The (personal) 16 important komiks of the last 10 years

Long time no see. It’s just that this needed doing.

In the spirit of #BuwanNgMgaAkdangPinoy, this unworthy one will hope to give a short list of important titles and series that have defined the new indie age of komiks, the one that rose from the ashes of the ‘golden age’, the one fostered by the Alamat group (so cool now, btw, that they are now literally legends) and the Culture Crash group, the one that has fanned the flames for a new generation of komikeros.

The new indie age of komiks is no longer defined by one consistent, regular style. It is now many voices, many thoughts, many dreams, and thus many styles and modes of creation. The spectrum runs from 4-panel comedy series, manga-inspired styles, western-comic-inspired styles, to feminist, LGBT-positive, and politically-charged alternative works. There is no one style that defines the whole. There are many that represent what komiks is now.

One thing is true for all: They are all Filipinos, proud to be, eager to show it to the world, ready to shout it to everyone. They will also call out what is wrong or problematic in the world, and that is also being a proud Filipino.

Unfortunately I could not stop at 12. Thus this stops at 16 names.

The given titles are in random order, not by rank and not by year of appearance. Also I remind that there are many, many, many other komiks not mentioned here, but are also good, important work for all of komiks. (Also there are no pictures. I’ll get on that slowly.)

Such known classics of the indie age that are The Mythology Class, ZsaZsa Zaturnnah, Elmer, Pasig, Digmaang Salinlahi, Kubori Kikiam, Cat’s Trail, and CAST are not repeated in this list. They are from the early 2000’s and past the last 10 years. But yes, they are still the respected classics that they now are, and they still deserve to be sought out and read and honored.

You may also be wondering why incredible things like After Eden, After Lambana, Light and Lost, Rodski Patotski Ang Dalagang Baby, Halina Filipina, Dragon Breed (under Black Ink), Kare-Kare Komiks, and Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady as a komik are not in this list. Yes, they are very noteworthy works, and yes they are also important, go find them, OH PLEASE go find them. But there is other groundbreaking work, and they are shown here.

1. 14 (Manix Abrera)
By the rock-star famous (also former rock star) komikero most known for the Kikomachine series, it is a no-dialogue trip into a fantasy world on the 13th floor of a strange condo. It is the most fantastic use of the no-dialogue format of komiks, the best representative to date, and some of Abrera’s most beautiful, highly-detailed work to date.

2. Maktan 1521 (Tepai Pascual)
The work that definitively drew the line between manga-styled komiks (of which there are still many), and komiks that are fully and completely Pinoy in heart and soul, just with manga leanings, it re-imagines the arrival of the Spanish colonizers through the eyes of the Cebu tribes that fought against them. After this series appeared, there started a consistent mindshift toward a komiks that is Pinoy in heart and soul, no longer copying from Japan, but being an entity of itself.

3. Strange Natives 2: The Forgotten Memories of a Forgetful Woman (script Paolo Herras / art Jerico Marte)
An old woman looks back on her colorful life that passes through a world war, occupations by two foreign nations, the arrival of martial law, and the re-coming of democracy. One of the most beautiful long works in recent time, with a well-timed powerful script, combined with a highly-detailed wonderful distinct art style. One of the few stand-alone graphic novels, and a wonderful trip into our recent history.

4. Itch (Mich Cervantes)
A powerful one-issue komik in the alternative styles, and one of the best representatives of the nontraditional komik art styles, it is a quiet but piercingly insightful discourse about sexual education in this country, especially the lack of it, as hidden in religion-run schools.

5. Dead Balagtas (Emiliana Kampilan)
One of the longer-running webcomics, and still the most piercing and penetrating in its insight into both our history and our present, through its well-defined, well-detailed, well-timed panel anecdotes into Philippine history.

6. Tabi Po series (Mervin Malonzo)
One of the few rare full-color webcomics then graphic novel series, using a watercolor haunting style, giving us a rewrite of the Noli and Fili through the eyes of a group of aswang. Along the way it is a piercing observation of how we treat the other among us as a culture, both historically and in the present.

7. Trese series (script Budjette Tan / art Kajo Baldisimo)
OF COURSE one cannot be making a list like this and not name them, the work that best defines the indie age, that started with its inception and continues to best define indie komiks for the whole, in its mastery of story delivery and art presentation. The continuing adventures of Alexandra Trese protector of Manila, with her two confidants and bodyguards the Kambal, it is also a powerful feminist statement, that a series can be spearheaded by a woman and totally, completely succeed.

8. Agents of Ambush series (Andrew Villar and Sam Velasco)
And because Trese exists, Amber Gonzales, Agent Ambush, continues to thrive in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, as a long-running sequential-story series about secret agents with family problems while saving the world and fighting interplanetary foes. Its focus is family, both the one you are born with and the one you accept in your life, and this is done in a very Filipino way, the best way we know how to live…just with spaceships and strange locales.

9. Windmills (Josel Nicolas)
One of the finest representatives of the alternative-comic styles, the semi-autobiographical, animal-personified heart-opening of its creator, revealing college life and lost love, is a totally heart-felt observation of life and maybe depression, seen in every panel in its painful honesty. It also defines every alternative-type komik that deals in these themes, whether the new breed accepts that fact or not.

10. Mythspace volume 1 (script Paolo Chikiamco / art Koi Carreon, Borg Sinaban, Cristina Rose Chua, Jules Gregorio, Paul Quiroga)
Notoriously but proudly known as the ‘Tikbalangs in Space!’ series, it is that and more, rendered by some of the best komik artists of one mini-generation, giving a science fiction world with a completely Filipino culture and mindset at the helm. You did not know you needed science fiction without a western lens until you saw this, and this delivers in spades.

11. Patay Kung Patay series (Mike Alcazaren, Noel Pascual, AJ Bernardo with Josel Nicolas)
It is not Crime Fighting Call Center Agents (but also find it), even if that is also an incredible series that introduced us to the powerhouse duo of Noel Pascual and AJ Bernardo. But Patay Kung Patay is leagues more powerful and more terrifying, as the story of the zombie invasion that decimated a political clan and its hacienda. It is a strong observation against the rich and powerful of this country, and the deep-seated need to have justice against them sometimes. It is also some of the best of the grittiest art in all of komiks, strong and dynamic in every panel.

12. The Hotdog Prince series (Francis Martelino)
The longest consistently running comedy/action series about an ordinary lazy boy who loses his nose to an entity named the Hotdog Prince definitely is absurd, but makes an incredible coherent sense. Even more than Carlo Clemente’s Darwin’s Association series (which is also good, find it), it is the representative of the action-type komiks rendered in the manga-inspired style. That does not mean, even for a second, that it is manga. It is solidly, hilariously, powerfully Filipino in every line and fiber and crazy shouting match.

13. Gwapoman 2000: Ang Huling Baraha (Aaron Felizmenio)
Edgardo Liwayway is a hero fallen from grace, now forced to work with a salamangkero nemesis and a rogue private investigator as a team. Yes there is a roughness to this work, but it needs more credit than it gets, one of the better presentations of komiks as a whole, with a highly detailed style, with sharp insights into the state of justice in this country.

14. The Filipino Heroes League (Paolo Fabregas)
Head-on addressing the OFW situation of the country, and the lack of resources left in the country as a result, and yet with people working for the country despite that lack of resources, while it is framed through the superhero genre, it is well-drawn, well-paced look at those realities, and gives a dream that penetrates those realities to give hope for things that could be done. Among the superhero genre komiks, it is also the most coherent, as well as one of the most Pinoy. That is, it is the one that draws the line between those that are western-inspired, and those that are Pinoy with western-comic leanings.

15. Kalayaan series (Gio Paredes)
Granted there are other superhero komik series that may have better art and better execution. But the adventures of superhero Kalayaan remains and continues, through all the years of the new indie age, and continues to inspire those who prefer these kinds of stories. Kalayaan himself is a superhero with heart, both for his country and for his immediate family, and he is never afraid to show it to all, which makes him very human, and very Pinoy.

16. Private Iris series (Jamie Bautista and Arnold Arre)
This, the Kuting Magiting series (by Robert Magnuson, also find them), and the Pilandokomiks (by Borg Sinaban) are the gateway komiks that children have into this new world of komiks, and Private Iris is one of the long-standing ones in English. Among the three mentioned, this is the one that reveals to school-age children, especially from private schools, about this new komiks world, and for that it is very important. Of itself the adventures of a smart and observant girl detective is a wonderful addition to literature.

These are but a small fraction of all the komiks that have been made in the last ten years. Such signposts of the age, like the 4-panel Callous comics (by Dr.Carlo San Juan), all the works by Rommel Estanislao and Freely Abrigo, new 4-panels by Gio Guiao (of Lakan and Makisig) and Ramark Masangkay (Opismeyts), the social media frontiers penetrated by Toto Madayag (of Libreng Komiks), the quiet comedy and serious work of Mel Casipit (notorious for #cheesyfit), the gothic material by Patrick Enrique, the groundbreaking work of Ligaya komiks (by new breed creators Addie Onday and Faye Bergonia), the slow and steady but culturally-adept work by Faye Villanueva, the beautiful work by Natasha Ringor for the Janus Silang komik adaptation, the continuing awesome work by the Alamat veterans (like Skyworld and the David Hontiveros creations), the continuing 4-panel pillars that are Beerkada, Pugad Baboy, Kikomachine, and others…these haven’t even been mentioned, but are also as important.

Many, many more are being made, shown at every Komikon, Indieket, Komiket, and other local events.

Please, please join us. There is a whole universe of komiks now to explore, many styles and many themes and many formats to enjoy. Come and see what we know, what we are all excited to find.

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