Abangan: The Best Philippine Komiks 2014
Series Editors Rob Cham, Adam David, Carljoe Javier, & Elbert Or
Published by Visprint
Every time I enter the halls of Komikon I get overwhelmed by the sheer number of stories that are being sold at the tables. I wouldn’t even know where to start. I couldn’t stay at one table for too long because 1) that would cause a gridlock; and 2) I get weirded out by the creators’ eyes tracking me. Admit it, it happens! I don’t want to be guilt-tripped into buying a copy — which leads us to 3) I wouldn’t have minded being guilt-tripped into buying something, but I am not made of money.
The best I could do was walk like a somnambulist, like a visitor at an art gallery, and look at the covers. In the end, I usually end up at the big publishers’ tables (like Visprint), or I just ask friends what I should buy. J and I have talked about this, and he said at the last Komikon he felt sort of depressed — he was sure there were indie gems out there; he just didn’t know where to look.
Abangan is a good place to start. It is a generous collection of samples and full strips from our local comics creators. It has its shortcomings, which Charles Tan talks about here, and I felt a bit sad that the hilarious Dead Balagtas strips by Emiliana Kampilan are reprinted here in English (I read her in Filipino) and without the historical annotations, but I think it is still a worthy buy. I was astounded by Sixty-Six by Russell Molina and Ian Sta. Maria, Borderline by Bong Redila, and Blue Dusk by Mica Agregado. There are truly exciting works in this volume (Para Fierra, Wingnaut, Windmills, Manix Abrera’s silent Diwata, etc etc), and I hope there will be a follow up.
Story & Art by Mervin Malonzo
Published by Visprint
I remember when I first read the webcomic I was stunned by the quality of the art and the writing. And the art. Have you seen Mervin’s art for Tabi Po?
Look at that.
I am glad the story, now in print, will be able to reach a wider audience locally. (I don’t have the numbers, but speaking from personal experience, my titles sell more as print copies than as ebooks.) A knowledge of Rizal’s Noli and Fili will enrich your reading experience (especially when you get to the prose part at the end of Isyu 1 – it is like a nudge and wink from the creator), but even without knowing Rizal, this is still an immersive story, tackling the origin of the aswang, and life during 19th century Philippines under the Spanish regime. The monster – in its truest sense, in its figurative sense – is front and center here.
Sad Comics for Dirty Lovers
Art & Story by Rob Cham and various collaborators
I admire Rob Cham’s art and his snarky humor (see: Stories), but this is a breakup volume. The stories are contemplative and quiet (save for a couple of sections of comic relief), more resigned than sad. My absolute favorite is “Beehive Heart”, written by poet Petra Magno.
says the protagonist with the beehive heart. Stunning, inventive use of metaphor.
Crime-Fighting Call Center Agents
Art by AJ Bernardo
Story by Noel Pascual
Noel and AJ move the call center agent (overworked, forced to affect an accent and pretend they are from another nation) away from the office cubicle and into the center of…crazy stuff. Adventure is juxtaposed with mundane concerns like team building sessions. Go check this series out if you haven’t already.