“Skygypsies” – Free Philippine SF Comic, Now Online

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On March - 1 - 2011

Filipino artist John Raymond Bumanglag illustrated a comic adaptation (originally a thesis) of a prose story from Timothy James Dimacali entitled “Skygypsies”, which was published in “Philippine Speculative Fiction Volume 3.” The result is a classically illustrated comic book adaptation of “Skygypsies” which has been posted on John Raymond’s blog in its entirety, for your viewing pleasure.

It’s quite an unexpected treat, and a quality read. The artwork is meticulous and it is clear how much care and love went into its production. As for the tale, Philippine space-based science fiction stories are something of a rarity, and the fact that this features one of our more distinct indigenous cultures is a bonus. The Sama Dilaut (or Sama-Laut, as referred to here) are sea nomads who tend to avoid violent confrontations. I’m no expert, but based from what I’ve read about the Sama Dilaut, their portrayal in the story seems consistent with their history–they have a tradition of male bonding that develops from the prolonged isolation of each ship, and suffered discrimination at the hands of some of the more aggressive cultural groups. They could find their way across the seas through the use of sailing songs, kalangan tebba, which helped them commit to memory precise alignments or landmarks. [Herminia Meñez Coben, "Verbal Arts in Philippine Indigenous Communities"]

May I extend my congratulations to both creators, as well as my thanks–I’m thrilled to be able to use the tag “Sama-Laut Science Fiction” in a post. (And thanks to Budjette Tan as well for bringing this comic to my attention.)

Komik Review: Urban Animal #1 by John Amor

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On February - 24 - 2011

John Amor’s “The Urban Animal #1″ tells the beginning of the story of a young man (apparently in college, although he looks like a high school kid) who crosses the wrong person and is placed under a monstrous curse–although, to be frank, none of that is evident from the cover, which does a poor job of giving the prospective reader any idea as to what the comic will be about. The cover also does little to showcase Amor’s stylized art, which is a shame, given that the art is the highlight of Urban Animal. Amor has a hyper-expressive, stubby-figured style that reminds me of the early work of Humberto Ramos. While there are some panels where the facial expression of the characters seems off, or where there were better angles from which to view the scene, the art in general is clean, bold and sufficiently detailed–though nowhere near as polished as Amor’s more recent  work (Urban Animal was drawn ten years ago, and the comic released by Super Debil Robot Comics contains the original art, touched up slightly). The artwork reaches its pinnacle toward the end of the issue, where the story takes a step toward horror, of the “creature feature” variety.

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Hey Baby! – Gerry Alanguilan Signing Event at Sputnik

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On January - 27 - 2011

Can’t really put it any better than Gerry does: “Save your money! Buy comics at Sputnik on January 29, 2011! Let me vandalize your stuff! You know you want to!” The event is at Sputnik at Cubao X and will be held this Saturday, January 29, from 9PM-2AM.

Review: From Darna to Zsazsa Zaturnnah…

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On January - 11 - 2011

Few people are more keenly aware of the rift between “literary/realist” and “popular” than genre authors and komiks creators. For those who would like an overview of that debate within the Philippine context, from an academic perspective that is sympathetic to the possibilities inherent in non-realist forms, I recommend From “Darna to Zsazsa Zaturnnah: Desire and Fantasy” by Soledad S. Reyes. My review of this collection is up on Filipiniana.net, and I hope it leads more readers to Reyes’ essays–particularly the abovementioned genre authors and komiks creators.

[Image from Goodreads.]

The 2010 Komiks Review Roundup

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 28 - 2010

Christmas is over and the year is winding down, and I thought this week would be a good time to roundup all the reviews of komiks and Philippine spec fic I could find from the year that was. I decided to start with komiks because there were, or at least it seems to me, a great number of komiks reviews this year as compared to previous years. When I was handed editorial duties for Pinoy Pop, one of the first things I did was pester Gerry Alanguilan for an interview to discuss his post “The Need for Serious Criticism“.  The result was the two part “The Levels of Komiks Criticism” (Part 1) (Part 2) and while Pinoy Pop isn’t a going concern anymore, I still believe that a vibrant community of vocal and critical readers is essential to the development of good komiks. I understand that many creators do what they do out of love, and certainly there are ways to be critical without being mean-spirited, but we all need to accept the fact that if you put something out there for public consumption, you need to be able to take the good with the bad.

I’ll continue to do what I can from Rocket Kapre and in other venues, and I hope more readers decide to critique komiks in the future. For now, however, a shout out to all the reviewers who took the time to put virtual pen to virtual paper, and to all creators who never cease trying to better themselves.

Here’s my list of online komik reviews for the year 2010. As always, there’s no way for me to ensure that this is comprehensive, so please feel free to add any I’ve missed in the comments section:

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Komik Review: Marco’s Delivery Service by John Carreon

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 3 - 2010

EDIT: [March 2012] This is a review of the original, print edition. I subsequently worked with John “Koi” Carreon on revising the script of the digital edition.

Judging by “Marco’s Delivery Service”(written and illustrated by John Carreon) and its previous production, “My Falling Star Girlfriend”, Ravencage Studios (Facebook page) understands that while you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, it’s important to assume that many of us will do just that. The front and back cover of “Marco’s Delivery Service” (MDS from here on) are sturdy boards, which serve as the canvas for a colored front cover and a black-on-yellow logo at the back, both of which create a feeling of retro-fun. The front cover in particular calls to mind old school rebel-buddies-with-a-fast-ride shows, which is exactly the genre embraced by this stand alone komik, except in an anime influenced futuristic setting: think Outlaw Star or Cowboy Bebop.

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Komiks Bazaar and Other Events: First Weekend of December

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 2 - 2010

It’s looking to be an eventful first weekend of December, and I thought I’d mention a few events that will be taking place over the next few days.I’ve already mentioned Better Living Through Xeroxography” which is taking place at Ilyong’s on December 3, 2010, at 7pm. It turns out that there’s a lot more going on to greet the last month of 2010, not everything spec related but but certainly of note to Filipino creators in general, and I thought today would be a good day to give a little run down:

  • December 3
  • December 4
    • Modernist/Postmodernist Lee - While the Lee Aguinaldo: In Retrospect exhibit is ongoing until February, this coming Saturday, 10am, at the Ateneo de Manila Art Gallery, will be your only chance to hear Lisa Chikiamco (yep, she’s my cousin, and yep, she’s brilliant) deliver a talk on one of our first abstractionists.
    • UP-ISSI Indie Komiks Bazaar - a chance to pick up the works of Joanah Calingo, Alejandro Edoria, Macoy, Silent Sanctum Manga, Kickbackers, Meganon Comics, Wall Push Productions, Akda comics group and Inkwork Sorcery Studio, outside of the traditional komiks convention circuit. 1-5pm at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. (Link to the map is above.)
    • Polyhedral: Triple Crit -  a pen and paper gaming event, to be held from 1-9pm at LAST HOME Resto & Bar, Unit 6 Madison Square Pioneer, Pioneer Street Mandaluyong, Philippines.
  • December 5

Trese (and Komiks) After the Award: Budjette and Kajo Interview

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 30 - 2010

For fans of komiks, Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo need no introduction, and neither does Trese, their komiks collaboration, now published by Visprint, which is one of the most popular and most successful komik series’ in recent memory. While komiks still remains, at this point, a niche market, Trese continues to make inroads into mainstream consciousness, its most recent success being recognition in the National Book Awards in the category of Graphic Literature. In what I think is their first post-award interview, Kajo and Budjette talk about the success of Trese, the importance of their fans, transmedia storytelling, and the future of Philippine komiks:

ROCKET KAPRE: First of all, congratulations to you both for winning the National Book Award for Graphic Literature. Is it somehow sweeter to win it this year, when you were up against such strong competition, in Francisco Coching’s “El Indio”? (I remember that in his introduction to the first Trese collection, Gerry Alanguilan mentions Coching, so it seems a weird symmetry for Trese to win the award this way.)

KAJO: Thank you. It feels great to be recognized. Good to have additional gallons of inspiration to do more work like TRESE (or in our case, more ‘play’).

BUDJETTE: Of course, it feels great to finally win! How I wish we could’ve been there to accept the award. Last year, me, Kajo, and Nida (our publisher) were all dressed up at the awards and my jaw just dropped when they announced that there was no winner in the category. You’d think that if you’re the only finalist in the category, then your chances for winning are pretty high. But, as it turned out, TRESE: UNREPORTED MURDERS didn’t get the unanimous vote of the judges and that’s why it didn’t win.

So, when I found out that we were up against “El Indio” this year, I didn’t want to get my hopes too high. I was happy we got in finalist status again and I just hoped for the best.

I still remember the early days when Trese came out as individual photocopied issues, each resolving a single case. Do you still remember your initial print runs for the early issues? How many times did you have to reprint/go back to press before the first collection came out from Visprint?

BUDJETTE: When we were just photocopying TRESE in 2005, the only place you could get [the komik] was at Comic Quest. So, we probably just made 30 copies and made more whenever we’d get sold out. And we’d get a call from Comic Quest every couple of weeks that people were looking for Trese.

During the Komikon of 2005, I only had 50 copies made, thinking we wouldn’t sell a lot.

We were sold out before 3pm. I was so happy that we sold 50 copies!

KAJO: During our ‘photocopied Trese’ days, Budj was technically the publisher, so he’s the one who kept track of the copies being made and copies being sold. I rarely cared how many people were buying [the komiks] because for me, the only loyal customers we needed to maintain were Budj and Kaj. It appeared that many people were like Budj and Kaj, ‘specially when Visprint appeared and gave us a giant hand regarding distribution.

Do you remember when it was that you first realized that you had a hit on your hands? That this was going to go beyond the convention circuit?

BUDJETTE: I’m not sure of the exact tipping point of Trese. I was getting an inkling of it when I would spot the occasional review online. (Yes, yes, I Google “Trese” once in awhile.) It amazed me that people took the time to write reviews that read like someone’s thesis report. These were very detailed and passionate reviews about the stories. It was also great to get feedback from guys like Gerry Alanguilan and Marco Dimaano about the book early on.

And then, when we released TRESE: MURDER ON BALETE DRIVE, me and Kajo were invited guests at the Mangaholix Con in SMX, where we sold 100+ copies. By that time, we knew that people really liked our stories.

KAJO: Honestly, I knew we had a hit when I first read Budj’s script ‘At the Intersection of Balete and 13th Street’. I knew that this would be a story that Budj and I were going to love reading, so making it was pretty easy. [Budj and Kaj] are easy customers, you see. It’s a little different now, but I still try and please those two and hope that many others are just as willing to ride along.

You two have always seemed to value Trese fandom, featuring fan created artwork in your collections and online. What role has fandom, in particular online fandom, played in the success of Trese? Has any feedback changed how the story was told, or presented?

KAJO: The fandom is very important to the success of Trese. They are the big, smiling reflections in our mirrors that tell us ‘you’re looking good, keep it up’ or ‘you look like crap, don’t go out’. The feedback they share with us is as valuable as a steering wheel in a car, IMHO.

BUDJETTE: I think the biggest change that affected Trese’s storyline was the feedback about the Kambal. More often than not, people would ask, “Who are the Kambal? What are they? Where did they come from?”

Like I mentioned in the afterword of Book 3, the original “secret origin” of the Kambal was just supposed to be mentioned in passing in the very first Trese story. I just wanted to get that out of the way and focus on the mysteries that Trese had to solve. But Kajo deleted those captions and told me that he’d like to do a whole story that just focused on how Trese met the Kambal. I said okay and thought that it was going to be a simple 20-page story where Trese rescues the Kambal and I was going to write that sometime in the future.

More people asked about the Kambal’s origin after Book 2 came out. So, I thought, I might as well tell it in Book3. I was trying to tell it in the usual 20-page structure, but the story just wouldn’t cooperate and it became the 100-page book that was MASS MURDERS.

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Komik Review: Askals by Dodo Dayao and Bong Leal

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 26 - 2010

The POC’s Metakritiko section has my review of “Askals” by Dodo Dayao and Bong Leal. Here’s an excerpt:

What makes Askals more than the sum of its parts for me is that it achieves a sense of time and place that is absent from many other works. The problem with some stories (komiks and prose) is that they never seem to feel like they’re occurring in a real place, even if they are set in an actual location, such as Manila; they give off the sense that they were fabricated on a nameless soundstage, with two dimensional backdrops and cardboard cut-out people. Askals is grounded in its chosen setting–Quiapo, circa the late nineties/early 2000s…

Safe to say, I liked this one very much. And it always feels great to have a new komik to recommend with little reservation. While I take it Leal is based abroad at the moment, I hope to see more from these creators soon.

Oh, and yes, it has a central speculative element (it’s not obvious from the cover).

EDIT: Budjette Tan kindly pointed out to me links to a few sample pages of Askals here and here.

Better Living Through Xeroxography

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 22 - 2010

Adam David, winner of the Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Award, has always been an outspoken advocate for independent publishing and self-publishing. This December 3, 2010, at 7pm, Adam is putting together a fair/exhibition/forum/networking-type celebration of the literary equivalent of the do-it-yourself ethic. He’s calling it BETTER LIVING THROUGH XEROXOGRAPHY (Facebook link), and it will be held at Ilyong’s, Kalantiaw street, Project Four,  Cubao. The products will range from poetry zines and self-published creative non-fiction to indie komiks and t-shirts. Content of interest to spec fic fans could include the Quarterly Bathroom Companion Comics Compendium, several of Macoy Tang’s komiks, and Carljoe Javier’s The Kobayashi Maru of Love. Other participants according to Adam:

Thomasian Writers Guild! Aklat Kurimaw! Ink Elephant! Tilde Acuna! Gelo Suarez! Macoy! Papermonster! Cavite Young Writers Association! Mark Angeles! Quarterly Bathroom Companion Comics Compendium! the Youth & Beauty Brigade! Mike David! UP UGAT! UP Writers Club! Heights! High Chair! And maybe some other peeps who might decide to drop in unannounced!

Oh, and the first one hundred bottles of beer (in total, not for each person obviously) are free. What else do you need to know? Directions? Click here for a larger map of the route from Cubao, and here for the route from Katipunan. Poster image was created by Macoy Tang.

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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.

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