I remember reading wasted by Gerry Alanguilan when I was still in highschool. I bought two copies, one for me, and one for Kuya Jon as a present for his graduation for medschool (he is the one who introduced me to the works of Alan Moore and frank Miller, making me read Watchmen and The Dark knight Returns).
Both Watchmen and Dark Knight are masterful works, showing creators discovering beats and rhythms to the way stories are told through comics. They are important not just because the way the stories are told but for the reasons behind why. Narrative is as much about plot as it is about statement coupled with rigorous intellect. These, in my mind were eureka moments for comics, stories that placed craft and politics before entertainment, or rather, making a work that sought to be more than the sum of their parts, art, writing and all (not that that wasn't being achieved over and over again before its time, but to a teenage me they were the pinnacle). But at this point watchmen and dark knight were made by creators at the top of their game already, these were works that were trying to push the creative teams to the next plateau after the first awesome peak they’d already reached and danced upon, those peaks being Swamp thing and Daredevil respectively.
And what was Gerry Alanguilan’s Swampthing/Daredevil? I believe it is Wasted.
And opening up Wasted, reading it in my rooming, thinking it was actually a work done by an american (back then I thought all good comics were made only by Caucasians, what a weird racist bend of story), I was literally gasping at the gore and shock, saying to myself “oh my god, that guy just killed that preacher in cold blood”. It’s a roughly cut gem, that wanted to understand its form so much that it got deformed in some places. It was a hurtful piece, a morality tale that pushed the limits of the local scene, blowing the lid off expectations of what the local scene could produce in terms of personality and intimacy. Sure it could be read as this sick action flick written by a lover spurned, but that would be missing what it actually offered creators here, which was freedom to express the worst and best in us at any given time in our lives. A work to plumb the depths of hurt and longing, of the black and white morality one would feel after reeling from a broken heart.
It was a work that spoke true to its origin, which was anger, and eventually the anger subsided and killed itself, giving way into reason and fairness or at least a stab in the dark at some semblance of justice. Would Jenny like to have read this? No. Should anyone really subscribe to the work’s point of view? Some good points were made, but handled in this extreme stance of killed or be killed, a black and white that mimicked its haphazard art, flowing freely from wrists cut, and knuckles raw and red from punching walls, emotion flowing onto paper in a mess of words and lines. It was a young work, and still remains as that, at least to me. The teenage angst a sensibility that would come to inform much of how I thought to approach my own work, which is, to trust people to understand the mess of feelings that we all can be sometimes.
It was a work that more than wanting to be understood for the sum of its plot points, it sought out to express itself, rather than simply connect on surface levels. Whatever you think of Wasted, love it or hate it, it has to be said that it did something that few creators now know to do, which is to just go on a rampage with pictures and text, to rant, to go do the dark deeds that would later on help you to understand yourself more. It didn’t seek to be understood simply as entertainment, it is a work of expression, of losing connection and being hurt, and the wonderful thing is, to find people understanding and being inspired by it (not copying it, i should add, because that would be yet again missing the point). I would say that Gerry Alanguilan’s Crest hut Butt Shop is more honest, and more understanding, possibly more embarrassing in what it said. Crest Hut Butt Shop was grounded in reality, and even more devastating because it is not a revenge fantasy, rather it is a diary. And because it didn’t need the frame of fiction to express its viewpoints, it more accurately paints a picture of a person going through growing pains. It was the braver work, and more personal work, and I guess that’s what I am always out to find in any comic I read.
Warren Ellis Wasted Review from 1998
“A recent graphic novel of note, by Filipino writer/artist Gerry Alanguilan. A marvelous little black book of lost love, unhinged hatred for everything everywhere, and making things right using only guns. Early work by a potentially brilliant creator.”
Read Elmer, to see how Gerry Alanguilan has grown, refined, and ultimately pay respect to the promise of Wasted.
I present to you 3 creators whose works of late that I find absolutely fascinating and chock full of uncensored honesty and ambition.
??? 1 and 2 by DJ Legaspi- is a series of vignettes and short stories about the day to day life of its author as a programmer and geek. The art work is sparse, scratchy, but full of background details that invite the reader to pore over each panel. The stories switch from funny, and simple to silent introspection. Snippets of epic school yard ball battles, walking along malate to be mistaken as a japanese man and be propositioned by transvestites, to an impressive 6 panel sequence of a window looking towards manila bay, with its light fading. I believe this to be the most accessible of the three that I put forth here, but by no means does that take away from its beauty as the series develops. It is by far the most joyous, and with the most possibility for maturity as, spoiler warning, at the end of the 2nd issue the author gets married.
Impulse Overdrive by Trizha Ko - Staring the author’s character, Melba Roast, this comic is the most overtly female comic I’ve read in a long long time here in the local scene, and by far the most startlingly honest work of late, that manages to pull of equal measures of feeling, sentiment, and comedy all in one abstract stroke. The author works her hands into a frenzy of decompressed panels working within strange conceits such as comparing the end of the world to popping a pimple. There is a lot of abstract symbolism contained within the issue, but it doesn't detract from the honesty of the work, rather, it helps to further add to the feeling of alienation Melba Roast must feel from the world. Reading Impulse overdrive reminded me of the first time I ever read wasted, the sheer shock of what was contained inside, the stark black and white almost hair thin craggy lines and scratchy blacks create images that are are both strange and yet somehow familiar, owing to how all of the of the stories contained are grounded on mundane topics and neurosis. But what that starkness is in service to is talking about problems on a micro scale, about the loneliness one can feel from being connected on the internet, or the alien responses of a young pubescent body to watching Ranma ½. If you want to talk about comics that are fearless in honesty, you have to talk about specificity, about the idea that what you write about or draw about might not be easily accessible to most of those who read your work, and this book might have that in spades, but it isn't a front or a pose, it is proposition to the reader to sit down and try and empathize with the author, and talk her language. Further more, this might be the first work I’ve read since crest hut butt shop to tackle the topic of sex seriously, and in an autobiographical fashion, which is a much needed thing here in a country as prudish as ours.
*sidenote Lexy Nance and Argus by Oliver Palumbarit might be the most detailed comic about sexual relations in the local scene that i have read.
http://deathbyassociation.tumblr.com/ you can read many of the strips contained within the first issue on her blog.
Manila Automat Primer by Mica Agregado- Now, this is a primer for a work that has yet to come out. You can probably get a better sense of why this creator got on this list from her wonderful blog which I will link below. Mica’s artwork rebels in color, and sings with hand written scrawl that makes anti puns causing the reader to go “huh?!”. No other comic artist here, since Andrew Drilon, has worked wonder with color the same as Mica has. She doesn't just write with pictures and text, she also does it with color to a large extent, adding much of the mood in her palette choices. There is a dead pan to the way she writes, and a wonderful aesthetic of “fuck it”, informed by great composition and a natural flow for how panels work. Kumquat becomes dumb cunt, written in cursive. The gentle poster color work, and inventive panel design scream retro cool, and the stories themselves are strange, and work on a different level. I spare my words for reviewing the primer, because it is just a primer, and I am saving them for the actual book, which hopefully materializes soon. What she has posted on her blog though are weird and fantastic one pagers, that are getting stranger by the day.
here is her blog http://pastepaste.tumblr.com/
I will try and follow up these short reviews with more in depth ones in a future date. I reiterate that these are young works, and they are good works, and what makes me happier is that in these comics you get a sense that these creators love the craft, know how important it is to have something unique to say, and go out on a limb for their audience to show that its less about making images that make you go “aw, how pretty” and its more about pictures that stick to your mind as accurate portrayals of differing views of life.