Monday, July 27, 2009

‘Legion’ Forever

It’s obvious which Legion team is Geoff Johns’ favorite. The revamped pre-Crisis version of the team has appeared in some issues of JSA and JLA, and those Legionnaires are finally featured in their own miniseries, Legion of 3 Worlds. But other versions of the team, like the beloved “Archie” Legion and the recent “Threeboot” iteration, share the title and the spotlight too. The combined teams oppose Superboy Prime and the Time Trapper, who try to destroy the 31st century’s interplanetary heroes with the help of a newly formed Legion of Super Villains.

That’s easier said than done, of course; present-day Superman teams up with the three Legions, who help resurrect not one but two (count ‘em, two!) major teen heroes. There are huge slam-bang scenes, intricately drawn by the legendary George Perez.

The five-issue series is chockfull of moments that should please followers of the creators, the Legion, even the Teen Titans. It’s not necessarily for the uninitiated, but it’s the Final Crisis tie-in that’s easiest to understand and is the most enjoyable of the lot.

Practically every Legionnaire and their allies (including L.E.G.I.O.N., the Subs, etc.) appear briefly a la the climactic rosters in Avengers Forever and Avengers-JLA. It’s unoriginal in that regard and puts one off a little. Also, what happened to the Archie Legion’s world is unclear. When did the catastrophe happen?

But overall, Legion of 3 Worlds is still big, epic, superhero fun. That’s rare in this era of company-wide events.

Mutatis Mutandis

The X-Men, Feb. 2000, fully penciled on 11” X 17” vellum.

Wow, I drew Marrow. I wasn’t fond of the character before, but Joe Kelly eventually handled one of the X-books and made her interesting enough.

Mellow Yeller

There are faint wrinkles on my forehead. They’re not always noticeable, but they’re there. I have a few white hair strands, mostly at the sides of my head, as well. Other friends have a few already, too. I dunno, I think I’ve made peace with aging some time back, when I accepted that I have receding hair.

It’s amusing to see old schoolmates at Facebook. Many of them are barely recognizable, but quite a number still look like they did over half our lives ago. It’s interesting that some are raising kids. And it’s also interesting that some who didn’t seem to have direction back then turned their lives around, found purpose or causes that appeal to them.

I look at my contacts list and am reminded of many different good things, and some bad ones. That’s just the way it is. I could say that I’ve outgrown some people and relationships. After seventeen years of school, there are only a few of those people that have remained and can be called true friends. After school, we started forming bonds with those with whom we share passions, or gravitated to the like-minded. And there are new ones that we really care for and learn from. Maybe I’ll outgrow them, too, eventually.

I remember singing along to OMD’s “If You Leave” 20 years ago, but it’s only now that I can relate to it. It’s the same with depictions of love and life in some songs and other art forms. I, like others, have experienced failure and success, heartaches and joy. I have grown to be more understanding, but I often become impatient when faced with others’ ineptness or insensitivity.

Man, I’m growing old.

‘PU-239’: Uncommon enterprise

(Published July 23, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Intertwined familial and criminal themes are explored in the HBO original movie “PU-239,” a gloomy drama-thriller about a Russian nuclear plant worker, Timofey (Paddy Considine), who gets exposed to radiation while averting a workplace catastrophe. Instead of getting compensated, he’s blamed for the incident and is subsequently fired. Timofey sneaks back into the plant and steals plutonium, PU-239, which he tries to sell to underworld bosses through a bumbling goon, Shiv (Oscar Isaac).

Written and directed by Scott Burns and co-executive produced by George Clooney and filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, “PU-239” proffers a dark and desperate atmosphere that’s sometimes illuminated by its focus on family bonds. Timofey and Shiv are radically different persons, but both are fathers who provide for their sons. Both men eventually resort to selling the plutonium without thinking of the possible disastrous consequences.

Considine proves himself a talented and convincing actor yet again; his character’s believable, mishap-filled journey is rife with nuances. Timofey’s transformation and tragic deterioration easily and consistently create the right emotional connections. Isaac is able to keep up with him, his contrasting small-minded character’s personality a crucial component to the equation. Radha Mitchell appears in a few scenes and shines as Timofey’s wife Marina, who experiences her own metamorphosis in the background.

The movie’s straightforward narrative offers a sullen tone that gets disrupted by timely injections of optimism. There are despicable characters and brief depictions of violent acts that stun and disturb. There are comeuppances, as well, but not every deserving person gets his just desserts. Its bleakness may make “PU-239” a little difficult to watch, but its dramatic relationship-centric moments and occasional dark humor help balance things out.

HBO’s “PU-239” premieres on July 27 at 11 p.m.

Caped Crusader Vs. Hornhead

Batman versus Daredevil. Sequential pages from a while back (1999, to be exact). Full pencils, drawn originally on 11” X 17” vellum.

I enjoyed drawing the 3-point perspective in the big page two panel, aside from the fight and sound effects. Will post all five pages in my art blog later this week.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Turning Points and Tendencies

1. I’m dropping New Avengers. I repeatedly gave it a chance, but I’ve had enough of it. I’ll still buy Dark Avengers, also by the same writer, mainly because it’s enjoyable. It’s way more focused than New Avengers, which seems to have been taken over by guest characters.

2. I decided to follow the Utopia (Dark Avengers-Uncanny X-Men) crossover. It’s written by Matt Fraction, and the X-Men Legacy tie-ins are by Mike Carey. I like those two writers on the X-books; I enjoy their stuff because they’re respectful of continuity, but they’re introducing important changes, as well. And they’re writing Osborn’s team well.

3. I finished season four of Supernatural. Man, that cliffhanger was annoying. And I’m still disappointed at how female characters end up (hurt, killed, or forgotten).

4. I’m loving Studio 60 on the Sunset Trip. Too bad it was cancelled. It’s about the behind-the-scenes drama revolving around an SNL-ish show. Irreverent, uplifting, and damn entertaining.

5. Like I posted on my Facebook status, I’m aching to create a comic book again. I really want to tell my own stories in comic form. In the meantime, I’ll be drawing someone else’s story. I’m doing a few pages. Will talk about it in detail when it’s done (and when it’s okay to announce it). I need to start drawing that soon.

Finding ‘Adventureland’

Greg Mottola’s “Adventureland” treads depressive territory, the film a belated coming-of-age drama with a few strategically placed witty musings and chuckle-worthy interactions.

It’s 1987, and virginal James (Jesse Eisenberg) finds himself employed at Adventureland, an aging amusement park run by an oddball couple (Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig). While it’s not his dream job at all, James soon fits in, appreciates the company of his coworkers, and is befriended by cool gal Em (Kristen Stewart). But both have secrets that don’t stay unshared for long. Their kiss-and-tell scenario inevitably spirals out of control, predictably bites them in the posterior, and just might ruin some relationships along the way.

Young adults may identify with “Adventureland,” while grownups may be reminded of a phase that they (or people they know) experienced: the dead-end job, the temporary shelving of dreams, the bittersweet follies of youth. Structurally, it’s like a typical teen soap episode, but decompressed, less eventful, and with fewer significant twists. Still, the tale is told with clarity, and the quirkiness of some characters doesn’t feel forced.

It rarely feels or looks like 1987, though. While songs from the era (by The Cure, Falco, etc.) play mostly during moments of levity, and some ‘80s-looking hairstyles are prominently shown, they don’t necessarily help recreate the distinct ambience. On the other hand, the recurring absence of that retro feel makes some scenes more subtle. The simplicity and timelessness of the story add to its charm, although you’d wish that it had gone through more complicated routes before getting to its destination.

“Adventureland” is an Ayala Cinemas exclusive opening on July 22.

Friday, July 17, 2009

My Pantheon

This is a tableau of my characters, drawn back in August, 2000. The original 22” X 17” black and white drawing was fully penciled and uninked. This was titled Scarab Impetus: The Second Cycle of Eras, containing key and minor characters from my story of the same title, which I hope to illustrate someday. It’s an epic that fuses together mythology, science fiction, and superhero elements.

I was so inspired by different mythologies during the time. Whilce Portacio tutored me on penciling techniques just months before. The test drawings I submitted to him often had my characters in them.

It’s been a while since I saw this and other drawings; I’d forgotten how inspired I was in creating designs and illustrating all those years ago. To be honest, I’m quite surprised now at the effort I put in them. I hope to be as inspired again. I really want to tell this story and other connected tales.

(TM and © Oliver Pulumbarit)

‘Half-Blood’ Heartache

Hogwarts is irrevocably changed in the latest installment, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” as the young mage faces new perils and discovers terrible truths. The sixth Harry Potter film manages to capture the previous movies’ foreboding atmosphere, and is replete with beautifully shot visuals. The story is distinctly grim in parts and firmly establishes the rivalry between Harry and Draco Malfoy, as well as new romantic bonds between several schoolmates. Yes, young, awkward love can be funny, especially with stalker-ish and reckless behavior.

But the lovestruck characters’ romance scenarios eventually become tiresome and quite uninteresting. Still, the film ends on a serious note; the last scene is reminiscent of “The Empire Strikes Back’s” cliffhanger parting shot, where the main characters appear vulnerable and unsure of the future.

Turning points, escalating enmities, and betrayal most foul--the saga has gone dour, but heroism, growth, and evolving bonds are ever-present in the slowly paced but effective “Half-Blood Prince.”

Face Front

I was partly assimilated into Facebook because of emailed peer pressure, but I also jumped the bandwagon because of curiosity and the need for a new diversion. It’s basically a mash-up of social networking sites with chat and the usual content-sharing features.

It’s another way to keep in touch with old friends, acquaintances, co-workers, and people I’ve yet to meet. What’s time-consuming for me is looking through contacts’ contacts. I also like reading information on people I thought had vanished off the face of the earth. As it turns out, they just weren’t in the older networking sites.

The cool thing about it for me is getting updated on those people I haven’t heard from in a long time. I’ve contacted a few old classmates, and it’s nice to know that they have mostly fond memories of me. The site is also more widely used, so those who aren’t in my region are within reach. I thanked three American comic book writers I admire, and they responded nicely to my messages.

It was also funny when a former college classmate posted an old informal class picture, which I didn’t get back then. It was amusing to see myself with a full head of hair and a teenage physique. I miss the olden days, sometimes.

Yeah, Facebook is okay. I wouldn’t say it’s totally fun, just pleasantly diverting. And I don’t think I’ll be joining Mafia Wars and those other games any time soon. I’m content with checking out new content by several of my contacts, and gawking at people’s Walls and profiles, for now.

Keeping Up With the Skywalkers

I’m glad that the Star Wars saga still continues, albeit in its prequel period, through the animated Clone Wars series. This here’s an old drawing, my entry to E! Philippines’ art contest back in the summer of 2002. They were giving away tickets to Episode II: Attack of the Clones. As I wasn’t part of press guest lists yet, I really wanted to win them and attend the preview at Louie’s THX. I drew this on 11” X 17” vellum, and glued it on the black side of a 15” X 20” illustration board. I had to put “stars” onto the black part using a Liquid Paper pen, if I remember correctly. The quote was “Tell her… you were right,” pertaining to Anakin’s last words to Luke. “Her” is actually “your sister” in the movie, but space was limited and I had to paraphrase. I saw the TV announcement that listed me as one of ten winners. I went to the venue, got the tickets, and watched with a friend. A few days later, I went to E!’s Makati office (the location of which I don’t remember anymore), and got a huge, heavy box containing several (I think about 18) cans of Cali Shandi. Sparkly.

Thanks to Benedict for the scan.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Just Hoping

Get well soon, Bro.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Know Your ‘Marvel Pets’

It’s not your regular sourcebook. The “Marvel Pets Handbook” has entries on several super-pets like Lockjaw, Lockheed, Cosmo, Old Lace, the Punisher’s dog Max, Amadeus Cho’s ex-pet coyote Kerberos, Mole Man’s monsters, even Gomi’s pet lobsters Bill and Don. It’s a fun, fact-filled read; it’s interesting to discover that some heroes and villains are animal lovers. Lesser-known animals are enumerated in the Appendix: Cowboy Horses of the Old West and Miscellaneous Pets pages. This memorable and organized Handbook virtually has all of the Marvel Universe’s most beloved and reviled (and obscure) beasties.

Spidey and Deadpool Discuss Underwear

Funny conversation in Deadpool: Suicide Kings # 3:

Spidey (on Deadpool’s costume): Love all the pockets. You’re like a walking fanny pack. Bet you have to beat the ladies off with a stick.

Deadpool: You should talk. Your costume’s so tight you can tell what religion you are. Ever hear of a cup?

Spidey: Yeah, but the chafing was killing me, so I decided to go commando.

Heehee. They really should devote an issue or a mini to a team-up. With quippy characters such as DP and Spidey, the script will practically write itself.

‘Desperate’ Measures

Season 5 of “Desperate Housewives” succeeds in making the “five years later” jump interesting with previously unseen arcs (Gabby has children; Lynette deals with Tom’s mid-life crisis and the teen twins’ troubles; Bree becomes a successful cookbook author, etc.). But there are still boring storylines (Susan’s romantic woes again; Carlos and Gabby’s financial troubles again, etc.), which you tend to tune out. Guest appearances by Frances Conroy, Beau Bridges, and Lily Tomlin help keep things interesting. The revenge scheme of David Williams/Dash is nicely executed initially, but it ends predictably and with a whimper. The same can be said of the main characters’ arcs; by the season’s end, they encounter problems that they’ve faced before. Still, the good points overpower the dull. The deaths of two characters (one established and another retconned into the housewives’ histories) are moving, and most of the characters have grown significantly.

Losing to ‘Messiah War’

Stryfe is back. So’s Apocalypse. So what? What a waste of time. The seven-part crossover pits X-Force and Cable against boring Stryfe and boring Bishop. Bishop wants to kill Hope Summers, blah blah. So what else is new? Nice art, but the story’s pretty thin and unnecessary.

Sunday, July 05, 2009


I try to forget the disappointments, things long owed, and various annoyances as I crawl into bed. I’ll remember them tomorrow. But for now, I will sleep, dream and escape.

‘Astro City: The Dark Age’: History lessons

Book One of ‘Astro City: The Dark Age’ is a four-parter, crammed with enough introspection, intrigue, and situations that keep you guessing. This finally reveals the fate of the Silver Agent (who’s been mentioned briefly in uncomfortable conversations), and his connection to the arc’s two narrators, brothers Royal and Charles.

The darker tone of many 1970s comic books, and the figures that represented those times, are given unique spins by Kurt Busiek, whose Astro City stories have been more human, insightful takes on superheroics and related concepts. The darker-than-usual “Book One” is powerful and meaningful; it’s much heavier than previous tales, but it’s still an engrossing read.

The art, still by Brent Anderson, is rougher and messier, but somehow, the less-controlled linework doesn’t really affect his storytelling.

Officially hilarious again

Season 5 of “The Office” feels like the good old times: Jim punks Dwight; Michael spearheads monumentally stupid endeavors; Ryan is a temp. After the drama between Michael and Jann (among other less-than-comedic situations) in the previous season, “The Office” is officially funny again. The Dwight-Angela-Andy triangle concludes satisfyingly. Michael falls in love with someone who gets him. Pam and Jim get engaged. There are other changes, like a new receptionist, a temporary new boss, a fledgling rival company, and of course, CafĂ© Disco. Dunder Mifflin gets its groove back, and it’s about time.

Alexander Skarsgard: True Blood Calling

Ex-child actor plays vampire and soldier

(Published July 2, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


At 13, Alexander Skarsgard was a child actor in Sweden who wasn’t comfortable with the limelight. So the son of veteran character actor Stellan Skarsgard quit and spent seven years as a “normal” youngster. But he missed acting, so he eventually moved to New York for theater studies.

Alexander recently appeared as Sgt. Brad “Iceman” Colbert in the HBO miniseries “Generation Kill” and as enigmatic vampire Eric Northman in HBO’s ongoing series “True Blood.” He spent a break from shooting new episodes to go on vacation with family and friends in Sweden. He also found time to promote the two shows. Following are excerpts from a roundtable phoner with the actor, arranged by HBO Asia.

How open to interpretation is your vampire character? Did you look at screen vampires for inspiration?

Yeah, when I did my research, I re-watched movies that I’ve seen, like the old “Nosferatu” with Max Schreck from the ‘20s, Bela Lugosi’s “Dracula,” and Werner Herzog’s “Nosferatu” from the ‘70s. Obviously, Eric Northman’s quite a different character. But diving into that old culture of vampirism was to get my creativity and inspiration going, basically. When you create a world with vampires, it’s up to you if you wanna do the whole thing with crosses or garlic or what happens when a vampire meets the sun. We hung on to a couple of those, but some of them we just dismissed. So it’s very open to interpretation.

How much did playing “Iceman” Colbert affect the way you looked at war and the US Marines?

My take on the war in general didn’t change much. My opinion was, it was a mistake to go into Iraq. That has not changed at all. What you see in the media is very polarized, very censored in a way, what’s going on in Iraq or Afghanistan. So for me at least, this was the first experience where I actually got to see it from the perspective of the boots on the ground, what the soldiers went through on a daily basis out there.

But some of them are just kids, with dreams and hopes, and families back home. Also, a guy like Colbert, one of the senior guys, he really believes in what he’s doing and coming into Iraq. He has a mission, he knows how to execute it… and he really believes this is a good cause. Being Colbert the leader, he had to stay focused and keep his guys motivated. And for me, as an actor, it’s a very interesting thing to play on.

Describe your bond with your “Generation Kill” costars, and how it developed.

We were so isolated. Being out in the Namibian desert was so surreal. It felt like you’re stuck on a different planet. Suddenly, you embark on this journey; you’re gonna be out there for seven months with people that you’ve never met before. You’ve got a huge script in your hands with tons of words that you don’t even understand and you have two days to make them your own and be this character. Then you see all these big marine guys, “All right, get ready for boot camp!” Then you’re out running and, “What’s going on?” It was scary and you felt like a little kid.

People would really open up when they’re bored; you sit around and bulls--t. In just a few weeks, I knew more about these guys’ family lives than I knew some of my friends’ that I’ve known for years!

And that made acting much easier?

It really did. In a way, I think it was good that we were that isolated because the guys we portrayed were also isolated and in an environment that was new to them. If we had shot this in California, in the desert outside of Los Angeles, they could just drive back to their families. I think it would have been a completely different experience.

“Generation Kill” is currently airing every Sunday on Max. The first season of “True Blood” recently aired on Max, and reruns will air starting July 11.

Za’s Vid!

Ooh, guns and ammo. You just gotta love “proactive” ‘90s comic book heroes.

Remember when Rictor was a leather vest-wearing teen mutant who had a crush on Rahne Sinclair? That was back in the late ‘80s issues of New Mutants. Readers of Peter David’s ongoing X-Factor title know that the two eventually hit it off and had some wild times together, dashing the hopes of fans who were hoping that Ric and former X-Force teammate Shatterstar would get it on. It was speculated on by some readers, who felt that the two were too chummy back in the day. Ric even quit at one point because he didn’t want Cable telepathically prying into his head during combat missions.

Well, the current issue (# 45) confirms it. Ric and Shattybuns had a thing. Yup. The two old friends kissed tenderly in front of a surprised Guido.

Mr. David hinted at Rictor’s bisexuality a few times in some really funny scenes. So officially, the living gay or bisexual X-characters* now total seven. Not bad.

*Northstar, Karma, Anole, Graymalkin, Mystique

The Metamorphosis of Luis Alandy

(Published July 2, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Actor Luis Alandy has been in the business for 12 years, so he has seen many roles change and age with him in that span.

“Fortunately, I still keep getting good parts. I love acting,” he said.

From 2000 to 2006, he regularly appeared in ABS-CBN dramas such as “Pangako sa ‘Yo” and “Sa Dulo ng Walang Hanggan.” He was in big-screen comedies “Manay Po” and “Desperadas,” and the horror flick “Anino ng Setyembre.” He also landed parts in a couple of GMA 7 teleseryes.

The 29-year-old actor is currently appearing in GMA’s afternoon soap “Ngayon at Kailanman,” based on the 1992 movie that starred Sharon Cuneta and Richard Gomez. Alandy plays a scheming haciendero, a character originally portrayed by Mark Gil.

Describe how acting in the big networks’ shows contributed to your growth.

With ABS-CBN, I really learned and gained a lot of experience. The directors and actors there, they helped develop my confidence in acting. With GMA, kung ano ‘yung napag-aralan ko, I was given more chances to expound on it.

Did you dream of becoming an actor as a kid?

I wanted to join “Ang TV” when I was a kid. I think every kid naman, may ganoong fantasy. Growing up, I wanted to be a basketball player.

What’s the toughest thing about doing TV dramas?

It’s different here. For a taping, you’re required to be there for more than 24 hours, three or four times a week. Sometimes you don’t get a chance to be with your family. You’re tired, physically and mentally.

In your 12 years of acting, which project was the hardest?

It’s the stage play that I did, “All About Men.” We were required to act while wearing briefs only. Stage has always been difficult. Tuloy-tuloy, unlike when you do TV, puwedeng i-edit. And the piece given to me was a 5-page monologue. For me, acting-wise, I gained a lot of experience, but that was the hardest.

How choosy are you with roles?

If I don’t feel like I could give justice to that role, I have to beg off. Nagkaroon ng issue before, ba’t ko raw tinanggihan ‘yung “Manay Po 2.” During the time, Regal was only offering me gay roles. I think I’ve given justice to that role. It was also a gay role in “Desperadas.” I wanted them to give me a different responsibility.

What have you learned about the business, so far?

In showbiz, you don’t know the longevity of your career. You have to save for your future. Also, it’s important to not burn bridges with anyone. It’s a small industry. And if you keep improving your craft, people will recognize it.