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.