Monday, February 16, 2015

Spider-Man: To the Spider-Verse and beyond

Spider-Man: To the Spider-Verse and beyond
by rick olivares

Sometimes, I get the feeling that I am stuck in the past; liking only the comics I grew up reading.

Case in point: the Amazing Spider-Man.

I thought that the Stan Lee-Steve Ditko stories were the best until Lee continued weaving old Webhead’s stories with John Romita Sr. providing the art chores. When Lee departed the title after writing over a hundred issues, Gerry Conway took over and he is the man known for introducing the Punisher, the Spider-Mobile, and writing the classic “Death of Gwen Stacy.”

How does anyone top that, I wondered? And then Roger Stern later came along with John Romita Junior and turned out some really great yarns that will go down as Spidey classics.

There was “To Fight the Unbeatable Foe” where Spidey takes a beating from the Juggernaut but manages to stop him by sheer dumb luck.

There’s the battle with Mr. Hyde in “Hyde in Plain Sight.”

There’s using his wits to defeat the Whizzer, the Vulture, and Thunderball.

There was “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man” a touching tale about a kid dying of cancer.

There are the stories that introduced the Black Cat and the Hobgoblin. And that story that ended Stern’s run… the return from the Beyonder’s world wearing the spectacular black costume.

After Stern’s run, my interest in the title wavered. I picked up the odd issue and story arc here and there such as the annual where J. Jonah Jameson got married but not before getting into trouble with the Scorpion who he sponsored once upon a time to put away his nemesis, Spider-Man. There was “The Death of Jean DeWolff” in the second Spidey-book, Spectacular Spider-Man and later “Kraven’s Last Hunt.” However, for the most part, I was largely uninterested. And later still, as much as I loved the exaggerated art of Todd McFarlane, it wasn’t really enough for me to go back to collecting the comic full time.

When writer J. Michael Straczynski and artist Joe Quesada (who was also Marvel’s acting editor-in-chief at this time) released the now infamous “One More Day” story that invalidated Peter Parker’s marriage to Mary Jane Watson, I was incensed. I couldn’t take the now infamous Clone Saga and now, One More Day.

When Dan Slott put Doctor Octopus in Peter Parker’s body while sending the latter into the dying villains’ body, I seethed in anger. But I decided to see what Slott would do.

While it is obvious that Peter Parker would eventually be back, the Otto Octavius’ Superior Spider-Man was a very good title. Although Slott wavered towards the end of the title with its Goblin Wars arc, it was nevertheless, a very good run. With the return of Parker and his subsequent attempts to undo the damage wrought by Octavius in his place, Spider-Verse came up.

And I’d have to admit this story line where all the different Spider-Men (many who have been previously published in different comics or featured in cartoons) band together to defeat the menace of the psychic vampires known as the Inheritors. It connected everyone from Spider-Ham that was first published as a one-shot kid’s comic in 1983 that was later continued with a regular series under Marvel’s Star Comics imprint to Spider-Man 2099 to name a couple.

Amazing Spider-Man was the core title for the story arc while there were other spin-off titles, all of them interesting as it provided glimpses into old and new characters.

Notwithstanding the poor and rushed end to Spider-verse, it is a darn good story and is an instant classic. Now regarding Dan Slott… he will rightfully take his place as one of the Top 10 Spider-Man writers in history.

My 10 Coolest scenes in Spider-Verse (not in any particular order):
1.    When Peter Parker (of Earth 616) tells Cindy Moon (Silk) “Outside. Now.”
2.    Spider-Punk says, “Spider-up or die!”
3.    Superior Spider-Man (the Doctor Octopus controlled Peter Parker) vs. Spider-Man (Peter Parker back in his body).
4.    That tender moment between Peter Parker and Spider-Gwen
5.    The entry of Takuya Yamashiro and Leopardon! (this one is for everyone who ever loved Japanese robots)
6.    The appearance of the Web Warriors and the Spider-mobile! Walloping web-snappers.
7.    The Inheritor Jennix is cloned back to life and says he is disgusted that he ate a Spider-Monkey
8.    Spider-Ham telling off Morlun that he got conned by “Somebody small, pink, chubby, and packin’ a mean left hoof.”
9.    The Spider-Man UK disguises himself as a sheep to track down Anansi only to find out that the sheep could talk.
10. The Mary Janes!

I remember when writer Kurt Busiek and artists George Perez wrapped up their first arc on The Avengers, “The Morgan Conquest,” the Beast asked, “What are we going to do with all these Avengers?” as almost every single of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes past and present were present.

Perhaps the same can be said after the conclusion of “Spider-Verse” as there are man survivors of the different worlds. Some like Silk and Spider-Gwen are runaway hits and slated to get their own books.

Suffice to say that I am hooked once more.

Now hopefully, they don’t mess it up once again.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Today at Comic Odyssey/soft launch of ANG ILOG Book Two

The first time I ever had an article of mine printed in a newspaper, I felt like I had won the lottery. As a kid, I read a lot and never thought I'd ever have an article of mine ever published. I was giddy that day and remain the same every time since whether it be a new article, a guest appearance on television, a magazine article or writing a book that sells out. I guess deep down that kid has always been there. I do these things because it's fun, it's a passion, and it helps put my kids to school. Self-publishing comics… jeez. It's not feeling like a kid but I am that kid all over again.

Helped out at Comic Odyssey at Promenade, Greenhills today. That coincided with the release of ANG ILOG Book Two. Had some folks come over to get copies of ANG ILOG. Was really surprised by the support and kind words from Harvey Tolibao who left a party to drop by and get a copy for himself. This is a dude who I ask to sign the comics he draws. And it felt really odd to sign a comic for him. But am really grateful. And…. am working with Harv on something in time for November. 

Francis Abad came over and got the Tagalog versions of ANG ILOG. The English version will not be available until the end of February or thereabouts. You see, I previously released ANG ILOG Book One in English and Filipino versions and in two sizes. But you know what version sold really well? The Tagalog and the oversized version. Even the English oversized version did really well. 

When we were initially printing ANG ILOG, it was meant to be in that small size that is smaller than your averaged-sized comic book but not in digest-size. And we had a number of that format printed as well. But from the outset, what I wanted was to have it printed in the oversize format much like the Marvel magazines of old – Savage Sword of Conan, Vampirella, the Punisher Magazine, and the Marvel Swimsuit issues all of which I have a bunch of them. The old Alamat books, Avatar, were also printed in that size. When Image Comics’ released a variant copy of Ed Brubaker’s The Fade Out #1 in oversize format in mid-2014 that did it for me. Oversize me!

Sure it’s a bitch storing it as it will not fit in the regular box but it makes for great reading and you sure don’t have to squint. And it makes looking at the wonderful art of Rey Asturias much easier.

Some of my best buds -- JV Tanjuatco and Jason Inocencio -- picked up their copies of ANG ILOG. Grabe. 

You know what was also gratifying? I got orders for 28 copies of Ang Ilog from some folks from Pampanga! Incredible. They are picking the order up tomorrow, Sunday. Amazing day. Am just so grateful and thankful.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The NBA's hardcourt heroes meet DC's superheroes

Hardcourt heroes meet the superheroes
by rick olivares

Shaquille O’Neal was the first NBA player to have “Superman” associated with him (although we had Michael Jordan at times compared to the DC Comics character). Later on, during the 2008 All-Star Dunk Contest in New Orleans, Dwight Howard donned a Superman cape for a “Superman dunk” that helped him win the contest.

Two (or three if you want to add the MJ argument) Supermans in the NBA? Well, isn’t that much like the DC Universe of comics? At one point in their New 52 relaunch, they had Kal-El from the regular storyline and Kal-El from the dystopian future from their “Kingdom Come” story. And pre-52, they had four other characters taking on the mantle of Superman after his death – The Man of Steel, the Cyborg Superman, the Metropolis Kid, and the Last Son of Krypton.

Now real life meets four-colored print life in the special edition release of The Justice League Goes Inside the NBA All Star 2015, a special edition comic book that pairs TNT’s Sports Emmy Award-winning Inside the NBA studio team – host Ernie Johnson and analysts Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash from the Justice League in a unique race from the Brooklyn Nets’ home court of the Barclays Center to the New York Knicks’ home court at Madison Square Garden first. The two venues will be co-hosting the All-Star Weekend with the Saturday events at the former and the Sunday main event at the latter venue.

It’s a no-brainer that Shaq is paired with Superman; Barkley, the slowest of the four selects the Flash; Ernie teams up with Wonder Woman for a ride in her invisible jet, while Kenny hitches a ride with Batman. Along the way, they all have to help out with unexpected occurrences. It sets up for a wild and wacky race with a most unexpected finish. This issue also features special appearances by TNT commentators Marv Albert, Reggie Miller, Chris Webber and Kristen Ledlow.

This is in continuation of “the race” or “the Chariots of Backfire” that started during TNT’s coverage of the All-Star Game festivities last season where all the hosts and analysts engaged in a foot race that Chris Webber ultimately won.

If you recall from the 2007 mid-season classic, a 44-year old Charles Barkley famously raced 67-year old referee Dick Bavetta in a side-event that nearly stole the show of All-Star Saturday.

“The Justice League Goes Inside the NBA All Star 2015” is written by Brian Buccellato and drawn by Beni Lobel and Tony Shasteen, the 16-page, limited edition comic book will be available for the first time at comic book stores free of charge, throughout the U.S, throughout New York and to fans at the NBA Store (590 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan) starting Wednesday, Jan. 21.  It is also available in a digital format via Here in the Philippines, you might want to check with your nearest comic book specialty shop. I got my copy  yesterday, Thursday at Comic Odyssey at Robinson’s Galleria.

Personally, as a fan of the NBA and the comic book medium, I think it’s a fun concept and idea. It’s a collector’s item; one that is fit for this All-Star Game given that the Big Apple has always been known as “comic book central” for the main production houses all have their homes in the city (although DC is moving to the West Coast soon).

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Ang Kuwentong Ilog -- Ang Ilog Book Two


After ANG ILOG Book One was released, quite a few people asked why the setting of the story was in the early years of the American occupation at the turn of the 20th Century.

First of all, I am a history buff and routinely devour books about the genre. The Philippines’ colonial past is rich and really hasn’t been mined for stories save for usual historical figures. What I mean is, if you look at American history and the Wild West in particular, there’s the Kevin Costner film, Dances With Wolves; there’s the incredible Image Comic book, Manifest Destiny that is a fictionalized account of the famous Lewis-Clark Expedition; and the Lone Ranger and Tonto to name a very very few.

If you look at the late great Roman Empire, you have the Ridley Scott film, Gladiator, there are the excellent line of Centurion-themed books by Simon Scarrow; and Hal Foster’s magnificent classic, Prince Valiant.

I am sure you get the drift now.

My fascination for the period of Philippine history began during my elementary years at the Ateneo de Manila when our sections were named after famous datus, historical sites, and national heroes to name a few. I read what books were available about that period and there really wasn’t much. How I wish there was so much more about that period and the Katipunan! The only ones I read where the history books by Agoncillo, Fr. Arcilla, and Zaide.

When I was working in the advertising industry, I promised myself that first opportunity to sneak in some Philippine history in my work, I’d go for it. And that came in 1996 during the Philippine Centennial. Telecoms giant PLDT was our biggest client and they wanted a campaign that also connected the telephone to our history. I initially wrote a script about Gregorio del Pilar writing a letter to a woman he loved right before he headed for Tirad Pass in what would become our own version of Thermopylae. It was about communication from that time and through the years to the modern telephone.

Perhaps because of the scope that included a massive battlefield scene, it was scuttled. It was revived in a toned down form in a commercial titled, Liham,” that featured a Katipunero writing a letter to his ladylove. It was shot at the La Mesa Dam with Peque Gallaga directing it. While I was happy that the basic idea was used, it wasn’t entirely satisfying. I had visions of doing a Filipino version of the Edward Zwick film, Glory, set during the American Civil War. Now you can see why PLDT chucked it because of the costs! Hahaha.

Conceiving and writing ANG ILOG, I decided that the setting would be after the Philippine-American War. I think is perfect for that period is filled with mystery and adventure as the country was far from its highly industrialized and progressive self today.

I imbued ANG ILOG with elements of horror and the supernatural without going overboard. This is where Foster’s Prince Valiant plays much of an influence. In his classic comics strip, he scaled down on the magic and supernatural and simply played more on the frailties and capriciousness of a person living during those times. How big an influence is Prince Valiant?

Pablo’s dog is named… Valiente.

Some wondered about Lawin looking a lot like Francisco Coching’s El Indio. To be honest, I never read any local komiks. Not one. I never knew anything about them. In fact, I only learned of Coching late 2014. I only began to read and follow local komiks after that Summer Komikon. ANG ILOG with its characters was written back in 2004; a good and full decade earlier. However, the story was first formulated in my mind as kid growing up in the 1970s when I would take a raft ride down the Tarlac River with my grandfather. At that time, all I had in my mind were Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Then I discovered Roy Thomas and George Perez’ Fantastic Four, Jack Kirby’s Captain America, Neal Adams’ X-Men, and Steve Gerber and Val Buscema’s The Defenders and my world was never the same.

The real push to publish my own komiks was only by the 2014 Summer Komikon after which I dusted off ANG ILOG for publication and I have to say that it is one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.

This 2015, Eikon Komiks will publish four issues of ANG ILOG; one for every quarter. The first two books tell of Pablo’s journey and as you saw by this book’s end, we introduced Lawin and Gabriela. Their adventure will take place in the next two issues before we reunite the two with Pablo in time for the November Komikon in a closing one-issue tale we call, ANG ILOG: APOKALIPS.

Then we will collect all the five books into one tome by early 2016.

In the next issue, we will do a feature on the book’s artist, Rey Asturias.

That’s all for now and safe journey down this river of dreams.

Rick Olivares
February 2015

Pablo comes across the evil river troll Bandarandung.