Note: This took long because I couldn’t download the pics from my cellphone. And now, finally, it’s done!!! Well, many pics from the festival posted here courtesy of Jonas Diego, Gerry Alanguilan and Johnny Danganan. Some are from the Net, though. Links to sites ongoing (some still undone…). Those in bold are mostly hyperlinks leading to artists’ blogs/websites/information. I uploaded more pics, link at the bottom. Meanwhile visit the three guys’ sites to see more pics.
“KIKOMACHINE? All caps or all small letters? One whole word or two, as in Kiko Machine?” My mind raced two Saturdays ago as I was (already regretting) tearing off the plastic covering of my own copy of the comic book series’ fifth installment. I had never attended a komikon before and I didn’t even know when the next time would be, but that Saturday was my first time to go, taking advantage of the fact that the 3rd San Pablo City Comics Festival was happening in, well, San Pablo. “No day like today,” as a Broadway song goes.
One trike ride and a short walk away, I was at the open-air venue at the Ultimart Shopping Plaza, looking for Master Raven a.k.a. his actual name Jonas Diego (long story). The Pinoy comics conventions (komikons) have been the brainchild of fellow artists and thanks to them, venues for comic book writers and artists have given professionals and amateurs alike the opportunity to show, share, and even earn a bit from their chosen craft. Mainly, these participants do it simply out of love for their art. This event wasn’t exactly a convention, I think, rather a festival as the event title implied, but since they’re there convening, it’s all the same banana to me. I wanted to be there.
Raven did promise to sign my copies of the original The Book of John (BOJ), printed back when he still used non-glossy cheaper paper for the inside leaves and art paper for the covers. Pretty much like the many new indie cartoonists’ first outputs. The Master used the pointillism technique (see, Raven? I was paying attention). I still remember him asking us for comments that indeed landed in the pages of the next issues, but he never did finish the last installment which I have been making kulit to him about for years. I also remember accompanying him to one (maybe even the only, I’m not sure) comic book store in San Pablo City, near Central School…So awesome to have such memories! I guess all artists go through these kinds of stages.
Back to the present.
I first saw a booth selling un-bought editions of various comic books. Comic Odyssey. I didn’t try rummaging through them because my main goal was to get Raven (sorry for calling him this – force of habit), and Kiko Machine Komix (KM) creator Manix Abrera’s autographs, view the exhibit they put up, and check out the different comic books being offered by other artists and collect their autographs – in that order. Besides, I was on a tight budget. However, Raven and Manix were both nowhere to be found at the time, so the exhibit at the second floor suddenly came first in my itinerary.
Oh, but not without first buying a copy of Raven’s new output: a glossy, full-colored, 32-paged issue of Pocket Comics. I was so engrossed in various thoughts, though, that the guy taking my payment wondered what the extra P200 was for, ha ha haaa!!! He was real friendly and I got to share my copy of BOJ. The guy said he owned copies as well, and, borrowing my own, he and some others amused themselves with Raven’s younger mug printed on the pages.
As expected, the exhibit shared previous works of Filipino comic writers/artists, with some from as early as the ‘30s, if I’m not mistaken. Really cool stuff! Some were just “samples” from artists, some were actual drafts, some were original unprinted copies, some were original printed ones, and limited editions, too! There were even some cool stamp collections featuring works of various cartoonists. I took pics with my non-high-tech phone, so they’re not so good, but anyhoo.
There were works from the likes of Larry Alcala, Nonoy Marcelo and Tony Velasquez, for it wouldn’t be complete without featuring these pioneers of Pinoy comics artistry. So I saw familiar strips like Kalabog en Bosyo, Mga Kabalbalan ni Kenkoy, Tisoy (I wanted to see Ikabod instead but, well, I knew they had to make do with what were available). All of these were born long before I was, but in my lifetime, I saw either old copies from here and there or re-prints in whatever were current publications those times.
I did kind of search for any item from FUNNY Komiks, but *sigh* nada, zilch, zero. That was a bit of a bummer. What regular kid growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s didn’t know about FUNNY Komiks???
Now, while I love comics, I had not really bought a lot of them, because as a fictionist, I had been more interested in collecting written novels rather than graphic ones. Prior to last Saturday and BOJ issues aside, I only owned a few, most currently, Andoyman Komikero’s first try, FOODCOURT. I had been contenting myself with clippings from the dailies and making cut-and-paste style comic books out of them. If I found any strip funny, interesting and/or witty, then snip-snip-snip.
Back to the exhibit.
I had to mention that I wasn’t much of a comic-book collector to explain that aside from the great Whilce Portacio of X-Men fame, I wasn’t aware of many comic book writers and artists’ names. So, many of the names in the exhibit and the festival itself sounded new to me (no offense to any artist reading this). I just knew Raven by default. Whilce lent out his stuff. Nice treat for any Marvel and especially X-men fan *insert smiley here*
Some works were very familiar, like The Voodoo Stick by Sonny Trinidad and The Swamp Thing by Nestor Redondo. I remember those particular covers. I know I read some parts of their stories before except I can’t exactly recall perhaps because I was still young (my good memory doesn’t always work). And if you ever rented issues from your friendly neighborhood “renter”, you’d know that it was nearly impossible to follow stories fully and not in random order. Lucky you to even actually get your hands on brand-new copies.
Meanwhile, I appreciated the others’ works as well, particularly some that I liked for various reasons.
Francisco V. Coching’s El Indio graphic art interested me. I would have liked to read his story whose protagonist was a “mere” human fighting the evil society back then, which setting was obviously during Spanish times. Maybe Rizal and Bonifacio did some “guesting,” I don’t know, but my guess may not be that far-fetched.
Zara Macandili’s art made me smile. I think it’s safe to say she is a Psych show fan – I recognized the characters in her sketch immediately as Shawn and Gus imitating WHAM and Michael Jackson. It was new artwork, too, done last November. Meanwhile, something about Efren Jay Anacleto’s Aria work of art attracted me to it, don’t ask me what ‘cause I am not sure.
And speaking of Pinoy, I realized that what would a comic book exhibit featuring local artists be without our very own superheroes – our own superheroine, at that…DARNA!!! Ryan Orosco’s work was a sight for sore eyes. I’d choose Darna over Wonder Woman anytime. There were artworks, too, featuring more modern Pinoy heroes, a group of bagong bayanis, kind of like our version of the Super Friends a.k a. Justice League and the Avengers. Neat 🙂
With all those artists featured, young ones tried to test their own talents and joined the art contest. I am not sure if they were all supposed to be there, but where better to be inspired to work on a piece than where the greats were? So they gathered around the exhibit, breathing inspiration. I wish I had the same gifts when I was a child.
After spending my time soaking in art at the exhibit, I went back down to the festival venue and finally found Raven to twist his arm so he would sign my copy of Pocket Comics and the first-ever original issue of the BOJ (you do know I was kidding about the arm-twisting, right?).
I got introduced to the great Sir Gerry and I am not just saying “great” for the heck of it. I had wanted to know what it was exactly that people and critics found and raved about in his comic book about intelligent chickens crossing over from fowl to human category. It felt awkward, I thought, to be introduced and then for me to just buy his book and ask him to sign right there and then. So I didn’t. Then here came Johnny who’d been my Facebook bud and yet I don’t think we ever said a single word online before that. Chances were we had seen each other before, based on Raven’s intro, and we just didn’t know it. I thought it was really nice to meet him.
Not wanting to take too much of Raven’s time, I went around to find myself some comics and get to know some of the artists. Very popular was the section where artists took portrait-sketching orders right there and then. ‘Course, I wanted to know who they were but who to ask without looking like the newbie that I actually was, really? Checked out some of the products on display, but no, I went there for comics and darn if I didn’t buy any.
So I walked around, checking out the scene, pretending to be cool and probably failing at it. Oh, Pol Medina Jr.’s there!!! To be honest, I had seen the event posters but didn’t really look at the names of the featured artists so this was a surprise to me. Hmnn…How to get his autograph….I didn’t. I couldn’t. Because I couldn’t decide which Pugad Baboy book to buy, plus, it would have affected the budget dramatically. So I just contented myself with looking, stealing a pic and moved on to the next tables. Next time, for sure, Pol.
There were the tables for the independent creators. I was so overwhelmed, I wanted to buy everything! But again, tight budget, gotta think of that. I also didn’t want to buy any that were series, ‘cause then I would not be able to follow the stories since I wasn’t sure when I’d be able to attend such an event again and since I was sure I wouldn’t find those works in any National Bookstore yet, unless I scoured comic book stores and I didn’t. So I got one that had a simple cover, no colors, printed on something that may be a bit better than bond paper, and most importantly, the stories were short and finished.
I got Mel Casipit’s Balitok Comics Anthology. Really amateur work, at least when it came to story conception, and I’m not being mean, because he himself said in his intro that the three stories there were his first ones that he’d like to share to the public. It showed. But like “balitok,” that in his native Pangasinense tongue meant “gold,” I believe this work was gold. Artists always go back to where they started. Often, they keep souvenirs. I know I do. I did like “Payt 4 Lab” with its very Naruto-inspired characters. I thought it was tickly-funny. Just the right stuff. Looking at the covers of more stuff he’s done, the artistry had improved and I hope even the storytelling. I will definitely buy more from him the next time.
Now I went to the other tables and saw this one that had colored, even glossy, stuff on it. I guess it was the level-up kind of thing. Once you’re past the amateur stage, well, where else do you go?
Very familiar stuff, and some more cute ones thrown in. I gotta admit, I was intimidated by all the artists, envious of their talent. Maybe Manila Bulletin’s Freely Abrigo saw right through my façade and chatted me up a bit, at first, offering his comics. I promised I’d go back after I’ve checked out all the tables. I did go back and buy one, for P30. I thought I got a P20 with a P10 but gave him a P50 instead. After the first error, that was my double whammy. It was funny though. And we got to talk a bit and I got a new-found FB friend.
Minutes after, I was standing in front of Manix, buying his first book and having him sign my copy with this cute li’l artsy autograph. He was showing me his latest book, I think, but I decided to take Book 1 of my favorite local comic strip. Why was simple. I was collecting his stuff and I only had Books 2, 3 and 5. What’s a series collection without the first offering, right? Besides, I was for sure buying more in the future. Now, the reason why I peeled off the safety cover of Book 5 (I mentioned that at the start) was because it was the best cover yet and there were nice spaces to sign on. When I bought Book 1, though, it seemed natural to have THAT one autographed. I did regret peeling off the protective cover then.
I paid him for the book, handing him P150 rather than P120, so he gave back the extra. I just realized there was a difference in prices between the first and second rows that were on display. Oops. Triple whammy. Sheesh…. I wanted to tell Manix, “Hey, we’re FB buds” but then that would have merited a “HUH?” expression, given just how many fans he had. Besides, I wasn’t after special treatment, if there was even supposed to be any. Meanwhile, I took pictures of him signing other peeps’ copies. Yep, that’s what I do, I steal pics. Coward.
That done, I checked out again that intelligent chicken, Elmer. Oh, it’s really a book! With many pages and all, like, many. No way was that gonna cost just over a hundred. So I checked out my wallet and figured I could still buy one – gotta know what’s inside, gotta not let the opportunity slide (and I am so happy I didn’t!!!). I was too shy to ask for Sir Gerry’s autograph, besides, he was talking to people in the first place, so the miss from whom I bought my copy, having heard me say I was a bit reluctant to ask him to sign it, called him to the desk declaring, “Pa-sign daw; nahihiya daw siya” (“She wants you to sign it; she’s too shy to ask”). Anla! Si Ate naman! Ibuking ba??? I really was just trying to get the proper timing and approach him coolly. Well, that plan was ruined, ha ha ha!!! But I’m thankful to her, really.
Okay, it was soon going to get dark, and I thought I better stop. I searched for Raven but he was somewhere out there getting busy and I didn’t want to bother him. So taking a last look at the place, I left, but definitely NOT never to return again.
I could get used to this.
Feedback from Mr. Gerry Alanguilan: