Tag Archive: Bernie Wrightson

Review by C.J. Bunce

If you were an artist and asked to create a modern, retro poster based on John Carpenter’s 1982 cult favorite sci-fi/horror movie The Thing, what would be your centerpiece?  Kurt Russell’s arctic helicopter pilot MacReady?  The mimicking monster in one of its many phases?  Maybe just the secluded facility among the snow drifts?  Incorporate the dogs?  The sprawling logo?  More than 350 artists were asked to do just that, and the result is publisher Printed in Blood’s The Thing Artbook, showcasing the many ways artists see the film, 35 years later.

Dedicated to legendary horror artist Bernie Wrightson, the book includes a foreword by Eli Roth (Death Wish), a few pages of storyboard concept art from comic book artist Mike Ploog and illustrator William Stout, and page after page of images based on the film, reflecting a first frame to last frame look at the movie.  Some designs hint at the horror that awaits, others provide an in-your-face look at the gory creature transformations the film is known for.  And several incorporate that marketing tagline, “Man is the Warmest Place to Hide.”  All attempt to challenge the senses, visions created in styles of impressionism, avant garde, mod, art nouveau, psychedelic, abstract, art deco, travel, or other retro/vintage homage–something from the myriad designs will appeal to every fan of the film.

Poster interpretations of The Thing from artist Adam Cockerton (left) and Bryan Fyffe (right) in The Thing Artbook.

Artists providing work for The Thing Artbook include Dave Dorman, Bryan Fyffe, Bryan Timmins, Joe Corroney, Jeff Lemire, Ben Templesmith, Kate Kennedy, Francesco Francavilla, Dan Panosian, Tim Seeley, Adam Cockerton, Bill Sienkiewicz, Nicole Falk, Brian Rood, Peter Steigerwald, Tim Bradstreet, Sam Gilbey, Michael Godwin, Salvador Anguiano, Rio Burton, Neil Davies, Steve Thomas, Dave Acosta, Chris Sears, Cecil Porter, and hundreds more.

Take a look at some other images from the book:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In the climax of Batman Volume 1: The Court of Owls, a battered Batman looks up and utters “…I am sick… to death… of owls!”  Me, too, I thought, after seven chapters of the first released hardcover of the New 52, written by Scott Snyder with pencils by Greg Capullo.  Hardly a page of the first seven issues of the rebooted Batman series does not include an owl, worked into the background or architecture or elsewhere.   There’s not a lot of subtlety to be found here.

Although I’d put David Peterson’s owl renderings in Mouse Guard up against Capullo’s any day, Capullo does a nice job of working owls into the story.  In fact his art and the overall look of this hardcover puts it in the camp of prior trade compilations like Batman: The Cult.  It certainly surpasses Grant Morrison and David McKean’s equally dark Arkham Asylum in both story and art.  That said, it fails to achieve the excitement, fun, and energy of Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s Batman: Hush or Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s Batman: The Killing Joke, or the mythology of Batman found in Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One.  If you like your Batman not only dark but flawed, making as many bad decisions as good, and you’re tired of the recycled pantheon of Bat-villains, this book may be for you.  Unfortunately, the twists and excellent execution of story found in Issue #1 of this Batman series didn’t hold out, the owl-villainy doesn’t match the classic bat-villains, and so the series became monotonous and tired by Issue #7 for this reader.

I haven’t seen a lot of continuity of story presentation across the New 52 titles.  But of all the titles I’d hoped for more origin of Batman than is peppered in flashback through the first seven chapters of this compilation.  Had The Court of Owls been a story arc in a normal year of Batman stories, I may have actually appreciated it more.  But as part of a launch that was to allow new readers to enter and understand the series, I think this series doesn’t make any headway.  That said, what’s there really to understand?  It’s just Batman, right?  As the leading title of DC Comics, I think despite its great sales, the story doesn’t have broad appeal.  Why is everyone reading it then?  With all the Bat-titles in the reboot, this series started out as the best and is probably considered the best, but we’re all not just waiting for another good Batman story, we want another great Batman story and we’re willing to keep coming back until we get it.

The hook of the owl as a creature of night who eats bats as a visual or storytelling concept would have worked for me for an issue or two.  Today DC Comics have The Court of Owls – Night of the Owls story permeating throughout the DC New 52 titles as a crossover event.  What is the Court of Owls?  It’s a bit like an evil version of the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, mixed with the Masons as revealed in the National Treasure series, and a chemical reaction that allows humans to be immortal.  Despite all the years of Bruce Wayne exploring and building out a batcave, and his long understanding of Gotham City as his city, suddenly we readers are introduced to a concept never before even hinted at, and a mention that… oh, yeah, Bruce Wayne tried to hunt down the Court of Owls as a kid and ultimately came to the realization they did not exist.  The problem is, unlike the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword’s noble cause, we are given no motivation for the Court’s evil doings.  They’re just bad guys.  If you had this much power, would you live like these masked ghouls under Gotham or would you live the high life?

That said, there is a lot to like in this series.  Snyder’s use of modern technology to assist Batman is well placed. Dick Grayson’s Nightwing has hardly been better as Batman’s sidekick, including a brilliant turn as Joker to fool the inmates of Arkham Asylum.  The entire supporting cast, although hardly used, have nice moments, including Tim Drake, Commissioner Gordon and even Alfred.   Capullo’s art is as good as any of Jim Lee’s best Batman work.  Capullo and Snyder both are obviously passionate about creating a complex Bat-tale, and for that, the book is worth a second read.  With that second read, more plotted foreshadowing can be found.  The Court of Owls was clearly not an easy tale to construct, both from a story concept or visually.  And as a starting point, Issue #1 is one of the best issues of Batman you’ll ever read.  If you like Batman in a chamber of horrors, Snyder and Capullo’s vision has the feel of the crazy masked club of Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide ShutUnfortunately I just didn’t find the arc compelling enough to keep me hooked for all seven issues.

Batman: The Court of Owlsseems to borrow a bit from Jim Starlin and Bernie Wrightson’s Batman: The Cult in story and look.  Capullo’s depictions of a tortured Batman are equal to the horror and drama depicted in Bernie Wrightson’s panels in The Cult.  That’s high praise for Capullo as Wrightson’s work on The Cult was nicely done.  But I was never fond of Batman being duped and sucked into the villain’s world, or portrayed as less than genius, and even allowed to be beaten to a pulp.  All that happened in both Batman: The Cult and Batman: The Court of Owls This is why I found myself on the side of Nightwing in the sparring between the two–and I am not typically a fan of Nightwing.  I prefer my Bat-story to show Batman in the shadows more, as the detective who doesn’t become emotional or fall for the villains’ traps like the Batman of the camp 1960s TV series.  Finally, I was distracted by how much the Court’s henchman Talon looked like Watchmen’s cool hero Nite Owl.

Nite Owl from Watchmen.

A big plus of this hardcover edition can be found at the back of the book.  Snyder’s script for issues #1 and Capullo’s pencil roughs that accompany that story reveal some of their creative process, which I always love to see.  And along with Greg Capullo’s superb cover art (it’s great when a publisher allows the interior penciller to also create the cover art!), the appendix also includes full page color images of the alternate, incentive covers.

If you want to give Batman: The Court of Owls a try, it is now available at local comic book stores and online.  Editors Note:  Check out my review of the hardcover of Night of the Owls–all the crossover issues compiled–at this link.

By C.J. Bunce

One of the Midwest’s best pop culture and comic book conventions was this past weekend, Planet Comicon, which has been Kansas City’s largest fan convention for more than a dozen years.  The show seemed to be bursting from its seams this year with thousands of guests, and appears to be outgrowing its venue at the Overland Park International Trade Center.

The film and TV headliners for this year’s show included Edward James Olmos, best known to sci-fi fans for his role in Blade Runner and as Adama in the Battlestar Galactica reboot series.  He signed autographs and took photos with fans both days of the show.  Here he is with Erin Gray, who appeared with other actors from the 1979-1981 TV series Buck Rogers and the 25th Century: 

Gray also appeared on an episode of the Syfy Channel’s Hollywood Treasure last year.

The other featured major guest from film and TV was Billy Dee Williams, best known as Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, but also as Harvey Dent alongside Michael Keaton in the 1989 Batman film.  His current work includes a stint on USA’s White Collar.

Billy Dee also appeared at the show both days.  (I offered a woman in line $5 to say “Billy Dee, Billy Dee, Billy Dee!” when she finally met him but didn’t take me up on it.  And it’s OK if you don’t get that reference).

Early Saturday morning legendary comic book artist Michael Golden is getting fueled up before embarking on a sketch of Green Arrow:

Green Arrow by Michael Golden. How cool is that?

Michael is known for his work on such titles like Marvel Comics series The ‘Nam, GI Joe Yearbook, Star Wars, and Micronauts.  He is also the co-creator of the X-Men character Rogue.

I’ve been a fan of the different styles Mike Norton uses in his art for quite a while.  Here he is signing one of his comic pages for the Green Arrow/Black Canary series, where he did the pencil work and comic book legend Bill Sienkiewicz provided the ink work:

Mike is working on a creator-owned project currently and has previously worked on Runaways, Gravity, the Young Justice animated series comic book.  He was actively sketching pages for fans at the show and produced probably a dozen at least over the weekend, including this great image for me:

Unfortunately Bernie Wrightson wasn’t sketching at this year’s convention, but he was signing plenty of shirts and books for his Frankenstein book.  Wrightson’s horror artwork goes back several decades, with his first published comic work with House of Mystery in 1969.  He co-created Swamp Thing in 1971.  His work has appeared in Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella, and Batman: The Cult.  Here Wrightson is at a signing table with Freddie Williams II and his wife Kiki:

Freddie is well known for his work on his Robin series, and is currently one of the DC Comics top artists.  We reviewed his and JT Krul’s Captain Atom series here at a few weeks ago.  Freddie was busy creating sketches for fans and speaking on panels at the show.

Currently working on projects for Dynamite Comics, Bionic Man writer Phil Hester and Lone Ranger writer Ande Parks had pages of original artwork as well as copies of their books new and old that they were signing for fans, including a lot of low-priced original art from their run on the DC Comics Green Arrow series:

It’s great that these guys have tackled both the writing and illustration sides of comic book creation.

I got to catch up again with a couple well known Kansas City authors.  Here, Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore, two of the best known authors of Star Trek novels, talk with fans at the show.

The NBC TV series Heroes co-creator Tim Sale was signing books and art at his booth:

Sales’ past work includes art in Batman: Dark Victory, Batman: The Long Halloween, Daredevil: Yellow, Hulk: Grey, Spider-Man: Blue and Superman For All Seasons.  (What’s with these color titles, anyway?).  His unique stylized paintings on Heroes featured into the plot of the series.

I spent time chatting with Rob B. Davis, currently providing illustrations for a Sherlock Holmes series and past artist for Malibu’s Deep Space Nine comic book series, writer Jai Nitz, who was juggling signing copies of his Kato and Tron: Betrayal series while moderating different comic book panels at the show, writer Art Schmidt, local writer Justin Cline manning the front of the convention, and Todd Aaron Smith, who sketched this great Black Canary image for me:

Smith had provided storyboards for Family Guy and other animation art for shows like South Park and various DC Comics and Marvel Comics TV series.  Current Marvel Comics lead writer Jason Aaron could be found with some good lines of fans waiting to get copies of his various Hulk, Wolverine and X-men series signed:

The facility was packed wall to wall with plenty of booths selling everything from graphic novels to collectible action figures, original comic book art, and comic book back issues.  Here, Elite Comics comic book store owner William Binderup appears to be raking in some cash from sales of comics at his booth:

Show producer Chris Jackson seemed pleased with the success of this year’s convention.

And of course there were plenty of cosplayers.  Here a few Batman characters huddled for a photo:

But I think the best was this “Hello Kitty meets Stormtrooper” mash-up:

No doubt it would have been a far different Star Wars had Luke showed up to rescue the princess with this outfit.

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