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Archive for January, 2019


Known for providing George Lucas with the original designs for several spaceships for the original Star Wars, concept artist Colin Cantwell has revealed photographs of his actual model ships created for Lucas in 1975.  Cantwell, who we discussed here at borg back in 2017, has only in the past few years entered the pop culture convention circuit.  For thirty years Cantwell left the movie design business, working at a computer engineering firm in Colorado.  Now 87, Cantwell has embraced fans of his early work, traveling the country, signing prints of his original Star Wars concept art from 1974-75.

At the same time noted artist Ralph McQuarrie was designing characters and environments in his concept art for Lucas, Cantwell designed the first concept artwork for the X-Wing and Y-Wing Fighters, the TIE Fighter, Star Destroyer, Death Star, T-16 Skyhopper, and the original Millennium Falcon, which was rejected and repurposed as Princess Leia’s ship, the Tantive IV Blockade Runner–the first ship seen in the film.  He designed two other ships that were not used in the film, his Landspeeder and Sandcrawler.  Cantwell has been selling prints of his concept art for the past two years, but this month he began to release images on his Facebook page and website of the actual, original models he made–based on his own designs–that he presented to Lucas in 1975.  He’s selling autographed prints of these images now on his website here.

His models were “kitbashed”–he used existing plastic model kit parts and re-purposed them to make a real-world feel for his ships (and without the time, effort, and cost required for molding his own parts).  Industrial Light and Magic would use this concept to create the Star Wars aesthetic, and set decorator Roger Christian used the idea with real world tech to make the future look lived-in, earning an Oscar for doing so (Lucas offered Cantwell the opportunity to create and lead ILM, but he declined).  Cantwell used the body of a dragster kit, painted pill bottles, plastic Easter eggs, and a WWII bomber turret among other model kit parts.

Cantwell’s original designs were substantially used for the final production models, but Cantwell’s actual T-16 Skyhopper model was used by Mark Hamill as Luke’s own ship model in an early Tatooine scene.  Most recently, Cantwell was recognized by Disney and Hot Wheels with a series of replicas, including his Millennium Falcon/Tantive IV, TIE Fighter, X-Wing Fighter, Star Destroyer, and the unused Landspeeder design.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A new hardcover mini book joins Insight Editions‘ palm-sized book series (check out our review of the Harry Potter book here), this time reprinting 300 covers of the Wonder Woman comic book series, all in color.  So for a list price of $11.99, Wonder Woman fans can now flip through decades of the superheroine’s visual history.  You will be surprised at the volume of reptiles, undersea creatures, and dinosaurs she has wrestled over the decades from 1942 to 1983.

Wonder Woman: The Complete Covers Volume 1 finds Diana, the Amazon warrior-princess, in all sorts of situations–action and adventures featuring her ride, climb, lasso, grab, toss, wrestle, run, dive, fly, strut, sit, lasso some more, block, drive, fight, swing, soar, manhandled, swim, throw, jump, lift, spacewalk, clam surf, hoist trees, punch, sword fight, cry (but only twice), protect, shoot, drown, get tied up or handcuffed, fall, get eaten, kick, put a guy in a headlock, and lasso again, and deflect bullets and lightning, and die.

Who appeared the most with Wonder Woman on the covers of the first 300 issues of the Wonder Woman comic book?  Wonder Woman.  That’s right, DC must have figured if one image of the superheroine sold a 52-page comic, then the Amazon battling herself would bring in even more readers.  How many costume changes did she get in 300 issues?  For the first 177 issues she went from boots to sandal boots and back again, until 1968 when the comics featured a series of mod outfits, but she returned to her classic look with issue 204 (her boots would change yet again).

Check out our preview of Volume 1 and Volume 2 below.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Jon Bernthal returned to Netflix this weekend for Season 2 of Marvel’s The Punisher, continuing in the role of Frank Castle, the comic book vigilante that makes all of the Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, and Keanu Reeves movie action heroes look wimpy by comparison.  Bernthal’s performance as a 21st century hero offers more than the beatings he dishes out (which will make viewers wince, flinch, and duck throughout 13 episodes), it has that subtlety and nuance that shows again Bernthal has the acting chops to be the next Robert De Niro.  And he’s probably the most believable actor as a Marvel comic book tough guy on the big or small screen.

The Punisher fits the superhero bill in his strength, cunning, and skill, and writers Steve Lightfoot, Ken Kristensen, Angela LaManna, Dario Scardapane, Christine Boylan, Felicia D. Henderson, Bruce Marshall Romans, and Laura Jean Leal outperformed the stellar first season with more elaborate set-ups for Castle & Co.  In 2017 the series’ first season made our borg.com best comic book adaptation and best villain with Ben Barnes‘ Billy Russo, and Barnes does it again, creating a worthy foil very different from last time, a character similar in many ways to the complex and somewhat sympathetic Killmonger in Black Panther.  In many ways it’s more of the same, with Amber Rose Revah (Emerald City) as Dinah Madani and Jason R. Moore (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) as Curtis back supporting Castle, this time balancing two big threats.  The cast plays exceptionally well off each other, and it’s a shame this is the final season for the series.

Castle steps in as good Samaritan to protect a teenager played by Giorgia Whigham (The Orville) who becomes the season’s co-lead, a key part of a strange, Manchurian Candidate-inspired political scheme.  Meanwhile Madani pursues Billy Russo, now under the care of a psychiatrist played by series newcomer Floriana Lima.  The beating by Castle in Season One left Russo with memory loss, forgetting Castle nearly killed him only because he killed Castle’s family in the first season of the show.  The key theme again is PTSD and the results of coming home from war as a trained killer with little community support.  In many ways The Punisher is a modern-day read of the post-war classic The Best Years of Our Lives.  Loyalty is a key theme again, too, as is doing what is necessary to protect your own.

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As a grade schooler I’d often smuggle to school a copy of the current mini Legos or Star Wars toy catalog, providing something to distract me from the day with my favorite things.  Harry Potter fans have it better today.  Now Insight Editions has a new take-anywhere volume for anyone needing their Harry Potter fix anytime, The Art of Harry Potter–Mini Book of Graphic DesignAvailable at $11.99 or less, it’s an inexpensive source for the visual details of the movies you didn’t get to see on the big screen.  The images were there, only barely seen on book covers, wrappers, newspapers, signs, and all sorts of paper ephemera that were on the desks, in the backpacks, and on the shelves, those thousands of items that needed to be created by designers to make J.K. Rowling’s books come to life.

In a small package you get more than 50 pages of book cover art and about 20 pages each of potion art, magazines and newspapers, Hogwarts documents, Ministry of Magic documents, maps, heraldry, Quidditch signage, food labels, Beasleys’ joke shop product labels, wanted posters, and other signage, all in full color.  At 304 pages you might expect a giant book of images.  But you’ll be surprised at what can be minimized into a 2.5 x 3.5-inch hardcover pocket-sized book that’s slightly less than an inch thick.  Prior to smart phones readers might have balked at a book with images and type font so small.  Now readers regularly read the equivalent of font sizes of 5 or smaller without thinking about it.  So the adjustment for the eyes for this new line of books in this format isn’t that bad.

Here is an 18-page preview of The Art of Harry Potter — Mini Book of Graphic Design courtesy of Insight Editions:

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A man and his dog.  Who doesn’t want to see the next Sam Elliott movie?  Finally, the 2018 independent film with the crazy title starring the #1 infinitely cool actor of all time is making its way to a U.S. release.  The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot has a title and the movie poster that belongs to a Quentin Tarentino movie.  Mask, Tombstone, The Big Lebowski, Ghost Rider, The Golden Compass.  Sam Elliott brings the tough, cool aura to everything he touches.

In this alternate history (which makes it science fiction), in the last days of World War II, U.S. operative Calvin Barr assassinated Adolf Hitler in a secret mission.  Decades later he is called upon again, this time to hunt down Bigfoot, believed to be responsible for a plague across Canada.  Charismatic younger actor Aidan Turner (The Hobbit trilogy, Poldark) plays younger Barr, and Elliott, the best Western actor who wasn’t in a John Ford movie, plays Barr years later.  Early festival awards have praised the movie’s measured-pace drama, its historical production design, and its compelling score from Joe Kraemer (Jack Reacher, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Mystery Woman).

Wise, surreal, mythic, zany, silly–few films release to such divergent first impressions.  No one can seem to agree what the movie is.  With co-stars like Office Space’s Ron Livingston and comedic actor and stand-up comic turned dramatic actor Larry Miller (Law & Order, Monk, Burn Notice, Medium, L.A. Story, The Nutty Professor)–and that title–it must be a comedy.  Right?  No, apparently freshman director Robert D. Krzykowski has something else up his sleeve.  And early reviews made clear it’s also not a movie with Elliott wreaking havoc as badass action hero or an action movie at all, although a few action scenes are said to center the narrative.

Here is the trailer for The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For fans of BBC’s four seasons of Shetland, while a fifth is in the works, a 2010 series available via Amazon and BritBox may fill in as a bit of a prequel to the Scottish crime drama.  Doctor Who fans may quirk a brow at the words The Silence, but the series villains are no relation to the tense crime drama co-starring Shetland’s Douglas Henshall and deaf actress Genevieve Barr.  The Silence is a four-episode series following Barr as 18-year-old Amelia.  Recently fitted with a cochlear implant, she is adjusting to the device during her “gap year,” the year between high school and college.  It’s a series notable for Shetland and Henshall fans because swap out the character’s DCI Jim Edwards for DI Jimmy Perez and you have basically the same British cop before he went off to Scotland.

DCI Edwards is Amelia’s uncle, and Amelia is staying with him, his wife Maggie (Doctor Who and Law & Order: UK’s Dervla Kirwan), and cousins Tom (Young Dracula’s Harry Ferrier), Joel (Doctors’ Tom Kane), and Sophie (Doctor Who’s Rebecca Oldfield), all while Amelia is attending appointments to practice use of her new hearing device.  Amelia hates it, a concept nobody quite grasps.  She sees being deaf as somewhat defining, a thing everyone else should accept, but her badgering parents, played by Gina McKee (MirrorMask, Emerald City) and Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey, Doctor Who), are the ones who don’t hear.  While staying with her cousins Amelia witnesses a murder, and soon DCI Edwards realizes the likely murderers are within his own police department.

Amelia becomes more than a tangent player to the plot when she tells her uncle she can read the lips of two cops on CCTV footage, implicating several people, and putting Amelia’s life and her uncle’s family and danger, and worse for her uncle, subjecting him to threat of imprisonment per police regulations for not disclosing his niece as an eyewitness.  All of this happens in the series’ four hours, in a story probably better suited edited down into a movie-length production.  And yet it’s all fresh and new–a police procedural unlike any you’ve seen before.

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Yes, that is a poster for Captain Marvel’s cat, who will no doubt upstage the entire cast of the upcoming film, Captain Marvel The cat, named Chewie in the comic books, apparently had a name change for the film, as shown by her new collar.  Now Goose, presumably after Anthony Edwards’ character in Top Gun, leads a new round of character posters for the March theatrical release .  It’s the last of the standalone Marvel movies before April 26, 2019, when it all comes together in Avengers: Endgame.

That cat has her own story, worth checking out in recent (since 2006) back issues of Captain Marvel comics.  And she made it onto an early poster for the film so this is really her second big debut for the movie.

The movie is primarily prequel material, as seen in the posters with younger versions of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson.  The showcased new superhero and spacesuit costumes come from the great genre costume designer Sanja Hays, who we discussed previously here at borg from her panel at San Diego Comic-Con last summer.

   

Other posters show Brie Larson in the starring role, Humans’ Gemma Chan as Minn-Erva, Rogue One and Ready Player One’s Ben Mendelsohn as the Kree-in-disguise Talos, Bulletproof’s Lashana Lynch as Carol Danvers’ aka Captain Marvel’s friend and pilot Maria Rambeau, Djimon Hounsou returning from Guardians of the Galaxy as Korath, Jude Law as Mar-Vell, and Annette Bening as a Kree leader.

Take a look at these ten new posters for Captain Marvel:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Marvel Contest of Champions is a 2014 mobile fighting game from Kabam, released four years ago on iOS and Android, boasting more than 100 million players.  Based on ideas generated from the 1982 three-issue Marvel Comics series Contest of Champions by Mark Gruenwald, John Romita Jr., and Bob Layton, players select superheroes from across the history of the Marvel universe to battle each other.  Both the original comic and the game key in on the scheming machinations of Grandmaster and the Collector, and if the idea sounds familiar, it may be because it was also featured in Marvel’s big screen Thor: Ragnarok, with Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster pitting Chris Hemsworth’s Thor against Mark Ruffalo’s Planet Hulk-inspired gladiator Hulk.

Initially intended to be based on Marvel’s Super Heroes Secret Wars comics, the Contest of Champions video game features more than 100 playable characters, and includes dozens of others.  The characters as realized for the game and the game environments is the focus of a new book from author Paul Davies, Marvel Contest of Champions: The Art of the Battlerealm The book represents one of the rare assemblages of so many characters from all segments of the Marvel universe.  Showcasing the story by Sam Humphries and artwork by Gabriel Frizzera, Luke Ross, and others, the book is full of great character designs, concepts, and final selections.  It even takes readers beyond the events of Infinity War, although the game does not adhere to the movies.

Readers and game players will find it difficult coming up with characters from Marvel Comics not incorporated into Contest of Champions.  In the book they’ll find updated versions of all the superheroes (and many villains) from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, plus the X-Men, Deadpool, Old Man Logan, X-23, Spider-Gwen, Ghost Rider, Howard the Duck, Hyperion, Jane Foster’s Thor, Miles Morales’s Spidey, Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel, Spawn, Dark Phoenix, She-Hulk, Moon Knight, Cable, Gwenpool, Mephisto, Blade, Carnage, and the Inhumans.  Plus there’s the Netflix Marvel series characters, lesser used characters like the future evil Hulk called Maestro, Magik, M.O.D.O.K., Sentry, Sentinel, Sabretooth, Agent Venom, Morningstar, Guillotine, Karnak, Kang, Doctor Voodoo, Black Bolt, and Venompool.  Both Angela, grand-daughter of Odin, and King Groot are brilliantly realized in the game and the book (shown above).

Here are some preview pages from Marvel Contest of Champions: The Art of the Battlerealm:

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It seemed obvious from the release schedule available back in 2017–well before the premiere of Avengers: Infinity War and Spider-Man’s drifting off into dust–but the first trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home confirms what everyone figured, Spider-Man and all his teen-aged friends get out of Avengers: Endgame in one piece.  The biggest reveal?  The “Far from Home” in the title doesn’t mean Spider-Man is left stuck on the planet Titan–where he turned to dust.  Nope.  Looks like it’s just a school trip from his home in NYC to Europe–not all that far away for this Spidey.

But what will be the fifth appearance Tom Holland as Spider-Man (since this takes place right after his fourth appearance in Avengers: Endgame) looks like it has the potential of being as fun as his past appearances, more Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, more Jon Favreau as Happy, and all his school friends returning.  And audiences get their first look at Jake Gyllenhaal‘s Mysterio and a comic villain straight out of the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #212.  Marvel Studios and Sony also released a new poster from the film (below).

We haven’t seen this March’s Captain Marvel yet, but we can’t get enough of Samuel L. Jackson playing Nick Fury, too.  Marvel calls this one a teaser, but it’s just as long as the full length trailers for most movies.

Take a look at the first trailer and images from Spider-Man: Far from Home:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Image Comics is giving the celebrated Eisner and Harvey Award-winning series Battlepug a giant hardcover collected edition this month.  Written and illustrated by Mike Norton, Battlepug: The Compugdium collects all five volumes of the brilliant webcomic.  A series of humor-filled fantasy/adventure tales with the look and vibe of One Thousand and One Nights/Arabian Nights, Tarzan, Conan the Barbarian, Godzilla, and Ray Harryhausen movies, Battlepug is epic and unique.  Following stories told of the last Kinmundian as he rides his giant pug into the next town and next battle, Battlepug represents the best of the comic book and fantasy worlds.

With 336 pages in all with big 8.5 x 12 inch layouts, this is a book you’re going to keep returning to, fun for all ages.  Battlepug: The Compugdium includes Blood and Drool (the dreaded harp seal and Witch Toad!), The Savage Bone (meet Gil and some underwater types), Sit. Stay. Die! (a skull monkey and a host of giant underground beasts await), The Devil’s Biscuit (encounter a giant turtle spirit!), and The Paws of War (face the giant koala!).

Fans who have already gobbled down the five stories will still want to take a look at the Compugdium, as it includes plenty of great additional content: a gallery of 36 pages of Battlepug art from various artists, 15 pages of sketches, including some Norton layouts and early character images, plus cover art prints from the series.

Here are some great pages you’ll find in Battlepug: The Compugdium:

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