Saturday, December 21, 2019

Rest in Peace, Gerry Alanguilan

My relationship and friendship with Gerry Alanguilan is one of what could have beens.
We formed a group back in 1990 with the hopes of producing a comic book. We got half-way there when two incidents prematurely ended our dreams. Even as Gerry moved on to bigger things, we remained friends and I oft visited him at Starfire Studios in Balete Drive. 
When I returned from a lengthy sojourn abroad, it was Gerry who urged me to finally release my own comics books which I did for a few years before I stopped (I will return in 2020). He was supposed to draw my comic, Dante (that was eventually illustrated by Nino Balita), but his pro comics work got in the way. He did promise to eventually work on something for me.
A few weeks ago, we planned for a trip to his komiks museum in his beloved San Pablo, but we first postponed because of a typhoon and then because of the last komikon. We figured it would be after this Christmas except while I will make that trip to Laguna, it will be to see him off.
So it hurts, you know. It’s always, but not quite. This is why you should never put off things and do them because you will never know if it is that last parting.
Gerry and I go way back. We met in the old Filbar’s along New York Street in Cubao. We were looking at Marc Silvestri’s work on Uncanny X-Men (The Fall of the Mutants storyline) but bonded over the old Chris Claremont-John Byrne stories of the same comic book, and Daredevil (particularly the Frank Miller stories). 
Eventually, we formed Kressh Comics, a group that included Mark Del Rosario, Jaime Fornoles, Richie Ramos, Sandy Gonzaga, Carl Alagar, Ariel Atienza, Oliver Pulumbarit, and others. Later on, Francis Magalona and Michael V joined the gang (and that is another story).
Gerry oft came by my old apartment in Cubao. He’d be there twice, or thrice a week along with Mark Del Rosario, Jaime Fornoles (who I invited for that trip to San Pablo a few weeks ago), Richie, Sandy, Carl, and others. Sometimes, we’d hang out at his house outside UST and work on stories or just drink and tell stories. He related his struggles trying to please his parents and his desire to draw comics professionally. 
It was at my apartment where we mostly met and hung out. We had this balcony where we’d all kick back our shoes and talk. I tell you, that was the life! We had so much fun. 
One time, in the fading sunlight, we were there drinking sodas and some beers with some snacks to go. "Man, imagine what we could do," wondered Gerry. "Yeah," I answered. Two of us dreaming.
One time, Gerry showed us all his rejection letters from Marvel and DC Comics. In spite of that, we were so proud of him (for having tried). But we all knew that he was talented (the most talented among us as well) and that he would eventually make it. It was there where he first drew Timawa and showed me and Jaime his early work on Wasted.
I will not forget that day that he arrived and showed us the first pages of that work that would be Wasted. “I know you might not like this,” I distinctly remember him saying, “Because this isn’t super-hero comics.” 
Jaime and I plopped down on the sofa to read that first story. I loved it. I loved it so much that I featured it in the pages of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Gerry reciprocated that love by reprinting the article in the first ever collection of Wasted. 
Those single Xeroxed copies of all the issues of wasted were some of my most treasured comics. I had them and brought them with me to the United States. I hand carried them when I came back home. Sadly, I lost them to Ondoy (that was a crushing blow to me in many ways). 
How deep was that friendship? Gerry was more than a guest; a real friend of the family. He was there during my wedding and for the baptism of my first born son. When my marriage fell apart, Gerry was so angry at me. He urged me to repair it as quickly as possible. Truthfully, that frayed my relationship with him although we repaired it over time. 
As our lives moved on in different arenas – Gerry in comics and his YouTube stardom and me in media, we occasionally remained in touch talking about music, film, and the initial thing that bonded me and him – comics.
When I saw Jonas Diego’s post yesterday about Gerry’s being in the ICU, I immediately got in touch with the former. I knew deep inside that this wasn’t good, and yet, I prayed for his return to good health. I awoke around early morning as my phone kept pinging. Friends were tagging me about Gerry’s passing. How do you return to sleep after that?
My mind kept racing to what could have been and never getting to finish what we set out to do. And that hurts. Doubly hurts.
All that I have left are pictures, his signed comics, and that bit of original piece of art from our Kressh comics days that pre-dates anything else he published. But does that even matter?
I guess not.
Gerry’s passing hurts. The what ifs and should have done this in particular.
As I sat down in my work station, my mind wandered back to the day that we met inside the old Filbar’s that we loved so much. “X-Men fan?” he asked as I leafed through that issue of Uncanny X-Men #227 (Go Tell the Spartans). “Yes, very much,” I answered. 
And we quickly realized that we grew up around the same time and read all the same comics. The next week, he brought to the store his copy of Uncanny X-Men #137. I brought that and my Neal Adams issues of the X-Men. We went to the eatery next to Filbar’s and has some sodas and pancit and talked about what the story meant for us for the next two hours.
Man, you should have seen how we emoted that time over the “death” of Jean Grey. And on how the Daredevil Born Again saga (that inspired Kressh Comics and its name) touched us to our very core.
Two lads with dreams in our minds and passion in our hearts.
I am going to miss you so much my old friend.
Hopefully, next time we get to do what we set out to do.
Your grieving friend.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

6 Comics to get from Komikon Grande

6 Comics to get from Komikon Grande
by rick olivares

The last major local comic book convention has come and gone with dozens and dozens of creators showcasing their latest works at Komikon Grande (November 23-24, 2019) at the Bayanihan Center in Pasig City.

Here are in our opinion, are some of the titles that you should pick up (they will be available in local comic book stores after Komikon Grande or via their respective Facebook pages).

Kenkoy Klasiks: Album ng Mga Kabalbalan (Velasquez Characters Komiks)
Only 90 copies of this special edition were printed and they sold out fast. I am told that a regular edition will be out before the month ends and should be available wherever local komiks are sold.

The apo of the late Tony Velasquez, the man called, “The Father of Filipino Komiks” produced this comic strip back in the pages of Liwayway magazine 90 years ago, and Ian thought it was not only a great way to remember his Lolo but to also reintroduce this character in what was literally, the funnies.

This is a great title to have in anyone’s collection as you will feel the nostalgia (yes, reading it dates the strips because this was during the American Colonial Period) but also the pride at having our own strip. If you like those classic American strips such as The Katzenjammer Kids, Gasoline Alley, Blondie, and Dick Tracy, then Kenkoy is worth adding to your comics collection.

Ang Mga Huling Awit ng Digmaan (Point Zero Comics)
Jon Zamar is a veteran writer and artist and despite his long involvement in the scene remains under the radar. I will say this. He soldiers on even against all trends, he sticks to his guns and stories. And he has brought artists David Sysing (who illustrated Ang Lakambini ng Kahilwayon) and Brian Balondo (who worked in the second chapter Ang Mga Bihag sa Pulang Lupa) whose respective crackles with energy.

If you liked Warlands or Elfquest, then check out Ang Mga Huling Awit ng Digmaan.

Ugh #5 (Ugh Comics)
When Hulyen first released Ugh Comics, I raved about it for its irreverence and sarcastic view on growing up and life. This was our Beavis and Butthead. Our Reality Bites even. At some point, I thought the magic wore off. But Ugh #5 finds Hulyen once more in her ornery irascible self. I thought by expounding her strips and not forcing them to end in a single page or a few panels.

I am an Ugh hipster.

Tales from the Kingdom of Tundo Book One 
A compilation of the first four issues of writer-artist Mark del Rosario’s epic alternative mythology. This fantasy epic is everything we loved about local folklore mashed with the stories mark grew up reading from The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia to name some while adding regional elements (Hindu and Buddhist beliefs). 

It is an epic in the making with loads of potential.

The Children of Bathala Volume One (Nautilus Comics)
Some stories are sacred. And we shudder to think when creators deem it time for a sequel. It didn’t work with The Dark Knight Returns and I am not crazy about anything that they have done as a prequel or sequel for Watchmen. I wondered about that too when I heard that master storyteller Arnold Arre was cooking up a sequel to his beloved tome, The Mythology Class. In fact, he didn’t just have one sequel, but five.

If The Children of Bathala is the result, then my fears have been allayed. Arre’s work here is the best that he has done. This is the best artwork he has done in his career. 

Two decades after the events of Mythology Class, our cast of characters are older and the experience of their previous adventure had faded over the years as their respective lives have moved on. But new visitors from the magical world of Ibalon have arrived and a new danger and journey unfolds.

Strap yourself in for this ride.

Bulwagan ng Misteryo (Kikomachine Komix)
It is so easy to pace any work by Arnold Arre or Manix Abrera into this list. But they aren’t living on their reputation. They are the consummate and prolific storytellers and they are once more back with some terrific work.

I love the format of Manix’ new work. It is square-bound in the manner of your favorite Calvin and Hobbes editions. It makes the art easier to look at and the words easier to read. 

When I first read Manix’ work, I thought of Gary Larson’s The Far Side. And while there are differences, the imagination, wit, and madness (I mean that in a good way) are the same.

This latest work is mind-bending.

Additional titles to pick up: Trese Deviations: Dakila & Fr. Trese from David Hontiveros and Marvin del Mundo, and D-13 #2 from Ian Velasquez and Rico Rival.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Classic Filipino strip Kenkoy is one of Komikon Grande’s highlights

Classic Filipino strip Kenkoy is one of Komikon Grande’s highlights
by rick olivares

One of the highlights of this weekend’s Komikon Grande (November 23-24 at the Bayanihan Center in Pasig City) Album ng mga Kabalbalan ni Kenkoy.

The 32-page compilation reprints classic comic strips from Tony Velasquez who is acknowledged as “the Father of Tagalog Komiks.”

“Kenkoy” is a character created by writer Romualdo Ramos and illustrator Tony Velasquez and who was featured in a komiks strip in Liwayway magazine on January 11, 1929. 

Kenkoy was a humorous look at Filipino life during the American Period. The strip became so popular that it was translated into several dialects and even received its own film adaptation in the 1950s featuring icons Dely Atay-atayan, Eduardo Infante, and Lopito.

The tome was repackaged and remastered by local artist and Komikon co-founder Jon Zamar according to Ian Velasquez, the grandson of another famous Filipino komiks illustrator Damy Velasquez who created the detective strip, D-13, of which his grandson resurrected with all new adventures.

“Aside from re-introducing Kenkoy to a new generation of readers, our family aims for more visibility for the character and his creator since we want to pursue Velasquez’ nomination as a National Artist in the near future,” said Ian. “More than publishing the old work, we have been active by traveling and doing exhibits.”

The reprints of Kenkoy follows the reprints of other famous nobelas or komiks stories created by the late National Artist Francisco Coching that includes El Indio, Saba ang Barbaro, Lapu-Lapu, and Dumagit.

The Art of Alfredo Alcala was also reprinted by Dover Publications in 2015.

Only 90 copies will be made available of these reprinted classics (each one has a retail price of P300) and will be available at Ian Velasquez’ table at Komikon Grande.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Comic book artist Gilbert Monsanto bares plans for more Bayan Knights stories & then some.

Comic book artist Gilbert Monsanto bares plans for more Bayan Knights stories & then some.
by rick olivares

Comic book artists Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, and Jay Anacleto are some of the local illustrators who garner a lot of attention and acclaim for their work on American comic books. 

There is one other artist who came up alongside them in the famed Starfire Visuals that was put up by the great Whilce Portacio that opened doors for Filipino artists in the American industry, and his fingerprints as well as storytelling, pencils, and inks on many a pivotal local comic book – Gilbert Monsanto.

Monsanto along with Roy Allan Martinez were the first among the Starfire Visuals Studios artists to fully draw releases from Image Comics in the mid-1990s and that was Hellcop and Hazard respectively. Although Monsanto drew aa few more titles, he channeled a lot of his energies to the local independent scene. While working with Portacio’s art school in Megamall, he also produced the country’s version of Justice League of Americana and The Avengers in Bayan Knights; a team composed of heroes created by different artists.

Among the more popular Bayan Knights characters (that have also seen their own releases by their respective creators) include Astiging Boy Ipis that was created by Mike Ignacio and lovingly inspired by Spider-Man, Amely Vidal’s Phantom Cat, Gio Paredes’ super-strong Kalayaan, and Reno Maniquis’ Maskarado. 

Filipino artists who have made names working on American comics such as Leinil Francis Yu and Harvey Tolibao have provided covers to a few issues of Bayan Knights.

Since its initial publication in 2008 under his own independent imprint, Sacred Mountain, there have been some nine issues of Bayan Knights with a bunch of spin-off titles featuring the individual characters such Sarhento Sagrado and Phantom Cat among others. That has morphed into the logical progression of Bayan Knights which is The Demigods that has seen a few issues published.

“Hindi ko akalain na may impact yung Bayan Knights,” said a grateful Monsanto. “Hindi naman natin ito ginawa expecting that people will like it. Bonus yun. Pero nakaka-inspire lalo kasi I believe that we Filipinos can do even more good work in this medium.”

Monsanto has been approached to see how Bayan Knights can be developed into something more – perhaps a film adaptation. However, he is protective of the work. The challenge is to maintain control and to not comprise the characters. “Let’s see what happens,” he can only comment.  

The prolific Monsanto has also published several comic magazines in Rambol and Tropa assuming roles such as editor-in-chief, writer, penciller, or inker depending on the story. 

Prior to that, Gilbert was a part of the first independently produced local comic in Exodus that was published in November of 1994 that included local creators Mike Tan, Jim Jimenez, Lui Antonio, and Martinez among many others.

He also took part in the high profile new millennium release of Darna (from Mango Comics) along with Boboy Yonzon and fellow Starfire Visuals alumnus, Ryan Orosco, and the local magazine reprints of DC Comics where he pens a column on illustration techniques for budding illustrators. He has also worked on a graphic novel series for Black Ink publications titled Hands of the Dragon, and Anthony James Perez’ exorcist story, Patron.

Gilbert is working on comics full time. He just finished a Blade Runner comic book in the USA and is doing some work on projects he cannot disclose as of the moment. And hopefully, more Bayan Knights stories.

He is amazed that through this profession – once a mere hobby and a love for the medium – has allowed him to raise a family. “Nothing beats that…. Following your passion, doing something for the industry, and helping your family.”

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of Aster, the first Filipino-comic book to be published abroad in the US

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of Aster, the first Filipino-comic book to be published abroad in the US
by rick olivares

One week ago, Starfire Visuals, that studio that opened the door for many Filipino artists to work in the American comic book industry, was feted in the first SuperManila Pop Culture Convention.

In reality, there was another studio that published the first domestic based creative team whose work was produced in the United States…. CATS Studios. 

CATS Studios was an offshoot of CATS Comics and Collectibles, a comic book specialty shop that was very popular in the 1990s for its line of independent comics, NBA trading cards, and toys.

On October 26, 1994, American independent comics publisher Entity Comics released Aster #1; the first of several titles that were released by the Manila--based studio.  Produced by Don Chin and CATS owner Billy Lim-It, plotted by Ronnie Roxas and written by his younger brother Jun, Aster featured the artwork of Oliver Isabedra who was then a college student at the Ateneo de Manila.

Aster is the last of the Celestial Knights, universal peacekeepers bequeathed power by the Celestial Guardians. He is cast adrift and is amnesiac after taking part in a titanic battle where the combined might of his order and masters defeated the rogue Celestial Guardian Dessa. But defeating Dessa came at a price. Save for Aster, the entire order of Celestial Guardians and Knights were wiped out.

Unaware of what transpired, Aster crashes into a planet that is actually the same one where Dessa is imprisoned. Upon regaining consciousness as well as bits and pieces of his memory, Aster finds out that Dessa has not only escaped but is actively searching for the Gem of Saghal to once more power his mad ambitions.

The story draws heavily from the adventures of Flash Gordon, Green Lantern, Captain Marvell, and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

The buzz about Aster actually occurred months before when the ashcan edition (in glorious black and white and containing no word balloons) was released. Isabedra, influenced by then comics superstar George Perez, won over a lot of local fans for its dynamism and energy. When the actual comic came it out, it sported a cover by then-comics superstar, Jae Lee. 

Subsequent covers featured other luminaries such as Marvel’s Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti, and George Perez.

Isabedra recalled a time when he spoke to Perez on the phone. “At that time, he (Perez) was about to begin his work on the cover to Aster #0 and I was so surprised that I really couldn’t say anything.”

When Aster #1 was featured in comic industry publications, Previews and Hero Illustrated, the buzz got even louder.

After the first four-issue limited series, another series came out as did others titled, Harriers and Shaiana, all featuring characters for CATS Studios’ imaginary, Fractal Universe.

Their studio grew as well. Coming on board were Sonny Fortich III, Jay Anacleto, recording artist and movie star Michael V, Mark Vuycankiat, Gerry Alanguilan, and Leinil Francis Yu.

It is with CATS where Alanguilan, Anacleto, and Yu experienced their first published work.

Anacleto inked Vuycankiat’s pencils on Aster #0 as well as the latter’s work on the three-issue limited series, Harriers.

Alanguilan was the one local comic book artist who had somewhat of a buzz then. His first published work was a pin-up in Aster #1 and his first inking work on Aster #2 (the regular series).

Yu provided full art on Aster #3 (the regular series) as well as four pages of Legacy of the Dark Moon that was printed as a preview in the CATS Tour Book of 1995. 

Michael V himself provided pencils for Shaiana #1 with Anacleto embellishing his work.

“Harriers and Aster: The Last Celestial Knight were my first professional work,” underscored Alanguilan. “I inked five pages or so and my inking wasn’t up to pro standards at that time.”

From 1994-95, CATS Studious was putting out three different titles at the same time; an impressive feat for a local studio. Just like that they folded. Anacleto, Alanguilan, and Yu decamped for Starfire Visuals. Isabedra claims he has no idea why it suddenly stopped. As he was already working in an advertising agency, he was too busy to lament its passing.

CATS Studios put out a total of 14 comics in a two-year span. The first ever Aster comic went through a second printing. That is an indication of how well it did. The covers for all 14 comics published saw variant covers that were color coded, foil stamped, and chromium. Not bad for a local studio.

In 2011, Jun Roxas and Alanguilan planned on reviving Aster and doing a sequel. Gerry’s hectic schedule though torpedoed the plan.

Prior to Aster #1 and CATS Studios, Filipinos who wanted to work on American comics had to either go to the United States or work on material provided to them by foreign creators. Aster saw the entire creative work conceptualized and produced by a wholly-local crew.

Today, there are dozens and dozens of homegrown talent working on American and even European comics. Anacleto, Alanguilan, and Yu are modern day superstars.

Aster might be largely forgotten by today’s fans, but it deserves more than a footnote in Filipino comics history. It was for a brief moment, a guiding star in the celestial firmament.

Monday, October 21, 2019

A reflection on my years of being a Marvel Comics fan

I am sharing what was essentially my sharing during the Make Mine Marvel panel at the SuperManila Pop culture Convention last Sunday, October 20 (at the Podium) with Jiggy Cruz.

My first ever comics were reprints of the X-Men issues re-Enter the Mimic (#75) and Bedlam is the Banshee (#76). My mother bought me these comics at the old Cherry Foodarama along Shaw Boulevard when I was five years old. She got them for me to keep me quiet and distracted while she was buying groceries. These were local reprints. I cannot remember who reprinted them. Was it Alemar’s? How much were these comics – 50 centavos. Yes, this was pre-OPEC oil crisis and during the early 1970s. So I am dating myself.

My Uncle Rolly had all the X-Men comics. It was a complete collection as he was a fan of the book. While visiting him one time at his home in Novaliches, I saw them and was enthralled. There were others -- Detective Comics, Hot Stuff, or The Avengers – but I wasn’t really into them. Except for the X-Men and Nick Fury Agent of shield. Why the later? Because of the awesome art by Jim Steranko.

These were American comics and not reprints. I have no idea where he got them, but I do remember badgering him every time I went there if I could have them. When I think about that time, I must have been really annoying to ask those comics – for free. Like he owed me something.

Eventually, he did give me everything (like 10 years later) and they weren’t in mind condition but I couldn’t care less. 

The first real comic that I bought (or my dad did) was Uncanny X-Men #94. We had just come from lunch at the old Shakey’s in West Avenue when we went to the old Mercury Drug Store at Delta. They had this rack of comics and there were quite a lot. But my eyes were immediately drawn to Uncanny X-Men #94 with the mutants being thrown out of their SR-71 Blackbird with the face of a leering Count Nefaria. I asked my dad to buy it but he said no. I was finally able to badger him into getting it one week later. So I guess – considering my Uncle Rolly did give me his X-Men comics – badgering works.

And I guess, you can say that X-Men were my first favorite comics and with Jonathan Hickman’s work, have reclaimed that title. 

I got my first Fantastic Four comics at a PX good store in Tarlac where my grandfather lived. I still have that actual comic which is coincidentally, the first time Johnny Storm wore his red costume.

But comics collecting back then was difficult. There were shops in Manila that sold them but you couldn’t bet on your favorite comic being there next month. 

I got my first Captain America comic book (Jack Kirby’s Mad Bomb) at the old Army & Navy Club along Roxas Boulevard. That was a club for military men and since my uncle was an officer, we would go there to swim, eat pizza and ice cream, and buy comics. 

I got my comics at this shop (where Papelmelroti is today and right in front of Gerry’s Grill) and comics cost about P7 which was a lot of money back then. It took me a year before I get could the follow up to The Doomsmith Scenario. In fact, the next X-Men issue that I got was #96 that was against the N’Garai. Then it was X-Men #107 that was the first appearance of the Imperial Guard. 

I got this hardbound trade of Amazing Spider-Man stories that featured the debut of the Spider-Mobile and him going up against the Jackal, Hammerhead, and Green Goblin. That cost 20 bucks and my parents refused to buy it. So I went to my grandfather. Being the eldest grandchild, he got it for me much to my parents’ chagrin. And they scolded me when we got home. And I loved that comic book to death.

The first Filbar’s branch was a small shop located at the corner of Edsa and Aurora Boulevard. It was hot and stuffy inside. He only had an electric fan and he sold his comics wearing a sando, shorts, and slippers. It was Annabelle who was his only helper back then. And comics sold for 10 bucks. He wasn’t able to secure a licensing deal yet as he relied on a friends of his – a stewardess to buy comics for him in the US.

He moved to New York street in Cubao when that building complex at the corner of Edsa and Aurora burned down. Yes, it burned down along with everyone’s comics. It took what – six or seven months before he re-opened at the New York branch. I remember going there with some other fans who would eventually become good friends to this day.

That is how I met Gerry Alanguilan, Oliver Pulumbarit, and others. 

Filbar’s was ahead of its time in terms of the comic book specialty shops. Maybe that was because we were so far from the United States. 

The mecca then for comic book fans was Greenhills. You had two branches of Filbar’s, Comic Quest – first in the old PCI Bank Arcade then in Shoppesville -- CATS, Comic Express, and Christhareth. In Ali Mall you had Platinum Comics. You had two in Katipunan and more. 

When I couldn't find what I wanted, I made that two hour bus ride from Manila to Dau, Mabalact that was just outside the largest American Air base outside Europe and North America, Clark Air Base. At the flea markets outside Clark, I could buy second hand (mostly) Marvel Comics. The downside was some of the time, they had this stamp or paper on it that said, "The subscription of Airman so and so or what have you." Yep, some had this subscription tags on them. Sometimes, they didn't. But did I care? Nope. Beggars cannot be choosers.

I picked up the early Punisher series – Circle of Blood and continued it when one Whilce Portacio became its penciller (Mike Baron was writing it, Scott Williams inking and Jim Novak doing letters). That was Punisher #8. Whilce drew like some Japanese artist. The name wasn’t Japanese so I wondered if he was Hispanic.

In 1991, Fil Barbasa told me that he was bringing over Whilce Portacio who he said was a Filipino. At that time, I followed Whilce onto X-Factor, a comic I never really collected except for its first three issues). And that was amazing stuff.

In 1991, Fil confirmed that Whilce was Pinoy and he had invited him over for some promos (since he was on Uncanny X-Men at that time). When Whilce arrived in January of 1992, being good friends with Fil (he went on to become ninong to my son Matt along with CATS’ Billy Lim-It), he said, interview Whilce. Fil also knew that back then while working at an ad agency, I also wrote for the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Back in college, I wrote for the Inquirer and did part time work at McDonald’s New fro tier to earn extra money for dates, and buying comics and records. I also augmented my earnings by doing the homework of some of my classmates.

Anyways, that February 1992 article on Whilce was the first ever article about him anywhere. And I was immensely proud of that. That actually opened the door for me writing about comics – Gerry Alanguilan’s Wasted, writing about Alex Ross’ Marvels, and others.

However, prior to that an incident prompted me to sell my entire collection to Fil Barbasa for 20,000 bucks. A King’s ransom back then but considering it was a complete collection of X-Men #1-204, it was a good price. And this was 1988 currency. Inflated but not what it is today.

During one class while in college (I had already sold my comics to Fil Barbasa), I saw a classmate of mine reading Uncanny X-Men Annual #11 written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Alan Davis. The X-Men went up against Horde and featured Havok. He returned to the team in Uncanny X-Men #119 if I am not mistaken. I asked my classmate if I could read it and he lent it to me during class.

While reading it, my professor asked me a question. It is a good thing I studied and was paying attention prior to my reading the comic. I was able to answer the question leaving him to say, “Okay, you may go back to reading your comic book.”

The next day, I marched into Filbar’s except they sold out on Uncanny X-Men Annual #11. So I got my copy at Comic quest at the old PCI Bank Arcade. Then I picked up the Excalibur prestige format debut and went got into the Fall of the Mutants storyline. I was back. 

I tried to buy back my old collection from Fil Barbasa but he refused to sell it back.

How big a fan was I of Marvel?

My eldest son’s name is Matthew. I named him after Matthew Murdock aka Daredevil. DD is my fave character outside the X-Men. I got into DD when Gil Kane was drawing the book and read it to this day.

And I guess like the old school fans, I wrote letters to the editor. I wrote after the death of Jean Grey in Uncanny X-Men #137 (not because she died, but I guess, how tastefully and heroically the story was). I wrote to Mark Gruenwald to tell him how much I enjoyed the Captain America and Diamondback storyline. 

Four of the five Marvel Comics where I had a letter printed.

But my first letter to be printed in the pages of a Marvel comic was Daredevil #358 followed by Groot #3, Power-Man and Iron Fist #3, and Silver Surfer #200. I also have an issue of Fantastic Four where I had a letter printed. This was during Karl Kessel’s run (unfortunately, I lost that comic to Ondoy).

In fact, when I stopped reading Marvel and all other comics after my outrage over AvX, the Cap-Nazi story, and Steve Rogers not being Cap (for the nth time), I wrote a very scathing letter to Marvel. 

I was upset. I was the fan who read and bought a lot of comics. I even defended Marvel from Todd McFarlane who I engaged in an online debate several years ago after he took shots at the company. 

As a fan, I read Marvel and other comics from cover to cover. I poured over the soapboxes, bulletins, letter cols, and even the ads. Yes, the ads. 

I also submitted entries for No-Prizes. 

When I was working in New York, I would sometimes camp outside the Marvel offices at Park Avenue south waiting for anyone (we didn’t know who was who so we figured anyone carrying a portfolio bag was a freelancer) we could hand over our scripts, resumes, artwork. 

I wrote a story for Cap titled, “A Line in the Sand” and one for the X-Men titled, “Monaco” that was inspired by an old Modesty Blaise story that I read. Yes, I love Modesty Blaise.

One time, Alex Ross was signing books at Midtown comics and I didn’t go to work that day. How long was that line? For those who have been to Midtown Comics in West 40th Manhattan, you are close to Times Square. And the line for Alex Ross reached all the way to Port Authority.

When I got up to Alex, he asked, what do you want me to write? 

I said, “Can you write, ‘Happy Birthday, Ricky?’”

Is it your birthday now?

It is.

Got proof of that? Your driver’s license?

I showed him my license and Alex stood up and said, “It’s Rick’s birthday today and I’m signing all his books.” Some guys in the line said, “It’s my birthday too!”

Yeah, yeah, laughed off Alex.

During book signings in the US, you can only have two or three books signed at one time. if you have any more, you go back to the end of the line to have the rest signed. It is actually good practice. Except that isn’t practiced here.

Unfortunately, I lost almost all those Alex Ross books – signed Marvels, Kingdom Come, and the over-sized treasury editions to Ondoy. Only three survived Ondoy – Mythology, Liberty and Justice, and a sketch book. I do have video of that signing with Alex but it is on Video8 cassette. 

I have been able to buy back all those lost Alex Ross works and more. However, they are not signed.

Jiggy asked me to distill 80 years or my 50-plus years on this Earth reading Marvel into my three stories that define an era.

I chose X-Men #137 The death of Jean Grey/Phoenix because this was a storyline that ran for 40 issues over a four-year span. The comics if I am not mistaken were bi-monthly for a while. The gradual story made it a great one. There was anticipation and proper development of an X-Men canon that still exists to this day.

My copies of Daredevil #227-233 that I bought way back in 186-87.

I chose the Daredevil “Born Again” arc from #227-223. That was the beginning of these grim and gritty stories. Frank Miller brought a crime noir storytelling approach to comics and became the template for everyone wannabe who shows a hero’s breakdown and descent into madness before finding redemption. Plus, it is a powerful story that even the Netflix version of DD borrowed from.

And lastly, Marvels by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross. Aside from the different point of view of the story – an ordinary man – this brought to fore painted comics. Deep story telling returned (that Busiek brought to Astro City). It was also a series that made Easter Eggs popular; ones that were copied heavily by the MCU.

The second time I stopped reading Marvel and comics in general was four years ago. I stopped because I was not happy with this Captain America as a Nazi storyline, the legacy characters, and constant reboots. Plus, I was upset at what marvel was doing to the X-Men. You cannot tell me that Cyclops is a bad guy and that One More Day is a good story by any chance. 

I went back after one dinner with now Marvel Editor-in-chief CB Cebulski. I joined Jiggy Cruz, Leinil Yu, and CB for dinner at BGC and he took me aside. Both CB and I read the same comics, liked the same creators, and felt generally the same about what was wrong with comics today. He also knew that I had stopped reading and sold a lot of my comics after I got pissed.

CB asked me, “What can I do to make you go back to reading Marvel?”

I cited three things:
1.    Send the original X-Men back to their era.
2.    End this Cap as a Nazi storyline.
3.   Have these legacy characters go to their own title and put Tor back in Tor, Tony Stark back in Iron Man, and Steve Rogers back as Cap.
4.    Stop all these meaningless crossovers.

CB said “Done” to the first two. The third, he was trying to cut the down and had nixed two of three proposals on his table. 

I do not mind diversity. I just do not think it should be rammed down our throats. You cannot tell me that this character changes his or her persona overnight. That is a joke. If it has been weaved into a storyline over time, then I and I am sure even the older fans can accept it. 

Comics for the younger generation are good. But do not disenfranchise your older readers who made you who you are. The newbies have no track record to begin with.

Anyways, I am back reading The Immortal Hulk (that takes me back to the Bruce Jones days), House of X and Powers of X, and its spin-offs, Venom, and Daredevil. 

I have always been a Marvel fan. I stopped twice, and I don’t think there will be a third time. When that happens, I would have shifted this Mortal Coil.



Thanks to the SuperManila organizers Sandy Sansolis, Jacob & Eric Cabochan, and Ivan Guerrero.