Wednesday, 22 November 2017

The Combat Art of Ian Kennedy

If you read my previous post about Commando Comics artist Jordi Penalva I mentioned that i'd probably feature another artist on my blog. This time I've decided to profile some of Ian Kennedy's amazing artwork. Kennedy is perhaps one of the most popular artists of the Commando comic series and has illustrated over 1200 covers.
Kennedy resides in a small cottage in Dundee where he paints in his studio, he started work for D.C Thompson as a staff artist in 1949 but went freelance in 1954. Kennedy provided artwork duties on 200AD for IPC, he also provided work for Battle Picture Weekly and Eagle on the Dan Dare series. Kennedy has been a Commando artist since 1971.

Kennedy prefers to work in acrylic which he says is a lot more forgiving as a medium, his art has a more detailed, highly finished look to it accented by the use of light. Kennedy relies on a vast array of reference material to stay true to his painted subjects which feature accurate depictions of military weapons, aircraft and uniforms. It is perhaps his incredible attention to detail and dramatic artwork that has made him a hot favorite with Commando readers over the decades.

As of 1997 he is semi retired but was still painting Commando covers in 2016.

Below is a small sample of his incredible work.

SAS Blades, one of my favorite Ian Kennedy pieces

Falklands combat piece

His last new comic strip to be published in a British comic, “Bombs On Target” in Commando issue 3072 published in 1996, featured Lancaster bombers

Ian Kennedy in his Cottage studio

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

The Commando Comic Art of Jordi Penalva

Aside from my love of comic collecting which hit its peak between 1988 and 1991 I had previously grown fond of the small pocket sized 'Commando' graphic novels, I collected these from the time I was 12 to about the time I turned 15 - these  smaller, square formatted black and white graphic novels were normally set during World War 2 and depicted Allied soldiers on daring missions featuring land sea and air divisions of the military. The Commando comic was published by D.C Thompson and every issue featured a very dramatic, danger filled scenario on its cover which was in full colour and produced by the very talented contracted artists in traditional oil or acrylic paint.

The covers themselves almost always told a story in their own way, killer visuals, eye popping colour and composition that really amped up the comics impact on shelf.
I'll probably profile a couple of these artists in detail on this blog for anyone interested but the first artist I wanted to draw attention to was Jordi Penalva.

Penalva who was born in 1927 and learnt his illustrative craft at the Escola d'Arts Aplicades i d'Ofocos Artostocs de Barcelona (School of Arts and Artistic Trades),he further honed these skills at the Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes de Sant Jordi (School of Fine Arts).

His illustrative cover career really took off when he painted the covers for Cowboy Picture Library in 1958 where he painted 146 covers depicting the high adventure life of cowboys and gunslingers, his early career also saw him paint covers for Thriller Picture Library and Lone Rider Picture Library. However, it was Jordis dramatic composition and artistic flair that saw him deliver his best work as a Fleetway artist for the War and Battle picture libraries in the 1960's. It was in the mid 1960's where Penalva also worked for D.C Thompson's Commando pocket library, over a period of 10 years he painted 180 covers for the Commando series. Jordis high demand also saw him provide illustrations for other publications such as Playboy Press and the horror series for Eerie and in particular he provided art for Semic's newspaper strips of James Bond, Modesty Blaise and The Saint.

Below is a small sampling of his work and composition skills that celebrate his talents as one of the best cover artists for the picture library press.

 Jordi's style varied between more softer highly detailed work to a more gritty and textured style of painting.

Anatomy and attention to detail were important for cover art, note how the sten gun here is shown unloaded as the Commando scales the rock face.

 High action and drama were key in selling the covers to eager readers, notice how the German soldier in this art is practically framing the entire image and focal point for the viewer.

 Some of Penalva's work featured some strong textures further adding to the dramatic presentation of the artwork.

 The high tension covers set the tone of the interior and art either depicted full on action combat or the 'calm before the storm'.
 Penalva's Sean Connery piece for the work he did on the James Bond strip for Semic Newspapers.(below)

Jordi Penalvas original artwork can be bought here

Monday, 13 November 2017

The Best of Cosplay - Go Big or Stay at Home.

Lets face it, there is at least one time in your life that you dressed up as someone else, be that when you were a kid or maybe for a fancy dress party at a New Years party. Fancy dress parties are a good excuse to either great a bloody awesome outfit, or if you're aiming for laughs to get one that looks like your kid made it in pre-school. With Fancy dress you pop down to the party rental shop, pick out something that kind of resembles the character, tv show or movie hero personality, you get kitted out, turn up and then freak out for the remainder of the night praying to god you don't lose your deposit because someone either threw up vodka punch and tortillas all over it or burnt a hole in it with a stray cigarette.

Then there's the other kind of dressing, the more serious kind where creators spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on becoming their fictional idol or favorite character for expos and other video game or comic con related appearances. Cosplay as the Cambridge Dictionary more accurately describes it " is the hobby of dressing as and pretending to be a character from a film, TV program, comic book etc. Cosplay has been a way for people to express themselves in a way that their everyday life prevents them from doing so, they use the opportunity to transform into a fictional hero or personality attending trade events to mingle with other like-minded fans and aficionados. The great thing about cosplay though is you can be as casual or as serious about it as you like, be that a costume you made yourself with some household bits and bobs or you can pay someone else to build you something that you'll wear every single time you hit an event or conference effectively becoming that hero for the day. Cosplay is a great way to meet new people, its also a great way to stand out,especially if you've got a great costume, ideally you want something that's going to turn heads, that is to say you create an outfit or costume that is so unbelievably awesome that you actually create your own fan base or following, effectively though you'll need to go big...or stay at home. 

This years New York Comic Con saw 32 year old interior designer Mike Cameron pick up the win in the armor category and also a runner up prize for best in show. 

Mike Cameron in his NYCC Cosplay winning mech suit.

if you really want to see how awesome people can be check out these truly amazing cosplayers and their outfits which show a huge variety of film and video game related characters.

 Mercy character  - Overwatch video game Cosplay by  Oshley Cosplay - Photo credit Michael Ocampo

Halo 4 Recruit suit by Hyperballistik taken at Dragoncon 2013 with Needler created by Volpin Props

 Super Joker Cosplay by the team at the Cinema Makeup School

 Check out this incredible Thanos Cosplay also from the guys at the Cinema Makeup School

Passionate Cosplayer and stuntman Ben aka Maul Cosplay has an amazing series of photos featuring various characters but its his Solid Snake from MGSV which really cranks it up a notch.

Return of the Jedi Gamorrean Guard, the head detailing on this cosplay is incredible.

Warhammer 40K cosplay when done right can really astound, this 40K Terminator armor is incredible
Lineage II: Yaya Han absolutely wows in this amazing gown of Banshee Queen Enira
Some of best Star Wars cosplay includes outfits from The Empire Strikes Back, Imperial Snowtroopers are no exception and show some incredible attention to detail.

Sisters of Battle by Okkido Cosplay from the Warhammer 40K universe.

Robocop from the 1980's movie version at the MCM expo back in 2013 - photo by masimage

The 501st Star Wars Cosplay group have strict outfit rules for cosplayers to abide by in keeping with the standards of representing the Star Wars universe.

This Orc costume with its stunning array of horns and armor is superb. Photo by NGO Photography.
 Spartan Sniper by Paradoxdj - photo byKL Media photography - the various Halo games provide a massive wealth of characters and armor classes for cosplayers to choose from.

 Armored up Batman from Batman: Arkham Origins by Julian Checkley who also has a Bane (Tom Hardy version) outfit he sometimes dons.

Batman: Dark Knight version by Thad Laskowski

Iron Man Hulkbuster suit by Thomas De Petrillo from Extreme Costumes wowed the crowds at the NYCC with this 9 feet tall Hulbuster suit.

 Boba Fett Cosplay by Widen 15


Cinema makeup School

Extreme Costumes Instagram

Maul Cosplay

Thursday, 2 November 2017

No Ones Got Your Back More Than Jim Hopper Has

If one thing was certain in Stranger Things 2, is that Sheriff Jim Hopper stepped forth into the breach and faced down mortal danger to save mankind and went toe to toe with the 'demodogs'.
Hopper played by the brilliant David Harbour has graced our screens with appearances in films like David Ayers Cop drama 'End of Watch' as LA Police Officer Van Hauser - (the cop with the knife sticking out of his eyeball.) and as CIA agent Gregg Beam in the Daniel Craig Bond film 'The Quantum of Solace'. Harbour has also appeared in a number of TV shows of recent years including 'State of Affairs', 'The Newsroom' and 'Manhattan'.

Season one of Stranger Things gave Harbour a decent sized supporting role as the troubled Sheriff of rural town Hawkins, Indiana that finds itself at the portal of an altenate dimension and top secret government testing. Hopper is the small town cop dealing with the complexities and isolation of divorce and emotional loss after the death of his daughter from Cancer drives him to alcoholism.

Thankfully though, Hopper is the kind of guy you want to see step up and bounce back, he rarely takes any shit from anyone and is the type of guy that'll back you up in  bar fight over a spilt pint. It was great seeing Hopper get the chance to prove himself as the dependable and ever faithful father figure to Eleven due to the fact he had been keeping a secret for so long and forever bending the truth in order to keep her safe. Season 2 was the pressure cooker, the gate to the upside down had opened to release the 'demodogs' and Hopper was there to step up and take on the forces of evil with a Police issue 12 gauge and 5.56 Armalite.
The man could probably move it pretty smooth on a dance floor if episode 3 of Season 2 "The Pollywog' is anything to go by, he even became a dancing internet meme for christ's sake! #HopperDancing

Here's to raising a glass of whatever you're holding to Hawkins Sheriff Jim Hopper, we salute you.

Monday, 30 October 2017

What you should be watching on NETFLIX


A slow burner for sure but this is a Netflix show that once it has its hooks in you its very hard to stop an inevitable binge watching session to blitz through the first series. Mindhunters is the story of early criminal profiling, specifically serial killers and how two FBI agents expand criminal science by delving into the psychology of what makes a serial killer kill.  There's a really nice offset between the two lead characters that starts to gel around episode 3 as FBI agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany),try to mind map the thoughts, processes and quirks behind some of America's most notorious killers. produced by David Fincher and Charlize Theron its one to watch for sure.

Why is it worth it?: It's a fascinating insight into how the FBI created criminal profiling when serial killers or 'sequence' killers first came under any major scrutiny in criminal science during the late 70's, the interviews with serial killer Ed Kemper is gripping and if you search on Youtube for the real Ed kemper interview you'll see why. 
production values are superb from the clothes, cars and music and it has that 'Deer Hunter' movie feel to the look of it with a sprinkling of Finchers Se7en for the darker side of human nature. The first and last 2 episodes of the 10 episode run were directed by David Fincher.


Take him or leave him Jason Bateman does a fantastic job in this Netflix series based around a money laundering financial adviser called Marty Byrd played by Bateman that has to clean money for a Columbian drug cartel but who also manages to drag his disfunctional family into the hell of it. In the midst of it all he heads out to the Ozarks in the belief that tourism will be a way to clean vast sums of money with no interference from law enforcement - the fact he manages to piss off local drug dealers, resident Rednecks and attract the attention of a very unflinching FBI man not to mention sharing a purchased house with the dying owner still in residence makes for a great cocktail of characters.

Why is it worth it? The character studies alone make for some truly entertaining TV and how Batemans character seems to dig a bigger hole for himself yet still manages to come out the other side episode to episode is edge of the seat stuff, great performance from actress Laura Linney too.

Breaking Bad

If you've not seen Breaking Bad there's only really one question - why not?, it's perhaps one of the best written TV shows ever made.Labelled as a neo western crime drama it delivers in spades in every single episode, it takes you up high but will then drop down on you with emotional gravitas that leaves you numb. Created by Vince Gilligan it follows Walter White (Brain Cranston), a high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, together with his former student Jessie Pinkman (Aaron Paul) he embarks on a life of crime cooking crystal meth to secure the financial future of his family. 

Why is it worth it? 16 Prime Time Emmy Awards, two Golden Globes pus a shed load more awards and accolades -its metacritic score got higher with every season and reached 99 out of 100 for season five. Walter White and his descent from struggling chemistry teacher to cold blooded drug kingpin is pure TV history.

Stranger Things Season 2 

The ultimate homage to 80's genre films returns for a second season, set in the fictional town of Hawkins Indiana in the 1980's the show quickly gained a cult following and one of Netflix's hottest shows. Great performances from Mathew Modine (season one) and David Harbour who will soon be taking on red skinned Hellboy duties. Also stars Winona Ryder and while I've never been a fan she shines as chaotic mom Joyce Byers. The biggest accolade goes to the cast of kids, Will, Finn Caleb and Gaten and the mysterious Millie or 'Eleven' as she is also known. It's absolutely a must for Sci-Fi fans.

Why is it worth it? It taps into 80's America with such aplomb that it feels super relevant and yet really nostalgic at the same time, you watch it and feel so connected to the show,especially if you were between the ages of 10-15 during the early or mid 80's. The sci-fi aspect mixes secret government installations, a bit of E.T, a little bit of Wargames and sprinkles this with some very dark X-Files stuff to boot too.


Like me you probably think that only the actor Anthony Hopkins could and should play Hannibal Lecter as a character on screen. I went into this show thinking that there's no way that Mads Mikkelsen could pull this off - remember him?, he was the Bond villain with the weepy eye that dripped blood in Casino Royale. How wrong I was. The show absolutely excels in writing and performances and a supporting cast that includes Laurence Fishburn as FBI director Jack Crawford. The series focuses on the early relationship of criminal profiler Will Graham played by Hugh Dancy and Psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter. Graham works with the behavioral sciences dept for the FBI and has a real knack of getting inside killers minds but loses himself a little every time he goes into these trance like dream states. Graham is being mislead by the devious Lecter as he tries to steer focus from his own cannibalistic acts and murders.This show is dark, very dark, extremely graphic and pulls no punches.

Why is it worth it? - Do yourself a huge favor, get into the first two episodes at least before deciding it doesn't fit, by that time it'll have you hooked, its like CSI meets Se7en.Hugh Dancy absolutely gives this role his all, its a really engaging performance and the cooking, yes, the cooking and recipes in this show that are served up by Lecter are drop dead amazing. Above all that its a show that wasn't afraid to  explore the edge of the darkest most depraved human mind and explore the darker world of serial killing.

 The Punisher

Setting aside the previous screen interpretations from the likes of Dolph Lungren,Thomas Jane and the lesser received version of the character by the otherwise decent Ray Stevenson, Marvels walking death dealer gets his own show on Netflix after guest appearing in season 2 of the brilliant Daredevil show also on Netflix.
This time round Frank Castle, aka The Punisher is played by Walking Dead and Fury actor John Bernthall who absolutely soaks this role up. Season one kicks off with a 13 episode run and will no doubt enjoy additional season runs if the writing stays sharp and true to the character. If you ever read the Punisher comic series War Zone by John Romitta sr or read the War Journal series drawn by Jim Lee then this is surely a must.

Why is it worth it? If season 2 appearances in Daredevil is anything to go by - this could finally be the version of the Punisher character that thousands of comic book fans have been begging for. Bernthall lives and breathes the role totally and is fully aware of the responsibilities he has to Punisher fans, it'll be dark, brutal and full on.


Subtitles oh for the love of god, why?, I can't be arsed reading AND watching at the same time, but hold that thought because you'll be missing a superbly crafted series on NETFLIX that sheds light on possibly one of the worlds most notorious and dangerous criminals in modern history. The series also combines English language and subtitles are only for native Columbian characters like Pablo Escobar played by the brilliant Wagner Moura. While Escobar as a character does take up a lot of screen time (obviously) the DEA side also helps drive the narrative of the show. Actors Pedro Pascal and Boyd Holbrook play the U.S DEA agents Javier Pena and Steve Murphy hellbent on tracking Escobar and taking him and the Medellin cartel down. NARCOS weaves through Pablo's rise to power as Columbia's richest and most powerful man through his Cocaine empire with the first two seaons focused on Escobar. Season 3 focuses on Javier Pena and his task of going after the Cali cartel and the cocaine flooding into Miami.

Why is it worth it?: The show provides a truly unique insight into Pablo Escobar, his power, his wealth and the lengths he would go to to retain that power and wealth. The show tells a story from both sides, one from Escobars criminal empire and the government led forces including the DEA that were out to end his career criminal ways. The show is a real gripper too, great writing and Wagner Moura is absolutely on form as Escobar. Season 3 is a slow burner to begin with but from episode 5 really ups the pace to a nail biting finish.

NETFLIX for the most part more than makes up for the deluge of mediocrity found on the service with its great range of original content and NETFLIX exclusives. While it has always been secretive in the numbers of active subscribers and viewer figures the US subscriber service for NETFLIX has over 48% more content than its UK counterpart and therefore provides a lot more value for money. US subscribers have access to 5663 titles, 4339 of those are movies and 1326 are TV shows for $7.99 a month. The UK on the other hand has 2967 shows for its subscribers, with 2425 of those being movies and the other 542 being TV shows for $7.73 a month. France, Germany, Holland and Greece all pay $9.39 for around 1780 titles. 

Current estimates put NETFLIX at around just over 100 million subscribers globally with an aggressive production schedule that will see it release 80 original films in 2018.

'Bright', the Will Smith Sci-Fi cop actioner directed by David Ayer (End of Watch, Fury) saw NETFLIX stump up $90 Million in production costs. Martin Scorsese's "The Irishman" due to air in 2019 had a price tag of $46 Million and stars Robert De Niro. NETFLIX also snapped up the 'hot' script for Sci-Fi thriller "Power" written by Mattson Tomlin which several other studios were apparently also bidding on, Power will be directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman who previously collaborated on Nerve and Viral but are probably better known for Paranormal Activity 3 and 4.
The Frank Grillo Heist thriller 'Wheelman' also found its home as a NETFLIX original movie and its currently available to stream and was produced by Joe Carnahan (The Grey). 

NETFLIX's content spend for 2018 will be between $7-8 Billion and its 80 movie catalogue outstrips Disney, Warners and Universals output for 2018 combined. The spend means that NETFLIX has become a real contender within the entertainment sector and puts additional pressure on other content creators to deliver competitive material. HBO spent $2.5 Billion on original content this year and CBS spent $4 Billion. Amazon Prime allocated $4.5 Billion to creating original content this year which means that if anything NETFLIX is upping the level of competition and the yard stick for other content creators to match.

original content drives subscriber growth and due to the digital climate and current technology for streaming it means that feeding a growing consumer base with a steady flow of entertainment is crucial in order to stay out in front.

10 Movies that need a run on NETFLIX (UK)

  •  Maggie - Arnies underrated indie Zombie flick
  • The Hateful Eight - Reservoir Dogs meets Django Unchained
  • Hell or Highwater - Chris Pine and Ben Foster crime thriller
  • Spotlight - Mark Ruffalo Boston Globe drama
  • Non Stop - Liam Neeson Air Marshall thriller
  • Silence of the Lambs - The classic Hannibal Lecter
  • Prisoners - Hugh Jackman kidnap thriller
  • The Town - Ben Affeck heist thriller set in Boston
  • Inception - Leonardo Di Caprio and Tom Hardy's mind bending thriller
Got a list of movies you want to see on NETFIX anytime soon?