The Good News about Niño Balita’s komiks
by rick olivares
If Calvin, of Bill Watterson’s famous Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, were Filipino, and had grown up to be a comic book creator, he would be Niño Balita.
There’s a certain sunny disposition to his comics that celebrate life, are highly imaginative, are hopeful, and always bring a smile to your face.
And that in my opinion… is priceless.
In a growing sea of local komiks that run the gamut of manga/anime-inspired to the supernatural to the superheroic and to the satirical, Balita’s komiks (at least the ones I have as I am trying to complete my collection) – Alaala at Sampaguita, Everyday I Wish I Were a Badass Superhero, and Moymoy the Forest Guardian – are refreshing and fun reads.
The caveat however, is they’re hardly whimsical – they’re based on his own life, thoughts, and feelings, and what he loved and enjoyed reading as a youngster.
In fact, Alaala at Sampaguita (written by his then-girlfriend-and-now-wife Irene Genson), starts out as your typical a rich girl/poor boy story that seems to be headed for a tragic if not heartbreaking conclusion. Yet the manner in which it is resolved will remind you of My Best Friend’s Wedding.
Everyday I Wish I Were A Badass Superhero is a short komik about the sedentary life of a clerk who does nothing but file billing reports. In true Calvin-esque fashion, he daydreams about a life of adventure and superheroics but is rudely brought back to earth by that terrorist known as the uncharitable boss.
Moymoy and the Forest Guardian is about a young boy who befriends a giant who helps him rescue the men-folk of his village who were captured by another giant. And interestingly, it is only Moymoy can see the friendly giant.
Balita’s stories take you from the crossing between the Neverlandscapes of our youth to the Badlands of more serious adult life. He’s like Andy in Toy Story who has yet to let go. And it’s good because you only find stories like these only in children’s books.
His writing is passionate and he knows how to move a story along. The three titles I mentioned are all one-shots that one can digest in about 10 minutes but you’ll find yourself turning pack the pages to read again or admire the art. His stories are about people who will either remind you of yourself or someone you know. They are the everyday experiences one goes through. And perhaps that is what he does write best and not…. badass superhero stuff.
Although one can glean certain manga/anime iconography in Balita’s artwork (such as the facial expressions), it is at once Filipino and rendered in a simple but beautiful manner. I love the expressive nature of his art. Furthermore, when other artists wage war on white spaces, Balita knows that less is more.
And the more I read Niño Balita’s work, I can see the quiet genius in in them.