Practitioners 57: Robert Kirkman

It’s back!! Practitioners, our article featuring the people who made the comics industry is updated occasionally between issues of Moon. Practitioners Reloaded present the previous 1 – 53 (Simon BisleyChris Bachalo) for those who want to read more.

Born November 30th 1978 in Richmond, Kentucky, Robert Kirkman would be the only non-founding member of the third largest comic book company in the US and the creator of a black and white Zombie-fest that would be hailed as the ultimate in ‘independent’ comic books. The Walking Dead picked up on the global enthusiasm for Zombie stories and made it accessible in a way that saw it developed into a mainstream TV series.

Kirkman’s sense of identifying attention grabbing ideas is complemented by his capacity to carefully and enjoyably develop them, walking the line between enjoyment and engagement for the reader.

Kirkman’s first comic book work was the 2000 superhero parody Battle Pope, co-created with artist Tony Moore, and self published under their Funk-o-Tron label. This, perhaps, is the nature of indy publishing. A well presented, deliberately fringe creation never intended to find a place in the mainstream, that engages readers in a way the mainstream can’t and creates a viable alternative. The perfect synthesis between high (and funny) concept and professional execution (something now only too visible in British indy titles such as Lou Scannon, Stiffs and ahem… Moon).

Kirkman Battle Pope 03 - page 03-04

Later, while pitching a new series, Science Dog, Kirkman and artist Cory Walker, were hired to do a Super Patriot (of Savage Dragon fame) mini series for Image Comics. Not content simply on that, Kirkman developed the 2002 Image Series Tech Jacket, which ran for six issues, with E.J. Su. In 2003, Kirkman and Walker created Invincible for Image’s new superhero line. Again, the story lines were acutely mirroring the work being produced on Marvel’s Ultimate line. Invincible, following the adolescent son of a superhero, who develops his own powers and attempts to start his own superhero career. Kirkman’s genius is an extension of Stan Lee’s some 50 years previous. It hinges on the normalisation of the super, bringing it down to the earth without an overly revealing bump.

Kirkman Invincable

Invincible was one of the titles that made the US comic industry a 3 company, rather than a 2 company one. In 2005, Paramount Pictures announced it had bought the rights to produce an Invincible feature film, and hired Kirkman to write the screenplay. Still nowhere to be seen, most likely the success of Walking Dead has put this particular project on the back seat for the time being.

Walking Dead Kirkman

In 2003, Kirkman began his most well-known and mainstream title, The Walking Dead. It represented an unusual change in the already popular gamut of zombie material that has dominated popular culture for the last ten years. Whereas all previous appearances of the Undead had been one-offs (aside from occasional cameos in George A. Romero’s increasingly marginal series of zombie films) this was an ongoing series, with an ongoing cast and an ongoing threat. The expected result of any Zombie film is that all parties will be decimated by the final reel, the relevance of the plot being the journey those characters took in the face of an unending threat, but Kirkman’s series would cause the threat to be unending. There is no indication as to how the series might end as there is no intention for it to, only that, by Kirkman’s own volition, any character is fair game and can be killed at any time. Even the central character, County Sheriff Rick Grimes, has been given a mortality extending only as far as the reader’s interest. It’s ongoing nature has allowed ideas to be developed in ways that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. The depiction of a ‘herd’, a force of nature generated by a world populated by Zombies, in which wandering Undead intersect their ongoing paths, the rudimentary stimulus of the physical world causing them to travel in large groups, like a tide being forced through a river. Add this to the effect of a gun shot or explosion to draw the undead from a wide area and the actions of civilians in future Zombie stories will have been changed by this series.

The format also allowed the events taking place to breathe in a way that other Zombie stories couldn’t allow. Whereas convenient environments are found near-fully formed in films such as Dawn of the Dead, with access to food, water, protection, power – in Kirkman’s world, every viable haven is deficient, solutions having to be found in order to make it safe or sustainable. There is interest in this angle and Kirkman’s new format gives this subject room to be investigated. The flaw in the format however, becomes increasingly clear the longer the series runs. Kirkman has applied the rules of the Undead pretty strictly, although augmented. Those being the discovery of a world in which the Undead have taken over, the discovery of the hopelessness of the situation, the loss of society and resources, the loss of family and friends, the discovery of an enclosed haven, the failure of humanity to maintain it, the realisation that humans are the deadliest species. The difficulty with this is that the same plot has effectively been repeated several times, the inevitable breakdown of the walls around the main characters through their own actions becoming obvious and the threat of the Undead increasingly diminished as the characters and societies have to be more established in order to have survived this long. The title has slowly become a doctrine of post apocalyptic politics as the human race gains a grip on a dead world. Whether this was Kirkman’s intention is uncertain but the title remains engaging, even beyond it’s original remit and has always been written by Kirkman.

Kirkman Walking Dead Headless Dead

This, accompanied with a number of other projects in the same period, hired by Marvel Comics to reintroduce it’s ’90s series, Sleepwalker, sadly cancelled before being published and the contents of issue 1 included in Epic Anthology No.1 in 2004. As the Avengers became increasingly ‘Disassembled’, in Marvel’s dismantling and reboot of the central title, Kirkman was given control of Captain America (vol 4), Marvel Knight’s 2099 one-shots event, Jubilee #1–6 and Fantastic Four: Foes #1–6, a two-year run on Ultimate X-Men and the entire Marvel Team-Up vol. 3 and the Irredeemable Ant-Man miniseries.

At Image, Kirkman and artist Jason Howard created the ongoing series The Astounding Wolf-Man, launching it on May 5, 2007, as part of Free Comic Book Day. Kirkman edited the monthly series Brit, based on the character he created for the series of one-shots, illustrated by Moore and Cliff Rathburn. It ran 12 issues.

Kirkman announced in 2007 that he and artist Rob Liefeld would team on a revival of Killraven for Marvel Comics. Kirkman that year also said he and Todd McFarlane would collaborate on Haunt for Image Comics.

In late July 2008, Kirkman was made a partner at Image Comics, thereby ending his freelance association with Marvel. Nonetheless, later in 2009, he and Walker produced the five-issue miniseries The Destroyer vol. 4 for Marvel’s MAX imprint. It’s unsurprising that Kirkman wanted to continue his association with Marvel, given that he named his son Peter Parker Kirkman, after one of Marvel’s most central heroes.

Walking Dead TV

In 2010, in a fanfare to the success of Walking Dead as a comic book series, AMC began it’s production of the still-ongoing Walking Dead TV Series which has become a mainstay of Sunday night viewing and has brought the original story of Rick Grimes, Lori and his son to a new and much wider audience. This has revealed the capacity for even relatively new books and concepts to find their place in wider media in an industry dominated by titles developed in some case, for more than half a century.

A surprising number of artists have failed to remain working alongside Kirkman, Cory Walker being replaced by Ryan Ottley on Invincible and Tony Moore replaced by Charlie Adlard after 6 issues of Walking Dead. While there is an innate tolerance in modern comic books on precise deadlines (mostly driven by Image and Dark Horse’s independent beginnings) this stands out with Kirkman’s almost solitary retention on the Walking Dead TV series senior team, with some extremely noteworthy walk outs (Frank Darabont the most noteworthy perhaps). These things are always subject to more politics than is publicly visible and are no doubt subject to a great many different pressures, however Kirkman is often the last man standing. This durability and sustainability perhaps the reason he has found himself in such a senior position in Image itself. However, this is open to a great deal of rumour and conjecture and is inevitable when someone such as Kirkman has risen alongside such long standing names of comic, film and TV.

Regardless of what the future holds for Robert Kirkman, he is made an indelible mark on the face of modern comics. He has moved the focus away from super hero comics, even challenging longer established characters and titles in wider fields. He has taken his place among comic book legends to run the third largest comic book company in the world, while still maintaining his own titles. Kirkman should be an inspirational figure to those in independent comics below him and an example of what careful and considered ideas, well developed can achieve.

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Iron Age: The Iron Man 3 Trailer

Hard to know how to follow up Iron Man 1 and 2 and the obvious triumph of Avengers (Assemble). Seems the people over at Marvel Entertainment have a clear idea. Smash everything to bits and start again. Reminiscent of Iron Man’s … um.. tangy.. story a little while back where Hammer and Norman Osborn took everything from him, someone looking suspiciously like Hammer and someone who would no doubt be Norman Osborn if someone else didn’t have Spider-man are taking everything from him…

And Gandhi’s forgotten his oath of non violent protest, found some rings and gone all heavily armoured Sexy Beast. Frankly, I can’t wait!! Great cast and a brilliant premise. The double whammy of two villains in the form of Iron Patriot and the Mandarin has rarely been done well but let’s see what happens here… please, please, please keep it up Marvel.

Tout L’Armour: Iron Patriot shots from Iron Man 3

Yo and behold – Iron Patriot spangles up proceedings in Iron Man 3. These on-set shots from the new Avengers movie (already in production – good work Marvel!!) reveal a very starry eyed surprise for one Mr Anthony Stark. Interesting choice of Bad Guy that might’ve suggested that yet again, the Mandarin has been put on the back-burner for the new movie. But no…

While Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce have already been confirmed to take on nemesis roles in the upcoming film, it seems that there is another villainous character on the scene.

The discovery of Iron Patriot as a potential third villain (played by James Badge Dale) suggests things might be getting a little crowded on set for part 3. Considering that no comicx book adaptation with more than one full-on super villain has ever truly worked it seems like a weird gambit on Marvel’s behalf but if anyone’s gonna pull it off… watch this space.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2152633/Iron-Man-3-villain-James-Badge-Dale-seen-Iron-Patriot-set.html#ixzz1wTVwUG8i

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

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….

Star Wars: Crazy Images

It’s fair to say that Star Wars has pretty much conquered the internet and popular culture like an imperial cyber march. So much so that it’s beginning to draw in every other bit of popular culture and chewing on it. Sometimes it’s just self referential using gags that everyone gets. Sometimes it’s so thuggishly funny it has to be included (like the one below). Whatever you think – Star Wars is going nowhere. Avengers photo gags in thirty years? Who knows. It lacks the juicy soap opera of bother and sister having an unsuspecting kiss and gay robots so maybe it will never reach the heady heights that Lucas’ brain child enjoys. Never the less, here’s a selection for you…

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…

Avengers Week: Agent Coulson (’nuff said!)

A perhaps unsurprising character that was both invented as a dramatic link between the Avengers canon of films and has found popularity as a result of them is Agent Coulson – played by Clark Gregg – earning himself a series of comedy shorts and his own Avengers Posters. Gregg has played Coulson beautifully, a light touch among gods and super soldiers. Deliberately every-man in nature his capacity is limited to that of a well trained us. We love him and he is perhaps the most well loved of all the Avengers characters. Representing far better the people the Avengers defend, Coulson represents brilliantly the Marvel Universe invented by Stan Lee in 1961 more than 50 years ago.

Avengers: Black Widow kicks Ass as Whedon goes back to Buffy!

On the 11th April 2012 Marvel Entertainment release the Avengers in selected US cinemas. As such – we can expect a dearth of Avengers material released on the web – most likely replaced with reviews and fan material. Released a couple of days ago Scarlet Johansen is the first Avenger to be showcased in her own solo promo – if you don’t count Iron Man I and II, Agent Coulson’s one-shots and the first parts of the Thor and Captain America franchises. Where’s the Hawkeye and Maria Hill promo?

Regardless; Black Widow proves that ladies can kick some ass. In the hands of director Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Serenity (Firefly) which both centre on mistresses of the Kung Pow this was always likely!!

Japanese Trailers for our favourite Movies – Avengers

Pretty much all of this footage has long since been seen as a TV Spot and various previews but this is what the Japanese got months ago as a standard trailer for the Avengers movie. Leaning a little more heavily on the tech – with some lingering shots of the Shield carrier doing it’s thing the whole thing starts with a revealing look at the invaders coming out of a wibbly wormhole. Not much more of a fanfare was really needed for Avengers in the west but Marvel and Disney can expect some smaller, yellower bums on seats in the Far East based on this promo. Interesting to see if there’s another before Japan’s release in a few month’s time. Sorry about the description of possible appearance of bums in Japan. I’ve never seen a Japanese ass. Sorry again.

Little Avengers Are Pretty Cute

It’s always cute when parents force their children into stupid costumes but it’s also cute (in a less abusive way) when the kids do so of their own free will. Well, thanks to American store Target, now your kids can cosplay the hell out of you wherever you go.

I’m pretty sure there’s no way the costumes are actually as cool as they look in this advert (otherwise why would any kid not want to be Iron Man all the time?) but they’re still pretty awesome and if you were ever – you know – a kid, I think the advert will put a smile on your face.

Now they just need to release some Young Avengers baby grows.

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P.S. There’s no Black Widow costume. I guess Cap thinks girls are stinky or something. He’s from a different era after all.