Friday, November 21, 2008

Andrew Drilon's excellent satire

Steven Grants reviews "No Formula: Stories From the Chemistry Set"

Since Andrew Drilon's excellent satire "The! Legend! Of! Caraboy!" was produced in 2005, before The Chemistry Set manifested, time does seem to be a factor, and I'd give any collective producing an anthology the same advice I'd give anyone showing art samples: assuming you're getting better as you go along, stick to your newest work. NO FORMULA is okay, but it's been a long time since okay in this market was good enough.

read the complete review at:

buy the book at:

read the stories at:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oustanding Legion Art

Shooter Praises “Outstanding” Work of Francis Manapul
by Jeffrey Renaud, Staff Writer

“My run on ‘Legion’ wasn’t everything that I had hoped for, but I probably got better than I deserved from Francis. Francis is already very, very good — outstanding, in fact — and as editor Mike Marts and I have both observed, he gets better and better as he goes. He will soon hurdle the few remaining barriers in his way and become an all-pro/MVP. Maybe working with someone else, maybe with better scripts to work from, he’ll get there faster.”--Jim Shooter


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Martial Law Babies in Manila Bulletin

Growing Up, Getting Down:
Arnold Arre’s latest graphic novel Martial Law Babies is about the Voltes V generation
by Luis Katigbak, Manila Bulletin (Nov. 19, 2008)

Martial Law Babies, in case you were wondering, isn’t just for martial law babies. Arnold Arre’s latest graphic novel—his follow-up to the Pinoy urban superhero epic Ang Mundo ni Andong Agimat—is here, and it is 286 pages’ worth of vivid characters, class issues, pop-cultural archeology, unfiltered outbursts, heart-melting affections, self-destructive obsessions, flights of fancy, and sheer storytelling bravado. Martial Law Babies is sprawling and flawed and yet deeply satisfying; it is the best novel I’ve read in a long time. (Note that I did not modify “novel” with “Philippine” or “graphic”though both those words certainly apply.)

Those who are looking for the mythological creatures or supernatural meddlers or science-fiction settings of Arre’s earlier work won’t find them here. This is a story of "living, loving and leaving," as it says on the back of the book, about a group of Pinoy middle-class thirtysomethings who grew up in the ‘80s—their friendships and love affairs, their responsibilities and distractions. There are flashbacks to the early lessons and frustrations of childhood—to days of cartoons, toys, junk food and friendships. The story follows the friends through college days of starry-eyed daydreaming and pointless military training, and the trials and ambitions of young adulthood. In the present day, these martial law babies write in their blogs, argue with clients, come together, fall apart, fly off to work in other countries, and wonder: What should I be doing? Where do we belong?

I don’t want to discuss specific moments in MLB, because I don’t want to give anything away, not that it’s a story that relies on gimmicky plotting or last-minute revelations. Let’s just say that Arnold Arre isn’t asking you to take the side of his hapless protagonists, nor is he condemning them; he presents different points of view, but avoids easy judgments. And, yes, easy answers as well—this is not a call to arms, nor is it a meaningless wallow. It’s a chronicle of a handful of lives that, depending on your age and upbringing, may be almost uncomfortably familiar. Sweet but often misguided Allan, smart and sarcastic Rebecca, incorrigible Carol, and the rest—Arnold resists the lure to portray them as relentlessly cool and glib, and instead leaves in all of the awkward and embarrassing incidents and opinions alongside all the little triumphs and tragedies. The honesty will make you smile, and then make you flinch.

MLB uses a number of interesting devices to tell its tale: aside from the flashbacks, there are blog entries, excerpts from essays and columns, snippets of made-up ads and TV shows, and best of all, odd but illuminating dream sequences. But these never feel tacked-on or pointless; rather, they serve to flesh the story out, to draw us in deeper. The artwork here is looser, "faster" compared to some of Arre’s older material—particularly the gritty, detailed Andong Agimat and the future-depicting Trip to Tagaytay—but this approach is more appropriate to MLB, and just underscores that Arre can accomplish in a few lines what most people can’t accomplish at all: a world of expression in the squiggle of a half-smile, the arc of an eyebrow.

MLB doesn’t give us hopeful heroes or vile villains: no paragons, just people. They are people who may occasionally annoy you with their middle-class blues, but stick with the story, and Arre will reward you with a remarkably affecting experience.

And, yes, it’s partially a nostalgia trip for those of us who grew up in the shadow of Martial Law, those of us who can remember that Sting concert or Uncle Bob’s Lucky 7 Club or giant Japanese robot cartoons or A-ha’s Scoundrel Days or even that apple coin bank toy. Do I love it because I’m a MLB myself? Sure, that’s one of the reasons: recognition, identification. I have to admit, when I first read it, I wanted to buy a stack of copies then and there, to give to fellow MLBs who I knew would appreciate all the references. But beyond that, Martial Law Babies is an honest, compulsively readable account of a group of people growing up in the Philippines, dealing with the good times and bad times and sheer madness. Like you and your friends, it’s funny and sad and awkward and astonishing.

Martial Law Babies should be in bookstores and comics shops now. Visit the official site at (lots of behind-the-scenes notes and extras!). Send comments and questions to Luis at

Martial Law Babies in Inquirer

“Babies” Boom

Arnold Arre showcases his best work yet in the powerfully personal graphic novel "Martial Law Babies"

By Ruel S. De Vera (Philippine Daily Inquirer, Saturday Nov. 15 2008 – Super, page E3)

Sometimes, approached like a lost tribe, a “martial law baby” is more a state of mind than a general distinction.

These are people, once young, now not so, who were disenfranchised by the abrupt disappearance of the Japanese robot anime shows “Voltes V” most notoriously, among other artifacts.

Having grown up under the Marcos regime’s gloved gauntlet, these babies carried it’s shadow with them long after the Marcoses were out of power. Having once lost their heroes, the ystruggle to save others and themselves.

This is literary territory mined magnificently by Katrina Tuvera (in fiction) and Jessica Zafra (in essays) among others. Now, award-winning comic book creator Arnold Arre (“The Mythology Class”) explores this precious space in his new, substantial graphic novel “Martial Law babies” (Nautilus Comics, Mandaluyong City, 2008, 286 pages).


“We’re hopeless romantics,” Arre’s characters state. “We’re expert daydreamers.”

In a love letter to his generation, Arre distills that treacherous journey through the eyes of narrator Allan, poetic and put-upon, and his barkada – acerbic Rebecca, fun-loving Francis and privileged Carol – from their short pants days in the 70s to the interminable future.

A seemingly innocuous appearance on the “Uncle Bobby Lucky Club” TV show leads to divergent paths for the friends, all the way to college in the University of the Philippines, where their circle grows and their worlds grow complicated.

Allan bears witness as grownup life threatens to stealthily overcome them, even as he attempts to come to grips with a childhood crush on the campus heartthrob that relentlessly haunts him. Then things get worse.

Loss, departures, and other traps are sprung as the friends drift inexorably apart, a tribe forced to become nomadic. Allan drifts as well, into disaffected adulthood, until one day, when his world contracts into dizzying focus.

“Martial Law Babies” hurtles towards its end as Allan comes to what may be a realization too late; the world expands again to an uncertain future.


There are no easy answers in “Martial Law Babies” even if paths cross dramatically. Arre, who himself did go to UP and is a martial law baby, tinkers adroitly with autobiographical flourish with “Martial Law Babies,” displaying the kind of thoughtful, bittersweet reminiscing championed by Alex Robinson (“Box Office Poison”) and C.B. Cebulski (“Wonderlost”).

The book is funny, sometimes naughty and always truthful; the snappy dialogue helps make it a solid read.

“Martial Law Babies” may have a target audience, but despite the dated references, the graphic novel will work for any sophisticated reader; the bittersweet, after all, is universal.

Employing his trademark whimsy and a concentrated poignancy, Arre gets all the details right, either in homage or in direct reference. Whether it’s a death-defying tricycle ride, a fateful Sting concert or ROTC in the afternoon.


This is clearly Arre’s best work to date, employing a powerful range of techniques to push his story forward , using different pencil styles to evoke different moods with such nuance that the black and white art almost seems to burst into color, injecting blogs, newspaper columns, e-mails, even dream sequences into the mix. His facial work is particularly exquisite.

“We refuse to grow up,” the babies say. “We refuse to wake up.” By revealing how those childhood revenants are both comforting and haunting, Arre has done for comics what the Eraserheads did for music with “Ultraelectromagneticpop”: catch, in an addictive, accessible package, the zeitgeist of an elusive era that has now come of age and yet to come to terms with the Bozania of a world they’ve unwittingly grown up in.

With Arnold Arre’s “Martial Law Babies,” the lost tribe gains an invaluable clue to finding themselves in a world both heartbreaking and breathtaking.

Available in paperback from Comic Quest. For more information, log on to

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pinoy Marvel Artists

Written by C.B. CEBULSKI

Written by KURT BUSIEK
Pencils & Cover by JAY ANACLETO

more details at:

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Luna Brothers conquer US comic book scene
Interview by DAVID DIZON / | 10/31/2008

In 1884, Filipino painter Juan Luna captured the imagination of the Spanish art scene when he won the gold medal at the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in Madrid for his masterpiece "Spoliarium."

More than a century later, another group of Lunas -- Fil-Am brothers Jonathan and Joshua -- are turning heads in the US comic book scene first with their original creation, Ultra, with its unique take on celebrity superheroes, and the horror series, Girls, about an invasion of cannibalistic, alien women in Pennystown, USA.

In their latest limited series The Sword, the Luna Brothers take on sword, sorcery and mythology with a modern twist. Recently, Image Comics partner Robert Kirkman singled out the Luna brothers as an example of successful comic book creators who are make a fantastic living by only doing creator-owner work.

In this e-mail interview, Jonathan and Joshua talk a little about their background, their love for female comic book characters and which comic book characters they'd like to work on next.

read the complete interview at:

their official site

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


In Search of Real-life Heroes
By Marlet D. Salazar
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 10/26/2008

MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos love superheroes. Sociologists might explain that we see salvation and inspiration in them. Perhaps even hope, despite the grim situation we find ourselves in.

Fortunately, real-life heroes abound in the comics industry: artists and writers who could easily be the alter-ego of the characters they create. Like their characters, they will do everything in their power to save the world. And when the task gets daunting, they immediately join forces.

This was exactly what 29 comics artists, writers, and enthusiasts vowed to do to bring back comics in the consciousness of Filipinos.

Renowned Filipino artist, creator, and writer Gilbert Monsanto, who bats for the protection of artists’ rights, takes on the task of publishing “Bayan Knights,” a collection of diverse characters with either innate or acquired superpowers or unparalleled skills. With Monsanto writing the story, “Bayan Knights” launches its first issue at Komikon, the annual Philippine comics’ convention on Nov. 22at the UP Bahay ng Alumni, Diliman, Quezon City.

“Bayan Knights” is a collaborative effort among comics creators from Dagupan, Ifugao, Marinduque, Tacloban, Japan and Dubai. The artists come from the community at Deviant Art, an online resource for artists.

Says Monsanto: “The idea behind Bayan Knights is to introduce the characters and their creators and hopefully lead the readers to look for their own published comics books.” The artists retain rights over their creations and can feature them anywhere they want. Bayan Knights then becomes a springboard for creators and their characters.

Monsanto’s Sacred Mountain Publications will distribute “Bayan Knights” in key magazine shops and bookstores with his own comics titles “Tropa” and “Alagad.”

It was at Deviant Art that the artists met and hatched their idea of a collaborative comics. To finance their effort, the group looked for ways to pool their resources. One way is through pledges. The idea, says former Junior Inquirer writer Christine “Robin” Rivero who thought of it, is for sponsors to donate a certain amount in return for a free copy of the first issue plus his or her name inscribed on the “Wall of Heroes” ( Ads can also help. “Be our hero,” says the group.

The collective effort, says Monsanto, has had tremendous impact on the artists at Deviant Art. Before he left for the United States a few months ago, he received a few good creations. When he got back, he was astounded by the amount of creativity and improvement he saw from the artists, which made him decide to push through with the project.

Monsanto and other well-known Filipino artists have been self-publishing their works for some time. The younger ones promote and sell xeroxed copies of their comics during Komikon and other gatherings of illustrators and artists.

This proves that there’s a comics industry out there just waiting to go mainstream once given enough resources, says Monsanto. The artists believe that entrepreneurs can help them out by using their creations to sell stuff, at the same time that they’re allowed to retain their rights over their characters as artists and creators.

“These (creators) deserve more respect and recognition,” says Monsanto. “The mere fact that they continue to create characters in spite of the current economic situation goes to show that they want to turn the industry around.”

The collective effort also showcases the Filipinos’ true bayanihan spirit and capacity to pull together despite trials and limitations, notes Rivero. “If you believe in heroes, you haven’t given up on the world,” she adds. •

Check out “Bayan Knights” at and to get to know the creators and their characters, how to donate and advertise, and keep with updates.

Monday, November 03, 2008

TRESE in Philippine Star

‘Trese’ comics are a worthy homage to Monsters, Mythology and Metro Manila.
J. Vincent Sarabia Ong
Philippine Star : SUPREME

As I do not usually visit The Philippine STAR office, it was serendipitous that I found a mysterious package for me on a rare occasion that I was there. It must have been sent by dwendes, I thought, as I unwrapped it because it was the first time I received a book copy through mail and it found me despite my city-hopping schedule.

The dwende I discovered was Budjette Tan who is currently deputy executive creative director at Harrison Communications. He sent me the horror comic book “Trese” that he wrote and was drawn by aswang Kajo Baldismo who I heard was paid by drinking the blood of first-born children at McCann Erikson as an art director.

I certainly knew the package was of supernatural origin and that the tribe of gruesome ideas was on their side as I was also planning to write about the horror manga genre because of its popularity in local bookstores. The reason I never got to sink my teeth into it before was that there were so many titles to chose from among the comic creatures oozing from the bookshelves.

In this case, I was fortunate enough that I didn’t have to choose the comic; instead, it chose me. And as you read artist Gerry Alanguilan’s incantation in the introduction for “Trese Volume One,” you have NO idea what you’re in for. And you have no idea how excited I am for you, you find yourself already drawn to these creatures’ work. As I didn’t have any expectations from “Trese” like Alanguilan wrote, I was astonished how great a local comic book could be.

These are the monsters in your neighborhood
Yet, aside from the fear of being eaten alive by the creators of “Trese” as a midnight snack if I gave a bad review, I am glad that I devoured “Trese” because it is a fitting homage to monsters, mythology and Metro Manila. In the story, “Trese” refers to Alexandra Trese who owns the Diabolical barako cafe and is a private detective. The trouble refers to the criminal underworld but in the paranormal and occult sense. Hence, Trese, armed with her short Muslim sword called kris and backed up by her two bodyguards named Kambal, digs up supernatural scum such as tiyanaks, enkantos, white ladies, and other myths both urban and arcane.

The spell both Budjette and his partner Kajo cast comes not from their influences mentioned in past interviews like the comic book “Planetary” or “Twilight Zone” but rather from Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman.” The heroine Trese calmly interrogates a rich dragon man who is heir to a Chinese mall empire and in another panel seeks help from a Quiapo merchant who can talk to cats. The world of “Trese” is a place where you must suspend your disbelief and accept that crime has taken a weird turn as the authors describe it.

Yet, each “Trese” case is accessible because the authors bring us in by putting the haunting events in familiar places such as the subdivisions in Makati, the cemeteries in Kalayaan, the T.V studios in Quezon City, and even the malls we shop in on Ortigas. At the same time, the context of each story is a seamless mesh of Filipino myths like tikbalangs and local tabloid talk such as the illegal car races in Greenhills. Thus, enveloping us in tales that might actually be terrifyingly true and leaving you grinning whenever you go to a mall parking lot with the thought that tiyanaks might be close by. Yet, simultaneously, make you hope that Trese is also right behind you to shoot the hell out of these ugly demon babies.

Make that graveyard shift
After reading lamang lupa entrails and guts getting blown up into small mushy chunks, the most horrible conclusion I got from Trese is that there is potential for goosepimpling Filipino stories but it is neither being recognized nor is it being widely developed. This is especially after I read the chilling short story “The Witness” by Reno Maniquis and Carlo Borromeo that was the inspiration for Trese. We need to patronize local talent by buying their comics, sharing their comics with friends, allowing them to sell their comics at the same price as foreign titles or push them to distribute abroad in order that they may churn out more stories. For example, the creative team of “Trese” cannot continuously write comic books because of their need to do their day jobs. Thus, we lose the chance to know the creative possibilities of Trese and the other worlds of ingenious Filipino writers and artists unless we adequately support them. And if we do them justice, characters like Trese’s might be able to take the global stage and tell Superman and Captain America “tabi tabi po!”

* * *
“Trese Comics” can be found at National Book Store, Powerbooks, and other comic books shops. Read issues online here, but don’t forget to buy the original printed copy! Also, Read “The Witness” here.

TRESE in Manila Bulletin

Trese gets lucky
Ronald S. Lim

In the world of Alexandra Trese, heroine of the comic book series "Trese," there are many things that go bump in the streets of Manila whenever darkness falls, and the city’s enthusiastic club-goers only make up a small portion of it. Manananggals, tiyanaks, tikbalangs, and duwendes make their presence felt when the lights go out, and it is Alexandra Trese’s job to keep them in line.

This alternate Manila where the creatures of Philippine mythology roam free and wreak havoc on the lives of ordinary Filipinos is the creation of the team of writer Budjette Tan and illustrator Kajo Baldisimo. Members of opposing ad agencies who knew each other because of their shared love for comics, the two decided to start "Trese" in June 2005.

"Kajo texted me that he wanted us to work on a comic book project. He said he wanted to try and churn out a 20-page comic book every month. His grand plan was to draw a page a day during his lunch break. After 20 days, we’d have 20 pages of artwork. He’d then use the remaining 10 days to letter and lay-out the pages and do the cover," recalls Budjette. "I laughed and didn’t think it was possible because I was working on the Globe account and he was working on the Coke account, two of the busiest accounts in our respective ad agencies."
It turned out that the character whose story Budjette wanted to tell was somebody whom he had already thought of two years prior.

"Anton Trese was the name of the unseen narrator in a very short-lived radio show called The World of the Unknown. The radio station closed down in less than a year and Anton Trese was almost forgotten," says Budjette. "It was during my brother’s birthday that I told my friends about Anton Trese investigating the death of the White Lady of Balete Drive. A friend would come up with the twist in the end and provided another important piece about Trese’s family history.’

However, Budjette’s job as a creative director would prevent him from pursing this story in earnest, and would have remained completely with him if Kajo had not texted. Even then, the two would be unable to keep up with their monthly deadlines.

"When the day’s workload was heavy, I’d stop by the nearest Starbucks before going home and there write down all my ideas and script for Trese, then I type up the next day," describes Budjette.

Making the public aware of the comic book would take even more effort, involving a lot of photocopying. In fact "Trese" first circulated as photocopied mini comics that could be bought at local comic book conventions.

Eventually, the series caught the attention of Visual Print Enterprises, which ended up publishing the seven stories in two volumes: "Trese: Murder on Balete Drive" and "Trese: Unreported Murders".

But even before the creation of "Trese," both Budjette and Kajo were already deep into comic books, recalling childhoods when the ‘’Uncanny X-Men’’ and local komiks made regular appearances.

"I was very much into Pinoy komiks when I was in grade school. I read Wakasan and Pinoy Klasiks. I was introduced to Marvel comics in high school by friends who collect the X-men," recalls Kajo whose love for comic books would begin in the family.

"When I was in grade school, my uncle Jimbo showed me his drawings about an outer-space adventure. Back then, I always wanted to copy everything that my Tito Jimbo did. So, I created a character named Cosmic Man. He rode the cosmos in his cosmic ship and defended people with his cosmic gun and cosmic net and… well, you can see the whole cosmic-picture. I would make one copy, staple it and pretend to sell it to my mom. After she has read it, I would get the same copy and try to sell it to my dad," Budjette recalls.

Budjette’s parents nurtured this interest, buying him rare trade paperbacks such as "Marvel: Son of Origins" and "Secret Origin of DC Heroes and Villains." He would start collecting on his 12th birthday, after receiving copies of Uncanny X-Men #188 and 189.

Budjette is also the man behind Alamat Comics, a group of Filipino comic book artists established in 1994 with the encouragement of Fil-Am comic book artist Whilce Portacio.

"Whilce Portacio came back to Manila and met with all the comic book creators in Manila. He urged us to band together under one name and have one logo, like what they did in Image. Following that suggestion the group formed Alamat Comics," says Budjette.

While Budjette and Kajo have big dreams for "Trese" (such as continuing the story and selling in more outlets here and abroad), they have even bigger dreams for the Philippine comic book industry.

"I think the Philippine comic book industry just took a vacation. We should get ready to welcome it back because it’s almost here. In the 60s and 70s, the Philippine komiks industry sold in the millions and had a circulation that outranked the newspapers. The stories from those komiks were adapted into movies and TV shows. It would be great if we can get the industry back to even half that status," says Budjette.

As far back as the 70’s, American comic book companies have been hiring Pinoy artists. At present, there are probably a dozen Filipino comic book artists doing work for Marvel, DC, and other American comic book companies.

"We obviously have world-class talent, but I’d like to see the day when foreign publishing companies take interest in reprinting/distributing Filipino comic books and graphic novels," Budjette adds.

"Trese" has certainly inspired young people to take up comic book writing. Budjette and Kajo are aware of this and they impart this advice: Read and live.

"Do not just read comic books. Don’t let comic books just be the only source of inspiration for your stories, else you’ll just be repeating what has been said before. Read anything and everything you can get your hands on," says Budjette. "Find inspiration from life. When you fall in love, write down how it felt, try to describe it to a five-year old. Watch a band perform for the first time in some hole in the wall and remember how the singer stuttered and how his sweat glistened on his forehead. Talk to your parents what they dreamed about when they were kids. Talk to kids about what they’re most afraid of. And after all of that, go back and write."

"Trese’’ is available at Comic Quest, Comic Odyssey, Pandayan Bookstores, National Bookstore, Best Sellers, Powerbooks, Fully Booked, and of course, you can get a preview of the books at:


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