Is it a sign of the end times that the single most negative, most notably depressing character in a comic strip also proves to be the most popular one? That is the case with Manix Abrera’s “Kikomachine Komix!” This omnipotent font of negativity, the one character with the ability to find the bad—nay, the worst possible thing—in every situation is Bertong Badtrip, perpetually frowning with what looks like flames coming off his head and a gloomy word balloon.
He either walks around and then judges people for their bad behavior, or imagines Dante-level and Abrera-style punishments for everyday annoyances like people who keep standing on the wrong side of escalators. He became a sideshow, with “Kikomachine Komix!” often “Feat. Bertong Badtrip” like a rapper on a song.
Now, he is getting his own graphic novel from publishing house Visprint. “Bertong Badtrip” gathers the best—the worst?—of the character’s appearances in the Inquirer comic strip.
“Betrong Badtrip” began out of that great mother of invention—the mother of deadlines! Abrera had literally run out of ideas and needed a quick fix. “Nagsimula si Bertong Badtrip sa “Kikomachine Komix!” dahil sa pressure ng deadline,” Abrera admitted. “Kinailangan kong mag-isip ng comic strips na ma i-email ko na within the day. Naisip ko lang gumawa ng ‘madaliang’ character na good for one week lang ang story. Si Bertong Badtrip. Basta bad trip lang siya sa mundo. And ang kabaliktaran niyang si Goody Pakyutsie. After ng six strips ay namatay na sila pareho.”
But Berto proved to be far more popular and resilient than he realized. “Na-realize kong naging hit si Berto dahil yun ang week na pinakamarami akong natanggap na email, requesting buhayin si Berto! After a few strips, bumalik si Berto into existence miraculously (dahil na-pressure ako). Yun na rin ang time na naisip kong gawin itong series-within-the-series; pasulpot-sulpot ang stories ni Berto.”
“Bertong Badtrip” brings his black-and-white negativity to bookstore shelves even as the Epik Studios TV adaptation of “Kikomachine” remains in the works. “Nasa super madugong process pa ng pagsusulat ang TV show. Nakakakaba and exciting!”
There was no original plan to put Berto in his own book but, like his genesis and unexpected survival, it just turned out that way. “Last year noong inaayos ko ang comic artworks ko, napansin ko na ang dami na niyang strips na magandang i-compile, kailangan na yatang magkaroon talaga ng ‘Bertong Badtrip’ collection. Marami na rin ang nag-request nito noon, marami ring ang alam sa works ko ay sadyang si Bertong Badtrip lang kaya naisip ko na deserve talaga ito ni Berto.”
Abrera noted that there were readers who were not familiar with his earlier work—“Kikomachine Komix!,” “News Hardcore,” “Silent
Comics”—but knew who Bertong Badtrip was.
“Noong ginagawa ko na yung compilation niya, nakita ko rin ang buhay at saysay ni Berto nang malinaw. Hindi pala siya basta bad trip lang. Bad trip siya kasi meron siyang tinitingnang pag-asa na mabago at magbago yung mga super nakaka-bad trip sa mundo.”
What is it about “Bertong Badtrip” that just resonates with readers? It is Abrera’s iconic art and dense text, his skewed sense of humor or ultimately one person’s ability to find defeat in the face of victory. Who hasn’t wanted to punish those who prove annoying on an everyday basis? Bertong Badtrip is their guy. More than anyone else on the strip, Bertong Badtrip is the true, unfettered, unfiltered representation of Abrera’s bizarre id. And it is glorious. Sometimes negativity wins—and is hilarious. Abrera himself is somewhat mystified. “Hindi ako sure, pero sa tingin ko ay may mas malawak pang audience na makaka-resonate kay Berto.”
As Bertong Badtrip sets off on his own—notably the very first “Kikomachine” spin-off—Abrera now has new plans for his surprise star. “Surprise din kung saan pa ang patutunguhan ni Berto. Pero meron nang ‘something Berto’ na kasalukuyang ginagawa ko na. Super excited ako for it, pero secret pa muna!”
“Bertong Badtrip” by Manix Abrera will be available at the Visprint booth starting Sept. 11 at the Manila International Bookfair at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia. Abrera will sign books at the Visprint booth on Sept. 13.