Komiket, Summer Komikon, Indieket, Komikon Grande – if you’ve been to even one of these highly-awaited seasonal events for local creators, you’ll know the Filipino comics scene is so not dead (#BuhayAngKomiks!). In fact, it’s evolving and keeping current with the tastes and struggles of the Pinoy audience today.
Sketching poignant stories about everything from women’s issues, space exploration, Philippine history, and even today’s political climate, there’s bound to be a comic that’ll push all the right buttons for you! Here are 8 local comic creators that deserve your attention this 2019.
1 – Betsy Cola
Kicking the list off is Betina Continuado. Her style is reminiscent of 60’s-70’s illustrations – all big hair and bright colors! Her work focuses on women’s issues like body positivity and female relationships.
Check out: Love Oddity, Betsy’s comic featuring Starla, an alien, who falls for an Earthling named Judy and who now has to erase Judy’s memories after she discovers that Starla isn’t from this planet. Bonus: each comic comes with a Starla paper doll!
2 – Chocnut-san
Chocnut-san’s work is simply stunning. Despite (or perhaps heightened by) being in black and white, her skill shines in her characters’ nuanced expressions and perspectives – and especially where it involves flowers or complex backgrounds
Check out: Her ongoing (and first) series, In His Universe, a story about a girl named Joanne travelling into parallel universes searching for the one where she gets to be with her TOTGA, Noel.
3 – Ara Villena
Ara Villena is a freelance illustrator and art director. Specialising in children’s book illustrations, her work often has children as central characters and detailed, colorful scenes that evoke a sense of wonder.
Check out: Villena’s first comic, Laya. The titular character is a young girl discovering a fantastical new world beyond our own, intertwined with themes of environmental awareness and standing up to justice.
4 – Richard Mercado
Richard Mercado is the founder of Blue Indie Komiks (BLINK), Ateneo de Manila University’s comic org. His art features distinct and expressive character designs, and his writing voice feels familiar, friendly, and smooth.
Check out: If you haven’t gotten on the Uy! Si Crush! train yet, you’d best catch up! Now on its fourth volume, the series began as a webcomic created by Richard and fellow BLINK alumna Gaby Taylo in 2015. The story revolves around three protagonists, Juan, Isay, and Kasi – where Juan likes Isay, Isay likes Juan, Juan thinks Isay likes Kasi, and humorous shenanigans ensue.
5 – Tori Tadiar
Tori Tadiar is an illustrator and character designer. She has previously worked on character design for Golden Hour, an otome mobile game developed by Pinoy creatives. Tori’s characters are lush and romantic, with many featuring soft blushes and expressive eyes.
Check out: Sagala (now on its third volume, and expecting a fourth!) is a fantasy comic about a gunslinger named Riel and her Guardia Civil older brother, Constantino. The setting is heavily inspired by the Philippines during the Spanish colonial era.
6 – Sean Sonsona
Sean Sonsona’s comics have a still and quiet feel – characters are spare and his illustrations use plenty of space. Sonsona often doesn’t use dialogue, but instead employs a smart execution of panels and pacing to deliver a story.
Check out: The first and second editions of Cosmic Reaction. Both are collections of wordless short sci-fi and fantasy comics featuring plucky, adventurous characters discovering fantastical new worlds.
7 – Marianie
Marian Hukom, started publishing indie comics since she was in college. A self-professed lover of the color pink, Manila, and art, Marianie is currently occupied with smashing the traditional dalagang Pilipina stereotype via her ongoing series, Nagmamahal, Maria Clara.
Check out: Palaso, an oldie but a goodie released in 2017. This comic is about Dark Cupid, the entity who pulls out the arrows the actual Cupid has shot into people whose romances didn’t work out. It’s a straightforward gig – until he meets a girl with so many arrows and failed romances to her credit, and Dark Cupid finds himself falling for her himself.
8 – Magtira Paolo
Paolo Magtira has been making waves as an illustrator even before he was out of college. There’s a lot to look at in his work, down to captions on clothing, minutely detailed backgrounds and sometimes bizarre combinations of human bodies and feral monster faces.
Check out: Liryo (under Anino Comics), a brave and sharp deconstruction of the Duterte administration’s drug war and extra-judicial killings based on Magtira’s senior thesis. He explains, “I decided on doing it mainly because I disagree with how the current government approaches its anti-drug policy and I wanted to push Filipino comics as a medium. Liryo is…a fictionalised rendition of the true stories that I got from my case studies for my thesis.”
Profuse thanks to EK Gonzales of @komikninja for her guidance during the writing of this article and her tireless passion for boosting and reviewing local comics!
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