Franco Sarmiento, lawyer and dad of three, recalls that his love for comic books was started by his own dad, as well. “My love story for comic books began when my dad, who hails from Catanduanes, told me that he learned to master Tagalog by reading komiks. This got me curious and I started reading local comic books for fun; comic books from the States and other parts of the world came later,” says Franco.
His love of comic books and superheroes has not waned; in fact, he has eagerly introduced his young children to the world of comic-book geekery by bringing them to comic conventions, such as AsiaPOP Comicon (APCC), held at the World Trade Center just last weekend.
“I brought my eldest daughter to the New York Comic-Con in 2012 and it was one of the greatest decisions I ever made,” says Franco. “I saw her eyes widen with wonder and excitement at the whole razzle-dazzle of a con, and I wanted to see that magic in my other kids’ eyes, so I brought them to APCC.”
He and his family even dressed up as their favorite heroes. “My kids love to play pretend and I get a kick out of it, especially at home, when I wear my Darth Vader mask if they don’t want to brush their teeth at night,” he says. “I tell them the only way they can defeat Vader is by brushing their teeth.”
On Saturday, Franco dressed up as Arrow, his wife wore a Babydoll costume from “Sucker Punch,” while his eldest daughter was Wonder Girl for the day. His son was a toddler Green Lantern, his youngest girl Wonder Baby. On the last day of APCC, his eldest was in a pink Supergirl outfit, while his little boy traded in Green Lantern for Batboy.
They were so excited over APCC that they went there on Saturday and Sunday. “I knew they would shriek with excitement over the huge ‘Hulk buster’ and life-size models of The Avengers, and would enjoy the cosplay event, especially the kids’ division that took place on the last day.”
Of the exhibits staged at APCC, Franco’s kids loved the cosplay and Lego the most. “My Batboy’s jaw literally dropped when he saw a 6-year-old cosplaying as Batboy onstage; my daughter loved the Lego friends booth and was ready to perform on the stage made of bricks—they even had brick microphones.”
To Franco, introducing his kids to the fascinating world of superheroes and comic books is not just for entertainment value; it helps him deliver lessons—minus the sermons.
“I want my children to learn about lessons in life without me having to give them sermons. I want them to root for the heroes and understand how most of the ‘bad’ guys are not really born bad to begin with, but just some normal people who made very wrong decisions.
“I want them to learn how to cry for losses, to learn from them and to stand up and carry on with the ‘mission.’ I want them to be fascinated with different worlds, to dream the fantastic, and to realize that the limit to their power, like Green Lantern, is only their willpower and imagination. It is important for my children to know about these modern-day myths, not only because it is an intellectual and versatile form of art. More than that, I want them to know about comic books because I want my children to create great stories of their own and make their lives their very own masterpieces of art.”
He adds, “Underneath all the masks and spandex lie stories of people making moral choices in times of great conflict, and the victory of the human spirit over challenges.”
His kids are just starting to learn how to read, and Franco is already working on a comic book reading list. “I cannot wait for them to start reading my own collection. The order of what to read first will be tricky, though!”
Franco is also introducing his kids to the “Star Wars” franchise, readying them for the new installment coming out in December.
Birthday surprise for ‘Avengers’ fan
Aki was asleep when he, his parents and grandma got to the World Trade Center last Sunday. But he got over his stupor and was instantly enlivened when he saw gigantic replicas of his superhero idols Hulk and Iron Man at the first-ever AsiaPOP Comicon.
“Actually, it’s his birthday today,” said dad Ruel Bunting. “He did not know we were coming here. We just told him we were going somewhere. He is such a fan of the Avengers, he was overwhelmed by the larger-than-life figures.”
Four-year-old Aki, or Jesus Romeo Akiko, was all smiles when his dad recounted that to the Inquirer.
Ruel said his son’s admiration for the two superheroes and the Fantastic Four began when he and wife Apple began bringing him to the movies.
“We always take him with us to kids’ movies,” he explained. “His liking has so grown, he now has a complete set of Avengers at home.”
Now that superheroes have become their firstborn’s obsession, they’ve also become appreciative of cartoon and comic characters. “As a ’90s kid, I know Voltron and Voltes V, and knew the Avengers only by name. I get to know them more through my son.”
For Ruel, it is a parenting strategy to support his child as long as he is having fun, hence the surprise trip to AsiaPOP Comicon Manila.
But they have a budget for toys, he noted. They cannot go over P1,000. No spoiling.
Comicon is quality time
Zheanne Macatual, another four-year-old, traveled all the way from General Trias, Cavite, with his parents, the mother a fan of animé and the father, of “Star Wars.”
“Television shows nowadays do not show as many cartoons anymore, and I wanted to introduce her to the shows I grew up with in the ’80s, ’90s,” noted mom Joahnna Macatual, mentioning the “Street Fighters,” “Ghost Fighters,” and “Voltes V” among her favorites.
“Through this I hope she can enjoy her youth more. Most of the kids these days think like adults because of the programming, too many love stories,” she commented. “If she wasn’t playing outside, it would be better for her to watch animé and cartoons than teleserye.”
The mom said she, Zheanne, and partner Mark Lester Martinez would do a “marathon” of kid-friendly animé series at home during weekends.
During weekdays, their baby is left with her grandma, because the mother would work at a BPO company from
8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the dad would work at a TV network and is based in Fairview, Quezon City.
Their little viewing party, like their tour around APCC Manila, was quality time, Joahnna noted.
For father and son Jay Ar and Izaiah Luke Buelos of Marikina City, Comicon was a test of their teamwork, which they hurdled with flying colors.
Izaiah, 13, was the youngest contestant to join the Cosplay Authority Global Challenge’s open category—for young people 13 onward—but he channeled Super Galaxy Rumble of League of Legends so well on Saturday he was announced first runner-up on Sunday.
“If you think about it, he placed more than lost at cosplay events,” said Jay Ar, who engineered all nine costumes of his son—except the parts made of cloth, he clarified, because he can’t sew.
His work was complete with LED lights and a drill, made with an electric fan’s engine.
“We team up. When there is a new event, I ask him what he wants. He is a gamer, he is always online, so he would have enough references,” explained the father, who works as an artist at Marikina City Hall on weekdays. “I ask him what he can portray on stage, and that’s what we make. He conceptualizes his enactment.
“Izaiah’s interest in dressing up began in prep school during fairs… When he wasn’t allowed to join anymore, that’s when we joined cosplay tilts, Halloween costume parties,” said the dad. His son, youngest of four kids, began cosplaying when he was 9, and at 13—a high school sophomore—is considered a veteran.
The Comicon contest was Izaiah’s first adult event, but he had no problem acting like a real robot, one of the improvements to his personality, explained the father. “He was a very shy kid. He is still shy without his costumes but he has improved.
“As long as he improves as a person and maintains a spot in the Top 10 in school, his mother will allow us to join cosplay events,” the dad said. “It would take me a month to complete a costume, because I would work only at night, but winnings help us a lot.”
A portion of their $5,000 prize will go to a church donation, budget for home renovations and a bank account in Izaiah’s name, said Jay Ar. “Sometimes, we get his tuition from his prizes. We also teach him to share with his siblings… When he wants to buy anything, I give him his card, so in the future he doesn’t ask where his money is.”
“My dream is to be a cosplayer,” Izaiah told the Inquirer. His dad expressed his support, saying, “Whatever the kids want, as long as it does not harm them, we should support them to the best of our abilities, because they cannot begin on their own. If you can make a costume, for example, do not hesitate.
“I just keep asking him if he still wants it. I often ask, ‘Hanggang kailan ka magko-cosplay?’ As long as he wants to do it, I will be there. If he does not want it anymore, I won’t force him.”