Steve Penfold

Review: Pokemon Go!

Pokémon GO
Android and iOS
Nintendo

A fun, educational, social, motivational and adventurous game app that may finally alleviate the ‘stay in and play’ restrictions of decades of gaming, or simply be a flash in the pan novelty? Steve Penfold (35) hits the streets of London to hunt some Pocket Monsters.

Stranger Things has just started on Netflix, a sci-fi thriller series set in the eighties. I’m an adult (I’ve been told) so I can watch anything I like so ratings have long since stopped meaning much to me. The reason I was surprised to discover that the series is rated G for Guidance, aside from the genuinely scary tension and a kid being hounded by a mysterious monster in the street the opening episode features kids riding around on their bikes, on their own, looking for clues. What are you crazy?!

Pokémon GO represents a step back in human behaviour that many 21st Century parents may find alarming. Described as a Real World Game, it encourages the user to go out into the real world, explore and discover things around them. Every aspect of the game is designed to get you on your feet and moving. Using the existing GPS, wifi and video apps on any mobile device, a virtual map of the local area is created populated by Pocket Monsters (or Pokémon), as well as Poké-gyms, power ups and equipment. A circle of influence, much like radar surrounds your on-screen character and while many details are marked on the map it is not until you physically move into the object, character or gyms ‘real world’ field of influence that you can interact with it, and most importantly, capture it. True to the original ‘gotta catch them all’ tag-line, your primary mission is to capture, train, power-up and unleash your Pokémon.

L-R: (Top) Beware the Gyarados; looking for new prey; surface may be slippery at Liverpool Street station, a freshly smoking Pokeball, post catch and the parent-pleaseing POI feature.

L-R: (Top) Beware the Gyarados; looking for new prey; surface may be slippery at Liverpool Street station, a freshly smoking Pokeball, post catch and the parent-pleaseing POI feature.

The Real World Test
Having downloaded the app and switching it on you are immediately presented with the friendly warning to ‘Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings.’ To add emphasis a silhouette of a cap wearing gamer wandering along a bridge while a gigantic, blue, grimacing, toothy sea serpent Gyarados (one of the more terrifying and powerful incarnations of Pokémon) rears up above him. In a world where real world threats are all too regularly communicated inaccurately to young people this sets the right tone. Basically, get out there and hunt but don’t walk into heavy traffic. No doubt a corporate requirement like most warnings to make sure that the first time that a Pokemon enthusiast gets hit by a car / ends up in a 100m deep mine shaft or locates a dead body (all online reports seen since this app was launched), it only adds to the excitement of a great big world to discover and survive, filled with adventure and potential dangers. This, I feel, is the truly exciting aspect of the game, depending on your fearfulness of the world outside. The shameless encouragement for players to take responsibility for themselves, get out there, discover and have fun.

Further into the game itself, following an admittedly limited appearance options menu (you’d better like gym gear and spiky hair or you’re going to be disappointed) you are propelled into a map of the world around you, revealing the first Pokémon available to you and a simplified, cartoonish world map with your avatar at it’s centre. It’s hard to know how similar each online map is, and whether the occurrence of Pokemon are the same for all parties but I found a Squirtle in my bed, which I assume no one else is coming looking for. Automatically transferring to my video app the ‘Tiny Turtle’ Pokémon was standing on my duvet in the sunlight from my bedroom window, staring straight at me and gesturing and twitching. This moment, for a small child (or anyone with a willing imagination) is a magical and exciting one as the virtual and real merge pretty seamlessly. The intuitive controls encourage you to flick a Pokéball (the easily carried red and white spherical pseudo-prison cell for your unfortunate prey ) and if it bounces just right, your Pokémon gets sucked right up into it, added to your in-app Pokedex (exactly what it sounds like) ready for future battles.

One of the effects of the astonishing popularity of Pokémon GO is that you look at people wandering around with their mobile phones raised in a completely different way. They are potential competitors for one, as Pokémon GO allows you to pit your captured pets against others. Littered around the virtual world map are Gyms and Arenas, where you can train and fight other Pokémon (though your friendly trainer appears to let you know you can only do so after level 5). But more than that, they are fellow gamers. Previously, the voices at the other end of headsets as you batter your way through a multiplayer Halo level are now right in front of you, hunting in the real world. Just yesterday, on my wanderings (which were extended simply because I was playing the app) I suspected one older gentleman coming from the side of my block of flats of having just snagged a Poliwag, but more convincingly, saw GO on the screen of a young player outside Kings Cross station, whom I kindly directed to a nearby quarry, much to his surprise, heard the music playing as I walked past two young guys in their twenties in Romford high street, heard two others talking about catching the ‘orange one’ in the market and even found a hastily printed sign on A4 paper in a local pub reading ‘Pokéstop here!!! Grab a drink and top up your Pokéballs!’ I know the landlord however and it’s odds on as to whether there’s any Pokémon inside.

Psyduck appears to take a whack from a passing cyclist ay a busy junction outside Kings Cross station

Psyduck appears to take a whack from a passing cyclist ay a busy junction outside Kings Cross station

I picked up a Hypno by the busses and a Rattatta by the newsagents, as well as an extra Squirtle at Liverpool Street Station platform 16, much to the bemusement of two station staff. I discovered a route back to Kings Cross station that I was previously unaware of as a result of trying to hunt the base of a Poké-gym, discovering a quiet alleyway and square. The Gym’s base was apparently at the centre of the square which suggested that the larger points on the map are very deliberately placed.

But the best part for me I found was the ‘features’. As I wandered up the street towrads Romford station, the app forced me to stop, open a point of interest and forced my focus onto a ‘Havering Wall art’. It later directed me to a historical plaque I’d ignored on the way to and from work and most profoundly, drew my attention to a bronze statue I walk passed almost every day. Giving the option of further detail, it revealed that the statue was a tribute to all those who helped 20,000 Jewish and other children escape Nazi persecution. As a dad, I have to say that imbedding something that for all it’s positive features can be dismissed as spurious and time-wasting with the opportunity to understand details of the world surrounding children is a genuinely nice touch.

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GLITCHES
There were times when the GPS meant that I couldn’t grab a Zubat as it was imedded in a wall or the field of influence extended only to the wrong side of the road (opposite to where I was actually standing). Also, as a result of capturing a Drowzee, both myself and a colleague who should know better found ourselves standing in the road, albeit a quiet one-way street. This, added to the fact that I captured a Psyduck standing in the road at one of the most busy junctions in London, seconds after it appeared to be ‘run over’ by a cyclist weathered the point that it has the potential to be dangerous. Having said this, while the Psyduck was apparently taking it’s life in it’s flippers I was standing safely on the kerb, well within range to sling it into a Pokéball.

Arriving home, the wifi dropped below the level I needed to display the details of the game and I was left wandering on an empty map during what I had hoped would be an eventful walk home passed a church yard, bars and shops. This persisted for hours until it magically returned. This may have been the servers but the absence of an off-line set of features means it lacks the all-round distraction capabilities of games such as Plants vs Zombies.

Summing up, this is a revolutionary game, clearly heavily and meticulously tested. Simple enough to be easily grasped and used by anyone, complicated and broad enough to offer potentially thousands of gaming hours. The fact that distance covered in the real defines your progress in the game makes the nature of this game adventurous, positive and definitively cheerful – not to mention the answer to many criticisms of games in relation to childhood obesity and fear of the outside world. Again, subject to your own feelings of the dangers of the outside world – to me it appears to be a cheerful clarion call to go out and have fun!!

 

Welcome to Beyondthebunker.com

BTB Logo Digital WebsiteWelcome, gentle watcher, light night clicker, curious googler. Welcome furious indy collector, aburdism enthusiast, monkey joke verbaliser. I am the intelligence swarming at the heart of the Bunker. Nothing sees me. Nothing perceives me, but I perceive it. Sometimes for fun I will hang from the ceiling and allow myself to be caught in the peripheral of passer by’s eye. While you might wonder how many passer-bys there might possibly be in this labyrinthine pathway of scale lined hallways and echoing catacombs, often only truly revealed when the echo of a single, long travelling drip meets the ear of a twitchy wanderer. The truth is, for years before now, since the military leaders of yesteryear finally closed and bolted the sweat lined steel doors at the entrance, I was alone. I brooded quietly on my non-existence and whether by my knowing I was there I existed if by no other reason, unseen and unregarded.

But recently others have moved in. A man with a Moon for a head often comes down and looks at sandwiches longingly.  Once, he was joined by a small, dark haired, cheerful ‘chap’ who insisted on playing cricket in the main hall for hours on end. Such cheerful days, hearing willow on leather on stone. More recently, a goggle eyed rogue with a misplaced swagger has been entering the Bunker, looking for Moon. Moon often hides from him, curiously, and leaves shortly after. I like the Moon man. He seems kind. There is magic about him. This, I have seen.

Many centuries ago, when these were simply tunnels, wild men made their way through these tunnels on raids. They left death on the walls and I sense now it hunts them, waiting for their return. It waits, and occupies itself with twisting of men’s skin, pulling it tight to the bone, revealing rictus smiles before unleashing them out onto an unsuspecting world. This death has patience and them holds little sway on it, for it knows it will one day consume all things. This, I have seen.

Reverend : Blood Cries Out

Before Beyond the Bunker became a stand alone company, artist Steve Penfold teamed up with writer Cy Dethan, colourist Gat Melvyn and letterer Nic Wilkinson to create the darkest chapter in the genre-cracking Unseen Shadows series. Based on the novels of Barry Nugent in which a band of disparate ‘Fallen Heroes’ are brought together from across the globe to fight an evil that threatens ultimately to consume all in it’s path. Many of the team are picked from the fringe of society. None more so than former Reverend Jonathan Bishop.

Bishop, as a result of unintentionally crossing a nefarious drug cartel leader, has walked the line between life and death and returned, a weapon of vengeance in the name of a God darker than any had imagined. His value noted by a shadowy paramilitary industrial complex, the talents of this lost man are utilised and enhanced to make him considerably more deadly. A master assassin with no master, Bishop has disappeared and lingers in the shadows, wiping out those who hurt others with the intensity of flame. Those who have seen him, speak in whispers in case he hears and finds them again.

But a violent faith driven by absolution (or the absence of it) draws interest from dangerous quarters. Bishop’s path crosses twisted religions, now playing with science nobody understands fully. But, perhaps worse, he is certainly not the only result of the project that enhanced him.

A four issue mini-series to be completed and released immediately as a graphic novel.

Written by Cy Dethan, Pencils / Inks by Steve Penfold, Colours by Gat Melvyn and lettering by Nic Wilkinson. Based on ‘Fallen Heroes’ written by Barry Nugent.

 

Moon: An introduction

Have you ever looked up into the night sky and wondered what the Moon does when he’s not up there? You haven’t? Well this may well answer all the questions you never asked.

What if I was to tell you that the Moon has dropped out of the sky early hours of every morning for the last 2000 years and most recently puts on a suit, takes out a gun and fights ridiculous crime? Ever since a botched, drunken Celtic ceremony in 12ad, the Moon has been doomed to plummet out of the sky, hit the ground, brush himself off and fight the forces of the ridiculous on behalf of the British government. He was supposed to be a beautiful, blue Moon goddess who could sweep entire armies into the ocean but they messed it up and we ended up with a skinny guy with a Moon for a head.

He has worked his way up through 2000 years of British history. He has no face with which to emote, no mouth with which to speak. If you put a coke float in front of him he will drink it but no one is entirely sure how. He’s a surprisingly good shot and he’s teamed up with a homicidal traffic warden who pretends he’s from Chicago when secretly we suspect he’s from Sheffield.

Plus, he’s slightly inadequate – which we think makes him the quintessential British superhero.  On top of which we figured out the other day he’s most likely the world’s most famous superhero because if you think about it there are people in China who have never heard of Superman but you know they know what the Moon is.

 

BTB Classic: Secret Samurai Sketchwork

Secret Samurai - concept art for defunct project

I remain unsure as to how to start in terms of presenting my artwork and this seems as good a place as any. I’ll present some concept designs that never went anywhere. There’s a million reasons for this and given that nothing has been printed yet everything posted here could turn out to be concept art that went nowhere, however this is the female companion for a project I always hoped’d take off but I scuppered mainly through my own over exuberance. I developed the life out of it and failed to complete the original request. Lesson learned.

I’d love to do a samurai story based around the period in which Japan opened its borders after nearly a century of isolationism. I’d also like it to be pretty funny. Who knows, maybe one day….

http://penners.deviantart.com/

 

Practitioners 2: Katsuhiro Otomo

Writer/artist for Akira

At the top of each book sold of Akira there rests a very impressive name in bold lettering. Katsuhiro Otomo. The 2000 page epic would not exist without his genius. Personifying his countries often distant ideals of constant devotion to practice, work and perfection towards a focussed life goal, Otomo marched onwards to completing his masterwork even as he was unaware that he was developing it.

Born in Miyagi prefecture, Japan in 1954, Otomo left school in 1971 to become a Manga artist and succeeded quickly – unsurprising given his unswerving diligence in perfectly measured linework coupled with highly detailed yet crystal clear characterisations. He worked for ‘Action’ magazine until 1979 diligently putting out work on behalf of others.

With the release of solo projects (most notably Fireball (1979) and Domu: A Child’s Dream (1980)) he revealed himself to be a true auteur, a position that can only be occupied when you have mastered all aspects of a medium and his body of work illustrates this perfectly. Katsuhiro is the epitomy of the short gap between an artist’s hand and mind when fully utilised. Fireball was uncompleted but is considered a milestone as it carries themes that were carried forward into his later work. Domu: A Child’s Dream saw a battle between a senile psychic bent on secretly murdering residents of his apartment building for pleasure with his powers and a young girl, Etsoku who stands defiantly against him with her own battery of powers.

Its difficult to imagine Katushiro Otomo as anything other than a genius. Writer, artist, draftsman, director, and unself-conciously and perhaps unexpectedly global cultural avatar. His work, one most specifically, speaks for him more than many other creative practitioner in the field as there is little that can be gleaned as to his character from it because his understanding of so many elements is so diffuse and wide reaching.

Domu: A Child's Dream (1980)

His writing blends perfectly the spiritual, the cultural, the subtle and the brutal.

 

Any flaw visible in any work he has done before or since is overshadowed by Akira. Around bikers Kaneda and Tetsuo the world spins, never leaving the confines of the Neo Tokyo city limits in 2000 pages, as bikes blaze through neon streets, psychic children fight over broken buildings, people burst up walls and a general with a mohawk struggles to get an orbiting defence platform with a massive laser to explode a giant bug baby.

Tower blocks rise through panels with thousands of windows each as perfectly proportional as the last, even when they are upside down and falling into the sky. Broad themes of creationism rest perfectly next to action sequences involving tanks driven by amateurs through cluttered streets in Tokyo’s districts. Never has an artist been so adept at slapstick octane and subtle broad ideas, occasionally in the same panel.

Using his love of film as a benchmark for his artwork and his stripped down storytelling style, Anime was always a natural advance for Katsuhiro and he was working as a character designer for Anime Harmageddon one year before the beginning of his epic; Akira began. Helming Akira as an Anime in 1988, begun while the book was still incomplete, and creating one of the most (if not the most) far reaching Anime ever created and forever altering the standard to which western comic books are now held to.

A master who took a boyhood dream and worked diligently to see it happen, standing head and shoulders above an already advanced and crowded medium in the country that had long since mastered the form.

…. a clue….

I’ve been wearing my 2 Days Later 2010 T-shirt all day. Why do I have a 2 Days Later 2010 T-shirt? I’ll let Dan tell you tomorrow and I’m pretty sure you’ll find out yet more for the Friday Film…..

P

Destroy All Robots

So far there’s been a lack of original material from me – mainly as I was trying to figure out what to post and how to present it. We still haven’t figured out how to link things here so this is starting to seriously eat into out memory but I figured it was time to start posting. There’ll be more stuff designed for Beyond the Bunker soon but for now I’ll be posting up some recent or ongoing jobs here too.

Some work I completed recently for Darrin Grimwood and the Destroy All Robots project. A novel in which a television show pits multiple robots from a range of industries against each other in a ‘battle royale’ on an island in the South China sea.  An excuse to create tonnes of robots in a multitude of forms couldn’t be passed up. Take a look for yourselves at www.destroyallrobots.co.uk

 

Galleries are available at http://penners.deviantart.com/

Symbiont?

'Gah! Symbiote/ Symbiont??!'

A couple of days ago Dan wrote a review of the new Carnage mini series and continuously referred to both Carnage and Venom as Symbionts. Having read Spider-man and Venom series on and off for a bout 15 years I was pretty sure (downright certain) the word, as read in Marvel comics, is symbiote. Having sent Dan a mail to tell him its Symbiote not Symbionte I received a troubling reply. It turns out that the spelling I read constantly in Amazing Spider-man 344-345 and throughout the Maximum Carnage saga in the nineties was wrong all along.

 

For those not in the know; and because Dan’s taken this off the Comics section – possibly because its more about spelling than comics – Carnage was Cletus Cassidy, a psychotic serial killer with deep seated family issues that was bonded symbiotically to an alien organism that fed from him and supplied him with power and super strength and the ability to morph massive claws he could eviscerate passers by with for a loan of his central nervous system. He looked at the time of his creation to be a villain for Spider-man that finally rivalled Batman’s villains in DC.

Psychotic, unretrievable, unpredictable and massively homicidal – and more wicked than his larger grizzlier counterpart (alien dad) Venom who was the same thing only troubled by the anti-hero bug that Marvel always slaps on any villain that becomes popular.

But here was Carnage, Spider-man’s Joker (bollocks to the Green Goblin – he looks like an Ibizan gay clubber at Hallowe’en and was constantly sorting himself out and apologising), a destructive freak of nature that had to test the heroes no-kill policy simply by dint of being a raging loonface who’d slaughter grannies!! If Carnage turned up you should’ve assumed someone close to the main character was going to die just for being there.

Carnage full on

The 'symbiote' in question

He raged on long after I’d wandered away from Spider-man and comic books in general and when I returned I discovered he was a non-entity, viewed as a shade of Venom rather than the lunatic mutant hick cousin that he was always supposed to be. It seemed he’d never found a niche in the Marvel Universe and been sidelined or thrown in as a gimmick. All from the potential he had in Amazing Spider-man all those years ago. The Sentry flew him to space and tore him in half in three panels of The New Avengers 1. What a crock!

He is yet to appear in the new series – by the end of issue 1- however they’d better have given him some of his bite back – especially with the MAX ratings Marvel can give themselves now. I want to see Carnage do some carnage or I won’t be happy.

But worse than that – It appears that Symbiote – the word that was applied to both the Venom and Carnage organisms – was never a word and Marvel, with no sense of consequence, simply had a guess at a word that means a symbiont.

In the real world of crazy science that sounds made up a Symbiont (or symbiote) is an organism that forms a mutual biological relationship with another so that both organisms benefit. Each of the two provides certain advantages that the other lacks and they don’t impair the existence of each other – except that similar girl organisms might wonder what that thing is on your back.

Marvel co-opted the idea for a suit worn by Spider-man that returned to Earth with him from the Secret Wars crossover in the 80s. It gave him extra spider boing but made him quite more aggressive – which was helpful for a vigilante – and rude to his Aunt May – unacceptable in polite society.

He discovered its weakness was soundwaves and stood under bells in a cathedral as they rang to get rid of it. It worked but found a new home in Eddie Brock – who conveniently had a hate on for Parker too. Crazy alien, brain eating shennanigans ensued – a couple more ‘symbiotes’ appeared and Marvel kept calling them that and still do.

Anyway, I’d long since accepted that a printed word is a correct spelling and hadn’t retrospectively altered my thoughts in spite of having read the Metro every morning on the way into London, which every Londoner knows appears to have been copied down from the internet by a cheeky twelve year old truant with Tippex and a felt tip pen during a particularly arduous detention.

For me, it was vaguely permissable for a mainstream newspaper to have the odd typo as it’s momentary white knuckle communications by its very nature – even if the Metro is invariably yesterday’s news. But the idea that Marvel put out the wrong word for literally years in a mainstream global publication that spawned movie franchises and single handedly saved Marvel Comics from administration (Spider-man that is – not Carnage himself though I’d imagine a 5’11 psychotic lava lamp with claws’d put off the solicitors) is just mental to me.

It has writers – ergo – people who use words (I checked). Dan is one and he apparently used the right word straight out the gate. Who is monitoring these people? Is America spelt America? Is Authority spelt Authority? Is Super spelt Super? What’s going on?!

I’ve checked Oxford online dictionary and it couldn’t give a return for Symbiote but politely enquired if I meant Symbiont. This, according to the dictionary, is ‘an organism living in symbiosis with another’ which was definitely what I was looking for. This, I would suggest, might not help someone who was looking up the word ‘symbiont’ as they might then have to look up ‘symbiosis’ as well in order to unravel the mystery. ‘Does Symbiosis mean sharing a shower?’ they might say.

Shiiiiiiiiiit!!

'All I said was Sybionts...'

Tut, Oxford online dictionary. Tut.

So I’ve tried the US English dictionary to see if it was one of those words they changed the spelling of to pay off the French for winning the American War of Independence for them and it turns out its the same. This poses several questions to my mind.

1. How did Dan come across this word in first place? Are there a lot of symbiotic species in Kent?

2. Why is it Symbiont? Its Symbiotic and its symbiosis so what pleb staked his reputation on calling it a Symbiont? It doesn’t even sound as good. I’d rather be attacked by a Symbiont than a symbiote as a Symbiont sounds slower, like a bear sharing a central nervous system with a flipping Narwhal.

3. Why did no one spellcheck this in Marvel? I know the 90s was a big decade for them but still. DC must’ve left notes up somewhere just to bate them you’d think.

4. Should I have relied quite so heavily on comics to supply me with correct spellings of things?

The answer to this is probably not. I’ve checked a map. America is indeed, spelt America. Phew.

Practitioners 1: Simon Bisley

Black Heart 2000AD ABC Warriors: The Black Hole

Blackheart claims a guardsman 2000AD ABC Warriors: The Black Hole

Simon Bisley, born March 4, 1962 might have well have been born toking a mighty cigar made out of dragon skin and playing an electric guitar made of human bone and bits of broken tank. Simon Bisley is the ultimate British artist thanks to his work on 2000AD (ABC Warriors, Judge Dredd) Lobo and Heavy Metal.

Simon Bisley is a fine artist gone nuts. Much imitated, he inspired a generation of artists to draw the extreme in intricate detail. His work relies entirely on an intimate knowledge of human anatomy. He uses this to stretch, distort and excensuate in equal measure. He is a practitioner in the purest form. One that learned his trade intimately so he could turn it on its head and rape it silly.

Its hard to come up with enough superlatives about Simon Bisley’s work. His artwork looks like a methadone freakout in a schizophrenics wet dream. Muscles and sinew stretch across blood drenched and eyeball bursting panels lined with delicate and sumptuous colours or intricate crosshatched fine inkwork. Whether capturing an embattled mecha or a languishing nymph in minute (or no) clothing, Simon Bisley ruled the 90s in British comic books. No artist came closer in that period at capturing the grit, the savagery and the downright wild untapped sexiness and humour that the British comic book reader wanted.

He is a rock god with a pencil. Said to now be drawing for European magazines and having lost the legendary mojo of his youth I would have to say that there was little or no way he was going to keep the work he was doing without setting his right hand on fire and trying to paint with the stub of his finger while wanking crude oil into a cup. This is how I think when I’m faced with Simon Bisley’s work.

Slaine: The Horned God (1988) by Pat Mills and Simon Bisley

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