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Tag Archive: WETA Workshop


Miss Fury Dynamite Comics

We tried on for size almost every new book that was released from comic book publishers like Dynamite Comics, Dark Horse Comics, IDW Publishing, Archaia/BOOM!, and Image.  We tried to sample the best of all that Marvel and DC Comics had to offer, too, and although we didn’t have enough time to review everything we did try to put out there for your consideration those titles we thought our readers might like to check out, especially those with a sci-fi, fantasy, or retro bent.  Our pull list included issues from Afterlife with Archie to Django Unchained, from Liberator to Larfleezeand from Velvet to The X-Files.  This past month we have reviewed the year-long run of the best of these titles, as we narrowed our selections to 21 of the very best entries in genre entertainment outside of TV and movies, which we revealed here yesterday.  So here are the rest of our picks for the Best of 2013.

Kane Starkiller borg by Mike Mayhew

Best Borg Appearance – Kane Starkiller, The Star Wars.  Borgs showed up everywhere this year, from the lead characters on Almost Human, to Doctor Who, to countless comic book series including Justice League and RoboCop.  Our favorite appearance came from the young mind of George Lucas as he created the original script that would later be edited into the original Star Wars trilogy.  And through Dark Horse Comics’ The Star Wars monthly comic book event we learned one of his best ideas was merged into other roles and one of his best characters entirely cut.   That character was Jedi Kane Starkiller, who would reveal his cyborg chest implants that kept him alive, later to heroically give up this life-saving technology to save his friends.

MissFury001-Cov-Renaud

Best Comic Book Series – Miss Fury, Dynamite Comics.  A uniquely crafted tale, a compelling and seductive superhero, great action panel after panel, sourced in a long-shelved classic character of the Golden Age of comics.  Rob Williams and Jack Herbert’s Miss Fury is a carefully rendered update that rings true to the edgy spirit of the world’s first female superhero.  Beautiful panels set up an ever-changing time and place and pull readers along for the ride.  And stuck-out-of-time Marla Drake and her alter ego Miss Fury could not have looked better, whether carving out her place in the 1940s or as she was teleported into the future.  It’s a series no one should miss.

Clint Barton Hawkeye by Fraction

Best Comic Book Writing – Matt Fraction, Hawkeye.  Last year revealed one of the best comic book series we ever read, focusing on that “other” superhero archer, the second tier Marvel Comics superhero Hawkeye.  Matt Fraction gave us the most interesting set-up and look into the daily life of a superhero who isn’t Captain America or Iron Man.  This year he kept up the momentum in his Hawkeye monthly series, providing stories that challenged readers, each issue taking a different peek into Clint Barton, another costumed superhero called Hawkeye, and their trusty dog.

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Juliens LOTR auction

It could go down as the best auction of The Lord of the Rings props and costumes ever sold at auction simply from four of its offerings.  Called “The Trilogy Collection–Props and Costumes from Middle-Earth,” Julien’s is offering several items on the auction block next month.  The key items being auctioned belong to a group of screen-used props that were given away as part of a Hasbro Toys/New Line Cinema contest to promote the release of the third LOTR installment, the 2003 Academy Award winning best picture The Return of the King.  Described as “one of eight main character props used heavily in The Lord of the Rings,” look for Aragorn’s sword, Frodo’s “Sting” sword, Eowyn’s sword, and Gimli’s battle axe, each expected to fetch prices ranging from $30,000 to $70,000, with Frodo’s sword expected to sell between $100,000 and $150,000.  These four pieces are the true headliners of the Julien’s auction, and by themselves would make for a great auction.  Although it raises the questions: Why didn’t these props get dispersed to fans in the sweepstakes, and if they were given away how did four of the props end up in the same place?

It’s because collector Troika Brodsky is selling his collection of four of the sweepstakes prizes he tracked down and bought from prizewinners discussed here.  He refers to the Frodo sword in the linked article as a stunt prop, based on wear and damage.  An interview about his entire collection being auctioned can be found here.

Aragorn sword

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Elysium-The-Art-of-the-Film

Art designers or aspiring art design students will want to pick up Mark Salisbury’s new look at creating sets, costumes and props for a world of the future in Elysium: The Art of the Film Incorporating commentary from the up-and-coming science fiction director of the geo-political sci-fi thriller District 9, Neill Blomkamp, this new large format hardcover delves into the creative process from early ponderings to the imagery that made it to the final film cut.

Like listening to the first demo tapes of your favorite band or scanning the rough sketches of your favorite artist, taking a peek at the development of Hollywood magic through various aspects of a film can teach you a lot about a designer.  Watching the development of a cyborg exo-skeletal costume from inception to final crafted piece challenges the reader to agree or disagree with what is cut and what isn’t.  What physical elements, like utilitarian tubes and pipes, plastics or metals, make us think of the visual “future”?

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The Hobbit Chronicles Creatures and Characters

If you haven’t seen the incredible bestselling book The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey Chronicles: Art and Design, check out our earlier review here at borg.com.  It’s a superb behind the scenes look at the artistry of the real-life wizards at Weta Workshop in New Zealand.  Weta hones in on the development of various species and beasts of Middle Earth in their new companion book in the Chronicles series: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Chronicles–Creatures & Characters As with the earlier book in the series, Creatures & Characters features first-hand accounts from the actors, makeup artists, digital effects specialists, dialect coaches, prosthetics technicians, movement coaches, and other artists and designers from the production.  High quality, close-up and detailed photos of every major character in the film will make this a must-have for Middle Earth cosplayers.

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Weta Workshop designer Daniel Falconer has created a book equal to the first volume he created in the series while taking a different approach to the film’s subject matter. Where the first volume highlighted costumes, props and set design, the second volume focuses on make-up, prosthetics and hair creation, casting the actors for the differing Middle Earth races, stunt and movement work, and dialect creation.  As compared to The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, The Hobbit expanded its use of digital characterization, freeing up the production to create new fantastical scenes beyond what was possible before.  Actor and second unit director Andy Serkis and Gollum’s co-creators discuss the character’s role in the story and Serkis’s creation of the character compared to his work in the original trilogy.

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Hobbit book Chronicles from Weta

We have reviewed many incredible books about movies here at borg.com.  Beginning with Special Effects: The History and Technique and its master class in film study to the book on movie posters The Art of Drew Struzan, to the recent Syfy Channel Book of Sci-fi, we have discussed a variety of the very best books on films and filmmaking, but also the best books on specific productions that the market has to offer.  If you missed them, here are links to some of the best books out there:

Each of these books had great content and a great way of sharing it with the reader, making for an immersive experience for the true fan.  And there are even more great books in our review pile, from Raiders of the Lost Ark and even more from Star Wars.  Then we laid our hands on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Chronicles: Art and Design, thanks to the folks at Weta.  In my view Weta is the best magic and fantasy shop in the world.  Where we once were dazzled by the spectacles created by Industrial Light and Magic as the coolest, newest cutting edge movie factory, since The Lord of the Rings trilogy ILM has been replaced by the artists, the painters, designers, sculptors, modelers, costumers and builders at Weta studios in New Zealand.  Their elaborate sets, props, costumes, make-up–you name it–in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey made for the most incredible fantasy world put on film.  Ever.  So it’s awesome that Weta put together a book that not only highlights The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’s wondrous creations, but the actual artists that made it all happen.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Chronicles: Art and Design was compiled by Weta Workshop senior concept designer Daniel Falconer.  In itself it has the look and feel of a prop from the film, from its finely tooled cover to its pull-out, glow in the dark Thorin’s map inside the front cover to the three page fold-out of Bilbo’s contract.  It’s the first book in a series to cover different artistic aspects of The Hobbit movies.  Containing 1,000 images of concept art, sketches, a cross-section of the 9,000 paintings created for The Hobbit, props, costumes, hair designs, and sets, it reveals the vision behind the Weta departments that created them.  Unlike any book I have seen before, it has a key code that credits each department, designer, or artist that developed what you see in the photos.  Some of these are tried and discarded face applications and wigs, like this one for the dwarf Oin:

Hobbit chronicles Oin spread

Other pages focus on characters’ props, including pencil designs, paintings, and detail that any cosplayer would love to delve into for his or her favorite character, like these hand props for the dwarf Ori:

Hobbit Chronicles props

Other pages show the elaborate costume designs.  And all include commentary by the artists who came up with concepts and designs.  Production designer and Academy Award winner Dan Hennah sums up why this focus on the artists make so much sense: “Film is a collaborative medium and requires the complete attention of every person involved to find the images that will make the final cut.  Each artist is encouraged to bring their individual vision to the project and work it in with others to make a cohesive part of the big picture…. For a fantasy movie to succeed, it must transport the viewer into a totally believable world where Dwarves, Dragons, Wizards, Elves, Goblins, Orcs, Trolls and hobbits all exist in a seamless mix of complimentary environments.”

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The book begins with views of Hobbiton, which had to be re-created from The Lord of the Rings in exacting detail and fleshed out for expanded use in The Hobbit.  We find Bilbo and his costume designs and concept art for Bag End.  It moves on to Thorin and his band of dwarves in comparison art showing final designs down to each dwarf’s boots.  Dwarf by dwarf we’re given access to trial shots of each dwarf, all used to develop the final look for the film.  Each belt, purse, sword and shield is shown for each character, again, with explanations why one design was chosen over others from Dan Hennah, “3 foot 7″ Costume Designer Ann Maskrey, Academy Award Winners Peter King, and “3 foot 7″ Make-up and Hair Designer and Weta Workshop’s Design and Special Effects Supervisor Richard Taylor.

Hobbit contract in Weta Chronicles

The book then turns to the flashback scenes of historic dwarves, of ancient battles and armor designs.  We get an introduction to Radagast the Brown, the new wizard we meet in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  Two chapters turn to environments chosen, from real life cliffs modified digitally for scene use to a revisit to the elf town of Rivendell.  And we get to see up close trolls, stone giants, and goblins, including the thoughts behind the development of the hideous Great Goblin, and a look at the familiar Gollum.

hobbit-chronicles-book

The book showcases the art of concept art directors Alan Lee and John Howe, and work from the several artists of the film’s “3 foot 7″ Art Department, Costume Department and Weta Workshop–dozens of creative filmmakers who live and work in Wellington, New Zealand.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Chronicles: Art and Design  can be purchased from Weta at their website here.  Their second volume, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Chronicles: Creatures and Characters will be published in April 2013 and we will preview it here at borg.com.  It can be pre-ordered now here.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

You’ll be hard-pressed to find another character like Boba Fett.  As merely one among innumerable creations of George Lucas, his own Man with No Name cultivated his own mystique and fans elevated him to cult status.  Those who grew up with Star Wars as I did first met Boba Fett on the front cover of an action figure package, an image of a freebie toy you could mail in to receive for saving the little proofs of purchase off the back of the packages.  If you ordered early, like the kid up my street did, you might get not only one but two rocket firing action figures and you could sit across from each other and fire away.  The most fun action figure ever made, Kenner quickly decided to glue in the rocket for safety concerns.

Boba also appeared on a holiday Star Wars special many prefer to forget (not me).  One of several of Lucas’s BF characters (like Bob Falfa in American Graffiti and Bib Fortuna in Return of the Jedi), there is no reason kids should have flocked to him like we did.  His appearance in The Empire Strikes Back was for mere minutes of film.  He was left to a cruddy death scene in Return of the Jedi, one of the reasons I saw Return of the Jedi in the theater once vs. having seen Star Wars in its original theater run ten times.

Boba Fett was so popular Lucas brought his image and armor back in his prequels in the form of his father, Jango Fett, even establishing that every Stormtrooper in the Empire was a clone of his father, and the early clone troopers became an early in-universe variant of Boba’s Mandalorian armor.  This wouldn’t have happened but for this unique status fans brought to this character.  Regardless of why we like him and think he is the epitome of all things cool, it’s hard to deny his incredible worn and damaged armor is a key part of his appeal.  Created by Joe Johnston it stands out among the best creations of any sci-fi character in any franchise.

So it is a superb pick for the subject of this year’s big charity event at Star Wars Celebration VI.  Working with the Make a Wish Foundation, the As You Wish Helmet Project is a charity event that invites designers and other artists to take a plain vanilla Boba Fett or Clone Trooper helmet, supplied by an entrepreneurial costume creation house called  The Dented Helmet, and turn the helmets into something unique.

More than 40 artists have signed up and are providing the finishing touches on their creations this week.  The final results will be displayed in the Dented Helmet booth at Star Wars Celebration VI beginning this Thursday, August 23, 2012 to Sunday, August 26, 2012, in Orlando, Florida.  After the Celebration is over, the Make-A-Wish Foundation will auction off all of the helmets on eBay, with 100% of the proceeds going to the charity.

Although it’s not a contest, you can’t help but recognize how the artists put all their passion into these creations, which are being previewed as they are finished on Facebook.  And with that, we’ve included several helmets above that will hopefully fetch some good bids for a good cause, including one that was re-created by original designer Johnston, shown above at the top of this article.  My favorite is the creation of my friend Tom Spina, who provided a stunning, inspired mash-up of the original Total Recall and our favorite bounty hunter, complete with life-like Arnold Schwarzenegger life-mask.  Like Spina’s creations in this year’s Super Bowl ad where he re-created the famous Star Wars cantina scene, here again he went all out and the result is as cool as Fett himself.

Mark your calendar for this auction.  It’s not every day that a Joe Johnston Boba Fett helmet is available to the public and even though it’s not screen-used, you know you want one.  With creations from Spina, WETA Workshop, ANOVOS, Sideshow Collectibles and dozens of other artists, this event will be sure to turn heads.  Check out the links above for images of other inspired works of sci-fi art.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

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