Manix Abrera: The Alpha and The Omega of “Asteeg”
“It’s all about the Manix, Manix, Manix…”
Okay, let’s put a halt to the corny joke I ripped off from the Lambakan 2013 and get on with the article.
Manuel Luis “Manix” Abrera is the closest thing to a rock star in our country’s contemporary literary scene. After all, he does have a thing for saying “asteeg”, “hardcore”, and “rakenrol” in his “Kikomachine Komix”.
Proof of why he’s a literary rock star: when he was introduced for his talk on cartooning during the Lambakan 2013 (the annual journalism and cultural gathering organized by White & Blue, the official publication of Saint Louis University) he was met with loud cheers and whoots of excitement from the participants who were mostly high school and college campus journalists. Later during the Lambakan Cultural Night he by the same admirers flocked him and wanted to have his autograph or have their picture taken with them. They would have anything and everything signed—comics, IDs, guitars, shirts, random pieces of paper—just so they get to come home from that night with a piece of Manix. The inner fan girl in me even boldly asked him “Pwedeng pa-hug?” to which he said yes.
That level of admiration is usually given to movie and TV stars, not literary artists. This must make Manix the rare exception—the alpha and the omega of “asteeg” Pinoy humor.
Manix began making comics at the age of four. He says that he was mainly influenced by his old man Jess Abrera, chief cartoonist and comics editor for Philippine Daily Inquirer (yes, he drew that famous carabao) and creator of “Pinoy Nga!” and A. Lipin komiks. Manix once revealed in a TV interview that his father is one of his personal idols and that he would often imitate his father’s drawing. However, his father would tell him, “Wag mo akong gayahin. Gawa ka ng sarili mong style.” He thus learned not to be a first class imitation.
He graduated from the University of the Philippines Diliman in 2003 with a Bachelor in Fine Arts major in Visual Communication. During his time as an undergrad, he was the graphics editor for the Philippine Collegian (UP Diliman’s official publication). Now he’s taking up his Master in Fine Arts in the same institution.
He modestly calls his shot to fame as “chamba”, revealing that he seriously pursued his career in making comic books after he resigned from his first and only job at an NGO. He went to bookstores, copied e-mail addresses of publishers from books he browsed, and sent his works. This technique paid off for it led him to a meeting with Nida Ramirez of Visprint.
In 2005, the first volume of his Kikomachine Komix, “Mga Tagpong Ewan at kung ano-anong Kababalaghan”, was published. Since then it has been followed by “Mga Tagpong Tila Nagpapaka-weird, Kunyari Pa-deep, Sarap Sapakin”, “Die! Die, Evil! Die”, “Oh Kaligayahang Walang Hangan”, “Alab ng Puso, sa Dibdib Mo’y Buhay”, “Venn Man at iba pang Kalupitan ng Kapalaran”, “Sorrowful Sorrowful Mysteries”, and “Golden Ratio.” Soon, the ninth volume of the series will be published: “Ilayo Mo Kami sa Apoy ng Impyerno!”
When he’s not making comics for Inquirer, he publishes his web comic News Hardcore, which debuted on GMANetwork.com on September 2010 and follows the (mis)adventures of a rookie journalist “in the wild, wild world of Philippine media.”
Though Manix may not have been the most animated and entertaining speaker during the Lambakan, his art spoke for him. His humor, wit, and creativity permeate in his art and because of this he still held the entire room’s attention. Every one of us in that room hung on to his every word and laughed out loud at every comic strip he included in his presentation.
He told us to draw inspiration from personal experience and maybe exaggerate them for a little humor. For example, Manix was once conducting a tutorial session on drawing where two young couples were getting too cozy: a girl was sitting on her boyfriend’s lap while Manix was teaching them how to draw. He took that experience and made a comic strip that goes like this:
Frame one: the teacher is in the middle of her discussion. “… And so the infinite shall… Lintik. Hoy. Magkakandungan nanaman kayo sa klaseng ‘to. Ano ba tingin niyo dito sa classroom ha? Kabaret? Dysume!”
Second frame: the teacher says “E kung ako ‘me kakandungan sa harap n’yo habang nagtuturo ha? Gusto n’yo ha? Enriquez! Punta ka dito!” A bewildered student says “Po? Ma’am?” The seething teacher says “Punta ka dito sabe!”
Third frame: the teacher is sitting on the lap of her student, saying “O! Ayan ha! Gusto niyo ganyan ha! Um! Um! O, lambingin mo ako, o!” And the student, embarrassed to the max, says “Mam, magda-drop na po ako, mam.”
The shy and soft-spoken komikero, who would often say “next slide po” to the young secretariat handling the power point, says that one could also draw humorous inspiration from experiences that would often be infuriating. More importantly, he says, be observant of your surroundings. Inspiration for any creative work can come from keen observation.
One of his pieces of advice is to look into the Pinoy culture. “Pag kinilala niyo yung culture natin, sobrang yaman. Sobrang sarap gamitin sa kwento.”
Out of all the advice he gave to the young journalists, his biggest advice would be to maintain a sense of originality. “Pag nagiisip ka ng kwento, isipin mo lagi kung paano mo iibahin yung pagkwento mo. Ang style diyan: isipin mo lagi ibahin mo yung perspective mo, yung point of view mo. Once na nasanay ka na iniiba mo yung tira mo, doon ka makikilala kasi boses mo talaga yung lumalabas. Tapos eto yung kapag binasa nung reader na ‘Sh*t. Sobrang astig ‘to. Iba yung pinapakita niya. Iba yung kwento niya.’”
So what makes Manix Abrera the “rock star” of the Pinoy contemporary comic book industry? For one thing, his works are relevant. They’re a satirical commentary on the Pinoy life—on our culture, on our lives as college students and life after, on our political scene, and on the mundane things from our everyday lives.
And young adults can’t get enough of the comics. A friend of mine whom I introduced to the world of Kikomachine said “Nakaka-relate kasi” when I asked him why he likes the comics. “It’s a portal of escape,” he added. Another friend told me she liked the political satire of the first book. Then another fan, who’s still getting himself used to the Filipino language and culture, said that the comics help him appreciate Filipino art. While a UP Baguio student found that the comics hit close to home. “Yung orientation, UP-ing UP,” she said. “Yung mga sitwasyon pati pananalita at porma.”
So we tip our hats off to Manix, for because of his work we not only laugh and find ourselves entertained, but we also had a sense of patriotism through his work. He allows us to appreciate the humor that we Pinoys have. His “rock star” status is one that he deserves. Because of him, we pick up books and read. And in our technology-idolizing era, the ability to influence someone to read a book instead of Facebook is something to be lauded for.