Sunday, November 4, 2012

Zombies, Pinoys and silly love songs

MANILA, Philippines - The Walking Dead seasons 2 and 3, the 100th issue of the original Walking Dead comic book series, the in-the-works movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, zombie-themed fun runs, The Zombies live at the PICC — 2012 has been a big year for the dreaded Zs.
Now zombies, 21st-century Pinoy culture and the comic book art form have come together in Zombinoy, a local take on the undead whose 3rd issue is now available.
To be sure, Zombinoy is not the first comic book to plunk the living dead into a Philippine setting, as witness the earlier Zombies in Manila. And Zombinoy does come on the heels of The Walking Dead comic book series that has been out since 2003, is already 102 issues old and has spun off a very successful TV show to boot.
PARTNERS IN GRIME. 'Zombinoy' writer-penciler Geonard Yleana (right) and illustrator Sid Santos pimp their maiden effort at Summer Komikon 2012PARTNERS IN GRIME. 'Zombinoy' writer-penciler Geonard Yleana (right) and illustrator Sid Santos pimp their maiden effort at Summer Komikon 2012
But Zombinoy creator Geonard Yleana, conscious of any comparisons by the uninitiated, can gladly fill anyone in on how his ongoing comic book came to life and provide a fill of the series’ innards, er, details.
1. There’s page to screen; this one’s screen to page. Sort of.
Yleana is a movie buff who had written a crime thriller screenplay entitled Lihim that he managed to sell to Viva Films, but that has yet to be realized on the big screen. Zombinoy, his 6th screenplay, was completed in January 2010 in time for that year’s Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards.
The script did not win any prize, was then shelved, then got resurrected as a comic book last summer.
2. More Living Dead than Walking Dead.
Yleana says that Zombinoy was written before he even read the Walking Deadcomics — instead citing writer-director George Romero’s pioneering Night of the Living Dead and his other Dead movies as well as director Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead as dead-on influences. (Parents,Zombinoy’s covers do warn that it’s “for mature readers.”)
3. Ad agency artists unite.
Yleana, an architecture graduate of UST who had studied scriptwriting under writer Nestor Torre in the now-defunct Film Development Foundation of the Philippines, went on to seek collaborators in making Zombinoy a publishing reality.
He did not have to look too far as he wound up jamming with a number of his coworkers in the advertising industry: artists Sid Santos, Carlo Cruz, Dennies Layante and John Suguitan. All are incumbent coworkers of Yleana’s at DraftFCB Manila except for Cruz who is currently with Leo Burnett and was an office mate of Yleana’s in J. Romero Advertising.
Zombinoy needed a publisher so the team formed the all-new Pelikomiks Studios, with an initial plan of making comic books out of Yleana’s scripts. “Pelikomiks was created in time for issue no. 1’s release at Summer Komikon 2012 — so readers would have a group to identify Zombinoy with,” Yleana says.
4. The greenhorns go grayscale.
And so last May marked the debut of Zombinoy, that was full-color glossy on the outside, black-and-white on matte paper on the inside.
“The inside pages are in black and white for several reasons,” writer-inker Yleana relates of Pelikomiks’ Php100-per-issue maiden publication.
“[For one thing,] color printing is expensive. And since we were novices in the independent comic industry ― an industry where ‘ashcan’ or photocopied issues are the norm ― we didn’t want to seem arrogant and release a full-color material when nobody has even heard of us.”
He adds that, “We would have loved for this to be in color, but we also don’t have enough time given our advertising duties.”
5. Fun off the living dead.
Unlike most zombie stories that tend to up their dramatic ante while meeting their quota of scares, Zombinoy is more of a horror-comedy affair. Yet it is likewise not instantly comparable to the comedic likes of Shaun of the Dead or the Evil Dead movies, or the highly tongue-in-dolled-up-cheek Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Syokot si Remington, nor is its humor of the spoofy, satirical kind that has made easy money for the Scary Movie series.
Zombinoy’s wit is more of the it’s-funny-’cause-it’s-true type, often stemming from Pinoy culture references such as local fondness for the cheesy ditties of Air Supply and Barry Manilow, fandom towards NBA stars, even Americans’ supposed weaknesses for dried mangoes. Darting in and out of its panels are attitudes and even cellphone-use mishaps that are so local in flavor that Filipino readers might chuckle more than scream as they turn the pages.
6. Epic movie-like.
Zombinoy, whose language is essentially Taglish, had been envisioned as a movie, yes. So its 3 issues so far, that average 29 pages of storytelling juice, are no less than cinematic in feel.
This Yleana and cohorts achieve by eschewing the usual single-narrative, few-people focus of many a zombie-themed production, going instead for a more complex intersection of simultaneous subplots that encompass personal tension and governmental anxiety.
Thus, in addition to the usual scenes of “ordinary” people eluding or executing the supposedly virus-infected zombies (a phenomenon that, as one page shows, seems to be confined to the Philippines but not necessarily to Filipinos alone), we are introduced to fictitious (yet familiar-looking) government players as they deal with the extraordinary epidemic and a potentially fishy solution care of the good ol’ US of A.
Think Oliver Stone’s JFK mashed with Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel and spiced with Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later but flavored with smart-alecky, 21st-century Pinoy ingredients.
7. Déjà vu-doo.
Hmm: a breakdown of national operations, people resorting to domestic confinement for safety, palpable tension everywhere, behind-the-scenes US intervention… Zombinoy sounds like a subliminal echo of Martial Law, and a relatively timely one given the recent 40th anniversary observance of its deplorable declaration.
8. Still imaginable after all these years.
Zombie lore has been around for over half a century and has had so many creative iterations, yet it turns out to be still rife for reinvention or re-imagining.
Zombinoy proves this with a number of fresh narrative ideas best left to the reader to discover. Sharp-eyed comics devourers might also notice how certain plot points between this and other zombie fare, The Walking Deadincluded, mirror each other in rather surprising ways.
9. Gone, but not really.
Just as zombies are supposed to be people who used to be clinically alive, comic books in the Philippines are literature that now populate specialty shops and bookstores but used to be newsstand staples.
Two or 3 decades ago, when cable TV and the Internet have yet to divert Pinoys’ attention from print, Zombinoy might have been a dime-a-dozen offering sharing sidewalk space with gossip magazines and mostly soap-opera komiks.
Thanks to a cult following that keeps both comic book publishers and sellers in business, Zombinoy has an outlet in the likes of Comic Odyssey in Robinsons Galleria. (Enthusiasts can also post queries on the Zombinoy fan page on Facebook.)
“Now that we have 3 issues, we plan to make a collected soft cover and approach National Bookstore that sells bound compendiums as opposed to single issues,” Yleana muses.
10. Zombitin?
Zombinoy is now 3 issues old and Yleana deems the triumvirate as its first season.
“Initially, we targeted the series to conclude in just 5 issues,” he divulges. “Now it looks to end in 6, the release dates being based on the 3 major Komikon events each year: the Summer Komikon in May, Indieket in July and the main Komikon in October. So come 2013 there will be 3 more issues, including the ending.”
On that conclusive score, Zombinoy also distinguishes itself anew from The Walking Dead that keeps coming out a decade hence due in part to creator Robert Kirkman’s self-described need to feed his hunger for what happens next.
PENCIL PUSHER. 'Zombinoy' penciler Carlo Cruz hangs back at Summer Komikon 2012PENCIL PUSHER. 'Zombinoy' penciler Carlo Cruz hangs back at Summer Komikon 2012
Pelikomiks Studios, on the other hand, intends to publish new titles, and two are already in the pipeline for 2013: Feed, an apocalyptic horror story to be drawn by Yleana and Santos as penned by new recruit Vince Torres, the second writer in the team after Yleana; and Tabing, a projected 80-page, fantasy-folklore graphic novel by Torres and another Pelikomiks newbie, artist Cookie Quevedo.
That said, who knows? Just as fleshy humans might morph into flesh-eating undead, Zombinoy just might transform into an actual movie down the line ― and prompt the book’s creators to form a film company.

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