a report on the Komikon Summer Fiesta

Komikon Summer Fiesta sizzles
RIOT OF JOY By Ramon De Veyra
Updated May 31, 2009 12:00 AM

Despite the oppressive heat and humidity, dozens of intrepid comics fans trekked to UP’s Bahay ng Alumni last May 16 for the “Komikon Summer Fiesta,” braving the crowded lanes and lack of breathable air. Komikon is usually held around October or November, this was the first time they held it during summer. Speaking to some friends at the event, I learned that a Komikon is being planned for the latter part of the year, but this time in a bigger venue like Megamall, though plans might still change.

The first “Summer Fiesta” Komikon focused more on independent and self-publishers. It was a good idea. One of my frustrations with the annual Komikon is that because it has become the venue for independent publishers to debut new work, many of them become complacent by making only one new book a year.

I was actually toying with the idea of holding a separate comic convention-type event just to provide an excuse for creators to make another book. This saved me the trouble. Also, one comics show a year does not seem sufficient. I want more chances to see my fellow comics’ fans and creators to talk shop, catch up, and look for hidden gems in the long boxes of sellers. A lot of people came up with new work, some with modest printing jobs from offset printers, others literally stapled and folded themselves. Seeing these labors of love is heartening, even if I don’t always find myself interested in their subject matter. It shows a love for the medium that continues to grow, and seeks to show itself despite the lack of major financial support. Gerry Alanguilan showed an exquisite-looking Special Edition of the collected Elmer — a handmade hardcover in a slipcase with a sketch and card, with only seven copies made. Elbert Or had merchandise from his The More The Manyer series of books, including postcards and T-shirts.

Emil Flores, Ron Escultura and Guidong Reyes were there with Amerikanong Hilaw, which Emil told me about at the last Komikon.

Robert Magnuson showed some preview pages of an upcoming Anino graphic novel called Taguan, which looked like it could be the book of the year on art alone.

Mary Ranises, whose The Girl Who Turned Into A Fish was my find at the last con, unfortunately didn’t have a book out on time, but did manage to edit an anthology of works by other people. Sadly, it sold out before I arrived. She did show me original pages of her upcoming book, which looks very different from Girl, and is a refreshing and entirely welcome surprise. My favorite find this year was Josel Nicolas’ Bearkdowns, starring… well, a bear. I’m not familiar with Nicolas’ work, but I’m always excited and eager to see new talent, especially one whose style stands apart as his did in the sea of well-meaning-but-still-slightly-derivative titles. Impressively, in the same issue he goes through several style changes in the art for the different stories, and it’s very dense so I felt my money was well spent. Komikon still has its usual cons (pun intended). The layout can be confusing, with not enough space given to lanes for people to weave through. It’s stifling when the sun is doing its worst, and the programming still leaves much to be desired. Being assaulted by a cappella versions of ‘70s hits wasn’t my idea of proper accompaniment while browsing through the exhibitors’ area.

When I looked towards the stage some kind of Komikon Idol was going on, and it mystified me as to why. Turns out oneof the exhibitors was selling obviously pirated goods — this wasn’t the kind of thing I wanted to see in a show allegedly meant to showcase independent artists and creators.

This brazen disregard for intellectual property rights is antithetical to the spirit of the Komikon.

Finally, booth design was almost uniformly awful. Some people just don’t care: the ones trying to sell off old books, for example, and that’s fine. But exhibitors, creators, and publishers who’ve been to previous Komikons and will continue to attend other shows should be more creative in trying to catch the eye of passers-by and giving them a reason to stay and walk away with their wares, not just take it on faith and hope that each person who buys a ticket will look at every table. Still, despiteee all the discomfort, it was delightful to see so many people at what I thought would be a less-than-usual turnout. In this case I was glad to be wrong.