Summer Komikon Stash: Abangan Impressions

It was a spur of the moment decision to attend the Summer Komikon this year. The plan was to ask RK to pretty please claim the pre-ordered Abangan anthology in my stead. But he said You might as well come over and claim it yourself. It’s my birthday the day before Komikon if you need a reason. My calendar said I was free (or so I thought!) and those two reasons were good enough for me so I happily obliged. BUT Murphy’s Law. I ended up rebooking a direct flight from Dumaguete to Manila, taking a detour via Cebu. This meant crossing the sea via fast craft to Liloan, taking a bus to Cebu City, and grabbing a taxi to Mactan airport in time for a 3AM departure. At past four in the morning on Saturday, I finally landed in Manila clocking very little sleep in the past 48 hours. I had missed the darling’s birthday. Komikon was the consolation.

RK and I are usually shy around strangers, but I was thankfully out of character. Having little sleep turned out to be a good thing because when I’m sleep deprived, my more outgoing alter ego tends to run the show. Getting myself seasick and pitiful en route to Manila was also constantly on the back of my mind. I had to make all of that vomiting in the bus and in the airport washroom worth it! So I approached tables, gazed at titles, talked to authors, and smiled at strangers. Next time, I’ll make sure to lose sleep and then eat lots of sweets. Maybe then I’ll be charming, too.

Well, here’s part one of a rundown of the Komikon stash:

Inaabangang Abangan

First up is Abangan: The Best Philippine Komiks 2014 which didn’t disappoint! There’s quite a range of style, treatment, content, and play on form for an anthology of only seventeen entries. Of the seventeen, I was familiar with only seven, though I’m not really a komiks geek so this isn’t surprising. More competent reviews have been made of what the anthology sought to accomplish so I’ll list brief impressions of each featured work instead:

Diwata, Manix Abrera
I can’t really say it’s an experiment on form as much as it’s an experiment on how we read. Manix is playing with the strength of komiks here. The panels are deceptively minimalist yet quite a lot is going on. Should it be read as a progression from left to right? from top to bottom? or both simultaneously? as a menu? Some panels are weaker than others though and don’t quite sustain the game but I really liked this. It was lots of fun, even on the second or third read.

Crime Fighting Call  Center Agents, Noel Pascual and AJ Bernardo
I picked up one issue of the series before at last year’s ReaderCon. RK and I read it together and we were puzzled by this komiks, to put it benignly. In that issue the call center agent friends were running away from a Frankenstein-looking serial killer. The friends do end up defeating the Frankenmonster, not through kickassery, but by getting drunk and vomiting. The Frankenmonster serial killer apparently slips on the vomit and the day is saved. If this was a reference or homage to something or other, I didn’t get it. What I didn’t appreciate was the anticlimactic resolution after getting the reader worked up with suspense.  But reading the cosmic encounter of the best grips in the universe in the anthology sort of changed my mind about the series. Maybe I brought the wrong expectations to the work before. I guess it wasn’t intended to be read as a typical superhero story, and perhaps it is in fact a counterpoint of that trope.

Kung Bakit Lab Nating Mga Pinoy Ang Pagbibidyoke, Dark Chapel
I suppose this was an offhand meditation on Pinoy pop culture but as a person who avoids bidyoke like the plague I just couldn’t relate. They say to be Pinoy is to love bidyoke, but this is one of those generalizations that make me feel like an outlier (a.k.a. socially maladjusted) in this highly friendly and dancing/singing society of ours. I’m sorry I’m tone deaf. I’ve read about it a little and one hypothesis goes that it’s not the sensory input that’s impaired but brain wiring. I’m sorry I choose R.E.M. and Nirvana songs. They’re very hard to sing for someone of my non-calibre. I do not lab pagbibidyoke.

Filipino Heroes League Vol 2, Paolo Fabregas
I understand that FHL’s appropriation and recasting of the American superhero into a superhero with a Pinoy face is important. Volume 1 did this superbly. But the writing in Volume 2 is a bit more telling than showing, especially the portion excerpted in Abangan. I also have a problem with the re-imagining of 1986. Adding the superhero presence to this highly problematic point in our country’s history dilutes the existing class tensions of that time, which muddles up even further an already sanitized public memory of the event. The superhero presence also only serves to reinforce the already dominant mode of recording history from the vantage of the powerful, the rich, and the great. The Pinoy superhero komiks that manages to avoid this to some degree is Carlo Vergara’s ZsaZsa Zaturnnah. Giving voice to the ipis villain in Volume 2 (Sa Kalakhang Maynila) is a clear attempt to present a view of society from below. I hope FHL matures toward this direction.

Comics, Rob Cham and Auti Nones
This collection of re-imagined popular comic strips is quite witty. Most of them are laugh-out-loud funny. My favorite would have to be Much Peanutz by Charles Lolz. much beauty. much ruin. so scare. much copyrights, so reserved. amaizing. such wow.

Puso Negro, JP Palabon
I regret not knowing about Puso Negro at the Komikon itself because had I known he was a totally hilarious badass I would’ve bought myself one or two of those issues with their colored covers. Reminds me a little of GTO.

Darwin’s Association of Delicious Evilness, Carlorozy
I’m not sure if I got it but this is a bullied kid trying to hide the fact he’s bullied by acting like an anti-hero. That’s pretty neat.

Spooky Tales of the Here and Now, Rob Cham and Petra Magno
A critique of modern life?

Para Fierra: Final Resting Place, Fidelis Tan and Kiko Dans
This possesses the qualities of a well-written short story; contained but hinting at possibilities, quite imaginative, and the metaphors are powerful and resonant. I like the silences in the narrative best of all.

Trese: Thirteen Stations, Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo
I’ve read this before in Manila Noir. This is Budjette and Kajo in top form. Kajo, in particular, outdoes himself. The art is superb, the pacing just right.

Borderline, Bong Redila
You could dwell on and dwell in these panels because each panel contains a world, a story. I love how these panels allow the reader to complete the work. Each panel is a prompt for the reader’s imagination. Also, I’m tempted to color in these panels. Maybe I will!

Dead Balagtas, Emiliana Kampilan
Eliza Victoria beat me to it, but I agree with her. I don’t understand why Dead Balagtas had to be translated when other entries in the anthology are Taglish. Though I admit I did find some amusement in comparing the Filipino version with the English ones. But then, this is only because I’m interested in translation as a process.

Wingnaut, K.A. Montinola and Martha Maramara
Sad. But I’m partial to silent komiks the way I’m partial to almost silent films (like Gus van Sant’s Elephant and Last Days).

Windmills V, Josel Nicolas
Edited: Follows the autobio bent I’ve seen in the works of Art Spiegelman, Craig Thompson, and Jeffrey Brown. The latter shares the most similarities with this excerpt about Mimi.

A Balut Ate My Luois Vuitton, Apol Sta. Maria
Cute. But also, whut? And that’s one scary dead mouth. I feel like I don’t get what this komiks is doing yet so I keep rereading it. So far no luck.

Sixty-Six, Russell Molina and Ian Sta. Maria
Another sad story but written well. Ageing and Alzheimer’s aren’t popular topics, and I don’t think they’ll ever be “in” so I appreciate this work first and foremost because of its choice of content.

Blue Dusk, Mica Agregado
I read this before in its digital colored form. I think some of its mood is lost without the blue hues. I liked the close observation, the myopic view. It made me wonder whether Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim in Tinker Creek would be like this if it were in komiks form.


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