There are many things in Philippine comics that happened this year that I can distill into a few distinct events. I counted 5 (or so I thought), which I already listed for the ComicsReporter.com site, but I felt I need to expound on it here as there are plenty more to say.
2008 saw the release of a couple of important comic books, Martial Law Babies by Arnold Arre and Trese by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo. Now I don’t want to include anything that I worked on here for the sake of objectivity, but I will mention the things I did this year in a more personal list after this one.
I feel these two comic books are important for their excellent quality in writing and art. My admiration for Trese is no secret, seeing that I wrote the introduction to the first of the two volumes released by Visprint so far. Budjette and Kajo’s take on Philippine mythology and pop culture is so blindingly brilliant and imaginative that I can only do two things after reading each story: Sit here in stunned silence or explode in profanity at having been so blown away.
Comic books like these are important to raise the bar for others. Change in Philippine comics cannot truly happen by blog rantings (although that can help), but by people who shame/inspire others out of their complacency through the creation of excellent comic books. I’m inspired every time Arnold Arre plops down a phone book-sized comic book in front of me every so often. I’m inspired every time there’s a new issue of Trese.
There are a few other comic books of 2008 that seemed promising, but it’s too early to talk about them, and their creators, until I’ve seen more work from them. In any case, 2009 seems very, very promising for Philippine comics.
One of the biggest news in Philippine comics, or at the very least within the comics community, was the appearance of Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on the pages of Secret Invasion, creating wild speculation in the blogging community that GMA was a “Skrull”. The Skrulls are one of the more popular villains in the Marvel universe, who are aliens that can change their shape and appearance. Secret Invasion puts forward the premise that many of earth’s heroes and prominent celebrities/politicians may or may not be Skrulls.
The flurry became so loud that news of it reached even Malacañang, where they said they would reserve comment until after they read the comic book in question. Secret Invasion artist Leinil Francis Yu issued a statement that GMA was not portrayed as a Skrull. She was no more than just another prominent politician/celebrity, including US president-elect Barack Obama, that apppered in one of the pages. Whether she was a Skrull or not wasn’t really mentioned.
The Komikon has finally grown too big for it’s venue. I was there during Komikon’s first year and I remember it not having that huge of a crowd. By it’s fourth year this year, the place was literally packed to the gills. People were sweating and bumping into each other. People had a hard time navigating the tables. The event was by all means successful. So successful that the venue simply can’t contain it anymore. This is a good thing. This is an indication that comics in the Philippines is still truly alive and always has been for many years, without the benefit of any major publisher, without the benefit of Carlo J. Caparas.
Which leads me to Sterling Paper and their comic book line. Amid much publicity and hoopla, Sterling Publishing launched a comic book line that appeared to be titled “Caparas Komiks” although it’s not indicated in the indicia. It was successful for what it tried to achieve: bring komiks back to the newsstands and in the hands of the masa. Unfortunately, the entire line of five titles: Klasik Komiks, OFW Super Stories, Super Funny Komix, Gwapo Komiks and Estudyante Komiks lasted only around 8 issues each (with a reported 2 issues in full color), and disappeared quitely from the stands, without fanfare, in 2008.
Sterling has shown how popular komiks still is with many Filipinos, and I still respect them for having the nerve to invest so much money into it. Even though the komiks themselves were painfully old fashioned, I won’t go so far to say that it failed because of content. If the insider stories are to be believed, it failed for reasons that had nothing to do with the medium itself, and that is as far as I will say.
In an effort to stay alive, former komiks giant Atlas Publishing tried to go for the lowest common denominator by publishing Playhouse, an expensive mag for adults. As far as adult magazines go, I found it to be in poor taste, and a poor shadow of the magazine it was trying to ride on, Playboy Philippines, which launced at roughly the same time. But as people have often said, you’ll do what it takes to feed your families and survive. Who can really fault that? Unfortunately for them, the magazine didn’t last. Fortunately, Atlas has seemingly not abandonded komiks completely by publishing new adaptations of Ibong Adarna and Florante at Laura.
ABS-CBN published Sindak!, a horror/suspense magazine with a large section of comics. It was a good and promising start, but it unfortunately lasted only one issue.
On a positive note, this year also saw the return of Funny Komiks (not to be confused with Sterling’s Super Funny Komix), published by Infinito Publishing. So far, 3 issues have come out, the last seeing the return of Superdog, a popular characater in this title’s past.
In seeming defiance to the alleged sorry state of comics in the Philippines, at least three comics specialty shops opened in Metro Manila in 2008. Planet X opened a branch in Glorietta. Sputnik in Cubao reopened, and another shop opened somewhere in the Pasay area that I heard about. I resolve to find out more about that.
This year we lost komiks writer Galo Ador Jr. and illustrator Jose Mari Moncal.
Personally, it was a difficult year. October was the hardest when I fell sick twice through the course of three weeks. But I was and still am proud that I’ve finally finished Elmer, which I consider as the one true highlight of my entire year. I’m still beating myself up over the errors in #4, but I resolve to fix it all for next year’s compilation.
Elmer brought with it lots of good and unexpected things. Elmer got an incredible review over at the Philippine Free Press, a review that’s probably much more intelligent than my comic book. I was happy with that because it impressed my father no end. Elmer also got several mentions at the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Philippine Star.
Elmer also allowed me to finally get in touch with one of my comic book idols. Developing story. More on this later.
I uploaded 112 videos on my Komikero channel on You Tube in this year alone, and wrote 266 posts on this blog (including this one). I won a camera and DVD player for a video I entered in a Coca-Cola contest. It’s the first time I’ve truly won in any contest that I had joined so it was kind of special. I joined another contest but I lost, but that’s OK because I got a box of awesome Cream-O cookies out of it. I got it a couple of months ago, and it still hasn’t run out!
I went on a trip to Iloilo, which I had been meaning to do for quite a while because I liked Iloilo when I first went in the 90′s and it’s good to know it’s still pretty much I remember it.
Quite by accident, two disgustingly dirty mongrel puppies sick with mange came into our lives and now they’re just two of the most beautiful dogs I ever had. I named them Boney and Milky, not realizing that when the grew up, the names would seem somehow appropriate. Boney, no matter how much I fed her, always seemed muscular and boney. Milky, on the other hand, has bloomed into a beautiful, very feminine dog. But I love them both.
I was honored to have been asked to participate on LIQUID CITY, an Image Comics anthology with mostly South East Asian comic book creators including LAT! It was insane being on the same book as him. In hindsight, I feel bad that I really haven’t talked about it much on this blog. I will rectify that in the coming year. Specially since I’ve signed up for Volume 2.
I’m pretty happy that a pal of mine, Edgar Tadeo got married at last. Back in Whilce’s studio in the mid 90′s the four of us, Edgar, Leinil Francis Yu, Gilbert Monsanto and myself, all decided to have long hair. Well, I think I already had long hair long before they decided to. It was Edgar who was the last to decide to grow his hair. I have since had it cut off, as did Gilbert and Leinil, and in all these years, Ed has decided to keep his. I asked him before his wedding if he had any plans to cut it off, and he said no. I’ll still keep on teasing him about it though, because that is such insanely curly hair. Oh yeah, he’s an incredible inker and colorist, and yes, a terrific artist in his own right.
This is the year I met Doctor Who. No, that’s not exactly true. I’m sure I must have met him when I was a kid because the theme song seems so familiar. And I did read an issue of a Dave Gibbons illustrated Doctor Who comic book featuring Tom Baker. But this is the year I saw an episode for the first time. And it was quite an experience watching 4 seasons through the course of the last several months. It’s one of the most exciting, most fun, and creatively brilliant things I’ve seen on TV in quite a while. David Tennant has regnerated from a seedy, despicable and disgusting Barty Crouch Jr. into a awesomely brilliant British super hero.
More importantly, this is also the year I met one of my heroes, former Philippine President Cory Aquino. I found her to be extremely down to earth, friendly and considerate. Having spoken with her, and having observed her during the launching of the Ninoy Art and Essays book, her act of forgiving Erap was perfectly understandable and in keeping with who she is as a person.
Work on El Indio has finally been completed. It will see print though Vibal Publishing, very very soon.
Having worked almost exclusively in Philippine comics for the past three years, I’ve decided to go back to work for US comics somewhat full time. We were able to survive well enough with what I made, and it was extremely fulfilling for me as a creator. Now I need to take on jobs that would pay a little bit more. My parents are getting older and would need much more support soon, and there’s that house of ours we want to build. What I make in local comics just won’t cut it anymore. This doesn’t mean I’m abandoning local comics completely. There’s still Timawa for the Buzz Magasin, and there’s the project I just recently announced, The Marvelous Adventures of the Amazing Doctor Rizal for Komikon 2009, and there’s this other project involving Budjette Tan that I just can’t talk about right now.
All in all, a rather eventful year. It’s not the best year I’ve had, but there are moments there that made it worth living through.
I will be going on an honesty rampage on Twitter and Plurk come New Year’s Eve, where I will be spurting out honest and unfettered opinions about stuff while inebriated. Stay away if you don’t want to be pissed off. De-Friending and De-Fanning is fully expected.
Happy New Year Everybody!