A picture is worth a thousand words and this couldn’t be more true when it comes to graphic novels. Forget your regular unillustrated paperback and dive into another dimension in one of these Filipino graphic novels
In an era dominated by e-books and online publications, there is one category of books that has stood the test of time; graphic novels. Commonly thought of as a sophisticated comic book, the graphic novel spans across all genres and delves into both the fiction and non-fiction world, and are produced all over the globe. In fact, arguably some of the best of them have come from the archipelagic country of the Philippines. The books are extra special for their ability to integrate the country’s history and mythology with the talents of Filipino artists and writers to create stories full of excitement, intellect and entertainment. Here, we round up some of our favourite Filipino graphic novels.
Crime-Fighting Call Centre Agents
Published by Kowtow Komiks and written by Noel Pascual and illustrated by AJ Bernardo, Crime-Fighting Call Centre Agents has a reasonably self-explanatory title. In the genre of ‘white-collar horror’ (yes that’s a thing), it features four titular call centre agents: Noel, Sandra, Koontz and Charlie. White-collar works by day, when out of the office, they have an ability to find themselves in dangerous and life-threatening situations. The strength here is in the telling, as, surprisingly, in the first three issues (there are six in total), the protagonists were yet to be shown successfully fighting crime, or stepping inside a call centre, for that matter. Now that’s evocative drawing right there.
A collection of short stories written between 2010 and 2014, but not published until 2016, Meläg has been described as inspiring and beautiful. A self-taught artist, Bong Redila brings his childhood dreams to life here via drawings created using millions of pen strokes. Filling in the gaps between fantasy and reality, this graphic novel is dotted with flying trains and houses, magical genies and even a dancing mechanical robot. Meläg provides an exciting, whilst also insightful, coming of age experience.
Illustrated by prolific Filipino graphic artist Mervin Malonzo, After Lambana (main image) is extremely popular amongst graphic novel aficionados due to the wonderful combination of Malonzo’s images with author Eliza Victoria’s storytelling. Based in the magical kingdom of Lambana, the storyline revolves around hero Conrad’s magical heart ailment and his exploration of magical treatments.
In an effort to bring excitement to Philippine history and mythology, co-creators Ethan Chua and Scott Lee Chua penned Doorkeeper in 2017. Through six volumes, the immortal protagonist Doorkeeper experiences Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law (which suspended civil rights and imposed military authority in the Philippines in 1972) and World War II as well as life in the pre-colonial Philippines, and more specifically, the eve of the notorious 1898 Philippine Revolution. Childhood friends Scott and Ethan created this masterpiece while working from their respective college campuses, Yale-NUS in Singapore and Stanford in the US. The result of their collaboration is a thrilling and stimulating graphic novel.
Written and illustrated by Gerry Alanguilan, Elmer provides an insight into a world where chickens have somehow obtained the understanding and consciousness of humans. The story and the art are equally phenomenal, enabling Alanguilan to tackle somewhat perplexing ideas whilst also providing the reader with remarkably realistic visuals. As the storyline deepens, we see the chickens tackle problems that come with the process of integration into the human race, including fighting for equal rights, among many other things. It ain’t easy being a chicken.
Images courtesy of Crime-Fighting Cal Center Agents, Meläg, After Lambana, Doorkeeper, and Elmer