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The Komikon Report: Grand ‘Komikon Grande’ indeed

By: - Staff Writer
/ 05:27 AM December 02, 2018

This is the 14th such iteration of Komikon and the Bayanihan Center in Pasig City; last Nov.  17 and 18 was abuzz with the news that “TRESE,” the komiks from Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo and previously a Komikon staple, would be getting an Original Anime series from streaming giant Netflix.

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There was no new “TRESE” stuff at the Visprint table, but another popular creator who is getting his own screen adaptation was. By now, the line of fans patiently waiting their turn to get a quirky autograph from Manix Abrera is as much part of Komikon as the other booths and tables. Abrera was on hand to sign copies of the newest compilation of his Inquirer comic strip, “Kikomachine Komix! Blg XIV: Alaala ng Kinabukasan,” which featured two different covers. Fans are awaiting the live-action “Kikomachine” adaptation from Epik Studios.

Epik Studios had already brought one komiks series to the screen, Mervin Malonzo’s aswang drama “Tabi Po.” This time, Malonzo had collaborated with Julius Villanueva on their urban horror-fantasy title, “Ella Arcangel” from Malonzo’s Haliya Publishing. Now Malonzo and Villanueva released the graphic novel “Ella Arcangel Tomo Pangalawa: Awit ng Pangil at Kuko.” The title is written and illustrated by Villanueva, with Malonzo doing finishes, lettering and design. The duo’s character and monster work stands out, scary and distinctive with the titular reluctant mambabarang Ella and the monster known as Pangil. This is an exquisitely dark story about reality and illusion, about the nature of monstrosity and heroism. There’s nothing quite like out it out there right now.

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 Folkloric creatures

Villanueva said he liked the idea of folkloric creatures in modern Manila. Part of the series’ inspiration came when he was passing by Barangay South Triangle one day.

“It kind of showed me how precarious the lives of the people living in that community were. How in just one instant, peoples lives could be uprooted even if they have been living in that area for decades. I think that’s what really inspired me to set my comic in a depressed area. To show how institutions and certain laws are more dangerous than any monster,” he said. “For the third I’m planning on doing the same thing as the second but, hopefully, with a more larger cast of characters with a greater focus on the community of Barangay Masikap. So I guess it’s a much longer story now. But I do have an idea as to where the series is and how it’s all going to end.”

Komikon would not be Komikon without a new release from Gerry Alanguilan’s Komikero Publishing. This year brought a retro release, Alanguilan’s “The Dead Heart: July 16,” the graphic novel gathering for the first time Alanguilan’s 1996 photocopied komiks series which was a fictionalization of the aftermath of the 1990 earthquake. “The Dead Heart” is a bracing return to the visceral style that Alanguilan’s iconic “Wasted” made famous. It’s always great to see the Alamat Komiks logo on the back cover.

Anino Comics

Adarna House’s Anino Comics imprint has been impressive with its past releases, notably Emiliana Kampilan’s “Dead Balagtas Tomo1: Mga Sayaw ng Dagat at Lupa,” which had just won both the National Book Award and the Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Award. This year, Anino Comics presented “Liryo” by Magtira Paolo, a beautiful, sharply observed reflection of the drug war and how it scimitars the lives of those caught up by it. “‘Liryo’ was actually my senior thesis for UP [University of the Philippines] Diliman that I presented back in May 2018,” Magtira Paolo said. “It was a deconstruction of Oplan Tokhang in how it affected the lives of the urban poor. I decided on doing it mainly because I disagree with how the current government approaches its antidrug policy and I wanted to push Filipino comics as a medium. ‘Liryo’ is actually an fictionalised rendition of the true stories that I got from my case studies for my thesis.”

The Adarna House booth also unveiled the children’s book “Ako ang Bayan,” a pretty discussion of democracy and community for children written by P.D. Guinto and illustrated by Manix Abrera.

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‘Crazy Jhenny,’ ‘Full House’

Komikon is a great platform for the country’s working graphic artists. Two of the Inquirer’s own were present with debut collections of their respective strips: Albert Rodriguez with his workplace comedy “Crazy Jhenny” and Steph Bravo-Semilla with her family-centric “Full House.”

The most ambitious and sizable project at Komikon Grande 2018 was “Stay: 21 Comic Stories.” Best known for his fiction, Angelo R. “Sarge” Lacuesta presented 21 tales illustrated by 21 different artists ranging from Kajo Baldisimo to Shaira Luna.

The stories ranged from everyday genre tales to outright speculative fiction. A collaborative publication from Lacuesta’s Good Intentions Books imprint and JV Tanjuatco’s Comic Book Lab studio with producer Selina Garcia, the 210-page giant was the kind of audacious thing that should be the pride of future Komikons.

 ‘Literary’ story

For Lacuesta, “21” was about recapturing his old love for comic books. “There is so much talent in the Filipino comics industry, and I realized that this meant that the visual and emotional possibilities of each story could be pursued in so many different and exciting ways. I also wanted a book that could be a different experience for whoever read it, and whichever story they chose to read first,” Lacuesta said. It was refreshing—writing a story without spending hours and hours working on each paragraph! But it was also scary: I’m an absolute beginner and I never imagined I would do this, and creating what to me was a ‘literary’ story without the help of actually writing prose became a difficult and challenging process.

The release that perfectly encapsulated the spirit of Komikon was a project that mixed the past and the present in a very komiks way. Damian “Damy” Velasquez was the brother of “Kenkoy” creator Tony Velasquez. Damy Velasquez created a truly trailblazing character, DI-13, a pistol-wielding, crime-solving investigator dubbed “Trese” who first appeared in Pilipino Komiks in 1947. The “DI-13” serial is known to be the longest-running komiks serial, published continuously from 1947 to 1962 and was so popular it gained a motion picture adaptation (1955’s “Adventures of DI-13”) starring Jose Romulo.

 Anniversary collection

It felt good to be able to say DI-13 is back. Damy “Ian” Velasquez III (Damy’s grandson) has gathered the best strips from his grandfather and artist Jesse F. Santos in a graphic collection titled “DI-13: 70th

Anniversary Collection,” that also featured a gallery of Damy’s work and a tribute by contemporary artists. The “DI-13” stories have aged quite well, with this time-specific style looking very detailed and rich even by modern standards. The “DI-13: 70th Anniversary

Edition” paperback featured a foreword by another iconic komiks creator, Rod Santiago. In his afterword, Budjette Tan calls DI-13 “d’ original Trese.” This is a collection that true komiks fans should own, savoring the punchy Tagalog dialogue and complex black-and-white art.

That takes care of the past part. Also published by Damy Velasquez III’s Triple D Publishing, “The New DI-13” is a modern reboot of the character, with Agent Trese now solving cases in 2018 Manila. A #0 issue was released in August.  “The New DI-13” #1 is written by Damy Velasquez III and, in a smart and satisfying move, illustrated by komiks dynamo Rico Raval, whose pages look like they could easily have appeared in Pilpino Komiks in the 1950s. The first issue features 13 variant covers from the likes of Lan Medina and Lyndon Gregorio.

With its properties now switching from media to media and finding greater audiences, Komikon—the Philippine Komiks Convention—has never been more important. With its mix of invaluable legacy and cutting-edge creations, Komikon Grande 2018 truly deserves its new branding, and whets the appetite for the next year.

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