an enormous disappointment. Frankly, I’m sure its an expectation that Cho is willing to bare.

He illustrated the first six issues Marvel Comics’ 2007 relaunch of Mighty Avengers with writer Brian Bendis. He is the plotter and cover artist of Dynamite Entertainment’s Jungle Girl. Cho drew issues 7-9 of Hulk, which were published in 2009.

When Artists Collide: Moon line work to colour (Penfold to Matilla)

Ivanna Matilla enhanced massively the artwork in Moon 1 and is ready for more. Iv doesn’t need to work with us at this stage as she’s beginning to get the commissions she deserves. I was pleased to get good critiques on my pencil and ink work from comics editor for Clint Magazine, really great bloke with genuine interest in the scene – who even bought a copy of Moon to add to his collection. In many ways I’ve been aware since Iv’s reactions to some of my line work (constructive of course) that there was room for improvement and I’m stepping up for Issue 2 – you can see a style change and sharpening of the line work by the end of Moon 1, something that was confirmed by Frank Quitely as he flicked through his own copy.

BE BACK HERE ON THURSDAY FOR MASSIVE FALLEN HEROES NEWS! NEW CREATIVE TEAM AND NEW TITLE ANNOUNCED!!

Kapow Diary 1: View from the desktop.

We arrived at Kapow comicon early ready to set up and were presented with a full scale building front featuring Hal Jordan (photos on their way). I’d been in the hangar that is the Business Design Centre, Islington before for a job interview for a creative recruitment consultant position at a neat little place at the back of the hall. Its an enormous hangar space with windows running across the ceiling and the business centre placed in rectangular office spaces at its centre. While there was IGN gaming stands at the front – and a massive red balloon – the convention proper took place on the top of these office spaces underneath the curved hangar roof. Talking about it now we’re pretty sure – given the success of the weekend – it’ll likely upgrade to Excel at some stage but this was the best venue I’ve stood inside for a long old time. The difference was that this time we had a convention under our belts and more than a hundred sales. Kapow was where we were going to prove that Moon can shift against the best of the best – lined up against Gosh! and Markosia et al this weekend was our testing ground – and its fair to say it went well.

Not faultlessly. While Dan was his usually damn organised self I was still me and while I did the things I do best – I also made sure – in order to keep things even- that I create a little weird. In a weekend in which a famous director would refuse to sign our book because it wasn’t his, in which I got a stick of rock I couldn’t get rid of and created a distinctly awkward air around some of my heroes, its fair to say there was an incredible amount of weird. Finding my name on the front of a book I had nothing to do with was a highlight. Over the week I’ll fill you in on what my weekend was like…. I was planning a straightforward single blog but I’ve listed them down and I’ve got a surprising amount of material. A lot of it involving Frank Quitely. Sadly for him. Poor bastard.

But taking to table 72 we were facing the DC stand – I wasn’t aware of a Marvel one. While I sidestepped out pretty much for all of Saturday thanks to my low threshold on caffeine and my attention deficit issues, Dan sat manfully slowly losing his mind to the gods of unreleased gaming. On the opposite view screen, between a table selling fairly lacklustre and pretty unmemorable DC images and a fairly grim looking plastic Superman statue which we began to think was staring us out, was playing three trailers – totalling no more than 5 minutes material in total – on repeat. For the sake of completeness and in order, partially, to drive Dan even more mental I’ve posted the three up below. Trailer for Arkham City (already posted here by Dan), an in game footage preview of Arkham City and the CG trailer for the Green Lantern game.

While all three (the Arkham trailer) in particular are a work of CG art, advancing the cinematic further than its ever been before – if me or Dan see one of these again we are going to take whatever its playing on and send it stone age. We like you IGN but more hour and a half trailers please in future – with musical interludes. Maybe episodes of the Muppet show. Just a suggestion.

The view from above at the Business Design Centre, Islington. Photo by Mitch Layden from Glasgow.

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