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elcome to the first digital edition of TRIPWIRE. This is an exciting new move that we have been waiting until we were ready to utilise the new technology available to bring readers the same quality experience they have come to expect from TRIPWIRE in print but via a brand-new virtual version. As an ongoing experiment, we shall be tinkering with the look so the way it looks here may not stay the same as we want to make sure it looks as good as it can do. We plan to put one of these out every other month, so keep your eyes peeled for information about the next issue on our website www.tripwire-magazine.com See you the next time. Joel Meadows editor-in-chief email@example.com-
TRIPWIRE DIGITAL 0.01 April 2011 Published by Tripwire Publishing Ltd, 15 Tudor Close, Page Street, Mill Hill, London, NW7 2BG, UK ©2011 Tripwire Publishing Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Thor Cover Photo ™ and © 2011 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved. No part or parts of this publication may be reproduced in any for-pay media unless for critique, news, or editorial coverage without the prior permission of the Publishers and infringements may result in prosecution. All characters and affiliated material©2011 their respective creators and copyright holders. www.tripwire-magazine.com Thanks to Chip Mosher at BOOM!, Jenny Erwood at Paramount, Jim Demonakos, Stuart Ng, Marina Vear at Optimum, John Fleskes, Matt Fraction, Roger Langridge, Roman Muradov, David Hyde at DC, Arune Singh at Marvel, and anybody else we’ve forgotten…
Editor-in-chief: Joel Meadows Editor-US: Andrew Grossberg Associate Editor-Comics: Andrew Colman Contributing Writers: David Baillie, Clive Barker, Roger Langridge, Christopher Monfette, Roman Muradov, Karl Stock Contributing Artists: Roger Langridge, Leonardo Manco, Roman Muradov Design and layout: Joel Meadows
Taking Law Into Their Own Hands
Everything you ever wanted to know about 2000AD from its creation in 1977 right up to what’s happening now and Pat Mills speaks page 4
Things That Go BOOM!
Get a glimpse of what the award-winning company have planned for the future with Hellraiser, kaboom! and more… page 12
Krackling Good Tunes
Jim Demonakos and Kyle Stevens are making all the right noises with their band Kirby Krackle page 16
Designed To Please
A look at the work of classic Pre-code artist LB Cole, the master of composition page 19
Bringing The Hammer Down
Find out the history of bringing Thor to the big screen plus read our chat with Matt Fraction and Kieron Gillen. Also see what we make of the film page 23
Getting To The Source
Director Duncan Jones, screenwriter Ben Ripley and actor Jake Gyllenhaal on Source Code plus we rate it for you page 29
Graphic Novels You May Have Missed
We recommend six titles you should pick up and read right now page 33
Roger Langridge’s Fred The Clown, Roman Muradov’s quirky strips and a preview of BOOM!’s Hellraiser round off the issue page 37
Taking the Law Into Their Own Hands TRIPWIRE takes a look at the history of Britain’s favourite comic anthology, 2000AD, from Fleetway to Rebellion. WORDS: KARL STOCK & DAVID BAILLIE PART ONE: 1977-2000 WORDS: Karl Stock
s excitement builds in comic book movie land about Thor, Captain America, The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and half a dozen other hot projects, the general public can be forgiven for not quite burning up the messageboards yet about a relatively minor film set to appear in 2012. But it would be a shame if the Karl Urban-starrer Judge Dredd isn’t the kind of movie that actively demands an audience’s attention on release, because director Pete Travis (a protégé of Paul The Bourne Supremacy Greengrass) and screenwriter Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Never Let Me Go) have been given one of the great comic book characters of all time to play with. And if this movie is the success Judge Dredd finally deserves, there are plenty more where he came from. For any reader who remembers Sylvester Stallone barking out slack-jawed inanities in
Early character designs for the way that Judge Dredd could have looked 4 TRIPWIRE DIGITAL
“Part of the beauty of 2000AD is that Dredd is just one great character among many.” the unsuccessful 1995 Judge Dredd adaptation and didn’t get it then, neither did the legion of fans the future lawman had amassed on both sides of the Atlantic by that point. Dredd has been the lead character in weekly UK sci-fi anthology 2000AD since its 1977 second edition (or “prog” — short for “programme” — as each issue’s known in the invented language of its alien editor Tharg, a fantastically retro-futurist piece of nonsense that snared the impressionable minds of Brit youth like space-age crack). Which is no mean feat for a guy who started life as basically a one-dimensional, shit-kicking fascist motorbike cop with a lethal zero-tolerance approach towards everyone from jaywalkers to smokers. Part of the beauty of 2000AD to anyone who knows it, though, is that Dredd is just one great character among many. The first year of the title alone featured marauding, bloodthirsty dinosaurs in the brutal time travel tale Flesh, an underground rebellion against a Russian (‘Volgan’, for diplomatic purposes) military occupation of the UK in Invasion, a killer polar bear in nasty environmental thriller Shako and a sci-fi horror to give kids nightmares in The Visible Man—where the title character’s skin was the only thing you could see through. Less than six months after the Sex Pistols played the 100 Club punk special on Oxford Street, and less than two miles away at King’s Reach Tower across London’s River Thames, 2000AD’s first edition was devised with a boiling, anarchic creativity that would many years later see it referred to as the world’s first punk comic. Yet as much as that sounds like a badge of honour, it kind of does down the next decade and a half of white-hot creativity,
through which many of the best writers and artists now working in US comics have passed. “It wasn‘t limited to punk,” says 2000AD’s creator and original editor Pat Mills, who still writes for the title. “There have occasionally been mistakes made by 2000AD editors where they try to give it a fashionable sensibility, but all classic comics, all classic stories, will transcend temporary fashions. It was nice that in later years the NME (tastemaking UK music magazine New Musical Express) liked us, but at the same time it didn’t matter. You can’t be too self-conscious of an era.” So what was 2000AD all about when it started? “The same thing I’ve always done with comics,” says Mills, citing the previous UK anthologies he created before 2000AD. “With (war comic) Battle you’d be hardpushed to find many officers as heroes, it was a celebration of ordinary working class people, and there was also an anti-authoritarian sensibility to (hyper-violent adventure comic) Action, but even more full-on. 2000AD was an extension of that thinking, but with one important difference: Kelvin Gosnell (then a sub-editor for publishers IPC, and Mills’ successor as 2000AD editor) made us aware that Star Wars was coming out. I realised we could hide behind science fiction,
making the allegorical or satirical points we wanted to make, but using it as our armour.” In the beginning 2000AD’s stories might have merely resembled variations on schlocky Hollywood B-movies, albeit subtly adapted to suit subversive purposes. For example, Dredd’s original look was partly inspired by David Carradine as Frankenstein in Roger Corman’s 1975 film Death Race 2000—in which a pre-fame Sly Stallone’s character, ironically, is killed by Frankenstein—but Mills also notes that Dredd’s Spanish co-creator Carlos Ezquerra (Preacher, Battlefields) based him upon the riot police in his newly post-Franco, barely post-fascist homeland. Into the 1980s and on through the decade, however, 2000AD was on a steep learning curve, and it quickly gained a distinctive voice and style which distinguished it from anything else on the market in any medium. Much of this can be attributed to Dredd’s other co-creator, the Americanborn, Scotland-raised John Wagner (A History of Violence, Boba Fett) and his long-time Scots writing partner Alan Grant (Batman, Lobo). Together the hyper-productive pair would write so much for the comic—hardly a page of it anything less than an action-packed, black humour-sodden work of art — that they had to devise an intricate web of pseudonyms and aliases just to disguise the fact from the readers that they’d occasionally written almost the entire comic. Between them, Wagner and Grant would develop some of 2000AD’s most memorable creations, most notably mutant bounty hunter Johnny Alpha, a Strontium Dog whose x-ray eyes and impressive array of time-based weapons didn’t insulate him from the allegorical racism at the story’s heart, and who Ezquerra’s art lent the dusty, weather-
beaten visual aesthetic of Star Wars as directed by Sergio Leone; Sam Slade, Robo Hunter, a gumshoe private eye thriller played for laughs, with dynamic art from Ian Gibson; and Ace Trucking Co, a winningly stupid outer space version of Smokey and the Bandit brought to life by Italian master cartoonist, the late Massimo Belardinelli. Other writers and artists would come and go, leaving behind some of the great achievements of British comics in their wake. Writer Gerry Finlay-Day and artist Dave Gibbons (Watchmen) devised Rogue Trooper, the tale of a genetically enhanced test-tube soldier battling through a never-ending war on a deadly alien planet to avenge the betrayal of his dead colleagues—whose souls now inhabit his equipment. Mills himself would create Nemesis the Warlock, a demented religious satire which was illustrated with gleeful sadism by Kevin
O’Neill (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), Bryan Talbot (Alice in Sunderland) and the late John Hicklenton; and ultra-violent Celtic warrior Slaine, who was co-created with Mills’ then-wife Angie and later brought to blood-splattered life by Simon Bisley. Most famously, Alan Moore would contribute some key series: Skizz, basically ET in industrial, working-class Birmingham of the 1980s; DR & Quinch, a riff on the National Lampoon style of comedy, with added extraterrestrials and nuclear devices; and The Ballad of Halo Jones, a mature and mesmerising feminist space opera which briefly dragged the comic away from its previously boyish preoccupations. More would follow. In 1987, Glaswegian writer Grant Morrison (Batman, JLA, The Invisibles) would make his 2000AD series debut with Zenith, a largely successful attempt to marry the unlikely worlds of British
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superheroes, pop culture and the Cthulhu mythos, illustrated by Steve Yeowell. Peter Milligan would script Bad Company, a blend of future war and bad acid trip, as illustrated by future Deadline founder Brett Ewins, and Hewligan’s Haircut, a short burst of nonsense drawn by Tank Girl creator and future Gorillaz member Jamie Hewlett. Even Neil Gaiman (Sandman) would write a couple of Future Shocks, 2000AD’s Twilight Zone-style one-offs. Through it all, Dredd would steam on, showcasing art from some future greats— Brian Bolland (Batman: Killing Joke, Vertigo cover artist) and Steve Dillon (Preacher) to name only two. Through a breathtaking burst of invention that lasted a decade and more, Wagner and Grant had explored the minutiae of Dredd’s home city Mega-City One, the New York of the future, creating such dazzlingly ridiculous characters as the League of Fatties, hugely obese
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gluttons who needed ‘bellywheels’ to roll their stomachs around; Citizen Snork, who achieved celebrity by growing an enormous nose; and Dave the Orang-utan, who would go on to become mayor of the city. The limits of Dredd’s character were played to perfect effect throughout, with the Judge becoming the ultimate straight man to the bumbling comedy foil that was human life going on around him — a spin-off comic, the Judge Dredd Megazine, was launched in 1990 and survives to this day. “There’s something intrinsically British about 2000AD,” says David Bishop, who edited the comic between 1995 and 2000 and wrote a thirty-year history of it entitled Thrill-Power Overload in 2007. “It has an edge of cynicism, it’s heavy on satire, allegory, anti-authoritarianism. You don’t tend to get these so much in American comics.” Yet its success was also its downfall. “The very first reprint of Dredd in the USA sold around ninety thousand copies, and that caught people’s attention. Since then there’s been an illustrious conveyor belt of talent which has crossed the Atlantic from 2000AD, ever since DC first came over and waved their chequebooks at Bolland and Gibbons in 1982.” The early 1990s saw a dip in quality from the previous days of almost complete reliability. With many of the best creators now working in the States, Wagner and Grant’s writing partnership dissolved (for many reasons, the most compelling being whether Dredd should shoot his free-spirited, rebellious nemesis Chopper in the back while escaping or not) and the young breed of replacements like future Preacher writer Garth Ennis and Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar not quite good enough to take up the slack yet, things hit a rut until, ironically, the
Dredd film arrived. “What do they need to do to make the new Dredd film work?” wonders Bishop. “Get the script right, because it certainly wasn’t on the first one.” Although the movie did none of 2000AD’s brands any favours in the long run, a Bishop-inspired revival which involved tempting Wagner back to the Dredd strip full-time created some much needed momentum as the countdown to 2000 itself commenced. Mark Millar has commented in the past that 2000AD was a comic “with a built-in sell-by date.” Yet Bishop’s instinct that the year 2000 was the time to leave because the publisher seemed to have lost interest might have been premature, given that Oxfordbased computer games company Rebellion very quickly moved in to secure the purchase of 2000AD, the Megazine and their associated treasure chest of first-class licensed characters very soon after. “2000AD is a history of lost opportunities,”
FURTHER READING, CREEPS
laughs Mills ruefully, referring to the fact that so little has been made of the licenses belonging to 2k, as messageboard fans now call it, up until now. “There’s a book in that, 2000AD: The Lost Opportunity. For example, I remember right back at the start, when Kevin (O’Neill) was the art editor, he’d heard of this film that didn’t have much publicity and he suggested we pick up the poster rights and put it out under a ‘2000AD Presents’ banner. The publisher said ‘no, no, no, we’ll never make any money from it.’ And the film was Star Wars. “Yet now, these days, we have an excellent editor in Matt Smith, the longest-serving editor of the title. Rebellion have managed to get Dredd done. And I think it will only be a matter of time before we see other 2000AD characters crossing over too.” q
JUDGE DREDD: THE APOCALYPSE WAR The ‘mega-epic’ (a self-contained weekly serial lasting up to two dozen episodes or more) has become a staple event of Dredd’s world, with ‘The Cursed Earth’, ‘The Day the Law Died’ and ‘Necropolis’ enduring most amongst fans. Even in such company, The Apocalypse War stands out. As the threat of the Cold War going ballistic remained during the 1980s, this all-action tale saw the Soviet Judges of East-Meg One rain nuclear annihilation and invasion on Mega-City One. But never fear, Dredd saved the day… by blowing a city of half a billion civilians out of existence. Proof that the character was no ordinary hero, and perhaps no hero at all. Find it in: Judge Dredd – Case Files Vol.5 (Rebellion) STRONTIUM DOG: RAGE Mutant bounty hunter Johnny Alpha remains such a strong favourite of 2000AD readers that long-time fan Simon Pegg even commiserated his death (a premature ending that co-creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra are currently trying to undo, Marvel-style) in cult UK comedy series Spaced. It wasn’t Alpha’s death that made this saga unforgettable, though: following the murder of his friend and partner Wulf Sternhammer by mutant outlaw Max Bubba and his gang, the bad-ass bounty hunter with a heart of gold became a cold-eyed machine of brutal revenge. Featuring one of 2k’s most breathtaking denouements: “Why, Alpha – why are you doing this to me?” “Because I hate you.” Cue gunfire. Find it in: Strontium Dog – The Agency Files Vol.3 (Rebellion) BALLAD OF HALO JONES: BOOK 3 Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen have all reached the mainstream, but this remarkably downto-earth space opera has long been due recognition as the other major work of Alan Moore’s canon. The tale of earth girl Halo Jones, who left her home in floating ghetto The Hoop to go ‘out’ and explore the stars, was one which represented a coming-of-age for Halo, 2000AD’s ma-
turing readership and — in all fairness — Moore’s writing skill. It’s all great, but this final book (more were planned, until a dispute with the publishers) is truly epic, a feminist riff on Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War. Fuelled by Ian Gibson’s sensuous art, this is the first comic any boy should show their girlfriend. Find it in: The Complete Ballad of Halo Jones (Rebellion) NEMESIS THE WARLOCK: THE GOTHIC EMPIRE Without doubt the most unhinged creation ever to appear in 2000AD, thanks to the overdriven inventive powers of writer Pat Mills and the sickening procession of aliens, grotesques and gothic torture palaces artist Kevin O’Neill would render. Although the pair gave life to the story of sinister alien freedom fighter Nemesis’ battle with fascist human leader Torquemada (an adult rereading reveals that authority in general and the Catholic Church in particular are burned at the metaphorical stake throughout), this fourth chapter might be a strange choice of high point for purists. Yet the glorious blend of gothic horror and steampunk in the artwork of Bryan Talbot (Luther Arkwright, Alice in Sunderland) and the return of another enduring Mills creation, dysfunctional robot hit squad The ABC Warriors, proved utterly compelling. Find it in: The Complete Nemesis the Warlock Vol.1 (Rebellion) ZENITH The story which made Grant Morrison’s name is now sadly unavailable, thanks to a dispute over rights. Recent rapprochements have been rumoured, but until you hold a new collection in your hands expect to pay high prices on Amazon or eBay for the original progs or previous trade paperbacks. In the meantime, trust us — Morrison (and artist Steve Yeowell) deserved to be noticed for this sharp, sassy, occasionally very grim tale of British super-heroes versus Lovecraftian demons. One of the few occasions where a conscious effort to capture the zeitgeist worked well in 2k, the strip featured a title character who was a super-powered Rick Astley (of Rickrolling ‘fame’) and a telepathic hippie adventurer turned Conservative politician. Find it in: Not currently available.
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PART TWO 2000AD The Rebellion Years WORDS: DAVID BAILLIE
t was always one of the most frequently asked questions in the letters page: what would 2000AD be called in the year 2000? Editorial even managed to wring a five-page story from the conundrum, The Tharg in Question, in Prog 749. Of course it turned out it would still be called 2000AD. But it nearly didn’t make it to the new millennium at all. “Egmont was running the weekly into the ground,” says then-editor David Bishop. “They didn’t seem to care whether it thrived or died — except for balance sheet purposes.” Enter Rebellion — a computer games company started by brothers Jason and Chris Kingsley in 1991. Ironically they had never intended on purchasing the comic at all, they only wanted the rights to use one of its star characters — Strontium Dog — in a new game. When Egmont displayed a complete lack of interest, the brothers used the profits of their biggest hit to-date, the best-selling Aliens Vs Predator game, to purchase 2000AD and its stable of characters wholesale. “Rebellion did care, did want to see it survive and prosper. Jason and Chris Kingsley proved that by buying the comic,” Bishop tells me. “Ironically, my last day as editor of 2000AD was also the last day of its ownership by Egmont, though the timing of that was purely coincidental. It was the right time for me to go, I was in danger of burning out after ten years at the Megazine and then 2000AD. My assistant Andy Diggle was dying to rip the Rosette of Sirius from my tired, wizened claws and become the new Tharg.” Indeed Diggle took over and immediately set about implementing an action plan. “It was all about giving the readers a fast, dense hit of action and imagination — a ‘shot-glass of rocket fuel’ … I wanted to strike the right balance between classic characters from veteran creators and new strips from new talent,” he told Bishop for Thrill Power Overload, the history of 2000AD that Rebellion commissioned to celebrate the comic’s thirtieth anniversary. Part of this battle plan was to find new artistic blood to replace those lost to the ever-tempting American dollar. This new wave included fresh-faced creators who are now well-known to international readers, such as Jock (Losers, Batman), Boo Cook (Wolverine, Elephantmen) and Frazer
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“My assistant Andy Diggle was dying to rip the Rosette of Sirius from my tired, wizened claws and become the new Tharg” – DAVID BISHOP Irving (Batman, Klarion The Witch Boy). Current mainstay PJ Holden is one of many artists grateful for Diggle’s talentsearching. “Andy was the first 2000AD
editor to give me a gig — I went to the first of the DreddCons with a massive, overstuffed portfolio (breaking every rule that I know off for portfolios) only to find that he was well aware of me and my work, mostly from the 2000AD newsgroup, but also from Gordon Rennie punting my work in front of him. At the portfolio review, he said ‘Sure, I’ll give you something’ and several months later I had my shot!” The comic also began branching out in other ways, perhaps most notably with a wider focus on genre. Carver Hale brought horror back into the 2000AD fold. Written by Mike Carey and drawn by Mike
Kingdom, Shakara and Defoe. I think a series needs to be given time to develop, allowing the characters to grow and the world to be explored. Alongside this, there’s always room for one-off series too, to add a little variety to the mix.” And so classic strips such as Bad Company returned after a 9-year hiatus and The V.C.s made a comeback after more than twenty years. The V.C.s is a particularly interesting example of the sort of story only found in 2000AD. Originally written by Gerry Findlay-Day and featuring characters designed by comics legend Mike McMahon, it’s the tale of a future Earth at war with an alien race known as ‘Geeks’. The V.C.s (or Vacuum Cleaners) of the title are a Global Combat Corps unit sent on only the most dangerous missions. Of course, this is where our young hero Steve Smith is assigned. After much Perkins it featured a shotgun-toting (and possessed) East End London gangster as protagonist. Carey would then go on to co-create (with artist Andy Clarke) Thirteen, a mind-bending space opera featuring a London punk with telekinetic powers. It wasn’t long before, like Bishop before him, Diggle would leave to embark on a freelance career as a writer. His assistant Matt Smith had been a 2000AD fan for many years and was more than happy to take over. “I’d been reading 2000AD since I was twelve years old — Prog 412 in April 1985 was my first issue — and I never stopped buying it. That first issue, with the closing chapters of Book 2 of Halo Jones or the start of Slaine: Time Killer, showed me that this was a comic on another level from what I’d read previously, in terms of sophistication, irreverence, the levels of violence, and the power of the art. When I became editor in December 2001, it felt a little unreal — that I was now shepherding this comic that I’d enjoyed for so many years.” Smith had a clear idea of what he wanted to achieve, and it would prove to be exactly what the fans wanted too, regardless of how long they’d been reading the comic. “What I wanted to do with the comic was build a solid roster of characters so the title had a stable line-up similar to its time in the 1980s — alongside old favourites like Dredd, Strontium Dog, Slaine, ABC Warriors, Sinister Dexter and Nikolai Dante, there were recurring strips like Caballistics, Inc., Savage, The Red Seas, Lobster Random, Stickleback,
“I’d been reading 2000 AD since I was twelve years old — Prog 412 was my first issue - and I never stopped buying it” – MATT SMITH very first Prog way back in 1977, this time with Charlie Adlard on art duties. Staying true to his initial vision, Smith has given both classic characters and their creators plenty of space in 2000AD since he became editor. John Wagner continues to relate the adventures of bastions of 2000AD like Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog (recently rebooting both of their histories in the process) while Pat Mills produces a strong and steady stream of ABC Warriors and Slaine stories, most recently collaborating on both with Clint Langley, an artist who boasts a truly unique photo manipulationbased style. Smith wasn’t interested in rehashing old themes and settings to create formula strips though, and instead commissioned new stories that were notably different from anything that had come before. This meant we got comics like The Red Seas by Ian Edgington and Steve Yeowell — a pirate romp in the style of a Ray Harryhausen film — and Leviathan, again written by Edginton but this time with art by fan-favourite D’Israeli, which was pitched to Smith as Silent Hill Vs Titanic. Matt Smith is now the longest reigning editor in 2000AD’s history and might even lay claim to being its most popular — having won the Favourite Editor award at the Eagles
inter-species tension, anti-war sentiment and bloody action, Smith leads the charge on the Geek homeworld and brings the war to a close, ending up the only surviving member of the V.C.s. When we meet him next, new writer Dan Abnett decided that time should have passed just as slowly for the character as for us. And so it is the wrinkled, embittered veteran Major Steve Smith who leads a unit of rookie recruits when the Geeks decide to renounce their two-decade old truce with Earth. Other stories to make a welcome return to the weekly include Robo Hunter (Alan Grant replacing old Sam Slade with his grand daughter Samantha) and Flesh — the original dinosaur carnage-fest. Pat Mills even brought back Bill Savage, star of the
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“It’s hard to be objective on my editorship, but I’m always striving to put together a goodlooking prog, with a nice balance of stories and art” – MATT SMITH in both 2007 and 2008. “It’s hard to be objective on my editorship, but I’m always striving to put together a good-looking prog, with a nice balance of stories and art, and I think I’ve achieved it on a few occasions,” Smith tells me. “It’s hard to believe that in 2000 AD’s
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34-year history that I’ve been editing it for just under a third of its life!” The future is bright for 2000AD. Sales remain strong, if perhaps not as stellar as they once were, and while current creators such as Rob Williams and Dan Abnett begin to spread their wings outside of The Prog, newer talent such as up-and-coming stars Al Ewing and Alec Worley are more than willing to pick up the slack. And that’s before we even start talking about the new Dredd film or the many multi-media irons Rebellion have in the fire. When, in the 1990s, one world-famous comics writer was asked what 2000AD would be called in the year 2000, he glibly responded ‘dead’. It’s 2011 now and thousands of comics fans in the UK and worldwide are glad that he was wrong. q
modern 2000ad classics
pic: JOEL MEADOWS
A CHAT WITH PAT
Shakara Another modern classic from Robbie Morrison, this time in collaboration with mad genius Henry Flint, who clearly relishes the prospect of inventing new and more bizarre alien races for each episode. The protagonist is the last remaining member of the Shakara race and this is also his battle cry as he wreaks vengeance on everyone responsible for its demise. Start with: The first book of the series, Shakara The Avenger
DAVID BAILLIE also caught up with 2000AD creator Pat Mills TRIPWIRE: What were your hopes for 2000AD when you first conceived it? PAT MILLS: I always knew it was a very special comic because I’d had a year to prepare it and had created some powerful characters, who would be rendered in a unique way that was influenced by the pre-super hero art in America such as 1984, Weird, Eerie, with artists like Mike Kaluta and Bernie Wrightson. Also, the French Metal Hurlant and its translation Heavy Metal with artists like Corben, Druillet and Bilal. TW: How does it measure up to those initial goals almost thirty five years on? PM: Some of those characters are still around today like Judge Dredd, Flesh and Savage, plus others in a similar mode like ABC Warriors, Slaine and Defoe, so I guess it’s still working very well. TW: What is the reason for 2000AD’s longevity? PM: It’s a valid alternative to men in tights which many readers want. Equally, I didn’t want it to be middle class like Eagle or the various Gerry Anderson SF comic strips, superb as they sometimes were. 2000AD was subversive from the outset and that’s why it’s particularly appealing, especially as so many comics have horribly establishment attitudes these days. The times we live in, alas. TW: What do you think a comics reader is missing out on if they’ve never seen 2000AD? PM: Subversion. Challenging the status quo. Look, at the end of the day, excellent as Batman is, he’s still an establishment figure, a billionaire who often beats up the poor — in the shape of street scum, muggers etc. Then there’s that guy at Marvel who is highly amusing but he’s still an arms manufacturer, a Lord of War. In my stories at least in 2000AD, the poor usually beat up billionaires and Lords of War. TW: After having been exposed to so much great work through 2000AD, which creators have you become a fan of? PM: The artists I work with on 2000AD, notably Kevin O’Neill, Clint Langley, James McKay (the new Flesh artist), Leigh Gallagher and more. q
Dante’s mettle is tested and the readership is left wondering whether there is truth in his catchphrase: “I’m too cool to kill!” Start with: The first book of the series, Nikolai Dante: The Romanov Dynasty
Sinister Dexter Starting life as a Pulp Fiction pastiche, Sinister Dexter has grown to become a complex sci-fi action thriller with compelling characters and game-changing plot twists. It features two hitmen (or gunsharks as they are known in the parlance of Downlode City) Ramone Dexter and Finnegan Sinister, who are never far from trouble, flying bullets or the death of major characters. The strip gives writer Dan Abnett the opportunity to explore his love of puns to the full — story titles have included Are You Being Severed and Dead Man Whacking, while the main characters hang out in a dive called Bar None. A firm fan-favourite, the conclusion to one mega-storyline took over 2000AD for a whole issue — pushing out even Judge Dredd! Start with: The first book of the series, Sinister Dexter: Gunshark Vacation Nikolai Dante Created by the Scottish writer/artist team of Robbie Morrison and Simon Fraser, Nikolai Dante is the story of a happygo-lucky rogue and gentleman thief in the twenty seventh century. The tales of swashbuckling and womanising soon become more serious when Dante discovers that he is actually the illegitimate son of Dmitri Romanov, head of the House of Romanov and only credible rival to the Tsar of the Russian Empire. When war breaks out between the two dynasties,
Kingdom Dan Abnett and Richard Elson’s tale of a genetically engineered dog called Gene the Hackman (I mentioned his love of puns, right?) as he ventures across an Earth almost devoid of human beings, searching for the Promised Land. A sprawling sci-fi mystery, which the writer unfolds masterfully over (to-date) three books, the readership has been teased with a series of tantalising questions: What is the Promised Land? Where are the humans? What are the Urgings? And who are the deadly Them? Start with: The first book of the series, Kingdom: The Promised Land. P:
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Things That Go BOOM! TRIPWIRE gets a small taste of what BOOM! has planned for Hellraiser and the rest of their line and we give our opinion on Hellraiser#1. WORDS: ANDREW GROSSBERG
BOOM! contributors and staff from left to right: Gill Champion, Stan Lee, CEO/ Publisher Ross Richie, Marketing Director Chip Mosher and Editor-in-Chief Matt Gagnon BOOM! Studios is an award-winning publisher with a plethora of bestselling comic books and graphic novels created by some of the industry’s top talent. Recent notable books include Mark Waid’s Irredeemable, Stan Lee’s Soldier Zero, The Traveler, and Starborn and now a Hellraiser comic written by creator Clive Barker. The company also produces comics based on other licensed properties such as the upcoming Planet of the Apes, and current titles like 28 Days Later and Die Hard along with Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which is just wrapping up and The Henson Company’s Farscape. Although they recently ceded the license of the Pixar characters to Marvel because of the latter’s purchase by Disney, they continue to publish some of Disney’s other comics in their all ages line. BOOM! is a young company having been founded in 2005 by Malibu Comics veteran Ross Richie. They’ve gone quickly from a promising upstart with a few zombie books to a top tier publisher, innovating all the way. They partnered with myspace in
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January 2008 to release Northwind #1 on the same day it was available in stores which helped sales for the series immensely. This was the first time anyone had done something like that and it’s considered by many to be the ‘shot heard round the world’ for digital comics. They did it again in 2009 with the same partner with the free release of a copy of Hexed. They also ran a program where they sent copies of that same comic to the top 500 direct market retailers. Recently BOOM! rebranded their BOOM! Kids imprint as kaboom! an all ages line that promises some incredible titles. In upcoming months we can expect to see books like Peanuts (based on a brand new DVD), Space Warped, Roger Langridge’s Snarked! and Scholastic’s Word Girl. There will also be more Disney with Duck Tales, Darkwing Duck, Chip ‘N’ Dale Rescue Rangers, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge, and Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories. Additionally, this March the company made waves with its Hellraiser promotion where they gave away online a free 8-page prelude story on the same day as the first
issue of the comic hit stores (and it’s also included exclusively in the back of our STRIPWIRE section). They encouraged comic and pop culture websites to not only read and review the first issue of the series but to post and encourage downloads of the prelude by readers. As the new comics Wednesday progressed, BOOM’s Marketing Director Chip Mosher tweeted links to many of the resulting reviews while they came in. Judging by some of the quotes and the sheer volume of tweets, it was a smashing success. Although this wasn’t the first innovative online marketing idea BOOM! has pulled off it was certainly one of the more visible. TRIPWIRE managed to catch up with Chip at the end of the busy Hellraiser release week to ask him a little about where BOOM! is heading. TRIPWIRE: There have been a lot of changes going on with BOOM! recently in light of the Disney licenses shifting about and BOOM! Kids becoming kaboom! Can you fill us in a little more on what’s going on with you guys? CHIP MOSHER: Well, we just debuted the all-new Clive Barker written Hellraiser which is making a huge splash in the horror and comics communities! On top of that we’re revving up for a couple more huge releases with Planet of the Apes and Elric: The Balance Lost; two storied franchises we’re honored & excited to present to a new generation of fans!
“Our Editor-in-Chief Matt Gagnon has actually known Clive for many years and the idea to bring Clive to BOOM! naturally evolved from that relationship” TW: Specifically with kaboom!, you came out swinging by landing Peanuts and Word Girl. Are there other huge moves like this you have upcoming? Or at least something you can hint at? CM: Well one of the biggest things you didn’t mention was that we’re publishing an all-original ongoing Ducktales comic series by Epic Mickey creator Warren Spector. I’d count that as a huge move, wouldn’t you? A new all original series from Roger Langridge with Snarked! But in all seriousness I can’t give away any more info on KABOOM! So you’ll just have to wait because trust me there are some big things coming! TW: Meanwhile, BOOM! is strong as ever with new titles and new licenses. You have Stan Lee’s books, Planet of the Apes, Elric and Hellraiser among others. Are there even more similar titles we can expect to see? (I know that’s like saying, thanks for the diamonds where’s the platinum setting, but still...) CM: Again as much as I’d like to pull back the curtain to reveal the awesomeness ahead, I can’t. So again, stay tuned! TW: I’d specifically like to drill down a little about the Hellraiser stuff. It seems like that’s a natural addition to the horror books you publish now. Whose idea was it to acquire the license and why? CM: Our Editor-in-Chief Matt Gagnon used to work at Meltdown Comics here in Los Angeles and has actually known Clive for many years and the idea to bring Clive to BOOM! naturally evolved from that relationship. Not
to mention all of us here are huge horror and Clive Barker fans so it seemed like a perfect fit when the opportunity finally arose.
to light for new Barker fans discover and already die-hard rediscover and fall in love with again.
TW: You’re reprinting the classic Hellraiser comic EPIC published from 1989-1992. Do you think they will find an audience now?
TW: Those previous stories were written by other authors but you’ve managed to get all new material from Clive Barker, right? Tell us about that.
CM: Oh definitely! Even though Hellraiser has a tremendous, following some of those fans might not have realized there were comics that existed before. So we’re very glad to bring those fantastic stories back
CM: That idea stemmed partly from our relationship with Clive but mostly from wanting to do Clive and the franchise justice. There was no way we could even imagine beginning an all-new Hellraiser story without ask-
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ing Clive himself to have part in it. And what we received from Clive was greater than we could ever imagine! We are truly blessed to be working with such a genius of horror.
head’s “real name.” Will that be important to the story and can you spill any more details? Does this comic tie into the forthcoming Scarlet Gospels book?
CM: Hellraiser is an ongoing series and if the fans can get behind this series there might be even more stories but that fate rests solely on fan support!
TW: What was it like working with Clive Barker and what are his plans for the license with BOOM!?
CM: Where we find Pinhead at the beginning of the Hellraiser comic series is wanting out of Hell and wanting to become human. So without spilling too much his “real name” is part of this new quest. As for the tie-in to The Scarlet Gospels, only Clive knows that for sure!
TW: Is there anything else you’d like to share that we should be looking forward to in the next three months from BOOM!?
CM: It’s amazing! We’re constantly getting emails, notes, even sketches of all the strange and brilliant ideas Clive envisions putting into the Hellraiser series. It definitely feels like taking a master class in horror. TW: What sort of direction will the new series take? You guys teased something at Emerald City Comic Con about Pin-
TW: Will there be spin-offs from this series or an all new Hellraiser anthology in the future? And will Clive Barker be part of any ongoing Hellraiser material besides this one?
Hellraiser #1 Writers: Clive Barker with Christopher Monfette Artist: Leonardo Manco Cover: Tim Bradstreet (A) / Nick Percival (B) Publisher: BOOM! Studios Let’s get something straight off the bat. I’m a Hellraiser fan. But I need to clarify it a little in light of the, what, nine films that have been made. I am a fan of The Hellbound Heart, the short story that started it all and a fan of the original two movies, the ones that had Clive Barker involved (even if it was only nominally in the second). So I reacted first with skepticism when I was told that there was going to be a new Hellraiser comic series, even though it was coming out from BOOM! I guess I should have paid more attention up front. I knew they were going to reprint the classic EPIC series from the early 1990’s but I wasn’t expecting this goodness. First of all the new Hellraiser comic is being written with Clive Barker. He’s got a huge amount of involvement some of which BOOM! detailed at Emerald City Comic Con a few weeks ago. It’s his baby. Which brings me to my second happy point: The continuity appears to be ignoring the other seven movies as if they never happened which is music to my ears. The other films were popcorn but they took Pinhead away from the truly alien and evil force that he was supposed to be. The Cenobites are creatures so warped by thousands
of our years of torture in Hell that no sensation is enough for them. They try impotently to instead get satisfaction by torturing others; not so much a job as an obsessive pursuit to feel anything. In the latter films Pinhead became almost a foil, a Freddy Krueger sort of quipping boogeyman who could throw some chains around but lacked any of the other-worldly malevolence of the original. So far in this new comic we are shown more mysteries of Hell as a place and of Pinhead as a being with some depth yet still thinking in a way that is perhaps perpendicular to our own. A third point of good news is that the first 40-page issue carries a 10page backup feature from the old series by one of the Wachowski Brothers. Not a bad package so far. The book is put together really well and the classic strip is a good example of the best of the EPIC series that tore up some new ground in the genre way back when. But finally, the most important point is that this Hellraiser comic is good. Very good. The fan in me was almost giddy as I read the prelude issue provided by BOOM! (seriously, click the link above) but quite pleased with the first issue itself. And the Tim Bradstreet A cover sells it for me anyway. There is a certain presence in the story, a gravity that was almost always lacking when other writers took the Cenobites out for a spin. It’s like the fitted hand is back in the glove and there are no gaps in the fabric, no mis-
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CM: Absolutely. With Planet Of The Apes coming this April and the new Elric: The Balance Lost debuting this Free Comic Book Day we’ve definitely got big things coming in the next few months. But as I said before, stay tuned because this year BOOM! has only begun to explode! q
shapen wrinkles where the fingers don’t fill to the top. I can just feel that Barker is back at the helm (to further mix my metaphors). Christopher Monfette does a great job working with Barker to bring the words to the page. And the art from Leonardo Manco is incredible, with a real visceral feel for the…well…viscera. The art slashes the page the way Pinhead’s chains slash their latest victim or Kirsty’s brush slashes the canvas. The story so far follows two tracks: Pinhead has become bored with sensation and seeks to become human through a bargain with Leviathan. Elsewhere, Kirsty Cotton, the only human to best the Cenobites is shown living a life where she’s trying to cope with the trauma she’d endured at the hands of those demons. Both paths appear on a collision course as Pinhead will need Kirsty to achieve his goals and possibly she will need him for hers. As a launch for a series there’s not a whole lot more you could ask for. The art is good, the cover is over-the-top great, the story keeps you wanting to know more and turning the pages—in all it’s just yet another competent package like we’ve come to expect from BOOM! I know, ho hum, right? The biggest flaw I found is that the issue ended. I want the whole thing now, but I, like everyone else, am just going to have to wait each month as the issues come out. And believe me I will be there at my LCS asking for this book. ANDREW GROSSBERG q
Krackling Good Tunes
Kirby Krackle is Jim Demonakos (left) and Kyle Stevens (right)
f you haven’t heard of Kirby Krackle by now you will soon enough. KK is a buzzy nerd rock band hailing from Seattle. The group is made up of two self-described pop culture junkies, Jim Demonakos and Kyle Stevens. Kyle is a Seattle, WA resident who has played music professionally since he was 13 and has been reading comics for even longer. Jim owns a chain of comic stores in Washington State called The Comic Stop and runs the Emerald City Comic Con. As expected their songs run the gamut of nerd topics from superheroes to videogames. They’ve played plenty of gigs in North America in places like Toronto and San Diego. They play comic book shows and even did a commissioned song for the Long Beach Comic Convention. The group has released two CDs, a self-titled
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DEFINITION: Nerd Rock, AKA Geek Rock, is a sub genre of alternative rock music whose song subjects include topics of genre culture interest such as comics, movies, computers and videogames. Although sometimes used in the same sentence as the hip hop subgenre nerd core it is distinct in musical form. debut in 2009 and their follow up E For Everyone in last year. They’re about ready to break out down under with a tour of Australia this Spring. So, if you want on the bandwagon you better hurry because it’s leaving the station. TRIPWIRE managed to catch up with the group before their gig at Seattle’s ECCC this year and followed up with a terrific email interview shortly afterwards. Their show blew the top off of the Seattle Hard Rock Cafe and their upcoming tour should do the same down under. Enjoy. WORDS: ANDREW GROSSBERG
TRIPWIRE: How did Kirby Krackle come together? How did you meet and how did this whole thing get started? KIRBY KRACKLE: Kirby Krackle came together after a few years of casual conversation between Jim and I and his comic shop business partner Brian. In 2004, my band I had had for 13 years broke up and near the end of that band I had already started putting in comic book references that made me laugh, but wasn’t working with the theme of the band at that time. I remember being in Best Buy calling my dad to bring the idea up to him and then casually brought it up to Jim and his staff. Over the next few years, we often causally talked about what it might be like to write songs that were in the vein of the music I was already doing under my own name, only having all the lyrics be about our love of
“We do our best to get outside and rock the people because, and it does sound like a cliche, music transcends languages and cultures however non-nerdy” preconceived notion is that we dress up like superheroes and that’s what we mean when describing ourselves. On the other hand, I feel like our music sounds like mainstream alternative rock only with “geek lyrics” so the sound isn’t the issue, it’s more getting people on board conceptually with how we’re different and how we encourage folks to pick up a comic book and see what we love to sing about. We’re not an exclusive band, and geeks in general love to share what they’re into and about. We’re no different. TW: Would you say you’re gaining traction outside of so-called geek circles? pop-culture, comic books, and video games. We first wrote the song “Back To The Beginning” from our 2009 self-titled debut album, and then we kinda just went from there trying to come up with 10 more tracks that all ended up being on our first album. TW: How would you describe your music? Do you guys identify with the whole nerdcore movement? What do you think of guys like MC Chris and MC Frontalot (and of course Adam Warrock)? KK: We describe our music in a few ways, usually under the moniker of “nerd rock” or “geek rock.” When we say that, the listener usually brings to mind groups like Weezer, or They Might Be Giants, and rightfully so. We like to think of ourselves as a little different than that though; more with a turn of the dial towards comic book and video game fandom. We try to set ourselves apart singing “from the perspective of” the characters and the experiences they might be going through as we’ve seen in their stories and arcs both classic and modern, and try our best to humanize the experience. For example in the song “On And On” off our album E For Everyone, we sing from the perspective of Wolverine. What has his life been
like constantly being wounded, watching loved ones die, and trying to find his purpose amongst all the external chaos. This is the kinda stuff we try to build our songs around and how we hope others describe our band as when talking to their friends. Going into this we definitely did research guys like MC Chris and MC Frontalot, see what they did well, and how we could as fans of theirs build something around what we felt were our strengths. We’re not experts on all the facets of geek culture that they might be, and I’m guessing it’s vice versa. We just try to sing about what we know. As for Adam Warrock, we were super stoked when he came on the scene, not only ‘cause he’s turned into a friend, but also ‘cause he’s awesome and represents something that is a blend of what we do and what nerd-core is. He sits in an interesting space between “nerd-rock” and “nerd-core” and is very talented.
KK: I think it’s happening more and more as we do articles like this one with TRIPWIRE, put out more videos on youtube, and release tracks on the RockBand Network. As has been happening for years now, geek culture and mainstream media have been getting more and more cozy and that is something that can only help artists and bands like KK. Besides playing shows revolving around the comic convention experience in cities around the country, we play outdoor street festivals and venues where you don’t necessarily need to be into comics to be found. We do our best to get outside and rock the people because, and it does sound like a cliche, music transcends languages and cultures however non-nerdy.
TW: What’s your reception been like in the mainstream music scene?
KK: We love melody, we love songs that stick in your head for days, and that’s what we try to put out there. A great story in a great comic book can spawn a hopefully great song. We love the passionate fanboys and fangirls we meet around the country. We recently started brewing our own beer. We just try to surround ourselves with fun people and fun times and carry that to our songs.
KK: Ha! That’s something we talk about on a weekly basis and is a constant question we have ourselves. I think the mainstream music scene is sometimes confused with what we do, and I understand why. When we approach a club or venue the usual
TW: What inspires you guys? Obviously there is a certain amount of comic influence. What else?
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they were songs about their comics we loved to sing about. Luckily for us that turned out into Joe becoming a fan and performing with us in 2010 at Emerald City Comicon and C2E2 in Chicago. He makes comics, and he rocks hard, so it just seemed natural to combine our powers into a super-team up. Then we became friends with Ryan Penagos from the online division of Marvel and he asked us to write the theme song for their now ongoing web series, The Watcher. The song goes by the same name, and that’s what “Project Moonbase” was all about. As for what’s next for the song, that’s not something we can go into but know we’re psyched and you’ll hear about it soon. TW: You’re doing a show in Australia. Fill us in on the details and how that materialized. Is it your first show outside the US?
Kirby Krackle’s followup album, E For Everyone (2011) (above) builds on the success of the eponymous debut in 2009
TW: How do you go about writing your songs? Do you come up with the music and words individually and bring it to practice or whatever or do you guys collaborate from the get go? KK: We really do stuff like I think most songwriters come up with a song. Either I’ll have the music ideas ready to go and then it’s up to Jim and I to fill the lines in lyrically, or Jim will have an idea for a lyric and then we’ll do the music on the spot. Sometimes it seems the best songs come really quickly with almost no effort, then the ones you slave over and think is your opus are the ones that are received with the least enthusiasm. There’s no rule of thumb, but sometimes we wish there was!
“Sometimes it seems the best songs come really quickly with almost no effort” 18 TRIPWIRE DIGITAL
TW: How did you guys hook up with Marvel Comics? What was that about? What is this Project Moonbase I read about last year and what can you tell us about it? KK: Our friendship with Marvel began with a simple tweet in 2000 a day before our first con appearance in NYC from Joe Quesada suggesting fans go find our booth that weekend. Earlier in the day we went down to Marvel with a backpack full of albums and passed them out to the staff and told them
KK: The organizers of Supanova Con in Brisbane and Melbourne approached us about being guests at the show and after thinking about it for .0003 seconds...we said hell yes! So, we’ll be heading out for our first show outside North America the beginning of April and will be there for a few weeks to meet and play for KK fans. Also we hope to box a kangaroo like we did growing up playing the Atari game of the same name. This is full circle, yo. TW: What sorts of other goodness can we expect to hear from Kirby Krackle in the future? When’s the next album out? KK: Ah, the question we know we wish we had a definite answer to! The official answer is sometime this year. We’re currently writing and finding what is inspiring to us and as always hopefully that’s something that fans will enjoy. It was a little odd to not have album #3 out at the beginning of the 2011 con season as was our pattern for the last 2 years, but we agreed it wouldn’t have been up to snuff with what we’d want as fans and so we appreciate Krackleheads being patient. We have a few more videos in the works, more RockBand Network tracks we’ll be releasing, and other cool secret stuff. We always ask ourselves what “we” would want if we were KK fans, and hopefully we hit more than we miss! We’re excited for 2011 and all the unexpected fun stuff that always happens as well. Onward my X-men! :) q
Kirby Krackle’s music is available at www.kirbykracklemusic.com/store.html
Designed To Please TRIPWIRE takes a look at one of the unsung heroes of Pre-Code comics, LB Cole. WORDS: ANDREW COLMAN
rior to the arrival of Gerber’s Photo-Journal Guide To Comics in the early 1990s, there were many horror and science-fiction artists from the pre-comics code era of the late 1940s and 1950s who were at the very least unsung, if not a footnote in fandom history. Certainly the two genres (which were prone to overlapping) had had their icons — their chief mavens being such E.C. and Atlas alumni as Graham Ingels, Frank Frazetta, Al Williamson, Johnny Craig, Wally Wood, Al Feldstein, Basil Wolverton, Russ Heath, Joe Maneely and Bernie Krigstein. But when the two doorstop tomes began to influence the hobby, such names as Bill Baily, Joe Doolin, Dan Zolnerowich, Lily Renee and one Leonard Brandt Cole not only gained widespread recognition amongst the cognoscenti, their work became rapidly, and intensely sought after. Cole, whose work was prolific and covered every possible genre, topped the list. His line work, particularly his attention to design, motifs, composition and colour, gave his art a unique identity in the medium and made him one of the era’s
best cover artists. Even more significantly, he had creative control over most of his work, which was highly unusual for the time. Cole was born in 1918. His mother, an illustrator, encouraged him to draw at an early age. His parents divorce when he was fourteen forced him to be independent and think on his feet, attributes that would come in useful in the hothouse cutthroat world of post-Golden Age comic publishing. His early years as a budding artist involved almost exclusively drawing animals, before quickly moving on (as he would do throughout his life) and finding his way into commercial art, designing liquor labels and cigar bands. He also worked as an art director in the lithography industry, before starting his career in comics in 1939. His entry point into this emerging industry was as a freelancer on Don Winslow, The Flash, and Lash Lightning. And after three years experience, he joined the company that would prove pivotal in his career — Continental Magazines. Equally importantly, he would assume his position in the newly named company not just as an artist but also as editor and art director. Cole’s impact with Continental Magazines was rapid and twofold. By late 1943, Cole, who was still in his early 20s, had started his tenure on the book that artisti-
cally would shake up the medium and also prefigure the rise of non-superhero comics seven years later — Suspense Comics. After issue 3, which featured a tour de force Schomburg adventure cover (that also gained enormous recognition thanks to Gerber’s journals) Cole began his sequence of covers that predated the horror comics of the ‘50s, many of which had the callingcard motifs, colour-schemes and simplicity that would be a hallmark of his later selfpublished work. Issue 8, which featured a human-headed spider catching victims in his web, and issue 11, which had a grinning Satan figure showering criminals with cash, have become noted classics with collectors, and were loaded with symbols and themes that were to recur throughout his career as a comic artist. The other aspect of Cole’s influence on the industry was his business methods and commercial acumen. The early titles, such as Suspense Comics, Terrific and Contact were essentially his creations, and his decision to pay writers upfront meant that he was able to hire some of the best talent available to work for him: writers Mickey Spillane, Burt Hirschfield, and Evan Hunter (who wrote Blackboard Jungle) were examples, not to mention artists such as George Evans, Bob Fujitani and future E.C.
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“Cole brought in his love of science-fiction and horror to reenergize his interest”
stalwart and Mad creator Harvey Kurtzman, who was taken under Cole’s wing and became a close friend. This allowed Cole to focus on the design and content of his covers, which required no approval, as he was in charge. No doubt Bill Gaines took note of Cole’s proactive business practices when he set about developing E.C. Comics. As a self-employed editor and art director, Cole worked tirelessly, along with his wife, in publishing several hundred books a year across many genres. By the mid-1940s, Cole’s artwork reached its defining stage, with several covers that proved transitional, and are landmarks in comic cover art. Firstly there were the triumvirate of science-fiction covers on books that previously had been essentially adven-
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ture or “aviation” titles that focused on World War 2 fighter pilots: Contact # 12, Captain Flight # 11 and Captain Aero # 26. Each had a deep black background, with simple compositions that were finished in bold, garish prime colours, with no cover blurbs or dialogue. These psychedelic, gaudy works were referred to by Cole as “poster color covers,” and they were designed mainly to stand out amidst the plethora of other books on the newsstand. In many respects they ushered in a new style of art for Cole, who was to infuse his work with greater dynamism and intense colours from thereon. The geometric simplicity of Contact # 12 and the bold, op-art and more detailed futurescapes of Captain Aero and Captain Flight were a major departure for Cole and the medium. Never a
fan of super-hero comics (primarily because “everybody else was doing it”) Cole brought in his love of science-fiction and horror to re-energize his interest. Just as important was his work on the last seven issues of Catman, and Mask Comics #1 and #2 (issue #2 being his personal favourite cover). Mask #2, possibly the most sought after of Cole’s books by collectors, was another leap forward for the artist, again featuring a laughing devil in the foreground, surrounded this time by fallen souls languishing in hell. Cole had great expectations for the success of the book and its baroque, florid cover, and he was not disappointed. Cole reached the peak of his career when he decided to form Star Comics in 1949, this time retaining sole control and not farming his talents out to other publishers. For the following half-decade, Cole produced dozens of books, mostly sporting his idiosyncratic, individual look on the cover. From Crime comics (All Famous Crime, Guns Against Gangsters, Spook Detective Cases) to Romance Comics (Top Love, Confessions Of Love) to esoterica like Sport Thrills, Cole, like his contemporaries at Atlas and other publishers, binged and purged on every genre. However his time at Star is mostly characterized by Horror and Jungle comics: Blue Bolt Weird
“With the rise of fan magazines in the 1990s and internet sites devoted to artists such as L.B. Cole, it is now thankfully easy to enjoy the genius of his postercolour covers” Tales (oddly enough the only science-fiction title on the Star roster) Ghostly Weird Tales, Startling Terror Tales, Terrifying Tales and Terrors Of The Jungle being the standouts. The classic cover to Startling Terror Tales #11 is very much redolent of Suspense #8 from several years earlier, but even more bizarre and grotesque. Each of the classic titles used the familiar palette of black or red backgrounds with simple compositions that drew the reader to the focal subject matter. By now Cole was a past master of luring the casual newsstand purchaser towards his books. Needless to say such confrontational work drew interest from the Congressional Hearings regarding the “evils of comic books,” but unlike Bill Gaines, who had faltered badly when he provided his advocacy to the Committee (he had ham-fistedly attempted to defend the infamous cover to Crime Suspenstories #22), Cole had an assured and professional retort to the Senator that interviewed him, and such issues were brushed aside. After the death of his publishing partner,
the arrival of the Comics Code and the implosion of the industry, Cole, in 1956, moved firstly to St. John, and then in 1959 to Gilberton, publisher of Classics Illustrated. Frustrated with lower pay rates and the lack of focus at the publisher, he joined Dell Comics in 1961 as art director, but again that proved to be a short-lived tenure for Cole, who returned to commercial illustration and painting wildlife. Cole’s profile in comic history was more or less forgotten by fandom with the onset of the Silver Age and the return to dominance of the super-hero genre. The period in which he flourished, the late Golden Age and the pre-code era, was for a time considered an aberrant, chaotic interlude except by small coterie of aficionados and E.C. Fan-
Addicts, the latter not really concerned with the other publishers of that era. However in 1981 Cole was invited to illustrate the cover to the Overstreet Comic-Book Price Guide, at the time the focal point of backissue fandom. The cover itself, needless to say, was an homage to his classic work, which, coupled with articles about his career in the guide, brought significant exposure to his career in comics. And of course the aforementioned Gerber’s Photo-Journal Guide To Comics a decade later restored him to his rightful prominence amongst collectors. With the rise of fan magazines in the 1990s and internet sites devoted to artists such as L.B. Cole, it is now thankfully easy to enjoy the genius of his poster-color covers. q
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Bringing The Hammer Down
TRIPWIRE takes a look at the genesis of Marvel’s THOR movie, out this Spring, and rates the film for our readers… WORDS: JOEL MEADOWS
All Images: Zade Rosenthal / Marvel Studios © 2011 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2011 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.
he God of Thunder was always one of the less likely Marvel heroes. First appearing in Journey Into Mystery #83 (August 1962), the series was renamed Thor with #126 in 1966. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby maintained the mythic tone for their run and the blond exiled god even appeared as one of the regular cast in Marvel’s The Avengers for many years. The comic went through high and low points in the 1970s and 1980s with Walt Simonson’s hit run a particular highlight. So when some of Marvel’s biggest hitters like X-Men and Spider-man found their way to the big screen, it seemed likely that at some point, the Norse god would join them there. The genesis for Thor at the cinema goes back to the early nineties when, just after Darkman, Sam Raimi (future Spider-man director) met Stan Lee and pitched it to Fox. But they just didn’t get what he wanted to do and it languished again until 1997 when the idea of Marvel Studios was being mooted. With the success of X-Men on the screen, Marvel pushed to make a Thor movie but for TV with UPN attached to broadcast it and Tyler Mane (Sabretooth) in the main role. But nothing came of it even though Marvel brought Artisan Entertainment on board in 2000 to help them make it. The property was in development hell until December
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Norse Code: Director Kenneth Branagh (left) behind the camera; Chris Hemsworth as Thor (centre and right); Thor with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) sharing a more tender moment (far right) 2004 when Sony Pictures International picked up the rights. Writer / Director David Goyer (Blade, Batman Begins) was attached to Thor and Marvel Films’ head Avi Arad even went as far as to announce this at the Blade Trinity premiere: “Thor is being written now. Actually, David [Goyer] is going to write it. He [has been] a Thor fanatic for a long time,” Arad revealed. However, this was contradicted by Goyer himself a few months later. When asked about Thor in an interview, he had the following to say: “No. I don’t have time right now. There’s no way.” Sony was still in the picture to distribute the movie but Goyer was off it and in April 2006, the rights passed from Sony to Paramount. Screenwriter Mark Protosevich, who wrote The Cell and Poseidon, a fan of the comic book, came on board to pen the script. In 2006, it was announced that Thor would be a Marvel Studios production. Protosevich seemed to have a very specific take on the character as he admitted in an interview at the time. “[It will] be like a superhero origin story, but not one about a human gaining super powers, but of a god realizing his true potential. It’s the story of an Old Testament god who becomes a New Testament god.”
In August 2007, Marvel signed Matthew Vaughn (Stardust, Layer Cake) to direct the film. He did a new draft of Protosevich’s script in order to bring the budget down to $150m. For the British director, the appeal of bringing the Norse god to the screen was something he had been thinking about for a little while as he admitted in an interview back in 2007 for beyondhollywood.com. “When I went into Marvel for my first X-Men meeting, I saw a figure on the desk and said ‘Are you guys are going to make Thor?’ They said, “We’re just going to commission a script. We want to do it like Gladiator with Norse mythology and the birth of a superhero’. That really stuck in my mind. And when Marvel saw Stardust, they asked me to do it. So here I am, back again and prepping Thor.” My only concern initially was that it’s another fantasy film [after Stardust], but it’s different in the sense that it’s a superhero film set in the world of fantasy. You’ve got Thor and Odin and it’s set in Asgard — it’s not going to be like Lord of the Rings or even Narnia. I think it’s important to keep it comic booky. We’re not doing the Thor of Norse mythology. We’re doing the Marvel Thor.” In an interview with Empire, Vaughn went into a little more detail.
“Well, the main role is going to be played by someone totally unknown,” he said. “It can’t be a star, it’s got to be someone totally unknown.” “I think you have to respect that it is a comic book and silly to be frank, so you have to combine that with a modern style and hopefully come up with something fresh. I think we can come up with something special.” Originally, Vaughn intended to start principal photography at the end of 2008 and, after the huge success of Iron Man ($319m in the US alone), Marvel would release it in June 2010. The plan was for the character of Thor to be introduced in Iron Man 2. But the holding deal expired in May 2008 and Vaughn walked away. So Marvel put Protosevich to work on a new draft and began to look for another director. It seemed as if Thor may have languished in limbo for another few years. DJ Caruso (Eagle Eye, Disturbia) was mentioned at one point in September 2008 but he didn’t read the script and it amounted to nothing. Then rumours began to circulate that none other than Kenneth Branagh (Henry V, Hamlet, Frankenstein) would be brought on to helm Thor. In December of that year, Branagh confirmed that he had been hired by Marvel. With a new director, Marvel put the release date back to May 20th 2011. Casting began in February 2009 and in May 2009,
“I loved what this kind of story represented and I loved its epic scale and and the grandeur… Paradoxically, it’s got a great human story at the centre of a story about gods” – KENNETH BRANAGH Chris Hemsworth (Star Trek) had his name attached to the project. Then Tom Hiddleston, a British actor who had collaborated with Branagh before, was being considered for the part of Loki, Thor’s trickster brother. In June of that year, Kevin Feige from Marvel Studios confirmed that both Hemsworth and Hiddleston had put their names on the dotted line. Branagh’s version of Thor had come the furthest since the idea was first mooted back in 1997. Once the two main players came on board, the rest of the cast fell into place. Natalie Portman (Star Wars, Black Swan) was announced as love interest Jane Foster, Anthony Hopkins would be filling the eyepatch of lord of the Gods Odin and Idris Elba (The Wire, Losers) signed up as Heimdall.
In October 2009, the actors playing The Warriors Three, important supporting characters for the God of Thunder, were unveiled: Stuart Townsend from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Queen of The Damned would be Fandral, Tadanobu Asano was picked to be Hogun and Ray Stevenson (Rome, Punisher War Zone) would be Volstagg. At Comic-Con in 2010 in an interview with darkhorizons.com, Branagh gave viewers more of a clue of the approach he would be taking. “[Marvel President] Kevin Feige’s so determined that we have to deliver a spectacle in the execution of visual effects and concept of visual effects, to really push the envelope every time. It all costs money and at some point we have to have difficult conversations in that way, but basically the prime thing is how can we make this the best it can be on the scale that it has to have.” He went on to explain his connection with the project. “I don’t have a huge history with comic books, but definitely a passion for Thor,” explained Branagh. “I loved what this kind of story represented and I loved its epic scale and the colour and the grandeur and the fact that it travels across space and all the vivid contrasts in the runs of the comics. I loved the blood and guts of it. Paradoxically, it’s got a great human story at the center of a story about gods.”
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gardians walk onto the sound stage takes me back to that first time I saw the X-Men on the set all together in Toronto. Only it was unlike anything we’ve ever put on film before! It’s great to be starting the next decade in such an exciting way just as we did last decade. We’re really redefining the comic book genre and what a Marvel movie can be. It’s going to be great.” The film is going to explore both Asgard and the real world and show how Thor deals with both elements. Several trailers have been released and it is evident from them that Branagh is striving to balance action with humour, a formula that worked well with both Iron Man movies. It is a little early to tell if Thor will be successful enough to guarantee a franchise with the character and, with X-Men: First Class and Captain America: The First Avenger both competing for moviegoers’ cash this summer, there is no shortage of Marvel on the big screen. But the advanced word is very positive and it is more than likely we shall be seeing Thor bringing his hammer down on the big screen again. He’s come a long way from a minor creation in a second-tier1960s Marvel comic… q
Another challenge that Branagh was set was fitting Thor into a continuity that would lead to Joss Whedon’s The Avengers in 2012 but he shared his thoughts on this also at Comic Con 2010 in the same chat for darkhorizons.com. “There is the integration of story elements. For instance, you saw how Thor interacts with S.H.I.E.L.D. I think you’ll see that we have the chance with various parts of it to just expand out. I think you’re going to find it’s going to add up into something that belongs, but also has a very distinct flavour. An important thing we wanted to do today and in this piece was [explain] a question I’ve been getting since way back, which is, ‘How the hell does Thor fit remotely into the Avengers thing?’ I think it can live there but also, I hope, bring a pretty exotic thing that I think is going to be much more present in the film.” Feige discussed the reaction to a costume screen test in 2010, as reported by website Slashfilm.com. “To be honest the thing that I’m most excited about right now though, is the screen test we just finished for Thor. We’ve done some costume tests and watching the As-
WIELDING THE HAMMER TRIPWIRE spoke to Matt Fraction, the writer of the new Mighty Thor ongoing series to find out what drew him to the character
TRIPWIRE: What is the continued appeal of Thor as a character for writers? MATT FRACTION: For me, it’s the scale of stories Thor and Odin and Sif and the rest present — you can go bigger with Asgardians than you can with regular New Yorkers. Thor is a window to a world bigger than anything you can imagine, you know? TW: Who was your favourite Thor creator prior to coming on board? MF: Walter Simonson was what grabbed me as a kid and was, for a long time, the only Thor run I cared for but then, as an adult, I came fresh to Kirby’s stuff and just went head over heels for it. The stuff collected in the third and fourth Essential Thor I’ve studied like the Torah. TW: When you first came on board the title, how did you approach it?
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MF: Big wasn’t big enough. Epic, cosmic, colossal. Thor means everything you can’t do ANYWHERE ELSE in the Marvel Universe. So we’re going everywhere, we’re doing everything, we’re dressing ‘em up in crazy uniforms, going into space, going into wormholes, going into the idea that science and magic get indistinguishable the bigger and more fantastic it becomes... but I wanted to keep the story about Odin’s family, and duty, and responsibility... basically all the themes I find myself writing about again and again play out in Thor just as easily as anything else.
TW: The character will be appearing in both Thor and the revived Journey Into Mystery title. How different will the take be in each book? MF: Journey Into Mystery is sort of the Kid Loki and the Asgardians story; he’s kind of like the Asgardian Tintin, if everybody hated Tintin. Thor is the story of the big guy himself but, since we launch alongside the movie, it’s a self-contained, come-as-you-are, zerocontinuity-needed story, a bit like the one that kicked off my Invincible Iron Man run. TW: With the film hitting screens this year, do you feel any additional pressure writing the character? MF: I just want to do right by the character, his legacy, and the history of creators that I’m quite frankly honoured to be a part of... the idea that people who are new to Thor and his legacy might find my book is energizing and exciting to me. Maybe I can help someone fall in love with this crazy, crazy, comic book the way I love it, you know? q
pic: JOEL MEADOWS
“Thor’s the most prime example of a character who puts the modern superhero narrative in the context of thousands of years of humans telling heroic, fantasy stories” example of what a writer / artist can do in the pop end of the medium, playing artfully with both Marvel and traditional Norse sources. I’ve read them all since, and loved them. Q: When you first came on board the title, how did you approach it?
FROM STAFFORD TO ASGARD
TRIPWIRE also caught up with Kieron Gillen, the writer of the revived Journey Into Mystery ongoing series to find out what attracted him to the God of Thunder Q: What is the continued appeal of Thor as a character for writers? KIERON GILLEN: I think Thor’s the most prime example of a character who puts the modern superhero narrative in the context of thousands of years of humans telling heroic, fantasy stories. We’ve been telling stories about the concept of Thor and Asgard for thousands of years, and I don’t think people will be stopping any time to. The themes he embodies are great - the mortal and the divine, the modern and the mythic. Ice Giants striding down Broadway and M16s in the fields of Hel. These are vivid juxtapositions. Q: Who was your favourite Thor creative team prior to coming on board the book? What was it about the team that grabbed you as a reader? KG: As a kid in Stafford, we didn’t have comic shops, so my early exposure to Marvel stuff of the time was sporadic. But even the few issues of Simonson’s run seared themselves into my imagination. The perfect
KG: On my hands and knees, with my nose pressed tightly against the ground, fear in my tear-kissed eyes and a prayer on my lips. But really? Straczynski’s reboot of the series was magisterial, and I very much believed that no matter what I did, people would hate it simply it wasn’t him. However, once I thought about that, I realised that was actually a freeing thing. I didn’t have to worry about what people would make of it. In my pessimistic heart, I knew how they’d take it. As such, my mind was just on telling the best story I could. In the end, in the best superheroic-narrative fashion, it all turned out okay. People actually dug it a lot. Pessimism was wrong. Of course, I’m also aware of the irony that
the optimistic result was only enabled by a fatalistically pessimistic outlook. Q: The character will be appearing in both Thor and the revived Journey Into Mystery title. How different will the take be in each book? KG: Journey Into Mystery is, in its first eight issues, Fear Itself’s Asgardian sister book. We look closely at how the world-shaking events impact Asgard. While Thor’s in it, and his influence drives it, the actual prime mover is our Kid Loki. As we move into the future, my easy one-line description for the difference between Thor and us, is that if Thor is Avengers then Journey Into Mystery is Secret Avengers. We’re all about secrets, espionage, acts done in darkness and — as the title may suggest — Mysteries. I’m trying to do a book that’s equally influenced by Sandman and Queen & Country — plus more than a little of I, Claudius. Oh, and Tintin too. Matt’s also playing tightly with the Cosmic end of Thor. Conversely, Journey is much more of a Fantasy book. TW: With the film hitting screens this year, do you feel any additional pressure writing the character? KG: Oddly not. I just feel blessed. q
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TRIPWIRE caught an early screening of Thor and here’s what we thought of it… Thor Director: Kenneth Branagh; Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston Marvel / Paramount Bringing Marvel’s God of Thunder to the big screen has taken over two decades but, with the success of Iron Man and Iron Man 2, Branagh’s Thor had a momentum the property never had before. Thor is a character that seemed to be a tough one to translate from the printed page to the cinema, with some of Marvel’s most outlandish ideas and sometimes cringeworthy dialogue. But Kenneth Branagh has managed to distill everything that made Lee and Kirby’s blond exiled Norse God cool and exciting in a two hour movie. Hemsworth was an interesting
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choice as the protagonist. His most notable role before this was as James T Kirk’s father George in Bryan Singer’s Star Trek but I have to say that he makes a likeable and watchable God of Thunder. Anthony Hopkins also feels like he was born to play the father of the gods and Hiddleston is a good obsequious foil for Hemsworth’s straight heroics. Like Favreau’s Iron Man, Branagh has sensibly leavened Thor with a good dose of humour. The film opens with scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) conducting experiments in the desert in the US at night but hits a lone figure who has plummetted to Earth. Then we are given the back story: that Thor, the Norse God of Thunder, has been exiled from Asgard through the machinations of his scheming brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Odin, played by Hopkins,
has been manipulated by Loki into sending Thor into exile. The God of Mischief has also been colluding with the realm’s enemies for his own ends. Separated from his hammer, Mjolnir, the fallen god has to prove his worth before he can reclaim it. The power of the Norse Gods’ adversaries, the Frost Giants, is introduced as the Mcguffin here pretty early on and is an effective plot device to move things forward. Like Iron Man, Thor also features action that propels the plot nicely. Visually, Thor is also incredible. The production team have really managed to create an Asgard that looks unearthly and majestic and the Rainbow Bridge, guarded by Heimdall (Idris Elba), looks amazing on screen. Production Designer Bo Welch (Batman Returns, Men In Black II) has excelled himself here. Thor is released as a 3-D film and the spectacle on screen is a feast for the senses. Jotunheim, the home of the giants, is brilliantly realized here and the battles where Thor uses his hammer are directed with kineticism and energy. Direction is fast-paced where it needs to be and more thoughtful in the more low-key sequences. The soundtrack is thankfully devoid of any soft metal and in fact the score is well handled, matching the visuals with rare style. Even though it is not a perfect film by any means (Portman’s role is almost non-existent as are the Warriors Three), Thor is an eminently enjoyable summer superhero movie with some nice setpieces. More importantly, it is a film that doesn’t outstay its welcome. Iron Man 2 was disappointing but here Marvel and Branagh have set the bar higher again. q
Getting To The Source
TRIPWIRE takes a look at the genesis and creation of Duncan Jones’ SOURCE CODE and sees if the results are worth the wait. WORDS: JOEL MEADOWS
oon took everyone by surprise. When it came out in 2009, this smart sci-fi movie, directed by a man who turned out to be David Bowie’s son, perhaps showed the future of science-fiction on the big screen. Fast-forward to 2011 and Jones’ second feature, Source Code, is about to hit cinemas. We spoke to the film’s screenwriter Ben Ripley, director Duncan Jones and its star Jake Gyllenhaal to find out more…
made those things worth watching is the idea of re-accessing experience again and again and again and learning from it. I think the audience can really get on board when they start expecting things and the whole idea of him dying after 8 minutes of time meant that there was a harsh limit on the information he was able to collect. So that was the inspiration but it was a long journey to find all those elements that finally clicked into place.
TW: What is the Source Code?
TRIPWIRE: What was the genesis of the idea for Source Code?
BR: At its fundamental core, the definition of Source Code is the ability to access an after-image of the brain that lasts for 8 minutes in a parallel world and through another identity.
Ben Ripley: The germ of the idea for Source Code came from my desire to tell a non-linear story like Groundhog Day, like Sliding Doors but with a sciencefiction twist within the confines of a thriller where the story became very propulsive. We looked at Run, Lola Run a lot and what
TW: How did you pitch the idea? BR: It was a huge challenge to pitch this idea. In fact I didn’t pitch the idea. I had to
write it out as a script first and discover it for myself over the course of many, many drafts before anybody else could discover it. So it took a long time to boil it down to a very simple story about a soldier who wakes up on a train and dies after 8 minutes and then does so again and again. So the movie on one level is a thriller, and on another level it’s a character mystery. It’s a chamber piece. TW: How did Duncan Jones approach bringing your script to the big screen? BR: If you look at what Duncan does, he is relentlessly in the point of view of Jake Gyllenhaal’s character. It is his experience on the train, back in the isolation unit, back and forth by switching those two worlds but staying on his character and keeping it about character and keeping it intimate that lets you experience that story. The Jake Gyllenhaal character is the through-line to that story and Duncan knew that and he doesn’t get distracted by it.
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“I’m a huge fan of Jake Gyllenhaal. To work with him was a real opportunity that I didn’t want to pass up. And the script was tight” – DUNCAN JONES
Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal, left)decides to take control of the situation Duncan Jones TW: How did you get attached to Source Code? DUNCAN JONES: I met up with Jake [Gyllenhaal] a while ago before I saw the script. He said ‘There’s this great script that I’ve been reading. I’d love you to have a look at it.’ And I did read it and thought ‘Wow, that’s a lot of claustrophobic environments’. I had just come off the back of Moon, which was very much a claustrophobic environment, so I could see why they wanted me. But it occurred to me, that the beauty of the script without revealing too much was that there was a constant exploration, that there were new things going on each time our main character Colter enters this repetition that occurs in the film. So there’s always something new going on and that was the challenge really. How do you make each of these new repetitions fresh and give the audience something new that’s going to keep them engaged? TW: Once you were onboard, how did you approach making it? DJ: I had one set of ideas of what we could do with it and Jake wanted to try some things as well. So we had a very good collaborative relationship. We ended up addings a lot more humour. There’s a lot more tongue-incheek humour in the film than was originally on the page of the script. I think that mixing humour and the more science fiction elements of this thriller — it’s a contemporary
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thriller but there are definitely science fiction elements — we pulled something together which was quite appealing. The audience isn’t going to get bogged down in the logic or the science of it all. I think they’ll just be going along for the ride. TW: What was the appeal of casting Jake in the main role? DJ: I’m a huge fan of Jake Gyllenhaal. I think he’s a tremendous actor. To work with him was a real opportunity that I didn’t want to pass up. And the script was tight. It was a good strong fast-moving script and I loved the fact that there was no lethargy in it. It just got on with the story. TW: How does his character develop over the movie? DJ: He starts off in a place where he doesn’t know what’s going on and by the end of it he’s become master of his own world. I think that growth, that evolution over the course of the film was fun because things go wrong sometimes, sometimes things go wrong spontaneously and he realizes that he has the ability to control this and it just made for a fun experience. TW: How did you find shooting Source Code? DJ: We built this amazing train carriage which doubled for different parts of the train over the course of the shoot. It was this beautiful thing but it was a bit of a monster
really because shooting in that environment became somewhat limiting at times. And the personality of the film almost came out of the necessities of how we had to shoot it as opposed to the other way around. Sometimes when you’re shooting, you can impose your style on your location or on your set. But in this case it was really the set that imposed the style on us. TW: What can you tell us about the plot? DJ: Captain Colter Stevens finds himself waking up on a commuter train heading into Chicago. He doesn’t know how he got there and he finds that everyone else in the environment seems to know who he is but it’s not who he thinks he is. And then the story begins. We wanted to make the film about relationships. It’s about Colter and Christina and Colter and Goodwin. I guess that’s where my interest in the script really lies. It’s about relationships and people and the fact that I want to show how people bond. I think that’s something that I find very interesting and I think that’s what we do in the film. I’m not embarrassed to say that we borrowed liberally from Hitchcock in parts of the film. There are certainly some shots there to which you might raise an eyebrow. I think it does have a very Hitchcockian feel but at the same time, there is this whole new wave of films coming out which are more challenging science fiction, which I feel we are part of that wave. TW: Source Code also has two pivotal female characters, Goodwin and Christina Warren. How did Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga get picked? DJ: Jake and I got on very well and started talking about how it could work and who we might want. I suggested Michelle Monaghan, having seen her in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a film by Shane Black, who’s a friend
of mine. So I talked to Shane, who said how wonderful she was to work with and how much fun he’d had with her. One of the beauties of working with Vera Farmiga is there’s so much going on in her face. She’s so able to communicate with the subtlest gestures and she used this ability in our film. I’m so grateful because there isn’t a huge amount of flexibility in where she can go or what she can do or props she can draw on. TW: With the film hitting cinemas, what reaction do you hope you’ll elicit in audiences? DJ: At the end of the film, if half of the audience comes away satisfied with the love story and the experience of the action and the other half are baffling over the ending but enjoying trying to work out the ending, then I’ll be very satisfied. Because I think there’s enough there to keep you engaged on an action and romance level and there’s definitely something to think about at the end of the film if you are of that disposition and you enjoy those kind of puzzles, but not enough to frustrate you. That was the balancing act. Something to keep you interested and make you think but at the same time not leave you frustrated.
Jake Gyllenhaal TW: What attracted you to working with Duncan Jones?
Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), Captain Stevens’ conduit to the real world JAKE GYLLENHAAL: I just thought Moon was stunning from the first frame to the last. When you watch a movie, you can know from the first few minutes whether or not the filmmaker is talented. It was so clear that Duncan was fluent in the language of film. His ability was so agile in the story he was telling that I immediately wanted to work with him after watching two to three minutes of the movie Moon. TW: How different is Source Code to Moon from a central character’s perspective?
JG: The sense of somebody who’s in a situation that at first they’re very lost and they have to find their way through it and discover why they are there, what they’re there for, who put them there. Ultimately there’s an act, not of revenge but there’s a little payback for the people who may have put somebody in a position where they were powerless to get their power back by the end. And that character is my character in this movie and I guess in Moon, Sam Rockwell’s character in a way does the same thing. TW: What was the appeal for you as an actor to sign up? JG: I’m fascinated by time, I’m fascinated by the order of time and if there is any order in time. And working with someone like Duncan who has put so much brain work into it that I feel confident when I decide to do a take that’s a little bit more off the rails.
Director Duncan Jones in action
“I just thought Moon was stunning from the first frame to the last. I immediately wanted to work with him after watching two to three minutes of it.” – JAKE GYLLENHAAL TRIPWIRE DIGITAL 31
TW: Can you reveal a little bit about the character you play and its plot?
JG: In a day and age when the visuals and the visual work is the most important thing to a lot of people, I think he’s just still obsessed with storytelling and watching human moments. That is rare in someone his age who is doing what he’s doing, particularly doing it the cool way he does it in terms of the visuals.
JG: I play Captain Colter Stevens who flies Blackhawk helicopters for the army and who finds himself on a train one morning, not knowing where he is. He is sitting across from this woman, Christina who is acting and talking as if she knows him but he doesn’t know who she is. He’s pretty disoriented and doesn’t know how he’s got where’s he’s gotten to. At the time he’s trying to explain to this woman that he doesn’t know who she is, a freight train passes by in the opposite direction and in the reflection of the window, he can see that when he looks at his face, it’s not his face. Or he thinks it’s not his face so he goes into the bathroom to confirm it. And he realizes that it’s not him, it’s somebody else. TW: What makes Duncan Jones different to his contemporaries?
Source Code Director: Duncan Jones Screenplay: Ben Ripley Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga Optimum Releasing Moon, released in 2009, was Duncan Jones’ longform debut after years beavering away making pop promos. It was a brilliant, accomplished and intelligent science fiction film. So audience expectations for anything he did after would be pretty huge. Source Code, with its estimated $35m budget and a familiar Hollywood face in the shape of Jake Gyllenhaal (Prince of Persia, The Day After Tomorrow), was always going to be a little bit more of a mainstream experience than Moon. Source Code gives us US Army Captain Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal), who kicks off the film in the body of someone else on a train heading to Chicago. Sitting next to him is fellow commuter Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan). They don’t get long to get acquainted, as eight minutes later, a bomb goes off and everyone on the train dies. So Stevens is yanked out of the stranger’s body and back to his own. He discovers that he is part of a government programme that can send him into someone else’s body but only for a period of eight minutes. Goodwin (Farmiga) has been tasked with ordering Stevens
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TW: How different is Source Code when compared with Moon?
Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan): a chance for a new life for Captain Stevens? to keep going back to the train until he uncovers who has been responsible for the bombing, so that a future attack can be prevented. Goodwin’s boss is scientist Dr Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright), who has invented the Source Code technology. All the way through the film, there is a sense of unease that Goodwin and Rutledge are not telling Stevens the whole truth and the payoff is mostly worth the wait. Even though there is more money thrown at Source Code than there was with Moon, Jones continues to show that he is a director interested in exploring human emotion and characterisation. That’s not to say that he doesn’t seem at home with action as watching Stevens return time and again to the train, piecing together more and more of the mystery, never gets old. The Army Captain is a credible and sympathetic protagonist and there is chemistry between Stevens and Warren. Farmiga makes a lot of what is actually quite a small role and Wright’s cameo adds a lot to the mix. With the increased budget and bigger crew, Source Code feels less intimate than Moon but it is still a very claustrophobic experience at times, especially when we see the Captain in his ‘remote module’. Production Designer Barry Chusid (2012, Serenity) has done a sterling job here, creating a world that is real and yet has that sense that something is amiss. Don Burgess’s cinematogra-
JG: We found that this movie is incredibly funny and a lot of the moments that, when you read the script, seem serious turned out to be really funny. So we found ourselves laughing all the time, which whenever you’re making a movie, that kind of energy definitely goes into the final product. The difference between Moon and this movie is that there is a real sense of humour along the way. This is what Colter finds himself in is so outlandish, so sometimes the only respite for him and for the audience is a sense of humour. q
phy is a treat here too, combined with Chris Bacon’s excellent score. From the opening aerial footage of Chicago all the way through to the scenes on the train and the government facility that houses Goodwin and Rutledge, Source Code is an elegant looking film. It owes something to Hitchcock as the director is the first to admit. Like Hitchcock, Jones manages to build tension as the film progresses and so, despite some of its more Hollywood stylings, Source Code is an assured followup to Moon. It’s also a film that should move Jones up the ladder and it will be interesting to see what he with a film with an even bigger budget. An intelligent science fiction thriller with some very likeable performances, Source Code definitely delivers. JOEL MEADOWS
Graphic Novels That You May Have Missed Putting our heads together, TRIPWIRE recommends six recent graphic novels or collections in no particular order that may have escaped your attention and are well worth tracking down.
Starman Omnibus Vol. 5 Writer: James Robinson with David Goyer Artist: Peter Snejbjerg, various DC Comics Since its debut in DC’s Zero Hour crossover back in 1994, James Robinson’s revamp of superhero Starman went on to consistently deliver the best superhero book on the market until its demise in 2001. The company have been representing the title in its durable hardcover format and Volume 5 reprints Starman #47 to #60, Starman One Million and a couple of JSA stories that Jack Knight appeared in. Robinson’s Starman was an unusual creation: firstly, he was a reluctant hero, taking up the mantle after the death of his brother, David, secondly, he was prone to making mistakes, some of which had fatal consequences and lastly, he struck up a friendship with JSA villain The Shade, a character that Robinson turned into probably the best and coolest
gentlemen adversary in modern comics. He also uses the city as a character in its own right and built up an intriguing and vibrant setting. Volume 5 sees Knight heading into deep space to track down the missing brother of his girlfriend, Sadie, a man who happens to have been Starman prior to Knight. He is joined by Mikaal, the bisexual alien Starman, and a holographic representation of Jack’s father, Ted, the Golden Age iteration of the character. Although stylistically, artist Snejbjerg is different to co-creator Tony Harris, somehow his clean lines and simple composition seems to work well in tandem with Robinson and co-plotter David Goyer’s mysteries in space. Also contained here is a ‘Times Past’ tale, #54, concerning Opal City’s sheriff Scalphunter and set back in 1899. Drawn by Craig Hamilton, it is an ornate and beautifully-rendered story with the contrast between
Hamilton’s art nouveau work and the regular artist’s stripped down pages a very effective counterpoint to the rest of the book. Robinson and Goyer manage to imbue Knight’s journey into space with the spirit of DC’s 1950s and 1960s titles like Mystery in Space and Strange Adventures while giving them a modern feel. Starman is most definitely a comic that deserves to be represented in a hardcover format and the Omnibus series preserves them for posterity. The irony is that Volume 5 is probably the weakest of the six volumes but it is still better than any of the other titles around at the same time from other publishers or DC itself. The fact is, that even taking this into account, anybody with a serious interest in modern comics, superhero or otherwise, should have all of the Starman Omnibuses on their shelves. JOEL MEADOWS
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Pinocchio Vampire Slayer Writer: Van Jensen Artist: Dusty Higgins Publisher: SLG Publishing
American Vampire Volume 1 Writer: Scott Snyder with Stephen King Artist: Rafael Albuquerque Publisher: Vertigo/ DC Comics The vampire concept is one that seemed to have been well and truly mined. With True Blood, Twilight and hordes of cash-in films, books and TV series on the subject, it did seem as if it had been drained dry. The fact that Vertigo’s American Vampire series melds gothic horror with a more colonial sensibility gives it a refreshing and unique feel. So rather than having Eastern European counts with a penchant for black cloaks going around biting nubile young women after inviting them back to his castle, we have Skinner Sweet. He’s an American outlaw, a throwback to the Old West who finds himself in Los Angeles of the 1920s at the beginning of Hollywood. Struggling actress Pearl Jones is thrown into a maelstrom of chaos, revenge and violence with Sweet along for the ride. Running concurrently here with Snyder’s tale is a backup penned by none other than Stephen King, who sets the scene by showing us the history of Sweet at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th cen-
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Some stories start with such wild juxtapositions that you have to read them. Some of them fail to deliver. Others knock it out of the park. This book is one of the latter. Pinocchio Vampire Slayer is based around one simple thought: what if Pinocchio, the wooden puppet carved by Geppetto from a piece of living wood fought vampires? After all, he’s made of wood and can grow his own stakes, it’s a natural. Right off the bat, the creators go out of their way to inform us that this is a sequel of sorts to the original story by Carlo Collodi. They sum up the first tale in four pages for people like me that never read it and it helps so we don’t have to dwell on the differences from the more familiar Disney version. As if that’s a problem though! He’s a living puppet, he’s made of wood, his nose grows when he lies and he fights bloodsuckers. Perfect. Events in this story begin some time after the first book when strangers have come to town and strange occurrences begin. Pinocchio has witnessed Geppetto’s death at the hands of vampires and vowed to slay them all. In the process he discovers a conspiracy by the strangers to feed the whole town to tury when he was a train robber and thorn in the side of the authorities. It really fleshes out the character and lends extra credence to Sweet when we see him in the later story. American Vampire really does discard the Victorian bloodsucking clichés and the debauchery and optimism of a young silver screen industry is the perfect setting. Sweet is a classic anti-hero and unreliable narrator, motivated by his own greed and avarice and actress Jones cuts a more sympathetic figure as she tries to understand the world she has been cast into. Artist Albuquerque creates a dynamic world of light and shade and seems equally at home in the flashback story as he does in the one set in the later period. His action sequences are kinetic and exciting without resorting to being bloody for their own sake. Considering that he had come from creating superhero comics for DC prior to this, his art is a real surprise. Snyder, and to a lesser extent King as the co-creator here, uses the vampire archetype to examine the early part of the 20th century with all of its flaws and also to expose the foibles of American culture as it grew from the Old West to a more urban existence. The fact that it does feel very American is one of its greatest
the bloodsuckers. With the help of the ghost cricket, the blue fairy and the carpenter Master Cherry the puppet tries get to the bottom of the mystery even though the strangers have turned the town against him. We follow with them as they discover the truth of what the vampires want and who’s behind it all. The black and white art by Dusty Higgins is frenetic, graphic and cartoony, but really quite appealing. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a Slave Labor book. Meanwhile, the writing by Van Jensen is crisp and poppy, though the language has some anachronisms considering the setting--but that just further serves the absurdity of the story. There’s humor, an as-yet-developed love interest and a twist all while the pacing moves events along so well you just have to enjoy the ride. The ending does seem a little abrupt but the book leaves you wanting more and I hope they can deliver. And it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have the creators go back to the start and adapt the original Pinocchio, the talking wood this bizarre little yarn grew out of. ANDREW GROSSBERG strengths and, if Snyder can maintain the momentum he set up in this first hardcover volume, which represents #1-5 of the series, then this will be a worthy ongoing addition to Vertigo’s impressive canon. It will also be interesting to see how it works without the direct input of King’s accompanying story to lend it extra dramatic credibility. JM
Proof: Book 1: Goatsucker Writer: Alexander Grecian Artist: Riley Rossmo Publisher: Image Comics Proof’s basic premise is a lot like BPRD, only with cryptozoological monsters instead of occult creatures, where instead of Hellboy you have the title character Proof, a “bigfoot.” But the similarity really stops there. Proof shows a lot more concern for the “cryptids” that the characters encounter than the casual violence of the BPRD stories. These creatures are from our world and are in many ways no more anathema to it than a tiger, though just as dangerous. The comic is worth a read just for its philosophical bent. The story starts as we are skillfully brought into Proof’s world via FBI agent Ginger Brown. Agent Brown encounters a golem during a jewelry store heist but no one believes her. Her dogged pursuit of the case gets her reassigned to a mysterious agency called The Lodge. There she is partnered with John “Proof” Prufrock, a possibly immortal Sasquatch and meets Wayne Russet, the man who cares for the animals The Lodge has cap-
tured. But Brown hardly has time to learn about the place before she and Proof are dispatched to Minnesota to investigate apparent cryptid activity. People are being attacked by a creature that wears the skin of its victims, a Chupacabra or goatsucker. However, this creature is no mere animal and shows itself to be very clever and adaptable. As the story progresses we also meet local sheriff Elvis Chestnut who has a very personal attachment to the case. The whole tale ties together quite well and as a reader you still want to see what the following volume will bring. The writing is pretty tight in this story which is tough at the start of a new ongoing series. There are a lot of characters to introduce and there’s a lot of ground to cover. Grecian does a fine job of weaving the current case together with all the exposition about the recurring cast and their world including The Lodge and the people that work there. At times the pop-up “Cryptoid” fact bubbles scattered through the compilation are a little distracting but you get used to it. Rossmo’s art is interesting, almost intoxicating with its muted colour palette and raw-feeling
linework. It’s as if he can’t wait to finish a page and move on to the next one, as excited to complete the work as we are to read it. I’m not sure if I’m a fan of his style yet, but I could learn to be as it reminds me of a weird cross between Kody Chamberlain and Rob Guillory and the work doesn’t interfere. All told the pair has compiled an excellent first volume of what has so far been an entertaining series. ANDREW GROSSBERG
The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor & The Bogus Identity, The Unwritten: Inside Man Writer:Mike Carey Artist: Peter Gross, others Vertigo / DC Comics Mike Carey is a writer who has made a career seemingly of doing great work and not being noticed by the wider comic-reading public.
He wrote a storming run on Hellblazer and fleshed out a Sandman supporting character in Lucifer, both for Vertigo. The Unwritten reunites him with his collaborator on Lucifer, artist Peter Gross and the first two collections reprint issues #1-12. The Unwritten is a series about stories, looking behind the curtain of some of the world’s best-known and bestloved tales. Tommy Taylor is the son of author Wilson Taylor and dining out on the fact that he was used by his father as the protagonist of a series of successful fantasy novels in the vein of Rowling or TH White. But when the border between reality and fantasy starts to blur, Taylor finds himself living a life that he really can’t cope with. At its centre is the question of whether his father is really dead or not and just who is this shadowy group out to do him harm. The Unwritten is endlessly inventive, looking at the power of the story in modern culture and how creations like Frankenstein literally take on a life of their own. The melding of Gross and Carey is the perfect artistic marriage and some of the best work here are the standalone issues. Both collections feature a oneoff tale and in Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity, it is #5, a story called ‘How The Whale Became’. This has Rudyard Kipling as its central character and it suggests that his literary success is linked to a mysterious group who grant him
this success and then cruelly snatch it away. It is a simple but brilliant conceit and Carey brings the world-famous writer to life with rare skill. Gross illustrates it in a different way to the main story, delineating it as a break from the overriding arc, yet intrinsically connected. In the second collection, it is #12, ‘Eliza Mae Hertford’s Willowbank Tales’. Carey is joined for this oneshot by fill-in artists Kurt Huggins and Zelda Devon. But this does not mean that the quality drops one iota as ‘Willowbank Tales’ is a wonderfully dark and nasty parody of Beatrix Potter’s anthropomorphic stories for children with a little bit of AA Milne thrown in for good measure. Huggins and Devon’s painted line art lends it the feel of a children’s picture book but Carey’s subversive script is a brilliant contrast to the seeming naivety of the drawings. The Unwritten is such a rich and cerebral title that it is genuinely hard to give its flavour in a short review but Vertigo should be applauded for publishing a book like this. Carey and Gross, with the help of other artists, have created a comic like no other currently being published in the marketplace today. The Unwritten should have a long and healthy run with scores of awards and critical acclaim thrown its way. A must for fans of intelligent comics. JOEL MEADOWS
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The Cleaners Writers: Joshua Fialkov / Mark Wheaton Artist: Rahsan Ekedal Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Vampires are overdone in our popular literature yet everyone wants to write them. So, the only way they can be handled without a yawn is to either drive a story with strong characters or find a
new take on the idea that has yet to be explored. Fortunately, The Cleaners was a miniseries that did both and it’s available in a self-contained graphic album. The Cleaners is about an ex-doctor named Robert Bellarmine who heads a crew that does freelance crime scene cleaning —sort of like SERVPRO for murders and bodies—and a particular case they get involved with. Robert is so good at his job he appears to be able to smell subtle elements in blood which is a good thing because there’s a lot of it in this comic. We see him cleaning a hotel room and part of a suburban neighborhood where the red stuff is splattered into several yards. The cops don’t know what to make of it all but it dovetails into a recent missing persons case, and several more to boot. Ultimately the case points to people missing in the LA Basin for over a century and it puts Robert onto the trail of a so-called Harvester, a person that uses human tissue or blood to prolong their own life. Robert obsessively tracks the vampire at last catching her in the act which leads to other complications. Without giving away the ending—and frankly it looks like it was supposed to
be longer than four issues at first—the book comes to a quick close with a clever trick by Robert involving parasites. What’s neatest though is that the whole supernatural element is ignored by the characters who simply want to stop a cop-killing murderer whatever she may be. The writing in this story is by rising star Joshua Fialkov and horror writer Mark Wheaton. It’s pretty crisp although at times we might be expected to know just a little too much about the science of crime scene investigating: Cats like a chemical used to help store blood? Okay. But when you synch up with the story it propels you along with the characters towards a solution of the mystery. The art by the overly-talented Rahsan Ekedal is gorgeous, well-rendered and exactly what a comic like this requires. He’s teamed lately with Fialkov in the current comic Echoes and as good as he is, you can expect to see much, much more of him! Overall the package is complete if a little heavy simply because there’s just so much blood you can take, even in a vampire story. It’s well worth the read. AG
Stripwire Welcome to TRIPWIRE’s strip section, where we present the work of artists of note, whether they’re newcomers or established talent…
ROGER LANGRIDGE p38, p41-42 The creator of Fred The Clown, Langridge has also worked for Marvel, DC and Dark Horse and is considered one of the finest comic humour artists currently working in the industry. He finished writing and drawing hit series The Muppets for BOOM! but is working on original series Snarked! also for BOOM! www.hotelfred.com
ROMAN MURADOV p39-40 Illustrator, writer, comic artist. He’s worked for various magazines, papers, advertisement and other media projects including Dark Horse, Loaded and Empire. He’s colour-blind and sees the world in a weird and beautiful way, so his colouring techniques are very unconventional. He’s deeply fond of pyjamas, naps, maple leaves and one-eyed girls. http://www.bluebed.net
CLIVE BARKER/ LEONARDO MANCO p45-53 Clive Barker is a best-selling horror author, writer of books like Nightbreed, Books of Blood and Weaveworld. He directed the film Hellraiser, based on one of his own novellas. Argentinian artist Leonardo Manco has become known for his dark horror and fantasy work on titles like Hellstorm, Hellblazer and Doom. This is a preview of Boom!’s forthcoming Hellraiser series. www.boom-studios.net TRIPWIRE DIGITAL 37
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