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Komiket Illustrates the State of Local ‘Komiks’

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Komiket Illustrates the State of Local ‘Komiks’

Group talks about diversity, expansions and younger creators as it prepares to launch another massive art and comics market this weekend.

WORDS BY KENDRICK GO

O ctober Komiket—one of the largest markets for local comics and affordable art in the Philippines—will be happening on the 12th and 13th of this month and if you’re planning to attend it, then its organizers have a bit of advice for you: “come early and leave late.”

Yes, we know; it sounds like a crude marketing ploy. But, in the case of Komiket’s people, they have a few points to justify this statement. For starters, the early birds of this year’s event will be receiving a prize. The first 500 ticket holders for both days and the first 1,000 holders of the two-day Rainbow ticket s will get free copies of “LGBTQ+ Kommunity 2019” issue. This is a collection of 4-to-8 page, G-rated comics dealing with issues relevant to gender and sexual minorities. Komiket has called for entries to the said collection last year and now that it’s complete, it hopes to foster the spirit of acceptance relevant in this day and age. Just a few months ago, after all, talks about trans rights hit a fever pitch when transwoman, Gretchen Diez got arrested for legally using the women’s restroom at Farmers Plaza in Cubao. The stories of this issue of “LGBTQ+ Kommunity” should add more perspectives to the ongoing discussion.

As for those who will leave late, they may find themselves in the midst of what Komiket’s team claims to be its “not-so-secret magic hour.” It normally happens right before the end of each day. “Exhibitors go crazy with major discounts and give away last-minute freebies,” they said. “A lot of happy exhibitors [also] give away stickers and postcards to their fellow exhibitors to end Komiket on a high.” These, however, aren’t the only reasons why they think people should go.

Backed by about 580 creators, illustrators, calligraphers, writers, and publishers, this year’s October Komiket promises to be one of the largest events of its kind in the Philippines. It will be held this year at Centris Elements in Quezon City and will occupy two halls. This means that the art market will have about 190 tables featuring the various works of talents from around the country. Attending the event, therefore, gives people a good glimpse at the current state of Pinoy-made comics which, according to Komiket’s organizers, is seeing the rise of several exciting trends.

Komiks [Filipino for comics] have grown beyond [the] four major genres,” they said. Once upon a time, the industry was inundated with stories that fall within four categories: superheroes or action, horror, humor and, sci-fi or fantasy. These days, however, there is more diversity. “More creators are going on [journeys] of self-discovery, finding self-acceptance, and creating more positive and optimistic [views] of the future,” they said. “This is shown through the emergence of more personal stories with themes on self-care, mental health, sexuality and identity, cultural identity and [the] reimagining of history.”

Aside from this, more creators are also looking into the possibility of expanding their works beyond publishing. “Creators are starting to think beyond their social media pages and [are going] beyond events as avenues for their work,” they said. One of the titles at the helm of this movement is Trese, a Filipino-made black and white comic book about a detective who deals with crimes tied to creatures of Philippine folklore.

Since its launch back in 2005, Trese has garnered quite the following. Its popularity is such that it is now up for an animated adaptation through Netflix. Its release date has yet to be finalized but Komiket believes that this is nevertheless good news for local artists.

“This validates another path creators can take,” the event’s organizers said and that path involves “creating comics that have the potential for other content platforms—film, TV, and animation.” Other possible expansions also include apps, video games, board games, and toys.

Another trend that the attendees of October Komiket may notice this year is the increase in the number of young artists participating. In the previous years, the Komiket team has tried to motivate creators at an earlier age by reaching out to schools, activating youth organizations and opening platforms for them through their events. This year, it would appear that their efforts have paid off:

“There is a significant rise in high school creators since graphic arts [are] integrated into the curriculum of some schools,” the organizers said. “Komiket’s youngest creator this year is 7 years old.”

That said, however, age isn’t the only factor noticing a shift in the world of local comics. Location is another. According to Komiket, there is also a rise in regional creators that they’ve been trying to tap into.

“As we co-organized the 2019 Cebulifest x Komiket, we’ve seen the growth of Cebu creators,” they said. Currently, Komiket is also organizing the 1st Philippine International Comics Festival (PICOF.) Happening on June 2020, it will bring together several titles from Filipino artists. According to the group, this event has already received a number entries outside Metro Manila, specifically Luzon and Mindanao. “We hope to have Komikets up north in Luzon and down south in Mindanao someday too,” they said. Until then, however, its work in the Metro will continue.

L aunched back in April 2015, Komiket was conceptualized to provide platforms for creators of comics and affordable art. It happened after some extensive research. Founders of the group looked into various avenues—such as schools, literary festivals, art fairs, and Pinoy-themed events—to see if there was a sizeable audience for comics. “We believed there was,” they said, and so the concept for Komiket was pursued.

In less than five years, the group has organized 22 art markets in 6 communities. It has also recognized and supported local talents through various means. Its Komiket Awards, for example, has already honored 18 winners. To help creators produce their works, Komiket has also given 17 “Komikstarter grants” to fund promising titles. It has also held 5 annual comic book creator’s workshops, discovered 115 creators, and published 3 books featuring 68 creators; one of the works it supported also became a National Book Award Finalist.

“Before Komiket launched in April 2015, there were limited opportunities for komiks creators to sell their work,” its organizers said. And now, Komiket is something of a key player in its industry, an entity with the capacity to further elevate the art form in the local setting.

“Our next step is to level-up as a publisher,” they said and they intend to do this through PICOF. Happening on June 12 to 14, 2020, PICOF will showcase some of the most promising Filipino comic artists. One of its highlights includes a contest that will select 11 entries to be judged by an international jury at the 2020 Komiket Awards. These entries will compete for the Best Komiks Prize which has a cash component of 150,000 php. Meanwhile, the 20 semi-finalists in this contest will also receive a free storytelling workshop.

“We’re also inviting speakers on copyright law, and a literary agent to educate creators on creator’s rights,” they said. They’re planning to do this to better equip makers in business matching meetings with local and international producers, toymakers and merchandisers.

Another feature of the festival, of course, is the sale of comics and affordable art. “We’ll open our komiks market to international exhibitors to mix with your favorite local indie creators and National Book Award publishers,” they said. This means that if they succeed in pulling it off, this Komiket event will not only unveil the state of comics in the Philippines but the state of the art form in other countries as well.

For this month, however, Komiket’s focus is on the former. And it will pursue this as one of the largest comics markets in the country makes its return this weekend.

Get your October Komiket tickets here

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