Dropping Science: The Science of Spider-man

Spidy fans are enjoying the brief window of press time for their favourite wall crawler before everything goes a bit Gotham and science is never one to miss out on a good party. In their latest video ASAP Science are looking at the actual science behind Peter Parker’s crazy powers.

Amazing stuff.

D
x

Advertisements

Spider-man TV Spots: The Picks!!

And so it begins!! More Lizard, more swinging about!! Avengers had a rip roaring success with their TV Spots – though the suspicion is that it was successful because everyone wanted to go and see the Avengers. Never-the-less, in the competitive world of the movies, expect to see TV Spots all over the shop. Excluding the Dark Knight which knows how to run a media campaign. With that in mind however the TV Spots do give us some insight into what is about to hit us in the face.

Little moment of Gwen Stacy time. (Spoiler Alert to non-comic book readers) This is a slightly disconcerting character idea but never the less, everyone’s favourite ex-President Martin Sheen is good ol’ Uncle Ben just waiting to get blown away in the background and Pete’s parents are making an appearance so clearly one of them might make it (unlikely). Hard to believe that the trilogy of films will literally be the steady decimation of every side character in Spider-man’s world. Where’s Harry and MJ for christ’s sake? I know one goes nuts and the other one gets deleted by a continuity minded master of the Netherworlds but still – it’d be nice to see someone make it through a little further. Poor Ol’ Pete.

Still, maybe the Lizard’ll make it… Why have I never noticed how many people get wiped out when associated withePeter Parker. He’s like the Jessica Fletcher of comic books.

Amazing Spider-man Trailer 2: Peter Parker Revealed as wise cracking as the real thing (also some Lizard)

There is a little retiscence in getting overly excited about the New Amazing Spider-man movie in me until now. The last thing anyone needs is another creation movie (everyone knows it; it’s the lore of the street now like Superman getting it on with Lois Lane and Batman’s an orphan; Peter Parker got bitten by a radioactive Spider). However, whatever initial fear was developed in the previous trailers and teasers, Andrew Garfield as Spider-man being one of them – this trailer begins to torch them.

Tobey Macguire was a great Spider-man but couldn’t knock out a Spider-quip in the way that Andrew Garfield clearly can. Oddly, it was almost an aspect of the wall-crawler many had forgotten following the first three movies. Spider-man is a wise-ass. To deal with the fear and insecurities, Parker always through out quirky one liners (something that has made other Marvel characters – notably fellow Avenger Wolverine – want to kill him).

But it was that detail that perhaps we missed in the Sam Raimi trilogy (excellent though the first two were). When the mask went on, it was only Spider-man.

If this trailer’s anything to go by we’ll be seeing Parker under the suit during the massively expensive fight scenes.

‘Aaah, you’ve found my weakness – really small knives!!’

Awesome!!

Practitioners 55: Chris Bachalo

Chris Bachalo has pushed the boundaries of what’s acceptable in modern day mainstream comic books to the extreme. Highly intricate, cartoonish page layouts depict insidious caricatures of popular characters. With blade like precision, Bachalo creates highly detailed dream sequences from whatever writing he’s handed. Forming a visual world of monsters, uggos, bandits and vagabonds throughout his career he has sent out Superheroes dressed for the streets. Pushing the concept of the superhero closer to street level has made Bachalo a hero of mainstream comic book readers deserate for an alternative interpretation of their favourite characters. After almost 20 years working with DC and Marvel (as well as a brief stint on his own title with Image imprint, Cliffhanger) it’s fair to say Bachalo has achieved exactly that.

Bachalo was born in Canada August 23, 1965, Portage la Prairie but was raised in Southern California. Perpetuating the idea that many great comic book artists arrive at their calling because of weaknesses in their preferred fields, Bachalo had grown up wanting to be a carpenter until he discovered he was allergic to dust. He attended the California State University at Long Beach, where he majored in graphic art and illustrated a number of underground comics.

Following graduation, Bachalo found work pretty much immediately with DC Comics. His first published assignment The Sandman #12 (1989) – however he had already been hired as regular artist for Shade, The Changing Man, revived by writer Peter Milligan with a greater adult orientation. With clear black and white definition in his work, Bachalo demonstrated the influences of Sam Keith (artist and writer on Maxx and Zero Girl, with a liquid attitude to realism in his artwork), Bill Sienkiewicz (Eisner Award winning artist and writer best known for his work on New Mutants and Elektra: Assassin, utilising oil painting, collage and mimeograph) and Michael Golden (famous for his work on Marvel’s 1970’s Micronauts as well as his co-creation of characters Rogue and Bucky O’ Hare.

Initially, Bachalo’s work was visibly influenced from many different directions as he began to try to find his own style. This leant itself nicely to Shade as it was a kaliedoscopic, dream-like character and loaded with abstract ideas. Bachalo’s work has always held a certain dark and teenage self-conciousness, reminiscent of rock cultutre of the early nineties – something which strangely has carried forwards with his development – somehow always representing very well the graphic representation of youth at the time. As the design work of a less disenfranchised youth became more assured, brighter and more heavily influenced by street design, graffiti and graphics so too has Bachalo’s work. Most likely coincidental it is this that has catapulted him into the most mainstream family of books there are today.

His early 90s work is minimalist with strong, thick lines, quirky characters and little concern for realism. Never shying away from detailed landscapes but showed a rare inclination towards pages with many small panels, something that deepens any artist’s involvement in a piece.

In 1993, Neil Gaiman selected Bachalo for the Sandman miniseries: Death: The High Cost of Living, starring the Sandman’s older sister. The popularity of Sandman at the time and the strength of the series itself bolstered Bachalo’s visibility significantly. The creative team reunited once again in 1996 for Death: The Time of Your Life. Apart from returning breifly to DC in 1999 for the Witching Hour with Jeph Loeb for it’s Vertigo Imprint, Bachalo’s future lay with the other side of the comic industries fermament. The X-Men were calling.

Bachalo’s introduction to Marvel was during his tenure at DC comics, illustrating X-Men Unlimited #1 – an anthology to the ongoing X-Men comic books. Based on the noise generated by his introduction in this book Bachalo ended his time on Shade and made a permanent transition over to it’s big rival. His first project was as part of the forward thinking and innovative 2099 universe, reinventing popular Marvel characters into a corporate nightmare of a future. His particular nightmare blended his own dual fascinations of steam twisted tech and metaphysical beings with Ghost Rider 2099. A technological reincarnation of the Spirit of Vengeance, Bachalo’s rip-snorting, highly detailed blend of twisted perspectives and steam punk edge furthered Bachalo’s influence with what was, otherwise, a more minor title in the 2099 universe. He also drew a cover for Runaways.

It was with Scott Lobdell, Uncanny X-men scribe, that Bachalo introduced a new youth team to the X-canon. Generation X lurched out of the Phalanx Covenant crossover bizarre and idiosyncratic because the creative team wanted to avoid the recent trend in superhero teams, where every member of the team represented a stock character. Generation X became a hit with the series’ namesake due to Lobdell’s realistically cynical and emotionally immature teen characters and Bachalo’s atypical artwork. Bachalo illustrated the series through much of its first three years, taking a break in late 1995 and early 1996 to illustrate the second Death miniseries, Death: The Time of Your Life.

During his time in Generation X, an unusual influence began to appear in Bachalo’s work. While still intricately detailed. Influenced by the unlikely inspiration Joe Madureira, his characters became more cartoony and manga-like, with large eyes, heads and hands. He gravitated towards extremes in anatomy, drawing characters that were previously portrayed as bulky, short or thin as even more so. This elongation, bulk out and caricature of easily recognisable characters in Marvel would make Bachalo a staple and an unusual choice for major events.

In 1997, Bachalo left Generation X folr Uncanny X-men, arguably the industry’s most popular title and his new found inspiration’s previous assignment – where he remained for more than a year until the end of 1998.

In 2000, Bachalo luanched Steampunk, a comic book series deliberately inspired by the genre of fiction of the same name, which emulates early science fiction by intentionally applying self-conciously antiquated and deliberately awkward solutions to modern design. Written by Joe Kelly, the series came under heavy critical fire for it’s obscure artwork, small panels, detailed panels and muddy, dark colouring which many felt made it difficult to tell what was happening. Kelly’s writing at the same time was not as straight forward as many readers would have preferred at the time. Conversely however, the hardened fan base for the title, which was brought out via Image’s creator owned imprint, Cliffhanger, supported it for the same reasons. Regardless, the luke-warm response to the title saw it end prematurely at issue #12 – it’s intended 25 issue run sliced in half. It is currently available in two reprinted trade paperbacks, Steampunk: Manimatron and the perhaps aptly named Steampunk: Drama Obscura.

Following his aborted tenure with Cliffhanger, Bachalo returned triumphantly to the halls of Marvel, completing occasional work on various X-men series including the new alternate universe, Ultimate X-men, Ultimate War, Grant Morrison’s New X-Men (collected in New X-Men vol.5: Assault on Weapon Plus and including one of the finest examples of a single issue story). In New X-Men Bachalo realises a scene beautifully envisioned by Grant Morrison in which Wolverine and Sabretooth find themselves at the urinals of the Hellfire Club – a no violence rule allowing a moment of barely contained aggression between the two of them. Bachalo’s combination of clean, crisp lines and perspectives – mixed with the organic, intuitive detailing of the figures and the characteristic elongation and exageration of the two figures brings the light but knowing humour of the scene beautifully forward to such a pleasing degree that it might well be one of the finest combinations of writing and artwork in a Marvel comic book of all time. Not an understatement (though obviously a matter of opinion) and the sequel to the Age of Apocalypse Crossover.

Bachalo's current assignment - the X-Men come of age in Wolverine and the X-Men

Bachalo was also the artist on Captain America for 6 issues (21–26, running December 2003–May 2004 cover dates) pencilling a divisive run written by Robert Morales. In an attempt to humanize Steve Rogers, the pair managed to split fans opinions fairly resoundingly with both leaving the title – Morales 10 issues short of his intended contract for the series.

From 2006 to 2008, Bachalo was the artist for the X-Men title along with new writer Mike Carey after completing his final story arc for Uncanny X-Men (#472–474). He was often filled-in for by artist Humberto Ramos, however.
Bachalo has also pencilled (and coloured) a number of cards for the Vs. collectible card game. These have been renditions of both Marvel and DC characters.

On top of his continuing work for Marvel, Bachalo finished issue #7 of Comicraft’s Elephantmen, an issue 4 years in the making. The issue was done entirely in double-page spreads and marks his reunion with Steampunk writer Joe Kelly. The issue’s story, “Captain Stoneheart and the Truth Fairy” also represents Bachalo’s first work outside Marvel and DC since his fill-in issue of Witchblade.

Bachalo has also been one of the four artists who was originally part of the Spider-Man Relaunch. Brand New Day, along with Phil Jimenez, Steve McNiven and Salvador Larroca.

Starting with New Avengers #51, Bachalo will provide variant covers for the creative team of Brian Michael Bendis and Billy Tan to bring use the “Who will be the next Sorceror Supreme?” storyline.

When Richard Friend inks Chris Bachalo’s pencils, the piece is signed “Chrisendo”, a portmanteau of the names “Chris”, “Friend”, and “Bachalo”. Antonio Fabela is a regular colorist of Bachalo’s work.

Pictured some way above is Bachalo’s latest assignment, a critical and fan hit by the name of Wolverine and the X-Men. It’s the next generation of X-Men back at Xavier’s School for Higher Learning under the tutelage of the ol’ canuckle head and it seems pre-fitted to Bachalo’s specific style. Anarchic, high octane and cartoonish, Bachalo’s lavish imagery has found a great home for his brief tenure in these pages. Writer Jason Aaron even going o far as to create BAMFs – small Nightcrawler-esque imps – that create havoc everywhere they go in order to harness Bachalo’s habit of dropping unusual midgets into otherwise mundane panels.

As his graffiti style of comic book art would suggest, Bachalo will leave an indelible and lasting mark that brightens up everything around it. An anarchic and chaotic practitioner – Bachalo is an artist who has caused the mainstream comic industry to adapt to him – something that has furthered the pursuit of great stylistic innovation in mainstream comic books. Bachalo so much pushing the envelope as setting fire to the envelope and feeding it to the little toothy deamons that hide at the edge of his pages.

Marvel offer free digital downloads with it’s premium titles

Marvel have taken an interesting approach towards digital comics. It’s been a thorny issue for the big two – namely DC and Marvel to try to figure out a balance between embracing new technology and not losing enormous amounts of money.

They have announced in the last few days that any sales of their premium (presumably best selling titles) at $3.99 will have a – presumably one time – code that will allow a digital download of the same book for free.

It would appear that this is an attempt to keep sales of print material buoyant while encouraging interest in the digital market. With Image and Dark Horse benefitting from digital sales – it’s an original idea and one that will be interesting to keep an eye on – particularly for us indy printers.

News on Beyond the Bunker’s digital sales will be appearing on Monday. Please keep an eye out.

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.

Practitioners 50: Stan Lee (Part two)

In 2011 the first Kapow convention in London pulled together a line-up of incredibly popular and legendary writers and artists. Mark Millar, Frank Quitely, John Romita Jr, Lienil Yu, Dave Gibbons, Chris Hemsworth, the cast of Being Human, Merlin, Misfits, IGN stands, Marvel, DC, film previews and a Guinness World Record attempt. In 2012, arguably it’s main competitor has Stan Lee in his first visit to a British Comic Convention. People actually saw this as a coup.

Stan Lee, legend of legends appeared at the first Super Comiccon in February 2012 at the Excel Centre in London. The effect was enormous. In an industry trying to find it’s feet it had exactly the right effect. The event was an enormous success. The crowds were more mainstream than had previously been seen. You can claim a number of reasons for this but what it boiled down to was this – it was a chance to meet the man who changed the face of comics.

In the late 1950s Stan Lee was working for what was known as Atlas Comics. He was disgruntled, writing Romance, adventure, westerns, humour, medieval adventure, horror and suspense. By the end of the decade, Lee had become dissatisfied with his career and considered quitting the field.

A curious set of circumstances began to accumulate that was to fuel the creation of Marvel Comics. In DC, Editor Julius Schwartz had run into considerable success with the updated version of the Flash, reviving the superhero archetype, and later had the same success with the Justice League of America. In response to this, publisher Martin Goodman asked Lee to create a new superhero team. Lee’s dissatisfaction with the industry was now turned into an advantage. With his intention to leave comics and with nothing to lose, Lee’s wife urged him to experiment with stories he wanted to write. It was here that the crucible of the entire Marvel Universe was formed. Lee, who, having dutifly worked for comics since he was 19 was about to change every rule.

Lee acted on the advice, giving his characters a flawed humanity, a leap from the god-like archetypes that had been striding the pages of superhero comic books. Lee introduced complex, naturalistic characters who could have bad tempers, melancholy fits, vanity; arguing amongst themselves, but crucially propelled downwards at terminal velocity back to the streets of the real, now forced to worry about bills, relationships, homework. The Superman had been knocked off his perch, dressed as Clark Kent forcibly and told to work his way back up to Superman. Champions were no longer heroes by right; Lee brought the demi-gods of Golden Age comic books back to their literary roots. They were now subject to heartache, anxiety and could even get physically ill. These aspirational figures had become accessible. No longer beyond the reach everyone on the streets, they are everyone on the street – struggling with the same impassable issues we all do.

The first was the Fantastic Four. Workaholic Reed Richards, brash and impetuous Johnny Storm, thuggish and crude Ben Grimm and the occasionally ferocious Sue Storm were hammered with cosmic rays and thrown back to Earth where they respectively gained the powers of elasticity, fire and flight, invulnerability, super strength and impervious rock skin and invisibility. The combination of super powers and real life drama is reflected now in the popularity of supernatural and superhero TV shows. It proved a flawless and undeniable combination; real life issues and concerns propelled into battles with monsters, investigation of interdimensional travel and space giants!! The most noteworthy character was Ben Grimm, named ‘The Thing’ thanks to his new found craggy demeanour. Reflected in his personality, his is in fact a science fiction story of a successful, confident figure being faced with dismemberment. Susan Storm’s feelings of abandonment by the man she loves and his lack of understanding as to why his work isn’t more important to her are universal ideas, locked in high literature and TV soaps. When the emotional story lines might dip in other genres now there were Mole Men to smack down, or intergalactic heralds declaring the arrival of a globe threatening natural disaster.

The Fantastic Four’s immediate popularity led Lee and Marvel’s assembled Marvel Illustrators, including Steve Ditko, Bill Everett and led by Jack Kirby to create a field of dreams that would outlast almost every other book on the market. With Kirby, primarily, heroes known throughout the world, representing ideals and concerns and fears recognisable to everyone began to appear out of the smoke of heady creation. Bruce Banner saved Rick Jones moments before a Gamma blast irradiated him and created the angry, defiant, thundering Hulk, genius inventor Tony Stark meets his greatest fears as he is forced to create a metal suit to save him from shrapnel wounds to create Iron Man, the mutant X-Men are assembled in a Westchester School of Higher Learning by Professor Xavier, Lawyer Matt Murdoch gains super senses as a result of losing his sight as a young boy, swearing to represent justice at both ends of the spectrum. Captain America returns from the icy seas of the North Atlantic, Namor is resurrected from war-time comic books, the Norse God Thor appears from the thunder and the Avengers are formed. Finally with Steve Ditko, Doctor Strange – an arrogant doctor who loses his hands and uncovers, in his desperation to regain them – the art of mysticism and finally, the figure that represents most clearly Stan Lee’s ideals.

Lee had been watching a fly crawling on the surface of a window and ‘marvelled’ at it’s ability to move as it did. Imagining a man capable of the same thing he decided that ‘Fly-man’ had little appeal however perhaps a ‘Spider-man’ would have a better time in the cavernous streets of Manhattan.

Stoic, brave and heroic, Peter Parker is the absolute embodiment of the Marvel ideal and it’s most successful character. Representative of every one in America, his struggles are real, his fears and worries palpable and his capacity to overcome them unlimited. Parker is the little guy, the sickly, victimised orphan boy mollycoddled by his Aunt, he is clever and brave but struggles to utilise either. With the bite of a radioactive spider, Peter Parker gains the proportional power of a Spider. Over the years Spider-man has fought every major villain in the Marvel Universe, wise-cracking all the way in a fit of denial as to the situation he is throwing himself into. Those idiosyncracies and habits are real. The overcompensation of Peter Parker to be Spider-man on the battlefield historically irritates more seasoned, honed fighters but that’s the point. He’s no professional. And Lee understood this and presented a boy trying desperately to keep up with the lot life had shown him, without realising, as so many of us do, how capable he always was. The perpetual underdog, Spider-man shines with a humanity that Lee gave him more than half a century before – and one that will never dim. Editor-in-chief Joe Quesada’s decision to scrub out Peter Parker’s life with Mary Jane, his wife, was one of genuine affection and a need to return to the vulnerability that Lee had imbued him with previously. While the character was growing, it was the innate lack of experience that Lee had given him that made Spider-man such a mainstay character and it’s testament to Lee’s decisions so long ago that Quesada felt the need to reset it.

The other defining characteristic introduced by Stan Lee was that of a shared universe. This connected all of the various characters together in a way that united the creators and readers in a way. A community could now be formed around that universe. Based in the real world, the cities were those that the readership woke up in every day. The Human Torch left a message for Spider-man across the sky over the real Manhattan. Gods walked amongst men in a way unseen. The Hulk smashed in real states, not the purpose built spires of an imaginary city such as Metropolis, Gotham or Coast City. It also reduced the level of destruction that took place in the confines of the books which bred greater creativity in developing the plots. It turned the real world, in particular New York into a sandbox world to be played with, both recognisable by real and fictitious characters. It raised the stakes as well as the events taking place had the potential to end everything we all knew. Galactus would devour our homes and towns. The nuclear threat created by Magneto would radiate part of our planet. These were gods given consequences.

While Superman’s Metropolis had been laid to waste by Doomsday and flood and rebuilt, Batman’s Gotham destroyed by plague and earthquake and Coast City decimated by star ship as a mere plot point someone else’s story in order to facilitate a plot that would bring back Superman in Stan Lee’s Marvel Universe a single school is destroyed in middle america in a dust up between super powered ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’ and the effects are far more divisive and far reaching than the destruction of an entire state in DC. Stan Lee gave Marvel pathos, real life drama, boundaries and greater emotional punch. He gave us figures that could bring down buildings but crack under emotional pressure. He gave the super humans their humanity. It is something that cannot be undervalued.

Stan Lee’s Marvel revolution extended beyond the characters and storylines to the way in which comic books engaged the readership and built a sense of community between fans and creators. There has been some dispute as to the creative credit associated with his works – particularly in the case of projects with Kirby and Ditko, however Lee did more for creative credit than any other editor previously. Lee introduced the practice of including a credit panel on the splash page of each story, something now adopted into every book brought out in some manner, naming not just the writer and penciller but also the inker and letterer. This has fuelled fans of writers and artists as well as characters, titles and companies over the years and has really allowed articles such as The Practitioners to develop. Regular news about Marvel staff members and upcoming storylines was presented on the Bullpen Bulletins page, which (like the letter columns that appeared in each title) was written in a friendly, chatty style. Lee had made the Marvel Universe friendly and easy to visit – his welcoming and inclusive style and his love of people clear in his approach to how he ran this company.

Throughout the 1960s, Lee scripted, art-directed, and edited most of Marvel’s series, moderated the letters pages, wrote a monthly column called “Stan’s Soapbox,” and wrote endless promotional copy, often signing off with his trademark phrase “Excelsior!” (which is also the New York state motto). To maintain his taxing workload, yet still meet deadlines, he used a system that was used previously by various comic-book studios, but due to Lee’s success with it, became known as the “Marvel Method” or “Marvel style” of comic-book creation. Typically, Lee would brainstorm a story with the artist and then prepare a brief synopsis rather than a full script. Based on the synopsis, the artist would fill the allotted number of pages by determining and drawing the panel-to-panel storytelling. After the artist turned in penciled pages, Lee would write the word balloons and captions, and then oversee the lettering and coloring. In effect, the artists were co-plotters, whose collaborative first drafts Lee built upon.

Because of this system, the exact division of creative credits on Lee’s comics has been disputed, especially in cases of comics drawn by Kirby and Ditko. Lee shares co-creator credit with Kirby and Ditko on, respectively, the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man feature film series.

In 1971, Lee indirectly helped reform the Comics Code. The US Department of Health, Education and Welfare had asked Lee to write a comic-book story about the dangers of drugs and Lee conceived a three-issue subplot in The Amazing Spider-Man #96–98 (cover-dated May–July 1971), in which Peter Parker’s best friend becomes addicted to pills. The Comics Code Authority refused to grant its seal because the stories depicted drug use; the anti-drug context was considered irrelevant. The comics sold well and Marvel won praise for its socially conscious efforts. The CCA subsequently loosened the Code to permit negative depictions of drugs, among other new freedoms.

Lee also supported using comic books to provide some measure of social commentary about the real world, often dealing with racism and bigotry. “Stan’s Soapbox”, besides promoting an upcoming comic book project, also addressed issues of discrimination, intolerance, or prejudice. This has been seen throughout Marvel’s history as writers introduce plots they feel particularly strong about, Peter David’s continued inclusion of gay and lesbian agendas in his work from The Incredible Hulk and X-Factor has allowed a subject he feels strongly about be presented in an unusual but popular medium. That, in part, is thanks to Stan Lee’s years of effort and devotion to putting out positive messages of tolerance and civility.

But it is Stan Lee’s lasting legacy (one that he still fuels) that has elevated him above other writers, artists and creators. His relationship with his fans and his creations have made him synonomous with them. If you type in Stan Lee into any search engine, the majority of the images generated will be of the man himself; as famous as any one of his creations. That was what we saw at Super Comicon in London on February 25th and 26th in 2012. A man who allowed millions to dream of seeing a man fly through the sky on rocket jets – but more importantly – made it clear that they could just as easily be that man themselves.

Next: The Legacy of Stan Lee.

Practitioners 50: Stan Lee (Part 1)

As Norse Gods, American super soldiers and billionaire playboy philanthropist technocrats in multi-billion dollar battle suits launch into battle across cinema screens throughout the world to a hail of cheers and applause from fans of adventure of all ages does anyone wonder who decided to put these characters together? As the Silver Surfer CGI expands the limits of modern special effects technology on the silver screen while being pursued by a man on fire across the skyline of Manhattan does anyone notice the slightly built, silver haired gentleman in glasses being turned away from Sue and Reed Richard’s wedding? It’s the man who created the flaming figure and put him in Manhattan, who created the platform upon which the Silver Surfer sails, the Hulk smashes, Ghost Rider seeks vengeance and Spider-man spins his web. Let’s not beat around the bush. No Stan Lee, no Avengers, Spider-man, X-Men, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk. No Marvel comics. So no bringing Nick Fury, Namor and Captain America back from the dead. No Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Daredevil, Jack Flag. No Wolverine, Elektra, War Machine, Mary Jane. Definitely no Aunt May or J.Jonah Jameson.

Lee is a world class media operator before media operators were known to exist. Given opportunities many others had in the boom of comic books, Lee created something substantial, meaningful and powerful. He created a framework that would prove to be the single most well known and profitable set of franchises in history, revolutionise the way people read comics and bring a wry smile to many a fanboys face. He’s Stan Lee. There is no one like him. And this is his story…

Stan Lee was born Stanley Martin Lieber in a tiny apartment at the corner of West 98th Street and West End Avenue, New York City on December 28, 1922. His father worked a dress cutter, working only sporadically after the Great Depression of the 1930s. Lee had one other sibling, his brother , Harry Lieber, 9 years Lee’s junior and described the one-bedroom apartment he and the rest of his family had lived in at 1720 University Avenue as “a third-floor apartment facing out back”, with him and his brother sharing a bedroom and his parents using a foldout couch.

Errol Flynn in Robin Hood, part of the swashbuckling capers that a young boy who would grow up to be Stan Lee was inspired by

As a child, Lee has recently revealed that he was fascinated and influenced by books and movies, in particular those of legendary swashbuckler, Errol Flynn. Attending DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, Lee found entertainment and inspiration in his voracious reading habit. His penchant for writing was present early on, as a youth he worked such part time jobs as writing obituaries for a news service and press releases for the National Turberculosis Centre (where presumably he gained his chatty patter, while trying to alleviate the heavy language associated with such writing you can only imagine that writing anything lighter was a distinct joy), delivering sandwiches for the Jack May pharmacy to offices in Rockefeller Center, working as a trouser boy for a trouser manufacturer; ushering at the Rivoli Theater on Broadway; and selling subscriptions to the New York Herald Tribune newspaper. Graduating high school early at 16 and a half in 1939, Lee joined the arguably awkwardly titled WPA Federal Theatre Project.

At a young age, as other Practitioners such as Jack Kirby were roughing in the streets and studying to become artists, Lee had immersed himself in New York. He had mucked in and fronted life out on the island of Manhattan. He hadn’t leapt straight for his dream job with both hands but done something immeasurably more valuable perhaps as a writer. He’d experienced the corners and seen the offices and lives of the average joe of Manhattan. This is something that would undoubtedly inform his work later in his career. This, perhaps, is where Lee’s fascination with the struggle of the average guy formed. In the shadows of the heaven fingering ramparts of giant cathedrals to man’s development and upper limits, there was still the guy making his way from one building to the next bringing sandwiches. New York is perhaps greatest of all cities for this, elevating it’s environment to represent grandeur and greatness while presenting daily struggle and difficulty to the great majority of it’s inhabitants that fuel it. It’s not that no other major city such as London, Paris or Tokyo represented this with both squalor and riches, but nowhere else have they both been so obvious and pronounced and yet so mixed and reliant on the other or for so long than in New York. Without the lingering class systems of London and Tokyo or the leveled society of federal and social in Paris, a dress cutter’s son, educated in the Bronx can wander into the marble lined halls of the Rockefeller center. It blended the exceptional with the every day. New York allowed the average person to witness Marvels.

Sometimes it’s not what you know but who you know and Stan Lee’s first step into comic books was with Timely Comics, thanks to his uncle, Robbie Solomon. Now an assistant on Timely Comics’ division of Pulp magazine and comic book publisher Martin Goodman’s company. Lee’s cousin Jean was Goodman’s wife, which would put Lee in good stead by the time he was hired by the great, Capatain- America-creating Joe Simon. But it wasn’t an unstoppable climb to stardom for Stan Lee.

Captain America # 3 (Stan Lee's first writing assignment)

His duties were prosaic at first and much like that which he had had to do in previous work. “In those days [the artists] dipped the pen in ink, [so] I had to make sure the inkwells were filled”, Lee recalled in 2009. “I went down and got them their lunch, I did proofreading, I erased the pencils from the finished pages for them”. Marshaling his childhood ambition to be a writer, young Stanley Lieber made his comic-book debut with the text filler “Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge” in Captain America Comics #3 (May 1941), using the pseudonym “Stan Lee”, which years later he would adopt as his legal name. Lee later explained in his autobiography and numerous other sources that he had intended to save his given name for more literary work, something that never really surfaced. Lee began immediately to have a lasting effect on the characters that still continue today, with this initial story also introducing Captain America’s trademark ricocheting shield-toss, which immediately became one of the character’s signatures.

He graduated from writing filler to actual comics with a backup feature, “‘Headline’ Hunter, Foreign Correspondent”, two issues later. Lee’s first superhero co-creation was the Destroyer, in Mystic Comics #6 (Aug 1941). The Destroyer was a field journalist, Keen Marlow, captured behind enemy lines and experimented upon with a super hero serum similar to that used on Captain America. The Destroyer was Lee’s most popular character prior to the Fantastic Four and enjoyed a MAX imprint (Volume 4) through Lee’s company Marvel very recently. Other characters he created during this period fans and historians call the Golden Age of comics include Jack Frost, (an amnesiac character made entirely of ice who woke in the icy wastes of the antarctic and is reminiscent of latter day Ice man Bobby Drake) debuting in USA Comics #1 (Aug. 1941), and Father Time (an interesting character used as back up material for Captain America 6-12, involving a hooded figure with a scythe who turns time against crooks), debuting in Captain America Comics #6 (Aug. 1941).

When Joe Simon and Jack Kirby left late in 1941, following a dispute with Goodman, the 30-year-old publisher made a decision that frankly, would alter the face of comics. He installed Stan Lee, just under 19 years old, as interim editor. Unsurprisingly, given Lee’s capacity for operating seamlessly between mover and shaker in later years, Lee showed an ability for business that led him to remain as the comic-book division’s editor-in-chief, as well as art director for much of that time.

But many of Lee’s friends and colleagues of similar age had been called to war and in early 1942, Lee had his call to join the United States Army. He would serve stateside in the Signal Corps, the section of the army that provides communications, writing manuals, training films, slogans and occasionally cartooning. In true Stan Lee style, while Jack Kirby walked into enemy territory to draw maps, Lee’s military classification, he says, was ‘playwright’ adding that only 9 men in the U.S. Army were given that title. Vincent Fago, editor of Timely’s animation comics section, which put out humour and funny animal comics, filled in until Lee got back from his World War II military service in 1945. Danger of bad back from sitting in a chair too long seemingly averted, Lee returned and now lived in the the rented top floor of a Brownstone in the East 90s in Manhattan, much like a certain young man and his doting auntie managed to almost 50 years later….

New Amazing Spider-Man Trailer

With all the excitement about The Avengers, it’s easy to forget that there is a new Spider-Man movie coming out this year. With his contract with Sony keeping Spidey isolated from his Marvel buddies and with Sam Rami and co long gone, the franchise seems to have found itself in the unlikely position of underdog in the battle of the super hero blockbusters. If their new trailer is anything to go by, Sony will be banking on a new, darker style and the charisma of lead man, Andrew Garfield, to keep the web slinger in the A list.

There’s nothing blowing me away about this movie so far but after being so very wrong about X-Men: First Class last year, I’m gonna keep my mouth shut until it’s out on July 4th.

D
x

BTB Awards: Biggest Story

Biggest Comic Book Story

Joe Quesada’s Building the Cover – Avenging Spider-man #1 (October 16, 2011)

Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada often applies his long honed artistic skills to emblazon the titles he was supervising. One of the best artists in the history of Marvel, Quesada is known for his unflinching determination to create the best piece of art he can. Beyond the Bunker’s Dan Thompson discovered JQ’s post in which he revealed the process behind his most recent project and posted it with us. Amazingly Mr Quesada saw the tweet and tweeted it way beyond our limited range. Que the highest number of hits we’ve ever received and, deservedly, almost the highest number of hits for any post we’ve ever put up – in certainly the shortest time. Thanks again to Mr Quesada for taking the time to point his fans to our humble site…

Those of you who follow Marvel Chief Creative Officer, Joe Quesada on twitter may have seen his occasional “Building The Cover” sessions in which he explains the entire process of creating his astounding cover images. He posted a special one from New York Comic Con last night and I thought that it was interesting enough to share here. Just so we’re clear, this is not our work or associated with us in any way. The intention here is simply to compile together Joe’s tweets on the subject for easy reading. Enjoy.

“First step was to work up a few thumbnails. Here’s a thumbnail template I made just for such an occasion”
“These initial thumbnails were drawn in Sketchbook Pro. The absolute best pencil sketching program on the market”
“I was immediately partial to the center image, but decided to make life difficult and make it a wraparound cover…Once again, in Sketchbook, I used their mirror function in order to get a nice symmetrical framework”

“Not crazy with Spidey’s head, too stylized and he looks hunchbacked. also started toying with possible background”

“Still in mirror mode and trying a different positioning for his arms and hands. Also expanding the web idea.”

“Since Hulk and Wolvie are in the issue I decided to alter the arms again and to make room for cameos. I also decided to drop the web motif…So lets try a gargoyle while we’re at it”

“Not killing me, so perhaps a more passive Hulk and Wolvie and a smaller gargoyle”

“For those wondering, I’m drawing all of this digitally on my Cintiq using their stock pen tip and working in Sketchbook Pro at the moment…I switched over to Manga Studio EX 4 and start to lay in a perspective grid for possible buildings”

“In the middle of working on this cover I see Joe Mad’s AMAZING cover for the book, he has Hulk and Wolvie on it so I abandon the idea…No longer in mirror mode, I now start to rework Spidey’s arms and hands so that they’re different and have a much more naturalistic feel…And also back in Sketchbook, notice the digital pencils are getting tighter”

“It’s at this point that I regain my senses and wonder if I’m working to hard, maybe a single cover will do”

“Okay, who I kidding, I’m a masochist, lets go back to wraparound. I bounce now to Photoshop and start building the figure in black line…Here’s the beginning of that”

“Also, I’ve abandoned the gargoyle idea altogether, I think it’s going to be webbing and noir cityscape…Next is a light study, the idea being that Spidey is lit from the city streets underneath him”

“Now for a much tighter drawing, we’re getting close”

“A real rough pass at the kind of feel and weight I want the webbing to have”

“Time to block out the webbing for real now. Keep in mind, this is for placement only, sans all detail”

“Okay, I’ve got webbing, figure, lighting and city perspective done. Now I print this out at actual page size, light box and start penciling…here’s the final pencils as Danny Miki received them”

“For those unfamiliar with this kind of stuff, the X’s on the board indicate to the inker that that area needs to be a solid black…I rarely use x’s, but this cover had so much black and shadows that it would have been a gray mess if i had actually filled that stuff in…And, this afternoon I just got the final inks from the brilliant Danny Miki TAA-DAA!”

Fascinating stuff. If you want more stuff like this then be sure to follow Joe on Twitter.

D
x

Biggest Movie Story (Biggest Number of Combined Hits)

A Merry Band: The Band of Dwarves Part 1, 2 & 3 (February / March 2011)

Always best to write about things you’re interested in. In 2010, one of us missed an open audition in London for The Hobbit. Upon realising that the first days of the shooting for Peter Jackson’s version of The Hobbit and those cast chosen to become the Merry Band that takes on old Smaug was en route to New Zealand, we wanted to know who played who and where these men had come from… While the three all appear in the top 25 most popular posts, combined they make more than 1000 hits.

Part One

‘The Dwarves of yore made mighty spells / while hammers fell like ringing bells / in places deep, where dark things sleep / in hollow halls beneath the fells.’

JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit begins with 13 Dwarves arriving in small groups and one by one at Bag End to meet with a surprised Hobbit of the Shire, Bilbo Baggins and convince to aid and abet in their plot. Doughy, rough faced, beardy cave miners – sturdy and brutal warriors and cheeky imp like mini-vikings, the Dwarves represent a family of MiddleEarth’s population only a mother could love. Even Tolkien doesn’t rate them much; admitting that trouble is never far behind them.

His first depiction of Dwarves in the Silmarillion (the first of the Middle Earth novels) depicts them as evil employers of Orcs and Tolkien’s urge to fill his roll call for the Hobbit with them demanded a more sympathetic perspective. He draws most heavily from the Norse storytelling of the ferocious warrior midgets and endowed them with armour and weaponry befitting this background.

At the time Tolkien was reportedly heavily influenced by his selective reading of Jewish history and the Jewish community oddly found representation in the band of short men that visit Bilbo. Dispossessed from the Homeland (the Lonely Mountain; their ancestral home is the goal the exiled Dwarves seek to reclaim) and living among other groups while retaining their own culture, while true of many cultures in modern history, was derived by Tolkien by the medieval image of Jews, whilst their warlike nature stems from accounts and tales from the Hebrew Bible. The one cultural similarity with Tolkien’s (and Dwarves themselves) initial approach to Dwarves was that both Medieval views of Jews and the fictional Norse Dwarves were seen and referred to as having a propensity towards making well-crafted things. This, to a writer so absorbed by the representation of cultures in his own work rings very true.

Tolkien was faced with a number of choices in how to present his 13 characters – while a small number of the Dwarves are prominent in the book; fundamentally they’re a mass of opinions and reactions to the events of the book. But the reader behaves among the group as a guest would – noting those most familiar with and recognising the others as individuals that make the whole more interesting. Even with Peter Jackson’s love of characterisation ( shown in LOTR, King Kong and The Frighteners) he’ll have a tough time making sure each and every one of this band of Dwarves will be introduced to us fully over the course of the adventures. Though how they might appear on screen is of great interest….

So who are these dwarves? And perhaps more importantly in the advancement of our expectations of what we’ll see in 2012 – who has been chosen to play them? If you are expecting a repeat of John Rhys Davies’ sturdy and gravity hugging Gimli in the Lord of the Rings trilogy you may be in for a surprise as the foremost in the cast look very little like the little men they’ve been called to play.

The band of Dwarves and the Hobbit - after arriving for Dwarf bootcamp in New Zealand

Though on the whole broad and powerful looking as a bunch they’ll no doubt fulfill every expectation put upon them. Assembled are new, younger, upcoming stars, more established actors, long standing performers who have enjoyed many roles but little recognition (most likely until now), older, less well known gentlemen and a familiar face from the previous films you just won’t recognise. They are now assembled in New Zealand for Dwarf Bootcamp, in which they will gain training, linguistic and accentual and physical, performance and technical to prepare for the role. Aidan Turner (of BBC3 horror comedy Being Human) is doing all he can to grow his own beard in time for preliminary shooting.

They are;

Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakensheild). The most prominent of the Dwarves in the book, Armitage appears on first glance an odd choice. Predominantly a theatre and television actor his only movie credit so far is as an uncredited Naboo Fighter Pilot in Star Wars: Phantom Menace, however following some very prominent roles in mainstream British TV in recent years; Cold Feet, North and South, ShakespeaRe-told, a strong performance BBCs Robin Hood series as misunderstood villain of the piece Guy of Gisbourne and an Armed Police Officer in Spooks he will appearing in Captain America: The Last Avenger this year as Nazi Heinz Kruger. (Whether he’s a misunderstood Nazi is yet to be seen). Regardless, his climb up the ladder has been steady and long and his strong voice and glower will add a lot to the head Dwarf, Thorin Oakenshield. I’ll be very interested to see how he’s presented.

Tolkien borrowed Thorin’s name from the Old Norse poem ‘Voluspa’, part of the poetic Edda. Thorin appears in stanza 12 and used for a Dwarf and the name Oakenshield (Elkinskjaldi) appear in stanza 13. Thorin is proud and brash and while he and Gandalf stand their ground in the Goblin tunnels and he is the least surprised by an encounter with Trolls but his leadership is far from distinguished and generates most of the difficulties the party face on their journey. Driven into exile by the Dragon Smaug in 2770, he wants to retake his homeland. He carries a charmed blade named Orcrist, a similar weapon to Frodo’s ‘Sting’ in LOTR.

Aidan Turner (Kili) – standing at 6′ and slim in build Aidan Turner is one of the main cast members that is undergoing a transformation in order to play his part. A British Television actor, Turner found prominence in BBC1’s Desperate Romantics as Romantic period painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti and more notably BBC’s Being Human as Vampire Mitchell. His performances are strong and he’s physically a very capable actor. He tends to play romantic, self-destructive leads because of his appearance so his casting as a short stop will be another interesting one. A capable character actor however and great things should be expected for him. His character in Being Human has been told he’ll be killed by a Werewolf (cool) and much of Series 3 has the appearance of a rushed rewrite – as well as reduced budget – which is unsurprising as his character will be disappearing for at least a year shooting The Hobbit (original estimate under Del Toro was 377 days before final production on the second film).

Kili is one of two brothers, both young in Dwarf terms, younger than most of the group by as much as fifty years. Both brothers are described as having the best eyesight and are often sent for searching and scouting. They are also described as cheerful, as the only Dwarves to emerge from the barrels at Lake Town ‘more or less smiling’.

James Nesbitt (Bofur) – a bit of a statesman of British television, Nesbitt (like Turner) is an Irish actor witha strong, clear accent. A powerful and capable character actor Nesbitt has forged a distinctive career since appearing in A Play for Today in 1984. His status has grown progressively with Tv projects Ballykissangel, Playing the field and most notably Adam Williams in Cold Feet ( a precursor to Friends made in the UK about 3 couples of which Nesbitt was arguably the most prominent) as well as film roles – playing Ivan Cooper in Paul Greengrass’s Bloody Sunday – a dramatisation of the Irish Civil Rights protest march and subsequent massacre by British troops on January 30, 1972. Most recently he’s appeared in mainstream series such as the tepid The Deep and as the central character of Murphy’s Law (for ITV). Nesbitt is an actor of considerable character and is hilarious to watch in most things he’s in. A capable performer able to handle broad styles and physical performance (Jekyll, 2007) and sympathetic roles (also Jekyll, 2007 perhaps unsurprisingly).

‘Poor, fat,’ Bombur us frequently shown as having been the last in everything. A comedic character through and through, introducing himself by tumbling into Bifur and Bombur as they arrive at Bag End at the very start of the story and falls into the enchanted river. Bombur sleeps at several key moments of the book. Having fallen into the Enchanted River he sleeps for days, forcing his already frustrated companions to carry him. Understandably edited out in Fellowship of the Ring, Bilbo asks after Bombur and is told that he had grown so fat it took six young dwarves to lift him, as he could no longer move from his bed to the couch.

Bombur is simply written and easy to delightfully realise. He’s right up Peter Jackson’s comedic street and we can expect great moments from the fattest Dwarf in the band. He also plays a drum.

Graham McTavish (Dwalin) is a perrenial and long standing character actor on British TV and film as well as a prominent voice artist. His distinctive and boxy appearance have given him many military and hardman roles throughout the years though he injects intelligence and character well in each case. A theatre actor he has appeared as Banquo in Macbeth, as well as Thangbrand in Erik the Viking, one of the best things in a flawed series as Warden Ackerman in Red Dwarf VIII as well as with James Nesbitt twice in Jekyll as Gavin Hardcastle and Murphy’s Law. He has made the jump to US projects in recent years, appearing in Quantum of Solace, 24, Prison Break, Lost, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and the new Rambo. He also voiced Loki in Hulk Vs (Video Game), Sebastian Shaw in Wolverine and the X-Men animated TV series and Thundercracker in Transformers: War for Cybertron video game. A man of some considerable stature, he is a capable and intelligent performer which accounts for his steady success on multiple platforms. He represents a warrior in almost all he does but more often than not a sympathetic one. I look forward to him representing Dwalin.

Dwalin is the first Dwarf to arrive at Bag End. He is a kindly soul, offering Bilbo a hood and cloak as they leave Bag End. After the events of the Hobbit, Dwalin rules Thorin’s halls in the Blue Mountains. His name is taken from Dvalin, a dwarf in the poetic Edda. The arc that Dwalin’s character follows suggests that he will be an interesting one to watch. An honourable character that survives the quest and gains what he deserves in the end. A precursor to Aragorn in the LOTR trilogy perhaps.

And finally for this batch of the band of Dwarves we have Kili’s brother, Fili.

Robert Kazinsky (Fili) is the definition of how you climb the ladder as a young actor. Starting on the Basil Brush Show as neatly monickered Sven Garley and as Casper Rose in Footballing soap Dream Team he completed the populist rope walk to find a place as unhinged Sean in Eastenders. Shortly afterwards he made the leap across the pond to appear in bit parts in Law and Order: Los Angeles and Brothers & Sisters. Apart from one short (Love, in 2009) and a film called Red Tails (still in Post Production he has no cinema credits. However, his performance was strong in Eastenders (the only place I’ve seen him) and I look forward to seeing him play cheery as opposed to mentally ill (TV style). An opportunity to play a character such as Fili should cement Kazinsky’s rise nicely and I suspect we can expect to see him more things afterwards.

Brother to Kili, Fili has the longest cloak on the quest (?!!). A temperament like his brother Kili, Fili is a cheerful character. Following the battle with spiders he’s forced to cut off most of his beard due to it being covered in webbing.

It grows late and the torch grows dim and I think I must retire so I must bid you all a good night / good day and leave you until next time. In which I will introduce you to the remaining members of this merry band of Dwarves. Keep warm dear reader and if you hear your trinkets moving in the night it’ll most likely be Dwarves come back to claim that which they bothered to dig up….

The Dwarves and Bilbo by Sam Bosma

Part Two

Following a two year wait The Hobbit has now gone into production with Dwarf camp in full swing as the crew and cast prepare for initial shooting. As such Beyond the Bunker.com wants to take a closer look at the production as it happens. Last week was Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield), Aidan Turner (Kili), James Nesbitt (Bofur – it turns out), Rob Kazinsky (Fili) and Graham McTavish (Dwalin) we take a look at four more of the assembled Dwarves on the quest against Smaug the dragon and the actors playing them. Pick up your axes, we’re heading back into unfamiliar territory….

Ken Stott (Balin). Stott is an exceptional Scottish actor specialising in slightly downtrodden and bitter individuals. A theatrical, Television and Film actor he began on screen in 1977 appearing in TV series Secret Army in a single episode. He has stocked up a pile of TV appearances in Taggart (1985), The Singing Detective (1986), Bad Company (1993), Silent Witness (1996), the harrowing Messiah (2001), the title character in Rebus as DI john Rebus (2006-2007) and the Runaway – due out this year. With occassional but notable positions in cinema over these years playing Dalfonso in Casanova (2005), Chancellor of the Exchequer in the much passed over Girl in the Cafe, made as a commentary on the lack of (or potential for) influence on social politics to common people made by Richard Curtis for Live 8. He also played Adolf Hitler in TV Movie Uncle Adolf in 2005, Marius Honorius in the unfortunately leaden King Arthur in 2004 and the ferocious and snivellingly brutal head of the constabulary as Chance in 1999’s Plunkett and McCleane playing opposite Robert Carlyle and Jonny Lee Miller and Liv Tyler. His performances are always gripping and impressive, Stott representing twice the man his height suggests – something pretty handy for a dwarf.

Balin is brother to Dwalin (Graham McTavish) and is the one Dwarf who carries with him a hidden purpose. Above all other Dwarves in the company he is the only one explicitly stated to have been present in the Mountain Kingdom of Erebor before the attack by Smaug. The book also makes clear that Balin was in the company of Thorin when Smaug arrived but curiously also reveals their respective ages as 7 and 24 (interesting given the difference in ages between Stott and Armitage). Balin is look out at all times and is the only Dwarf to volunteer to enter Smaug’s lair with Bilbo.

Balin is the only character written to have visited Bilbo at Bag End after the events of the Hobbit but his story does not end in the pages of the Hobbit. In one of the most memorable scenes from The Fellowship of the Ring, it is Balin’s tomb in the Chamber of Mazarbul the title character’s discover. In that scene Gandalf finds the dwarves’ book of records written by Ori, and discovers from it that Balin was killed by Orcs.

The cast in question Balin, Nori, Dori and Ori (Ken Stott, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow and Adam Brown)

Jed Brophy (Nori) Jed Brophy is a ‘lucky charm’ in Peter Jackson films beginning as far back as Braindead (1992) listed as Void and Heavenly Creatures (1994). He appeared in Lord of the Rings: Two Towers as Sharku – the mounted Urukhai responsible for forcing Aragorn over the cliff and Snaga who I suspect is the Orc perturbed at the ‘Maggoty Bread’ before promptly being beheaded by the infuriated Urukhai Commander and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (simply listed as Orc Leiutentant 1) as well as James Hope – Police Officer in 2009’s SA based alien District 9, produced by Jackson. His credits outside of the franchise are few and far between and almost certainly NZ and Australian based including Joseph Savage in Return to Treasure Island and a short hilariously called Lemming Aid. Returning to the fold once again its hard to know how much or how little influence Brophy will have on the screen this time around but based on his previous work and Jackson’s clear reliance on him we can be sure that however brief a moment is offered by Nori it will likely be memorable. Notably more lightweight that his fellow actors, Brophy may need more time in the make up and costume departments or may represent a new shape of Dwarf amongst the broad cave Vikings.

Brophy hopes to ‘make it all the way through without getting killed. Horribly.’ Something his previous films with Jackson suggest is unlikely.

Nori is the brother to Ori and Dori. He is merely listed as one of the companions of Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit. His survival is no way assured.

Mark Hadlow (Dori) is another NZ veteran of Peter Jackson movies playing Harry – opposite Naomi Watts- at the beginning of King Kong and the voice of Heidi, Robert and Barry the Bulldog in Jackson’s 1990 psycho Muppet movie Meet the Feebles. Besides this he has mostly gained parts in small films and TV series (including Milo in Xena: Warrior Princess in 1999 and Orrin in Warlords of the 21st Century. Otherwise Jackson’s casting represents a great jump up for Hadlow, particularly as brave and capable Dori. He says he’s ready for the adulation taht will come from starring in a movie like this. ‘We’ve had our shots,’ he laughs on set in Wellington with the rest of the cast.

Dori is the brother of Nori and Ori. When it all goes wrong it falls to Dori to carry Bilbo in the tunnels of the Misty Mountains, but Dori dropped Bilbo and the other dwarves blame him for “losing their burglar.” In the original book, Dori is described as “a decent fellow, despite his grumbling,” while Thorin describes him as being the strongest member of the company.

Adam Brown (Ori) has appeared almost from nowhere with his online credits literally being Oswald Potter in Chucklevision in 2009 and then the youngest of three Dwarf brothers in The Hobbit: Part 1 and Part 2. Predominantly a Theatre actor, he is 29 years old (born 1980) and trained in performing arts at Middlesex University, co-founding ‘Plested and Brown’ (presumably on hiatus at present) writing and performing in all six shows (Carol Smillie Trashed my Room, The Reconditioned Wife Show, Flamingo Flamingo Flamingo, Hot Pursuit, Minor Spectacular and the most recent Health & Stacey.) He has toured with the company across the UK as well as performances in Armenia, South Korea and the Best of British Festival in New Zealand (good practice) prior to his offer to join the Dwarf cast of The Hobbit. The only American in the group and professionally the most junior Adam Brown may be said to be the only evidence of a casting held in the UK (where he was based at the time) turning out cast members. Brown is proof that success and opportunity can literally smash you in the face and drag you somewhere you didn’t anticipate at a moments notice and his presence is absolutely hilarious and most likely still a slight mystery to the man himself given the cast surrounding him though we wish him the best of luck and am sure given the scale of the casting that introduced him that his placement is entirely justified.

Ori’s knowledge of Moria helps the group. Brother to Nori and Dori, Ori is the youngest of the three. Surviving the events of the original book it is Ori’s writings in Balin’s tomb in the Chamber of Mazarbul that is read aloud by Gandalf. So in many ways Ori is the longest surviving remnant of the original story though he never lives long enough to see Gandalf again.

On that sad note, I must call it a night once again dear reader. Only one more account of the band of Dwarves is required to round off our band of 13 with brothers Gloin, Oin, Bifur and Bombur still to come. Until then I hope you sleep well and are not disturbed by the beating of a Dragon’s wing outside in the dark.

Part Three

Following a two year wait The Hobbit has now gone into production with Dwarf camp in full swing as the crew and cast prepare for initial shooting. As such Beyond the Bunker.com wants to take a closer look at the production as it happens. Last week was Ken Stott (Balin), Jed Brophy (Nori), Mark Hadlow (Dori) and Adam Brown (Ori) the week before was Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield), Aidan Turner (Kili), James Nesbitt (Bofur – it turns out), Rob Kazinsky (Fili) and Graham McTavish (Dwalin) we take a look at four more of the assembled Dwarves on the quest against Smaug the dragon and the actors playing them. Pick up your axes, we’re heading back into unfamiliar territory….

Wellington NZ was shaken by another Earthquake a week following the previous more devastating one that claimed at least 160 lives in Christchurch. This will have effected the Dwarf training ground as it was near to Wellington but no cast, crew or associated PR has been created by it which is a refreshingly nice example of a production not jumping on an easy scoop. James Nesbitt (coach), Mark Hadlow (umpire) and Martin Freeman (umpire) will be involved in a charity cricket match to raise funds for the Earthquake appeal. Russell Crow is coaching the opposing team.

James Nesbitt was interviewed briefly about his training so far; “We’ve been here for training, because I’m going to be here for a year so the amount of work and the work we’ll be getting up to means we all have to be fit, you know, and a few of us are getting on a bit, so we’ve been training and horse-riding and doing stunts and all that kind of thing, and then we start.” He also revealed that filming was due to start and members of the cast had arrived in mid January but Peter Jackson’s perforated ulcer had caused delays while the Director got the necessary treatment. It all starts fully in ‘three weeks’ and Nesbitt himself is quoted as not minding the break.

But we have Dwarves still to introduce and its taken considerably longer than expected. Still remaining are two of the older members of the band and brothers one particularly tiresome character that holds up proceedings and is unlikely to be training as hard as the others and a seasoned warrior Dwarf.

Stephen Hunter (Bombur) Unwittingly cast as “the clown” from an early age, Stephen is at home with comedy roles, and has developed a great sense of comic timing from many years on stage. This has resulted in him being cast in dozens of comedic roles in TVC’s, and Television Comedy. Stephen is also reportedly a very strong dramatic actor, scoring leading guest roles in many TV dramas including All Saints (NZ), Mercy Peak and Street Legal (NZ). And he keeps himself sharp for the next role with regular “Meisner” training at The Actors Pulse in Redfern (NZ). This is a significant step up for the occasional TV actor from New Zealand, representing a character of considerable (though not always welcome) influence on the plot and the journey himself. Bombur has the potential to be a hilarious character so Hunter’s grounding in comedy puts him in good stead at playing the complete liability among the troupe.

‘Poor, fat,’ Bombur is frequently shown as having been the last in everything. A comedic character through and through, introducing himself by tumbling into Bifur and Bombur as they arrive at Bag End at the very start of the story and falls into the enchanted river. Bombur sleeps at several key moments of the book. Having fallen into the Enchanted River he sleeps for days, forcing his already frustrated companions to carry him. Understandably edited out in Fellowship of the Ring, Bilbo asks after Bombur and is told that he had grown so fat it took six young dwarves to lift him, as he could no longer move from his bed to the couch.

Bombur is simply written and easy to delightfully realise. He’s right up Peter Jackson’s comedic street and we can expect great moments from the fattest Dwarf in the band. He also plays a drum.

William Kircher is a long standing TV and minor film actor from New Zealand going back to the mid-eighties as a constable in a film called Trespasses (NZ) and Worzel Gummidge Down Under (?!) as 2nd Screcrow, Farmer and Stallholder. His career has followed a path of fantasy and literary movie and TV projects such as the Enid Blyton Adventure Series (1996), the Legend of William Tell (1998) and Xena Warrior Princess as a Captain (also 1998). Almost ten years past before he returned for a couple of credits in small locally made films Out of the Blue, Wildfire and Aftershock and finally appeared in the TV series Legend of the Seeker in 2009 before being picked up to join the primary cast of the Hobbit. Kircher has a distinctive look and strong features that will likely set him apart from many of the other characters as he appears perhaps more naturally dwarf like than many. It will be interesting to see what won him the part above many others but is part of ‘ an amazing jigsaw of talent’ as he described it himself.

The clarinet-playing cousin of Bombur and Bofur, he is very fond of Raspberry Jam and Apple-tart and wears a yellow hood. He didn’t have as rough a barrel ride as many of his companions but was still too stiff to de-keg the other Dwarves. Bifur is potentially a less prominent character among the group but the long format may offer the character a little more room to breathe. While an unwritten character may be absent in the awareness of a reader, the immediacy of cinema means that a distinctive actor such as Kircher might gain a greater foothold for a footnote character. Its Bifur that will be worth watching to see how Jackson may have altered the characterisation and organisation of Tolkien’s characters as his generous nature towards characters will likely allow some minor members to offer greater influence on events.

John Callen (Oin) is a veteran New Zealand actor who’s credits begin with Pictures (NZ) as Casey in 1981, appearing in the the same Worzel Gummidge series as William Kircher though in a separate episode as a bailiff. He supplied additional voices to Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords in 2004 and Mucor in Power Rangers Mystic Force and Sonimax in four episodes of Power Rangers Jungle Fury TV series – how many Power Rangers series were there? He also offered up voiceovers for two documentaries in 20o1 and 2002 and directed for TV in 2000. His last credit before the Hobbit was Love Birds as Professor Craddock. John Callen has been brought in for his voice as much as any other attribute as true to Tolkien’s novel ‘I’m doing boy Soprano’, he quipped at the initial boot camp.

Oin, Son of Groin (pronounced Gro-in) is brother to Gloin and was counted on – along with his brother to start the campfires which both characters bickered over. Oin was ultimately a survivor of the battle of Five Points and entered Moria with Balin (where they met their doom at the hands of Orcs). However, he didn’t die in the catacombs discovered by Gandalf and Frodo – sadly his death came when trying to escape via the Western Door (featured in the Fellowship) -taken by the slightly terrifying Watcher in the Water.

And this brings us to the final member of the collective that travels to Smaugs lair alongside a certain inexperienced Hobbit and adventurous old Wizard.

Peter Hambleton (Gloin) is another Kiwi actor who appeared in the Shark in the Park (TV series), the Last Tattoo (1994) with William Kircher and Rainbow Warrior in 1992 as Maury Whitman alongside his future brother-in-height John Callen. His parts run fairly consistently throughout the nineties (predominantly in TV) but his longest stint was as Father Donleavy in The Strip TV series in 2002 and in film briefly in Home by Christmas as Sgt Syd Gurton in 2010, His last credit before joining the cast of The Hobbit was The Inspector in NZ TV series Paradise Cafe this year. His work is mostly New Zealand based and it is unsurprising that he would’ve worked previously alongside Kircher and Callen previously as the NZ TV and Film industry is miniscule. However, clearly Jackson was influenced enough by his hoem viewing to sign up 5 kiwis (although in relatively minor parts). Hambleton’s resume runs fairly consistently which suggests a professional and likable actor with an ability. It’ll be interesting to see what chemistry he can ignite with his singing and bickering brother on the cold nights preparing the fire.

Father to Gimli, Gloin survives the events of the Hobbit and travelled to Rivendell with his son as an embassy from Dain II to bring news of Erebor, Moria and what they knew of Sauron’s plans; in time to attend the council of Elrond. Making Gloin the only character to appear in Jackson’s previous film incarnation of Tolkien’s classic.

So there we have it; the circle has formed (perhaps in the shape of a Ring) and paths are linked between the old tales and the new in ways I didn’t expect as I began investigating these strange short and stout warrior travellers. Tolkien formed this band of misfits and inadequates, proud and pompous, inept and incapable, brazen and belligerent to travel to recapture something important to their civilisation. But when compared to the heroes and that populate the later, grander saga of the Lord of the Rings trilogy you begin to see that maybe in this simpler and more honed prequel to the famous tale, Tolkien created something more Human than the Humans that followed shortly after.

Short legged and long journeyed, having familiarised myself with the Merry band of Dwarves that are to travel to Erebor on a seemingly lunatic quest to fight an enormous talking Dragon and kick start a series of events that will threaten the entirety of Middle Earth completely, I look forward to getting a chance to sit back in the darkened hall of the Cinema and watch these fools do more than they ever expect. Make millions of people happy while they fight over fires, fall into rivers, climb out of barrels, argue with town leaders and survive a great Journey… there and Back again.

Really… a Dwarves tale.

Biggest Convention Story

Stan Lee is Coming to the UK

UK conventions have been trying to secure an appearance by Stan Lee for longer than many of us have been alive but it seems one of them has finally pulled it off! London Super Comic Convention announced last night that the Fantastic Four creator will make his first UK convention appearance in 40 years at their show next year!

Lee joins an already star studded line-up of creators including the likes of Brian Bolland, Steve Epting and Duncan Fegredo. In LSCC’s own words:

“Organisers of The London Super Comic Convention 2012 are going all out to make the inaugural event unique and special for all attendees, by giving them a unique opportunity to interact with Stan, who recently celebrated his 89th birthday and created many of the most enduring comic book characters and pop culture icons of the last 50 years

Attendees can look forward to having their comics signed, their photo’s taken and watch Stan “The Man” in action on guest panels.”

In a year that will see no less than four mega comic cons taking place in London, the announcement of Stan Lee is a major coup for the newcomer of the bunch. A lot of cons can boast impressive guest lists, but Stan Lee is in another category all together.

London Super Comic Convention takes place at the Excel Centre on 25th & 26th February 2012. There will be no tickets on the door so if you want to meet The Man then you’ll need to book in advance on their website.

Needless to say, Beyond The Bunker will also be there.

D
x

Biggest Tech Story (Biggest Number of Hits)

IPAD 2 and Comics – 5 Things You Need to Know

If you’ve not noticed from the sound of a thousand apple enthusiasts hurling their old models from balconies and shuffling, zombie like towards the high street, the new iPad has been announced. We know that some of you have iPads and that some of you like to read comics on your iPad so I thought it’d be nice if we had a sift through the piles of release notes and plucked out the choice bits that are of interest to you good people.

1 – Thinner and lighter

The original iPad is hardly a heffer (it’s one of the things that makes it so good as a digital comics reader) but it’s sexy new sibling takes this to a whole new level. It weighs in at an impressive 1.33lbs making it 15% lighter than the first iPad and at 8.4mm thickness it’s a full third slimmer, heck that’s slimmer than an iPhone! Carrying your entire comics collection around with you just got even easier.

2 – No change to battery life

If you were worried that the iPad 2’s new trim waistline was going to affect the run time then you may breath a sigh of relief. Battery uptime is staying put at a very respectable 10 hours. This may drop slightly if you want to play games on the damn thing but if you’re just reading comics then it should be just fine. Let’s be honest, if you’re starring at your iPad for more than 10 hours without a break then you’ve probably got bigger problems than battery life. One word of warning – Apple are still being their usual evasive selves about what the standby time is on the device so if the phrase “about a month” is too vague for your tastes then you’ll want to check the charge from time to time if you’re not using it for long periods.

3 – It looks better than ever…but not quite as good as it could

Apple have promised the best graphics ever but then it’s only the second in the series so you’d kinda hope they’d do that anyway. Nonetheless the step up is impressive. The iPad 2 boasts 9 times the graphical processing power of it’s predecessor and has brought a duel core processor to the fight to help back that up. Will this increase in processing speed affect your comic book enjoyment? Well maybe, but not by much. Digital comics load pretty promptly anyway so the difference probably won’t be that noticeable. The extra graphical power however will be a welcome addition to those of us who like to get in close and study artwork in detail, you’re paying for the artist’s pencils after all, not his pixels. But don’t get too excited, Retina Display (the iPhone 4 tech that renders images at the highest possible resolution perceivable by the human eye) is sadly missing from this version of the device. If that’s your thing (and it is awesome) then you may be better off waiting for the iPad 3.

4 – The stupid button problem has been fixed!

When the first iPad came out it had a button on the side that locked the screen rotation so that you could tilt the device without the image on screen moving about. Awesome for reading comics as there’s nothing as annoying has having the page spin out on you just because you’re trying to read in bed. Sadly, earlier this year Apple decided to ‘fix’ this feature for no discernible reason and changed it to a mute button despite there already being a volume control on the other side of the device. Well you can stop throwing stuff at pictures of Steve Jobs now because the new version of IOS which goes live the same time as the iPad 2 will give you the option to decide which function you want the switch to have…and yes you will be able to do that on your old iPad as well. Internet, you may unbreak-in-half.

5 – No change in price

If the sound of all this has got you salivating then you’ll be pleased to know that the iPad 2 won’t cost you any more than the iPad did. The price is staying fixed at £439 for 16GB Wi-Fi and £539 for 16GB Wi-Fi + 3G and yes, you do want the 3G one.

So is the iPad 2 worth buying as a comics reader? Probably not if that’s all you want to use it for. Retina Display is the feature that will really make comics stand out on the device and the other tweaks, while nice, won’t make a tonne of difference over the last model. If you’re in the market for an iPad then you may be better off taking advantage of the inevitable price drop of the older model as rampant Apple devotees attempt to offload their once beloved devices in order to buy the new version. If, however, you like a spot of gaming with your comics, you like taking photos or you give a shit about Face Time (queue tumbleweed) then it’s a very nice bit of kit to own.

iPad 2 hits UK stores on 25th March. Oh and did I mention, it ships in both black and white. Yeah, now you want one. 😉

D
x

Biggest BTB Story

Bizarre Magazine Gives Moon 4 Stars

Moon has always been a fan of the bizarre but now it seems that the bizarre has become a fan of Moon! The latest issue of Bizarre Magazine contains a review of Moon #1 and it seems that they rather like it. In a section of reviews on alternative comic books they described our beloved little child as “vibrant and action packed” before going on to award us a glorious 4 stars!

We had a lovely chat with some of the magazine’s reporters at Kapow and at the time they seemed pretty keen on getting the book mentioned somewhere, but it wasn’t until today that we found out just what kind of mention it would be. A thumbs up from a publication as big as Bizarre is a massive boost to a new company like us so as you can image we’re over the…er…orbital-rock-based-satellite.

You can pick up the magazine from any newsagents as of today. If you read the first Kapow article then be sure to have a little look for Mr Penfold in one of the photos, it’ll be like the oddest game of Where’s Wally you ever played. 😉

If you’re a new follower of Beyond The Bunker after reading the review then welcome to the site. Please have a look around and make yourselves at home. You can buy the comic HERE or read more about it HERE and there’s a metric asstonne of other stuff to read and enjoy around the site, with more added each and every day. Welcome to our odd little family!

D
x