September 2011

The Extraordinary Tales of Monsieur Poppaleux #27 – Judgement

In 1993, famous Belgian author and spring onion connoisseur, Dr Jean-François Bacharach created a series of books for children. The aim of the project was to use state of the art digital technology to educate and inform on a wide range of topics from maths and theology to poetry and tennis. Using pioneering clip-art techniques, he produced a staggering portfolio of work that continues to be widely distributed in schools across the world and Belgium. Sadly DrBacharach himself was eventually imprisoned due to his being ahead of his time and because he killed a quite staggering number of cats. However his work lives on here at the Bunker! We have secured the entirety of Dr Bacharach’s monumental work and now present it to you. C’est formidable!

Is the DC Relaunch Sexist?

You’d have to have been hiding under a boob shaped rock to have missed the controversy swirling around two of the DC “new 52” books in recent weeks. It all kicked off with the release of Catwoman #1 which opened with a montage of shots of the title character’s breasts and finished with a slightly BDSM inflected sex scene between Selina and Batman. Not long after that a similar salvo was fired at Red Hood & The Outlaws #1 over its portrayal of Starfire as an emotionless, amnesiac, sex addict. The whole saga culminated with a post on Michele Lee’s blog entitled “A 7 Year Old Responds to DC Comics’ Sexed Up Reboot of Starfire.” In which the author’s young daughter explained how DC had spoiled her role model. The blog spread like Reboot Flavour Starfire’s legs throughout twitter and soon every site seemed to be talking about it. But how much of the criticism is justified?

Let’s start by taking a look at Catwoman as that’s where the troubles first appeared. There’s no denying that Catwoman #1 is about as cheesecakey as a mainstream comic gets. Artist Guillem March appears in many cases to have ignored the script in favour of simply cramming in as many butt and boob shots as humanly possible. The decision to not even show the main character’s face (but instead introduce her via an image of her breasts) is particularly troubling as it serves no narrative purpose whatsoever other than to reduce the character to a faceless sex doll.

This clearly isn’t a very good depiction of women in comics, but let’s not start pretending that this is somehow a huge departure for the character. One only has to take a look at Adam Hughes’ covers to see that Catwoman has been far from the Virgin Mary for many years now. While the script of Catwoman #1 does portray Selina as something of a fickle sex chaser, it’s not nearly as bad as the art makes it seem. Not every character has to be a perfect role model and we should be careful not to shy away from that all the time. After all, we want to be Gail Simone, not Mary Whitehouse.

Overall however I think the art here does still damn the book overall. It’s cynical, frankly kinda creepy. Catwoman #1 feels like it was drawn from the back of a shabby van via a pair of binoculars. The real crime here is that it’s not even particularly sexy. For all their cleavage, Hughes’ covers did have a touch of the genuinely erotic about them. Not so with this book. By half way through we’ve seen so much T&A that the image of Batman penetrating Catwoman on the final page feels like two souless porn stars going through the motions to pay their bills. In many ways to call it sexist and imply that it is somehow an assault on female self image is to give it too much credit.

So what about Starfire? Well, I think the issue is a little more hazy here, or at least I did for a while. The basic problem that a lot of people are having is that Starfire, a character who has existed since the 1980s and is supposed to draw her powers from pure emotion, is now portrayed as a mindless sex robot who will bang pretty much anything because you know…she’s an alien. This is made worse by the fact that her team mates, Jason Todd and Arsenal,  appear to be basically using her as a sex toy and high fiving about it behind her back.

I’ll start off by saying that I have almost no prior experience with Starfire as a character and so I went into Outlaws willing to take her as a totally new idea. To begin with I actually thought (shameless bikini scene aside) that we may be looking at quite an interesting idea. To my mind Jason Todd and Arsenal were meant to be seen as a pair of adolescent morons who were playing around with an alien they didn’t really understand. To me, Starfire’s advances weren’t meant to be sexy but rather to be creepy and alien. Here is this character who could fry both her team mates with a thought and who has almost no sense of empathy whatsoever. I liked the idea that this was all going to blow up horribly in the frat boy heroes faces when they realised that their orange bed buddy had the same attitude towards killing that she did towards sex. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it (I am) but I was almost starting to see the whole thing as a cautionary tale about the dangers of careless sex.

Sadly, I have a feeling I’m pretty far off base with this analysis. In a direct response to the comments of their 7 year old critic, DC recently tweeted:

“We’ve heard what’s being said about Starfire today and we appreciate the dialogue on this topic.
We encourage people to pay attention to the ratings when picking out any books to read themselves or for their children.”

That’s the response. Not “wait and see, we’ve got plans!” But “well, don’t let your kids read it then.” To me, that’s not a great response. When it all comes down to it, Starfire IS a kids character. Her only mainstream exposure has been via the Teen Titans cartoon and so it’s a fair bet that the majority of her fans fall within the teen bracket. I’m not saying that Teenagers can’t cope with complex stories but DC’s response to the criticism doesn’t seem to imply that this is what we’re dealing with.

I’ll probably stick with Outlaws for another issue or two and see where it goes but at this stage I’m not confident. I hope that I’m proved wrong and the book turns into the interesting character analysis that it has the chance to be, but in all honesty, when you’re relaunching your books to appeal to younger readers and a 7 year old is picking legitimate holes in your handling of her favourite character, something’s gone badly wrong.

So is the DC relauch sexist? No, of course it isn’t. Two bad bananas are not enough to spoil the whole bunch. With books like Batgirl, Wonder Woman and Batwoman (to my mind the three best books of the relaunch) tearing up the shelves it’s unfair to say that DC doesn’t know how to handle female characters. Indeed, the very fact that Catwoman and Outlaws have drawn so much flack is partly because the other portrayals of woman characters have been so damn good.

Are Catwoman and Outlaws bad books? Probably. But in all honesty, when can you remember a time that bad female superhero books were in the minority and not simply the norm? DC has taken huge strides over the course of this relauch and we shouldn’t allow a couple of missteps to take away from that.

Go out, vote with your money and tell DC that they’ve almost got it right. Buy Batgirl, buy Batwoman, buy Wonder Woman and leave the cheesecake sitting on the shelf where it deserves to be. We’re in virgin territory here and it’s up to the fans to tell the publishers what we want. After all, we can’t let the 7 year olds fight all our battles can we?

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The Best Costumes of Dragon Con 2011

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYDrwujtV2A&w=640&h=360]

 

We’re in the process of gearing up for another round of conventions this month and if there’s one thing we’ve come to love about cons it’s the level of detail that the cosplayers put into their outfits. At LFCC in July we had a wonderful conversation with a Stormtrooper during which he managed to be utterly charming despite us not being able to understand a muffled, crackly word he was saying.

With that in mind I thought I’d share this video of just how elaborate cosplay can get when you let the Americans have a crack at it. This was filmed at Dragon Con in Atlanta earlier this month.

You can buy the music from iTunes and (if you’re so inclined) there is a link at the end of the video to a twenty minute(!) version of the video.

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Lost Jedi: Howsi Stigos and the Battle of Ipris Kii

The most layered and complex design I had attempted up until this point, the battle for Ipris Kii was the clearest scenario I had in my head. A coastal fortification under heavy assault from the Galactic Senates Forces (Clone Troopers led by Jedi). The incursion is through heavy cloud cover and among the assembled warriors are Howsi Stigos and her Master, Hollan Fry, a Sauron Jedi. As Hollan attempts to chastise her padawan in responsible use of the force the Dropship is struck by a missile. Hollan is killed on impact. Howsi Stigos survives the impact into the sea and fights her way to shore only to find enormous resistance. The scene depicted here is the moment prior to Order 66 being granted, with Howsi trapped between two warring factions, both about to be hell bent on killing her.

I’m not completely happy with it as some of the layers are not fully incorporated into the image but as a starter I found it reassuring that I wasn’t entirely lost in the composition of the piece.


Robert Downey Jr Hits Scarlett Johansson on Avengers Set

I don’t normally post news stories like this, but this is too much of a giggle not to bring up. According to sources on the Avengers set Robert Downey Jr accidentally punched Scarlett Johansson in the face last week because he “pressed the wrong button” on his Iron Man suit.

Downey Jr was waiting to film a scene for the movie and decided to have a fiddle with some of the buttons on his suit, it turns out that his wandering fingers landed on the switch that controls his arm, causing it to swing round and catch his co-star in the face, knocking her off the stage. Fortunately Johansson was not badly hurt and was apparently able to laugh off the incident.

According to the source Downey Jr was apparently somewhat sheepish about the incident: “Robert, who couldn”t help because he literally can”t move in that iron suit, was beside himself – he kept apologizing and saying, Oh, my God, I”m so sorry!”

Avengers is out next year.

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Band of Butchers Line Art Completed!

Morning chaps,

I am pleased to say that I just woke up to yet another delivery of incredible art from Rob Carey. What makes this delivery different is that it is the final page of our upcoming Unseen Shadows comic: Band of Butchers! That means that the book is just a few days away from being totally finished and I could not be more excited. It now falls to Vicky Stonebridge to wrap up the last few pages of colouring and Paul McLaren to add the last few pages of lettering. All being well we’re expecting it to be in “Bullwhip” Barry Nugent’s (and yes, that is the first and only time I’m using that nickname, Barry) hands within the next week or so making it seem highly likely that we should hit our desired release date of November 19th (Thought Bubble 2011) with time to spare.

Not only has Rob created interior art that will blow you away, he’s also designed the cover for both this book and the main Tales of the Fallen anthology (within whose pages BoB will make its home).

I cannot stress how happy I am to have been a part of this project. The team we’ve assembled here are a truly exceptional group of people and the book that we’ve produced is going to blow your socks off.

Since I can’t show you the last bit of art from Rob (for obvious spoiler reasons), here’s the very first piece he did. A stunning concept sketch of the not-quite-hero of our tale, Clancy Wallencheck.

You can read a 4 page preview of Band of Butchers by going to the main UNSEEN SHADOWS SITE and you can buy tickets to Thought Bubble and be one of the first people to read it by CLICKING HERE.

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Dropping Science: Here’s What The Aurora Looks Like From Space!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogtKe7N05F0&w=640&h=360]

NASA have released a couple of stunning videos taken from the International Space Station in recent weeks. I’ll post the other one up next week, but this week I wanted to take a look at this clip which demonstrates that one of the most incredible sights on Earth is also one of the most incredible off Earth.

This particular display was caused by a coronal mass ejection from the Sun on September 14th. Three days later the charged particles from said ejection collided with the Earth’s atmosphere creating this dazzling show. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Space is wonderful.

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The Extraordinary Tales of Monsieur Poppaleux #26 – A Violent Bell Curve

In 1993, famous Belgian author and spring onion connoisseur, Dr Jean-François Bacharach created a series of books for children. The aim of the project was to use state of the art digital technology to educate and inform on a wide range of topics from maths and theology to poetry and tennis. Using pioneering clip-art techniques, he produced a staggering portfolio of work that continues to be widely distributed in schools across the world and Belgium. Sadly DrBacharach himself was eventually imprisoned due to his being ahead of his time and because he killed a quite staggering number of cats. However his work lives on here at the Bunker! We have secured the entirety of Dr Bacharach’s monumental work and now present it to you. C’est formidable!

Fallen Heroes Page 3 Preview

Work continues apace on the central title of the Unseen Shadows Universe, currently building to a massive crescendo thanks to the tireless promotion of Barry Nugent of Geek Syndicate who created the book itself. With the Tales of the Fallen, Moon and Fallen Heroes 2 coming out in the next two months its all hands to the pumps at Bunker towers but we’re confident all will be complete.

Wrong Clown, Batman!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9JcxxHkcKQ&w=640&h=360]

Every hero makes mistakes, even the Dark Knight. As College Humor shows us in this recent sketch, sometimes it’s better to admit your mistakes and sometimes it’s better to just beat the holy hell out of a weeping children’s entertainer.

I pray he never gets loose on the South Bank.

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(If you want to see a better quality version of the vid then CLICK HERE for the official one. Sadly the combination of WordPress not allowing flash and Collegehumor taking an age to put their vids on youtube means I had to go for the bootleg option.) 

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