It was my first year in college, attending the first of five years studying architecture at the University of Sto. Tomas. When I decided to acquiesce to my parents request that I pursue architecture rather than fine arts, I started to prepare myself for a life long career as an architect. As a plan, it wasn’t so bad. Nothing really short of Armageddon could have changed the course of life that I had already laid down for myself.
Armageddon, or as it turns out, my brother.
I don’t remember what date it was, but it was sometime in 1985, when my brother came home with a comic book. An X-men comic book.
I remember the X-men. I was a big fan of the comic book in the late 70′s after having collected all the available issues reprinted by National Book Store. If I’m not mistaken, those reprints began with X-men 96, the issue where the X-men battles Kierrok, up to #101, where the X-Men are captured by Black Tom and the Juggernaut in Scotland. I remember with great fondness awesome moments from this period of the X-men. That Chris Claremont guy who writes this thing… wow, this guy is great! Dave Cockrum the artist was great too!
1.Steven Lang ranting about how Xavier, Cyclops and Jean Grey are the heart and soul of the X-men. Cut out the heart and the body dies, he says. Prophetic words. When Brett Ratner killed Xavier, Cyclops and Jean Grey in one fell swoop in X-men 3, it pretty much ended that franchise.
2.Wolverine busting out of supposedly unbreakable chains when Steven Lang slaps Jean Grey, revealing to the X-men, and the readers, that the claws were part of him. Banshee’s reaction was unforgettable, “Yer claws, Laddie… Lord above, they’re a part of you!”
3.All out war at JFK airport with Cyclops, Havoc, Eric the Red, Storm and Polaris. Storm unleashes her powers in just the most spectacular fashion. “This is no game Polaris!” ZZRAKAM!
Of course, when we moved to Manila many years later and I went to High School, I truly felt like I’ve grown up, ready to leave my childhood behind. Well, those X-men comics are part of a huge stack that I left behind in San Pablo or gave away to friends, all part of a childhood box that I packed up, never to be seen again.
Fast forward to 1985. I’m in college, minding my own business, comics the furthest thing from my mind. I was resting after school, either lying in bed or writing something on my study table.
Then my brother walks in. With a comic book. X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga.
The cover immediately grabbed me. It was the very first time I ever saw artwork by Bill Sienkiewicz, a name I would not learn till much later. I was blown away. I’ve never seen the X-men depicted in such a realistic manner (I would see Neal Adam’s work much later) and it felt weird, but electrifying at the same time. I wanted to read it right there, but my brother walked off with it because he just had to read it first. Great.
I had to wait, and when he had done, I went off to bed and opened the book.
And well, I guess it’s fair to say that from that time on, I was never the same. Just when you thought you were all set in life going in a certain direction then without warning, whooosh! Off you go in another direction.
The Dark Phoenix Saga was one of those life changing things, probably one of the most significant moments in my life that I look back and see, with much clarity, how different a person I was before and after reading it. Once again, it was written by that Claremont guy… is this guy some kind of awesome or what? The artist, John Byrne, was kind of an awesome artist himself. The art… wow, the art on this thing was fantastic.
The reasons I loved the X-men when I was a kid all came back, and it came back hefting a huge sledgehammer and swinging because these stories were far far better than those I read before.
I became a much bigger comics fan than I was when I was a kid. Once a week or couple of weeks, my brother would come home with a new batch of X-men comics, which a collector friend of his was letting him borrow.
Very soon, my brother was bringing in other comics like New Mutants, Frank Miller’s Daredevil, Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg!, Ronin… I was in comics heaven.
I started to collect my own comic books, starting with of course, the X-Men. I’d use up whatever extra money I had to buy comics. Sometimes I would lie to my parents and say I needed money to buy Yokens or tracing papers or technical pens, but in reality, I was buying comics. This is the first time I’m admitting that. Comics was like a drug. I had to have it. I went to places I never went before just to track down issues. I learned about places like Cubao and Greenhills to find comics stores located there and went there often. I went to Avenida to the newsstands because they had a weekly delivery of comics.
Before I knew it, I started scribbling my own comics on a school notebook, and I was off and running. And in the 25 or so years that followed, I’ve never stopped running. Who knew that at I would eventually work on the X-men myself… and work with Chris Claremont, the guy who wrote all those X-Men stories that sparked my imagination all those years ago? I still can’t believe it myself.
Some years ago my brother, upon seeing what I’ve done, he said, “I’ve created a monster!”
Well, yes you did.
You can all go blame him here.