Filipino comics have a long tradition dating back to the late 1800s, and some are long overdue for international recognition. We wrote about the new Marvel Character Wave and how the design was inspired by the enchanting Nadine Lustre.
After WWII, comic books and magazine articles left behind by American soldiers, as well as local mythology and literature, became particularly popular internationally, and Filipino artists were greatly influenced by them. Over time, Filipino comics have absorbed various influences, such as Japanese anime and manga, resulting in the “Pinoy Manga” format. Some characters have proven common enough to be adapted into films and television shows.
Filipino Comics – Darna
Darna, one of the most well-known heroine in Filipino comics, is a cross between Wonder Woman and Shazam: she’s an interstellar warrior who occupies a body with a young girl called Narda, and the two turn into one another using a magic stone.
Darna and Narda are not the same individuals, similar to the Shazam comics, though Darna’s daily sidekick is Narda’s brother Ding. Valentina, the Queen of the Snakes, who resembles a leviathan, is her most powerful foe. In her native country, she has appeared in a number of tv shows and movies, the first of which was released in 1951. Darna’s alter-ego is always rewritten in live-action to be a young woman of similar age to her, allowing them to share an actress.
Tenteng is a scrawny boy who is bullied by his stepbrothers until a genie gives him the ability to transform into a powerful hero with the help of a magical barbell. Early iterations of the hero were shirtless and based on circus strongmen to emphasize this. Movie adaptations, on the other hand, popularized the idea of Captain Barbell wearing a yellow hat.
While the character’s initial portrayal was humorous, subsequent adaptations have depicted him in a more serious fashion. In the Filipino comics, Captain Barbell’s alter-ego has been substituted with a variety of characters over the years, with the justification that Captain Barbell finds a new host when his existing one no longer needs him. He used to be Darna’s younger brother, Ding. When it was discovered that one of his live-action alter egos looks an awful lot like Luffy from One Piece, the superhero became something of an internet meme.
Dyesebel was born to human parents and is a mermaid. She is eventually taken in by real mermaids who, with the assistance of a sea hag, assist her in breathing underwater. She soon falls in love with a mortal and faces strife as the two compete for their love, with a bitter rival also selling her as a spectacle act to a county fair.
Doorkeeper Graphic Novel
Ethan Chua and Scott Lee Chua’s Doorkeeper is a pretty awesome little graphic novel with brilliant ideas. They created an omnipresent entity that emerges at varying stages in space and time, allowing the central characters to make decisions that have major consequences. Each chapter was illustrated by talented local artists of various types, and each section touched on some variant of the country’s myths, culture, literature, and sci-fi future.
Unlike the difficulty of finding Filipino Comics in other countries, this graphic novel can actually be read for free and you can do so here.
THE MYTHOLOGY CLASS Graphic Novel
The Mythology Class comes before Trese and other graphic novels based on Philippine lore. It follows the exploits of Nicole Lacson, a college student, and Mrs. Enkanta as they battle enkantos (Philippine mythological creatures) in Metro Manila.
This groundbreaking Filipino Comics work, which was the first to win the Philippine National Book Awards’ Comic Books classification, is set to hit the big screen in the Philippines soon. And, if you enjoyed it, a sequel was recently published, 20 years after the first.
This list cannot get close to finishing without mentioning this gem. Filipino comics Trese is even getting its Netflix adaptation with the lead cast already. Trese is a graphic novel about a suburban horror fantasy. Alexandra Trese is the protagonist, and the story follows her as she investigates crimes committed by supernatural beings. The best part is that the creatures are based on Philippine mythology, which is generally underrepresented in Western media. Several Philippine National Book Awards were also given to some of the series’ volumes.
The Panday (blacksmith in Filipino) is a popular Filipino comics character created by Carlo J. Caparas and drawn by Steve Gan. His real identity is Flavio. In the 1970s, his exploits were syndicated in the series Ang Panday in Filipino Komiks.
When the Filipino comics were translated into a movie, the character cemented his place in Philippine pop culture. Fernando Poe Jr. played Flavio and Max Alvarado played his archenemy Lizardo in the most well-known of these features.
Tikbalang (half man, half horse), kapre (tree giant), and manananggal are among the mythical entities featured in Mythspace (vampire-like creature). With this one-of-a-kind series of stories, Chikiamco and the artists stretched the limits of art and narrative.
From manga-inspired narratives to police procedural tales, the first volume has a great deal to offer. Mythspace is an ideal pick for an animated adaptation, with a compelling art style that resembles Steven Universe or Netflix’s She-Ra series.
Filipino Comics – Pasig Unbound
Mina Cruz, a rookie bounty hunter in the post-war Philippines, is at the forefront of Pasig: Unbound. Mina is determined to right all of the city’s injustices in the absence of a government and rules to obey, all while attempting to make a living.
The author writes, “She soon discovers that not everything is as it seems, and the universe does not work in black and white.” “All of this takes place against the backdrop of a war-torn Pasig in the not-too-distant future.”
Comics and graphic novels are here to stay, whether you like them or not. They offer writers and artists avenues and opportunities to collaborate, resulting in something new, interesting, artistic, and refreshing. For many creatives, they often serve as a form of cultural expression.
We hope this list inspires you to look beyond your native country or the worldwide popular comic books, and look into things that are different. Maybe even challenge you.