comics

Ang Ibong Adarna

The story of Ibong Adarna – the mystical bird whose singing cures an ailing king – is part of any Filipino’s childhood storyscape. The epic was written in the 15th century during the Spanish times as a corrido, or a narrative song in the form of a poem. The story has been popularized by adaptations in film, TV, and other media. I confess that I may not have read the actual poem, since we discussed a different epic poem when I was in high school.

A couple of months ago, Adarna House, one of the Philippines’ children’s books publishers asked me to illustrate the cover and provide chapter breaks for a new edition of the book edited by National Artist Virgilio Almario. I finally got to read the entire text for the first time.

The initial direction for the cover art was more in line with 60’s Marvel Comics covers, that’s why the initial type treatment was more bombastic.

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But after a couple of iterations, we settled on the direction below.

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Unapproved Study

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Final Illustration

Before rendering anything though, I made some rough character studies for the main characters. The character studies served as a guide when I was making the comic page style chapter breaks.

Here are the chapter breaks for the book rendered in comics form.

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Chapter 1

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Chapter 2

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Chapter 3

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Chapter 4

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In Which I Get Reacquainted with the X-Men

Uncanny X-Men Omnibus Volumes 1 & 2

Excuse me while I geek out, but I have a confession to make. Despite being an enormous comic book fan (both of the superhero and non-superhero variety), I was never really into the X-Men.

Oh sure, I bought X-Men # 1 back in 1992 like a bajillion others, but I always found the book inaccessible with its army of characters and a back story that stretches back into the 60s. When a friend of mine bought Uncanny X-Men # 275 way back in grade school, I – like a million other boys – was blown away by the Jim Lee art. I hadn’t seen anything like it. Sleek, dynamic, rendered in cross-hatches that made the characters burst out of the page, it was a far cry from anything being published at the time. But, who were these guys in the book? What was going on? I had no idea.*

When Marvel’s Mutant Genesis initiative rolled along in the early 90s and relaunched the X-books, I bought into X-Force, Uncanny X-Men, and X-Men but dropped it all together after a couple of issues. Instead, I fell in love with the quirky Excalibur book by Alan Davis. To this day, I still love those Excalibur issues.

Fast forward to 2014. I had (ahem) “appropriated” some files of Chris Claremont’s early X-Men run and I decided to give it read. I instantly fell in love with it. Although somewhat dated, I realized why the X-Men became such a hit. I quickly bought Uncanny X-Men Omnibus Vols. 1 & 2 (who says piracy leads to lost sales?). These volumes featured classic tales like the Proteus Saga, The Dark Phoenix Saga, and Days of Future Past and I suddenly found myself hungry for more X-Men stories.

These days, the X-Men is a whole franchise unto itself. The current book being written by Brian Michael Bendis entitled All-New X-Men features the original 1960s X-Men roster transported into the present time. The run provides a perfect counterpoint to the Claremont stories, like book ends of long epic. Reading Kitty Pryde evolve into the mentoring “Professor K” (essentially playing the role Professor X served in the early X-Men run) provides a nice symmetry with her 1980s introduction as the youngest and greenest X-Man.

So, if anybody is on the fence with these Omnibus editions, I say go ahead and jump into these books. They feature solid superhero stories and the beginnings of some of today’s best loved Marvel characters. ‘Nuff said.

*footnote: Although I never really got into the X-Men in the 90s, I bought and loved Grant Morrison’s New X-Men which I felt was a very contained and complete story from start to finish.

3rd World Snow in Motion

Way back in 1991, the eruption of long dormant Mount Pinatubo spewed out enough debris and particulates into the air that it lowered global temperatures. Over a hundred kilometers away in Quezon City, where I live, the sky had begun to darken by around 3 or 4pm. The following morning, the city was covered in white ash. It was as if, for the first time, there was snow in the Philippines. I was 13 years old at the time.

Many years later, I made a silent comic inspired by that little moment in history. I entered it into the 2nd Fully Booked / Neil Gaiman Graphic Fiction Competition and it didn’t win anything. Didn’t even get into the shortlist. Too bad. Boo hoo.

Anyway, a couple of months ago during one of our regular INK (Ilustrador ng Kabataan) meetings, I presented the comic, but this time with a couple of transition effects.

It’s like a very primitive motion comic. Hope you enjoy it.

Lingua Comica Reloaded: In which a long-delayed book finally arrives

Last week, I got a notice from the Quezon City post office to pick up a package. I had an idea what it was. Although it was only late by almost 2 years. Our anthology book, Lingua Comica Reloaded had arrived.

Book design by Plastic Soldier Factory.

What I did.

What Amelie did.

Amelie and I collaborated on a game board based on the Game of the Goose.

The book also has a poster/comic insert entitled “Numbers” made by another team.

The book was a collaboration by artists from Europe and Asia and funded by the Asia Europe Foundation (ASEF). Several groups pitched their story ideas before ASEF finally chose the line up for the project. I teamed up with French Belgian Amelie Clement when we realized we were on the save wavelength after a couple of emails.

When we got the grant from ASEF, we decided to spend it by going to Angouleme and conducting a mini-residency. Angouleme is a sleepy town in southwestern France and known for festivals such as the Circuits des Remparts and the Festival International de la Bande Dessinee (wiki here) – or the International Comics Festival. Too bad we couldn’t visit Angouleme on a January when the Comics Festival is held. Although we were on hand for the Circuits des Remparts, when fancy cars from all over Europe came roaring into town. I, unfortunately, am not a car geek. So the festival was wasted on me.

So in September of 2009, I flew into Paris and met up with Amelie at the Jardin du Luxembourg. (more…)

Belabored Day

I spent the entire holiday doing a comic page. There must be an easier way to make comics. But I don’t know what it is yet. Hopefully I’ll find out this year.

Two pages digitally pencilled and inked took me one whole day. My hand hurts. Here’s a page from my long delayed comic, warts and all. This page was done completely in Photoshop with the help of my trusty pen tablet. It’s frustrating to know that I still have so much to learn. I’m thinking of changing my process for future projects and abandoning this style completely. We’ll see how it goes.

3rd World Snow in Heights

It didn’t get noticed in the recently concluded Neil Gaiman/Fully Booked Graphic Fiction Competition. But I guess this is a good enough consolation. 3rd World Snow finally got published and it seems fitting that it appear in Heights – the literary organization I was part of when I was studying in the Ateneo.

The good people from the org sent over copies of the book via courier after I told them that it would be difficult for me to pick it up while still working in Makati. The package arrived today and I so love receiving packages like this.

I made this little story during the Lingua Comica workshop in London two years back. It was part of a collaborative piece I did with my Indonesian-Italian partner Paola Cortese. It was supposed to be appear in a compilation of our works but until now, we have no word about the status of that book.

But even if 3rd World Snow makes it into an international publication, the version printed in Heights is the definitive full-color piece.

Thank you, Heights!

>>Rommel

Scott McCloud talks about the future shape of comics

Reinventing Comics

Comics smart guy Scott McCloud speaks on Ted Talks about the future shape of comics. It’s basically stuff that’s in his book Reinventing Comics, wherein he talks about applying comics onto an “infinite canvas” with the use of digital technology.

This was written way back in the late 90s and despite the proliferation of webcomics, digital comics won’t be replacing the printed page anytime soon. Granted that comic scans are now widely available, the format still makes use of the printed page and doesn’t adapt the content to the peculiarities of the digital medium.

Hypercomics

Comics geeks interested in formalist comics experiments may also find the work of Daniel Merlin Goodbrey very interesting. I studied his work in preparation for my thesis and this particular hypercomics piece blew me away when I first saw it.

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Hypercomics Detail

I became interested in how comics could tell non-linear stories. The way the images were composed also reminded me of Chris Ware‘s work, another comics genius.

image courtesy of Picture Poetry

Imagine my surprise when I found out Goodbrey was a speaker at the Comica Festival when I was there for the Lingua Comica Project. He presented his work in hypercomics and this piece in particular.

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Goodbrey presenting his work during the Comica Festival. Image courtesy of Linguacomickers

Inside one of the conference rooms of the ICA

Inside one of the conference rooms of the ICA. Image courtesy of Linguacomickers

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My co-collaborator Paola Cortese and I sitting inside the conference room

I found out it was a collaborative project created for the wall of the Institute of Contemporary Arts as part of a previous Comica Festival. Goodbrey applied McCloud’s concept of an infinite canvas through the use of a flash-based zooming system called the Tarquin Engine.

Another web based comic is When I Am King, created by demian5. The piece has been in the internet for ages. It’s irreverent and nonsensical but a pretty fun read.

Comics in the Digital Age

As we move into the future, even more printed content will migrate to the digital world. Already, economic and technological upheavals are changing the face of publishing (read Time.com’s article on “Books Gone Wild: The Digital Age reshapes literature”). In Japan, “novels” are being created and read on mobile phones. Now, there’s a comic reader application for the iPhone. Even an established traditional comic publisher like DC Comics has established their own webcomics division called Zuda Comics.

Now, I don’t know what comics will be like in the future. I, for one, still like reading it the old fashioned way – printed on paper. That way you can smell the pages and curl up with in bed. But make no mistake, the future will come one way or the other.