Monday, November 7, 2011

LIVING IN A WORLD OF INKS, PANELS, AND BALLOONS


My first memory of encountering comics started when I was very young, not more than 5 or 6 years old. Being a fan of cartoons, it was no surprise that I would be drawn to the bright pastel colors of the Sunday comics, which was something I looked forward to every week. And so it was that I became a fan of Garfield and Peanuts, and eventually, Calvin and Hobbes. I just loved how all of these series made everyday situations funny and memorable. Thanks to the writers who’ve created these classics, my imagination and vocabulary have been splendid, but alas, my early attempts at creating my own comics have ended with disastrous (and oftentimes laughable) results.



It looks something like this, but way worse.

Then elementary school came, and with it, the anime craze. No geeky male kid was immune to its charms. Bright colors? Check. Cool (although sometimes recycled) plots? Check. Interesting characters? Hell yes! Sexy female characters in revealing clothes? CHECK, CHECK AND CHECK! (There was only dial-up internet back then, but that’s another blog post) Needless to say, I was hooked. I still recall with a fond sense of nostalgia all the great series I watched that made my boyhood either dull or awesome, depending on how geek-o-phobic you are. Samurai X, Gatekeepers, Dual, Gundam series, Evangelion, Yu-yu Hakusho, and Pokemon, all of these were the constant things on my mind, and little else.

It's that crowded in my mind too, except that there's puppies.
However I was not so keen on their manga origins, as I was turned off by the black and white panels, and the reverse order in which you had to read them. Not to mention they were expensive, (English compilations) and if there’s anything I was short of during my childhood, it was money.

And so, after a long hiatus in the anime world, (due to a series of books you may be familiar with, Harry Potter) I reluctantly watched a Tagalog dubbed episode of Naruto. My expectations were not high at all, considering that at that time, I was in high school, and that I disliked the new art style that was prevalent among new anime series. But as luck would have it, I chanced upon a great episode, one that would sneakily re-unite me with a long lost love for anything Japanese. I forgot how it all happened, but today, I am an avid fan of the series, and I look forward to its weekly release. Thanks to dedicated fans and broadband internet, I can read scan-lated versions of it for free. (yeah, I’m a penny-pinching bastard)

But I'm not a fan of this guy.

But one thing I’ve always found a bit tiresome about anime is that despite its originality in storytelling and characters, it can get repetitive and predictable. I call it the Dragonball rule. It’s when they just keep getting stronger new opponents, all in accordance to the protagonist’s rise in strength and ability. If you still don’t understand, then I can’t explain it any clearer. Death Note is probably the nearest example of an exception to the Dragonball rule. I loved these series because it deviated from the usual, “I’m the strongest around, at least until a stronger new psycho arrives to test me, but I’ll still win eventually cause I am the god dang protagonist!” pattern that plagues almost all great Shounen titles.

"The amount of cash I spend on hair dye and conditioner is proportional to my strength!"

 
This pet peeve of mine has not diminished my love for these Japanese titles. It just gave me a reason to look elsewhere for my increasingly maturing comic tastes. And there it was that I discovered that Western comics can be very good. Though I was a fan of Batman and Spider-man, I was never much into superheroes. They were cool yes, but they often lacked the depth and imagination I appreciate so much from their Eastern counterparts. Or at least I thought so, until I discovered the Vertigo line from DC. And by God, was I impressed. It featured mature subject matter that didn’t resort to cheap usage of women and violence. And creativity-wise, I only have two words to respond with: NEIL GAIMAN.




Of course, there are plenty of talented writers at Vertigo, but there is a reason Neil Gaiman stands out amongst them. He is not the best at clever dialogue, nor at creating an exciting conflict, or a clear-moving storyline. But damn, he is incredible in creating characters, and also worlds that ARE characters in themselves. Another strong point of his raw creativity is how he can seamlessly connect different worlds, that seem so simple when you read his work, but will make you go, “how could I not have thought of that?” after some reflection. He is a giant among them, and my love for his work has transcended from his much acclaimed “Sandman” series, into his novels. But this being a post about comics, I would also like to recommend a few other great titles for anyone who’s interested, namely, Preacher, Lucifer, Hellblazer and a surprisingly good local favorite of mine, Trese. 


You can't be a Pinoy graphic novel fan if you don't know her.

 
I go online a lot, and it was such a pleasant surprise to find out that one of my favorite websites, Cracked.com has a writer who made his own composite comics. Ridiculously funny ones at that. Forget about other “comedic” comics like Beetle Bailey, Hagar the Horrible, Dilbert, and locally, Pugad Baboy, Seanbaby’s “Man-Comics” makes every one of them read like those harmless, cheesy Gospel comics they give out at Catholic school.
Reading them has given me a somewhat altered sense of humor, as it is a downright mystery how the hell he comes up with all the stupidly funny stuff that is present on every panel and word balloon in each issue of Man-Comics. I always end up short on air and abundant in body aches after reading each issue, which could mean all the testosterone he claims are within each release are rubbing off not too well on me, or I’m just hopelessly clumsy and laugh too easily. Whatever it is, it gives me the goose bumps whenever I see that the Cracked homepage has a new edition of Man-Comics. And I do not get the goosebumps easily, as they only appear when there is an incredible plot twist in a book or movie, or when I’m having a particularly hard time ejecting last night’s Persian food out of my system. 

This is the "before" pic. The "after" is just as lovely.

I’ll end this post with the image on that last sentence. Happy reading!










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