Wednesday, October 23, 2002

'Anak ng kuwago!' Nonoy Marcelo's gone
by Joan Orendain / Inquirer News Service

Source of mirth

THE CARTOONIST from whose pen sprang Tisoy, Plain Folks and Ikabod, and who coined such originals in street Pinoy as "ermat" (mother) and "jeproks" (meaning from the housing projects, and in today's parlance "jologs") is gone from this tired earth.

Nonoy Marcelo was 63 (although someone who would know said he was perfect for that Beatles classic "Will you still need me/will you still feed me/when I'm 64?"). He would have reacted to his own death thus: "Anak ng kuwago!"

The man born Severino Santos Marcelo -- "Yikes!" can you just hear him saying? -- was perpetually grappling with a problem that was vexing for him but was invariably a source of mirth for his friends.

His buddies would rush to the then Daily Mirror to see what the latest crisis was about after hearing unintelligible sounds emanating from him over the phone. And the life-and-death situation would turn out to be this: The cartoonist was stuck for a fresh idea.

Imagine him sitting on a three-legged wooden stool at the drawing board, decked out in skin-tight black leather pants and black leather jacket. But this supposedly sexy Hell's Angels look would be all for naught because a half-gnawed chicken leg would be sticking out of his right pants' pocket and his left hand would be clutching a pen poised in mid-air.

Alejandro (Anding) Roces was the model for Tisoy, Bibsy Carballo for Maribubut, and this writer (50 pounds ago) for Aling Otik. The poet Florentino Dauz was the pipsqueak Caligula, and Gemmo was Gemma Cruz, who had then just won the Miss International crown.

Pure adventure

When in exile in the United States, Nonoy begat the mestizo Americano Rajah Mozart, and Aling Otik, by then having metamorphosed into one of the Madama's Metro Manila Aides, suddenly had a grandson. But Quincy, whom she called Kinse, was black and had a frizz in a way that only Nonoy's ultra-fertile imagination could have created.

What a time we had.

Baon money expended on cigarettes, Nonoy and the future Caligula, Aling Otik and one or two others would forage for food, more often than not in Funeraria Paz on Azcarraga, today's Claro M. Recto.

In the 1960s food in funeral parlors was to be found only at very wealthy Chinese wakes. Nonoy's instructions were to walk in together, head straight for the bier, pray in earnest for our host -- for one strange reason or another, always male -- then head to the back pew where flowed largesse for the hungry.

Sometimes there was a pack of cigarettes apiece for us on the way out, with no one the wiser for having fed scavengers.

Such was Nonoy's genius that he treated life as pure adventure, and in the end, as art.

Authority on history

If you told him you were from Malabon on such-and-such street, the small-town boy in him would say "Oh, beside Aling Liling na mangkukulot (who curled hair)?"

He himself lived on Marcelo Street, named after his father, a World War II hero. Ermat was Rita, an English teacher at the Far Eastern University.

It was at FEU and the school paper The Advocate where Nonoy got his grounding as a cartoonist.

The lady-love editors for whom he drew and composed layout were Sheila Coronel and the "I" magazine of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and Eugenia Apostol and the Pinoy Times tabloid, which exposed Joseph Estrada's homes and paramours, but folded in December last year.

Nonoy joined the reincarnated Manila Times recently, painting the Sunday magazine covers, and writing and editing that paper's four-page Monday pullout section, Pytyk.

Well-read and an authority on Philippine history, he it was who revealed to friends the art of letras y figuras decades ago, before it came to Filipino consciousness.


That Nonoy ended up owning a Bliss condominium in Diliman, Quezon City, came as a pleasant surprise to all who knew him.

The trouble with him was that he had the habit of being overly generous, leaving nothing much for himself. From the Los Indios Bravos nights where all were treated to food and drink when he had the wherewithal, to the Tisoy television series with Bert "Tawa" Marcelo as Eutiquio, to those days when he earned hefty sums from putting together a series of comic books, "Da Real Macoy" about Ferdinand Marcos, many partook of his good fortune.

Never quite living down what he perceived to be opprobrium for the Macoy propaganda, when people who knew where his heart lay simply said, "Well, that's Nonoy for you," he went anti-Marcos with a vengeance.

His highest accolade -- the Cultural Center of the Philippines' Centennial Honors for the Arts Award in 1999 -- vindicated him.

It read: "Marcelo's works merge political issues with popular forms in drawing a commentary on Filipino society, especially during a period of heightened state oppression.

"Because his cartoons represent the temper of the times, chronicling the national experience especially under the dictatorship, the Parangal Sentenyal sa Sining at Kultura is hereby conferred on this 2nd day of February 1999 on Nonoy Santos Marcelo."


Nonoy was married to Mila Mercado, with whom he had three children.

The eldest child, Dario, was present when the father passed on at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Chinese General Hospital.

It was a life lived to the fullest, and Nonoy suffered from complications of diabetes and heart, liver and prostate problems.

His remains are lying in state at the Funeraria Floresco on 219 General Luna St. in his native Malabon. Cremation is scheduled on Friday at the Eternal Gardens.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Cartoonist Nonoy Marcelo passes away
Posted: 2:55 PM (Manila Time) | Oct. 22, 2002 /

FILIPINO satirical cartoonist Severino "Nonoy" Marcelo passed away at the Chinese General Hospital on Tuesday due to complications arising from diabetes. He was 58.

Marcelo was widely known for his multi-awarded comic strip, "Ikabod", in the 1980s winning among others the 1985 Catholic Mass Media Awards for its "serious journalistic commentary." He since carried "Ikabod" to the now-defunct Pinoy Times, where he served as art director. Apart from the daily "Ikabod", Marcelo illustrated the newspaper's editorial cartoon and a front-page cartoon complimenting the banner headline. Marcelo also wrote an occasional column, "Ni Ha Ni Ho", for the Manila Chronicle.

His last stint was with the current Manila Times, where he depicted political events and personalities through his acclaimed satirical sense in "Ptyk" - the paper's weekly mini-magazine.

Marcelo started his career as a cartoonist in the early 1960s with "Plain Folks" for the Daily Mirror. He then moved over to the Manila Times in 1962, where he created the popular daily comic strip, "Tisoy", which then spun off into two movies and a television series. "Ikabod" started in the Marcos era, where "Dagalandia" became an everyday breakfast treat for readers.

Nonoy Marcelo, 63
Tuesday, October 22, 2002 5:41:39 p.m

Cartoonist Severino "Nonoy" Marcelo died Tuesday at the Chinese General Hospital in Manila at around 10 a.m. from complications arising from diabetes. He was 63 years old.

Marcelo, who was born on Jan. 22, 1939, is best known for creating popular comic strips Tisoy and Ikabod.

He leaves behind a legacy of nearly four decades of work, ranging from newspaper spot cartoons and caricature to lavish magazine artwork and design and comic books.

In the 1960s, British cartoonist Ronald Searle took one look at Marcelo’s drawings and remarked: "He must have been born with a pen in his hand."

Marcelo's friend, Pandi Aviado, described him as talented, a good friend and one who likes to joke. Aviado added that aside from being a cartoonist, Marcelo also painted and wrote. He also played the guitar.

Marcelo grew up in Malabon with his maternal uncle, Jose Zabala Santos, a cartoonist at Liwayway magazine. Santos was one of the pioneers of Filipino comics and creator of such popular characters as Lukas Malakas and Popoy.

Malang and "Kenkoy" creator Tony Velasquez also frequented Marcelo's house.

In an interview in April 2001, Marcelo said the first word he learned was Halakhak, referring to a popular comic book in the late 1940s to which his uncle contributed.

Marcelo's freehand drawing skills were fully developed by the time he entered high school. But he was kicked out of St. James School for being sacrilegious.

At Far Eastern University, Marcelo’s talent caught the eye of then-dean Alejandro Roces. Roces, whose family owned The Manila Times, took the budding cartoonist under his wing.

Marcelo did Plain Folks, a gently sardonic look at Filipino family life, for the Times's afternoon daily Daily Mirror.

He moved to The Manila Times in 1962, where he created Tisoy. The comic strip spun off into two movies and a television series.

Ikabod started life in the Marcos era, where "Dagalandia" became an everyday breakfast treat for readers. The strip was considered an allegorical depiction of Philippine society.

The Catholic Mass Media Award recognized Marcelo for his work in Ikabod in 1985. It was one of the few times that a comic strip was recognized as serious journalistic commentary.

Before his death, Marcelo was working on a book that was to present a history of his hometown, Malabon. The book's working title was Tambobong: A Malabon Voyage, which chronicles his obsession with the minutiae of his hometown’s history.

He also planned to put up a cartoon museum that would archive the rich history of political cartoons and comics in the Philippines.

Marcelo at one time said cartoons contributed a lot to the Filipino culture, but this has remained unacknowledged. He said the Filipino language would not have been spread to the Visayas and Mindanao without cartoons.

Marcelo is also the only cartoonist to be honored by the Cultural Center of the Philippines when the Republic observed its centennial in 1998. The CCP cited him, among a group of 100 Centennial Awardees, for excellence in the visual arts and for helping define national identity by taking a stand on political and social issues.

His remains lie in state at Floresco Funeral Homes, Gen. Luna St., Concepcion, Malabon. His remains will be cremated on Friday.

Monday, October 14, 2002

A sweet, smart graphic adventure
By Ruel S. De Vera

After Eden
By Arnold Arre
(Adarna House, QC, 2002, 254 pp)

AFTER WINNING awards and rave reviews for his groundbreaking comic book series "The Mythology Class" and the futuristic one-shot "Trip to Tagaytay," Arnold Arre takes readers in an entirely new direction with his newest graphic novel, the 254-page "After Eden," the first release from Adarna House's new Anino imprint. Beyond its sheer length, "After Eden" is impressive because of its charming set of characters and intelligent exposition. At its heart, and like most of Arre's other works, "After Eden" is a love story, but it's a complicated one with a wink-wink, pop-culture feel and a sentimentality that's sincere but a bit cutesy.

The word-heavy novel spins around the lives of Jon, a hobby storeowner, and Celine, an advertising writer. The two had shared one moment as children, a moment immortalized in a photograph. A chance meeting after a riot occurs at a fantasy/hobby convention (yes, you read that correctly) leads to what appears at first to be a fairly innocuous, somewhat saccharine romance. But then, Arre throws in a novel, slightly twisted, well, twist.

Greg, Jon's loud-mouthed fanboy friend, and Lea, Celine's bitchy best friend, conspire to break the couple up. Apparently, the two miss the lives they shared with Jon and Celine prior to the fateful reunion, and now the two launch a notably mean-spirited attempt to end the romance and perhaps return everyone to a time before starry eyes and sweet nothings. Return everyone, in other words, to a life of collectible card games and shopping sprees. The fact that Greg and Lea can't stand each other only adds to the fun, as does the presence of a band called Heaven Sent, which is actually made up of pretty angels currently playing cupid.

Obstacle course

The plot winds its way through an obstacle course of near-misses and successful gambits by Greg and Lea, as well as a quick look at the lives of two other friends, gaming addict Michael and stuffed toy-collector Cathy. But the meat of "After Eden" is how lovebirds Jon and Celine are torn apart by people they trust -- and then the hijinks really begin.

To be honest, there has never been so much crying in an Arnold Arre comic book until now. Just as he pumped up the dosage on the sugary romance, he also upped the ante on the emotional confrontations and breakdowns, displaying a knack for such scenes he hadn't shown before. Furthermore, he keeps the plot running briskly and the dialogue snappy, no mean feat for a book that's more than 250-pages long. Besides, trust Arre to turn a pop culture-pervaded courtship into a battle between heaven and hell.

Fanboy culture

Arre also successfully captures the zeitgeist of two different cultures: the fanboy culture of sci-fi, comic books, fantasy and games that evokes a certain degree of otherness for the uninitiated; and the flashy, unrelenting, competitive world of the ad industry. Arre approaches these worlds with a sincere understanding as well as a discerning eye

The art is vintage Arre; strong and simple in its black-and-white lines, but also humorous and somewhat whimsical in its individual portrayal of characters. Arre throws in scenes that brim with surreal visual references as well as scenes in homage to fantasy and sci-fi. The cover and the pinups also prove that while Arre's work looks good in black and white, it looks fantastic in color.


As far as his characters are concerned, Jon and Celine are handsome lead characters; soulful to a fault, pure romantic hero and heroine material, or, as one extra calls them, "the mushiest couple on the planet." For my money, it is the supporting pair of Greg, with his funny hair and exaggerated expressions and Lea, with her naughty eyes and capacity for bile, that help make "After Eden" the vivid, catchy experience that it is. Try not to laugh too hard at the twosome's flashback sequences, or when they get stuck in a bar. While the book is actually a tale of three disparate romances, it is the central, threatened pair of Jon and Celine that propels "After Eden" to its honestly sentimental but visually grabbing climax. Arre orchestrates that denouement and the subsequent endings with confidence and maybe a smile or two.

"After Eden" is an important next step in our own comic book history because of its size, its narrative strength and its original flavor, proving that Arre continues to hone his skills. It also feels like an intensely personal work for him. He melds different worlds with his talent to craft another graphic adventure to be proud of; a book that's unabashedly romantic, one that says that fanboys and yuppies can find life-long love after all.

Available at leading bookstores and comic shops.

Thursday, October 10, 2002


Comics have flourished over the years in large part due to the variety of styles and interpretations put forth by an international cast of artists. The Philippines became a recruiting ground for the larger publishing houses when DC Comics discovered the amazing work being done there by men like Nestor Redondo and Alex NiƱo.

This shows the work of ten men, who from the 1950s through the end of the century have found work for DC, Marvel and Warren, as well as Disney and various production companies as storyboard and inspirational artists. The works presented here range from comic covers to stand-alone art pieces, depicting barbarians, monsters, fantasy women and men and Tarzan. Includes works by Nestor Malgapo, Steve Gan, Gerry Talaoc, Nestor Infante, Arturo Geroche and Dante Berreno, Jr. The back cover contains biographical information on each artist. Printed on heavy stock. Most of this appeared only in the Philipines and is collected here for the first time. Excellent, top-notch artwork beautifully reproduced in large size. Great price, too!

$17.95, 18 plates, 12x15, b&w.


KAKOSA interviews Arnold Arre

KAKOSA interviews Arnold Arre
interview by Bosyo

Arnold Arre does it again, covering new ground with his latest graphic novel "After Eden". Instead of populating his comic books with ridiculously dressed superheroes in tights he opts for the equally absurd life of Pinoy geeks in love.

KAKOSA: How much of this book is autobiographical?

Arnold: Hard to tell. I can say that most of the scenes were inspired by personal experiences. Some are from stories I heard from friends. But the book's message is really my own take on the subject of love & friendship. Sex and innocence. When you're writing a love or romance story there's this tendency to take a side. A writer usually spoon feeds the audience with his or her personal views and opinions (yes, I'm guilty of that too), not that it's wrong or anything, but the result is almost always the same - the main characters rule the story while the minor characters end up as either the comic relief, the forgotten confidante, or worse, second banana. If you can relate to the major characters then you got your money's worth. But what if you can't? What if you find injustice in the way the story handled the supporting cast of whom you relate to more? With "After Eden" The biggest challenge was that I didn't know how it was going to end! I avoided all that and came up with a story where there are no main characters. For me, love has so many interesting facets that it would be a shame to focus on one and ignore the rest. There are as many views on relationships as there are people on earth.

KAKOSA: From concept to finish what are the stages in writing a comic book like this? What challenges did you face in coming out with "After Eden" in particular?

Arnold: I usually come up with an outline before fleshing out the details of the story (plot, scenes, dialogue etc.). That's S.O.P., but in the case of "After Eden" I only did that up to chapter 3. The biggest challenge was that I didn't know how it was going to end! I had several endings, mostly sad endings and didn't know what to do with them (a love story is very difficult to write, believe me!). If it was going to be a sad ending it had to be in relation to the message I was trying to convey and, most importantly, it must be for a very very good reason and not the cheap "oh well, that's life" kind of route. On the other hand, a happy ending requires believability and should have enough conviction to gain the approval of even the most jaded of readers. Anyway, the book is finished so it's now up to the reader to decide whether I pulled it off or not.

KAKOSA: Your comic books have probably the most mature audience in the local scene. Do you plan to concentrate on stories like these for your next comic books?

Arnold: I believe so. I'm taking a break from fantasy and action adventure for the time being. There are enough comic books out there that deal with the subject so I guess they've got that side covered. :)

KAKOSA: You've got a great website for "After Eden" with a lot downloadable goodies? Any plans for merchandise based on any of your comic books? What's next for Arnold Arre and Cynthia Bauzon?

Arnold: Cynthia did a fantastic job on the site :) She asked me what I wanted for it and told her I'll be happy with a simple 'souvenir site'. The end result surpassed my expectations, as you can see. She never fails to amaze me :)

I'm still convincing her to do a children's comic book - ala 'scary godmother' or 'courageous princess' hehehe. I'll be helping with the illustrations.

KAKOSA: What are your wishes for the Pinoy conic book industry?

Arnold: More artists and writers, more stories, more books, more groups or companies, more diversity and, of course, more readers :)

KAKOSA reviews "After Eden"
review by Bosyo

Arnold Arre has proven himself a master story teller with his new graphic novel "After Eden". Except for a chorus of angels and demons, this book is set in familiar territory, populated by recognizable characters and is about situations we know all too well. I am talking about the world of Starbucks, Mega Mall, Close-Up toothpaste commercials, video game arcades, L.Q.'s, M.U.'s, sex and virginity; our world. This is an unabashed romance story that I suspect is a partially autobiographical as well.

Without the benefit of mythological creatures and futuristic cityscapes that characterized his previous comic books Arnold Arre has succeeded nevertheless in enchanting us with a well crafted love story. In the hands of a less endowed writer the familiarity of the setting might have become mundane. Had this been crafted by a less genuine person the romantic plot could have turned to unbearable formulaic mush. But Arnold manages to pull it off with insightful soliloquies, humorous dialogue and credible characters.

Funny, charming and honest, the story reads to me like the way a college buddy would recount how he met his girlfriend. And just like those stories this graphic novel made me laugh at the weird coincidences, cringe at the embarrassing predicaments, and nod in agreement at the sameness of its outlook with mine. I warn you, this comic book made me giggle and smile all by myself like a madman in my office. "Oo, kinilig ako sa komiks pre'. Bakit, may problema ka?"

As in his previous comic books nearly all the people that populate this book bear an uncanny resemblance to Arnold's friends and relations. This adds realism to his characters. His lines are clean and his drawings are very expressive. Arnold's illustration style is one of the many reasons this book is such a pleasure to read.

Though the 254 pages inside are mostly in black and white the book comes with a handsome full color cover and 3 full color pin-ups inside. This book will cost you 295 pesos and is worth every centavo. You can buy your copy at any Comic Quest outlet or where ever Adarna Publishing books may be found. Go get yourself one today. Not to miss is Cynthia Bauzon's gorgeous design for this book's website that has wallpapers, desktop icons, fonts and other downloadable goodies.

Thursday, October 03, 2002


interview by Bosyo and Quid

CultureCrash is a rarity in this day and age. It is a Filipino comic book that is published regularly in high quality full color print, is distributed to a wide array of establishments and is commercially successful. It is rendered in a Japanese Manga style but the dialogue, setting and characters are Filipino. Owning its own printing press and having an extensive distribution alone cannot account for its success in the last two years. There is a powerhouse of both literary and graphic talent that fuels the CultureCrash team. They enjoy a fanatical fan base that regularly contributes artworks. They have tapped a young urban middle class market that is caught between its fascination for Japanese culture and its need to appreciate something it can call its own. How appropriate that this new generation has found it in a comic book called "CultureCrash".

The CultureCrash crew is composed of: Jescie James, publisher of CultureCrash Comics and writer of "One Day, Isang Diwa". Elmer Damaso, creator-artist-writer ng "Cat's Trail" and artist ng" One Day, Isang Diwa". Taga-Ilog, creator of "Pasig" and half-art of "KuboriKikiam". Michael David, a.k.a. Tiga-kanal, story and half-art ng Dexter Lira, otherwise known as Evil Dex, who write articles and sometimes edits and colors. And Bobby Villagracia, colorist and new media artist. Absent from the interview was Jerard Beltran, creator of Solstice Butterfly.

Kakosa: What is your work flow in rendering digitally your pencil sketches?

Elmer: Una may clean-up. Mostly yung artist talaga ang nagki-clean-up. Sila ang may alam talaga ng gusto nilang gawin. So may flat coloring. Tapos noon may secondary coloring, yung shading. Pagkatapos noon background art. Kasi yung background art painted.

Kakosa: So at what stage does it become digital?

James: After inking.

Kakosa: How was CultureCrash formed? Was there a qualification o dahil magkakaibigan na kayo kaya nabuo?

James: Actually, pinili ko lang yung work.

So they went to you and applied?

James: Hindi. Ni-hunt down namin sila. Kasi si Ilog for one, talagang gumagawa siya ng independent comics. Tapos nakita ko yung isang work niya. Sabi ko, "Let's get this guy!"

Elmer: Atsaka si Ilog kasi nagha-hang out siya sa tambayan namin sa Fine Arts. Eh nakita ko rin yung work niya. So, nung pinakita ko kay James, Impressed siya kaagad.

Kakosa: Ano yung hinahanap mo sa isang artist, sa isang writer?

James: Dedication.

Elmer: Character nung artist, it's the whole package. Maganda ang art, maganda yung packaging, yung storytelling mo, maganda yung kuwento, consistent.

Kakosa: Sa work process ninyo, I presume character study muna tapos storyline. Do you follow that strictly? Are there times ba na dinederetso ninyo into paper kahit wala pang storyline or character?

James: In my case, script muna. Page flats. Actually yung page flats, lahat kami dumadaan doon. Tapos ako deretso sa script. Tapos sila more on visual artist sila. Kasi ako writer ako, so nagsisimula ako sa script talaga. Sila visual artists, sisimulan nila thumbnails, images agad. Kung ano'ng gusto nilang makita, ano yung gusto nilang mangyari, flow ng kuwento. Then after that ilalagay na yung words. Pero, iyon ang nangyayari sa amin, pag nagawa na yung thumbnails, ipe-present nila sa akin yon. Or as a group sa amin, parang ganyan, ididikit siya, parang sa animation din, storyboard. Tapos gagawin isa-isa.

Kakosa: Is there ever a time na nasasagasaan yung kwento ninyo dahil yung pagination kailangan divisible by 8 or divisible by 4? How do you deal with that?

James: Actually, hindi naman. Pero na-restrict kami kasi ang allotted pages sa amin hanggang 10 or 12 lang, Eh ang gusto namin 22 pages.

Elmer: For me, meron time dati kasi na pin-plot ko na yun. Episode 1, 2, 3,4,5,6, ganun. Tapos alam ko na mangyayari for those issues. Kaso ang nangyari dyan, dahil sa page limitations, ano tuloy, parang humaba lang yung kwento. Doon kami nagkakaproblema. Napahaba siya, na-stretch.

Elmer: Ang nagiging problema namin ang konti ng pages. Kasi minsan ang dami naming gustong mangyari for one issue, there are only 12 pages to artistically deliver. Eh alangan namang mangyari ng mangyari bara-bara.

Outside your group, sino ang pinaka ina-admire ninyo na Filipino comic artist?

James: Larry Alcala. Siyempre hindi mawawala yon. Ariel Padilla. Pol Medina, Larry Alcala, Marco Dimaano, si Arre. Tsaka si Lyndon Gregorio. Actually hindi ako familiar sa work niya. Pero nung in-interview namin siya, binasa ko yung Beerkada, natuwa ako dun.

Kakosa: Ano sanang gusto ninyong mangyari para ma-improve yung local comic book industry? I mean, what's your wish list?

James: Advertisers.

Kakosa: Have you approached any?

James: Yes. But the problem is like this: For example isa akong big company tapos ito advertising agency ko. Pagkabinibigay ko sa kanila, may budget na ako. "This is your budget for ads for TV, for billboard, for magazine." There's nothing for comics. Kaya pagka nagustuhan ng ad agency yung publication, it's uphill. Kasi i-introduce nila to some 40-year old, 50-year old in-charge person na doesn't understand it.

Kakosa: Well, ever thought of sponsorship? Or tie-up?

James: Sinong nagta-tieup sa amin? Multi-national company, AXN. It's ironic that the only people interested in us are outside the country. Someone from Japan, Hongkong and from Singapore, but no one from the Philippines. Nakikita pa ng foreigners yung potential and yung quality of work namin imbes na yung mga mismong nandito. Karamihan naman sasabihin, "Original kasi eh". Pero nagkaroon na rin kasi ako ng comment na, "Well, ba't di na lang ako mag-sponsor for Pokemon, mas sikat, di ba?" And there's this multinational Japanese animation company that says, "Wow, this is good! This is fresh!" On one hand Someone from a big giant company from Japan is praising your work while on the other hand local Filipino corporations are trashing your work.

Kakosa: Balita ko you're making money na with CultureCrash?

James: Sales. Sales alone.

How good is it?

James: It's okay.

Kakosa: Enough to buy all of you new cars or something? Puwede na ba kayong magkaroon ng attitude?

James: Hindi, basically when we were getting into this, alam naman namin na this is going to be uphill. Although phenomenal na siguro yung performance ng CultureCrash, to a point meron din kaming fault. Kasi yung production namin, actually kung monthly kami lumalabas ang dami na naming pera. Ang problema, iyong profit for one issue pinapatagal ko ng 3 to 4 months.

Kakosa: Ah kasi nae-extend kayo, nagba-bimonthly pa kayo.

James: Pero isipin mo, kung monthly namin kinikita yung kinikita ngayon, okay na.

Kakosa: I think you have a market. I just bought your latest issue, of all places, sa Tropical Hut.

James: Buti nga laging sold out yung issues namin. Kung hindi we won't be here.

Kakosa: Sa criticism ng work ninyo, what do you want to hear first, the good or the bad? Okay, the bad muna. The bad is that, if you are not familiar or neck-deep into Manga, the narrative is hard to catch on pag nagsisimula ka pa lang. Like, I only found out about CultureCrash after the first 3 issues.

James: Well, for one thing kasi, it's a serial. So it's an ongoing story. Hindi siya kagaya ng Archie na you can jump on anytime, tapusan. For one thing, we want to tell a story. I mean that's the most important thing. We really have to tell you right now that it is very important to us to tell the story. So, in that part, yung artistic ano namin, we stand for that. Dun sa part na yon, yung preference namin. Kasi ang gusto rin naming mangyari ngayon, maka-jump yung iba. So nag-iisip kami ng paraan ngayon kung anong mas maganda. Yung ginawa ko sa Issue #4, may story re-cap. We're going to do another story recap either this issue or next issue. So ayun, sagot na yung question mo doon. Kasi actually ayaw nga namin ng ganoon eh. Iniiwasan nga namin yung pagka binasa mo, naguluhan ka. Iniiwasan namin yon.

Siguro it's also the nature of your medium. Kasi ang Japanese Manga very layered yung storya. Ang daming characters as compared to, let's say, a Western-type of comic book.

James: I think that's a misnomer. Kasi meron din namang Japanese Manga na gags lang. All the way gags lang na parang ageless ang humor like Sanrio comic book. Nagkakaroon lang tayo ng misconceptions kasi ang kilala lang ng Pilipino na Manga ay yung mga sikat na talagang serious na ganun. Pero all the while nakakalimutan nila na ang daming layers diyan. Malawak ang storytelling.

Kakosa: May comment si Gerry Alanguilan. His original criticism was, "It's great. Great comic book, great art, great story. But is it Filipino? Is it uniquely Filipino? Is it original?" Ang stand niya ngayon is, it's not so much as being Filipino but arriving at your own distinct style.

James: Ang ayoko lang kasi sa ginawa niya, he took a stand. He put it in writing and then he changed it every month. For one thing, yung stance niyang iyon, it's exactly what we told people who were asking us and who were in contact with him. It's not looking for a Filipino style. He's looking for a distinct personal style. Our goal here is actually to help all the other Filipino artists. We just want to help everyone.

Kakosa: Iilan na nga lang sa comic book industry, nag-aaway-away pa.

James: Yun nga eh. it's very Filipino.

Elmer: Hihilahin ka pababa.

James: Yung sinasabi niya is finding your own distinct style. Okay, let's scour the entire world. There is probably one person out of 7 billion people in the world who draws so much like Gerry. You know, pero hindi lang nga sikat. Hindi pa lang naman siguro na-pupublish. It's a question of who gets published and who gets famous, para sa akin.

Elmer: Yung anime, it's everywhere. So, once you see big eyes, anime na iyon.

James: Mickey Mouse had big eyes.

Elmer: Yung "Witch" na comics ngayon? It's actually a Walt Disney artist. Tapos pinasok nila yung anime style.

James: Sa tingin ko meron nang distinct style sila Elmer atsaka si Ilog. For one thing, si Ilog, can you tell me someone who draws like Ilog.

James: Kumuha kami ng influence from the Japanese and they're anime. Kasi yung drawing nila is more on the American style, quite frankly.

Oo, kasi syempre iba-iba ng influence yan.

James: And his reason is American 'to, which is the melting pot of the industry. The American comic books sells at most 100,000 - 300,000 na bestseller ngayon, a title, di ba? Comic book.

Kakosa: Actually, I've seen recent graphic novels published sa “Heavy Metal” that combined Manga-type and heavy metal-type.

James: And that doesn't distinct us Filipinos na hindi tayo melting pot. I mean, we've gone through 300 years of Spanish period, we've gone through an American colony.

Elmer: And the Japanese.

James: How can you put a claim on a concept so incredibly foreign to us? Comic books and comics in general were brought to us during World War I. "Kenkoy", If you look at it, it's so much like an American strip. Yeah, it's used for propaganda. The concept itself is foreign. I think what we have to stop and think about here is, when we look for our own style, we should put our own restrictions in one box and throw it away. We should be free-minded. Art is so personal. There should be no restrictions. There should be, for something like nationalism, countries or barriers, there should be no barriers. We should remix everything and hold no limitation to your imagination. You should not put yourself in a box.

Kakosa: And I don't know if you've noticed pero it's amazing that something like comic books which is about fantasy, which is about also about children although not restricted to them, can touch on something on a nerve, about cultural identity and nationalism.

Elmer: It's the most widely read medium in the world. It's the number one literary form globally. Halimbawa meron tayong isang Filipino artist pero ang education niya purely western. Tapos nagpunta siya sa isang western country, tapos western paints, western canvass, tapos western na rin yung subject niya. And he wins the second or grand prize in the most prestigious award. Pagbalik niya, Filipino artist ba siya? "Spolarium" di ba? If you look at Spolarium and you have no idea about the background, will you tell me that it was painted by a Filipino? And yet he is a Filipino. He is hailed as a national artist di ba?

James: Lea Salonga.

Elmer: Lea Salonga, she is a US citizen. (laughter) And we are proud that she is Filipino. O di ba? Broadway musical.

Elmer: I think it's stupid to pull down your countrymen for personal preference. I think we should just stop all that and see that the comic book industry here needs help. And we are trying to do something about it. And it would be great if we could help each other out. We wanted to feature, ito ha, for the first time ngayon ko lang ilalabas 'to. Prior to Gerry's publication, we were suppose to feature him. Because we wanted, napansin kasi namin yung "Wasted", yung mga yan, alam mo hindi sila masyadong bumebenta. Kung i-feature kaya natin sila every issue para ma-help yung sales nila. Just before he published that on-line thing. And we were planning a series. Arnold Arre, Marco Dimaano...

Kakosa: Okay nga sana 'no? Kung magkakaroon ng unity sa Filipino comic art.

James: Actually, you can't argue, we are the bestselling comic book in the Philippines. Made by Filipinos, for the Filipinos. And we wanted to help people out. Tutulungan mo, sabay... So I don't think some people don't see the big picture. Comics isn't just visuals. It's the perfect marriage of imagery and literature. Yang CultureCrash. I have gone around the world. I've never seen a publication that is like it or similar to it.

Kakosa: Anyway, I think it's good nga para magkaroon ng catalyst na pag may naglabas.

James: We wanted to help them out.

Elmer: Hindi naman tayo ang lumaban doon di ba? Pero syempre nasaktan din kami sa sinabi niya.

James: Oo, kasi for one thing, obvious na kami yung tinitira niya eh. I mean, sinabi rin naman niya eh.

David: Kasi kahit papaano, bata pa ako. Kahit sinong Pinoy na makapaglabas, idol mo na eh. Pupunta ka sa mga conventions tapos magpapapirma ka sa kanya eh. Kay Gerry atsaka kay Whilce. Tapos biglang, ano nagsasabi siya ng ganun.

Kakosa: Napansin ko lang, some of you actually learned how to speak Japanese. So how deep are you into this genre, this subculture?

Elmer: Dati talaga kasi "Otaku" ako. Yung Otaku is fan boy. Talagang into Japanese ako. Nagsimula ako niyan pinahiram ako ni Gio.

Kakosa: So lahat kayo Otaku?

James: Dati. Pinahiram pa ako ni Gio ng tape. Tapos since then naghanap na ako ng comics, magazines, toys, CD's, babae (laughs).

Kakosa: Tell me if I'm wrong, kasi there's this pre-conceived notion na, "It's another Play Station 2 / Hentai / Manga fanatic." Yun yung stereotype ng tao eh. so am I right there?

James: Before siguro, you're right.

Kakosa: Why do you say before?

James: Ano kasi, siguro nung nag-start na rin tayo ng CultureCrash, di ba?

Elmer: Ironically, nung pumasok ako sa CultureCrash, ako nag-stay out ako sa anime. Ayokong ma-influence ng kahit ano.

Kakosa: Ah, you wanted to develop your own style. That's very important na malaman ng tao.

Elmer: Ayoko kasing, baka pang may napanood ako, subconsciously, sa ayaw o sa gusto ko, baka pumasok sa utak ko yon, sa kuwento ko.

Kakosa: You love Manga, the Japanese culture it brings. But now because you're doing it yourself, you're now staying away from it. So you can generate your own.

James: Yung setting ko nasa Pilipinas eh. Kasi magiging foreign yung dating ng kuwento ko if I stick to the Japanese style.

KAKOSA interviews Gerry Alanguilan interviews Gerry Alanguilan
interview by Bosyo

Gerry Alanguilan is probably the most prolific Filipino artist on the web. He has his own website and so do some of his comic book projects.

He has given plenty of interviews online. From GetAsia to comic book fanzines to the Inquirer.

He has also been very outspoken and honest about his views on Pinoy culture, manga and music.

Of course Gerry deserves all this attention. He achieved fame abroad as the comic book artist for titles such as Iron Man, Wolverine, X-Force, X-men, Wetworks and Grifter. He has also published several local comic books such as Timawa, Wasted and Dead Heart Stories. He has developed a unique style and has deeper understanding and concern for culture than most comic book artists.

Kakosa: Much has been said about your stand regarding Pinoy manga artists, originality and the people behind "Culture Crash" comic books in particular. To summarize your position in the issue is not about using any certain style but rather about incorporating outside influences and developing your own. You seem to be saying that being a Filipino comic book artist is having a distinct personal style, that your "Pinoyness" will naturally come out if you be yourself. Am I right? Aside from having an original personal style what else makes a comic book Pinoy?

Gerry: The search for the identity of the "Filipino" in comic book art has been very difficult, and I don't pretend to even begin to know the answer. What you see on the article on my site is what I stood on the subject last year and my belief on it is still evolving. More and more I'm starting to believe that regional identity is not as important as individual identity. In the age of communication through faxes and Internet, interaction between people from all kinds of races, cultures, beliefs and backgrounds are becoming more widespread. In just a decade’s time, the Internet will be as common as the television and telephone. Information will flow freely and artistic influences from the most obscure places to the most common will be easily had by almost anyone. I see distinct characteristics between styles of comic book art from Europe, America and Asia breaking down. Slowly but surely we are becoming more and more "citizens of the world" rather than citizens of any particular region. And I believe comic book art will reflect that as it is starting to now. More and more the thought of creating "Filipino" or "European" or "Japanese" style comic art will become less important to creating a distinctive "personal" style which will vary from individual to individual, based on his personal experience.

In spite of this, I still believe the basic point of my article holds true. An artist MUST strive to be original. In comic art, it is always possible to create something new and fresh. A particular style may have certain influences, but if a style is well realized under the hands of a capable artist, something true to the spirit of that artist will shine through. If the end result of that is what may be considered "Filipino Comic Art", it's not for me to say.

Kakosa: What is your dream project? What would you love to do?

I've got LOTS of dream projects! One that I'm trying to get off the ground now is an illustrated adaptation of the legends of the Seven Lakes of San Pablo City. I want to create something that will last, and something that will have significance to me culturally. San Pablo City is where I was born, where I grew up and where I hope to die some day. I'm so grounded in this place that I don't see myself staying any other place for long. I may leave once in a while, but I will always come back. I want to create something that will celebrate this place and to let other people know about it as well. My other projects also run along the same lines.

Kakosa: Do you plan to do an online interactive comic book series, something like Marvel Online?

Gerry: I most likely will not. Even though I'm so steeped into technology, what with my art portfolio available online and many of the tasks of my work needing computers, the end product of my efforts will always be in print. I'm still a traditionalist at heart and I believe taking comics into the web takes something away from the joy of reading them. Many people would disagree with me, but there you go. It's not that I haven't tried. A web-only work of mine is currently available through, in the third issue of Remote Views. I have a 6 page story there called "City of Light" as written by Antony Johnston. It was a nice experience, but it's something I'd rather not repeat again. I understand that I may be losing a certain segment of the reading public, but it's something I can live with. My work will always be in print or not at all.

Kakosa: Do you plan to take your comic book stories into other kinds media as well? I read somewhere you were doing a film based on your comic book "Wasted". What has come of that so far?

Gerry: Yes, shooting has actually begun on the movie, and it's been really terrific seeing all that so far. It's a whole new experience for me. My ultimate goal is really just creating comics. I have no definite plans to bring these stories to other kinds media like animation or films or whatever. Comics is really just what I want to concentrate on. But if other parties approach me about bringing my stories elsewhere, like the Wasted movie, that would be terrific! Other artists regard comics as stepping stones to other fields like animation and film, as if they are a natural progression from one place to another. Not me. Comics is the ultimate for me. This is the place where I want to tell my stories.

Kakosa: Among the current crop of comic book artists it is you who seems to pay most tribute to the old masters like Alfredo Alcala, Alex Nino, Francisco Coching, Nestor Redondo and Rudy Florese. What can we do to keep alive and further their tradition of comic book art? Do you consider your own style as something that builds upon their tradition or does your style have roots somewhere else?

Gerry: To be honest, my roots come more from Herge of the Tintin comic books, Barry Windsor Smith, Mike Kaluta, Frank Miller, Moebius and the like. It wasn't until much later did I come to appreciate our own local artists for their accomplishments, although I had been aware of their work ever since I was very young. Only in the last few years have I been conscious about the importance of appreciating our legacy of Filipino Comic Book art. I look at all those terrific artwork, specially those by Francisco Coching and the many artists he has influenced like Alex Nino, Alfredo Alcala and Nestor Redondo and I just marvel at it. And I've come to realize people from all over the world marveled at the talent of these Filipino artists as well. Nino and Alcala have become famous internationally for their art and Filipinos, as a result, have gained honor and respect for it in this particular field. Those artworks were one of a kind. Obviously coming from the same pool of creativity, each artist nevertheless displayed an individuality unique to himself. To create comic book art today grossly derivative of the artwork popularized by other cultures seems to me like an insult to this legacy. To keep true to this tradition, I don't believe it's necessary to copy what they did. It's all right to be influenced, but any true artist will be able to use them, and come up something unique to himself. That is the way to carry on this tradition. Be unique. Be original. Be true to yourself.

Kakosa: Do you consider comic books an art form? Why?

Gerry: Certainly! What is art anyway? For me it is the product of a person's talent and skill in arranging and composing elements to create an aesthetically pleasing whole. That goes without saying that this pretty much covers a lot of people. A gardener can be an artist if he is able to create a garden that looks good with well-chosen and trimmed plants arranged in an aesthetic manner. A comic book artist, along with the writer, creates stories on paper that come alive in the minds of the reader. And if that writer and that artist is talented enough, amazing pieces of work has the potential for being created. Is comics art? Yes it is! Of course it is! And I'll knock anyone on his ass if he takes a look at any artwork by Francisco Coching and thinks it's not art.

Kakosa: Where do you get your inspiration? Is there some sort of routine you follow to get yourself in the mood?

Gerry: I get inspiration from many things. They could be anything as long as they impress me. They could be novels, comics stories, TV shows, movies, paintings, sunsets, fields of flowers, animals, anything. I've watched the Stephen Chow movie Shaolin Soccer now for like 5 times. What a terrific movie and yes, terribly inspiring.

Kakosa: Aside from comic books are there other creative endeavors you engage in right now?

Gerry: Aside from writing the Tagalog screenplay to the Wasted movie, I'm also trying acting in it. I'm not so good at it, but we can't afford to pay real actors. he.he.

Kakosa: It seems foreigners often judge the entire Filipino race by the actions of one person. Do you feel a need to represent the Philippines, especially when you are abroad? Do you feel a certain kind of burden not felt by other nationalities with more recognized cultures? Is there something you want to prove or be recognized for?

Gerry: I've not been abroad that much, but yeah, I guess when I'm here or when I'm there, I don't want to do anything stupid lest I be misconstrued to be typical of Filipinos. I keep that in mind a lot when working in comics. I always try to make it the best job that I can, and do it as fast as I can so I won't be late. My performance could help determine the future employment of future Filipino artists. If they know they could depend on me, then they would be predisposed to trust other Filipinos like myself. I don't feel it's a burden at all, but an honor. I just do my best, and I'm sure I'll be OK.

What is Pinoy culture? Must all artists take responsibility for it?

Gerry: This goes back to question #1. I don't feel I'm in a position to tell what is Pinoy culture as yet. Maybe in a few years I may start to have an idea, but now I'm still searching, I'm still studying. But what I can tell you know is what Filipino Culture is not. It's not Japanese Culture, it's not European Culture and it's not American. Artists must always keep this in mind. Like I've always been harping, just strive to be original, do your best and you'll be all right.

Kakosa: Are there any projects you want to plug?

Gerry: Ochlocrat #1 from Comics Conspiracy, out last January. With writer Doug Miers. High Roads #1 from Wildstorm/DC, out in April. With writer Scott Lobdell, and artists Leinil Yu and Edgar Tadeo. Dead Heart Stories #1 from Alamat, out in June. With artist Leinil Yu. The Yellow Shawl, a comic book adaptation of the classic novel by National artist Francisco Arcellana also out sometime middle of the year. With writer Emil Flores.


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