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Let’s talk about the comics that come from the minds, heart, and skill of the Filipino.

Hello. Let’s talk komiks. With a 'K'

By EK Gonzales Published Jul 06, 2020 12:00 am Updated Jul 13, 2020 1:02 pm

Let’s talk about the comics that come from the minds, heart, and skill of the Filipino.

“Komiks” with a "K" was already used during the golden age of Filipino komiks in the 1930s to 1970s. The practice was continued primarily by Wasted and Elmer creator, the late Gerry Alanguilan, as the commercial komiks industry faded away and the independent komiks movement took its place in the late 1990s up to the present.

While it is true that other ASEAN and some European countries also spell it as “komiks,” in local usage this means talking about our own material, in contrast to American comics and Japanese manga.

We’re not even going to talk about komiks being "dead," but we will explain why this misconception continues.

It is true that the commercial komiks industry that created the superheroes and dramas most Filipinos know – that died, due to a combination of the rise of television, the opening of foreign comics employment, and unfair labor practices toward komiks artists. Any classic-style komiks that you see in tabloids and convenience stores are the rare vestiges of that era.

What replaced the commercial komiks industry is a culture of self-published komiks: komik artists made their own komiks as photocopied “zines,” then as compiled books. Culture Crash, CAST, and Mangaholix started as attempts to create comic magazines but with new local creators.

You may know the titles that established the new independent komiks movement: Culture Crash which produced Cat’s Trail, Pasig, Digmaang Salinlahi, and Kubori Kikiam; CAST by Jamie Bautista and various artists; The Mythology Class by Arnold Arre; Elmer by Alanguilan; ZsaZsa Zaturnnah by Carlo Vergara; and Trese by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo.

Over the years, these were joined by komiks “rockstars” Manix Abrera of the Kikomachine series; and Lyndon Gregorio of Beerkada.

But because most current komiks are self-published they are frequently not available in book and magazine stores, which make them inaccessible to many casual readers.

Also, mass media has tended to play safe by rehashing classic komik superheroes, making it seem to the general public that there are no new komiks. This is far from the truth.

Filipino komiks is now a very vibrant movement, composed of many artists from many backgrounds and from many skill levels, working in many styles. It is no longer confined to one standard style, getting inspiration from our own komiks history as well as the comics of the world.

Because komiks are not confined to being commercial anymore, it has given creators the freedom to tell whatever stories they want, however they want to present them.

You’re probably reading this because you already have an interest in our local and current komiks. You probably know any one of the most well known representatives listed above. Hopefully, you want to know where to find more.

Let us start by saying this: Open your eyes to ALL of komiks.

Current Filipino komiks now have a distinct identity that label them as purely Filipino in heart, soul, and mind. The majority does not imitate anymore; they stand on their own.

Take a chance on all komiks. Trese is not supposed to define all of komiks. Neither should The Mythology Class nor ZsaZsa Zaturnnah, or the Culture Crash titles.

Komiks is better for having such high quality pieces to look up to. But it is not fair to expect all of komiks to be like them. A good number of current komiks now have different themes and stories, ranging from horror, fantasy, science fiction, comedy, action, politics, introspection, and slice-of-life.

Such different themes lead to different speeds in pacing, different kinds of paneling – ultimately, different presentations that are unique to their stories. The komik conventions accept artists at different ages and levels of experience, and this leads to komiks of varying levels of quality, from those still learning the ropes to the highly polished. It is also this variety that makes komiks so happily dynamic. 

Many have such different art styles that it is completely unfair to compare them with the more realistic styles of Arre, Alanguilan, Vergara, and the Trese team.

Despite the visible inspirations of manga, Western superhero comics, foreign alternative comics, and American non-superhero comics, current Filipino komiks now have a distinct identity that label them as purely Filipino in heart, soul, and mind. The majority does not imitate anymore; they stand on their own.

Some titles to get you started on current komiks

Tabi Po (Mervin Malonzo, Haliya Publishing) (mature content)

The Cignal cable TV series was based on a komik series, a drastic retelling of Noli Me Tangere with Elias as an aswang. It is a questioning of what we are taught and told, as well as a serious story that deals in horror and gore.

Ella Arcangel (Julius Villanueva, Haliya Publishing) (mature content)

Ella is still a girl but a trained mambabarang (practitioner of sorcery or witchcraft), living in an impoverished barangay and dealing with the supernatural threats that visit there. The work contains a powerful attack on social inequality, extrajudicial killing, and misguided obedience to power.

Sagala (Tori Tadiar) (PG content)

One of the best series created by the Komiket University komik-making program. Riel and Constantino are siblings in the middle of political schemes in Hiraya’s Royal Palacio, where Hiraya is a colony of a foreign/alien continent. Their choices as courtesan and royal bodyguard respectively, as they deal with the continental ambassador and his escort, may change the course of all of Hiraya’s future. Order from the creator.

Nagmamahal, Maria Clara (Marianie, Komik Sundays) (PG content)

Feminist done adorable and fun in an original style, THE Maria Clara finds herself a woman in the wrong time, transported to the present and the new actress of a movie about the notion of Maria Clara. While the young lady gets her bearings in a modern world that definitely no longer wears the baro’t saya, she also unpacks and unlearns a lot of things about the expectations of any Filipina. Order from the creator.

The Hotdog Prince (Francis Martelino) (mature content)

One of the best examples of its action-comedy genre is the silly adventures of Tomas, trying to get his nose back from a strange entity who is the Hotdog Prince. Filled with awesome banter and executed with good detailed paneling and pacing, it eventually evolves into a running story with good action scenes. Order from the creator.

Dead Balagtas: Mga Sayaw ng Dagat at Lupa (Emiliana Kampilan, Anino) (SPG content)

The tour-de-force of the komikera best known for her historical strips, these are three stories that are part geography lesson of how the Philippines became an archipelago, three separate love stories with one gay and one lesbian relationship each, and two stories addressing community organizing and Muslim/Christian relations. This is also one of the best LGBTQ komiks to come out.

Patay Kung Patay (Mike Alcazaren, Noel Pascual and AJ Bernardo, Kowtow Komiks) (mature content)

The zombie genre done political. A zombie uprising slowly eliminates a haciendero family with political connections, all said connections not helping to save their lives. Pascual and Bernardo are well known for their distinct and powerful story delivery and paneling dynamics, unique in all of komiks, as driven by one of our film storytellers. Order from the creators.

Panel komiks: Libreng Komiks, Opismeyts, Ugh

There are panel komiks distributed among all the major newspapers, so I am highlighting three that are not connected to any.

Libreng Komiks by Toto Madayag, Silaw Publishing, is Facebook-famous as various observations about life in this country.

Opismeyts by Ramark Masangkay is about office life.

Ugh, Hulyen, Haliya Publishing, is about being a hipster young adult and a komikera, and sometimes about life in a religious school.

You also probably know HungHang Flashbacks (L.Borja, Summit Publishing).

It is also best to understand that current komiks is mostly still self-published. Because of the absence of the commercial structure, there is no serialization system, and there is no mass publication system beyond those supplied by local publishers.

Komiks come out during komik conventions, whenever the artist is able to complete the komik zine, usually on top of school, work, and family obligations, and depending on the komikero’s budget (of photocopying or producing the komik, as well as renting the convention table).

Komiks, therefore, are available usually in different ways.

Through art stores

Some online and brick-and-mortar art stores do have some komiks, depending on individual artists. One can try at Manila Artpost and Common Room.

Through komik distributors

Several distributors have been created over the years, to help creators in distributing their komiks. These include Silaw Publishing, SecretHQ – distributor for Komiket, MyAvenida, and Haliya Publishing – helmed by Mervin Malonzo of Tabi Po.

Through the creators themselves by mail or delivery

Some komikeros are willing and able to distribute their own komiks all year round, just contact them on their social media accounts.

Through online platforms

Many komiks started and continue as webcomics. Many of them are on Facebook, Instagram, WebToon, and Mangaido. Some komikeros have followings in the hundreds and sometimes thousands through these platforms.

Through the komik conventions

The two major conventions specializing in komiks are Komikon which is usually in April and November; and the Komiket which is usually in February and October. Then, regional events the rest of the year.

Between these two events, most komiks have an annual to quarterly release. While other art events and fandom events may also have komikeros, it is best that you go to the main komik conventions for majority of the komik releases.

Through local publishers

Summit Publishing, Anino Comics (comics arm of Adarna House), and Black Ink (comics arm of Precious Pages) are the remaining traditional publishers of local komiks. Visprint titles Trese and Kikomachine will eventually be distributed by MyAvenida.

This space will try to show some of what is currently coming out in local komiks, as well as hopefully point you to where they could be acquired. As they are known, the new distribution and publication systems will also be shared. I hope you find many komiks to love and share to others.

I hope to see you as we talk komiks.