If I had the opportunity to travel to San Diego, Chicago, Los Angeles, or San Francisco during comic-con season, I would. And I will sometime in the future. Even if I know that you can bet your ass those places will be crawling with people who need to get a life much more than I do.
But let's not forget that here in the Philippines, we have so many comic book creators who have as much talent as those working in mainstream U.S. comics. And given that pool of talent and the significant number of comic book lovers in the country, it would really be a no-brainer that there should be our very own comic book convention here.
And we do. There is the annual Filipino Komiks Convention, or "Komikon."
Last week, the 4th Annual Komikon was held in the University of the Philippines Bahay ng Alumni. I went there last year, my first visit to the yearly event, and had an enjoyable time. It was easy for me to decide to go back this year. Komikon is an event where you get to meet the established Filipino comic book creators, get to see the up-and-coming and independent talent, purchase Filipino and foreign comic books, trade paperbacks, and other related merchandise, and hear some of the creators address the crowd in Q & A sessions.
Here's how my visit this year went:
The event itself is a small one, with probably no more than a thousand, inside the venue at a given time. The entrance fee is a modest Php50. The area is filled with booths leaving little room for people to maneuver in a two-way lane that can barely accommodate one lane. But rarely would people complain about this. Aside from the love of comics, we are Filipinos. We endure the heat and suffocating crowds of Divisoria and Greenhills for the love of a good deal. But I had to admit that I sweated like crazy there, sweat pouring down on me like leaky fire hydrant. If they want to maintain the ambience of a small, no-frills event, I won't complain. But if the organizers could get more sponsors next year, maybe holding it in a venue like the SM Megatrade Hall would be a good idea.
The creators' booths are just two or three tables strung together to allow the artist to showcase his/her wares, sign autographs and interact with fans. The small table separating the creator from the fans made for a nice set-up. You get be up-close when talking to them and it was easier to have your picture taken. The most visited booths were those of Pol Medina, Jr. (Pugad Baboy) and Komikon 2008 Guest of Honor Gerry Alanguilan.
The sellers' booths were of a tiangge design where the products are just at the table for the buyer to browse, looking for comic book goodies. The several bookstores and comic book shops, comics publishers, and indie creators were on hand to ply their stuff. I didn't buy anything since I wasn't really there to procure swag but merely to have my books signed. I do my buying from the main stores.
I must extend my apologies to the independent artist since I wasn't able to check out their works. I haven't really been adventurous when it came to trying out local comics. I tend to stick with the one's that have name recognition like Pol Medina and Lyndon Gregorio (Beerkada). Maybe sometime in the future I can finally immerse myself in the independent comics scene. But judging from the lines in the indie booths, there is a healthy fan population that caters to this genre. Good for them and I wish them mucho luck!
As for the programs on the stage, I cannot comment as I was too preoccupied with the goings on in the booths to notice. When I was there, the members of Culture Crash were there having a reunion. I'm not really in the know as to who they were.
There was a really nice exhibit of works from the Filipino comic book creators of the past like Alfredo Alcala, Mars Ravelo, and Francis V. Coching. The style of work there is truly classic 60's 70's. The artworks reminded me of the style that was used by Neal Adams, Marshall Rogers, Carmine Infantino, and Curt Swan. I loved the Alcala exhibit since there were so many classic Batman works there to feast my eyes on. It's easy to figure out that I consider Bats the coolest character in comics. But to go through artwork provided by a Pinoy from books starring the character was really amazing.
My main reason for going there was to get my books autographed. The first task I had was to get Pol Medina's signature on my latest Pugad Baboy. Nineteen of my books plus a sunday collection have been autographed, my copy of the newest edition now had to get his John Hancock. The line was long but went along fast enough. It was finally my turn. While he was signing it, I brought up the topic of the short-lived Pugad Baboy TV show which I had a brief cameo on during its first episode (what passes as my brief affair with showbiz). We had a good laugh about it.
Next was Lyndon Gregorio who seemed a bit busy with other Komikon related stuff but was nice enough to quickly drop what he was doing to sign my latest Beerkada book. Once again, he made a small cartoon drawing of me as he does for Beerkada readers.
Then I had to get Gerry Alanguilan's autograph, which would be my first from a person who has actually worked on a DC comic book. I planned on having him sign a Komikon 2008 memorabilia since I didn't have a copy of any of his work. I don't have a copy of Superman: Birthright because I didn't like it. Not because of the great art supplied by kababayan's Leinil Francis Yu and Mr. Alanguilan, and not because of the storytelling of Mark Waid (who like Grant Morrison from a previous post, makes my list of top 5 favorite comic book writer). I had a problem with "Birthright" because it ruined the Byrne era Superman I loved. But I digress...
I walked around a few more just to see some more artwork by the creators and decided that it was time to go. My mission was successful, with a 3 for 3 batting outcome.
The Komikon this year was really fun for comic book lovers as there was a little bit of something for everyone, whether you love DC, Marvel, Manga, Anime, Pinoy comics, cartoon strips, independent works, etc. The venue was crowded and hot but the overall enjoyment made it truly worth the while. Here's to a bigger and better Komikon in 2009!