Tuesday, June 14, 2005

On the Verge
Karen Kunawicz
Mirror Weekly, June 3, 1996

It’s been about a year a three months since the first time I featured anything that had to do with Alamat (“C For Yourself”, co-written by Budjette Tan). Alamat, for those who have just joined us, is the name of an “umbrella organization” of a group of local comic book outfits which include Memento Mori, Virtual Media, Cheap Thrills Comics, Powerhaus, Deranged, etc.

Since Budjette wrote about Comics 101, I’ve gladly let Memento Mori and Powerhaus take over the pages of “On the Verge”. Lately, I’ve been approached by a number of readers who say they’re quite interested in the local (and foreign) comic book scene. In fact these last few weeks most of them have been talking to me about comics than bands, music, vampires, and all that gothic stuff.

I met David Hontiveros (a wise weaver of tales) through Budjette last year and his name should be familiar to you by now since I’ve let him take over a couple of times as well on topics that deal with comics and dark fantasy-slash-horror. Last week I said that I’d feature an article of his, on how to write stories but I figured I’d let this one go ahead. It’s a bit of an update on what Alamat has been up to lately and it’s also a bit of glimpse into what it’s like to be part of that group.


Life in the Trenches
By David Hontiveros

ALAMAT 101
It all began three years ago, after a series of phone calls that would, quite literally, change the course of my life.

“It” refers to my involvement in the creation of comics, in the actual spinning to tales, of committing dreams and visions and ideas into panels and pages, for all the world to see.

Now I am smack dab in the middle of a group called Alamat, whose ongoing mission is to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations: to boldly go where no man has gone before. (Actually, it’s to create quality comic books , but hey, who can resist those immortal lines?)

Life in Alamat is… how do I put it? It’s different. It’s a constant round of chaos, and frenetic whirlwind of activity, as we, in now particular order, write and draw comics, have them printed and distributed, talk with retailers, set up exhibits, conduct workshops, and for those of us who are not participants in the 9 to 5 rat race, attempt to do some work on the side to help support the comics end of our lives.

If it sounds like a horrifying daunting amount of work, that’s because it is! Take my word for it, our Circadian rhythms are so out of whack, we’re probably immune to jetlag now. Slit our veins open and Coke and coffee would come pouring out.

This should prove, beyond the shadow of a doubt, how dedicated we are to our art—we’re willing to undergo severe psychological changes, radical body alterations, in order to get our comics out there!

Alamat is now about a year-and-a-half old, and in those 18 months, we’ve come quite a long way, being the subject of newspaper articles, TV interviews, and student papers. We’ve had exhibits and talks at universities, store tours and signing sessions.

But at the heart of all this are the comics we create, the stories we wish to share with the world. Whatever else we do, whatever stories we tell is in the service of comics lovers. That doesn’t make these activities any less interesting. So here’s a quick sampling of what we’ve been up to recently.


EXHIBITIONISTS AT PLAY (AND WORK)

Early February saw Alamat at U.P. (the University of the Philippines) during F.A.(Fine Arts) Week for an exhibit. There, we were greeting enthusiastically, approached by fans of our work, faculty members who gladly extended their assistance as resource persons for our various titles, as well as the plain curious.

At the exhibit, we were also treated to an initial glimpse of the work of other aspiring comic artists from U.P., among them, a talented bunch called Block Comics, whose flagship title, AGIMAT, will see print in the coming months. (Ian Sta. Maria, artist for Agimat has done inking work for Batch72, an upcoming Alamat title. Ian’s artwork is clean and sharp so watch our for Agimat.)

More recently, we spent consecutive weekends setting up exhibits in two of Manila’s nightspots. At first, we discovered the vast potential some Alamat members have in the pop music industry. (If ever out comics go belly up, we can just market the hell out of Eric and Arnold-- who have photogenic qualities for pop album covers-- and Dino-- who has the showmanship for it. To quote Captain Katarungan, “Trust me, they are the best.”)

The second exhibit was just as memorable. Along with Karen and Belle and Trish and Lara, we talked about The X-Files and danced the night away – mostly to tunes I was totally unfamiliar with (All the better to work up an appetite fro Ali Baka’s shawarma- - Karen). A high point of the evening for me was dancing to Pulp’s brilliant “Common People.” (If you were there, I was the madman singing along with the Voice of Today’s Disenfranchised British Youth, Jarvis Cocker. “I wanna sleep with common people like you…”) It’s too bad they had to play Bjork’s “Hyper-ballad” when we’d already abandoned the floor.

It was also at this exhibit that I discovered, much to my surprise, that I was now a “pop enforcer.” Cool. I’d never been called that before. Now I know how to answer people when they ask, “But what exactly do you do?”

I’ll give them a knowing grin, a patented double-thumbs-up-with-pointing forefinger, and say, “I’m a pop enforcer.” That’ll stump `em!


SUMMER SCHOOL
The hear pounds and stifles, the air thick and muggy, a dry malevolent wing that scours the land and fries brain cells as if a desert jinn has migrated to the Far East and found the change of scenery quaint.

In the midst of this meteorological oppression, Alamat holds its first ever Comic Workshop at Claret School in Teacher’s Village. With an age range of nine to twentysomething, the workshop itself is something of a minor success.

Despite the final numbers of students being around 10, there were more than 20 interested parties, who perhaps ended up not attending due to an 11th hour change of schedule and venue. (Sorry about that.)

In the end though, the number of students facilitated our hands-on method of instruction, allowing teachers more freedom to handle each individual. Incidentally, the Mistress of the Dark herself attended the workshop. (You guys should see the sketches she did of “The Heroic Head” and “The Heroic Butt”! Masterpieces, I assure you.)

I’ve been asked if we’re going to hold another workshop in the future, and I’m not really sure about the answer right now, but at least I know that we’re capable of standing up in front of total strangers and imparting some of the knowledge that experience has taught us from our life here in the trenches. And knowing that, the chances of a future Alamat workshop don’t look that slim at all.

MEANWHILE…
And in the midst of all this activity, we have the usual flurry of Alamat traffic—creative work on this or that title (some to watch out for it in the coming months- - Batch72, TKS/Age of the Valkyrie, Lakan, Angel Ace, and the second issues of Tattooed and Pugad Baboy/Indigo Valley.); deals being made here and there (there’s one of interest-- I wish I could tell you more but I really can’t at this point; not to worry, if you buy our books, you’ll hear about it there); meetings with various individuals for any myriad of reasons, from picking up newly inked pages to following up on the where-abouts of a long-delayed book.

Several Alamat members have also done some pieces (short stories and art) for the new literary magazine, Chimera. In the second issue alone (“Pasyon and Penitence) April/May 1996), short stories by Alamat chairman-in-absentia, Budjette Tan, and myself, as well as art by JB “Taps” Tapia and Brandie Tan, appear. Keep an eye out for Chimera which is available in National Bookstore. Alamat is also hard at work on a joint project with Chimera publisher Yvonne Cenzon, the details of which, you’ll be hearing about in the coming mont6hs. I don’t have to tell you, we’re all excited about that!

So, you can see, being a comic book creator is a lot of hard, painstaking work. But paradoxically, it’s also a lot of fun. (At least it is for me.)

Fun thought it may be, life in the trenches still isn’t without its own head and heart-aches: missed deadlines, delayed books, artistic temperaments, procrastination. (Personally, I’m still trying being one-upped by the Big Two, but that’s a whole different horror story, believe me.)

But in the end, when things come together and everything just falls into place; when you’ve got that comic book fresh off the press in your hand, when the letter from a complete stranger find it’s way to your door with its words of encouragement, the it’s all worth it.

And then you can look in the mirror and practice that knowing grin and the patented double-thumbs-up-with-pointing-forefingers, and say, “You’re not just a bum, you’re a bum that people love!”


MAGIC BEANS AND THE ART OF BEING UNFLOOPY
As I was saying, life here is fun. Hell, it’s great! One of the best things about being a part of Alamat (aside from my being able to tell the stories I want to tell) is the bunch of people I get to work with-- the people I am proud to call my friends.

And because of these friends, I met other friends, like Karen, who introduced me to still other friends, like Belle and Trish. (They’re more than friends, to me, they’re the most intimate of coven-mates, Mwahahahahaha. --Karen) It’s brilliant the way these things work, don’t you think?

They really are a great bunch of people, these brothers-in-arms in the war against mediocrity in comics, these fellow soldiers in the trenches of life, these people I hang out with-- my friends.

Since I’ve known them, my life’s been a lot less floopy.

It’s like Rachel says, “I’ve got magic beans.”

And I’m okay,

See you in the funny pages…


* * *

Oh Dave, you make it sound so glamorous. I guess you left out the part about the artists inking the comics in their own blood and the rule about Alamat not allowing its members to sleep more than eight hours - - per week.

He-he.

Look out for Dave’s storytelling article in the next few weeks. I’m off to see the Wizard, Bye.

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