'State of the Art': New blood brings new life to classic Pinoy komiks

Carmela Fernando, ANC-X

Posted at Jul 01 2018 05:17 PM

A scene from this year's Summer Komikon

MANILA -- Pinoy komiks used to be associated with either the emotional and fantasy pulp stories enjoyed by the broad market, or traditional superhero tropes influenced by foreign publications and consumed by an insular geek culture. But since then, the genre has branched out and is now enjoyed by young and old readers from various backgrounds. 

The new episode of the art magazine show from ANC, "State of The Art," shows how a new generation of comic book creators has breathed new life into the pages of our much-beloved komiks. 

Specifically, the komiks we find at this year’s Summer Komikon.

The Komikon is a local annual comic book convention that showcases comic books and graphic novels of all available subgenres, celebrated by comic book creators, enthusiasts, and collectors from all backgrounds. 

Komikon organizer Lyndon Gregorio describes what the first Komikons were like. “At the start, it was very amateurish, and a lot of gusto, a lot of passion. But quality-wise... even the covers were black-and-white and photocopied.

“But as the years went on, even the technology helped. Services became more affordable. Creatively, we’re at the golden age.”

Through the years, the event has evolved from a basic comic book exchange to a multilayered bazaar that accommodates visual creatives of varying disciplines and interests. Instead of just foreign and homespun graphic novels, younger artists have expanded toward other related merchandise like books, toys, shirts, stickers, prints, posters, and even on-the-spot signed portraits of their customers. 

So what does this golden age of komiks bring us today?

Diversity in content

With the growing number of hungry young creators, the comic book scene has now become a platform for a vast range of creative ideas and execution. No longer are authors and artists content to stick with their tried-and-true influences. Rather, they enjoy experiementing with the medium as well as the market. 

Anino Comics managing editor Carljoe Javier

Anino Comics managing rditor Carljoe Javier talks about Sixty Six, a Tagalog superhero story whose central character is a 66-year-old OFW. It represents many layers resonant to Filipinos: separation and reunification of family, aspirations from poverty, foreign work, and filial sacrifice. It’s a nod to traditional American superhero comics, adapted well to our culture. 

On the other end of the spectrum is Apol Sta. Maria, creator of Poopo the Cute & Many Other! His work is described by Javier as “Dada poetry in book form,” for its simplicity, inventiveness, and as he calls it, “literally toilet humor.”

There’s also the Japanese-inspired biographical comic subgenre, as exemplified by Sandali by writer Mikey Jimenez and artist Mikey Marchan. It features several vignettes of life around the city, episodes that are often ignored but relatably significant turning points in one’s life. 

Emiliana Kampilan, aka Dead Balagtas, authored a series of stories that play on the memory of Filipino heroes, set in otherwise tongue-in-cheek scenarios. Its playful irreverence with revered authority figures gained the comics its own solid fanbase – even at the risk of initially freaking out the editor, Javier. 

Everyone's raving about the refreshing irreverence of Dead Balagtas.

More focus on young local talent

The comic book industry used to be a tightly knit, almost impenetrable community of collectors and hardcore fans. As the market expanded to accommodate new talent, it also gradually created a definitive space where young creators can take the spotlight. 

Komikon organizer Sherry Zamar talks about indie artist Francis Martelino, creator of Hotdog Prince. His initial output was meant to be just for laughs, but it gained traction in the community so much that he accidentally discovered that his work made it online with foreign translations for global readers. 

There’s also Mel Casipit, who started out as a regular Komikon contestant and eventually became a regular online comic book author, as well as a book illustrator. From the Komikon tables, his work has now reached the shelves of local bookstores. 

Prevalence of the Filipino voice

American comics and Japanese manga have been strongly influential in our local comic book scene. However, this generation of young artists have learned to develop their unique voice and visual techniques, with fresh yet potentially iconic tales.

Javier also tells us of what a distinctively Filipino narrative would be like. “It’s something that connects with our culture specifically. It’s a story that if you told it, you shouldn’t be able to set it Tokyo or Bangkok – it has to happen here because of the circumstances that surround us.” 

Catch the new episode of "State of the Art" hosted by Iza Calzado on Sunday on the ANC-X block of ANC at 11 p.m.