Saturday, May 3

Free Comic Book Day

I'd like to thank Vinnie for the cool free comic books as part of Free Comic Book Day. The nice freebies include Metallix (Future Comics), Skinwalker (Oni Press), Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things (Oni Press), Landis (A-Bomb), Slave Labor Stories, Way of the Rat (Cross Gen) and Transformers: Armada (Dream Wave).
Many thanks to Vinnie and Comic Quest. To support this wonderful tradition, I'll be bringing a pile of copies of my original Angel Ace 2: Hunter's Heart Gaiden to give away free at the store. Here's to a successful Free Comics Day and an increased number of comics readers everywhere.
My New Blog: Lone Wolf and Cherub

I've replaced my old anime-themed blog with a page that is to focus primarily on me as a manga creator and indie comic producer. This will also serve as my online manga production/development diary/journal, both for my ongoing Angel Ace title and anything else that comes into the picture. So that pretty much means anime talk will trickle back here in Stark Raving MAD. Heh.

Anyway, check out how hard yet rewarding it can be to live with high-flying manga superheroines and slinky comic femme fatales. Visit Lone Wolf and Cherub.

Thursday, May 1

The Challenge of the Superfriends

Classic Superhero versus Supervillain fun.

This is a guilty pleasure/nostalgia classic piece that I've been waiting for quite some time now. Warner Brothers finally released the first few episodes of this classic Superfriends cartoon on DVD, which first aired in the late 70s. Unlike the earlier DC Comics-based Superfriends series which saddled the heroes with teenage troublemakers like Zan and Jana (and their space monkey, Gleek), The Challenge of the Superfriends tackles the heroes' battles against their many arch-foes, banded together as The Legion of Doom. Let me tell you... this series is ALL about the villains. We're talking baddies like Captain Cold, Sinestro (He of the Yellow Power ring), Solomon Grundy (whom we learn has a Cajun accent), Bizarro, Giganta (evil jungle girl/growing woman), The Scarecrow, Toymaster, Grodd and more. This show was cool because it was all about heroes versus villains, evil plots hatched around a council room (complete with Lex Luthor banging a gavel) and some pretty wild scenarios. Most of the time the plan would seemingly succeed... at least until the Justice League finally figures out what's going on and turns the tables on the Legion. The fight scene at the end pretty much always has the Legion getting beaten (in non-violent ways, usually). However, in order to aid in show continuity, the baddies almost ALWAYS have an escape plan; of course the good guys don't care since if they caught the villains then, what would they do for the next episode? Heh.
It's all as I remember it; the funny voice acting, 'zooming-light' transitions, the cheezy voiceover blaring "Meanwhile... at the Hall of Justice..." and so much more. This is great stuff. The DVD comes with four episodes, and a couple of extras including some villain files (no hero files though; no big since the baddies are more interesting... heh), episode introductions by one of the series' producers, and a little guessing game. Not bad, but I would have wanted more episodes. Oh well.
I am hoping they come out with the rest of the series soon. Gosh, it's great to watch these cartoons... they don't make them like this anymore.
The Original X2 Story

I went to Comic Quest today, braving the expected holiday crowds. I picked up my weekly haul, which includes a reprint of God Loves, Man Kills, the original X-Men comic on which the just-released movie X2: X-Men United is based, and one of my all-time favorite comics.
There are some cuts though, since the reprint is in the usual comic format while the original material was a larger graphic novel. The art is still excellent, the action great and the story compelling; albeit a bit wordy at times. GLMK is about the X-Men's battle against the plot of a tele-evangelist named William Stryker to exterminate all mutantkind. Stryker comes with the considerable resources of his Stryker Crusade; a fanatical corps of heavily armed paramilitary troops called the Purifiers (led by a woman named Anna; who is replaced in the movie by Deathstrike) and a plan to use the powers of Charles Xavier to carry out his genocidal scheme.
The comic stars the classic X-Men lineup; Cyclops, Storm, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus and Kitty Pryde. A somewhat reformed and more benign Magneto also joins the heroes in this epic story, lending his awesome powers to the defense of mutantkind (and with far less dark motives than Ian McKellen's character in the film).

Wednesday, April 30

Crash Collision

During our X2 screening, I sat beside James Palabay of Culture Crash. As the two manga guys in the group that night, we naturally gravitated towards talking about our favorite topic; our works and how we can improve them. I have been reading Culture Crash from the first issue and have every single copy; I consider myself pretty expert in the series, it's characters and also, it's drawbacks and shortcomings. James asked me my opinions on his best-selling mangazine and told me to be brutally frank. So I was. Heh. To be fair (to myself) I really didn't have to be; I just told it as I saw it, and I hope that James found stuff that he can use to further push the envelope in Culture Crash in terms of story development.

Basically, my one all-important suggestion to James was this; focus on characters and invest in good, solid character development. That's the one thing that I find lacking in most of CC's series; it is rich and abundant with comedy, SD expressions and sight gags, but light on stuff that makes readers feel kinship or closeness for the characters. In general, characters lack depth.
I personally didn't find Airee Collette, the cat-girl protagonist of comedy-fantasy title Cat's Trail , very engaging or sympathetic since you never actually ever got into her head. After 10 issues, I have no idea what kind of person she is, or if she even really cares about her compatriots Polaris and Butler. Why should I care about her when she seems outwardly to be a self-serving, larcenous pickpocket? I think it would benefit all the stories in CC if they show sides to each character which make them more human, rather than anime caricatures.

On the plus side, the latest issue of CC does indeed seem to be finally heading for more plot, with particularly status-quo shaking events happening in One Day, Isang Diwa. CC already has the production and art down pat; if they up the ante with likeable, deep characters and a compelling plot... that would be something to look forward to.

Now I have to keep upping the ante and pushing the envelope in Angel Ace as well. Heh.
X2: X-Men United

An X-cellent sequel.

Thanks to Cams, the whole gang (along with James of Culture Crash) spent the night watching the sequel to one of the best comic book-to-movie translations yet filmed. I've read tons of reviews raving about the film, about how it's SO much better than the original, and how kick-ass it is overall. So, how did I like it?

Pretty much, actually. Though I had issues. X2 is based on one of my most beloved comic stories of all: the original X-Men graphic novel, God Loves Man Kills. Well, X2 doesn't live up to the source material. Oh well. Taken as it is, though, the X2 movie really isn't bad at all. Yes, it IS better than the first movie. It ups the ante. It pushes the envelope and then some.
The returning X-Men cast have sunken into their roles more comfortably, though no one will obviously be winning any acting awards for this film. What makes up for this is the seemingly endless cascade of fanboy service, references to the comic books and a wealth of quite exceptionally shot and choreographed action sequences.

Minor Spoilers Ahead

Rating high on the Awesome scale for me in X2 are:

The brilliantly executed opening sequence in the White House. Nightcrawler is just perfectly realized, complete with German accent and brimstone. Can you say... BAMF? Heh. Teleportation rules.

Mystique KICKS ASS. And what a lovely ass that is, too. I just have to say that the movie version just blows away anything in the comics. Screw the Wolverine solo movie. Give Rebecca Romjin-Stamos a Mystique-starrer. All her scenes are action-packed and exciting, and she just dominates the screen whenever she appears. Bad to the bone she may be but I can't help but feel jealous at Magneto for having his own personal blue shapeshifter at his beck and call.

The assault on the mansion is tightly shot with the right amount of suspense, super powers and yes, berserker rage.

LOTS of X-kids seeing action. Kitty Pryde and a certain Russian...Heh.

Deathstrike is X2's version of Darth Maul. She kicks ass. She also hardly speaks...

Magneto's jailbreak. My God. I may just stop taking iron tablets now...

Pyro is X2's version of Anakin. This minor character has some hot scenes (heh).

Mutants versus mutants. Mutants versus soldier guys. Lots of action all around!

The Deathstrike-Wolverine duel. DAMN that must hurt...

And now, for the Not-so-Cool scale...

Brian Cox may be a great actor, but he just looks too nice and fatherly to me to be too menacing as villain William Stryker. And his tin soldiers just pale in comparison to the graphic novel's Purifiers...

Iceman goes home... Yawn...

The Blackbird versus the air force. No matter how cool, tornadoes just aren't as effective as missiles...

Deathstrike is X2's Darth Maul... which means she's way cool, but underused and won't be coming back for X3...

The finale was just overlong. Too many scenes, too many shifts and plot twists and events that kinda dragged, and it eventually bogged down and got awkward. Sigh. Still, comic fans will LOVE what happens in the end...

Professor X's heavy-handed visit to the President. I throw your line back to you, Professor. "Whenever you feel like showing off... Don't."

The BIG thing that happens in the end. No precursors to it. Where did that come from? Oh well. At least it bodes well for the future.

While this movie is entitled X-Men United, I am very sure each of us in the gang have VERY different opinions. But, after all is said and done, I liked it. A lot, actually. The show was exciting and breathtaking at parts, though there were some iffy parts and the final act kinda dragged. Still, the action rocked and the characters are still pretty cool and it can only get even better. At the very least I am looking forward to the DVD release. Yep, that will be swell.

Just give us more Mystique. More... Heh.

Tuesday, April 29

X-cited. X-static. X-pectant.

Tonight the gang will watch a premier showing of X2: X-Men United(Saw that coming, didn’t you?). The show starts (supposedly) early, so I will have to make it a point to disembark from the Salt Mines as soon as I can. To this end, I have already bribed several of the guards to allow me passage via an abandoned aqueduct. Several other prisoners from my cell block have been promised freedom as well. Little do they know all they will profit from distracting the main garrison will be a quick and painless death. Hahahaha…

Ahem. Predictably, there will be reviews aplenty from our blogger clique. Arnold has specifically asked me to either minimize or clearly mark any spoilers. Heh. Anyway, this sequel looks awesome, from the trailers and features I’ve watched online to the many rave reviews to the awesome source material; the first X-men graphic novel, God Loves Man Kills. I kinda know what happens since I ventured a look into the comic adaptation (I love spoilers) but I pretty much know that the comic adaptation is NOTHING like the actual film.
Hope this night will be free of any wrinkles, but I will expect a long, boring pre-movie show, long, crowded lines and your requisite struggle to get some decent popcorn.
On the other hand, I also hope for a healthy, entertaining conversation about the film after the show with the group.

Later then!


Forgot that I deserve some butt-whupping after messing up the blog AGAIN after swearing just a day or two ago to never fiddle with the template at the office. Bad Mad. BAAAADDD...
Back to Abnormal

Thanks to our Webmistress Supreme, Cynthia, Stark Raving MAD's back to being it's eye-burning, rant and rave-filled self. Thanks, Cyn! WOOHOO!

Monday, April 28

Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah 2 Now Available!

The second and concluding part of the wonderfully hilarious and artistically brilliant comic, Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah, is now available!

To recap, Zsa Zsa is all about a gay beautician named Ada whose quiet life of working in his beauty parlor, dreaming about an impossible love with the cute guy next door and dealing with his sassy sidekick Didi is turned upside-down when a rock falls from the sky to hit him on the head while he was showering (exhale!). Like the magical stone from the Darna mythos, the rock imbues the person who swallows it and utters the word ‘Zaturnnah’ with super abilities. It also, apparently, causes a gender switch, turning gay Ada into a totally female sex bomb superheroine named Zsa Zsa!
In the first issue, Zsa Zsa battles several threats that appear from out of nowhere to menace his/her hometown; first a giant frog, and then a plague of zombies. Fortunately, Zsa Zsa is able to conquer along with the aid of her friends, Dodong and Didi. However, the real threat revealed itself at the end… in the form of Alien Women from Outer Space calling themselves The Amazonistas from Planet XXxxx…

In the concluding issue, Zsa Zsa must gather all her courage, strength and hutzpah to take on the Amazonistas, particularly their Queen; the hifallutin' Femina. The Battle of The Sexes begins like you’ve never seen it before!

Anyone who reads Zsa Zsa simply has to fall in love with the wonderfully hilarious dialogue (which contains quite a lot of tagalog and local references), the brilliant art and action sequences and fresh presentation. Aside from the action and comedy, Zsa Zsa also has deeper and less obvious themes of being honest and true to one’s self, the need for love and acceptance and the courage to go on with or without it, and the true meaning of being a hero. I heartily recommend this to anyone who loves to laugh, cry and simply have fun with a good story, comics or not.
Zsa Zsa # 2 (Art and Story by Carlo Vergara) is sold at Comic Quest for Php120. Get your copy NOW before they run out!

And in closing, congratulations to Carl for selling through the roof and breaking even with the first issue! Zsa Zsa’s a certified hit! And for the record, I AM serious about that Angel-Zsa Zsa crossover, Carl. Heh...

Sunday, April 27

Blood-soaked Battle Royale 2 Trailer!

The latest trailer to the late Kinji Fukasaku's black-comedy/social commentary/survival-action classic, Battle Royale, has hit the web. Upping the ante by about 200 percent, BR2 takes place some time after the first movie and yet again throws a batch of young Japanese teens into a meat grinder of a situation. The new batch of fresh meat, er, talent is pitted against the survivors of the first film (Shuya Nanahara, who's now a professional revolutionary and terrorist). Many of the scenes remind me of the Omaha beach landing scene from Saving Private Ryan. Except in Japanese. Heh.
The bad news is that the trailer is in Windows Media, not Quicktime. Still, see it if you're a BR fan. Lots of blood, violence and Japanese screaming. Oh, my. Download the BR2 trailer here.
Comic Quest Blog

My friend Vinnie, owner/proprietor of my favorite blood donation center, Comic Quest, has finally been persuaded (he'd say coerced... don't mind him) into entering the wonderful world of blogging. Vin's a writer and a romantic at heart, and without a doubt has tons of stuff to talk and write about; from the endless parade of customers and personalities he has to deal and converse with over the counter, to the wealth of fantasy stories he has gleaned from a lifetime of living and working around comics and toys (He's working on his future opus, Twilight Empires, even now). Check out his new blog, My Life As A Bed.