Moon Goes Global

We know we’re a small independent comic book right now but we have plans for big things. Sales of Moon 1 are a little lacking in digital form which we think is a shame as we’d love to think our American, Canadian, Australian, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese cousins would get a chance to have a quick look at our work here at Beyond the Bunker.com. So, to our global brothers and sisters we have a ready to go digital version you can download onto your desktop, smartphone, tablet etc. Please enjoy!!

If you’re interested click on the link below. If there are any problems downloading based on where you are please let us know.

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Practitioners 51: Stuart Immonen

Stuart Immonen is a Canadian comic book artist, best known for his work on Nextwave, Ultimate X-Men, The New Avengers and Ultimate Spider-man. Teamed usually with the elegantly named Wade Von Grewbadger, Immonen is responsible for some of the most memorable page layouts of the last decade as he effortlessly combines composition, characterisation and razor blade lettering to allow any script writer’s ideas to flow.

Immonen was, until recently, a hidden master in the recesses of the comic industry. In recent years – working on New Avengers, Ultimate Spider-man and the most recent Marvel event Fear Itself in which he was lead penciller on the main series at the core – Immonen has found his rightful place among the most recognisable artists in the industry. With an ice cool approach to complicated and original compositions Immonen has an amazing reputation for taking complex ideas and communicating them effortlessly out of the page.

Studying at Toronto’s York University, Immonen pursued a career in art immediately. In 1988, he self published a series called Playground. It was his frst published work. He progressed quickly, working at several small comic book companies before being hired by DC Comics, and most recently (since 1993), Marvel Comics, where he gained greater notoriety. In this time he had handled some of the biggest names in the industry – fictionally speaking. At DC his clean line work introduced Immonen to the great kryptonian and DC flagship, Superman. He remained with Superman for some time though more on the fringe of the associated titles – contributing to multiple artist titles such as Superman Metropolis Secret Files, Superman Red / Superman Blue and Superman: The Wedding Album. His posting on Legion of Superheroes gave him a chance to practice the combination of multiple characters in a range of compositions – something that would prove his defining characteristic later in the industry.

But it’s Immonen’s adventures in Marvel that everyone began to notice – handling the most characterful figures in the universe – with a run on Ultimate Fantastic Four and Ultimate X-Men with the newest and coolest writers of the time Warren Ellis and Brian K. Vaughn – both of whom enjoy lightweight, dialogue heavy scriptwriting. It was the deliberately outside continuity in-joke Next Wave that Immonen had the greatest impact.

A re-teaming with Ellis saw a highly collabrative approach to the book, with Immonen given the opportunity to stretch his creative muscle. A rag tag batch of fringe characters from many of the Marvel books; Monica Rambeau, the former Captain Marvel; Tabitha Smith, Boom Boom of X-Force; Aaron Stack, the Machine Man, monster hunter Elsa Bloodstone; and new character the Captain previously called Captain ☠☠☠☠ (the obscured words being so horrible that Captain America allegedly “beat seven shades of it out of him” and left him in a dumpster with a bar of soap in his mouth).

Nextwave's unambiguous cover for the Marvel Civil War Crossover event of 2006

Into this chaotic and satirical book Ellis leaned heavily on Immonen’s pencilling style – almost every edition in the 12 issue run a master class in humorous, action filled perfection. Every quirk and idea was beautifully realised. When Fin Fang Foom unceremoniously passes Machine Man it is both perfectly drawn and hilariously realised. Immonen’s panels in which the Captain beats the living hell out of Suicide Girl loving demi-daemon of a pervo elseworld, Dormmu was so well realised that Dormmu became a surprise bonus character in last year’s Marvel vs Capcom to everyone’s significant joy!

But more than that – in a later book Immonen demonstrated his absolute mastery of multiple styles. As the Forbush man overwhelmed the senses of the assembled Next Wave each was presented with their own versions of reality. Leaping seamlessly between the Captain’s naturalistic, paired down artwork on a faraway world, Captain Marvel’s transluscent trip out, seemingly influenced by African American art styles of the late 70s and early 80s, from Machine Man’s Garfieldesque adventures as an Insurance agent to Elsa Bloodstone’s battle against ancient monsters in a perfect recreation of Mike Mignola’s legendary work on Hellboy. All were simultaneously equal to the art they were satirising while distinctly mocking in style. The balance was met beautifully in a way that can only be understood when viewed.

All of this was recognised by Ellis on the run of the book. Taking the highly rare decision to allow effective free reign over a series of no less than 5 double page spreads in which a series of increasingly deranged battles ensued between the Nextwave team and a procession of bizarre choices for soldiers, launched by the H.A.T.E. corporation. This included a Brontosaurus, Battle Tigers, Two headed Samurai, Elvis MODOKs, Golems and spike-wheeled Steven Hawking’s as well as a number of other characters – some too difficult to accurately describe. The end result was an absolute unalloyed joy. Page after page of freewheeling battle lunacy, deftly executed with pin point accuracy and frankly joyous abandonment of any convention.

It is rare that any artist is given the opportunities that Immonen was with Nextwave but very few artists can inspire the sort of confidence that Immonen clearly inspired in Ellis on that book. Whether it was intended to be, it was either a showcase for Immonen’s abilities or one that Immonen refused to let pass. Most likely, given Immonen’s relaxed style he merely did exactly what the project called for.

A Beyond The Bunker Wedding

I’m afraid there’s going to be a bit of a dip in content over this weekend but it’s not without reason. I will be getting married on Friday and shortly thereafter be heading off to Canada for a couple of weeks on my honeymoon. You needn’t fret as Steve will take good care of you while I’m gone but it does mean that The Extraordinary Adventures of Monsieur Poppaleux and Dropping Science will both be on hold until I get back. I was hoping to queue some stuff up but it turns out that the week before your wedding is a really bad week to be trying to write blogs about comics. If I do find time before I fly out, I’ll be sure to throw something up.

In the meantime feel free to enjoy the Monsieur Poppaleux archives as well as the Dropping Science ones.

Thank you for all the wonderful goodwill messages. I look forwards to coming back from the honeymoon refreshed and ready to roll into a very busy comic based autumn.

Take care and I’ll see you all when I’m a grown up.

D
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Under The Influence 1 – Due South

If you watched the Friday Film this week (and there’s no reason you shouldn’t dammit!) then you might have noticed a couple of gags about Canadian television. As a little background to the story, I was doing some Stand Up gigs over in Alberta some years ago and so I had found myself regularly searching my brain for Anglo-Canadian topics to talk about. There was plenty of mileage to be gained from “aren’t American’s dumb” gags but what I really wanted to find was something positive that our nations shared rather than just taking cheap pops at the US. I was during one of these gigs that I, on a whim, decided to have a rant about the absurdities of the Canadian made, Due South. The second I made reference to the unforgettable Benton Fraser and his mythical ability to track serial killers by licking crap he found on the road, the room lit up with a kind of childlike amazement. It was like I’d taken the lid off an old box and revealed to the audience some long lost treasure that they’d forgotten they ever owned and for a moment we all just sat and giggled at the memory of this rather silly TV show.

So what is Due South? Well if you’ve not seen it before I’ll give you the basics, however I can pretty much guarantee that your eyebrow will go up at least three times during the next paragraph.
Due South was a Canadian made police comedy-drama that ran for 67 glorious episodes between 1994 and 1999. It told the story of a Canadian Mountie by the name of Benton Fraser, who is forced to move to Chicago after uncovering an environmental corruption scandal in his homeland. Once there he teams up with a straight talking CPD detective named  Ray Vecchio and proceeds to solve crimes aided by a deaf wolf called Diefenbaker (who adopted Fraser after saving his life) and the slightly mad ghost of his murdered father…who’s also a Mountie. Still with me? Good. Fraser has no idea of how American culture works, but he does have the aforementioned ability to obtain stupid amounts of information about a case by licking dung he finds at crime scenes – he doesn’t have any powers, apparently all Mounties can do that. The parts of Fraser and Ray were played by Paul Gross and David Maraciano respectively, except for the latter two seasons in which Maraciano is replaced by an actor named Callum Keith Rennie, the backstory being that Ray has gone undercover and so a new person has joined the force in order to impersonate him so that the mob don’t get suspicious, thus everyone has to refer to him as Ray even though he’s clearly not Ray. Still with me now? I’m not sure even I am to be honest!

The late Leslie Nielsen appeared in several episodes as legendary Mountie, Buck Frobisher.

Yeah, it was utterly bonkers, but that was the point. It was packaged as a police drama and played totally straight, but make no mistake, Due South was a comedy at heart. A deadpan love letter to the way Americans and Canadians see one another. As well as an exercise in cross border relations, the show was also a masterclass in the theatre of the absurd. Writer/Creator Paul Higgis (who went on to write Million Dollar Baby, Crash and Casino Royale) would take the most unimaginably outrageous storylines and then blast them off into the ether to see if the audience would go along for the ride – in one episode Fraser tracks down a suspect by sniffing the breath of a passing rat in order to determine the brand of barbecued ribs it had been eating! It’s an exercise in silliness which, in my opinion, is only equalled by Batman (that’s the Adam West version in case you’re in any doubt…unless Chris Nolan is even more crafty a writer than I thought).

The crazy thing is that among all this, the show still works as a police drama. The cases are interesting, the characters compelling and the relationships believable. It’s just great TV writing and something that I, even now, occasionally throw on if I’m looking for some inspiration (I have in the past described Moon as a love letter to Due South, it’s not strictly true but it’s not entirely untrue either).

Sadly the American audience never really agreed and despite the show being a hit in the UK and Canada, it was cancelled after 4 series. The DVDs can be a bit of a pain to get hold of, but if you can track them down then I highly recommend it. If nothing else it’ll give you an insight into our work.

Now get on your horse and RIDE!

D
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BTB Film – Dan Thompson Live in Calgary

Our journey through the vaults of the Bunker continues this week as we take a look at an old recording of some of my stand up. This was recorded back in 2005 at the world famous Yuk Yuk’s comedy club in Calgary, Alberta, Canada (which is as close as I’ll ever get to being Brett Hart) and remains one of my favourite gigs. I’ll post up some more recent recordings somewhere down the line, but for now I hope you enjoy this as much as the Canadians did.

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