Sunday, November 23, 2014

Somethind old; something new. Ang pagbabalik!

Something's brewing! Four of the old KRESH COMICS gang are back. This time to finish the job and stay! Watch out for samples and teasers of what's to come. 

First brainstorming (outside our chats) was held on Sunday, November 23, at TeaTap Cafe along Wilson Street corner P. Guevarra Street in San Juan City.

I will continue my stuff at Eikon Komiks. The group work I will do with this group will appear in conjunction with Eikon.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Had a letter of mine printed in Deadly Class #8

 Had another letter printed in a lettercol! This time on Deadly Class #9! 

Printed my letter to the editor then the actual letter with an abbreviated surname.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Komikon haul reviews!

Komikon haul reviews!
by rick olivares

Another Komikon (Saturday, November 15 at the Bayanihan Center in Mandaluyong City) came and went by real quick. I heard there were more new books on sale this time than any other. Being a first time exhibitor for Ang Ilog and Dante, I wasn’t able to go around and get everything I wanted.

As a longtime indie and alternative press/comics fan, I make it a point to read and buy as wide a variety as possible. Despite the handicap of not being able to go around as much as I did in the past, I did get quite a few and these are what I recommend from the new releases!

Ugh #1 by Hulyen
Welcome to the irreverently funny. Perhaps the most fun one I picked up during Komikon. There’s a genius to Hulyen’s wit and sarcasm and the artwork reminds me of the similarly irreverent in Matt Groening’s The Simpsons, Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butthead, Jin Wicked’s Crap I Drew During My Lunch Break, Jacob Chabot’s The Mighty Skullboy Army, and Maris Wicks’ Duddits to name a few of the alternative stuff I enjoy. The easiest stories to write are those personal experiences or those of people you know. Hulyen makes it a point to present everything in a humorous light and I’d say that is a gift. Twenty pages from this talented creator that’ll have you laughing. Wish Ugh #1 had more pages.

Tanod by Gab Chee Kee and Jerico Marte
Interesting book here. Tanod Donato seems to have some fight in him ala Stick (Matt Murdock’s mentor) of Daredevil. Is there some secret order that Donato belongs to? There’s dark humor here that leaves you intrigued. Marte’s art is a much refined and powerful version of Bart Sears. Strong debut and something I’ll be following for sure.

Mang Jose by Gab Chee Kee and Ace Enriquez
The spin-off from the popular song by Chee Kee’s band, Parokya ni Edgar, comes alive with a superhero literally for hire. Except Mang Jose looks like he’s ready for retirement. And just like the song, there’s an element of humor to the book.

Callous: Bring the Rain By Carlo San Juan
The third installment of the comic strip that showcases a slice of life in the medical profession with a healthy dose of humor. An apple a day can keep the doctor away but with this rip-roaring strip, you look forward to seeing what Doc Carlo has to say on a daily basis. The glossier paper and the landscape format not to mention the recoloring makes this edition, San Juan’s most vibrant work to date. In the last strip, Cal Duck talks to Dr. Rhiann Nicah about the good things in life. Callous: Bring the Rain is one of them.

A Vision of Dust #3 by David Hontiveros and Xerx Javier
A Vision of Dust has been my favorite work by the prolific David Hontiveros. I am not really a fan of supernatural and horror stories but Hontiveros sold me to it a long time ago. What I love about his stories is they make savor every morsel of prose. And more so with the old school feel of Xerx Javier’s pencils that pays homage to past Filipino greats. It adds to the creepiness and sense of foreboding of Lora. Not for the faint of heart but a darn good read.

Fallen Ash #4 by Kimberly Smith and Benjamin Bartolome
During Indieket, I picked up the first three issues of this fantasy series that reminds me of Elfquest and Mouse Guard both of which I am a fan. Akari the fox survives the battle with the snake and now joins Anara on her mission to find out what happened to her husband Ash and what is so rotten about Aldergilt. I like the story but it seems stuck in neutral. I think its time they push this forward as opposed to repetitive scenes with the corrupt council that runs this fantastical city. That gripe aside, this is something I am following keenly.

Starburn #1 by Kelly Bender and Brian Balondo
The Singapore-based comic was a surprise part of the Komikon. I loved those old space-faring stories in the old Guardians of the Galaxy, Omega Men, Legion of the Super-Heroes, and Alien Legion of which I see influences here and there. But perhaps it owes a lot to Joss Whedon’s excellent, late and lamented Firefly.

The crew of the Starburn (that resembles the Serenity) take a job to deliver a package. Unfortunately, it means springing a prisoner from an off world gaol with its own version of a big time Sarlacc Pit. Clearly the Starburn have no compunctions about right and wrong and care only for the money. I wonder how this will eventually play out. Does this bite them back big time? Or will they find serenity (pun intended)?

Balondo’s art is all right. Needs a little work on the perspective and consistency but that comes with experience. And that’s not so bad considering this is his first work. So congratulations to him as well. And to Kelly Bender for pulling this off.

I’m aboard for this.

Work In Progress #4 by Hub Pacheco and Ted Pavon
Reading WIP is like going through a comic book version of the Before Sunrise trilogy. Slacker guy (Eli) goes through life, finds inspiration through a girl he meets but he can never have. But it helps him find the purpose to follow his dreams.

At times, you wonder where the story is going but when you read it as a whole then it is exactly just as Eli and his three other friends debate about when concocting their own comic book – a slice of life story – that is just all to real. Highs and lows with turns that make no sense before they eventually do. And that’s the beauty of WIP. Life’s uncertainty is enough but Ted Pavon’s gorgeously clean art makes it easy to appreciate the story.

The last of the four part series likewise concludes the four color palettes: Cyan for the first issue, magenta for the second, yellow for the third, and black for the fourth (Vertigo recently embarked on something similar but WIP beat them to it by two years).

Other stuff that I got: Mythspace Vol.1, the new edition of Mythology Class, Tabi Po Isyu #2, Maktan 1521 the collected and colored edition, the complete Cresci Prophecies Books One to Four, and Pintura. I will review these others soon!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Post-Komikon thoughts/learnings from a newbie

Post-Komikon thoughts/learnings from a newbie
by rick olivares

When you sit behind a table as an exhibitor during the Komikon, you adopt a different view say as opposed to the fan who comes in looking to satisfy his four-colored cravings and get a picture or an autograph to go with them. For the first time, I wasn’t one of them.

In Komikons past, I would quickly race to the booths of the comic specialty shops looking for back issues before others could beat me to them. Then I’d go to the local creators and get a large number of them. I only recently discovered the full breadth of the local komiks scene and fell in love with it like I first did to the four-colored medium when I was but three years old.

I pre-sold about 40 copies to friends before Komikon so I came in with no expectations. I told both Tepai Pascual and Paolo Herras of Noodle Boy, Maktan 1521, and Sumpa fame, that Saturday was the true test to see if my stories could attract people who had no connection to me.

As the doors swung open to the fans who had patiently lined up outside the Bayanihan Center in spite of the rainy weather, I sat and watched as they raced in.

In many ways it was the most fun I had at Komikon. I was able to sell 70% of the 200 books I brought in and got most of the stuff I wanted. Moreover, I came away with a lot of learnings and thoughts I want to share.

The Learnings:

It’s nice to have a variety of books and products to sell. I sold two komiks that day – Ang Ilog, that came in a regular and oversized format and with English and Filipino versions; and Dante. I am actually glad that I had two because my table (located at Comic Odyssey) would have been bare if I only had one. It looks good too if you have quite a few so people have choices.

Many asked why I chose to do an oversized format (close to magazine size). I realize that the collector might have problems with its storage but maybe they can place it where they keep their graphic novels that are usually larger in size as opposed to their long boxes.

About three months ago, Image Comics released an oversized version of The Fade-Out #1. I loved it and thought that it helped the artwork a lot. And since both the artist and I really paid attention to the detail in each and every panel (I wrote very detailed scripts for Rey Asturias as he preferred it that way), it gives the reader a chance to savor each and every panel. It sure cost a lot more to produce it that way (and the profit margin wasn’t much) but still it was worth it.

I brought 35 of these oversized komiks and was left with 12 by day’s end. I also previously sold 20 of them. I guess the larger format works.

The Filipino version of Ang Ilog sold better. As I said, I had two versions – one in the vernacular and one in our second language in order to draw in a larger audience. To my surprise, the Filipino version of Ang Ilog sold much better than its English counterpart. Maybe it was because the story was set in 1903 and the artwork was rendered n the classic Filipino style. I was surprised by even how some well moneyed folks opted to pick it up in the vernacular.

Dress up your table. It is important to have standees and easels to prop up your products. And it’s also good to have browsing copies because some people lick their fingers before turning pages (what a gross habit).

You need to be able to sell your book. Fans will pick up books first from the established stars before going down the line to sample new fare. More often than not, they come in with a set budget. I didn’t just want the cover art to entice them. I chatted with them. Talked to them about the basic premise, how long the series would last, and where it is headed.

I had four customers who spent about five minutes looking reading through the book, asking a few questions before saying, “thanks” then leaving. It’s fine. It’s all part of the show. However, those four customers came back and purchased one or two copies. One of them explained that it was it was the “new book” syndrome and “indie feel” of not only my books but generally everyone else save for the established ones. Again, I am totally fine with it. I understand. I do the same as well.

Some patrons don’t mind collecting a series; some do and opt for one shots. Personally, for me it depends. Some stories are meant to end right away while others need to go on.

I explained that the first story arc in the Ang Ilog universe will end in Book Two before spinning off in another direction featuring another character who makes an appearance in Book One. Some fans are regular comic book buyers. Some just dropped by and will never know if they will come back. The idea is – you want them to come back.

Having said that, how huge a factor does the art playing in selling a komik? Huge I’d say because that is what draws them first not knowing if the story is good or bad. Some said that maybe as a writer, I go for the story first before the art. Actually, for me it has to be the whole package. I can have a good story but if the artwork isn’t so good, I don’t keep it in my collection. And if the story is terrible but the art is good, it’s the same thing. I don’t keep it. I like to keep my collection “pure” (for lack of a better term); only with what I truly like. Of course, not everyone is like me so each to his own.

My last word about fans/customers is I am quite lucky that several of the buyers were fans of my sports blog and writing and wanted to check out my initial foray into local komiks. I am so thankful and grateful.

Pricing is important. As much as you’d like to have more people fit your book into their budget, you do not want to sell yourself short or even devalue the book. A pre-Komikon discussion with Tepai Pascual, Paolo Herras, and Mervin Malonzo set me straight about that matter. I must say that I am indebted to them.

Smile. It’s good to be able to interact with the fans and buyers (doesn’t that sound weird because I am one as well). It’s good to create a bond with them (as well as all the nice komiks veterans who will help you out). And it will help in bringing them back to try out your new titles.

It was a great experience. And the butterflies are gone.

P.S. Thanks to Sandy Sansolis and the fine folks at Comic Odyssey for accommodating me. And to Pio Garcia and Jason Inocencio for writing about Ang Ilog and Dante.

With Jiggy Cruz!
With Ruey De Vera

With Jorge!

With Roy Afable

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Don't make that same mistake… again

Still stewing over the cancellation of She-Hulk, I tweeted this yesterday. And I got a nice response from Charles Soule. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thoughts from a komiks newbie

Thoughts from a komiks newbie
by rick olivares

In four days, for the first time in my life, I will be one of the exhibitors for the year-ending Komikon at the Bayanihan Center in Mandaluyong City. The Komikon on November 15 is the biggest one of the year when local comic book creators release their new works. And as a first time creator and publisher… I have butterflies in my stomach.

This was how I felt when I had my first book published in 2009 (The 18th Banner)  and a couple more in 2013 (Five and 11 Days in August). Then as it is now, I wonder if people will buy it and like it.

You see, this is a realm hitherto unchartered for me. Oh, I have read, collected, and loved the medium since I was about three years old. This isn’t marketing, public relations, political research, or even sports and feature writing where I fit like an old glove. This is all new to me.

I am a rookie in a rookie draft camp.

I wonder if in a sea of manga-inspired art and a plethora of superhero and supernatural books how my efforts will be viewed. Looking at them now, I see my mistakes for sequential art and storytelling (not to mention the bane of many editors – proofreading) is different from writing books and articles or even commercials.

Furthermore, it sounds completely audacious as I am releasing not one but two komiks this November 15. The first is a historical fantasy epic titled, Ang Ilog, that is drawn in the classic Pinoy komiks style by Rey Asturias, and the second is a humorous stab at life in the Netherworld called, Dante, featuring upcoming wunderkind artist, Niño Balita.

I conceived Ang Ilog to be a multi-part epic with each story arc involving different characters in its “universe.” Ang Ilog is basically set in Central Luzon, Tarlac and Pampanga to be exact in the early years of American colonial rule. The first arc involves Pablo, a young boy who traverses a lengthy river to sell produce to purchase medicine for his ill mother but gets waylaid by the waters’ many evil denizens. The second arc involves another of the characters, the enigmatic Lawin, in a story arc that vastly different in tone, mood, and pace than the first. If Book One of Ang Ilog was like paddling out of a wharf then Book Two and Lawin is like shooting the rapids.

Ang Ilog first came to me as a youngster riding a raft down the Tarlac river with my grandfather. I read Huckleberry Finn as a kid and I conjured up my version of Mark Twain’s classic piece of Americana. As a history buff, creating a story set in 1903 is a task and a half because we have to get everything right from the Mauser and Krag-Jorgensen rifles to even the clothing.

I had to do a lot of the panel designs and layouts for Rey. I haven’t done any illustration since my grade school days but art direction is something I practiced during my advertising days. As a writer, I have been trained to think visually and I thought that helped me in advertising writing scripts or doing thumbnails for storyboards. It has been a while but it was fun setting up Rey for Ang Ilog.

Dante on the other hand was originally conceived to be a very mature story as inspired by many of the Vertigo Comics that I read over the years. It’s about a kid named Dante who is the son of Charon, the ferryman of the Netherworld. Except Dante is kind of irresponsible and opts out for various adventures. Some strips are whimsical; some are satirical, some are homages, and some will deal with very mature themes but being very sensitive to the issues contained within.

I had to change it radically in tone, style, feel, and writing to suit Balita whose cartoony style brought a different feel to what was an otherwise heavy or mature story. Actually, I prefer the new direction and I really credit Niño for that because it is a lot more enjoyable to write (it really is difficult to write angsty stuff when I am not an angsty person). There’s a reason why I have never been able to follow the footsteps of Robert Smith or Morrissey writing angsty and depressing songs wrapped in perfect alternative gems.

After the first issue of Dante, we intend to release a weekly series of “Sunday strips” before compiling it for the second issue with of course, a lot of additions and bonus material.

As you can see, Ang Ilog and Dante are not exactly what young folks are reading or even raving about in this day and age. Instead I am mining stories I conceived and wrote from decades ago to as far back as four years ago. In fact, I have about five others in various stages of development but have been parked due to many factors. Some of them will see the light of day soon while others will have to be updated to suit the times.

I’ve attended the San Diego Comic Convention and the New York Comic Con as a fan. The Summer Komikon and the Indieket that I attended this year were different because they are for the burgeoning local scene. And it sure is a source of pride to see all these talented creators producing terrific material that for the last decade have been sources for Hollywood films and television series. Who knows where the local books may be adapted?

As for me, now I get to sink my teeth in a medium I have always loved. And the butterflies are still there.


Pio Garcia featured both Ang Ilog and Dante in Click on this link to read it. 

Jason Inocencio reviewed Ang Ilog for Click on this link to read it.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Meka: Not your daddy’s Gundam story

Meka: Not your daddy’s Gundam story
by rick olivares

I first saw the graphic novel Meka, as printed by French publisher Delcourt, at Gosh Comics in London. I didn’t pick it up right away because I was perilously close danger to overloading my luggage.

Imagine my relief and happiness when American comic book company, Magnetic Press acquired the rights to re-publish the book across the Atlantic and also for Southeast Asian consumption.

So now, I hold it my hands. And what a gem of an addition to my collection!

The story takes place in a future where civilization is defended by giant, humanoid vehicles known as “Meka.” In reality, it is a grunt story as the two pilots learn of a Meka deal with the consequences of their unquestioning dedication to military duty as their vehicle is incapacitated at the center of a city that has been turned into a war zone.

Meka was originally published in 2003-05 in two parts titled “Inside” and “Outside” by Delcourt before it was compiled into one format. “Inside because the first part takes place inside the Meka while “Outside” finds the protagonists on the ground after their unit is disabled during a battle with alien invaders.

What initially struck me about Meka (there was a browsing copy available) was not the obvious influence by anime and manga, but more because a couple of French creators came up with it. It is always good to see others interpret that kind of style.

And for writer Jean-David Morvan and artist Bengal, it isn’t merely a carbon copy but they manage to put their own stamp on the Japanese art form albeit with a European bent. The Meka robots aren’t of the Gundam-ish sort that influenced every single robot design since 1979 including Marvel Comics’ Armored Avenger, Iron Man, of late. In fact, they aren’t of the sleek sort; they look even more humanoid but are run very much like the Jaegers of Pacific Rim (but way ahead of this Guillermo Del Toro film) with two drivers whose neural control dictates the action.

Morvan’s writing is taut. He keeps his prose to a minimum and allows Bengal’s lovely artwork with its beautiful compositions, perspectives, and colors take center stage. There isn’t enough talking during war and both creators respect that. And thankfully, Bengal doesn’t go overboard on the violence. He leaves the rest to your imagination as these massive Mekas wreak havoc and destruction.

The Meka, thankfully, isn’t that larger than life hero of the story. It’s the two pilots of the downed Meka – Lt. Enrique Llamas and Corporal Ninia Onoo – who are polar opposites in their view of military duty and obligations. On a couple of occasions they are literally at each other’s throats as the arguments dangerous turn to physical altercations. Yet they must rely on each other as they make their way to the dangerous streets of this unnamed city and planet. They have to fight off robots, the city’s angry populace, and later, scavengers, not to mention alien invaders.

Like every good war story whether real life, historical, or even sci-fi, Meka deals with the consequences of war and the choices by soldiers embroiled in them or the civilians caught in the crossfire. And that is what makes Meka a cool read as well as the heir to the Kou Urakis (the young and inexperienced Gundam pilot in the most excellent Stardust Memory) of this world.

But the genius behind it is that Meka is really a war story in a sci-fi/anime-manga setting. And that makes it a fun read.

Now this bande-dessinee classic is released to a larger audience by the impressive Magnetic Press (Zaya and Doomboy are two of my recent purchases from this company). Meka is re-printed in English for the first time with the 96-page tome bound in textured hardcover with curved corners. Meka is priced at $19.99 (about PhP 1,100) and can be ordered through Comic Odyssey.

The original cover to the French edition of MEKA as published by Delcourt.