Thursday, March 31, 2016

Talking about the popularity of the superhero genre in films today

Was a guest at MTRCB Uncut today over Net25 to talk about the popularity of the superhero genre in films today. We also talked some about comic books! Good to plug some of my work as well.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Looking at the Walking Dead Season 6 Episode 15 “East"

Looking at the Walking Dead Season 6 Episode 15 “East”
by rick olivares

From the start of this sixth season of the Walking Dead, fans of the show have seen the residents of Alexandria fend off a herd of zombies, an attack by the Wolves, and engage in sporadic battles with the menacing Saviors. For those who follow the comic book series from Image Comics, they know and dread the arrival of Negan (to be played by Jeffery Dean Morgan (Grey’s Anatomy), the brutal leader of the Saviors who is more than a fitting villain post-Governor. In fact, Negan is still around.

He was introduced in The Walking Dead #100 and the long-running indie comic is way past 150 issues and Negan is still around. That’s over four years worth of comics and he is just as dangerous especially after his jailbreak.

Since the death of the Governor, fiendishly played by David Morrisey, in Season 4, there has been no villain to torment Rick Grimes’ (Andrew Lincoln) band of dogged survivors of the zombie apocalypse. The Terminus cannibals rightfully met their fate quickly but what the popular show on AMC needs is someone more nefarious than the walkers.

The television introduction is a week away so let’s take a look at the penultimate episode of The Walking Dead Season 7 titled, “East” that is somewhat of a bewildering episode.

For one, the main characters acting out of character.
Carol (Melissa McBride) is a prime example. I can understand her suddenly faltering mentally. A person can reach a breaking point.

I am just wondering after everything they’ve been through this happens now? She survived her abusive husband who Shane (Jon Bernthal who is now playing the Punisher in Daredevil Season 2) beat up after which he became zombie roadkill. She loses her daughter Sophia, shockingly discovers her to be turned and watches Shane put a bullet through her daughter’s head. She's banished for killing two members of Rick’s prison group after they were struck down by a strange malady. She puts away a young girl who has become psychotic. 

Yes, it could be quite traumatic as she has done things a morally upright person should. And Carol has been consistently portrayed as a woman who holds on to her religious faith for strength despite what she has done. But now, after she finds love and helps fend off a herd that invades Alexandria she runs away?

The popular Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) is unhappy that Dwight, the person he showed kindness but was repaid by the latter stealing his crossbow and motorbike and killing Alexandria’s doctor, Denise, runs off for some payback. As a result, three key members of Alexandria — Glenn (Steven Yeun), Michonne (Danai Gurira), and Rosita (Christian Serratos), dash off to bring him back. Morgan (Lennie James) and Rick join the search effectively splitting the team and leaving their community undermanned. 

In the comics, when Negan is introduced, he beats Glenn to death with his barbwire-laced baseball bat. While it seems obvious that the show’s Korean-American actor will bite the dust, the show’s producers give us four possible deaths — in fact, there could be multiple deaths by this season’s finale — Glenn, Daryl, Rosita, and Michonne. 

After Glenn and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) have been separated for so long, he dashes off, leaving his wife, to go search for Daryl. Of the group that started out in Atlanta, the only ones left are Rick, Carl (Chandler Riggs), Daryl, Glenn, and Carol. Maggie joined them after with Michonne and Sasha (Sonequa Martin) coming on board post-Woodbury. Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Rosita were added during the Terminus storyline. 

I cannot fathom Daryl storming off to look for Dwight (Austin Amelio). It stands to reason that the Saviors have a whole lot more people. And going off my one’s self means there’s a bigger chance of getting killed or captured. Putting others at risk just as it happens.

Having said that, so much for Rick’s leadership. There is no discipline in the Alexandria group. And they are about to pay for that.

There is a price to be paid for their aggression.
One can argue that Rick’s group’s pre-emptive strikes against the Saviors are necessary. I agree considering the Saviors aren’t the most friendliest of people. But their failure to gain good intelligence on their new foe or even to hit them harder will prove to be their undoing.

Too much Saviors blood has been spilled for both sides to sit down and hash things out. This is going to be a bloody ending when it happens.

As for Alexandria’s security, I am surprised they haven’t cleared the immediate area fronting their gate. What they need is a clear field of fire. In “East,” Tobin (Jason Douglas) notices that there are missing cars in front of the gate. No one noticed the missing cars. Not even those on guard duty. What gives?

I find it hard to believe that they could be this sloppy or stupid.

Why is it that the characters have to go through PTSD one after the other?
In the series, the zombie apocalypse has claimed much of the world’s population. So it has been quite a while where Rick’s band has been out there literally trying to stay alive. They have done a lot of things just to survive. As much as possible, they have done what is right. They have fought and killed to stay alive. So why is it that they suffer post traumatic stress disorder one after the other? 

I wish they’d find better ways to develop a character or to move a storyline. As it is Rick dealt with his own demons. Abraham has. Ditto with Morgan, Carol and Sasha. Daryl has to a certain extent. 

The Walking Dead has proven to be one of the top-rating shows in TV history; capable of captivating audiences even with the high death toll on characters audiences have grown attached to.

The season finale will find the group shaken to its very core. It’s going to be bloody and painful. I expect it to fray relationships but to also strengthen some. 

Whatever happens, I wish that the finale, 90 minutes long, would not only be satisfying — but is it ever — and serve as a good set up for Season 7. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Batman Vs. Superman review: The dark before the dawn

Batman Vs. Superman review: The dark before the dawn
by rick olivares

I was looking forward to Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. After all, why should Marvel have all the fun? It would be just as cool to have a Justice League film of which BvS — as how we will call Dawn of Justice from here on — serves as the set up. 

I grew up reading Superboy and the Legion of the Super-Heroes, Batman, the Justice League of America, Mister Miracle, the Teen Titans, and the All-Star Squadron. Even up to today, the JLA and to a certain extent, Batman are staples of my comic book reading. It was only very recently that I dropped a lot of DC titles because of disenchantment over the general direction. Nevertheless, I had high hopes considering I was expecting director Zack Snyder to build on the gains of Man of Steel for all its flaws.

Furthermore, I was thinking that since these Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were big names even before the dawn of the Marvel Comics-verse in the 1960s (although Captain America was around during World War II), it would be the equivalent of re-uniting Luke, Han, Leia, and Chewie all over again. I was excited but had some trepidation in me after seeing the trailers.

After the film, my worst fears were confirmed -- BvS struggles to fly and it does on certain scenes but it ultimately crash lands. And badly. And I feel bad. The Batman Begins by Christopher Nolan is arguably the best superhero film ever. I liked the succeeding Batman films but I grew weary after a while. It was like watching one extinction event after another. Man of Steel felt that way and more so with BvS.

I can, however, accept the grim and gritty, except the film overall has so many holes as if someone perforated a water tower and its badly leaking from every which angle.

Before I pick it apart, did I like anything?

Of course, I am taking it back. Ben Affleck is not bad as an older Dark Knight. He’s all right.

When Gal Gadot finally appears in her Wonder Woman attire, its a serendipitous moment. A ray of light in an otherwise dark film.

There are the Easter Eggs such Batman grabbing the thug through the wall and firing a M-60 sub-machine gun that is straight out of the seminal The Dark Knight Returns, the para-demons of Apokolips that foreshadows the threat of Darkseid, the Flash appearing to Batman that is a scene from arguably the best ever event maxi-series in Crisis On Infinite Earths.

That’s it.

Here’s how I will pick its plot apart.

From the opening sequence that is another recounting of the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents, the dark tone is set. And it doesn’t let up one bit.

The world is still dealing with the fallout from the battle of the Kryptonians that turns Metropolis into a war zone. Batman looks at Superman was a frightening force that can destroy the world. Superman struggles to comprehend that lack of trust and climate of fear. Lex Luthor cannot stand their goody goodness and concocts a plot to destroy them. The two titans fight then Lois Lane intercedes and Batman foolishly realizes he’s been had. Before they can apprehend Luthor, the Doomsday creature attacks. That finally draws out Wonder Woman from hiding for a climactic battle.

Why the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents for the intro? Just to connect the “Martha” Wayne to the Kent?

Why can’t DC get Lex Luthor right? In the first Superman film, he was a buffoon wearing a wig! Now, he’s acting like the Joker from The Killing Joke. Luthor isn’t psychotic. He’s a shrewd, calculating, and evil man. He is too smart to be doing the actual dirty work like shoving Lois Lane off a high-rise heli-pad.

Why are there so many flashbacks or dream sequences?

As much as I love that Bruce has this dream/vision where he’s confronted with this figure who is the Flash caught in some vortex isn’t this contrived? What? To say that Superman will go rogue one day? I blame all this Batman versus Superman crap on Frank Miller. 

If you read that great story, Kingdom Come, after Lois Lane passes away and more violent heroes supplant the older generation, Superman retires to the quiet life of a farmer in Kansas. Dave Gibbons and Steve Rude got it right as well in that three-issue limited series from the 1990s, “World’s Finest."

Another of those dream sequences is when Superman is atop a snowy mountain where his late father, Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) speaks to him. Ah, why atop a snowy peak? Shouldn’t it have been more apropos in the fields of Kansas?

Why is Perry White asking one of his top reporters in Clark Kent to write about a sports story? Was it a slow news day? Anyone who works in a newspaper knows that you don’t assign a sports story to a hard news reporter. Conversely, you don’t ask a sportswriter to cover Washington DC politics. As Perry says, no one is buying papers anymore. No wonder.

Why is it that Lex Luthor has all these files on metahumans and Bruce Wayne doesn’t? He’s 20 years into his career as the Batman and for a man who supposedly monitors the world, how could he have missed these metahumans? 

If there’s a climate of fear about Superman, why does he insist on hovering around like he’s a god? This clearly was lifted from that great story, Kingdom Come, by Mark Waid and Alex Ross. That was also repeated in Ross’ Peace On Earth oversized graphic novel. He should be trying to win their hearts and minds.

How could a man get inside a Senate hearing with a bomb inside his wheelchair? Wasn’t it inspected? Why weren’t there any dogs on sight to sniff it out? Why did Senator Finch sound incoherent? Was she drugged? We can surmise that? 

The fight between Batman and Superman could have been avoided. Despite the destruction of Metropolis, Bruce would have known that Superman is not a threat. He is supposed to be a detective in some ways so why didn’t he investigate the causes of the Senate bombing before coming to the conclusion that Superman is a danger?
Furthermore, why didn’t Clark reveal the blackmail in detail? Yes, he tried but again… a lot could have been avoided had they talked? And that brings me back when Superman stopped Batman from chasing the mercenaries who were bringing the Kryptonite from the White Portuguese freighter to the Lex Corp offices? He stopped Batman but not the guys with the MBT LAW (Main Battle Tank Light Anti-Tank Weapon)?

Why is Lois Lane in the scene of every battle? Why didn’t Superman save Martha Kent? Why leave Batman to do it? It took Batman some minutes to take down the thugs. Superman could have swooped in and saved Martha Kent in one pass then leave Batman to break some bones and re-arrange some faces.

Why is Diana Prince in Metropolis? She obviously knows the connection between Bruce Wayne and Batman. And she was in an old photo? And she was out to get that photo that Luthor has of her? It isn’t like it’s of TMZ material. Then she’s leaving Gotham and then has a change of heart to help out Batman and Superman?

When Doomsday fires this energy blast towards Batman, Wonder Woman deflects this with her bracelets? it wasn’t like Doomsday fired some bullets or a laser beam. It was an energy blast that was massive and it gets deflected by her bracelets? It would have been more plausible for her to use her shield.

How did the world at large know that Luthor was behind the creation of Doomsday? It doesn’t make sense that Superman was given a heroes burial. After all, he was previously suspected of bombing the Senate hearing. Who had a bird’s eye view of the battle with Doomsday when everything in the vicinity was razed? There was even more death and destruction. I think it would be more plausible for people to say that there was another Kryptonian creature on the rampage.

Why is Gotham just across the river from Metropolis? What is this — the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul?

Why did Batman visit Luthor in jail? To brand a wall with the Bat-sign?

Because of the plot holes, I find the moving from one scene to another haphazard and bewildering. It stops the film from being an enjoyable experience. 

The fundamental shift in DC is the darker tone. This is best encapsulated in the inter-company crossover JLA?Avengers from 2003.

In the first issue of that great series by writer Kurt Busiek and artist George Perez who had long and lauded stints on both Avengers and JLA titles, Superman says when he arrived on Marvel’s Earth, “This world! It’s lush, it’s alive — there are here too, from what we’ve discovered. How can they allow this? How can they stand for it? Don’t they care?”

Before that, the JLA witnesses the cowering masses singing praises to the tyrant, Dr. Doom. They find the destruction on Genosha following the events of “E is for Extinction” in New X-Men, and the Punisher taking down some criminals. 

When the Avengers travel to the JLA’s Earth, they wonder at the museum dedicated to the Flash and the outpouring of love for the heroes. That causes Captain America to remark, “Justice — this isn’t justice! Look around — this is their city, it wasn’t built by men. They must own this world, like little tin gods demanding the public’s adoration instead of protecting its freedoms.”

The shoe is on the other foot now. Marvel with its real life feel but with far sunnier skies while DC is all grim and gritty.

I liked BvS. It’s not great. It’s good. The potential unrealized especially with such a powerhouse cast, but the promise remains unsullied. 

The title of Dawn of Justice is wrong, it should have been The Dark Before the Dawn.

But go see it. It’s still not bad. It could have been the best ever though.

Liking the Hot Toys Wonder Woman figure

Really liking this Wonder Woman figure from Hot Toys. The likeness of actress Gal Gadot is amazing! Love this costume that is way different from the Star and Stripes that she used to wear from way back. 

This is the Alex Ross influence on Diana's costume.

It's really pricey but am considering it.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Finally completed my Daredevil Funko Pops!

Check out the different ages on both Pops in the picture below. One is for ages 14-plus while the other is for ages 15-plus. What gives, right?

Friday, March 25, 2016

What could be next for Daredevil the television series

What could be next for Daredevil the television series
by rick olivares

In the light of the end of the second season of Daredevil, here are five — yes, five -- story arcs from the comics version you must read to appreciate what the third season could be like.
Born Again (Daredevil #227-233 February-August 1986)
Writer: Frank Miller
Artist: David Mazzuchelli
The basic premise for this story arc is Karen Page reveals to a drug dealer that Matthew Murdock is Daredevil and the information makes its way to Wilson Fisk. The Kingpin of crime puts in motion an elaborate plan that gets his nemesis’ alter ego disbarred, financially bankrupt, and criminally insane. Without the Guardian Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, Fisk is unopposed. But Murdock finds his way to his mother who following her separation from Jack Murdock enters a nunnery. Matthew is nursed back to a sound mind and a sound body and just in time to stop Nuke (who in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is policeman Will Simpson in the Jessica Jones series) from razing Hell’s Kitchen. Captain America gets involved as Nuke is the sole survivor of a renegade military project to recreate Project: Rebirth of which granted the former his super strength. Kingpin’s involvement is exposed and he not only has to fend of a multitude of lawsuits but his reputation as a honest businessman is greatly tarnished. Murdock gets back on his feet, renews his relationship with Karen Page (you have to read it to see how it worked out) and his role as protector of Hell’s Kitchen.

The story although using a term more associated with the Protestant faith makes heavy use of Roman Catholicism imagery. In continuing the religious association, the story takes place during Christmas but roundabout ends around the time of Easter.

This story is arguably the greatest Daredevil story ever done even 30 years after its publication. Many successive stories have built on this story arc. 

Last Rites (Daredevil #297-300 October 1991-January 1992) 
Writer: Daniel Chichester 
Artist: Lee Weeks 
This story is essentially Daredevil’s revenge on Fisk by taking down his life in the manner of what was done to him. Many of Fisk’s childhood featured here for the first time was later used in the first season of Daredevil.

Guardian Devil (Daredevil Vol. 2 #1-8 November 1998-June 1999)
Writer: Kevin Smith 
Artist: Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti 
Spider-Man’s foe Mysterio is dying from cancer and he concocts an elaborate scheme to destroy Daredevil who he once fought (as Spider-Man is gone for the moment). Mysterio uses the information about Matt’s alter ego that he purchased from the Kingpin. This also features the return of Bullseye who murders Karen Page.

Hardcore (Daredevil Vol. 2 #46-50 June-October 2003) 
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Alex Maleev
Fisk attempts to retain his old title of the Kingpin of Crime but Daredevil pummels him into submission. Shockingly, by the arc’s end, Daredevil declares himself as the new Kingpin.

The Return of the King (Daredevil Vol. 2 116-119, 500 (the series was renumbered).
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Michael Lark and David Aja
After his banishment, Kingpin returns and this time forges an unlikely team-up with Daredevil to take on the forces of the Hand.

While the Netflix show has borrowed elements from the comic books, it has diverged in many ways. In comic book continuity, Vanessa early on did not approve of her husband’s criminal activities. Karen Page, while initially working with Nelson & Murdock eventually becomes an actress and a soft porn star. I don’t see Karen in the latter roles for the TV series however, it seems replacing Ben Urich sounds like a good idea.

And these are but a few!

Read these story arcs that are all available locally in the trade paperback format. It will give a lot of background and insight into this wonderful, complex, and dark tale of good versus bad.

Daredevil Season 2 review: It’s the storm before the hurricane

Daredevil Season 2: It’s the storm before the hurricane
by rick olivares

If the first season of Daredevil was about making a stand (to quote Karen Page in the very first episode, “either you’re with them or you’re not"), the second season is about the choices people make and their repercussions. 

So if it was bad when the Kingpin was around it is worse during the free-for-all that engulfed Hell’s Kitchen. It drew in the various mobs battling for control and the two other characters whose entry have changed the equation. And make no mistake, Daredevil Season 2 is even more violent. Because the premise of DD is a more grounded hero who takes on traditional crime and not the super-powered variety, it means that there’s a lot of guns and your everyday variety — sarcastic tone here -- swords, sais, and shurikens. You know what follows.

In the midst of the carnage, and more than ever, there’s the fascinating and never-ending discourse about Matt Murdock’s alter ego of Daredevil being a vigilante. Matt/Daredevil gets into passionate discussions and arguments with law firm partner Foggy Nelson, with Frank Castle aka the Punisher, and with former girlfriend turned assassin Elektra Natchios. 

As much as Nelson understands what Matt is trying to do, he is against it because his double life is hurting their law firm and his relationships with those who do not know of his extra-curricular activities.

Castle’s raison d’etre and argument against DD’s methods is compelling: “When you hit them, they get up. When I hit them, they stay down.” 

It’s a weary look at crime and it hits home when you think about current Philippine presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte and his so-called claim to fame as a hard-hitting “punisher” of crime in Davao City. Actor Jon Bernthal who plays Castle has had plenty of opportunity to play weary, angry, and uncompromising roles in "The Walking Dead" and the World War II film, “Fury." In Daredevil, he just kills the role of Castle. You ask for the characterization? It’s in his soliloquy with Daredevil on the rooftop and in the cemetery. It’s in jail too. As simple like he says it is, he is a complex man. 

In many ways, I am glad that the show’s producers did not show the tragedy that transformed Castle into the killing machine that he is. While that has been shown in the previous Punisher films although they have nothing to do in the current continuity so a lot of the characterization is done during Castle’s soliloquy atop the rooftop,  at the cemetery, and even in jail. 

Elektra is a remorseless and conscienceless assassin who struggles between her violent tendencies that was harnessed under Stick and the Chaste and her falling for Matt as young adults while trying to recruit him back into their common mentor’s fold and its ancient battle with the Hand. She calls Matt, a “shining light” in their dark world because of his belief in the justice system and the inherent goodness of man no matter what they have done in their past. And that is what drives Matt. 

Elodie Yung is perfect. She’s lovely and pulls off the convincing madness to play Elektra. Such is her pull that I want to see more of her. Her distant past with Stick was amazing. So many holes to fill.

Even if you discard the comic book history of Elektra, you pull for her. You want her and Matt to find that happy-ever-after even if you know she isn’t good for him. Maybe Karen as she seemingly takes a divergent road in the television series (but you know at some point the roads will meet again and there lies the danger).

Having said that, I like how the show juggles its large cast. I love how Foggy is given more backbone here than he ever had in the comics that following the dissolution of the law firm of Nelson and Murdock, he joins Jeryn Hogarth that neatly ties in Daredevil with the Jessica Jones series. 

Karen Page is given a life of her own too. Far from the failed actress and junkie in the comics that led her astray, here she becomes even more of a crusader as both Foggy and Matt’s honorable attributes rub off on her. And in an interesting twist of fate, she takes over the late Ben Urich’s job as a writer for the New York Bulletin where we find Geoffrey Cantor’s role of Mitch Ellison, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, to be more than a prick. He does have true journalistic tendencies. For a while there, I thought he was this version of the Daily Bugle’s J. Jonah Jameson who didn’t seem like a true journo because of his prejudiced views towards Spider-Man. 

With all the strong performances in Daredevil (fueled by justice) at times the show seems like a Punisher Season One (fueled by revenge) or even an Elektra (fueled by bloodlust) spin-off. 

But what’s a superhero series without fighting? I’d say the fight action in Daredevil has got to be the best in the film and television series bar none. If in Season 1 the most memorable fight scene was the hallway rumble with the Russian mafia, for Season 2 it is in Episode 3 where Daredevil takes on a biker gang in a stairwell reminds me of the Stick Men animation from way back in the 1990s. You just shake your head and go, “Damn!”

That fight takes some time because as Castle sardonically said about Hornhead hitting them they get up. And in that show’s second best fight scene, it is shorter and gory -- Castle goes through a phalanx of convicts inside jail. You just shake your head but this time throw in some choice words.

In the first season, there was basically one major plotline with a few subplots and that was the long and protracted battle with Wilson Fisk.

This season two, the Punisher’s trail of blood and the return of Elektra are the two major threads that run throughout the season. There are several sub-plots that also take up a lot of screen time. District Attorney Samantha Reyes machinations behind the scenes, the return of the Hand, and the eventual return of the Kingpin for Season 3.

I had some initial disappointment in the season’s final battle with the Hand and the return of Nobu. As Matt and Elektra hole up inside a room before the battle, there seems to be an air of finality as an army of ninja mass outside. I thought this was Thermopylae in Hell’s Kitchen. This is going to be the mother of all fight scenes. Instead, they battle with some ninjas but eventually go two-on-one versus Nobu. But thinking about it later, it does make sense. Nobu wanted the duel. He needed to get back at DD for defeating him in Season 1.

Yet after all the carnage, nothing remain changed by season’d end except some players taken off the chess board. The Punisher is on the loose, the Hand is still alive, and Wilson Fisk is about to return in. And with the that cliffhanger, I believe that Season 3 will be the television adaptation of the best Daredevil comic book story ever, Born Again that will borrow some elements from another DD epic, Guardian Devil.

Daredevil Season 2 was the perfect storm. The next one will be of Hurricane levels. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Check out this cool Star Wars shirt featuring art from those classic Marvel Comics!

This shirt caught my attention for its use of classic artwork from those early Marvel Comics of Star Wars! 

It's pretty cool!

Going to Gotham City this weekend! Got my ticket & guidebook!

What I am checking out:

  • Kane Art Museum
  • the suburb of Somerset where Arkham Asylum is located
  • Father Knickenbocker Wax Museum
  • Robinson Park Wayne Tower
  • Blackgate Penitentiary that can be viewed from the Lower East Side
  • Falcone's in Little Italy
  • Zatara's Magic Shop along Earl Street
  • Club Vesuvius

And I got my Batman BvS Pop!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Check out my Spider-Ham customized Pop!

Presenting... my first ever customized Pop! And it's Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham. The character has been a fave of mine since I first bought Marvel Tails #1 in 1983! Love this piece from my youth.

Do I have any more customized Pops in the pipeline?

Yep. My first ever comic book creation, Dante, and Mike Baron and Steve Rude's sci-fi assassin, Nexus.

At the Pop Til You Drop dinner at 8 Cuts, UP Town Center.

At the Pop Til You Drop dinner at 8 Cuts at UP Town Center.

With my Rocketeer Funko Pop and tee!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Check out this Deadpool bobblehead!

Got this cheap Deadpool bobblehead! It's not a Funko Pop. In fact, there are not markings on the box but it is not bad at all. Plus, it's real cheap!

Got my Rocketeer Funko Pop shirt!

The Rocketeer is and was and will always be one of my all-time favorite comic book characters. Every since I bought Pacific Comics Presents #2, the late Dave Stevens' creation has captured my imagination like no other character except for Spider-Man, Daredevil, Nexus, and Hellboy. 

I have a massive Rocketeer collection from all the comics to the novelization to the film (DVD, CD, VHS, and audiotape) to the action figure and now the t-shirt from Funko! I am a happy man! Now, if I can only meet and interview Jennifer Connelly and Bill Campbell.

Talking about the Funko Pop Phenomenon

The Funko “POP” phenomenon
by rick olivares

It has been about five years since Funko Pops achieved pop culture phenomenon status first in the United States then across the world. Domestically, they just continue to grow in popularity.

Greenhills Shopping Center used to be known to fans as comic book central back in the 1980s and 1990s. Now it has become a toy central with no less than 26 shops selling various merchandise with most of them carrying those addicting bobbleheads.

We spoke with two persons, Sebastian Golez, who owns Kramer Toy Warden, and Marlo Naval, a restaurateur, about the market and their collecting habits. 

Sebastian Golez
How would you describe the market for Funko Pops in the Philippines? Is it huge? Or is it a growing one?

Sebastian: It's big! Not as huge as the other markets but it's certainly one of the most active according to our international counterparts. It's a diverse community consisting of people from all walks of life, different ages and from different professions and backgrounds. There's a lot going on. Plenty of interaction. We've been selling toys for around 10 years now, Pops for about five or six years. I see a lot of diversity in terms of customers. For other lines, it's usually the regular Pop culture or comic, movie buffs.

The great thing with Pop! is that they have so many lines and licences. That is why they attract so many people. We have Pops! from the Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, Karate Kid, Pulp Fiction, Scarface, Saved by the Bell, Star Wars, DC Comics, Marvel Comics, the Simpsons, the Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, X-Files. We have Manny Pacquiao, Mario Maurer, the Aswang, White Lady. Think of a popular television, movie, comic, video game... It's very likely that there's a Pop version.

Can you tell us more about the demographics of the Pop buyers? I was in your store last week and I saw a couple (husband and wife with their son) buy loads of Pops. It looked like the wife was into it as well. 

Sebastian: I think i know about a dozen of couples like that. Some wives or partners usually just accompany their husbands or partner to the store. They used to be our number one enemy, that's why we have couches in the store (concept we got from the "man chairs" in women's boutiques), now we see them going in to the store and spending more than their partners. Pop buyers come from all walks of life. We have kids and lolos buying them as well. It's also the first time ever that we are selling something that sells as much to women as to men.

In Greenhills alone, there are over 24 shops that sell Pops. How do you stay competitive?

Sebastian: You have to be up to date and you have to know what the clients want. We make it a point to carry almost everything with extras for the "hot" items. These usually come from customers themselves. I try to stay as active as I can so that i can get the coming trends. I'm close to my customers and they usually give me good advice. Our staff are accustomed to the same manner as well so we usually value their input as well. Happy staff, happy customers equals good business.

What are the most popular/saleable Pops at least from Kramer? 

Sebastian: The most popular would have to be the Star Wars, Marvel and Disney Pops. Recently, we also carried the "Friends” (Monica, Phoebe, Chandler and the gang) Pops and those sold out very quickly. Kung Fu Panda, Game of Thrones, Batman Vs. Superman Pops are doing well too.

Marlo Naval
Do you collect a lot of Pops or are there particular ones you collect?

Marlo: I collect different lines. Star Wars and Game of Thrones are my favorites. I make sure I complete all of them including variants and exclusives. Those two lines are my complete and treasured lines for now. The Marvel line is my second best, it's not complete but I like them a lot.

Let's talk about the hunt for the Pops you want. Do you order from abroad? Do you pay a lot for them? What's the fun part of collecting and hunting down Pops?

Marlo: The fun part in collecting pops is that every character that you know from your childhood, TV, movies, etc..they have it! I can't get enough of them. Hunting them down is tricky though especially if you're just new to the pop game and you like the old and rare figures. I started collecting pops four years ago when the group was still small. The prices were low and the demand was low as well. Now it's crazy! The prices are crazy and the people are getting crazier just for the love of pops! Haha.

Do you haggle for lower prices?

Marlo: I really don't haggle prices when it comes to pops because I think I have an idea already how much the pop is worth, if it's too expensive I won't even bother to buy the pop, just let it be. 
I buy pops from online stores, online sellers and retail stores here in Manila. There's a lot now than before, which is really good for us collectors. However, the game is much more competitive. 

What are your five most treasured Pops?

Marlo: My five most treasured pops would be my SDCC Gold Loki, SDCC Shadow Trooper, SDCC Flocked Chewbacca, V Freddy Funko, and SDCC Headless Ned Stark.

Friday, March 18, 2016

My very first customized Pop! Spider-Ham!

Check out my very first customized Pop -- Spider-Ham! Loving it!

Loved this character since Marvel released Marvel Tails starring Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham #1 in 1983. I had that original issue and still wish I did. Although I still do have a few of the 17 issues that were published under Marvel's kiddie imprint, Star Comics.

Seeing Spider-Ham during the recent Spider-Verse storyline was like a homecoming. And well, if there was any character I wanted to have for my first customized Pop then it was Peter Porker!

Am a very happy man!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

If you love the superhero genre, read One Punch Man and My Hero Academia

If you love the superhero genre, read One Punch Man and My Hero Academia
by rick olivares

Just when you thought that you have seen it all in comics there was the runaway success of "Attack On Titan” that was a departure from the zombie genre. It is an extinction-level story what was left of humanity trying to survive the attacks of a race of human-eating giants. While the live action film was universally panned, the manga remains popular and is a cross-over hit across the oceans.  

To paraphrase Brad Pitt’s Achilles in the film “Troy,” — Is there any story left? Any genre or topic left to explore?

Yes, there are! There are a couple of manga that have been massive hits in Japan and have been received very well by Western audiences. Both are of the superhero genre -- Yusuke Murata’s "One Punch Man," and Kohei Horikoshi’s "My Hero Academia” yet offer somewhat different takes.

One Punch Man
Tells the adventures of Saitama whose dream is to become a hero. In this world over-run by monsters and super-powered villains, heroes register with the Heroes Association and are ranked in terms of their battles won and popularity in social media. Saitama with this country bumpkin type of innocence and attitude goes about vanquishing foes with one punch! Yes, one punch. Along the way, he picks up a disciple in Genos, a cyborg with dreams of glory but whose perspective on the hero business and life is drastically changed by the simplistic and bald-headed Saitama. 

The genius behind "One Punch Man" is the absurdness of how Saitama goes through life and his hilarious take. Imagine Forrest with super strength. 

There is no super soldier formula that has made him strong and near impervious to harm. He fights for fun and eating udon and spends his free time reading manga! 

As great as the manga is, the animated version — incredibly faithful to the original story and art — is even better and infinitely more hilarious.

The series thus far, encompassing 104 chapters, has been collected into 10 tankobon or volumes; four of which have been translated and printed in English by Viz Media.

My Hero Academia
This is ongoing series is probably closer to its Western superhero cousins than any other story out in Japanese manga today. 

Unlike "One Punch Man’s" Saitama who worked hard for his powers, Izuku Midoriya has no powers. He is is a generic anomaly in a world filled with people who have “quirks” or powers (80% of the world’s population are superhuman). Along with the explosion of powers came the rise in crime, hence the need for heroes who can not only earn pay while doing good deeds but can win fame and glory. 

For his being normal, he is oft bullied until one such time when the world’s mightiest hero, All Might, witnesses Izuku’s courage and bestows upon him a fraction of his power. Now Izuku can enrol in the world’s superhero academy, UA Academy, to learn how best to utilize his newfound powers. 

A school for heroes isn’t new. There is famously, Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in "the Uncanny-X-Men." More recently, there’s King’s Dominion High School for the Deadly Arts that trains future assassins in the surprise indie hit, "Deadly Class" from Image Comics. 

In “My Hero Academia,” Izuku not only doesn’t have a full grasp of his powers but he struggles to belong at UA Academy. It’s like a young Peter Parker in a Japanese setting. 

Thus far, there are six tankobons released with four versions translated and published in English by Viz Media.

If you like the superhero fare in comic books, check out “One Punch Man” and “My Hero Academia” for Japan’s take on this classic American invention.

"One Punch Man" and "My Hero Academia" are available at local comic book stores and places like Fullybooked that carry a large number of manga.

Get ready to fly on those “Immortal Wings”

Get ready to fly on those “Immortal Wings”
by rick olivares

“Immortal Wings” is a four-issue comic book series from Antarctic Press featuring the international comics debut of writer Carlo San Juan with wonderful artwork from veteran artist and Eisner Award nominee Rod Espinosa.

The new fantasy series tells the adventures of a bounty hunter named Blaze and her agent, that is actually a teleporting dragon named Gruffyd after they are hired by the Galactic Shogunate to eliminate the biggest threat to their empire… a rabbit! 

According to San Juan who is a doctor by profession (a Nuclear Medicine Specialist is the exact term), “Immortal Wings” was something he first wrote when he went to medical school years ago. “I was a fan of Heavy Metal (the fantasy magazine) that I read a lot of before. When I wrote the story, I wanted to pitch it to the magazine but it never happened. Anyway, a lot has happened to the story since as he has gone through different permutations and what is in the final published comic book is far different from the original.”

A chance conversation with Espinosa who occupied a table next to him during a comics convention got the ball rolling once more. ““At first, I was thinking of publishing ‘Immortal Wings’ independently like my other comics (Callous Comics and M.O.U.S.E.) but after I looked at Rod's art samples, I thought that yeah, he’d be perfect for the story. And with Rod’s connections given his body of work, a door opened over at Antarctic Press.”

Espinosa is one of the Philippines’ brightest artistic talents. His works have been nominated for many an industry award including Promising New Talent and Best Artist during the 2000 Ignatz Awards (for small press publications) and Best Title for Young Readers in the prestigious Eisner Awards (considered the Oscars of the comic book industry) of 2002. His work on Neotopia also earned him a nomination for the German Max und Moritz Prize for Best Comic Book for a Young Audience. His known works include “The Courageous Princess” for Antarctic Press, Novotopia, and Battle Girlz to name a few.

“Rod’s advice was to make sure that we finish the first issue in terms of story and art,” related San Juan. "That was done by early January 2015 after which it was presented to Antarctic that really liked it. You can’t believe how excited and happy I was to hear them say that they are picking it up. There’s a sense of fulfillment to being published abroad and getting the world’s largest comic book distributor (Diamond Distributors) circulate your comic. As a comic book creator, it’s such a great feeling more so being posting pictures of themselves on-line with a copy of ‘Immortal Wings.’"

With the first two issues (of the four-issue arc) out, San Juan is hoping to do another story arc with Espinosa while also looking to launch a new issue of “M.O.U.S.E.” in time for the Summer Komikon.

I would like to continue ‘Immortal Wings’ with Rod if possible,” concluded San Juan. “But of course, more than that, I want people to like the story. That’s an even better feeling that they like it and collect it."


"Immortal Wings" can be found at Comics Odyssey branches at Robinson's Galleria, Fullybooked at Bonifacio High Street, and Alabang Town Center.