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Komiks, creators and Komiket

By PATRICIA MANARANG, The Philippine STAR Published Apr 16, 2021 5:00 am

It can be extremely difficult for creators to make a name for themselves in industries with thousands of other equally talented and hardworking people. This is especially true for writers and artists. How can one find a space? Is it a matter of funds, time, or luck?

For Komiket, it’s not about finding a space, but rather, creating one. Young STAR (virtually) hung out with Paolo Herras, the president of Komiket, to learn more about the organization and what they’ve been up to. 

Komiket is a space for everyone and all types of creators, even if they make handmade toys or stickers. We wanted to grow the komiks community, and to do that we had to open the doors to other types of creators.

YOUNG STAR: How did you personally get into comics? 

PAOLO HERRAS: So I worked in advertising for seven years, and one of the art directors there was Tepai Pascual, who is a true blue komikera. So when we became teammates, I showed her my film, she showed me her novel, and she invited me to the local Komikon. I was so shocked because there were other people there like me who loved telling stories and there were people who were buying their stories.

Komikon felt like home, a place where I could be myself and share my stories and people wanted to listen. That, to me, was fantastic.

Ever since 2012, I’ve been exhibiting there with Tepai or with some friends, and in 2015, the Komikon wasn’t able to put up an event in the summer. One of the organizers went up to me and asked if I wanted to put up a replacement. I said if I was gonna start something, it might as well be something sustainable. That’s how the idea of the Komiket came to be. 

  Art by Alane Alunan

So what, exactly, is Komiket? 

Komiket is a community. We’ve always been saying that to our contributors; we’re just exhibitors like you. Our creators are co-creators of Komiket, so that’s the reason why it’s grown so much. 

Komiket is a space for everyone and all types of creators, even if they make handmade toys or stickers. We wanted to grow the komiks community, and to do that we had to open the doors to other types of creators. In that way we were able to learn from each other. We started exhibiting in QC back in 2015, then eventually made it up to seven cities. 

What would you say is the biggest change in Komiket between first establishing it and now? 

We published the Komiks Cum Laude anthology, which comprises all the winners of the Komiket awards in the student category. The bigger challenge is to grow the Filipino readers. There are a lot of them, but they just don’t read Filipino works or comics.

We observed from Komiket that if they think a work hits their standard, if they think it deserves their hard-earned peso, then they’ll buy it. That was the inspiration for us to start publishing. You can’t grow the readership without having the books, and a creator can only create one or two comic books a year. If we grow the original content, it will grow the readership.

As someone working extensively behind the scenes at Komiket, is there any aspect that is particularly challenging? 

For every event or project that we did, we always had to earn the trust of the exhibitors and the creators. And when we had to do that, our reputations were on the line. If you have one wrong event, if you promise one thing that you can’t follow through, people will remember that. We just did everything that we could to keep that trust and build on it.

  Art by Arnold Arre

You guys launched the 1st Philippine International Comics Online Festival (PICOF) last year, can you tell us a little about that?

We made a call for entries for full-length graphic novels. We help develop the work with them, be their editors and publishers, and launch all 10 in our newest event, the Philippine International Comics Festival. We invited an international jury and some creators and publishers who wanted to showcase their work here in the Philippines.

That’s the beauty of the festival. It was growing on its own and fulfilling its own objective of building a bridge for Filipino comics to the rest of the world.

It was supposed to be a physical event last June but when we realized the pandemic would last longer, we just shifted to an online format and we were able to hold it on all weekends of September last year. 

The first week was all about Filipino Comics. The second week of PICOF was all about content creation, like creator’s rights, intellectual property rights, and contracts. The third week was all about adaptation, and there were animation, storyboarding and pitching seminars. The final week was on world comics. The 10 PICOF finalists also were featured, and then we ended with the Komiket awards.

There were a lot of seminars and talks during PICOF, ranging from “How To Do Character Designs” to Talent Scouts.” How important is having these types of dialogues within the community?

It’s very important because the times have changed. Before, it was the producers who said, “This is your value.” But now we are at the age of content creation. We are no longer limited to earning from events; we can earn from collaborating with brands, adaptation, earn from commissioned work, and to know the value we need to know our rights.

We were supposed to release a video saying that the value of our comics is not just P100 or P400. You’re buying six months or one year of a creator’s life and that’s why it’s always worth more than what you’re paying for. We create our value. 

What you see that’s unique is the Filipino spirit; Filipino storytelling will always have a different way of saying things or making sense of the world. I would say, among many storytelling communities, they are the most imaginative and the most unexpected.

How is Komiket dealing with the pandemic?

We can’t have workshops physically and so we downsized our bookstore space too. We’re available on Shopee, Lazada, Facebook and Instagram. If it’s still unsafe to hold physical events, we’ll have an online version again of the PICOF.

We have to focus on the publishing, the commission and the creative services sides. We created spaces of our own so that those who are really interested in getting to know Filipino comics, we will have a space that is really dedicated for that.

How would you describe the Filipino komiks community as compared to those abroad? What characterizes them?

What you see that’s unique is the Filipino spirit; the Filipino storytelling will always have a different way of saying things or making sense of the world. I would say, among many storytelling communities, they are the most imaginative and the most unexpected.

They don’t succumb to what producers or publishers want and they tell the stories they want to tell the way they want to. They aren’t limited by budgets or production. The only limit is talent and imagination.

You can learn more about Komiket here and for those who’d like to support by buying a local comic book, you can check out Secret HQ’s list of books!