Books & Art

Underpaid Filipino Superheroes Unite in New Graphic Novel

What if superheroes existed in the Philippines?
ILLUSTRATOR Paolo Fabregas
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In Paolo Fabregas’ alternate world of superheroes, every country has its own special group of superheroes. The Philippines has its own, called the Filipino Heroes League or FHL. In the graphic novel, the FHL is a government-funded organization created to augment the police force. But much like most things in the Philippines that are state-funded, the FHL is also cash-strapped.

Photo by Paolo Fabregas.
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Unlike many superhero narratives we’ve been exposed to, Fabregas’ storytelling and imagination is grounded on third-world issues, which is also what makes the graphic novel quite charming. Its unadulterated treatment of the negative aspects of Philippine society, such as corruption, poverty, poor urban planning, and injustice toward the poor, are familiar themes that have not been featured in many superhero graphic novels or incorporated into the background stories of its major characters. It really answers the question, what if superheroes existed in the Philippines? (Hint: They would all work abroad.)

Photo by Paolo Fabregas.
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Without flashy costumes or Batmobiles but, on most nights, a pedicab powered by super speed, the third-world superhero group does what it can to fight injustice, corruption, and other third-world problems, despite being underpaid. 

It's tough being a superhero...but it's even tougher being a third-world superhero.

Filipino Heroes League Book 3: Revolution is the final chapter that concludes the events from its prequel, Filipino Heroes League Book 2: The Sword in which our superheroes get entangled in a government conspiracy and are accused of collaborating with corrupt politicians.

Photo by Paolo Fabregas.
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Photo by Paolo Fabregas.

Book 2 retells an EDSA Revolution in which Filipino superheroes also take part. The alternate history also incorporates the supers in national issues, like the overseas migration of millions of Filipinos. Book 3 takes that concept a step further by imagining what would happen if these Filipino superheroes were also OFWs—albeit sidekicking for their more popular foreigner counterparts. It is a creative take on the brain drain that is happening in many of the Philippines’ crucial sectors: health care, education, and science.

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Photo by Paolo Fabregas.
Photo by Paolo Fabregas.
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With most of the Filipino Superheroes working abroad as Overseas Filipino Superheroes, the Filipino Heroes League are left to fend for themselves against a sinister plot to bring the evilest Filipino supervillains back into power.

In this third and final installment of the series, the Filipino superheroes find themselves broke, persecuted, and powerless. Fabregas mines his imagination in creating detailed and compelling exhibits of the Filipino situation.

Photo by Paolo Fabregas.
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The Filipino Heroes League Book Three: Supreme Power launches at the Manila International Book Fair, from September 11 to September 15 at Mall of Asia. The first book, Sticks and Stones was published in 2011. Book 2, The Sword, was a finalist for Best Graphic Novel in the 2014 National Book Awards.

Photo by Paolo Fabregas.
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Mario Alvaro Limos
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