Thursday, November 08, 2007

Page master
By Ruel S. De Vera

Sunday Inquirer Magazine

MANILA, Philippines – This is a comic book story. Or at least a story about comic books, those multi-hued wonders that Andrew Drilon discovered as a child. His older relatives left comics lying around the house and he devoured them.

“I remember my imagination being fired up as a kid, because the comics had like a million colorful superheroes scrambling to save an entire universe from extinction,” he recalls. “No movie has come close in terms of concept and spectacle, and I guess at that point, I was hooked and wanted more.”

And more he got. The precocious and artistic Drilon began drawing: “I think I accidentally drew a decent picture of Spider-man one day when I was really young, in crayon. Just doodling and stuff and then suddenly—Spider-man! I must have impressed myself because I decided then and there that I had the chops for making comics, an initially deluded, but ultimately, fruitful decision.”

That decision led Drilon, now 22, to continue writing and drawing his own comics, venturing onto the Internet to craft a webcomics series called “Kare-Kare Komiks” on his blog (andrewdrilon. These webcomics crackled with gleefully surreal energy, be they the meta-fictional adventures of Mang Tomas, The Storyhunter, or the melancholic meanderings of Caraboy. Then Drilon’s work began to get noticed—seriously noticed. After being selected to appear on comic scribe supreme Warren Ellis (“Planetary” and “Transmetropolitan”) on Ellis’s own site, The Engine, Drilon’s work was chosen to regularly run on The Chemistry Set, a petri dish for dynamically original comic creators the world over.

“These are wonderful,” Ellis was quoted in the press statement announcing Drilon’s new run on The Chemistry Set ( “I swear, the Pinoy makes comics in the same way that the Icelandics make music … F__king genius.” Matt Fraction, the critically lauded writer of “The Immortal Iron Fist” and “Casanova,” was quoted in the same release: “Andrew Drilon does beautiful, otherworldly work—he makes comics like nobody else. ‘Kare-Kare’ is one of my favorite things on the Internet ever. It’s even better than that one time where they blew up that whale everywhere.”

Surfers and readers can catch Drilon’s panels on The Chemistry Set every first and third Wednesday of the month.

Even before he unleashed his creative energy on the Web, Drilon was already living the kind of life that writers literally can’t come up with. Andrew Joseph dela Cruz Drilon is the son of the late Alejandro Drilon. “He was a respected entrepreneur and public servant. He died when I was 14, but I carry his memory with me in all that I do,” Drilon explains. His mother, Christine dela Cruz, is the medical director for Asia-Pacific of Bristol-Myers Squibb in Singapore. “Basically, she’s a super-doctor for like, 13 countries, and she’s one of my biggest inspirations in life,” he says.

Drilon is the fourth or, in a way, the fifth of six siblings, because he has an identical twin brother, Anthony. “It’s awesome,” he exclaims. “My twin Anthony and I are like same-faced polar opposites. He’s intensely athletic and he’s also studying to be a doctor. Having a twin’s like being able to compare notes with an alternate-universe version of yourself!”

Drilon attended the University of the Philippines, eventually shifting to BA Creative Writing which, he explains, “I’m planning to finish as soon as I get back to UP.” What takes up most of his time now is creating comics. While he was growing up, Drilon saturated sketchbooks with superhero adventures. From passing them around among his classmates, he began photocopying and selling them. He eventually tried his hand at illustrating local comic stories, such as those appearing in the anthology “Siglo: Freedom.” Aside from freelance work, he also provides the art for the “RAN Online” strip for a Manila daily.

But it was in both writing and illustrating the comics stories that Drilon found a sanctuary. “‘Kare-Kare Komiks’ started out as a haphazard pile of short comics stories that I made for fun during my free time,” he explains. “I really liked them, but they were all kind of odd and hard to submit to any particular publication.” However, after taking the leap and submitting them for posting on The Engine, everything fell into place. As an emerging art form, webcomics were perfect for him. “It’s fun, free, and I can do anything I want,” he says. “The great thing about the Internet is the freedom of expression that it allows. And because I don’t have editors or marketing people making decisions for me or about my work, I can show it in its purest form.”

To provide this constant flow of crazy comic ideas, Drilon basically just doodles the weird images that pop into his head, sometimes even going into what he calls “this trance state where I’m just drawing and writing straight.” He reads a lot, he says, and adds, “It’s important for me to absorb as much music as I can on any given day.” His shape-shifting playlist includes everyone from Sigur Ros to “High School Musical.” He is abashed by the comments made by people like Ellis and is driven to hone his craft: “To be honest, I’m constantly dissatisfied with my art.”

Drilon’s distinctively edgy art provides just the right amount of whimsy and pathos for his strips. His webcomics are not your usual cape-and-tights menageries. Instead, he comes up with vibrantly oddball ideas (check out Mang Tomas literally jumping into an Archie comic strip) with superhuman tongue planted squarely in superhuman cheek.

His long-term goal is certainly ambitious. “I’m shooting for international print publication,” Drilon admits. “I’d love to one day work on comics for Marvel or DC! I mean, who wouldn’t want to chronicle the adventures of Superman, Batman or Spider-man? More importantly, I’d like to be able to live off my comics work one day. It’s a long shot, but I think it’s achievable.”

Beyond that, he is also excited by what Filipino talents can do on a larger scale— the world. “I think we have a lot to offer, and at the same time, I don’t think any one person can solely represent the diversity and richness of our culture. It needs to be a group effort. We’ve had our share of successes—Lan Medina, Alex Niño, Leinil Yu, Alfredo Alcala— but there should be more Filipinos putting comics out there for people to see. And the Internet is one of the easiest ways to do that. Personally, I’d like to see a Filipino writer make it big in international comics, because so far, our biggest success stories have been largely art-centric.”

These heady days, Drilon remains busy with a comic-related thing, his fortnightly stint on The Chemistry Set front and center. “I’m working on a young adult graphic novel right now, set in an unnamed Philippine province. No publisher yet, but I’ll see when I’m ready.” A kinetic portion of his excitement is reserved for “Kare-Kare Komiks” being released in print form. “It’s slated to appear early next year, with tons of extras and exclusive stories, all in glorious full-color next year,” he says. Meanwhile, Andrew Drilon spawns new myths fully formed in his head, or from his hard drive, making the most of this four-color universe of a life he’s building. “I just like telling stories and being able to share them,” he declares. “No matter how offbeat or unusual they may be.”

Monday, October 08, 2007

‘Andong Agimat’ to the US film mart
By Bayani San Diego Jr. / Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- Unitel head Tony Gloria has a new baby.

“This is my pet project,” he says of “Ang Mundo ni Andong Agimat,” a popular graphic novel by prize-winning author/illustrator Arnold Arre.

Gloria has acquired the rights to “Andong,” which he plans to produce into either a feature film or a TV series. Or both.

“It can start as a feature film and we can later turn it into a TV series,” he says.

For the role of Andong, Gloria is eyeing Robin Padilla.

“He’s not your typical hero. Andong’s a loner and an ex-convict,” he explains.

Unitel is preparing an audio-visual presentation on “Andong,” which Gloria will screen at the American Film Market, running from Oct. 31 to Nov. 7 in Santa Monica, California.

It’s Unitel’s fourth time in the US film mart. “We scanned and colorized the storyboards. We edited and set the footage to music. We also gave it a 3-D title,” he says.

He hopes to attract investors—to finance or to co-produce—with the “Andong” teaser.

Gloria admits that producing “Andong” is expensive.

“You can’t do it with P20 million. If I had P50 million that would be ideal. But I can make it with P30 million to P35 million,” he says.

Feedback from the film mart will decide whether “Andong” will be a film or a TV series.

Gloria is bullish about its prospects abroad. “It’s different. Very Asian.”

Which was what attracted Gloria to the graphic novel.

“I wanted an original Pinoy hero.”

It also combines the mythical with the historical, he says. “In the story, Maria Makiling is in love with a Katipunero (revolutionary). I am thinking of shooting
in Old Manila — Quiapo, Binondo and Intramuros.”

Gloria plans to use Unitel’s latest Sony HR 444 high-definition camera in shooting “Andong.” “It has the highest resolution. HD cameras were used in Hollywood movies like ‘Superman Returns’ and ‘Zodiac.’”

He envisions “Andong” as a “showcase” of the capabilities of Unitel’s post-production arm, Optima.

“Optima has the latest computer software for an effects-laden film like ‘Andong,’” he says.

Unitel is also bringing to the film mart its finished films—Ato Bautista’s “Blackout” and Pablo Biglang-Awa and Veronica Velasco’s “Inang Yaya.” Also, three other indie movies—Sockie Fernandez’s “Gulong,” Jay Abello’s “Ligaw Liham” and Neal “Buboy” Tan’s “Ataul for Rent.”

Thursday, August 30, 2007


by Dave Richards, Staff Writer

As the former artist of Marvel Comics, "Runaways," Adrian Alphona definitely knows how to depict tales of teenage angst and superpowers and in 2008 he'll be taking over the artistic duties on another Marvel Comics series, which still has some super power elements, but they take a backseat to the teen drama, "Spider-Man Love Mary Jane." CBR News spoke with Alphona about his new assignment.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Rediscovering the ‘komiks’ wellspring
By Oliver Pulumbarit, Inquirer
Last updated 01:12am (Mla time) 06/25/2007

MANILA, Philippines - For decades, komiks was generally known as weekly Tagalog anthologies on newsprint, an alternative form of entertainment carried in dozens of differently-themed titles. The medium thrived, enjoying a diverse audience. But now it is slowly vanishing from the newsstands.

These days, small publishers and indie comic book creators release stories and graphic novels on their own, attracting a different set of readers.
The revival of the multi-genre komiks medium, supported by the government, was discussed during the first Komiks Congress held in February. This was met with mixed reactions by the komiks-creating community.

The following month, komiks scribe-turned-filmmaker Carlo Caparas launched his "Komiks Caravan" script-writing seminar tour, an endeavor backed by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Caparas and his wife Donna Villa put up prizes amounting to P300,000 for the most promising creators.

Crossing over

Komiks characters have been crossing over to other entertainment venues. TV translations of komiks classics "Darna," "Captain Barbell," and "Bakekang" have done well ratings-wise, along with original fantasy shows such as "Mulawin," "Encantadia" and "Atlantika," according to Lilybeth Rasonable, GMA 7's assistant vice president for drama.

"Viewers have come to appreciate high-quality programs," said Rasonable. "Housewives used to be the core audience for soaps. But with fantasy shows, we now have kids and male adults giving the ratings extra push. There are so many classics by creative geniuses like Carlo Caparas and Mars Ravelo that we producers can modernize and offer to the new audiences."

ABS-CBN has similarly tapped into older material, examples are "Kampanerang Kuba," "Pedro Penduko" and "Panday." The long-running "Komiks" has also adapted old stories such as Liwayway magazine's "Agua Bendita."

Kylie Manalo, co-executive producer of "Komiks: Adventures of Pedro Penduko," agreed that published stories can be made into watchable programs. "A fantasy show is expensive to produce but ... we enjoy making them," she said.

Filomena "Luming" Coching (widow of Francisco V. Coching, "Dean of Filipino Illustrators"), Regie Ravelo (daughter of late luminary Mars Ravelo, who authored over 300 komiks novels), Gerry Alanguilan (online komiks museum curator, and creator/self-publisher of "Wasted" and "Elmer") and Carlo Vergara (author-illustrator of the acclaimed "Zsazsa Zaturnnah" graphic novel) recently shared with Inquirer Entertainment their thoughts on the art form, its cross-media transcendence and recent developments aimed at resuscitating the industry.

What is the significance of the Komiks Congress to readers and creators? Are you optimistic that this will lead to a real revival?

Coching: Yes, I'm optimistic that it will. Before other forms of entertainment, the comic book was a part of many people's lives. The Komiks Congress could accomplish a revival, with the help of the NCCA and Carlo Caparas.

Vergara: While I feel that [it] was very promising for the industry, I wish that specific action points to jump-start the process [had been tackled]._You have to look at it from a business point of view. If a story is entertaining, it will sell. You can put whatever lessons you want to teach in a well-written story that entertains._What's imperative is to train creators ... We have a lot of talented artists here; it's important to teach them to actually put together a comic book.

Ravelo: Any sincere effort to revive the komiks industry is welcome. There are a lot of talented writers and illustrators, old and current. A lot of Carlo Caparas' contemporaries are still alive. These are the people who would be tapped first, the very people who were displaced when the industry took a nosedive.

Alanguilan: I greeted the news of this Komiks Congress with much optimism and enthusiasm. It seemed at the time to be the first serious concerted effort to revive the komiks industry. By "komiks," I mean the inexpensive Tagalog comics geared for the masses and distributed nationwide. These ceased to exist with the closure of the komiks department of Atlas Publishing in 2005._I am part of a younger generation of creators who have been self-publishing for 15 years and who have managed to get a new industry going based on new concepts. I strongly feel that if the komiks industry were to be revived, our voice [is] important. Sadly, there was little opportunity to get heard [during the congress]. I feel that there was more grandstanding than real work that went on, which was very disappointing.

What do you think of Carlo Caparas' efforts?

Alanguilan: Personally, I am very glad that he put up P300,000 of his own to help in the effort. But to proclaim, "Buhay na ang komiks," that was a bit frustrating. I think you can say that only if komiks are again being published nationwide._Still, it's great that ... the Komiks Caravan, the writing seminars, are creating [enthusiasm] in a generation that didn't even see the komiks industry at its peak.

Ravelo: Will he be publishing komiks soon? We have several excellently written and illustrated komiks in the can. If Mr. Caparas is interested ...

Who, to you, is the foremost creator of Filipino komiks?

Alanguilan:For me, it's Francisco V. Coching. No offense to Mr. Caparas, who has been given the title Komiks King, and who, in fact, has done much worthwhile and memorable work for the industry and pop culture in general.

Coching: Carlo Caparas has earlier admitted that he's a fan of my husband's.
Since translations of "Darna" and "Zsazsa" to other media are other people's takes, what compromises did you have to deal with?

Vergara: There are bound to be compromises, but as long as the essence doesn't change, then it's good. I had no involvement with the "Zsazsa" play, but it was a direct translation, so 90 percent of the lines were left intact! It's easier for theater, because the suspension of disbelief is absolute.

Ravelo: My family and I are very pleased with the commercial success of the teleserye versions of "Darna" and "Captain Barbell." A lot of Mars Ravelo fans complained about how completely different they were from the original materials. But as much as we wanted to retain the story lines, we are obliged to give the network a free hand in creating their own updated versions. We understand the ratings game.

How rich a source are comic books for stage, cinema and television material?

Vergara: It can be a rich source, but only if people are excited to read a material, because that's for the producers to pick it up. With "Zsazsa," it started with people passing it around.

Ravelo: The "Lastikman" series will soon be shown on Channel 2, and negotiations with Channel 7 are underway for "Dyesebel." Even before TV took over as the top entertainment option for many Filipinos, we were a "reading people" because of komiks. My father wanted to impart the highest values to the lowest tiers of society, with komiks as literature. He lived and died for komiks.

Coching: Most of my husband's creations were made into movies by Sampaguita Pictures, Premier Productions and other film companies. He wrote and drew his own stories, so he got sole credit for the properties. During Martial Law, paper became expensive and some things weren't allowed to be in the stories. His "Aagos ang Dugo" was changed to "Sa Ngalan ng Batas." He stopped doing comics in 1973. He felt disappointed, maaaring tinamad na siya. He didn't want to work for American companies. Of his 56 novels, 50 became movies that were commercially successful. His "Pedro Penduko" aired as a series on ABS-CBN. The station has asked for synopses of his old novels, hopefully for revival.

Alanguilan: Komiks being a source of material for TV and movies only goes to show its importance in our culture. I would like to see new ones like "Zsazsa" translated for TV. My concern is the lack of compensation for the artists involved. It's a collaborative medium, the product of the efforts of both writer and artist. When their work is translated to a different medium, they should be given equal credit, and benefit financially.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Project : Hero. Edited by Andrew Drilon and Elbert Or. Quest Ventures and Nautilus Comics, 2005. (Reviewed by By Zarah Gagatiga)

Here is a hilarious and wonderful comic book by Filipino writers, artists and comic book creators. With new superheroes emerging from its pages, young readers are bound to enjoy the adventures and heroics of Yaya Kadabra; Jet Tatanium; Kid Continuum and Channel. Made in the tradition of well loved Pinoy comic books, Project : Hero stands out as a new creation of well written stories that kids of this generation can easily understand and relate to. Gr. 5 - High I

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Happy Birthday, Bakemono High!
Written by Lio on Thu 3 May 2007 under K-Zone Monthly

K-ZONE: When did you first get the idea for Bakemono High?
Elbert: Oh, I’ve been asked this a number of times, and each time I’ve given a different answer, but essentially, I just wanted to write stories set in a school, and putting in monsters instead of normal human kids just seemed more interesting to me. Plus, you could tell more outrageous and fun and silly stories with monsters as your characters.

Originally, “Bakemono High” was supposed to be called “Halloween High,” but with a quick Google search, I discovered that Disney had something similar planned, called “Halloweentown High.” So I quickly changed the title (and avoided watching or reading any monsters-in-school type stories so I don’t get influenced by them) into Bakemono High — bakemono, for those who don’t know, is the Japanese word for monster. Or at least, so I’m told. Whether it’s true or not, though, I like the sound of it, it sounds cool, so that’s the title I’m sticking with.

KZ: Did you think up of Amy, Max, and Chuck at once, or were there other main characters planned before them?
Elbert: I’ve always been clear that I wanted the monsters at the start to be easily recognizable — a vampire, mummy, and werewolf just seemed like the basic ones for me. From there, I just patterned their personalities after facets of myself. Amy is the one who’s always scared or worried about everything; Max is the cynical one and always has something to complain about; and Chuck is everything about me that’s impulsive. He’s also very much in love with food and girls, which, in a way, is very much like me, too.

Now that I’ve established the “normal”-looking monsters though, except some of the newer ones to get weirder and more “out there” as we go along. :)

KZ: How long does it take you to make an issue of Bakemono High?
Elbert: Drawing and coloring takes just about a couple of days, but it’s the story that takes the longest. I think about stories I can tell all the time — and trust me, I have tons of ideas! — and how I can make them fit into two pages. Sometimes I even have to ask friends of mine (like Andrew Drilon, who’s written a couple of the stories) to flesh them out for me. Two pages is never enough to contain the madness of Bakemono High, though, and I’m promising myself one day I’ll actually take the time to create an entire book-length adventure. :)

KZ: Who’s the hardest character to draw?
Elbert: The hardest character to draw is also my favorite character, Chuck. I can never draw his head quite right, the way I see it in my head.

KZ: Tell us something we don’t know about the world of Bakemono High.
Elbert: Let’s see…um, there aren’t any normal humans in their world (not yet, anyway!), the school is actually alive (which explains why its look keeps changing every so often), and — oh! Something is buried in the playground at the back of the school. And it’s alive!

Oh. And the block-headed monster that hangs out with the bullies? The one with the thick eyebrows and pasty complexion? It’s actually a Tofu monster.

KZ: Which of the supporting cast is your favorite? Why?
Elbert: I like Salem, a witch character who has no control over the spells she casts. She’s one of the characters that just came out fully-formed from my head. There’s a story I’m working in now that shows how Chuck tries to get her to be his girlfriend, which is lots of fun.

I also like Alvin, the mad scientist kid who keeps on trying to rule the world, for reasons that I hope will become more [obvious] in the future, as I give him a more prominent role in the series. Down the line, for instance, you’ll get to meet the Brain Trust, which is a “club” of mad scientists led by Alvin. They meet every month and discuss their plans to conquer the world…or the school, at least. And in another story, you’ll actually get to see one of Alvin’s mad plans succeed…well, sort of. ;)

KZ: What’s up next for the Bakemono High gang?
Elbert: Well, aside from the little peeks into the future that I’ve been sprinkling throughout the interview (haha!), the next episode of Bakemono High will feature, finally, the winner of the Draw-Your-Own-Bakemono Contest from last Halloween. It took a while, but I was working on the Bakemono stories in advance, and it’s only now that I was able to squeeze in the story featuring the winner’s creation.

You’ll also get to meet more new monsters. You get to meet more of Max’s family, like Emo Globin, a goth-punk vampire teen cousin of his. There’s also Alvin’s little club of mad scientists, the Brain Trust, and, for those who were wondering whatever happened to Victor Frankenstein Junior’s sidekick, the zombie hunchback, you’ll finally get to see what he’s all about, and where’s he been all this time.

So, is Amy really a boy or a girl?
Elbert: Everyone in Bakemono High is also asking the same question! He acts like a boy, but his name is Amy? What’s up with that? I guess you’ll have to keep reading to find out! (Though I’m sure the pronouns I use are a dead giveaway!)
SUAYAN TALKS “MOON KNIGHT”by Dave Richards, Staff Writer

Marc Spector AKA Moon Knight's brand of justice is often swift and brutal, but it's effective. Moon Knight's adventures take him down some of the darkest alleys and streets of the Marvel Universe and it takes an artist with an eye for that stygian tone to bring them to life. Next week, the second issue of “Moon Knight” by new artist Mico Suayan, whose already showing that he's got an eye for the dark toned world of the title character, hits stores. CBR News spoke with Suayan about his work on the book.

It was Suayan's work for another editor at Marvel that landed him the “Moon Knight” assignment. “ I was working on some stuff for Nick Lowe and then my Editor Axel Alonso saw my work and he e-mailed me to ask if I was interested in doing ‘Moon Knight' for them,” Suayan told CBR News. “I was like in shock during that time. 'Moon Knight' is a very important book for Marvel and they were giving it to me, a nobody in the business. But I was confident that I could do some great stuff on 'Moon Knight.'”

Suayan was introduced to Moon Knight through the work that writer Charlie Huston and artist David Finch were doing. “ I'm a fan of Charlie Huston and David Finch's current run on ‘Moon Knight,'” he said. “Before them, I really wasn't familiar with the character, but after I read the current run of MK, I did extensive research on the character's past adventures.”

Huston and Finch's work and his own research on “Moon Knight” helped define what Suayan wants his art to say about the character. “Marc/Moon Knight for me is a troubled and disturbed guy. I want my art to emphasize those characteristics,” Suayan explained. “For me it's more difficult to draw normal and clean characters without signs of problems in their life. It's more interesting for me to draw the opposite of that. It gives them more character and drama, which is what I think more readers today are interested in and i t's like the book was written for my taste and love in drawing. Every panel and page I do shows how much I love working on the book .”

It was Suayan's preference for and style of rendering dark toned things that got him the “Moon Knight” assignment. “ They liked my style before I got the 'Moon Knight' gig, but I did a few minor tweaks in my style; making it darker to fit on the books dark premise,” Suayan said.

Suayan is delighted to be working with the man bringing the ebony hued premise of “Moon Knight” to life, writer Charlie Huston. “ Charlie is a real great writer. I mean everything that I really wanted to draw is right there on the script,” Suayan stated. “He brings out the best in my work. I love his use of violence and gore, which is very difficult to use nowadays in any medium. He uses it in such an intelligent way and not just for the sake of wowing the readers. The next issues of ‘Moon Knight' will show all that. I'm really excited to draw them all.”

Since Suayan started drawing Moon Knight with issue #9, most of the characters had already been established, but the artist has had a few opportunities to do some design work. “ I did help in designing Moon Knight's current nemesis Midnight,” Suayan explained. “Also some of Moon Knight's gadgets and stuff. I especially loved designing his new Moon Copter. I gave it a more industrial look.”

Suayan knew he had big shoes to fill when jumping on "Moon Knight," well aware of the that every aspect of his art would be analyzed and scrutinized by “Moon Knight” fans used to the work of previous artist David Finch. For Suayan, this has been the most difficult aspects of working on the book. “I was a bit paranoid when my first book was released,” he explained. “I was reading every reader's reaction to my work. But so far they like my work, so I think I'm doing fine.”

The most rewarding aspects of Suayan's latest gig is that the higher ups are very happy with his work. “Working with the amazing people at Marvel is the most rewarding thing for me,” he said. “They consider me as one of their own and they take good care of me which is so over whelming,” he said. “The idea of working at Marvel is the reward itself, I mean being part of something amazing is a dream come true.

“I would like to say thanks to all those people who supported and helped me all throughout my career,” Suayan continued. “And this book is for all aspiring artists out there, dreams do come true so just do your best and be patient!"

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

‘Cast’ goes online
/ Last updated 04:31am (Mla time) 04/22/2007

MANILA, Philippines - What began as a high school memory has really gone places. Jaime Bautista recalled his high school theater experience when he came up with "Cast," a comic book about boys from St. Christian and girls from Mary The Immaculate as they work to stage the tale of King Arthur. Of course, romance breaks out in the most unexpected places even as the play itself threatens to go off the rails.

Bautista wrote "Cast," which was, in turn illustrated by a host of talented artists in a dynamic manga-influenced style. Now up to issue #11, "Cast" is published in glossy full color by Bautista's Nautilus Comics.

And now that following may just expand further as "Cast" editor Elbert Or, who has worked on the series from the beginning, explains that "Cast" can now be downloaded from the pioneering Pullbox Online site for 99 cents (yes, that's cents not centavos) per issue. So far only the first four issues, plus the "Pre-Production" special, are available but they're working to get the other issues up as well.

"For readers abroad, especially, this presents a cheap and convenient way of getting our books to them," Or says. "We've heard from readers abroad whose relatives send them copies, so for those who were left hanging and are dying to know what happens next, well, thatís what the digital comics are for!"

Bautista adds it has been an exciting experience and are also looking for an international audience, but adds that they have big things in mind for "Cast."

"We have plans for 'Cast' that will also have our Pullbox Online presence play an important role. Only the first seven issues of 'Cast' will be available on Pullbox for the immediate future. If our plans push through, it will be very clear why we are only making these issues available initially through Pullbox."

So see how it all began for the colorful cast of "Cast" or get up to date with what Or calls the "dead trees version" at National Book Store, Powerbooks, Comic Quest and Filbar’s. RSDV

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

"Elmer" reviewed in:

Gerry Alanguilan’s story of the difficulties in one race accepting another, here man and chickens, of course is a thinly veiled look at such problems that have beset man forever. It is a sharply told tale and has top notch art. Self published by Gerry’s own Komikero imprint ask your local comics store to order some direct if they don’t stock it. Alanguilan is part of what appears to be a lively local comics scene in the Philippines, although perhaps one that is not really commercially self sustaining. He is aware of the great tradition of Filipino comics greats like Alcala and Redondo - the book is in English and deserves a look, and the Filipino scene warrants further examination as it has many fine artists.
Don't Mess With The Talisman Bearer
Monday, Feb 12 2007, The Philippine Chronicle
Karl R. De Mesa

If you're a local comics fan then you've probably read one of Arnold Arre's comic books. Whether it's the modern fantasy trifecta of "The Mythology Class" series or the fanciful romance "After Eden", Arnold has always strived to give us a sense that magic and wonder need not be absent in our everyday 21st century lives.

In 1999, as a fledgling writer trying to cut my teeth on the cultural beat of the metro, I proposed to my editor a feature on "The Mythology Class". A few months thereafter, it was good fortune that Arnold illustrated a short story of mine (about a reluctant magus who uses her most powerful spell to resurrect her roadkill love -- I know, it's complicated) in a music magazine. But instead of drawing the mad and livid sorceress Zodiac Hidalgo, Arnold had drawn me.

Against a backdrop of ragged slums and city lights both inviting and sinister, there I was in place of my character. I even had on the same clothes I had on when we first met. How strange, to say the least, it is to see yourself in the media res of your own fiction. How strange and illuminating.

See, prior to this, I had only felt Zodiac's emotions from a storyteller's aloofness, that second remove that is half-voyeurism and half-pathos so necessary to render tales authentic. After I saw the illustration though, Zodiac's pain, frustration, and helplessness came flooding in.

I understood completely her motivation for such a selfish act. With this understanding, she became more human and thus forgivable. It is this insight into the acts of both monsters and supermen that Arnold gives us with compassion and energy in his latest graphic novel "Ang Mundo ni Andong Agimat" (released under his own Tala Comics Publishing house).

Arnold was kind enough to send me his newest creation and I owe him much thanks. With 200-plus pages of black and white comics, "Ang Mundo" is the tale of the title character, an anti-hero in the throes of existential angst battling to save Pinas from a prime evil as antediluvian as they come.

Two things are different here from Arnold's previous works. first, this one is written in Tagalog and second, this book is way more dark than either "After Eden's" adolescent love story or "Mythology Class's" ethnic X-Men gone magickal.

Key to all this is Andong himself (who kind of looks like a cross between Rudy Fernandez circa "Markang Bungo", Zoren Legaspi, and Ramon Revilla with a bit of FPJ thrown in). While the Manila he moves in is certainly fantastic enough in that the superhuman and supernatural arewoven into the fabric of daily life (cult leaders are ghouls of demonic malignos, gangs have impakto members, and goddesses roam the streets selling sampaguitas forgetful of theri true nature), this is the same Third World Country where 60 percent of the population is below the poverty line and crime is rife in the inner city.

Against this atmospheric setting Andong was born and raised, a true thug among thugs. The kind of guy who didn't back down from any fistfight, the kind of bully who grows up, unsurprisingly, into a criminal who kills. While it would give too much away to narrate Andong's transformation from "Most Wanted" to reluctant police asset in the superhuman organized crime division, suffice to say that Andong The Talisman Holder is much like "Hellblazer's" John Constantine. Using his powers for money does not bother him (he has to eat, he readily explains) and to say that his talismanic gifts have brought him no joy would be to see only one side of this complicated character's motives.

Catching gang bangers ensures that Andong can both survive and pay his dues or, literally, his sins. It is both his burden and strength - he wants to stop inflicting violence but it's the only thing he's good at. Plus redemption seems a bit more within reach when he does. Can I convey his catch-22 more clearly?

"Andong was more of a tribute to Classic 70s Pinoy action fantasy heroes," explains Arnold, "with a darker tone to it. it was challenging to write because the superhero genre has been explores so many times so I had to create a story that was fresh and original."

No doubt. The fact that Andong sleeps on overpass stairs, pukes his guts out every morning after a drunken binge and is not above torturing suspects for information is grit par excellence. There is an immediacy and veracity (the kind that would make the young fans of Arnold's previous work flinch) that "Ang Mundo" expresses beyond the sometimes awkward dialogue of the flawed world-building. Then again, Barker's "Imagica" was as prickly in places.

This is the kind of story that is at once social commentary, superb genre work and homage to the komiks of old. I like it better than his other books, to be frank. I could roam the streets of Andong's world in rapture for days, the danger and poetry of it exquisite, the taste of dust and gunpowder in the air an aphrodisiac -- like a homecoming.

Read "Ang Mundo ni Andong Agimat" and experience a radically different gloom-tinged Arnold Arre still mining the raw gems of Philippine folklore and Lower Mythology to turn them into an obsidian obra of the dark fanatic.

"Ang Mundo ni Andong Agimat" is available at all major book stores.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The little comic book that could

CARLO Vergara didn’t set out to make the Great Philippine Comic Book when he created "Ang Kagila-Gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah". He did secretly nurture hopes that his work could contribute in making Philippine comics great again. But not even the 35 year- old Vergara — with his fanciful imagination and penchant for the absurd — could have expected the reaction his gay superhero would generate.

Zsazsa Zaturnnah, the long-tressed bombshell alter-ego of the beautician Ada, has so penetrated Pinoy pop culture consciousness that "she" has leapt from the pages of the comic book to a stage musical and, in this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival, to a movie headlining some of the country’s top stars. Given such phenomenal popularity, Carlo Vergara could very well be the Mars Ravelo of his generation — or at least, Zaturnnah today’s Darna.

"I was very surprised by the kind of reception it got," admits Vergara who has a day job as art director of Real Living magazine. "It spread without any kind of publicity, talagang word of mouth lang."

The turning point probably came when the comic book received a National Book Award in 2003, with the Manila Critics’ Circle citing Vergara both for his "intricately realistic black-and-white lines" and his "rousingly funny story about planet women, giant frogs, zombies and, well, the battle for good and perfect perms, all with sharp, comfortable self-aware dialogue".

Since then, the "underground" Zaturnnah — previously available only in comic book shops — enjoyed a subsequent healthy print run from a "legit" publishing house (no longer just self-published) and found itself on the shelves of mainstream outlets like National Bookstore.

Not much later, Vergara awarded the movie adaptation rights to Regal Films, although it is only now that it has been produced — ostensibly because of the runaway success of the musical version earlier this year (and which, by the way, will have another staging in January at the Cultural Center of the Philippines).


Last Thursday, Vergara sat in the darkened theater as "Zsazsa Zaturnnah Ze Movie" had its premiere presentation at SM Megamall. Watching his characters come to life on the big screen, he confesses to having "the strangest feeling. I’m not a hypocrite to say that I’m not excited, but it’s not a euphoric level of excitement. Maybe because, like the musical, it’s the work of other people. It may have been my idea, but sila ‘yung naghirap to make these productions happen. Kung baga, ‘tsuwariwap’ na lang ako diyan eh." (Or could Vergara’s enthusiasm perhaps have been diluted by the fact that the screening started, as wags at the premiere complained, at an unbelievable four hours[!] late?)

In any case, the graphic designer is grateful that Zaturnnah has gone this far.

"For me, it all boils down to the comics. When I wrote it, I didn’t have a grand plan, na sana maging musical ito o pelikula. Ang gusto ko lang, sana magkaroon ng konting readership. If there was a grand plan, it was really to help Philippine comics. I wanted to make something that readers would keep and put on their bookshelves, at di lang gagawing pambalot ng tinapa pagkabasa."

Quality in illustrations and story was uppermost in Vergara’s mind, with his work requiring many revisions, from the characters’ names (Ada used to be Lea, while Dodong was Zandro) to the villains’ costumes (Queen Femina and her Amazonista warriors were initially clothed in a "sci-fi with Spice Girls theme" wardrobe before Vergara settled on the haute couture treatment).

Vergara stresses that while the story was partly inspired by his own personal experiences, he did not have a "gay agenda" for Zaturnnah as some readers have perceived.

"I hate propaganda. I hate aggressive salespeople. I don’t like people hammering ideas into my head. Let me decide what I want to believe in or not. It was all in the context of the characters, and not because of any message I wanted to put forward," he explains.

But again, Vergara is thankful that gay readers in particular seem to have found a champion in Zaturnnah and that others — straight or homosexual — have been analyzing the characters and their own reactions to them to death.

In a chat forum, for example, he saw a question that he hardly had an answer to — How does Zsazsa Zaturnnah depict modernism? He has also heard from straight guys who have grappled with existentialist questions after reading the comic book. Apparently because they got the joke, they started wondering, "Bading ba ako?"

All these reactions have reassured Vergara that what he created is not disposable entertainment. Because of the unexpected surge of interest in Zaturnnah (and the additional buzz bound to be spawned by the movie), he has re-thought things. Originally, he only wanted Zaturnnah to be a two-parter comic book (compiled into one in succeeding releases) — the reason why he had put a very definite "Wakas" at the end of his work. He had wanted to tackle a totally different theme for his next graphic novel, but now, a whole avenue of possibilities has opened up.

"It made me rethink about how far the modern Filipino comic book could go, that it’s possible pala to achieve such heights that it achieved in the ‘50s and ‘60s. That even with the prevalence of DVDs, video games and other forms of entertainment, meron pa rin palang mapapasukan ang komiks," notes Vergara.


He is, in fact, in the thick of preparing a sequel. He already has a plot in place, fragments of script and character studies and sketches. Avid Zaturnnah followers will be thrilled to know that the heroine’s adventures will continue, with the title still a toss-up though — either "Ang Kagila-Gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah sa Kalakhang Manila" or simply "Zsazsa Zaturnnah in Manila", whichever will fit, says Vergara.

In the upcoming installment, readers will get to meet Gwyneth (Miss Gay Arruba 2001 who supplied Zaturnnah’s skimpy costume). Mirroring the big place that is Manila, the complications will also be bigger — with the enemies that she will have to face, with the issues in the relationship between Ada and Dodong, with her own powers which will further develop. On an emotional level, Ada will confront the same challenges baffling other superheroes — specifically the wish to just lead a normal life.

For Vergara, life is imitating art now.

"I just wanted to have a job and make comics. In my desire to lead a normal life, nagkaroon ng musical, nagkaroon ng movie. It has been a very surreal year. Ang kulang na lang ang isang Dodong," Vergara guffaws.

He acknowledges that there is naturally the pressure to produce a worthy sequel, especially when the forerunner produced laugh-a-minute zingers and repartee. But unlike say a teledrama that can unspool for years because it has a team of writers behind it, Vergara only has himself to rely on. "It has to be fresh for me. It should be an idea that I consider unique. What I do is I just go with the flow of the story and the intention, then the scene construction follows."

This tack is influenced by Vergara’s stage experience, particularly in improvisational theater. Given a certain situation, for example, he lets his mind wander as to what could possibly happen and how the characters would react. He admits to having "schizo" moments when he suddenly laughs out loud on his own, just thinking about the possibilities.

The additional challenge for him is that he is now in a happier frame of mind, a stark contrast to the time of Zaturnnah’s creation when his life was in turmoil. His depressed state then actually helped bring out the humor in his characters. So now, he has to go through what he calls an immersive experience. This involves capturing what it felt like the first time around, coupled with reliving his exposure to "mainstream" entertainment. Thus, he has been listening again to a lot of AM radio and watching entire episodes of "Wowowee" (with its mind-numbing "boom-tarararat" refrain). He finds that this kind of exposure helps spark his thoughts and ideas.

With the unforeseen mass appeal of Zaturnnah, Vergara is also considering eventually completing a five-book series devoted to the character. The series would explore the evolution of a hero "who just happens to be homosexual" — testing his resilience as he contends with overwhelming situations, with the adventure growing bigger in each installment.

Vergara has gone as far as plotting out the remaining books. "Parang Tolkien at J.K. Rowling—without the money," he wisecracks. In the midst of the various capers, which will run the gamut from psycho-horror adventures to intergalactic hi-jinks, Ada/Zaturnnah will struggle with the question, "What is my place in all these?"

Vergara wonders if any of these future editions will again capture the fancy of Zaturnnah fans, especially since some of the stories will admittedly be darker and more serious. While one might be tempted to stay in what’s been tried and tested, Vergara wants to go beyond the comfort zone. "I care so much about this character that I would like him to grow as much as I would like myself to grow. There is a fine line between satisfying yourself and satisfying your readers. But as my friend (and fellow graphic novelist) Arnold Arre has told me, I should go back to the reason why I did the first one — which was, I wanted to tell an interesting story, that hopefully others would enjoy."

In the end, Vergara can only wish that the forthcoming Zaturnnah sequel (possibly to be released end of 2007) and other episodes in the coming years will appeal to readers just like the first one inexplicably did. "The comic book may entertain them, it may make them smile or laugh a bit. But if they find themselves thinking about the characters’ purpose and motivations — what they’re all about — then I’d say that I’ve succeeded in what I set out to do. Which is to help make Pinoy comic books engaging again."


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