Sunday, March 25, 2007

My Guitar Collection

Nowadays, nothing puts a twinkle in my eyes more than seeing a guitar - being played or just being displayed in a store. My favorite pastime is to just go to a guitar store like Guitar Center where nobody bothers you and just pluck the most expensive guitars. And of course nothing pleases me more than the sound of great guitarists playing, whether it be classical, acoustic or electric: Andres Segovia, Julian Bream, John Williams, Pepe Romero, Eric Clapton, Tommy Emmanuel, Santana, George Harrison, Christopher Parkening are a few of my favorites. I like them all. I had a chance to watch classical guitarist Christopher Parkening at UCLA last summer - what an amazing experience. Especially since I was seated in the front row, about 6 feet away from him. I wish I could play like them, but who can? I started learning to play the guitar just last year, and what I can say is, remember that saying about it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks. It is hard. Well, an offshoot of this interest in playing this musical instrument, is collecting them, and an offshoot of this is finding old guitars and restoring them. Other than playing the guitar, let me tell you, it's also lots of fun to restore these guitars which entails sanding, re-gluing, painting, varnishing, re-building parts, polishing and re-stringing. It's painting and sculpture. I now have quite a few in my collection, and my favorite to play is a vintage classical Suzuki, Japanese-made, circa the 50s, and a Fender acoustic, Japanese-made also, circa early 70s. I also have a brand-new Takamine Acoustic/Electric, a Cort, both made in Korea and a brand-new electric guitar by the band KISS, signed by Paul Stanley. Two guitars that I have successfully restored to it's former glory, maybe even better, are two vintage Regals, U.S.-made probably in Chicago around the 50s which I found in a thrift store for a song. I have other guitars to be restored, when time allows. I now have a modest collection of inexpensive but great-sounding guitars. To listen to my guitar playing, I have two guitar compositions that I've used to accompany my video postings in YouTube. You can listen to my music while reading the this blog. Click on the YouTube links to the left of this blog under Rod's Videos & Music.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Collection from Wizard World

Here are some of the comic books I brought or bought at the Wizard World convention last weekend. I have not really been looking or buying comics the past few years and all of a sudden here's that interest again, something that first started 40-some years ago after high school, when I started collecting Francisco V. Coching's illustrated novels in the pages of Ace Publications. Unfortunately, only a few of those comics survived a flood in Manila, while I was away on a world tour in 1975-76. Imagine a complete collection of Francisco V. Coching comics up to that point in time, not to mention Alcalas, Redondos, Leonides, Emil Rodriguez's, Jodlomans, all the great comics artist of that period from the pages of Bulaklak, Liwayway and Ace, destroyed by flood. Here's the splash page from the first issue of Taga Sa Bato by Coching, rotted on the left side because of water damage, which I managed to save. Around that time, I enrolled at the University of Santo Tomas in commercial art with the idea of being a comic illustrator. I joined a group of comic illustrators, renting a small studio in Balik-Balik, Manila. The artists were myself, Ernie Chan, Joel Magpayo, Rodrigo Benitez and Moises Agualada. Chan went on to ink Conan, The Barbarian for Marvel, for 30 years, Magpayo is an established painter in Melbourne, Benitez, opened a gallery of his works, in California and also self-published a comics that only went two issues (see picture). I was the only one who was not really illustrating comics as yet but was hoping to break through. I think it was towards graduation from college that I finally, got a break, illustrating two stories for a publisher I can't even remember now. The pay was 5 pesos a page, hahaha, and illustrating jobs were hard to get. I needed to make money, and it was obviously not in comics, but now, the field was wide open for me, I had a Fine Arts degree in advertising, I could get a job in advertising, and that is exactly what happened... and I forgot about comic illustrating. Then in 1968, while still working as an assistant Art Director at Ace-Compton Advertising, I had my first one-man show of prints at the now defunct Joy T. Dayrit Gallery, to be followed by several one-man exhibitions at the also now defunct Luz Gallery. From 1968 on, I was busy working on prints and paintings and exhibiting and establishing myself in the Philippine Art world. My works are now in the Philippine National Museum, The Heart Center, LaSalle, The Ateneo Art Gallery, Cultural Center, Banco de Bogota and other places I don't know about. (click here for my other blog) From 1968 to 1979 (when I started collecting again), my only contact with Philippine comics was the beauteous daughter of Mr. Coching, Maridel Coching, who was my student at PWU. I met the man himself, Mr. F.V. Coching, through his daughter of course, when he had already retired from writing and illustrating. In 1979, I immigrated to the United States, and in a comic store in Hollywood, as I was browsing through the dollar boxes, I discovered beautiful illustrations on the pages of DC and Marvel comics the likes of Redondo, Carrillo, Alcala, Nino, E.R. Cruz, DeZuniga, Ruben Yandoc, etc, etc. The comic collecting bug got me again. I now have boxes and boxes of Pinoy illustrated comics from what is now known as the First Invasion. I will be posting that collection, as time allows.
Now let's go back to my latest collection. We are now, for lack of a better term, in the Third Pinoy Invasion of American comics. This time spearheaded by Whilce Portacio, then Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, Wilson Tortosa, Philip Tan and others that I don't know about yet. I'm still working my way through these talented young illustrators. Of course, I not only collect Pinoy illustrated comics, but good illustrators no matter where they're from, and I might say, that American comics is now experiencing another Golden Age - I've also started collecting Mike Mignola (Hellboy), Humberto Ramos (X-Men & Spiderman), Chris Bachalo (X-Men), J. Scott-Campbell (Danger Girl), Jae Lee (Dark Tower), Simone Bianchi (Green Lantern) and Alex Ross (Justice). I say there's a new Golden Age - comic books now just look better than their predecessors, with computer graphics and better printing (the colors are amazing, left-click on images to view them larger), plus the Internet allows talented and amazing illustrators from all over the world to work in their homeland and email their illustrations here, Leinil Francis Yu, in the Philippines, Humberto Ramos in Mexico, Simone Bianchi, Italy, etc. In other words the talent pool of American comics is now worldwide. You don't have to be in America to draw American comics, plus comic conventions are packed, comic books stores are sold out, it took me a while to find a copy of the first issue of the Jae Lee-illustrated Dark Tower, and the other day, at our local comic store, there was a whole stack of maybe 50 of Leinil Yu's New Avenger #27 (had to check if I had it), I didn't so I went back to buy it and there were only 5 copies left, Captain America #25, supposedly about the death of Capt. America, was sold-out, I don't have a copy, and I won't buy it as it is now selling for $30, from the the $2.95 cover price, I buy to appreciate the art not because it's going to go up in value.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Wizard World, 2007

Pictures with Whilce Portacio, Tony DeZuniga, and Philip Tan representing the Philippine contingent of illustrators. Also J. Scott-Campbell doing an illustration for a fan, same with Tim Sale and Humberto Ramos. Myself with members of KISSES, a female KISS band.

Wizard World, 2007

As I walked down Figueroa, just one block before the Convention Center is this building, the Hotel Figueroa, with what is possibly the world's largest Spiderman illustration. The next block houses both the Convention Center and Staples, home of the Los Angeles Lakers... just the day before Kobe Bryant scored 65 points in a win over Portland at the the very same place. No pictures though, as the front of Staples was under renovation. Finally, just around the corner is the Convention Center where the Wizard comic convention is going on.

The weekend of March 16-18 was Wizard World, 2007 at the Los Angeles Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles. Wizard World is a comic convention organized by Wizard magazine. I had a ticket for Saturday, March 17... so on Friday I got all the comics I needed to bring at the ready. Foremost was to get my collection of J. Scott-Campbell comic books signed, I actually only had five, the Danger Girl compilation, an issue of Danger Girl, an issue of Gen 13, ThunderCats and Campbell's rare sketch book, as I have just recently discovered him in my recent renewal of interest in comic book illustration. Together with Scott-Campbell I've also started collecting interesting and very talented young illustrators, such as Humberto Ramos, a Mexican artist who has successfully combined, superhero and Manga influences in his illustrations of X-Men and Spider Man. I've also started collecting young Pilipino comic illustrators, representing the third wave of the Pinoy invasion of American comics, this one headed by Whilce Portacio, and a host of very talented young artists like Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, Wilson Tortosa, Philip Tan, and others. Interestingly, the artist responsible for the original first wave of Filipino comic illustrators, Tony DeZuniga was also a guest at this convention. My collection of DeZuniga's were hidden away somewhere, and I have boxes and boxes, together with the Redondos, Alcalas, Carillos, Ninos, Nebres and other Pinoy illustrators from that first wave which I first started collecting when I arrived in Los Angeles in 1979. There was no way I could dig out those early DeZuniga's in time for the convention. However, I just recently bought the 500 page b&w compilation of Jonah Hex and House of Mystery. So armed with these and comics by DeZuniga, Scott-Campbell, Ramos, Whilce Portacio, Tim Sale, and others, I set out to go to downtown Los Angeles, where the Convention Center is located. There's two ways to go downtown from Burbank, where I live: take the car and pay the $15 parking fee or take the subway which was only 45 cents, and free parking at the station. I picked the latter and parked my car at the North Hollywood station which is only 2 or 3 miles from home. I exited at the 7th/Figueroa station and the LA Convention Center is a short walk from there. You come out from the station under a skyscraper, typical of the buildings in downtown Los Angeles. Here's a picture of the buildings with the 10 oclock sun behind them as I walked down Figueroa Street.