Saturday, May 28, 2005

K.I.A.: She's not human!

Posted 06:36pm (Mla time) May 27, 2005
By Pepe Diokno, James Gabrillo
Inquirer News Service
Editor's Note: Published on Page C3 of the May 28, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

HEY GUYS, wanna interview a comic book character?

Normally, we'd say no-like, we're not Steve Martin--or David Hasselhoff--we just don't do... fake people.

But, at the risk of death, we had to. The subject: Kai aka Agent K, aka K, (the list goes on to negative K)-femme fatale, assassin chick off the pages of K.I.A., this new graphic novel created by Marco Dimaano. (The book is already out, peeps! Get it! Get it!) (She threatened us!) She was really nice. (She told us she'd cut it off if we refused to interview her!) She told us it's okay if we didn't have time for her. (She's weird.) She's great. It was really fun (e-mailing) sitting down and talking to her.

Q: Hey, Kai! Would you kick our asses if we ask the wrong question?

KAI: (Smiles pleasantly) No, of course not. Contrary to what you may have heard, I only start ripping spines out when attacked first.

Q: You're sexy and deadly. What makes you Super! compared to other femme fatales like Elektra, Sydney Bristow, Le Femme Nikita, Aeon Flux?

KAI: Thanks for the compliment. My main power is the ability to learn an opponent's skills and counter them. Secondary is my partial immortality, which lets me keep ticking even after I get "fatally" hit. Sydney Bristow and Nikita are just not in my league. Elektra would probably get some good stabs with her sai, but, when close, I'd grab her and that's that. As for Aeon Flux, I can probably snap her like a twig. Did you see how thin she is?

Q: You were created to be the nemesis of another heroine, Angel Ace. But we hear that you're more than a simple ruthless killing machine. Reveal your real self to us.

KAI: Originally I was Angel's best friend, who became her enemy but was revealed eventually to be still her best friend. Well, after that, I was assassinated by my own commander and resurrected with new powers and no memories of my past. My main motivation is recovering my past, no matter where that search leads.

Q: Your comic book's main issue is how you search for your identity in a world that continually seeks to dehumanize you. Why do you think this is such a big personal battle for everyone in the real world?

KAI: Well, in the real world there are few things people really have control of without corporations, governments and even religion having something to say. A person's identity, whether he/she reveals it to the world or not, is his/her own. It's the one thing unique to anyone, so keeping it safe is paramount.

Q: Do you think this "search for identity" has to do with faith, morality or mind work?

KAI: I'm a soldier and an assassin, and all I have are my mission and my code. I have no real home, not even in the KALI organization. The only place where you can be safe and secure in is in your own body, in your own mind. If I'm going to stay alive either as Kai or as 'Agent K', I'm going to have to like who I really am and live with her. That's why identity is so important.

Q: What is the scum of society? How do you plan to kick it into oblivion?

KAI: The most despicable scum are those at the top; the ones who control all and are, by most standards, untouchable. That's where professionals like me come in. How do I plan to kick them into oblivion? With pleasure.

Q: On to more serious stuff...Does size matter?

KAI: No. I've fought opponents twice and half my size, and it all boils down to how honed their combat skills are. (Eyes narrow) That IS what you were asking about, right...?

Q: If you were a plant, how would you want to die?

KAI: I'd be a nice shade tree where kids can play under. My ultimate fate would be to become a nice, comfy rocking chair. Silly, really...

Q: What is your opinion of graphic novel artists? Are they hot?

KAI: The ones I know are really funny and good conversationalists. I guess they're hot for me, but I don't know if my definition of "hot" is like most girls'...

Q: What about Super! writers? Are they hot?

KAI: (Smiles) Yes, you guys are hot.

Q: If you were to assassinate a real person, who would it be and how?

KAI: I think it would be really nice to bury my foot in some kidnappers' faces. I'd also like to do the same to at least half of your politicians.

Q: Do you have a fitness regimen?

KAI: Strangely enough, I don't. My body is always this fit, no matter what I eat, so usually I just sleep or read in between missions. Now you know why most of the other girls in KALI hate me.

Q: Is Osama Bin Laden dead?

KAI: I've killed three of him already. They'll just clone more, so why bother.

Q: Did you find Hayden Christensen hot... after he was scorched by lava?

KAI: Not at all. They say good girls always fall for the bad guy... I'm hardly what you'd consider a good girl. Anyway, I think Obi Wan is quite... hot.

Q: Do you watch The Contender? If yes, do you feel it's right that they let the children watch their dads suffer on the boxing ring?

KAI: I'm more of an Amazing Race person. I just find American boxing so boring since nobody uses their legs. Give me a Muay Thai version of that show and maybe I'll consider giving it a look.

Q: What is love?

KAI: I think I'm going to start kicking asses now...

Q: To creator Marco Dimaano, Who are the main influences in your work?

MARCO: Hayao Miyazaki, Kosuke Fujishima (Oh! My Goddess), Frank Miller, Jim Lee, Joe Madureira, J. Scott Campbell, Frank Cho, Pol Medina, Jr. Too many to count! I find influences every day.

Q: Your comic book is a big collaborative work. How was it like working with 20 different storytellers and artists?

MARCO: It was so interesting and exciting to be able to work with so many talented individuals, both newbies and veterans in the comic biz. I still find myself looking back and saying,"How did I manage to pull that off?"

Q: Did you fear that the 20 people wouldn't be able to capture who KAI really is? That they wouldn't be able to handle her well?

MARCO: Not really... I felt that I gave very clear directions for the character. Also, I oversaw all of the stories and scripts at every stage, so things were kept in order. The variety in look that resulted was one of the first book's strengths. I love input and, seeing the character from more than one viewpoint, is always good.

Q: Where do you think is the Pinoy comic book world going?

MARCO: As far as I can tell, it will continue as it always has. The Filipino comic book creators will always have stories to tell, and they'll go for it the best way they can, whether in a well-printed independent comic or a photocopied ashcan. I just hope that there will always be Pinoy comic book fans out there to support them.

James Gabrillo and Pepe Diokno are contributors to the Philippine Daily Inquirer

Friday, May 13, 2005

The new urban species
By Vives Anunciacion
(Inquirer Libre, Monday, January 17, 2005, page 10)

Lexy, Nance and Argus: Sex, Gods, Rock & Roll
Comic book by Oliver Pulumbarit
Bittersweeetness Comix

Kanya-kanyang hirit lang ‘yan. Isang machong bading si Lexy. Si Nance naman, namamangka sa dalawang ilog, if you get what I mean. Samantalang si Argus nama’y isang tunay na barakong Pinoy—sort of. Kwento ba ito ng Pusong Mamon? In a way, it is.

Lexy, Nance and Argus form the trio of cartoon characters whose alternative lifestyles and frank observations celebrate the diversity of the metropolitan Pinoy. The cartoon for mature audiences is created by freelance writer and artist Oliver Pulumbarit.

Readers of Pulp magazine would be familiar with these flamboyant characters. Unang lumitaw ang komiks sa mga pahina ng Pulp noong September 2001 and was serialized in the magazine nine times until September 2002. Pulumbarit compiled the serial and added previously unpublished material and came up with Lexy, Nance and Argus: Sex, Gods, Rock & Roll. Pulumbarit and buddy John Toledo published the comic book.

The trio of Lexy, Nance and Argus are ideal representations of that section of Manila’s yuppie, hip and urbane natives. Their lifestyles are popularized nowadays mostly through TV shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Sex and the City. The comic book is much more frank than the serials in Pulp, since the added material presents more risqué images and expands the trio’s discussions on relationships, religion, sexuality and pop culture with a wry sense of humor. Hindi pambata ang ganitong babasahin bagama’t nakadaragdag ito sa pagpapalawak ng pag-unawa sa iba pang kasapi ng ating lipunan na may ibang pananaw sa buhay.

However, I must say that the book feels like one endless introduction to the characters’ lifestyles despite the seeming progression of time, as their individual and collective encounters tend to repeat throughout. As if there’s neither a beginning nor an end, the epilogue is practically perfunctory. Maybe it’s the author’s way to present existentialism. Maybe not.

Sex, Gods, Rock & Roll isn’t the first comic book of this theme. Sex and homosexuality as theme or content appeared early in Pinoy komiks history. Though unverified, Mars Ravelo’s Jack & Jill was probably the first gay-themed (transvestite) komiks in the Philippines. It was published around 1953 and was so popular nationwide, it was adapted into a movie twice. The 1954 version of Jack & Jill starring Dolphy was most likely the first gay-themed movie in the Philippines. Who knows, with characters this interesting and fun, we may soon see Lexy, Nance and Argus on the big screen; siguradong magpupusong-mamon ang manonoood ng pelikula.

Sex, Gods, Rock & Roll is available at Comic Quest branches and soon in other bookstores

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Power to the people
Jessica Zafra
Weekend: May 7-8, 2005

She's brave. She's sexy. She loves her family. She's the perfect Filipina. And now she's a hit on television.

The TV appearance this month of Darna, a venerable local superheroine, is seen by some in the media business as a triumph of packaging in the seemingly endless ratings battle between the two big networks.
But for the less cynical, plucky Darna, a Philippine version of Wonder Woman who is in her sixth decade as an icon of popular culture, seems to capture the struggle of a depressed people trying to find a way out of poverty and despair.

This month, her show premiered on a local network and, according to its press releases, garnered some of the highest ratings for a new series - an audience share of more than 50 percent.

Small wonder. Darna is probably the most recognizable literary character in the Philippines, certainly better known than the protagonists in the novels of the Filipino national hero, Jose Rizal, or any other piece of local literature.

Read the complete article at:

Monday, May 02, 2005

'K.I.A.' pride
Posted 09:21pm (Mla time) May 01, 2005 By Ruel S. de Vera / Inquirer News Service Editor's
Note: Published on page D2 of the May 2, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

"K.I.A. Vol. I, Kai: Indomitable Assassin"
Created by Marco Dimaano 2005, 160 pages

EVEN when Marco Dimaano introduced her as the preeminent rival to the titular begoggled super-heroine in his "Angel Ace" comic book, the raven-haired, flinty-eyed assassin Kai Mishima (a.k.a. Agent K) always stood out from her introduction very early in the series.

Unlike the cookie-cutter, super-powered protagonist, Kai had a darker, edgier side to her, as Agent K had lost her memory and was all business all the time. Dimaano portrayed her as a rather thoughtful, intelligent and ultimately tragic figure, one that seemingly met her doom near the end of the last arc, "Angel Ace Next."

Now Agent K steps into the limelight, obviously alive and very much kicking (and stabbing and chopping, among other deadly movements). The self-published "K.I.A. Vol. I, Kai: Indomitable Assassin" features 13 short stories plus pinups in an affordable, black-and-white manga-sized anthology.

Dimaano writes most of the stories and illustrates three of them. Meanwhile, he has assembled a talented roster of other writers and artists to join in what is effectively an assassin's jam: Gerry Alanguilan, Dean Alfar, Nikki Alfar, Jeremy Arambulo, Arnold Arre, Michael Banting, Chad Cabrera, Karen Cheung, Joel Chua, Andrew Drilon, Honoel Ibardolaza, Jon Mallari, Marvin del Mundo, Elbert Or, Jennyson Rosero, Michael Seludo, Edgar Tadeo, Taga-ilog, Wilson Tortosa and Anthony Yap, indeed a murderer's row of Filipino comic talent.

"K.I.A." effectively provides not only the further adventures of Agent K and a satisfying explanation of her otherwise surprising survival following her apparent death. In "K.I.A.," we see Agent K at her busiest, doing the one thing she knows: killing.

From ingenious new ways of getting to the target to having to dispose of entire gangs of opponents, "K.I.A." gives what amounts to a workaday view of Kai as the consummate professional. We will doubtlessly see more of these elements in the anthology's future installments as Dimaano uncovers more of Kai's back story.

Strong art

Dimaano's clean, strong art combines western comic book influences and a more obvious manga effect: the resulting product really is something else altogether. It is funny and sardonic at times, and grimly action-oriented at other times. Indeed, "K.I.A." is a survey of the hitperson at work, so it is fiercely, unapologetically violent with much bloodshed and graphic blade work.

It's always something else when Dimaano gets to write and illustrate the adventures of his darker creation. There is a fluidity, a focused intensity, even delight to Dimaano's handling of Kai's stories in "The New Girl," "Mouse Trap" and the essential "A Shock To The System," all welcome departures from the cheerful escapism of "Angel Ace."

There's the tragic anime-flavored "Dreamkiller" and the cartoon-laced "Battery Included." The edgiest story is "Zindernuef," which refers to both Kai's inner fears and some of the unseen dynamics of the K.A.L.I. organization.

The book's depth is also derived from the fact that Kai herself is a compassionate lady liquidator-a contradiction she lives with constantly, particularly when it comes to the up-and-comers who seek her place as the top assassin. And the book's energy comes from Kai's acrobatic dance of death as her killer moves fly across the page like spinning shurikens.

Similarly, "K.I.A." also shines with the combined diversity of its cast of capable contributors, be they writers or artists. The varying styles and interpretations of Agent K maximize the power of this particular format, with something for everyone.

The revelation of "K.I.A" is artist Jennyson Rosero, whose story, "Intercept," vibrates with dynamism and elegance. A tale of Kai's escape with a purloined item from a well-guarded building, "Intercept" is the story that skews most closely to Japanese manga conventions as well as a taste of the evolution of a beloved character as portrayed by others, done to great effect.

With a few witty light moments thrown into the mix and Dimaano confidently leading the cast behind a fabulous character now deservedly on her own, "K.I.A. Vol. I" deploys solid, unabashed butt-kicking action in a world where the killer ladies have killer bodies, the battles are furious and all the roads available are forked.

Dimaano ties all the disparate stories together, weaving the tangents and the mythology into a very efficient book with different looks, much like Agent K herself, a hitwoman with all the right moves.

Available from all Comic Quest branches.


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