Saturday, January 28, 2012

BILLY THE DRAGON


Billy The Dragon (also spelled as Billy D' Dragon) first appeared in Kick Fighter Komiks #58 (March 7, 1994), published by Infinity Publishing Inc. The first 17 chapters were written by Andy Beltran and drawn by Fern Lucero. Jet Orbida and Jay Jimenez took over as writer and artist respectively starting with KF #75 (July 4, 1994). Just like in most of the other KF serials, the main characters were modeled (or inspired, or ripped-off, whichever you prefer) on those from the Street Fighter video games.



DRAGON'S QUEST


The first several episodes followed the title character, Billy, and his arch-rival Apache, Indian brave from the tribe of Kekakeka, as they try to outwit each other in search of the fabled Rosetta Stone.





Now, there is, of course, a real-life Rosetta Stone, which was an ancient slab of granite with inscriptions that became a key to understanding Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. The one in the comic, however, was a mystical gem (actually one of two) that granted vast power to whomever possessed it.













After 20-plus issues of Billy and Apache trying to kill each other in the wilderness over a rock, they were then sent on a series of adventures through time and space, forced to team-up in order to survive.


During their adventure in the 25th century, they meet a mysterious old sage named Aman, who convinces them to set aside their differences and use the power of the Rosetta Stone for the good of mankind.



DRAGON POWERS


Billy and Apache both possessed natural fighting and survival skills. After they were empowered by the Rosetta Stones, they gained the ability to fly and shoot energy blasts from their hands. Apart from this, Billy could also breathe fire like his namesake, while Apache could make himself grow to gigantic size (just don't call him "Chief").



ALLIES

AMAN

An immortal scientist who seeks to help humanity evolve to a higher level and attain spiritual enlightenment.








TILOT

Aman's young assistant and leader of the Baslit, a colony of genetically-enhanced children bred by Aman himself.







LORDO
The leader of an alien race that had taken over Ancient Egypt. Prior to this, the aliens had been experimenting on Earthlings (presumably kick-starting the evolution of man) and manipulating the Earth's climate since prehistoric times. One of their test subjects turned out to be the immortal Aman. Realizing that his kind's years of conquest had corrupted their once noble ideology, Lordo orders his people to change their ways and becomes an ally to Billy and Apache. He also held the other half of the Rosetta Stones, and is responsible for Billy and Apache's new super powers.


ENEMIES

PAX SCION
An army of evil mutant warriors ruling the post-apocalyptic world of the 25th century (incorrectly identified as the year 2500). They love garbage and hate cleanliness. Pictured below is their queen Rena Kena, along with Oneno (the midget in the hockey mask) and Aproid (the big goon in the helmet).

MONSTRO
Rena Kena's pet mutant dinosaur.

PUMANG-KABAYO ("PUMA-HORSE")

Part-puma, part horse. 'Nuff said.
"Natatawa ako, hee-hee-hee-hee!"

RENO

Child-like evil genius from the planet Alta.
















RETURN OF THE DRAGON

When KF was revamped as Kick Fighter II with issue #118 (May 1, 1995), Billy was transferred to a new serial entitled Zero Gravity, while Apache starred in Blakaduka - Death Land. They would later be reunited in the 1996 Kick Fighter III series Doom Warriors.



COVERS



Sunday, January 22, 2012

WONDER DRAGON

Wonder Dragon was the mascot for Dragon Titan Sandals, a brand of rubber slippers (or more popularly termed these days as "flip-flops"). From 1983 to 1984, he starred in a series of one-page comic strips which appeared in a number of magazines, but perhaps most notably on the back covers of Pilipino Funny Komiks. While essentially ads for the flip-flop brand, there is very little to no advertising within the stories themselves, which are short, simple adventures that hold a charm all their own.


While enjoying a holiday on the beach, a young boy named Dinky finds a pair of rubber sandals in the water. Putting them on, a magical friendly dragon appears before him, who he can summon in times of crisis by merely calling its name. At first known simply as the "Dragon," he is eventually given the more catchier name of "Wonder Dragon" in the second episode.


Naturally, Wonder Dragon is capable of breathing fire, as all dragons are. Apart from this, he also possesses other magical powers, such as telepathy, invisibility, flight, and the ability to generate force fields.


And now, here are a few more selected Wonder Dragon adventures.








Forget doomsday. 2012 is The Year of the Dragon!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

PANDAY Mini-Comic


I wasn't aware this existed until now. Apparently, in 2005, Ovaltine came out with a series of Panday mini-comics as a tie-in to the ABS-CBN television series. The hero of the story, though, was the original Panday Flavio, not the TV show's substitute blacksmith, Tristan.

Here are the first 5 pages of Si Panday Laban sa Mga Dragon ("Blacksmith Against the Dragons"), story by Carlo J. Caparas, art by Rico Rival, and colors by Richard Bonzon (these pages were taken from his deviantART site).



Monday, January 2, 2012

Movie Review: ANG PANDAY 2 - Film Forgery?


First of all, let me just say that I'm a fan of Ang Panday. I really like the character and have always thought of it as one of the most original concepts to come out of Philippine comics. However, what with the controversies surrounding its creator, self-proclaimed komiks king and UNPROCLAIMED "National Artist" Carlo J. Caparas, my fondness for the franchise comes with a certain amount of guilt. And after seeing the new film Ang Panday 2, I've found myself feeling even more guilty for patronizing it. But I'm getting ahead of myself.


Ang Panday 2 ("The Blacksmith 2") is the sequel to the 2009 Panday remake starring Ramon "Bong" Revilla, Jr. While this is the second film in the rebooted series, this is technically Revilla's third Panday movie, having initially played the part (or rather, the descendant of the original) in 1993's Dugo ng Panday ("Blood of the Blacksmith").


Not only is this film a sequel to the remake, it is practically a remake of the original Panday sequel as well. It borrows certain story elements from 1981's Pagbabalik ng Panday ("Return of the Blacksmith"), but with a few modifications. In both films, the arch-villain Lizardo is resurrected by a witch. In the 1981 version, our hero Flavio was aided by a tribe of bird people; in Panday 2, he meets a race of dragon people. He even battles a mer-creature in both movies; a siyokoy in the 1981 film and a sireno in the new one (personally, I prefer the siyokoy in the original. It just looked much more threatening than a "mermaid man," you know?).


Interestingly, Panday 2 also samples a bit from the 1993 parody film Pandoy, Ang Alalay ng Panday ("Pandoy, The Blacksmith's Apprentice"). During the obligatory desert battle scene, Flavio makes the blade of his sword grow to an extremely enormous length, much like Pandoy did in the spoof.

Just as the original Flavio, the late Fernando Poe, Jr., was the King of Philippine Movies, Bong Revilla may as well be crowned the King of Philippine Fantasy Movies. Revilla has often professed that the Panday character has always been his dream role, and considering that his past fantasy films usually had some Panday-like elements in them (particularly in Ang Agimat: Anting Anting ni Lolo and Exodus: Tales from the Enchanted Kingdom), it would seem that his career has been in preparation for playing the sword-swinging champion.



Unlike FPJ, whose eternally heroic screen image mandated that his Panday could only be portrayed as the pure and perfect hero, Revilla's interpretation(s) of the character is allowed to be a bit more flawed. In his first actual Panday film (Dugo ng Panday), he played the brash and arrogant delinquent descendant of the original Blacksmith. In the 2009 remake, his Flavio was shown to have bouts of self-doubt. As for the sequel, at some point there's an indication that the hero worship is getting into Flavio's head and he's relying a little too much on the sword. It's an interesting angle to develop, but unfortunately, it's never really fully explored. This potentially intriguing bit of character development lasts for all of one scene, and after getting chastised by his blind mentor, Flavio instantly reverts back to full-functioning do-gooder mode for the rest of the film.


Another difference between the old and new series is their approach to romance. In the original series, there would be a new leading lady in each film, and except perhaps for the first one, there is hardly any romantic subplot. Girls may fall for Flavio, but he rarely ever reciprocates their feelings. In the current Panday films, however, there is an ongoing love affair between Flavio and the mythical Filipino fairy Maria Makiling (played by Iza Calzado).

In one scene, Maria is seen trying on her wedding gown when a couple of women show up to tell her that it's bad luck to do so. You know, if there's one thing I really hate in a lot of Pinoy films and TV shows, it's how they insist on perpetuating old superstitions. For instance, like if a glass or any breakable object falls to the floor and shatters, it means something bad has happened to the person who owns said object (usually, a car accident); stupid stuff like that. In this film, the superstition of the day is that a bride-to-be should never put on her wedding gown on the night before her wedding. Because if she does, flying demons will come and take her away.


The other female lead in the film is Marian Rivera as the human alter-ego of Flavio's pet dragon. In the scene where she reveals herself, a villain asks who she is, and she answers "AKO ANG IYONG BANUNGOT!" ("I AM YOUR NIGHTMARE!") It's funny, we always hear that old "I'm your worst nightmare!" line used in a lot of movies (I don't even remember where it's originally from), but this is the first time I've heard it in Tagalog. And Marian's delivery of the line just sounded so bad-ass.



Fun Fact! Actor Phillip Salvador, who plays Lizardo in the movie, also appeared as Flavio in the first episode of the 2005-06 Panday television series, making him the only actor to date to have played both the original Panday and his arch-nemesis!

Anyway, Lizardo, as portrayed by the late Max Alvarado in the original films, has always struck me as a "happy evildoer," and that's basically how Salvador plays him, but dialed up to lunatic levels and with extra sleaze. Some may find the portrayal somewhat Joker-ish, considering the pasty-faced make-up and the maniacal cackling. Just the same, I like that the character is played here as a total depraved freak. Compared to the previous versions, Lizardo actually comes off as literally lizard-like in the reboot.


In the film's climactic battle, Lizardo fights Flavio by transforming himself into a giant monster... just like he did in the previous movie (although he was a giant snake that time around, but still...). It's basically the ending of every Power Rangers episode. And like in those shows, predictably, the bigger they are, the easier they are to chop down.

And speaking of giant monsters, we come to the part of this review where we address the elephant in the room. Or, to be exact, the kraken in the picture...



While the local press has largely ignored the issue, less-biased reviewers have noted the Panday 2 monster's resemblance to the Kraken from the 2010 Clash of the Titans remake. But just how closely do the two creatures resemble each other? Well, to be fair, Clash did only partially show the Kraken as it popped out of the water, whereas the P2 monster was shown in its full glory. So for all I know, the design of the creature's body may well have been somewhat original.


But the fact remains, as evidenced by the images above, that at least the creature's head is a dead ringer for that of the Kraken's. Assuming that the rest of the creature really is an original creation, why didn't they bother to come up with a new design for its head? I mean, come on, how hard could it be? There's so much room on that big ugly lump for improvement. They could've put, oh I don't know, a large rhino horn on it maybe? Then they could've had spikes jutting out all over the place, maybe spiny fin-like ears, sort of resembling huge dragon wings. Or they could have given it six eyes, and they could have also changed the tentacles a bit so they look more like serpents. Make it look like a giant mutant triceratops/crustacean hybrid creature with a 7-headed hydra growing out of its humped back. See? Was that so damn hard?

But no. The filmmakers opted for the lazy way out and got themselves a second-rate, trying hard copy-kraken. And while this may well have been a decision by the producers and the director (Mac C. Alejandre, the genius behind the horrible 2004 Lastikman movie), I don't lay the blame solely on them, but also on the effects artists themselves for going along with this con. Talented as you guys are, couldn't you have at least tried to tweak things while nobody was looking? Sure, there's a good chance that you might have gotten your @$$es fired for it. But on the other hand, maybe you might have impressed the hell out of your bosses with your creativity, and they might have realized that it's actually much better to be original. Wouldn't it be worth the gamble to express your original ideas and show the world what Filipino artistry is really capable of?

No? You're just in it for a quick buck? Oh, okay.


Oh, and look, they have a giant scorpion, too. They couldn't have used another type of animal, like maybe a giant spider? Or a monster cockroach? Or a carnivorous worm-thing? Anything?

The copying is so shamelessly obvious it's ridiculous. It's not just that they're trying to fool the audience, it's like they don't even care if anybody notices. They might as well have flashed "HEY, LOOK! WE'RE RIPPING-OFF CLASH OF THE TITANS!" on the screen. And they have all these promos for the film stating how it looks so "world-class." Uh-huh, sure. Just try releasing this internationally, let's see how the rest of the world reacts to it.

Look, showbiz-land, times have changed. This isn't like the old days when a local movie can just rip-off any popular foreign film, but it's okay, because no one else outside the Philippines is going to see it anyway. That's not true anymore. Through the miracle of modern technology, you can break wind now and people on the other side of the globe will hear and smell it in ten seconds flat. Even if you never do officially release your little movie overseas, somehow, someway, everyone is going to know about it. The world is watching. Whatever virtues this picture does have will be overlooked. They'll notice the kraken, the giant scorpion, the hero on his flying steed and his extendable sword (it won't even matter that Panday had the extendable sword first), and all they'll see is a Clash of the Titans knock-off. As a Panday fan, I find it sad that this is the version of the character that the world will come to know. As a Filipino, I find it shameful that the world will look at us as nothing more than a bunch of rip-off artists.

I have to admit, I did rather like the 2009 Panday film. I thought it was cool that in a Metro Manila Film Festival that is essentially a showcase for quickie movies (let's face facts here), here was a film that actually took its time, having been in production for about a year; much longer than the scant few months that a typical filmfest entry takes to get made. And while not perfect, I thought it was a pretty well-made film as far as MMFF entries go. Panday 2 was about 2 years in the making, an even longer production time than the first installment, so I had very high hopes for it. Unfortunately, the great legacy forged by the heroic Blacksmith has been tainted by an act of film forgery.