Tarantadong Kalbo probably is correct in saying 2021 is the sequel of the worst year ever, and we will indeed remember it as such, when we locked down even more than we wanted, when we feared for a faster and deadlier variant of the virus.
Nonetheless, komikeros continued to create, people supported those who were making komiks, and komiks continued to thrive in its own ways this year.
‘Trese’ Netflix anime
Of course, we can’t talk about this year without talking about the crowning achievement of current independent komiks: one of the forerunners and one of its own has been turned into a successful Netflix animated short series, with a Filipino-American showrunner and Filipino producer, with a respected group of Filipinos and Filipino-American actors as voice talents.
While not the first international Filipino komik, the attention from Netflix assured that Trese as a comic series is now available worldwide. Much of the Philippines finally realized: there are new komiks that are not the classics, they deserve support, and there is more, lots more.
Interest from Trese the series ultimately spilled over into not just the Trese books, but also other komiks including those housed in Penlab.
We all wish the animated series could have been longer, many wish some things were done differently. But ultimately we all hope this is the start of better things, for all of komiks.
Success of the primary komik platforms
Past all expectations, Penlab continued to grow and to gather the work of many komikeros, especially content only earlier available in komik conventions, and gathering komikeros previously only on international webcomic sites. They regularly reported record traffic in readership each month, across many titles. Penlab diligently and gradually garnered its position as one of the premier go-to one-stop-shop websites for Filipino komiks.
Webkom as well has continued to thrive and attract more creators at practically all levels of experience. Having so many creators to monitor has made them establish subgroups, to encourage community, as well as to facilitate feedback and improvement.
Webkom has also initiated scheduled posting and regular events that emphasize creators, titles, and characters, amplifying most of them in their turns. All of these things have improved the community within their regular readership and also improved traffic overall.
Secondary online komik platforms
With the success of both Penlab and Webkom, several other sites and groups began to try their hand in being online hubs for komiks.
These sites either gather the komiks of a collective or group of komikeros such as Iris Comics and Chain Mason, some like Fliptoons want to emphasize creators from the regions while trying to monetize, some like Kudlis and Komikspot/MixdToon are searching for ways to more effectively monetize komiks.
There are still komikero collectives uploading as a group on social media sites (Jump Jet, Pasyon, and others), especially those from regional areas. All of these of course are worthy endeavors, and worth checking into.
On July 17, Tarantadong Kalbo’s Kevin Raymundo released the now famous character, a solitary fist standing up in protest, against a sea of fists punched straight ahead but subservient. It was iconic enough as it was, a brave statement to stand up, even if alone.
But a few days later fellow artists Kapitan Tambay, Cartoonist Zach, and others also added their own standing-up fist characters minutes to hours of each other, and a movement was initiated.
Soon, so many artists, komikeros, organizations, and individuals added their own fists, a colorful online rally, eventually leading to a website by DakilaPH, all joining to stand up, to speak up, eventually to vote wisely.
T u m i n d i g ✊? pic.twitter.com/ODYkPqRn0T— Tarantadong Kalbo (@KevinKalbo) July 17, 2021
The solitary standing fist even made it to several actual political rallies soon after the online wave of art. This also created some art weakly defending what was being spoken against, or inadvertently emphasizing what was being spoken against.
But for a glorious few weeks of colorful unique fisted art, so many took heart that they were not alone, that so many did want to stand for what was true and right.
Komiket Kommunity 2021
Komiket released its annual anthology, this being a time capsule of the first pandemic year. Across many topics, many concerns, and many komikeros, the anthology is a display of the many kinds of komiks currently available.
But it is also an important piece of memory, of how the government has wronged so many of us; of how people continued to laugh, love, fight for justice, and serve others; but ultimately of how the Filipino has continued to be strong and resilient in the face of so many challenges.
In an opening line it is also a tribute to two of its greatest supporters: Sir Gerry Alanguilan and Danry Ocampo.
Penlab announced an arrangement with PsiCom that will allow them to release printed versions of several titles in the catalog. Such will allow these currently online komiks to have national reach and exposure.
A slice of fresh komiks. Penlab Fresh, our young adult comic book imprint with @Officialpsicom, is coming late 2021/early 2022 with new releases every quarter.— penlab.ink (@penlab_ink) September 4, 2021
Follow us for the latest updates and read Pinoy komiks online on Penlab!
(Layout by @sampay07) pic.twitter.com/s882t9UAyn
Part of the first batch, to be released in early 2022, include Penlab and Twitter favorite, Ang Jowa Kong Crosswise; the unexpected quiet success, Life in Orange; the popular supernatural series, Katipunera Warrior; the lost-in-time feminist series, Nagmamahal, Maria Clara; and several more.
Because of pandemic restrictions PICOF was still the Philippines International Comics Online Festival during September 2021, held by Komiket. This may have made it easier to host the guest speakers coming from Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, the United States, and the United Kingdom, as well as the Philippines, even if online.
The price of admission was buying a komik under the Komiket catalog, which made the webinars accessible to more than previously. The combined breadth of experience and depth of knowledge across many topics and themes affecting comics and media that was shared during the weekends of the PICOF2021 is hard to match.
Official PICOF selections Twinkle Twinkle by Tori Tadiar, and Alandal by JP Ignacio and Alex Nino, were launched during the event. The next batch of future releases was also introduced.
The candidates for PICOF 2023, meaning the stories and concepts that will be developed for possible release by that time, were also announced.
10 Years to Save the World
In a partnership between The Lakes International Comic Art Festival (LICAF) of the United Kingdom, and Komiket, five artists from the Philippines created comics along with five artists from the UK.
The project was made to emphasize climate change, especially leading toward the COP26 (the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference). The Philippines was represented well by Budjette Tan and KaJO Baldisimo, Manix Abrera, Kevin Raymundo, Emiliana Kampilan (Dead Balagtas), and Ren Galeno, with incredible pieces.
All the pieces show how our country is one of those directly and closely affected by climate change, how we are affected by greed, carelessness, and politics. All are available to read for free on the website.
Komikon Creator Connect
Also because of pandemic restrictions, Komikon was held online again this year, with the organizers conducting several interviews with various komikeros.
One initiative conducted this year during Komikon Indieket was to pair up interested writers with komikeros, in collaborations to create more komiks.
New on Penlab— penlab.ink (@penlab_ink) November 20, 2021
Komikon Creator Connect anthology by various: An anthology of the collaborations from Komikon Indieket 2021's Creator Connect initiative that aimed to pair writers and artists who were looking to create comic books together.
Read now: https://t.co/9V3yr3LYB8 pic.twitter.com/BNv1ZZQy37
One output of this, released during the Komikon Grande, was Komikon Creator Connect anthology, currently on Penlab until December 31, showing the short comics from the collaborations.
It was also sadly announced a few days after that Komikon will temporarily go on hiatus, until there is assurance of being able to hold in-person events again.
Filipino komiks go to Frankfurt
Thanks to an arrangement with the National Book Development Board, komiks was part of the catalog delegation to the biggest book fair in the world, the Frankfurt Book Fair, in Germany.
Komiket brought currently the largest selection of Filipino komiks and future komik releases so far to be brought to that book fair, besides those in the Avenida and Adarna House catalogs.
There is still hope of better days to come, and komiks in all its forms is one of the best ways of showing it. May the new year be better for us all, and for all of komiks.