Saturday, May 29, 2010

Time-twisting ‘Prince’

Flashy and frenzied, “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” stars a buffed-up Jake Gyllenhaal as Dastan, the titular character and formerly a street urchin adopted by a kindly king. Noble and combat-ready, the grown-up Dastan invades the peaceful city of Alamut and discovers a plot to unseat his father.

“Prince of Persia” is a clean, familiar sojourn, the potential grit and edge of its desert-dune encounters dulled and Disney-fied for younger viewers. Gemma Arterton plays someone who knows more than everyone else, a la her character in “Clash of the Titans,” but prettifies just the same. She knows the secrets of the reality-changing sands of time, which of course proves useful in undoing catastrophic events. So, yes, the movie can be summed up as “Groundhog Day in Alamut,” especially when things become tragic. Ultimately, the dreamlike, even video game-like quality of the story perplexes because of the reversible nature of the adventure.

‘Siege’ ends ‘Reign’

Like other Brian Bendis-written event minis before it, “Siege” doesn’t tell a complete story, and you have to read a number of tie-ins to follow subplots that were only briefly glimpsed at in the main book. The four-issue series marks the fall of Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign regime, and the start of the Heroic Age, as a resurrected Captain America finally marshals the hero forces split by the Civil War. But only the Bendis-related characters are shown here; crucial participants such as the Mighty Avengers and Thunderbolts are excluded. Art-wise, Olivier Coipel is a solid and dynamic storyteller, but his pages are too bare, sometimes.

Less than satisfying ‘Sex’ but…

There’s barely any sex in the extra-flamboyant “Sex and the City 2,” and in the Philippines, that also means that there are two major scene deletions. The first movie has them too, annoyingly. And story-wise, while the predecessor felt padded and was mostly concerned with heartache and wedding jitters, the sequel has gutbusting parts, but is lacking in the emotional hook department.

Still, the woman power messages transmit just fine (and memorably, in Samantha’s case), during the foursome’s all expenses-paid Abu Dhabi vacation. Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis reprise their most famous roles, each of which has changed distinctly. The changes aren’t all welcome or interesting, but fans won’t mind too much.

Perhaps the gayest thing in cinemas this week, “Sex and the City 2” celebrates the union of old supporting characters, their ceremony graced by iconic Liza Minnelli. There’s even a brief appearance by “The Pretender’s” Michael T. Weiss, as a dude who hits on Chris Noth’s character Big.

Not surprisingly, there’s a constant showcasing of clothes, shoes, jewelry, and hotel interiors, treating audiences to a barrage of colors and non-traditional artistry. It ends up an odd, disorientingly paced travelogue, studded with awkward parts (like the prolonged karaoke number), but this less than satisfying “Sex” still diverts thanks mostly to the audaciously written and portrayed Samantha.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

King of Pain

Aye, Carrabba! I interviewed Chris Carrabba and the rest of Dashboard Confessional earlier at the Intercon. The band signed the two CD sleeves I brought. Yeah, I rarely do the gushing fanboy thing, but it’s one of those rare times. And Chris likes Robert Kirkman’s comic books.

Transformative, traumatic ‘Pacific’

(Published May 26, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Grim and distressing, the World War II TV miniseries “The Pacific” recalls the efforts of US Marines against Japanese forces in the region. Co-executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, among others, the 10-part series revolves around three soldiers changed irrevocably by their wartime experiences.

The most expensive HBO miniseries to date, “The Pacific” recreates actual events during the devastating war, impressively conjuring up epic-scale land and sea conflicts. But defining the drama are the metamorphoses of marines Robert Leckie (James Badge Dale), John Basilone (Jon Seda) and Eugene Sledge (Joe Mazzello).

The three experience the loss of fallen comrades separately, and process their predicaments differently. Many sides to the war are seen by Leckie, who deals with exhaustion following a depressing time at Guadalcanal and a failed romance with an Australian girl later. But even more interesting is Sledge’s transformation from a frail and gentle lad to a hardened, disillusioned combatant.

By the ninth episode, Sledge is weary and stern, the distraught young man consistently made tangible and layered by former child actor Mazzello. While Sledge loses his innocence, he’s not entirely consumed by the war, as some key scenes in the penultimate chapter suggest.

The massive fight scenes aren’t always stunning or involving, however. A turgid and mechanical jungle clash between American forces and their rarely shown enemies disappoints in one episode.

Periodically gritty and gruesome, “The Pacific” nevertheless transfixes with its inherent pathos. Even with drawbacks, the series manages to emphasize the real, traumatic effects of war, and impart history lessons on a specific and more human level.

The final episode of “The Pacific” airs May 29, 9 p.m., on HBO. The encore telecast is on May 30, 8 p.m.

Nick’s ‘iCarly’: Web wonders, kooky ideas

(Published May 25, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Internet-savvy teens develop and run a successful web show in the Nickelodeon sitcom “iCarly,” created by Dan Schneider (“Drake and Josh”). The 30-minute program follows the online and offline adventures of bubbly high schooler Carly Shay (Miranda Cosgrove), who co-hosts the weekly show with her assertive best friend Sam (Jennette McCurdy). Carly’s schoolmate and neighbor Freddie (Nathan Kress) regularly contributes as their able cameraman and tech guy.

The hip “iCarly” presents a toned-down reflection of the times, with its focus on kids aware of the power of the Net, and are discovering the real responsibilities and temptations that come with uploading material for public consumption. Carly and company’s “” webcasts started out as a venue for schoolmates with odd but camera-worthy talents, and continue to show chosen videos of fans with less “mainstream” abilities and kooky ideas.

Carly and Sam rehearse and stick to a snappy script and, aided by Freddie’s technical expertise, create content that win over tweens, teens, and the occasional grownup. Shot at Carly’s apartment, the episodes poke fun at whatever the gang encounters, like horrendous teachers and other mean adults. There are young characters that disrupt Carly and company’s output from time to time, however.

The show’s main teen characters aren’t fame-obsessed people, and consider their web show a fun hobby. They’ve learned how to adapt to unusual situations; they’ve outsmarted a sneaky sponsor selling defective shoes on their show, and stood up to a TV executive who wants to adapt – but change everything about – “iCarly.”

The teen sitcom underscores the importance of responsible communication for the web-traversing generation and emphasizes the value of creativity, even occasional gimmickry.

“iCarly” airs 4:30 p.m. on weekdays and 3 p.m. on weekends on Nickelodeon.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Super-Villain Team-Up

Because nobody demanded it! Marvel villains! Set 1 of 2. Thanks to John T. for scanning my drawings.

Spidey’s Sinister Foes: Vulture, Dr. Octopus, Sandman, Lizard, Carnage, Hobgoblin, Mysterio, Rhino, Electro, Shocker

Mutant Menaces: Dark Phoenix, Onslaught, Goblin Queen, Apocalypse, Orphan Maker, Quentin Quire, Selene, Nanny, Legion

Masters of Evil: Goliath, Yellowjacket, Fixer, Blackout, Mr. Hyde, Baron Zemo, Tiger Shark, Wrecker, Titania, Absorbing Man

Marauders: Malice/Polaris, Mr. Sinister, Riptide, Prism, Scalphunter, Blockbuster, Vertigo, Harpoon, Arclight, Scrambler, Sabretooth

Dark Avengers, Dark X-Men: Sentry, Mimic, Iron Patriot, Weapon Omega, Ares, Venom, Bullseye, Moonstone, Daken, Dark Beast

Acts of Vengeance: Dr. Doom, Mandarin, Wizard, Loki, Kingpin, Magneto, Red Skull


Summing up Sam Bradley (2009)

(I was sent to interview the singer last October. I submitted this article and it was in the lineup, but again, unexpected variables kept it from being published. Oh well. I enjoyed the interview. Funny and wise guy, that Mr. Bradley.)

Summing up Sam Bradley

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Just a few years ago, indie singer-songwriter Sam Bradley picked up a guitar and started teaching himself the basics.

“I’ve been playing the guitar since I was 17,” he shares between eating mango slices during a recent breakfast interview.

“I started late. My mom bought me a guitar. All my friends were playing, and I kinda felt left out. At 18, I bought a really basic studio setup, and then I started recording demos at my house. At 19, I made a real CD, and it was terrible.”

But after years of honing his craft, he has won over fans across the globe. The 23-year-old indie artist, whose squeaky clean, un-rock star demeanor belies his commanding, soulful presence onstage, knows how to keep a crowd mesmerized.

He talks with an English accent, but loses it when he sings songs from his self-titled EP, or covers of rock, folk, and R&B hits. Videos of gigs posted online show the diversity of the emotive troubadour’s musical styles.

Touring since May, Sam recently visited the country and performed in several SM malls. “I am busy up until the end of the year,” he says, while finishing a bowl of cereal mixed with yogurt. “I’ll be touring North America, with a Canadian-Japanese artist, Justin Nozuka. I’m playing 37 shows in 48 days. That takes me up until about halfway through December. After that, I guess I’ll start looking for an independent record label. Either that or win a lottery. I haven’t decided yet.”

How different are your “relationship songs”?

Most of the songs are personal. But they’re not all about relationships. I’ve written one that is totally disconnected to me. The song “Even Thought Of Leaving” is about a father who leaves his family. That didn’t happen to me. That was inspired by a drunk night.

How did living in different countries influence you? Also, name some influential musicians.

I grew up in London and moved to Canada when I was 18. My mom is Canadian; she always liked country music. My mom’s an influence. Everyone’s an influence: my friends, and Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Shawn Mullins, lots of people. I listen to Al Green, Marvin Gaye.

You’re friends with “Twilight” actor Robert Pattinson. Describe your friendship, and your collaboration.

We were friends since I was 12. It’s normal. Close. Happy. I wrote something with him, which ended up going into the movie, which was good. It’s not a different process, really. Someone else is just there with you.

I have a different version. He has his version, “Never Think.” I have mine, “Too Far Gone.” It’s very different. It doesn’t even sound like the same song. I think he was filming, and played some open mics. The director heard. He played some songs and the director said, “Would you like to record for the movie?” He said, “Yes.” And I got a phone call, the one we wrote was gonna be in it.

What inspired the lyrics?

It’s about leaving a girl. It’s about how good she has it but doesn’t realize. She mistreats me because she’s an idiot. It’s very personal. I feel it every time. (laughs) I know how to perform it without feeling it, too. I can do it with the same emotion, if that makes sense.

How different are your fans from different countries?

What I’ve noticed about the Philippines, for example, is everyone is extremely respectful. They listen. I never really see too many people talking through the set. The people that came to sit down and listen, everyone is listening. In North America, it’s not always the case. It depends. If I’m playing a small, intimate show, it’s quiet. If it’s a big show, like my last one in Vancouver, it’s noisy. It didn’t matter because I was even noisier.

How crazy does it get?

The last time I did a coffee house, I tried to set up a secret Twitter show. It didn’t go so well. Maybe 85 people turned up, which was really good. I gave clues and announced it on the day. It was still a great turnout, but, I don’t know, what’s the best way to explain it? People aren’t as respectful, and don’t treat me as much of a human as they used to. They’re a bit grabby. I’m not Steven Tyler up there, but “I want a picture, I want an autograph, sing this song!”

Describe a typical set.

If it’s my full show, I’d probably play an hour and a half with my band. If it’s just me, it’s from 45 minutes to an hour and a half. I play songs from my album; I throw in one or two random covers, like “No Diggity,” or things that shouldn’t be coming out of my mouth. I do a country song and I make it really country. I go through a journey; I sometimes tell stories. I make the set work within a story.

Name three songs that had a big impact on you.

“Many Rivers To Cross,” by Jimmy Cliff. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” Bob Dylan. And “Bump N’ Grind,” R. Kelly.

Who do you want to work with?

The Avett Brothers, they’re really cool. Regina Spektor. Marcus Foster.

How has making music changed you?

It’s totally my dream. It’s great. It’s becoming a reality. Now that I’m at this point, I want to get to that point. Probably, when I’m at that point, I want to get to a further point. I just wanna work hard. I want people to like my music. I wanna inspire people.

How do you feel when people connect with your music?

I don’t feel surprised. I’m thankful, I’m happy that they do. I write it for myself and then I let go of it. I hope that someone can interpret it the way they want. When someone connects, it makes me feel like I’m doing something right. It makes me wanna strive to write a better song.

Relevant, lurid and forgotten ‘Dreamz’ (2006)

(Published August 20, 2006, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


“American Dreamz” wryly satirizes hit TV show “American Idol” and the American president at the same time, a timely commentary on the current state of interactive entertainment and political spins. It offers that the two topics have fabricated images in common: contestants’ lives are altered and made more dramatic to make “good TV," while US President Staton‘s (Dennis Quaid) indecision and loss of confidence are constantly covered up by his advisers and writers. So it’s actually clever, after not reporting for work for weeks after his recent re-election, that he attempts to mend his tarnished image by appearing as guest judge on the hit “American Dreamz” star search.

As with “American Idol," the casting process of contestants in the fictional show is arduous, but it draws out all kinds of wannabes. Its host, producer, and Simon Cowell-like judge Martin Tweed (Hugh Grant) wants the “freaks” in, since he believes that they’d make another lively new season. One such contestant is talented but overly ambitious, Sally Kendoo (deftly played by real pop singer Mandy Moore), who wants to be a star and not just “any idiot” who appears on TV. Another contestant, Omer (Sam Golzari), an immigrant and secretly a bumbling terrorist recruit who loves show tunes, becomes the season’s token survivor of war overseas.

“American Dreamz," despite tapping many characters from two different worlds, doesn’t lose focus on its mix of fame-seekers, clods, and opportunists. Its ensemble cast does wonders; aside from praiseworthy turns by Grant, Quaid, Moore and Golzari, characters are given depth and recognition by Willem Dafoe (the stressed-out Chief of Staff), Marcia Gay Harden (the kindly First Lady), Chris Klein (Sally’s devoted ex), Jennifer Coolidge (Sally’s mom), Seth Myers (Sally’s devious agent), and Shohreh Aghdashloo (Omer’s rich aunt).

Written, produced and directed by Paul Weitz (“About a Boy”, “American Pie”), “American Dreamz” plods on Americans’, and now most of the world’s, fascination and obsession with helping make or break new celebrities. The process of selecting the most appealing, and not necessarily the most talented choice, is creatively underscored. It is, however, at times simplistically portrayed, and the farcical treatment of the subjects often doesn’t produce any real mirth, tension or urgency.

The televised selection process and song numbers are rather tame compared to the lurid behind-the-scenes goings-on, of course, where personality quirks are visible and funnier, and more selfish agendas proceed with abandon. The parts focusing on the president’s incompetence are among the movie’s duller and disengaging components, too. Still, the film’s legion of characters offer a fine cross-section of the world’s population that gladly takes the game show like an escapist drug, united for a short time in witnessing dreams of young hopefuls get dashed or realized. “American Dreamz” also, quite accurately, reflects the tendency of many politicians, in our world, to ride the coattails of what’s hip and happening to stay relevant. Truth is way stranger than fiction, that’s for sure.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Indelible, Incredible

Voting was a breeze last Monday, thankfully. I was in and out the voting area in less than 15 minutes. Like other voters, I’m proud of my indelible ink-marked fingernail, and glad that counting isn’t taking forever.

Been busy with the same things. Wish I could do more, but the heat just overwhelms, sometimes. Oh, I’m looking at my old articles, published and unpublished, and I’d like to share some of them. So I’m gonna be posting them here now and in the weeks ahead.

I want better weather.

Cartoon Network’s superhero summer

(Published May 16, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


The epic struggle between good and evil takes center stage in Cartoon Network’s “Hero Up” summer programming, as shows centering on classic and new superheroes become part of its daily run. From comic book crusaders to original animated characters, the ongoing focus on heroism appeals to a wide range of viewers.

Batman, Spider-Man, Ben Tennyson and other champions make summer viewing lively for Filipino kids, according to Turner Entertainment Networks Asia’s Branding and Communications Vice President Lucien Harrington.

“At Cartoon Network, content is king and we are constantly on the lookout for new programs to keep our lineup fresh and exciting,” Harrington said. “For ‘Hero Up,’ with our recent acquisition of Marvel titles and our existing line up of adventure series, it made sense to showcase these great cartoons together. Our content reflects universally popular themes such as comedy, action and adventure, but most of all, fun – as we strive to animate kids’ lives everywhere.”

The shows don’t necessarily appeal to male audiences only, Harrington added.

“While on the surface most of the cartoons appear to be predominantly appealing to boys, there are plenty of strong female characters that girls can identify with as well. We have Gwen Tennyson, Ben’s super-powered and intelligent cousin. There is also Drew Saturday from ‘The Secret Saturdays,’ Raven and Starfire from ‘Teen Titans,’ and ‘Powerpuff Girls Z.’ And ‘Wolverine and the X-Men’ will showcase Storm, Shadowcat, Rogue and Emma Frost. Girls should be able to find cool role models in cartoons and see themselves as strong and powerful heroes as well.”

Cartoon Network continues to attract younger viewers in Asia and the Philippines because of “relevant” programming, Harrington said.

“We speak the language of the playground and we bring fun that kids can laugh about in the same way they laugh with their friends. We never stop creating or delivering new content, and it’s what keeps us relevant and interesting to our fans.”

“Hero Up” includes weekday airings of “Ben 10” (8 a.m.), “The Secret Saturdays” (9 a.m.), “Spectacular Spider-Man” (9:30 a.m.) “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” (10 a.m.), “Ben 10: Alien Force” (10:30 a.m.), “Teen Titans” (11 a.m.), and “Powerpuff Girls Z” (11:30 a.m.). On weekends, Cartoon Network airs “League of Super Evil” (8:30 a.m.). “Wolverine and the X-Men,” “Iron Man: Armored Adventures” and “Super Hero Squad” start airing this month.

Writing, warrior women, and ‘Whiteout’ (2009)

(Previously unpublished, this exclusive email interview with writer Greg Rucka months ago was in the paper’s lineup but ultimately didn’t make it because of PDI-Super’s space limitations during the time. My thanks to Warner Bros.’ Sionee Lagman and Jay Gonzales for this interview.)

Writing, warrior women, and ‘Whiteout’

Author Greg Rucka talks about approaching characters fairly

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Acclaimed novelist and comic book creator Greg Rucka’s body of work can easily be described as diverse. He has written a variety of embattled characters that traverse different worlds, from gritty, realistic thrillers to fantastical superhero sagas.

A pattern is also easily discernible: many of his protagonists are strong-willed women, usually flawed, but resourceful individuals, nonetheless. The American author has handled female characters capably in comic books such as “Wonder Woman,” “Black Widow,” “Felon,” “Queen and Country,” “Supergirl,” and “Gotham Central.”

He also penned the “Whiteout” miniseries, which inspired the new film directed by Dominic Sena. Kate Beckinsale stars as quick-thinking Marshal Carrie Stetko, who is tasked to solve the mystery behind a series of deaths in Antarctica.

Describe a regular work day.

I get up quite early, try to write for a bit, mostly emails, and handle some phone calls. I take my kids to school, and then I go back to my desk and resume working as best as I can until I have to pick them up from school again. Dinner, homework, bedtimes, and then, depending on my deadlines, either back to work, or maybe I can relax a little bit and play a video game or read a book or watch a show on television.

How challenging is it to write strong, independent women?

It's no more challenging than writing any well-realized character. Gender is simply an element of character. If you approach your characters fairly, honestly, then they will be who they are -- if they're men, women, straight, gay, religious, it's all the same. I don't ignore gender, but gender is simply an aspect of character.

You wrote Wonder Woman and Elektra a few years back. How did you approach adding to those comic book icons' mythologies?

Working on Elektra was a challenge, simply because Marvel and I didn't see eye-to-eye about her, and editorial really wanted me to follow their lead, which was their right. I think she's been overused, frankly, but Marvel has a tendency to do that -- they find a character that works, and then they milk him or her for all they're worth.

Wonder Woman was a very different experience, because she was a character that I'd been looking for an opportunity to write for a very long time. When the chance came, then, I was in a pretty good place with regards to what I was thinking about her.

But in both cases, you're dealing with characters you don't own, characters that belong to a larger corporation, and you have to be respectful of that, no matter how much you may disagree with the direction they want to go.

“Whiteout” was written over a decade ago. What factors inspired the creation of Marshal Stetko, and the setting?

That's a hard question to answer, but the quick version is this. Stetko was a character I'd been working with before (artist) Steve Lieber and I ever met up and did Whiteout -- she actually started in a one-act play I wrote back in graduate school. Antarctica, as a setting and character, didn't enter the equation until my agent at the time mentioned, in passing, that he'd heard there was a US Federal Marshal stationed in Antarctica. I immediately wondered how one ended up in that job, and it kind of spun out from there.

As executive producer of the film, what were your duties?

Mostly to nod my head and say "nice job!" Honestly, the exec credit was something that was granted in negotiations. I ended up on the set for three weeks near the end of shooting, and helped with rewrites on several of the scenes, but my influence, and my input, was very limited -- I'm a writer, not a film-maker, and I think it's probably for the best that they kept me at arm's length!

The agent part played by Gabriel Macht was originally a woman. Why was it changed, and was it necessary?

I don't know. This was a change I had no part in making, one that happened very early on in the script stage. My understanding is that there are people who feel that an audience will not pay to see two women in an action/thriller, and that consequently, the part needed to be recast as a man.

You are currently writing Detective Comics, which focuses on two lesbian heroines, Batwoman and Question. How do you keep the characters from being overshadowed by their sexual identities, while still remaining sensitive?

Sexuality is just another element of character, and I'm interested in writing about people, not about issues, not about sensationalism. There are writers -- mostly men -- who get terribly titillated and excited about lesbianism; I'm not really one of them. I just like writing about people, and I try to be honest in how I do it. Not every hero is a white male. Not every bad guy has to have an English accent. The world is a big place, and as a writer, I just try to show different slices of it in my work.

‘Arthur and the Invisibles’: Coexistent magical realms (2007)

(Published Feb. 4, 2007, PDI-Entertainment)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


Sensibly pooling together recognizable fragments from Arthurian legends and classic children’s stories, “Arthur and the Invisibles” works as an eye-pleasing union between live-action and digital animation formats. They’re not seen on the screen simultaneously, but the two distinctly removed realms coexist well because suspension of disbelief makes the transition from one dimension to the other almost seamless.

In the “real” world, young and resourceful Arthur (Freddie Highmore) discovers the colorful journal of his grandfather, Archibald (Ron Crawford), while on vacation. Staying at his loving grandmother’s (Mia Farrow) place has been peaceful, until they’re suddenly threatened with eviction. The boy needs to find Archibald’s hidden stash of rubies that can pay their debts, lest his grandparents lose their place to a real estate developer.

Prior to leaving for an expedition, Archibald left clues that Arthur must decipher, and these soon lead him directly to some African tribesmen, who help him enter the secret community of the tiny, elf-like Minimoys.

That’s when the lushly animated scenes come in. Beneath the grandparents’ garden, these beings flourish, but they’re threatened by the malevolent Maltazard (voiced by David Bowie), and his mosquito-riding flunkies. Arthur gets involved, naturally, and must help the peaceful Minimoys figure out a way to defeat their would-be subjugators. Along the way and as expected, valuable hints to the location of his grandfather’s buried treasure are revealed.

Highmore, the lead kid actor from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” emphatically portrays two versions of the same character. In his scenes unadorned by effects, he warmly gives Arthur human dimension, while his transformed Arthur-Minimoy version allows him to tap into a more adventurous, playful side as a voice actor. The Minimoys are voiced by a noteworthy cast as well, which includes Robert De Niro (the wise old King), Madonna (the ill-tempered but brave Princess Selenia), and Jimmy Fallon (unrecognizable as the boy prince Betameche), among others. Directed by Luc Besson, no stranger to unrelenting action sequences and unearthly worlds, “Arthur and the Invisibles” speeds into a hazy quest that acquaints its viewers with every nook and cranny of its magical spaces.

While capturing that feeling of urgency, Arthur’s noble quest feels rushed when he’s in the cartoon world of the Minimoys. The boy quickly becomes a hero worthy of wielding the community’s enchanted, Excalibur-like sword, and becomes integral to putting an end to Maltazard’s sinister plans. Also, the attraction between Arthur and Selenia feels odd because of the obvious age gap. The Minimoys are centuries older than humans, even if they look pretty young. But if you don’t know that they’re being voiced by Madonna and Highmore, well, it might not matter much. Still, the animated versions look like they might make a nice-looking pair--someday.

“Arthur and the Invisibles” makes use of its fairy tale structure well, although some characters like Arthur’s absent parents-turned-treasure hunters (Penny Balfour and Doug Rand) later become two-dimensional, but not in the animated sense. However, just like their counterparts in many kids’ stories, they’re perfunctorily there but inconsequential.

As a whole, the Minimoys’ artistically conceived and executed world balances out the other reality, Arthur’s un-animated world, adding textured style to the more obvious message-driven substance. It’s a working symbiosis, the less overt themes of survival in different ecosystems and peaceful coexistence subtly attached to the bigger, louder, good-versus-evil drama.

Farewell, Frank

82-year-old fantasy artist Frank Frazetta passed away May 10th. I was introduced to his stunning works through a trading card set that I almost completed back in college. His paintings and inked drawings are powerful, sensual, or mind-blowing, or all of those things at once. Grand and solid, his illustrations still, and will always capture the imagination.

Thanks for the inspiring and fantastic worlds, Mr. Frazetta.

Mga Kagila-Gilalas na Alter-Ego (2002)

(Previously unpublished interview with Carl Vergara for a mag that didn’t last very long. Again, for the nth time, apologies and thanks, Carl.)


By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

How’s this for a long, tongue-twisting comic book title: “Ang Kagilagilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah.” That’s ultratalented creator Carl Vergara’s new project, a 2-issue limited series about the adventures of a local superheroine. But Darna, this ain’t. The mortal in question is a gay hairdresser, Ada, who transforms into a real woman with real womanly… things. Zsazsa Zaturnnah is Vergara’s follow-up to his graphic novel “One Night in Purgatory.”

What inspired you to write about a Darna-like character with a trannie twist?

The idea for Zsazsa Zaturnnah hit me as early as August 2001. It was a time when 'what ifs' were swimming in my head, trying to get a new idea for a new book after One Night In Purgatory. I can't remember exactly what inspired me to play with the Darna mythos, but one of the first ideas was to make the stone larger than a fist. The homosexuality aspect is, I think, a given. My first book featured alternative sexuality, and I wanted to continue this thread in my next book, but exploring another genre.

You’re obviously influenced by Adam Hughes, art-wise. Who are your writing influences? Other art influences?

For comics writing, I guess Chris Claremont during his X-Men run. Then there's a bit of Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison. I've been trying recently to get into the habit of reading fiction, and I found the works of Jeff Noon and Paolo Coelho appealing. Right now, my art influences include Bryan Hitch, Masamune Shiro and Katsuhiro Otomo. But I've also been influenced by Jim Davis (of Garfield, seriously!), Jim Lee, Alan Davis, John Byrne and Brian Bolland.

How is this different, in terms of the creative process, from One Night in Purgatory?

The creative process for One Night... was more difficult to go through than Zsazsa Zaturnnah. While, yes, there were elements of melodrama in One Night... I didn't want the book to be a melodrama in its entirety. There's a fine line I had to tread with that book, and I had to make the characters as well-rounded as possible given that the story happened in a single night. It was also more difficult because it was my first book. I was using for the first time what I know in writing and drawing comics in tandem.

What superpowers do you want to have?

Oh, to teleport would be real fun. You avoid traffic. You save on transportation fare. You can sneak into places where you'd normally need a pass. But the humanitarian side of me would like to be a healer. Not just of physical injuries, but also emotional and mental injuries. There's too much of that going on nowadays.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

‘Nightmare’ rebooted

Inescapable bogeyman Freddy Krueger invades the dreams of teenagers anew in this revamped “Nightmare on Elm Street,” starring Jackie Earle Haley as the serial-killing entity. The surprises are few and far between; Freddy’s terrified victims expectedly die in grisly and disturbing ways, just like in the original series of horror flicks. As for the new Freddy, Haley’s portrayal of the gardener-turned-dream monster impresses, but the new melted look prevents him from making a number of sinister facial expressions. This new “Nightmare,” despite being utterly predictable, looks slick and mostly avoids the campiness of the old movies’ lackluster parts.

Sagacious ‘Saga’

Essential Marvel Saga Vol. 1 compiles the first 12 issues of the ‘80s series that documented the Marvel Universe’s age of superheroes in chronological order. Well, not always. Oddly enough, there are flashbacks that should’ve been included in the series’ first issue. Still, you won’t mind them that much, and it’s easy to appreciate this rare, wider view of the characters’ shared history. Origin stories from the Lee-Kirby-Ditko era are interspersed in the order they happened, but transitions aren’t always smooth, partly because of the absence of color, and also because some tales were unevenly compressed. It’s still a good read, though. From the early days of the X-Men, and other heroes, to the real origins of the Kree-Skrull War and the non-intervention rule of the Watchers, Essential Marvel Saga discloses on popular and little-known facts years before the Marvel Universe’s past became overly complicated by unending retcons.


After many busy years, the old computer finally “died.” It succumbed to irreparable, used-up capacitors, according to the technicians. But I was able to retrieve files, documents and pictures, some of which are almost five years old. And forgotten memories come flooding back as I look at all those mementos from the past. Work-related relics, photos of me and those dear to me, illustrations, and expressions of feelings have been transplanted from one mechanical “brain” to another, matching long-stored records in my head.

But I choose to save and transfer those that still matter. Those that I don’t care about anymore, I won’t bother saving. The documents and images provide a slideshow of my growth, a few things I now regret and would rather forget, and a number of personal milestones. Professional and intimate relationships, changing disciplines and behavior--they’re summarized and specific in old blog entries, and hinted at in some pictures.

Yeah, reflecting on my life while switching machines. But it’s a welcome trip to the past, and I haven’t done a lot of that recently. Life goes on, I’m moving on, and I’m creating new, hopefully better memories.

Pic from 2006. Pizza Hut, Fort.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Wala Na Bang Iba?

Ano ba naman ‘tong mga kandidato. Mga trapo, sinungaling, atat, payaso, pikon, sipsip sa Simbahan, nang-uuto ng mahirap. Ang hirap naman pumili.


1. “Iron Man 2” was disappointing.

2. I’m enjoying the X-titles’ “Second Coming” crossover. It’s all-out war between the X-Men and some of their most relentless mutant-hating foes, including Bastion, Cameron Hodge, and William Stryker. Some of the titles will be revamped by July (have you seen those odd teasers depicting possible new members?), but for now, the X-Men are in the fight of their lives. Loving it, so far.

3. The latest “The Last Airbender” trailer looks good. Appa the flying bison! The Blue Spirit!

4. The first gay character in the Archie Universe will be debuting in a few months. Kevin Keller will beat Jughead in a burger-eating contest, and Veronica will become attracted to the new guy because of that, according to reports. Finally, a gay character in an Archie Comic. One that has a huge appetite, apparently.

When May is Rushing Over You

"These Are Days" by 10,000 Maniacs. Love this song. Cute video, too.