Books & Art

This Filipino Comic Book Asks: Will You Still Save The World When You're 66?

Anino Comics launches Book 2 of innovative local superhero comic.
IMAGE JM Oleo
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A day after Valentine's Day, Filipino Komiks publisher Anino Comics launched the latest installment of what could be one of the most interesting superhero comics of 2020: Sixty-Six Book Two. The launch was held at Secret HQ in Makati City. 

The brainchild of Palanca-awardee Russell Molina and Ian Sta. Maria (who also worked on the first book) the sequel features the work of emerging illustrator Mikey Marchan, who is known for the slice-of-life comics, Sandali. Telling the story of an elderly man named Celestino Cabal or Mang Tino, who is granted supernatural abilities after an accident, Sixty-Six completely demolishes and reinvents the superhero genre and places its genesis in the gritty streets of Manila.

Fans and critics agree that Sixty-Six will help pave the way to even broader avenues for world-class creations after earning praises for its story, its authentic dialogue, and engaging visuals. In 2005, there was the horror-crime anthology Trese by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo, which many readers would consider as the catalyst for reigniting the Filipino Komiks community. (Fans are already looking forward to the Netflix adaptation coming soon).

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Photo by JM Oleo.

The year 2006 brought us the late Gerry Alanguilan's Elmer, which was later published in France and North America. Since then, the Filipino comics community has grown exponentially and resulted in back-to-back local comic conventions.

And now we have Sixty-Six. Five years since the launch of the first book, the continuation promises more adventures for Mang Tino.

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Molina has been a sought-after wordsmith of the native tongue and has always reflected the Filipino culture in his works, which include his award-winning children’s stories. And in his transition to comics, Molina shares that he wanted a Pinoy character with a relatable Pinoy look.

Photo by JM Oleo.
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Sta. Maria, meanwhile, is Molina's long time contemporary in the advertising industry, which made it easier for the duo to work together on this project. Before making it to Denmark for his “every-child's-dream stint” as a senior concept artist for Lego, Sta. Maria also dabbled in Filipino comics, including the 2012 title Skyworld, and last year’s Salamangka, which was published by Summit Books.

Marchan jokingly admits that even after the release of Sandali, he felt the challenge thumping on his palm to bring the words of Molina to visual reality.

“It forced me out of my comfort zone as it was the first time to draw an action story,” he explains. The mild-mannered artist expressed gratitude to Molina and Sta. Maria, along with Anino Comics, for having chosen him to continue the story of Mang Tino.

"It took us five years, two artists, two comic conventions, two managing editors, before (Sixty-Six Book Two) was released,” Anino Comics Managing Editor Lance Ferrer adds. "But even then, we at Anino Comics want to share stories to all Filipinos as young as six, or a child-at-heart at 66.”

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Russell Molina and Mikey Marchan

Photo by JM Oleo.

During the launch, Molina and Marchan also led workshops in storytelling and comics illustration, both of which were worth more than their ticket prices as the artists shared a truckload of immense and insightful knowledge to young aspiring writers and illustrators, including character establishment to dialogue reading, and the fundamentals of imagery to adapting visual styles.

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Illustrator Mikey Marchan

Photo by JM Oleo.

Russell Molina

Photo by JM Oleo.
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Molina also revealed that Sixty-Six has been picked up by Singapore's largest independent publisher, Epigram Books, for Southeast Asian distribution. It will be translated into English by fellow award-winning writer Carljoe Javier. Now, Mang Tino is going international.

Sixty-Six books are available in all leading bookstores and Secret HQ, Makati City.

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