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A different kind of comic book ink: Pinoy geeks with Marvel-ous Tattoos

By Kara Santos Published May 30, 2022 4:29 pm Updated May 30, 2022 5:31 pm

Some superfans wear geek pride permanently branded on their skin. Their tattoos of Marvel superheroes are an evolving work of art on their bodies inspired by nostalgic memories growing up with Marvel comics, arcade games, and movies.

Neil Gumban, JP Moratillo, and Marco Almadin all collect a different kind of comic book ink beyond the illustrated pages.

Neil, a media professional and avid comic book collector, currently has five Marvel characters inked all over his arm, namely X-Men’s Cyclops, Psylocke, Wolverine, The Avenger’s Captain America, and Monica Rambeu’s Captain Marvel. 

“I have always been a comic book reader and collector. Since high school I remember not buying food for lunch on certain days so I can get enough money to buy a copy of Avengers or X-Men comics at National Bookstore Ali Mall or Filbars in E. Rodriguez,” Neil told PhilSTAR L!fe.

Neil Gumban 

“At the same time, I am a fan of tattoos and was always fascinated with this type of self-expression. So, this year I decided to just combine my two interests,” he added. 

JP, a supervisor for a software company and photographer who loves video games and traveling, currently has two tattoos including a comic inspired chibi (small body anime tattoos) with five Marvel characters: Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America, Wolverine and Spider-Man.

JP Moratillo

“I already loved Marvel characters and comics when I was young. I started with collecting toys and I have a whole wall full of toys. I also loved the MCU films,” said JP. 

Marco, a BPO worker and biker from Las Piñas City, has a whopping 26 Marvel characters inked on his body. 

Starting with his first tattoo of Magneto which he got in 2018, both of his arms are now full of comic book-style tattoos of both X-Men and Marvel heroes and villains including Spider-Man, Iron Man, Storm, Sabretooth, and Juggernaut, to name a few, and he’s still thinking of getting more someday. 

“The tattoos pay homage to the games that gave me happiness and joy growing up. It’s a work of art on my body inspired by Marvel characters I loved,” said Marco.

Marco Almadin

The three guys shared with PhilSTAR L!fe the inspiration behind their Marvel-ous tats and how their love of geek culture crossed over from collections to body ink.

Neil, who describes himself as "very much into the geek culture," recently got inked with Marvel characters this year as a form of self-expression. The 52-year old media professional collects comic books in trade paperback format (collected editions) and statues of superheroes (XM Studios, Bowen Statues, Kotobukiya) and owns a lot of comic book-related shirts. 

“When I decided on getting superhero characters, I wanted those that were very close to my heart—characters that I have history with. Characters I read during my younger years and in a way, consider as friends. These characters are also the ones I related most to,” said Neil.

Similarly, 43-year old Marco—who goes by “Spidey” in the arcade community and @mark.mathers on Tiktok—said it was his love for arcade games, particularly Marvel vs Capcom 2, that kickstarted his tattoo journey. 

When I was still in high school, I was very fond of arcades, specifically the Marvel Superheroes, Xmen vs Street Fighter, Marvel vs Capcom1 and Marvel vs Capcom 2 arcade games. I even became the very first National Champion of the XMen vs Street Fighter competition held at Sta. Lucia East Grand Mall way back in 1995 and won few more championships from different competitions around the Metro. And yes, I still play these games up to this day, but not to compete anymore but rather just to have fun,” he shared.

Fun Fact: There’s actually a Guinness World Record for having the “Most Marvel comic characters tattooed on the body” which currently belongs to Canadian native Rick Scolamiero. In 2018, the Canadian native set the title with his 34 tattoos, including Spider-Man, Black Widow, The Hulk and Thanos covering his entire body from the neck down. 

Marco said it’s his dream to someday be recognized by Guiness as having the worlds Most Marvel Tattoos in an upper body which, based on his current tattoos (26 and counting), is not far off.

Aside from tattoos, Marco also used to collect Marvel posters and action figures and currently has a collection of Marvel-inspired Funko Pops. 

JP currently has a whole wall of Marvel action figures, anime and Gundam, and collects big canvas posters and comics which adorn his room. For the 33-year old, it was the death of Iron Man that inspired him to get his Marvel-themed arm tattoo. 

“With the death of Iron Man, my favorite character in the [MCU] movies. I decided to have him tattooed on my arm as a full character and not chibi. It’s not complete yet though. I still need to have the inner arm finished,” he said. 

The guys’ tattoos aren’t limited to Marvel. JP shared that his first tattoo was from the TV series Supernatural, in the form of a “pentagram made to ward of demonic possessions.” 

Neil has two other non-Marvel tats. “One is on my right leg (Icarus falling) and on my left back, a blue swallow I got in Boracay in the early 2000s when I finally decided to let everyone know that I'm gay (and proud),” he said. 

Who are your favorite Marvel characters you’ve gotten inked with?

Neil: One, X-Men’s Cyclops, who was my ultimate favorite character. I felt that he is a leader who is often misunderstood and even despised by his team—a leadership situation I had to deal with early on in my career as an executive producer and manager; two, X-Men’s Psylocke, a no-nonsense fighter, I’ve always admired her strength as a character; three, Wolverine, who we all know is an awesome, awesome hero who is the best at what he does—a trait that I wanted to have. I also liked that he didn't really care what others think; four, The Avengers’ Captain America—who always stood for what he believes in, something that I think I always do, even if it is against popular opinion; and five, Monica Rambeau as Captain Marvel—a lesser-known character who used to be the Avengers’ main protagonist in the ’80s. I like that she is hyper self-aware, got some insecurities and yet has that never-give-up attitude.

JP: My favorite Marvel character of all is Iron Man. That is why he was done in full scale and in the center. I also have Captain America (I can do this all day) Haha. Wolverine, the Hulk and Spider-Man. I still have Gambit and Thor to be tattooed on the inner arm some time soon.

Just a few of Marco's Marvel tattoos. His 26 tattoos include Captain America, Wolverine, Psylocke, Spider-Man, Ironman, Cable, Storm, Cyclops, Iceman, Gambit, Colossus, Hulk, Rogue, Thanos, Magneto, Shuma-Gorath, Spiral, Omega Red, Sabretooth, Sentinel, Blackheart, Dr.  Doom, Juggernaut, Silver Samurai, Venom and Dark Phoenix. He plans to get inked in the third to fourth quarter of the year with the Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, Galactus, Moleman, Superskrul and Herbie.

Marco: My favourite Marvel tattoo that I have would be the Dark Phoenix (on my chest) and Magneto (the first to be inked). Magneto was one of my favorite characters in the Marvel vs. Capcom 2 arcade game. The inspiration and style behind all my tattoos were all based from the MVC2 characters.

@mark.mathers #darkphoenix #marveltattoo #markmathers #teamIkawAtAko #fyp ♬ original sound - Ross

Where did you get your ink done and how many hours have you spent getting inked? 

Both Neil and JP got their ink done by local tattoo artist Christian Jayvee Sumawang of Tafe Tattoos.

Neil: I saw some Marvel work he (Christian) did on my friend and thought they were really good. He is also a superhero fan and that was a plus, because he was familiar with the characters. These Marvel tattoos took me two days (15-plus hours each), there were a lot of details that took time. Also some parts were painful and I had to take long breaks. 

JP: My Marvel tattoo took 24 hours of non-stop tattooing, of course, with little breaks in the middle.

Marco: For all of my tattoos, I only had one artist. His name is Daniel Jadear of #Inkredible18Tattoo. It took several hours for one session and a total of seven to eight sessions per arm. Per session was done every other week. So, just imagine how long it took for the artist to finish both my arms.

What's the usual reaction you get from friends/family about your tattoos or comments you've gotten from people on the street?

Neil: They liked it and thought the art was cool. I have open-minded friends and they know that I am obsessed with superheroes and comic books.

JP: My tattoo got very positive comments from friends and family, but the most amazing comments, I get from strangers along the street or in the office. They say that the colors are nice and it was drawn very beautifully.

Marco: Actually my family was open about it and was amazed when they saw my tattoos, especially because of the intricate details of each character. Even I was amazed when my tattoo was finished because of all the vibrant colours and the attention to details on each character. People passing by would stop and turn their heads from time to time to take a peek whether it's a real tattoo or not. Some would even approach me and ask where I had my tatts done. I really appreciate what my artist has done. I could not ask for more on how it turned out.

I see it as art and self-expression. It also makes me happy—my mantra of late, whatever makes you happy: do it!

What is it about getting inked that inspires you? 

Neil: I see it as art and self-expression. It also makes me happy—my mantra of late, whatever makes you happy: do it!

JP: Tattoos are a symbol of things you love and would not want to forget. Every time I look at my tattoos it inspires me to be like the characters on my arm. To be brave and to live a life of adventure and mystery. After all, you only live once.

Every time I look at my tattoos it inspires me to be like the characters on my arm. To be brave and to live a life of adventure and mystery.

Marco: For me, in reality, we cannot please everybody. Some people love and are amazed by my tattoos and some people don't have that kind of reaction, but I still respect their views. I had this tattoo to pay homage to the the game that gave me happiness and joy growing up. It’s a work of art on my body inspired by Marvel characters that I loved. To those people thinking about getting a tattoo, try to build a story around the tattoo that you want. Whether it be a big or small tattoo, just try to add a significant thought on it, whether it is to remind you of something or even to pay tribute to someone, because it's a permanent work of art that would be on you til the 'end of time.