Thursday, September 11, 2014

Gabbing about comics with Portland Trailblazer Robin Lopez

Gabbing about comics with Portland Trailblazer Robin Lopez
by rick olivares

Seven-foot Portland Trailblazers center Robin Lopez is an unabashed fan of comic books and all its four-colored glory. “Color me a fan,” said Lopez with unbridled glee.

The American basketball player is in Manila for the first ever Gatorade NBA Training Center as well as some charity work for Yolanda victims in Cebu with Portland teammate Wesley Matthews and former NBA champion and Coach of the Year Avery Johnson.

During a break in the training camp for elite college athletes as well as some pro hopefuls, Lopez took the time to engage in some geek talk.

“My older brothers, Alex and Chris, grew up reading Marvel and DC,” revealed Robin. “Brook and I lean heavier to the DC side. But that doesn’t mean we don’t read other titles. I do. There’s simply a lot out there.”

“I don’t think there is anything wrong with mature comics,” added Lopez. “A lot of what passed for entertainment in the 1950s and 1960s was also heavy and mature. I think as long as it is done the right way then it’s all good. But I like the variety that is out there today for comic book fans. Even for those with no knowledge about them – there are a lot of books that can serve as jumping on points for them.”

In spite of the NBA grind, Lopez finds the time to indulge in what has been a lifelong hobby. “Yeah, there’s down time between practices, film viewing, team meetings, and games. I make sure to get a lot of rest and to focus on the next game we’re playing. But I always find time to read. When you’re a fan, you’re a fan! And my brother and I aren’t the only NBA players who are comic geeks. There’s Kevin Garnett and LeBron James who are also fans. I heard Tim Duncan is another fan too.”

The former Stanford Cardinal took some time to also name his five favorite DC characters. “There’s a lot,” pointed out Lopez. “But naming them would be easy. The Wally West Flash. I love what Mark Waid did for the character – the Speed Force and the Return of Barry Allen storyline are to my mind some of the best Flash stories.”

“I also like Impulse. Another speedster – can you tell I am a Flash fan? (laughs). The Kyle Rayner Green Lantern. The Tim Drake Robin, and Cyclone of the Justice Society of America. These are the characters I grew up reading.”

Of the new DC titles, Lopez is geeking out on Grant Morrison’s “Multiversity,” a limited series from DC’s The New 52 universe that brings back the multiple earths and universes that once populated DC’s line of comics.

“I am a huge Grant Morrison fan. And you can add being a fan of the original multiverse to that so it’s a no-brainer that I am reading ‘Multiversity.’ Captain Carrot never looked so good, man!”

Speaking of books, he’s reading, Lopez said that he would recommend the following to newbies to comic books: “Young Justice. I figure you gotta be young to get into comics and to appreciate them. Young Justice is something they could identify with. I’d also recommend Grant Morrison’s JLA storyline of ‘Rock of Ages’.  The ‘Who is Donna Troy’ story from Teen Titans it a short one but sweet. And I said this earlier, ‘The Return of Barry Allen’ in the Flash. And if there’s a multiverse story that has to be in there, it has to be ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths.’”

Come tip-off in late October, this will be Lopez’ seventh NBA season. While he intends to play in the league for as long as he can, he also hopes to make use of the connections and his popularity as a means to get into comics.

“I have all these ideas in my head. I like coming up with concepts while Brook is the one who writes them. We’re doing a little work now and it would be cool to have them published one day. As a long time fan, that would just be surreal. I hope people will like it though (laughs).”

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Get caught in Araknid’s web of crime and intrigue

Get caught in Araknid’s web of crime and intrigue
by rick olivares

Araknid by writer Lawrence Mijares and artist Dodi San Jose picks up from where Virgilio and Nestor Redondo left off with their 1970 komik, Gagamba Komiks Magazine.

In the Redondo brothers’ komiks, lead heroes Gagamba and Scorpio, are a crime-fighting dynamic duo, a local version of Green Hornet and Kato. In Mijares and San Jose’s modern version, it’s still set in the late 1960s but there’s a wild card thrown in. The crime fighters are in deep trouble against sub-machine gun toting abbots when the mysterious Araknid saves their lives.

Araknid is nothing like Marvel’s Spider-Man but instead looks to be every bit like DC Comics’ Sandman. Not the Neil Gaiman version but Wesley Dodds, the gas-mask wearing member of the Justice Society of America, a noir comic book under the Vertigo imprint as written by Matt Wagner (Grendel) and Steven T. Seagle and initially drawn by Guy Davis who set the tone for the book.

This 32-page book has that same retro feel and it isn’t just old Manila Times newspapers and references to Ferdinand Marcos that make it seem that way. Dodi San Jose’s art is a terrific throwback. And being someone who is into stories set in bygone eras, it was an easy sell for me to pick Araknid up.

I have no idea if this is actually the first release but if it is I wish Mijares took sometime to introduce the characters and situation for a new audience. It’s like I entered the middle of the film not knowing what had transpired earlier. Now if there’s a previous release then it’s my bad.

However, Mijares allows San Jose’s work (that reminds me of American artist Mark Beachum with dashes of Jim Steranko here and there) in black and white to take center stage. He lets the art do all the talking. While the amazingly detailed art is the star here, it sometimes feels disjointed. Some panels are incredibly detailed while others looked rushed with some of the rough pencils clearly evident as they were not erased. There are also some panels where the proportion needs a little work.

My concerns aside, it doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm one bit for Araknid. I love it and look forward to what I hope is a continuing series. 

Check it out!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Kanto Inc. is your tambayan for fun

Kanto Inc. is your tambayan for fun
by rick olivares

My Big Bang Theory is when komik book talents were showered upon these 7,000-plus islands, Joanah Tinio-Calingo and her husband Melvin (otherwise known as ‘Taga-Ilog’) and artist Kilayman were not only gifted with the wacky wit and storytelling chops of Keith Giffen but they were also given an extra funny bone.

Kanto Inc. is the heir to Alamat’s Batch 72.

Kanto Inc. is a rollicking ride through what we love in pop culture – Philippine mythology and the supernatural, mad cap science, comic/komik books, and comedy; and it is a pleasure to read. Perhaps more importantly, it leaves me chuckling in delight; a sure fire way to get me to re-read it and recommend it to the world at large.

It tells the story of Gwen, an over-achiever, and a Nuclear Physics graduate who ends up settling for a job in a call center (a Pinoy Kitty Pryde). After a disastrous conversation with a client over the phone, she gets fired from her job. She ends up being employed by an eccentric millionaire who has a weird knack for hunting down cursed objects and antiques.  

And that’s where all the weird fun gets started!

Gwen accidentally duplicates herself when she looks into a mystical spoon (think Calvin and Hobbes’ awesome transmogrifier). Gwen is possessed when playing a board game (a nod to the early criticism levied at that once famous game Cluedo). And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

There are references and situations that mirror The Ghostbusters and they even pre-date the return of the Sony Walkman in Guardians of the Galaxy film by bringing back Nintendo’s much-loved and Game and Watch.

What makes Kanto Inc. a terrific komik is that the characters are memorable, the writing is fun and flowing, and the art by Kilayman makes every page a delight for the senses. I love the facial expressions of his characters evoke the best of Disney and manga.

Kanto Inc. is the ultimate chill out komik in the local scene today. And best of all, it’s ongoing (five issues and counting).

Interview with Melvin Calingo:
According to Melvin, “Kanto Inc. is basically our take on Philippine mythology, pop culture, local customs, beliefs and traditions. Note that I said "our" take because these stories are very loosely based on our myths and legends. By doing this, we hope to give a fresh new take on the subject.”

Rick: Are the characters based on people you know?

Melvin: It's mostly a mish-mash of extreme personalities from people we know. And yes, we know a lot of weird people.

Rick: It looks like there are a lot of pop culture references sprinkled all throughout from robots to Game and Watch to Ghostbusters etc. Is this also a homage to what you enjoyed as a youngster?

Melvin: Yes, definitely. We also hope that the people reading Kanto Inc. would recognize them and have that sense of nostalgia that we all share. There's also a lot of recent pop culture tidbits for the younger readers too. People may or may not get the references, but the ones that do feel that the jokes are intended for them, making it more personal, and thus funnier.

Rick: Where will Kanto Inc. lead? Is this ongoing or is there an ending to the

Melvin: From the start, we planned to make Kanto Inc. episodic, meaning you can grab any issue and read it as a stand-alone story with a definite beginning, middle and end, without actual knowledge of previous issues. There will be issues of Kanto Inc. that will delve into the actual storyline, but this would probably be sometime after we establish the main characters of the story.