Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Yearender, Oh Nine

What a year. In 2009, I:

- drank only one bottle of beer.

- enjoyed Fantastic Mr. Fox, Milk, The Hangover, District 9, Star Trek, Religulous, Watchmen, Julie and Julia, Zombieland, and Avatar.

- edited a foreigner’s manuscript; it was a worthwhile, educational experience.

- loved songs like Taylor Swift’s “Fifteen” (“When all you wanted was to be wanted”), Lily Allen’s “F**k You” (“So you say it’s not okay to be gay”), Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” (“Waging wars to shape the poet and the beat”), Heather Nova’s “Ride” (“I need a stranger to tell me I’m beautiful”), and Brett Dennen’s “Heaven” (“What the hell is heaven?”).

- drew more, and belatedly discovered the inspiring DeviantArt community.

- discovered dozens of funny or touching drawings devoted to the perceived Jet-Zuko pairing, also by DeviantArt artists.

- couch potatoed and was entertained by Brave and the Bold, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Harper’s Island, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, 30 Rock, TMZ, Glee, Chelsea Lately, True Blood, 24, and How I Met Your Mother.

- got really bored with Fringe and Heroes.

- finally switched to DSL after years of using dial-up.

- was fascinated by Lady Gaga, and fantasized about designing crazy costumes for her.

- was irked and disgusted by religion-backed homophobia.

- looked at YouTube videos for hours, and was amused by the humor of Chelsea Handler, Kathy Griffin, Bill Maher, and Ray William Johnson.

- started a thread and asked high school batchmates on Facebook if there were times when they hated school.

- interviewed a few people, and now consider those with Sam Bradley, Kaskade, Alexander Skarsgard, and Miguel Escueta as some of my favorites.

- took down my Christmas tree in July.

- removed my college diploma from its frame, and replaced it with a cover of my old comic book and reviews of it printed on colored paper.

- lost weight, gained weight, lost weight, gained weight.

- read dozens of comic books.

- appreciated things I took for granted.

May 2010 be prosperous and peaceful. Thanks to all the wonderful people who made '09 pleasant. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

LNA: Five Years Later

Five years ago, I released the self-published comic book “Lexy, Nance & Argus: Sex, Gods, Rock & Roll.” Time flies; I remember staying at the printing press for long hours, checking if the page signatures were correct, and making sure that no blank page made it to the binding stage. By Dec. 23, copies had been delivered to Comic Quest Megamall. I’m grateful to my friends John and Benedict, who helped me get the book out there, and I’m thankful to the people who bought copies and/or took time to say really good things about it.

I’ve been asked a lot if a sequel is in the works. No, there won’t be one. And while I’m at it, no, the book is fiction, and no, I wasn’t molested as a child. But yes, I want to revisit some places. I’d like to write my character Jim again someday. I’m thinking of calling that future book “Psychic Love: Jim and Ma-An Save the World.” Or something. But while I’m not going to devote an entire comic to Lexy and the gang anytime soon, I do play with ideas from time to time. Their stories never truly end, and this recent image tells a few new ones. But I’d rather let them talk about it:

ARGUS: It was weird having Joop there. But seeing him again, with his pretentious tattoos and closet-era George Michael stubble, well, it’s like being punched in the gut… but you actually like it, know what I mean? Yeah, the “friends with benefits” thing got too complex. My heart broke. Yeah, he’s ten years younger, but we totally get each other. Um, when we’re not pissing each other off, that is. He’s so talented, it’s ridiculous, and you don’t see his brand of audacity these days. It’s like his parents knew he’s destined for greatness. They just had to name him after the daddy of the pantheon. Or the ginormous planet.

LEXY: We’re now in our thirties, worrying about the future more, but enjoying family life immensely. I guess that’s how we are, five years after, in a nutshell.

NANCE: It’s been five years?! I didn’t notice. A few lovers have come and gone. But I’m more concerned these days about my kids. And my career. Okay, I’ll only admit it here. I’m in a relationship. With a married couple from showbiz. There, I said it. I don’t see it going anywhere, but so far, it’s fun.

JIM: Man, what a slut. Just kidding, Nance. Me, I don’t need to say anything. Everything’s in the picture. I just wanna greet everyone, Merry Horusmas. Or Merry Solmas.

ARGUS: Happy Holidays to everyone! Except homophobes and other creeps. You know who you are, you unthinking, self-righteous, ugly hypocrites. Oh, and thank you, Stef, for taking the picture. Eat the fruitcake.

Toys, Tinsel, Tree

“Toys, Tinsel, Tree” ended up the way I envisioned it. It’s just a fun piece from start to finish.

Santas Good, Bad, Badass

Yuletide carols, cartoon ducks, superheroes, and the many faces of Santa Claus! Some comic books for the holidays:

Ant-Man’s Big Christmas- Avengers Ant-Man and the Wasp makes a boy’s wish come true for Christmas--they teach his horrid, obnoxious relatives the error of their ways! An oddly uplifting holiday revenge story.

JLA # 60, “Merry Christmas, Justice League--Now Die!”- Santa Claus has super powers and joins the League in Plastic Man’s silly story, as told to Woozy Winks’ young, skeptical nephew.

Generation X Holiday Special, “Yes, Jubilee, There is a Santa Claus”- Nanny and Orphan Maker strike during the holidays, but Generation X keeps them from ruining some kids’ Christmas. Also, Jubilee meets Santa Claus.

Battle Pope # 10, “The Christmas Pope-tacular”- Sacrilegiously funny, as usual. Jesus fights Santa for upstaging him on his birthday.

Donald Duck # 203, “The Golden Christmas Tree”- Donald’s nephews want the perfect tree, but they find themselves fighting a hag who wants to end the holiday in this quirky short story.

Howard the Duck Holiday Special, “Wreck the Malls with Hydra’s Folly”- Howard grudgingly dresses up as a store Santa, and later goes on a mission to save the real one from the forces of Hydra. Wacky stuff.

Bone Holiday Special, “Happy Winter Solstice!”- In this cute four-pager, Bone and Thorn pick out an evergreen for Winter Solstice, “a very old tradition.” Bone also plays Santa to a pair of Rat Creatures, giving them piping hot quiche during a truce.

Richie Rich Digest # 4, “Santa Paws”- Richie’s dog Dollar dresses up as Santa and cheers up a group of less-fortunate dogs. Weird, but somewhat touching.

Spectre # 12, “The Spectre of Christmas!”- Spectre Hal Jordan meets Santa Claus, Charles Dickens, and Ebenezer Scrooge in this surreal, ruminative issue.

Jingle Belle Holiday Special, “Santa Claus Vs. Frankenstein”- Santa’s daughter Jingle Belle discovers and revives the real Frankenstein’s Monster, who soon helps out in Santa’s workshop. The two icons “fight” to save Christmas.

Pinky and The Brain Christmas Special, “Jingle Narf”- The rodents infiltrate Santa’s toy factory to reprogram a large batch of toys, but the ploy backfires, of course, thanks to Pinky.

Marvel Holiday Special 1992, “Yule Memory”- In this moving tale, Thanos celebrates a combination of pre-Christian Yule holiday and modern earth Christmas with young Gamora to give her the illusion of family.

Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special, “The Lobo Xmas Sanction”- In this bloody, Simon Bisley-illustrated one-shot, Lobo fights a butt-kicking Santa--to the death! Disturbing and hilarious.

DC Comics Presents # 67, “’Twas the Fright Before Christmas”- Superman teams up with Santa Claus to foil Toyman’s schemes. “Trust me, son--on this of all nights, there is nobody faster than me!”

Simpsons # 52, “Worst Christmas Ever!”- The hunt for a popular toy set wears out last-minute Springfield shoppers, but Homer discovers an abandoned truck carrying several toy sets, and is forced to play Santa.

Sensational She-Hulk # 8, “The World’s Greatest Detective”- She-Hulk and a disguised Santa team up to catch a crook. She-Hulk gets a gift that will be useful in a future holiday issue (# 36, to be exact).

Green Lantern # 59, “Green Christmas”- GL Kyle Rayner is new to the Titans, and spends Christmas Eve on monitor duty. But Donna eventually gives him a present, mistletoe, which she holds above them. Sweet.

Futurama Comics # 6, “Christmas Time is Fear”- The robot Santa Claus terrorizes Fry and the gang once again. But the feared automaton is allied with two other villains this Christmas!

Hulk # 378, “Rhino Plastered”- In this funny flashback issue, gray Hulk fights the Rhino, dressed up as Santa Claus. A little girl named Virginia stops the insanity.

DC Universe Holiday Bash! II, “Present Tense”- There are many stories in this comic, but the irreverent two-pager stands out. Santa visits Apokolips to hand Darkseid a lump of coal. The dark god orders his men to kill Saint Nick, but the jolly one escapes.

Stained Glass Santa

“Stained Glass Santa” started out as something different; I wanted a black and white snowflake-like design behind Saint Nick. But after seeing the spacing and symmetry, the drawing evolved into this. Santa’s checking his list twice, now on his nifty handheld gadget. Thanks for scanning, John.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Human avarice, non-human ‘Avatar’

In James Cameron’s new scifi epic “Avatar,” humans are the alien invaders threatening the resource-rich planet Pandora. In the distant future, humans upload their consciousness into the copied bodies of the Na’vi, the cat-like, blue-skinned natives of that beautiful but deadly world. A crippled ex-soldier (Sam Worthington), using an Avatar, assimilates eventually, and finds himself defending these beings from his fellow humans.

The story is just okay and predictable, but James Cameron, as usual, makes up for it in high-stakes action spectacle. Regardless of the familiarity of the spy-becomes-savior story, the visuals are magnificent; some of the creatures look nicely Star Wars-esque. The environmental and culture preservation messages don’t go to waste, but the effects wizardry and the massive battle scenes are the parts you’ll enjoy and remember most about it.

Marvel Boy after ‘Dark’

Finally, the details surrounding Noh-Varr’s exit are revealed in Dark Avengers Annual # 1. This standalone story further embeds the former antihero into the Marvel Universe. But what’s with Chris Bachalo’s art? He used to be excellent in titles like Generation X and Death. The details look undershaped, and the new costume just doesn’t stand out at all, sadly. It’s an issue you can miss, regardless of the major overhaul and its connection to the Siege crossover event.

‘New Moon’: Monster mush

Monster romance-drama “Twilight: New Moon” is an improvement over its money-making predecessor, but while it’s not as slow and dull as the first movie, it’s still quite a chore. This time, Bella (Kristen Stewart) is torn between two nubile lads, brooding vamp Edward (Robert Pattinson) and shirtless wolf-boy Jacob (Taylor Lautner). Amazingly, Stewart has chemistry with both, but it’s quite clear from the get-go that it’s a short-lived triangle. The new movie has some factors working for it, like new beasts in the form of the werewolf pack, Dakota Fanning as one of the governing Volturi vampires, and some stylish fight choreography. But the narrative jars quite often with baffling pauses and pacing, especially the scenes concerning Bella’s “death” prophecy. It’s hard to feel genuine concern for any of the characters, as well.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Just three recent things:

1. Kathy Griffin interviewed on Chelsea Lately. Two hilarious, audacious comediennes in one show… too bad they only had less than seven minutes together. Still worth watching and listening to repeatedly, nonetheless.

2. Met Aga Muhlach yesterday. Interesting, he’s got white hair strands at the sides. He’s still a young-looking 40-year-old, though. Cool to see him sweating under the sun, too, like the rest of us. He made an appearance at a Laguna school as part of Jollibee’s MaAga ang Pasko toy drive program.

3. Sleep schedule is shot. Again. Man.

‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ an exceptional epic

(Published Dec. 13, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


“Avatar: The Last Airbender,” an acclaimed animated series about an elemental boy’s quest to end a devastating war, ran for three seasons on Nickelodeon. The hit show is being translated into a live-action movie directed and written by M. Night Shyamalan, scheduled for a July 2010 release (not related to James Cameron’s “Avatar” film). The simplification of the mythology and other changes are inevitable--some fans are already complaining about casting choices for non-white roles. But regardless of how the movie turns out, the series is still an excellent program that the uninitiated should watch.

Created by Americans Bryan Konietzko and Mike DiMartino, “Avatar” has visuals influenced by Asian culture and myths, and some of its characters have beliefs inspired by Eastern philosophies. The show looks and feels like a typical anime, fast-paced yet accessible, its heroes mostly agile or well-versed in combat.

The titular character is Aang, a boy with air-manipulating powers, raised by vegetarian monks and is the latest manifestation of the multi-powered Avatar. Hunted by the conquering forces of the Fire Nation, Avatar Aang befriends two teen siblings from the Water Tribe, Katara and Sokka. Together, they search for elemental masters who can teach Aang control over water, earth and fire.

Interestingly, the heroes discover different cultures that they learn from, and ultimately affect. Their journeys bring them to unfamiliar territories, where clans, tribes, or certain characters wear clothes that are heavily patterned after ancient Japanese, Chinese, South American, or Indian garb. The disparate-looking people help provide a bigger view of this unique world, where super-abilities are normal.

One of Avatar Aang’s most formidable adversaries is the conflicted Zuko, exiled prince of the Fire Nation. The character has a more complicated backstory -- he’s an angry warrior trying to win back his father’s respect. The guy really has issues, but he keeps things from becoming dull.

The young characters grow up and learn about sacrifice and failure during wartime. Early on, the series wins the viewer over: Dramatic transformations and epiphanies, spiritual and philosophical insights, and epic clashes make “Avatar” a truly taut, memorable, and remarkable show.

“Avatar: The Last Airbender” airs on Nickelodeon (5:30 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays). A version dubbed in Tagalog airs on TV 5 (5:30 pm. on weekdays).

Monday, December 07, 2009

Earth’s Mightiest II

A sequel of sorts to the Avengers set I did months ago. This time, I drew the inactive, honorary, and reserve members.

Modern Avengers: Captain Marvel, Sentry, Songbird, Captain Britain, Doctor Strange, Silverclaw, Echo, Antman, Ares, Jack of Hearts

Old School Avengers: Falcon, Namor, Arachne, Thing, Black Knight, Rick Jones, Crystal, Hulk

Space Avengers: Starhawk, Quasar, Starfox, Charlie 27, Vance Astro, Mantis, Yondu, Nikki, Martinex, Moondragon

Great Lakes Initiative (Formerly Great Lakes Avengers): Gravity, Grasshopper, Big Bertha, Mister Immortal, Squirrel Girl and Tippy Toe, Flatman, Doorman, Deadpool (reserve member)

Assembled Again

‘Fantastic’ Fur

Initially, the animal characters in the “Fantastic Mr. Fox” trailer may look creepy and stiff, not sleek at all like denizens of the common CGI cartoon movie. But Wes Anderson’s film is actually adorably quirky, and the stop-motion technique enhances and complements the retro-styled visuals. “Fantastic Mr. Fox” will be remembered more for its witty script, though; it’s clear early on that the well-timed humor enlivens the modern fable about sly Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney), who must outsmart three reviled farmers and rally together members of the threatened animal community. So while it’s not overly hip and with-it like the over-rendered animated feature of the month, this film nonetheless has a timeless appeal to it, and a fantastic world that deserves repeat visits.

“Fantastic Mr. Fox” will be shown exclusively at Ayala Cinemas starting Dec. 9.

No place like ‘Waverly’

(Published Dec. 6, PDI-Entertainment)

A wholesome sitcom

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Disney’s “Wizards of Waverly Place” is a wholesome sitcom aimed at tweens and teens, a half-hour show about three young mages’ misadventures. This recent Emmy winner for Outstanding Children’s Program centers on the Russo siblings, who keep their magical abilities a secret from friends and customers of their New York-based sandwich place.

The mythology is simple: Former wizard Jerry Russo (David DeLuise) gives up his powers to marry a mortal woman, Theresa (Maria Canals Barrera), but their three kids developed magical gifts. The wizards-in-training are teens Justin (David Henrie) and Alex (Selena Gomez), and their young brother Max (Jake T. Austin).

Justin is the responsible, geeky child; he does well in school and is often instrumental in undoing mystic mishaps caused by his sister Alex.

Alex easily gets bored with magic training and often chooses the easy way out, so her spells usually backfire. Max, meanwhile, shows promise, an imaginative kid who sometimes helps out his older siblings in their magic-aided pranks.

However, only one of them can keep the powers and become a full-fledged wizard.

The effects-enhanced situations talk about family bonds without being cheesy. The sometimes-shaky father-child rapport, for example, is tackled in an episode where Jerry hesitatingly teaches his daughter flying carpet “driving” lessons.

In other episodes, selflessness is subtly discussed: Alex temporarily switches bodies with her mother in an episode to let Theresa experience a traditional “Quinceanera” party that she missed when she was a teenager.

The show’s fantasy-based trappings allow for a variety of situations. In a story that parodies Harry Potter, for instance, Justin is potentially the mightiest of the young sorcerer pupils in summer wizardry school. Also, the Russo kids once teleported to Mars for a research assignment, and even became part of a horror movie.

The Russo family’s ventures are told in mostly self-contained episodes. It’s mirthful and silly about rivalry and revelry, a show that can be appreciated by kids and grownups alike.

“Wizards of Waverly Place” airs on Disney Channel every Saturday at 9 p.m.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Aviatrix ‘Amelia’

A biopic devoted to legendary American pilot Amelia Earhart, Mira Nair’s “Amelia” doesn’t entirely veer away from the grandeur and spectacle befitting the historic figure, but it concentrates more on her romances and flawed adult life. Hilary Swank agreeably portrays pioneering Earhart, a determined aviatrix who’s torn between two smitten men (Richard Gere and Ewan McGregor). “Amelia” hovers rather slowly; while the titular character’s personal life isn’t told engrossingly enough, depictions of her achievements, and the events leading to her mysterious fate, are the few times when the movie truly soars.

“Amelia” opens today in Metro Manila.

Cuteness, Coolness

I’ve been looking at people’s Deviantart galleries, and I’m getting really inspired in the process. A few drawings I faved: “Spectrum Lanterns 3D” by lordmesa, and “Hank and Bobby” by nmrosario.

Spectrum Lanterns 3D

Hank and Bobby

Celebrating Pinoy artistry and storytelling

(Published Dec. 2, PDI-Entertainment. This version has comments by John Lent that were edited out in the print and online versions due to space constraints.)

US author’s book on ‘komiks’ launched at RP cartoon fest

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Some of the most popular local feature films and teleseryes originally started out as “komiks” serials. The works of Pinoy comics luminaries were exhibited during the first Philippine International Cartoon, Comics, and Animation (PICCA) Festival held at SM Megamall and other venues.

Various aspects of the art forms were discussed in talks, book launches, film showings, and other activities. PICCA founder Boboy Yonzon expounded on the importance of the event:

“We would like to be able to give a forum for comic artists, a channel or watershed venue for them and the cartoonists. This is an advocacy intended to energize what is supposed to be a dying craft or industry. There are many talented Filipino creators; we just have to make the people aware of what we can offer.”

Yonzon published “The First One Hundred Years of Philippine Komiks and Cartoons,” written by American author John A. Lent, who lived in the Philippines from 1964-65.

Lent originally wrote the article “The first 75 years of Philippine Comics” for Comic Book Artist, a publication in the United States. The book was launched during the festival.

“After World War II, the Philippines had a very strong comic book industry, especially in the ‘50s and ‘60s,” Lent said. “Many of the comics were made into movies, which I also saw when I was in the Philippines.”

“They were drawing large audiences. Lino Brocka once told me that for every film that he entered in the international festivals, he had to make two based on komiks to get the money to do the artistic work. Ishmael Bernal told me the same thing.”

One of the comic book creators who graced the PICCA event was writer-artist Gerry Alanguilan. He released self-published works “Where Bold Stars Go To Die” and the “Elmer” compilation during the Komikon--a daylong convention held on the last day of PICCA.

“Events like the Komikon or the Metro Comicon are important in spreading awareness to the public of not only the presence, but also of the importance of Philippine-made comic books,” Alanguilan explained. “PICCA has broader goals; it strives to elevate the status and awareness of Philippine comics not only here in the country, but also internationally. The world can have a view of the comics we create and the creators we nurture.”

Alanguilan stressed the importance of recognizing veteran storytellers’ contributions to Filipino comics and to culture in general.

“I think we're getting there. Now a lot of young Filipinos know who Alfredo Alcala, Francisco V. Coching, Nestor Redondo, and Alex NiƱo are, which wasn’t the case just 10 or so years ago. But simply knowing they exist isn't enough. More documentaries need to be made about their life and accomplishments. More articles and books need to be written, analyzing their art and their impact on national culture.”

‘Clone Wars’ waged anew

‘Clone Wars’ shows how to expand George Lucas’ universe

(Published Nov. 30, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


The vibrant animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” expands the universe established in George Lucas’ long-finished space saga, adding previously unseen characters and conflicts to the rich mythology.

Chronicling the events between episodes II and III, “The Clone Wars” reveals that Anakin Skywalker became a mentor to young Padawan (Jedi apprentice) Ahsoka Tano, who was introduced in 2008’s “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” animated film. Like Anakin’s headstrong character, Ahsoka nevertheless learns the virtue of patience, while her master gradually wizens up to make more mature decisions.

Yes, Anakin will embrace the Dark Side of the Force later, but for now, he’s a hero and leader. His eventual downfall is barely hinted at.

The first season of “Clone Wars” is characteristically rife with epic battles and drama across several worlds; unexplored story angles, like alien races choosing sides during the conflict, are finally focused on. There are complexities to the war that were never mentioned in the prequel movies, and frenetically paced conflicts that look breathtaking as digitally rendered images.

Viewers are spared the wooden, awkward acting, and the occasional iffy dialogue that marred the prequels. The appealingly distorted and textured faces consistently project the right emotions, the characters still recognizable despite being cartoon-ized.

While new visuals and dynamics make “Clone Wars” quite immersing, some familiar action sequences, like the spaceship battles, drone with a mechanical, video game-y quality. The never-ending swarm of dumb and expendable Battle Droids can be tiring, as well. Thankfully, we only get a few minutes of Jar Jar Binks’ disastrously klutzy antics in the first season.

There are things that translate well, like the lightsaber duels, and Yoda’s combat prowess (he effortlessly takes on a droid battalion in the first episode). We get to see the secret romance between Anakin and Padme Amidala flourish. Also, Jedi Council members that only briefly appeared in the movies are given attention. And R2-D2 gets to kick butt when a double-crossing Astromech droid is exposed.

The TV show is able to explore a balance; it’s occasionally dark and intense enough for grownups, but colorful and accessible enough for younger viewers, whether they’re new or not to the Star Wars galaxy.