Practitioners 6: Carlos Ezquerra

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: 2000AD Legend and Judge Dredd creator Carlos Ezquerra.

Judge Dredd (2012) is lifted from the early days of Dredd developed but Wagner and Ezquerra

In the modern day of high detail precision artwork Carlos Ezquerra might seem like an odd choice but he is the visual grandaddy of heavy weaponry, science fiction city scapes and the most famous Judge ever to walk the streets of Megacity One, spawning a major movie featuring Sly Stallone and a generation of Judges under the awe inspiring steely gaze of the foremost tough guy in British Comics. It is easy to underestimate the effect that the design work that went into Judge Dredd had as like all genre defining moments it becomes a feature of everything that comes behind it. The weird part is that Carlos Ezquerra wasn’t the first to see his artwork on the title in print.


Carlos Sanchez Ezquerra was born in November 1947, in Zaragoza and has worked under the alias at times of L. John Silver. A Spanish artist who find a home in the British Comics Industry and inspired a generation of young budding artists to pick up a pen and never be scared to draw a weapon at whatever scale we felt like. He loosened the rules and maintained plausibility simultaneously. An emotive and beligerent artist who pummelled the page with aggressive and broad visuals in a very clear and distinctive style,

Be in no doubt that the most easily recognisable British Comic Book character – aside from Desperate Dan and Dennis the Menace (now there’s a crossover we all wanna see) was brought to life visually by Carlos Ezquerra. British Comic book writing legend John Wagner sent Ezquerra a poster of Death Race 2000 with the central character, Frankenstein in black leather on a motorbike as the source of inspiration for the character. Ezquerra sent back Dredd – armoured, leather covered with zips and buckles and the world reknowned badge pinned to his chest. His conceots for Megacity One and the equipment and clothing was deemed too advanced for the title as it was intended and so Pat Mills – who had taken over as writer after Wagner left disillusioned over financial arrangements behind 2000AD – pushed Dredd further into a post apocalyptic future. Now that’s a sign of a great concept designer – advancing the designs so much it alters the original pitch for the better.

Unfortunately for Ezquerra, newcomer Mike McMahon was to introduce Dredd to the world in Prog 2 of 2000AD – Dredd a scrawny shade of his original self. Ezquerra, enraged at being removed from the strip he designed left and returned to ‘Battle’ comics. Until Prog 9 – in which Wagner’s ‘Robot Wars’ story line began with a rotating art team – including Ezquerra. The strength of the storyline saw Dredd become the most popular character in the magazine. Ezquerra’s work became synonomous with the stone faced law man.

While it can’t be argued as faultless – his grasp of anatomy stops at long chins and gollum faces its his lasting legacy that secures him a position in the annuls of comics history. The Dredd and the Strontium Dog he created visually perfectly embodied the strength and hard bitten nature that was needed in the environment that had been developed for him to stride through. Ezquerra, like many other exceptional artists, has a sparing and economical style that carries as much information as his more precise or detailed peers. But its in the simplicity that he communicates better what many others have struggled to in page after page of meticulously rendered panels. When two tough guys walk out onto the Cursed Earth just how many lines do you need? – thankfully Ezquerra’s chosen for you.

A determined and clear minded individual who stuck to his guns as well as any lawman he ever drew – Ezquerra was removed from his post and could have been left to the annuls of comic book history. But he returned and stood out alongside his creation and perservered to receive the credit he deserved. He represents the optimism and determination needed to be a comic book artist, subject to the whims and turmoil of an ever shifting industry.

Skyfall: New Trailer and that Olympic moment…

Bond is back – seemingly this time from the death – Mendes at the helm, creepy ass bad guy with a hair colour that doesn’t quite suit him (Javier Bardem, apparently moved on from being a lone pressure gun killer in No Country For Old Men to being MI6’s greatest nemesis to date).

Rumours of the scene, provided by Danny Boyle from excess footage left over from the Olympics, in which the Queen fly kicks a bad guy in the neck at Sandringham, does appear to have been left out of this trailer.

For those who missed it at the Olympic Opening Ceremony (you were one of the 2.3 Billion who missed it, eh?) here’s the quintessential moment in which two icons of the British Empire met for the first time and threw themselves out of a Helicopter….

Doctor Who Trailer – Return in the Autumn

The Doctor is back and he’s seemingly more budgeted than ever. Cyborg gunmen, heavily armour plated suits, a million Daleks and the apparent loss of his current assistant at the hands of them will bear little relationship to what we are about to see happen in the new series to return this Autumn (or Season / Fall for our American Cousins). Certainly looks like the popularity of the good Doctor is fuelling some high end ideas ‘Dinosaurs on a Space ship’ for instance but is this going to unbalance the wish fulfillment / saving the universe with a matchstick charm which made the Doctor so successful before?

Too much ‘I’m the Doctor,’ going on. The old Doctor never needed to mention his name – he did things that proved it, that was the ultimate joy. Will Matt Smith’s Doctor be increasingly a passenger in his own series – most likely in at least one episode that doesn’t feature him that occurs in every series – or is this the one where things start to happen!!

The Angels and Daleks are back – the Silence are nowhere to be seen. The US seems to be playing a big ol’ part in it all now, California or Nevada and apparently Alaska if the snowy bits are anything to go by. Much to be revealed. We’ll see what happens….

First Trailer for Adorable-Larceny-Based-Old-Man-and-the-Droid Movie Robot and Frank

At the age of 31 (coming up 32) I’m already a little bemused by modern tech. I know how to operate my I-Phone pretty well but I’m too scared to put the RAM chips I bought with my current Mac in case I break it – meaning I’m using a potentially high end piece of kit like a neanderthal using an IPAD to beat a passing mammal over the head. I’m aware that there are 7 year olds who know how to use In Design better than I can. A bit of education should sort that out (keep an eye on future Diary of a Bum Artist blogs for further details) but I can appreciate that at some point technology is going to pass me by. Which is why newly released / sightly delayed film Robot and Frank kind of appeals.

Ol’ geriatric Frank (Frank Langella) is being left behind by all the crazy tinpot developments in the world in a fairly plausible future in Sundance success Robot and Frank. Of course old Frank is a thief and finds uses for Robot that we probably wouldn’t’ve thought of but certainly makes good movie plots as he attacks the twats that plague him in the world the only way he knows how. And tries it on with Susan Sarandon (well you would wouldn’t you…)

Here’s the blurb:

Frank (Frank Langella) a retired jewel thief gets a new lease on life when he is introduced to a surprising new companion. With the help of his new friend, he attempts to woo a local librarian (Susan Sarandon) and resume his criminal escapades. ROBOT & FRANK is directed by first time filmmaker Jake Schreier, written by Christopher Ford (TVs “Atom TV”), and produced by Galt Niederhoffer, Sam Bisbee, Jackie Kelman Bisbee and Lance Acord.

Directed by Jake Schreier and penned by Christopher D. Ford, Robot and Frank will be in US theaters on August 24th – though if it’ll see a UK release is anyone’s guess….

Dredd vs Judge Dredd (2012 /1995)

Judge Dredd is back on the streets. Judge, Jury and Executioner on the streets of Megacity One. Back in 1995, Sylvester Stallone filled the oversized biker boots of the ultimate Judge – in 2012 it’s the slightly more svelte Karl Urban (LOTR and Star Trek). Obvious critical antipathy aside the problem back then was not Stallone, quite frankly the iconography, CGI, battle sequences and hard edged machismo on display matched what was taking place in the pages of 2000AD at the time very well though in the intervening years it’s aged inevitably, Roy Schneider, too many plot lines and a weird ending derailing a promising comic book adaptation.

The modern remake looks to be taking a less bombastic approach to Megacity One, with intermittent Megablocks between normal buildings, more of a sprawling metropolis than a monolithic tech city – reminiscent of District 9 and Predator 2 rather than Attack of the Clones and Blade Runner – which fits in with the sombre rethinks of other iconic comic book characters in recent years – though is just as likely to date it for future generations. It appears smarter and more universal perhaps than its predecessor on the whole though.

The problem in 1995 was flash-in-the-pan silly voiced ‘comedy actor’ Rob Schneider, dropped in to provide some misjudged light relief. Max Von Sydow and Diane Lane as Chief Justice Fargo and Judge Hershey were well placed but a retread of an old ‘clone’ story in which Dredd’s ‘brother’ Rico (played by Armand Assante) pushed the Sci-fi too far too quickly before Dredd was properly developed. Cramming ABC Warrior references, The Angel Gang (in particular JD strip regular Mean Machine Angel, a clone storyline and an intro that used elements of Wagner’s original Block War storyline into one short film caused a mess to ensue. By the denouement, set in an unexplained hideout in the head of the Statue of Liberty, apparently moved to the middle of Megacity One for no other reason than to have an exciting setting for the ending, things were confusing and a little overblown.

The new version has involved the creative teams that created Dredd in the first place, screenwriter Alex Garland (The Beach, 28 Days Later) has worked closely with Dredd creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra to get the characters as close to the original concept as possible. Their plans seem to be very much more long term as well in this age of franchises, with the trailer suggesting only the utilisation of Wagner’s early Dredd storyline ‘Block Wars’ in which Dredd has to fight his way through one of the Megablocks (giant housing blocks) to take out Ma-Ma Madrigal, the dealer of Slo-Mo, a drug that causes the taker to slow their perception of time.

The other controversy back in 1995 was the decision to reveal Dredd’s face – as Sly – though really this could be a redundant concern as the world and his mates dog knew what Sylvester Stallone looked like and frankly Stallone filled the role very well, even down to the twisted lantern jaw.

This time it looks like the helmet is firmly stuck on, which is a shame in some respects as Karl Urban has a less interesting chin than Sylvester Stallone. This, in itself, might kick up it’s own controversy in film fans that are not so familiar with the source material. Never-the-less, hats off to anyone who wants to stick as resolutely as possible to any long standing character – made easier no doubt by Alex Garland’s position as Producer.

Never the less, both have moments of cleverness, the original’s section in the Cursed Earth and the depiction of the senior Judges (in particular Max Von Sydow’s Chief Judge Fargo) was well translated and the meaty, cartoon violence and tongue in cheek satire of rampant total martial law was imbedded nicely without becoming part of the plot, as in the books themselves. The action sequences were on the whole nicely put together (excluding the last) and Stallone was effectively born to play the Judge of Judges. Ultimately it’s flaws brought it down but it was a worthy attempt brought down through too much fiddling by the powers that be.

This version looks more careful and considered with a sharp eye on the future of the franchise as well as a neat look at the past that inspired it. Whether relying on Wagner and Ezquerra, geniuses though they are, to imbed ideas that have been developed since will prove a great idea is yet to be seen but the more I watch the trailer the more I think they’re on to something. However, in the cold, gritty realism they’ve claerly aimed at alla Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight franchise is there room for Mean Machine Angel and more to the point, the snickering countenance of Judge Death…. probably not based on what we see here… but there’ll always be another franchise in another 17 years and franly I’m psyched to see what this one holds in store for us.

In the meantime, below is the 1995 trailer that inspired me to convince 50 mates to go see it – something I paid for dearly. I still blame Schneider. Pre-CGI Jar Jar that he was!! Compare and contrast – based on the trailer below you’d be a fool to miss it, sadly the end result wasn’t quite on par, but do note how irritating it gets the moment Schneider turns up. Fingers crossed for September 2012.

Django Unchained Trailer: Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cool

Ethically borderline central characters – Check, 70s Kung Fu Movie simplicity – Check, Coolness bordering on latent homoeroticism – Check. Must be Tarantino’s back. Since the rampaging glory and Revenge of the Jews that was Inglorious Basterds I’ve been waiting (without really thinking about it often) for the next high octane dose of the ‘Tino.

While we’re never going to see the edginess of Pulp Fiction again these films are getting broader and more fun. It looks awesome. And looking at the slightly self aware casting it’s classic Tarantino!

It’s like Roots but where the slaves kick ass!!

Skyfall Trailer

It’s been a while since Bond was on our screen. While Casino Royale left everyone wanting more – it’s fair to say that the follow up cooled attitudes. The contrivance of a hotel filled with explosive gas as a finale for a Bond movie stretched things almost as far as the super car-bonnet surfing glacier space laser scene from Dire another Day. But this looks like cleaner, slicker, tougher stuff. Sam Mendes, director of comic adaptation Road to Perdition (featuring Daniel Craig) has a history of crisply shot violence and misunderstood masculinity. So nothing like this then.

Worth a look I’d say.

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….

Major (but awesome) Spoiler about the Avengers Villain

Back in November, we wrote an article about whether or not Thanos was secretly the true Avengers movie bad guy. It was thrown together with ideas of Whedon’s natural layering of threats in previous projects, Marvel’s cavalier attitude to plots and introductions of unusual and exciting characters and Thanos himself being cool as all hell and associated with cubes. The whole article effectively gave reason after reason as to why it should be true then I crapped out in the last paragraph and said no probably not.

But word is beginning to spread that ol’ purple radiator face does indeed make an appearance in the Avengers movie. Also, that shots showing Loki working alongside the Avengers (Oh Loki, when will you ever learn) suggest that things go awry and that a dark force more powerful than the God of Mischief intervenes. This, I believe, ain’t Thanos but we have recieved a comment from someone fortunate enough to see the Avengers Assemble claiming that Thanos is right there at the end of the credits. Other sources are saying he’s perrenially involved in Loki’s plot though not the prevailing threat of the film.

Nevertheless, if Thanos is in the all important final reel at the end of the credits then Marvel is beefing him up for something. Io9.com was mentioning the other day a veiled reference by a Marvel Exec about a feature involving a Raccoon and a tree and Marvel Galaxies saw Thanos versus Nova, Gladiator et al just last year. This points to an incredibly promising possibility. That Marvel intend to move their new features further out perhaps than anyone would expect and push out a Galactic movie. Guardians of the Galaxy: the Movie anyone?

The worst part is we had Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning right in front of us just this weekend and all I talked to Andy Lanning about was what ink to use and I spoke to Dan and his lovely wife about embarrassing myself in front of Simon Pegg at a Star Wars Con I was working at. I was priding myself on my restraint after embarrassing myself in front of Quitely a year ago (something Dan brings up whenever he can and will glefully tell you if asked) but this time fanboy bloghead would’ve actually helped!! Mother f…