By Shawn Perry
Today I am going to bridge the medium gap and place a spotlight on a team of geek-entrepreneurs who are using the comic book zeitgeist to blaze a new path in the fan film genre. The team behind online series Super Power Beat Down and Bat in the Sun Productions are the heroes of this edition of Indie Spotlight (or Indy Spotlight as we'd call it in TV or Film)… so without further adieu and to paraphrase a line from co-host Marisha Ray get ready to check this Super Power Beat Down! That really is fun to say.
So I would be surprised if any of you had not heard of SPBD yet since the greatest site on the web (which also happens to be the one you're reading) has posted their videos in the past, but hey, I didn't get with it until I saw this sick beat down a while back so there must be a few of you still slipping through the cracks.
Damn that Bats/Video never gets old! So in case you have been living under a rock, SPBD showcases incredible short films from director Aaron Schoenk and the Bat in the Sun Productions crew featuring the biggest icons in the geek zeitgeist from Superman to Darth Vader duking it out with just the right equation of plot to go along with the masterfully-executed fight choreography.
Schoenke has been making films since High School, which he left early to enroll at the prestigious Art Institute of California where he majored in film production. Since then he has gone on to produce some of the most highly regarded fan films ever, many of which he produced while still just a teenager, including; Patient J, City of Scars and Seeds of Arkham. He often gets in front of the camera as well and recently represented my main man Nightwing when he beat down Gambit in one of my favorite episodes of SPBD…partially because of his great performance as N-Dubs but also because it ends with an water-balloon fight between the co-hosts as part of a pre-fight wager.
Currently Shoenke directs SPBD along with his father Sean Schoenke who, based on that sentence alone, is clearly among the world's coolest dads. In association with Machinima and Loot Crate, the Bat in the Sun Productions crew produces one of the most impressive and important independent geek media enterprises to date and in a heretofore unheard of degree of interactive entertainment the producers of SPBD let the fans of the show determine the winners of each beat down. Fans vote on the SPBD official website to determine the winners thus finally putting an end to age-old arguments that have haunted the halls of comic shop pantheon for decades. The next fight on the docket is Nightwing versus Winter Soldier and with all due respect to the work of Ed Brubaker…if Grayson loses to what I still believe to be a well-executed but blatantly obvious storyline mandate from DC in response to the Red Hood that is really going to bust my wing-nuts so vote now and a vote for Nightwing is a vote for heritage, freedom and the great work being put out now by Tim Seeley and Tom King. End rant.
Now in addition to short films, episodes of SPBD also feature a great cast of hosts including two sharp and funny fan boys, Damian Beurer and Andy Liegl, and two beautiful and charismatic fan girls, Ray and Jennifer Wegner, who introduce each episode with intelligent commentary that is neither too insular nor too dry for even the most casual fan. On that note, I would add that SPBD is a great way to bring fans of comic book movies a little further along into the geek fold in a very natural way. The show is catching on with the Hollywood elite too, as the show recently welcomed celebrity guest Jason David Frank of Power Rangers fame who donned his White Ranger garb to beat Scorpion of Mortal Kombat and will face Ryu of Street Fighter in a future episode. Now I have no idea how the issue of copyright comes into play here but Frank's appearance came with a full-endorsement from Power Rangers parent company Lionsgate which I guess makes sense since there are clearly worse things they could endorse concerning that brand these days…
The show is hosted at comic shop Collector's Paradise in Pasadena, California and in the past the hosts have also traveled to geek hot spots like San Diego Comic-Con to gather fan's opinions. I have to admit it's a lot of fun to watch people present thoughtful arguments about the merits of a supporting character from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles battling Kick-Ass while dressed-up as Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy or clad in a Catwoman suit. It's eerily befitting of a deeper dialogue and I would go as far as to say that the sky is really the limit when it concerns producing comic-con content when you have a production team as creative and talented as this one. Plus I don't really see anyone pushing the envelope on that market… yet.
Clearly SPBD is taking full advantage of the Golden Age of Geek Culture we are living in and I have no doubt that their continued success will inspire others with artistic skills and an inner geek to take their visions and projects to the next level. Everyone involved should be proud. In close, though I have said it before in this column (and can only hope that I will say it again soon) it is truly amazing what people can accomplish when they pursue the things that they love.
Shawn Perry is a comic book and film enthusiast striving to be here now. He is currently chilling in his home in East Hartford, Connecticut with Tame Impala on while he writes about Indie Comics. Tweet him @thesperry and email him your stories and thoughts at Shawn.Perry88@gmail.com.