Gerry Alanguilan romanticizes dead bold stars
Gerry Alanguilan’s Where Bold Stars Go to Die—the story of a young man named Daniel who is obsessed over a dead 80s bold star—is more than what it seems. Despite its title, it’s not just about bold stars.
No prudes allowed
With its “For Mature Readers" tag, the sleek comic book with its glossy paper and minimalist cover is clearly not intended for boys whose hormones are still dancing like lighted watusis. Neither is it for adults with juvenile sensibilities.
In fact, Alanguilan addresses the fact that anything that has to do with sex is considered controversial in these parts. In his afterword, he writes, “I figure there are people who will be offended. That can’t be helped, I’m sure." But he is gracious enough to tell any possible outraged prudes, “That’s all right. I forgive you."
Perhaps, Alanguilan can afford to be gracious because the publication of the comic book in 2009 was the realization of a project that he first conceptualized way back in 2000. Even then, Alanguilan revealed, “I knew exactly what kind of comic book it was going to be. It would be an updated version of “bomba komiks" but would treat the subject matter with what I would hope to be intelligence and emotional sensitivity."
Indeed, while “bomba komiks" featured plots with gratuitous sex and violence, Alanguilan’s Where Bold Stars Go to Die is lyrical and nostalgic.
Arguably, Daniel, the lead character, is not really lusting after Anna, an '80s bold star. Since Anna is already dead in the story, he is actually lusting after his own idea of her. Despite his baser instincts, Daniel laments, “I wished I had been born at an earlier time, in a different place. Perhaps then I would have met her. Met her properly."
But because it is no longer possible to be with the object of his desire in the flesh, Daniel has to rely on his imagination for Anna to come alive. With the help of DVDs of Anna’s old films, Daniel quite literally takes matters into his own hands. Unfortunately, his obsession gets out of hand. His unrelenting self-abuse in the name of Anna turns him into some sort of “zombie." He becomes detached from real life.
Then, one day, he dreams that he’s in his own brand of heaven—where dear departed sex symbols frolic in a forest. There, he meets his beloved Anna, who tells him, “I was old, faded, forgotten. But you started thinking of me. And it was just all you. Only you. Thank you, Daniel. Thank you for fantasizing about me."
As it turns out, dead bold stars only get to manifest themselves in the magical forest if there’s at least one person out there who is still fantasizing about them. Dreams—however graphic they may be—make them real.
Reading between the panels
The great thing about Alanguilan’s story is that he’s offering another perspective in the so-called never-ending battle of the sexes. He subverts macho posturing and places women in power. Since the bold stars are dead, nobody can really hurt them anymore. So, that means they hold the power over the men who still lust for them. While the women in the story have shown everything, they’re really not giving anything away. On the other hand, the men, as represented by Daniel, are driven to near-madness by their belated fanaticism.
Of course, there may be other interpretations. But Alanguilan most likely doesn’t give a hoot about what people may say.
Alanguilan picked Arlanzandro C. Esmeña, an architect who also sculpts and paints, to illustrate his story. Where Bold Stars Go to Die is Esmeña’s first time to illustrate a comic book. The best thing about his black-and-white illustrations is that they’re very Pinoy. None of the characters look foreign. In keeping with Alanguilan’s vision, Esmeña took visual inspiration from the classic komiks. He renders even the most sexually-charged scenes with finesse and subtlety. It’s not pornography. It’s erotica.
Where Bold Stars Go to Die also contains a superb bonus. It has a pin-up gallery that boasts of 14 splash pages of female nudes from artists like Francisco V. Conching, Tony De Zuñiga, Leinil Francis Yu, Brice Beckham, Carlo Vergara, Carlo Pagulayan, Edgar Tadeo, Philip Tan, Gilbert Monsanto, and Arnold Arre.
If anything, Where Bold Stars Go to Die should emphasize what Alanguilan and other Pinoy comic book writers and artists want the rest of the world to know. “I think it’s high time that people realize that comics have grown up the last 20 years," Alanguilan wrote. “People are making comics for adults now." - YA, GMANews.TV
Images and excerpts used for the article are taken from Where Bold Stars Go to Die, written by Gerry Alanguilan and illustrated by Arlanzandro Esmeña. It is available for P150 at comic book shops.