Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Elbert Or interview in Inquirer

The Elbert Or Project
By Ruel S. De Vera, Philippine Daily Inquirer

ELBERT Or knows how to keep himself occupied.

“I pretend I'm 16, I feel like I'm 40, but I'm actually 25,” he says. That combination of mental states makes him perfect for the work he's engaged in. The bespectacled writer-illustrator had scored a hit with “The More The Manyer,” the tiny but funny book of Pinoy malapropisms he illustrated that turned out to be publisher Tahanan Books' best-seller for 2008.

“The added ‘Yay, I’m so happy’ comes from people who get in touch with me to say that the book’s being used as an educational aid in classrooms. It warms my heart so much it’s affecting the polar ice caps.”

After about half a year of work, Or is back with the sequel, “Without Further Adieu,” out in bookstores now. He’s hopeful it will be a pleasant surprise as well. “I certainly hope it’s just as good, if not better. It took me twice as long to finish it,” he explains.

Now, he’s embarking on “Lola: A Ghost Story,” his first mainstream US project as the penciller for Filipino-Canadian comics writer J. Torres, to be published by Oni Press. “Lola” is a graphic novel Torres (“Teen Titans Go!”) had written that revolves around the narrator’s grandmother and dabbles in Filipino mythology. Or had e-mailed Torres to congratulate the writer when “Lola” was first announced a few years ago. When the original artist pulled out, Torres asked Or to take over. “That said, the book has met with numerous delays on my end, but I’m happy to report that after two years, the end is finally in sight, and people can finally see the book,” he says.

While he had provided uncredited work for US publishers in the past, Or considers this a huge opportunity. “To have a book released that has my name on the cover just gets me all excited and nervous like a nerdy boy on a first date.”

Another awesome book inching its way to publication is Or’s labor of love, “Bakemono High.” Two years ago, the illustrator had cold-called K-Zone Magazine and wound up providing them with his pet project, a strip featuring cute versions of movie monsters like a vampire and werewolf in high school. “’Bakemono High’ grew out of a desire to challenge myself by coming up with a concept that is simple enough for first-time readers, but at the same time allows me to tell a wide range of stories. Adults seemed to always call me a little monster when I was a kid, so a school full of them—literally—makes sense to me.” The Bakemono High book will feature two year’s worth of strips as well as a new full-length tale. Or also has several graphic novels for young readers in the works.

All this is reflective of what Or is trying to push: “I really just want kids to have more comics. It’s the same here as in the States; people still think comics are just for kids. But the reality is that there’s just not enough quality comics for kids out there. Much of the stuff available caters to juvenile or mature readers and that, to me, was a situation that needed to change, and I’m in a position to help change that.”

There’s more. Or’s first short story is part of Vincent Simbulan’s “Time for Dragons” fantasy anthology for Anvil Publishing. He’s one of the brains behind marketing and design company Saddle Stitched Inc., at the same time that he’s working on his Masters in education and teaching freshmen literature and comics production at the Ateneo. When Or says he’s keeping busy, he isn’t kidding. “Bees have nothing on me,” he laughs. •

For more information, visit Elbert Or’s blog at

Friday, January 23, 2009

Martial Law Babies in Philippine Star (JAN 2009)

Why we should be grateful (even if we're not part of Obama's America)
THE OUTSIDER By Erwin Romulo

The following is a hodge-podge of what we’re grateful for. There seemed no point in trying to segregate people, music, films or just things that made living today an easier pill to swallow. (Still, it was really bitter one at that.) It’s all here, listed in no particular order and no special reason but for the fact that we like ‘em. (If you disagree, get your own column.)

10. Martial Law Babies by Arnold Arre. Heartbreaking, virtuosic stuff. If there was any question about the state of local comics this answers it with not so much a punch but an embrace. Arre is certainly one of the country’s foremost storytellers, capable of stirring the intellect as much as the emotions.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

FREE PRESS Best Books of 2009 includes two comic books

Adam’s Apples

Finally, things we can actually label as “new” are coming out and in such great quality, too. By Adam David

Philippine Free Press, January 10, 2009

By Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo

A series of slick done-in-one stories, exactly like CSI, only it’s steeped in traditional Pinoy monsters and mythologies and the main protagonist is a goth chick with guns and emo hair. It’s a working off of the more common vein of action horror comic books and once you really read into it there is certainly a formula to the construction of the stories themselves. But Trese manages to rise above it all above it all by simply resorting to the most obvious thing: it spins us a good yarn page in page out. Tan and Baldisimo show us what can be done with formula, why formula work, how formula can work for you, all the while not making it seem like formula. Komikero all over should not only read this for the words and art but also study it for its craft as there is certainly craft at work here. There are currently two books out, both utterly smooth, available absolutely everywhere (with good reason).

By Josel Nicolas
(Monkey Versus Squirrel Comics)

A BatangueƱo bear named Bear suffers from child abuse, chronic existential melancholia, and urban despair as he ponders upon things as Jeffrey Dahmer, Adam Sandler movies, and Ganesha in this stylized fictional autobio from nineteen-year old UST komikero Josel Nicolas. The entire 29-page book is written and drawn with youthful exuberance and verbosity and frenetic anxiety previously never seen anywhere in komixdom. This is beyond Arre or Dirlon or even Alanguilan. An account of a brain slowly and surely going down the drain. Only about 40 copies of it are available and it’s already sold out but there’s an online version of it floating around in the Interweb somewhere so you’ll have to contact the artist via ajora_metalanger @ yahoo,com to point you to the right direction.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Kajo draws THE DEFUSER

Who Wants To Be A Superhero: The Defuser
Writer: Jeremy Barlow
Penciller: Kajo Baldisimo
Cover Artist: Kajo Baldisimo

Leaping from Stan Lee's hit Sci Fi Channel TV series Who Wants to be a Superhero? onto the comics page -- it's the Defuser in "Future Imperfect!"

When traditional police methods fail to stem the ever-growing tide of crime in his home city, Detective Jarrett Crippen takes matters into his own hands.

Devising an astonishing array of nonlethal weapons and a high-tech battle armor that boosts his performance to 110% of human capacity, Jarrett storms the streets as the Defuser! The criminals won't know what hit them!

Keep up with the Defuser and all of his heroic adventures at!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Martial Law Babies in Philippine Star

Birthing pains: Arnold Arre's Martial Law Babies
RIOT OF JOY By Ramon De Veyra Updated December 28, 2008 12:00 AM

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We should be grateful that Arnold Arre is prolific.

Best known for his graphic novels, Arre sometimes works on four projects at a time. He likes to keep different pans in the creative fire but thankfully one of them has been deemed ready to serve to his hungry, nay, starving fans: Martial Law Babies.

The book concerns a group of friends born under Martial Law who come of age during the ‘90s. The tale is told mostly through the eyes of Allan, a young man in the advertising field who reflects back on “simpler” times as he surveys the shambolic wreckage that he and his friends have become.

The story jumps back and forth through time, with memories unfurling in Allan’s mind’s eye. The big picture emerges gradually as key formative scenes in their lives are replayed out for further inspection. This narrative device also allows Arre to showcase his range, with art styles changing as befits the scene. Of particular note are his depictions of his characters’ lives as children, with their big-eyed wonder and flights of fancy (see “Carol’s Dreams,” which closes most chapters). A kind of faux-realism sets in as they get older, a subtle cue to the harsher climate.

Generally Arre’s art style is more cartoon-y, more dynamic than his previous outing Ang Mundo ni Andong Agimat. His characters’ faces are allowed to be more expressive, with some nods to Charles Schulz and Bill Watterson. He has an interesting way of separating foreground characters from background settings, which is reminiscent of Andi Watson’s work.

Story-wise, Martial Law Babies continues to mine the threads of Arre’s interests: love, friendship, loyalty, dreams, responsibility — in other words, the guts of what it means to be alive. He has taken great care and effort to ground his story in the details of its places and periods, and yet these details are never alienating for those born in later decades.

Arre’s comic timing has, if anything, improved, with characters flawed, well-drawn (in both senses), believable. He has a taste for melodrama that he shares with Will Eisner. Best of all, he continues to be excited by the possibilities of his chosen medium, and this is on full display.

Martial Law Babies is an exultant gem of a book, lush without being indulgent. It rewards rereading and poses questions to its audience, questions that span generations and may, perhaps, be best answered with actions rather than words.

Martial Law Babies should be available in major bookstores but can most conveniently be purchased through its website at, using credit card or bank deposit. The book will be shipped to your home.

The website also digs deeper into the making of the book, with a generous section on elements that informed or inspired the book, as well as a piquant gallery of ‘70s- and ‘80s-era photos that were submitted by fans and friends, and to which new readers are encouraged to contribute.


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