Tuesday, January 20, 2004

The Alamat Gang

From Left: Budjette Tan, Karen Kunawicz, Carlo Vergara, David Hontiveros

This pic was taken during the first day of the recently concluded 2nd SciFi and Fantasy Convention at Power Plant Mall, Rockwell Makati. They are several members of Alamat Comics, a loose group of comic book writers and creators who will be celebrating their TENTH year this year. I'm glad to be part of them. Looking at this pic I sort got nostalgic and I thought about the first time I encountered each one.

Budjette Tan

A letter arrived at the old house back in 1994, during the days before email when people actually wrote letters on paper to each other. It was from some guy by the name of Budjette Tan. I had never met the guy before, and I was curious as to who he was, why he was writing to me, and how he got my address. He had gotten hold of a copy of Wasted #1, which contained the first 8 pages of Wasted photocopied and bound in mini comic form. I don't know how he got a copy, but he did, and he seemed to like it. He seemed to REALLY like it. He wanted to include it in a comics anthology he was currently putting together. After much hemming and hawing I agreed and mailed the pages to him. As it was, he was waiting for the pages to arrive and as far as I know it didn't arrive until a day before the book went to the printers. They had already laid out the book without Wasted, but had to scramble to include it at the last minute. Having just turned one year older today, my memory could be suspect, so Budje, if I'm remembering this wrong, please enlighten me. :)

I eventually met Budjette during one of the very early comics "mini-cons" at Robinson's Galleria courtesy of Platinum Comics store. It was also there I met Brandie Tan, Arnold Arre, Bow Guerrero, Taps, Mark Gatela and David Hontiveros. More on him later. Maybe I met Carlo as well. I'm not sure.

Karen Kunawicz

I had just finished Wasted #4 and I was working on Grifter #10 with Roy Allan Martinez at Whilce's Portacio's studio/condo at Ortigas Plaza. I was really tired from work and lack of sleep that I thought I'd take a quick nap in the driver's room. He was gone for the weekend and his bed was cozy so I thought I'd well...enjoy it. he.he. Lani Perez, who was at the time working as Whilce's part time secretary called up looking for me. Roy woke me up and Lani told me about this girl, Karen Kunawicz who was asking where she could write to me. Apparently, she liked Wasted too and wanted to write me something. I thought wow! Karen Kunawicz wanted to write me. ME! She was already quite popular back then from her writing. Apparently, she was a comics fan and attended a lot of the Alamat exhibits. Whenever she would arrive some of the Alamat guys were going nuts all over her. I was too nervous to approach her. So I didn't. But secretly, I did want to meet her. She seemed to be quite a fascinating person to know.

When her letter arrived I marvelled at how beautifully it was written. Not only her words, but her calligraphy as well. It was amazing! That started a letter correspondence that would continue for some years. I eventually met her in person sometime after her first letter. We had moved our studio to Balete Drive in Quezon City and Karen said she would come over to meet me. She hasn't seen me before this time and so she didn't know what I looked like. Maybe I was still a little crazy back then because something just came into my mind to do what I would do next. She knocked on the gate and I opened it. Of course I knew instantly it was her. She asked if she could see Day. Day was Whilce's manager at the time. I said sure and asked her to come in. I asked her who she was, pretending not to know, and didn't introduce myself. She came in, and she and Day got to talking. Karen asked where I was and Day pointed to me...standing in the corner with a stupid sheepish grin.

Carlo Vergara

I honestly don't remember the first time I met Carlo. I don't think we had corresponded before we met in person, but the earliest thing I can remember about him is his work in FLASHPOINT, the comic that started it all, as far as I know. I eventually met him, but I don't remember when or how. I just remember that he looked and dressed a lot differently then. He also had longer hair. I knew he acted a bit, but back then whenever I met him at ComicQuest maybe, I admit I got sort of intimidated. Maybe that's because I didn't know him that well yet. Over the years, I'm glad to say that I've grown to know Carlo more and I continue to marvel at his growth as an artist. His Zsa Zsa Zatturnah is simply awesome. It will most likely go down in Philippine comics history as one of the best ever made.

David Hontiveros

I was an instant fan of David immediately after reading FLASHPOINT. I thought his story was very good, and his storytelling was simply mindblowing. I didn't hesitate to say that to him the first time I met him in front of Platinum at one of the early mini-cons. I said to him that I thought his work impressed upon me the same intensity that an Alan Moore story would. I don't know if he thought that I was blowing smoke up his ass, but I was being totally honest. He was and still is, right at the very top of a very VERY short list of Filipino comics writers I'm truly impressed with.

I was so impressed that I asked him if he was willing to script one of the stories I was doing, Timawa: Kalinangan: Chapter 1. I was very happy that he agreed. The results of that collaboration can be found in Alamat 101, 1995.

A year before the turn of the century, I approached David with an idea for a kick ass millenium story involving a superhero who became like a god. We called it Bathala. The series' last issue would be released on December of 1999. Amazingly, David completed the script to the entire 8 or 10 issues in just a few weeks. I read it and it was simply BRILLIANT. Awesome, fucking BRILLIANT. But due to work matters that kept growing bigger and bigger, I was pulled farther and farther from Bathala and with each passing month I felt terrible at the thought that I'd never get to do the series at all at the intended time we planned it. And I knew it was cause for much disappointment on David's part. It's still something I bear today, but like the Wasted movie, I'll finish what I started, no matter how long it takes. I may eventually get around to doing David's story, if we could work around the millenium thing, and if David is still willing.