When I first read Carlo Vergara’s comic on gay superhero Zsazsa Zaturrnah, it was two in the morning and I woke my neighbors with my borderline insane cackling. I’d been alone in the living room, laughing so hard it wasn’t a distant possibility that I could have been carted to the loony bin—and for good reason. I loved that comic book, and I still keep it by my bed for re-reading on the days when the doldrums strike. The awards reaped by Vergara’s first foray into the realm of graphic novel writing are more than well-deserved.
So, when I wandered through a chi-chi bookstore in Century Mall with a Japanese author whose translated work I was editing and I saw the sequel, “Zsazsa Zaturnnah sa Kalakhang Maynila,” I snatched a copy off the shelf faster than a cobra strikes.
Most people think a Literary Editor is this serious bookworm who considers weighty high-lit tomes to be light reading. Okay, that’s true, but this Lit Ed happens to be a comic book and graphic novel junkie. I have airtight bins of the stuff kept in individual mylar sheaths. I even once owned a copy of Superman #1, a hand-me-down from my brothers when I was wee and hankered for stories with pictures.
So, now that I’ve given my geek cred, back to “Zsazsa Zaturnnah sa Kalakhang Maynila.”
In the maiden Zsazsa Zaturnnah comic, “Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah,” Vergara introduced us to his hero/ine Ada, who is not your typical parlor gay, and her love interest, the braw but not very bright Dodong, who makes up for his lack of critical thinking by having a very good heart and, well, yes, damn good looks.
In a world where marriage equality for homosexual unions is becoming a reality one nation at a time, this graphic novel(the first of a three-part series), is timely and beautifully done. Here we see with equal doses of undeniable wit, tight storytelling and very human characters how Ada, as Zsazsa Zaturnnah, defeats a giant frog (the echusera!), a horde of zombies and alien Amazonista in his/her small town.
So it is time for bigger things in Ada and Dodong’s life. They move to the big city, the Maynila probinsyanos dream of making it big in. Here we see the struggles of every ‘syano who ever came to the big city bearing their tampipi of dreams.
I love the humor that only underscores the very real difficulties of adapting from small town life to city life—the reality of just how hard it is to eke a living in a city where everything must be bought except the smoggy air one must breathe to live.
Vergara handles Ada and Dodong’s relationship, adventures, misadventures and the new characters he introduces in this installment of the Zsazsa Zaturnnah universe with such aplomb that I want to find him and eat his brain.
The social commentary Vergara delivers in this comic is sharp, pointy and hits home with pinpoint accuracy, yet you will want to keep reading what he has to say because the humor is irresistible. Humor, by the way, is one of the most difficult things to write, so I doff my hat to Vergara with much respect. Now, if only the second and third installments were where I could buy them, I’d put Veraga on a plinth of high worship. However, I must also do my responsible journalism bit: This book is not for minors. There is material in it that is not suitable for young readers. Yo, kids below 18, you can put this on your to-read lists WHEN you reach your majority. Don’t miss it when you do. Any book where love wins is always a good read. G