Thursday, August 28, 2003

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From 'Off Hours' section of PCWorld (Phils) Sept
Pinoy Comics Online
By Ria Elainne C. Mendoza


I remember the Saturdays when I would walk to the market quite early to buy a copy of Funny Comics. Each trip was filled with anticipation at the new adventures that wily little boy, Niknok, had gotten himself into. During summers, when I was vacationing with my relatives in the province, my cousins and I opted to rent copies of Funny Comics at the nearest sari-sari store. Summers were always harder because we had no allowance.

But because the world is what it is now, most of my reading is done online. My daily dose of funnies -- and I admit, even horoscopes -- is delivered directly to my inbox. And as the cliché goes, the world is at our fingertips, giving us a whole menu of international selections that will entertain us and tickle our funny bones. Despite this, there is one thing that never goes away: that hankering for good, old-fashioned Filipino art and humor. And thank goodness, so many are online. Many of our artistic countrymen are conquering the World Wide Web with their splurge of color and drama. Boxed they may be, but they are wowing the world all over.

Darna!

"Ding, ang Bato!" is a call that would strike a chord with most people who were already breathing and thinking in the 70s (I caught the reruns in the 80s). If you're thinking along the same lines, this is Vilma Santos, the fifth actress to put on Darna's sash, as the young, crippled Narda from the numerous film adaptations of Mars Ravelo's Darna (www.marsravelodarna.com). This spunky lady with her ebony black tresses and Malayan features, skimpily clad in a pair of red bikinis generously accessorized with gold but alien metal stars, is a true Filipino icon with true Filipino values. She has the beauty of Venus, the strength of Samson, and the sculpted but feminized -- and therefore curvaceous -- body of Apollo. Fifty-three years have already passed since she first captivated our country and now she's back with a vengeance. She pirouetted her way onstage at the recently concluded dance musical Mars Ravelo's Darna performed by the Ballet Philippines in CCP (www.ballet.com.ph/darna/castcrew.htm). And though months have passed since the first series was released in February, Darna is still making waves as a revamped, full glossy, body-beautiful heroine in the three-part series by Mango Comics(www.mangocomics.com/darna). Duly authorized by the heirs of Mars Ravelo, this series will show Darna as a college student fighting drug pushers and terrorists.

The Land of Hinirang

If you want a whole alternate land during a specific time in our history, hop over to www.hinirang.com, where comic book luminaries Nikki and Francis Dean Alfar (Kestrel Studios, www.kestrelstudios.com), Jason Banico (Dynatica Comics, www.dynatica.com), Carl Vergara (Carver House, carverhouse.blogspot.com), Marco Dimaano (Angel Ace, www.angelace.com), Arnold Arre (Tala Studios, www.arnold-arre.com) and Vincent Michael Simbulan (producer of Isaw At Iba Pa under Quest Ventures and manager of Comic Quest), have gathered. Here they offer readers a host of stories, essays, and Web comics about this enchanted land where higantes and tiq'barangs are but normal. You will meet characters like the demonica puta whose name is Immacolata (art and story by Marco Dimaano) and the nameless lady and her mystical sea creature in Asin (written by Nikki Alfar).

What’s great about this site is, it will link you to the respective pages of all these comic book big shots. For instance, you can go to the site of two-time National Book Awardee Arnold Arre (for The Mythology Class and Trip to Tagaytay) and take a peek at his latest graphic novel After Eden (Arnold was also the illustrator and designer for the 5th Philippine Web Awards, www.philippinewebawards.com.). You can visit www.alamatcomics.com where Carl Vergara's Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni ZsaZsa Zaturnnah is featured.


Beerkada

Over at www.beerkada.tk, you’re sure to meet a familiar-looking bunch of friends. There's the shy type, the slow type, the pornographic type, the kikay type, the activist type, and other people you would be able to relate to with such ease. Beerkada will easily remind you of your own barkada, your gimiks, your adventures, your embarrassing moments together... yes, just like your, real, live college buddies (ten years ago, or was it twenty?).

Pugad Baboy

Of course, who could ever forget the cholesterol-dominated world of Pugad Baboy by Pol Medina, Jr.? Hop on over to Mang Dagul and Polgas' backyard at www.pmjunior.com.ph before the round of rounded characters heckle you to death about the mermaids and clams growing in your beer.

Mikrokosmos

Care to explore a different world? Head on to www.mikrokosmos.tk where Jomike Tejido, creator of Mikrokosmos, gives you a refreshing and sometimes disgusting insider's view of the world of insects. It's a green, green world as Jomike and the rest of the Mikrokosmos gang promote environmentalism. It’s a rich cache of information as varied as the insects that the writer/illustrator favors.

And others

We still have numerous talents out there, but space limitations dictate that we stop here. Since we're already online, though, check out Robert Magnuson's Shirley's Pets at www.shirleyspets.tk, Sanduguan at www.geocities.com/capsulezone and for more links, go to www.filipinolinks.com/Entertainment/Pinoy_Komiks. Have a great time browsing our local comics, may it be drama, action, or comedy -- that's Pinoy talent for you!



Friday, August 15, 2003

GONNA PARTY LIKE IT'S YER BIRFRIGHT (PART 2): GERRY ALANGUILAN TALKS 'SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT'
by Arune Singh, Staff Writer
Posted: August 14, 2003
http://www.comicbookresources.com/news/newsitem.cgi?id=2700


In Part One of CBR News' focus on "Superman: Birthright," Mark Waid spoke about writing the acclaimed series for DC Comics. Along for the ride with him are a tremendous creative team and one of those members is inker Gerry Alanguilan, who puts the final touches on artist Leinil Yu's art. The inker found time to speak to CBR News about "Birthright" and about the place of inkers in the industry.

"I had been inking Whilce Portacio almost exclusively on 'Stone,' 'Tales of Darkness' and 'X-Force,'" explains Alanguilan of his career before "Birthright." "But once in a while, I help out inking a few pages of 'Wolverine' and 'Uncanny X-Men' pencilled by Leinil Yu when they had to meet a deadline really quick. I got to work full time with Leinil on 'New X-Men Annual 2001' and on 'High Roads' for Cliffhanger/Wildstorm. We find that we work really well together both professionally and personally (we're both good friends), that it seemed natural that I continue to work with him on Superman.

"Superman is a project that I just can't say no to. He's the one that started it all, the ultimate super hero. I don't consider working on Superman as a job, I consider it an honor. I can scarcely believe I'm actually involved in this. I really didn't dream of working on Superman when I was a kid. I dreamt of drawing Wolverine and Iron Man and Conan. That's because I knew that through hard work, I could probably do it. But Superman...I didn't even think of it. It was just too impossible. Too unthinkable. But now that I'm here...Wow!!"

Part of the reason for Alanguilan's enthusiasm is that he is a big Superman fan, like many of the people involved with this project, and feels the character offers a great ideal for people to aspire to achieve. "Superman will always embody an ideal that I would always aspire to achieve. That would entail ultimate goodness, honesty, integrity, bravery. Such concepts may appear too boring to some, but not to me. The world is such an ugly place already with all the troubles we've been having. As humans we swim through all that muck everyday. It can get really depressing and you could lose yourself if you allow yourself to. Superman is like an anchor, the one you think about that cannot be touched by all this hate, this anger, this fear. You read his adventures in comics and somehow you feel hopeful because despite of everything, he still strives to do what is right and what is good."

As he said above, working on Superman has been an honor for Alanguilan and previous to working on the character he found it all a bit intimidating. "Superman hasn't been a dream project to me because I felt that it would be too impossible for me to achieve. If I dreamed of it, then I would have been considering myself worthy enough to be part of telling his story, which I wasn't. I felt so totally unworthy. When I started working, I was slowly able to work on characters I actually did dream of doing like Wolverine, X-Men, New Mutants (who were going by the name of X-Force by the time I worked on them), and Fantastic Four. Although I was a fan of Superman, it really didn't occur to me that I could actually work on one of his books. Now that I'm here...it's just been exhilarating."
While Alanguilan does realize that Superman has a ways to go before he connects with fans like he did in times past, he also realizes his role on the book leaves him little room to help that process along. "As an inker, my scope of influence is somewhat limited, so there's really nothing else I can do job-wise except to do my best work, as I've always done, and if it's possible, give something more," explains the inker. "But then outside the job, I can always promote the book on my own like what I'm doing on my site. I'm glad for the chance to promote that book whenever I can."

Conjuring up a Superman like altruism, Alanguilan says he has one major goal on this series and frankly, it's not about him. "I came in with the sole purpose of making Leinil Yu's pencils come alive in ink and make him look good. Leinil's pencils evolve with every project, and I need to evolve along with it. His style has become more simpler but more elegantly composed. It's both easier and harder to ink. Easier because some pages don't take that much time to finish. Harder because you really have to think about every line because there's not that many of them, and ensure that each line is correct and looks good."

It's not often that you see a comic book inker interviewed these days- Jimmy Palmiotti and Keith Champagne are two of the more common ones- but that's not something that bothers Alanguilan. "The lack of inker interviews doesn't bother too much, as I really believe our work, if done well, doesn't stand out and attract attention to itself. Our work should help the penciller tell the story, and as such, inkers should help the penciller's work reach its potential. But come to think of it, I really would welcome more inker interviews. Inking is such a misunderstood part in the process of creating comics. A lot of readers seem to have a mistaken belief of what inking is all about and because of these mistaken beliefs, inkers are attacked erroneously. If more inkers get interviewed, a much broader understanding of what inkers do may well result and we don't get so unfairly trounced for things we aren't responsible for."

There are a number of misconceptions fans have of exactly what an Inker does, a fact that a certain Kevin Smith movie makes good use of for comedic effect, and Alanguilan was happy to set the record straight. "I was laughing my head off in the opening comic con sequence in 'Chasing Amy' where a fight breaks out between an inker and a guy accusing him of being just a tracer. It's funny, but I do admit it furthers the misconceptions that inkers are indeed just drawing over lines that the penciller has already drawn.

"If people do a little digging, they would realize that the best inkers in the business are some of the best artists as well. People like Kevin Nowlan, Dexter Vines, Mark Buckingham, Klaus Janson, Whilce Portacio, Al Williamson, and Jerry Ordway, fantastic artists in their own right, are also some of the best inkers we have had. I only say this because I truly believe that being a good artist is required for one to be a good inker. If you are not an artist to begin with, you can't even begin to know what the heck to do with that pencilled page in front of you.

"Another misconception is the belief that it's always the inkers fault that the penciller's work no longer looks good. I read too much feedback from readers where they say so and so penciller's work is wrecked because of this or that inker. This would be a valid opinion if the readers saw the original pencils to begin with. I really believe that nobody can justifiably assess the work of an inker vis a vis the penciller's work without seeing the original pages. Why a particular page sucks could mean many things, and not just because the inker sucks. It could mean that the penciller was pressed for time and had to finish that page in an hour and the inker just had to make the best of it. The penciller may well be having a bad day and just hacked out the page, or he was sick, or yeah, it just may well be that the inker himself is having a bad day. But the point is, beyond the penciller, inker and editor, nobody truly knows what the circumstances are that went into the production of a sucky page. Opinions assessing that page is at best speculation, and the sad truth of it is, the inkers are almost always the one who gets the short end of the stick.

"An example: I get feedback for 'High Roads,' and readers tell me how much they like Leinil's work better during 'Wolverine' because it looked grittier and darker and they blame me because Leinil's work no longer looks that way now. I get to tell those who do write me that it's just the way Leinil's pencils look like now and I'm just following his lead. But what about the rest?"

In the case of "Superman: Birthright," Alanguilan says that he is doing what he feels is best for inking and that if someone does "trace" pencils when they're inking, it's not wrong- to each their own. "It's not really a matter of right or wrong, but a matter of what looks good and what doesn't. Leinil's pencils are quite precise and all the information is already there. For me to add too much or remove anything too much would affect the work and take the finished page away from what Leinil intends. So I always keep in mind what he is trying to achieve, and help the pencils reach it with the inks. I really don't think of it as tracing, but developing what Leinil has done to its full potential."

There's been no major bumps in the road for the inker on "Birthright," but he says one change early on somewhat disrupted the flow of things. "The transition between editors at the start of the series gave us some problems, but they were easily worked out. I gotta say that there's really nothing hard for me on this series. This is Superman. I love what I'm doing. Everything becomes easy. This is due in part to Editor Eddie Berganza and Assistant Editor Tom Palmer Jr., who have been very accommodating and helpful. Like the rest of the creative team, I can feel in their correspondence that they really care about this character and that makes you feel really good about being part of this project."

If a penciller or writer approaches a Superman project, it's easier for most outside the industry to understand how the creators might feel intimidated, but in the case of inkers, one has to wonder what kind of pressure they feel. "All I need to concern myself with is to alter my style to fit the penciller on any given project, be it Superman or be it another character. It was a little intimidating working on Superman, and I have to admit it took me a long time to get going on the very first page I got to ink. But after I have worked on some 10 pages, I got my rhythm and it's been a breeze ever since."

The creative team along with Alanguilan on this project have really made an impression on the inker and he says it's been fun. "I've been involved with some very high profile books in the past, but this is the very first time that I feel that everything just clicks. The story is very involving and exciting, Leinil is doing some of the best stuff he's done, and Dave McCaig the colorist is just blowing us away with every page. It actually took us a long time to find the right colorist for it. We had always assumed that we would be working with Edgar Tadeo, who had colored us so amazingly well in 'High Roads.' But he had to beg off Superman because of previous commitments. And for a long time we went through different colorists who wanted to try out but nobody worked out. There were some colorists that we wanted but they were unavailable.

"In our desperation we called up this artist who had been working on a local music magazine who was doing really cool innovative stuff. We met with him and although he seemed a little too weird, he was very talented and it if it worked out, we would have loved to have him aboard. When he turned in his samples man...Superman looked like he just stepped out of a psychedelic nightmare, colors shooting all over the place. Leinil and I both sat in our seats sweating. It looked interesting... but it would certainly short circuit our readers' minds and parents would be picketing us off the book. ha! ha! Thankfully enough, Leinil found Dave McCaig, whose work in 'Doom Patrol' looked really impressive to him. Personally, I just love Dave's colors and I tell him so with every opportunity."

The feedback for "Birthright," with the second issue already on stands, has been pretty much positive on CBR's Superman Forum and Alanguilan finds that it's much the same everywhere else. "I've been visiting many message boards and I'm glad to discover that the feedback has been generally positive. There is some negative feedback due to the confusion if 'Birthright' is in continuity or not. What's surprising to me is that the readers really care about the minutiae of everything and anything Superman. They care about where the 'S' symbol comes from, where the curl on Superman's hair come from, and other details like that. It only goes to show that people do still care for Superman, and that's a good thing."

Though he's a big Superman fan, Gerry Alanguilan says he's only watched one of the new television shows featuring the Big Blue Boy Scout. "Strange as it may seem, I'm not too much into animation, so I really haven't seen 'Justice League.' I do watch 'Smallville' from time to time. It was surprising to find out that Lex Luthor and Clark Kent are such good friends in this show. It fills me with dread to finally watch the show that would destroy their friendship and make them mortal enemies. It's also a pleasant surprise to see that the Lana Lang of 'Superman 3' is now Martha Kent. Plus, Kristin Kreuk is so super hot. Whew!! Forget Lois, Clark!! Lana is IT!! :)"

Besides "Superman: Birthright," Alanguilan is involved with other projects and is happy to let readers know where else they can see his work. "I do enjoy inking a lot, but I don't see myself doing it forever. I started in the industry with the full intent of drawing comics. Inking comics had been fun for the past few years, but I would like to start drawing as well. I've already been both writing and drawing comics here in the Philippines long before I started working on US comics. I've been contributing illustrations for various publications including 'Fleshrot Book 1' for Frightworld Studios and Graphic Classics (HP Lovecraft, Jack London). I recently finished pencilling and inking an 'Ochlocrat' one shot for Comics Conspiracy with writer Doug Miers, and I've just finished pencilling, inking and lettering a 17 page adaption of 'Bram Stoker's Judge's House' for Graphic Classics, out September 15. I've also contributed a couple of stories I wrote and drew for the upcoming 'Prophecy Magazine.'

"In my native Philippines, I was able to come up with several comics I've written and drawn, most notable of which is 'Wasted.' It's gotten favorable reviews from Steven Grant, Warren Ellis and the 'Comics International' magazine. It's so far just available here in the Philippines and I'm currently looking for a small distributor in the US. 'Wasted' is also currently being shot as an independent film for which I provided the screenplay."

Knowing how much fans always want to stay ahead of the curve, Alanguilan offers some hints for the future of "Birthright," but also says, he doesn't know a lot of what's to come. "In the issue I've just finished inking, fans of the first Superman movie will probably get the same rush when they read it. I really can't say much more than that. he.he.

"Coming into this project solely as an inker, it would be difficult for me to answer certain questions as they require certain information of which I am not privy to. Although I am working on the book, I wasn't involved in the thought process that went into the creation of the concept. In fact, I've yet to know what will happen in the next issue and how this will all end. I'm pretty much a fan, just like a lot of people, waiting for what Mark Waid has got up his sleeve month after month with this book. And like a lot of people, I can't wait!"



FILIPINAS MAGAZINE
August 2003 issue
PORTRAIT OF THE FILIPINO AMERICAN ARTIST AS A KOMIKERO
By L. Marcelline Santos-Taylor



At the Philadelphia Convention Center, site of the East Coast Wizard Comic Book Convention, a line forms at the Wildstorm/DC comics booth. At the end of the line, sits a genial looking fellow artist Whilce Portacio. He smiles and signs autographs, smiles and signs, smiles and signs. Then the line stops moving when a pony-tailed Asian fan hands him a stack of comic books to sign. One of the convention coordinators steps in and informs the fans that there is a two-book limit. Pony-tail isn’t too happy “ Come on,” he tells Whilce, “give your Asian brother a break, dude.” He manages to sneak in five instead of two books and grudgingly moves back to the end of the line.

To many young artists and comic book aficionados, Whilce Portacio is a hero much like the comic book characters he has worked on including the Uncanny X-men, Iron Man and Stone. The latter being the first comic book based upon Filipino myths and legends to be released internationally. He has played mentor to a crop of young Filipino artists like Gerry Alanguilan (Wetworks, Stone, X-force,Wolverine and Superman: Birthright) and Leinil Yu (X-men, Wolverine and Superman: Birthright), who are now enjoying success in the U.S. comics industry.

Born in the Philippines some thirty-something years ago, Whilce moved to America when he was two years old. His father was a career navy man so most of his childhood was spent on military bases. “Living on military bases gives you the freedom of safety,” shares Whilce, “Because there was so little crime our parents let us stay out with friends till 9:30PM sometimes and my friends and I, being boys, explored every inch of everything labeled ‘military’ and ‘restricted.” The young Whilce loved to read and spent many Sunday mornings after church at the library pouring over Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes mysteries. It was not until he was ten years old that he discovered comic books. “My next door neighbor wanted to throw out her husbands comic book collection while he was at work and instead gave them all to me,” says Whilce.

His high school years were spent in Hawaii. And although he always had a knack for art, he never thought of becoming an artist professionally. “Until I found out I was too short and had bad eyesight from watching too much TV,” Whilce shares, “I wanted to be an astronaut…then I wanted to be a rock star but couldn’t sing…” With his innate artistic talent, he started to pursue a fine arts/advertising degree at the Philippine Women’s University (PWU) in Manila only to return to the States after his second year. It was then that fate stepped in and chose a career path for him.

Armed with a stack of art samples, Whilce attended the San Diego International Comic Book Convention. He so impressed Marvel Comics editor Carl Potts that he was offered a job on the spot. From penciller, to inker, to writer, Whilce career as a comic book artist took off. Since then he has worked in various capacities on titles like Alpha Flight, The Punisher, X-factor, Uncanny X-men, Iron Man, and X-force. For the X-men, he even created the famous X-men character Bishop. Currently, he is a studio manager and artist for Wildstorm/DC Comics, working on the series Storwatch: Team Achilles, dubbed as “hard-edged military fiction.” His “discovery” at the Comic-con has inspired many young artists to follow their dreams.

Whilce confides: “I was excited (about getting a job on the spot for Marvel Comics) of course but strangely not bowled over or overwhelmed. I knew it was a job and people depended on me (so I had to do it well). There was so much to learn. I was responsible for my grandmother and my sisters so I had to make money being the Kuya…no time to think just do…” Playing big brother comes naturally to Whilce. It is the most Pinoy thing about him: “I was born to be a Kuya,” he says. And the most American thing: “I think I can fix anything,” he smiles.

In the mid-90s, Whilce was back in Manila. He lived in a large old house on Balete Drive in Quezon City, where he once again found himself playing kuya to a rag-tag family of artists. After fifteen years in comics Whilce felt he had reached a plateau both professionally and personally.

“I decided to take a (self-imposed) vacation to find myself so to speak and one thing lead to another. I just rented a spooky cool house on Balete because a friend’s family owned it and the people came. As we made more friends it just became right for us all to hang out…Then we all said, hey we’re a bunch of talented people let’s pool our talent together and make some money for rent and have as much fun as possible.”

His semi-retirement proved productive. He taught comic book/art workshops for the LEARN center of his old school PWU and helped launch the careers of a new breed of Filipino comic book artists.

“I fell into teaching so easily,” Whilce says, “it was kind of a release for me -- a way to let loose all my thoughts and experiences." Fifteen years is a lot of comics, Whilce had a lot to say. Teaching at a school and preparing new artists for "real world" jobs was a way for him to see himself as others did -- a comics idol and role model. He quips, "Work never prepares you for that role. (With work), you just think of the deadlines and the next vacation." He was definitely onto something.

Another offshoot of those Manila years was the creation of his own comic book company called Avalon Studios. Avalon released titles like Aria, Hellcop and Stone. Stone received international acclaim and will go down in history as the first comic book based upon Filipino myths and legends to be released to the international market. Like most Filipino-Americans, Whilce had been interested in understanding his two cultures. For Whilce, writing Stone meant finding his roots through Philippine mythology.

“My feeling is that the Philippines is in a rut because we do not know as a whole who we are in the world. If we can’t find a common identity as a country, how can we banner together as one people and achieve the things that we know we can achieve (as Filipino people)?”

In the future, he plans to revive his original concept of the Stone book – a compilation of “ghost stories” that Filipinos hear growing up, as described by Philippine scholars and psychics and illustrated by top artists. “Hopefully, a definitive look into our psyche,” he says.

Whilce Portacio is back in the US. Not too long ago, Whilce suddenly fell into a coma and was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. “Even though I almost died, I am very blessed to have come out of it with barely a scratch. Fortunately, all I need to do is watch my diet and exercise a little more. My diabetes is very borderline and controllable,” he says sounding grateful.

Perhaps it is this brush with death that has made him a bit reflective about how his life’s turned out. Via e-mail, he writes: “My first fifteen years in comics were spent learning the skills God gave me. My five years in the Philippines were spent finding out who I was and ended up with finding my own family to love and protect. So my future time on Earth is dedicated to my wife, my son, my two daughters. My life right now is 9-5 working manager/artist then the rest of the day and night devoted father and husband…to some a very ho-hum life but for me, I have reached a very meaningful stage in this wonderful life.”

From caring Kuya to loving Padre de Familia, Whilce Portacio, foremost comics illustrator and author has definitely found his place in this world.

***
END

BIO-NOTE. L. Marcelline Santos-Taylor is a freelance writer. She writes the column Manila Girl for the Filipino Express. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and toddler son. You may e-mail her at manilagir101@hotmail.com

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