Sunday, December 31, 2006

Another Year Over

Torotot Time

Hello, 2007.

2006 was a pretty okay year for me, overall. Thanks to all the people who made it worth remembering. You’re the finest.

Just started posting at my new gallery site, alternatural art. I’ll still post some of my artworks here, but that other one’s exclusively for my illustrations. There’s a mix of old and new drawings over there, so do check that out soon.

Christmas week was pretty normal. Got a few gifts. Partook of the food, and shared some. I gained two pounds, which I think happened some weeks back. Hope to lose some weight soon.

Spoke with Benedict’s ex (“the one who got away”), who left Wednesday for Europe, and found out that I do have some things in common with that person. We both adore Harriet Wheeler (of The Sundays), Eddie Reader (of Fairground Attraction), Lightning Seeds and Ocean Blue, among others… hee hee.

Hung out with John yesterday afternoon, after finally finding time to get some of my comics from Druid’s Keep. Essential Handbook of the Marvel Universe-'89 Update is out, woohoo! That, and the latest Astonishing X-Men. Only a few issues left for the Whedon-Cassaday team.

Anyway. Manigong Bagong Taon! If you jumble the letters, they can spell “Gangbang Moaning Too!”

Speed of Sound

Songs that meant something to me in 2006. Some aren’t necessarily new, but they’re part of my soundtrack for the year nonetheless:

I See You, You See Me (Magic Numbers), One (U2 and Mary J. Blige), Teen for God (Dar Williams), Last Worthless Evening (Don Henley), Chasing Cars (Snow Patrol), Love Shines (Live), Bad Day (Daniel Powter), What Can Never Be (Sinead Lohan), Stolen (Dashboard Confessional), Passionate Kisses (Mary Chapin Carpenter), Will You Be There in the Morning (Heart), Fidelity (Regina Spektor), Dear Jessie (Madonna), High and Dry (Jamie Cullum), Shasta (Vienna Teng), Am I Wrong (Love Spit Love), Speak to Me (Color It Red), Key West Intermezzo (John Mellencamp), Time After Time (Cyndi Lauper and Sarah McLachlan), Something to Believe In (Poison), Show Me Heaven (Maria McKee), Valley of Sound (Heather Nova), Afterglow (INXS), Rumble Doll (Patti Scialfa), Speak to Me Someone (Gene), Bluest Eyes in Texas (A Camp), and Collide (Howie Day).

Making the Page Count

My fave comic books of the year. Some of them were only lent to me, heh. I included titles that didn’t come out this past year, also, stuff that I only read recently. Some that I can remember, in no particular order:

Stupid Comics TPB- Finally, a compilation of Mahfood's witty, honest and entertaining comic strips.

Walking Dead- A suspenseful year, as a really terrifying human bad guy, the Governor, is introduced.

All-New Marvel Universe A-Z- Updated character guide; I hope they start showing new, exclusive art next time though.

Astonishing X-Men- Love the friction between Emma Frost and Kitty Pryde.

Essential Marvel Universe Handbooks- Still very informative, the ‘80s companion series has been compiled into five thick books.

All-Star Superman- Each issue’s been imaginative, energetic and refreshing, so far.

X-Factor- Nice new lineup, and one of the deeper, more involving X-books out there.

Astro City-The Dark Age- The ending raises questions, but the arc is still a good read.

Thing- While short-lived, it was respectful of continuity and full of fun surprises.

Aloysius Crumrin- It’s an early adventure of the wizard character. Hope Naifeh continues to do more stuff like this, and Courtney Crumrin.

Promethea Vol. 1 TPB- Chockfull of Moore goodness. I like the overlapping but coexisting concepts. Trippy.

New Avengers Annual # 1- A good action issue that finally shows the team dynamic.

Deadpool- Liked the Joe Kelly issues most of all. He made the character real interesting.

Villains United Special- The villains make their move, the Justice League expands, and Metropolis becomes a war zone. What a great cliffhanger.

Shining Knight- This Seven Soldiers title stood out for me, because of the well-paced storytelling and exceptional art.

Runaways- You care about them and their best character dies. Drat.

Secret Six- It’s kinky, dirty, and unpredictable. I love it.

Exiles- It makes every alternate reality in Marvel count, and stars an eclectic mix of dimension-hopping characters.

She-Hulk- Again, Slott tells stories well.

New Avengers Civil War tie-ins- It’s great that these issues were self-contained. There’s good characterization especially in the Captain America, Luke Cage and Spider-Woman issues.

Young Justice- Wholesome fun with the young DC heroes, but it’s occasionally a dark teen team book.

Young Avengers- Nicely done first year, and I’m looking forward to how these characters develop.

Civil War Front Line- This actually enhances the main Civil War book.

The Forty Niners- Gorgeously rendered tale about Precinct Ten and Neopolis in the early days.

Stuff I didn’t like at all: Alpha Flight killed off-panel in New Avengers, the confusing and abrupt ending of Seven Soldiers, the evil Batgirl arc in Robin, the last three issues of Marvel Team-Up, the unending massacre of mutant students in New X-Men, and the inconsistent art of Infinite Crisis # 7.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Oi to the World and Everybody Wins

Patience of Angels

Saint Jim, Noche Buena. "He knows if you’ve been bad or good…"

Two years ago, December 23rd, the first batch of Lexy, Nance & Argus copies was dropped off and displayed at Comic Quest Megamall. Deciding to publish that was an easy one; the tough part was figuring out how to fund the thing after discovering that it might wipe out my measly savings if I pushed through with it. By November 2004, I had begun looking for a printer. I contacted almost every company listed in the old directories and soon realized that it was going to be hard finding one that I can afford, that had to be located nearby. One printer stood out, though. I appreciated that the nice old lady seemed very hands-on with her projects at the office when I visited. After explaining to her what I wanted, we went through paper stock and binding options, and found out that the total cost would be lower than what the other printing presses were asking.

But it was still too steep for me. I believed in my project, so I considered asking relatives to fund half of it, then I’d pay up bit by bit. I didn’t ask them, however. I really wasn’t comfy talking about the content of the book with them, but luckily, a good friend bailed me out by financing half the printing expenses (slowly but surely, I was able to pay him back, about five or six months later). So it was set. The printer lady was kind, and explained that she needed to get a friend—another printer--to help her, so that the project would be finished before Christmas. The two printers knew what they were doing, although there were just very specific things that I called their attention to.

It was, again, tough; I had to reject and send back several thick reams of finished pages, as some of them had obvious ink blots or other unforeseen errors. I helped correct the film-stripping mistakes (I never thought those Ad Production skills from college would one day prove handy), and later, inspect the page count and the signature arrangement. I sat down for long hours to make sure that stapled and trimmed copies didn’t lack pages. A hundred copies had been bound and finished by the evening of Dec. 22nd, and I also dropped off complimentary books for review by the next afternoon.

Two years later, I’m still grateful that people write me about the comic book. It’s very encouraging that, as something that started out as monthly 2-pagers in 2001, there were people who believed in it, who waited patiently for the actual comic book to come out all those years later. Many of the reactions were very particular about their favorite parts or characters (even psychic Jim—in the drawing above--has some fans, yay!), while others included it in their Friendster, Blogger, or MySpace profiles (sometimes alongside Bob Ong books and stuff by local comics luminaries). I’m glad that it’s gotten favorable reviews and reactions from different readers--students, authors and teachers—in blogs and in publications such as PDI, Inquirer Libre, Manila Bulletin, Cosmopolitan, Icon, and FHM.

I compile all the letters, reviews and messages in a clearbook that, I must admit, is something that I look at whenever I have lapses in confidence. Some say that the comic book has helped them recognize important things in their own lives, in their own situations. I have also made some friends because of it, and maybe, alienated others because of it, too.

But pushing through with it was a decision that I never regretted.

Turn the Other Cheek

There’s something really odd about the comic book that accompanied the Psylocke Marvel Legends action figure. The toy is wearing the sexy ninja bikini; it has the partially exposed buttcheeks, but the comic book, a reprint of Uncanny X-Men # 258 (part three of “Lady Mandarin”) has been cleaned up! Look at the original panels (above, click on it to enlarge) and the newer versions (below). I dunno, the Jim Lee art looked awesome—this was the time when he was just becoming popular—but I wonder why they chose this comic book, and had to be conservative about it. Yeah, it was a sexy-looking issue; but in the reprint, as with the panels here, Betsy and Logan’s buns have been covered up! In some pages, Psylocke’s bikini and thighs were blackened out, like she’s wearing cycling shorts. Wolvie’s once-barehipped loincloth now has a different cut, heaven knows why. Just so effing weird.

Closure At Last

Watched Eragon with John, met up briefly with Benedict and his ex, and had yummy Caramel Brownie Blizzard at Dairy Queen last Monday. Benedict dropped by the house the next evening to watch the last Six Feet Under ep, and ate fried rice on my bed.

There was an awesome montage by the end of SFU, but I think they removed the Keith-David wedding! What the?! Anyway, that montage was sad, but beautiful. Made me tear up a little when I watched it a second time, a few hours ago. Best part of the season, definitely.

So. Happy holidays! Have fun and eat well, people. Play safely.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Bangin' on My TV Set

I felt a little stressed with self-imposed deadlines, so I dropped everything last Sunday and just rested, read, and caught up with some TV shows. Not The Amazing Race, however. I skipped many episodes of the recently finished season. I watched about two and a half episodes total. I dunno, I didn’t have the urge to watch it at all these past few weeks. I just got bored with it. I guess I’m more interested with non-reality shows, for the time being.

I finally watched Entourage season 1, all eight episodes in one sitting. It averaged at 24 minutes an episode, so it was easy to stay with. I like that apart from the manager, the agent and the two tag-alongs, the actor played by Adrian Grenier has encounters with Hollywood weirdos, eccentrics, and people playing themselves. Funny, and sometimes, quite clever. I think they may have cut out some nudity, and bleeped off some profanity in the regular airing, but I really don’t know. I hope the Virtusios get the next season DVD set soon (wink, wink).

I’m also watching the third season of Alias already, and after six episodes, I’m beginning to miss many things, because it just doesn’t feel like the same show anymore. Season 2 was good, but once they ditched Sydney’s double agent status, things looked a little lost. But that, after a few episodes, changed with the introduction of new threats like the fake Francie, as well as the reintroduction of Sloane as the evil fugitive, and of course, Irina and Sark. However, the “two years later” jump by the season finale, while bold, feels a little like cheating. We’ll see if important flashbacks reveal the whole story in season 3.

Speaking of third seasons, the latest Desperate Housewives has been so-so, so far. There has been one episode that I really like, though, the one with the supermarket situation. After that, it’s pretty much the same show, with new mysteries that feel cloned from the debut season’s. The storylines are looping, with very few changes. Bree the freak-magnet is now with someone who’s similarly obsessive; Mike the plumber is now amnesiac and is being linked to an unsolved crime; Susan has yet to be truly happy with another man; Gabby and Carlos’ love-hate relationship has become exhausting to watch. But I’ll still follow the show. I just hope things get better.

Ah, couch potato-ing can be such a chore, sometimes.

Before the Cows Come Home

A panel from David Hontiveros’ Avatar # 1. I drew this in 1999. The script, if I remember correctly, needed a panel where aliens prep a cow to carry a superhuman being in its womb.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Stars Wrapped in the Neon Glow

Busy as a bee, as the cliché goes. Assignments for the paper have piled up, but I’m working on them, and I hope to finish them all soon. I was called to help out in last Friday’s anniversary party; I had to interview a bunch of people who were performing in the show downstairs, at the office parking lot. I arrived 7:40-ish, and waited a bit for some of the performers to arrive.

Imago was fun. I actually saw most of the members in person before; I‘ve seen Aia De Leon and Zach Lucero at the Neil Gaiman event last July, while I’ve seen Tim Cacho from afar during a movie premiere in Megamall early this year. But the interview was the first time I’ve been introduced to them as a group. And it was great that I didn’t expect to be talking to them, but I knew enough of their music (I’ve been listening to them since the debut album, five years ago), so it was mostly an easy conversation. After the interview, Tim and Aia mentioned that I remind them of Jal from the band Sugarfree. Myrene Academia took a picture of me with her phone and told me she’d show the guy. Hehe. By the way, the picture above is their third and latest album. I still prefer their debut CD, but it’s still Imago, even if they sound differently, instrumentally and lyrically. A fun, talented bunch, they are.

The section’s reporter Bayani was such a trooper the whole time I was there, interviewing other celebrities in that same room where the singers and bands ate dinner, rested, and prepared for their appearances downstairs. I was able to talk to the Callalily boys too, a group of UST students in their late teens (I thought the band would be older, as I only saw their music video once before… by the way, Mark Bonifacio, if you’re reading this, sorry I didn’t recognize you kaagad!). I also interviewed Bimbo Cerrudo, who had really interesting things to say about his 20-year-old career in showbiz.

The tisoy boys from Philippine Idol also stayed in the room for a time, and had their pics taken by people at the paper. Later, Zsa Zsa Padilla arrived and sat down. She talked about ZsaZsa Zaturnnah with some people I’m not familiar with, but I don’t think it was an interview. I really didn’t pay attention because she was maybe 12 feet away from me, and I didn’t wanna eavesdrop. By that time, I had finished with work, and I was finally able to get food from the buffet. Had some crunchy fried balls with crab meat in them (I think), fried rice, pancit canton, and iced tea. Oh, and I got some Pringles-looking potato chips, which were just served on a platter at the table, and put them on my plate too. Yum. Free food.

Had an interesting time over there. Kat, Ma’ams Emmie, Rose and Cora were very accommodating. Had to leave by 10:45. Ma’am Cora wanted to have a picture taken of us before I left, so she looked for a photographer at the party. Hehe.

Fun, surreal work night.

Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong

If you’re in Glorietta and planning to watch something there but you can’t decide what it is you wanna see, go catch Little Miss Sunshine, which stars Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear, and Abigail Breslin. It’s a fun, sad, hilarious and memorable family-road trip-beauty contest parody movie. It may remind you of your own relatives, or not, but it’s something that every family should see. It’s an Ayala exclusive and it’s showing starting today.

Rocking Around the Family Tree

Six Feet Under’s final episode airs on Tuesday, Dec. 19. Finally! Last week’s episode was great, but several weeks have passed since that and last night’s episode, and it’s getting tiring to see the Fishers go through different periods of depression after losing a family member. I really hope that the series ends satisfyingly.

Another unique TV family, the Bristows, has become interesting. I’m now 10 episodes into the second season of Alias, which has included Lena Olin and David Anders in its cast. Olin plays Irina Derevko, a top spy-assassin, while Anders is Julian Sark, her protégé “son” and a similarly proficient merc badass. I loved it when the Bristow clan fought together during a mission in India, and the storyline which guested Faye Dunaway. Am loving the series, so far.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Teen for God

Ten days from now, it’ll be Christmas season in the Philippines again, officially. I’m an outsider now, but admittedly, the season fills me with good memories and reminds me of being with those dearest to me. I admire the spirit of togetherness, of spreading good cheer, and the various colorful customs that the holidays bring, even when I'm not into the original meaning anymore.

I like Russ’ recent post about his agnosticism, “Africa,” and it’s always good to discover that spiritual contentment for some people needn’t be compressed and organized into one belief system. I can relate to that, sometimes, when I’m not a total disbeliever and I wonder if there really is this encompassing intelligence behind all existence. As I have mentioned repeatedly here, I just don’t wish to belong to any religion or organization that claims absolute truth and punishment for those who don’t believe in their centuries-old version of the ever-powerful God. I don’t believe in that, nor will I swear on any book that encapsulates beliefs pertaining to any specific deity. I just don’t have that faith. It works for some people and I respect that.

But for me, the universe is such a vast and layered place, and there are more dimensions to it than we can possibly comprehend as humans. If a specific God from the major religions were to be proven as the real one, as someone who commands unhesitating obedience, well, I’d still not worship that being. I’ve hundreds of questions, and I’ve seen enough bad things happen to good people to concern myself with winning the favor of an entity that has left us earthlings to fend for ourselves. I really don’t get why, like the queen’s mirror in Snow White, I have to remind an abstract concept that he’s the fairest one of all. I also don’t accept tragedies and misfortunes as “God’s will” because that excuse oversimplifies things, and doesn’t really put that divine creator in a good light.

I do remember belonging and trying to make sense of my life in high school, where I felt it imperative that I recognize the power and forgiveness of a god whom I believed to have sent his demigod son to redeem humankind. I used to think that I’ve seen the light, that spiritually, I’m enriched. A friend would bring me to his family’s born-again Christian bible studies, and I’d attend weekly mass too. Even then as a teen, though, I wondered why there had to be these schisms between different Christian groups--I still don’t get it now--but back then, all that mattered was that personal bond, as only a surrendering worshipper can offer the worshipped.

But life happened. Pains, victories, the whole shebang. I found out I couldn’t be the person that that God wanted me to be. I didn’t fall in with the wrong crowd; if anything, I just recognized what I wanted in my life years later, and religious interference wasn’t one of them. I began questioning why there were these contradicting versions within this variant flock, and without. And, as I came from one religion whose book of ancient accounts shows an omniscient but imperfect God, I wondered: don’t other people see how inconsistent and occasionally out of character this being has been portrayed throughout the book? There were various authors, yes, but why the radically conflicting accounts? Why has he exhibited a clear, contemptible disdain for his creatures on more than one occasion, when he was supposed to be perfect and can’t be taken by surprise? Why does he need us to complete him? Who transcribed these supposedly divine words, exactly?

I felt that it was becoming detrimental to my development as a person, so I moved on. I don’t need to be lectured on bedroom matters by avowed celibates. I’ve no desire to sing praises anymore to a God that had become a stranger to me (although I must admit that there are some beautiful hymns in church). I can’t reconcile my quest for personal betterment with these complicated, earth-based bureaucracies. Sometimes I wonder how many people think as I do, or cry foul whenever some religious enforcers make up some dated directives or single out the most furious passages to quote when condemning non-believers or errant souls.

What really frighten me now are the extremists of different religions, those who will brook no dissenting opinions. It’s really regrettable when religious leaders also inspire further division, threatening calamities and divine vengeance in the afterlife, and even blaming old catastrophes on those who don’t follow their interpretation of ancient scriptures. I don’t understand, either, why some followers are quick to apologize for their human and fallible leaders, too, or ignore their failings altogether. Oh, well.

I used to love Jesus. Or maybe, I just thought I did. Well, whichever the case, that doesn’t matter anymore. I’m definitely loving myself and enjoying my life more now. I still hope and wish for better things and brighter tomorrows, yes. I keep hoping that this pitiful planet knows real peace and harmony at last, among other things. These divisions may escalate more before that happens, though. If there’s indeed a God, I’d like to think that it’d be many times bigger and better than anything we can imagine, dwarfing manifold all those versions that have come before, and that it won’t need us as its mouthpieces or devotees.

Faith and Common Ground

Since I’m talking about metaphysical enigmas, I’d like to share these two lovely pieces—a song and some comics captions--I’ve come across just a few years back

Let the Mystery Be
(Iris De Ment)

“Everybody’s wondering what and where they all came from. Everybody’s worrying ‘bout where they’re gonna go when the whole thing’s done. Nobody knows for certain, so it’s all the same to me. I think I’ll just let the mystery be.

“Some say once you’re gone, you’re gone forever and some say you’re gonna come back. Some say you rest in the arms of the Savior if in sinful ways, you lack. Some say that they’re coming back in a garden, bunch of carrots and little sweet peas. I think I’ll just let the mystery be.

“Some say they go to a place called Glory and I ain’t saying it ain’t a fact. But I’ve heard that I’m on the road to purgatory and I don’t like the sound of that. I believe in love and I live my life accordingly. And I choose to let the mystery be.”

The Sweetest Things (excerpt from Stupid Comics # 2)
Jim Mahfood

“Without art, writing, and music there would be no reason for me to be. These 3 forms are the purest expression of man’s soul. The ultimate expression. And so I create. And I try and understand through my work. And I talk to God everyday. He is my homeboy. And I’m no genius but I’m smart enough to realize that God does not exist. Because God is me. God is you. God is everyone. God is this bird. He is this tree. God is the universe. He is infinite. God is the energy that connects all living things. We’re all in this together.”

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Seen this past week or so:

1. Britney’s girl thing. Well, the ex-teen pop star shows ‘em what they want. She went commando. Hey, I’m not judging. But feisty fashion list-maker Mr. Blackwell’s probably fuming right now. It’s interesting that Ms. Spears has been in partying mode for the last couple of weeks, hanging out with fellow celebs Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan and celebrating her split from the ex. And just as talk of their supposed sex tape died down, people get a peek at her goodies anyway. More than once. Oops, indeedy.

2. Pacquiao’s parade. What the hell were all those people doing with him on that float? Were they boxing champs too? Utterly shameless, self-aggrandizing opportunists. Good thing the boxer’s declared that politics is the last thing in his mind right now. Let’s hope that he won’t ever aspire to become a politician, and just sticks to doing what he's great at--bashing heads in--instead.

3. Sarah McLachlan sang “River.” Just saw her perform on Conan. It’s not as beautiful as the Joni Mitchell original, but Sarah’s more than worthy to cover it. It’s from her new Christmas album "Wintersong." I wanna listen to that, and Aimee Mann’s recently released holiday album.

4. Super Spy. Finally watched and finished the first season of Alias. Jennifer Garner kicks serious ass as double agent Sydney Bristow. Yeah, I know, I'm late in finding that out. I was skeptical of the series at first, but I like how the conceit's been entertainingly and believably stretched to the end of the season, so far. I also like that she’s a mistress of disguise, that she’s scrappy and can pull off a lot of identities. Too bad she didn’t do so well as Elektra, though. I hope the next couple of seasons will keep me as interested. The show just ended early this year, after five seasons.

5. Heroes. People are noticing similarities between this show and Lost, but as I’ve yet to watch an episode of the latter, I really don’t know how Heroes might be emulating it. Anyway, I like some parts, but find some characters’ situations boring so far. But as it’s an ambitious enough fantasy series and very much comics-inspired, I’m curious how the multiple storylines connect and become realized. I like Hiro (the time-space bender), the younger Petrelli brother (the power mimic), and the cheerleader (with the healing factor and the obviously evil dad). Hope the payoff’s good.

6. The latest Civil War Frontline. With the exception of the hit-and-miss last portion of the book (which has gotten really forced in presenting war analogies lately), this eleven-issue series is an important tie-in to the main Civil War miniseries, and is mostly a substantial, worthwhile read. It’s more meaningful and deeper than that main title, actually. The central book, unfortunately, has been suffering from jumpy storytelling and is having a lot of important things happen off-panel or off-book, which shouldn't be the case.

7. Smooching. A pair of twenty-ish lesbian girls kissed each other goodbye as one of them was boarding a jeep in Muntinlupa. Sweetest thing I’ve seen all week.