Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Mango Comics invites you to the launch of its latest title for 2004, Mars Ravelo's Lastikman!Just in time to celebrate the 40th year Anniversary of Mars Ravelo's fantastic, elastic creation, Mango Comics is proud to bring Lastikman back to the pages of comics in full color.

Created in 1965, Lastikman comes to life through the writing of acclaimed comic book creator and inker Gerry Alanguilan (Wasted, Superman: Birthright), the art of two-time National Book Award winner Arnold Arre (Mythology Class, Trip to Tagaytay), and the brilliant colors of the talented Edgar Tadeo (Wolverine, Silver Surfer).

This special 56-page one shot pays homage to the original story of one of the country's most popular superheroes, and features a cameo from Mango Comics' newest creation. Mango Comics' Mars Ravelo's Lastikman is made possible in part through generous contributions to the Support Filipino Comics Program.

Be there as we celebrate 40 years of walastik superheroism! December 14, Tuesday, 4pm at PowerBooks Live! Greenbelt 4, Makati.

Friday, November 19, 2004



The film Spider-Man 2 has become one of the biggest grossing hits of the summer, earning close to $400 million, a testament to the character's popularity and the comic book medium's ability to attract audiences. What might not be known to many is that a Filipino named Floro Dery once illustrated the wall-crawler's adventures, not in the comic books read by fans, but in the syndicated comic strip, read by millions and written by Spider-Man's co-creator himself, Stan Lee.

Previous to the success of the Spider-Man franchise, was the X-Men films' box-office bonanza, and did you know that currently doing art chores in the monthly comic is a Filipino, Philip Tan, and previous to him was another Filipino, Whilce Portacio? What about the greatest of all superhero icons, who's faster than speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive? Two local artists, Leinil Yu and Gerry Alanguilan, are handling Superman's visual adventures against the forces of tyranny, much to the acclaim of fans and critics. Unbeknownst to many, Filipinos have been an integral part of the overseas comic book industry for several decades now, handling a wide assortment of characters and trademarks which are read and admired by millions all over the world.

"Marami ng Filipinos na nag -work sa US comics, since early 60's pa," says Alanguilan, a professional who's also well-versed in local "komiks" history. "Actually, the first Filipino to work on "X-Men" was in the 70's pa. Nagkaroon ng surge ng Filipino comics illustrators ng late 60's, early 70's, kasi maraming Filipinos talaga na magaling sa comics. Parang third generation na kami na sumusunod sa kanila."
In the Philippines, national hero Jose Rizal was the first known to write and illustrate the first Filipino comic strip, "The Monkey and the Tortoise" in the late 19th century. The next significant wave came in the 20's, with Tony Velasquez's "Kenkoy" (the collected strips of which was considered the first comic book), and Francisco Reyes's "Kulafu."

It was in the 50's that the industry reached a creative peak, a "golden age" in terms of creators crafting and synthesizing gorgeous artwork with engrossing story-telling. In the late 60's and the early 70's, the foreign companies finally took notice, with DC Comics (the home of Superman, Batman, the Justice League, etc.) executives Carmine Infantino and Joe Orlando, along with Filipino artist Tony de Zuniga (who already had a career abroad and opened an agency for local artists) coming to the Philippines to scout for local talent. Among the local artists that were "pirated" to work abroad were Rudy Florese, who would illustrate "Tarzan," Alex Nino, who drew the horror title "House of Mystery," and Nestor Redondo, one of the greatest Filipino illustrators ever, who did artwork for "Swamp Thing."

What attracted foreigners to enlist Filipinos was their distinctive art style, impressive that it came from a depressed, Third World culture with limited resources, but at the same time, unequaled in comparison to the artwork of other countries. "I think very illustrative ang quality ng art ng mga Filipinos," says Alanguilan. "What I mean is, parang medyo fine art ang dating ng artwork natin, lalo na noong araw, kasi mas medyo meron attention to detail. Pati naman ngayon, keso lang, yung mga artist ngayon, mas marami nang influence kesa before, meron ng western influence. Kahit merong western influence, may Japanese influence, na -create pa rin ng Filipino na unique sa kanya ."

It was also the work ethic of the Filipinos which impressed the foreign companies. One popular anecdote involved Alfredo Alcala, another legendary local artist (he even published a book about his craft, titled Teachings of a Comic Book Master ), who was approached by talent scout Joe Orlando, and, interested in hiring him, asked the young artist how many pages he can complete in a week. "40," Alcala replied. The executive didn't believe him, since most artists were only able to do 7 or 8 pages a week. So, Orlando proceeded to show him artwork from the States. "You want me to draw in this style?" Alcala asked him. Yes, he replied, and asked again how many pages he'd be able to do in a week. "This style? 80 pages," Alcala said. Orlando, still skeptical, put him down for 40 pages. By the end of his first trial week, Alcala was able to complete an astounding 100 pages of artwork.
Many Filipinos continued to work abroad through the decades, but for many that relocated there, especially Alcala and Nino, felt there was a prejudice against Filipino artists, who were sometimes paid lower than their American counterparts. Also, oftentimes their assignments and subsequent payments were few and far between, as American editors "didn't know what to do with them" as far as which comics to place their uniquely stylistic talents, so many of them had to work minor jobs as waiters and guards to make ends meet.

It wasn't until the late 80's that the climate changed, in particular with the ascent of Whilce Portacio, who first shot to fame as a fan favorite artist of the Marvel's popular "Punisher" and "X-Men" titles. Afterward, Portacio became one of the founders of Image Comics (home of "Spawn"), further earning heaps of wealth and notoriety for his and the members' creator-owned properties. Years later, Portacio came back to the Philippines to mentor, guide, and recommend artists to the foreign companies. The most prominent names to have come through Portacio's tutelage include Yu, Alanguilan, and colorist extraordinaire Edgar Tadeo, making up what is classified as the "third generation" to draw comics abroad.

Now more than ever, Filipinos are a ubiquitous presence on the comic book landscape. Along with Portacio and his group, some creators worth mentioning include Jay Anacleto, who's set to explode at Marvel, with his luscious, painterly style; Wilson Tortosa, who's earning raves drawing the comic book adaptation of the anime series "Battle of the Planets" (better known to us in the Philippines as "G-Force"); Arthur de la Cruz, an artist and writer, whose book "Kissing Chaos" was nominated for a 2002 Eisner Award (the industry's highest achievement); and Lan Medina, also nominated for an Eisner, who's currently drawing the "Sliver Surfer."

Perhaps one of the more significant achievements is the first Filipino art team drawing the original, most recognized superhero. On "Superman: Birthright," a mini-series which re-tells his origin for modern audiences, Yu and Alanguilan both say drawing the man-of-steel is a dream come true. "I worked with X-Men before, but this is the biggest so far," says Yu. "It's hard to believe. I think this the height of my career. I'm not sure it gets much better than this in comics." Says Alanguilan: " Hindi ko ma -describe. It did not occur to me na I'd work on Superman. Para sa akin , unreachable siya, e . Impossible dream. Pero noon na nabigyan kami ng opportunity to work, hindi ako makapaniwala , so tuwa ako, kasi favorite character ko si Superman - favorite ko sa comics, favorite ko sa comic book movies."

Continuing the tradition started by their forbears, from Nestor Redondo to Alfredo Alcala, leading to Whilce Portacio and now to them, they can only see more and more Filipinos becoming involved in mainstream comics. "Filipinos are getting discovered every year," says Yu. "Before, we didn't think there was going to be anymore of us, but agents come here and look for new artists. A lot of them will be emerging in the next few years." For aspiring artists, Yu gives some friendly advice: "Believe in what you're doing, but listen to other people, too. If they think you suck, you have to face reality, but at the same time, just believe in yourself, stick to your studies. It's possible to get in."

Friday, October 22, 2004

ANS Exclusive Interview: Inside The Fillipino Manga Industry With Nautilus Comics By: Jonah Morgan

As evidenced in recent months, Southeast Asia is currently experiencing a boom in the areas of Comics, Animation and character licensing from abroad. Over $1,000,000 in manhwa licensing over the weekend of San Diego.... Lucasfilm's animation studio move into Singapore... These events and many others have shifted the absolute focus of character related licensing in the Asia region away from Japan. Today we're going to enter The Phillipines, another local vibrant area of talent and creative force. There, a relatively small and young studio called Nautilus Comics has been making very large waves in the local market. Their title Siglo: Freedom, has just won the Manila Critics Circle's National Book Award for 2004. We recently talked to Jamie Bautista of the studio:

1. First of all can you tell us a little about yourselves and where you come from in relation to CAST? Who are some of your influences as far as art, character design, and storytelling?

I've been reading comics for quite a while, but I've been collecting comics religiously since 1994. I majored in Communication Arts and graduated cum laude. My first job was as a writer/graphic artist for a glossy magazine here, but then I left to do freelance graphic art. Later, I did a part-time teaching stint at my old college, the Ateneo de Manila, teaching freshman English (fiction and general writing classes) and a summer elective on comics theory. This is where I met Elbert, who was one of my students. He was one of those "nightmare students" in that he knew more about comics than I did! We kept in touch and when I decided to put up my own comic company, I tapped Elbert to help me out as an editor and pretty much as a COO.

Cast came about when Elbert suggested that we pitch a comic to one of the local publishers here. He would draw and I would write. I join two school plays in high school and I always thought the people and the world of theater was very fascinating and fun. So one idea I gave was this series about high school kids doing a play. But as we found out about the story limitations the publishers had (number of issues allowed, content, etc), we decided to go ahead and publish the story ourselves. One of my uncles had an existing publishing company that wasn't doing anything, so we pitched the idea of doing comics to him and asked for control of the company.

Cast allows me to do all the romantic comedy/ drama type stories that I love and yet it allows for some exotic and almost fantasy-styled elements to be used due to the theatrical element of the series. So I get to do heart-warming teen hi-jinx while our artists can still dabble with some elaborate costumes, sets and even fantasy scenes from the script.

Personally, I was heavily influenced by the "slice of life" comic creators like Alex Robinson (Box Office Poison), Craig Thompson (Blankets, Goodbye, Chunky Rice) and Tom Beland (True Story, Swear to God). But my biggest influence would probably be Terry Moore (Strangers in Paradise), who is a master of emotional storytelling, expressive character art and inventive layouts. Films like "Shall We Dance" and "Almost Famous" also influenced the themes and storytelling styles I use. While I never really intended Cast to be manga style (this came out mainly due to market demands and the available artists), some anime series that did influence me were Cooking Master Boy and Slam Dunk, in the way they explained their core concepts (cooking and basketball) in such interesting detail yet managed to weave these descriptions into the plot so well and seamlessly. It definitely made me want to do something similar with Cast and the world of theater.

2. And so you guys based alot of the reality elements of CAST on things you saw in your own and others' life experience being young?

Though a lot of the elements of Cast are based from my experiences, it isn't really autobiographical. If anything, it's more of a "What If" type of deal where I try to imagine how things would have been if certain events in my life had turned out differently. Other storylines are amalgamations of certain experiences from other times in my life. While other ideas are just wild stuff that grew out of the setting of high school theater.

I was actually in the play "Camelot" back in my old high school and another play called "Thirteen Daughters" which was done by an all-girls' school. The basic story of Cast is a mix of these two experiences. Many of the characters are not based on any particular friends but rather combinations of different people I knew back in those days. My own life stories are really more of springboard for ideas rather than actual sources.

Personally, the main attraction of doing this type of story is nostalgia. In a way, writing Cast lets me travel back in time and relive some of the most fun moments in my life. At times it allows me to relive those memories differently. That's the sort of my selfish motivation for doing this.

3. CAST is said to be illustrated in Manga style with distinct Fillipino art overtones. For those outside of the Phillipines, can you elaborate on what defines those Fillipino styling cues? I understand it must be a difficult question, translating an art technique into words...

One of the biggest debates in this country among local creators is about what constitutes a "Filipino art style." Considering the overwhelming popularity of manga here, a unique national style doesn't seem to be emerging. But then again, we're a country that is known for taking in the traditions and ticks of other cultures then remolding them slightly into something new. We were under the Spanish, Americans and Japanese for decades (and dealt with the Chinese for centuries) and our culture is really a big mishmash of all these different traditions. So perhaps Filipino styling cues comes from altering existing styles to fit our own setting and personalities.

For Cast, Elbert designed the characters in his own style (which to me is more like a mix between Tintin's Herge's and Bruce Timm's styles) then let the artists of Ronin Core Art Group add their own manga twist to it (since that is the style our artists are accustomed to). Thus you have the typical manga hair, noses, mouths and big eyes on some characters. But we tried to refrain from using some of the explicitly Japanese visual cues (like nose bleeds, giant tears or SD characters, though some still come through because of our artists' sensibilities) and rely more on actual acting or facial expressions to express emotion, since Filipinos are naturally expressive people. We don't use weirdly sculpted or colored hair (we retain Filipino hair colors like brown and black) and try to use varied skin tones. Some of our characters are Filipino-Chinese so things like their eyes and skin color have to differ from the more "indio" or "mestizo" characters. Rather than simply using common manga archetypes, we let the demands of our story and our setting affect the character designs and art style.

Of course, the "manga style" itself has many variations (not all have large eyes and pink hair. e.g. Slam Dunk) so I can't say that these little deviations from the traditional manga style makes our art more Filipino. I guess it's more the merging of the manga/anime style with Elbert's personal art style that makes it unique. The styling decisions dictated by story's setting (the Philippines) are what make our particular style...Filipino.

4. And Nautilus studios is your publishing label for CAST, can you gives some background on the studio and what it's future plans are?

Nautilus Comics is an imprint of Mango Books, which was originally created to publish textbooks. We rarely use the official company name to avoid confusion with another local publisher, Mango Comics. Since the company (which was mainly only a company on paper without any real brick and mortar facility) hadn't had any projects in a couple of years, we decided to take it over and turn it into a comic publishing company. Right now it only has two projects: Siglo (which is an annual project) and Cast. The long term goal is to promote quality Filipino comics which other publishers may be afraid to take on due to the perceived lack of marketability of such projects. As much as possible, we try to accept projects based on the quality of the book, no matter how hard a sell it may be. Sure, it's an uphill battle, but it's definitely a battle worth fighting since there are so many talented comic creators in the country who aren't given a chance to shine. If Siglo and Cast take off, we hope to venture into projects like other graphic novels, anthologies and even webcomics.

5. I am aware of your previous project Siglo: Freedom. How far a direction shift for Nautilus is CAST from your previous works?

Cast is a totally different animal from Siglo: Freedom. Siglo is a purely artistic venture, done in book form. It was created without sales or a target audience in mind. So our whole marketing strategy had to conform to the needs of the book. Also, as a book, sales were the only possible source of revenue. Cast is a bit more commerical in nature. Being a periodical, we can accept ads and even product placement in the stories. Elbert and I are more flexible in terms of storytelling and art, and so we will bend to the demands of the market. This is partly why we got Ronin Core Art Group as our artists, since manga and anime are the most marketable styles right now. We can't be too high-brow or racy in Cast due to our need for sponsors. We also had a very specific target audience in mind (teenagers, mostly girls) and we had to make sure the series would appeal to them and interest them.

Still, we try to balance all that with our own artistic integrity. That's why our art isn't totally manga in execution and why I still fight with tooth and nail to keep my story as MY story. Cast is tougher to manage creatively than Siglo, but we hope to reach a much happier balance between profitability and literary value with Cast. Between these two projects, we at Nautilus are forced to study and fight against all the forces from the different aspects of publishing. And the differences between book and periodical publishing are many. Hopefully, this will enable us to tackle any type of project in the future, no matter how unique its requirements are.

6. When will CAST be released in your country and how has the recption from fans and the retail venues been?

The prologue issue has been out since June and the first issue will be out by the end of August. Reception has been pretty good from comic shops (especially from teenaged girls). However, other retail outlets like magazine stands and bookstores have been hesitant because comics are still a risky proposition in our country. Again, it is tough to convince retailers to stock a lot of copies and to display Cast prominently on their shelves. The fact that we're a small and new company doesn't help either. But our constant promotional activities like comic workshops at malls and schools, plus radio and print ads help give us media mileage that is slowly allowing retailers to trust us.
Siglo:Freedom winning the National Book Awards also has been a major coup which should also help in gaining retailer support.

7. Where can readers inside your country find CAST in retail outlets and is it available internationally?

Readers in the Philippines can find Cast in fine comic book shops like Comic Quest and Central Comic Headquarters. It is also available in branches of Anonymous (a clothing shop). Select magazine stands also have it available. Right now, Cast isn't available internationally yet, but people interested can email us at nautiluscomics@gmail.com or me personally at Jamie@Bautista.com and we can work something out. We have plans to distribute Cast internationally, but it's too soon to tell if it will be possible.

Our first book, Siglo: Freedom will be available internationally, however. It is listed in the August issue of Previews for shipping in October by Diamond Distributors. If anyone is interested in checking out this award-winning graphic novel, ask your local comic retailer to order a copy. If sales do well, this may allow us to also solicit Cast through Diamond.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

FROM: BluPrint / Volume 4 2004

Where we are
Where we’re heading
Who’s who in the comic book world


Written by Charlene F. Sawit
Photographed by RJ Fernandez
Art directed by Mela de Luna
Make-up and grooming by Benjie Angeles and Jasmine Mendiola

Art is produced not only by those who have talent and skill in a medium and enjoy the process of creating but also by those who are compelled to say something—and are willing to suffer to say it. Hence the stereotypes: starving artist, struggling writer, hungry poet, penniless musician, independent (code for all the adjectives used above) filmmaker. Part of this list (but one that does not immediately come to mind) is the comic book creator. While most artists are at least given by their skeptics the benefit of the doubt in the form of respect for the tradition of their media, comic artists/writers often do not get their “benefit”. They are usually perceived as immature, their medium of choice touted as kid’s stuff, and unlike their fellow dreamers, aspiring comic artists have no flourishing local industry to break into,

At present, compare to the income-generating comic industries of the United States, Japan and Europe, a student cannot expect to graduate from college and find a bread-and-butter, feed-the-wife-and-kids job in Philippine comics. Still, a number of artists and writers are continually drawn to try their hand at the medium; many producing titles independently (in other words, not just from their hearts but from their own pockets); some of these comics go on to become such underground gems that publishers eventually take notice and finally bring the titles to a wider audience. Occurrences like these, though rare, are the little struggling breaths that are helping to revive a long stagnant industry.

In the end, artists go through all this trouble because they are compelled to; and many local comic book creators are just people itching to tell a story. Comic readers know that it is a potent but underrated medium of storytelling, open to any subject matter ranging from mundane slice-of-life occurrences and adventures of spandex suited superheroes, to the horrors of the holocaust and back again. And like any successful work of art, a comic book that is done right can evoke an immediate emotional response and perhaps stretch one’s gray matter and inch of two.

A bold combination of fearless outlook and intense, deeply earnest stories

“A lot of young artists end up in advertising;” muses Arnold; reflecting on how he graduated from the College of Fine Arts in UP Diliman and went on to become an artist for several advertising agencies. “It’s one of the few opportunities for them to be creative and still get paid.” Coming up with a comic was something of a necessity. “I guess you get to tell stories in advertising… but still, it’s not the same. I needed something of my own out there. To prove something to myself, in a way.” His first project, “The Mythology Class” surprised him by going on to win the Manila Critics National Book Award in 2000. “I wasn’t out to win anything. I didn’t even know comic could win any awards. I made that comic to entertain myself. It was just something I wanted to read but didn’t see anywhere— a comic based n Philippine mythology.”

Since then, Arnold has been know for creating thoughtful, introspective comics, as opposed to the action-driven ones created by most of his contemporaries. Despite whatever fantastic events or realities surround Arnold’s characters, the heart of his stories lie mostly in the character’s emotions and minds. His second book “Trip to Tagaytay” (a quietly affecting tale set in the late 21st Century Manila filled with mad predictions of the future—Aga Mulach as president of the Philippines, to say the least), won him the National Book Awards again in 2001. He attributes inspiration for his this and latest comic, “After Eden” to his wife; wife and fellow artists Cynthia Bauzon (who designed almost all the album covers of the Eraserheads). “Trip to Tagaytay” is actually a love letter to Cynthia in disguise. “She was in the States at the time and I didn’t want to send her the usual things, so I made the comic for her.:

Arnold has an optimistic outlook on the future of Philippine comics; “The manga (Japanese comics) style is really hot right now, but I’m hopeful that artists will in time evolve and develop their own styles. Marketing for local comics may be shaky, because publishers tend to be nervous; but I think that will change when they eventually see that there really is a large reading public. As for ever lacking in talent or variety on the local scene, I’m not worried; we have so many good artists and writers here—they’re just waiting for a revolution.”

Close encounters of the third kind and more

“Homosexual beautician receives a stone from outer space and transforms into this voluptuous gorgeous woman who saves a small town from zombies and extraterrestrial women. He also has a gay assistant and is secretly in love with the village hunk…” is the two-time Palanca-winner writer, graphic designer, former teacher, theater actor and finally comic creator Carlo Vergara’s summary of his original and hilarious work, “Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah” (which was a Manila Critics’ Cricle National Book Awardee). While his first book “One Night in Purgatory” (about the special relationship between two men—one straight and one gay) was also critically acclaimed and well-received by readers, “ZsaZsa” proved to be groundbreaking work in the sense that it was embraced not only by comic fans but by people who have never read comics before.

This independently produced title achieve commercial success and was sought out by a surprisingly large number of people from different age groups and economic backgrounds. “And while a lot of people from the gay community checked out the title, it wasn’t necessarily interpreted as a comic for homosexuals.” Carlo adds, “Many of the readers were straight men and women.” Although the characters, their environment, and the dialogue of ZsaZsa are so real and familiar, perhaps what won over such a diverse audience was the genius of its situation comedy, which Carlo reveals was actually the product of a period of great personal turmoil. “It was one of those years when everything went bad—career, love, my direction in life. My way of dealing with all of that was ZsaZsa… I wanted to amuse myself. It was my escape. Besides, I wanted to try my hand at comedy, because I’m not really a naturally funny person.”

Carlo hopes he can help future comic artists by helping to advance the craft now. “Our mindset is that Pinoy comics are temporary, disposable fare. We’ve had this template of newsprint comics for so long, local publishers are afraid to deviate from it. But obviously the old formulas aren’t working; sales of local newsstand comics have gone down considerably since the early 1980s. I guess you can blame it on the economy or new forms of entertainment, but that’s an old tune I don’t believe in. If an industry knows its audience well enough, it should know how to adapt. Readers have more sophisticated tastes compare to two decades ago. Right now we see a lot of passive imitation; but there are also quite a number of young artists today who are taking upon themselves to do different things, tell new kinds of stories. I hope someday the local comics industry generates the same kind of excitement… in other countries.”

An unbelievable, extraordinary effort has not gone "Wasted"

“It’s not a glamorous job,” admits Gerry Alanguilan. “Ninety percent of the time you’re tied to your desk, with interviews like this as your only chance of sunlight. If prestige is the reason you want to make comics, forget it.” he may sound discouraging, but aspiring comic artists can very well look up to Gerry for inspirations. Arnold Arre cites him as a truly original artist; and remembers being “blown away” when came across Gerry’s “Wasted” series in the early 1990s. The violent, rage-filled comic eventually prompted Warren Ellis (creators of the similarly gritty, critically-acclaimed series “Transmetropolitan”) to urge American readers to hunt down a copy of this “Filipino comics”, raving that Gerry was “potentially brilliant.” Like Carlo Vergara’s “Zsazsa Zaturnnah,” “Wasted” was created during a period of hopelessness; but instead of being an escape, the comic was truly a catharsis; it is all of Gerry’s poisons put on paper.

In the early 1990s, when the newspapers announced that Whilce Portacio was coming to the Philippines, Gerry was an architect by profession who did comic as a hobby. “I’ve always admired Whilce’s (Portacio’s) work, but I didn’t know he was Filipino. When I saw him it was like a slap in the face. I realized it was possible for Pinoys to do work of that caliber in the States.” Gerry locked himself up in his room and started drawing, consumed by tunnel vision to break into the international comics scene. His saving dwindled and his then-girlfriend eventually left him. “It was devastating. You have to understand, until that point I had been doing everything for her. I was working so hard in comics because I believed that it was that, not architecture, that would allow me to follow her to the States.” After a year, he finally did “Wasted”, which started as a “Xerox and staple” comic, and was eventually published by Pulp Magazine’s Comics 101 by Budjette Tan, [Erratum: Comics 101 was published by Cheap Thrills Studio.] then as a complete book by Alamat Comics in 1998, and as a “Final Edition” by Pulp in 2001. “I didn’t want it published at first; it was such a personal thing. I was afraid people would see me differently—just the first eight pages are full of violence, sex and profanity.” But the positive response was enormous.

His confidence returned, he was able to meet Whilce Portacio again, and one thing led to another. He has worked for many local and foreign titles, including Image, Marvel, and DC. Aside from many local projects, he has a new obsession: to track down old Filipino komiks artists and collect their original artwork; hoping to publish a book and open an exhibit. “Many of us are unaware we have such a rich history… local comic artists are influenced by Japanese and American styles, but if they were given the opportunity to see the artwork from the Philippine golden age of comics (1950s to 1970s), maiiyak sila sa ganda ng art ng Pinoy artists.”

As for his ex, he says he’s emailed her to check out “Wasted” but has received no comment. “She wasn’t the type who really read comics,” he says, unlike his wife, daughter of an artist who drew the old Filipino “Tarzan.” Gerry tracked the comic artist down (who coincidentally lived in San Pablo. Gerry’s beloved hometown) and his future wife answered the door (ironically, in her youth, she swore never to marry a comic artist). He has many epic projects he plans to tackle next, which aim to spur people’s interests in their local heritage. “If you really want something desperately enough you’ll get it. The bigger the risk, the bigger the returns.”

With these guys, Darna flies again.

“Sequential art” is what they like to call comics over at Mango Comics, the Tagaytay-based comic book company (headed by editor-in-chief Zach Yonzon) that released the much-publicized update of “Darna” in 2003, as part of the classic characters golden anniversary. Mars Ravel and Nestor Redondo’s classic super heroine was named after the mythological Adarna bird; whose adventures against her arch-nemesis, the snake goddess Valentina, were first serialized in the pages of “Pilipino Comics” in the 1950s and went on to be reintroduced in the following decades in several different movie versions.

The three-issue story arc of the updated version featured the artists talents of Gilbert Monstano, Ryan Orsoco, and Lan Medina, young but already veteran members of the local comics scene. Gilbert, who did pencil sketches for Image’s “Hellcop,” trained under Whilce Portacio and was chief instructor for Portacio’s comic art school; Ryan trained in the same school and also works with Culture Crash, Lan has gone on to work in titles for Marvel and DC.

Despite the new “Darna” being far more visually appealing to the modern comics audience, the response to Magno’s rendition was mixed. “From the readers, we got a good response. But from the other people in the industry, we got some criticism,” says Gilbert, who also acted as art director for the project. He’d long been interested in doing a “Darna” update and was the one who pitched the idea to the people who owned the rights. “One of the reasons was that we didn’t really mess with her character design. I’ve heard other artists say that if it were their project, they would have done thing a little differently—but personally I found it unnecessary to modify Darna’s costume, add stars, whatever. Basically what we did was just (to) innovate and define the look… to reintroduce her to a younger reading public. And aside from a few changes, we were pretty local to the story. I’m pretty satisfied.” However, Ryan says he wishes he could have spent more time on the art. “At the time I was working eight hours at the office and doing `Darna` when I got home!”

Mango hopes to raise literacy through comics. “Their lines include Mango Classics (updated of Pinoy classes like `Darna`) Mango Neo (their superhero line) and Mango Manga,” says Gilbert. The company also hopes to draw attention to the wealth of Filipino talent. “It’s nice because in the past there was no importance placed on the artist, and most of their original work was shredded after publication. Nakakapanghina. I totally support efforts to save work by the old masters but I think it may be too late, so the industry should look towards taking care of talent in the next generation.”

A group obsession and gung-ho attitude gives birth to this independent comic

A testament to the growing love for comics in the Philippines is the number of locally-produced independent titles seen on the racks of bookstores and comic books; produced not just by serious writers/artists with the urge to share their eventually award-winning stories, but by groups of enthusiastic comic fans who write and draw stories just for the sheer fun of it, and with no other aim but to see their work in print and entertain fellow comic fans.

A representative of the latter category is a group called Night Shift, founded by Paolo Aguasin, Rafael Ortiz and Abbery Gail Meneses (who happens to be a guy) in late 2001, “in a humble makeshift studio in Las Pinas.” They relate having met in a video shop in Paranaque and being later joined by Jan Michael “Mikko” Aldeguer (they also have contributors outside the main groups: namely Shaun Zabale, Emman Marinda, and Antonio Aguasin). This ragtag young crew of mostly students (who hold multiple staff positions, which they rattle off with added tongue-in-cheek descriptions such as “editor, writer, artist, layout, coloring, dialogue finalizations, finders-of-inspiration and loser-of-sleep”) produce a comic magazine called “CHIPS,” each issue containing several one-shot stories and two ongoing series: “Cascades” (Set in a fictional Filipino high school) and “Neodreamer” (a sci-fi series).

Like many young artists, the black-and-white line art of “CHIPS” is in the manga style, despite the decidedly Filipino flavor of the stories. “I think a lot of young people have taken to Japanese comics because of the variety of subject matter. Whereas many mainstream Japanese comics are really able to be out of the box in terms of stories,” says Mikko. “They’re not afraid to tackle ideas which maybe taboo for others. There is religion, sex, politics, slices-of-life.” The group says they put out their magazine out of love for the medium and ”… just to show that we’re capable to do the art and tell these stories. Of course we’re practicing so that we can keep doing better and maybe someday turn this into a more serious, regular thing. Right now what’s important is that we’re enjoying ourselves and we’re not afraid to experiment.”

Suggested for immature (yet highly intelligent) readers only.

Coming from a generation weaned on “Voltes V,” “Astroboy,” “Daimos” and other anime [Japanese animation] classics and also on Filipino interest in anime and manga in the 1990s, several local artists/writers banded together in 2000 (filled with a good deal of uncertainty but with fire in the bellies) to come up with the aptly named “Culture Crash;” a comic anthology magazine featuring four ongoing stories written by colloquial Tagalog and mostly set in the Philippines, but rendered in art heavily influenced by the manga style.

While the high quality of the magazine’s art and technical production has eventually led it to be cited as “the best locally published comic book” by a number of local publications, its writers, artists and creators Jescie James Palabay, Elmer Damaso, Michael David, Ryan Orsoco, Frances Tampinco, Robby Villagarcia, John Zamar and someone who’s rather be known as “Taga-Ilog”—(he likes to appear with a metal bucket over his head) are also used to fielding criticism for using art so widely associated wither another country. “It’s like telling a painted be can’t pain in the Impressionist style if he wasn’t born in Europe,” says Jescie Palabay. “Manga is at least an Asian influence. It’s strange that local comics that emulate western comic art don’t raise the same questions. If would notice the art of `Kubori Kikiam` (one of the four anthologized stories), it’s already veering away from the manga style… the point is, as an artist, you can evolve—but you can’t help but start with a style that you like. Personally I like manga because of the way the Japanese pace their stories—they really have a beginning, middle, and end; unlike many American comics where characters go on indefinitely and just keep being given new plot lines.” Mike David jumps in, “Making comic is like problem solving. You have to assemble a team of right people to produce an appropriate art style for what a story needs. People should also consider the stories we’re telling and not judge us based on the aesthetics that we chose alone.”

And how is Culture Crash doing marketing wise? “Our first ten issues didn’t have sponsors,” laughs Taga-Ilog. “Things are improving, but right now we survive on readership.” Not surprising since “Culture Crash” is a two-way thing: they give back to their readers, aside from an entertaining/informative “how to Draw” sections and articles that often touch local comics and gaming, the magazine has an eight-page “Fan Feature” section reserved for comics sent in by readers (a great find is Red De Leon’s beautiful “A Fishy Tale” in issue 14). The group proudly says their circulation grow every issue. Jescie adds, “We hope that (we would not only) help bring (back) interest in the local comic industry… but that Filipinos will starts to see comics as an art form which can help teach other people about our culture, just like (what) manga has done for Japan.” *

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Real life in a comic book
By Terrie B. Fucanan  
In the superhero-dominated world of comic books, creators—usually for commercial reasons—are often compelled to stick to the old formula of an oppressed character who sets out to fight the bad guys.  To make him out of the ordinary, a situation concerning sci-fi technology or some accident is injected into the plot to give the hero supernatural powers. As a result, he flies high across the city at night, or glides over buildings, to hunt for the bad guys. At the end of every story, it is he—the good superhero—who prevails.
It’s the typical comic book story. And like all others of its kind, the story rests on the hero’s never-ending battle with the forces of evil through superhuman powers, which incidentally, are impossible for its young audience to relate to real-life situations. 
For the longest time in comic book history, there has been an unconscious desire among the young to read something that they could actually relate to—a story somewhere between the worlds of Superman and Manga reads, Gunsmith Cats, Oh My Goddess, and Ranma.
This sentiment is strong among Filipino comic book enthusiasts, as recently discovered by comic book creators Elbert Or and Jamie Bautista.  In an informal survey, they talked to students and held group discussions, and found out that for the young readers, the reality component is missing in the wide array of local and foreign comic book selections. It was then that Or and Bautista began their quest for a story line that will not only appeal to young readers, but also present the conflicts, inner struggles and fears of common teenagers.
And from this objective, Cast was born.  It is a full-color comic book series, available next month, that has none of the fantasy-based and sci-fi plots that comics in Filbars or Book Sale have. The story is weaved through the lives of teen-age high school boys and girls who, through a tie-up between their exclusive schools, come together to put up a school play on King Arthur. During the course of the production, the characters discover world-changing ideas, develop relationships, and encounter personal problems, which might just affect the school production all together.
The characters are illustrated in Manga with distinct touches of Filipino artistry as rendered by the Ronin Core Art Group. But while the art is in Manga, the typical teen-age Filipino psyche is very evident in the comic book’s characters. Repressed exclusive school boys; shy exclusive school girls; guitar-playing barkadas; and extremely strict school officials as well as the more open-minded ones are just some of the elements that make Cast quite significant to its target readers.
“Cast is a story about coming out of your comfort zone into a larger, scarier world where you can meet folks scarier than monsters, or be in situations more confusing than being in another dimension,” explained series creator and writer Jamie Bautista, who also founded Nautilus Comics to produce the comic book. “But it is also a world where you can meet people who are more fascinating than any caped marvel or experience things more exhilarating than flying.”
Cast also seeks to highlight the importance of adults in the young teenager’s life, in the persons of their parents and school officials.  “The current teen materials available right now often downplay the presence of parents, who only come into the scene during conflicts,” added Elbert Or, the 20-year-old creator and editor of the series. “We included adults’ direct involvement into the story to make it more realistic, which is what makes Cast a good read for the entire family too.”
Conflicts among the characters range from the simple “crush encounter” to love triangles, and deeper inner conflicts. The very first issue, entitled Cast: Pre-Production, also includes glimpses of producing the comic book, such as character designs, sketches, costumes and commentaries discussing the different aspects of production.
With regard to the plot, the creators are always asked why they chose a campus setting and hinge the story on a stage production.  The two believe that the campus set us will allow them a lot of room to discuss different issues in the future, including the more serious problems of teen suicide and depression.  The theater play element, meanwhile, came from Bautista who is former stage actor and a writer of prose.
“Comic books can also become relevant if creators are given the chance,” said Or.
Before Cast, the two young minds had pooled the best comic art illustrators in the country to produce Siglo: Freedom, another comic book from Nautilus, which tackles the heavier issues of politics and society.
Because of such ideas that deviate from the superhero formula, Or and Bautista find themselves beset with financial problems.  Sponsors are, of course, wary that such materials might not make the sales. Nonetheless, the partners went ahead with Cast because of their belief in the product. Beneath the entire effort, they say, is also an advocacy to give the often under-estimated Filipino illustrators a chance to show their talent, and eventually give them the higher compensation that they deserve.
“This is the burden of comic book creators.  There isn’t much freedom where your material is concerned because many are at the mercy of financing.  You have to show that the material is commercially viable,” said Bautista. “But we believe in our product, because it directly speaks to our readers.”
A comic book that shows day to day teenage struggles, produced by young artists who are facing their own professional and financial battles.  Reality can’t get any better than this.
Cast is available at bookstores and comic book shops like Comic Quest outlets and Central Comic Headquarters in Katipunan.  It is also being sold at branches of Anonymous.  Elbert Or and Jamie Bautista will also hold comic book illustration workshops at Powerbooks this month.  For inquiries, e-mail mars4@edsamail.com or jamie@bautista.com. 

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Press Release: Cast into a Bigger World

Following the critically-acclaimed SIGLO: FREEDOM, Nautilus Comics releases CAST, a new full-color monthly comic book series about teenagers and the ups and downs of growing up. The series is about a group of high school students from two exclusive schools who come together to stage a play about King Arthur. Soon, they discover a world of magic, courage, romance, and world-changing ideas, but when personal problems soon threaten the entire production apart. Will their stories end in tragedy, or will they be able to overcome all odds in time for the grand finale?

Created by Jamie Bautista and Elbert Or, Cast bucks the trend of many comic book series by not relying on out-of-this-world elements like magic, advanced technology or amazing powers to deliver a compelling and entertaining story. While there is a hint of fantasy from the script the kids are performing, it simply serves to enhance the real life conflicts and relationships between the different cast members. "Cast is a story about coming out of your comfort zone into a larger, scarier world where you can meet folks scarier than monsters or be in situations more confusing than being in another dimension," explains series creator/writer Jamie Bautista. "But it is also a world where you can meet people who are more fascinating than any caped marvel or experience things more exhilarating than flying."

The members of the Ronin Core Art Group, who have worked on manga titles like their own series Ground Zero, handle the art for the series. For Cast they have developed a different art style following the character designs of series editor and co-creator Elbert Or, whose fluid and iconic artwork can be seen in Nautilus Comics' Siglo: Freedom and his own self-published comic Two-Color Truth Theater. The result is a comic that has the appeal of the popular Japanese artwork but still manages to be maintain its own unique look.

The prologue issue, entitled Cast: Pre-Production, is available now while the first issue of the regular series is set to be released in August. Cast is available at bookstores and comic book shops like Comic Quest outlets and Central Comic Headquarters in Katipunan. It is also being sold at branches of Anonymous.

Thursday, July 01, 2004


The Very First Comic Book In The Philippines Available Again!

Album Ng Kabalbalan ni Kenkoy
ni Tony Velasquez

Contrary to popular belief, Halakhak Komiks #1 (1946) was not the very first all comics magazine/book that was published in the Philippines. It was "Album Ng Kabalbalan ni Kenkoy" by Tony Velasquez,published in 1934. It was a compilation of Kenkoy strips that previously appeared in Liwayway

A pristine original copy of this book recently resurfaced and Filipino komiks collector Dennis Villegas worked immediately to get the book widely available again. Dennis had 1,200 copies printed, black and white on thickset quality paper. Each copy will be numbered and will be limited to only 1200 copies.

The book will be officially launched on June 27, 2004 at the 3rd Philippine Toys and Collectibles Convention at the Megatrade Hall of SM Megamall, Metro Manila. Regular retail price is PHP 130, but for the convetion, there is a special discount price of PHP 100.

After the Toycon, it will be first be made available at:
* Old Manila Bookstore, 4th Floor Megamall
* Angel Thrift Shop at 17 Marikina Shoe Expo, Araneta Center, Cubao.

It will eventually be available at Filbar's, National Bookstore, ComicQuest, and possibly Booksale.

If you wish to order in advance (for Philippine buyers), or just for any info about the book, you can get in touch with Dennis Villegas at his cell: 0921-5312888

Monday, June 28, 2004

Unleashing His Inner Superhero
Posted: 7:20 AM (Manila Time) | Jun. 27, 2004
By Ruel S. De Vera
Inquirer News Service


Zsazsa Zaturnah

It was a dream come true in 2002 when comic creator Carlo Vergara unleashed "Ang Kagila-Gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah," a witty, lushly-illustrated story of a gay beautician named Ada who finds a huge magic stone which, when swallowed, transforms him into a muscular super-heroine named Zsazsa Zaturnnah. Yet it was just the beginning for Vergara, 33, and his funny Darna homage. The comic book, published by Visual Print Enterprises, would go on to win the National Book Award for Comic Books as well as get optioned for a possible feature film. It's been quite a flight for Vergara who graduated from De La Salle University in 1990 with a degree in Marketing Management. But diversity \has always been something he enjoyed. "Some people find adventure in exotic places, but there are other ways to experience adventure," he explains. "It's about variety." In fact, Vergara had worked for everything from a greeting card company to an encyclopedia firm and a telecom company before this breakout success. Vergara has been a big comic fan since his youth (Chris Claremont's run on "The Uncanny X-Men" ranks among his favorites) and has constantly honed his artistic skills, just waiting for a chance. Yet he is indeed a man of many skills, as he is a writer and graphic designer aside from being an illustrator. Oh, and he is also quite the actor, having appeared in several plays including "Angels in America" for New Voice Company in 1994. "I miss it terribly," he says of the stage. The bass baritone also enjoys working out and karaoke ("Can't Get Enough of Your Love" is always a crowd-pleaser). Having worked in comic books for over a decade now, he considers comic books "an amalgam of everything I've done." Vergara, who is gay, doesn't mind readers attaching causes and meanings to his work, but he says he just wants to tell a good story. "I try to be universal as much as possible with my work." And for now, that work means working on the shelfload of graphic novel projects in his head. He just might wind up doing other things in the future. "Right now, I'm having fun," Carlo Vergara says. "I want to make comic books into a career. It's nice to be part of the growth of something." Excerpts of SIM's chat with the creative Vergara:

Sunday Inquirer Magazine: So how did "Zsazsa" come about? What was the idea behind the comic book?

Carl Vergara: It was an idea seed in late 2001. I was halfway through another comics script, thinking that it would be my next solo project, when the image of a person taking in a large stone struck me. It was a powerful image, that, and the idea seed just grew, prompting me to set aside the story I had been writing in favor of this new one. My first mode in tackling the project was "unstereotyping stereotypes." I was thinking, "People lament the stereotypical portrayal of homosexuals, but I can't totally remove stereotypes because they won't be such if they didn't exist in real life. So why not take the tried-and-tested and play around with it?"

Wrestling with demons

The theme "Huwag Mong Itanong Kung Bakit (Don't Ask Why)" is more personal, reflecting the bad year that was 2002. It was a year when things weren't really going my way and I was wrestling with a few demons from all fronts. To deal with those demons, I poured it all out in Zaturnnah's story. Doing the comic book became a major part of my catharsis. I believe that this gave "heart" to the story.

SIM: Since when have you known you were gay and when did you come out of the closet?

Carl: It was in sixth grade when I first realized that I was really different, but my coming out story is hazy. Most of my schoolmates knew out there wasn't much of a fuss over it. I didn't fully experience being the target-of-choice for gay jokes, because I acted ambiguously for the most part, I didn't fit the stereotype, and I excelled in class and school activities. I didn't really have to "come out" in the moment-of-truth sense of it.

SIM: What was your intention in drawing and writing gay-themed comics?

Carl: Creating gay-themed comics was a conscious decision. Homosexuality was a subject I was more comfortable handling, especially since I'm partial to character-driven stories. I suppose the major intention was to do something majority of my contemporaries wouldn't do. There's also that need to repackage the gay persona, giving it a few twists here and there, which veers from the way conventional media portrays homosexuality. We've read all the articles lamenting how gays are portrayed in movies and TV, so I wanted to experiment by taking concepts and see where the gay angle would take them.

SIM: Did you have any concerns about the public's reception of "Zsazsa" when you were working on it?

Carl: No. Not at all. Maybe a bit with the cussing. But, heck, it's For Mature Readers Ever. Seriously, not everyone will like the book, either because of the story or the art, or maybe because comics to them is like what golf is to me - it just ain't my thing. But I'm concerned about how people may avoid the book just because of its "gay" nature, like they wouldn't want to be caught alive reading it.

SIM: One of the book's key scenes is when Ada (as Zsazsa) actually encounters his long-dead father, now reanimated as a zombie. It's played for laughs, with the zombie refusing to accept that his son is gay and tearing himself to pieces before running away. Yet Zsazsa is clearly hurt by this encounter. What's behind this scene?

Carl: This scene is what I'm most proud of, creatively. I wanted something that's funny and painful at the same time. Ada didn't really have a great life growing up, and yet he's always wanted to prove to his father that he can do something important. But Ada's father didn't live long enough to see what his son has achieved. So the cemetery encounter was Ada's last ditch attempt to convince his father that his having a gay son was nothing to be ashamed of.
Super-powerful gay man

But the father chose to die again to get his point across. I'd like to think that this is one of the struggles that many homosexuals go through, the need to prove one's worth. In Ada's case, the approval from his father is a strong element behind his drive.

SIM: In the end, "Zsazsa" is the chronicle of a super-powerful gay man who saves the day, defeating what stands in his way to protect the things he values and yet all he really wants is to be loved. Is that what you wanted to say with this work?

Carl: Not really "to be loved," but more to be able to live normally despite adversity. There are things in life we can't control, questions we cannot answer. But instead of getting bogged down pondering those mysteries, we should take a pro-active stance and do something about them, driven by sincerity, love, hope, and faith. It's a lesson that's for everyone, whether straight or gay.

SIM: What do you see then in "Zsazsa's" massively successful run? What does it say about the public's view of gay comics?

Carl: I will question the use of the word "massively." Maybe if I can live off it (laughs). I've always called this book a monster, because I can find no clear reason behind the passionate response to it, but I don't think it says much about the public's view of gay comics. I wanted to have something for everyone. So I have the voluptuous, thong-strapped babe Zaturnnah and the Amazonistas for those who like women, the cute and sensitive hunk Dodong for those who like men, loads of irreverent and naughty humor, high-action, a love story, a lesson or two about life, and so on. If I may quote the PDI's review: "It's not just a great and funny gay comic book. It's a great and funny comic book, period." In the end, it's all about making great comics, whatever the subject may be.

SIM: Tell us about the Zsazsa movie. How did it happen and what do you hope to be able to accomplish with it?

Carl: I was contacted by two film studios by email late last year. Needless to say, I was ecstatic that two companies wanted to get the film rights. I chose one studio and, as of now, the first screenplay had been drafted. In the United States, major comics companies have begun tailoring their products to become easier sells to movie producers, and I take that as a sad thing. It's like making comics a means to an end and not the end in itself, thus further threatening its value as an artistic medium. If my work is good enough to be put on the big screen, that's just an added bonus for me.

SIM: Finally, how much of Carlo Vergara is in Zsazsa Zaturnnah?

Carl: Not so much in Zsazsa Zaturnnah, but more in the book itself. I'm there, right between the lines.

Thursday, March 25, 2004


Highly Recommended (9/10)

Wasted is going to be a little difficult to get hold of, as it is not currently available through distributors, but it's worth dropping an email to creator Gerry Alanguilan. Wasted is a nihilistic poem of violence and love gone wrong, one of the most intense and uncompromising portrayals of insanity that I've seen in print with a touch of failed romance that makes it something we can all relate to in our darkest moments. Eric, a jilted lover, takes out his rage not just on himself and his former lover but on anyone who gets in his path. Alanguilan is best known in the American comics market as an inker, but his full art here is very strong, exceptional in terms of conveying the kinetic energy and bloody aftermath of Eric's rampage.

Wasted does not have a plot that runs terribly deep. Eric is dumped by his girlfriend for another man, and goes completely batshit insane. Alanguilan adds a little bit of detail with Eric's father and a sketchy plot about a corrupt political figure, but it felt like an unnecessary complication to me, albeit one that provided a nice surprise moment near the climax of the story. While the plot may not be complex, however, the emotions that are raging through the protagonist certainly are. He's not just enraged by losing a woman, but he's had a total psychotic break, with delusions and unguided anger amplifying his justly deserved anger until it becomes an almost palpable force.

Eric is not what you'd call the world's most sympathetic character. He murders indiscriminately, and as the story goes on, even ventures into the realm of psychological torment of innocent people who should be having the happiest day of their lives. In fact, by the time the book ended, I actually hated Eric. And yet... I found myself completely drawn to the character. It's possible that there are some folks out there that have never felt the sting of betrayal or the pain of a love lost, but I'd bet there aren't many of you out there. Most will be able to relate on some level to the intense pain that Eric is going through, even as they are appalled at the actions that these emotions drive Eric to.

Alanguilan's art throughout Wasted varies in quality. Some of it is excellent, some mediocre, most falls solidly into the capable category. While Alanguilan could use some more consistency in his characters and more detail on backgrounds and in general, even the weakest art in the book has a lot to offer. Alanguilan's storytelling choices, moving the camera into unusual places, are very intriguing, and the high point of that particular talent comes at the tail end of the story, when we see Eric's fate played out in what is essentially static panel slow motion. In addition, the entire comic nearly vibrates with intensity, and the tension coming off the highly-strung Eric is easy to feel, just as it's easy to be shocked by the sudden eruptions of blood and violence throughout the story.

If you're in a dark mood, or you've just broken up with someone, Wasted is as good as a Nine Inch Nails album played at top volume or a good drunken binge. It's a release for the creator, a sort of dark wish fulfillment that only fiction can give, but it can serve the same sort of release for the reader as well. Wasted has a story that is fairly simple, but the emotions that drive the story and the actions that the protagonist takes will stay with the reader for quite some time.

Monday, February 23, 2004




We introduce you to Mango Books, a company with the objective of publishing noteworthy materials. Mango Books released its first project, one of the most ambitious graphic novels ever published locally, entitled Siglo: Freedom.

Siglo is an anthology of ten stories by acclaimed writers and visual artists. Chronologically arranged, all stories are set in different parts of the Philippines with the common theme of freedom. Each story revolves around a particular character, historical or fictional. Never before has a group of the country’s best comic artists and writers collaborated on such literary artwork.

Inclusive dates February 25 to 27, 2004

Glorietta II Activity Area, Makati

Marj Soriano
Nautilus Comics
4F, 818 Bldg, 818 Pasay Road., Makati
Trunkline: 892-1191 or 39
Fax#: 810-3123

25 February
1. Ingress
2. Exhibit of Original Drawings w/ Artist's Profiles
3. Selling Booth

26 February
1. Exhibit of Original Drawings w/ Artist's Profiles
2. Selling Booth

27 February
10:00am: 05:00pm- Exhibit & Selling
05:00pm: 06:00pm- Tech Set-up & Soundcheck

07:00pm -07:15pm-
a) Intro
b) Announce Availability of Press Kits
c) Announce Mechanics & Start of Silent Bidding
d) Sale of Limited Edition Hard Bound Copies
e) Introduce 1st Performer 07:15pm-08:15pm-
1st Acoustic Performer: 08:15pm-09:00pm-
a) Introduction of Siglo Publisher & Creators
b) Panel Interview & Photo Op
c) Book Signing
d) Close Bidding
e) Announce Winning Bidders
g) Cocktails

Siglo is the Filipino term for century.
SIGLO will be an anthology of ten sequential art pieces (10 pages each), presented by ten authors and illustrators. Majority of the creators are award-winning writers and artists.

What will SIGLO: FREEDOM be about?
The common theme linking all pieces is the Filipino experience of freedom, given context by the prevailing spirit of a specific decade. Each story is set in a selected decade from 1910 to 2009, and focuses on one person in that decade, whether real or fictional.

Stories focus on the presence or absence of freedom, the yearning for or squandering of freedom, the struggle for or the accomplishment of freedom, as befits the particular character or the creator's intent.

Freedom (and the character's involvement) is interpreted in many ways-personal, religious, political, societal, or from the marginalized perspectives.

All stories are set in the Philippines, and each story's title will follow this convention: Place name, year or range of years. (e.g. Mindoro, 1914; Pasig, 1982-1985).

What is the purpose of SIGLO: FREEDOM?
SIGLO is intended to state two points:

First, it is about how precious freedom is. About how, through the past century, there have been stories big and small about it, all seen through the eyes of the Filipino.

Second, it is about the power of the graphic novel format to comment about the human condition.

What is exciting about the roster of creators?
SIGLO will be the first of its kind in the Philippines, an anthology of sequential art by top-caliber talents from the literary and visual arts.

Most of the writers have been recognized by award-giving bodies for the quality of their literary works, including the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature and the National Book Awards. While most of the visual artists have been recognized both locally and abroad for their works.

Who are the artists involved in SIGLO: TEN DECADES?
Each creator has been invited on the basis of the value of his or her vision in terms of quality contributions that speak stronglyabout the human condition and of freedom as Filipinos.

CONTRIBUTORS (alphabetical)
Alanguilan, Gerry -Artist for DC, Marvel and Image Comics. Work includes Superman: Birthright, Wolverine, X-Men. Creator of Wasted and Timawa.

Alfar, Dean Francis- 5-time Carlos Palanca Awardee for Literature, most recently for The Onan Circle (2003). Creator of The Lost and Ab Ovo. Founder of Kestrel Studios.

Alfar, Nikki-National Book Awardee for Isaw, Atpb. Creator of KC Strange and several other properties. Anvil Award winning editor. Kestrel Studios.

Arre, Arnold- 2-time National Book Awardee for Mythology Class and Trip to Tagaytay. Latest book is After Eden. Tala Studios.

Banico, Jason -Creator of Baylans.

Dimaano, Marco- Award-winning writer and creator of Angel Ace.

Drilon, Andrew- Likha Awardee for comics. Creator of Subwhere. Youngest of the creators at 18 years old.

Ibardaloza, Honoel- 2-time Carlos Palanca Awardee for Literature. Creator of many online manga properties.

Medina, Lan- Eisner Awardee for Fables. Artist for Marvel and Image.

Or, Elbert - Creator of Two-Color Theatre and other works.

Simbulan, Vin - National Book Awardee for Isaw, Atpb. Creator of Twilight Empires.

Vergara, Carlo- National Book Awardee for Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah. Creator of One Night in Purgatory.

Editorial and Art Direction
Dean Francis Alfar and Vin Simbulan - SIGLO Editors
Carlo Vergara - SIGLO Art Director

GERRY ALANGUILAN is a licensed architect who chooses to write and draw comic books for a living. Perhaps the creation he is best known for locally is Wasted, which has received acclaim from such renowned comics writers as Warren Ellis and Steven Grant, and is currently being shot as an independent film. His other personal comics projects include Timawa, Crest Hut Butt Shop, Dead Heart, and the upcoming Komikero, a portfolio of his sketches, illustrations and comics. He has contributed inks for international titles like X-Men, Fantastic Four, Wolverine, X-Force, Darkness, Stone, and High Roads, and is currently inking Superman: Birthright for DC Comics.

DEAN FRANCIS ALFAR has won several awards for his writing, most notably five Don Carlos Palanca Awards for Literature. He is a playwright and fictionist; most recently, his internationally-published L'Aquilone du Estrellas was selected as one of the best fantasy/science fiction short stories for 2003. He has served as a judge for the Palanca awards, and was a fellow at both the Silliman and U.P. Creative Writing workshops. He wears two hats professionally as the General Manager of Kestrel IMC and the Publisher of Kestrel Studios. His writing for comics includes The Lost and ab ovo, and he was the creative and motive force behind both projects. He also contributed to the award-winning comics anthology Isaw Atbp.

NIKKI ALFAR is a two-time Anvil award-winner for her copywriting work, and has also won Seventeen magazine’s international fiction-writing competition. She is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Kestrel Studios, and has worked in various writing and editorial capacities for the magazines Stuff, milk, and Stroke. She was the Editor-in-Chief for the National Book Award-winning Isaw Atbp., and was a contributor to that anthology as well. Her other comics work includes The Lost, Hainaku, ab ovo, Txtmen, and the upcoming Weird Sisters. She is also internationally sought-after as the creator of several online comics titles for adult audiences.

ARNOLD ARRE is the Creative Director for the self-owned Tala Studios, which handles comics publishing as well as design work for a number of creative and commercial fields. Among his many artistic capabilities, he is a painter, whose work has been exhibited at the Crucible art gallery. He is a back-to-back Manila Critics Circle National Book Awardee for his comics titles The Mythology Class (1999) and Trip to Tagaytay (2000). His latest work, the graphic novel After Eden, published by Adarna Publishing House’s Anino, was a finalist for the 2002 Manila Critics Circle National Book Awards for Best Comic Book.

JASON BANICO graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University with degrees in Physics and Computer Engineering, and has since become an important figure in local I.T. management and consulting circles. He also runs Dynatica Comics, possibly the most active independent comics studio in the country, which produces creator-owned comics, commercial comics on behalf of other companies, comics strips for local periodicals, and has had a hand in some cinematic endeavors as well. He has written for the cyberpunk mini-series Baylans, the bishoujo manga Cherry Blossom High, and the Filipino mecha story Mystic Machine Maharlika. He is currently polishing the updated and extended story of Baylans as a graphic novel.

MARCO DIMAANO is an Associate Creative Director for a major advertising firm. He has worked in advertising since graduating from Fine Arts at U.P. Diliman, and has won several industry awards for his copywriting. He is one of the most consistent creators in the local comics industry. His manga-style title Angel Ace has seen seven releases and is still going strong, with the latest release, Angel Ace Next, slated for December 2003. He has also contributed writing and art for Hainaku, Cherry Blossom High, the award-winning Isaw Atbp., and more.

ANDREW DRILON has been published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer for his children’s story, Moo Moo, The Ghostly Cow, and has written and drawn for various publications such as Ateneo’s Hilites, Pugad Literary Magazine, and Grafic. An avid supporter of the Filipino indie art industry, he has also written songs for various bands such as Panky! and Killer Kikiams. He recently won first prize in Grafic magazine’s 2002 Likha Comics Making Contest for his short comic story, White. He has self-published two comics ashcans, The Germinator and the critically-acclaimed Subwhere. Future projects include the ashcan Crossword Girl and a novella, Pop Monster.

HONOEL IBARDOLAZA has won two Don Carlos Palanca Awards for Literature, including this year’ s Short Story for Children first prize-winner, The Greediest of Rajahs and the Whitest of Clouds. He is a writer and illustrator for Philippines Today, a newsmagazine published monthly in Japan. Hai’s sequential work has appeared in the pages of ab ovo, Psicom’s Hainaku, Beach Blossoms, Angel Ace, Carpool, and the American Yuri Monogatari anthology; as well as Wirepop.com, a subscription-based webmanga site. Hai is also the concept design artist for a Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing game currently being developed for the PC platform. He founded and operates www.homanga.com, an alternative manga site offering absolutely free fake manga for the poor otaku. Hai is based in Silay City, Negros Occidental.

LAN MEDINA is the first Filipino to have won the prestigious Eisner Award for comics, in recognition for his work on the Vertigo Comics title Fables. He has also worked for the international comic books Aria, Stone, and American Flagg, and is currently illustrating the most emotional alien to explore space in Marvel Comics’s Silver Surfer.

ELBERT OR is finishing his fourth academic year in Interdisciplinary Studies at the Ateneo de Manila University, while simultaneously working as a freelance writer and illustrator for various publications and organizations. As Editor-in-Chief for the Comic Collective, an independent student organization, he has spearheaded comics advocacy programs such as Comics Awareness Week, comics art exhibits, participation in International Free Comic Book Day, and the publication of Grafic 2003, an anthology of student works. He is currently working on a number of comics endeavors, including Cherry Blossom High, Cast, and his own pet project, Two Color Truth Theatre.

VIN SIMBULAN is the co-founder of Quest Ventures, which is both a small publishing house and a loose coalition of several luminaries of the local comic book community. He is also the General Manager of the comics store Comic Quest, and a regular freelance writer for Guide magazine. He is a Manila Critics’ Circle National Book Awardee for his 2001 comics anthology Isaw Atbp., and is currently working on his science-fantasy comic book opus, Twilight Empires. He has also written for the bishoujo manga anthology Cherry Blossom High.

CARLO VERGARA is the Art Director for an integrated marketing communications company. He also moonlights as an actor, teacher, lecturer, and freelance writer/artist. Among many other projects, he has done book illustrations and design for the novel Ruin. He is a Manila Critics’ Circle National Book Awardee for his 2003 comic two-parter, Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah; and was a finalist the year before for his first self-published title, One Night in Purgatory, which was also cited in the Sanghaya Yearbook of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. His work has appeared in, among others, Angel Ace Again, Isaw Atbp., The Lost, ab ovo, and The Philippine Daily Inquirer. He is currently working on art for the science-fantasy epic Twilight Empires, as well as some top-secret plans of his own creation.

REIA VERGARA-SIMBULAN only started creating botanical art in the latter half of 2003. An artist at heart, Yang was active in the art-oriented organizations in college, specializing in watercolor and charcoal pencil, and even helming the liturgical choir of then Maryknoll College. It’ s only recently that she’ s begun again to explore her artistic calling after over a decade of pursuing a career in retail management for major establishments. Apart from scouring the urban countryside for weeds, leaves, seeds and flowers for her art materials and doing the bazaar rounds, Yang is a busy mother to two children.

Thank you very much and we hope to see you there.

Yours sincerely,
Joseph Aries J. Saludo

Thursday, February 19, 2004


Seriously Comics
by Carmela Fonbuena
from Newsbreak, March 1, 2004

It's a comic book. But it's nothing like Spawn or Batman, much less the Japanese manga. Readers are not to laugh at or be amused by fictional scientific advances. They are to feel, think, and reflect.

SIGLO is a collection of 10 comic book stories bound by one general theme, freedom. It shows how freedom is longed for, how it is achieved, and how it eludes many.

Although it is also fiction, SIGLO defies the escapist trend in comic books. The stories are based on reality and are depicted in a literary style. It's all Filipino, has Philippine settings, and Filipino issues.

It's real, serious, and gripping. And it's in black and white.

For these, SIGLO will likely get mixed reviews, but it's good food for the Filipino mind and soul.

SIGLO is available at Comic Quest branches for P250.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Local comic book creators fight foreign superheroes
By Candy G. Villanueva
Inquirer News Service


IF DARNA were pitted against Wonder Woman, she probably would have a good fighting chance. Sadly, in the comic books stands, Darna and a group of other Pinoy comic book character underdogs don't stand a chance against the superheroes of D.C. Comics or Marvel Comics. The Philippines is home to dozens of talented comic book creators but unfortunately, the comics stands are dominated by foreign names. However, thanks to several brave and talented comic book creators, like Zach Yonzon, our local heroes are slowly taking charge of the comics battleground.

Zach Yonzon is editor in chief of Mango Comics, a new comic book company based in Tagaytay that recently released a new version of the Filipino classic, Darna. Yonzon is also one of the creators responsible for drawing and writing comic books or what they call sequential art.

Endangered art

Local comic books used to have a great following but due to the overwhelming rise of different forms of entertainment, our local comic book heroes nearly became part of the endangered species. Still, Yonzon believes that there is hope. "The readership of comics remains constant and, we believe, is slowly growing again. This is evidenced by the success of companies like Culture Crash, PSICOM, and Summit Publishing, who have great titles out on the shelves."

Aside from the marbles and the slingshots, comic books are a part of most growing kids. Many of these kids have grown up but have never outgrown their dog-eared comic books. It has become part of their lives (as attested to by countless adult comic book collectors) and their jobs. Zach, his dad and many other comic book creators are among this group. Yonzon enthuses, "My dad is publishing and writing comics! He buys comic books, or toys or DVDs of cartoons for research. A 54-year-old guy buying and writing comics is just the coolest thing."

Sources of inspiration

There is no such thing as a typical day for a comic book creator according to Yonzon. Most of it is spent lounging around waiting for the creative juices to flow. Lounging around could mean the mandatory caffeine fix at the coffee shop, watching DVDs (apparently the source of some ideas) and playing video games (another abundant source of inspiration). In between, when the inspiration hits, a creator would whip out his tools, a PowerBook in the case of Yonzon, and write or draw.

But for Yonzon, like most creators, the source of inspiration is a bit closer to home, his heart. "I'm pretty much driven by God and the person I adore."

Back at the studio, a comic book creator spends most of what's left of the day in front of the PC researching and doing correspondences via the Internet or solidifying ideas into works of art. If you think these creators have it easy, think again. Although the work pace may seem slow, sometimes they stay up till the wee hours of the morning to finish a project.

No formal school

With the great number of comic book aficionados, it is unfortunate that the comic book industry is not recognized in the country. No school offers courses for this art, save for the occasional summer workshops that teach comic book drawing and the short courses on comic book appreciation.

The good news is anybody with a taste for the art can pursue a career as a comic book creator. "The only real background you need to become a comic book creator is to have an appreciation of the medium. It would probably help if you had some artistic training or training as a writer, but it's not a requirement," explains Yonzon. "The truth is the comic book industry is so diverse that virtually anybody can put out a comic book. There're no credentials required."

However, Yonzon admits, "The Philippine comic book industry isn't a terribly financially rewarding industry except for the lucky few." Filipino comic book creators earn only about a tenth of what foreign creators earn from the big publishers abroad.

"Comic book creation isn't something you get into for financial reward, at least not in the initial stages. It's really an industry of love," confesses Mango's creator. "People do this here (Philippines) because they want to, because they love the medium, because they want to create, to inspire. This is the best way to nourish the creative spirit."

Creative spirit

It is the hope of these local comic book creators like Yonzon to stir creativity through the comic book art. "We feel that we're contributing something to the country's creative spirit, it's important for us to inspire other people to be creative."

But there is a lot of skepticism from the Pinoy market. "There's still so much resistance to the comic medium because big companies still see it as something only kids read. So market definition is pretty challenging for us."

According to Yonzon, even Jose Rizal used to draw comic strips. Yonzon feels that if our own national hero believed in comics, there is no reason why the rest of us shouldn't. This young visionary hopes to be able to use comics as a tool for education. "There are many educational comics today, and comics are a great way for children to learn English."

But in the end, it is the art's contribution to the country's creative spirit and legacy that really weighs the most for these local comic book creators. "It's very important to stay creative in the midst of despair, and comic books are easy avenues to be creative."


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