Believe it or not, the single busiest person today in komiks didn’t discover komiks until he was already working in advertising. Paolo Herras had been promoted, moved to a new team with an art director named Tepai Pascual.
The two bonded and she introduced him to her undergraduate thesis, the “Maktan 1521” graphic novel. In return, Herras, who is often called “Direk” as he has created independent films, shared these with Pascual.
She brought Herras to his first Komikon in 2012. “I thought it was a magical place where storytellers were selling their stories, and there were people buying them. After that, we decided to work on a few comics together.”
The two put up a publishing house called Meganon Comics that would allow them to commercially produce their indie work. They joined more events. “We were doing pretty well, discovering that there are more readers outside Komikon.”
In 2015, there was no Summer Komikon, and one of the organizers asked Herras to put up a komiks event so there would be one for creators. But this one would be different.
That’s how Herras became the president and cofounder of Komiket.
“Komiket is a nonprofit organization that aims to nurture and grow the Filipino comics community,” he explains. They began by hosting comics art markets. But it soon grew to become more than that.
“From a comics art market organizer, Komiket grew into a bookstore (Secret HQ in Makati), a content developer, a publisher, a literary agent, and next year, an animation producer,” he explains. “Looking at the bigger picture, we realized that as we grew organically, we had to create a healthier environment for our creators, not just to survive, but to thrive.”
Herras spearheaded the Philippine International Comics Festival (Picof), which got support from the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) and the National Book Development Board. Creators make their pitches to Picof, and the Picof Official Selections get a grant to produce and get their work published. Additionally, the said agencies brought the Komiket books to represent the Philippines in the Frankfurt Book Fair and London Book Fair. “The FDCP provided delegate badges for comics creators in the Annecy Animation Festival, and we were able to pitch to international producers, distributors and network executives.”
During the pandemic, they kept the creators busy and continued to hold events.
And there are the Komikets, of course. For 2023, there will be three main Komikets, March and November in SM Megamall, and October in Centris QC (the mothership). There will be pop-up markets in the other months, such as January in Market Market BGC, Ayala Malls The 30th in June and UP Town Center either in April or May. There’s also a Komiket Iloilo and Komiket Bacolod in SM City in July and the yearly Cebulitfest.
Komiket’s publishing efforts have already reaped benefits, such as Kevin Eric Raymundo’s winning the National Book Award for Graphic Literature for “Tarantadong Kalbo Vol. 1” and Tori Tadiar (“Twinkle Twinkle”) getting a deal for an international project, among others. Komiket continues to innovate, as they just published a collab with #romanceclass titled “Kilig” (yes, komiks romances).Celebration of diversity
Beyond that, every Komiket is a celebration of the diversity and the dynamism of komikeros, artists, sticker makers. “We firmly believe in the creative talent of our community. Filipino comics is one of the few creative sectors today that has proven to be viable, marketable and desirable locally and internationally for both our talent, and our original stories,” Herras says. “This is why we keep advocating for comics and creator’s rights.”
In the process, Herras admits he hasn’t been able to work on his own creative work right now—in the past three years, he estimates that 90 percent of his time was devoted to Komiket and Picof. After all, his day job is freelance creative consultant for advertising and freelance film director for TV commercials.
But Komiket makes it all worth it as it is raising a new generation of readers for whom komiks are ubiquitous and relatable; komiks by Filipinos for Filipinos, like it was a long time ago. “It’s easy to support a community that you love, and a community that is talented and kind-hearted,” Herras concludes. “Komiket gives me the opportunity to fulfill my purpose in this lifetime, that I was able to make a difference in this world a little bit better for my community and leave a mark in people’s lives.” INQ