Guardians of the Galaxy 15 Second Teaser is here!!

If there’s one thing both me and Dan agree on is that Peter Quill’s progression from 8os sci-fi Starlord to commander during the Annihalation crossover, leader of the cobbled together strike force against the Phalanx invasion and, finally, wise-cracking protagonist of Abnett and Lanning’s fully formed Guardians of the Galaxy was pretty much the best character development Marvel’s ever pulled off. He came from the edge of Marvel, teamed up with a Racoon and a Tree and put on a cool looking helmet.

Chris Pratt looking a little ill at ease at the helm as team leader Peter Quill

Chris Pratt looking a little ill at ease at the helm as team leader Peter Quill

5 years later Marvel’s lack of choices in it’s next movie franchise led them to a popular fringe title named Guardians of the Galaxy and here we are now. In the unlikely situation in which one of the silliest titles Marvel has ever put out is on it’s way to the big screen. Great times!!

So it’s with some excitement that we present the best news we’ve had in a while!! Guardians of the Galaxy first 15 second shot-fest trailer is here and it looks like fun. Visibly sticking to Abnett and Lanning’s zany run in the Guardians (Gamora, Starlord, Groot, Drax all present and correct) instead of the unecesarily retrofitted Bendis run. Director James Gunn insisted that he was resolutely sticking to Abnett and Lanning’s version of the team for the big screen release. Abnett himself told us that he’d been to the set and was really happy with how it was all shaping up.

There’s one character conspicuously missing though between the bomb bursts, aliens and beasties…..

Zoe Saldana as Gamora, the world's most dangerous woman

Zoe Saldana as Gamora, the world’s most dangerous woman

'I AM GROOT!': Not seeing the wood for the gunfire

‘I AM GROOT!’: Not seeing the wood for the gunfire

Screenshot from new 15 second trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy

Screenshot from new 15 second trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy

NZs Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer looking for his next victim

NZs Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer looking for his next victim

Djimon Hounsou as Korath the Pursuer asks the question many non-readers are probably asking

Djimon Hounsou as Korath the Pursuer asks the question many non-readers are probably asking

Do you live in Kent? Come hang out with us tomorrow!

It’s Demoncon 6 tomorrow! If you’ve not been to Kent’s loveliest comic con (I think it’s Kent’s only comic con but that’s besides the point) then you really should give it a go. This will be our fourth appearance at the event and it honestly gets more fun every time. A relaxed, family atmosphere; a wide range of enjoyable ways to spend a Sunday afternoon and, due to the shocking number of professional writers/artists that live in Kent, a surprisingly top end guest list.

This year will feature the likes of Dan Abnett (Guardians of the Galaxy), Cy Dethan (various books that give you nightmares) and a couple of idiots who do a book about the Moon. There are also several new indy book launches, demo games, a raffle where you can win comics and original artwork and an appearance by the mighty 501st legion. In case you need any more persuading, here are three things that we got up to last time out:

1) One of the other artists left early so we stole his table and created the largest Moon booth we’ve ever had which Steve had to staff by himself because I had to play Dr Who with some kids. 

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2)  Somebody asked Steve to draw a sketch of one of the 7 deadly sins so we put our heads together and came up with this interpretation of “Pride” (the look on the lion’s face still cracks me up whenever I look at it).

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3) Peter Mason learned the price of lending pens to the Bunker clan as Steve promptly made off with his sharpies, leading to this poster being circulated.

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So come on. It’s a Sunday, it’s raining and you’re probably hung over. What else are you going to do today? Housework? Forget that! Your house hates you. Show it who’s boss and come hang out with us in Maidstone.

Demoncon runs from 11am – 5pm at the Royal Star Arcade in Maidstone. Full details here!

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(Oh and did I mention that Steve and Timaree did the poster)

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Demoncon VI Poster designed by Beyond the Bunker

Demoncon Steve Penfold Timaree Zadel

On September 15th, we will be in attendance at Royal Star Arcade, in Maidstone with Moon. A new venue for the Grinning Demon’s charity event that attracts both the indy and the professional. Confirmed guests so far are Lloyd and the Bear’s Gibson Grey, Moon print designer Grant Perkins, Tinpot Hobo and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle artist Jack Lawrence, Grainne McEntee and Matt Rooke with Apes n’ Capes and Bertie Bear’s Andy Clift. We also know that Cy Dethan and Nic Wilkinson (Cancertown, Reverend: Wrath of God) and Dan Abnett (Guardians of the Galaxy, Legion of Superheroes, the Hypernaturals) are confirmed and friend to the Bunker and DJ to the stars Keiron Gillen (Uncanny X-men, Iron Man) may be in attendance.

After 5 Demoncons and 5 very distinct posters, Graham Beadle, Demoncon organiser and owner of Grinning Demon comic shop came to the Beyond the Bunker table and was nice enough to ask me to design the new poster for Demoncon VI. Because of the nature of the convention as a charity event, the posters themselves are more lively and varied than anywhere else. Right from the beginning, Demoncon posters have mashed up mainstream and indy in a visual bash up. Dredd stands beside Frostica, Wonderwoman by the Moose. That lack of limitation is irresistable for an upstart comic book artist like me so I was honoured to be asked frankly. The end mix as you see above.

But i couldn’t do it on my own so I was aided by the incredible talent of Timaree Zadel (who also coloured the new prints that were available at MCM). With Ivanna Matilla currently waylaid by teaching English in 20 different schools, Timaree was her chosen colourist. As you can see, no reason not to be over the Moon with this work.

The Solar System is Doomed and so are you

XKCD’s Randall Munroe’s piece on the utter futility of getting up in the morning (or indeed watching fatuous entertainment news shows) really gets into the guts of what it’s like in the endless velvet nothingness of existence. In a universe made almost entirely of the absence of something, punctuated with violent and cataclysmic birthing pools of giant Hydrogen atomic balls, firing deadly radiation everywhere and nuturing only a very tiny number of miniscule globules of detritus, all of which are unlikely to be able to sustain the absurdly specific requirements of our fragile and ultimately rapidly aging forms, frankly the end (while maybe not nigh) is bloody obvious.Best to simply shrug and resign your ancestors to the cold and lonely death in open space or the fiery annihaltion of a Supernova.

Remember: Between the sky and the ground and sea is our Fishbowl. We are the fish. Good luck out there people.

(Unless we redesign ourselves like the first Guardians of the Galaxy – that’d be awesome).

Marvel Announce their “Phase 2” Movies

Marvel released details of their next round of movies at San Diego Comic Con this weekend. For a start they ended the rampant internet speculation and announced that the line up for the Guardians of the Galaxy movie will be the modern team rather than the classic one. That’s right, in 2013 we’ll be seeing a film about Star Lord, Gamora, Drax The Destroyer, Goot and (of course) Rocket Raccoon. They also released this concept image which should be enough to get any Guardians fan salivating:

For the uninitiated, Guardians of the Galaxy (at least the version of it that we’re talking about here) is largely the brainchild of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (Nova, Warhammer 40K etc) and tells the story of a team of “heroes” who are tasked with keeping the entire galaxy safe from harm. It’s basically Avengers meets the dirty dozen…in space…with a talking raccoon. Trust me, this property has everything you need to make a fantastic movie. Be excited.

In addition to this, Marvel announced the titles for the rest of their “phase 2” movies. The most for me is probably the Captain America sequel (I’m an unashamed Bucky fan) but it’s great to see Edgar Wright’s Ant Man Movie finally getting the official green light. Despite it’s poor box office performance, I’m a huge fan of Wright’s work on Scott Pilgrim. With a Marvel Marketing budget behind him, this could be the break into the mainstream that he deserves.

Obviously feeling bad for Tony Stark about the fact that his sequel doesn’t get a tagline, Marvel went ahead and revealed the new Iron Man armour that he will don in the film. It looks like this:

You can see more pictures of the armour on Marvel’s website.

Exciting times!

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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!!

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….

Beyond The Bunker hits Demoncon

Next month Beyond the Bunker will be heading to Maidstone in Kent for the third Demoncon event. Founded by Maidstone’s own Grinning Demon comic shop, Demoncon is a chance for fans an creators to get together and share their love of comics. We’ll be joining the likes of Kieron Gillen (Uncanny X-Men, Journey Into Mystery) as well as the duo of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (Nova, Guardians of the Galaxy, Warhammer 40K).

Demoncon is a great chance to come and meet creators in a less hectic environment than that offered by the mega-cons. As always, you’ll be able to come chat to Steve and I about pretty much anything as well as picking up signed copies of Moon and other such goodies.

Demoncon runs form 11am til 4pm at the EXCHANGE STUDIO, MAIDSTONE, on April the 22nd and it costs a mere £5 to get in. How can you refuse?

For a full guest list, check out their website.

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Practitioners 49: Jack Kirby (Part 1)

Jack Kirby was born Jacob Kurtzberg on August 28, 1917, in New York City. His parents, Rose and Benjamin Kurtzberg, were Austrian Jewish immigrants, and his father earned a living as a garment factory worker. Growing up on Suffolk Street, Kirby was often involved in street fights with other kids, later saying that “fighting became second nature. I began to like it.”

Throughout his youth, Kirby wanted to get out of his neighbourhood. Knowing how to draw he sought out places to learn more about art. Essentially self taught from a very young age, Kirby was by comic strip artists Milton Cariff, Hal Foster and Alex Raymond as well as editorial cartoonists such as C.H. Sykes, ‘Ding’ Darling and Rollin Kirby, the first winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning. In the shadow of the depression, people had found the capacity to improve their circumstances and those who looked were beginning to find them again. It was the American Dream certainly. But it was Kirby’s dream too.

Steve Canyon by Milton Caniff, in a style very close to that developed by Kirby in later years

Kirby claims he was rejected by the Educational Alliance because he drew ‘ to fast with charcoal’. He eventually found an outlet for his skills by drawing cartoons for the newspaper of the Boys Brotherhood Republic, an astonishing sounding ‘miniature city’ on East 3rd Street where kids ran their own government. This no doubt inspired the Newsboy Legion, a hustle of likely kids that have been repeated several times by both Jon Bogdanove in Superman for DC and Grant Morrison in the Seven Soldiers crossover event in 2009.

Kirby enrolled at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, one of the leading undergraduate art schools in the United States today, at what he says was the age of 14. He left after a week, dismissing the factory line nature of the teaching at the time. Speaking about that time Kirby said, “I wasn’t the kind of student that Pratt was looking for. They wanted people who would work on something forever. I didn’t want to work on any project forever. I intended to get things done.”

According to Kirby’s occasionally unreliable memory, Kirby joined the Lincoln Newspaper Syndicate in 1936, working on comic strips and single-panel advice cartoons such as Your Health Comes First!! This he did under the pseudonym Jack Curtiss, the first of a great many name changes throughout his career. Kirby reacted angrily at any suggestion that it was an attempt to cover up his Jewish heritage throughout his career. He began to work for movie animation company Fleischer Studios as an inbetweener (an artist who fills in the action between major-movement frames) on Popeye cartoons. This was something Kirby couldn’t tolerate, seeing at understandably as a menial job. “I went from Lincoln to Fleischer,” he recalled. “From Fleischer I had to get out in a hurry because I couldn’t take that kind of thing,” describing it as “a factory in a sense, like my father’s factory. They were manufacturing pictures.”

Fliescher Popeye Inking Chart, reinforcing Kirby's opinion that his work at Fliescher animation was factory-like.

At the time the comics industry was booming. Today the sales figures of the early 90s are considered impressive if they hit 500,000. In the late 1930s and early 1940s companies could expect sales figures in their millions. This was the industry Kirby stepped into as young man, starting at Eisner & Iger, one of a handful of firms creating comics on demand to publishers. It was here that Kirby remembered as his first comic book work, for Wild Boy Magazine. Wild boy, Jumbo Comics and other Eisner-Iger clients gave Kirby the chance to work on numerous titles something we can only assume he achieved admirably. He used the various strips to test out any number of pseudonyms such as ‘Curt Davis’ for The Diary of Dr Hayward, or as ‘Fred Sande’ for the western crime fighter strip Wilton of the West, he returned to ‘Jack Curtiss’ for the swashbuckling Count of Monte Cristo and for the humour strips Abdul Jones he drew as ‘Ted Grey’ and with Socko the Dog simply as ‘Teddy’. Ultimately though, he settle on the pen name Jack Kirby because it reminded him of actor James Cagney.

In the summer of 1940, Kirby and his family moved to Brooklyn. There, Kirby met Rosalind “Roz” Goldstein, who lived in his family’s apartment building. The pair began dating soon afterward. Kirby proposed to Goldstein on her eighteenth birthday, and the two became engaged. However, there was one other partnership that Kirby would enter into that would change the face of popular comic books forever and provide the world with one of it’s most iconic figures.

Working with comic-book publisher and newspaper syndicator Fox Feature Syndicate, earning a then-reasonable $15 a week salary, Kirby began to investigate the superhero narrative with the comic book Blue Beetle, published January to March 1940, starring a character created by the pseudonymous Charles Nicholas, a house name that Kirby retained for the full three month strip. During this period, Kirby met and began collaborating with cartoonist and Fox editor Joe Simon, who worked freelance as well as his staff work. In 1988, Simon recalled, “I loved Jack’s work and the first time I saw it I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. He asked if we could do some freelance work together. I was delighted and I took him over to my little office. We worked from the second issue of Blue Bolt…”

It was then that Kirby and Simon met what-would-be Marvel Comics, then Martin Goodman’s Timely Comics. Joe Simon had concieved the idea of Captain America and made a sketch, writing the name ‘Super American’ at the bottom of the page. Simon felt there were too many ‘Supers’ around but very few Captains. Presenting it to Martin Goodman the go-ahead was given but trying to fill a full comic with primarily one character’s stories, Simon did not believe that his regular creative partner, Kirby, could handle the workload alone. Two young artists from Conneticut had made a strong impression, Al Avison and Al Gabriele having worked together regularly and proven they could adapt to each others styles.

Simon recalled, ‘The two Als were eager to join in on the new Captain America book, but Jack Kirby was visibly upset. ‘You’re still number one, Jack,’ I assured him. ‘It’s just a matter of a quick deadline for the first issue.’

‘I’ll make the deadline,’ Jack promised. ‘I’ll pencil it [all] myself and make the deadline.’ I hadn’t expected this kind of reaction … but I acceded to Kirby’s wishes and, it turned out, was lucky that I did. There might have been two Als, but there was only one Jack Kirby.’

You can imagine the dull thunder of New York outside somewhere as the image of Captain America was formed at the hands of Jack Kirby, the bombs of the War in Europe also audible to him. A full year before Pearl Harbour was attacked both Kirby and Simon were morally repulsed by the actions of Nazi Germany in the years leading up to the United States’ involvement in World War II and felt war was inevitable: “The opponents to the war were all quite well organised. We wanted to have our say too.”

Aware that he was creating a political figure, Kirby generated an iconic figure, broad shouldered and powerful, incorporating the red, white and blue, the stars and stripes, the eagle wings (however small) and the bright red boots that have survived almost unaltered for 70 years. The first Captain America comic in early 1941 saw him punching Hitler squarely in the jaw at the heart of a Nazi headquarters.

Simon negotiated 15% of profits for both he and Kirby as well as salaried positions as the company’s editor and art director, respectively. The first issue sold out in days, the second print run set at over 1 million copies. This enormous success established this creative team as a formidable creative force in the industry. After the first issue, Simon asked Kirby to join the staff as Art Director.

With the success of Captain America, Simon felt that Goodman wasn’t paying them the promised percentage of profits and so found work for them both at the National Comics (later to be called DC). Kirby and Simon negotiated a deal that would secure them $500 a week, compared to the $75 and $85 they respectively earned at Timely. Keeping the deal secret, fearing that Goodman wouldn’t pay them what was owed if he discovered their approach to National, both Kirby and Simon continued to work on Captain America. Goodman in fact did become aware of their plans and both of them left after Captain America #10. Kirby and Simon were leaving behind the highlight of their partnership, though Captain America wouldn’t return fully for some years yet.

The first few weeks at National were spent trying to devise new characters while the company sought to figure out how to utilise the pair. After a few failed editor-assigned ghosting assignments, National’s Jack Leibowitz simply told them to ‘just do what you want’. The pair then revamped the Sandman figure in Adventure Comics and created the superhero Manhunter. Not the Martian Manhunter, Kirby and Simon created a character that became adapted, represented by numerous alter egos and finally depersonified throughout the decades, Kirby’s original design returned nearly completely unaltered with the Manhunters, creations of the Guardians of the Universe as a forerunner to the Green Lantern Corps, most prominent in the recent Blackest Night saga. The ongoing ‘kid gang’ series Boy Commandos was to be their biggest hit, launched in the same year to become a national feature, selling more than a million copies a month and becoming National’s third best- selling title. They also scored a hit with the homefront kid-gang, the Newsboy Legion in Star Spangled Comics.

Kirby married Roz Goldstein on May 23, 1942. The same year that he married, he changed his name legally from Jacob Kurtzberg to Jack Kirby.

The war had been brought to American shores. Pearl Harbour was bombed by Japan and the US, after several years of tacit support to Britain through supply could no longer remove itself from armed conflict. Jack Kirby was going to war.

Practitioners 43: Dan Abnett

Born in England (12th October 1965), Dan Abnett is  a comic book writer, novelist and full time fantasist absorbed in the world of fantasy, space and superheroes. He has directed enormous future armies into cataclysmic battles, led mighty metal robots to clang together to save the universe, assassinated space empresses and sent heroes into space in wheelchairs. He is a frequent collaborator with fellow writer Andy Lanning, and is known for his work on books for both Marvel Comics, and their UK imprint, Marvel Uk, since the 1990s, including 2000AD. He has also contributed to DC Comics titles, and his Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000 novels and graphic novels for Game Workshop’s Black Library now run to several dozen titles and have sold over 1,150,000 copies as of May 2008. In 2009 he released his first original fiction novels through Angry Robot books.

While Abnett cannot claim to have kick started a character on the same scale as Judge Dredd, the ABC Warriors or Slaine in his tenure at 2000AD, he did create one of the book’s better known and longest running strips of the last decade, Sinister Dexter, following the exploits of gun sharks (hitmen) Finnigan ‘Finny’ Sinister and Ramone ‘Ray’ Dexter in the state city of Downlode, sprawled across central Europe ‘ like a hit and run victim’. Sinister Dexter is a universe apart from that of Strontium Dog and Dredd, and style supplants horror, with neat and precise detailing throughout to give it an alternative edge that readers found addictive. With more than 135 stories alone to his name, most stretching to more than one issue, Abnett is one of the most prolific of all 2000AD writers, making his lack of success at generating a  genuine globe trotting legend like Slaine or Dredd more down to bad luck than anything else.

Most likely in fact it’s lack of intent intent. Abnett’s style is pretty light, humorous and wry. His stories bound along and drag you with them. First and foremost is character, planted firmly at the heart of whatever dying star/ hive of alien warriors / dangerous street he can find. In Abnett’s universe character is secondary to event at times but only momentarily. Then, the characters bounce resolutely back into the frey and mash it up (for want of a better word). Abnett is addicted to failures. The almost-guy. Slaine and Dredd, much like Superman, Batman et al are a stall of successes. You put a criminal in his way, Dredd crushes dissent and puts them away. Slaine warp spasms, charms, wangles or shags his way out of every scenario. One of Abnett’s character steps into the frey he might as well be ready to lose an arm. Abnett’s characters are desperately, hilariously and touchingly out of their depth. This makes readers even more attached to the characters as they survive all that Abnett (and Lanning – to be featured in the following article) throw at them. Major characters are put to the sword, or in the case of perrenial space empress and Mutant headteacher beau du jour circa 1995, Empress Nerimani of the Shi’ar, who has wandered in and out of Marvel’s most prominent titles for decades, unceremoniously blown away by a sniper as part of a Darkhawk conspiracy. This, to anyone unfamiliar with the situation – is lunacy. Brilliant lunacy. You can almost see the grins on their faces as they decided it.

This was to move a nobody character, effectively unheard of since the ’90s into the foreground of an empire churning, galaxy battering epic in the guise of Marvel’s War of King’s series two years ago, in which stable, mainstay characters were supplanted, abused, annihalated, twisted and entire empires changed status. The scale of the effect on accepted rules of the wider Marvel Universe was mad, but Abnett and Lanning play with the planets and principle characters involved like so many ping pong balls. This, you suspect, was learned in the furnaces of the creative pool of 2000AD and the more blood thirsty Marvel UK. But more likely, they are just crazy bastards.

As well as a neat absurdist streak and a whithering habit of throwing humour at serious plot points (hard not to when your head tactician is a talking Raccoon but more on that later). He didn’t stop there. As well as generating Black Light, Badlands, Atavar (with Richard Elson, about the last Human alive trapped between warring alien races), Downlode Tales (an extension of the Sinister Dexter universe), Sancho Panzer (with Henry Flint, featuring the eponymous character piloting a giant tank, excellently monickered Mojo, with his brilliantly named technician, Tool), Roadkill and Wardog, Abnett scribed Judge Dredd, Durham Red and Rogue Trooper.

With Marvel UK, Abnett had runs on Death’s Head 2, The crossover Battletide, Knight’s of Pendragon (all of which he co-created) as well as The Punisher, War Machine, Nova and various X-Men titles. Over at DC he reinvented Legion of Superheroes as the Mini-series Legion Lost which was later launched as the ongoing series The Legion. As was typical of his most recent work, most of Abnett’s work was written with Andy Lanning. From this they derived their moniker DnA. For Dark Horse comic Abnett was responsible for Planet of the Apes: Blood Lines as well as knocking out Lords of Misrule and Hypersonic. Many UK readers will know his work however primarily on the 40,000 Warhammer series, including the Gaunt’s Ghost, Eisenhorn and Ravenor trilogies, and more recently as part of the Horus Heresy, the SF best-selling Horus Rising, Legion and Prospero Burns. Frankly, these titles are unfamiliar to us here at the Bunker however clearly Abnett has brought his strong character and situation writing to bear on the battlefields of 40K, no doubt, injecting personalities that prove engaging in ferocious battle. He’s dabbled in comic books for 4ok’s black library imprint; producing Damnation Crusade, Lone Wolf, Inquisitor Ascendent and Titan. Again no doubt with the same results, given the number of titles.

Put this together with writing two Doctor Who audio dramas – the Harvest and Nocturne – as well as Torchwood: Everyone says hello for BBC Audio as well as two novels based on the respective series: The Story of Martha and Torchwood: Border Princes, and it’s clear that Abnett is a significant bedrock in British Science Fiction. With this grounding in space and time hopping adventurers it’s perhaps unsurprising that Abnett (and Lanning) have found such a secure home in Marvel’s cosmic titles.

But prior to that they developed the sharp edge of DC’s Wildstorm Imprint, The Authority, spawning storylines in which Earth is attacked by God himself back to feed on what was a primordial soup and understandably narked at discovering a Human populated, verdant planet where he left his pantry. It’s not til you see an interdimensional, sentient supership entering God’s pores and detonating its brain with the power of the previous century that you understand the lunacy of Abnett and Lanning. Magnificent space operas be damned, God assassinations by chain smoking blondes is the remit here. In many ways that is Abnett and Lanning’s genius. Lighter than Millar’s follow up too as perhaps would be expected.

At the heart of incredibly massive events, the collapse of star spanning empires or the decimation of a city block there is the average, the easily recognisable. The character’s written by them carry the easily recognisable traits of normal people. No matter what you throw at these characters, they remain people first and superheroes second. After joining Guardians of the Galaxy, as part of Marvel’s Cosmic Imprint Jack Flag can’t stand ‘space stuff’ even as he fights tentacled beasts from the far side of an interdimensional fracture or trying to survive a Negative Zone prison breakout in a wheelchair. Jack Flag is another fringe character unrecognisable outside of Captain America comics until he was crippled by the Thunderbolts under Osborne. He came out of nowhere, went downhill and sent to a prison in a backlot of the Marvel Universe and instantly became irresistable to Abnett and Lanning (I’m not calling them DnA – I’m just not).

It’s Guardians that represents the hybrid brain of Abnett and Lanning. Led by the permanently down trodden Star-lord and a Raccoon, Guardians of the Galaxy represents exceptional gung-ho space adventure and dead pan tongue in cheek humour at it’s own expense. Most of the characters are as unhappy to be there as you’d expect to be if you were faced by an interstellar absolutist faith that feeds on the beliefs of others and kills anyone who steps in their way. The members of the team are an eclectic batch (when alive); including a psychic titan lesbian, a master assassin, a talking tree king and a man from 1000 years in the future witha  Captain America shield. These characters should struggle to blend but at the hands of Abnett and Lanning the many parts become a much more satisfying hole. Not a mispelling.

Abnett is a veteran chef of plot line and character, always incorporating the right blend to create satisfying and engaging storylines. A man of specific interests, he is most at home (with Andy Lanning) dealing with situations of bewildering scale and yet manages to draw you in to the minutae of characters caught in these events. A master of scale and plotting, Abnett can handle a charge on an alien world or two characters grabbing a drink (provided it descends into a bar room brawl inspired by an quadreped alien with telescopic glasses on. As 9 Billion lives are threatened and an imprisoned Moondragon (character), pregnant with a spore from a cancerous universe where life won allowing disease to thrive is about to give birth amongst a militant fundamentalist cosmic church, Star Lord jumps out and shouts ‘ Hi, I’m Starlord! I’d wave but my hands are full of guns.’ Don’t know if that was Lanning, don’t know if that was Abnett but Abnett was in the room and that is good enough for me.

Regarding the talking Raccoon – you’ll have to wait ’til we do Lanning. I got worried I wasn’t going to leave anything for his article next week….