Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Scrappy Dappy Dude

Bolt’s got nothing on Krypto the Superdog, and his perception of reality can be likened to Buzz Lightyear’s delusions of grandeur in the first Toy Story. But he’s so gosh-darned cute.

Bolt thinks he’s got super powers, and is duped into believing, almost Truman Show-esque, that his many encounters are real. He’s the star of his own show, watched by humans, pigeons and couch potato rodents alike. His discovery of the truth is inevitable, an adventure outside the studios that’s quite familiar but fun, filled with warm and fuzzies all over.

It’s screening at Metro Manila theaters. Saw this in 3D last Sunday at Gateway’s Super Digital Cinema. Everyone had to wear snazzy 3D glasses the whole time. It’s not the Imax; it’s a different experience, but still an okay alternative.

Avenging, Assembling

Flashback to twenty years ago: That same day my dad bought me a cassette player for my birthday, I also got a copy of Avengers # 300, which would be borrowed by a college classmate years later. There were two that I lent, actually, that issue and the one that preceded it. I’ve long accepted that they’re gone for good, as I haven’t spoken to the guy in over a decade.

Anyway, Avengers # 300 was a tie-in to the massive X-crossover event “Inferno,” and an issue that featured an odd but interesting lineup. I actually liked that two of three new members were from the Fantastic Four. It was unusual to include spouses Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman, and somewhat audacious to have them as members while wearing their FF uniforms. But I thought it was cool to have them as part of Earth’s Mightiest. They were active members for only a few issues.

While my allowance back then could only afford me a few titles a month, I’d buy or read Avengers and its spinoff title West Coast Avengers whenever possible. The Stern, Englehart and Byrne eras of those two books kept me excited, and showed some sides to the Marvel Universe that weren’t being explored in the mutant titles.

Twenty years after issue # 300, there are now three monthly Avengers titles (New, Mighty, Initiative), with a fourth (Dark) on the way. For almost five years now, it’s mostly been the Bendis-verse; the writer has been involved in big events where the Avengers figure in heavily, such as Disassembled, House of M and Secret Invasion. I’m following these titles to see how some of my favorite characters are faring, and how Avengers mythology is evolving.

Bendis’ pacing can be unsatisfying. His early New Avengers stories were often stretched to fit the 6-issue trade paperback format. Other things that I’m not happy with are the untapped potential of his chosen rosters (his two New Avengers lineups could’ve done more), and the occasional discarding of established continuity (e.g. Ares’ son, Scarlet Witch’s prior knowledge of her lost twins, Wasp getting a growth formula before MA, etc.). Also disappointing are baffling stunts such as Alpha Flight’s off-panel demise, and some out-of-character moments.

His two New Avengers Annuals, some Civil War tie-in issues, and the more self-contained stories, however, can be counted among his better works. Right now, I feel that his current stints on Mighty and New are the black sheep of my Avengers collection; I actually like his choice of members, but feel that he rarely utilizes them as solid groups. All those issues devoted to fleshing out Secret Invasion could’ve focused instead on new, modular stories about the teams. I’m still hoping that he focuses less on the big crossover events and does shorter, more focused Avengers stories soon, since it looks like he’ll still be shaping Avengers lore for some time.

Except for Initiative, which has been consistently great, Avengers has been strictly hit and miss, just like the current Justice League title (but that’s another story). I miss the “classic” feel of the old books that was recaptured just a decade back by Kurt Busiek, whose run on the relaunched series was pretty enjoyable. I also liked his Avengers Forever and JLA-Avengers, books that closely tied in and added to the mythology. Slott’s been able to recapture that big team-feel with Initiative, and he’s inventive enough with old school characters, so I’m excited that he’s taking over Mighty in a few months.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Most Likely To Forget He Had a Wife

Now that’s funny. “With Great Power Comes Great Electric Bills” and “Most Likely To Forget He Had a Wife” are written under the partially amnesiac guy’s “yearbook photo.” It’s great that there’s some acknowledgement of the now-dissolved marriage. I’ll probably get this when it’s out next month. While I’m not a fan at all of the Peter-Mary Jane Parker magic breakup in One More Day, I read some of Dan Slott’s Brand New Day stories. They’re quite good. The Amazing Spider-Man ’08 Yearbook, according to Marvel’s solicits, will summarize the yearlong arcs and have Handbook entries of the new characters that debuted in that time.

Speaking of summaries, the Official Index to the Marvel Universe is scheduled for a January release. It’ll be filled with summaries of Marvel stories from years ago. I’ll probably check it out because I’m a fan of these encyclopedia-style titles. I hope it’s worth getting and well-designed. I remember the Spider-Man Index from the ‘80s, which a classmate bought religiously. That was always a good read.

As for the Dark Reign Files, I’ll be getting it for sure. I’m not excited about that new event, mainly because the recent universe-changing events have been mostly unsatisfying and repetitive. Most recently, it became tiring when Mighty Avengers and New Avengers became heavily tied-in to Secret Invasion. Many of the stories didn’t have Avengers in them! But I’ll be getting this Handbook, just to get updated on new characters and their histories.

Real Life, Afterlife, Not-So-Simple Life

I sort of became a fan of Bill Maher’s back when I read about his stance on religion and homophobia some years ago in an issue of The Advocate. The guy’s agnostic, and doesn’t mince words about his lack of faith, or pointing out blunders and injustices. He does so wittily and wryly. I was able to catch two recent episodes of his show Real Time with Bill Maher. The pre- and post- US election discussions, which also tackled Prop 8, were lively thanks to the opinionated host and his similarly vocal guests.

At one point, he spoke with Sean “Puff Daddy/P. Diddy” Combs. The conversation about Barack Obama’s victory briefly deviated to Combs’ faith in God. “You will believe one day,” Combs said to Maher. The rapper-mogul added, “Why don’t you try it, just try it, come on.” Maher responded, “Dude, I was raised Catholic. I did try it.”

Speaking of agnosticism, that side of the Supernatural boys Dean and Sam Winchester was focused on a few times in the show’s second season. I’ve seen a total of 44 episodes of the series so far. It’s just interesting to discover that they’re doubters, admitting in some episodes that they’ve seen a lot, but are unsure of what lies ahead for those troubled souls that they literally saved during some of their missions.

Sam is more hopeful and less cynical than Dean about such things, but regardless, they fight on and right some mystical wrongs whenever they can. The show’s mythology took some time to build up, but the sense of a bigger world and some backstory gradually crept in with every episode. The show lightened up occasionally, too. I’m just a little bothered by the lack of really strong female characters in the stories. Sure, there are independent women who appear once in a while, but they often end up as hostages, as bait, or dead. I hope that changes in subsequent seasons. The Winchesters’ rogue’s gallery, meanwhile, is an assortment of foes that rivals that of Buffy’s, Angel’s or Mulder and Scully’s.

And, speaking of Big Bads, I also finished watching two seasons of Dexter. Dexter Morgan’s probably a lot of people’s favorite fictional serial killer now, because it’s easy to root for him, the somewhat altruistic murderer who gets to harshly dispose of a diverse assortment of killers. He’s not fighting for justice or revenge, really--except in some cases--but he knows that he can’t stop his violent nature, so he focuses on targeting unrepentant, truly vicious individuals during his spare time.

It’s hard not to tear up a little whenever a fraction of Dexter’s tragic history is unveiled. Moral dilemmas of different characters often collide, exposing gray areas to each episode’s tragedy. But the black-and-whiteness of many situations remains, especially when he confronts and gets rid of those killers that clearly deserve it. In the process, we’re given much-needed catharsis. Man, what a show.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Comedy Gold

Love this new Watchmen poster. Can’t wait to see Jeffrey Dean Morgan kick ass as the Comedian. He played John Winchester, dad and mentor to Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki’s characters in Supernatural. Crap, I just saw the Season 2 episode where they got rid of his character. Maybe he’s still alive; his exit wasn’t totally convincing. I hope the actor will still make a guest appearance. Maybe they can show him in a flashback or something. Or maybe they could show his soul helping out his boys, a la Darla in Angel, if his character really is gone.

Anyway, I read a report that there’s a big adjustment in the Watchmen movie’s ending. I hope that it’ll still work if they do push through with it.

My fingers are crossed. Don’t fail us, Zack Snyder.

Sam Shines On a Rainy Day

My Sam Milby interview appeared in PDI-Lifestyle’s Fashion and Beauty section last Friday, Nov.15.

Sam shines on a rainy day
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit
Photo by Benedict S. Bartolome

Three years after Sam Milby left the “Pinoy Big Brother” house, the actor-model-singer still sizzles, enjoying fame and fortune long after the proverbial 15 minutes.

Samuel Lloyd Milby grew up in Ohio and never expected to make it big in Philippine show business. But make it big, he did. He continues to adorn ads of all forms and sizes, act in teleseryes, and star in rom-com movies. The 24-year-old’s future in his profitable career is so bright that, as the old cliché goes, he’s got to wear shades.

Well, he does. Sam is the new endorser of i2i eyewear, and i2i’s stylish and trendsetting co-owner Tina Ocampo is very pleased with the brand’s newest face.

“I think he’s the perfect choice,” she said. “During the shoot, he was very patient. He doesn’t complain; he’s very professional. He was even very appreciative of having the food served to him and his staff. He really is a very kind man who’s appreciative of the littlest things. I’ve been listening to all his interviews. As an endorser, he grasps the whole idea of the product, which is essential.”

It was a rainy afternoon launch, but Sam spoke candidly to Inquirer--in Taglish--about eyewear, controversy, and his life a few years after 49 days in “PBB,” among other things.

How do you feel about being the next endorser of i2i?
It’s a huge blessing because ‘yung mga dating endorsers si Donita Rose, si Jericho Rosales, si Piolo Pascual. So to be in that line, I think it’s a big blessing. Maganda, stylish and affordable ang i2i. Maraming choices, malaki ang range nila. They’re very updated sa mga styles.

How is modeling eyewear different and what makes you perfect for it?
They said my features are balanced and not too overpowering. The photos really focus on the face, of course, and Tina said my face is not too simple, but my features are not too strong. So there’s a good balance.

Do you still talk to your old “Pinoy Big Brother” housemates?
Minsan. When they had a celebration, the anniversary, pero may trabaho. Out of lahat ng mga housemates, I’m closest to Say (Alonzo).

You’ve mentioned before that you never expected this kind of success. What are you learning about show biz and being a celebrity?
Well, the job isn’t as easy as a lot of people portray it to be. When I think about it now, I feel myself more blessed, kasi ang daming nasa show biz na they’ve been in it for how many years. Normally, you earn your way up. Pero ako, it was given to me just like that. I feel like I have a lot to learn. I don’t know if it’s proving myself; I just want to show improvement.
Before “PBB,” I was never an actor. I wasn’t even a singer, really, so I just don’t wanna stop learning. I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning. Ito ang trabahong gusto kong gawin talaga.

Which among those things do you prefer doing?
I love singing. It’s my first passion talaga. I play guitar. I miss jamming. One thing I love about music is jamming with a full band, pero wala akong banda ngayon. I have stage fright, though.
But I love acting, I love singing. I don’t see myself doing anything else, really.

You lived abroad, and are only learning Tagalog now…
I was born and raised in the States. Tagalog, mahirap talaga. ‘Yung start ng learning ko sa Tagalog, sa “PBB.” So mga three years na.

Did you ever hesitate about pursuing a career in show biz?
Wala akong times na ganyan. May mga panahon na parang gusto kong magpahinga. Gusto kong matulog; gusto kong magbakasyon. Kasi, dire-diretso trabaho ko. Minsan uuwi ako sa bahay para maligo lang, tapos alis agad. Dati talagang mas grabe ‘yung schedule ko. Ngayon, may mga times na may rest. Minsan nahihirapan ako matulog sa gabi. Bakasyon, that’s one thing I really want.

Where would you spend it?
Earlier this year, nagbakasyon ako. First time, actually, I went on vacation. I went to Thailand. Filipinos there recognized me. I wanted two weeks. I got four days. Nasa beach kami, tapos umulan. Traveling is one thing I love about the job. We’re doing a tour of Europe this month. I love traveling talaga, and seeing all the different cultures.

Name some show biz friends you’re learning from.
We have a small group, actually, that really helps me out. Every Sunday, pagkatapos ng “ASAP.” We’re Christians. They help you out and they pray for you if you’re having a problem.
Friends in my small group: si Christian Bautista, si Erik Santos, si Piolo, si Richard Poon din. I do get to hang out with Gab Valenciano, son of Gary V., sometimes. He has a bike and I was riding it. Sarap talaga. He’s the reason I bought a motor bike. Anne (Curtis) rode at the back when we went to Pampanga, one time.

Is Anne your girlfriend, and are you still “exclusively dating”?
Hindi. We’re not together. We’re not together. We’re known as a love team din, but, I mean… we work together in “Dyosa.” And we worked together in “Maging Sino Ka Man.”

Do you and your friends share acting or singing tips when you hang out?
They don’t really talk about show biz too much. It’s more about helping each other grow as Christians. But they do give me advice. Especially si Piolo, he’s a very great actor: “Your face is too distorted when you cry. You need to ano…” Mga ganyan.

Speaking of Piolo, you both decided to drop the libel suit against Lolit Solis. When you filed it, did you consider that you may be alienating gay fans, and that your strong denial might be construed as “being gay is wrong”?
Hindi. I wasn’t thinking that. It’s nothing against homosexuality at all. It’s more about writing something that was completely false; there was no truth to it at all. When you write something like that and you use the names, that’s what people believe. It’s nothing about being against homosexuality. It’s more about just having the truth come out because people are thinking the wrong thing.

So officially, what is your stance on gay people?
Well, I do work with them. When I was skating, my figure skating coach was even gay. So I have no problem with it at all. I have friends that are.

Describe your fitness regimen.
I really don’t have time to go to the gym now. Dati, I used to go once a week at least. I’m very busy. Before, I was very strict with my diet. No beef, no pork, I barely eat any sweets. No rice, no pasta. But chicken, fish and vegetables, I’d really eat them. I drink a lot of hot tea.
Right now, when I wake up, I try to do a set of 75 push-ups straight and right after that, 20 seconds later, I do sit-ups. I do 30 or 40 crunches, and I then do leg raises. It takes about five to six minutes. I always listen to music.

Were you always fit?
I was very fit. When I was skating, I had 4 % body fat, which was very, very lean. I was about 14 or 15. And then when I started high school, I gained a lot of weight ‘cause nagtrabaho ako sa fast food restaurant. I gained mga 30 pounds. I ate everything, the fries, the burgers, ang sarap! Discounted kasi.
I did wrestling in high school. I was 152 lbs. I was in that weight class. The next year, I was 170. If you see pictures of me, my face was really big. I lost the excess weight when I dieted.

Would you get naked in a movie now if the role calls for it?
I’m a naturally shy person. But at the same time, some roles require some things. It really depends on what the role calls for. If that’s required, we’ll see. I want to mature as an actor.

How comfortable are you playing the prosthetics-heavy character in Dyosa?
I like the character. Maraming nagsasabi, “Bakit masama ka?” But you’ll see a lot of changes. I think the character will be redeemed eventually. Hindi ko alam how, but you’ll see.
The prosthetics, they take one hour to put on. I’m not too fond of them anymore. In “My Big Love,” I had full-face prosthetics. Noong mga last days, I cringed. “I don’t like it anymore…” I’m a very patient person, but I’m not too fond of it. Mas lalo na kapag mainit. Mabilis talaga ako pawisan.

What do you want to be known for, eventually?
With acting, I wanna be known as versatile. I’m still a beginner. Si John Lloyd (Cruz), si Piolo, lahat sila, they’ve been acting ilang years na. I just want people to see improvement in my acting. Sa indie film, it’s action and suspense, so I’m excited. I think my acting’s improved in “Cul de Sac.” What I like about it is that it’s a good break from romantic movies. And I like the story.

How are you able to use your celebrity in supporting causes or charities?
Sometimes, we have charity concerts. But right now, I’ve been given a chance to be Department of Education’s youth spokesperson and role model. There are assemblies where they need encouragement to study, and to be against drugs and violence.
My first assembly was a couple of weeks ago, sa Baguio. Lahat ng mga youth leaders, the best students sa buong bansa, they were there. I was required to speak. And I performed din, syempre.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Joyride With Taken By Cars

Published Nov. 14, PDI-Entertainment
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Local band Taken by Cars’ debut album “Endings of a New Kind” is a joyride through dance-rock tunes of varying moods and intensities.

The music is reminiscent of catchy new wave melodies, and has touches of edgy techno. Initially, TbC can be described as Hard-Fi meets 10,000 Maniacs meets Wild Swans, but after some spins, the listener discovers layers to the group’s creative and audacious fusion of styles.

TbC was formed by childhood buddies Bryce Zialcita (lead guitar), “Siopao” Chua (rhythm guitar), Bryan Kong (drums) and Benny Yap (bass); they were joined later by Sarah Marco (vocals). Her “androgynous vox,” as the CD sleeve calls it, shifts from girly and seductive in the funky, pulsing “Uh Oh,” to big and commanding in the angsty “A Weeknight Memoir (in High Definition).”

Other standouts include “The Afterhours,” a laid-back track reminiscent of lighter ‘90s female rocker fare, and the bittersweet “December 2 Chapter VII,” a tune made rich and cohesive by playful sonic renderings.

All the members are credited for writing 11 songs. The words are mostly poetic, always accompanied by melodic palettes that usually build to anthemic pop-rock crescendos. Lyrics that center on longing, betrayal and sexual intimacy create different atmospheres, and the transitions into other polished songs are often seamless.

Hopefully next time, there’ll be more lighter and experimental numbers to balance things out--because a few songs tend to sound alike. A Tagalog song or two wouldn’t hurt, either.

But for now, Taken by Cars’ “Endings of a New Kind” is a solid effort that augurs bright things ahead.

Quick Quotes

I’m fortunate and thankful to be given opportunities to speak with actors, artists, and people behind the scenes. I keep discovering that creative types from show biz and different fields typically have some interesting, unexpected, or inspiring things to share. Whether it’s in person, a phoner, or emailed responses, I always get something from their unique perspectives. Here are some of their replies, excerpts from a couple of my published articles:

“With this job, you learn to have a lot of patience. It’s an endurance test, not a sprint.” –George Eads, 2004

“My mother is my biggest influence. She’s a painter and a photographer. She encouraged me to paint and draw. She bought me a camera when I was nine years old.” –Zack Snyder (“300” and “Watchmen” director), 2007

“You have to ‘prostitute’ yourself one way or another to make it really big. But it’s very rewarding, in terms of finances and friends.” –Jojo Alejar, 2003

“Oh, there’s a million, gazillion things to learn. There’s a lot of dedication, ‘cause I’m doing a world tour right now. I’m living out of a suitcase and sleeping at hotel rooms every single night, and eating at restaurants all day long. That’s a bit of a compromise, you know, instead of, like, I get to be home in my bed, blah-blah-blah. But is it worth it? Yeah, because I get to tour and perform every night.” –Avril Lavigne, 2005

“I started writing my songs, picked up my guitar and started singing for my friends and myself. I guess it came from a need to express myself more. It’s a more personal, intimate kind of quest.” –Julie Delpy, 2004

“Our music can touch lives, can inspire people, or make sad persons happy. Minsan, nakakaiyak that you can change things through your music.” –Nina, 2004

“They don’t always listen to writers. As a screenwriter, your work always changes. The creative challenge of the job is trying to bring as much characterization to it, while every 15 minutes something has to blow up.” –Simon Kinberg (screenwriter, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”), 2005

“I need to work out more. I don’t think I’m sexy!” –Jay-R, 2004

“It’s just people, documentaries… the ones I really love. I look up to people in life. I’m no film buff.” –Christian Bale, 2006

“There’s always compromise, whether you like it or not. There’s a need to satisfy your audience; that’s the whole point. Now you need to satisfy the record label, and even yourself. So, all those compromises will lead you to survive in this industry for a longer time.” –Paolo Santos, 2004

“It’s important to not have regrets and to savor the beautiful little things. It’s an unusual job and an unusual industry. There’s no people like show people, as they say.” –Brittany Murphy, 2006

“This is sad. This is cynical. Essentially, you have to be true to yourself, but keep it to yourself. In this business, it’s ideal to have a lot of masks, to protect yourself. One can’t always be candid or open. You have to know which face to put forward.” –Bituin Escalante, 2003

“They want to confuse me! But I always tell them that my practice was booked and I don’t have room for anyone. I always tell people to call Dr. Phil!” –Lorraine Bracco (on fans confusing her with her “Sopranos” character), 2008

“I just give them the honest truth: Don’t you go thinking that you’re gonna be famous overnight and that it doesn’t take work. It takes a lot of humility and a lot of embarrassment in the beginning. The first five years are brutal. Brutal!” –Rex Navarrete, 2006

“The most important things I learned from my father are spirituality, to seek the truth, to have discipline and to work hard at what I do.” –Ziggy Marley, 2007

“We owned the (“Beowulf”) script so we’re automatically the executive producers. And it also meant that we got the cool things the producers get, like cassette players. But we got the iPod nano.” –Neil Gaiman, 2007

“I think, for me, it’s keeping track of what’s enjoyable about being in Imago and in the business, remembering playing with the band and being around them on- and offstage. You have to keep remembering that, because the bigger you get pala, the more bulls—t there is. You have to keep track of what made you fun in the first place.” –Myrene Academia of Imago, 2006

“I believe all men, all leaders contend with their ‘Grendel’s mother,’ and they’re defined by how they deal with their demons.” –Roger Avary, 2007

“More than anything else, I’m more conscious of what’s in my heart. I guess my songs revolve around truth or reality. So, I’d rather fix myself than just focus on what other people say about me or my work.” –Kitchie Nadal, 2004

“I’m very privileged to play Wolverine. I love it. It’s quite different from real life, because I don’t look like him at all. People don’t always recognize me.” –Hugh Jackman, 2006

“There are gay members in every band. Trust me, we know! We’re the only ones that have been open about it through the years. But we don’t really point people out.” –David Hodo of Village People, 2006

“It’s because of the celebrity part of me that got me introduced to the Make-a-Wish Foundation… And it’s really the job of a celebrity to make someone’s life inspiring or happy when it’s sad. So we’re perfect for the job.” –Martin Nievera (on putting his fame to good use), 2003

“I had to learn the most important thing, which is to be really, really close to my inner self and not act.” --Vanessa Redgrave (on learning new things about acting in “Fever”), 2008

“I wouldn’t know how to teach. I’d just tell kids, ‘work hard, work hard, work hard.’” –Dianne Warren (pop songwriter), 2004

“The film and television industry here has respect for creative gay people. They respect you because you’re good. I never felt any discrimination in my career because I’m gay. Most of the powerful people are homosexuals—gays and lesbians—they dominate the industry and rule it.” –Andoy Ranay (actor, “Duda”), 2004

“With the album, I just scratched… made a tiny dent on the massive, massive ocean of music. I’m still learning. My music is gonna continue growing. The great thing is, jazz has no boundaries.” –Jamie Cullum, 2004

“All I want is to be respected as an actress. I want people to say when they see me, ‘Ah, she does her job well.’ I don’t want to be a star.” –Iza Calzado, 2006

“As kids, we always wanted to be rock stars! We make it a point to thank the fans daily for making this a living for us.” –Jeff Stinco of Simple Plan, 2005

“Sometimes, there are gay men who insist on falling for ‘straight’ men. It’s so sad because you’re setting yourself up for heartbreak. Talagang ‘yang puso mo, dudurugin mo if you insist on falling for a guy who self-identifies as straight. Or he says, ‘I’m not gay but I’m a man who has sex with men.’ I’ve seen many people who say this. There are smart people also! It’s not just the ones who you think are kinda loopy. Sayang.” –Margie Holmes, 2005

“A lot of fans in Moscow give us respect for our music. They come up to us, like, ‘Okay, I’m not a fan. I don’t need a photograph and an autograph. But you sing great.’ Sometimes, that feels better than crazy girls who take off their shirts and say, ‘Give me an autograph!’” –Vlad Topalov of Smash!!, 2004

“I enjoyed my work with Madonna, ‘Vogue.’ I like the video I did with Michael Jackson. I enjoyed most of them. I love people who know who they are, who have a pretty good idea of how they want to be seen.” –David Fincher, 2007

“I think I know it when I see it. I’m pretty objective about it. You really see it when you’re watching it.” –Sam Rockwell (on doing a role justice), 2007

“And the most important thing I’ve learned so far is, don’t work with a—holes!” –Ethan Hawke, 2004

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Comic Queerdom

Sometimes, they’re victims; other times, their gayness never became an issue. There are heroes and villains, and there may even be times when they’re just barely mentioned or are token figures. The presence of these characters is something that many gay people welcome or embrace.

This was published in the Super section of PDI last Saturday.

Comic queerdom
Who’s your fave gay comic book character?
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Gay characters have appeared in homegrown graphic novels and comic book series, tackling the sometimes-controversial subject in varying degrees.

In some foreign monthly comics, gay people have also made significant appearances. Sometimes, they’re realistically portrayed. Sometimes not. But they’re there, steadily increasing in number.

They’re not necessarily characters that they automatically identify with, but the fact that they’re given visibility at all is enough for some. DC, Marvel and other companies have introduced a number in recent years. Here’s a small fraction:

Apollo and Midnighter- Super-spouses and members of the uber-tough Authority, this dynamic duo mercilessly gives deserving bad guys serious beat-downs.

Toland Polk- The protagonist of the sublime and complex “Stuck Rubber Baby” experiences sexual awakening, while encountering important cultural upheavals and conflicts along the way.

Mystique and Destiny- The shape-changer and the prophetess have been the X-Men’s allies and foes. They raised the young mutant outcast Rogue together.

Piper- While his allegiance falters occasionally, the Flash’s former friend and foe has remained truthful and open about his sexual orientation.

The Question and Batwoman- Ex-cop Renee Montoya and adventuress Kate Kane share a complicated relationship, and are recent additions to Gotham City’s gaggle of masked protectors.

Hulkling and Wiccan- Teen children of superheroes, these Young Avengers’ relationship enjoys the support of friends, and even Wiccan’s adoptive parents.

Rage the Gay Crusader- In the super-campy comic book for adults based on characters from the TV series “Queer As Folk,” the gay vigilante Rage rescues a hate crime victim from a vicious attack and revives him in an unorthodox manner.

Valerie- One of the most heart-wrenching parts of “V for Vendetta” is the story of Valerie, an unapologetic lesbian actress who was imprisoned, mocked and tortured repeatedly in a concentration camp.

Colossus- In the alternate reality of “Ultimate X-Men,” Colossus is attracted to males, especially to fellow mutant Northstar.

Catwoman- The second Catwoman, Holly Robinson, was a former prostitute and friend of the original cat burglar Selina Kyle. Holly was forced to leave her lover Karon because of complicated circumstances.

Francine and Katchoo- Stars of the recently concluded “Strangers in Paradise,” these old friends share an angst-ridden past (Katchoo was a gay call girl with unrequited feelings; Francine had gender identity issues, etc.). Their juicy, soap-y drama was a shared journey that’s as bittersweet and affecting as its destination.

Vivisector and Phat- The wolf-like intellectual Vivisector and the inflating Phat were teammates in the celebrity mutant team X-Statix. They became an item, outed themselves, eventually broke up, and were killed in separate missions.

Phantom Jack- One of the no-nonsense super-cops of Top Ten, intangible lesbian Phantom Jack is a single gal who has some secret admirers among her male co-workers.

Terry Berg- Green Latern Kyle Rayner’s assistant Terry Berg once had a crush on him. Openly gay, Terry was chased and savagely mauled by homophobes after a date with a friend. An enraged Green Lantern soon goes on a hunt for his barbaric tormentors.

Black Cat- Spider-Man’s catty ex-girlfriend briefly mentioned her bisexuality. Also, in an alternate future (the “Spider-Girl” timeline), Felicia Hardy is established as someone having a relationship with another woman.

Northstar- The former member of Canadian super-team Alpha Flight publicly announced his homosexuality back in the early ‘90s. He eventually became a teacher at Charles Xavier’s school and a member of the X-Men.

Jetman- Precinct Ten’s wise, fatherly Jetman is respected by officers under his command. The former teen hero’s ongoing relationship with a retired adventurer is currently several decades old.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer- While creator Joss Whedon said that the former TV character is straight but “experimenting,” Buffy has gotten really intimate with a fellow Slayer in her “Season 8” comic book. Technically, she’s bisexual; she still fancies guys, but acknowledges that she had a great time with a girl.

Anole- Formerly one of the New X-Men, this teen lizard-boy is angsty and sometimes ill-tempered, but is an efficient team player and fighter.

Lucy in the Sky and Xavin- Energy-manipulating alien Karolina and gender-bending Skrull Xavin are lovers, members of Earth’s young Runaways.

Happy, Sad

I felt and understood the jubilation when Barack Obama was elected President last Tuesday. Footage after footage of celebration made me feel optimistic, even if I’m not an American. It’s hard not to feel the warmth and hopeful energy of those happy voters.

But later, I was saddened that California’s discriminatory Proposition 8, which nullifies the marriages of gay people and defines marriage as something that’s exclusive to straights, had passed.

It’s so disappointing. It’s wrong to deny loving couples and non-traditional families that legitimacy. That’s selfish, hypocritical and divisive. Those who lose sleep over gay people getting married seriously need to be educated. To quote my friend Gerry, who posted about the issue, “What are they afraid of?”

I found recent reactions to Prop 8 in The Advocate’s site. TV host-comedienne Ellen DeGeneres had this to say:

“This morning, when it was clear that Proposition 8 had passed in California, I can’t explain the feeling I had. I was saddened beyond belief. Here we just had a giant step towards equality and then on the very next day, we took a giant step away. I believe one day a ‘ban on gay marriage’ will sound totally ridiculous. In the meantime, I will continue to speak out for equality for all of us."

Singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge also spoke about the issue:

“Even though we could be married in Massachusetts or Connecticut, Canada, Holland, Spain, and a handful of other countries, this is our home. This is where we work and play and raise our families. We will not rest until we have the full rights of any other citizen. It is that simple, no fearful vote will ever stop us... that is not the American way."

We just witnessed history with Obama’s election. But I hope we witness significant and positive changes for gay people eventually, in America and in this country.

The world will not fall apart because of gay marriages.

Blood Thirst

Couch potatoed and geeked out, as usual. Partook of some good and okay stuff:

I saw a pre-election episode of Bill Maher’s engaging Real Time show, as well as a really hilarious ep of the sitcom Testees. I also saw three episodes of Heroes, the latest of which made me fear for electric Elle. Saw Madagascar 2, a pretty average kid-geared cartoon, with John at the Imax. Bought comics with Benedict, who gave me yummy Lay’s and Doritos, and some candies. Also got free mini-comics, including a Peanuts collection of some Halloween strips with thinly veiled commentary about faith and disbelief.

Some of the best comics of the week typically had gruesome stuff happening. In Secret Six, the mystery villain Junior is briefly shown doing something horrendous to a civilian. Yikes. In X-Force, the stabby mutants have sick but justified fun with an old foe, the teleporting thief Vanisher. Funny stuff. However, over at Avengers: Initiative, it’s a little disturbing to see the young soldiers getting all grim and bloodthirsty. The latest Secret Invasion tie-in and the A:TI Special one-shot have shown that the former cadets are ready and willing to spill enemy blood. Man, Abby’s changed.

In the not-too-distant past, Marvel’s heroes often debated the killing issue. Well, it’s a different era; perhaps it’s a realistic reaction to some terrible new threats. Things have become more dangerous in that comic book universe. The change is especially felt now that the Avengers and X-Men have become similar to armies. It’s still strange, though, to see superheroes in some titles using lethal force.

I also saw the first six episodes of Dexter, finally. It’s a bloody good show. It’s desensitizing but cathartic. Dexter Morgan, played by Six Feet Under’s Michael C. Hall, is a crime scene investigator/blood expert with a big secret.

Hall is excellent as the almost-robotic Dexter, whose bloodlust was channeled into preying on fellow predators. And it looks like his town’s got a lot of them.

Dexter’s a good autopsy-cop show with a twist. Getting into his twisted serial killer psyche is surprisingly enlightening, and very entertaining.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Birthday Munching and Spanking

I celebrated my birthday in a simple way, as usual. Pizza and a movie were enough. The family also bought food for me, including ice cream and cake. Like last year, though, I was drowsy during my birthday.

Shortly before my birthday a year ago, I was recovering from what I would later discover as measles (a kid’s disease, yes, but apparently, I never had that before). Days ago, I was recovering from a sore throat and cough. I felt woozy but was okay enough to walk around.

By Friday last week, however, my coughing worsened. It didn’t hurt until early Sunday, when my chest would really feel painful every time I coughed rapidly. By early yesterday I had fever, but I slept the entire afternoon after taking medicine, so I’m feeling a little better now.

I think I’ll rest some more. It just feels good to catch up on sleep and not worry about things. Funny thing, I tried singing along to old music and music videos but every time I did, I sounded like the vocalist of Crash Test Dummies. Not that I have a golden singing voice or anything. I don’t. It just didn’t sound like me at all. Also, I watched some TV shows and weirdly, my laughter sounded fragmented in two, like it was electronically filtered somehow. Hope I fully recover soon.

Back to the birthday. I’d like to thank those who greeted. It was cool hearing from you people. I was pleasantly surprised by those who took time to message and text.

Weird thing, though. I also got the message “I wanna spank ur butt!” I dunno if that’s really for me; it could’ve been sent by mistake. I don’t have the number in my address book.

I’m not really into that, and I’ve been a good boy, I think.