The Biggest Superhero Films That Didn't Happen, Part 2
Comic Books, Film
This week’s Batman Black and White #2 features a short story by Rafael Grampá. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe this is the first time the Brazilian comic-book multi-threat has ever drawn the interiors for any Batman story, despite having produced several illustrations of the character that proved popular enough for Grampá to be given the job of designing one of the DC Direct black and white Batman statues. I was a big fan of his Mesmo Delivery (so much so that I gave away a couple of copies to assorted pals over the years), and have been waiting and wondering patiently for his planned post-apocalyptic project Furry Water, despite radio silence on that one since posting an image from it to his Flickr in 2011.
Grampá is, like Paul Pope, possibly getting distracted from his core business by new and glamorous multimedia offers of work, like working on vodka advertising. He plays drums in a band, and he’s now a highly sought-after cover artist both in the United States and in his native Brazil. The lack of traction on Furry Water is understandable, even if it does set the teeth on edge of my inner spoiled-and-entitled fanboy. Anyway, he posted this page from “Into the Circle,” his Joker-centric story, on his Facebook page:
In this piece from Monday on Francesco Francavilla’s poster designs for Breaking Bad‘s final episodes, I noted how many comic creators are drawing sketches of Walter White. One name I forgot to mention was famed “good girl” artist J. Scott Campbell, who posted these images last week on Instagram and his DeviantArt account.
Against type, he’s stuck to drawing the gnarled male leads from the acclaimed drama, although there’s unfortunately no take on the great Saul Goodman. That naturally leaves me pondering an alternate reality in which Campbell has drawn cheesecake versions of Skyler, Maria, Lydia, etc. Maybe that could be the theme of his 2015 calendar: “The Long-Suffering Women of Breaking Bad.” That would make perfect sense, tonally. Stop looking at me like that. Continue Reading »
The Internet is littered with the corpses of dead Wonder Woman movie pitches; heck, just within the last couple of weeks, Chronicle writer Max Landis let it be known during a Reddit AMA session that he intends to approach Warner Bros. soon. This morning, U.K. comics creator Nigel Auchterlounie posted this on his blog, linking to it on Twitter with the wise words “I’ve worked out how to do a #WonderWoman, took half an hour. DC could probably do better if they spent all day on it”.
For 30 minutes’ work, it’s not bad at all. That opening image reminded me of Zenith Book One: Tygers, so I asked him if it was a deliberate reference. He replied, “No. It must have been a subconscious thing. I loved Zenith so it is up there somewhere.” Auchterlounie stresses that this isn’t the movie the studio should make, but if he can come up with this on the spot in one morning, how hard can it be for Warner Bros. to figure it out with people working on the project full time? It’s a fair point: Both Warner’s television and movie wings have crashed multiple versions of Wonder Woman in recent years. Clearly people there have developed a severe case of the Yips over this character, while every comic reader slaps their forehead in disbelief.
A quick survey of social media sites reveals comics creators to be as obsessed with this last tranche of episodes of Breaking Bad as everyone else is. Numerous artists have been posting drawings of Walter White of late (such as Ben Templesmith, Matt Timson, Dan Berry and PJ Holden), but Francesco Francavilla has been going especially above and beyond, creating individual poster designs for each new episode shortly after it airs. He’s been posting them to his Tumblr, which seems to have superseded his previous blog, where you can see the similar project he set himself, to create posters for all of season seven of Doctor Who.
The proposed “day of action” for the “Make a Dredd Sequel” campaign turns out to be a rather cleverly planned piece of corporate synergy. The date, Sept, 17, is of course a New Comics Day, and the day 2000AD Prog 1850 (as anticipated by ROBOT 6’s Brigid Alverson in this week’s Cheat Sheet), and Judge Dredd Megazine #340 are released. Both comics are optimized for new readers, featuring high-profile new series and contributors.
These new series include a Dredd strip based upon the movie continuity (as previewed here last week), and “Ordinary,” a creator-owned strip by the critically acclaimed team of Rob Williams and D’Israeli (again, previewed here last week); the press release from the publisher Rebellion flags the recent high-profile gigs for all the talent involved, such as “Damnation Station” being written by Mighty Avengers‘ Al Ewing.
Next week sees the release of Judge Dredd Megazine #340, featuring the debut of “Ordinary,” a creator-owned strip by writer Rob Williams and artist D’Israeli, the creative team behind the acclaimed 2000AD strip “Low Life,: I’ve been a big fan of both their work for quite a while now — in Williams’ case, since his first published work, the great Cla$$war, in 2002; in the case of D’Israeli, scarily enough, it’s been since his “Timulo'”strip ran in Deadline in the late 1980s. I managed to grab a word with Williams about the new series, and he happily obliged, and sent along a veritable mountain of preview art to boot.
Robot 6: So Rob, the last ordinary man in a world of the super-powered, eh? But what’s Ordinary really about?
Rob Williams: I’m a little wary of frightening people off by talking about themes. “Ordinary” is filled with spectacle, big-Hollywood action set pieces and outlandish characters that are, hopefully, quite memorable, This is a world where everyone gets a different superpower, after all — no two people are the same. But, at its heart, it’s about emotionally allowing yourself to come to terms with fatherhood, really. Out main character, Michael Fisher, is a divorcee who very rarely sees his son when we first meet him. And then the world starts going to hell and it’s up to him to try and find this boy he hardly knows even though there’s a super-powered danger around every turn. And, for Michael, it’s coming to realise the real reason he never sees his son. The book’s called “Ordinary” for reasons that aren’t just about super powers and explosions and giants and talking bears and huge battles. There’s an emotional arc for our lead that is pretty unusual for modern comics, I think.
The folks at 2000AD are clearly fed up of waiting to see if the accountants at DNA Films will bow to the online petitions and constant fan-badgering and release a sequel to 2012’s Dredd: They’re taking the initiative and starting their own continuation of the film, beginning next week in Judge Dredd Megazine #340. This new continuity doesn’t replace Dredd’s ongoing 36-year-old saga, instead running parallel. Y’know, like an Ultimate Judge Dredd. I can see how the whole “sequel to Dredd movie” angle may well play well with the mainstream press, perhaps generating some mass-media attention.
The strip, “Dredd: Underbelly,” is by writer Arthur Wyatt and artist Henry Flint. 2000AD sent along these images, showing Flint’s process for creating the issue’s cover, from preliminary sketch to finished item.
Today sees the release of The Best of Milligan & McCarthy, a bumper hardcover from Dark Horse Books collecting almost every page produced by the team of Pete Milligan and Brendan McCarthy. Their collaboration stretches from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, and encompasses strips for music weeklies and national Sunday newspapers, the dawn of the American indie-publishing boom, 2000AD and its creator-owned spinoff Revolver, an Eisner-nominated graphic novel, and ended at the birth of DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint.
It’s fair to say these were my favorite comics during my formative years, so I was both honored and surprised to be asked to provide the introduction in the book. I protested, saying there’s bound to be someone better qualified for the task, but McCarthy insisted he wanted it by someone who had felt the impact of these comics at the time. Hence my nostalgic waffling at the start of the book; ignore that, and skip straight to the book’s meat, some of the funniest, angriest, saddest, smartest, dumbest, most transcendent work the medium has ever seen. To quote my own essay, “a secret history of the comics that followed them, the most influential comics you never see credited as such.”
I abused my access to these two men to ask them some questions, while trying not to gush too badly. I probably failed.
I’m terribly fond of Joe Gordon, editor of the Forbidden Planet International blog. Last night he posted this video of himself hosting the Grant Morrison panel at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Gordon gets more confident as the panel goes on after a shaky start, bless him; Morrison is, as ever, tremendous value: He breaks down the plots of many of his upcoming projects, including much-anticipated projects as The Trial of Diana Prince, Seaguy Eternal, Multiversity, the hook of the Flash story he keeps mentioning, and the joys of pitching superheroes to Warner Bros.
These last few days, the good burghers of the Essential Sequential agency have been posting sketch after sketch by Italy’s Matteo Scalera to their Instagram account. Scalera might not be the biggest name in their stable of artists (which includes Dave Johnson, Andrew Robinson and Dan Panosian), but he’s producing stylish work, redolent of another couple of Essential Sequential artists, Eric Canete and Sean Gordon Murphy. I’d throw Declan Shalvey and Robbi Rodriguez in as another couple of touchstones, too. A little further digging reveals Scalera’s blog and his DeviantArt page are the places to find better-quality, less ruthlessly cropped, versions of these illustrations. His DeviantArt account reveals him to be an absolute sketch machine — he’s numbering them, and has reached 533.
Matt Cowan’s handle on DeviantArt is “Matt Can’t Draw”, which isn’t necessarily true. Sure, he is more of a designer, a conceptual artist, than a straight-up “drawer.” His latest series, “Sounds Like,” is possibly a thinly veiled dig at the lack of imagination of Hollywood casting departments. Or is it just an excuse to draw his favorite characters together?
In any case, check them out below. And if you harbor some irrational prejudice against DeviantArt, Cowan’s work is also posted to his Tumblr.
Badgers, those humble burrowing mammals, are big news right now here in the United Kingdom, where there’s a controversial cull going on in the southwest of England in an attempt to curb bovine tuberculosis in cattle herds. While other areas like Wales and Northern Ireland trial expensive attempts at vaccinating badgers, England is employing teams of marksmen to shoot the cute little buggers. I’m from a rural area where the local economy depends on dairy and beef production, so I know exactly where I stand on this subject. Not wanting to sound too heartless here, but it costs £600 to vaccinate a badger, while a bullet costs a few pence. And I do like a nice rib-eye steak washed down with a glass of milk.
Oddly enough, badgers seem to be having something of a moment in comics and pop culture these days, too: There’s Brock Blueheart in Fables, and Archie LeBrock in Bryan Talbot’s ongoing Grandville series, for starters. Depending on who you ask, the badger in book two of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was either Bill from the (90-plus years old, and still ongoing) newspaper strip Rupert the Bear or Mr. Badger from Kenneth Grahame’s classic children’s novel The Wind in the Willows. Grahame’s Mr. Badger is being reimagined in Dave Elliot and Barnaby Bagenda’s “Weirding Willows” in A1 as Victor Stoker. The gossip service Popbitch has its ongoing Baboon vs Badger debate (and recently posed the question to Bryan Talbot, with obvious results).
Readers of 2000AD already know the writer Gordon Rennie as a go-to guy for comic strips expertly merging the fields of action adventure, the supernatural and horror. He’s the man who brought us “Necronauts,” “Caballistics Inc.” and “Absalom,” all strips that gleefully cross genres, and share something of a Wold Newton-ian outlook. “Necronauts” was the strip that introduced many of us to the work of Frazer Irving, and told the tale of a team-up of sorts between Charles Fort, Harry Houdini, Arthur Conan Doyle and H.P. Lovecraft. The much-missed “Caballistics Inc.” featured a team of supernatural investigators forced to migrate from the civil service to the private sector, and featured casual references suggesting it shared a universe with Doctor Who, Quatermass and 2000AD’s own “Zenith.” “Absalom” was an indirect spinoff of “Caballistics Inc.,” fusing classic cop-show DNA into the mix. At one point, Inspector Harry Absalom lists Jack Regan of The Sweeney as an old colleague.
Rennie worked with artist Paul “PJ” Holden on the 2000AD strip “The 86ers,” which, while set in the world of Rogue Trooper, still managed to have allusions to Lovecraft lurking in its backstory. You may well know Holden’s work from the critically acclaimed Numbercruncher, being published by Titan Comics. Others will know him as one of the men who essentially invented digital comics as we’ve come to know them, working on comics that could be distributed as apps way back in 2008 (as well as being the first to run afoul of Apple’s censorious streak then, too). He also occasionally finds the time to be one of the trio of presenters of that most uproarious and vulgar of all comics webcasts, Sunnyside Comics.
Their upcoming comic together at Renegade Arts, Department of Monsterology, shares a lot of influences with these predecessors, while being notably less dark and cynical than Rennie’s work for 2000AD. There’s a great five-page prequel at USA Today that goes a long way to revealing the tone of the first issue: While the debut features pitched battles against Lovecraftian undersea creatures and Chinese vampires, the more playful emphasis reminds me of the Indiana Jones movies. Like Indy, the cast members of DoM are ostensibly academics who just happen to find themselves in the unlikeliest of high-stakes adventures, all in the name of science. We spoke to Rennie and Holden to ask them about Department of Monsterology, its influences, and their hopes for its future.
I came across my new favorite Tumblr via Richard McAuliffe’s Everything Comes Back To 2000AD blog: Dreddheads, wherein Owen Watts (of such UK small press anthologies as Dr WTF and The Psychedelic Journal of Time Travel) regularly posts caricatures dressed in uniform as Mega City One judges, taking his design cues from the 2012 movie version. Sure, your affection for the site will vary based on your knowledge of British comedy, with assorted satirists and sitcom characters prominently featured, but there’s plenty of examples familiar to an international audience. Clint Eastwood, whose Dirty Harry Callahan is often cited as a key influence upon Dredd, finds himself included; as does Carlos Ezquerra, the Spanish co-creator of the futuristic lawman.
Remember the sound that resonated around the world on July 24? The unison gurrrr-klap! noise made by thousands of readers groaning and slapping their foreheads simultaneously, accompanying the release of Constantine #5, and the eponymous warlock usurping the powers of Shazam? Yeah, you’re bound to. That earth-shaking racket was the first thing I thought of when I saw this the other day at Sean Phillips’ blog, drawn for the 1995 UKCAC convention booklet.