The above image is up for silent auction this Saturday at Comic Odyssey in Fully Booked, Bonifacio High Street in Taguig, in conjunction with the “Art with Heart” fund raising for Yolanda victims. All proceeds from this auction will go to the fund. If you wish to bid, please get in touch with Sandy Sansolis of Comic Odyssey at his FB profile. Starting bid is P1000.
For more info on “Art With Heart“, please go to the official Facebook event page here.
Because I’m usually busy with my comics work, I haven’t been accepting sketch covers/commissions. I made the exception during Komikon, as well as “Art with Heart” specially because funds earned from these drawings would all go to the Red Cross for Yolanda victims. I thought I could finish these kinds of drawings easily and proceeded to accept FIVE pieces during Komikon. I knew I drew very slow, but I thought I could do the five drawings in the entire day I was at Komikon. Counting from 9am to 7am that would be TEN hours. I could do one drawing every 2 hours. I thought it would be a breeze.
Ha! ha! It wasn’t. By 2pm I was still working on my FIRST drawing. Not only was I slow, I had to stop often to sign books, which was a lot. Apparently, I had grossly overestimated myself. In the end, I was able to do only THREE drawings. But since the remaining two had already paid, I agreed to do these other two drawings at home.
For “Art With Heart”, I’m being very conservative about what I can draw so I accepted only TWO slots. Which were quickly filled. One was willing to pay 1K, and another was willing to pay 2K. I thought wow. All the better!
So after finishing that GALLUS REX drawing above, I’m doing my two leftover drawings from Komikon and just do the two new commissions on the day itself. That means I won’t be able to accept any more after that.
Someone asked me if I would accept sketch commissions during my signing at National Book Store here in SM San Pablo on November 30. Unfortunately not. I only have 3 or so hours for the signing so I will be signing only. If I accepted sketches, the way I draw, I will not finish one single sketch and I will end up not signing anything, which kind of defeats the purpose of the thing.
After “Art With Heart”, I’m afraid I will no longer be able to accept commissions for the time being. It really does take a lot of time, and I have a lot of comics to write and draw. A publisher has practically commissioned me to create a whole book so that will pretty much take over all my free time outside of my Marvel work. Sorry guys!
There will be another fundraising event this coming Saturday, November 23, 2013 at Comic Odyssey on the fourth floor of Fully Booked, Bonifacio High Street in Taguig. This time, all proceeds will be donated exclusively for the benefit of typhoon Yolanda victims.
It will be a sketching event where more than FIFTY artists are confirmed to participate! Event starts at 10am. Confirmed guests include:
HEUBERT KHAN MICHAEL
IAN STA MARIA
More info on this Facebook events page below:
I will be offering another ELMER illustration for auction. I’ll be posting the page here and update this post when I finish it.
The Komikero Artists group would like to make an announcement with regards to fundraising efforts through auctions at this Saturday’s Komikon. We planned these fundraising event a few months ago, initially to benefit our fellow Komikero in need, Vergil Espinosa for his medical needs. Then the earthquake in Bohol happened, and Lui Antonio contacted our group if we could help raise funds for that calamity as well. We agreed.
We will continue with our fund raising efforts for Bohol Earthquake victims as well as for Vergil at this coming Komikon.
We are fully aware of the great and unimaginable tragedy that has befallen our country within the last week due to Typhoon Yolanda. We understand that many of you would wish to help those victims as well. Please do not worry as we will have plenty of opportunity to do so. For this Saturday, we do wish to go ahead and raise funds for our original recipients: Bohol and Vergil, as this is what we have already promised to do.
There are now plans to have another fund raising specifically for Typhoon Yolanda victims. Since it is still currently being organized, we cannot share more info about it, but rest assured it is being put together will all due haste as we understand that the need is great and immediate.
Thank you for your understanding.
*The above ELMER illustration is one I will donate to benefit Vergil Espinosa specifically. It’s pen and ink on 11″x17″ art board.
Please check out this Facebook gallery to see what artworks are available for bidding.
If you wish to bid right now, please send a PM to the gallery owner, Johnny Danganan. This will be a silent online auction, which will continue at Komikon until 5:30pm. Please contact Johnny for details.
Before anything else, let me just say this is not intended as an ad for Shakey’s Pizza, although people are free to believe that it is. But it’s simply not my intent. I just want to talk about Manager’s Choice, because well, it’s my favorite pizza and it’s got a bit of a sentimental value to me.
Anyway, let me just say that the first time I ate pizza… I don’t remember when this was (I was probably 8)…. I HATED it. It seemed too sour for my taste. It just didn’t really agree with me. But by the late 70′s and early 80′s we started seeing Shakey’s Pizza ads on TV and marveled at how the cheese would stretch out like rubber bands. We were living in San Pablo City, but we decided that the next time we go on one of our monthly supply trips to Manila, we’d eat at Shakey’s. We just had to know what that pizza tasted like!
The time came to go to Manila and I remember being very excited. Not just about the pizza but any trip to Manila is something to be excited about. To be honest, I was more excited about looking for new toys and new comics at National Book Store. There was a branch of Shakey’s at what is now Greenbelt. It was a freestanding building back then. In fact, the place was designed to look like a big house.
Dad ordered the “Manager’s Choice” pizza because well, at the time he was a branch manager of the Bank of the Philippine Islands so of course he just had to order the Manager’s Choice. It was kind of a really small inside joke.
As was usual with restaurants like this, drinks are usually served first, long before the pizza arrived. I think it’s a gimmick of course, because by the time the pizza does arrive, your drinks will be gone and you just HAVE to order another round. I would usually order root beer because well, it had “beer” in it and the child in me was feeling a little rebellious. Another small inside joke. Very small. So of course my root beer would be all out by the time I bite into my first slice. But my dad would refuse another round of soda so we had to settle for water. I remember being very frustrated.
As it turned out, I loved the pizza. I loved it so much I wanted to eat more of it. But since we were four people (my dad, mom, my brother and me) dividing one pizza, I think I had only 2 slices at the most. I wanted more but well, we couldn’t order another one, so once again, I was frustrated. In Tagalog there is a term that one uses: BITIN. I couldn’t wait for another trip to Manila so we can have pizza again, although it wasn’t a guarantee that we’d have pizza even if we do return.
So for years, it was kind of a point of frustration for me. But I did enjoy the many times we did go to Shakey’s. I was just BITIN every single time.
Fast forward to 1993. I had a job at an Architectural firm. My girlfriend had just broken up with me. So I was feeling really down. On the way home along Recto Avenue in Manila there’s this branch of Booksale and I scoured their stocks for cheap comics. I bought a few including an issue of Marvel Age with this awesome Jim Lee Punisher drawing. I remember being very awed by that drawing. I then went to a Shakey’s nearby, ordered a large Manager’s Choice and a pitcher of draft beer, and started drowning my sorrows in pizza, beer and comics. It never even occurred to me I wasn’t BITIN anymore because I could have as much pizza as I liked, and I could drink as much beer as I liked. I went home drunk, but trying very hard not to look like I was drunk. I did this solo binge at Shakey’s several times over the next year or so.
Fast forward to 2013. I’m married now and I’ve got a job in comics. The other week I took my parents for dinner at a Shakey’s branch here in San Pablo. Of course we had the Manager’s Choice as usual, plus a Vegetarian one because you know, at our age we have to cut down on meat. Shakey’s no longer serves draft beer but I don’t miss it. I just ordered water. Of course, this time around I pay for it.
Nobody is BITIN this time around.
But I do like BEING in faraway places. I like it a lot. It’s just that the travel itself to those places that really gets to me. I don’t like the hassle of lining up for a visa, and all the suspicion and the condescension that come with applying for it. I really don’t like riding planes. I really do hate flying. Not just because of the fear of crashing, but the weird way life transforms while on a very long plane ride. While you’re there it’s like a half-life. You feel like you’re half conscious and not fully there. It’s like walking underwater. There is a loud din that seems to press on you from all sides. It’s almost like being in a dream.
When I get home from a trip that involves a plane ride, I almost always get sick. Coming home from Singapore last year I fell sick for two weeks. Thankfully enough, I didn’t get sick from this last trip, but I did feel extraordinarily weird and out of sorts for a long time. In fact, it’s been almost a couple of weeks since I’ve been back and I still feel weird. Only now have my sleeping patterns have seemed to normalize. I still don’t feel completely myself.
But you know what, it’s completely worth it. Being in those faraway places, experiencing something new, meeting new people and making new friends… they’re all worth it. Right at this moment I can’t think of wanting to leave again, but I know for sure not too long from now I’ll get the travel bug again and would want to get packing once more.
Immediately after leaving Algiers, Ilyn and I went to Paris for a week at the invitation of Serge Ewenczyk of Editions Çà et Là, the French publisher of Elmer. We were of course, very excited to go to Paris. More than anything else in the world, this is where I really wanted to visit for much of my entire life. Paris has lived in my imagination as a beautiful place of art, architecture and history, an almost mythical, legendary place that could not possibly exist except in books, movies, comics, and TV. It was very much like Valinor, impossibly far away, tantalizingly unattainable.
And yet there we were on a plane, supposedly going to a place called “Paris” but even then it was so difficult to believe.
The intense cold that greeted us upon alighting the plane was the first indication that we were actually there. I asked Ilyn, “Did you feel that? DID YOU FEEL THAT??” It was just too much excitement to contain.
We were greeted by Serge and brought us to our hotel, still buzzed, still kind of disbelieving, but sort of tired. Nevertheless, we ventured out into the cold Paris streets immediately. It was around 9 in the evening and it was biting cold. We quickly realized our flimsy jackets simply weren’t enough. But we went walking the streets anyway, full of stars and wonder in our eyes.
Our hotel was wonderfully located within old Paris, along Rue de Rivoli. It was walking distance to the Notre Dame, Bastille and the Louvre Museum. The Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower were within easy access of the Metro, Paris’s subway system. After an hour or so of walking, we decided to retire back to our hotel, and planned what we would do for the week. First order of business was to get a couple of scarves for ourselves.
The following day Serge brought us to one of the branches of France’s biggest book store chains and showed me the huge and I mean HUGE comic book section.
It was quite impressive. We do have large sections of comics in our local bookstores like National Book Store and Fully Booked, but they’re predominantly Marvel, DC and Manga. Here, there’s very little American comic books. If there were, those from independent publishers outnumber those from Marvel and DC, and the rest are purely comic books from mostly Europe. A lot of these books were beautifully designed large hard bound books with amazing artwork.
We decided to pay an early visit to one of the comic book stores I’ll be doing a signing in, Librairie Super Héros along Rue Saint-Martin. On the way there there was this huge colossal modern art building that’s at odds with much of the surrounding ancient architecture, the Centre Georges Pompidou.
On the way back to the hotel, we saw this random gothic church just hanging out nearby, next to some street art. One thing that’s so nice about Paris is how creative their street art is.
One of the first things we really wanted to see was the Notre Dame Cathedral. It holds special significance to us, being both Architects. We studied this cathedral studiously back in college. We drew it inside and out and have come to know it quite well even without really seeing it.
During my college days, it was even the site of one of the biggest battles of the X-men, which occurred in X-men 200, “The Trial of Magneto”, written by Chris Claremont and drawn by John Romita Jr. One memorable scene was Colossus being thrown through, and destroying, Notre Dame’s main rose window.
I simply could not wait to see it.
Ilyn and I were both speechless upon seeing it rise in front of us. We just sat there for a while not really saying anything, just looking. Later, we both approached it and hugged it. Well, I just had to. It was quite simply an overwhelming experience. I felt touching it was important. Like I wanted to make a physical connection not just with the thing I had in my memories, but also with history. We couldn’t forget how old it was, and how many millions of people had stood where I stood.
That night we found a Chinese food place we just had to try. Ilyn had missed rice terribly. It was rather expensive though, but we tried not to think about it and convert currencies in our heads. We’ll end up not eating anything or buying anything. For sure things would be more expensive here so we just had to get used to it and just not think too much about it. We just decided to enjoy it while we were there. I mean, we were in Paris. Perhaps it hadn’t completely sunk in.
Next stop was the Louvre Museum. Although it was walking distance from our hotel, we nevertheless decided to take the Metro because we wanted to reserve our walking strength for walking this museum, which was just gigantic. And full of stairs. As we approached the building from the side, we slowly approached the plaza knowing full well that just around the corner was the world famous glass pyramid that has become the distinctive look of the museum in modern times. We are aware of the controversy that surrounded it when it was first built, but as time went on, it became an indelible part of this ancient institution. At the corner we held our breath, and then… there it was.
It was kind of gloomy that day, with a cloudy sky that threatened to rain. In fact, rain was forecast for that day, and for much of the week we were there. We nevertheless remained optimistic. Although we saw this incredible line of people who wanted to get in, it didn’t discourage us. While still in line I felt bits of rain drops here and there. And us without an umbrella. We decided to stick it out. I mean, one chance in a lifetime. Rain isn’t going to keep us away.
Thankfully, rain didn’t come, at least for the time being.
The first thing we really wanted to see was the Mona Lisa, and then after that, we can just wander around. We immediately went to the 13th-15th century Italian paintings section of the museum where the Mona Lisa was located. When I imagined it to be a huge place, I never imagined it would be that huge. With so many stairs. My knee hadn’t been doing really well in recent months so it was really difficult for me. But what kept me going was the fact that I was in the same building as the Mona Lisa and sooner or later I will be in sight of it. It was a huge deal for me. A huge deal. It was what kept me going and kept me putting one foot in front of the other. Very soon, we were there.
To be honest, the Mona Lisa isn’t that spectacular a painting. What made it special was its special place in history and world culture. She’s more famous than any living person. To see her is to see history in one glance. Seeing her is humbling and overwhelming. We took a moment, and then we went exploring.
Now I love these kind of classical well rendered paintings. Seeing one was enough to last me a long time. The sheer beauty of the figurework, the delicacy of the brush work and the beauty of the colors… photos simply weren’t enough to depict all this. But seeing one spectacularly painted painting after another… seeing a hundred… two hundred…. it all started to blur. I started to stop appreciating each one and just glossed over one painting quickly before looking at another. It’s hard to explain. Perhaps all this wasn’t meant to be seen in a day. It had to be appreciated a little at a time, over a period of weeks, perhaps months.
By the end of a couple of hours, I was so ready to see some impressionistic paintings. I wanted to see Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir… all those funky guys with the wild imaginations. I wanted to go to the Musée d’Orsay, which was just next door. Of course, “next door” was probably a kilometer away, but that was just OK.
I never had a chance to go though, as I had an appointment for a media interview for Elmer. I did look forward to the interview… it was one of the reasons we’re in Paris in the first place. I can’t believe I was thinking it, but I was kind of museum-ed out for the day, and was looking for a change of pace. Meeting with Serge and a journalist and talking through the afternoon at an outdoor cafe seemed the best thing for me at the time.
At the interview, Laurent Mélikian arrived with writer Dana Walrath and American comic book artist Dan Panosian (pictured above). It was such a pleasure to meet Dan because career wise, this is one of those artists who I truly admire. He started out as inker and then transitioned to drawing his own comic books and now he’s being published in Europe. He too was having a signing tour of Paris and other France cities and will be there until the end of the month.
Ilyn stayed on at the Louvre to see the other sections of the museum.
She then went to the Musée d’Orsay but unfortunately could not take any pictures because it wasn’t allowed. Musée d’Orsay has special significance to the both of us because we’re both big Doctor Who fans. And one of our favorite episodes was “Vincent and the Doctor” where the Doctor meets Vincent Van Gogh and this museum was prominently featured. Ilyn couldn’t wait to see a Van Gogh with her own eyes. She reports being disappointed at not seeing “Starry Night” or any of the sunflower paintings, but some of the self portraits were there and they were just magnificent.
Ilyn and I met up at the cafe of the interview just as it was wrapping up and both went back to the hotel, but first we had to find a nice place for lunch. As we were wandering around, we hadn’t realized that Laurent and Dana were walking behind us and Laurent asked us if we wanted to go to a nice place for a vegetarian lunch. Of course we said yes! Walking through the small side streets of Paris we soon found ourselves in a small Jewish quarter and entered a restaurant that was offering falafels. I had often wondered about falafels and what they tasted like, and now I was about to find out. It was very similar to the Mezze Platter that we would have at Middle Eats here in San Pablo, but it had a lot more in it. It was delicious!
Resting for an hour or so back at the hotel, it was soon time the first of my comic book signings, this one at the previously visited Librairie Super Héros.
It was my first signing in Paris and it was really nice. I could understand none of what most of those who had their books signed were saying, but I could feel the appreciation they had for the book.
What I noticed from those who came was that there were no teenagers, unlike the case here in the Philippines. Here were mostly older people around my age, men and women alike, which is an interesting look into the kind of readership my book has compared to back home.
After the signing we went to a drawing demo by Ville Ranta at the Institut Finlandais. Serge had gone to the demo a couple of hours before, so a couple of Serge’s interns Ines and Helene helped us get there. Ville’s books are also published by Serge and Ville also had signings in Paris the same time I was. Knowing him and speaking to him both in Algiers and in Paris I got to know Ville quite a bit. And I like him a lot. He’s very funny, very talented, and has a quiet way about him that makes one feel comfortable rather than put off.
After Ville’s demo, we all went out for a really nice dinner some streets away. Then it’s off walking back home to the hotel.
The following morning we went down to our now favorite breakfast place just below our hotel, the Snack Rivoli. Breakfast was very simple, very much like it was in Algiers. The orange juice here was kind of special because it’s always freshly squeezed. We loved it!
Morning was curious at this time in Paris. In the Philippines we were used to the sun coming up at 6am. But here, the sun was just barely coming up at 8am. So after having breakfast at 8, we went right away to see the Arc de Triomphe.
We were lucky because today the sun decided to show itself and it was just beautiful.
Very soon it was time again for another signing, this time at Comics Records.
The following day we set off early again, this time for the Eiffel tower. We had to be quick because by 11 I had another media interview. Unfortunately, this day wasn’t as beautiful as the previous one and we were greeted with lots of fog. Which made seeing the entire tower not really possible. But nevertheless, it was quite a thrill to be there and actually touch it.
Serge went back with me to the hotel to say our goodbyes. I haven’t talked about Serge yet, so I will take the opportunity now. Before meeting him in person, I always had the impression that he was kind of stern and serious based on his emails. I had expressed my concerns to Ville back in Algiers and Ville seemed resolute in his impression that Serge was “funny”. I thought it was surprising because I hadn’t got that impression at all.
As soon as I met him at the airport that first day though, my impression quickly changed. Not only was he funny, he had a really strange and quirky sense of humor. And the more I got to know him, I realized that very much like Laurent, he was an incredibly nice guy. I was comfortable with him right away. I really liked it when he was around because the air seemed much lighter when he’s there.
I wish to thank Serge for all the help he offered us and the kindness by which he treated us. We talked about future projects and I knew then that one of my goals were to give him another book that hopefully would not disappoint him, and hopefully be profitable for him and the company. With that, we said our goodbyes.
I rested a bit and went around Paris one last time on my own (Ilyn was off on her own adventures elsewhere).
And of course, I couldn’t leave Paris without having Escargot! This one was called Escargots de Bourgogne, which was snails cooked in butter and parsley. It was actually very nice, specially with Guinness…another new experience.
That night, we went to Laurent’s home for a farewell dinner. There we met Laurent’s wife Sylvie and their son Victor. Laurent prepared an awesome baked cod with steamed vegetables and cream. We had a bit of champagne, cheese and figs afterwards. Figs! I only heard about those things in the bible. This was the first time I was actually tasting one. It was very nice.
We all had nice conversations that lasted well into the night. It really has come full circle for us. Laurent was there at the beginning of our two week trip, and now there he was just at the end of it. It was nice. Laurent is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, extremely helpful and kind. I am extraordinarily lucky to have met both Laurent and Serge, specially at this point in my life.
Laurent escorted us back to the nearest Metro and then we said our goodbyes. The following day we left before the sun was up. It was bittersweet. We had a terrific time in Paris. Personally, I loved it there. I wish I could have stayed longer. I dreamed of doing just graphic novels, living in some Paris apartment, having coffee and croissants in the morning and creating, as well as appreciating art all day long. But well, it was time to home, and time to go back to work.
It was an incredible two weeks, a short time in my life that seems like years in my memory.
Laurent Mélikian, a French comics critic who visited the Philippines in 2011 and who I met for the 7th Annual Komikon, had subsequently invited me to attend the 6th FIBDA, or the Festival International de la Bande Dessinée d’Alger, or in English, the 6th International Comics Festival of Algeria.
I barely knew about Algeria at the time of the invitation, and I had no idea what kind of comics they had and that they had festivals at all. I was immediately intrigued. The festival would be covering all travel and accommodation expenses for me and my wife Ilyn so I really didn’t hesitate too much. I immediately said yes.
I must admit that I had concerns upon entering a country that was 99% Islamic. I know very little about that religion and what I know is most likely unfairly colored by extremists in the news. I did reassure myself with the personal knowledge that Muslims are some of the kindest and most friendly people I met, after spending a week in Jolo, Sulu during my college years.
I received an official invitation not only from FIBDA but from Khalida Toumi, the Minister of Culture of Algeria herself, which was quite remarkable. It was an indication to me that this festival was kind of big deal, and that perhaps comics was a thing that was taken seriously in that country.
Since Algeria did not have an embassy in the Philippines, we had to leave the country without visas. Which was kind of an adventure in itself. The airline going from the Philippines to Algiers, Algeria (with a stop over at Doha, Qatar) did not want to let us board without visas, in spite of the letters of invitation. We had to wait for 3 hours, nearly missing our flight, so they could send an email to Algeria, with scans of our papers, and wait for their reply. It almost seemed that we wouldn’t be able to leave at all. But at the very last minute, they let us through and we were off!
Arriving at Algiers many many many hours later, our concerns about our visas returned, but we need not have worried. As soon as we stepped off the plane we were greeted by someone who let us through the lines, got us our visas, and got us our ride to our hotel.
My first impression of Algeria is how cool it was. The Philippines was very hot in comparison. It was like being in Baguio. As we went through the streets and highways, I thought it was remarkable how clean everything was. They had very nice roads and very nice preserved old buildings.
Our driver had difficulty communicating with us since he didn’t speak English very well, and for us, we did not speak French at all, which was they spoke there outside of their own native language. The language barrier would be a distinct feature of our entire stay, not as a source of irritation surprisingly enough, but a welcome challenge to communicate simple ideas.
We soon arrived at the Hotel Safir, a venerable institution in Algiers, almost as old as our own Manila Hotel in the Philippines. Our driver let us go and we were met at the lobby by a FIBDA volunteer by the name of Ahmed. We would soon privately call him Pretty Boy Ahmed because he was just incredibly good looking. In fact, a lot of Algerians, boys and girls alike, are incredibly good looking. It was quite remarkable. It’s like everywhere we looked it was beautiful people. Ahmed knew less English than our driver so it was difficult to ask him even the simplest questions. He did know what to do and that was to check us in and get us to our rooms. Ahmed handed me his phone and it was Laurent on the line, a welcome, familiar voice. He said he couldn’t meet us at the airport as he was busy setting up the exhibits at the festival. I said it was all right and I was pretty sure we could manage.
Ilyn and I fell exhausted on our bed. It was a very long trip after all. The moment we stepped out of our door here in San Pablo, to the moment we stepped into our hotel room in Algiers it was around 26 hours. We were quite literally spent. It was 3 in the afternoon when we lay down and before we knew it, we were fast asleep and didn’t wake up until 9pm.
We went down for dinner, hoping the restaurant was still open, and at the door of the restaurant we saw Laurent, who introduced us to FIBDA coordinator Karim, who seemed to speak English well enough. We sat down at a table and before we could take a breath, there was a plate of salad in front of us. Finally. FOOD! I had been very hungry and was worried about finding something to eat in an unfamiliar place. As salads go it was all right. As soon as I finished my plate it was taken away and a plate of steak was placed in front of me. Ok. I hadn’t planned on eating meat too much on this trip but if this was the set menu, I couldn’t ignore it. I finished most of the vegetables that came with it and tasted a bit of the steak. Well… OK. The steak was kind of more than well done. The vegetables were also quite a bit overcooked. I remembered articles written by other comics artists who had visited FIBDA in the past and commented how the food “was dire”. It was something I wasn’t ready to believe. This was probably a fluke. But as hungry as I was I didn’t mind. We talked quite a bit with Laurent and then retired back to our rooms.
FIBDA DAY 1
October 8, Tuesday
Breakfast buffet was simple: Several choices of bread, butter, jam, coffee, tea, fruit juices and yogurt. To me this breakfast is just perfect. It would eventually become the best part of being at the hotel, having breakfast and meeting other comics creators.
Laurent joined us and introduced us to Alain Frappier, a French comics artist. We were soon introduced to Chinese artist Golo Zhao, who came bouncing down to our table with a confused/surprised look on his face. Apparently, he recognized me and couldn’t figure out what the hell I was doing there. He asked me if I was the guy in the gifs doing the smile. Apparently, gifs of my “Hey, Baby” video is pretty big in China and he recognized me for it. He didn’t know I actually did comics so it was a surprise to him. Golo seemed not to know how to react for the most part. Part of his brain must have short circuited.
Shortly after, I also met other artists including French artist Frank Margerin, as well as Belgian cartoonist Etienne Schréder. We talked a little bit about Tintin and clear line style that’s so well regarded in Europe.
Laurent seemed to sense that me and Ilyn were lost because we had a hard time communicating with people. Most of them spoke French, which seemed to be the International language in this part of the world. He reassured me that I would soon have an interpreter, and that another delegate from India would soon be arriving and spoke very good English.
It turned out, nearly all delegates from all these different countries for the festival were billeted at our hotel, the Hotel Safir. I thought that was perfect because it would be a great opportunity to interact with a lot of these artists in an informal and casual way. Buses were scheduled to take us to the venue some 15 minutes away usually around 9am. Laurent offered me and Ilyn if we wanted to go early as he had a car. I said yes, and Etienne came with us.
The venue was located right beside the Makam Echahid Monument, an incredibly tall monument that commemorates Algeria’s fight for independence against France. There is a big plaza around the monument where a large area was cordoned off and huge tents were erected to house the exhibits.
I felt immense pride upon seeing the Philippine flag among the gallery of flags from all participating countries.
Laurent led us to the International Comics tent where the exhibits from the Philippines, China, America, India, Finland, France, Lebanon, Tunisia, etc were set up. It was around 9am and the Festival won’t officially open until 3pm which was just fine because some of the exhibits still need to be set up. The Philippine exhibits needed a bit of arranging, and with the help of student volunteers, Ilyn helped out to arrange the exhibits properly.
Communicating with the students proved very rewarding, specially for Ilyn who was previously a teacher of students of this age. They seemed to have connected on a very close level, in spite of the language barrier. One of the coordinators observing us even said that Ilyn should stay in Algeria because she seems to be teaching these kids really well.
Satisfied that the Philippine exhibits were ready, we started walking around the tents looking at the other exhibits. I was very impressed with a few artworks from artists from Algeria including the ones below. I thought that the people were depicted really well expressed their features and their culture really well. Later on I would meet the people responsible for this comic book.
A tent at the center of the festival featured the work of only one artist, Kaci. I would learn that he is one of the most popular cartoonists in Algeria, and he will soon be honored with a Lifetime Achievement award at this same festival. We looked at his comics and we became instant fans. His strips are so funny that we laughed like idiots looking at his work inside this tent.
We finally meet up with our interpreter, Safia Ouarezki, a local Algerian who spoke excellent English with a slight British accent. She explained that she got it from living for a while in England. We got along extremely well with her and her sister Soumia, and that in spite of differences in culture and religion, there’s so many things we had in common including interests and points of view in life. Meeting these two women certainly shattered a lot of my pre-conceived notions of Islam. When it comes to this, I certainly have a lot more to learn.
It turns out, Safia is one of the creators of the Algerian comics we had seen earlier, which she had collaborated on with her sister Soumia, and Soumia’s husband Mahmoud Benemeur.
The festival opened that afternoon after a ribbon cutting by none other than Algeria’s Minister of Culture, Khalida Toumi. I thought that was just amazing. Their government takes comics seriously enough for them to spend so much for an International festival on comics, and not only that, this politician made no speeches or did any sort of grandstanding. She was there to look at the exhibits and the first thing she did was head for the International Comics tent, and naturally, the Philippine exhibits. I was on hand to greet her and Laurent was there to explain the exhibits in French. She spent quite a bit of time observing each piece and after, she took my hand and thanked me for participating. I for one am the grateful one for being invited, and having the opportunity to share Philippine comics with this International community.
As for the Philippine exhibit itself, we were given space for only 15 pieces of art and two shelves for comics. I brought artwork from our great masters of course like Francisco V. Coching, Alfredo Alcala, Alex Niño, Nestor Redondo, and a few of mine. I also brought komiks from the 1950s as well as new comic books. I hope that one day we can come back to future FIBDAs with a bigger Filipino contingent of artists, and larger space for exhibits, presenting a wider view of who we are as Filipino comics creators.
Ilyn and I continued to walk around the other exhibits and found this large tent full of comics from Cameroon.
Later, we met a few comics creators from Congo. Thankfully, this one spoke English very well and we talked a bit about comics from their country. It turns out that like the Philippines, they were publishing their own comics.
Back at the International Comics tent, I met up again with Golo Zhao, and I saw some of his works and they were just extraordinary. It’s hard to see in these pictures, but his art is incredibly detailed and beautifully laid out. I also love the colors.
Golo introduced me to his fellow artist from China (who I first thought was his dad, ha! ha!) Li Kunwu.
Night soon fell and it became rather cold. So cold that I couldn’t stay outside for too long. I just had to get inside one of the tents. I took that as a reminder to bring a jacket the following day. Going inside one of the tents seemed just right because Kaci was being honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award, and recognition and appreciation were being bestowed upon a group of veteran Algerian cartoonists.
At the ceremony, one of the artists from Congo, Asimba Bathy, spotted me taking a video of the proceedings. He stood beside me holding his video camera as I shot my footage as if waiting for something. After I finished, he handed me his camera and through bits of sign language and pointing at his camera, it seemed that he wanted me to figure out what was wrong with it. I saw that it was stuck on pause and much as I tried to tinker with it, I couldn’t figure it out. In fact, my tinkering might have even further broke it. I got a little afraid because Asimba was a huge dude and he looked quite a bit like Idris Elba. I gave the camera back, shrugged my shoulders, feeling bad I couldn’t help him out.
FIBDA DAY 2
October 9, Wednesday
Breakfast was something we always looked forward to. The food was simple, but it was just perfect for us. The windows outside the hotel restaurant looked out into the Mediterranean and sunrise was always awesome.
Laurent once again offered to give us an early ride to the venue and we said yes. I like going early because it gives me the chance to go around the festival before the crowds come. This time I visited the bookstore, and of course, this bookstore contained nothing but comics! I soon spotted ELMER!
Earlier at breakfast we had met another Laurent, Laurent Lolméde, a cartoonist known for his autobiographical comics. He was remarkable because he kept drawing all the time, He kept making all these little comics depicting everything that he had done, including breakfast at Hotel Safir that morning. I think I spotted him drawing me!
Later, I made it a point to look at his exhibits. While looking at Laurent’s work, the original Laurent introduced us to this artist from Kosovo who just arrived, Gani Jakupi.
Gani and us quickly got along and we were soon sharing stories of each others countries. It turns out, he lives in Barcelona now creating comics and making music. How awesome is that? His art, he described, is created panel by panel. Each panel is a huge illustration done separately that’s all put together on one page. As such he said, it takes a long time for him to finish a book.
We discovered the VIP room and there Golo invited to interview me for his website. Apparently, he still can’t get over meeting the dude from the viral smiling gif. Sarnath Banerjee suddenly appeared beside us, engaging us in conversation. I met Sarnath, the English speaking Indian dude that Laurent had told me about, the previous evening. Among all the people I met at this festival, Sarnath is probably the most unique and most memorable. He’s deeply intelligent, funny, and has always something witty to say about everything. As such, I believe he makes friends rather quickly. He’s such an open guy and easy to relate to. That morning he seemed kind of bored and wanted to rock the Casbah. Apparently, the “Casbah” is an actual place in Algiers, a kind of a public market where one can probably find the most authentic part of their culture. I think artists are attracted to that and Sarnath kept going on about it for several days.
I soon got to meet another artist, Ville Ranta from Finland, who I also would get along quite well with. Ville Ranta and I have the same publisher in France, and both of us would be in Paris the following week for a series of signings at local Paris comic book stores.
Ville is also quite a unique individual. He has a peculiar way of speaking in English that’s steady and clear that I find strangely appealing. Like Sarnath, he’s immensely intelligent, a little bit more private, with a sense of humor that just comes out of the blue.
Ilyn and I spent the rest of the morning looking at more exhibits.
There was tent that invited young artists to draw and have their work displayed around the tent. Ilyn was finagled into drawing something and she seemed to really enjoy doing it!
Hung out with Golo a little bit more. I think he would soon be leaving so it’s nice to exchange a few more stories with him before he goes.
That afternoon was spent signing and hanging out with Gani Jakupi. The more I talked to him, the more interesting he became. Sarnath passed by to talk a little bit, commented on how cold it was and retreated back to the VIP room. After the signing, we followed him there. I didn’t get the chance to sit down because I met Kaci!
He asked if I was Filipino and I said yes. I think he knew because had been to the Philippines previously. I said that I became an instant fan of his the moment I saw his work, and he expressed a genuine interest to read my work. Since all my free copies of ELMER were back at the hotel, he actually bought one at the bookstore and had me sign it. It was awesome! I wanted to buy a collection of his strips, but I was told they were all sold out. Oh well!!
Back at the VIP room, deep and meaningful conversations I had gotten used to were ongoing as I joined Gani, Safia and Sarnath at one corner of the room. Sarnath talked about how the growth of comics can only come about from outside influences as current comics thrive on feeding on itself. To be honest, I always feel like my brain is an oven when I talk to Sarnath, which is just fine. It’s exhilarating to have my brain exercised every time I talk to this dude.
All of a sudden I felt a tap on my shoulder and a loud “GERRRY!!!” coming from behind me. I turned around and there was Bira Dantas, an online pal of mine for 10 years who I was meeting for the first time at that very moment.
I knew he was coming but I was surprised to see how young he was. And it was surprising how vibrant, eager, and happy he was, not just to meet me, but he seemed to be that way all the time. He was so excited about just everything, and welcomed everyone with a big smile. His stories never stopped. One moment he would be talking about a Brazil he loved, then he talked about his dream of going to Cuba, and then next moment he would be playing his harmonica. He was like a whirlwind. I thought Bira just had to be the happiest cartoonist in all of FIBDA.
That evening we were all shuttled up to the residence of the Minister of Culture for a big dinner. Once again, no big speeches from her, just a genuine welcome to all of the delegates. I thought FINALLY! Some REAL Algerian food!
They served us some really nice local appetizers and for the main dish, their traditional couscous with chicken, beef and vegetables. To me it tasted vaguely like Pochero here in the Philippines, but the couscous made the taste rather unique. Those who previously complained that the food in Algeria was “dire” simply didn’t have the authentic stuff, which was just delicious. I guess the hotel thought it best to serve dishes that may be familiar to us, but for people like me, I always want to taste what’s unique to any place I visit.
At the dinner I met this extremely talented and young English comics creator named Isabel Greenberg. She showed us her work, “The Encyclopedia of Early Earth” and it was work of remarkable professionalism and maturity. I think this girl will go places in the world of comics!
FIBDA DAY 3
October 10, Thursday
Ok, we were pretty much absent from the festival today as we took some personal time for ourselves. What we can say is that we did go to the beach for a short while. We were driven by another one of those extremely handsome dudes named Lotfi. Naturally, we eventually came to call him Pretty Boy Lotfi. He was extremely nice and very eager to show us around. What I notice from most Algerians I met is that they are eager to hear what other people think of Algeria. They are very proud of their culture,specially their music. You would think a young dude like Lotfi would be into western music, but he kept playing all these traditional Algerian stuff which was just fascinating to hear.
That night I hung around with a few other artists during dinner and later, talked well into the early morning at the 3rd floor terrace overlooking the bay. My new friends missed me during the festival and I apologized and assured them I would be there the entire day Friday.
FIBDA DAY 4
October 11, Friday
After another breakfast welcoming the sunrise at the hotel restaurant, Laurent invited us once again to go to the festival early. I saw Golo there and it seemed it was his last day and he had to leave that morning. I quickly went back to my room and gave him a spare English copy of Elmer and we said our goodbyes.
In the car to the venue, we had another rider, a comics artist from Lebanon named Barrack Rima. Barrack seemed like a very quiet, very friendly, and quite a gentle person. We had coffee near the festival venue and exchanged anecdotes about comics and about our homes.
I thought this would be a perfect time to do a kind of a virtual video walk-through of the entire festival venue. The video is very long at almost 30 minutes. It was shot continuously, going through nearly all areas of the festival in just one go.
I attended a talk on Cuban comics which was presented in French. I understood none of it, but I appreciated the visuals, which were very interesting. The presenters from Cuba, Duchy Man Valderá and Lysbeth Daumont Robles , showed me some vintage Cuban comics from the 1970s, some of which were for mature readers.
Lysbeth had previously spoken to me during the dinner at the Minister of Culture’s residence, and she was very interested in the archiving and preservation efforts I’ve been doing for Philippine comics. She wants to do the same for Cuba.
That afternoon I had more signings, this time with French comics creators Bruno Loth and Vanyda. We were soon joined by Bira, who continued to impress me with his exuberance and gaiety. He engaged each person who approached his table with such joy and openness that people immediately felt comfortable with him. Being the kind of introvert that I am, I was truly amazed. Bira gave me two of his “Bira Zines” while I gave him an English copy of Elmer. I had to leave Bira after a while to do a talk on Philippine comics at a different location.
I was surprised that more people than I expected showed up, including Tom Kaczynski, the lone American cartoonist at the festival who I had met during dinner two nights before. Tom was very keenly interested to learn about Philippine comics, having been impressed by the works of Alfredo Alcala, Nestor Redondo and Alex Niño for their work on US comics.
Since I only had some 45 minutes for my talk, part of which would need to make way for translations, I’ve had to make my talk short, but as informative as I could.
At the Q&A session, the questions that were posed to me were very good and very substantial, an obvious sign that people were actually listening and not just sitting down so they could take a rest. I was very glad to see so much interest in Philippine comics, and comments I got later told me most people never knew about Philippine comics until this festival, and they had no idea that it had such a huge publication history with a roster of excellent artists.
I gave Safia and Soumia a copy of the English version of Elmer in appreciation for the help they’ve given us during the festival. They were very happy to receive it in English as the only version available at the festival was in French.
Back at the signing, Bira would go on signing and doing caricatures well into the night. Since we didn’t have lights at our signing tent, Bira had to work with as much light as was still available, until he could draw no more. It was quite inspiring.
Resting at one of the concrete benches kind of shivering in the cold after the signing, we were invited by one of the Algerian coordinators if we wanted to watch a concert. And of course we said yes. Surprisingly, we were led through a large crowd of people wanting to get in the convert venue and given a seat right at front. Apparently guests at the festival had kind of a VIP pass for the concert. The crowd already in the venue seemed pretty excited. Of course, we had no idea what we were in for. As soon as the band, Djamawi Africa, came in, there was a thunderous roar. Apparently, this band was very famous in Algeria. They must have been like the Eraserheads here in the Philippines. Really, the crowd just went crazy. Of course, we just had to clap along so we won’t look so clueless.
I took a video of the first song they performed.
It didn’t take long before the band impressed us by their performance. I thought they were very good! They used a variety of styles from reggae, to traditional to some pop and rock sensibilities and before long I was genuinely clapping along and tapping my feet to the beat.
After the first song, a mosh pit formed in front of the stage right in front of us and after the 2nd song, it all started to get crazy. Lysbeth and Bira jumped in the mosh pit and started dancing like crazy. It was exhilarating, but man, I thought it was time to step out because the crowd was getting a little too wild.
We soon discovered that the first bus on the way back to the hotel was already full. We had to wait another hour (until the concert finished) so the 2nd bus would fill up and leave. We didn’t mind too much. We just spent the time looking at the photos we so far took and look at the locals visit the monument.
FIBDA DAY 5
October 12, Saturday
At breakfast we were joined by Laurent, Sarnath, and Ville. For Ville, I think it would be his last breakfast with us before he left for Paris. Laurent once again invited us to go early to the festival, but this time he proposed that we go via public transportation. Which was just cool with us! We were joined by Chinese artist Chongrui Nie, who is this amazing artist who did Judge Bao, recently translated and released by Archaia Press. Nie spoke absolutely no English and it was hard trying to describe to him that we were going to ride a train and a cable car to the venue. So I just drew it on paper and he understood right away! “OK! He said, with a large smile and an enthusiastic thumbs up.
And so off we went! We had to walk quite a bit to the subway train terminal, but I took that as an opportunity to sight see and take pictures of Algiers’ amazingly well preserved old buildings. Algiers is a truly beautiful city and I hope more people would be made aware of it.
After the subway train ride, we had to take a cable car up to the monument beside the festival venue. Inside the cable car was a group of teenage Algerian girls who immediately took an interest in us and started talking with us. They knew English quite well and at first they asked us if we were Chinese. I said oh, just him, pointing to Nie. Ilyn and I were Filipinos, and they were quite surprised at that. We’re probably the very first Filipinos they ever met. We soon got to talking and as expected, Ilyn naturally got on very well with them. They were extremely friendly and nice to us, even taking the time to protect us from a flower vendor who seemed to want to take advantage of us. That’s because I just had to buy Ilyn a flower because it was her birthday. When the kids learned of this, one of the girls gave Ilyn her bracelet because she said it was the only thing she could give. It was so heartwarming. Perfect strangers being very nice to us. That’s the general experience we have had with most Algerians.
Since it was Ilyn’s birthday, I wanted to treat her to a nice lunch at one of the local restaurants. None of that pretend stuff at the hotel. We found a nice restaurant near the festival venue called “Restaurant Mezghena”.
By this time we already knew some of the words. Poulet meant chicken, Poissons meant fish and Boissons meant drinks. So Ilyn had fish, I had chicken. Ilyn had bottled water and I had Fanta. Damn that Fanta. Why don’t we have this in the Philippines? I remember we had this before. Sure, we have Royal, but Fanta has all kinds of flavors: Apple, Orange, Four Seasons, Lemon, etc. In any case it was very nice lunch. Meals in Algeria all seemed to always come with bread. There just has to be bread. This one came with mayonnaise and a spicy sauce that seemed perfect for the bread.
Back at the festival I signed some more books, this time with Sarnath.
It was also Gani’s time to go back home so we said our goodbyes.
A small group soon formed at one of the tables with writers and artists from Finland (Ville), me (Philippines), Laurent (France), Sarnath (India) and Bira (Brazil) and only now upon looking at the photos am I amazed at the interaction of different individuals from all sorts of different countries. But at that moment, I didn’t feel that. I only felt I was in the company of peers and compatriots in comics and we were all the same, interacting together through the love of comics.
That evening we attended the awarding ceremonies where our friends (and interpreters) Safia and Soumia Ouarezki and Soumia’s husband Mahmoud Benemeur won a comics award for their comic book anthology “ Déchaînés ”. We were so happy and proud for them.
Later, we went out to the buses because we didn’t want to be left behind like we were the previous night. It turned out the buses were not yet there so Sarnath, Ville, Ilyn and I just hung out talking about our experiences. One of the coordinators, Tarik Benmzeiane, came to greet us and gave us an early goodbye in case we don’t get the chance to speak again.
Tarik had always been friendly with us and very helpful every time he saw us. For me, I was quite fascinated by Tarik and kept looking at him because he reminded me so much of Arlan. Even Ilyn seems to think there is a resemblance.
I sort of got to expect some kind of big farewell dinner. I think Laurent said something about this months before. There would be roast sheep and things like that, but it turns out this year there wouldn’t be anything like that. Which was just fine. I wish we had known that previously so we could have eaten outside, but as it is, we ended up having our last dinner at the hotel where food is, well, I gotta say I can cook better.
The dinner that night was surprising though, it was stewed beef with pasta and cheese, which was quite an unusual combination. Even more surprising was that the beef tasted exactly like kaldereta. In fact, it was kaldereta. Just the Hotel Safir version of it. Sarnath tasted the beef and said he liked it, and said he’d have it. Instead, he was given some steak, which was again kind of overcooked. He gave it to Ville who accepted it without so much fuss. On the other hand, I was puzzled. I asked Sarnath weren’t Indians not supposed to eat beef? He said “Yes.”, which I thought was kind of funny. He had given up eating meat he said, but with the hotel’s set menu, it gave him little choice.
I gave Sarnath my last copy of the English version of Elmer, and he seemed genuinely touched at the gesture. He said I could ask him anything and I said, well, I could use a beer. And his hand immediately went up to call a waiter for a round of beers. Now alcohol is generally not allowed in Algeria, but since Hotel Safir is an international hotel, beers in this place was allowed. Since this was also our last dinner, I thought it was the best time to finally have some beer.
My tolerance for alcohol is pretty low. Very very low. So after finishing just one bottle, I was already on the verge of being drunk and being very talkative. I started to say things I wouldn’t normally say, and I started touching Sarnath on the knees. We then moved from the restaurant to the 3rd floor terrace where we continued our conversations. We all knew full well it was our last night together and so we had to make the best of it. Bira interviewed me on video for a Brazilian website. Soumia, Safia and Mahmoud gave me a copy of “ Déchaînés ”, with sketch from Mahmoud, inked by Soumia. I got to talk quite a bit to Soumia, who was very open about a lot of ideas. She asked about my other projects and I told her about “Where Bold Stars Go To Die” and surprisingly enough, she really liked the story and she wants to read it for herself.
I got to talk with Bruno Loth, who told me that he lived in a vineyard in Bordeaux, which seemed so fascinating to me. I asked him if they had those big barrels where people stepped on the grapes to squeeze the juice out. And he said yes. I thought that was very cool.
Then there was this really pretty Algerian girl (I won’t mention her name, ha! ha!). I was in close proximity with her and Ville, but it seemed she had eyes and ears only for Ville. As much as I tried to engage in conversation with both of them, she would only talk to Ville. Very soon I felt like a third wheel so I went around and talked to other people. Very soon I was getting very tired and sleepy so I soon called it a night. Just as I was leaving the terrace, Etienne was coming on. This was already around 1:30 in the morning.
FIBDA Day 6
October 13, Sunday
At breakfast we met Tunisian cartoonist Yassine Ellil for the first time. It was just unfortunate that there were so much more writers and artists we didn’t get to meet and interact with, but I was so very glad for those creators we did get to meet. Meeting them proved more valuable to me than anything else I got from the festival. Seeing them and their talent was very inspiring and it further encouraged me to pursue creating my own comics.
We only had a few hours left before we had to leave for the airport so Ilyn and I decided to take a walk outside the hotel and venture the streets of Algiers on our own. We found a plaza full of sidewalk vendors and unlike sidewalk vendors here in the Philippines selling trinkets, clothes, food, and the like, vendors here in Algiers sell books. Tons of books! And not only that, they dress extremely well.
Looking for a place to eat we spotted a familiar shawarma vertical meat spit.
Only in this place, shawarma is called “Chawarma”. Because of difficulty in translation, they gave us chawarma on a plate rather than in a pita bread. But that’s just perfectly all right. The chawarma on the plate was just simply AWESOME. It was probably the best chawarma I ever had.
The different thing is, they don’t use that spicy garlic sauce. They use simply mayonnaise, which was just fine. There were all sorts of different things in it like beets, fries, olives, shredded carrots, cucumber, tomato and lettuce. The meat was just simply terrific. One of the best meals we’ve had in Algeria.
Before we left the hotel, Sarnath met us at the lobby. He wouldn’t be leaving until Monday, and it made him quite sad. He asked coordinator Karim (whom we met on the first day) to stop us from leaving, but of course, there was nothing he could do. Soumia, Safia and Mahmoud were also there to see us off. We had a bit of conversation and a bit of a kerfuffle with a grasshopper before it was time to go.
I told all three that I was going to give them money, to which they reacted to in shock. “No! Why?” They asked. I told them not to worry. It was just a bit of a joke. I said I would give them Philippine money as a remembrance of us. And that they gladly accepted.
And before we knew it, we were on a car on the way back to the airport.
It was quite an extraordinary experience, one that I would take with me for as long as live. I hope the friendships I made in that week would last, even through long distance. I really hope I could meet them all again one day, and I guess one way to make sure of that is to just continue creating my own comics. I came home extraordinarily inspired and I just can’t wait to write and draw again.
I’m extremely grateful to all who made this trip possible, specially Laurent Mélikian, FIBDA, and of course the government of Algeria for inviting me and giving me and Ilyn this experience that we will simply never forget.
We leave tomorrow for our two week trip! I’ve been so busy trying to finish an issue of Avengers as well as manage the various little (and big) concerns of running the house that I really haven’t paid full attention to our specific travel plans. Apparently, I made a mistake in reading our plane ticket. It’s not really an actual ticket but an e-ticket, printed out from a website. The formatting of the words and numbers is kind of confusing. Let me just say that if I had gone with my initial understanding of the ticket, the plane would have been long gone when we arrive at the airport.
Apparently, we don’t leave at 5:30 Monday morning, we leave hours earlier at 12:50am. That means we have to leave the house at 5pm on Sunday, that’s tomorrow. That’s a lot of contingency, but I want to be prepared because it is a Sunday and lots of people will be coming from the province to Manila. I expect lots of traffic.
We haven’t packed yet. Ilyn herself is busy finishing some more school work for her MAEd. I still have TWO Avengers pages to finish inking. So I guess it will be a very long night. I still have to get my haircut tomorrow. I can’t go off to the festival looking really scruffy.
I’m not sure if I will be able to go online during the entire time, but I guess I’ll find a way. I’ll most likely try to update Twitter a lot, as well as my page on Facebook. This blog, maybe not until I get back. But let’s see!
Right now, I just feel too tired to feel excited or nervous. Perhaps once the pages are done and we’re packing it’s all going to sink in.
All right, see you guys in two weeks!
Today I received news that my visa was approved! YEAH!! I can now announce my signing schedule in Paris:
- Wednesday, October 16
Librairie Super Héros,
175, rue Saint-Martin
75003 Paris, from 5pm to 8pm
- Thursday, October 17
Librairie Comics Records,
76 rue Charlot,
75003 Paris, from 5.30pm to 8pm
If anyone from the area ever gets to visit my site, see you guys there!! Please pardon me as I don’t speak the language, but I can manage English pretty well.
Above is the poster that won a contest held to celebrate the 6th Festival International de la Bande Dessinée à Alger (FIBDA), or the International Comics Festival of Algeria. Through Laurent Melikian, I was invited to attend the festival, which begins October 8 and ends October 12. There, I will unofficially represent the Philippines, bringing our comics and our history to the attention of the International attendees. I will be exhibiting artworks from some of our greatest artists, and I will also be doing a talk on the history of our comics.
It all sounds nice and I’m crossing my fingers that I do get the chance to be able to do it. How can I not be 100% sure? I’d like to dial back a few months back when Laurent, this really cool French gentleman I met online and eventually at the Komikon in 2011 (he came all the way from France to check out the local komiks scene), had gotten me an invitation to attend the Algeria comics festival, which has the complete backing of the Algerian government. They would be willing to pay for my travel and accommodations. I thought that was fantastic, but I told them that I can go only if I can bring my wife with me. I think I’m at that point in my life that I want to share everything I experience with my wife, and anywhere I go, she would come with me. I risked not going at all, but if I couldn’t bring my wife, I’d rather not go at all.
Surprisingly, they agreed! So we were all set. Preparations were made to make the trip possible. Somewhere along this time my French publisher, Serge Ewenczyk of Editions çà et là, offered to extend my trip by bringing us to Paris after Algeria for another week. I thought this was just too much, too awesome to be true. I’m like, Paris, wow. That was the dream city me and my wife always wanted to visit, more than anywhere else in the world outside of the Philippines.
I guess right now (today is September 29), I’m around 90% positive my trip will push through. Everything is actually all set. We already have a place to stay, we have our tickets, we’ve prepared all that we can possibly prepare. But there’s two complications. One is that we don’t have Algerian visas. That’s simply because there’s no Algerian consulate or Embassy here in the Philippines. I was assured by the Festival organizers not to worry about it as it’s common for a few festival delegates not to have visas. We will simply be issued visas when we enter the country. I’m assured that Algerians are actually very glad to receive visitors and that the lack of visa will not be a problem. Including me and Ilyn, there are 10 other delegates to the festival who do not have a visa. Right now we’re just waiting for an official letter from Algeria’s Ministry of Culture that we can show to immigration to facilitate matters.
Second complication is that today, September 29, we are still not sure if we are going to be granted our French visas. There was some difficulty during our interview. Apparently, they are very strict about completing their list of required documents, unlike when you got apply for a US visa. We had emailed in some documents later in the day to complete our requirements, but the nature of the interview left us not entirely confident of positive results. I’m 90% sure that we did get it. We eventually completed all the requirements after all. We find out Tuesday when we retrieve our passports.
So yeah! Fingers crossed all around.
As to what we will do in Paris, as far as I know, I will be doing signings for a few comic book stores. Once we make sure that our visas are in place, I will post more detailed info about signing dates and venues and other activities.
All in all, I’m very excited, and just a little bit nervous.
Yep, I’m letting go a few more original inked art to Indestructible Hulk! Just so you know exactly what you’re getting, Leinil Francis Yu emails me the pencils, which I then print out on Marvel Art Boards using blue ink. I then ink on that. I scan the finished art, and that’s the inked artwork used to publish the comic book. I’m letting go a few of these, and once they’re gone, they’re pretty much gone. Each page is really just one of a kind.
If you’re interested, click on the gallery of photos of pages for sale HERE.
If you are interested in any of these pages, just email me at gerryalanguilan at yahoo dot com. Although these are offered primarily to buyers here in the Philippines (and the prices reflect that), I’d be willing to sell these to people from abroad as long as you would be willing to add for shipping via Fedex. Fedex only, unfortunately. I cannot send anything via the local post office because to be honest, original art like this I cannot trust to them. So shipping will be quite a lot, and depending on where you are, it will not be lower than 50 US dollars. I know it’s a hassle, and that’s why I really don’t prefer to sell abroad, but if you’re willing to shoulder that, I’m game.
At any rate, there are a few pages of Indestructible Hulk, the really kick ass ones, that are also for sale via my agent KIRK DILBECK, who is based in the US. You may find it easier to deal with him, if you’re based there as well. Check out the gallery of Indestructible Hulk pages (along with Supercrooks) here at this gallery.
Today is September 25, and I will be able to offer these pages only in the next two weeks. After that, I will have to put a hold on selling artwork. That’s because I won’t be home starting October 6, and I’ll be gone for two weeks. I’ll be back October 20. So if you wish to buy any of the pages that I have, you can do so within two weeks, or wait until I get back.
From October 6-12 I’ll be at the FIBDA, which is the Festival International de la Bande Dessinée d’Alger, an International comics festival I had been invited to attend in Algeria. I’m really looking forward to this trip because I will get to give a talk about the history of Philippine comics, and I will get to exhibit artworks from some of our greatest artists.
From October 13-19 I will be in Paris, France, at the invitation of my French publisher Editions çà et là (who published ELMER in Europe), and I will be doing several signings at stores in the city.
I’m selling some of my artwork in the hopes of having some pocket money for my trip. Although my accommodations and 75% of my travel expenses will be shouldered by the Algerian Festival and my French Publisher, it would still be nice to have something that will keep me from being financially paranoid in a foreign country.
Leinil Francis Yu and I will also have a signing this Saturday, September 28 at Robinson’s Galleria from 1-4pm. I will be bringing along more artwork, this time from Avengers, specifically pages from issues #18 and #19 to sell as well. No scans as of yet, but you’ll see which pages are available on Saturday. If you wish to get any of that or any of the the Hulk art and you wish to get them personally from me, Saturday would be the best time.
If you purchase some art from me at this time, I would greatly appreciate it! Thanks in advance!
The Internet certainly has changed quite a lot ever since I went online in 1997. From that time forward up to now, I consider myself a pretty heavy Internet user, open to trying a lot of new things. I did the Geocities, I did the Friendster, I did the MySpace, I did YouTube and DeviantArt and Blogger and Twitter and even the now forgotten ones like Comicspace, Flixter, Buzznet, LiveVideo, PinoyTube, Vloggerheads, etc.
And then, there’s of course, FACEBOOK. I’ve been pretty active on that site for many years. But swiftly on the heels of me quitting YouTube, I’ve pretty much quit Facebook. Well, not entirely. My account is pretty much still there. But I’ve massively pulled back my activities. Once I used to post several things in a single day, now I hardly post anything in a single week. More importantly, I no longer browse the “Home” newsfeed. There was a time I thought I could not live everyday without going to Facebook, but it’s really just not true. After removing myself from it, I’ve realized I didn’t get as mad as often as I used to, and I don’t get stressed out as often as I used to.
I’ve been trying to figure out why that is, and maybe I can write it all out here.
I’m thinking I’ve pretty much broken my Facebook early on, and it grew broken for years and there’s nothing more I could do about it. What do I mean by “broken”? The idea behind Facebook is that you only add people you actually know. That way, all your contacts will be assured that you personally know each one and can vouch for them. But I’m in a peculiar business of creating comics which has that side effect of me being known by a number of people who I don’t know and have never met. I also do videos on You Tube and because of those things, people get a perceived familiarity with me. They get to know me, at least a particular aspect of me. And so if they see me on Facebook, they want to add me. And because I don’t want to alienate those people who read and appreciate my work, I add them. I have added quite a lot of people who I don’t know and have never met.
I don’t know who they are, what kind of people they are, their beliefs and opinions and life, who their friends are and so forth.
So naturally, my “Home” feed is filled with posts from people I don’t know. They post their photographs and statuses and links, and more often than not, they post their opinions about politics and religion and things like that, and I often feel offended or pissed by what they say because in many instances I don’t agree, specially when opinions are baseless, not backed up by facts, and sometimes just downright STUPID.
I made the mistake once or twice of engaging in arguments, but I’ve been on the Internet long enough to know that it doesn’t really do any good. Such issues have been debated about for years or even decades without resolution. Why do I delude myself into thinking resolution to years old debates can be settled with one God damned Facebook post?
Opinions of my close friends, no matter what they may be, I can stand. I can even engage in debate about it in a nice way. But the idiotic opinions of strangers? I got no patience or time for that.
Of course, I can “unsubscribe” from them or even defriend, but I just don’t have the time. My contacts list has grown to Facebook’s limit of 5000. I don’t have the time to individually “unsubscribe” from people I really don’t want to hear from. I tried to start doing it, but wow, it was just too much work.
That’s why I think my Facebook is broken.
Early I didn’t know I could have used a PAGE right from the start, but back then they were called “FAN PAGES”, and I detested the idea of me creating one of those for me. Remember those times? Instead of “liking” a PAGE, you had to to “Become a Fan Of”. And that didn’t sit right with me. So I stuck with a personal profile, adding only real people and not groups, characters, businesses etc.
I can always delete my account, but I don’t think I can do that. There are legitimate friends on my list, friends who I wish to remain in contact with. Plus I still need a forum on which I post announcements with regards to my work. Facebook is still very useful in that regard.
Not all of the strangers on my contacts lists are like that of course, but there are quite a few. There are more people who seem to be OK with me than not. And there are a few people on Facebook who I met through that site who are now my actual friends, so it’s really a two sided thing.
So on Facebook I remain, but not like I used to. I can still respond to things here and there only if someone tags me and makes me aware there is a question for me. Otherwise, I would completely miss it. I do still visit individual profiles of my close friends to see what they’re up to. Nowadays, I do all my posting on my PAGE, which is set up differently from a profile. I don’t get to read posts by people who “like” my page, so that’s great. I get to share stuff and engage people there which is just perfectly fine.
Today is a sad day. I’m waiting for the vet. My dog Boney, who has been with me since 2008, is so sick that she’s beyond saving. She needs to be put down. I’ve had many dogs in my life and they all died one by one on their own. Some were just too old, and some well, just died from undiagnosed ailments. This is the first time I’ve had to decide to consciously put one down. It wasn’t really a hard decision to make. Boney has been sick for almost a year. We had a vet take a look at her and even after all that’s been done to make her well, it just didn’t work out. The poor animal is clearly suffering and it’s a mercy to just let her go.
It’s just utterly sad. I’m supposed to be working today but I’m paralyzed. I can’t do anything. My phone is down. My Internet is down. As much as I want to distract myself, I can’t. I keep thinking about Boney, anxious about the coming vet. I know that as soon as the vet is here, Boney has only minutes to live.
I had spoken with the vet yesterday and she said she will be coming this morning. It’s already 11am and I’ve been terribly anxious since 8 in the morning, puttering around the house, trying to do something on the computer, some offline game perhaps or browse photos. But I keep seeing photos and videos of Boney so I’ve had to put a stop to that. I’m too distracted and restless to draw. I tried sleeping but I’m so agitated that I just keep getting up.
I want to leave the house and if the vet shows up while I’m gone then at least I won’t be here when it all goes down. But that would be mean. I have to be here. I have to be here for Boney.
And of course it just had to rain. It’s been raining all morning. I guess it’s only appropriate.
12 noon the vet just called and said she will be able to come over only at 1:30pm. It’s relieved the tension and anxiety a little bit, but just a little bit. I’m still very agitated. I don’t think I can eat lunch, at least not so much. I don’t feel like eating.
Even when this is over, I think I have to get away for a bit, watch a movie maybe. Hopefully On The Job is still showing at SM. It’s supposedly bloody enough and intense enough to get my mind off killing my dog.
It’s 6 in the evening. The vet came at 1:15pm. Boney was gone and buried by 1:40pm. It was difficult seeing her die in front of my eyes. She fell asleep from an injection and then as drugs were pumped into the IV attached to her, she started gasping. There was one last gasp of air. I thought that there would be more, but no. She just died. And that was it.
After Boney was in the ground I took a bath and just got out of the house. On The Job was no longer playing. I just puttered aimlessly around not really knowing where to go. A few hours later I was back home. I took a nap. I was asleep longer than I expected. I woke up thinking of Boney’s still face, closed eyes and open mouth. When dogs die they open their mouth.
I’m still thinking of Boney right now. I think of all the nice times I had her. She was an awesome awesome dog. Loving, attentive, always so eager to please. I will try not to think of Boney too much. I don’t want to keep being sad. I just have to keeping doing what I’m doing, and get back to drawing again.
Browsing the net I came across this e-book service that offers 5000 free e-books. Another service was offering even more comics that comes with their e-reader. The future is so amazing isn’t it? You have entire libraries at your disposal with a single click. And it’s all free. Such things were unthinkable only 15 or so years ago.
This generation and the next and the next after that is certainly very lucky to have a lot of things so easily so quickly. Lucky in some regards, but perhaps not in others.
I grew up in a generation where we couldn’t have everything. We didn’t get 5 thousand free anything, not books and not comics. We bought comics. As a kid whenever we go to Manila for our monthly trip, my parents would give me 20 pesos to spend. Back in the 70s that was a bit of a good money. I would spend more than half of that on comics. The National Book Store reprints of Marvel and DC comics sold for 1.75 pesos each, so I would buy like maybe 5 to 6 a month. After a while I had a stack that was maybe a foot high. That was probably around 50 comics.
I valued those comics a lot because I didn’t get them for free. Sure my parents gave me money, but it was me that took the effort to go to the store, browse the shelves and bought the comics. If I couldn’t find an issue I liked, I would spend hours going to other places just to find them. And when I got them, I valued them greatly because I worked to get them. And because I couldn’t afford to get a lot, those 50 or so comics got read a lot. I read them over and over. I knew those comics inside and out. As a kid, that was my most valuable possession.
And as I grew older, some of those comics got given away, but some have stayed with me. A few issues of X-men from those days are still with me, browned and stained, but still readable. On the margins are little marks and drawings I did as a kid. These comics are almost 40 years old, almost as old as me. They have weathered time and have grown old as me and yet they’re still here. And I still know them inside and out. I can never forget.
I can’t help but think that kids today get so spoiled at having so many free stuff that they no longer value what they have. 5000, 7000 free comics? For real? Are these kids ever going to read all of them? I highly doubt it. And when they get so many free things so easily so quickly, these comics will be equally without value and will be equally disposable. I can imagine these comics get simply browsed at best. Maybe 10 or 20 get read from cover to cover, but it’s more likely their eyes will just gloss over the rest. And when the next free batch comes along, the old batch will just get erased, forgotten.
I may seem just like an old fart who may not get kids, envious of the great things they have, but I’m really not. I could care less for 7000 free digital comics. I just feel bad for the kids today who can never experience the wonder of collecting, of going out and searching for missed issues and the thrill that they could feel upon finding it after searching for hours, may be days, maybe even weeks. That sense of awe and hair raising thrill that one feels at the extraordinarily luck at finding a rare issue.
You don’t get that with digital comics. Rare issues are non-existent. Just call it up on your gadget and within seconds it’s there. No effort at all.
Isn’t it any wonder why I always prefer print? Why I always prefer my own comics in print and has always resisted making my work easily available as a digital download? I want my work to be valued. I want my work to be kept and held and cherished. I want my work to grow old with its reader, attaching itself emotionally to its owner. I don’t want my work to be just one comic book among thousands that’s given away, easily erased, easily disposed of.
Old pals Johnny Danganan, Jonas Diego and his gf Ysa along with me and Ilyn met for lunch today at Simple Treats here in San Pablo. It’s been a while since we saw each other and it’s nice to know that we can still be good friends in spite of not being constantly in touch with each other. It’s like we just pick up from where we left off the last time. I don’t even remember when that last time was.
It’s nice to see friends. I was kind of “off” the past few weeks because of a cough that wouldn’t go away. After seeing a couple of doctors it was deemed an allergy, but I’m allergic to what, I have no idea. After weeks of barking like a mad dog it’s eased up considerably the last few days. I’ve had to decline a lot of invites to meets and TV stuff and such because of it. And for that I really do apologize.
During that time I was still able to work, but not as fast as I would like. Hopefully I’m back up to speed. And I have a lot of work to do. Aside from the inking job, I have a lot of stories to write. I also have a lot of stuff to draw. I need to get back to drawing. It’s been a while since I’ve done any hardcore drawing. I don’t want to get rusty. I would like to have something new at the very least, for release at Komikon in November.
Speaking of Komikon, yesterday was Indieket, which is kind of a Komikon that emphasizes the local indie creators. I wasn’t able to go but I hear a lot of really good releases came out. That sounds really promising. Check out this public Facebook photo gallery of the goings on at the Indieket.
Next week is the annual Cebu Comics Convention. I think it’s the third (or fourth?) one in a row. Old pal Jonas is actively involved in organizing this one. Although I won’t be able to go, WASTED will be there for sale. I’m sending over at least 20 copies.
A couple of weeks ago I posted what was essentially a “last” video on You Tube entitled “174 Words”. It’s a very long, low resolution video that lasts almost 43 minutes. If anybody had the patience to actually watch it until the end, they would realize there won’t be any more videos from me, at least for a while. In fact, “Berry (So Many Words)” should have been my last, but I made a promise in that video to a lot of viewers so I had to make at least one more. I guess I just woke up one morning and thought, damn, I don’t want to make videos anymore. That’s it. That’s my only reason. And since my only reason for ever doing any of my videos is because I wanted to do it, I guess I’ll stop when I don’t feel like it anymore.
Will I still make videos? Maybe, I don’t know. If you ask me right now I’ll say NO. But who knows? Tomorrow I might feel I might want to make videos again. Very unlikely tomorrow. Maybe one day. Right now, I just can’t stomach it anymore.
I’m also using Facebook less. I do still go to Facebook and check if anyone’s tagged me and respond to stuff here and there. I still participate in some groups, but I haven’t been posting much on my profile lately. Once in a while I’ll post in my page. One thing I don’t do anymore is browse “Home”. I just don’t feel like it anymore.
I do still tweet. I think I’m very comfortable with tweeting. And since I’m blogging now I guess I still feel comfortable blogging. After all, I’ve been doing this since 1997. I think I’ll always be writing.