Saturday, September 24, 2016

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Remember when WildCATS #1 gold embossed cover was a hot item?


Remember the gold embossed cover of WildCATS #1? This was such a hot must have back in the day! Every release of Image Comics was a big hit; even the crap-written ones! But Wildcats was more than an X-Men-inspired spin-off. It had a great concept and pretty cool stories. But I sort of lost track when I stopped reading comics in the mid-1990s. 

Now this gold embossed cover was so difficult to get ahold back then unless you were rich. I was only able to get my copy after the fall of the speculator market! Still happy to have this.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Beyond is a comic that stretches the frontiers of imagination and production



Beyond is a comic that stretches the frontiers of imagination and production
by rick olivares

During the last AsiaPop Comicon, BEYOND, a comic book anthology was launched featuring three of the biggest names in the Philippine comic book industry who made use of an Apple iPad Pro in the creation of their individual stories.

The brainchild of Charlie Yaw who owns Beyond the Box Apple Store in One Rockwell, BEYOND is all about embracing the tools of tomorrow while crafting top notch stories. Yaw invited comic book professionals Manix Abrera, Mervin Malonzo, and Harvey Tolibao to create their own stories using the new iPad Pro and the resulting comic book anthology is gorgeous!

Abrera is the creator of the popular "Kiko Machine” strip while Malonzo came to prominence with the horror series, “Tabi Po”. Tolibao on the other hand, has made a name for himself internationally for his illustrating a variety of top titles from the American publishing giants Dark Horse, DC, IDW, Image, and Marvel! 

“I’ve been using computers for my work for a few years now,” said Tolibao. “I think it’s a great tool. While I try to draw using the traditional method every now and then, technology makes it quicker. But the iPad Pro was different. I had to learn to use something outside my comfort zone. But I enjoyed the experience.”

And the product IN BEYOND is a feast for the eyes and the mind.

“Terrorium" is written by Adam David and drawn by Malonzo and tells a story about a post-apocalyptic world devastated not by nuclear holocaust but due to the violent outgrowths of carnivorous flowers. In order to survive, man has gone underground. The creative team introduces us to two humans who break to the surface to decipher what has happened to a scientific expedition that has been missing for two months. Their discovery is a cliffhanger and has repercussions for the rest of humanity.

The feel of the story is akin to M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening” where trees take revenge on humanity by releasing a neurotoxin that causes people to commit suicide as well as Alan Moore’s “Swamp Thing” #53 where the muck creature invades Gotham City. The art, almost drastically different from the sketchy expressionistic style Malonzo used in “Tabi Po” reminds me of Brian Wood’s post-apocalytipic water world, “The Massive”. Yet the colors are more vibrant. Just what you expect from a high-definition and top-of-the-line gadget. 

Abrera’s “Tunguhin” picks up from his silent graphic novel “14” and documents an anonymous character’s voyage through a black and white abstract world. Unlike “14” that pretty much tells a series of horror stories that you pretty much understand, “Tunguhin” provides a canvas for everyone to interpret the story in their own way. 

For me, it resembles life and the choices we make and the people we meet along the way. And it’s a short and poignant 

"Grimmer Trance" is action-paced adventure about a mysterious woman who hires agents to investigate an island infested with beings dubbed, “the Afflicted.” What I love about Tolibao’s style is the detail and energy that reminds me of Geoff Darrow. And “Grimmer Trance” is like reading a sequel to his Danger Girl mini-series, “The Chase” as written by its original writer, Andy Hartnell. 

If you’re a comic book fan, BEYOND is a must-have. If this is your introduction to the medium as well as to the amazing tool that is the iPad Pro, then prepare to be inspired and go beyond your borders. 

BEYOND comes with three different variant covers each with art done by Manix Abrera, Mervin Malonzo, and Harvey Tolibao and is available for Php 350 at Beyond the Box outlets.

With Mervin Malonzo and Harvey Tolibao

Friday, September 16, 2016

Train to Busan is a high speed thriller (film review)



Train to Busan is a high speed thriller
by rick olivares

Just when I thought that “Fear the Walking Dead” would be the death of the zombie genre (after a boring, thoroughly annoying first eight episodes of its second season), the spin-off of the massively popular “The Walking Dead” picks up. And from left field comes this under-the-radar film from Korea, “Train to Busan” that shows us there is still life… after... near death.

"Train to Busan” is an intoxicating and powerful Korean film about commuters aboard a train en route to Busan when the zombie apocalypse hits. When an infected girl boards the train, she turns just about everyone into mindless and bloodthirsty zombies. As the train hurtles towards the supposed safety of Busan, it is at once the deliverance and death trap for the survivors as not only do they have to survive the zombies but each other. 

What makes the zombie genre appealing isn’t the gore of human-eating zombies but the human element that is incredibly the wild card. In a world gone mad, it brings out the worst and the best in people. You have to fear for both the dead and the living who will do anything to survive. 

It is a truism in life and death situations that you find out who you really are. One of the main characters, the young girl Soo-an (Kim Su-an), constantly reminds her father, Seok-woo (Gong Yoo), to hold on to their humanity; to do what is right. It doesn’t happen right away but his better instincts take over and rediscovers the man who he was. In doing so, Seok-woo repairs his broken relationship with his daughter. But “Train to Busan” isn’t just the father and daughter relationship. Equally compelling is the husband with his pregnant wife couple played by Ma Dong-seok as Sang-hwa and Jung Yu-mi as Sung Kyung respectively. The former is a martial arts instructor who in spite of the world going to hell is a good guy who helps others. Seok-woo takes a cue from Sang-hwa’s willingness to do what is right and to help others. And there is the young couple of Choi Woo-shik who plays a high school baseball player and Ahn So-hee who plays Jin-hee, his girlfriend. Kim Eui-sung plays Yong-suk, the self-centered businessman who will do anything to survive even if it means throwing his fellow survivors in the path of the zombies just to save his life. 

Yong-suk isn’t evil. Maybe he might lack compassion but as it was said in the Michael Douglas classic film, Falling Down, he is just having a bad day.

Although the film borrows elements from “World War Z” particularly in the form of onrushing zombie hordes, “Train to Busan’s” infected are a class onto themselves. Their transformation reminds me of those werewolf films. And they become docile when the world grows dark or when they cannot see live humans. 

The fast pace, increasingly heightened tension, and seemingly hopeless and impossible situations the protagonists find themselves keep you on the edge of your seat. I don’t think I have been gripped by anything zombie outside “The Walking Dead. What makes it all the more engrossing is you aren’t sure what is going to happen with every twist and turn along the tracks.

I cannot remember a time when I felt that rush, that thrill, and that gripping fear as the film’s protagonists seek safe haven from the zombie hordes. The scene where the last few remaining survivors of the train board another train with a huge horde in hot pursuit (the top view shot is amazing), I immediately thought of two things — the scene from “28 Days Later” where the character of Doyle as played by British actor Robert Carlyle runs for his life across a dale with a mass of zombies giving chase and that world-famous photo of that pick-up truck trying to outrun that volcanic cloud of ash that spewed from the eruption of Mount Pinatubo. So that scene alone from Busan tells you of the frightening odds facing every living survivor.

Watching this in a theatre full of people is an acid test for the film as you will hear people screaming, howling, and crying. When a film makes you feel the full spectrum of emotions in under two hours and makes you think of what you just saw hours after you’ve left the theatre, then you know it is a winner. 

“Train to Busan” is one of those word-of-mouth films (that first filtered out of the Cannes Film Festival) that are a gem of a find. Aside from reinvigorating the zombie genre ala Danny Boyle’s magnificent “28 Days Later” (that introduced the first running zombies), this Korean masterpiece tells you there is more to K-Pop that boy and girl bands and animation. And that Hollywood doesn’t have a monopoly of good films.

Now — I know this is in contrast to the norms of safety — loosen that seatbelt and prepare for that thrilling and intense ride that is “Train to Busan.”

Here’s to surviving the experience.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Mega Man!


Yep, I played this game before and I certainly enjoy the manga, the comics, and the Funko Pop!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Before the Transformers.... there were the Shogun Warriors


I feel so happy to be able to get this comic from my youth again. It's a team of robot warriors - Raydeen, Combatra, and Dangard Ace -- that banded together to battle other would-be robot conquerors. The story is totally different from its Japanese origins and was done purely for an American audience. But for those like me who were weaned on Japanese anime in the mid-1970s, this was still a treat more so after those cartoons were banned from local television by the Marcos government.

The comic was written by Doug Moench and pencilled by Herbe Trimpe with inks by Dan Green and last for 20 issues. This was a great time for me to collect comics as I picked up Micronauts, Alpha Flight was introduced in the pages of the Uncanny X-Men, and the "Demon in a Bottle" storyline ran in the pages of Iron Man. And not knowing what I had in this... I had Daredevil #158 that featured Frank Miller's first work on the title. 

Shogun Warriors was so difficult to get ahold back in the late 1970s. The conversion rate back at that time was PhP 7 = US$1. I think I first saw this at the old Army & Navy Club along Roxas Boulevard and it cost about five bucks. That was very very pricey back in the day. I wasn't able to buy it until later when National Bookstore reprinted the first three issues but the quality was terrible. 

It wasn't until much much later when I was able to get the original printing and that was during the 2003 Big Apple Comicon and I got it for one dollar at the very last hour of the con as the exhibitors were packing up.

I lost that and the first few issues to a typhoon and was only able to get it back a few weeks ago. 

I cannot begin to tell you how good it feels to get it back. It isn't by any long shot one of the best comic books ever. But I enjoyed it as a kid and I still do reading it after all these years. And this was a good five years before the Transformers were developed.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

First Daredevil comic I ever got.



Looking back at Miller & Mazzuchelli’s Daredevil Born Again saga


Looking back at Miller & Mazzuchelli’s Daredevil Born Again saga
by rick olivares


Thirty years ago, Marvel Comics put out an incredible story in the pages of its Daredevil titled. Penned by superstar writer Frank Miller and drawn from full scripts by artist David Mazzuchelli, “the Born Again” saga, that encompassed Daredevil #227-233, was a tour de force that defined the character for the rest of its publication history. The story where  a protagonist’s life was plunged into the depths of modern-day hell before making his way back. Many writers have since sicced various heroes and super-teams through that same device of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” 

Miller first came on board with DD #158 pencilling writer Roger MacKenzie’s scripts. That work featuring some early battles with Bullseye would go one to be collected in a tome titled, “Marked for Murder” when Miller took off as one of comicdom’s brightest creators. That happened when Miller took over the writing chores with #168 that also introduced the assassin Elektra to Daredevil’s world.

Around that time of Miller’s writing debut in January of 1981, the Uncanny X-Men as a title was comic’s top dog and the “Days of Future Past” story was out. Roger Stern and John Byrne were in the middle of their short but acclaimed run on Captain America. David Michelinie and Bob Layton were working on their acclaimed Iron Man run.

Miller went on a two-year run in his twin role as writer/penciller featuring stories about crime that was infused with Japanese culture. Many plots and twists were introduced and remain an indelible part of today’s fare — Kingpin became his deadliest adversary (outside Bullseye), the ninja assassin order the Hand was introduced, and Stick and the Chaste were written into Matt Murdock’s origin. And for the second time in that incredible decade that was the 1980s for comics, another top character in Elektra was killed (the other was the Phoenix in the pages of Uncanny X-Men).

He returned for a brief one-shot with DD #219 wherein his introduces another side to Matt Murdock, “the stranger” who seeks justice in some crooked town in New Jersey. 

David Mazzuchelli came on board Daredevil with the story “Savages” as written by Dennis O’Neil. That kicked off what would eventually be called “the Micah Synn Saga” that told of a descendant of English settlers in East Africa from over a century ago with his peoples living somewhat of a tribal lifestyle. His tribe’s subsequent discovery and their transportation to New York City catapults Synn, their leader, into an instant celebrity as he is seen as a modern-day Tarzan. Yet there’s a dark side to him that eventually puts him at odds with not only with the police and other criminal elements and later on, Daredevil. 

At first, I thought that Mazzuchelli's style was done in the manner of previous artist William Johnson, to keep the art consistent. I sort of liked Johnson’s gritty style that was inked by Filipino Danny Bulanadi. It would be in DD #214 where Mazzuchelli began to ink his own work giving the book a grittier feel. 

Then the two came together to work on the “Born Again” storyline. 

I thought this was a great era where Marvel Comics pushed the envelope in story telling. In Iron Man, Tony Stark dealt with alcoholism. In Uncanny X-Men, there was suicide. In the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, it was drug use. For Daredevil, it was hard-boiled crime as well as murder, corruption, drugs, and prostitution. 

However, what made the Born Again story significant is it literally depicted the rise and fall and eventual rebirth of a character (Matt) after his life is torn asunder by the Kingpin. Karen Page, a major supporting character is set up for a tragic end. 

The story arc is also significant for its introduction of faith into a character. Previously, it was Nightcrawler who talked about his dreams of becoming a priest in the pages of the Uncanny X-Men. Here, Frank Miller delves into Matt Murdock’s Catholicism and makes use of a lot of religious symbolism in weaving his story. In fact, the various story titles make use of biblical terms from apocalypse, purgatory, saved, and born again (despite this last term being a term connected to the Protestant faith). 

In this story, a lot of Matt’s origin where he was raised by his down-on-his-luck boxer for a father has become a central piece to the character’s personality. A defining point if you will; one constantly brought up and used as a plot device. 

Miller also introduced another of those failed attempts to replicate the Super Soldier serum that begat Captain America (in Nuke). But of all the sub-plots, it was the secret identity of Matt being found out by an adversary; something that every masked hero fears. And the ringer and descent into madness that Matt is put through is a chilling one. 

Furthermore, the manner in which Miller wrote Born Again, there was a sense of poetry to his words. The words flowed and storytelling gave rise to the first person point of view. It is also where Miller came into his own as a writer. His dialogue - making use of sentence fragments and odd phrasing — is still oft imitated up to today by writers like Ann Nocenti, Dan Chichester, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, and Brian K. Vaughn to name a few. The first four oft borrowed sub-plots from Miller’s story for their own arcs. Of course, all four writers have done very well for themselves while penning great stories not only for Daredevil but other titles as well. However, the Born Again arc remains just as influential today.

The work produced by Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli in Born Again is said to be perhaps the greatest Daredevil story ever told and I would have to agree to that. It still reads as fresh today as it did 30 years ago; a ture teastament to a classic tale. 

The duo would later tag team once more a year later in 1987 on Batman: Year One, a story that also defined and shaped the Caped Crusader for the next three decades. That’s how good those guys were.

Now it is surmised that the third season of Daredevil on Netflix will touch on the Born Again saga (now that Karen Page knows Matt’s secret and there’s the impending return of the Kingpin). Given how good the series has been, I have no doubt that they would do it justice. 

I can’t wait for this classic storyline’s television adaptation.


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Made it to the letter column of Silver Surfer #200


I love the Silver Surfer comic as written by Dan Slott and drawn by Michael Allred. I've oft Tweeted about the title that I thoroughly enjoy. An even bigger thrill is appearing in the lettercol for this milestone issue!

I've said for quite some time that this title is the spiritual heir to Mike Baron and Steve Rude's Nexus (one of my all-time five fave comics).