Manila Comics Fair kicks off on May 25 to ‘miss’ Filipino creators – adobo Magazine

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Last year, Filipino comic creators talked about how the industry was destroying them. It was part of a global conversation after the death of the American creator Ian McGinty (Adventure Time, Welcome to Showside), which is widely believed to be caused by overwork and underpayment. The hashtag #ComicsBrokeMe have opened up discussions about how creating comics is not sustainable for most creators, and how a combination of exploitative business practices and a lack of investor confidence in the medium creates an environment where writers and artists are often victimized by a system in which their work is simultaneously highly demanded and undervalued.

This is especially true in the Philippines, where – despite a rich history in the medium dating back to the legendary Francisco Coching – the number of creators today who can rely on comics as their main source of life probably can’t be counted on more than two hands. Comics fair in Manila (MCF), a messy new expo taking place on May 25, 2024 at Space63, ComunaMakati, hopes to take a small step to change that.

“There are a lot of factors going against us that make it difficult to make a living from your comics in so many ways,” said the comic book creator and illustrator. Rob Ham (light, Lost) in an exclusive interview with adobo magazine. Together with cartoonists Diigii Daguna (Mami, Cats and where to find them) And Elle shivers (Citrix, Pet), Rob co-founded Manila Comics Fair to not only reignite interest in local comics post-pandemic, but also to empower creators to pursue their passions. The main thrust of the event is a series of lectures and workshops with those who managed to make the dream come true, including Tarantadong Kalbo (TK), Mervin MalonzoAnd Hulyen.

“If it’s going to happen, it’s going to have to happen if we figure out a way to get out of there,” Rob said. “I think the state of comics right now is that everyone is still trying to bounce back from the pandemic. The disadvantages are back and new makers are entering the market, but the industry is trying to find itself again, either through publications or by bringing new work to the market.”

“Hopefully these workshops and lectures will provide a lot of tools for creators to use. We’re putting some of them online as podcasts and videos that people can watch, and hopefully as resources that people can use to create their own comics.

Rob, Diigii and Elle first met at a long-running small press fair BLTX, where they all came to realize that the sense of community fostered at the event was something they longed for within the local comics scene. While larger conventions play an important role in the effort to make local comics more financially viable, creators often have to pay fees to set up a table and sell their wares. And since these fees are generally higher than what an emerging artist can afford, the sense of community that these events typically foster can sometimes give way to commercialism.

“I personally have a lot of experience dealing with the bigger drawbacks (…) and I think over the years it has become more and more stressful, I think, as an artist,” says Elle. “I feel like there’s a general atmosphere of competition because you’re sharing the venue with like a hundred other artists.”

“I feel like with the proliferation of really big bummers or big art markets, there’s a kind of unspoken rule that what you put out there has to be extremely polished,” they continued. “You have to have a personal brand, your table setup has to match that brand. It has to have levels, it has to have a sign, it has to have lighting, it has to have all those things to be able to sell as an artist or participate in the scene or whatever.

“We felt a little lost in the comics community here, and I feel like when we all saw each other at BLTX, there was a sense of community around comics, and a lot of comics here really want that feeling,” Diigii added. .

The three quickly realized there was a need for more community-oriented events Illustration fair in Manila And Type Fair PHand focused on connection and growth rather than directly selling merchandise.

Building on those conversations, Rob approached the designer and illustrator Then Matutina with the idea for MCF. Dan offered to host the event at Space63, with the cooperation of Maya via Comuna. The expo continued to take shape as Rob, Diigii, and Elle reached out to fellow creators eager to find the same sense of community, and some were eager to bring their mentorship to the table.

For example, the first talk at MCF is titled ‘Work-Life-Comics Balance’ and promises practical advice on how to create comics while dealing with everything else in life, from three individuals who have managed to do it so far to get it done from: Mervin, TK and Hulyen. Since it’s still quite rare for local creators to consider comics as their main career, many talented artists and writers end up putting these creative passions aside for work that keeps the lights on. And because so many potential careers in comics are ended without even getting a chance to start, mentors are relatively hard to find.

Manila Comics Fair 2024 Unbreakable Filipino Creators Insert Event

That fear of financial instability, coupled with the scarce resources to meet those odds, is why conversations like these are crucial to building a more sustainable foundation for the local comics industry. Creators don’t have much incentive to even try.

“I really don’t want that hesitation in this newer generation, where people might try to share the work that they’re doing, because I think so much work deserves to be seen and shared,” Rob said.

At the same time, shifting the focus from selling as many comics as possible – a motivation needed for larger conventions to support their own size – to empowering creators through lower-pressure events like MCF allows for more experimental and ambitious stories are encouraged. Rather than having marketability constantly in mind, comic creators are free to express themselves more fully and also effectively break down various mental barriers that hold the local industry back.

It’s a feeling this writer knows all too well. I was once wondering whether or not I should continue pursuing my dream of writing comics when, during one of my first meetings with an industry veteran, I was told that there was no money to be made in comics. The local scene is full of that self-defeating sentiment, and it has resulted in a mentality where creativity is ironically stymied by those charged with running the industry. There’s a very real sense of risk aversion that permeates the segments of the local comics scene I’ve been exposed to, and that needs to change if the industry is to have any chance of becoming sustainable for its creators.

It starts with having more spaces open to ideas outside the tried and true.

“We were both published by comic book publishers abroad, and those were original graphic novels,” Elle shared, referring to herself and Diigii. “But then we find it so hard to break into locally, which is a bit ironic because we’re both based here.”

“There’s an aspect of this like, ‘Okay, I’m going to keep making work, I’m going to keep putting out work,’ but then it’s like I’m having a hard time doing something or getting it somewhere here, or getting it to a certain place where a local publisher wants to pick it up.”

“I hope this event demystifies the process,” Diigii said. “And it doesn’t stop people from making their own comics, even if it’s just copy paper and they just make things without feeling like they have to make the most over-produced products, and it just inspires people to just keep going things without fear.”

“I want people to not be afraid to make things just because they’re not on par with the greatest artists out there,” they continued. “We have a culture where we put artists and other people on a pedestal, and I feel like if we start valuing community and valuing people as individuals, the atmosphere of making comics that is so scary starts to disappear , because the process now seems feasible. and it feels like it’s been democratized for everyone. I hope it’s that kind of environment that we foster (at MCF).

Rob echoed this sentiment: “Hopefully by equipping people with this and helping people connect, we can produce more interesting work. Our role in this is to add to the great contributions of everyone who ever loved comics in the Philippines, and hopefully lead to a better place for people to come.

And what exactly drives them to give more power to Filipino comic artists in this way? According to Rob, it’s about how local comics are intrinsically linked to Filipino identity.

“What I like most about Filipino comics is that it is our work. They are our stories. It was made by us. And I feel like we’re all contributing to that language, and that should excite people,” he said.

“I hope it gets people excited.”

With a focus on building a community where creators are celebrated and share their knowledge freely, Manila Comics Fair aims to give the local comics scene a new sense of direction: to create, grow and do everything together. And with Rob, Diigii and Elle driving the event so passionately, it could very well be a small step towards – for the first time in over a century – a thriving Philippine comics industry.

One perhaps where creators can say comics built them up instead of destroying them.

The first Manila Comics Fair will take place on May 25, 2024, 2:00 PM in Comuna, Makati. In addition to a panel with Mervin Malonzo, Tarantadong Kalbo and Hulyen, organized in collaboration with Kwentong Creatives, the event will also feature exhibits and tables from Anino Comics, BLINK, Avenida Books, Soup Zine Library, Ardie Aquino, Dione Kong, Sobsannix, Sneckoil, Togidemi, Maria Maranan and Electromilk.

Adobo Magazine has declared 2024 the Year of Creative Sustainability, a movement that explores and recommends ways to create a more sustainable foundation for our creative industries. Read more about Adobe’s 2024 editorial direction at this link.