Summer Komikon 2014

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The original plan after lunch with JR was to hunt down my good friend RK, meet his girlfriend Sue, and bolt. Yeah, bolt for the exit and just stay at the entrance area to give our birthday gift.

But as always, I underestimated my fatal attraction for all sorts of reading materials. Somehow, the fever and fervor of the Pinoy Komik fans rubbed off. Perhaps, it was also because I nursed some indulgence for Pinoy komiks. I grew up reading Funny Komiks in elementary. In high school, I fell in love with Pupung and Pugad Baboy. In college, I had the privilege of interviewing the legendary Culture Crash team and Beerkada’s Lyndon Gregorio for my second published article at Sense and Style of Manila Bulletin.

And then, I graduated…

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I don’t know what exactly happened after that, but I was certain that I stopped reading komiks for around 4 years since that day I left the university.

Never gave it much thought before. But I realized how Pinoy komiks figured prominently in my array of reading experiences and in my life.

I love words in all forms, and stories are even more fascinating when rendered with the appropriate amount of art.

Contrary to what some people believe, comics possess so much depth and express so much of our culture. There are as many varieties of comics as there are personalities of artists that make them. I felt a bit claustrophobic when I scoured the tables for new reads.

At least, there was some fresh air outside:

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In keeping with the spirit of Summer Komikon 2014, here is my chibified description of my OOTD (outfit of the day):

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My uber Casual Attire was composed of the following: Black T-Shirt for Php90 at a Cubao tiangge, Basic denim shorts from God-knows-where tiangge (nalimutan ko, sorry) for Php 150, and Parisian Basic Flats for Php 500. Php 200 sunglasses from i2i. Yellow cute bag for Php 100. All under Php 1,000. 🙂

After around 20 to 30 missed calls, JR and I found RK and Sue at the corner of the projector area. No, I did not hold them at gunpoint to have this photo taken. Squeamish as they may be for being taken hostage by JR’s phone camera, I just had to take this snapshot because they have been most gracious and I want to keep this happy memory in my blog post.

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I pestered these two for recommendations, and boy, am I happy that I got some really good new comic books to read. I actually wish I had more money but I prioritized on the ones that intrigued me the most.

Trese by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo

I was not really sure what the fuss was about regarding this book. I have been living in a cave so I did not know that it’s the new big thing in horror comics. I did know that my friend Alexis asked me to buy her the Trese books. I saw the nods of approval from the cutest comic books fan friends ever (see photo above) when I mentioned the title, so I bought it without really knowing what it was.

Come book signing time, I was really embarrassed because I had to have it signed on behalf of Alexis.

So I introduced myself as her. (LOL)

I was not even smart enough to check the blurb to see that the name of the main, main character is Alexandra Trese. So when the prolific Budjette joked that he can possibly include me (that time disguised under name Alexis) as a hidden sister of Alexandra, I did not get the compliment immediately. #facepalm

One of the highest compliments that a comic story writer can tell a fan is to tie her name up to the main character. Lucky, lucky, Alexis!

Nonetheless, Alexis now has the copy of two signed books from Budjette and Kajo.

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And I get the photos with them ha ha ha. Look at our happy fan faces:

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Everyone is happy. 🙂

In the evening, I actually read Alexis’ copies and I deeply regretted not buying my own copy.

First two pages pa lang, I. BECAME. A. FAN!

Ohmifrigginggoodness sobrang ganda lang talaga.

So I googled and stalked the blog:

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I was warned that it was depressing. As it turns out, I was actually more enchanted than depressed. I know depressed of the medication-inducing kind.

IMHO, on a scale of 1 to 10 of depressing literature, this is a 5 or 6. (I’ve read Nabokov’s Lolita and some other war novels so those are the level 10 pieces.)

The chapter cover had MAPS. Orgasmic for spatial IT enthusiasts like me, definitely. The take on Filipino mythology is so dark and rich and intellectual. It’s a smart person’s comic book. It’s full of Filipino culture. Duwendes, tikbalangs, and urban legends of mall magnates… I can’t wait to get my own copies of the books.

Once, I read a light novel with a sassy, girly stab on Filipino mythology but it focused on gods and goddesses. The name of the book was Interim Goddess of Love by Mina Esguerra and I enjoyed it very much:

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I realized that I like these sorts of materials.

I know that if these Trese guys get an Eisner, I’d kill for their autograph again.

So next time, I promise that I’ll buy a whole set and introduce myself. <3 (I hope that they have so many fans and I will be a forgettable face so that the fan girl faux pas gets buried forever.)

Moving on…

Pasig by Taga Ilog

I first met this guy in person in 2004 as part of my interview for Culture Crash. He had a silver pail in his head and just enough holes for his eyes.

His aura of mystery contributed to the unique legendary charm of Culture Crash among fans. I was one of the lucky few who saw him without the silver pail then. These days, though, you will see him in Komikon sans the famous silver pail and with his beautiful wife who is also a talented artist.

He draws and he writes. I really like the whole concept of the Fringe Division-ish investigation bureau in the setting of Pasig City.

I have noticed the change in his cartoons, as he was keen in pointing out at his writing on one issue:

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I will personally be keeping an eye out for a Pasig collection or anthology in the future. In full color again, I hope, like in Culture Crash days. I really missed those guys. 🙁 They even gave me a cute little stuffed toy inspired by the One Day Isang Diwa character. <3

Slash by Edward Echavez and Cathy Bucu

So, I was expecting the old comic veterans when I entered. I expected the people I interviewed before.

But I did not expect a former officemate to be there! Haha! I found Cathy and Edward, two fine people from my former publishing job. I was sad because I could not buy his book (Php 300) given my other purchasing priorities and dwindling purchasing power.

But I wanted to show some support so here is the postcard I bought instead, the only colored piece in my Summer Komikon 2014 stash:

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Astounding. I look at this postcard and I marvel at the amazing people God allows me to meet, even only in passing. Congrats, Gady Bear and Edward. 🙂 I look forward to buying the actual book in another event.

Filipino Heroes League by Paolo Fabregas

Written by another prolific comic artist with a name that always resonated positively with me, Filipino Heroes League is a buying decision I made after I fell in love with the back cover:

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How can a person like me resist a third world superhero in hot pursuit of a hooligan using a PEDICAB?

Only in the Philippines! I just knew I had to buy one of these. A brainchild of a former Coke commercial model and actor, FHL is satire in comic form. It depicts the Philippines in a very resonant way, and it maintains the humor and the entertainment that comes with the cultural awareness of FHL’s plots.

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I am planning to get BOOK TWO and have it autographed next time.

The CHIBI-fied Dev Duo

Aside from the comic book finds, we went to Lady Storyteller’s booth at the Indie Komiks section to have our chibi images done:

JR here is looking all dapper with his chibified face, moustache and all:

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For the record, this friend of mine rarely smiles and I need to record this for happy memory safekeeping. I forced him to buy a ticket to Komikon and I am happy that he was cheered by his chibi.

I was really happy with how it turned out for me, too. Here’s my blog shoutout to the ultra cool Lady Storykeeper who made these fabulous chibified sketches. On average, it took her around 10 minutes to create each one:

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Honestly, if you ask me, I think this girl should charge more for her art. They make it so affordable for their exposure.

One one hand, it’s delightful for readers like me and we can buy more with less. But I can see the level of work and skill required of this endeavor. I believe that they deserve to get paid and patronized more.

I bought the other books I mentioned at the main hall of the Summer Komikon, and then I bought just 2 tiny comics from this indie lady.

One Floor Up by Lady Storykeeper

summer-komikon-lady-storyteller-one-floor-up-apartment-hunting summer-komikon-lady-storyteller-one-floor-up-inside summer-komikon-lady-storyteller-one-floor-up-meet-the-boys I have a soft spot for independent artists and I like buying from them whenever I can. This one caught my attention because it’s quite girly. I already have a horror title and a satire. So I went for a sassy, Kpop-ish, feel-good komik trip with this one.

I really think the dialogue can still use some editing. But it’s funny in the right places and holds so much potential. I gave it to my sister as pasalubong after I read it.

When I featured Beerkada in 2004 for a lifestyle article, the comic artist Lyndon Gregorio already had a rising set of followers from Philippine Star and other Beerkadets (fans). The lifestyle magazine had a different set of audience who got to know the comic books he was making. It could have helped spread word of what his comics were about to people who would not normally frequent Komikon events like this one. I unfortunately did not have enough stash to buy another Beerkada title from this event because of my unplanned spree, but I was able to say hi to the smart (Mensa smart) guy and read a recent comic strip from the web version. 🙂

Most of these comic book success stories began with independent comic books or even old obscure scrawl marks of a Sharpie pen or a 0.7 gel pen on a piece of bond paper… Somehow, I think most of them have this in common: 1.) they did not stop drawing even if they did not sell a copy, 2.) somebody BELIEVED in what they did, and 3.) that one person who believed spread the love and joy of the artist’s creation to others.

It’s really an auspicious mix of talent, of good timing, and of good opportunities. It’s a wheel, too, so one can have the both the feast and famine.

While others file in a long line for the titles that sell, I am the type who also likes digging for diamonds in the raw. And I think I found it in this Lady Storykeeper girl who made my chibi, the author of One Floor Up. I hope that like the more successful guys in the main hall, I will also see her creations in a bigger space, paid in a way that is somehow commensurate to the talent that she is offering the world. 🙂

An unintentional adventure that was, Summer Komikon 2014 made me realize that I will never be too old for Pinoy Komiks. <3

Thanks, RK, Sue, and JR. Thanks, Summer Komikon 2014.

Day 10: #100HappyDays
Filipino Heroes League

Book Photo from filipinoheroesleague.blogspot.com

Book Photo from filipinoheroesleague.blogspot.com

I promise to post my own photos soon, after I dutifully scan all my Summer Komikon 2014 loot. I visited this fantastic event with my dev friends JR and RK. RK’s S.O. Sue was also there, and made this wonderful recommendation for me. <3

I have yet to make a really decent review, because a few paragraphs of 100happydays logging won’t give FHL the justifiable review that it deserves. Suffice it to say that I am absolutely in love with this book and I cannot wait to buy Book Two next month.

Supposedly it was just a drop by and drop RK’s birthday gift thing for me and JR. We ended up scanning the halls. I saw surprising familiar faces, including two former officemates and two people that I interviewed for Manila Bulletin’s Sense and Style magazine in 2004.

Too bad the author Paolo Fabregas was not there at the Komikon event. I would have loved to get an autograph! But yep, this totally rocks. I’ll keep my eyes open for this guy in the next events.

 

 

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

“Hearts may break, but hearts are the toughest of muscles…
Even dreams, the most delicate and intangible of things, can prove remarkably difficult to kill.”
-Neil Gaiman

 

I always possess this notion that books have a sort of “ripening” in the mind of a reader. I find myself relating more easily to certain titles depending on the mental state that I am in. Months ago, I purchased this Neil Gaiman title from my friend to check out what the fuss was about on Gaiman’s writing. I tried reading but never got past the Introductory Notes. I decided to shelve it until I find the right time. Last week, I decided to check it out again and chose it over a Chinese contemporary non-fiction piece that I began reading. It was delightfully ripe for reading. My mind was finally ready for this book.

It’s dark and beautiful. I would say that it’s the next best thing to really walking inside the head of Gaiman, a literary genius. Some people awarded different short stories in this anthology. I have my own personal favorites. If I may liken the book to a woman, it’s the type of woman who broods silently in the backdrop, almost seemingly irrelevant. But she grows on you over time, like some sort of dark magic. That despite the gothic look, you will find enchantment and allure and an interesting dimension that you will not easily find in happy endings or fairy tale stories.

Here are the ones I find memorable, in order of its appearance in the book

The Mapmaker

This is not part of the official list of stories in Fragile Things. But it’s part of the Introduction to the stories. I find it refreshing that an author would take departures from usual structures. He just placed it as an introductory material for one of the short stories.

A Study in Emerald

This fascinated me a lot because I am a huge fan of the British playful remake of Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch. This was the story that served as inspiration for the pilot episode. In the TV series, it was “A Study in Pink” and involved some form of advertising agency woman victim. It was as amazingly written as it was depicted on screen.

October in the Chair

I like animating inanimate objects, and this appealed to me personally. Moreover, he mentioned that this story was dedicated to Ray Bradbury, another skilled author I had the pleasure of reading last year. Something about the time elements being placed side by side on a bonfire, telling stories like they were people, really left me breathless. I enjoyed this story so much. I know that I am excused from gushing too much; after all, this is a Neil Gaiman creation.

Instructions

The writing was not so poignant for me but the whole spin or idea of it was plain interesting and intriguing. It is a poem that provides instructions on how you can carry yourself if you wake up and find yourself in a fairy tale. This author is really full of cool things in his head, I swear.

How Do You Think it Feels?

I watched I, Frankenstein with my favorite web dev friends some weeks back. The whole concept of gargoyles got embedded in my head since then. A dark anthology of Neil Gaiman’s Freudian literary fantasies cease to be complete without a gargoyle story. Like his other short stories, there is an original spin to it and this one in particular had lots of steam in it. Gargoyle and steam do not usually go together but he did it, anyway.

Fifteen Painted Cards from a Vampire Tarot

I liked this story mainly because it involves vampires. It’s a painful fetish I have.

Goliath

I was not really much of a Matrix fan in my younger years. But this had me wanting to watch it again. The Goliath short story was part of the stories released online before the movie was shown, some form of promotional material. He played with time and space and the concept of reality. It took me to earth and outside earth and time and outside the usual linear way with which we see time. It’s a good read.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties

“We wrapped our dreams in words and patterned the words so that they would live forever, unforgettable.

Aliens in parties. That’s a bit like Doctor Who but this short story involves two adolescent boys who reaches the edge of their exploration, that point where experimentation ends and real life permanent consequences begins.

Inventing Aladdin

“We save our lives in such unlikely ways.”

I genuinely think that people who love to write will enjoy this one or the other story entitled The Problem of Susan. It was not so much focused on Aladdin but more on how Aladdin was made, at least in the playful imagination of Mr. Gaiman.

The Monarch of the Glen

This novella was the finale for the anthology and it was placed there for good reason. It’s a novella of the characters of Shadow and Mr. Alice from another one of his novels. I plan to read the novel next for a better appreciation of this character. 

It is my first time to read a Gaiman book, and I believe that  this provided me with a good idea of his literary range, kind of like when soprano singers hit notes by the octave and floor the rest of the croaking mortals of this planet. Neil Gaiman is a writer’s writer, contemporary, quick- witted, and humorous even in unexpected places like darkness. This instantly became a favorite and I think I will be looking out for more Gaiman titles. (I have some e-books but the physical experience is still more special for me, personally. )

The Shadow of the Wind
by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Given that it’s a literary thriller with gothic undertones, I was hesitant to take on the book last weekend.I was seriously considering something light and cheerful to usher in vibes of good health and well-being.

But curiosity got the better of me and I am glad that it did. The book took me through an unparalleled literary journey superimposed in the bowels of pre- and post-war Barcelona. My good friend sent this book to me to help me recover from my chickenpox. It was quite a read, with a thick collection of a master plot where an array of lovely subplots hang. What better way to alleviate the itches of chickenpox; a riveting book such as this is affecting enough to take me out of myself, literally and figuratively.

Zafon is a real master with words. For the book, I can really say that there are few of its kind anywhere in the world. I find myself gasping at opportune cliffhanger moments in a way that does not completely rob me of my peace. Even before I succumb to despair at the characters’ turn of events, I end up being more mesmerized and enticed to read more and read until the very end. I finished it in one sitting. Small wonder that this was a 2001 bestseller. Many book critics even line him up with the ranks of Umberto Eco.

As someone who loves books, I found the theme, which revolved around literary ambition and books, completely endearing. It’s a book with a special affinity for bookworms, presumably written by a hardcore bookworm himself. In this review, I choose not to discuss on plot or provide any spoilers because any intrigued reader deserves to have the full and unadulterated experience of reading Zafon without my opinions and blow by blow account getting in the way.

Good research, a real talent for storytelling, and a diverse set of memorable characters fill the pages of The Shadow of the Wind. Most of the characters created by Zafon’s vivid imagination are as real as the person next door, only with different circumstances. He is able to turn the reveries and external events of the characters inside out with an effortless or natural air about it. And even tiny objects like an ancient pen, a burnt photograph, and many others take part in the entire story.

There is also that unnameable magic that comes with the palpable but non-overt way that Zafon is able to build up emotional scenes, and taking his reader with him as each of these key scenes unfold. You can smell the stench of cemeteries, and taste the desires of the main characters as clearly as one would smell one’s breakfast.Zafon made me understand his characters without boring me to tears.

There are writers who are average with storytelling but have impeccable grammar. Then there are masterful ones like Zafon who leave you a changed person after you read his work. Few authors have this ability; it’s like a divine gift that selects only the hands of the writing few.

 

Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradbury

With an intriguing plot and a 50th anniversary edition that involves an interview with the author regarding his writing’s “secret self”, I found Fahrenheit 451 as a book that is both disturbing, memorable, and hard to put down. I know that I recently had a saddeningly realistic political reading material in Jose Saramago’s “Seeing”. I read this immediately after. One warning: it’s not perfectly advisable for one’s emotional health to read these two books in succession. It might be best to squeeze in a light and funny reading material in between, just to be sure that you will not wallow in lethargy. Squeeze a joke book in between. I am not kidding.

I don’t know what I can make of the morbid fascinations that come out of my recent bedtime reading materials but Bradbury’s timeless classic still rings true in this present era of computers, selfies, and internet technology. I do promise to lighten my reading materials in the coming days. It has been intense for the last two weeks of my reading life. I decided on a light murder mystery thriller in Paris for my current read. I know that’s not light enough for some but I actually read a couple of chick literature for Christmas so New Year was all for the heavy and substantial.

One of the chief things that struck me in this novel is that crucial role of the oral transmission of literature. It was a world where people had to rely on memories of book passages to rebuild the world after war. As a reader, I am not so good in memorizing lines but I am very good in earmarking pages. I had earmarked my copy of this book to oblivion.The novel is quite action-packed, filled with quotable quotes and even with the shocking punch that you will not expect in such magnitude. It is as hot as fire itself. Previously, I wrote about Saramago’s universality in the midst of pulling off the trick of mastering the art of namelessly universal characterizations. With Bradbury, there are American names used but it’s as timeless. He could have written it yesterday or 50 years ago, and the effect is still the same for the reader.

Bradbury’s life story in creating this book is also spectacularly inspirational. He embodied the full concept of a struggling writer whose work is its own reward. In his own words, Bradbury described Fahrenheit 451 as one of those “dime novels” where he had to literally rent a typewriter for a few dime everyday just to get it done.Whoever said that writing is a mere product of talent is sorely mistaken; it’s really 98% hard work and 2% talent or genetics or natural endowments of prowess. The success of Fahrenheit 451 was a slow simmer. In his interview, Bradbury said that it did not sell as well in the first few months of release. Sometimes the audience is not ripe enough for one’s writing. And this happened to him, a successful author of a timeless piece.

The primary focus was initially on the character of the fireman, Guy Montag. Later it was aptly renamed as Fahrenheit 451, the temperature at which book paper starts to disintegrate. His exploratory and futuristic stance on the future of printed books and the dark illiterate nightmares that can follow if it comes to pass is quite stark and affecting for book lovers like me. I remember last year when I made a pledge to “Read the printed word”. And after reading Fahrenheit 451 last weekend, I decided to mentally reaffirm this pledge to continue reading printed words even to the point of being considered as a candidate for extinction.

Another important aspect that he touched on is the price of living with knowledge, of actually continuing to live despite what one finds about life and its realities.Whenever the subject of reading comes up, I often hear people say that they are not into books. I just nod my head. But whoever said that reading books takes too much work and effort has not really grasped the reality that nurturing ignorance takes so much more long-term effort than leafing through the pages of a well-written piece of poetry or prose. Even if titles like Fahrenheit 451 run the risk of depressing me for a short while, I still believe that it’s a risk worth taking because there is no point in shielding one’s self from appreciating art just to avoid the emotional repercussions of appreciating it to the fullest.