Mervin Malonzo Talks “Tabi Po”

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On July - 12 - 2011

Mervin Malonzo’s “Tabi Po” is a beautifully illustrated webcomic that until recently was only available in Filipino. Now, Mervin has released an English language version on the Kindle and will be releasing another version on the Nook and the iBookstore. (Note that the Kindle version has a different layout than the original comic – the “sample” button is your friend.) I took the opportunity to speak to Mervin about “Tabi Po”, the pros and cons of webcomics, and the new English international editions.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Did you always want to create comics?

Yes, I’ve always wanted to create my own comic ever since I took hold of my first issue of Funny Komiks, ever since the days I watched cartoons on TV as a child. And I did! I remember creating my first comic on my used notebooks, a story about mutant ants! “Mutant” because they have powers not entirely different from the ones the X-Men have, and ants because at the time I was obsessed with watching the line of ants in the roadside canal near our house (I still do that, by the way). Watching ants always made me wonder how it would feel to be as small as them. Of course, thinking about it right now, I guess we really are as small as them when you really think about it.

Anyway, my love for drawing comics led me to take up Fine Arts – Painting in UP Diliman instead of Chemistry in UP Los Baños (I passed there as well), to the great dismay of some of my relatives. “Walang pera sa fine arts”, they would say. I resigned from work two years ago to form my own design team with my friends (Pepe&thePolygons) so that I could work whenever I needed to and do comics whenever I wanted to. :)

How would you pitch “Tabi Po” to new readers? What’s it about, and why should people read it?

Hmm.. for most of my readers, it turned out that saying it had “UNCENSORED NUDITY, BLOOD, VIOLENCE AND SEX” did the trick. Haha!

But to publishers and other people I’d like to impress, I would say, “It’s my own interpretation or deconstruction of the Philippine mythology and folklore. I made the aswangs, engkantos, diwatas and anitos as real as I could, putting them in our history, creating a feasible origin story for them and how they were affected by and will in turn affect the human race. Are aswang really different from humans? I am also fusing some Christian beliefs with the old nature worship. Ultimately, it is my explanation of how our world would work if these beings really existed. The purpose of this whole epic is to make the reader think about human nature, the environment, religion and the meaning of life, the universe and everything–all while still being entertained.”  Of course, you do not see this yet in our story so far but that’s the grand plan. It’s not really all violence and nudity, you’ll see.

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Komik Review: Filipino Heroes League, Book 1

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On July - 5 - 2011

Paolo Fabregas’ “Filipino Heroes League” is the latest Visprint acquisition from the world of independent komiks. The back copy does a good job of describing the central concept of the work: “Undermanned and under-funded, the Filipino Heroes League does what it can to fight against injustice. It’s tough being a superhero, but it’s even tougher being a third-world superhero.” This low budget angle immediately sets it apart from the more traditional take on super heroes found in komiks such as “Bayan Knights“, as does the fact that FHL is not meant to be a launching pad for a universe of spin-offs, a fact which allows it to concentrate on telling a more focused story.

On a thematic level, the story benefits from this. As Gerry Alanguilan points out in his blurb, (referencing his blog post on “The Difficulty of Doing Superheroes in the Philippines“) our country’s socio-economic reality means that simply transposing the Marvel/DC super-heroic paradigm to the Philippines stretches the bounds of credulity. FHL deals with this issue multiple ways, the most effective of which is the idea that superheroes simply can’t make a living here, so most become “Overseas Workers”, either because of the money or because the ideal of success for many, even superheroes, is to be seen as having “made it” in America. Another tactic FHL employs is to show how poor the remaining local heroes are–this would have been more effective, however, if it was made more clear why these heroes were unable to use their celebrity status to acquire higher levels of income. (Very, very few celebrities in the Philippines are poor, even those without any talents to speak of.) Non-compliance with a law against secret identities may help explain this (ala Spider-Man post One More Day) but without more in the way of context, we’re left guessing.

Nevertheless, the dirt poor status of (most of) our heroes leads to another of the book’s strengths: let’s call it the tragicomedy of poverty.  The image of Kidlat Kid and Invisiboy on the pedicab at the back of the cover (which, to my mind, should have been the front) encapsulates the style of FHL’s humor best. Other winning scenes include the revelation of the real FHL headquarters, the obsolete supercomputer, and the last line of dialogue during the Payatas recruitment. The book’s light hearted sense of humor is its best quality, but not its sole selling point.

FHL is paced well–with the exception of the superhero staple of “briefings in front of the big screen”, which go on for too long–and the action scenes are, in general, well choreographed. Add a vague, yet unambiguous, narrative conflict, and you get a comic that is an enjoyable and easy read, in spite of its flaws.

[Spoilers from here on out.]

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Sandaang Araw ng Komiks (100 Days of Komiks)

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On June - 30 - 2011

Around a week back, Joanah Tinio Calingo (Cresci Prophecies, Kanto Inc.)  related an experience at the recently concluded 2011 Toy Con that made her realize how limited the mainstream awareness of komiks and komiks creators truly is. To help promote local comics and their creators, she’s calling on other creators, as well as komiks readers and allies, to participate in a hundred day event to raise the profile of the komiks industry, aptly called “100 Araw ng Komiks”, which will pave the way for the end of the year Komikon in November.

The event begins on July 1, tomorrow, and for the month of July the theme seems to be “Your Own Komiks” in the sense that komiks creators are encouraged to post information about their komiks creations on their blogs/twitter/facebook pages once per day. Those who don’t create komiks can participate by posting komiks related information/trivia once per day.

You can go here or here for additional information (in Filipino).

[Logo c/o Rommel Estanislao ]



“Pericos Tao” by Andrew Drilon

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 25 - 2011

Pericos Tao” is a comic from writer/artist Andrew Drilon which was released online recently by Top Shelf. It’s not a new work, but it hasn’t seen wide release until now–you may recall Adam David talking about it during our Rocket Round Table on favorite Philippine spec fic stories (slight spoilers here, so go read the comic first if you like–it’s only ten pages):

Barring my own set of scintillating sensurround scifi scintillations, the best Pinoy SpecFic story would be the unfortunately still largely unread “Pericos Tao” by Andrew Drilon. It was supposed to be part of Drilon’s Kare-Kare Komiks print remix a bunch of people – me included – tried their best to make manifest around the middle of 2008. I was the layout artist so I was privy to the actual finished pages – “actual finished pages” being actually “virtual” as Drilon assembled everything on computer – and I was one of maybe ten or so people who have seen the whole book (maybe I still am). The publisher ran out of money, so the project didn’t push through. The book was 96 pages of Drilon’s full-colour ChemSet strips, and a handful of new ones to round off the collection, some of which already saw publication in places, but not “Pericos Tao” for some reason.

“Pericos Tao” is one of those too few gay stories that’s ABOUT being gay and at the same time ISN’T in the sense that it isn’t pushing an agenda. It’s about a young man trying to escape the past, and, unsuccessful, finally decides to come to terms with it in his own terms. It makes use of a few characters/creatures from Visayan tradition and somehow making them not clunky as how most of these things are on the page more often than not. It also employs some formal play by way of recreating the young man’s Visayan childhood via impeccably mimicking Larry Alcala’s unmistakable cubist brushstrokes, while the present rendered as how Drilon renders his usual, only slightly better, all of these things running in synch all focused on telling the story, and telling it well. Of everything I’ve read by Drilon, or any one else’s in SpecFic for that matter (and I’ve probably read about 90% of what’s been published so far as of 05:04AM of 7 September 2009), “Pericos Tao” remains to be the most honest and most complete and most heartfelt and really just one of the best stories I’ve ever read, printed (or not) on paper. It’s really all just downhill from here for Drilon. I hope more people will get the chance to read “Pericos Tao,” before he decides to sell out and go manga on everyone. Make it so, Andrew!

High praise from someone very hard to impress. Intrigued? Then go check out Pericos Tao

Big Dreams and Awesome Costumes: An Interview with David Hontiveros

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 18 - 2011

David Hontiveros is one of the most prolific writers of speculative fiction in the country today. He’s won a Palanca award and been nominated for a National Book Award, and his work spans both prose (his Penumbra novellas) and comics (Bathala: Apokalypsis). Hontiveros recently re-released his online novel Pelicula as an ebook for the Amazon Kindle and Smashwords.  I thought it might be a good time to talk to Dave about the novel, superheroes, fantaseryes, and the state of publishing in the country. Here’s what he had to say:

[Art by Kajo Baldisimo]

Tell us a little bit about Pelicula. Do you think it will appeal to fans of science fiction and fantasy, particularly the superhero subgenre?

Pelicula’s about a young up-and-coming actor, Luis Conrado, as he navigates the tricky and turbulent waters of the Philippine showbiz industry, something that’s already difficult under normal real life circumstances.

In the novel, I’ve populated the industry with supernatural creatures from local folklore, who are the movers and shakers of the scene, multiplying the difficulties exponentially as a result.

Luis also happens to be the star of the highly-rated and uberpopular fantaserye, Habagat, on which he plays the title role, the super-bayani of the Philippines, Habagat.

Given that’s there a lot of superhero stuff in the novel– with some of my thoughts regarding superheroes, and what they mean to us as individuals and as a society, and the potentials of their physicality in the real world, informing the narrative– I sincerely hope that Pelicula appeals to that section of the audience into SF/fantasy and superheroes, of which I’m a proud member of, if that isn’t too obvious yet.

Of course, one always hopes for a broader section of readership, so hopefully other sections are pulled in by the romance angle, as Luis falls in love with a mannikin, an actress created by occult means to be the ultimate movie star. (So, aside from my thoughts about superheroes, some of the thoughts and impressions of a lifelong film geek about the film industry also serve to inform Pelicula.)

[Art by Ian Sta. Maria]

You mentioned in your author’s note a love for “live-action superheroics”. Most people would have just said “superheroes.” What is it about the live-action adaptations that interest you?

That goes way back to my grade school days, when, while reading superhero comics, I’d be constantly fascinated by the idea of these heroes stepping out of the panels and into the real, physical world. Things like how would they carry themselves, what would their body language be, what would their costumes look like, how would they sound, kept me preoccupied long past the reading of the comic itself.

It was fascinating to see the ‘50’s TV Superman, and the ‘60’s TV Batman and Green Hornet, and even back then, somewhere at the back of my young head, I was beginning to understand that tone was something that affected the entire package, and that you could have wildly different interpretations of the same character and that was fine (certainly, Adam West was not the 1970’s comic Batman, and George Reeves seemed more interested in tackling gangsters and hoods than interstellar menaces like Brainiac). Perhaps more tellingly, I was also being taught, quite subconsciously during those early years, that budget also dictated how a superhero’s live-action adventures were approached and executed.

Then Richard Donner’s Superman detonated across my young geek psyche, and that was it. If I wasn’t a lifelong fan of the stuff yet, I certainly was when I stepped out of the theater. It was the greatest superhero ever to grace a comic book panel, in real life. Yes, a man could indeed fly!

From that point on, it’s been a constant search for all sorts and manner of live-action superheroics, from the low budget ‘80’s Marvel productions like Captain America (with J.D. Salinger’s son as Cap!) to the glorious cheese of the ‘70’s Superman rip-off, Supersonic Man (still a personal favorite) to the fantastic wire fu/men in rubber monster suits extravaganza of Guyver: Dark Hero, with David Hayter, voice of Solid Snake and Captain America, and screenwriter of X-Men and Watchmen playing Guyver when he’s out of the bio-armor (the mind boggles at the audacious level of that geek cred).

The Betamax era brought treasures like the Kirk Alyn Superman serials my way, while today’s internet offers all the episodes of the zany Japanese Spider-Man TV show on (who can resist Amazoness with her pink hooker wig?).

There’s the fantastic world of the superhero fan film out there, and the amazing costume work being done on the cosplay scene.

Then there’s the maddening variety of live-action superheroics in non-English tongues: everything from Indonesia’s Panji Manusia Milenium and Superboy on TV, all the way to the big screen, where we find curious gems like Thailand’s Mercury Man and India’s Krrish, the latter complete with Bollywood-style song-and-dance numbers!

Not to mention the martial arts badassery courtesy of first, Jet Li, then Andy On in Tsui Hark’s Black Mask movies, or the killer moves brought to us by Marko Zaror in Chile’s Mirageman.

Plus the insane tokusatsu sugar rush of Ultraman or Kamen Rider. (And yes, at this juncture we can safely toss our own Captain Barbell and Darna and Zsa-Zsa Zaturnnah into the mix.)

Now, despite what it may sound like, it’s not just about the kickass action, or the amusement and laughs one can find in some of these titles (and there are those, believe me), but it’s about that universal feeling of hope inherent in the idea of a hero who can make things right by doing what he does best: getting into the spandex and kicking some baddie ass.

There’s something reassuring about that thought, that no matter where we are on the globe, no matter the geographic distance and the cultural differences, there is always that shared belief in the power of the hero to make things right. That’s what I try to find in any title I happen to come across, and it’s there, even if it’s in some tiny moment or throw-away line or some badly-written, awkwardly-acted, and terribly-shot scene, it’s there, and it’s honestly a really nice thing to see.

These days, when part of the definition of “Hollywood summer blockbuster” seems to be the word “superhero,” I’m like a deliriously happy pig at an overflowing trough. Now, it’s become about finding the off-kilter, the atypical, the ones that say more and delve deeper into (or even subvert) the material; the Hancock as opposed to the Iron Man 2, the Defendor as opposed to the Daredevil. (And looking back at that, I realize that I’ve singled out two titles that are actually original pieces, as opposed to comic book adaptations.)

But still, typical narrative or otherwise, original or adapted, it’s about that idea of how a superhero can impact on the real, physical world, and taking that thought all the way to its possible real world end point, how can I emulate the best about a superhero even if I’m not actually one at all?

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Summer Komik Review Link Roundup

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 11 - 2011

With both the Metro Comic Con and Summer Komikon behind us, the two biggest komik-centric events of the summer (note that the Toycon, while larger, has had a small komiks presence in the past), a slew of reviews, long and short, have been popping up on the Internet, and I thought that now would be a good time to round them up:

EK Gonzales: Reviews of The Filipino Heroes League book 1 (paolo fabregas), Starchild and Jagannath (kevin ray valentino), Save (danny acuna) , Cadre (polyhedron) , Zombies in Manila issues 1-4 (scratch comics) , Gwapoman 2000 (obvious productions) , Kanto, Inc. issue 2 (point zero) , The Marvelous Mega Woman (ernest caritativo)Ang Morion issue 1 (nest comics) , Precinto 13 (alamat), Sagrado Teritoryo (pisara period)Kapitan Tog issue 1 (freely abrigo) , Cat’s Trail Rewind issue 2,3 (elmer & maria cornelio damaso), Work in Progress (hub pacheco/ted pavon), Callwork: A Call Center Life (hazel manzano) , Patintero issue 2, 3 (wallpush productions), Callous: Chocolate Chip Wishes and Caffeine Dreams (carlo san juan), Tokwa’t Baboy (cm) , Mark 9 verse 47 issue 1-4 compilation (meganon comics), Atomic Underground issue 1,2 (atomic underground collective), Force 8 issue 1 (tomokii), Only Ever After (bbqs, iNorth), Slash, Earthborne, MarsMag, Shorts, Mithril Group Anthology, Cat’s Trail Spotlight: Batang Airee at Polaris.

Joanah TC/Ika-Siyam: Reviews of Mukat #2, A Ride on the Call of Will, Hyper Comics – MARK’D, Rampage Comics/I-Rawwrr — Amoy ng Kupfal, Holly Hock, The Monkey and the Turtle (Director’s Cut), The Unwanted, Unos MUNDOS #5, Myth-tech, Fruitshake: Playmate, Fruitshake: Point Blank, Fruitshake: On top of the World, SKETCH #1, Magugunaw na ang Mundo, Nasa’n na ang Labs Ko?!, Ibalong, Patintero, Only Ever After, Pasko sa Pamilya, The Curfew (book 2 Chapter 1), Gatas ng Saging, Dino Shogun, Force 8, Atomic Underground and Full Upgrade, A Certain Comic Artist’s Journal Side A/B, Flipinas ’70

Behold the Geek: Bayan Knights: Gilas, Trese: A Private Collection, The Filipino Heroes League Book 1: Sticks and Stones

UNWANTED: The Komikero Artists Group Podcast #1: All By Myself: The new podcast has a segment where Gerry Alanguilan reviews Carlo Vergara’s ZsaZsa Zaturnnah: Sa Kalakhang Maynila: Special Preview, and Andrew Villar’s Hari.

This Weekend: Free Comic Book Day 2011 and Metro Comic Con

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 4 - 2011

This coming weekend is a big one for comics lovers, and I just thought I’d remind everyone (as if you guys don’t have the dates encircled in your calendars yet).

May 7 is Free Comic Book Day, as is every first Saturday of May. As has become the case in recent years, Comic Odyssey in Robinson’s Galleria seems to be the place to go, if you absolutely must raid only one store on that day, with plenty of guest artists arriving, and exclusive FCBD comics from local creators. For those wondering what the big deal is (although why one would need to go farther than “free” “comics” is a mystery to me), Gerry Alanguilan (should I say Eisner-award nominated Gerry Alanguilan now? ^_^) has a great post that places the event in context.

May 7 is also the first day of the Metro Comic Con, which lasts until May 8 and takes place at SM Megamall. Special guests at the event are David Lloyd (V for Vendetta), Tony DeZuniga (creator of Jonah Hex) and Philp Tan (Batman and Robin, Green Lantern)

Summer Komikon 2011 Impressions and Photodump

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On April - 17 - 2011

The 2011 Summer Komikon took place yesterday at the Bayanihan Center. I didn’t have enough time to go around as much as I usually do, but here are a few pictures and some thoughts on the event.

The turnout seemed about equal to what it was at the Bahay ng Alumni, which was a pleasant surprise and is a testament to a bang up job that organizers and advocates did getting the word out. I found the Bayanihan Center to be an improvement over the Bahay ng Alumni in most respects: the air condition really helped to make the event more comfortable (and hence more accessible to the more casual fan or newcomer not willing to bathe in sweat – their own and that of assorted strangers’ – in order to browse the wares). It also seemed to me to be easier to secure – the Bahay ng Alumni had a lot of ingress/egress points. I didn’t notice any food/drink concessionaires, however, which could be a downside to those not willing to cross the street to the restaurants around Pioneer supermarket.

I also wish that the hall itself had been made to look a bit more festive – the hall doesn’t have a lot of character, and the wedding reception type music that was playing (at least when I arrived) seemed out of place. I’m not looking for giant Kubori Kikiam blimps – although, hey, that’d be awesome – but  few more banners, posters, and standees would have helped give the convention more of a “convention” feel, especially since cosplayers are usually sparse in comparison to other cons.


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Summer Komikon 2011

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On April - 13 - 2011

It’s summer time, and you know what that means – another Summer Komikon, where the Philippine comics/komiks scene gathers to sell their wares and celebrate the medium we love. This year, the even will be held at the Bayanihan Center in Pasig (near Pioneer supermarket, if you know that area) and not at the Bahay ng Alumni – you can get a map here. The event starts at 10am on April 16 and is a one day affair, so clear your calendars – many of the komiks sold at these cons have limited print runs and are only available at these cons, so snap them up!

Here’s some additional info from Krisis Komix:

This year’s theme is “Bayanihan: Komiks Moving Onwards” and the main highlights of the event include:

* the opening of the nominations for the 3rd Komikon Awards for Komikon 2011;

* exhibit and guest spotlight on women cartoonists;

* release of the first Summer Komikon Tabloid;

* screening of Animahenasyon 2007 and Animahenasyon 2008 winning entries;

* book launches of new comics titles (28 titles from the Indie Komiks Tiange);

* various comics-themed competitions

Filipinos Nominated for the 2011 Eisner Awards

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On April - 12 - 2011

Komix 101 has a post up listing the Filipinos with work that has been nominated for the prestigious Eisner Awards for this year. The big news of course is the nomination of Gerry Alanguilan’s “Elmer”, but other Filipinos have made the ballot this year, and Komix 101 also lists those who, as Gerry pointed out, have made the ballot or won the award in the past.

Congratulations and good luck to this year’s nominees!



About Me

Rocket Kapre is an imprint of Eight Ray Sun Publishing Inc. (a new Philippine-based publisher), dedicated to bringing the very best of Philippine Speculative Fiction in English to a worldwide audience by means of digital distribution. More info can be found at our About section at the top of the page.