by EK Gonzales
If you ask me about the history of komiks in the Philippines, I, unfortunately, will not be able to give you very good answers. I came late to the scene, in the middle of new komik history being made. Trese was already a recognized series, ZsaZsa Zaturrnah had been made into a musical, and Komikon had moved to the Bayanihan Center, when I properly started following komiks. But most of the things I have seen, and continue to see, in independent komiks has made me a fan and loyal follower.
The following are the local komiks that made me fall in love with the medium and its power, as held by some of the best among our people.
1. CAST by Jamie Bautista, Jhomar Soriano, Arnold Arre and Elbert Or
My formal initiation into local komiks was, sadly, not Culture Crash. It was the CAST comics, about two neighboring high schools mounting a joint production of the Camelot story. It had an interesting large set of characters, with a wonderful interweaving of the relationships and backstories involved. It made me believe in the new wave of local comics.
WHERE TO GET: All 12 issues are out of print, but there are still copies available by order from Nautilus Comics.
2. Maktan 1521 by Tepai Pascual
The compiled series covers Datu Lapu-lapu and the events surrounding the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in Mactan, Cebu. But this series takes the point of view of the balangays affected, rather than the traditional colonizer’s view. As such, it showed our people as smart, organized, world-oriented, protective, and brave… deeply human. I liked Tepai Pascual’s work since Mark 9verse47, but this series made me feel our history and feel it in the gut.
WHERE TO GET: The graphic novel is readily available; just try any National Bookstore branch.
3. Gwapoman2000 Volume 1 by Aaron Felizmenio
I’m still unsure why I like this series so much. It’s one part mind game between magician thief Alas Espinosa and disgraced crime-fighter Edgardo Liwayway. It’s one part the forming of an unconventional crime-fighting group, a kind possible only in the Philippines, despite tight budgets and high-level criminals. It’s one part discourse about why justice is bent to favor a privileged few. It’s one part the efforts of a man trying to regain what little confidence and dignity he has left. It is all this, and that is probably why I like this series.
WHERE TO GET: The graphic novel is also readily available at National Bookstore branches.
4. Mythspace: Lift Off by Paolo Chikiamco and Koi Carreon
Ambrosio’s grandmother kept talking about mythical creatures she had seen and Ambrosio, or Bros, had always dismissed them as fairy tales… until he was kidnapped by some of them, hostaged, and taken to other powerful planets as a bargaining chip. But the sentient creatures might just be right: Bros might not be your ordinary young, human Pinoy. Spanning three chapters, Lift Off is the most immersive of the Mythspace stories, with a likeable and spunky main character, as well an interesting and self-serving group of bounty hunters. (A tikbalang, a manananggal, and a nuno. For real.)
WHERE TO GET: The book compilation is available at National Bookstore branches.
5. Rodski Patotski: Ang Dalagang Baby by Gerry Alanguilan and Arnold Arre
As a child, Rodski is found to be a super-genius, and is recruited as a government secret weapon. But Rodski is still a kid, who eventually becomes a young lady, who learns to love. It is a major complication when you fall in love while you’re kept as a government secret weapon super genius. The tour-de-force shows the skills of two local masters in the industry, creating a beautiful and dramatic, science fiction, romantic comedy, full-color graphic novel full of heart and soul.
WHERE TO GET: This book won the 2015 National Book Award for Graphic Literature in English. The graphic novel may be a little hard to find, but try requesting it at Fully Booked branches.
6. Trese Volume 3: Mass Murders by Budgette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo
Volumes 1 and 2 compiled stand-alone stories. The pivotal volume 3 compiled the issues with the important backstory of the Trese family, their relationship with the Kambal, and how Alexandra Trese shifted from a child to the young woman guardian of Manila.
According to veteran readers, when the Trese backstory issues first appeared in the ashcan forms, there was a sense that something important had been achieved. The indie komiks were now brave enough to run sequential stories, a trend now generally followed by most komikeros. In itself, Trese showed a level of characterization and story development previously unseen, presenting artists and readers alike what is possible in komiks.
WHERE TO GET: The Trese series, of course, is widely available at National Bookstore and Fully Booked branches.
These are the ones that are my favorites. But these are only the tip of the iceberg, a mere taste of everything currently being done and being tried by local komik artists. There is a probably a komik being made or already made that you will like and love. Just take a chance, and join us. ☁