KOMIKON report in Philippine Star

The Kult of Komikon
By Ramon De Veyra

As I went up the steps of the UP Bahay ng Alumni last week, a man passed by holding up a puppet with an oversized bright pink head. Any doubt I was heading towards the right direction—that of the fourth annual Komikon — were erased.

This year’s Komikon may have been the best ever. It certainly seemed like it had the best attendance. People filled up the narrow aisles, jostling for space among the boxes and tables of cool swag.

Because the venue was not air-conditioned, trapped humidity from the rains that day made for muggy, sweaty conditions.

Various cooling fans were set up around the hall, where you’ll find (human) fans and professionals alike in a relaxed atmosphere, trying to beat the heat and engage in casual I’m-not-a-stalker type of conversation.

A number of panel discussions took place before the event proper, focusing on specific subjects ranging from trying to find work overseas to making your own comics, to teaching/learning comics in an academic environment.

Various creators took turns being interviewed onstage and by different camera crews.

The comics community is small enough that you can pretty much fit all the current luminaries under one roof — from comic strip royalty like Pol Medina, Jr. and relative newcomer Manix Abrera, to comic book creators Leinil Yu and Harvey Tolibao.

Rare appearances were made by Lan Medina, so far the only Filipino to win the coveted Eisner award; and Tony DeZuñiga, co-creator of Jonah Hex and Black Orchid, visiting from the US.

Featured guest Gerry Alanguilan debuted the fourth, concluding issue of his mini-series Elmer at Komikon, with the good news that a compilation would be arriving next year, as well as a new edition of his still-popular book Wasted.

Perhaps the book of the show was Arnold Arre’s long-awaited fourth graphic novel, Martial Law Babies. Arre was there, happily talking to fans, posing for photos and signing books as he was mobbed almost upon entering.

One of my favorite things about Komikon is discovering new talent. Though a lot of new comic books and mini-comics are debuted at the show, most continue to be tired retreads of the creator’s favorite properties or genre.

It’s rare to find a fresh perspective that is both singular and skilled (even if that skill is raw and in need of some honing). But when you do, it makes the wading through tables of dreck worth it.

Out of the dozens of books I saw and the six I thought worth buying, one book stands out among my purchases of that day: Mary Rañises’ The Girl Who Turned Into A Fish.

It’s a charming little tale pretty much summarized by its title.

If I remember correctly Rañises didn’t even have a booth, she was just hand-selling to people she met.

For this reason I was prepared to politely decline, but once I saw her artwork I realized waitaminute— this kid’s got chops! And she’s still a student! I hope to see a lot more from her in the future.

My other favorite thing about Komikon is scoring great deals on comics, of course. For this, I was not disappointed. I found many books priced lower than a new issue of your favorite local magazine.

I snagged some cheap issues of indie comics, rare out-of-print manga collections, and the biggest surprise of all: an old Howard Chaykin collection called Power & Glory. Truly, when I opened it the next morning, I discovered it was signed and numbered! It’s bonuses like these that have me already looking forward to next year’s Komikon.