Nov 8, 2010

Comics Cube! Reviews: Manix Abrera's "12"

I will be at the 6th Annual Komiks Convention (Komikon) 2010 this Saturday, at the Starmall Trade Hall at EDSA corner Shaw Boulevard. (Take the MRT, get off at Shaw, and go towards the direction that's NOT Shangri-La, and you're good.) Like the name implies, the convention focuses strongly on the local komiks scene.

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.

Buy it. Read it. You'll love it.


Aris B. Panganiban said...

I flipped through 12 once, and I'm not sure if I love it or hate it. I mean, yes, it's beautiful, wonderfully weird and touching, but some of the stories really depressed the hell out of me. But yeah, it's a great book that communicates so much with so little.

Duy Tano said...

I actually personally think the depressing stories in it were the best of the lot.

Now, the disgusting stories... that's completely different.

Aris B. Panganiban said...

Oh, I agree. It's just that I get too affected by the stories, they're that good. But I did find the one about the girl who tries to commit suicide kind of uplifting.

Budjette said...

I still say "12" is the best book that was launched last year!

We should get more people to read it!

I've been bugging Manix to pitch it to a foreign publisher and get the whole world to read it!


Duy Tano said...

Hopefully enough people buy ELMER so that it sends a message, at least to SLG. We can get 12 on the international stage, and maybe TRESE too, hm, Budj?

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know where I can buy this book

Duy Tano said...

It's only out in the Philippines, but in all bookstores in the Philippines. If you live outside the country, the only option I can think of is contacting those stores (Fully Booked, for example) and seeing if they'll ship to you.

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