Dark Knight

Practitioners 4: Brian Azzarello

As a catch up for all new visitors to Beyond the Bunker, we’ll be representing the original Practitioners series 1-55 (Simon BisleyChris Bachalo and featuring the most influential comic creatives in history). Thoroughly incomplete but featuring legends like Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Frank Miller and Alan Moore already more will be hitting the site every two alternate weeks. For now though, sit back every Tuesday for a run-down of the men and women who created the comic industry we know today. (Or check the full list in the menus above). This week: 100 Bullets and Before Watchmen: Comedian scribe Brian Azzarello.

Brian Azzarello has written for Batman (‘Broken City’, with Eduardo Risso and Batman/Deathblow: After the Fire) and Superman (‘For Tomorrow’, with Jim Lee). Prior to his rise as a writer he was best known as the line editor for Andrew Rev’s incarnation of Comico, a middle American publisher responsible for Robotech, Jonny Quest, Mage; The Hero Uniscovered and Grendel before going bankrupt in 1990.

But his greatest works are the investigation and subsequent revelling in the murky underbelly and imagined clandestine power houses of the american continent in the incredibly indelible and affecting 100 Bullets – which ran from August 1999 to April 2009. It was a masterwork.

It was initially presented as a set of episodic, self-contained storylines, an occasional appearance by the seemingly omnipresent Agent Graves the only connecting detail but by its completion it made clear a nationwide network of criminal empires resting behind the accepted powers-that-be that touched (and consumed) the lives of everyone inside it.

The Series won the 2002 Harvey Awards for Best Writer and Best continuing series (as well as Best Artist for his long term creative partner Eduardo Risso) and 2001 Eisner Award for Best serialised story, and in 2002 and 2004 Eisner Award for Best Continuing Series.

Although diffuse, the main reasons for this success were most likely Azzarello’s uncanny capacity for realistic use of regional and local/dialects as well as often oblique use of slang and metaphorical language in his character’s dialogue. His capacity for subtle and accurate characterisation and his capacity for dynamic and often potentially debilitating plot twists while never losing control of the inherent details that made it so gripping.


He had worked with Eduardo Risso on Jonny Double and went on to work with him on Batman: Broken City applying the same noir and pulp principles reminiscent of the best Miller, Janson and Varley. The intuitive sense of layout and pacing between them formed one of the most effective partnerships in comics history, underpinned by Azzarello’s understanding of provocative and engrossing storytelling.

His dabble into self publishing was (and still is) a rip roaring success with Loveless; a noir Spaghetti Western following the trials of an outlaw couple in the desolate and uncertain years following the American Civil War.

His most recent work of note is Joker for DC comics in which Azzarello brings the long standing image of the DC’s comic book Joker closer to that of Christopher Nolan and the late Heath Ledger’s version from The Dark Knight (2008). He represents far less an ethereal and spiritual threat to Gotham than he does a more potent and vicious one with real verve and clarity in his criminal intent. Something that in the hands of other writers might lessen a long beholden character, but in the hands of Azzarello (aided ably by Lee Bermejo) it finds greater potency in its compactness. An affecting writer, well worth a look if you get the chance.

Dark Knight Rises: Trailer 3

Hold on to your Batarangs Bat-fans as the slow climb to the top is almost over before the inevitable thrill-drop ride of Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan’s bone crunching, pseudo-realistic, city street demolishing Batman trilogy. From the looks of it this will be the biggest so far, the scale visibly going well beyond that of the previous two as Bane kick drops Brucey out of Gotham City and it would appear tries his own revolution on the streets of Gotham. Exactly what the US Army would have to say about that is left decidedly out but it looks like Batman might just return to save the day.

Based on the Broken Bat series of the early 90s that introduced Bane it suggests a fight back from absolute defeat at the hands of Bane (something they’ve made no attempt to keep secret in the trailer) but there are plenty of questions left unanswered. Like how Catwoman influences things, how Commissioner Gordon will help and where he stands on the hunt for the Batman following the death of Harvey Dent in the last film and how Joseph Gordon-Levitt managed to work his way into this film as well.

There is the issue of how it will all end. Comic book characters have proven increasingly resilient to rebirths. There has been absolutely no ambiguity over whether this is the last of the trilogy and history decrees it’d be 10 years before a reboot (by which time the fans’ll be crying out for it anyway) – so there is, I think, a very real possibility that the Dark Knight will fall in the Dark Knight Rises. The themes apparent in the trailer would suggest that figureheads and leadership are clear here – could Batman be more influential dead?

I feel a new BTB Investigates coming on….

Batman 'Utterly Gay' according to Batman Writer Grant Morrison.

In what is one more in a series of eloquently outspoken statements about comics (and his involvement in them) Batman writer Grant Morrison has described the superhero as “utterly gay”. The acclaimed comics writer, who has been writing Batman for DC since 2006’s ‘Batman And Son’ storyline, has said that while character is straight, a homosexual sensibility is “built into” the concept. He told Playboy: “He’s very plutonian in the sense that he’s wealthy and also in the sense that he’s sexually deviant. Gayness is built into Batman.’

“I’m not using gay in the perjorative sense, but Batman is very, very gay. There’s just no denying it. Obviously as a fictional character he’s intended to be heterosexual, but the basis of the whole concept is utterly gay.” Morrison added that this was part of the appeal: “I think that’s why people like it. All these women fancy him and they all wear fetish clothes and jump around rooftops to get to him. He doesn’t care – he’s more interested in hanging out with the old guy and the kid.”

Batman’s next big screen outing The Dark Knight Rises is released this summer. Watch the trailer below.

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

Real Life Paedophile Apprehended by…Batman??

When an online sex pest attempts to lure an under age girl to a remote playground, there’s probably a few things that they’re afraid might happen. Perhaps the police might show up, perhaps it’ll turn out to be another paedophile and they’ve been grooming each other, perhaps some long lost sense of morality will sneak up and wreck the whole abhorrent thing. What they probably don’t consider is the possibility that Batman might appear from the shadows with a camera crew and chase them away. In this sting operation (which is as bizarre as it is funny), that’s exactly what the Dark Knight does.

So next time you see Batman tapping away on the Batcomputer remember that he’s not looking for clues, he’s posing as a 15 year old girl on a chatroom that doesn’t deserve him, but does need him.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wv_2efHvx4&w=853&h=480]

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(Thanks to Rob Carey for finding this)

The True Origin of Batman Revealed!

 

While browsing a Chinese dollar store, Redditor whynow stumbled upon the true story of the Dark Knight’s origin. How the sinister Jackstraw ever thought he could avoid the Batman’s deadly stroke, I’ll never know. Gete can sleep safe knowing that it has the hero it needs.

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Never fear….

To all of those we met at LFCC on the weekend and all those who bought a copy of Moon rest assured that Moon 1 is not the only Moon you’ll be getting this year. A record number of folks asked us abut Moon 2 over the weekend and we’ll repeat what we said. Moon 2 is currently hot on the heels of Moon 1. You can expect to see a copy at the end of the Summer and I can confirm it’ll be loaded with Moony goodness.

If you’re bored or you don’t know much about Moon why not check out our ‘What is Moon’ section. Also, please don’t forget Fallen Heroes 1 which is also available to order from Unseen Shadows.com. More news on Moon, Fallen Heroes, Unseen Shadows and other comic projects will appear here regularly. There is also The Lost Jedi – a Star Wars epic I began in 2007 – posted every second Wednesday.

In the meantime we have Star Wars, Dark Knight and Hobbit updates as well as film trailers, daft stuff from the interweb and ongoing blogs. We try to update every day if we can with something so please keep on checking back. Unseen Shadows and Moon are typically Monday and Thursday respectively.

First image released of Tom Hardy as Bane in the Dark Knight

The first picture of Tom Hardy as villain Bane in the massively anticipated ‘Dark Knight Rises’ has emerged online. The web was all a hub-bub as bat-fans went wild. On Friday Warner Bros. launched a dedicated website (thedarkknightrises.com), featuring a blank black page and people chanting. Eerie stuff and perhaps indicative of either a following Bane gathers or sounds from his upbringing. No doubt all will be revealed. Doubtless Nolan’s Bane will make more of his ruthless influence and tactical prowess than his previous incarnation in previous franchise killer Batman and Robin, in which Bane was a mute plant beast cum nacho libre style wrestler. Kooky.

Top marks to WB though for trying to drag out the intrigue surrounding the reveal. Later in the day a mysterious Twitter account started tweeting a section of the image. The picture was supposed to be revealed gradually, using the personal twitter icons of retweeters as the individual pixels but super fan hackers cracked the source code, revealing the whole image. The Dark Knight himself’d be proud.

So here he is;

What’d you reckon?

The Twelve Geeks of Christmas – The Dark Knight meets Superman

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

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01vojXK_mnA&fs=1&hl=en_GB]

A bit of Batman fun courtesy of CollegeHumour.com. Gotham’s dark defender comes face to face with superdouche.

Tomorrow, we get musical.

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Practitioners 4: Brian Azzarello

Brian Azzarello has written for Batman (‘Broken City’, with Eduardo Risso and Batman/Deathblow: After the Fire) and Superman (‘For Tomorrow’, with Jim Lee). Prior to his rise as a writer he was best known as the line editor for Andrew Rev’s incarnation of Comico, a middle American publisher responsible for Robotech, Jonny Quest, Mage; The Hero Uniscovered and Grendel before going bankrupt in 1990.

But his greatest works are the investigation and subsequent revelling in the murky underbelly and imagined clandestine power houses of the american continent in the incredibly indelible and affecting 100 Bullets – which ran from August 1999 to April 2009. It was a masterwork.

It was initially presented as a set of episodic, self-contained storylines, an occasional appearance by the seemingly omnipresent Agent Graves the only connecting detail but by its completion it made clear a nationwide network of criminal empires resting behind the accepted powers-that-be that touched (and consumed) the lives of everyone inside it.

The Series won the 2002 Harvey Awards for Best Writer and Best continuing series (as well as Best Artist for his long term creative partner Eduardo Risso) and 2001 Eisner Award for Best serialised story, and in 2002 and 2004 Eisner Award for Best Continuing Series.

Although diffuse, the main reasons for this success were most likely Azzarello’s uncanny capacity for realistic use of regional and local/dialects as well as often oblique use of slang and metaphorical language in his character’s dialogue. His capacity for subtle and accurate characterisation and his capacity for dynamic and often potentially debilitating plot twists while never losing control of the inherent details that made it so gripping.


He had worked with Eduardo Risso on Jonny Double and went on to work with him on Batman: Broken City applying the same noir and pulp principles reminiscent of the best Miller, Janson and Varley. The intuitive sense of layout and pacing between them formed one of the most effective partnerships in comics history, underpinned by Azzarello’s understanding of provocative and engrossing storytelling.

His dabble into self publishing was (and still is) a rip roaring success with Loveless; a noir Spaghetti Western following the trials of an outlaw couple in the desolate and uncertain years following the American Civil War.

His most recent work of note is Joker for DC comics in which Azzarello brings the long standing image of the DC’s comic book Joker closer to that of Christopher Nolan and the late Heath Ledger’s version from The Dark Knight (2008). He represents far less an ethereal and spiritual threat to Gotham than he does a more potent and vicious one with real verve and clarity in his criminal intent. Something that in the hands of other writers might lessen a long beholden character, but in the hands of Azzarello (aided ably by Lee Bermejo) it finds greater potency in its compactness. An affecting writer, well worth a look if you get the chance.