Meet Manix Abrera, Elizabeth Chionglo, Pia Maria Coll and Albert G. Rodriguez. They are the four cartoonists of the Inquirer whose inventive and imaginative strips can be seen daily, except Sundays, in the Comic Relief section of the newspaper.
Abrera’s comic strip is titled “Kikomachine,” while Chionglo’s is “Love Knots.” Coll has her “Tuldok” while Rodriguez his “Crazy Jhenny.” (See page C4.)
Manix Abrera fils is as different from Jess Abrera pere as night is from day. The elder Abrera had a cheerful, thumbs-up sense of humor, satirizing presidents from Marcos to Duterte. His iconic carabao remains a daily feature on the front page of this newspaper.
The younger Abrera, on the other hand, has a sense of humor that is creepy, inspired by “The Twilight Zone.” There is a lot of philosophizing and intellectualizing: “What if we are just beings existing in the mind of the creator?”
Some of his main characters are precocious children who are denizens of the spirit world, and there are intimations of heaven and hell where Jesus is the Boss and Satan the OIC. There is social media even in the life beyond, and these descendants of “Casper the Friendly Ghost” of my youth are online-savvy.
Dialogue is smartass and swak na swak, with right-on satire.
Chionglo seems to be the most politicized of the four artists, and may be the most qualified to succeed Jess Abrera, although their approach to issues is quite different. The main characters are three young girls, with Melanie as the most outspoken about current events. The newspaper headlines are grist for this artist’s mill. Sometimes there is a sweet young nun, Sister Boni, mic in hand, interviewing people, and spreading Christian cheer in an egregiously flawed society.vw
It was (the late) Nonoy Marcelo, nominated this year for the National Artist award, who recommended “Love Knots” to the Inquirer in 1988. So, understandably, Marcelo’s “Tisoy” was a great influence on the cartoonist, but that was when she was in grade school! Another influence would be Charles Schulz (“You’re a good man, Charlie Brown”) of “Peanuts.”
“The original theme was all about relationships, husband and wife, friends, in-laws,” Chionglo told this writer. But she decided to include in the new comic strip characters of her former strips that she used to do for other publications.
In Coll’s “Tuldok,” we have all sorts of objects and nonhumans in a verbal joust, engaging in all kinds of puns and badass witticisms. As in a pen marker swearing to a greeting card lover: “Indelible ang love ko sa’yo, never mabubura. Hehe.” Or a wineglass with a companion saying haughtily to two beer mugs, “Sosyal kami. Excuse me.” One of the beer mugs retorts: “Sosyal din kami, social distancing sa mga katagay!” Coll is the pseudonym used by the artist Pilar Bleza-Milambiling.
Rodriguez’s “Crazy Jhenny,” according to its creator, “was inspired by a headstrong, opinionated officemate we worked with who always had funny stories about her adventures in and out of the office. It was supposed to be just a fun strip about a grown-up in a crazy world.”
The artist added, however, “by 2016 it became more and more political because things were happening, like the EJKs (extrajudicial killings), fake news and now, the awful response to the pandemic, and I just couldn’t keep quiet or ignore these.”
Big influences include Jess Abrera of “A.Lipin” (“simplicity and clarity of lines”), Pol Medina Jr. of “Pugad Baboy” (“irreverent jokes”) and Manix Abrera (“out-of-this-world ideas”). Rodriguez also borrowed colleague Chionglo’s “brilliant style of showing just the backs of political figures. You don’t get sued for libel and you don’t even have to worry about getting his/her face right.”
A more recent influence is “Montreal comic artist Michel Rabagliati (“Paul in Quebec”), who showed me that comics can also tackle mundane topics like fishing or a serious topic like cancer,” Rodriguez said.
Pinoys in London
The main characters in “Crazy Jhenny” are the irrepressible Jhenny and her best friend Englebert, who is often befuddled and cringing before Jhenny’s gaffes. A long-running, off-and-on series is set in “London, with Englebert visiting his close relatives and their daughter Francine, who is Englebert’s godchild. Emphasis here is on Englebert, with Jhenny sometimes putting in an appearance. These are glimpses of London life through a Pinoy lens.
The four cartoonists of the Inquirer are among your sure bets for some quality sociopolitical humor Pinoy style.