A Look Back At Break-Thru #1

When done right, a crossover storyline showcasing a big mix of superheroes getting involved in a huge event can be memorable and worth revisiting years after getting published.

Back in 1993, Malibu Comics launched the Ultraverse which involved many talented creators. Right from the start, it was made clear that there was a shared universe occupied by The Strangers, Night Man, Prototype, Prime, Mantra, Hardcase and many others.

Before the end of 1993, Malibu launched Break-Thru #1 which started a new storyline that involved many of the above characters plus Firearm, The Solution, Sludge and Solitaire. Adding more punch to this comic book was Malibu’s hiring of legendary artist George Perez who worked on the classic Crisis on Infinite Earths maxi-series of DC Comics.

2019-10-17_074138~2.jpg
A great cover! One of the best ever for any Ultraverse comic book!

Here is a close look at Break-Thru #1 mainly written by Gerard Jones, drawn by George Perez and inked by John Lowe with colors by Moose Baumann. Credited as contributing writers were Steve Englehart, Mike W. Barr, Steve Gerber, James D. Hudnall, Tom Mason, George Perez, James Robinson and Len Strazewski.

Early story

The story begins immediately after the end of Exiles #4. A man falls to his death from the top of a tower thinking he was reaching the moon at night. Elsewhere, an airplane sharply goes up with too much altitude as the pilot obsesses with going to the moon

As it turns out, the media reports about people trying to reach the moon and getting restless. A member of Exiles lies helplessly on a bed with his entire body covered with medical materials for his injuries. A doctor presses him for answers and he claims to know that Amber, one of the Exiles members, looks a lot like a young lady floating over Los Angeles. He thinks she is responsible for the madness that has been going around the world.

The injured confirmed that the lady, floating high above with reddish energy around her, is none other than Amber. He claims, however, that he has no idea what happened but shared that she was already prone to volatile energy blasts.

Behind the scenes, members of Aladdin discuss what has been happening. One of them believes that Amber may hold important clues to the nature and origin of Ultras. The Aladdin people get distracted with noise caused by Eden Blake (Mantra in civilian form) who secretly eavesdropped on them pretending to be lost (note: a reference is made to Mantra #5 to explain her new employment with Aladdin.)

2019-10-17_075309~2.jpg
The military and Prime.

Aladdin decides to activate their own Ultra named Wrath. Over at the Pentagon, military officers discuss the information about Wrath they got received from their moles at Aladdin. Their leader wondered about sending Prime (with a modified look) on a mission but he can’t have anyone see how he modified the Ultra.

Meanwhile in the bowels of the Earth, a man who is not really a man watches…

Quality

In terms of storytelling, Break-Thru #1 has a nice build-up. It took its time making references to the many, many characters of the Ultraverse. By the end of the comic book, you will realize there are different kinds of Ultras: the solo Ultras, the corporate Ultras, the freelancers, the work-for-hire Ultras, the accidental Ultras and the like. With regards to emphasizing the shared universe, this comic book shows that connections with the individual comic books are tight. References in what happened in Exiles #4, Prime #6, Mantra #5 and others all helped build-up the concept of Break-Thru. The story is 35-pages long which, in my opinion, was sufficient not only to emphasize the conflict Break-Thru but also give readers enough space to get to know what exactly is going on, who are these many characters, what the institutions involved are, etc.

2019-10-17_075441~2.jpg
Mantra with Prototype.
2019-10-17_075133~2.jpg
The Strangers discuss what has been happening.

More on Break-Thru’s concept, I like the way the comic book emphasized how the sudden presence of multiple Ultras affected local societies, members of the public, the government, the secret groups and others. It also sheds light on how people, regardless of social class or status, react to the presence of people who carry special powers or have unusual talents over them. This reminds me of a key scene in the 2012 Avengers movie in which Col. Fury mentioned how the sudden presence of super beings caused a disturbance.

Spectacle? Unsurprisingly there is a good amount of action as well as incidental moments that kept the narrative entertaining.

Visually, Break-Thru #1 is a great looking comic book thanks to George Perez who is famous for drawing multiple characters environments with his distinctive style complete with a high level of detail. There is not a single boring moment with his art and each panel has really nice visuals. The action scenes and incidental happenings (example: Valerie’s sudden burst of energy) come with a lot of punch.

2019-10-17_075541~2.jpg
Freex got affected.

Very notably, Perez’s take on each of the Ultraverse characters is very good to look at and in some ways, certain characters look a lot better than they did in their respective comic book series. A perfect example here is the team Freex whose characters look more human (in style) and more lively. Of course, I don’t mean to say that the illustrators of the Freex series did not do a good job.

Perez’s drawing of Mantra is very good. Similar results with The Strangers, Hardcase, Solitaire and Prototype. Very clearly George Perez carefully did his research on the characters and their respective designs.

Conclusion

2019-10-17_074728~2.jpg
Hardcase, Choice and The Solution on the move!

Overall, Break-Thru #1 is a great comic book to read and it reflects the high quality and deep engagement the Ultraverse had when it was still under the control of Malibu Comics (note: Marvel Comics acquired them and drastically changed the UV for the worse in the mid-1990s). It definitely still is one of the finest superhero crossover comic books of the 1990s and, personally, I found it to be more engaging than the launch issues of other crossover storylines like Zero Hour and The Infinity Gauntlet. If you are interested, Break-Thru continued in Firearm #4, Freex #6, Hardcase #7, Mantra #6, The Night Man #3, Prime #7, Prototype #5, Sludge #3, Solitaire #2, The Solution #4, The Strangers #7 and then in Break-Thru #2.

Break-Thru #1 is highly recommended and you can buy a near-mint copy of it for $4 at Mile High Comics’ website.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

Advertisements

A Look Back At Superman and Spider-Man

I miss the old times when big rivals Marvel and DC Comics would set aside competition temporarily to team up and rely on their respective comic creators to make superhero crossover comic books that the fans can enjoy.

Back in the 1970s, key developments related to the comic book adaptation of The Wizard of Oz brought the two rivals together as partners. In 1976, Marvel and DC’s first superhero crossover Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man got published and to this day many comic book collectors and geeks I encountered still enjoy it. A few of them even called it a classic.

The collaboration between Marvel and DC continued in 1981 with Superman and Spider-Man which was published as issue number 28 of the Marvel Treasury Edition series.

1
The cover.

This is my look back at Superman and Spider-Man.

The comic book

Scripted by then Marvel Comic editor-in-chief Jim Shooter (with Marv Wolfman mentioned for plot suggestions) with art drawn by John Buscema and inkwork done by Terry Austin, Al Milgrom, Steva Leialoha, Walt Simonson, Bob Layton, Joe Rubinstein and Bob Wiacek, the comic book begins when Spider-Man swings into a construction site where he encounters several armed men and stops them singlehandedly.

Even though he stopped the bad guys, Spider-Man’s spider sense bothers him making him speculate that, because there’s no clear danger around him, the construction site seemed to be a threat.

After Spider-Man swings away from the police who just arrived, classic Marvel supervillain Doctor Doom watches via surveillance video and he was bother by the way things turned out.

“I did not like the way Spider-Man paused and look around after subduing the thieves – – as if he sensed something unusual about the excavation! Those accursed spider instincts of his,” Doom said before proceeding with his master plan.

A day later, the Hulk arrives in Metropolis causing lots of damage. Separately Superman and Spider-Man arrive to contain the green guy. However, things are not what they seem. This is where the story description ends.

Quality

What this comic book lacked compared to the 1976 Superman-Spider-Man crossover is visual impact. Clearly John Buscema had to follow closely the script which called for multiple panels per page and that left him little room to draw scenes dynamically. That’s not to see the art is weak. In fact, Buscema’s art is pretty good and he has deep knowledge about how the characters (including those many supporting characters and other minor characters from both Marvel and DC Comics) really looked from the size of Hulk’s body, the details on Wonder Woman’s costume, the distinctive look of J. Jonah Jameson, Perry White, etc. In short, I recognized the characters very easily.

15
This remains fun to read.
24
Peter Parker in Metropolis along with the Superman supporting characters. This is one great element that made this comic book worth reading.

While the high number of panels per page limited him, Buscema managed to come up with some action shots that packed some impact.

When it comes to writing and storytelling, this comic book exceeds that of the 1976 Superman-Spider-Man crossover big time! To start with, the plot is much more elaborate, more detailed and yet consistently remained easy to follow.

While the 1976 crossover had the most popular villains of Superman and Spider-Man as the representation of evil, this one instead had Dr. Doom and Parasite. The great news is that these two super villains complement each other nicely and that itself adds good depth into the plot. Dr. Doom is a major schemer and Parasite fitted nicely within his master plan for global chaos.

Regarding dialogue, the script had a lot of strength and was also specific in capturing the personalities of the superheroes, the super villains and the supporting cast. I can easily identify J. Jonah Jameson, Perry White, Lois Lane and others through the dialogue.

Not to be outdone is the deeper approach to the crossover aspect of the story. Right from the start, the comic book creators expected us readers to suspend disbelief and start believing that while the story is non-canon, the respective universes of Marvel and DC Comics co-existed. Because there were TV shows of Wonder Woman and the Hulk playing, the two characters were included in the comic book adding depth to the crossover.

Speaking of crossovers, this comic book was not limited to Superman and Spider-Man. The encounter between the Hulk and Superman was a short but sweet spectacle to read. The encounter between Wonder Woman and Spider-Man meanwhile was short yet fun.

Adding more to the fun in this comic book was how Clark Kent interacted with the Spider-Man supporting characters while Peter Parker interacted with the Superman supporting characters. I enjoyed every moment of these scenes.

As far as narrative is concerned, this comic book is slightly slanted towards Superman. One factor behind this was the implementation of how local authorities interact with Superman and Spider-Man. Whenever he solves crime, Superman is highly respected by the public and the police. This is not the case with Spider-Man who is often perceived to be a social menace even though he helps solve crimes. Another factor was that Superman did more detective-type work (including a visit to Latveria) while Spidey hardly contributed anything to the plot’s development.

38
Nothing can be more frustrating than getting attacked by police officers when you try to help them solve their problems.

Regardless, the two icons got a fair share of the spotlight during the final stages of the story and there was enough spectacle to enjoy.

If there is any complaint I have, it would be the comic book creators’ reluctance on fully connecting itself to the 1976 crossover. In the scene wherein Peter Parker was guided into the film editing room by Jimmy Olsen, he recognized Lois Lane and remembered meeting her in the 1976 crossover (which ended with socializing). And yet when Spider-Man and Superman get together in this comic book, there was a noticeable lack of friendliness and personal cooperation between them even though they bonded nicely in the 1976 story.

Conclusion

Overall, Superman and Spider-Man is indeed a highly engaging, fun-filled superhero crossover comic book. For me, it is a true literary classic and definitely worth searching for out there. I read this crossover many times from start to finish and even though I knew the plot and the dialogue, I still had a lot of fun reading along the way. With the combined talents of Shooter, Buscema and many others, this superhero crossover was indeed one of the very best stories ever told by Marvel and DC Comics.

Given the current corporate climate Marvel and DC Comics are now in, it is very unlikely we will see another creatively fun superhero crossover collaboration between them happening soon. For the newcomers reading this, Marvel is owned by the Walt Disney Company while DC Comics is owned by Warner Bros.

Whether you search for the original comic book or its inclusion in a volume of The Marvel/DC Collection: Crossover Classics Volume 1, Superman and Spider-Man is highly recommended!


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

A Look Back at X-Men 2099 #1

1993 was a special year for X-Men fans. It was the year Marvel Comics celebrated what was back then the 30th anniversary of the X-Men which explains why they released not only a lot of X-Men-related comic books but also issues with hologram cards on the covers of specific issues of X-Force, X-Factor, X-Men, Uncanny X-Men and Excalibur. While superhero movies were not that many at the time, fans had the X-Men animated series to enjoy on TV.

Along the way, the comic book speculator boom continued and Marvel Comics exploited the trend as its creators worked to expand what was back then their still-young 2099 lineup of comic books. This led to the release of X-Men 2099 #1 in the 2nd half of 1993, the comic book of which I bought on a weekday during a short visit to the comic book store in BF Homes, Parañaque.

RCO001_1469507978.jpg
Cover of X-Men 2099 #1.

Before exploring a bit of the story, let me share that in my personal analysis, releasing X-Men 2099 #1 the same year as the 30th anniversary celebration of X-Men made sense even though the contemporary X comic books made no real story reference to the mutants of 2099. Back in 1993, an undisclosed amount of money was spent to promote, distribute and sell comics and merchandise in relation to the anniversary celebration. I’m confident someone behind the scenes at Marvel thought it was a smart idea to debut the X-Men 2099 series at a time when the X-Men brand was very strong among collectors.

Now on to the comic book.

Written by John Francis Moore and drawn by Ron Lim (with ink work by Adam Kubert), X-Men 2099 #1 opens with Timothy Fitzgerald/Skullfire alone and uncertain visiting a large, abandoned facility in the Nevada desert called Nuevo Sol. He stands in front of a large gate with an X marking. After a bumpy introduction with Junkpile, Tim enters and, to his surprise, there he finds a large gathering of people partying despite the deteriorating conditions of the place. He meets Tina/Serpentina who tells him that he is welcome and their gathering attracted mutants, and “nomads and fringers.”

“In Nuevo Sol, you’re not just some corporate bar code, sorted and filed like a product. Here, everyone has a name. Everyone’s equal–no matter where they’ve come from,” Tina tells him.

RCO007_1469507978~2.jpg
As Tim discovers Metalhead, so do the readers.

After the subsequent for-the-readers introductions of Eddie/Metalhead and Shakti/Cerebra, the narrative moves to Las Vegas where a horse-riding Noah Synge (an old man who “ruthlessly controls the greater Nevada syndicate”) gets confronted by Xi’an/Desert Ghost who tells him that his men (of Synge) continue to kidnap members of the nomad tribes for his decadent amusements. In other words, it’s an accusation about human trafficking.

After a harsh exchange of words, Xi’an shows to him his left, creepy looking fist telling him that the red market will fall, that the Synge empire will crumble and that if Synge seeks to hurt the affected people, he (Xi’an) will make him suffer.

Xi’an touches a short stone wall with his left hand which makes it crumble within seconds (as he walks away). This is all I have to share about the plot and if you want to know more, you better get and read this comic book.

So you must be wondering what I think about the quality of this 1993 comic book. When it comes to storytelling, it is well written, entertaining and engaging. John Francis Moore’s script really is good even by today’s standards. Moore managed to carefully introduce not only the X-Men of 2099 but also the supporting characters and the bad guys properly all within 23 story-and-art pages which is a very hard thing to achieve. While the writing was challenging, Moore managed to us symbolism to show “good versus evil”, especially with the conflict between Xi’an (representing the oppressed and the powerless) and Noah Synge (who, by today’s standards, is a caricature of the cruel and rich person).

Tim meanwhile symbolizes the reader’s perception. As he discovers Nuevo Sol, readers feel and see what he perceives. His discovery of the place, the culture and people serves as the eyes of us readers.

When it comes to the art work, this one shows that Ron Lim exerted a lot of effort to give the X-Men of 2099 a unique look of their own without taking any visual inspiration from the contemporary, mainstream X-Men of the 1990s. While it is easy to criticize Lim for the quality of art, we must remember that he worked on a whole lot of other comic book for Marvel back in 1993. During that year, he illustrated The Infinity Crusade which featured a whole bunch of Marvel’s superheroes and many other characters in each comic book. Could you imagine the headaches and stress an illustrator has to go through drawing so many characters in a comic book limited series?

Ron Lim also helped visualize what Nevada looks like in 2099 which is a nice change from the super futuristic, towers-filled New York City. In terms of society, the X-Men 2099 series further showed that America’s wilderness or the abandoned places are filled with outlaws and living there can be even more dangerous for people to do when compared with living in New York under the watch of Alchemax.

This old comic book, which has a solid cover with foil and a price of $1.75, also has a 15-page Marvel 2099 promo which includes a 2-page X-Men 2099 “coming at you” portrait by Lim. The promo includes short previews of the other 2099 feature characters and it also serves as a reminder that X-Men 2099 is part of the same universe with them.

Overall, I declare X-Men 2099 #1 is still a good, old comic book worthy of being added to your collection. Its financial value is not that high right now and the X-Men 2099 themselves pale in comparison to Spider-Man 2099 (easily the most popular 2099 feature character of them all) when it comes to today’s comic book environment.

What you have to keep in mind, however, is that X-Men 2099 #1 just might gain a boost in its financial value if ever the mutants of the future make a big comeback as part of Marvel’s official announcement that it will revive the 2099 line of comic books this November! Granted, X-Men of 2099 had appeared in X-Men comic books in the past few years but the revival of the 2099 line will be a more suitable place for readers to discover them in this age of social media and smartphones.

RCO026_1469507978~2.jpg
The X-Men of 2099.

Financial value aside, X-Men 2099 #1 is engaging and entertaining, and it has that 1990s charm to it.

X-Men 2099 #1 is highly recommended.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

Carlo Carrasco’s Comic Book Review: True Believers: Absolute Carnage – Carnage #1

If there is anything I like most about Marvel Comics’ True Believers line of comic books, it’s that I get to read reprints of past stories without having to pay a whole lot of money to buy the original comic books or those pricey paperbacks.

A few years ago, out of curiosity, I bought a copy of True Believers which reprinted the first appearance of Deadpool in New Mutants #98.

This time around I got to check on the first-ever encounter between Spider-Man and the vicious supervillain Carnage with True Believers: Absolute Carnage – Carnage #1 which is currently available for for only $1.

2019-07-20_013045~2.jpg
The cover.
2019-07-20_013250~2.jpg
Hard-hitting action in the first encounter between Spidey and Carnage.

The comic book is a reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #361 which was released in 1992 just months before Marvel’s official celebration of the 30th anniversary of Spider-Man happened.

The story begins when Carnage causes trouble at the Agro-Lab Empire State University. He messes with a man named Chip (who claims to have done nothing wrong), cause property damage using his symbiote and eventually kills. This opening scene clearly shows that Carnage is a more troubling than Venom (who in turn was being turned into an anti-hero figure by Marvel’s creators).

Peter Parker/Spider-Man meanwhile spends quality time at home with his Aunt May. Unsurprisingly, a telephone call interrupts his private life causing him to go to the university to determine, secretly in costume, what happened. Peter personally knows Chip and the guy’s death only adds to his concern about the rise of brutal murders.

“Chip’s dead. And I’m worried that these serial killings may partly be my fault,” Peter told Mary Jane.

Using his access as a freelance photographer, Peter conducts computer research at the office of the Daily Bugle and discovers Cletus Kasady’s prison profile. Knowing that Kasady (Carnage) was a cellmate of Eddie Brock/Venom, he digs deeper and goes around the city to investigate. This sets up his first encounter with Carnage. What exactly happened between them? You just have to read to find out.

2019-07-20_013349~2.jpg
Tension builds up as Peter Parker researches Cletus Kasady.

Even by today’s standards, the story remains gripping, intriguing and entertaining at the same time. David Michelinie really knows how to balance spectacle, exposition and suspense with the Spidey-Carnage conflict as the highlight. Michelinie also showed Kasady’s insanity clearly and, even by his look, the villain is clearly a creative rip-off of DC Comics’ insane villain The Joker. Artist Mark Bagley’s art is still good to look at and he managed to pull off the daunting task of visualizing the present along with drawing images from Spidey’s past with original symbiote and Venom. The action scenes still have good visual impact.

Overall, if you are even a bit interested in Spider-Man, Carnage and 1990s comic book culture, then True Believers: Absolute Carnage – Carnage #1 is recommended. For only $1, this is one engaging and entertaining comic book to read.

Take note that there is a chance that Carnage will become the next popular supervillain in the movies once the character appears fully in the sequel to 2018’s Venom movie. Remember the mid-credits scene in Venom? Carnage could literally rise in pop culture.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

 

 

Is a Darna movie still needed?

This past summer, the production of the pending Darna movie project suffered a major setback when Liza Soberano dropped out due to a serious injury of her finger. I wrote about that months ago and the fact that Soberano cried during the ABS-CBN interview (she admitted she let the fans down) only showed how heavy and painful the loss of the Philippine pop culture icon was to her deep inside. Not only that, the original director Erik Matti is no longer involved and has since been replaced by Jerrold Tarog.

As of this writing, the filmmakers are still quietly searching for a suitable replacement for Soberano.

As the search goes on in this age of social media and Hollywood-produced superhero movies that dominated the Philippine box office, the hot question remains – is a Darna movie still needed?

To understand things better, let’s go back to the beginning.

The past

20190629_102806.jpg
Darna with the Philippine flag on display at the Ravelo Komiks Universe booth during the recent Toycon.

Created by the late Mars Ravelo, Darna debuted in 1950 in illustrated print media and went on to appear in comic books, comic strips, magazine special features, television and movies to name some. Through the decades, Darna went on to become a Philippine pop culture icon and there were those who even compared her with Wonder Woman.

In Philippine cinema, Vilma Santos (who is now a public servant) made her mark with the public when she played Darna more than once. Other actresses who played the superhero in other movies were Sharon Cuneta, Anjanette Abayari and Regine Velasquez to name a few.

The 21st century

In the 21st century, Darna was unsurprisingly modernized in a TV series starring Angel Locsin and produced by GMA Network. The series became a hit nationwide and helped keep Ravelo’s icon relevant to Filipinos while also boosting Locsin’s popularity. A few years later, GMA lost Locsin to its rival network ABS-CBN and “replaced” her with then newcomer Marian Rivera who went on to become a star. While still holding the rights to Darna, GMA launched in 2009 a new series with Rivera as the superhero. Like the 2005 series before it, it became a hit as well.

While it was a success, the deal between GMA and the surviving members of Mars Ravelo came to an end. Unsurprisingly, in 2015, the Ravelos signed up with rival network ABS-CBN with upcoming Darna projects in mind. What made this new deal different was that it was in the form of a motion picture project through its movie-making arm Star Cinema.

Making a live-action Darna movie turned out to be tricky and time-consuming. In 2017, the project generated a lot of buzz and excitement when the young and pretty Liza Soberano was hired to play Ravelo’s creation. She was easily referred to as the “Millennial Darna”.

Of course, in this age of social media and smartphones, Filipinos expressed their reactions online. While there were those who welcomed Soberano as Darna, there were some who had problems with the actress’ American accent and heritage (note: Soberano was born in the United States) and some even claimed that she was “not Filipina enough” to play Darna who in the realm of fantasy is Narda, who is often portrayed as a simple Filipina.

And then there were some people who preferred Angel Locsin over Soberano. Take note that almost a decade before Soberano signed up to play Darna, Locsin was hired by ABS-CBN and starred in many big projects with the network achieving lots of success in both television and movies. As such, it was no surprise that there were still many craving for Locsin to play Darna under the banner of ABS-CBN.

Before losing the role, Liza Soberano worked really hard to play Darna. Videos and images of her physically training for the role were released online and it has been reported that she researched the icon behind the scenes. Soberano, by the way, studied at SISFU (Southville International School Affiliated with Foreign Universities) in BF International, Las Pinas City.

Do people really want to see a Darna movie at all?

While Star Cinema is slowly making the Darna movie, it is only fair to ask if people really want to see the movie at all. Do Filipinos, who collectively paid a good amount of money to enjoy Hollywood-made superhero movies in local cinemas since the year 2000, really need to watch Darna on the big screen?

20190629_123043-1.jpg
Pick a Darna.

Now I am not a filmmaker nor have I gotten involved in the nation’s film industry but as a long-time geek, observer and former journalist, I should say that the odds are against Star Cinema.

Traditionally here in the Philippines, local film productions that became hits were the romantic comedy and horror types of movies. There were a few historical epic films that became hits along the way. A few fantasy movies were released and made some good money. Given the fact that these kinds of films became hits with Filipino moviegoers and given the fact that the Filipino action film genre has faded away since the early 2000s (note: Filipino action movies have been rarely produced since then), it comes to show that Filipino moviegoers are not that interested in locally made action scenes.

Action scenes combined with computer-generated images (CGI) are among the most attractive features of Hollywood superhero movies to Filipinos. There is nothing like watching Spider-Man’s classic fights with Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2 (2004), Wonder Woman leading the fight against the Germans in the No Man’s Land scene in Wonder Woman (2017), Batman fighting a gang of thugs in the warehouse in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), and the massive battle between the superheroes and the evil ones in plains of Wakanda in Avengers: Infinity War (2018) all happen on the big screen!

Definitely those forms of spectacle look great, feel intense and were enjoyable to watch again and again. Moviegoers here in the Philippines paid good money to experience those sequences. For sure, all those on-screen action sequences were carefully crafted, choreographed and painstakingly laced with CGI at a high cost.

That being said, what can the Darna movie offer local moviegoers in terms of spectacle? Can the filmmakers come up with something stylish (if not original) with the action with Darna that can convince moviegoers to come back for more? How much money can the filmmakers afford to invest in such spectacle? For sure, there will be moviegoers who can’t help but make comparisons with Darna’s on-screen spectacle with those of movies from Marvel and DC.

There is also the challenge for the Darna filmmakers to tell a compelling story and have the moviegoers connect with the characters. Sure there is Darna (Narda is her civilian identity) but who else could they add as key cast members? The least the filmmakers could do is involve supporting characters who would end up annoying moviegoers. If the Darna movie would have humor, the producers should make sure that the comedy players should avoid annoying the viewers as they try to make comic relief.

Challenging also is the implementation of the villain to give Darna problems and compel her to act heroically. There is the long-time enemy Valentina but how can the filmmakers make her relevant and not look corny to the locally viewers who have gotten so used to villains in Hollywood superhero movies. Creating a brand new, all-original villain for Darna on the big screen could be a last resort if ever none of the Mars Ravelo-created villains would fit in. A weak cinematic villain is a big no-no.

And then there is the challenge of dramatizing and modernizing the origin of Darna on the big screen. This can make or break the movie because emphasizing the origin requires a good amount of build-up and however the story is written (with the expected big battle near the end) the movie should have balance. It is key to entertain the viewers, to connect them with the characters and make the plot relevant to them. If there is way too much build-up (read: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice), moviegoers will end up getting burned out and the spectacle won’t save the movie. If the film has too much social commentary, it could turn off moviegoers.

Another issue is maintaining the relevance of Darna with the Filipinos as time passes. Each year that passes, a superhero movie of Marvel or DC Comics gets released in cinemas nationwide and adding more to the relevance of the superheroes in those movies is the presence of comic books and trade paperbacks of superheroes in retailers. I’m a comic reader and no matter how hard I try, I could not even find a Darna comic book at the retailers (including the comic book specialty stores) and not even reprints of old comics are available. As for the past TV series and movies of Darna, they can be viewed on YouTube but those productions are not too appealing to me.

Merchandise of Darna and the other Mars Ravelo heroes Lastikman and Captain Barbell are not that common commercially. The Ravelos however, in partnership with ABS-CBN, sell such merchandise (under the title Ravelo Komiks Universe) online.

During my time at the recent Toycon, there was a Ravelo Komiks Universe at the main exhibition floor which showcased statues and some merchandise of Darna, Captain Barbel and Lastikman. There were even hired models portraying the Ravelo superheroes in full costume.

One last issue to discuss here is movie competition. Hollywood superhero movies pretty much made tremendous commercial, and even social, impact here in the Philippines since the year 2000 when X-Men proved that superhero films can be taken seriously and be enjoyed for what they are. There is no denying that Marvel and DC Comics movies are major moneymakers among Filipinos. Wonder Woman grossed over P520 million nationwide in 2017. The disappointing X-Men: Apocalypse made over P400 million in 2016. Iron Man 3’s gross in 2013 was over P625 million. Lastly, Avengers: Endgame made over P1.6 billion this year!

Superhero movie competition is already tough and for sure moviegoers will compare Darna to those foreign superhero flicks on every detail. As if that was not hard enough, there is also movie competition with non-superhero flicks like Jurassic World (over P500 million) and the Star Wars movies to name a few. Some comedies and romantic comedies occasionally sell a lot. There are also those computer-generated animation films as well not to mention some Filipino movies that sometimes turn into major blockbusters.

Conclusion

20190629_102642.jpg
I wonder if this classic Darna design will actually be used in the delayed movie. Whoever gets hired as the star should be ready to wear this swimsuit-type costume.

With these issues discussed, making a Darna movie is hard to do and selling it, if ever it gets made at all, is an even bigger challenge for Star Cinema. As a movie market, the Philippines and its moviegoers have an undeniable appetite for foreign movies and if it is spectacle they crave for, they search for it from Hollywood from the superhero movies, the sci-fi movies, the hard action films, fantasy movies, etc. Adding further to the challenge of making the Darna movie succeed is the advanced publishing of schedules of releases of future movies like Wonder Woman 1984 which will be released worldwide on the first week of June 2020.

If ever the film will be made, could Star Cinema’s Darna turn out as the complete package of really special superhero fun, engaging storytelling, memorable characters and great spectacle in the near future? Will it be released during the Metro Manila Film Festival or during the January-November period? How can Star Cinema make Darna relevant to young moviegoers, geeks and the many Filipinos who love watching Hollywood superhero movies?

The answers should unravel in the near future. There is, however, the possibility that the Darna movie would end up getting cancelled. Personally, I would not be surprised if that happens.

Don’t get me wrong. While I am not a fan of Darna, I still am interested to see a modern day film adaptation of Mars Ravelo’s superhero and hope it will happen with an engaging story, characters worth connecting with and carry lots of entertainment value. While I enjoy watching Hollywood superhero movies, I still will give the Darna movie a chance if it ever gets made as a solid film.

How about you, readers? Do you want to see a Darna film on the big screen?


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

X-Men at Toycon 2019

During my time at the Toycon 2019 at SMX Convention Center in Pasay City this past Saturday, I checked out the X-Men stuff. I am a long-time X-Men fan and that particular franchise is my favorite among all of Marvel’s superheroes.

As before, I looked for some back issues of X-Men at one of the few comic book sellers at the convention.

20190629_120630-1.jpg
Lots of old X-Men comic books displayed for sale.
20190629_121837.jpg
A copy of X-Men #1 (1991) drawn by Jim Lee featuring Magneto. I did not bother to buy this one.

After carefully searching what was available and calculating with my limited budget, I bought a few copies of Uncanny X-Men drawn in the early 1990s by Whilce Portacio. I intend to have these comic books signed by him in the near future.

As I went around the floor of the main exhibition hall of the convention center, I saw several X-Men statues and action figures. The one that caught my attention was the Dark Phoenix figure.

20190629_103252.jpg
Too bad the filmmakers could not find a way to replicate this classic Dark Phoenix form for the big screen. 

And then I went up to the 2nd level of the convention where there was one function hall that had several displays of toys and action figures for people to look at. Of course, the X-Men were there and here are some pictures I took for your viewing pleasure.

20190629_105852.jpg
I like this set up showing two opposing sides. I just wished Magneto had been placed closer fronting Charles Xavier.
20190629_105647.jpg
The 1990s X-Men look.
20190629_105836.jpg
Dazzler, X-Factor, Cable and some X-Men.
20190629_105843.jpg
Another 1990s X-Men set.
20190629_105635.jpg
I like the set up here with the X-Men and a fallen Sentinel.

For more X-Men insight, check out my Logan retro movie review, my X-Men #1 (1991) retro comic book review, my X-Men: Dark Phoenix movie review, my retro movie reviews of X-Men (2000), X2: X-Men United and X-Men: The Last Stand.

Check out my first Toycon 2019 article here.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back at Fantastic Four #275

Back in the mid-1980s, the Marvel Comics universe had revisions as a result of the best-selling series Secret Wars. As a result of that series, Spider-Man went home with the alien costume or symbiote (read: Venom), Colossus’ feelings for Kitty Pryde weakened and the Thing decided not to go home yet with the Fantastic Four.

This resulted a temporary change in the lineup of the Fantastic Four. To make up for the loss (and strength) of the Thing, She-Hulk came in as the replacement. Reflecting this particular change, here is my retro review of Fantastic Four #275.

20190611_125812.jpg
The cover.

Released in 1985 with a story written and drawn by the legendary John Byrne, Fantastic Four #275 begins when a sun-bathing She-Hulk got photographed by a man riding a helicopter flying at the top of the Baxter Building in New York. The sheer force of air from the helicopter’s blades temporarily causes She-Hulk’s cover to loosen which exposes her body to the photographer.

“Here I was all braced for a super-baddie, and I end up getting photographed deshabillee by an airborne peeping-tom,” She-Hulk said during the encounter.

The green-skinned lady then decides to take a huge risk by leaping off the building and grab on to the helicopter.

While this is indeed a Fantastic Four comic book, it is very focused on She-Hulk. There is a short scene about Johnny Storm as well as an epilogue at the end of the comic book showing Reed and Sue Richards however.

In terms of storytelling, John Byrne did not tell the usual good-versus-evil story rather he focused more on how being a superhero can be challenging when it comes to personal privacy. This was emphasized through She-Hulk who became the object of a magazine whose editor-in-chief views her as a public figure and that puts her in the public domain along with other famous public figures whose faces and even their private lives got exposed to the masses.

20190611_125237.jpg
From page 11.

If you are looking for superhero action, you won’t find much. There are some incidental forms of action in the form of collateral damage as She-Hulk crashes through walls.

Overall, Fantastic Four #275 is a fun read and its focus on how the print media treats superheroes viewed as public figures is a nice break from the typical good-versus-evil type of story. No clear villain here. Just the She-Hulk dealing with a magazine that violated her privacy.

Fantastic Four #275 is recommended.