One of the oft-cited strengths of the comics industry is its ability to pull together and organize help for members in need, but for every highly publicized event or auction to benefit well known mainstream creators, there are plenty of events impacting comics creators fans don’t hear about.
Case in point: after the dual typhoons Ketsana and Parma struck the coast of the Philippines, leaving a path of many casualties and even more citizens displaced due to massive flooding and property damage, a number of local comic book creators found themselves without access to their homes or the materials to do their jobs. While the island nation is much smaller in population than America or even Great Britain, Filipino creators have taken the western comics market by storm over the past few years. Aside from top name talent like Philip Tan, Francis Manapul, Leinil Francis Yu and more, dozens of creators who come from the Philippines or still reside there contribute to a wide range of comics here and in their own thriving industry.
But while many artists have been hit hard by the storms and their aftereffects, the local comics community has rushed to their aide as led by cartoonist Gerry Alanguilan. While most fans may recognize Alanguilan’s name thanks to his frequent work inking Yu on titles like “Wolverine” and “Superman: Birthright,” as well as collaborating with other A-list talent, the creator also writes, draws and publishes his own work as part of the Philippines’ thriving home-grown comics scene with titles like the cell-phone-themed thriller “Sim.” Alanguilan told CBR that it’s his prominence within the local comics community that led him to organize auctions to benefit his fellow creators affected by the storms.
“Most comics creators live in Metro Manila, which is the National Capital Region of the country, located towards the southern area of [the hard hit area of] Luzon,” he explained. “Some creators, like myself, live in the outlying provinces. Creators like Bong Dazo live in the provinces north of Metro Manila, while creators like myself and Carlo Pagulayan live in the provinces south of Metro Manila.
“Once in a while, a typhoon would hit Metro Manila directly or pass very close to it. This particular typhoon, Ondoy (International name ‘Ketsana’) wasn’t a particularly strong typhoon. In fact, it was just a little better than a tropical depression. It didn’t even hit Metro Manila directly. To us it was supposed to be just another one of those typhoons we get so often. But it was different. It carried with it an enormous amount of water. Rainfall that we usually get in a month fell in a span of just 6 hours, and it produced an unprecedented amount of flooding. Areas flooded where previously it did not. Riverbanks broke and water and mud rushed into homes with devastating effect.
“There are areas that are particularly prone to flooding, like Marikina, Pasig and Cainta, and those are the ones that got hit hardest. Water rose as much as 12 feet, submerging homes, forcing people up on their roofs, and [they] were left there for days in the cold and rain awaiting rescue. There are many comics creators who lived in these areas, like Carlo Vergara (creator of the popular’ ZsaZsa Zaturnnah,’ and contributor to ‘Graphic Classics’), Jay David Ramos (colorist on books like ‘War Machine’), Gilbert Monsanto (creator of ‘Rambol’ and ‘Tropa’, and artist on Avalon’s ‘Hellcop and Houdini’), Rico Rival, Danny Acuña, Jun Lofamia, Steve Gan, Noly Zamora (veteran illustrators who worked for DC comics in the 1970’s) Melvin and Joanah Calingo (independent comics creators) and many more we’re only hearing about. Their homes and property received damage to varying degrees.”
In order to help those in need, Alanguilan has set up two fund-raising efforts. The first is an ongoing Ebay auction which has already seen items by Alanglian (inking over Whilce Portacio) and Francis Manapul go through with plans to feature more original art and autographed comics over the coming weeks while the second is a live auction at this weekend’s Komikon – the fifth annual local convention for the Philippines which will feature the work of Yu and others.
Yu told CBR how he was lucky enough to escape the flooding thanks to the topography around his Manilla home, but “some areas not too far from me were harder hit by the flooding. It’s actually just a few minutes drive away. We’re lucky where we’re situated, but a few blocks away, areas are flooded. It’s crazy.” The superstar penciler whose next gig is an arc of Mark Millar’s “Ultimate Avengers” explained the need to help out with the efforts, saying, “Gerry and some other guys have been doing local comic books for years. It’s really their passion to create their own characters while I’m happy to just be drawing Marvel stuff. They’re the ones who’ve been really pursuing their own properties and really working in the local market. He knows quite a bunch of people and is really passionate about this stuff.
“A bunch of my close friends have been affected by the flood. It’s crazy, and we’re trying to help a bunch of different groups of people. Gerry’s thing is to help out our fellow comic book artists who have been affected. I definitely think contributing to the Philippines Red Cross is the easiest thing to do and to follow the links Gerry has on his website.”
Clean up efforts continue on as Alanguilan explained, “Although the floods were devastating, the sturdier, concrete houses survived and can be lived in again once the water came down. I have no word yet on the others, but there are those who have returned to clean their homes. The veterans are actually much harder to get in touch with, as the phone lines went down and most of them aren’t really online. But what is sure is that most of the things they had in their homes have been destroyed, or have been looted.”
The artist hopes his two auctions will provide some relief, although his past experiences in online selling haven’t always lived up to expectations. “I hope to raise as much as I can. It’s fingers crossed for me, because I’ve had experience selling on Ebay over the past year and original art sales have been really pathetic. I suppose it’s a result of the economic crisis, which I understand completely. I had no intention of selling any more items on Ebay, if not for this emergency. I’m afraid I won’t get much for these items, but I’m hoping to be proven wrong. I hope that people would see it’s for a good cause and their help would come a really long way. Much thanks and appreciation to anyone who would bid.
“There is the second auction that’s going to be held at our 5th Annual Komikon on October 18. Pieces that have International Interest would be auctioned at Ebay worldwide and the rest would be auctioned/sold at the convention.”
As for the next step in the process, Alanguilan hopes that, in addressing the problems of this tragic series of storms, the broader comics community will begin to see a bit more how vital the Filipino comics scene is. “Imagine Katrina, and that’s pretty much what happened to us. It really is quite devastating, and a lot of people are still needing help. Our first priority for this auction is to help the comics creators that have been affected, but whatever we have left over will go to the Philippine Red Cross,” he said. “The next step that I’m seeing is the formation of some kind of local version of Hero Initiative, that would help Filipino creators when calamities like this, or when personal health calamities occur. An organization of professional Filipino creators is currently being planned, and that’s a good place to start to get something like this going.”
For more info on the auctions, continue to watch Alanguilan’s Ebay page as more items are posted in the wake of Sunday’s convention, and watch his blog for more general updates on the efforts to aide Filipino comics talent.