Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ultimate Mutant Loving

Ultimate Colossus Loves Ultimate Northstar. It’s unlikely for a similar romance to blossom between the main Marvel Universe (or Earth 616) versions of the two, but who knows. Stranger things have happened.

I used markers, gel pens and water color on Bristol board.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The ‘Wolverine’ X-perience

Hugh Jackman pops claws once again as the feral mutant in the prequel-spinoff “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” an action-fantasy flick that expands on the simple mythology of the three previous movies. The added history is likewise simple; the film only takes the gist of some comic book stories (particularly the Origin and Weapon X minis), and connects characters conveniently (sometimes, too conveniently) to make a smaller, less-confusing world. Yes, some X-people are siblings in the story; others are teammates, fellow captives, and so on.

Many action sequences look great, but there are a few that look cartoony (the fire escape-slashing part, some Sabretooth-Wolvie bouts). It’s good to finally see Liev Schreiber in an action villain role; the guy is a good actor, even when he’s got a cheap-looking fang-claw set here. But the stunts and effects that work outnumber those that don’t; it’s fun to see Ryan Reynolds as wisecracking, katana-swinging Deadpool, and Taylor Kitsch nicely fits as cocky, card-flipping Gambit.

“Wolverine” has a bunch of appearances by familiar characters that should make comic book fans happy. Again, histories are simplified and connected easily, and Wolverine’s past is your basic betrayal-revenge yarn. The throwdowns aren’t all unrelenting, and the post-end credits scene is unnecessary, but there are still engaging moments of mutant mayhem.

The Bi-Curious Case of Buffy Summers

In last month’s GLAAD Media Awards, Buffy: Season Eight won in the Outstanding Comic Book category. Well, it’s one gay-friendly book. There’s longtime lez witch Willow, whose girlfriend is Slayer Kennedy. Ken is there on the cover with another Slayer, Buffy’s two-night stand Satsu.

It’s been declared a few times by the characters (and writers) that Buffy’s still straight and she’s experimenting. To paraphrase Kennedy’s words, while Buffy can give her body to Satsu, her heart is something she can’t.

Yikes. Sounds like denial, or just an excuse to keep people at a distance. On the one hand, it’s good that Buffy’s open to just getting it on with a girl; on the other, identifying as straight instead of bisexual is like pretending to oneself even when everybody else already knows. Still, it’s more complicated than that; maybe she just doesn’t want to limit herself to what the labels traditionally imply. That, or she’s just going through an Anne Heche-ish phase.

Well, maybe Buffy’s done with Satsu, and all girls for that matter. Or, maybe not. In any case, the top Slayer’s sex life is just a fraction of the stories. It’s good to see her developing further, in a comic book where everything that happens is canon.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pinoy Pantheon

I don’t know where they first appeared, but some Filipino Marvel characters will be getting their handbook entry in July’s Thor & Hercules: Encyclopaedia Mythologica. Here’s what the solicitation copy says:

“For the first time ever — all of Marvel's mighty pantheons, all in one handbook! Thor and Hercules aren't the only gods in town, as the ENCYCLOPAEDIA MYTHOLOGICA spotlights everything from Aztecs to Zoroaster! Brush up on the eternal rivalry between the Green Knight and the Red Lord! Meet Anitun and the Diwatas, the gods of the Philippines! Learn the dark origin of Mikaboshi, the Shinto god of evil! Explore the mystical dimension of Otherworld! Plus: Panther Gods, Lion Gods and Snowbirds!”

That’s interesting. I’m looking forward to this. I like how the pantheons of the Marvel Universe coexist semi-peacefully because of some ancient pact. I hope those Filipino characters will be explored more in the books and don’t end up looking--and getting disposed of--like the (cough) Triumph Division.

Edit: I just looked it up. Anitun was one of the members of TD, after all. Huh. I read the debut/death issue months back. It wasn't memorable, sadly.

Smurfs Up (Or, Vanity Fairest)

Summer weather’s been unpredictable. I’ve been cooped up in the house, mostly tuning out the world, and the weather was perfect for it. Verses of two songs about rainy summer days often played in my head. I did write and draw so it was still a productive week. I also watched several episodes of Futurama and Smurfs (a.k.a. Smurfs Adventures).

Smurfs is cute. I first watched the show when I was about nine. Of course, now that I’m grown up, I find the stories simple and too wholesome. But they were still enjoyable. And like He-Man and GI Joe, there are positive messages or lessons, but they’re often spoken about by Papa Smurf within each episode.

About 15 of the 101 Smurfs in the mushroom village are easily recognizable because of their distinct costume details and voices. Painter Smurf had a French accent; Tailor Smurf had an Italian accent, and so on. Oddly, there was someone named Pushover Smurf (he just can’t say no), who didn’t have any visible distinguishing feature. I don’t know if he appeared in more than one episode (I doubt it) but he seems like the type of character that easily gets old after a single spotlight story. Maybe the same can be said about Jokey Smurf and his exploding gift box, but I guess he’s a quick punchline, one that’s meant to appeal to younger kids. But I did find him corny when I was young.

Two characters I’m now curious about are Grouchy Smurf, whose few lines always start with “I hate,” and Vanity Smurf, the effem one with the flowered hat and mirror. Grouchy has a unique personality; looking at him now, I’m wondering why he’s that way. Does he hate everything because of some trauma, or was he born that way? I know I’m overthinking it, but I find him uniquely odd, maybe because there aren’t many non-villain cartoon characters like him these days.

As for Vanity, I found him strange as a kid. He’s fey, but he seems only in love with himself, so it must be a case of Narcissus Complex. He’s not a cross-dresser, but he can’t be seen without the flower accessory. Maybe he’s just eccentric, and doesn’t find the 99 other males attractive. Regardless, effeminate, vain gay people can probably relate to him. The gay guy could be Hefty Smurf, for all we know.

(Vanity Smurf pic from Bluebuddies)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Really, Wolvie?

Remember when Wolverine stabbed Rachel Summers/Phoenix in the chest to prevent her from killing the Hellfire Club’s Selene? That was way back in Uncanny X-Men # 207. Back then, he stood firmly by his actions, reasoning that hers were extreme and unbecoming of a superhero:

“But this, Rachel… this is murder. Justify it--rationalize it--however you like, it’s still wrong. It isn’t worthy of you--as Rachel or Phoenix--and it sure as blazes isn’t worthy of an X-Man.”

He added, “We call ourselves heroes, girl--that means we have to stand for something, no matter how hard or how much it hurts. We represent the dream… we have to play by the rules.”

Wolverine doesn’t hide the fact that he’s killed before, and expects to kill again when it’s unavoidable. When he and Rachel met again many months later in Madripoor (X-Men Annual # 14), he unspooled a long speech that convinced her and a grown-up version of Franklin Richards to avoid crossing that line.

But these days, he doesn’t seem to have a problem with killing again. The panel below is from Wolverine Origins # 29. After brutally attacking and killing some Hellfire Club goons, he justified his actions to X-Men founder Professor X:

“Bad guy’s a bad guy, Charles. Just because they’re innocent’a one thing don’t make ‘em not guilty of another.”

Well, it can be argued that the world has changed; mutants are now nearly extinct and the race is at war with its many powerful tormentors. His memories have returned as well, revealing that he’s killed a number of people before joining the X-Men. As current leader and member of X-Force, Logan doesn’t hesitate and feel any guilt; he guts and executes enemies that threaten the last remaining mutants on a regular basis. Maybe it’s justified. Cyclops and the strike force are getting their hands dirty these days, because that’s how harshly the world has changed.

So does Logan still consider himself a hero? Or has the definition of the word changed too? He’s a soldier, surely, but now that he thinks and acts differently, he’s in no position to speak about the sanctity of life or superheroism.

If anything, Rachel Summers learned to not abuse her great power after the “intervention.” But had she been there when he said that “Bad guy’s a bad guy” speech, he’d have gotten an earful.

And maybe, some telekinetic talons to the chest.

Michael Bay on Effing Up the Thundercats

I just have to share this damn hilarious Onion article: “Michael Bay signs $50M Deal to F--k Up the ThunderCats.” Some excerpts:

“I couldn’t be more excited to completely f--k this up,” said Bay, who plans to begin production on destroying the live-action adaptation next month. “The ThunderCats has a great story, endearing characters, action, adventure, space travel, and fantasy. It will be an honor to run it into the ground.”

…According to the terms of the deal, Bay must be allowed to eliminate the character Panthro entirely to focus on the asinine relationship between Snarf and Snarfer, and include nearly 22 minutes of frenetic, impossible-to-follow action sequences that he hopes will annoy the living Christ out of audiences.

“We’re just getting started on the storyboards, but I’ve already got a lot of really contrived ideas about zooming in way too close and shooting everything at nauseating angles,” said Bay, who claimed viewers won’t be able to tell if the climactic battle is between two blurry elbows or a half dozen leopard-print pillows.

Read the entire article here.

When All You Wanted Was To Be Wanted

As a thirtysomething, I often wonder about the things that were never taught by teachers, at least in the schools I studied in. But that’s what libraries are for; in my case the post-school libraries were the bookstores that allowed people to read open copies of different books and magazines. I spent hours in them, during a period divided into searching for answers, and searching for inspiration. Eventually, there was the ‘net, aside from cable TV.

Whether they’re useful information or the equivalent of junk food, the stuff I usually gravitated to were pleasant enough distractions. And I’d like to think that exposing myself to different works by people from different cultures inspired me and answered questions that I‘ve been asking myself.

But as much as I’d like to think that I’ve gotten important experiences that fill in life’s blanks, I still wonder about suffering and death, imperfect relationships, wavering self-worth, and changes in direction and purpose. The teachers barely talked about how complicated human bonds can get, and only clinically taught the technical processes of sex. The self-help books and websites only do part of the job, too, as every case is different.

I think about the things I do and the decisions I make, unsure if these are part of some genetic imperative. Anyway, I know for sure that I’m different from most of my family. I’m the agnostic guy who still has his Christmas tree up on his shelf, way past Easter. I’m the person who tries to make sense of my past, one who often wonders about the could’ve beens.

But like everyone, I find myself connecting and agreeing with thoughts that others expressed creatively or eloquently, which brings us to a particular song. I only discovered Taylor Swift recently, and I must say that she’s amazing. Some of her songs remind me of Jewel’s early work; they’re pop-folk-country tunes with really insightful lyrics. I can relate to some parts of “Fifteen,” not only because they describe how I felt then, but also because there are things there that I relate to now. The last couple of verses are especially bittersweet.

Fifteen (Taylor Swift)

You take a deep breath and you walk through the doors. It’s the morning of your very first day. You say hi to your friends you ain’t seen in a while. Try and stay out of everybody’s way. It’s your freshman year and you’re gonna be here for the next four years in this town. Hoping one of those senior boys will wink at you and say, “You know, I haven’t seen you around before.”

‘Cause when you’re fifteen, somebody tells you they love you, you’re gonna believe them. And when you’re fifteen, feeling like there’s nothing to figure out. Well, count to ten, take it in. This is life before you know who you’re gonna be. Fifteen.

You sit in class next to a redhead named Abigail and soon enough you’re best friends. Laughing at the other girls who think they’re so cool. We’ll be out of here as soon as we can. And then you’re on your very first date and he’s got a car, and you feel like flying. And your mama’s waiting up and you’re thinking he’s the one. And you’re dancing 'round your room when the night ends.

‘Cause when you’re fifteen, somebody tells you they love you, you’re gonna believe them. When you’re fifteen, and your first kiss makes your head spin ‘round. But in your life you’ll do things greater than dating the boy on the football team. But I didn’t know it at fifteen.

When all you wanted was to be wanted, wish you could go back and tell yourself what you know now.

Back then I swore I was gonna marry him someday but I realized some bigger dreams of mine. And Abigail gave everything she had to a boy who changed his mind. And we both cried.

‘Cause when you’re fifteen, somebody tells you they love you, you’re gonna believe them. And when you’re fifteen, don’t forget to look before you fall. I’ve found time can heal most anything. And you just might find who you’re supposed to be. I didn’t know who I was supposed to be at fifteen.

Your very first day. Take a deep breath, girl. Take a deep breath and just walk through the doors.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Driving ‘Miss Pettigrew’ nuts

It’s easy to anticipate what happens next in the comedy “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day,” but despite some predictable situations and outcomes, the film by Bharat Nalluri is quite endearing. Set in London on the eve of World War II, the story timelessly captures the complexities of relationships, as well as the topsy-turvy nature of show biz. Primarily, there’s ever-relatable desperation; Frances McDormand plays the recently fired governess Guinevere Pettigrew, initially a famished, weary woman with an uncertain future. She improvises and finds herself in a world that she never even thought of the day before, inevitably befriending an ambitious singer-actress (Amy Adams) who’s juggling three lovers (Lee Pace, Mark Strong, Tom Payne).

“Miss Pettigrew” benefits from the performances of McDormand, Adams and girl-voiced Shirley Henderson (who portrays a schemer with her own tangled love life). The repercussions of serious lies, and even some inescapable truths, are toned down in this coincidence-filled reality, but it’s a crazy day that the titular character--and viewers--should remember fondly.

“Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” will be screened exclusively at Ayala cinemas starting April 22.

The Eleventh Doctor

Matt Smith will be playing the latest Doctor when season five of Doctor Who returns in 2010. In some article photos, the 26-year-old actor has unruly hair and looks really… odd. But in the pic above, he looks neat, dark and brooding. Don’t know if that’ll reflect the personality of the immortal Doctor’s newest incarnation, but let’s hope that the upcoming stories and “new” character will be worth the wait. I’m gonna miss David Tennant’s geeky-hyper Tenth Doctor.

Wicked ‘Dark Reign Files’

This Marvel Handbook isn’t the traditional one-character-a-page compendium; instead it compresses three villains (or anti-heroes) onto a page with concise, updated info and headshots taken from existing pages. Interestingly, it’s written by several writers, who consistently use the (biased) perspective of the sinister robot Quasimodo. The character compiled over 180 files, valuable information on potential allies and rivals, for HAMMER director Norman Osborn.

It follows the compressed motif of the 198 Files Handbook, but the Dark Reign Files’ broader view of villainy in the Marvel Universe is presented more appealingly. Aside from Quasimodo’s assessment of every character and organization, there are analysis bars that clarify the threat, loyalty, influence, power and expendability levels. The 64-pager is info-heavy and worth reading, whether one follows the much-touted Marvel event or not.

Gang of 5 fast food friends run ‘Jollitown’

(Published Apr. 16, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


“Jollitown” is educational and it just might make you hungry.

In Jollitown, the characters were magically wished into existence by a lonely Jollibee in the show’s previous season. Together, they bring cheer and share values to visiting kids via catchy song numbers and enchanting adventures. But of course the show’s stars are Jollibee and the gang--each represents an item from the popular fast food chain’s menu.

Tagalog and English are naturally spoken by the articulate now transformed into identifiable figures: Popo the athlete; Twirlie the performer; Hetty the cheerleader; Yum the tech-savvy guy. Jollibee is still Jollibee, however, an iconic and friendly presence that did not go through any visual or personality makeover.

The weekly 30-minute program, now in its second season, also includes production numbers by several kids.

While the episodes are competently crafted, some story points don’t always properly translate because of the mascots’ limited facial expressions. Jollibee and company’s fixed smiles don’t fit, for example, when they’re worried about a malicious sorceress’ attacks in one episode.

It’s good that the show encourages kids to read books and use their imagination in one of the initial season’s episodes. Oddly, though, it had to rant about one girl’s habit of reading comic books in the same episode.

Perhaps in a future episode, nutrition and proper diet will be discussed. It might pose a challenge for the fast food-connected show, but that topic is relevant and worth teaching to youngsters (and even some grownups). Regardless, one may hanker for some fast food during or after seeing the show, as it’s hard to disassociate the jolly pals from their original roles.

“Jollitown” airs Sundays, 8:30 a.m., on GMA7.

‘Avengers: Initiative Featuring Reptil’: Dino-Sortie

Reptil isn’t an interesting or unique character. Nevertheless, Christos Gage tells the new Initiative recruit’s story decently.

However, there are other characters like Cloud 9 and Trauma that are more deserving of one-shot specials, so attention to the dinosaur-shapeshifting Reptil is a little puzzling. Also, it’s hard not to get fazed by the stiff and unattractive faces (particularly Tigra’s and Ka-Zar’s), as well as the absence of detail in the backgrounds.

The art unavoidably hinders on occasion, but the issue’s still an okay read.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Neurotic ‘New Avengers’

51 issues later, Brian Bendis’ New Avengers is still uneven; there are noteworthy standalone stories, but there are needlessly stretched arcs that lack clear resolutions. It’s not the traditional Avengers book, that’s for sure.

The Good:

1. The lineups. While composed mostly of street vigilantes and brawlers (albeit popular and familiar ones), its three incarnations included powerhouses like Sentry, Dr. Strange and Ms. Marvel.
2. The decent handling of Spider-Man, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Wolverine.
3. The two Annuals’ near-balanced doses of action and drama. The same with some single-issue stories like the Civil War tie-ins.
4. Art by Leinil Yu and Billy Tan.

The Bad:

1. As with Bendis’ Mighty Avengers run, ignored continuity (Ares’ son is already a trained warrior; Wanda knew about her lost sons; the Wasp can grow to giant size prior to Disassembled).
2. Very little focus on Echo and Iron Fist.
3. Alpha Flight dying off-panel.
4. Underused or mishandled Sentry.
5. Some major problems solved by non-members (Emma Frost, Quake, Norman Osborn).
6. Avengers-less, unnecessary and prolonged Secret Invasion tie-ins.
7. Speech tics repeated by different characters.
8. Only a few cases solved by the outlaw team after nearly two years’ worth of issues.

The Ugly:

1. Now $3.99 per issue. $4.99 if it’s a special issue with extra pages.

The Better Avengers Books:

1. Mighty Avengers by Dan Slott.
2. Avengers: The Initiative by Christos Gage.
3. Dark Avengers by Bendis (although it’s really just Thunderbolts with a new name).

Mary, Shmi Skywalker, Miracle Pregnancies

It’s Holy Week once again. What can this former believer say about it? Well, not much. So I’ll just share excerpts from Bill Maher’s documentary Religulous.

Maher, to an actor playing Jesus in a religious theme park:

“Does it ever bother you that the story of a man who was born of a virgin, was resurrected--your bio--was something that was going around the Mediterranean for at least a thousand years? We’ve got Krishna who was in India a thousand years before Christ. Krishna was a carpenter, born of a virgin, baptized in a river…”

(Scenes from old films about the life of Jesus scroll at the lower left corner of the screen while the word “MATCH” flashes repeatedly.)

“There’s the Persian god Mithra, 600 years before Christ. Born Dec. 25th, performed miracles. Resurrected on the third day, known as the Lamb, the Truth, and the Life, the Savior and the Messiah…”


That’s very interesting. And scary, if you think about the implications (Did those stories really influence Jesus’? How much fiction was inserted into historical persons’ histories, if they did exist?). Hmm. Some say that Krishna, however, wasn’t born of a virgin, but miraculously manifested in the womb of his mother, who already had children. But back to Religulous.

In a subsequent scene, a theme park visitor mentions the unoriginality of Anakin Skywalker resulting from (mother Shmi’s) virgin pregnancy, implying that it was inspired by Jesus’ story. Maher responds, “Jesus’ story wasn’t original.”

Cut to scenes from another old movie about Christ, accompanied by the Bangles’ “Walk Like an Egyptian” and the following text:

“Written in 1280 BC, the Egyptian Book of the Dead describes a god, Horus…
Horus is the son of the god Osiris…
…born to a virgin mother.
He was baptized in a river by Anup the Baptizer…
…who was later beheaded.
Like Jesus, Horus was tempted while alone in the desert…
Healed the sick… the blind… cast out demons… and walked on water…
He raised Asar from the dead.
‘Asar’ translates to ‘Lazarus’
Oh yeah, he also had 12 disciples.
Yes, Horus was crucified first…
And after 3 days, two women announced…
Horus, the savior of humanity…
…had been resurrected.”

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Five Objects of Desire

These are five random objects found in my room, and this entry is sort of a memory exercise. Thanks to Benedict for taking pictures. The post title was inspired by Suzanne Vega’s “Nine Objects of Desire.”

1. Spongebob Soappants
Soap sculpture I did for my nephew weeks ago. I was asked to help out at the last minute. Funky-looking, limbless Spongebob was made using some carving tools and an inkless pen. I copied parts of his face from a DVD cover. It took me time to create the illusion of texture. His eyes, nose and necktie were originally chipped soap. After shaping them, I smoothened and attached them onto the main block using water. I wanted to do more with it, but there wasn’t much time left.

2. Invisible Woman
The action figure was a gift from Benedict a few days after Christmas 2005. It was the less common version of the toy from the Fantastic Four movie set. I like the transparent look, and the multiple points of articulation. I remember being given the toy while we were eating somewhere in Makati, after buying comics at DK and some Binondo Media stalls.

3. Uncanny X-Men # 188
This beat-up comic book, I found at a Greenhills comic stall called Chrishareth, back in 1985. It was a good issue: Amanda Sefton and Illyana Rasputin help the team fight the Dire Wraiths; Forge and Storm break up for the first time; Nightcrawler questions his role as an X-Man; Rachel Summers discovers that Jean Grey is dead. The title was my favorite comic book back then.

4. The Book of Lists # 2
I love this series of books from the early ‘80s. My brother bought them, and probably forgot about them when he moved out, so I’m sort of taking care of the books now. I can’t find the third one, but I think it’s just somewhere in the house. I love reading and rereading the Books; they’ve got old lists and trivia on almost every subject. I devoured them, and related books like the People’s Almanac # 3 and The Book of Predictions, after college.

5. Alanis Morissette: Jagged Little Pill
That’s the album cover-lyric sheet of the cassette tape bought by John back in 1996. I wasn’t an instant Alanis fan, but her songs grew on me, especially Ironic, Head Over Feet, and You Learn. Her videos were heavily rotated on Channel V and MTV Asia. John gave me the tape eventually, about three years later. I remember buying Indigo Girls’ Swamp Ophelia album when he bought Jagged Little Pill. We got them after helping a friend’s mom organize a collage of pictures for a community bulletin board. Some of the pictures depicted a kid’s circumcision at a health center or something, which made me squeamish. Anyway, we were fed ice cream and potato chips before we left. Yummy.

From ‘Dragonball’ to cornball

Barely resembling the seminal manga and anime, “Dragonball: Evolution” is an hour and 15 minutes of splashy effects and stunts that always seem to hold back just when things get interesting. Goku (Justin Chatwin) is basically a pretty-boy iteration of Peter Parker (he has secret abilities; his guardian is killed; he goes on a quest; he finds love along the way, etc.). The characters are flat; the dialogue is unwieldy and the action scenes aren’t earth-shaking. It’s a pity, really, because the special effects aren’t bad. This “evolution” only has that--and the eye candy--covered. The confrontation between Goku and Piccolo (James Marsters) is disappointingly abrupt and devoid of impact.

In theaters April 11.