Thursday, August 25, 2016

AsiaPop Comicon 2016: Mike Zeck reflects on the Punisher, Cap & Spidey

AsiaPop Comicon 2016: Mike Zeck reflects on the Punisher, Cap & Spidey
by rick olivares

For American comic book illustrator Mike Zeck, attending the AsiaPop Comicon 2016 in Manila was another chance to come back to the country.

Even when he was one of the hottest and most in demand comic book artists back in the 1980s and early 1990s, Zeck would routinely visit Asia and the Philippines in particular. “I always wanted to see the world and in Asia, I chose to go to the Philippines first because people spoke English here and it wouldn’t be difficult to get around. Cebu was the first place I went to outside Manila.”

Now back for the umpteenth time, this will be the first time that Zeck will be attending a major comic book convention in the Philippines. “I’ve always been aware that the Philippines was a hotbed of talent. We’ve seen that with Tony DeZuniga, Alfredo Alcala, and many others through the years then you have Whilce Portacio who opened the door for many other Filipinos to draw American comic books. This gives me that opportunity to interact with the Filipino fan base that is one of the most passionate in the world.”

Zeck has been removed from mainstream comic book illustration for over a decade now as he has transitioned into product and toy design that is still related to the genre. Yet in spite of not being actively busy in today’s four-colored fanfare, the 66-year old native of Pennsylvania is known for illustrating some of the most memorable stories in the whole of comicdom.

In the 1980s, he scored what is the equivalent of a film director’s three consecutive blockbuster and critically acclaimed movies when he drew Secret Wars, Punisher: Circle of Blood, and Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt in succession. 

“I’ve only got one word to describe that — lucky," beamed Zeck during the AsiaPop Comicon press conference held at the Conrad Hotel in Pasay City last Wednesday, August 24. "There’s no way I can ever plan to make three successful comic book stories in a row. And all three are still in print today, 35 years later, and that is extremely gratifying.”

"Secret Wars (published May 1984-April 1985) was the first ever comic book limited series that was a massive crossover event. I think I earned that because of my work on Captain America,” reflected Zeck. “For the Punisher, timing was an incredible thing. (Writer) Steven Grant was showing Marvel that story that he had in mind but they didn’t think that the Punisher was a character that would sell and that he couldn’t support his own title. Eventually, they reluctantly agreed and the rest is history. As for ‘Kraven’s Last Hunt’, Marc DeMatteis was trying to get this story punished. It was first done for a Wonder Man story that was rejected. He took it to DC for a Batman proposal and it too was rejected. When he brought it back to Marvel, Marc re-wrote it for Spider-Man and Kraevn the Hunter and now it was approved. I think it took about eight years for that story to see the light of day but it took a life of its own and was published at the right time. The fact that it is considered one of the greatest Spider-Man stories is a blessing for me.”

Zeck points to "Kraven’s Last Hunt” as his favorite work for its depth and tone as a psychological thriller. In that story, Kraven, long a foil for Spider-Man, finally defeats his nemesis and takes his place hoping to prove that he is his superior. When accomplishing that goal, Kraven commits suicide. “I think that story contributed to the Spider-Man mythos. When you think about the character, he’s had a lot of ground-breaking stories — from the death of a major character (Gwen Stacy) to the use of drugs in a comic book (Harry Osborne who later became the Green Goblin). ‘Kraven’s Last Hunt’ isn’t simply a story about suicide and how it affects people but also the relationships between people. When I received the plot, I knew it was going to be one of the best Spider-Man stories. The questions for me were, can i do this justice and, will the fans see what i saw in this story?"

Even if he doesn’t draw comics anymore, Zeck still enjoys the genre especially their success in film. “When I was drawing Captain America, it was an incredible fun time for me. (The late) Mark Gruenwald was my editor and John Beatty was inking. All three of us were Captain America fans growing up. We all got together and as professionals, to be in that office and putting out the comic was really fun. I did three years of that comic and stayed on doing covers. The film versions — I love them. They nailed the essence of Cap perfectly. I wish Mark Gruenwald were still alive to see them."

“For me, I have been in a lot of comics conventions in my life. And it sure is nice to be doing one here in the Philippines,” summed up Zeck. “And I sure can’t wait to meet the Filipino fans.”

AsiaPop Comicon 2016 will be held from August 26-28 at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

Alodia Gosiengfiao one of headline Cosplayers for AsiaPop 2016

Alodia Gosiengfiao one of headline Cosplayers for AsiaPop 2016
by rick olivares

Alodia Gosiengfiao, who is one of the more popular Cosplayers not only in the Philippines but all over the world is once more one of the main guests for AsiaPop Comicon 2016. The Cosplay darling will also be one of the judges for the Cosplay Authority Global Challenge during the event that saw a winner from last year’s staging take home $10,000 as the grand prize. 

“I love the fact that Cosplay (costume play) has elevated from a hobby to an art form and a worldwide event,” said the 28-year old who first got into role playing game when she was in high school.  "When I started out, it was a hobby. Now, it still is a hobby but it is also work. I took up Information Design in Ateneo and cosplay has helped my career tremendously. When I was still in school, my parents thought that my hobby was getting too expensive and they told me to do something more practical. I would save my allowance just to buy materials for cosplay. But they see where it has taken me and they are very much supportive now.”

Gosiengfiao has used her success in cosplay to professionally host, model, sing, and act! She is also appearing in the new Resident Evil film, “The Final Chapter.” It will be her second international film after “Crossroads” a Japanese drama that was released last year.

“It’s incredible, isn’t it?” she wondered during the press conference for AsiaPop Comicon held last Wednesday, August 24, at the Conrad Hotel in Pasay City. “I still have to pinch myself just to see if I am dreaming up all of this. I am very honored and very lucky to be recognized for this craft. I never expected to be where I am. I am just doing something that I love."

“I'm still thinking of ways to improve the community. I hope just as cosplay has been good for me, it inspires more people to succeed,” she added pointing out to the CAGE event that will open more doors for its participants. Who knows what this will lead to?”

For this event, Gosiengfiao will be donning a costume of DC Comics’ anti-hero Harley Quinn. “Not the film version,” she said of the make over the character was given in the recent film, Suicide Squad, where the character was played by actress Margot Robbie. She cited her cosplay of Go Go Tomago from the film, “Big Hero 6” as the one that fans love the most. “Especially kids! I love the way their eyes light up when I wear Go Go’s costume!" 

AsiaPop Comicon 2016, the second staging of the country’s biggest pop culture event will be held at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City from August 26-28.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Former Hulk artist Carlo Pagulayan talks about Thor Ragnarok

Jason Paz, Carlo Pagulayan, Romulo Fajardo, and Stephen Segovia.

Former Hulk artist Carlo Pagulayan talks about Thor Ragnarok
by rick olivares

During the recent San Diego Comics Convention, the trailer of the new Thor film, titled: “Thor: Ragnarok” confirmed that the Asgardian tale about the world’s end will mesh one of the most popular stories in the lore of the “Incredible Hulk” comic book, “Planet Hulk”.

We caught up with Filipino artist Carlo Pagulayan who drew that popular “Planet Hulk” storyline (with other art chores handled by Aaron Lopresti) that was written by American film director and writer Grek Pak from the pages of “Incredible Hulk” that ran for 15-issues ten years ago in 2006.

“I had mixed feelings when I saw the news about how they were weaving the 'Planet Hulk’ story with a crucial part of Thor, the hero, and Norse mythology, which is Ragnarok,” revealed Pagulayan who is currently pencilling the DC Comics character of Deathstroke that came out last week. 

“When Hulk punched Thor in the first ‘Avengers’ film, it seemed natural they they would either develop this ‘rivalry’ or come up with a ‘buddy buddy’ type of story. I would have rather that they have a solo Hulk movie rather than have him guest in another character’s movie. I think the character deserves it.”

“I might be biased since I was part of the creative team that worked on the ‘Planet Hulk’ storyline but that’s just my thinking — to develop the Hulk as a film titan, like Captain America, Iron Man, and Spider-Man."

In the comics, the “Planet Hulk” plot revolved around the Hulk being sent to outer space as he was deemed too dangerous to be running loose on Earth. The Hulk’s shuttle crash lands on the planet Sakaar where he is taken into slavery and forced to fight like a gladiator for survival. The Hulk ends up leading a rebellion and becomes the king of Sakaar. After the shuttle that took him to outer space detonates killing many of Sakaar’s citizens, he returns to Earth to fight the heroes who exiled him.

Ragnarok in Norse mythology, and woven into the Thor comic book lore as published by Marvel is literally, “the Twilight of the Gods” where all the gods perish after a great battle and the world is submerged under water only to undergo a rebirth.

“In any or whatever comics convention I go to, no matter what title I am working on at the moment, people always ask me about the Hulk and discuss the ‘Planet Hulk’ storyline and they tell me it is their favorite,” said Pagulayan. “And there is no shortage of requests to draw the Hulk. It is flattering although I have yet to get used to the idea of people asking for autographs and selfies."

Pagulayan also shared that his first big art influence was Rick Leonardi who had celebrated runs on titles such as "Cloak and Dagger", "the Uncanny X-Men", "Spider-Man 2099", “Nightwing", and later “Superman" among others.

He then discovered the work of Joe Quesada, John Romita Jr. Marc Silvestri and the other Image founders.Today, he keenly follows the work of Italian artist Sara Pichelli, Frank Cho, and one of his all-time favorites when he gets some work done, Travis Charest. 

Pagulayan and fellow Filpino artist Jason Paz are currently illustrating “Deathstroke” that is about the DC Comics’ most dangerous assassin and mercenary. The first issue came out last week and should be available in your favorite comics specialty store.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Filipino comics artist Carlo Pagulayan talks about working on DC’s Deathstroke & more

Filipino comics artist Carlo Pagulayan talks about working on DC’s Deathstroke & more
by rick olivares

Last Sunday, August 14, Filipino comic book artists Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz, and Stephen Segovia signed copies of their latest works at Comic Odyssey inside FullyBooked at Bonifacio Global City.

All three artists had new first issues for DC Comics Rebirth line with Pagulayan and Paz tag-teaming on “Deathstroke" while Segovia pencilled "Action Comics".

The new comics under the “rebirth” line cannot be more apt for both Pagulayan and Segovia who worked the publisher’s “Convergence” event that was soundly panned by fans and critics alike. “I think I live in a cave,” said Pagulayan. “Maybe because I am so busy with my work and making deadlines that I have no time for anything else let alone listen to feedback. Even if it was the story that was criticized, it also hurt because I worked on it and I know the writer personally.”

That all seems forgotten now as the publisher’s line-wide “re-boot”called “Rebirth” (the second time they are using that tag) has garnered rave reviews for its seemingly back to the basics and “nostalgia” approach. The comic “Deathstroke” is about Slade Wilson, the world’s most dangerous assassin and mercenary who was introduced in the pages of "The Teen Titans" back in the 1980s. Pagulayan and Paz are tending to the art chores and bringing to life the prose of acclaimed writer Christopher Priest. 

“With ‘Deathstroke’, my interaction with the writer is discussing how I envision the action scenes and the designs for certain characters,” described Pagulayan of the work process. The veteran artist who hails from Batangas is probably best known for his work on the “Planet Hulk” storyline on the “Incredible Hulk” title for DC’s chief competitor, Marvel Comics.

Pagulayan is signed up for five issues of “Deathstroke” — issues 1 and 2 and Nos. 6-8. “The book is on a bi-monthly schedule right now and I am okay with that. If it were monthly I will be unable to get them out on time. So after the second issue, another artist will take over and both Jason and I return by the sixth issue. Beyond the eighth issue, I don’t know what’s next."

Several dozen fans braved Sunday’s inclement weather for the signing (while some 50 other fans left their copies to be signed by the Filipino artists). Comic Odyssey reported that their entire orders for 100 copies of “Deathstroke” sold out. 

“I still cannot believe that people like my work,” said Pagulayan. “I think it is natural for artists not to like their work. After the work comes out, I see the mistakes and look at how I can improve it. On the other hand, I was just like everyone else. As a kid, I only got hand-me-downs as I had no money to buy comics. When I started earning my own money, that’s when I bought my comics. Like other fans, I talked and lived and breathed comics.”

“Now it’s a job,” he laughed switching gears. “It’s a livelihood now. It gets stressful and tiring with the deadlines and the revisions but ultimately, it is satisfying. Plus, I remain a fan who still reads comics — when I am not busy. I try to get the works of some artists who I follow — Sara Pichelli (working on the Miles Morales “Spider-Man”) and Frank Cho (who is famous for his comic strip “Liberty Meadows” but is now working on the covers for “Wonder Woman”). So I alternate between artist-mode and fan-mode especially when I attend comic conventions in the United States.”

“Two years ago, I met Todd McFarlane (who became a fan favorite for his work on Spider-Man and his own character, Spawn, and his McFarlane Toys that became famous for their lifelike and intricate designs),” recalled Pagulayan. “I must have spent a long time in his booth getting his autograph, picture, and asking for a sketch. That was fun.”

“So if it is the same experience for the fans here then it makes me happy too.”

Sunday, August 14, 2016

At the signing for Action Comics #961 and Deathstroke Rebirth #1

There was a comic book signing this Sunday afternoon at Comic Odyssey at FullyBooked, BGC for the twin release of Action Comics #961 and Deathstroke #1. Got my stuff signed and interviewed both artists for a story. Watch out for that.

With Stephen Segovia who pencilled Action Comics #961. 

With Jason Paz and Carlo Pagulayan (L-R), inker and penciller for Deathstroke #1.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Grant Morrison needs to crank up the Heavy Metal

Grant Morrison needs to crank up the Heavy Metal 
by rick olivares

I picked up the latest two issues of Heavy Metal magazine. 

It has been three decades since I purchased a copy of this avante-garde comic magazine that was a blend of science fiction-fantasy and erotica and served to introduce European stories and art to a worldwide audience. 

I picked them up only because one of the foremost writers working in the comic book industry today, Grant Morrison, has come aboard as editor-in-chief. I can’t say whether the magazine’s content has been good or bad because it has been quite a while. However, when you bring on board someone of Morrison’s caliber; someone whose highly-creative and deliciously wicked imagination has revitalized or pushed mainstream American comic book titles like Justice League of America, Batman, and the X-Men into another stratosphere of success and acclaim, you have to excited about what magic will be weaved by the Scotsman into a title that has lost its relevancy. 

Thus far, two issues — Heavy Metal is now published every two months — have been released; May 2016’s #280 and July’s #281. As Morrison’s ornate introduction in #280 puts it, this is his “first time in the command of this vast star-machine that’s been sailing off the map’s edge of imagination and graphic madness”.

That is exactly what this magazine is.

The Scot’s first issue comes in the Spring where death and rebirth is the seasonal theme. Save for French creator Enki Bilal’s - more on him later — “Julia and Roem” that re-works William Shakespeare’s start-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet into a post-apocalyptic life, and Erika Lewis and J.K. Woodward’s “49th Key” that tells the story of an archeologist and young mute boy’s journey from the magical land of Enochia to modern world, most are new stories.

It should be noted that “49th Key” is the first story from the magazine to be adapted for a television series. The “Heavy Metal” animated film from 1981 used different stories featured in the magazine that were tied together by one common thread.

Having said that, here are my favorites from the first two Morrison issues of Heavy Metal.

280 “Still they come"
Morrison kicks off Heavy Metal #280 with his own story titled “Beachhead” (with artist Benjamin Marra) about aliens conquering the Earth and featuring some ugly looking aliens in a sad sack like story. 

Canadian writer Ryan Ferrier, whose amusing look into life on Earth after the machines have taken over the world in “D4VE” (from IDW Publishing) pens a story that Spanish artist Hugo Petrus drew (in a style that would appeal to fans of renowned fantasy artist Charles Vess). “Goddess” is about a forest deity who leads a bloody reprisal on a village that has hunted and killed creatures like deer and such with wanton abandon. 

There’s a small portfolio and interview with German artist Mimi Scholz whose work features females and animals in bizarre and surrealistic surroundings.

And there’s “Lepidopteran" by the Argentinean duo of writer Emilio Baalcarce and artist Gaston Vivanco that is about a Russian fighter jet that goes up against a U.F.O.

281 “Sex in the Summertime"
“Option 3 “ by Morrison and Simeon Aston, "The Last Romantic Anti-Hero" by Dean Haspiel, and “Zentropa" by John Mahoney.

As a youngster in the mid-1970s, it was the pre-internet age and the comic specialty shop had yet to be introduced, I would glance at the Heavy Metal magazines that were sold in only two shops in Manila — the Rastro and Christhareth — that were both situated in Greenhills and have long since closed. The magazines were expensive even if many of them were sold as second hand copies courtesy of American servicemen from Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base looking to make an extra buck.

It was hard enough collecting comics during that time let along picking up a magazine that was considered racy and subversive by many. 

To digress a moment about reading Heavy Metal, one must not be encumbered by anything else. Each and every issue must be read and digested with an open mind and without the element of time. The stories, more often than not because of the art styles, are vastly different from mainstream or even most American indie comics. So it requires some reading. This isn’t a comic that can be read and devoured in five minutes. Most issues are mind-blowers.

Around the time that the "Heavy Metal" film was being promoted, I had saved enough money to buy my first ever copy of the magazine and that was the 53rd issue cover dated August 1981. The cover art featured this beautiful fairy that was painted by Spanish fantasy artist Esteban Maroto. I actually could have gotten some earlier issues but I had to make sure that I got one with a cover that wouldn’t catch the attention of my parents. Nevertheless, that issue featured works and stories from Richard Corben, Rod Kierkegaard, Howard Chaykin, Tom Yeates, and Jim Steranko among others. And there too was a Bilal story so getting #280 a little under 35 years later was a bit of serendipity. 

All in all, the first two Heavy Metal issues under Morrison’s baton has some interesting stuff. However, to be honest, nothing so far that has me raving 'this is a must read’. The hype is over-hyped. It’s a shame because one of the variant covers to #280 shows Morrison flipping the bird. So much about sending a message because there’s nothing so far except some creator putting his mug front and center. 

Hopefully, the third issue will find some new and interesting series we can really latch on to and place this magazine firmly on my comics pull list. Or else, I will respond by flipping Morrison and Heavy Metal the bird and just re-read those old magazines that have a warm place in my fanboy’s heart.