Monday, April 21, 2014

The New Mutants

New Mutants, the former teen heroes/teachers/X-Men squad had a good run (2009-12). The roster: Karma, Cannonball, Warlock, Sunspot, Moonstar, X-Man, Blink, Magma, Cypher, Magik. Interestingly, three of the members are connected to different hell lords.

Anyway, it's nice to draw in this style, and just to draw again, period. I like these characters. I related to them because we were about the same age back in the '80s. And they were awkward, unsure teens, mostly.

'Community' star happy with return of show's creator

(April 17, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“To be honest, I didn’t know about [‘Doctor Who’ or ‘Dungeons and Dragons’]. But I’m learning while I’m shooting,” revealed “Community” actor Danny Pudi, somewhat stunning the gathering of fans during the recent meet-and-greet at the Fox office in Bonifacio Global City.

Pudi, after all, plays super-geek and aspiring filmmaker Abed, the almost-robotic member of the show’s community college study group. The sitcom continues to parody pop culture trends and fan-favorite franchises.

Photo by Oliver Pulumbarit
The actor, 35, was in town to promote the series’ fifth season (debuting on Fox April 23, 9:50 p.m.). Pudi pleasantly surprised devotees by hugging them, jumping, running around and dancing, coming off as genuinely excited, if over-caffeinated. He sat down, sans hyperactive behavior, for a one-on-one interview with the Inquirer.

How will actor Donald Glover’s departure this season affect the show? His Troy character and Abed share a unique bond.
Donald leaves after the fifth episode. It is tough for all of us. He is a good friend of mine. I like hanging out with him, listening to his music. He’s a genius, comically. It’s tough as an actor, too, because the Troy and Abed dynamic is so fun, and I’m gonna miss that.
One of the things that we do this year is address, head-on, the fact that he’s leaving. You see Abed trying to connect with other people, and he can! There are two episodes after Donald leaves where Annie and Abed are trying to find a new roommate. In another episode, Abed has a conversation with a character played by Jonathan Banks from “Breaking Bad.” You see how much he’s trying. 

How different will it be, now that Abed is going to have a girlfriend?
It’s not that different. Ultimately, it’s about the study group.

Which actor are you closest to?
Probably Alison Brie (who plays Annie), but we’re all really close. It’s a very fun, loving, good group of people.

Who’s the funniest to you, off-cam?
 That’s tough. I think… Jim Rash, maybe? It varies. Day to day, it’s pretty much everybody. Some days, it’s Ken Jeong, Gillian (Jacobs), Alison (Brie), Joel (McHale)… I think that’s the great thing about our show. We’re surrounded by really funny people.

What are you learning about playing Abed for a fifth season?
I’ve learned a lot. I learned more about pop culture than I ever knew. I’m not an expert, so Abed has helped me learn about “Farscape,” “Doctor Who,” “My Dinner with Andre”… I’ve also learned that he has a tremendous capacity for connecting with people. He’s way less weird, and way smarter than I am!

What geeky stuff are you into?
 I love graphic novels. I’m reading “Saga” right now. “The Unwritten” is awesome. “Fables”… those are the things I get into the most right now.

Now that creator Dan Harmon is back, how does the cast feel?
We love it. We’re so happy and thankful. It was amazing because it was a chance for us to start all over again. No one knows the show like Dan. He’s the brains of the show. [The previous season], it was just different. Our show is so specific and a part of Dan Harmon and his life that to take it away and have someone else do it is a very hard task.

Losing Chevy Chase—how did that affect you?
The thing about our show is, we’re constantly changing. There’s always stuff happening. The good thing is we had Dan come back. We lost Chevy; we lost Donald, too. At least we have Dan there to write about the characters in a very honest way. I’m just happy I got a chance to work with Chevy.

To what do you attribute “Community’s” success?
I don’t know… It’s pretty amazing. Our show is different. But it’s also current, topical. It embraces things that are happening right now. Dan and the writers are very involved [in] social media so they’re able to tap into what’s currently on people’s minds. It’s a very honest show.

Rising star challenged by multiple 'Orphan Black' roles

(April 7, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany beat more established thesps like Juliana Margulies, Claire Danes, and Vera Farmiga, among others, in the Best Actress in a Drama Series category of last year’s Critics’ Choice Awards.

Maslany won for playing a con artist and several other characters (including a cop, an assassin, etc.) in the first season of “Orphan Black,” which is about several female clones discovering and connecting with each other. The actress, 28, recently discussed her show, debuting in Southeast Asia on Lifetime (9 tonight), in a phone interview.

The Golden Globe-nominated actress previously appeared as the Virgin Mary in the miniseries “The Nativity,” and in TV shows such as “Flashpoint,” “Heartland” and “Being Erica.”

“[One] thing that makes me proud of the show is that these women are individuals,” she said of her various “Orphan Black” characters, which have radically different predilections and personalities. “They’re not just the girlfriend and they’re not looking for male approval in any way. They’re so autonomous. It’s exciting for me,” Maslany said.

How would you describe playing multiple characters with different lives?
Interesting and fun. I work very closely with a dialect coach. The writers of the show constantly throw curveballs and continue to challenge, develop and change these characters. Every time I read a script, I don’t know where it’s going and it makes it very exciting for me as an actor.
Also, each character has a different accent; I think the London accent is the most difficult. The most difficult physicality to maintain during a long day is Rachel’s; she’s the clone we meet at the end of Season One—her posture is impeccable and she’s always in the most painful high heels.

What’s the most important thing about working on this show?
What got my attention in this show in the first place is the combination of the script and the challenges that came with the job. The writing was so compelling and the characters were so well-developed on the page, it was a world I hadn’t seen yet in a TV series. And the challenge of playing all these characters, I didn’t know how that would be done. It was something that, as an actor, really inspired me and made me a little bit obsessed.

Name some of your favorite actors.
Robin Wright in “House of Cards” plays a fascinating character. And Laura Dern [in the canceled show “Enlightened”] played an incredible leading woman who wasn’t necessarily the strongest—she had so many flaws and weaknesses—but I totally know that woman, believe her and root for her.

What genres are you drawn to, and how is the show’s science fiction aspect relevant?
 I have no particular preference for genres … [I’m drawn to] any character that’s good and interesting. But I think what sci-fi can do so brilliantly is to reflect back our world through a different lens, and speak about the future, shed light on it in a way that’s entertaining and fantastical … It can tell us about where we are as a society. I think that sci-fi doesn’t get enough credit for [that] kind of social commentary.

Jake and His Alien

2002. Originally intended to use this for a magazine, but eventually included it in LNA as Jake Ylagan's comic strip.

Name Game

Wrong spelling, wrong. Ages ago. I didn't mind it then, but it became a hassle when I became an adult, when it came to documents and stuff.

Little bro's nutty, cosmic capers

(April 4, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

The new animated series “Steven Universe” looks like the trippy amalgam of 1970s anime and ’90s oddball comedy cartoons, with disparate-looking characters mingling comfortably in one kooky world.

The bright, colorful brainchild of Rebecca Sugar, “Steven Universe” centers on a chubby young protagonist, the titular kid who goes off on cosmic capers and wields  a powerful gem.

Sugar, a former storyboard artist and writer for Cartoon Network’s hit show “Adventure Time,” said in an exclusive e-mail interview with the Inquirer that she learned “a lot” from her previous high-profile project.

“I really got a better understanding of how a show needs to be universal,” she volunteered. “You can make it for this younger audience, or you can make it for a younger audience and other people who will enjoy it.”

She added: “You can build those layers into it. I got to a place where I was trying to tie every joke to something meaningful so you almost couldn’t separate them … you could enjoy it on different levels simultaneously and not just shift around, which I think ‘Adventure Time’ does incredibly well.” 

As for the creation of “Steven Universe,” she revealed that a close relative served as inspiration for the young adventurer: “The show is based on my younger brother, Steven. I’ve been drawing pictures of him for forever. Actually, a lot of my comics are inspired by him.”

Her brother Steven is background artist for the animated series “Bravest Warriors”; Steven the character is the “little brother” to a few older women, the heroic mentor-teammates from the Crystal Gems.

“I wanted to make it a pastiche of all the things that I really like … I wanted to have a magical girl element and characters that are interesting and adult. A lot of them are like women who go through adult problems, [experiencing] anxieties that Steven can’t understand. It is interesting because I don’t know how much this is represented in kids’ cartoons,” she said.

The first female creator of a Cartoon Network-produced show, Sugar said cartoons and comics with a mix of “regular life and extreme fantasy” appeal to her, and that she keeps introducing a similar dichotomy to the series.

“Shows help reconcile the ‘boring-ness’ of your own life with the ‘fantastic-ness,’ of entertainment,” Sugar explained. “I wanted to have huge fantasy elements for my show, but also down-to-earth storylines.”

She noted that “Steven Universe” has qualities that people of various ages could  relate to. “I have definitely tried to put enough layers into the show so that it can be watched by different age groups—it is interesting to try to be subversive in a positive way,” Sugar said. “That is my goal. I want everyone to internalize this show.” 

That focus on being unique is an especially welcome challenge, Sugar disclosed, and it’s what makes “Steven” distinct in the network’s current roster of shows.

“We’re trying to do a real comedy-action show in a way that, hopefully, has  never been done before, that it’s going to be something so cool that it’s funny, and [vice versa]—something that you can take seriously and laugh at, and none of those things will conflict. I think we’ve done that,” she said.

(“Steven Universe airs on Cartoon Network, Mondays at 6 p.m.)

Magic that makes a point

(April 1, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“My magic is not about me, it’s about the people around me and what happens when the magic of experience is with them,” said self-styled “troublemaker” and illusionist Andrew Mayne during a recent teleconference. The celebrated magician is promoting his 13-episode Lifetime series, “Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne,” which starts airing at 10:10 tonight.

“The first thing [about] my magic style is that my big tricks are about somebody else’s story and how I try to use magic to help,” added the YouTube sensation and author of science-fiction and mystery books.

He described the best tricks as “spectacular to watch, but also have an effect.” He elaborated, “When I take somebody’s hobby car [because] he’s taking money and time away from his wife, I make it vanish and I make it reappear impaled 20 feet up in the air on a street lamp. It’s a spectacular visual but it also makes a point: ‘This is what you’re doing to this person’… that’s what I love to do.”

The most important thing about being a convincing illusionist is trust, according to Mayne. “Oddly, we point out the title, but I really like people—if I’m going to perform something for you, I need you to believe that I’m going to be sincere and that you’re going to be entertained, and that it’s worth your attention. That’s important,” he said. 

And just how often does he perform certain tricks? “I like to change it up, but I have a couple of tricks I’m always ready to do if I meet somebody in person and they ask me to show them something.” 

Mayne revealed that there’s always a new trick being conjured up in the back of his mind. “I’m always thinking of what’s fun to do,” he offered. “You figure out how to do it and sometimes it can be in the moment, or sometimes it takes a long time. You look around you for inspiration.” 

Life as an illusionist started on a cruise ship. Mayne traveled around the world and “lived out of a suitcase,” performing tricks in a weekly stage show. He eventually dubbed his style “Shock Magic” and invented about 400 tricks, some of which were discussed in his videos.

Mayne named some influential illusionists: “David Copperfield is impressive; I watched the guy teleport, and as a kid, that just really stuck with me. And David Blaine, when he introduced street magic, it was hard to appreciate [at first] but when I thought about it, the more I realized how much he’s changed magic forever.”
No stranger to blowing people’s minds, Mayne admitted that there’s one trick that he wants to accomplish soon: “I would like to make somebody’s house disappear while they’re standing right in front of it!”

Assemblage of Avengers, 2001

Avengers, 2001. Totally forgot about this colored version until last month.

'Carrie' grows up just fine in the ennobling Eighties

(March 24, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

As evidenced by the first season of “The Carrie Diaries” last year, this prequel series to “Sex and the City” follows an altogether lighter, teen drama show format. It’s not as risqué as the half-hour sex comedy series, understandably, but what it lacks in adult situations and imagery, it more than makes up for in female-empowering scenarios.

Young Carrie Bradshaw, played by AnnaSophia Robb, sets her sights on life in the big city in the mid-1980s, interning for posh Interview magazine and learning valuable lessons along the way.

While she doesn’t resemble original Carrie actress Sarah Jessica Parker at all, Robb projects a similarly bubbly and spirited demeanor for the character. It also helps that the younger actress’ wide-eyed, journal-like narration offers a credible connection to the wiser, more assured counterpart from “Sex and the City.”

The second season brings teen Carrie closer to her future world, as she’s more receptive to the changes in her life. She gets to live her dream of meeting interesting people, some of them celebs, and she gets opportunities to write for the magazine more. As observant and immersed in a world of grown-ups as she is, however, Carrie still has to deal with teen drama, specifically the betrayal of a childhood friend, Maggie (Katie Findlay), and the wayward boyfriend Sebastian (Austin Butler).

Predictable teen binds notwithstanding, there’s a consistent focus on self-worth. It is the 1980s, after all; Madonna’s initial effect on pop culture and female empowerment figured prominently in a storyline last season. Carrie learns about choosing a nontraditional path, encouraged by her mentor and editor Larissa (Freema Agyeman). Carrie’s younger and rebellious sister Dorrit (Stefania Owen) learns about relationships and dating, much to the surprise of their widower dad (Matt Letscher). And the gang’s fashion-conscious gay boy, Walt (Brendan Dooling), finally musters up the courage to accept his sexuality—it gets him kicked out of his home, but he sticks with his newfound awareness. 

To add to the already self-aware bunch of friends, “The Carrie Diaries” finally introduces Samantha Jones, played by Lindsey Gort, who somewhat resembles a younger Kim Cattrall (the original Samantha), at certain angles. The personality is familiar; she hasn’t changed much over the years, apparently. Her free-spirited ways gradually and significantly add to Carrie’s growth, not to mention the group dynamic.

It’s been a busy, if short, season—but much has developed in the life of the future celebrated sex columnist, and teen Carrie Bradshaw is actually a more interesting, constantly evolving character this second season. And while it’s not always about sex, the cleaner, PG-rated series tackles such intimacy and relationship situations deftly and freshly, accompanied by catchy pop gems of the 1980s, to boot.

(“The Carrie Diaries” airs Mondays, 6 p.m. on ETC.)

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Vicious Vaycay

Commission. Black Widow's holiday is cut short by agents of Hydra, the Hand, AIM, and mercs Deadpool, Taskmaster, Bullseye and Lady Bullseye.

Books and Browsing

Magazine illustration, 2002. Markers and water color on vellum.

Parallel Universe Abed

Me and Abed in the mornin'! Fun guy, that Danny Pudi. This was taken last week at the Fox office in BGC. Danny was promoting the fifth season of Community. He was quite hyper during the fan meet. On his Captain America cameo (I didn't include this in my article, so I'm sharing here): "It was fast! (laughs) It was amazing. It was a few minutes. But it was great ‘cause it was the Russo brothers!"

Laudable liberator

Far sturdier than “Captain America: The First Avenger,” the spy thriller sequel “The Winter Soldier” continues the patriotic superhero’s solo saga post-“Avengers,” although he gets by with a little help from his combat-ready friends.

The freedom-fighter Cap (Chris Evans), his Avenger teammate Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and a new ally codenamed Falcon (Anthony Mackie) face the combined forces of corrupt SHIELD agents, old foes, and the enigmatic assassin Winter Soldier.

While this sequel, directed by Joe and Tony Russo, veers away from the humor and generally flippant dialogue and atmosphere of “Avengers,” its serious, slightly darker tone works well, especially since Captain America’s “man out of time” conceit can be worked quite effectively into a more espionage-themed story. Joining SHIELD on a rescue mission, he gets close enough to question the organization’s operations, suspecting that something is amiss. He is proven right almost immediately, of course, forcing him to go rogue.

However unoriginal that may sound, as it’s basically an overused spy flick/novel plot, it is translated excellently, just the same. Now that the origin story is out of the way, “Winter Soldier” also gradually realizes the Captain America character’s potential; in the contemporary setting, he stays unwaveringly and staunchly devoted to fighting for universal liberty. He’s seen the perversion of ideals before, and armed with that unique insight, he has a clearer view of the chaotic present than most.

Tightly executed and edited action choreography result in credible stunts; the tense fisticuffs between the heroes and their hordes of adversaries are incredible. (The short Batroc versus Cap fight is especially exciting. And oh, yes, cool live-action Batroc!) Costumes- and visuals-wise, Cap gets to wear the cool “stealth” uniform inspired by his Super-Soldier iteration from the comic books, while Falcon, inspired by his more soldier-y Ultimate version, glides smoothly and figures in some amusing aerial battles. Winter Soldier is also an ominous presence, his metal arm blending in and actually looking menacing, thankfully!

Evans is given more opportunities to be more human and relatable—the actor’s grown into the role quite well, his Steve Rogers/Captain America a somewhat more nuanced and respectable figure this time. Also, while a less flashy character than many comic-to-screen brethren, Cap performs feats that are heroic but “attainable,” a costumed adventurer concerned with serving and protecting civilians, which is refreshing.

Major changes introduced here will affect the SHIELD TV series, and it’s good that a character that debuted there gets some screen time, if briefly. “Winter Soldier” also has two extra scenes, one during the mid-end credits (wow!) and at the very end (that one’s okay), capping the film satisfyingly. 

Objectifixation, Thirteen

Got these from Planet X last month. The last issue of Dark Avengers, the Red Wedding-esque War of Kings first issue, and Adventure Comics starring the pre-New 52 Legion Academy.

Game of the Generals. Found these last Sunday, but I don't know where the wooden boards are. My friends and I used to play it back in college.

More comics from last month. Daken beds a Hollywood actor; the New Mutants take a breather and party in Madripoor.

 Chocolates! Yummy event freebie.

Wiccan and Scarlet Witch.
“Mom, you’re in Avengers 2! Cool. Maybe they’ll introduce me next time!”
"Hah! Dream on, kid."

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

JLA-Avengers, 1998

World's Greatest Heroes versus Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Dec. 1998.

Armies fall and ‘Rise’

Gory and unrelenting, “300: Rise of an Empire” continues the saga of noble Greek warriors bent on repelling conquering invaders led by the “god-king” Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro).  It’s both a prequel and sequel, interestingly, to Zack Snyder’s 2006 opus, which is based on the Frank Miller graphic novel.

Directed by Noam Murro, “Rise of an Empire” quickly and brutally establishes itself as a worthy successor, its valiant protagonist Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) a suitable replacement, ably filling the void left by the fallen Spartan Leonidas (Gerard Butler). The Greek general rallies like-minded allies to fight Xerxes’ seafaring forces, enemies led by the blade-wielding assassin Artemisia, a vengeful and manipulative figure—albeit a sympathetic and tragic one.

The film, while understandably violent, often becomes excessive; one scene where a horse tramples a background character’s face is just unnecessary. As for other visual aspects, the sweeping fight scenes on land and sea are well-aided by stunts and digital trickery. Like the first film, this actioner employs striking, painterly hues; whether filtered or enhanced, there’s a general artificiality that works and connects to the controlled ambiance of the first “300.”

Artemisia is a scene-stealer, thanks to Eva Green, who plays yet another menacing villainess effortlessly, and quite devastatingly. Artemisia lures with unbridled fury and ferocity, a beautiful and unapologetic adversary that keeps the film lively.

Lena Headey returns and impresses as the steel-willed widow Queen Gorgo, narrating the tale with verve while preparing her own battalion for a pivotal encounter. Stapleton, meanwhile, engages as the brave new hero, who—while not as commanding as Leonidas, and delivers less memorable and inspiring pep talks—still makes an energetic and inspired debut.


Thanks for the shirt, Jay G. Really enjoyed the movie.

Abbamania enjoys performing ABBA's 'complex' songs

(March 16, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

An Abba tribute group that has performed across the globe, Abbamania formed in 1998, its members originally from Poland, England, and Scotland—“mutually” drawn to the music of the 1970s Swedish pop group.

“We have been touring for 14 years, and are excited to return to the Philippines,” said Abbamania member Steven Galert in an email interview.

Galert and groupmates Ewa Scott, Sharon Fehlberg, Adam Robertson, Gareth Whitehead and Lee Brady performed in the country last April.

What do you find most memorable about your visit last year?
Having never been to the Philippines, we were a little apprehensive. As things turned out, we were fantastically received. The audience was great; they sang and danced along with us. It was a fantastic experience.

Do you communicate with the ABBA members?
We have not had any direct contact with ABBA members; however we have heard through the grapevine that … they believe our performance is up to the high standard they would expect. We’ve communicated a number of times with their record company through the years, though.

How would you describe ABBA’s music?
The music of ABBA is timeless … The songs are pop classics, and a lot more complex to perform.

What’s the best thing about being Abbamania?
We get the opportunity to perform some of the best songs from the 1970s and 1980s. We’ve built a great following of our own all over the world … we enjoy our portrayal of the group and the way we deliver their songs.

What musical training did you have prior to this?
Every member of the group holds either a degree or master’s degree in music. The members have been performing from a very young age. The mutual love of ABBA’s music has drawn us all togther.

(Abbamania will perform at the Solaire Resorts and Casinos on March 21 and at the Plenary Hall of the PICC on March 22. For tickets, call Ticketnet, 9115555; SM Tickets, 4702222; Ticketworld, 891-9999.)

Self-aware, hazy 'True Detective'

(March 21, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

True Detective,” the much-discussed new HBO Original series, recently wrapped up, concluding creator-writer Nico Pizzolatto’s first gritty and alluring crime baffler. (A “True Detective” marathon will air on HBO Signature on March 30, from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.)

In the series, Louisiana detectives investigate a bizarre murder, uncovering many long-hidden and disturbing truths about its underbelly. Starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as uneasy partners Rust Cohle and Martin Hart, respectively, it also wisely zeroes in on these protagonists’ toxic frailties.

Swirling with smoky visuals and a perpetually foreboding atmosphere, the series routinely flashes back to the puzzle-solving scenes from 1995, when Detectives Cohle and Hart started working together on the case. The scenes are narrated over by their older (2012) selves during separate police interviews; the ex-cops are called in to elaborate on the closed case, as a possible copycat has surfaced with a penchant for similarly styled atrocities.

The eight-episode series inveigles from the outset with its tight melding of indelible visuals and strong characterization. Cohle is immediately introduced as a disarming enigma: His younger and older versions are seemingly at odds at first, but once the old stories fill the gap (and there are details that flesh him out exceedingly), it’s easy to reconcile the calm, self-aware pessimist with his more haggard, world-weary self.

McConaughey is remarkable as Rust Cohle from the get-go; the character is an obsessive investigator who occasionally unleashes thought-provoking critiques on religion, and even roughs up lowlifes behind his partner’s back to get answers. Cohle’s unrestrained snark and hazy dealings with shady figures keep him unpredictable, and McConaughey is fully committed to bringing him to life.

Harrelson as the “simpler” cop understandably has less bombastic scenarios, but the actor is no pushover. He gets to shine—a lot!—as Martin Hart, who blames his work for “changing” him, claiming that it has led to unavoidable indiscretions. The flawed family man character is the perfect foil to the quirky Cohle, their love-hate relationship a solid and appealing dynamic.

As for the murder mystery itself, it is sturdily executed, but it comes off as hodgepodge and too contrived at times—perhaps the much-missed “Dexter” spoiled us with snappier crime-solving techniques and myriad jaunts to the psyches of serial killers that the “True Detective” mystery seems a tad simple and considerably less-immersing now. Still, most of the answers make sense, if less grand than expected.

The series will have a second season, according to reports, but will introduce a new crime mystery and will not feature the same characters and actors. It has big shoes to fill; the initial season of “True Detective,” while it has uneven pacing and has its share of storytelling flaws, massively explores its characters while inquisitively raising existential points. It is supported immensely by fine acting and fantastic imagery, a winning combination that makes it hauntingly memorable.

Wheels a Fortune

Not my car. BMW exhibit at Westgrove. (Or was it Greenfield? I forget.) Back when I wrote Ayala Land advertorials, circa 2004.

First Fan Art

Impromptu cabinet cleanup yielded this and other decades-old stuff (including embarrassing teen-written journals). This was drawn in 1984, when I was 11. I used ballpen and crayons on oslo paper. I copied existing poses.