Tuesday, September 10, 2019

COMPUTERMAN

Let's take a break from comics for a bit and talk television.

So I've kind of been on a nostalgia trip lately, thinking about old TV shows I watched back in the day.  Particularly, the early-nineties TV series Computerman, starring Eric Quizon.  It's one of those shows that a lot of people seem to remember, but not many seem to have any specific memory about or they get certain details wrong.  At the very least, no one seems to have talked about it in any depth other than "Hey, remember that old show?"  And unfortunately, there is very little information nor is there any existing footage of the show that you can find on the net.

So, I figured I'd fill in some gaps in people's memories and share what little I know on the subject, as well as provide some visual aids to illustrate how some the characters looked like.  And so, here is your reintroduction to this fondly remembered but often misremembered show.

Eric Quizon IS Computerman!

Yep, that's pretty much what he looked like.  Thank you, free photoshop website.  Anyway, Computerman (one word, not Computer Man as it is often misspelled) aired from 1990 to 1991 on IBC 13 (it's a shame what that channel has become these days.  Oh, well).  It was created by Geirry A. Garccia, the animator behind the first Filipino animated series based on Ang Panday, which aired on RPN 9 from 1986 to 1988.  He went on to produce animated shows based on Captain Barbell (for RPN) and Darna (on GMA 7).  He was also developing a Lastikman cartoon, which would have featured the voice of Vic Sotto (several years before he would play the character in the 2002 film), but the project did not materialize.

Computerman marked Garccia's first and only foray into live-action television, but it was not his only attempt.  He was also developing a show called Robokid (basically, a kid version of Robocop) for IBC.  While a teaser for it was released, the show itself was never aired.  Fortunately, he had better luck with Computerman, which proved quite popular during its brief run.

SOME TIME AGO IN A GALAXY A BIT FAR AWAY... 


The story begins on the planet Noikra, a world ravaged by a deadly plague that causes the body to gradually disintegrate.  A possible cure is developed, the Power Beam.  The plan was to send the beam to the planet Mars, where the infected Noikrans were to be moved.  But during an attack by the Spikeskulls, a group of rebel Noikrans, the beam misses its mark and is instead sent to the planet Earth.  Specifically, to the home PC of computer analyst Mike Rodriguez (played by Eric Quizon).

Mike turns on his personal computer and is blasted by the Power Beam.  He soon finds himself becoming extremely sensitive to electricity.  He starts to develop strange abilities--and experiences excruciating pain.  Tracking the beam to Earth, the Spikeskulls descend, led by Captain Ernex (Vivian Velez), and hunt Mike down.  Fortunately, Mike is found by Maia (Ruth Tuazon), the princess of Noikra, who explains to him the situation and helps him to understand his new powers.

Once he has mastered his powers, Mike decides to become the superhero Computerman, using his abilities to fight crime and all forms of evil while protecting the world from the impending Spikeskull invasion.

POWERS & ABILITIES


Computerman possesses energy-based powers emanating from the vortex-shaped insignia on his chest.  He can fire energy blasts mainly from his chest symbol, but I recall he can also do so from his hands and eyes.  He can also peel off his symbol and throw it at his opponents like a frisbee (take that, cellophane-S Superman!).

He can project force fields to protect himself, and presumably he has super strength.  He cannot fly (so that one scene some of you might remember of him flying into space with Aiko Melendez was actually a dream sequence), but he does have the ability to teleport.

His personal computer is a direct line to the planet Noikra.  He can use it to communicate with Princess Maia or transport himself to her world.

Oh, and he's really good at video games.  Like there was one episode where the villains imprisoned him and had him play a video game the whole time.  He aced it.

His one weakness is a radioactive element from space known as Cosmonite.  Because they just had to rip off Superman somehow (as though wearing glasses to hide your secret identity wasn't enough).

Speaking of rip-offs...

HOLLYWOOD-LEVEL SPECIAL EFFECTS

 

 While most of the show's special effects were what you would expect from a Filipino television series produced in 1990, they did boast of some very impressive space battle scenes.  Like, real state-of-the-art Hollywood-level effects!  And while you may not be able to find any clips from the actual show, you can easily find footage of those space battles online.  Here's a sample...

 
Um, yeah, that's actually a scene from Battle Beyond the Stars (1980).  Basically, they just reused the space sequences from that movie.  But it seems that footage gets passed around a lot, as it was also recycled for other films such as 1983's Space Raiders (from which most people at the time might remember it).  Not that it makes it all right.  Or does it?

Oh, and the special effects artist for Battle was a then-unknown James Cameron.  So, yeah.  James Cameron "worked" on Computerman.  Imagine that.

But to be fair, the show did do its share of decent production work.  The miniature sets they used for Planet Noikra were okay.  And I thought the Spikeskulls' asteroid base/ship was pretty cool.   Looked kinda like this, but with a dome on top and engines sticking out of it...



 SUPPORTING CAST

"PAPANG" MIGUEL

Mike's father, played by Jimmy MoratoHe serves as the comic relief of the show.

There's one episode I remember in particular where Mike was going on a trip to Hong Kong, and Papang asks him to bring home a Barbie doll for him.  Then, when Mike's kind-of love interest (played by Plinky Recto) decides to follow, he asks her to bring him a Ken doll--or as he calls it, a "Barbo" ('cause it's a male Barbie, get it?).  What that Barbie/Barbo business was all about we'll never know because they never mention it again afterwards.

Gah!  The things I remember. 

PRINCESS MAIA

The princess of Planet Noikra, ally of Computerman, and all-purpose exposition device.  Intended to be a love interest, Maia (pronounced as "mey-ya") never really developed a serious romantic relationship with Mike.  Kinda hard to do when you mostly interact through a computer monitor (of course, that doesn't seem to be a problem for kids today).  But Mike does get to see her in person whenever she brings him over to save Noikra from yet another Spikeskull attack.

Played by actress Ruth Tuazon, whose biggest claim to fame was playing the new Jane in Joey De Leon's third Starzan movie.
 

HARING DANIB

The king of Noikra, father of Princess Maia.  The one reference I could find credits actor Johnny Wilson in the role, but I'm pretty sure he was played by Charlie Davao.
  
Danib appears  in the first few episodes, but he is later mentioned to have died from the disintegrating virus off-screen, leaving Maia as the sole ruler of Noikra. 

 

VERNON

I have no idea who the actor who played him was, but the mulleted Vernon was a high-ranking officer of the Noikran forces who was in love with Princess Maia.  So naturally, he gets crazy jealous when puny Earthling Mike enters the scene.  Nonetheless, he comes to respect Computerman when they fight side-by-side against the Spikeskulls.

 

THE REPORTER CHICK

Yeah, I don't even remember the character's name, but she's a reporter for the newspaper The Manila Post who covers stories involving Computerman, is a friend of Mike's, and another potential love interest.

She was played by an actress who went by the name Chiqui Ferrer, but I believe she also appeared in the 1990  Vic Sotto film Iputok Mo...  Dadapa Ako!  under the name Andrea Arroyo.

THE EDITOR

I don't remember this guy's name either, but he was the editor of the Manila Post.  Played by actor Tommy Abuel.

 

PLINKY RECTO

Yeah, I just put the actress' name there because, well, you know (What?  I don't remember everything!).  

Anyway, Ms. Recto played Mike's childhood friend who just moves into the Rodriguez' home for--reasons.  She forms a sort-of love triangle with Mike and Reporter Chick.  She is last seen joining Mike on his trip to Hong Kong, but she doesn't make the trip back, deciding to go back to her family in the States instead (and thus, the Barbo mystery remains unsolved).


VILLAINS

THE SPIKESKULLS

The main antagonists of the show, a renegade faction of Noikrans who were infected and disfigured by the plague They looked kinda like this (although the spikes on the head were much smaller and they had jawbones)...


They are kept alive by the energies radiating from a giant head-shaped lightning lamp, which slow down the effects of the disease on their bodies.  And that giant head lamp happens to be...

Emperatriz

The evil empress of the Spikeskulls.  Usually, she is a disembodied voice that speaks through the aforementioned head-shaped lightning lamp.  Occasionally, she appears as a stern-looking woman in skimpy tights and a cape, played by Lara Melissa De Leon.

NOT Lara Melissa De Leon

Whether this is the Emperatriz' true appearance or not, no one can really say, as she has the ability to assume any form.  She normally lets her minions do all the dirty work, except for that one time when she personally faced Comnputerman in the form of an Ice-Woman (well, actually a woman all covered in plastic wrap.  Hollywood-level special effects, people!).


CAPTAIN ERNEX

The Spikeskulls' commander, played by Vivian Velez.


Behold my pathetic attempt at creating a leather jacket!  Also, the girl's still got it.




Ernex was Computerman's arch-nemesis for the first several episodes.  She's not disfigured like the rest of the Spikeskulls, probably because she's always seen basking in front of the big lightning lamp, hogging all the energy for herself.  

It's too bad she dropped out too soon.  She was last seen disguising herself as Mike's late mother (played by Tanya Gomez) in order to seduce his dad, which doesn't work out.  After that, she's just gone without explanation.  Although the Emperatriz did previously talk about giving Ernex her own planet to command, that might have been a way to write her off.  But considering she failed in her last mission, that doesn't seem likely.

BRAINSKULL

Known as the "Prince of Darkness," Brainskull was the most feared being in the galaxy.  He is brought in by Emperatriz to help Captain Ernex in their conquest of Earth, but eventually assumes the command post once she's gone.  He's basically the Darth Vader of the show, though as far as I know he's nobody's father.  More brain than he is skull, his head was, naturally, a huge-ass brain with tentacles growing out of it.


More like Brain-Squid, really.


HENDRIX

Ernex's right hand man, played (at least initially) by Roi Vinzon.  Like Ernex, he looked normal at first.  A few episodes later, the effects of the plague kicks in and he becomes disfigured like the other Spikeskulls.  The real explanation though is that the original actor left the show, so they replaced him with a stand-in in a mask.

After Ernex leaves, skull-faced Hendrix stays on as Brainskull's lackey for a while.  He is last seen getting blasted in the chest by Computerman.  It's not clear whether he's dead or not, but considering he looks just like every other Spikeskull, no one would probably notice if he were gone.

 

DR. B

Played by actor Raoul Aragon (or Aragonn, or Aragonne, the spelling tended to change a lot), Dr. B is, you guessed it, the resident mad scientist.  There always has to be one.  What the "B" in his name stands for is unknown.  He usually operated independently, but occasionally worked with the Spikeskulls.  He had a hunchbacked assistant, forgot his name, played by Lou Veloso.


VOLTRO

An electric-powered space warrior, played by Pinoy Wrestler Macho Franco.  Yes, kids, Pinoy Wrestling was a thing back then.  And here's Macho Franco in action.




BOY TETU/NEGRO

Boy Tetu was the gangster who murdered Mike's mother when he was a boy.  When Mike finally catches up to him as Computerman, he is killed in the ensuing struggle.  Brainskull and Emperatriz retrieve the body and resurrect it as an undead fire-spewing creature.  Because Tetu's skin got burnt black by Computerman's blast, they call him Negro (now, that's just mean).

ANAK NG KAPRE (THE KAPRE'S DAUGHTER)

Played by Sharmaine Arnaiz, a teenage girl possessed by a kapre who turns out to be her father.  In her possessed form, she has patches of hair growing out of her face and arms, and she could expel a form of energy blast from her mouth.


MAGNES

Played by Sheila Ysrael, a super-attractive alien who got booted out of her own planet because all their men kept falling in love with her.  Really.  Possessing magnetic powers derived from her magnet-shaped hairband, she is coerced by Brainskull and company into helping them trap Computerman.

Posing as a woman named Agnes, she easily makes Mike fall for her, then uses her magnetic abilities to drain his powers.  But it turns out she's not actually a bad person and eventually sides with him against the villains.


CRYONIC MAN

A man suffering from a terminal illness agrees to undergo an experimental procedure.  Unfortunately, the person conducting the experiment is Dr. B, and the procedure involves placing him in cryogenic suspension.  He comes out of it a hideously deformed freak and goes on a rampage.  He looked kinda like Frankenstein's Daughter.




CORRUPT ROBOCOP


At the end of the Cryonic Man episode, Dr. B announced plans for his next creation: Corrupt Robocop!  I was kinda excited for that at the time.  I thought it was an interesting idea and I couldn't wait to see what it would look like.

When that episode finally aired, well...  First of all, Dr. B wasn't even there.  He and his assistant were suddenly replaced by two random mad scientists types.  This was actually an omen of worse things to come.

And then, Corrupt Robocop--turns out he was neither a robot nor was he even a cop!  He was a slain crime boss named Don Pepe who was brought back to life Frankenstein-style into a mindless zombie, goes on a killing spree and freezes every time he sees his young son.  He moved and acted like a robot, but that was about as robotic as he got.  He was nothing more than a murderous sleepwalker.  Disappointing.

So after Computerman put down Corrupt Not-Robocop, he would go on to face his worst enemy, one that not even he could hope to defeat...

CANCELLATION.

COMPUTERMAN DELETED!


What killed Computerman?  Budget cuts. 

Apparently, the producers decided to cut down on production costs, leading to a drop in the show's quality.  Case in point, the episode I mentioned earlier where Computerman was playing a video game the whole time (would you believe it was a 2-parter?) .  Most of the regular cast was also let go, hence Dr. B's sudden disappearance.  By the end, Eric Quizon and Jimmy Morato were the only cast members left, and even Quizon got so frustrated that he eventually walked.

The last episode of the series begins with Mike rolling around in his sleep, internally expressing his desire for a normal life, as his Computerman-self leaves his body like a spirit (this is actually recycled footage from a past episode; Quizon had already quit by this time).  The next day, Miguel finds that his son has mysteriously disappeared.

And on that abrupt, unsatisfying note, Computerman was gone.  Nonetheless, the producers decided that the show must go on, and not only did they cast a new lead star, they also retooled the series altogether--and Computer Kid was born.  But that's a story for another time.  Maybe.  If I ever feel like telling it.  Not that there's much to tell about it.

COMPUTERMAN UPGRADED?

 

Eric Quizon did get a chance to play Computerman again--sort of--on an episode of ABS-CBN's late-nineties gag show Super Laff-In, as an "updated" version of the character, now calling himself Laptop Man (yeah, it's a parody, but it's still better than the ending we got, so I'm considering it canon).  Quizon has since made a career as a film and television producer/director, returning to the superhero genre as co-director on GMA's 2005 Darna TV series, and on the  2013 TV5 shows Kidlat and Cassandra: Warrior Angel.

And that was our look back at Computerman.  It was a show made for its time, but honestly, I would love to see it somehow get rebooted today.  It would be great to do a proper retelling with improved effects, a little less recycled footage, AND A SATISFYING CONCLUSION THIS TIME.  And besides, where else would a hero like Computerman be more relevant than in the digital age?

Well, this was fun.  Maybe I'll revisit other old shows in the future...

Monday, July 1, 2019

LASER MAN

Created by writer D.G. Salonga and artist Abel Laxamana, Laser Man blasted through Super Action Pocketkomiks (published by Atlas Publishing Co., Inc.) from 1985 to '86.



AN EYE FOR AN EYE


Tragedy befalls Elmo Salazar and his wife Lirio when a group of criminals break into their home.


The house is looted.  Lirio is raped and murdered in front of her husband.  Then the ring leader, Elmo's evil stepmother Varga, adds injury to insult by gouging his eyes out.


Elmo is shot and left for dead.  The gruesome crime makes headlines.


The news reaches an unnamed scientist who turns out to be Elmo's old mentor.  The Professor visits the hospital where his critically-injured student is admitted.  By coincidence, he arrives at the same time as the three masterminds behind the crime, who have come to finish the job.



Overhearing their conversation, the Professor starts a small fire in the restroom and steals Elmo away while everyone is distracted.  He brings him to his home laboratory, performing an experimental procedure and fitting him with a new pair of mechanical eyes.



When Elmo recovers, the Professor explains his artificial eyes' capabilities, such as enhanced vision, and the ability to shoot laser beams.  Unfortunately, the criminals are able to track them down.  The Professor instructs Elmo to destroy his lab.


Elmo and the Professor make their escape, but the latter is shot during the attempt.  With his dying breath, he tells Elmo to keep himself hidden and use his new powers to fight evil.


As per the Professor's last request, Elmo returns to the ruins of his mentor's home where he unearths a chest full of money and jewelry to help him on his mission.  Honoring his vow, Elmo begins his secret crusade against crime as "the man with the metal eyes," the burning light in the darkness known as The Laser Man.






POWERS AND ABILITIES








Elmo can emit focused beams of light and heat from his mechanized eyes.  Controlled by a computer implanted in his chest, he can vary the width and intensity of the lasers, from a thin, barely-visible beam---


---to a searing, destructive death ray.



He also possesses infra-red night vision, x-ray vision--


--heightened senses, and he could intercept radio transmissions as well.


(If he was revived today, he'd probably have wi-fi.)

To recharge his powers, Elmo must occasionally absorb a massive amount of electricity (such as from a lightning strike) into his body.




ENEMIES


VARGA, MALTO & DALTON

The three conspirators against the Salazars.  Varga Ramirez wants revenge on her ingrate stepson Elmo.  Malto Aguilar lusts after Lirio, who had rejected him.  Dalton Amigo is just in it for the money.


VIDA, VIRKA, VESTA & VIA


 Four sisters, wealthy, beautiful young socialites--


--who moonlight as armed terrorists.


THE SPIDER GANG



A gang of motorcycle-riding costumed criminals comprised of trained athletes. 





COVER GALLERY

 

Saturday, June 1, 2019

GOODZILLA

He's like Godzilla, only, you know--good.

Created by writer Jun R. De Leon and illustrator Jimmy D. Flores, this crime-fighting kaiju appeared in 1993 in the pages of Super Heroes Comix, published by Graphic Arts Service Inc.

In this strip from issue #21 (December 12, 1993), Goodzilla fights the 12-foot cyborg villain Silverman.







I wonder if he had an evil twin named Badzilla?  Probably.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

BATHALA - Raja Team One

Hey, it's been a while.  Let's see if we can get back in the groove.

Way back in 2015, we did a brief feature on the Kidlat Superheroes Komiks serial Bathala.  Four years later, here's that looooooong overdue follow-up, spotlighting the series' protagonists...

RAJA TEAM ONE


LAM-ANG


Real Name: Geonell Salvador

Named after the Ilocano epic hero, Lam-ang has the ability to absorb and store any type of energy into his body and release it in the form of devastating bio-kinetic blasts or as a protective force field.



MAKILING


Real Name: Angelina Sagala

Named after the mythical guardian spirit of Mount Makiling, she can influence the temperature of her surroundings, notably giving her ice-based powers.  Makiling can also direct energy to her feet, enabling her to fly.



CARPIO


Real Name: Jay Jorge Beltran

Named after the mythological strongman Bernardo Carpio, he is the team's resident powerhouse.  Needless to say, Carpio possesses superhuman strength, but besides that he also has superhuman endurance that enables him to withstand extreme temperatures and hold his breath for an extended period of time.  He carries a protomagnetic shield that grants him the power of flight.



DWEN


Real Name: June Bautista

His name is taken from the word duwende, the Philippine term for dwarves, elves or goblins.  The youngest team member, Dwen has psionic powers that enable him to scan the minds of others or fire powerful psi-blasts at his opponents.  He is also capable of teleportation, but the range of this ability is limited to only 30 kilometers.

ADARNA


Real Name: Fritzie Aguilar

Named after the eponymous bird from the 16th century epic poem, Adarna has a powerful high-pitched voice that can shatter anything, including metal.  Aside from this, she is also a skilled martial artist, a pair of katana blades being her weapons of choice.  Her sister, K'wa, is a member of the opposing team, the evil Salot.



LAWIN


Unfortunately, I don't have the profile page for this guy.  Anyway, Lawin ("Hawk") possesses razor-sharp claws, super-sharp senses, and a winged cape that enables him to glide through the air.


From his appearance, one would assume Lawin to be the silent, brooding mystery-man of the group, but that couldn't be further from the truth.  Underneath that cool-looking mask is a brash and vain pretty boy who considers himself the star player of the team.


 

 

COVER GALLERY

 




That's all for now.  Watch out for our feature on the Rajas' villainous counterparts, the Salot, coming out--sometime in the future. (^_^)