May 18, 2010

[Comics] Ang Kagila-gilasis na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah

It's only rather recently that I've finally started to give the local comic book scene more attention beyond my weak forrays into more Filipino-aligned comic book titles like the US-released Stone: the Awakening back in 1998. Naturally my comic book loving partner plays a big role in this, and I'm certainly not complaining given some of the more interesting pieces that I've had the opportunity to read.

One of the more prominent local comic book characters amongst the LGBT demographic is Zsazsa Zaturnnah. For the unaware, Zsazsa is your Wonder Woman style heroine whose alter ego is that of a simple yet highly effeminate gay beautician. As popular has Zsazsa is though, I have to admit that I only got to hear about the character when her story was already being translated into a musical production and a movie, which seems weird given my gay geeky leanings. I'm not sure how this happened but that just how things go.

So when the opportunity to read the full story came along, I totally went for it. Given by now I have already had a chance to see both the stage musical and the weird musical movie that it inspired in turn.

Zsazsa ZaturnnahImage via Wikipedia

Ang Kagila-gilasis na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah was originally published as two issues during its highly limited initial run in 2002-2003 but is now published as a single volume. The comic was initially self-published by the creator Carlo Vergara.

The story centers around the initially typical life of gay beautician Ada who runs a small beauty parlor in some unnamed province in the Philippines. His days are spent cutting hair, engaging in wild conversations with his assistant Didi and pining over the handsome and very physically impressive neighbor Dodong. Things change when a rather large rock falls out of the sky and hits Ada while in the shower. Given the stories of other superheroes like Darna, Didi pushes Ada to try and swallow the rock to see if it will grant him magical powers. Despite its size, the rock eventually cooperates and is swallowed by Ada. He tries saying the word inscribed on the rock - Zaturnnah - and this triggers a magical transformation.

Enter Zsazsa Zaturnnah - a super-powered Amazon-like female (completely so) with super strength and near invulnerability (especially in the "chest" area) but no powers of flight (as was tested extensively). Didi manages to help dress up Ada / Zsazsa in her superhero form just in time to fend off a series of strange incidents such as a giant frog attacking the town. Eventually Zsazsa's exploits attract the attention of Queen Femina Suarestellar Baroux and her Amazonistas from the Planet X (X-x-x-x-x...).

The comic was never meant to be a serious superhero piece - it maintains a very light and whimsical tone and a flair for comedic banter that reminds me of some of the better moments in Pugad Baboy (a local comic strip) publishing history. But this isn't just about good comedy, but good gay comedy, especially within a local context. You know how it is - every gay segment in whatever city in the world tends to take on their own identity given nuances of language / swardspeak and cultural references. This comic book series definitely got to play around with play on language most effectively.

And despite how absurd some of the moments are, the story does have a point (somewhat) and it certainly moves forward quite interestingly enough. The challenges Zsazsa face tend to represent other things and help Ada realize more about himself and things he wants to change in order to find his place in the world.

But beyond all that, acknowledge the fact that Didi is a goddess of comedy. I'll leave it to you to discover just how much she works and how the pages barely contain her.

After finally reading the comic, it's impressive to realize just how much of the comedy of this story was already here and the successive adaptations on stage and on the silver screen didn't have to do as much creative work. If you loved the play and you survived the movie, then you definitely owe it to yourself to read the original comic book and REALLY learn what Zsazsa Zaturnnah is all about.

Ang Kagi-kagilas na Pakikisapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah is the best Filipino comic that I've ever read thus far (yes, I know this considers the limited number of titles that I've actually read in my life) and it fully deserves 5 spray bottles full of Holy Water out of a possible 5.

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1 comment:

  1. Have you read The Mythology Class? I like that comic as well. :-)