We have reached the end of an incomprehensible year of incredible challenges. The komiks community is one of the worst affected by 2020, and the presence of the komik hubs have been a point of unity and support among them.
Of the three komik hubs, Penlab, run by several komikeros and helmed by Bernie Mercado and Nissie Arcega, has been the most prominent of late, with good reason. We are very happy that far more Filipinos have been made aware that komiks is alive, and well, and thriving, and now easily accessible.
Here are some titles that help to show the breadth and depth of the current komiks community. For this set, all titles will be on Penlab.
Digmaang Salinlahi / Strife: War of Generations (Jon Zamar, Gabriel dela Cruz, Keso, Mel Casipit) (PG, Alternate history fantasy)
The Culture Crash series of the wars between men and engkanto, and their two leaders who used to be childhood friends, is now being updated into Penlab, with an English translation.
Pasig: Unbound (Taga-ilog) (SPG, Science fiction)
This is a revamp and update of the Culture Crash series, where humans participate in prize fights in a futuristic Pasig, Filipinos are enslaved, and a bounty hunter saves one such prize fighter against her better judgment. On Penlab it’s presented as an English translation.
The Mythology Class (preview) (Arnold Arre) (PG, Fantasy)
The important classic of the indie komiks era, of a UP Diliman class who opened the portal into a fantasy world, and became involved in the fight for their lives and for their world. It is now previewed on Penlab and available as a full book at Komiket SecretHQ. Previews of Arnold Arre’s other works are also gradually being uploaded onto the Penlab site.
Super Proxies (Sampay) (PG, Comedy)
Four friends are willing to take on any task and any job, as long as you pay them right. This leads to hilarious hijinks as the friends try their best to fulfill the various jobs, no matter how qualified they really are.
Uy! Si Crush! (Gaby Taylo and Richard Mercado) (PG, Romantic comedy)
Initially a Facebook series then later compiled into several issues, Juan likes Isay, and Isay likes Juan, but Juan thinks Isay likes Kasi, who actually likes someone else. Yes, it gets fun and silly in Richard Mercado’s distinct art style, and also has an LGBTQ romance angle to it.
Nagmamahal, Maria Clara (Marianie) (PG, Fantasy/slice-of-life)
THE Maria Clara of the book time-travels to the present time, and is roped in to perform as Maria Clara in a film. But in the process of learning about the present, Maria Clara, with the help of Jenny, also learns more about herself, unlearning toxic ideals about being a woman and a Filipina.
Dapit-Hapon (Warehouse 6) (PG, Slice-of-life)
Previously bullied Nemo is still shy and reserved as a transfer student, with his only friends being new classmate Raprap and former rival Mimay. But getting used to these new friends is the least of his problems.
Please Take Care of My Heart (Loser Mangaka) (SPG, Suspense)
Still his best work to date, the one-shot has Kim finally meeting Alex, the girl he found on a dating app. While things start out well between them, the night may have other plans.
SLASH (Edward Echavez) (PG, Fantasy action)
A long-running and internationally known web series, it follows Alizeti and Clash as they use the power/energy from Slash to survive in a hostile environment, and find who killed Alizeti’s family.
After All This Time (BAPOGICHI) (PG, Slice-of-life)
Tommy (a girl) runs into her high school ex while in the grocery, but said ex has changed greatly. So far the title has been kind and gracious to a transgender female character, and hopefully this will continue.
No Rest for the Gagus (Zeempleng Tao) (SPG, Fantasy-Horror/Political)
Daimus knowingly entered the more progressive political orgs, hoping to help call to end the killings. But he gets himself into far more trouble than he bargained for, needing the assistance of supernatural fighting group, the Gagus.
Requiem (Quickdraw Chev) (PG, Fantasy action)
In one of the most incredible uses of traditional pen and ink work in komiks, MC, literally the main character, has several unusual characters scrambling for him. They claim that MC is one of the seven seals, preventing the underworld from starting the apocalypse. But as such, MC has his own powers—if he can manage to get to the right personalities—to stop the end of the world.
Era of the Kalaydoskops (Carlorozy Clemente) (PG, Fantasy)
Also available as a compiled printed book, Biko is an art critic, but this is a world where art has power, and she can control how this power in others is wielded. It is one of the most unique concepts in all of concepts, delivered in one of the most unique art styles.
Dylan and Joan (Adam David and Josel Nicolas) (PG, Slice-of-life)
Both a commentary and a narrative, in a 1993 summer filmmaking workshop, two young people meet: Dylan who is a big fan of western arthouse films, and Joan, half-forced into the workshop and likes Pinoy films. But they gradually settle their differences and learn their similarities, as they work together.
The Nowhere Tree (Mitzee) (PG, Fantasy)
The best work from this komikera, two friends climb up a humongous tree that seemed to rise endlessly. But this may also challenge their friendship and all they know.
Fluttering, Fleeing, and Freeing (Sean Sonsona) (G, Fantasy)
A beautiful oneshot given in Sean Sonsona’s beautifully detailed and imaginative style, a young girl goes on a series of adventures and a multitude of emotions as she travels.
Doobiedoo Asks (preview) (Bambi and Roland Amago) (PG, slice-of-life)
One of the releases of the Komiket Philippine International Comics Festival, it is the semi-autobiographical story of how Doobiedoo’s parents accepted that he is on the autism spectrum, and together faced the challenges of growing up and attending school. It is a beautiful, full-colored story executed with warmth and unbelievable honesty. (Full printed book available from Komiket SecretHQ.)
Every Minute Ends (Mac Arce and Adrian Sonido) (Mature, Suspense/Horror)
A brother and sister drive from place to place, running for sanctuary and away from mysterious large creatures that have overrun the world. The level of art detail that goes into each panel is beyond impressive, delivering powerful action scenes in the process.
Sir Rejection (Erangot) (PG, Slice-of-life)
This is a revamped webtoon version of an earlier printed version, but the pacing seems to be better. After a major fallout, Noah separates from previous band Enostalgia and has trouble setting a new identity for himself. Noah’s new band, Sir Rejection, needs a lead vocalist, and waiter Franco just might be the one they need.
Filtered Lenses (ExpressityART) (PG, Suspense)
Benjie just wants to take photos, like his late uncle. But as he joins a photography org and starts taking pictures of new friends, two deaths occur soon after. It is hard to tell if this is a curse, or just terrible coincidence.
Do not forget that these are only some of the many titles currently available on the Penlab site. There are many others that may also work for you. We hope you enjoy the incredible work of so many talented komikeros, and find titles and komikeros to follow in 2021.
(Images from Penlab and copyright of their respective owners)