Rocket Raccoon

Practitioners 3: Mike Mignola

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 next year. 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: Hellboy creator Mike Mignola.

Alien : Salvation (Darkhorse Comics 2001)

Mignola was born in 1960 in Berkley California and not as some might assume in a Caravan on the side of a grey stone track in an Eastern European forest valley in the rain, presided over by witch fiends and troll-likes. Working his way up from his intro into comic illustration in 1980 he brought to life Red Sonja on one page (despite his assertion to this day that he’s never been any good at drawing women), Daredevil, Powerman and IronFist, Incredible Hulk, Alpha Flight and the Rocket Raccoon Limited series (which I’ll literally snap your arm off to get ahold of). Mignola seemingly only ever touching the fringe, edgy characters of the Marvel universe, where, for any long term reader, the great ideas are formed away from the bright, commercial centre. This undeniably is exactly where he belongs.

Mignola is not a mainstream artist but dragged the mainstream towards him with some indelible, brash and clear artwork, broken by black line and mat colours. Mignola’s work is best viewed from a distance… and really close up. Any image he creates works as well as a poster as a piece of comic design or storytelling tool.

He is an artists artist. His abstract linework imbuing life with effortless light detailing. A carved out eye brought to life with a commaed black circle. His Alien glides in black shadow, his Hellboy looking twice as powerful than any carved superhero with his bent coathanger shoulders, his trench coat hanging off him. His composition allowing mind-blowing Kablammo whack outs with rock hard mitts and tender fear and indefinable nightmares in forms and shapes that are perfectly laid about a panel but form a broader latticework across the page. His viewpoint in art is life, curved and shaped and seen through the bottom of a broken bottle and a late night nightmare.

His ‘household name’ moment came with Hellboy, son of the almighty damned one, broken horned, bright red with FF’s Thing scowl, stone hand and Judge Dredd jaw he imbued him with savagery and a bitterly Human soul in the face of fairytales and horrors. Constantly in conflict with the bumps in the night he should be leading, Hellboy represents any person who refuses to follow a path laid out for him by others. Fascinated by international lore, fairytale, myths and legends; Mignola pushes Hellboy from dark path to broken bell tower where he meets a menagerie of dark gods, witches, gargoyles and pig boys who he inevitably fails to reason with and ends up battering with his great stone hand.

A better philosophy on life for the average guy there may never have been.

BTB Investigates: Avengers / Guardians of the Galaxy Crossover Movie?

There are times when something really different finds it’s way into popular culture. A fringe idea, never really intended to be anything particularly outstanding has an unlikely run of luck. Somehow, the guardians of the galaxy, a relatively new team consisting of a universal magician, a cosmic warrior, two master assassins, a former paraplegic, a wise cracking ex-galactic hero, a psychic dog, a transcendental psychokinetic, a walking tree king and a talking raccoon with a penchant for heavy weaponry look like they’ve found their way to the big screen alongside iron man, Thor, cap and the rest of the avengers.

Rumours spreading like wildfire across the internet is that Marvel is about to announce a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. If, as we expect it to, it turns out to be true, then Marvel are really intending to take risks and reap the benefits in the coming years. With a stall of literally hundreds of characters to reveal, from Nova to Namor they could’ve kept thing’s earth bound.

However, we here at beyond the bunker anticipate an Avengers / Guardians crossover for what would’ve been the next Avengers movie. The reasons behind this are numerous.

In terms of available content, Marvel still haven’t got control of many of their greatest and most famous creations. Spider-man still remains under contract with Sony and 20th Century Fox show no signs of releasing the now well established X-men franchise with separate Origins and First Class arcs remaining potential money spinners. Strangely, this means that while Marvel can’t present all of it’s most successful characters together (Wolverine and Spider-man unable to join the current Avengers) these things still mean that Marvel associated projects rule Hollywood. In the next three years we’re likely to see Spider-man, X-men, Wolverine, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Avengers and now Guardians of the Galaxy. There’s barely enough space in the movie calendar to sustain them and some Marvel projects will inevitably crossover. However, with the success of all of the Avengers movie and the fact that every adaptation has more than made it’s money back there is absolutely no sign of the marvel juggernaut stopping (even if he was played badly by Vinnie Jones).

However, this spread between film companies with Marvel franchises (of which Marvel is only one) leaves Marvel with a dearth of possible projects to bring to the big screen. Even the Avengers movie had to concede the use of Skrull warriors ( later to appear as the Chitauri in the film) – most likely because the Skrull copyright went over when the Fantastic Four were sold.

Blade’s been done beautifully (excluding part three) and will be hard to follow, Ghost Rider has met with considerable negative press but has made enough money to remain viably locked where it is, the Punisher never seems to work on the big screen after a couple of botched attempts but is unlikely to fall back into Marvel’s hands. Ant man remains in development and no one wants to try Howard the Duck again. The new warriors are a little too passé, X-factor, X-force, Excalibur, Cable and mystique belong to 20th Century Fox. So where do you turn…?

Marvel went cosmic immediately with Avengers. Natural plot devices that connected the characters inevitably led that way – cosmic cube in Captain America, pretty much every aspect of Thor, it was clear where they were going with it. The Ultimates (Marvel’s cinematic reinterpretation of the Avengers, central to the alternate Ultimate Universe) acknowledged the conscious plan to bring their one remaining credible franchise to the big screen, as X-men and Spider-man tore up the multiplexes elsewhere. The higher ups in Marvel would’ve known that the combined funds from licensing the Ultimate names was building coffers that would allow them to go alone as Marvel entertainment. The most amazing thing is the 20 year plan Marvel have demonstrated here. Mark Millar’s Ultimates revealed the Skrulls present in Nazi forces, crossing Cap’s timeline before presenting a big enough threat to justify the avengers 60 odd years later. This was the precursor to the films that have culminated the same way. However, it’s Thanos that it all hinges on.

Revealed at the very end of Avengers as the true threat, Thanos has represented the greatest danger to the Marvel universe throughout it’s history. Mythic and modern in equal measures, Thanos is an endearingly flawed demi- god figure and a logical threat for the Avengers to face. However, Thanos’ reveal at the end of the Avengers has made clear that the future for Marvel was space.

It’s most successful non- web/mutant/avengers franchise in comic books has been Marvel Galaxies, the culmination of many disparate races and characters developed in the background of other marvel titles. Having exhausted almost every popular earth- based creation they have Marvel had no choice but to look to the stars.

Following the surprisingly engaging Annihalation series and having the foresight to give editorial duties to Warhammer and scifi veterans (and friends to the Bunker) Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, the star spanning Marvel Universe has provided some of Marvel’s most engaging storylines in recent years. Through the Annihalation crossover and War of Kings storylines, one team stood out among all the others and absorbed all the best and most interesting figures in the Galactic Marvel section. Guardians of the Galaxy , brain child of Abnett and Lanning, kicked off with so much spit and gusto that it inevitably became a fan favourite.

This is here because we love this picture!!

With Thanos’ arrival in it’s pages, launching a further crossover that brought together the Annihalators – the most powerful figures in the galaxy – the relevance of Guardians of the Galaxy to the plot of the Avengers was cemented. Mostly killed off in that storyline, the notoriety of the Guardians has lost almost no momentum, rocket raccoon and Groot continuing to fight on in the back pages of the Annihalators.

Led by a disgraced and disillusioned galactic hero called Starlord – now a gun toting wisecracker, the Guardians represent the founding ideas that made comics great, combining it with Stan Lee’s philosophy for Marvel. Strong characters mix with unrelentingly uncompromising science fiction in a mix that is wry, exciting and fun.

With Iron Man 3, Thor and captain America 2 and Avengers 2 coming up in the next two years Marvel will be looking for a new card to play. We think that Marvel intend to make the Avengers movie another benchmark movie making it not only a repeat of an enormous crossover of successful films in their own right but are planning to add another to the mix. We anticipate that we are looking at a Guardians of the Galaxy / Avengers crossover in less than 3 years with an introductory movie for the star team appearing before hand.

All we need is Bob Hoskins to voice the part of Rocket Raccoon – to match the rugged cockney accent Marvel gave Rocket in the Marvel vs Capcom game and maybe Brian Blessed on Groot.

So when inevitably Thanos puts on his infinity Gauntlet to impress Lady Death in the next Avengers movie, two teams will ride out to face him. Don’t know about you but we can’t wait.

Guardians of the Galaxy Movie? : Avengers meet the Guardians of the Galaxy!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLMq7lRqgqY

We here at Beyond the Bunker are convinced that Rocket Raccoon is an irresistable possibility for Marvel to not make into a movie. The combination of Armoured smart talker (Peter Quill), uncertain galactic powerhouse (Captain Marvel), mysterious magic man (Warlock), Giant Man Tree (Groot) and a cockney Raccoon seems like blockbuster gold to me and the various plot lines that we’re seeing build up are looking like they might suggest at least a cameo for this lot in the next four movies released by Marvel.

This little clip goes some way towards pointing in that direction but are our predictive powers maybe over stretching a little? ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ says Iron Man in a voice that suggests he’s about to be dragged away by his frat buddies to a kegger on the other side of campus ‘like Space Avengers…’

Yes, Tony Stark (script writer of this episode) like the biggest grossing movie ever made …. only in space…… hmmmmm.

If I get a chance to talk to Joe Quesada this weekend I’m asking for a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Once, long ago, I was pretty reserved about this stuff….

Practitioners 44: Andy Lanning

Andy Lanning is a British comic book writer and inker, known, most credibly for his work for Marvel Comics and DC comics and in particular as collaborator with Dan Abnett. For an inker to make the leap to writing one of the foremost titles currently being put out by Marvel, as part of their Cosmic run, is impressive. His association with Dan Abnett has gone from strength to strength for years.

Lanning wasn’t always an inker though, at the spark of his career with Marvel UK in it’s earliest days, he found a position as penciller on the short lived, Jake and Elwood Blues inspired, futuristic Sleeze Brothers was a comic book limited series published by Epic Comics, between August 1989 and January 1990 – a run of just six issues. Written by John Carnell, it followed the titular brothers through a futuristic earth filled with extra terrestrials, pollution, crime and corruption. It was neatly drawn with a warner brothers-esque style with a semi realistic twist. The art style was arguably on par with other artists – Bryan Hitch for instance – who went on to become much more prolific and well known artists – working with Abnett and Lanning much later on their 15 book run on Wildstorm’s The Authority.

Working consistently alongside Dan Abnett, no one has ever been more of a fix-it guy on so many varying projects. He drops seamlessly into whatever position is necessary on any given project, pencilling, inking, co-writing and writing – he’s either the most prolific hanger on or one of the nicest, most capable people in the industry. To be able to work alongside so many names of the industry, including Abnett who alone is responsible for the sales of more than 1.5 million novels and hundreds of thousands of comic books, he has to be a hell of a guy to work with. Bouncing ideas backwards and forwards past him must be akin to a Chinese / South Korean ping pong final at the Olympics.

Lanning’s partnership with Dan Abnett began early on, with a Judge Anderson: Exorcise Duty for the Judge Dredd Annual 1991, with art completed by Anthony Williams. Lanning found popular acclaim inking Liam Sharp’s pencils for the industry shaking Death’s Head 2. A title with more than 500,000 preorders DH 2 was a flagship example of success at a boom time for comic books that’ll never be seen again. His sublime work on Liam Sharp’s detailed and precise and exacting illustrative work shows an incredible attention to detail. With Marvel UK Lanning was involved in Digitek (with John Tomlinson and painted art by Dermot Power) and Codename: Genetix (with Graham Marks, Phil Gascoine and inks by Robin Riggs in 1993)as part of Marvel Uk’s second generation wave of titles.

Lanning graduated to Marvel mainstream with Punisher: Year One (with Abnett, Dale Eaglesham and Scott Koblish) and the Avengers West Coast replacement, Force Works (again with Dan Abnett), which featured Iron Man, USAgent, Scarlet Witch, Wonder man and a long disappeared alien warrior guru named Century. Force Works was elevated some time later into an animated series.

Moving over to DC shortly afterwards with a run on Resurretion Man (with Jackson Guice), The Else world One-shot Batman: Two Faces (with Anthony Williams), Abnett and Lanning (or DnA as they are otherwise known) found a home with DC’s resident spit curled former-resisdent of Krypton, Superman with Prime-Time, The Superman Monster, Return to Krypton and Strange Attractors (on which he worked with Gail Simone as well as Abnett). It was the title for which Olivier Coipel became famous that raised the status for both Lanning and his writing partner as they took on Legion Lost, a reimagining of the debunked Legion of Superheroes title, that later became the ongoing Legion. In many ways Lanning maintains his Mr Fixit role in almost every job he undertakes, working alongside the big names of the industry and putting out consistent and notable writing. Impossible as it is to discern where Lanning ends and Abnett begins, it clearly works – as Abnett has worked diligently beside Lanning on almost all major projects (excluding his 2000AD output) for the last 20 years. To maintain a working arrangement like that for so long is notable in that as the profile of the two writers became greater, one would have stood apart as the creative mind. However, in 20 years, no cracks appear to have shown in the partnership. If anything both have had increasing fun obliterating universes together.

Based on Abnett’s other work (with Warhammer 40k), Lanning appears to be the populist and more comic book orientated, perhaps the thing that brings Abnett’s writing into line with audiences with less of a need for heavy weaponry and enormous armies. However it braeks down, Lanning’s partnership with Abnett clearly spawns enthusiastic and impressive ideas and narratives including some of the best character zingers ever heard. The pair have improved and enhanced their reputation in comic books by simplifying and man handling their characters and allowing events to take hold that other titles fail to. Effectively an editor’s potential worst nightmare, when handed a sand box that they have creative control of the effects are absolutely brilliant.

Lanning and Abnett collaboarted on the ongoing Nova series for Marvel in 2007, following the cataclysmic Nova series from the previous years Marvel Cosmic crossover Annihalation. Lanning and Abnett were handed the scenario whereby the Xandarian Nova Corps would be destroyed completely within 12 pages by the incoming Annihalation wave. triggering an intergalactic war. Some might have balked at the idea but this was Lanning and Abnett’s Raise en dentre. Grabbing the Xandarian Nova Corps helmet by the polished brass, they didn’t destroy the Nova Corps, they really Annihalated it. Thousands of Starships pummel the Nova Corps unexpectedly during a Corps meeting and rather than holding back slightly and allowing certain survivors to pick themselves up from the rubble and try to carry on, Lanning and Abnett killed every single Corpsman but one, our very own Richard Rider in less time than it usually takes to have a two headed character discussion. Rider doesn’t simply get knocked aside, he survives because he’s effectively at the heart of it. He spends four or five panels flirting with a fellow Corpswoman only for her head to be smashed to pieces and is sent hurtling backwards down to the planet below, trapped in the flaming wreckage of the Corps hall he was just in and had tried to fly through in order to escape. Issue 2 sees a battered and injured Nova, trapped under rubble in a quiet tableau of post apocalyptic destruction, snow and ash falling from the grey sky. He spends the rest of the issue scrambling through the rubble, a beautifully rendered example of the pause after immense death, tempered with Nova’s obnoxious banter with the discovered Novacorps Artificial Intelligence. Lanning and Abnett are patient and confident writers, allowing the events to breath and never afraid of the possibility of tragedy, carnage, laughter or brevity to take place within a panel of each other.

In June 2008, Abnett and Lanning announced they had signed an exclusive deal with Marvel and they have served the populist hulk very well. They piloted the Annihalation: Conquest storyline, in which the Phalanx take advantage of the vulnerability of post Annihalation wave societies and block off Kree space. This became a more paired down sequel to Annihalation, focussing very deliberately on very, very specific figures. From these, the title Star Lord, a reimagining of the adapted character that appeared in the late ’90s spawned a new Guardian’s of the Galxy title.

In this Lanning and Abnett have hit their stride absolutely. With a play pen involving some of the most notable characters in the Marvel Universe, they decided to opt for a Green Nymphomaniac murderess, a smart mouthed hero of the Annihalation wars, a warrior built to kill gods, a fallen space mage with schizophrenic tendencies and a talking Raccoon. The inclusion of Rocket Raccoon alone is worth a pat on the back and a pint in the hand. Rocket Raccoon was last seen frequenting 1980s Marvel comic books, being chased by Keystone cops in an absurdist forest surrounded by oddball creations. It was hard to see how the character existed then, let alone could find a place in modern comic book teams. But Rocket Raccoon returned, found in a Kree holding cell, he befriended Groot, a walking tree king so he could use him as a platform for his heavy ordnance. As tactical leader of the team, Rocket is one of the finest examples of writing outrunning the lunacy of a plot. Rocket, along with all the other members of the team are written sublimely. Private progress reports give each character their own distinctive voice and has seen Guardians become one of the most talked about series in years for fans in the know.

Lanning and Abnett have a habit of taking crackpot ideas and breaking all the rules, to positive effect. Their run on War of Kings, described usually as the Cosmic aftermath of Secret Invasion dwarves the events that took place on Earth. With the apparent death’s of Cyclop’s new-found brother Vulcan you would think they were resolving an unfortunate creative choice from the X-men universe (Vulcan wasn’t well liked and leadened the X-men universe immeasurably) until you realise that the External’s King Black Bolt, an iconic and famous figure in books, often stood beside Reed Richards, Namor, Iron Man, Captain America as pillars of a character filled universe dies with him, blowing a massive hole in the side of creation from which nasty things pop out for the Guardians to deal with. The death of a long standing Shi’ar leader (and X-men regular) in Empress Neramani and the raising of Gladiator as new Emperor of the Shi’ar state is plotting that had been denied for nearly 20 years. These character’s were seemingly immovable on the chess board of Marvel’s tactical board. Lanning and Abnett set fire to the Chess board.

But more than that, the love story between Ronan the Accuser and the External’s Crystal is thought provoking and engaging as the clumsy Accuser finds himself out of his depth but slowly charms the warm and emotionally open Crystal to him with his honesty. Gladiator’s struggle with his obvious rise to power is touching as a picture of man who’s devotion is to the seat of power but comes to understand that his future is at the service of his people. It’s powerful stuff, more than acceptable for a historical, political play or romance but it is found in the pages of a comic book in which a Raccoon bounds about the panel shouting insults at his fellow team mates as they fight at the edge of space. They have brought back the multi layered space opera unexpectedly and I know that we at Beyond the Bunker will continue to read it for as long as Lanning and Abnett continue to put them out. Long may they write of Empire building in far distant galaxies. They could even show a certain bearded film maker a thing or two….

‘Airstrike Suck-arse!!’ Rocket Raccoon Joins Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3

Rocket Raccoon joins the throng of Capcom and Marvel Godheads that pummel each other as part of Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom and he’s a cockney wideboy!! Although it appears he shouts ‘Airstrike Suck-arse!’ just after kicking Chun-li’s teeth in which is odd, perhaps in an American attempt at a cockney accent, Rocket has been one of our favourite characters for ages and it’s good to see him bombing a wolf. Seems the Guardians of the Galaxy might be nothing without him but it would appear he’s a bit of a tw@t.

Whatever the reason behind Rocket coming from the mean streets of Tottenham and Bexley Heath it’s good to see that the universe’s primary defence against reality bending necromancers talks like a Pearly King after 15 pints and a gin in the ol’ Dog in Canning Town. When it comes to kick ass on a galactic level; send in the mammal who fashions himself on the Krays.