One of the guests for the show is Manix Abrera, whose exhibit I saw a couple of weeks ago at Cubao X. Manix is the artist of KIKOMACHINE KOMIX, and he has a formalist eye - that is, he tends to do things that comics can do exclusively from other media. (He had a large, poster-sized print of many tiny panels that could be read in any direction. It reminded me of Chris Ware.) So it's no surprise that right after that, I bought his anthology of silent comics, simply named "12."
12 is thus named because, well, there are twelve stories in it. And each story's title corresponds to their placement in the book - the first story is "1," the second is "2," and so on. The catch? It's all silent. That's right, 12 has no spoken dialogue, no narration boxes, nothing. As such, Manix has to convey all the information of each story as clearly and as fluidly as possible.
Manix makes it look so easy, in part because of his severely minimalist style. He puts nothing in the story that doesn't need to be there, thus leaving you with just the essentials. In most cases, he even omits clothes, putting them in only to signify things like age, occupation, designation, or anything else clothes may signify. For example, here's the first page of "2."
Note that there really is nothing there that doesn't need to be there. The old lady is wearing clothes to signify her age, and the bald guy is reading a newspaper to signify that he's too distracted to notice the girl until panel 6. The guy sleeping is there because it had to show a crowded train. And look - the only difference between the characters are the hair. Trust me, folks, it may look easy, but it's ridiculously hard to do. I give him a dozen and a half points just for that execution - and it's flawless; I never had to go back and look twice at anything to get it.
Content-wise, the stories vary in tone, but one thing they all have in common is that they're all incredibly imaginative. "1" is about a guy who, for his whole life, ponders the meaning of life, and it's signified by a constant thought balloon with a question mark. This element is then amplified and utilized in a satisfying and somewhat humorous resolution that can only be done in comics. Another story, "8," is about a little girl who loses her mother in a crowded area. In order to find her, she removes her eyes and affixes them to a balloon. It's whimsical and charming, and also, emotionally gut-wrenching. It's my favorite tale in the book.
Having said that, a lot of what comes out of Manix's pen does seem to be the kind of stuff that boys come up with when they doodle in their notebooks during a boring lecture, whether it's tiny people working to get information out of a brain or a tiny little person being attached to someone's arm. So for some of you, some of these concepts may be disgusting. No matter - just don't read those stories and go to the others.
Manix Abrera's 12 is an anthology that can be enjoyed by anyone, full of stories that will resonate with your entire emotional spectrum. If you wish to support the Filipino komiks industry, this book is a good way to show your appreciation and support. You can even give it to your kids. Don't believe me?
|Keep an eye out for the Resident Kid's favorite story|
in "12," involving two guys fighting over an elevator.
Buy it. Read it. You'll love it.