Sunday, June 26, 2011

Beyond Reality Media: The House That Bill Built

For the last 15 years, William Geradts (or 'Bill' as he's more commonly known) has been the mastermind behind New Zealand's biggest popular culture convention, the Armageddon Expo.

From a humble beginning as a comics swap meet in a suburban meeting hall, the Armageddon Expo has grown to accommodate a wide variety of popular culture interests over the years, from comics and manga, gaming and sci-fi film and television guests. As it's grown in popularity, it's also increased in size to match; from a floor of Auckland's Aotea Centre to the entire building, it's now so large the ASB Showgrounds is the only venue in Auckland with enough room to contain it. The Expo now hosts up to six events a year, held across New Zealand and Australia in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Melbourne and Adelaide.

Above: William 'Bill' Geradts.

You would think organising this rotating line-up of events would be enough to keep Geradts busy, but over the last year or so he's being dropping curious hints on his Twitter account about plans to broaden his media empire in a more creative direction...and he's now ready to share the results.

From this Friday he'll be making the move from promoter to publisher, with his new online comics company, Beyond Reality Media. Launching with four new comics (and one reprinted), they will be available to read online for FREE with daily updates of two new pages from each title every week. To produce these titles, Geradts has recruited local and international talent to bring these concepts to life.

He's a breakdown of the titles on offer:
Attica: Launching July 1st
Written by William Geradts & Christian Gossett
Art by Darick Robertson & Richard Clark

Synopsis: What if the ancient world’s bloodiest conqueror walked the modern world as its greatest prophet?

Warden: Launching July 4th
Written by William Geradts & Christian Gossett
Art by Alan Robinson, colours by Cristian Gonzalez

Synopsis: What if the world’s greatest superhero is actually something else entirely?

The Inspiration Duncans: Launching July 5th
Written by William Geradts & Richard Fairgray
Art by Michel Mulipola & Gonzalo Mertinez

Synopsis: Patrick discovered the missing link…then killed it. He’s REALLY sorry.

The Red Star: Launching July 6th (previously published by Image Comics)
Created, written & drawn by Christian Gossett, produced with Team Red Star

Synopsis: One of the most celebrated graphic novel series of the decade is an epic mythology inspired by the art and history of the Soviet Union.
Robert Rankin's Empires: Launching July 7th
Written & drawn by Robert Rankin
Colours by Coleen Littleford-Allen

Synopsis: A girl adventurer, a monkey butler, alien invaders and the darkest magic on Earth. The year is 1895 and the world is coming to an end.

It's certainly an interesting and varied line-up of titles, and he's what we know about the creators:

Christian Gossett (co-writer of Attica & Warden, creator of The Red Star): This artist & writer came up through the film industry as a concept artist for Lucas Film, his main claim to fame was his design for Darth Maul's double-sided lightsabre. His comic series The Red Star was originally published through Image Comics in 2001. After several appearances at Armageddon Expo in the early 2000s, I believe he caught the eye of Weta Workshop's Richard Taylor, and was soon providing concept art for King Kong and other film projects for the effects company. The most recent project he contributed to was Alice In Wonderland for Disney.

Robert Rankin (creator of Empires): Is a cult British fantasy/humour author of 33 novels, including Necrophenia (2008) and Retromancer (2009). He originally trained as an illustrator before becoming a full-time writer, so this will be the first project he's fully illustrated himself in over thirty years. The results should prove interesting...

Richard Fairgray (co-writer of The Inspiration Duncans): Richard is best know as the local creator of Blastosaurus, which was published monthly in New Zealand before catching the attention of film producer Jeff Katz, who enlisted Richard and his comic for his American Original publishing company. While Katz has proved to be 'all talk, no walk', Richard has continued to produce his own comics and animation projects, including this new collaboration.

Michel Mulipola (artist of The Inspiration Duncans): Joining Richard on The Inspiration Duncans is Michel Mulipola, a local up and coming Samoan comic book artist. By day he is a comic store clerk at Gotham Comics in Onehunga, and by night he is living the dream as a wrestler AND comic artist (a deadly combination of creativity!).

Alan Robinson (artist of Warden): Alan Robinson is a Chilean artist, responsible for the Weekly World News comic series for IDW. His work can also be found on the Terminator: Salvation Prequel, some Star Wars books, and as co-creator of Lost Squad.

Darick Robertson (artist of Attica issue 1): An A-List talent, Darick is best known for his artwork on such best-selling comics titles as The Boys, Transmetropolitan and Punisher. Taking time out from his busy schedule to provide the artwork for issue one of Attica is a real win for Bill and his team, a move that's guaranteed to turn industry heads.

Richard Clark (artist of Attica issue 3 onwards): Richard Clark has worked for a wide variety of entertainment clients, including: HBO, Playboy, The Wall Street Journal and Marvel & DC Comics. He recently providing finishes over Darick Robertson's breakdowns for The Guild:Vork for Dark Horse.

I think Bill's making a very savvy, smart move here by providing the comics free online before collecting them together as print collections. I've talked about this before, but New Zealand has never had the population to support a print network for comic books they way the US has, despite some noble efforts in the past. As it stands today, it can barely support local magazines and newspapers as the real move towards digital media has truly begun in earnest.

I was curious to see if Bill would attempt a print run, as he does in fact have a very strong and potentially profitable network of distribution set-up through his convention circuit. It would have been an interesting experiment, but the smart money is really online, where his books will be able to reach a much larger audience than our limited print population. Plus his network will still be in place to distribute the online material in collected editions, with the first paperback of Attica due in time for the Auckland Armageddon Expo in October.

So for the first look at these books, visit the Beyond Reality Media website HERE on Friday for the launch of Attica, and witness one of the biggest moves in New Zealand comics for some time. It will be interesting to see how this develops, check back here for creator interviews in the coming months ahead.


All images and logos in this story are copyright Beyond Reality Media 2011, except for The Red Star copyright Christian Gossett 2011.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Glow in the Dark: Green Lantern Movie Review

Above: Ryan Reynolds as Hel Jordan. Copyright Warner Bros/DC Comics 2011.

I have an old beaten-up copy of a
Green Lantern comic from my childhood featuring a letter column in which a reader fantasised about what it would be like to see a Green Lantern movie in theatres; to see the green constructs of the ring-slinger's will power brought to life on the big screen, to hear the lantern's sacred oath spoken in surround sound, "wouldn't that be something?", he wondered.

Almost 20 years later, I was thinking much the same thing at last weekend's movie premiere. Talking with fellow GL comics fans, artist Michel Mulipola and TV personality Colin Mathura-Jeffree, we couldn't help but pinch ourselves: are we really about to see a movie starring Green Lantern?

Much like Marvel's
Ironman, Green Lantern has always been considered a second-tier comics character without the brand recognition of Batman or Superman. But never the less, he's had a loyal fan-base since his re-introduction in Showcase Presents #22 from 1959 (an earlier namesake of the character existed in the 1940s). Re-imagined as the first human recruit in an intergalactic police force by writer John Broome, test pilot Hal Jordan was an immediate hit with fans. It didn't hurt that his adventures were drawn with dynamic action by the legendary artist Gil Kane, who fashioned one of comics' most iconic costume designs for the character, one which is still used in comics today and the basis for the film design.

Above: Ryan Reynolds on set with kiwi director Martin Campbell. Copyright Warner Bros/DC Comics 2011.

Bringing a sci-fi comics character like Green Lantern to the silver screen is no easy task, one that was entrusted to kiwi director Martin Campbell. Known more for his gritty hands-on action films like
Casino Royale, Edge of Darkness and The Mask of Zorro, Campbell certainly had his work cut out for him here; juggling an origin story, explaining the mythology of the Green Lantern Corp, and still trying to find time for humour and romance, while processing all of this in 3D. He may have bitten off more than he can chew, but for the most part he gets it right.

The movie opens with the introduction of the fear-infused entity Parallax, whose appetite for fear and destruction sets events in motion, as he escapes from his imprisonment in a distant sector of space, fatally injuring Green Lantern Abin Sur (an unrecognisable Tem Morrison) in the process. Making a bee-line for earth, Sur's power ring is seeking a worthy replacement, which it finds in the unlikely form of impulsive hot-shot pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds).

Above: Temuera Morrison as Green Lantern Abin Sur. Copyright Warner Bros/DC Comics 2011.

This opportunity to get waaay out of dodge comes at the right time for a restless Jordan, facing disciplinary action for his cocky pilot antics and generally written-off off by everyone bar his ex-girlfriend/boss Carol Farris (Blake Lively) and tech supporter Thomas (Taika Waititi). Once in possession of the ring, he's soon whisked away to the planet Oa, the home of the Green Lantern Corp, for alien boot-camp 101 with instructors Sinestro (a suitable arrogant Mark Strong), Tomar-Re (voiced by Geoffrey Rush) and Kilowog (voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan), and as much plot exposition as he can handle.

Meanwhile back on earth, nerdy scientist Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) is brought in by the government to study the remains of Abin Sur. The autopsy results in a different gift for Hammond: an infection of Parallax's yellow energy, which grants him with telepathic powers and an unsightly enlarged forehead. With their new found powers, Jordan and Hammond are soon on a collision course which inevitably leads to a final showdown with Parallax making a pit-stop to snack on Earth before his final destination, Oa.

Above: A scene set on the planet Oa. Copyright Warner Bros/DC Comics 2011.

As a film, Green Lantern visually stands apart from the crowd with it's unique look and eye-popping visuals, thanks in large part to a couple of Oscar winning kiwis: production designer Grant Major and costume designer Ngila Dickson.

Major's conception of Oa is a joy to behold and sets a new bar for digital environments; it's believably alien, with realistic textures and lighting effects that are only enhanced by the 3D processing. Dickson's decision to go with all CG costumes for the Green Lantern actors is probably the film's biggest gamble, and it pays off. As pure energy constructs themselves, the costumes neatly reinforce the story while making the human actors seamlessly blend in with the legion of CG created creatures. The fact this separation doesn't occur to you immediately only signals just how much of an achievement this really is. It's a true credit to both of them that this film is at it's best during it's cosmic sequences.

Above: Hel Jordan on the Planet Oa, with the rest of the diverse Green Lantern Corp. Copyright Warner Bros/DC Comics 2011.

The film soars in outer-space, it's only when it comes back down to earth that it looses it's momentum on several fronts.

Written by TV veterans Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim and Michael Goldenberg (who between them have written for Everwood, Smallville, Flash Forward, No Ordinary Family as well as comics for DC and Marvel), are no strangers to this kind of material, yet they still struggle with a larger canvas. The story manages to feel both exposition heavy in places and too light in others. To be fair, there is a lot of material to explain in it's two hour running time, but that comes at the expense of characterization. Many of the leads are sketched out with the thinnest of personalities, leaving the actors with some serious heavy lifting. Lively and Waititi particularly have to work hard not to blend in to the background; and Strong as Sinestro does his best, even though in plot terms he has precious little to do.

Above: Hel Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) with Carol Farris (Blake Lively) share a brief emotional moment. Copyright Warner Bros/DC Comics 2011.

A back-story tying Hal, Hector and Carrol together as old friends is alluded to, but is frustratingly underplayed (maybe even cut for pace?), which would have helped give crucial scenes the emotional weight they desperately need. This becomes even more of an issue when the central theme should be 'strength of will can overcome fear'; and apart from a late rally from Reynolds, few of the other characters get the chance to show much of an emotional response at all. The humour and romance is wedged in between all these other moving parts, and comes across as a bit forced. Thankfully Reynolds' natural star-power and easy-going delivery sells the humour, and if he had more than a handful of scenes with Lively perhaps the romance would have felt more natural too (although female viewers may disagree, as apparently a little Reynolds goes a long way!). Drawbacks in the scripting aside, Chambell along with team of effects expects, still manages to elevate this material and give it the grand space opera treatment it deserves.

As is customary with comic films these days, there's a fun after credits teaser; although DC should take note: a teaser scene shouldn't be a plot point that appears to be forgotten from the main feature, as it looks more like a plot-hole and less like a extra treat.

Above: Hel Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) summons his will power. Copyright Warner Bros/DC Comics 2011.

Green Lantern is a promising addition to Warner Bros/DC Comics franchise of comic-based movies, and will hopefully get a the chance to fly again in a sequel free of it's origin story restraints. Best of all, it's easily the most accomplished 3D film to come along since Avatar, which along makes it well worth the ride across the universe.

For more information on the movie, you can visit the official site HERE.

Above: I took some time out from blogging to join the Green Lantern Corp!

Friday, June 10, 2011

New Comics: DUD: The Dunedin Comics Revue #2

Above: The cover of DUD#2, by Tony Scharer. Copyright Tony Scharer 2011.

The second issue from the Dunedin Comics Collective is out now, with a fantastic line-up on comics and tunes!

The comics section contains contributions from: Mat Tait, Robert Scott, Barry Linton, Tim Cornelius, Tokerau Wilson, Ary Jenson, Tom Garden, Garry McLachlan, Chris Stapp, Don Ferns, Scott Savage, Stu Medley, Corn Stone, Dylan Horrocks, Dan Brader & Yi Lang Chen, Alex Gilks, Spencer Hall, Ben Carroll, Roger Langridge, Sam Orchard, Glen Ross, Maria Brett, Barry Linton, Chris Stapp, and 'A History of Dunedin Comics' by Wellington comics historian Tim Bollinger.

The tunes section features songs from: Psychic Maps, Opposite Sex, Sonic Smith, Swampy, Left Or Right, Silo, Thundercub, Mr. Biscuits, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Robert Scott, John White, The Dark Beaks, Shakes and the Swell Guys, Brown, The Communist Rainbow Relationship, The Doyleys, Onesie, The Old Psychiatrists Club, Physicks, Idiot Prayer, TFF, Sewage, Crude, Black Yoghurt, Tim Cornelius, Glasgow, We Aeronauts of the Spirit, $noregazZzm feat Tha Sick Sensei, Mental Health Triangle, Lontalius and The Puddle.

DUD#2 is $20NZ and can be ordered online HERE or you can look for it at these select comic stores around the country: Heroes 4 Sale & Gotham Comics (Auckland), Mark One Comics (Hamilton), Graphic (Wellington) and Comics Compulsion (Christchurch).

If you're an aspiring cartoonist and would like to feature in a future issue (issue #3 is coming together as we speak), check out the Dunedin Comic Collective Blog HERE to find out how you can be involved!


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Marvel sends Roger Langridge to Mars!

Above: The cover for John Carter: A Princess of Mars, by Skottie Young. Copyright Marvel/Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc 2011.

As if he didn't already have a full plate with the announcement of his upcoming series Snarked!, man of the moment Roger Langridge has been tapped by Marvel to write a series of new comic adaptations based on the John Carter of Mars novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. What's special about this project is it's being produced in collaboration with the Edgar Rice Burroughs Estate and will be considered part of the official canon, adding to the mythology of this legendary character.

With a big budget John Carter movie on the horizon from Marvel's corporate owner Disney next year, this is certainly an important book for Marvel, and needed to be match up with the right creator. No stranger to licenced properties after working with Disney and the Jim Henson Company on The Muppet Show comics, and writing rip-roaring adventures in Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Roger Langridge was clearly the perfect fit for this project. He'll be collaborating on the series with artist Filipe Andrade, with covers provided by Skottie Young.

Here's the synopsis from the official press release:

Transported to the dying planet of Mars, Captain John Carter must now fight for his life against creatures unlike any ever seen by mankind. But as he finds himself enveloped by an alien civil war, he meets the proud and beautiful Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, who will change his life forever!

“With our new partnership with Marvel Entertainment, we believe we have found the best creative force to revive the thrills and adventures in the 21st Century of the legendary John Carter of Mars. We are looking forward to introducing this original interplanetary adventurer to a new generation of fans and await the first issue with great anticipation,” said James Sullos, President of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.

“Edgar Rice Burroughs created one of the great action heroes in John Carter and we’re excited to bring his novels to comics for a new generation,” said Axel Alonso, Marvel Editor-In-Chief. “Roger and Filipe are going to blow everyone away with their take on the John Carter novels, keeping fans new and old on the edge of their seats.”

Based on the Novel by EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS
Art and Variant Cover by FILIPE ANDRADE

The first issue of the five part mini-series John Carter: A Princess Of Mars, goes on sale in September for $2.99US. For more details and updates check out Roger's website HERE and of coarse MARVEL.COM.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

New Comics: Threat Level by Jonathan King

Above: The cover of Threat Level by Jonathan King.

He's better known for his inventive films, but Jonathan King, director of New Zealand films Black Sheep & Under The Mountain, is also a very active web cartoonist. He's been producing comic strips via his Tumblr page Eel Noir for over a year, including some fun riffs on Sci-Fi classics like Day Of The Triffids, War Of The Worlds and Doctor Who.

His latest and most accomplished comic Threat Level, a short adventure set in a world where surrealism is a new form of terrorism. King's controlled clear-line art style reminiscent of Tintin creator Hergé is a real treat, especially when things take a turn for the surreal! (a close inspection of the artwork rewards readers with some great details and references). You can read the complete webcomic for free HERE at or inspect it page by page on his Tumblr page HERE.
Above: A page from Threat Level by Jonathan King. This story is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonComercial-NoDerivs 3.0 New Zealand Licence.

For more of Jonathan's comics, visit his Tumblr page for future updates and while you're there enjoy some of his earlier strips!


Friday, June 3, 2011

PREVIEW: Roger Langridge's SNARKED!

Above: The cover of Snarked! #0 by Roger Langridge. Copyright Roger Langridge 2011.

The details are finally out on
Roger Langridge's new comics series Snarked!, to be published in October from KABOOM, the new kids comics imprint from BOOM Studios. Here's the official press release with the details:

June 2, 2011 – Los Angeles, CA – This August, KABOOM! and Roger Langridge want to give you a taste of the all-new All-Ages ongoing series SNARKED with the $1US SNARKED #0 prelude leading into this October’s exciting SNARKED #1! Written and drawn by Roger Langridge, the artistic mastermind behind the fan-favorite MUPPET SHOW COMIC BOOK and THOR: THE MIGHTY AVENGER, SNARKED is a bold re-imagining of Lewis Caroll’s topsy-turvy world! Also shipping this August, for the adult fans of Roger’s work, an all-new trade paperback featuring Langridge’s previously uncollected alt-comix material THE SHOW MUST GO ON, making August a month of Roger Langridge goodness you won’t want to miss!

“Very few cartoonists can combine all-ages fun with exciting adventure, but Roger Langridge pulls it off and makes it look easy!” says BOOM! Studios Editor-in-Chief Matt Gagnon. “Roger’s masterful art along with with his impeccable comedic timing and knack for storytelling will make SNARKED a new classic for comics and literature fans alike.”

“Roger Langridge has another hit on his hands with SNARKED!” says BOOM! Studios Marketing Director Chip Mosher. “Equal parts wonder, action, and hilarity, Roger Langridge has created a stunning world perfect for young and old readers alike! Fans of fantastic tales only have great things to look forward to in ROGER LANGRIDGE’S SNARKED!”

ROGER LANGRIDGE’S SNARKED #0 brings Lewis Carroll’s imaginative world to new heights in a side-splitting adventure that can only be explained as… SNARKED! Presenting a fresh and incredibly modern “Langridge” spin on an already-warped classic, the SNARKED adventure starts here with a self-contained 8-page story featuring The Walrus and The Carpenter from THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS – that’s right, the same Walrus that inspired the Beatles song “I Am the Walrus” is now in Roger Langridge’s merry, mad hands for new all-ages adventures at KABOOM! This $1 all-new original 8-page complete story also contains a full issue’s worth of back matter and dives deep into the world of SNARKED with an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the new series. Don’t miss this comic book industry event! Buy the $1US issue now, pick up the series in October!

THE SHOW MUST GO ON TPB is a volume of previously uncollected cartoon strips written and drawn by Roger Langridge. This title, published under the alt-comix imprint BOOM! Town, is suggested for more mature readers and ships in August with a price point of $14.99US.

What follows is a four page preview of Snarked! #0 to give you a free taste of what's to come:

The welcome announcement of The Show Must Go TPB should be of particular interest to long-time fans of Roger's work. Always a keen contributor to various comics community anthologies and jams, this collection will provide a great showcase for many of these rarely seen gems that Roger has produced over the years.

Above: The cover for The Show Must Go On Trade Paperback by Roger Langridge. Copyright Roger Langridge 2011.

So head down to your nearest comic shop and give Snarked! #0 a try in August for the special price of only $1US dollar! The Show Must Go will also be available that month for $14.99US. With the NZ dollar hitting record highs at the moment, you should be able to pick up these books for a song! (which in this case, it's likely to be "I am the Walrus";)

-AK! Coo Coo Ka-choo!