Friday, September 8


After my long Avatar gush, I would like to say that the adventures of Aang is a model or a standard by which I wish to place my new comic concept/idea against. It's called Hiniranga (pronounced "Hinirang-gah"), which is basically and literally, a manga comic based on the Comic Quest gang's shared Filipino-themed fantasy world setting of Hinirang.

To reiterate, Hinirang was created a few years ago by the group (the concept was originally hastily put together by myself and Nikki Alfar during one moment of hectic creativity)- a fantasy world based on Spanish-era Philippines, with mythical indigenous creatures and magic mixing with the local conflict of native Filipinos and tribes against foreign occupational forces. There have been many contributions and attempts to bring Hinirang to life- mostly through prose fiction from the group writers, and through a pretty cool but ultimately doomed website. Comics based in Hinirang were often thought out, but rarely ever materialized, except maybe through an Immacolata webcomic. Aside from that though, nothing yet.

That should be remedied by Hiniranga.

What do I see in Hiniranga? It's not really an anthology, though multiple side stories may be installed, if need be. Basically I want to tackle one adventure in particular. Simple enough- a band of heroes must come together for a cause. This cause must transcend their individual pasts and backgrounds. I am seeing a diverse cast of protagonists- a party of adventurers that kick ass. Almost assuredly in the book will be Immacolata, the super-powered heroine created by Dean Alfar. I am not sure though it the "Fury of Hinirang" will be an actual part of the party, or just an ally/occasional comrade. The rest of the roster is as yet undecided, but shadows of images are already in my mind. A disgraced man of faith. A wealthy scion with a secret. A rebel warrior. An elite Ispancialo soldier. A half-breed. A sorceress. They're there, beckoning, but as yet are awaiting to be formed.

Hiniranga will, obviously have manga-style art and storytelling to keep it updated to the times and because that's how I work. What am I thinking of seeing? I am seeing skirmishes between armored Conquistadores backed by warrior-prayles (friars) engaging with acrobatic, ninja-like Kali-Arnis rebel warriors aided by mangkukulam hexers. I want to see Tikbalang cavalry and flying vintas. I want to see magic cannons and pistolas, walking bahay-kubos and Higantes bashing against the Ispancialo's Great Fortresses. I want to see expeditions into haunted caves, lost barangays and mysterious ruins. AWESOME. I want to see Hinirang as its never been seen before.

Is it possible? Who knows. It's still very early but I want to have stuff ready. At the very least, I may have something ready for the Komik Kon. I'll also want to study the work of artists who are more versed into doing local-themed stuff, like Andong Agimat's Arnold Arre, or perhaps Gerry Alanguilan. I'll also see about getting inputs from the rest of the creators of Hinirang. It'll be interesting to see how far this can go.

It begins here.
More Avatar Gushing

It's been almost a month since the last new Avatar: The Last Airbender installment, and I'm pretty much starved for the next episodes. The Fury of Aang left off with a big cliffhanger and white-out, but hopefully the upcoming Secret of the Fire Nation will fill that void in quite nicely. The story picks up soon after Fury with the Aang Gang heading off to the Earth Kingdom capital of Ba Sing Se, that mysterious place that has recently been glimpsed at through videos of the Avatar exhibit/showing during the recent San Diego Comic Con. Similar to the grandness of Imperial China, Ba Sing Se is almost a character in itself after all the times it has been mentioned or referred to by various characters in the series so far. It will be awesome to see it in motion and how the cast interacts within it's high walls.

Also headed for the capital are the series anti-heroes, exiled Prince Zuko and his uncle, General Iroh (who was voiced by the late Mako). On their separate route to Ba Sing Se, they meet up with a returning character- but is this familiar face a new friend, or enemy?
On top of all this, the evil Fire Nation continues it's relentless attack on the Earth Kingdom, led by the ruthless Princess Azula. This time, they're armed with a terrifying new weapon that may change the course of the war. What is it? Well, we'll just have to wait till next week, September 15, to find out everything about The Secret of the Fire Nation.

Some cool stuff that has been so far revealed online about Avatar- because it IS one of the most popular and acclaiimed animation shows these days, the third season has already been confirmed. This third chapter, perhaps the "Book of Fire", will follow Aang's adventures as Aang faces his destiny and his greatest enemy- the Fire Lord Ozai- with the fate of the world at stake.
A very tantalizing tidbit was mentioned on Newsarama recently that there has been talk of further seasons. Supposedly, any further adventures of Aang will continue after the end of the war with the Fire Nation. As a fan it's just awesome for me to imagine what could be done after, what other characters can be seen, what lands can be explored or stories to be told. Will Aang try to revive his race of Airbenders? What will become of his relationship with Katara? Will he and Zuko ever be friends? Avatar is, in my humble opinion, one of the best animated shows I have ever seen... if it can go on indefinitely, I would be overjoyed. This show just deserves to go on. And on. And on.

Avatar: Secret of the Fire Nation, a 2-part one hour special, will premiere next week on September 15. Once again, too bad local Nickelodeon STILL hasn't gone beyond Season 1 re-runs of Avatar. I recommend several ways to get your hands on this awesome title- buy the US Dvds (A full set of Season 1 is coming), look for it in local anime shops or download the show online via bittorrent. Avatar is worth the effort hunting down, people. It's that great.

Darn. September 15 can't come soon enough.

Thursday, September 7

Retro Animation Action

"Demon Dogs!!!"

One of the coolest cartoon shows I enjoyed during my youth was the Ruby-Spears cartoon Thundarr the Barbarian, an action-packed series set in a bleak future. As mentioned in the show's opener, a rogue comet passes between Earth and the Moon, causing worldwide destruction (of course, since this is a US cartoon, death isn't actually shown though obviously BILLIONS surely died). Centuries later, humans exist alongside mutants and other weird creatures in a new, violent and dangerous pre-historic/midieval world built on the bones of our time. Rising to power in this era are men and women calling themselves Wizards, capable of wielding sorcery, super-science (as per the show's literature) or a combination of both. Typically, these Wizards are evil and oppressive, enslaving any humans or innocent sentient beings unlucky enough to fall into their domains.

Emerging from a Wizard's slave pits is the titular Thundarr, a barbarian warrior who for one reason or another pledges himself to ridding the world of Wizards and protecting the remnants of mankind. Accompanied only by two other allies- the Chewbacca-like Ookla the Mok and the knowledgeable and beautiful Princess Ariel, Thundarr is off to fight for the freedom of mankind. It's unavoidable to mention Thundarr's uber-cool weapon of choice- the Sun Sword, a lightsabre-like weapon which allows Thundarr to kick Wizardly butt. The Sun Sword had one of the most awesome sound effects ever, and it's just a pity that there were never any Thundarr toys back then- I would have loved a Sun Sword toy. Darn.

Thundarr himself was your typical barbarian hero- course, rough and fearless and suitably LOUD. Chewie- I mean, Ookla speaks only in his growly language, so most of the articulate lines are said by the culture-savvy Ariel, who seems pretty well-versed in ancient customs and technology (modern-day stuff to us). A lot of the show's scant humor is taken from the ignorance of the main heroes to stuff we take for granted today. But then, Thundarr isn't a gag show- it's all about heroes battling monsters and magical villains in a post-apocalyptic earth.
Every episode saw Thundarr and friends battle a Wizard-of-the-Week. There is, in my recollection, only one actual recurring villain, the Wizard Gemini, who is actually one of the freakiest character designs in the show (and there were a TON of freaky designs for both characters and monsters in this show). For the most part, the animation of Thundarr were of high quality for the time. Comic fans will note that Thundarr's art and character designs bring to mind the art of comics legend Jack Kirby, and is similar in tone, mood and setting as Kirby's Kamandi, Last Boy on Earth. This is because Kirby DID actually work on the series, taking over with production design on Thundarr after the original artist, Alex Toth, left the project. Comic fans will then notice that the Wizard Gemini has a distinct resemblance to Darkseid, one of Kirby's creations.

Sadly, Thundarr lasted only for about a couple of seasons, with the second season being a bit shorter than the first. There was never really any closure. All we can assume is that Thundarr continues on his Wizardfighting days indefinitely... at least, until the time that he became a King by his own Hand. Perhaps someday, this tale will also be told. Hmm...

I'm glad to be able to find episodes online thanks to Bittorrent, so now I am able to rewatch Thundarr's adventures. Truly a cool relic of my youth that I should store and cherish even in these days of anime and CG-epics. Sometimes, it's just good to kick back and watch something from the good ol' days. Now, if only I could find episodes of Super Seven and Mighty Man and Yukk...

Tuesday, September 5

The Next Final Fantasy

It seems like an eternity since the last good Final Fantasy game- Final Fantasy X, as I remember (No, the X-2 spinoff doesn't really count). Since then, we've seen Square-Enix embark on their MMORPG-esque Final Fantasy XI, which is pretty worthless to console solo artists like me. The next true FF, Final Fantasy XII, has seemingly been in development forever, seeing almost cataclysmic changes in designers/producers, delays and re-dos with every update. Well, finally at long last the Japanese version was released in Nippon with flying reviews. The english version is coming and I've read some stuff about the latest FF adventure.

Final Fantasy XII is set in the world of Ivalice, a world gamers familiar with all things Square should know; it's the setting for the classic strategy title, Final Fantasy Tactics. However, this similarity is apparently in name only. You probably won't find much reference to the adventures of Ramza and Delita in this magical/sci-fi world, home to fleets of flying airships and more races of humanoid creatures than a Star Wars cantina. The main story basically deals with a war between the country of Dalmasca and the Empire of Arcadia; Dalmasca's princess, Ashe, marries the prince of a neighboring country in order to forge an alliance. However, when the Empire attacks, the smaller nations' forces are quashed and the princess forced to go into hiding. Eventually, Princess Ashe will meet up with a disparate group of individuals including Vaan, a wannabee Sky Pirate, a disgraced general and more to try and fight for the freedom of their occupied land.

The character designs have that FF-bent... lots of incongruous ruffles and doo-dads all over. However, I have to say that the characters, mainly the human characters, have a blandness which brings to mind... an MMORPG. Gone are the radical designs from previous FF's, replaced by seemingly more generic faces. Perhaps once I actually play the game and get to know these new kids on the block, my impression will prove unfounded. Maybe.
FFXII also features a radically new way of combat, with real-time and strategic elements being melded. No longer will there be random encounters as you will see enemies far-off. There will be new ways to do things like levelling up skills and using summons. Wild stuff for a title that has always been strong with its traditional traits.

Final Fantasy XII seems to be a ways off- it's expected in October. Despite my initial misgivings with character designs, I'm actually quite intrigued wtih the latest FF. Some mags have actually called it the best Final Fantasy yet. We'll see for ourselves when we actually get the game later this year.

Monday, September 4

Thus Endeth the Hunt

It's a sad day when you find out that an icon is no more, and today qualifies as that kind of day. Steve Irwin, AKA "The Crocodile Hunter", died while diving off the north coast of Australia. The dive was with normally-docile stingrays, but in this instance Irwin was stabbed by a barb through the heart, and he died before paramedics could bring him to the hospital. It's a shocking bit of news to read. Mr. Irwin has always been crazy and a risk-taker on his animal forays, but we've all thought that somehow, someway he'd always come through anything safely, and with a smile. I've been endlessly entertained by his over-the-top enthusiasm to give us humans more understanding for nature's creatures. He will indeed be missed.

Rest in peace, Crocodile Hunter. May impressions of your distinct speech and enthusiasm keep your memory alive for years and years to come.

Sunday, September 3

DOA: Dead or Alive International Trailer

Here's the official trailer for the Dead or Alive movie. The first teaser trailer wasn't well-received by viewers, especially fans of the game. The second however, seems to be doing a good job in making people look at this film a second time and considering that it may not be the crapola everyone is assuming it to be.

Honestly now... it has hot babes, hot martial arts action, hot babes in hot bikinis doing hot martial arts action... HOW CAN IT NOT BE GOOD? Seriously though, the movie looks pretty fun and it doesn't, unlike many past fighting game translations to film, seem to take itself too seriously. Can't wait to see this Ultimate Guilty Pleasure movie. The Aussies and Brits get to see it earlier than most everyone else this September, while the US has to wait till October for their DOA Movie fix. As for us in Asia... who knows. I'll just let DVD bins or Bittorrent be my guide. Heh.