Did you know that the Philippines has its own thriving graphic novel scene? If you love Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman series, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s Locke & Key, or superhero titles from Marvel or DC, you’ll love dipping your toes into the wonderful world of komiks. Here are five local graphic novels with fantasy elements that will get you hooked.
Trese by Budjette Tan (author) and Kajo Baldisimo (illustrator)
Black-and-white comic Trese has been making waves lately, thanks to the upcoming animated series adaptation coming to Netflix this year. Alexandra Trese, the series’ heroine, is a supernatural crime-fighting detective, who explores the underbelly of Manila with her bodyguards, the Kambal. Fans have been following Trese’s adventures for years. There are seven volumes of the main series currently out, with two volumes still to come. Each volume includes multiple cases, and each case features mythological creatures in stories filled with modern-day people, places, and situations, including entertainment and politics. The combination makes the stories more relatable and unforgettably real.
Light by Rob Cham
Light is a charming graphic novel that tells its story without words. Our silent protagonist is content living in a monochromatic world, but everything changes when he falls underground and finds a gem. The rest of the story sees him going on a quest to get more gems while making friends and encountering monsters (or not?) along the way. It’s a deceivingly simple premise executed with so much skill. Don’t forget to get the second book in the series called Lost. It follows the protagonist and his BFF, as they fall into a magical portal, get separated, and go on their own quirky adventures.
After Lambana by Eliza Victoria (author) and Mervin Malonzo (illustrator)
This graphic novel is a treat for sore eyes with its beautifully illustrated pages of a world where the supernatural exists. The universe emerging from Victoria’s words comes alive with artist Malonzo’s masterful use of color. The story revolves around the aftermath of the fall of the diwata realm, Lambana. Now, the use of magic is prohibited, and protagonist Conrad must venture into Lambana if he wants his deadly heart condition to get cured. More question marks appear as we follow him and a friend on his journey. The novel weaves past and present, fact and myth, as we uncover the mystery behind the diwata’s fall.
The Mythology Class by Arnold Arre
A must-read for any Philippine mythology lover, The Mythology Class follows a group of college students who become a part of a supernatural class led by Mrs. Enkanta. The crew is tasked to catch supernatural creatures that have escaped and are now trying to take over the mortal realm. While all this is happening, the teens also have to deal with their own troubles like falling in love, breaking up, and evolving friendships. The story blends history and mythology, featuring both mythological creatures like tikbalang and kapre, and epic heroes such as Kubin and Sulayman. It’s both a fun and emotional ride—and the story doesn’t end there. You can check out the sequel, The Children of Bathala, which currently has one volume.
Si Janus Silang at ang Labanang Manananggal-Mambabarang by Edgar Calabia Samar (writer) and Mervin Malonzo (illustrator)
This graphic novel is an adaptation of Samar’s novel of the same name, the second book in his popular Janus Silang series. You’ll understand the story much better if you read the first volume, Si Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tabon (the original novel or the graphic novel version), but Labanang Manananggal-Mambabarang also includes a recap that will get you up to speed. We just really love how Malonzo adapted the novel and felt it was pretty truthful to its source material, so it gets a nod from us. Janus’s life changes when he realizes the tiyanak in TALA Online, the game he’s playing, is real. Now, he’s a pusong in training, and chaos ensues when the mansion they’re at gets attacked. Will the tiyanak get his way?