Monday, May 29, 2006

Captain Barbell

Okay, I accidentally watched last Monday evening the first episode of GMA-7's much-publicized Captain Barbell TV series. I said "accidentally" because I did not have any plan at all to watch it.

I was deeply disappointed by their Darna tele-version, and I pre-judged that now, GMA-7 will not be able to come up with even a satisfactory rendition of Mars Ravelo's most famous superhero.

I was watching 24 Oras, dozed off a little during Pia Guano's report on Kapuso stars ( plus Mike Enriquez' overacting intro of her) , I was awakened to find myself already watching Captain Barbell. Well, since I'm very comfortable lying on my sofa, why not give it a chance and perhaps see just what GMA-7 has stored for the first episode.

Frankly and honestly, I am very impressed with the first showing. It is fast-paced and superbly edited. But the real strength lies on its special effects. It is not unexpected though, as GMA-7 had repeatedly boasted that they really poured big money towards the production. It is also a strategy to make a big first impression so that the viewers will be sure to come back each evening.

Superman Copy

It is only deplorable that GMA7's Captain Barbell deviated from its original storyline, even though it claimed it is Mars Ravelos' Captain Barbell. Plotwise, there is little similarity to the original Captain Barbell who first debuted in Pinoy Komiks in 1963.

The original Captain Barbell first appeared in Pinoy Komiks in 1963. Written by the great Mars Ravelo, this series was illustrated by Jim Fernandez.

The plot is obviously copied from Smallville, with all the familiar scenes like a spaceship crashing to Earth, with a farm couple rescuing a small boy inside who would be the future Captain Barbell, plus the boy showing feats of unusual power like lifting a tractor and a tree.

But perhaps the most embarrasing copy is the introduction of the Askobar (Asidong Kontra Barbarium), which is of course, an imitation of Superman's Krypton. Like the Krypton, the Askobar is also a crystalline substance and has the power to make Captain Barbell weak. The most ridiculous part is the fact that the General (more or less a copy or Lex Luthor), can defeat Captain Barbell just by holding a piece of krypton in his hand and showing it in the superhero's face, like saying "in your face, Captain Barbell!"

Perhaps it would have been more slightly original if Commander X( the loyal lieutenant of the General) was given a battle suit made up of Askobar to counter the Barbarium suit worn by Captain Barbell.

Generally, though, with all its faults, I liked the first showing of Captain Barbell. I must admit I enjoyed watching it, and has exceeded my expectations, although I just felt a little uneasy with Snooky's wig; it seemed to be always falling from her head.

I congratulate GMA-7 for resurrecting one of Pinoy Komiks most popular superheroes, and I intend to watch it now every evening.

I just love Pinoy Komiks!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Komiks is a Virtual Time Machine

Recently, a group of students visited my house to interview me for their thesis regarding Philippine Komiks. I think this has been the fifth time I was interviewed by students to help them in their thesis on komiks.

One of the first questions I had to answer was why I collect komiks and not comics? Komiks, of course, refers to Tagalog comics, and comics--well, any english or American comics.

I collected komiks not because of my patriotism, but rather because of the reason that I enjoy reading them. I loved the Tagalog language, it is beautiful, it is poetic, and it is the language I speak and had grown up with.

I loved the stories about some old Philippine legends, myth, or period stories in old musty komiks. Of course the drawings take the second half of the credit. You can't go wrong in a komiks written by Mars Ravelo, Pablo Gomez, and Clodualdo del Mundo, and illustrated by Coching, Redondo, Alcala, or Carrillo.

I never collected American comics even though they are also magnificently illustrated. I just can't identify myself with X-Men, Superman, Batman or the Fantastic Four. I have never read a single American comic book. Even the only one I bought-The Death of Superman-had to be sold cheap in Ebay because I just did not read it. Of course, there is nothing wrong with American comics, only reading it is not just my cup of tea.

For me Tagalog Komiks is a reflection of our rich cultural heritage. Reading it is like riding a virtual Time Machine where you can choose to travel which period in Philippine history you want to go to. 1940s? Read the earliest issues of the Halakhak and Pilipino Komiks.

You want to feel what it was like to live in the 1950? Then read the Hiwaga, Mabuhay, Silangan, or Tagalog Klasiks, and there not only will you find period stories but period advertisements as well when Pepsi-Cola was just 25 centavos a bottle.

The 1960s will be the years of GASI and PSG Publishing and you can read there stories of the roaring 60s, and learn about the fashion of the period: the Beatles, the baston pants, the elevator shoes, the Elvis hairstyle. You will find it all there including past gossips of Pinoy movie stars like Amalia Fuentes, Nora Aunor, Susan Roces, Tirso Cruz and many more.

I think this is something unique to the Tagalog Komiks, that it is a microcosm of Filipino society in general as it had evolved throught the years. By reading komiks, the young ones can experience the years gone by, while the older ones can reminisce the good old days.

That is only one of the reasons why I enjoy reading Tagalog Komiks.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Ruben "Rubeny" Yandoc Comic Art Sale

I am currently selling some nice Rubeny Yandoc comic pages from the early 1960s. These pages were published in the short-lived KENKOY KOMIKS, as part of the popular Bible series began by Emil Rodriguez in 1959. When Rodriguez left for the U.S., Yandoc took over the series.

Anyone familiar with Philippine comics will notice that there is a marked similarity between the drawing styles of Emil Rodriguez and Rubeny Yandoc in this Bible series. Apparently, Tony Velasquez wanted Yandoc to illustrate using the the same style of Rodriguez, in order to give a sense of continuity to the series.
A chameleon of an artist, Yandoc managed to imitate the lines of Rodriguez, while at the same time injecting the uniqueness of his own style.

Tony Velasquez was greatly impressed, and he gave Yandoc the permanent job of illustrating the series. Says Velasquez "Those Bible pages by Yandoc were some of the best illustrated artworks I have seen as an editor. I was very proud that these artworks appeared in my very own Kenkoy Komiks" Source: Tony Velasquez, Memoirs(unpublished).

Indeed, many consider Yandoc's work in the Bible as one of the finest works in the history of Philippine comics. It was lavishly illustrated, superbly rendered, and magnificently composed. Perhaps Yandoc may not be that good when illustrating westerns or romances, but when it comes to period stories,like the Bible or those familiar cloak and dagger stories, he was simply peerless.

When Yandoc left for the U.S. in the early 1970s to accept regular illustrating jobs in the U.S., the Philippine comics industry lost one of its truly great artists.

According to Comic Book Artist Magazine#4,(published in Sept.2004 in U.S.), Yandoc "undoubtedly had one of the most peculiar styles of the Filipinos, and apparently was an influence on that other arch-stylist, Alex Nino.

Throughout the 70's, he was a constant presence in DC's horror books, drawing an astonishing 130 strips, as well as squeezing in a handful of war stories like weird war tales and Sgt. Rock. He also moonlighted on Warren and Marvel where he contributed to Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction and Marvel Spotlight. Yandoc was a big favorite among the American readers".

Now, collectors will have a chance to own some of these great pages from those Bible series. I have put a "Buy It Now" option so that collectors may be able to spot which page they liked and purchase it instantly, without having to go through the effort of watching, waiting and bidding, and maybe losing at the last minute.

Kindly copy and paste this to your browser to see the auction:

Be sure to click on the link that says "View Seller's other Items" to see all the pages I'm selling.

These pages would look great framed in a comics library, office or studio. Or simply as a souvenir from one of the great artists of the Golden Age of Philippine Comics.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Pancho Villa: First Filipino World Boxing Champion

The great symbol of the 1920s era in the Philippines was Pancho Villa, the most brilliant fighter of the period that bred such great boxers as Cabanela, Young Dencio, Frisco Concepcion, Clever Sencio, and the Flores Brothers.

Pancho Villa placed the Philippines on the map by winning boxing laurels abroad, defeating even the toughest flyweights in the United States. His fighting style was characterized by a relentless attack, a raging bull onslaught, and explosive and devastating punches.

His total fights of 105 (some only weeks in between) was a record in itself, elevating him into one of the great fighters in the history of boxing, and certainly one of the greatest Asian brawlers to step on the ring. The prestigious Ring Magazine, the bible of boxing aficionados, ranked Villa as one of the 100 Greatest Boxers of All Time.

Cover for September 1922 issue of Lipang Kalabaw magazine.
Caricature by Fernando Amorsolo.Dennis Villegas collection.

Born Francisco Guilledo in Negros Occidental on August 1, 1901, he adopted the name Pancho Villa from the name of Mexico's famous revolutionary. Villa fought exclusively in the Philippines from 1919 through April 1922, often facing much larger men. In that period of time, he lost only three fights and captured two Filipino titles. In 1922, the American boxing promoter Frank Churchill discovered Villa in one of the amateur fights in Manila. Impressed by the young man's power punches, Churchill took Villa to the United States. The young Filipino fought two no-decision bouts in New Jersey, losing-according to the newspapers, to Abe Goldstein and Frankie Genaro.

The American press and public were at first slow to take notice of Villa. Churchill had difficulty arranging fights in major venues until, for almost no money, he got Villa and another Filipino, Elino Flores, on a card at Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Each fighter won his bout, and the crowd gave Villa a standing ovation.

Cover for a September 1922 issue of Telembang magazine.
Portrait by Fernando Amorsolo.Dennis Villegas magazine collection

Three months after his arrival in the U.S., Villa knocked out American Flyweight champion Johnny Buff in the eleventh round to win the American flyweight title. To catch a glimpse of Villa's devastating attack, here's a very rare footage from his magnificent fight with Buff:

Genaro took the title back in 1923 in a 15-round decision that most observers believed belonged to Villa. Meanwhile, British flyweight champion Jimmy Wilde had come to New York seeking the world title. Wilde was then considered the best flyweight in the world. Although Genaro was a likely opponent, the now wildly popular Villa was considered a better draw.

In the much-anticipated match at New York's Polo Grounds on June 18, 1923, in front of thousands of spectators, Villa and Wilde set out for one of the most exciting fights in boxing history. Villa started slow, while Wilde started fast, throwing power punches that meant to knock-out the Filipino slugger. Villa defended successfully and threw some power punches of his own in retaliation, most of them landing and almost knocked down Wilde. In the second round and onwards, however,Villa started to display his relentless attacking style, peppering Wilde with punches from both hands. In the seventh round, Villa battered Wilde to a state of helplessness, knocking him
flat, face down in canvas, ending the fight --and Wilde's career. The 20,000 spectators were ecstatic with Villa's victory--shouting "Viva Villa!" "Viva Villa!"

Here's a very rare footage of that famous bout, now considered one of the greatest slug fests in boxing history:

Pancho Villa caricature by cartoonist Jorge Pineda, Lipang Kalabaw 1923.
Dennis Villegas magazine collection

Villa was known during his time as being one of the cleanest boxers, always showing concern for his opponents and immediately turning away and walking to neutral corner after knocking down his opponent. This was before there was a rule of going to a neutral corner while the downed opponent is being counted by the referee.

Villa returned to the Philippines in September 1924, amidst jubilant reception (of his countrymen, not unlike the ones we do when Manny Pacquiao returns from a successful fight). He was invited for a parade and reception at the Malacanang Palace by then Governor General Leonard Wood, together with some of the big names in Philippine politics--then Senate President Manuel Quezon and House Speaker Sergio Osmena. It was known that General Wood and Senator Quezon were not in good terms, but the presence of the world champion temporarily set aside the personal differences of the two men.

As World Champion, Villa collected into his person all the swank and swagger of the era and the whole country felt an electrifying pride in his rise from rags to riches, his fetish for the most magnificent wardrobe, his expensive silk shirts and fashionable hats, his pearl buttons and gold cuff links, and his regal servants. He had a servant to massage him, another to towel him, a valet to put on his shoes, another to help him put on his trousers, still another valet to comb his hair, to powder his cheeks, and spray him with the most expensive perfume.

The Filipinos adored his extravagance, treating him almost as their crowned king. For a time, Villa was the most beloved figure in the Philippines--he had captured the heart and admiration of his countrymen, and he well thought he deserved it. He was perhaps more idolized as a showman, than as a boxer, and he was conscious of it. Never before had the Filipinos been electrified by the pride that their own kind had become the Champion of the World.

Villa successfully defended his title several times in the U.S. and the Philippines, and for a time, was considered practically invincible in the ring. Before returning to the United States, Villa defeated in Manila another great Filipino boxer, the mighty Clever Sencio. It was destined to be Villa's final victory in the ring--and no one among the thousands of cheering spectators knew it at that time.

In 1925, Villa fought in a non-title bout with Jimmy McLarnin in Oakland, United States. Weak from the recent extraction of a wisdom tooth, Villa lost the decision. It was destined to be his last fight. Another visit to the dentist resulted in the discovery of an infection and the extraction of three more teeth. Villa ignored the dentist's instructions to rest and return for a follow-up visit, and instead indulged in a week-long party.

The infection worsened, and by the time Villa's trainer, Whitey Ekwert, discovered the fighter's distress and rushed him to the hospital, it was too late. Villa died on July 14, 1925, of Ludwig's Angina, an infection of the throat cavity. He was survived by his wife Gliceria*.

Villa's untimely death at the young age of 24 broke the nation's heart. The hysteria that possessed the masses during his funeral was the most feverish of its era. Filipinos openly wailed in the streets while their hero's casket was being borne to its sad destination.

Such was the brief but shining career of one of the greatest Filipino boxers who ever lived.

Pancho Villa's grave inside the Manila North Cemetery.
The grave is being cleaned everyday by a tomb caretaker.

In 1989, Pancho's widow Gliceria- then 84 - insisted that a gambling syndicate conspired to murder the champion because of big losses in the Villa-McLarnin non-title fight. Pancho was a heavy favorite to beat McLarnin and the syndicate placed huge amount of bet to Villa. Mrs. Guilledo claimed that her husband was injected an overdose of anesthetic on instructions of the syndicate*.

In 1994, Villa was inducted posthumously in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, the second Filipino to earn the recognition--after Gabriel "Flash" Elorde.

*NY Times July 15, 1925: Villa "...died at a hospital here [San Francisco] today while undergoing an operation for an infection of the throat that developed from an infected tooth. Dr. C.E. Hoffman said the boxer suffocated under the anesthetic. Dr. Hoffman was preparing to operate when Villa's heart stopped. Artificial respiration failed to revive the patient."