Saturday, March 1

Vanilla Coke

In a direct contrast to last Saturday when everyone was present and only Mike and I were absent, everyone was out elsewhere leaving us in the shop. We eventually decided not to go out and just have some food for takeout (Tropical Hut hamburgers) and get some eats for home from a shop along Katipunan. Well, both of us found cans of Vanilla Coke which we scooped up en masse like we were stocking up a bomb shelter. I tried one, and it tastes nice... the vanilla comes out quite distinctly as an aftertaste, reminding me of cream soda. Really nice, subtle flavor. Ah.
Anyway, it's Saturday but DAMN, once again, work intrudes. I have to go to see the edited version of the TV commercial we shot just before noon. Depending on how good the edit is, I may have to stay there for a couple of hours or more. My Greenhills foray may be compromised if my luck turns bad. DAAAAAAMMMMNN. There is no justice...

Anyway, I should be able to join the Saturday nightout. I will try to bring along pages to show, both from Angel Ace and Immacolata. I hope the guys are in a good talking mood. Miss the pleasure.

Friday, February 28

Talk is cheap. Write.

I’ve said some pretty strong stuff on the recent Mars Ravelo’s Darna release, generally that I was disappointed that it didn’t do anything new. So, just WHAT constitutes new, or updated to me? Am I just ranting and blowing off words but not having anything to give constructively? Well, far be it for me to be like a crappy expat I once met who could do nothing but shoot down things without giving things back. If I had the reins and the moolah... How would I have done Darna? Here’s my take.

If I could, I’d draw Darna myself, perhaps though slightly more serious than the style I use in my own comic, Angel Ace. Not too manga-ish, but it would be recognizable as my style. I want expressive faces, facial expressions and impishness.
Now, who would our protagonist be? How would the story open? What would be the enemy she’d face?
First of all, my Narda wouldn’t be uber-gorgeous. At least, not right away. She’ll be reasonably attractive, but understated. She’s more brains than looks, punctuated by her conservative attire. She wouldn’t stand out from her barkada of pretty girls. In fact, I would go to great lengths to have her best friend be a GORGEOUS Krush ng Bayan girl, who other people would think is actually Darna out of costume. Narda’s smart, she’s not very sociable and a bit of a loner; but this conceals a good heart that is always looking out for her more frivolous friends, and someone who has some funny quirks; perhaps she loves reading comics. Perhaps she likes sappy ballads. She’s a romantic and a dreamer. There’s a guy who likes her, but on a curve note, he seems to be fixated on finding out who Darna is, and Narda is the LAST person he would suspect. He'd try to help out and generally be like a sidekick (perhaps like a more helpful Ron Stoppable to Darna's Kim). Oh, and I’d name the guy Ding. Heh.
Anyway, Narda inherited the magical stone from her grandma. She was told the secret when she became a young woman at 13, and ever since she has been using the power to avert crisis and catastrophe, stopping supernatural menaces and threats to the people. In between all that, she has to go through college and live in a dorm with some ecclectic characters; her whistlebait best friend, a hippie girl and perhaps a goth girl. Kinda like MTV’s Real World. Heh.
The enemy I guess should be Valentina, or a descendant of the original. Valentina may be the daughter or offspring/clone of the earlier villain defeated by Narda’s grandmother. The rivalry lives on.
Anyway, Valentina will have her organization (Cobra!!!) or cult that follows her and worships her as a goddess. Have faceless snake-themed minions, and of course an elite cabal of higher-ups to directly serve the Big V. Their goal is world domination of course.
Since political, entertainment and religious quarters have already been used as a vehicle for the snaky villainess, let’s try something different.
How about Cyberspace?
Recently, a wave of powerful and deadly viruses called snakes (more powerful than worms) are infesting hard drives, and manifesting a hypnotic screensaver that is causing youths to perpetrate crimes in Valentina’s name. Who is doing this? Where is the Snake coming from? Is Valentina really behind it?
Aside from having a younger incarnation of Valentina, she will have her followers protect her hacker ally and search for Darna.
Fighting should be dynamic, taking cues from manga (get from the best). There should be hard hitting battles and fights, instead of one-panel punches and splash pages. Darna will have strength, flight and fighting skill, plus probably the power to heal or repel evil. She should be aware of her enemy, and vice-versa… this is a war of wits as well as fists.
The stakes get higher as the crimes of the mesmerized youths begin to escalate. Narda will have to find out how to trace the source, eventually perhaps trying to infiltrate the Snake cult. Will she be able to do so without falling herself under Valentina’s spell? In the end it will be Narda’s personality, her grounded self, which will allow her to resist, and that’s why SHE’S Darna in the first place.
But what if her friends get involved as well? The climax or a major battle will be a rave where Valentina herself will manifest from the screens (Shades of Sadako) and incite a wave of violence throughout the city… unless Darna somehow manages to save the day.

Rough, top-of-mind, spur of the moment. That’s how I’d do Darna. Is it necessarily better than the released comic? Maybe, maybe not. Just wanted to show that I can give out as well as I give in. Or something like that. Whatever. Moving on...

Thursday, February 27

Where there's smoke there's...

Thanks to a surprisingly light load (relatively), I was able to slip out of the office early. On the way to Megamall I decided to stop at EDSA Shangri-La to check out some VCDs. As I was browsing, Camille texted me with some alarming news; There was a fire at the mall. Apparently, people were scampering away from the building, and she and Jason were already out of the area. I called Mike at Comic Quest to see how he was doing in the 'inferno'. Predictably, it was business as usual, so I decided to brave Ground Zero and get my weekly bloodletting.
Well, apart from some hurried walkers here and there, Megamall seemed all's well despite the so-called fire. As I crossed over from building B to A, I began to see closed shops and darkened floors above me. Yep, something happened, yet I did not know what. I got to the store and chatted with Mike and got to tell some tasteless fire jokes. Anyway, I picked up the latest Previews, Elektra and a Wizard Anime Insider mag. Afterwards, I went over to The Podium to have dinner with Carl, Jason and Cams.
We stayed at Thai In a Box, and I had a really tasty Thai T-bone Steak with Mixed Fried Rice. Yum. Over the spicy food we talked about stuff, including recent stuff like the Darna comic, Carl's progress with Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah and the recently-released Hinirang article in Computerworld Philippines magazine.
After dinner, we walked around the mall, stopping by at Best Sellers (the mini-National Bookstore at Podium), the Beauty Bar for Cams, a toy and games shop and Data Blitz.

Later, we piled into Cam's car and headed off. I got dropped off at my usual place, and the night was done. Later I would find out from the news that the whole commotion at Megamall was due to a fire in the Singing Cooks and Waiters restaurant at the 4th Floor. It took firemen an hour to get things under control, but in the meantime surrounding shops closed down. Despite this though, it was pretty much business as usual as even the cinemas remained open. At least, no one got killed or even hurt in this little incident, which is all that matters.
Elektra Lives! (Some Spoilers Ahead)

Twentieth Century Fox has announced that there will be a pseudo-sequel to the recently-released Marvel Comics movie adaptation, Daredevil. However, this new film will focus not on the titular blind superhero. Rather, it will be all about the sexy, formidable and deadly Elektra, whose life and adventures will continue despite having gotten herself KILLED at the end of the movie.
In the comics, Elektra Natchios, the daughter of Greek tycoon Nicolas Natchios and the girlfriend of Matt Murdock AKA Daredevil, is killed in battle with the assassin Bullseye. She is later resurrected by the ninja cult known as The Hand, and turned into a killing machine. These events will most likely be the material to be used for the future Elektra movie. Actress Jennifer Garner will reprise her role in this new film.
The Elektra movie is set to begin script development immediately. Also, a proper sequel to the Daredevil film is also in the works.
All I can say is... They'd better get the costume right THIS time.
Shooting Day 2

Yesterday I attended the second and last shooting day of our new TV commercial. As the day before I had to go all the way to the boondocks of Rizal. For the most part all I had to do was sit around, watch TV monitors, wait for shots to be set, eat catered meals and get sunburned. On the way home though it was kinda nice to just look at the very pastoral scenery of Antipolo City. Despite being a 'city', Antipolo has a very rural feel, in the size of the buildings and shops and the smallness of everything. It's very quaint, especially when you consider large parts of the place are still uninhabited stretches of mountain road, unlit by lampposts. There are though a large number of resorts, motels and restaurants/grills which are islands of light in the darkness due to the copious amounts of pinlights that decorate their premises like it was Christmas. Heh.
Anyway, I got back home pooped again. Good thing today's another 'normal' day. Back to the salt mines at work, not in the boondocks. Got a lot to catch up on. Gotta remember to keep taking those vitamins...

Tuesday, February 25

Shooting Day

Today, I got up in the morning when I should have been sleeping till noon. I had to go to a shoot for a TV commercial we had done at the office. Well, that pretty much means I have to stand or sit around as our production crew set up a shot, wait for adequate sunlight to pop out of the clouds, and shoot. Unlike some other shoots, this was an on-location shoot that had us all packing to got to the literal boondocks in Rizal. There the work commenced at what I learned was a quarry. With goats, ducks, turkeys, pigeons (How John Woo!) and curious barrio folk watching, the production crew, cast, agency and client did their things to finish the commercial as soon as humanly possible. Of course, that pretty much means the WHOLE day.
Well, I really didn't have to do anything save stare at a monitor, nod and mumble approvingly and wait for the next free meal, or grab a drink from the ice box. That's the good thing about TV shoots; since we're clients, the production house crew treat us like kings. Well, like VIPs, anyway. To an extent. The bad thing was, I was pretty much trapped there when I would have much preferred just getting shut-eye at home to catch up on my comics, DVDs and sidelines. No such luck. Oh well.
Anyway, the shoot involved some stunts, so we had paramedics on standby (who looked like SWAT for some reason), stuntmen and of course, attractive talents. In particular I'd probably remember our female talent, who seemed to be hyper the whole time; pretty amusing. Generally, everything went smoothly, though by the time we called it a wrap it was about 6 PM.

I arrived home a couple of hours later; I had the service car drop me at home. No more strength or appetite to go out. I just plopped into bed and turned my brain off as I watched The Blair Witch Project on cable (still creepy after all this time, but diluted. Now THAT is a shoot I would be sure to beg off of...). Another thing I caught on cable was Fist of God (I think), a Samo Hung Hong Kong movie that was, once upon a time, supposed to be the live-action Tekken movie. The story is, Namco disapproved of the project and one lawsuit later, everything Tekken-ish was taken out (though two of the heroes still resemble Jin and Hwoarang from the game). What is left is a far-out futuristic tale of evil super-powered dictators, mutant monsters, deadly toxic gases and of course, lots of bad CG. Oh well. Samo got screwed by Namco, but at least the game makers got their desserts with that HORRID Tekken anime. Heh.

Anyway, tomorrow we shoot again. Then it will be back to the office. And normal desk work. I should enjoy these outings whenever I can. Too tired to do so most of the time though.
Got Darna Redux (Spoilers inside)

I spent the after work hours with Mike at Comic Quest, and we talked about stuff. One of the things we discussed was the recent Darna release. I have to admit, while I really would like them to succeed and meant everything I said in the earlier post, even this latest and probably greatest interpretation of the Darna character has its glaring flaws. After reading and re-reading the issue, I have to give some more in-depth comments.

For one, the script, while having no grammatical errors or anything that made me laugh for a wrong reason, was pretty unspectacular. It broke no new ground, explored no new avenues or plots twists for the character. Almost everything in the story is expected and pretty much 'been there, done that', from an opening sequence of a terrorist attack and Darna's entrance and subsequent pummelling of the baddies, to the eventual cliffhanger ending with a familiar villain making an appearance. Generally there's a lack of any feeling of tension or dramatic pacing/timing; there's a scene of carnage which is supposed to communicate terror or something sinister, but all I can recall is an overly-sexy mayor fainting.
In terms of the art, I'm all for fan service but I think the art went overboard with Narda and her friends' wardrobes. No wonder they got targetted by some rich kid maniacs for kidnapping. Anyway, said-abduction was apparently just a way of flashing back to Darna's origin, which I am told is the original version (though I do not recall earlier Darna incarnations appearing). Anyway, Ryan Orosco's and Gilbert Monsanto's work is clean and well done, but again, like the writing, surprisingly unspectacular. Expressions are vacant and lack personality and character. Overall, sexy but we've seen it before, but better, in comics like Fathom and Witchblade. A little more dynamic panelling, action scenes and angles could have done wonders. As it is, the fight scenes are through-the-motion ordinary; a kick here, a punch there. Nothing special.
Also, IMO they should have used the art for their cool poster (one of which apparently got stolen from Comic Quest today) for the cover, to evoke a 'new' feel and the coming of the new take for the heroine. The present cover image is adequate, but doesn't blow me away as it should. It just doesn't. Oh well.

For me though, I am most disappointed with the fact that this newest Darna once again fails to give me a humanized, unique, personable character in Darna/Narda. Who is Darna? Who is Narda? We don't see any personality in her, nothing to latch onto or like. Once again, she's just an archetype. If that's really the way it is, then so be it. But I had wanted to see something new. Oh well. That's why I prefer manga in my comics, and in how I DO my comics.

Mars Ravelo's Darna is an okay novelty purchase for fans of the character or just for those feeling nostalgic. The art is indeed nice and the colors will no doubt impress those who aren't too sophisticated or picky. However, I don't know if masa readers can stomach a 120-peso purchase for a 32-page comic that isn't 'sulit' in my opinion since it's not a finished story. I wish Mango Comics all the luck and despite all my gripes, I hope that Darna finishes it's whole 3-issue run.
Colored pages, sexy but empty art, plain story and bland writing. Is this the best Darna can be? All I need is to look at Carlo Vergara's Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah to see that this doesn't necessarily have to be so.

Mars Ravelo's Darna # 1 is available now at Comic Quest and leading comic and bookstores, Php120.00, full color, 32 pages.

Monday, February 24

There is no justice.

It's a non-working holiday tomorrow in commemoration of the People Power Revolution, yet I will be WORKING. We have a shoot for a TV commercial which will have us working for the day. Thankfully, we will probably be packing up before nightfall, though I will probably go home immediately so I can work on some pages. ARGH. BAH. Graggle-snaggle frumble-grumble...

Sunday, February 23

New Immacolata stuff

I've finally finished inking the new pages of the Immacolata update. I'll try to color them within this week. Anyway, here's a peek at some of the new characters; Del Sol Camorra, some augmented Taoso hunting-beasts and Del's maniacal Manica. Hopefully we'll be seeing them all in full color on the Hinirang site soon.

Del Sol Camorra wants to play with Immacolata.

Cursed into even beastlier form, the Taoso want a second stab at Imma.

The Manica are magical/mechanical constructs that follow Del's every whim.
Odds and Ends

Yesterday we didn't have our usual Saturday Night Out (which so amazed my mom when she came home to find me in my room), so I just had my Greenhills foray and went straight home after. I was able to experience some odds and ends.

Combat Mission
For one thing, I was able to watch the new(?) reality-TV gameshow Combat Mission, on Studio 26. The game's host is Rudythe scrappy old navy seal who endeared himself to millions in the first Survivor. Well, apparently Mark Burnett (the producer of the Survivor shows and various others) was so impressed with Rudy, he made him the host of this military-themed game show. How can I describe it? Live Counterstrike. The show's contestants are all male and of more-or-less high fitness quality. There are two teams that embark on combat missions that may either be training exercises or actual battles which involve them accomplishing an objective with shadowy enemy soldiers providing opposition. Of course, they use only blank ammo but kills are easily registered when they happen, and as per the rules anyone 'killed' has to sprawl to the ground. It seems pretty difficult; one team totally lost control and got several guys killed before they were extracted. The second team was able to accomplish their mission without a scratch, but were ambushed on their way back, losing all but one man. Ouch.
Anyway, like Survivor, losing teams have to vote out a man at the end of the show (in this case, it's 'discharged'), though for a limited time they get to replace that loss with a fresh man they choose via dossiers. After a while though, losses will be permanent and a team will have to deal with going undermanned.
It was a pretty hammy show, and Rudy talks like a robot, but it looks fun. I got the impression though that the show's appeal is limited, and the contestants are ALL men (and apparently from law enforcement or military backgrounds). Not a show I'd make a point to watch.

Black and Bruised for PS2
I was able to get a copy of the new PS2 boxing game Black and Bruised. It uses 3-D graphics with cel-shading, resulting in very cartoony, over the top characters. The gameplay is suitably unrealistic, with power-ups like super punches and speed boosts mixing it up with combos. I don't usually like boxing games, but this one roped me in with fun character designs (my favorite is the geisha/martial artist, Maiagaru), a funny story mode and pretty smooth animation. You can read my full review of the game here.

Pages... More pages...
Continued drawing pages for the Immacolata update, and it should be done this week. Was able to pencil a couple more Angel Ace pages too.

Kim Possible
Ah. Got to watch a new episode of my favorite spy teen. A pretty cool episode where Kim has to go on a mission with her twin brothers. Best of all, Drakken and my fave Shego are in it too. I really love the anime/Hong Kong martial arts movie influence this cartoon has in the way Kim and Shego move and fight. I REALLY REALLY REALLY want a DVD or VCDs of this series. I like it that much. Someday...

Last Action Hero
Got to catch this classic stinker on AXN. It's an old Arnold Schwarzenegger film about movies coming to life, and with a fantasy story like that it should be great. But for some reason, it isn't. An uneven script which is too serious for it's own good a lot of the time, humor that falls FLAT all the time, an uncharismatic kid sidekick, bad execution and bad dialogue consign this as the movie that started Ah-nuld's fall from power. But guess what? Gandalf/Magneto is in it! Yep, I only realized last night Ian McKellen appears near the end as Death from The Seventh Seal. Funny.

Well that's that for now. Later then.