January 2012

Dropping Science: What Are SOPA & PIPA?

We have a policy of steering away from political issues here on Beyond the Bunker. Steve and I share the site and it’s just fairer and simpler to keep politics out of the day to day content. That said, it really is hard to write a Science based feature this week without making at least some reference to the ongoing war over the Stop Online Piracy Act and it’s various cousins.

Essentially, SOPA is an attempt by the American entertainment industry to stop online piracy (hence the name) by allowing websites to be shut down if they are suspected of hosting pirated content or even links to it. These shut downs would not require evidence and the onus would be on the accused to prove their innocence rather than the other way around. The act also imposes a 5 year prison term for those caught uploaded copyrighted material. The popular example floating around twitter at the moment is that you could get 5 years for uploading a Michael Jackson song, which is 1 year less than the doctor who killed him.

The battle has been going back and forth for a while now. Earlier this week SOPA was shelved indefinitely after a plethora of negative stories in the press (including the revelation that under the act, the bill’s own author would be guilty of copyright infringement) however a couple of days ago it came back again and now it appears that the bill will make it to a Congressional vote. General consensus at the moment appears to be that this is largely being done because the politicians backing the bill don’t want to look like they caved under pressure from Wednesday’s blackout event in which several sites (including Wikipedia) went offline in protest and others (including Google) posted messages of protest on their home pages.

It gets even more dirty though. This week the American federal government shut down the controversial site Megaupload.com. Megaupload is a filesharing site that is widely used by legitimate artists to move large files around but has, in the past, had links to piracy. The fact the the company recently changed hands and had just published plans for systems that would allow artists to profit from shared material are apparently neither here nor there. it’s worth pointing out that this was all done using existing legislation and so does rather call into question what SOPA is supposed to be for other than to allow control of social networks.

In response to the Megupload shut down, hacker collective, Anonymous,  jumped into action and promptly took down the Department of Justice,  MPAA, RIAA and Universal Music Group sites in protest. Some people are already citing Jan 19th as the date that the first ever “digital war” began. It’s probably not quite as big a deal as that but it’s still getting very ugly out there.

Hopefully this has given you a bit of an overview of a time that, however it goes, will remain as a landmark in the history of the internet and possibly of free speech in general. Whatever happens, people are going to talk about SOPA for a long time, so you might as well brush up now!

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UPDATE: I scheduled this article in yesterday morning and since then events have progressed once again. At the time of writing both SOPA and PIPA have been shelved by Congress, pending further advice from experts. How long they will stay that way remains to me seen. You can read more about this latest turn of events here and here.

RIP Etta James

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQXxxx7OybU&w=640&h=480]

 

This isn’t really geek news but Etta James passed away today at the age of 73. I’ve been a fan of Etta’s music for some time and she’s one of the artists that I routinely listen to while working so I thought it was only right to acknowledge that. Here’s a bit of her wonderful music to brighten your Friday night.

Rest in Peace, Etta. Thanks for the music.

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Literal MS Paint Music Video is as Stupid as it is Wonderful

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNr_M3kbWQA&w=640&h=480]

 

A week ago I had never even heard of daftly named, generic pop warblers, LMFAO. Now I find myself having posted two of their songs in just one week. I’m not sure what it is about their music that makes it so appealing to ingenious video makers with too much time on their hands, but it’s getting to a point that we might as well declare it an art movement in and of itself.

This time it’s the clever chaps at Literal MS Paint to step up with this hilarious video for the band’s (are they a band?) seminal masterpiece “Party Rock Anthem.”

I fear the 90s are back.

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(I was going to post another Evergreen today but I’m worried about it becoming a “thing” so I’m gonna hold off for the good of everyone)

Moon Digital Edition is Here!

Rejoice, fans of digital comics! Moon is now available to buy, download and read wherever you like! It will cost you just 99¢ (that’s about 69p to any fellow Brits) and can be viewed on your Desktop, Android, iPhone or iPad.

The book really does look stunning on a digital device and is well worth picking up, even if you already have the print edition (Steve and Iv’s artwork looks even more impressive when zoomed in close).

To check out a preview of the book, CLICK HERE and if you need a reminder as to why Moon is worth your time, here it is.

Revenge of the Jedi A-Holes

You can never keep a dark Jedi down. Two utter d@cks meandering around using the Force for something far from the continuance of good and the Jedi way. This one’s for Count Dooku bro!! Clever monkey special effects from the guys who brought you… well … Jedi A-Holes and Ninja Warrior Birthday Party. Freddiew on Youtube!! Maniacal child death at the hands of negligent Jedi gamblers abound. 😉

He-Man is Sexy (And he Knows it)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wu97XDIbyAE&w=640&h=480]

What better way to celebrate today’s anti-SOPA blackout than by sharing a video that would, in all likelihood, be illegal should the bill pass. He-Man is pretty buff, he knows it and he damn well wants to make sure that you know it too.  JesseWolf‘s video defiantly falls into the sillier end of the spectrum but for the teddy bear alone, it’s worth a watch.

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We’re not doing a SOPA blackout today, partly because we’re a primarily UK based site and it wouldn’t have any real impact but mostly because I don’t have the technical know-how to actually implement it. If you’d like to find out more about SOPA and the damage it could do to sites like ours, click here.

Practitioners 48: Frank Miller (Part 1)

Frank Miller is an American comic book artist, writer and film director best known for his brooding, dark, film noir depictions of famous comic characters and the development of noir dystopias, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City and 300, Ronin and Daredevil: Born Again. Batman : Dark Knight Returns is viewed as a seminal work in comics history, mandatory for any that want to understand what (along with Alan Moore’s Watchmen) changed the face of comics so dramatically in the 1980s. He is also, nowadays, a liberal hate figure after outspoken statements regarding protest camps in the US and UK against multinational corporations. This, among other things, has placed a pall over his previous work, calling into question his politics and views on women, crime and society.

Miller was born in Olney, Maryland and raised Montpelier, Vermont, the fifth of seven children of a nurse mother and an electrician/ carpenter father. He was raised as an Irish Catholic.

Setting out to become an artist, Miller recieved his first published work at Western Publishing’s Gold Key Comics imprint on the comic book version of The Twilight Zone, drawing ‘Royal Feast’ in issue #84 (June 1978), and “Endless Cloud” in #85 (July 1978). Jim Shooter, one-time Marvel Editor-in-chief recalled Miller’s attempt to join DC, emboldened by his sign up with Western Publishing. “He went to DC, and after getting savaged by Joe Orlando, got in to see art director Vinnie Colletta, who recognized talent and arranged for him to get a one-page war-comic job”.

Miller’s first listed work is the six-page “Deliver Me From D-Day”, by writer Wyatt Gwyon, in Weird War Tales #64 (June 1978). A two-page story, however, written by Roger McKenzie and titled “Slowly, painfully, you dig your way from the cold, choking debris…”, appears in Weird War Tales #68 (Oct. 1978). Other fledgling work at DC included the six-page “The Greatest Story Never Told”, by writer Paul Kupperberg, in that same issue, and the five-page “The Edge of History”, written by Elliot S. Maggin, in Unknown Soldier #219 (Sept. 1978). and his first work for Marvel Comics, penciling the 17-page story “The Master Assassin of Mars, Part 3” in John Carter, Warlord of Mars #18 (Nov. 1978).

Miller’s style was never super hero orientated but in an industry that was he had little choice but to pursue it, practicing the form and bringing Superheroes to life well enough to secure a position as regular fill-in and cover artist on a number of titles, including Peter Parker, Spectacular Spider-man #27–28 (Feb.–March 1979) which featured a character that grabbed Miller’s attention. As Miller recalled in 2008 “… as soon as a title came along, when [Daredevil signature artist] Gene Colan left Daredevil, I realized it was my secret in to do crime comics with a superhero in them. And so I lobbied for the title and got it”

Although still conforming to traditional comic book styles, Miller introduced his noir style to the pages of Daredevil on his debut, joining on a finale of an ongoing story written by Roger McKenzie. Living in Hell’s Kitchen in the 1980s Miller sketched the roof tops of his surrounding neighbourhoods and imbued the title with a greater accuracy than fans had seen before. New York was now a more dangerous place. His work was cited as reminiscent of German Expressionism’s dramatic edges and shadows as the Red Devil fought mostly now at rooftop level, among the water towers, pipes and chimneys.

Miller’s run was successful enough to bring Daredevil back from being a bi-monthly title to a monthly one but that was far from the limit of the success. With the departure of Roger McKenzie, Miller took over as writer and penciller, with long time collaborator Klaus Janson on inks introducing a skittish, visceral feel. Art became to form. Violence bled (within the limited parameters of the Comics Authority), fear was felt, anger and danger were portrayed. Everything was comics +. This was a slightly more frenetic, powerful version of the superhero canon – the focus on the darkness in the lives of the bright tights. Issue #168 saw the first appearance of the ninja mercenary Elektra, who despite being an assassin-for-hire would become Daredevil’s love-interest. Miller would write and draw a solo Elektra story in Bizarre Adventures #28 (Oct. 1981). This further characterised Miller’s work on Daredevil with darker themes and stories. This peaked when in #181 (April 1982) he had the assassin Bullseye kill Elektra. Miller finished his Daredevil run with issue #191 (Feb. 1983); in his time he had transformed a second-tier character into one of Marvel’s most popular.

Gotham's skyline from Miller's 1986 Dark Knight Returns (with Klaus Janson)

Additionally, Miller drew a short Batman Christmas story, entitled ‘ Wanted: Santa Claus: Dead or Live’ written by Denny O’Neill for DC Special Series #21 (Spring 1980). This professional introduction to the Dark Knight was to prove a point at which the comic industry stopped being something and developed into another entirely. It was the moment that comics began to move into a more graphic, realistic, emotionally dynamic, engaging and challenging era. Elsewhere, Alan Moore was working on The Watchmen and would be asked in future to write The Killing Joke and further darken the world of Gotham and it’s central hero. But nothing that Moore was writing on the Dark Knight compared to one of the most important pieces of comic book literature in history. With Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley, Miller began to put together a fractured tale of a future without a Batman and a Bruce Wayne broken by the loss of Jason Todd. Now older and slower, a mournful Wayne is presented again with taking on the banner of the Bat. Only this time the world in which the caped crusader stepped into was very different…

Working with Chris Claremont at Marvel on Wolverine 1-4, inked by Josef Rubenstein and spinning off from the popular X-Men title, Miller used the series to expand on Wolverine’s character. The series was a critical success and cemented Miller as an industry star. Taking an older, curmudgeonly and effectively lonely character and dropping him into a world of greater brutality and violence proved very popular – the Wolverine series still continuing today, surviving the collapse of comics in the mid 90s and still going strong. While other great artists such as Adam Kubert and Marc Silvestri continued and concreted it’s success, Claremont and Miller set the tone. Brutal, fringe figures were quickly becoming Miller’s niche.

Marvel's Wolverine 2 by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller

In Miller’s first creator-owned title, Ronin, Miller had found himself with his original quarry, DC, and he was given the opportunity to further the concept of the isolated figure of violence on the edge of society. Ronin revealed most clearly the influences of Manga and bande dessinée artforms on Miller’s style, both in the artwork and narrative style. In the early 198os Miller and Steve Gerber proposed a revamp of DC’s central figures entitled ‘Man of Steel’, ‘Dark Knight’ and the frankly less inspiring ‘Amazon’. This proposal was rejected, however the first shoots of a seed of an idea were clearly being shown in those proposals. While the Man of Steel and the Amazon remained as they were, The Dark Knight was set to rise. In 1985, before the release of Miller’s finest work, he was honoured as one of the 50 honourees in the Company’s 50th Anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great. Had they left it one more year, Miller would have rocketed into the top 5 with the release of the Dark Knight Returns.

Having never left, in 1986, the Dark Knight Returned and was welcomed with open arms. A four issue mini-series it featured a Gotham gone downhill, unprotected by a figurehead crime fighter as it had been time immemorial in the wider DC Universe. This was the first Elseworlds, a parallel world inhabited by a familiar but substantially different set of characters who could now live or die without consequence. However, Miller was never going to let them off that easily…

At the age of 55, Bruce Wayne returns to the hilt and takes back his role of Batman, it showcased a more adult form of comic-book storytelling by heralding new waves of darker characters. Miller, much like Moore, absorbed a great deal of the world around it though Miller twisted his into a more immediately engaging shape. Punk Gangs and Neo Nazis rule the streets alongside older, more familiar foes – all now even darker than before. The smell of paranoia over the Cold War and the threat of Nuclear War is musky in The Dark Knight, increasing the pall of murk that has descended on Gotham. Simultaneously though Miller gave voice to both liberal and right wing opinions during the series, through continual talking heads on various invented TV shows. With the themes of media, crime, personal responsibility, federal control, public opinion and the futility of redemption, Dark Knight represents a dark and risible future. It was excellent. A timely chime on a bell of collective paranoia, it tapped perfectly into the state of mind of society at the time. Rather than the patronising resolution by brightly coloured gods – here the solution contains only glimmers of salvation but deep shades of absolutism. It satisfies fully as emotional resolutions are struck so rarely in the real world, rarely in conjunction with the resolution of situations. In Miller’s world there are no easy answers. His worlds roll on beyond the final panel, stories often unfinished, character’s unresolved. 25 years later the collected novel remains a timeless best seller.

But what was to come next would cement Miller as a legendary artist and writer but it will be his move to LA that will reveal him as a true auteur. Noir bleeding from every pore, Sin City was still almost a decade away…

Part 2 will be here Next Tuesday

Moon Goes Digital on Wednesday!!

Many of you have been asking for this for a long time, so we are very happy to announce that Moon #1 will be released digitally this Wednesday. Beyond The Bunker have teamed up with digital superstars Graphicly to bring the globe headed one your desktop, Android and IOS device for the insanely good price of just 99 cents.

If you’re someone who hasn’t been able to catch us at a convention, if you live outside the UK or if you just couldn’t afford the print price, this is your chance to join our big Moony club. Even if you already own the print version then you’ll find that the guided view method of reading the digital copy provides a whole new way to enjoy the ultimate lunatic detective story.

We’d like to send thanks  to our partners at Graphicly for all their hard work on this and also to everyone who has bought the print version, plugged us on facebook/twitter and voted for us in the Eagle Awards. It’s that kind of support that allows us to keep adding features like this.

Mark your calendars, folks. Moon’s coming to your phone!

His Name is James Bond

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aT8lJEgEuTk&w=853&h=480]

 

Very much not safe for work but very very funny. Turns out that on reflection James Bond is a complete tool and so Youtuber Running Corners decided to make a song celebrating this. It has a definite Adam & Joe vibe to it, albeit with a lot more swearing.

Perhaps not surprisingly, this came to my attention via the twisted and brilliant Rob Carey. He has some new art on his blog and you should go look at it.

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Dropping Science: NASA Explains Why The World Won’t End in 2012

David Morrison is the current Interim Director of NASA’s Lunar Science Institute and a global expert on Earth impact hazards (ie stuff falling from space). Dr. Morrison spends a lot of time answering questions from people about all manner of space based issues, however over the last two years the majority of those questions have been variations on one theme: Will the world end in 2012?

Having grown tired of answering each email individually, Dr Morrison recently decided to post this video, in which he takes on all the doomsday theories at once. I don’t want to spoil anything for you but if you’re thinking of borrowing a million pounds on the understanding that the world is going to be destroyed by an invisible super planet, you may wanna have a little rethink.

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