Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah
Believe me when I say that this graphic novel is a fresh breeze. Hence, this is my final official entry to my Filipiniana Feature Month WordPress event.
I’ve heard of Zaturnnah years before, but I was able to watch the movie two or three years ago and read the graphic novel last week. And I must say that in the movie, the musical (which my sister has watched) and the graphic novel, there is a certain fidelity and unity testifying to the strength and brilliance of the Zaturnnah franchise.
The original graphic novel focuses on Ada and his best friend Didi, both members of the third sex. (To be less politically correct: they are both gays.) Ada, an owner of a small beauty parlor, receives a strange stone from the sky with the word ‘Zaturnnah’ etched on it. Whenever he swallows the stone, Ada turns into a voluptuously muscular female superhero, whom Didi dubs as ‘Zsazsa Zaturnnah.’ Zaturnnah then goes on to battle a giant frog, a horde of mumus, and a posse of radical alien feminists hellbent, for some strange reason, on dominating Ada’s little town. At the same time, Ada/Zaturnnah also has to contend with his/her feelings and romantic needs, condensed in the form of Dodong, a well-endowed *ehem, I’m getting a relish for certain things* and chivalrous young man. With the stress brought by evil supervillainesses and, worse, a troubled love life, Zaturnnah/Ada is stretched thin to meet the demands of both fronts.
Much has been said of Zsazsa Zaturnnah being a milestone for third sex literature–and the franchise, from Vergara’s graphic novel to the movie, truly is. That strangely moving scene between Ada/Zaturnnah and his/her father, now part of the mumu army, really struck me: that a father would, even beyond the grave, still harbor his disappointment and rather tear himself to pieces than accept Ada for who he truly is! And yet, even the biggest chauvinist, given that he has something of a literary inclination, cannot help but be at least amused with the self-aware humor in Vergara’s graphic novel. Ada’s swallowing the stone just because Didi told him to, Zaturnnah getting those dramatically burlesque panels, the superhero sardonically yelling at the panicking crowd to stay aside so as to avoid the rampaging giant frog, the said crowd’s uncontrollable tendency to surround dangerous fight scenes… all these things “deconstruct” (whatever that word means nowadays) the graphic novel form and the superhero genre, re-presenting the experience in a funny new light without trying to be hyped and/or intellectual. I mean, come on, see that scene where Queen Femina Suarestellar Baroux channels a tiger with her kung fu routine and Zsazsa channeling a mermaid with her… interesting… mahalay arts. If you don’t at least smirk at that episode, you should probably see a psychiatrist or three.
The musical and the movie, by extension, are also good renditions of the Zaturnnah story. My sister, who has watched the musical, said that the story was engaging and the music wonderful, even though the “Didi” dominated the stage. (Then again, Ada was never meant to be a show-stopper.) Perhaps the musical’s being staged seven times says something of its popularity, its ability to capture the audience’s imaginations. The movie I can vouch for, even though it did not bag an MMFF award. The music ranges from catchy (“Babae Na Ako”) to haunting (“Multo ng Nakaraan”), and its plot, retaining much of the original (as I later found out), preserves the soul of the graphic novel. The musical, the movie, and the graphic novel, in the end, are all must-sees.
Because really, we need more “earthy” literature. We need literature that can reconcile the intellectual might of the academe and the gravitational popularity of mass media. Perhaps Zsazsa Zaturnnah has shown us the way. And now, as I end my Filipiniana Feature Month after presenting one photo album, one academic novel, one movie, and one graphic novel, I hope that those who write Filipiniana can finally push the frontiers not a little forward, no, not anymore, but by leaps and bounds.