Comic books and beyond at AsiaPOP
From the previously ubiquitous Funny Komics sold for P5 in local newsstands to limited edition mainstream ones running in the thousands of pesos, comic books have come a long way in the Philippines.
What used to be reading material to while away the time or shoo away an errant mosquito or two, comic books have become engrained in pop culture to become multimillion dollar franchises as exemplified by the very successful Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and the oft maligned DC Extended Universe (DCEU).
So, too, have comic collectors changed. Being a “geek” has become much more acceptable, even a point of pride for others. It wouldn’t be unusual for fans to wear shirts emblazoned with their favorite characters or to dress up like their heroes. Back in the day, that was a surefire way of keeping you at home, alone, on a Friday night while the cool kids hung out in Robinson’s Galleria.
I remember the first comic book convention I ever attended. It was back in 1999 in one of SM Megamall’s function rooms. Suffice to say it wasn’t as much of a spectacle as the recently concluded AsiaPOP Comicon (APCC) at SMX Convention Center.
Whereas the first comic convention was strictly a comic books-only affair with foldable plastic tables as “booths” set up by the same comic book shops you saw in Greenhills, APCC had massive setups for retailers and entertainment companies. One setup in particular that caught my eye was the one by Netflix. It was massive and had different rooms for each of their shows.
The crowd favorite “Stranger Things” consisted of three rooms. The first one was the Byers’ living room connected to the Upside Down which, of course, had a Demogorgon. This finally led to the garage of Hawkins Power and Light.
“The Defenders” also had a room of their own, as well as “Riverdale,” set up to look just like Pop’s Diner.
A personal favorite was the “Death Note” room that lets you meet Ryuk in a VR simulation. I half expected to be scared to death but I was too busy grinning ear-to-ear because of the unique experience.
Most of the big production booths also had professional models plying their employers’ wares, from shows, to gaming rigs and toys. The only “model” the first comic convention I went to was a sister or a cousin of an exhibitor who had to man their table while he went to the toilet.
Another thing that the APCC had was cosplayers, both amateurs and professionals.
Local cosplay celebrities Alodia Giosengfao and Myrtle Sarrosa were there along with Haiden Hazard, Pion Kim, Philip Odango (Canvass Cosplay) and Jin (Behind Infinity). While their costumes were topnotch, the quality of the amateur cosplayers’ weren’t very far behind and also very creative, specially the guy with the very complicated-looking War Machine outfit.
The popular animé and comic book characters were well represented but there were also a few offbeat ones as well such as Spider-Pig and Stan Lee to name a few. Of course, it goes without saying that my personal favorite was the ones by the 501st Legion Philippine Garrison because Star Wars is life. Props to them too for accepting donations to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The APCC also had a live wrestling match by the awesome wrestlers of Philippine Wrestling Revolution; a “Magic: The Gathering” booth where you could learn how to play the card game; the crowd favorite SKYcable booth where you could sit on the Iron Throne and take photos.
One thing that the APCC had in common with the first convention I went to was the attendance of comic book artists. Gilbert Monsanto, Whilce Portacio, and Jay Anacleto were there that first time. They were some of the first few Filipinos working as artists for the big mainstream comic companies at the time, and arguably paved the way for others to follow.
APCC had Alan Quah, Artgerm, Carl Potts, Rodney Ramos and Portacio in attendance. One of the independent artists keeping komiks alive was Jon Zamar. He writes a local comic book titled “Codename: Bathala” which is worth checking out. Another artist there was Fred “That Guy” Corder who created the Fil-Am heroine Rocketgirl.
It wasn’t just comic book artists that the people went there to meet. Vinyl toy artists Jason Freeny, Simone Legno and Quiccs were there as well to meet fans and share their experiences.
Actors Ray Fisher who plays Cyborg in the upcoming “Justice League” film and Tylor Hoechlin of “Supergirl” and “Teen Wolf” fame were also there.
Of course, no self -respecting organizer in the country could make a comic book convention without the presence of Filbars and Comic Odyssey. These two stores have become an institution when it comes to pop culture and are synonymous with comic books in the country.
Indeed, comic conventions have come a long way from conference rooms to convention centers, attended by social outcasts to celebrated personalities, but at its core, comic conventions are still held to celebrate one’s passion and dedication, be it a character you can relate to, or a creator you aspire to be because just like in the real world, some things never change.
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