Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Nonoy Marcelo and Alex Niño

Huling Ptyk
Da Art of Nonoy Marcelo
Pandy Aviado, Sylvia Mayuga, Dario Marcelo
ANVIL Publishing, Inc

I believe this was published late in 2005, but it was only early this year that I was actually able to find a copy.

Huling Ptyk is a collection of previously published tributes on the life and times of Filipino cartoonist Nonoy Marcelo. It also includes excerpts from Nonoy's taglish column Ni Ha Ni Ho, and a tantalizing peek into Nonoy's unpublished masterpiece "Pansit Malabon", his loving tribute to his hometown.

Not strictly a linear biography piece, you get glimpses into Nonoy's life and character through the eyes of people close (and not so close) to him. The tributes can be at times touching and poignant, but they can also be at times funny, sad, scary, definitely informative, definitely inspiring.

The book is not strictly an art book either, as although there is a generous helping of Nonoy's art, many of them aren't reproduced as well as they could have. Some artwork are a bit pixelated or blurred, and many of them are reproduced so small for proper appreciation. But there are a lot of art that are reproduced large and clear enough that one who knows nothing of Nonoy and his art will get an idea of just how much of a genius he was.

Funny to the point of irreverence, these caricatures nevertheless capture the spirit of these people very well.

A sample of Nonoy's remarkable art for "Pansit Malabon".

Nonoy Marcelo trivia: He invented the terms "Ermat", "Erpat", "Tsokaran", and "Jeproks".

Huling Ptyk is available at National Bookstore, Powerbooks and I assume all major book stores. 202 pages, black and white and colored. I forgot how much it is, but it's around 800+pesos.


The Orc's Treasure
Illustrated by Alex Niño
Writtem by Kevin J. Anderson
ibooks, inc.

Thanks to Woofy, I was made aware of the availability of this book locally, which surprised me because the release of this book has been postponed numerous times and the latest release date I had been aware of is for later this year. So to see this already released is a rather pleasant surprise.

I was able to get a poster of this book, signed by Alex and Kevin a couple of years ago, and I waited on pins and needles to get my hands on a copy. Dubbed by some as the "return of comics Legend Alex Niño to comics", Orc's Treasure is actually only the latest in a series of comics projects that heralded Alex's return to comics in this decade, which began with SUNN, also from ibooks, released in 2003.

Illustrated by Alex Niño
Story by Steven A. Roman
ibooks, inc.

Regarded as a "manga" book, Sunn is ibooks' stab at a burgeoning movement of comics art that's sweeping the world. I can only speculate why a talented and original artist like Alex Niño would move in this direction. Perhaps his absence from comics have made him susceptible to pressure to use what many people consider to be the "popular style". Who knows? But the belief that manga is the popular style that could guarrantee a successful comic book is a business tactic that has been used exceedingly in many countries including the Philippines.

Alex makes a passable effort at aping manga on the opening pages of his chapters of SUNN (the first half is illustrated by Kevin Lau).

I'm used to really good manga art by Japanese artists. Katsuhiro Otomo on Akira, Goseki Kojima on Lone Wolf and Cub, Hiroaki Samura on Blade of the Immortal, and Masashi Tanaka on Gon are excellent examples of what I think to be the pinnacle of Japanese comic art.

I've got to be honest. Alex doesn't really do a good job of doing Japanese comic art. Perhaps let's just let the Japanese do it because no one else can do it better anyway. It's part of their culture. It's part of who they are as artists. It's in their blood. It's not in ours as Filipinos. And it's not in Alex Niño's. And Alex knows it. Because a few pages into his section of SUNN, he starts to shake off the "manga" in his art, and slowly lets his own unique style creep in, probably even beyond his own control. Alex just can't help but be original. THAT is what's in his blood.

Alex shakes off manga completely in his next project, God The Dyslexic Dog.

God, The Dyslexic Dog
Illustrated byAlex Niño
Written by Brian and Philip Phillipson

Properly warmed up, Alex finally lets it rip on this Bliss On Tap publication. Alex Niño is a wildly inventive illustrator, utilizing out of this world designs and mind bending layouts. Unfortunately, such emphasis on style and design sometimes makes his storytelling difficult to follow.

It's not that Alex doesn't know how to do it. Alex has demonstrated numerous times in his early career that he can tell a story extremely well. So he knows how to do it. Perhaps his art has evolved to such a degree, his mind works on such a completely different level, that it is him who might be frustrated with us for not understanding what he is doing.

Perhaps recognizing this, creator Philip Phillipson provides breakdowns from which Alex can build his artwork on. Looking over the comic book, one can easily see how conventional the panel work is. Conventional as compared to Alex's typical work, that is. Indeed, it does make the story easy to follow, and that's good because that's the ulimate purpose of a comic book.

But one cannot shake the thought that this is not pure Niño artwork. But that is exactly what we get with The Orc's Treasure.

The Orc's Treasure interior art.

Here we see pure unfettered Alex Niño art that's evident on every single page. Employing layouts reminiscent of his work for Warren two decades ago, Alex adds linework that I could consider simplified, but no less detailed. Alex also introduces some rendering sensibilities he must have employed more often in his recent non-comics work which enriches this, his most recent comics work.

Not surprisingly, some of his storytelling is a bit tough to follow, but it's now a characteristic of his art I have come to accept. However, I was able to read the story in one sitting, not really as distracted by the art as I had expected.

Kevin J. Anderson weaves a really good story that had me engrossed from beginning to end. The end came somewhat a little too quickly though, as I came away from it feeling something was lacking, that something was yet left to be told.

I have no idea what this book has in relation with JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Although the term "orc" was used long before Tolkien was born, Tolkien was the first one to associate it with an ugly filthy, generally evil bipedal humanoid being. The same kind of creature that call themselves "Orcs" populate "The Orc's Treasure". There is a human realm called "ROHEM", and peace-loving (but short) elves.

I got this copy from Comics Odyssey in Robinson's Malate. 172 pages, black and white. $24.95 US.

Get it from Amazon.com

If you're a fan of Alex Niño, this book is recommended. If you're a fan of Philippine comics art, this and Nonoy Marcelo's Huling Ptyk is highly recommended.