Wednesday, January 29, 2003


COMIC CRUSADERS (a feature on Ateneo’s COMICOL org)

OUT OF THE BOX (provides comic book newbies with a recommended reading list)

TREASURE TROVE (features interviews with comic book store owners along Katipunan)

COMIC REALITY (wherein Ateneo teacher Jaime Bautista, comic book creators Carlo Vergara and Michael V. talk about the art of comic books)

Friday, January 24, 2003

From SNAP JUDGEMENTS by Randy Lander

Recommended (8/10)
Adarna House/Anino imprint
Writer/Artist: Arnold Arre
Editor: Emil Flores
Price: 295.00 P/Philippines

One of the benefits of doing this critic thing is that I get to see some unusual comics I might not otherwise see. In this case, a reader in the Philippines kindly offered to send me a copy of a graphic novel that he enjoyed, and it seems I owe him a thank you, because the graphic novel was a fascinating and entertaining read. After Eden strikes me as what you might get it you crossed True Story Swear to God, Strangers in Paradise and the 80s flick Two of a Kind. It's a romance, with a little bit of the fantastic thrown in on the side, and in all honesty, as much as I enjoyed it, I would have enjoyed it more without the fantastic elements.

Arre's style is something of a manga approach, featuring a simplicity of storytelling and expression, but the softness and beauty of some of his characters reminds me of Terry Moore. In fact, Arre's style in terms of both writing and artwork has more than a little in common with Terry Moore, with a somewhat melodramatic approach that is sometimes a little too sappy but in general connects with the heart of the reader, a necessity when the story you're telling is one of romance.

The central story of After Eden is a romance, one of those "happily ever after" type things, but it's not as perfect and magical as the real-life basis of True Story Swear to God. Which is ironic, since this one actually has magic as part of the story. Instead, Arre focuses on the difficulties of building a relationship, spending as much time on the fights and the misunderstandings as on the beauty of a first kiss or a great first date. In the end, though, he pushes things a little more to the sappy side, especially with the incredible coincidence of both sets of friends of the main couple finding themselves in romance as well.

After Eden has some great characters, plenty of humor and a really sweet core to it. It also has some flaws, largely in Arre's tendency to go a bit over-the-top. The presence of angels and demons wagering on the romance came across as an interruption rather than an important part of the story, and it introduced an unnecessary element of the fantastic into what was a well-realized and grounded story of human relationships. And while I had no trouble believing the central relationship, I raised an eyebrow at the notion that the couple would force their friends to date each other (or that their friends would accept it) and had some trouble swallowing that two of those friends would engage in a massive conspiracy to break the two up. In the end, I can buy one beautiful relationship with a miraculous ending, but After Eden has the effect of running Say Anything, When Harry Met Sally and You've Got Mail side-by-side and treating them all as one story: the sweetness gets to be a bit too much.

All things being equal, though, I'm willing to forgive Arre's overdramatic tendencies because of how good his characterization and sense of humor is. Though his is a name that I haven't heard before, he seems to be well-regarded in his native Philippines, and it's easy to see why, as he brings an expert sense of comic storytelling to the rarely-explored romance genre, and his realistic approach could touch the heart of even those who are quite cynical about the realities of romance.

Monday, January 20, 2003

Articles about Filipino komiks by Dr. Solded Reyes of the Ateneo de Manila University.

Overview of Philippine Komiks

The Structure of Meaning in the Komiks

And other links...

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Super Shop Girls
Posted: 1:52 AM (Manila Time) | Jan. 12, 2003
By Ruel S. De Vera
Inquirer News Service

Comic books galore

IT WAS an idea that got fleshed out, like penciled silhouettes suddenly gaining inked definition and colored substance. But as far as comic book origins go, this is a relatively ordinary one. Sisters Katherine "Katya" and Khristine "Tin" Cheng Chua were born four years apart in a brood of five to businessman Tomas and wife Sonita Cheng Chua. They had three younger brothers with names good enough for comic books as well: Khervin, Kherwin and Karl. Like other smart families, they enjoyed reading, but comic books were special very early on.

"My family has always liked comic books," 24-year-old Tin explains. "Even my dad has this bound volume of comics at home." Katya, 28, explains that, growing up in Jaro, Iloilo, "our parents taught us to love reading very early." Katya began collecting "X-Men" back when she was in first year high school and Tin soon followed suit.

Like many Filipinos, they just fell for the vibrant hues and shades of the Marvel, DC and Archie titles. "It's that nice mix of art and words," Tin says of the appeal of these comics despite their being relatively expensive. In fact, whenever the two would go and buy their comics, the salesgirls usually assumed they were buying these for their brothers. Katya enjoyed manga, or Japanese comic books, so much she actually learned to read Nippongo on her own.

After a few years, Katya graduated from St. Paul's in Iloilo and began managing a real estate company. Tin graduated from the Ateneo and began teaching at Xavier School. In 2000, the two quit their jobs, went to graduate school and traveled a bit. That's when the idea of putting together a comic book shop occurred to them.

"After a lot of trips abroad, we kept coming home with luggage full of books and comic books," Tin explains, "and we realized that there were people like us who wanted titles that other comic books didn't carry, like independent and Japanese titles." Adds Katya, "And we thought if we could get just one percent of the local market, we would be all right."

Yet the sisters didn't approach their dream with wide-eyed naivete. They needed a real plan. They embarked on scouting trips to Singapore and began getting in touch with distributors. "That took a lot of time, and it was frustrating," Tin remembers. With the patience of a caped crusader on patrol, the two kept at it.

For funding, the two prepared a true-blue business plan to present to their parents. "We had to submit a very detailed business proposal, complete with target market and everything," Katya explains. "They really taught us that when you embark on a business like this, you don't just rely on passion and idealism; you have to ground it on facts and numbers." A loan was soon secured and distributors signed on.

After two years of planning, the sisters opened Central Comics Headquarters, or CCHQ, in a building along school-studded Katipunan Avenue and prepared for the worst. "We had all these worst case scenarios," Tin recalls. "But we also have this joke that if it doesn't sell, we own it."

Diverse clientele

The two needn't have worried. Faster than you can yell "Shazam," -- indeed, even before CCHQ formally opened -- people were already asking about their wares. The store seemed to have magnetic powers, immediately attracting comic fans. The spacious store area, with its shelves of colorful, shiny books, parade American, Japanese and even local titles. "We made it a conscious effort to carry Philippine titles as well," Katya reasons. Aside from the mainstream lines from Marvel and DC, CCHQ also stocks an impressive array of indie titles as well as shelves devoted to specific authors. "The Neil Gaiman titles are the bestsellers," Katya says of the creator of the critically acclaimed "Sandman" series. One look at the Alan Moore shelf and one realizes: these girls know their stuff, all right.

The store draws a very mixed clientele: young and old, male and female. "And we're very happy about that," Katya says of their diverse customers. "At first, the guys didn't think we knew our stuff because we were girls and people have a misconception that comic books were only for guys," Tin smiles. "But then they talk to us and they realize we know a lot, too." Katya adds that they have learned a lot from talking to their customers. "And that's what's different about us, I guess, we really talk and interact with our clientele." Both add that because they graduated from arts-related courses, they've had to learn their business on their feet.

Yet the two easily admit that they're homebodies. "I think it comes from our being Ilonggo," Tin laughs. "We still keep country hours. We wake up at five and go to bed by nine." Another surprising fact about them considering how much they talk to their clients: "We're very shy."

Having come from a closely-knit family, they wish they had more time so they could go back to another lost passion: watching plays. "I'd like to think we're very laid-back people," Tin says of life in the big city compared to their life back in Iloilo.

Running the store is hard work and the two really put in long hours all week. "We love it, though," Tin smiles. "I don't think it's possible to be bored in a store like this," Katya says.

All this is part of a plan -- the sisters have always wanted to own their own business and now they have one, a hobby turned into a thriving concern. As CCHQ nears its first anniversary on February 1, there are many targets-paying back that loan, perhaps, even expansion. "We're really in it for the long term," Katya enthuses, "and we hope to pursue bigger things in the future." Indeed, for Katya and Tin Cheng Chua, the comic book adventure continues.

CCHQ is located at the third floor, FBR Arcade, Katipunan Avenue, QC. For inquiries, call 433-0898 or email ph.

Saturday, January 11, 2003


Filipino artist design interactive game made for children aimed to assist kids make right choices and decisions in life

NEW YORK — Looking for somebody who knows the minds of children, Columbia University turned to the Filipino illustrator of Batman and Spider-Man. Manila-born Rafael Kayanan — whose client list includes Miramax, Paramount Studios, Warner Bros. Marvel Comics, and Nickleodeon — found himself developing a CD-ROM game for New York city children ages 8 to 12.

“The CD-ROM is about offering them choices and options when faced with a problem or put under peer pressure. Ultimately, it was a tool about decision-making,” Kayanan, 40, told The Philippine News. Columbia decided to use comics art knowing that the simple almost crude linework would appeal to children. “It didn’t look like adults had a hand in shaping the world,” he said.

It was an involved project that took several months of observing the city’s interesting little details. Kayanan took hundreds of pictures of buildings, parks, stores, and street scenes and illustrated them cartoon-style. A basic map of the cartoon city and a rough paper model divided into sections had been prepared. “The visual interpretation of 85% of the buildings was drawn first with a marker and then touched up in the computer. I drew the buildings based on descriptions of the project art director. We worked one block at a time and pretty soon a whole city was established.”

Kayanan also drew the characters in the CD-ROM. “We have a wide spectrum of cultures, shapes, sizes, and age groups represented. It comes pretty close to the faces kids in New York see everyday,” he explained.

Working with Kayanan was art director Beth Anne Berger of Imagedog, a multimedia design company. She said the children identified with Kayanan’s characters. “They saw some of themselves and some of their friends and neighbors in them. A lot of that had to do with what not only how they looked, but what they sounded like — shy and quiet, loud and bossy etc.”

Without his “incredible” interpretations of characters and the “clever details and richness of the city” recreated, Berger added, “I would have had nothing to work with.” Kayanan has been a comics illustrator for nearly two decades. “I started reading and admiring comics through the Tagalog books my father brought home when I lived in the Philippines but was too young to draw professionally. I only worked in the US comics industry although I have worked in the US with the likes of the great Alfredo Alcala and other Filipino artists,” he said. Among the characters he created, children would be familiar with the Chewbacca series for Dark Horse Comics, X-Files for Topps Comics and Fox TV, Babylon Five and Firestorm for Warner Bros and DC Comics, Conan the Barbarian for Marvel Comics, and Resident Evil for Image Comics. “I’ve worked with just about every comic book company in the States,” he said. “My forte has always been the ability to create the look to fit the story.”

He also developed characters for computer games such as Turok 2 characters for Acclaim and Nintendo 64, Turok 2 action figures for Playmate Toys, and Nick Arcade for Nickelodeon. Kayanan is more than a gifted sketcher. He knows Photoshop, Quark, Flash, and Illustrator and uses computer technology to simulate fight choreography among his characters.

Kayanan came to the States in the1970s when he was eight years old. He considers himself the “bridge” between the first wave of migration of comic book talent — led by Nestor Redondo, Alex Nino, and Alfredo Alcala — and younger-generation artists such as Gerry Alanguilan, Nick Manabat, Whilce Portacio, and Lenil Yu. “I am part of the transitional phase between the old school and the new wave,” he said. He is married to an American of Italian and Scottish descent.

He spoke highly of his colleagues, old and young, calling them “masters of the brush, pen, and ink.” They have a huge following in both the East and the West, he said. He noted distinct European features to characters developed by Filipinos but theorized these must have come from academic training more than the conscious mind. Today, he sees some Japanese influence in Filipino comics art.
The break came when Kayanan, a first year student at the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida, attended an art convention in Tampa. There he met an artist by the name of Pat Broderick, who showed samples of Kayanan’s drawings to the DC Comics publisher in New York. It didn’t take long before he was offered a job. “I never looked back since,” he recalled.

Kayanan spotted the Columbia project at an online job posting. He contacted Imagedog, which sent him a concept sketch. “Within 20 minutes I had drawn and colored the same character in a more animated pose, with a word balloon above him saying something. After a face-to-face interview I was on my way,” he said.

Currently working on the film adaptation of an old fantasy character, Kayanan said he is incorporating Filipino martial arts in the choreography of this particular project. “It combines my art experience and martial arts, something I never thought would happen. It’s been a fun and rewarding experience.”


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