On the Spot: Cartoonist Manix Abrera

The Kiko Machine Komix creator tells us about the evolution of his strip. Rakenrol!

(SPOT.ph) Appearing every day in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, "Kiko Machine Komix" riffs on pop culture, class structure, sci-fi concepts, corny jokes, Taglish, the daily Pinoy grind, and even far-out touches of surrealism.  Not bad for a strip that’s nominally about a bunch of college students with bad haircuts just trying to get by. "Dun siya nag-start, pero ngayon, parang sumabog na," artist Manix Abrera says of the strip’s subject matter. "Tungkol na siya sa Pinoy culture."

 

Also a featured artist in the just-released comic anthology Kwentillion, and creator of GMANetwork.com’s "News Hardcore", Manix Abrera’s broad humor and distinctive style has earned him quite a following, though he’s always quick to shrug it off with a good-natured modesty. Here, he talks about the creative process that goes into every panel of Kiko Machine.

 

Manix chats with SPOT.ph outside his alma mater, the UP College of Fine Arts.

 

Kiko Machine Komiks got its start in the Philippine Collegian (the campus newspaper of UP Diliman). How did that happen?

Yung Kule, parang may entrance exam, tapos sinubukan namin na magkakaibigan. Tapos yun, nakatsamba, nakapasok kami. Graphics kami...at pag sinabi mong graphics, lahat dun, pasok: mga editorial cartoons, illustrations, comics. Yung pinasok namin, as artists talaga, iba pa ang magle-layout, iba pa yung magfo-photo. Pero yung strips ko dun, hindi "Kiko Machine" yung title. Yung title niya, corny e: "Iskolokoy." Uso yun dati e [sa UP], yung lahat ng words, lalagyan mo ng Isko o Iska. Yung character ko ngayon, yung may rectangle na glasses, dun nag-start sa "Iskolokoy" e.

 

And then you moved on to the Inquirer, right?

In-email namin yung Inquirer, ako, si John Paul Quison, si Beng Densing (magkakabanda rin kasi kami lahat sa Kiko Machine), tapos yung comics na sinubmit namin, ang title niya ay "Garapata Blood."  Ang style namin dun, weekly: Isang week, puro si John Paul, ’tas isang week, puro ako, ’tas yung sunod na linggo, puro si Beng. Sinabay ko yung "Iskolokoy" tsaka "Garapata Blood." Nung tumagal-tagal na, panahon na ng mga tesis, parang hindi na sila nakapag-submit, ako na lang yung nagtuloy. Nagkaroon ng extra space yung Inquirer nun, so humiwalay na lang ako, at ginawa kong "Kiko Machine Komiks" yung title, kasi pangalan ng banda namin.

Image from Kikomachinekomix.com

Your strip still retains much of its UP flavor...

Di ko in-establish na nasa UP sila, never ko binanggit yung "UP." Pero feeling ko andaming nag-iisip na taga-UP [ang mga character] dahil sa terminology. Di ko rin maiiwasan e, kasi sa UP ako nag-aral. (Laughs)

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UP [ang setting niya], pero never ko in-establish na UP siya.

 

How would you say your style, as a cartoonist, is different from your father’s (long-time Philippine Daily Inquirer cartoonist Jess Abrera)?

Nung bata pa lang ako, andami niyang tinuturo sa akin, pero ayaw na ayaw niyang gumagaya ako ng style. Kunwari, gagayahin ko yung drawing niya. Sasabihin niya, "Wag, wag mo akong gayahin, kailangan may sarili kang style." O kaya gagayahin ko yung drawing ni Voltes V, sasabihin niya, "Wag, ibahin mo!" So dinikdik talaga niya sa utak ko na kailangan original. Pag nanggagaya ako, parang nandadaya na rin ako.

 

In your interview in the Kwentillion anthology, you mentioned that your UP professors would always compare you with your father. How and when did you get over this?

Nung sumali ako sa Collegian. Dun ko talaga nahanap yung sarili kong style, yung boses ko, ganyan.

Image from Kikomachinekomix.com

Over at Inquirer, you have weekly deadlines. How do you get your ideas for the strip?

Yung susi talaga, kailangan talagang magaling kang mag-observe. Yun yung dapat na sanayin mo kung gusto mo maging cartoonist. Kasi yung drawing technique, masasanay ka lang naman e, parang tuloy-tuloy lang naman. Pero dapat masanay ka rin na titingin-tingin ka lang sa paligid, makinig sa kwento ng mga ibang tao. Pag nakikinig ako, pinapakinggan ko talaga kung paano sila magsalita.

Yung ginagawa ko ngayon, labas lang ako ng labas, tapos buong araw, kung saan-saan ako pumupunta, nakikinig lang sa kwento kahit di ko kilala. Kumakalap lang ako ng mga ideas, tas sinusulat ko sa isang maliit na notebook. Di pa sila buo; sa gabi, saka ako mag-iisip ng kwento.

 

Do you feel limited by the strict format of a comic strip?

Nung simula, limitadong-limitado talaga yung feeling ko. Kasi sa Kule, medyo mas malaki talaga yung space para sa [komiks]. E dito, ang hirap: parang eto lang ang space mo, tapos araw-araw, kailangan mo ma-introduce yung mga characters, tapos kailangan may punchline ka sa dulo. Pero okay rin siya, kasi titingnan mo siya as a challenge. Na-inspire ako sa Calvin & Hobbes. Isa siya [Calvin & Hobbes creator Bill Watterson] sa mga tinitingala ko.

 

You’ve been inspired by a lot of comic book artists. What is the last comic book you’d ever sell from your collection?

Meron akong isang komiks na mahal na mahal ko. Yung title niya ay "Low Moon." Yung pangalan ng cartoonist ay Jason, yun lang. Collection siya ng mga short stories. Yung mga drawing niya, animals pero tao sila. Pag tiningnan mo siya, akala mo pang-bata kasi sobrang cute, pero pag binasa mo parang heart-wrenching.

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How do you see the future of Kiko Machine Komix?

Ngayon. honestly, gusto ko siyang ituloy-ituloy hanggang matanda na ako at di ko na kaya. Alam mo yung feeling na parang nasa dugo mo siya? Hindi ako mapakali kung hindi ako nagko-komiks.

 

Photos by Vincent Coscolluela

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