Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Virgin Labfest 12: Binyag

Apart from continuing my drawing chores for Zaturnnah sa Maynila, I spent some time at the Cultural Center of the Philippines over the last few weeks to take part in the Virgin Labfest proceedings.

The distance that I needed to cover to get to the CCP has always been daunting, making me unable to watch all the featured plays. My normal commute would be to take the LRT-2 from Santolan to Pureza, then hail a cab to take me to Pasay. Going home was a greater--and at times, more expensive--challenge, especially during Friday and payday nights.

Apart from my set, I was only able to catch Set D, which featured Eliza Victoria's "Marte" (directed by George de Jesus), Dingdong Novenario's "Daddy's Girl" (dir. Nick Pichay), and Rick Patriarca's "Hapagkainan" (dir. Chris Martinez). It was the last day of the festival, and both sets C and D were closing on that day.

As was expected, the theatre was packed for the final show of the festival, and I stood in the crowded theatre for over two hours. My knees and feet were beginning to ache, so much so that I had to rush outside the theatre to get myself walking. I missed the marriage proposal.

I won't lie. I was really hoping that our play would get selected to be restaged, but I had heard that the line-up was particularly good this year. Among the favorites were"Daddy's Girl," "Hapagkainan,"  Maki dela Rosa's "Ang Mga Bisita ni Jean," and Guelan Luarca's "Bait,"  I was outside the CCP when I got the news that, indeed, we got in. Despite the fulfillment of my hope, the effect was surreal. It would be my second time to be revisited.

So apart from "Mula sa Kulimliman," the other two revisited plays are "Ang Sugilanon ng Kabiguan ni Epefania," written by Alexandra May Cardoso (dir. Charles Yee) and Dominique La Victoria's "Ang Bata sa Drum" (dir. Dudz Teraña). I feel flattered to be with these two.

Thanks so much, Virgin Labfest!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

My New Play: "Mula sa Kulimliman"

Writing for the theatre isn't something one would expect from a comics creator, but since I had my little stint as a professional stage actor for a few productions, I guess playwriting would eventually sneak in there. So far, I've written four, three of which have been staged, with the fourth one going through rehearsals for this year's Virgin Labfest.

The play is called, "Mula sa Kulimliman," (From Kulimliman) and it tells of a housewife Lilia (played by Mayen Estañero) who has been questioning the truths she's had about her husband Gorio (Jonathan Tadioan). Gorio has been mostly absent, leaving Lilia to run the household with whatever meager means she has while taking care of their son Jerome (Timothy Castillo). There are elements of fantasy in there, and comedy, and drama, pretty much what one might expect in my stories.

The play is being directed by Hazel Gutierrez, with set design by Toym Imao, sound design by TJ Ramos, music design by Toni Muñoz, and featuring the talents of Karilyo and the Anino Shadowplay Collective.

I saw a run-through of the play last week, and though it's still pretty raw, it's definitely shaping up to be something special. The stuff that everyone brought to the table meshes really well. (But don't take my word for it--you have to see it.)

I will admit that at this point, one of the main reasons why I'm writing for theatre now is because of the Labfest, specifically the prospect of the material being staged. Even if I don't make it to the "magic 12," the possibility of it coming to life is enough to encourage me to see the writing through. In fact, I already have two possible submissions for next year. The first is "Hula Hoop," which was not accepted this year but can be resubmitted (after I do a lot of revising.) The second will most probably be a Josephine Bracken story.

I originally did this piece just for fun, placing Jose Rizal's wife front and center in her own fantasy adventure, without really being serious about creating an actual story. But then story fragments started to form in my brain, specifically character points for Ms. Bracken. As such, it won't be accurate historically, but I will definitely weave in details from the history books. I had started writing dialogue down, a conversation between her and a babaylan. We'll see what happens. 

If you want to watch "Mula sa Kulimliman," it will be part of Set C of this year's Virgin Labfest XII: Binyag. Set C will also include Maki dela Rosa's "Ang Mga Bisita ni Jean," (directed by Ariel Yonzon) and Guelan Luarca's "Bait" (directed by Mara Marasigan). Venue is the Tanghalang Huseng Batute of the CCP.

Schedule: July 1 - 3 and 8pm, July 6 - 8pm, July 7 - 3pm, July 16 -8pm, July 17 - 3pm

Tickets are available at Ticketworld outlets and online, and the CCP Box Office.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Want To Learn How To Make Comics? Here's a Self-Learning Path

A question came up on an online forum, asking how can one begin to learn how to make comics, given very little knowledge in both writing and art. I decided to write my answer as a blog post.

I've been drawing comics on and off for more than 20 years, but I've been drawing far longer than that. I'm primarily self-taught, and had regarded drawing purely as a hobby. As far as the writing goes, I started writing professionally by working in corporate public relations.

Even though I've been writing and drawing for a very long time, I was only able to make my first comic book as both writer and artist at 31 years old. Now that I've gained success as a comics creator, I would sometimes wonder how I should have done things differently.

Is there a method, a "curriculum," that one could follow to learn how to make comics?

Sure, there are tons of books out there about how to make comics, and they cover a lot of topics. However, a lot of them don't look at progression, or the step-by-step way of learning for someone who's starting from scratch.

So I tried to think of something on my own.

With all the things I know now, this is what I would tell my younger self. These are the subjects to learn over six year-period--the first four will be mostly about education, the next two will be mostly about application. Though I don't give much detail, it gives specific areas of focus. For most of these subjects, there are a lot of free and for-pay books and online tutorials available.

Year One

Form Drawing: Building, Slicing, Contouring
Light and Shadow
Materials Drawing (fabrics, stone, metal, etc.)

For Writing: Journaling
For Marketing: Establish relationships online and offline

At the end of Year One, you should be able to draw a variety of forms and materials with confidence, as well as render them in inks.

Being able to do this quickly and confidently sets you up for greatness. :-)

Now, you might ask, "Isn't one year too long?" It's only as long or as short as how much work and practice you put into it. This is foundational--your ability to draw and ink simple and complex forms with speed and confidence will make the rest of the journey easier. Plus, form drawing is crucial in learning to draw everything else.

A very quick drawing. By combining and contouring basic forms, you can already draw a lot.

Year Two

Perspective Drawing: one-point, two-point, three-point
Landscape / Nature Drawing
Art and Comics Composition

For Writing: Journaling
For Marketing: Build relationships

You've spent a year drawing all sorts of forms in different configurations, so you're now ready to tackle placing those forms in perspective. Not only that, you'll also be moving towards drawing locations in perspective--interiors, exteriors, and landscapes. You'll also dig into the topic of artistic composition, or how to arrange elements that results in an aesthetically pleasing drawing.

At the end of Year Two, you should be able to draw a variety of locations confidently using different perspective views. You should also be able to create artwork/comics that follow sound composition principles.

Year Three

Cartooning: Character Design and Expression
Color Theory and Basic Digital Coloring

For Writing: Storycraft: the Principles of Story
For Marketing: Build Relationships

At the end of Year Three, you should be able to create your own unique and expressive cartoon characters. You should also be able to do basic digital coloring based on your knowledge of color theory.

Year Four

Human Anatomy
Online Marketing / Content Marketing
Print and Web Production

For Writing: Scene Writing
For Marketing: Build Relationships

At the end of Year Four, you should be able to create unique and expressive characters that follow human proportions. You should also have gained working knowledge of online marketing principles and techniques, as well as how to create artwork for print and online.

Years Five through Six

Consolidation / Styling / Fine-Tuning of Drawing Knowledge through single plates and short comics (three to six finished plates a month)

For Writing: Writing complete stories + script for your first graphic novel
For Marketing: Create "official" online channels for your work

Years Seven

Make your first graphic novel.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Zsazsa Zaturnnah sa Kalakhang Maynila Part 2: An Update

So.... as of this writing, I have two and a half pages left to draw, and I've given roughly 75% of the draft to my publisher Visprint for preliminary editing. Another piece of good news, at least for me, is that the most difficult panels are done.


This means I should be finished with all comics pages by next week. I would then have to work on the other editorial pages, plus the back cover. I still don't know what to put in the back cover.

But, Hallelujah! I'm almost done. Thank you, Universe!!

Of course, on a professional level, three years isn't the most appealing amount of time to wait for part two of a story. Still, I'm moving forward with it. While, at this point, I shudder at the thought of announcing when the third part is going to come out, I will declare right now that I'm committed to churning out pages on a more regular basis. Part Three will be more or less 88 pages, bringing the total page count of this graphic novel to 262.


I swear. I'll never make another one as long as that. Unless, perhaps, I become ridiculously rich.

Part Two is supposed to be released by Komikon this mid-April, or it may not, depending on the production schedule on Visprint's end. What's important to me, however, is that I submit everything--final files and all--to them before the end of February.

Recently, I posted a tweet expressing my sentiment about this whole graphic novel making thing, akin to a sado-masochistic relationship. Surprisingly, that post got retweeted 40 times by other comics creators. The one thing that many people don't realize about making comics is how difficult it actually is, especially if you're a one-man show. In fact, there have been blog posts and videos from other comics creators expressing that side of comics very few speak of. Stuff like, "it's depressing," or "it's lonely." And many creators have given up, for practical or emotional reasons, or both. Sure, anyone can make comics. But not everyone can make good comics independently over a long period (unless, maybe, you make comics strips and get paid by the piece), simply because the cost in both time and money is tremendous. So much effort for so little.

Anyway, I still love what I do, despite the episodes. It's all par for the course.

So, once the book comes out, I do hope you get a copy. I hope you'll like what you'll see and read, despite the oh-so-many teaser images I've posted these past years on Facebook.

Here's the cover.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Reviews Are Coming In: Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady The Musical

Image from BusinessWorld Online

The musical opened last May 7, and the reviews are in. Below are just a few of them--thankfully, looks like people seem to like the show. Thanks to all the kind folks who took the time to write reviews. Also, thanks to those who have watched the show more than once.

But first, a featurette from ANC...


"As for the length, my gay friend Philip hates musicals like a heartbreak but he finished it and told his friends he didn’t even notice it’s three hours long." -- Totel de Jesus


"Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady is so enjoyable because it takes the tight, strong narrative of Carlo Vergara’s comic and adds flourishes of song and dance at just the right moment that you are carried away into this comedic farce that tackles a host of issues and themes — colonialism, hard work versus laziness, gratitude, elitism, celebrity culture, love in the workplace, finding something inside you that is extraordinary, sister relationships, forgiveness, and a whole lot more — without ever punching or being pedantic about any of it." -- Wanggo Gallaga

From Curtain Call Manila

"In a world where Heroes are celebrities and Villains are closet Sinatra’s, the battle is not between the superpowers in the battlefield or not even against a powerful army. Here is a world where every battle is fought with one self, a battle of will, perseverance, and faith. A fight ended not by bullets or governance, but a fight appeased by Humanity."

From Business World Online

"A good time was expected. And that expectation was fulfilled in spades." -- A.A. Herrera

From A Jellicle Blog

"Though I still find some of its themes somewhat disturbing, the Vergara-de Jesus-Martinez team proves that there’s a lot to celebrate in our local theater. Like its characters, this musical is proof how our artistry and talent have transformed so beautifully without sacrificing wit and the Filipino talent." --Orly Agawin

From ABS-CBN Likestyle

"It merges the glossy aesthetic of western superhero genre and the earthly grit of its Filipino counterpart. And between these contrasting elements is the story of the everyday Filipino, which keeps everything grounded and relatable despite the narrative’s metaphysical framework. Ultimately, it presents a fresh sense of artistic being, something that we have not seen before in any superhero themed content." -- Francis Lubag

- - - - - - 

We're now on our second weekend, and there are still tickets available. You can purchase tickets through the Ticketworld website or visit their outlets.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady: The Musical

Last 2012, I came up with the idea of a simple story involving a maid of a superhero team. It was supposed to be a one-act play, but I didn't know what I could do with the idea to make it a 45-minute acting piece. "Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady" (How I Became Leading Lady) eventually got penned in early 2013, and was accepted in the 9th Virgin Labfest.

Not sure about the story's future, I had a comics adaptation made. The 72-pager was released in late-2013. The play was later chosen to be restaged in 2014, something I'm extremely grateful for. But I thought that was it.

But, no. Fast forward to 2015, the one-act play will open as a full-length musical this May.

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady: The Musical is being produced by Dalanghita Productions, and will run from May 7 to June 7 this year. It will take place at the PETA Theater Center in Quezon City.

Music and lyrics are by Vincent deJesus, Production Design by Tuxqs Rutaquio, Choreography by Nancy Crowe. Direction by Chris Martinez, who also directed the original one-act play.

Here are the fine actors that comprise the cast.

Bituin Escalante & Frenchie Dy
Kim Molina & Natasha Cabrera
Markki Stroem & Hans Eckstein
May Bayot
Astarte Abraham
Giannina Ocampo
Jeff Flores
Chesko Rodriguez
Caisa Borromeo
Nar Cabico & Domi Espejo
Red Nuestro
Vince Lim & Mikoy Morales
Elliot Eustacio
Red Concepcion
Kakki Teodoro
Raf Bravo
Rhenwyn Gabalonzo
Josh Cabiladas
Gab Pangilinan
JC Santos
Brian Sy
Ali Santos


Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo

Tickets are now available at the Ticketworld website.

I don't think I'll be able to attend all shows, since I'm currently getting the Zaturnnah sequel finished. But I'm sure I'll be there during most weekends. The comic book adaptation of the one-act play will be for sale at the lobby.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why The Idea of A Subway in Metro Manila Makes Me Jittery

It's an irrational fear, or course. But I can only hope that, if ever the Metro Manila subway project pushes through, the government will do a better job maintaining it.

You can read a proposal for the Metro Manila subway through this link.

Please share if you like this comic. :-)

Monday, October 27, 2014

What Makes a Blog Post Shareable?

In the previous blog post, we proposed that comics creators can start building an audience by creating and sharing comics blog posts as an alternative to the usual text posts.

The idea is that when a comics creator creates engaging comics blog posts, these posts have a high chance of being shared.

The shareability of a blog post is important. When people like something they see on the Web, there's a good chance that they'll share it, which leads to the comics creator's website getting more visits. This is an important step in attracting fans.

But what kind of blog posts gets more shares? It boils down to three things: Topic, Format, and Takeaway.

Topics for Comics Blog Posts

To know what topics are good for comics blog posts, we only have to look at our Facebook news feeds to see what people are sharing. Usually, these are general-interest topics, or topics that a wide audience is interested in:

Dating and Romance
Career and Making Money
Fitness and Health
Parenting and Home Life
Self-Help and Practical Psychology
Gadgets and Consumer Technology
Pop Culture
Politics and Society
Sports and Recreation

So it boils down to anything you want that's relevant to the general public. And that's the beauty of creating these comics blog posts. You don't have to create characters, or choose a genre. Your source of inspiration is your life and subjects that interests you, as long as the general public can relate to them. (If you're interested in nuclear science, that may not be a good topic to start with.)

Choose a few general categories that you feel comfortable talking about. In my case, for instance, I like talking about working out (or the lack of it), cooking, self-help, and writing. So I can create comics blog posts around these topics.

When you begin to focus on a few topics and regularly release comics blog posts that talk about them, you're building an identity. You're beginning to build a brand around yourself as a comics creator.

Format for Comics Blog Posts

Here's a list of formatting options for comics blog posts, based on information from marketing experts:

1) Lists
For Example: Five New Uses for Your Obsolete Mobile Phone

2) How-Tos
For Example: The Quickest Way to Pack for a Month-Long Vacation

3) What Ifs
For Example: What If Famous Historical Figures Could Tweet

4) Opinions
For Example: Why Fairy Tales Should Be Banned

5) Discoveries
For Example: What You Didn’t Know About Nursery Rhymes

The advantage the comics creator has in creating blog posts like these is that these posts are image-driven, and image-driven posts perform better overall compared to posts that are in plain text.

Takeaway for Comics Blog Posts

The Takeaway is, essentially, what is it that you want the reader to take from your blog post. The key here is providing value. If the reader doesn't see any value, if your blog post doesn't affect the reader in some fundamental way, then the reader may just move on.

1) Useful information. The takeaway is utility. Examples of this are wikiHow, HowStuffWorks, or websites and blogs that specialize in practical solutions. People visit these sites because they have a problem that needs a solution, even if it’s as simple as teeth whitening, removing a stubborn car stain, or which tools are best for inking comics art.

2) Cautionary information. The takeaway is also utility. These articles play on audience’s fears by essentially saying, “You have to read this or else...” Health and money articles are more often structured this way to encourage clicks.

3) Insight. The takeaway is a different way of looking at a life concern. Examples of this are Upworthy, ThoughtCatalog, or websites and blogs that provide inspiration, spiritual guidance, or a unique point of view. Commentary and opinion articles also fall under this category.

4) Positive Emotions. The takeaway is humor. These are your Buzzfeeds, 9gags, and CollegeHumors. Their main focus is not useful information or insight, but more on giving people something to laugh about, or at least something that’s not sad.

Choose a Topic, Format, and Takeaway to Make a Comics Blog Post

So, for instance, you're the guy who doesn't have a lot of time in his hands and you find yourself using the microwave a lot for your meals. That's something a lot of people can relate to. What kind of comics blog post can you create from that?

1) You could create a List post containing Useful Information, like Three Quick Microwave Meals For The Time-Starved Artist
2) Or a How To post to elicit Positive Emotions, like How To Microwave A Zombie For Dinner

All it takes is a little creativity, and a desire to provide value, even if it's just something that gives a good dose of amusement.

Add an Intriguing Headline

Look at the examples of headlines I've given above:

Five New Uses for Your Obsolete Mobile Phone
The Quickest Way to Pack for a Month-Long Vacation
What If Famous Historical Figures Could Tweet

Personally, I dislike click-bait headlines, or headlines worded in such a way that they compel you to click on them. But I only dislike them if I don't get a good pay-off.

So make your headline intriguing enough, but at the same time deliver on your promise.


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