Komikon 2009: Part 1

If the Metro Comic Con is the unholy spawn of Comic Con International, then Komikon, held last Sunday, is the closest the Filipino comic industry has to an SPX. Ever since the collapse of the larger comic book publishers, original Filipino comics have been for the most part synonymous with "indie" comics: the entire industry is still relatively small and tightly-knit enough that the notion of "team comics" could sometimes be felt rearing its head in both events. But within that small community is a wide variety of styles, philosophies, and approaches. For the first time Komikon was held inside SM Megamall, like the MCC a few months back. But because Komikon is more focused on the comics medium, it only took about half the space of MCC. The atmosphere was more low key. The crowds were lighter, and the entrance fee was lower. The occasional cosplayer could sometimes be spotted wandering around the booths, but they were such a forlorn presence, and mostly congregated at the entrance of the convention hall. So there weren't too many photo opportunities. This suited me just fine, as I made far more purchases than I did at MCC.

In this post I'll survey the komiks industry as mirrored by the event.

Big Fish in a Little Pond

There were a number of heavily promoted releases this year. The most high profile of these was the book launch of the restored and compiled version of colonial-era adventure by Filipino komiks legend . This restoration was a pet project of Gerry Alanguilan for the last five years, and is now being published by the educational organization Vibal Publishing. The story had to be restored from copies of the serialized pages as the original artwork was completely lost. I'm surprised that such a prestigious work is being published in softcover format. Come to think of it, all the books at the event were released as softcovers.

El Indio at Vibal, Komikon 2009.
El Indio Booth

The other big release touted by the event organizers was the horror anthology Underpass: Featuring stories written by Alanguilan, Filipino novelist David Hontiveros, and Trese creator Budjette Tan. The book is being published by magazine giant Summit Media, which is why the book is getting a lot more publicity than usual.

Gerry Alanguilan was also releasing two self-published books of his own: The collected edition of , and a new book Where Bold Stars Go To Die, which is Illustrated by Arlanzandro C. Esmeña. The latter book deals with the brief period of popular skin flicks that were being produced in the Philippines during the eighties. The good news is that ELMER will also be sold at National Bookstore.

Jun Lofamia and Danny Acuña, Komikon 2009.
Jun Lofamia and Danny Acuña

And if Gerry wasn't spread-out thinly enough, he also contributes some art to a much anticipated graphic novel MAJARLICA: Bayan ng Agimat by Rod Rodriguez, Vincent "Jann" Galino and Danny Acuña. The subject matter and art style are a homage to the kind of mythologically-themed komiks stories that were a widely-read staple in the fifties.

I'm probably leaving someone out, but the other major book releases that drew a lot of attention at the con were the third Trese compilation, and 12 by popular comic strip creator Manix Abrera. I gave the first two Trese books a very mixed review, and I will eventually post reviews of these two at some point. As I mentioned, my pile of purchases was bigger this time around.

Manga Rules

While Komikon's most hyped products were softcovers aimed at the bookstore market (Some of them partnered with established publishing houses), the traditional comic book still exists after a fashion. Mango Comics continues to release a number of comics-centered magazines, including the girl-oriented Mango Jam. They've also revived a few classic superhero properties. Gilbert Monsanto's self publishing effort Sacred Mountain Publications focuses on superhero pamphlets: Its most high-profile project is the creator-owned superhero universe title Bayan Knights. Alamat Comics also publishes a number of Western-style titles. But the slickest and most popular periodical is the anthology-style title Mangaholix Presents created by the studio Groundbreakers Inc.

Mangaholix booth, Komikon 2009.
Mangaholix booth

While there were a few titles that looked like Western-style alt comics, most of the creators selling minis were clearly influenced by manga. Most of them also have an audience developed through a web presence: Kickbackers, M3 Studios, Camille N, Makurai, daMEAT, Meganon Comics, Silent Sanctum,and lambchild are a random sampling of manga-style artists who have deviantART accounts. They possess differing levels of talent, but their stylistic choices means they all labor in the collective shadow of the world's largest comics industry. Their professional futures aren't all assured. And I get the impression that almost all of them are unfortunately limited to the conventional shonen/shojo axis. But their youth, artistic development through online communities, and their fluency with comic conventions absorbed from a different culture, distinguish them from the more established creators raised on printed matter at Komikon.

Loop by Camille N, Komikon 2009.
Loop by Camille N.