“That’s crazy!” was one of the first things my high school classmates at Sacred Heart School for Boys told me when I said I’d be doing indies with some college artists. Wasn’t as into sports as much as a lot of my friends wanted to think, and wasn’t at all excited when that Dreamcast-thing started making its rounds. I was the comics nerd in the crew. Sure, we’d hike over to the all-girls school down the avenue practically every day and engage in ill shit, but when the sun went down… we all still went home and played with our toys. Take that any way y’all want, heh. The year was 1999, and I was about fifteen.
Somehow got a graphic design teacher at a local university to take a look at my art — I had recently finished a personal project re-telling the origin of the Thundercats (yes, I was that kid) — and after giving me some constructive crits, he extended an invitation to join a gathering his students were planning. My old man took me to the meeting, probably worried that the college boys would give the geeky high schooler a hard time. Turns out the lot of them were worlds geekier than I was. This was Sukol, my very first taste of the local comics scene. This is where I met artists before they even became artists, if that makes any sense. Looking back now, I feel somewhat humbled by it.
Tyke Villalonga (the teacher) was there, giving some last-minute project notes to Alexander Cruz. To the right of the lecture hall, Michael Dizon, John Paul Vicedo, and Ian Areola were making fun of Vinzon Ngo’s (Bleedman) art. He deserved every bit of it, the bastard. A whole bunch of artists were there, but names were never one of my strong points (Right, ladies?).
What started out as a gathering of artists eventually became a movement, and we ended up releasing a monthly black-and-white comic, funded by our respectively meager allowances. We gave these pamphlets out for free, and we didn’t care about ROIs and any of that “responsible” crap coz they were just too much fun to do, and the energy one got from being among fellow artists was just electric. It didn’t last though. Eventually some people decided they didn’t care about it anymore, others decided to pickaxe their own way into stardom solo, and the rest sort of just evaporated into creative limbo. My title, Twilight (yeah… yeah…), which was very Battle Chasers-inspired, sank like a brick.
Then college came around and I went from private catholic school to state uni to take up Political Science; Don’t know if it was pride or a denial thing, but I couldn’t stop what I had already gotten to do. Somehow convinced myself that this is what I wanted to do, so I kept at it and migrated to Popcorn Comics, a publication apparently inspired by Sukol’s efforts but with wider distribution and actual advertising, owing mostly to Warren Tan’s extensive connections. But the best part was that the artists actually got paid this time. This is where I learned became aware of the value of staying on deadline. I was getting paid to do comics at seventeen. Shit didn’t get any more real than that. and here I met Leandro Panganiban, Lloyd Limbaga, James Neish, and Harvey motherfuckin’ Tolibao. Icelander, my “story” essentially about cavemen fighting aliens (yes, I was a fuckin’ prodigy) saw the light of day.That ended too though, because apparently the market just wasn’t healthy enough for local books, what with people still being burned out by the nineties stunts. So college went into full swing, and naturally that was a whole different experience in itself… and I may talk about it in the future. Still, Sukol and Popcorn were both intensely formative experiences for me though — both as a person and as an artist.
My high school friends were right, it was crazy… but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world.