We’re very sorry to report that the brilliant Filipino artist, writer, historian, publisher and promoter Gerry Alanguilan, better known in the Philippines by his stage name Komikero, has died, aged 51.
He had been ill for some time, battling what he once called “chronic illness”, but he largely buried concern for his health under good humour and a continued passion for his craft and others who shared a love of comics and more. Even when he announced this year’s Komikon Grande would be his last convention at the end of November, he told fans “People have speculated that it’s for health reasons and to be honest, they’d be 30 per cent right. The major reason is that I have to prioritise work, the heaviest concentration of which weirdly occurs during such events. To prevent future conflicts, I decided to stop going to conventions.”
He did however, admit, in a post full of plans for 2020, that “Yeah, it’s gotten to be quite exhausting for someone like me.”
Gerry was still active online almost until his death, which was announced yesterday by Ilyn Florese on Facebook and wrote: “To everyone who has loved Gerry, thank you very much. You brought him so much joy.”
Needless to say, the short post prompted a huge response of memories, tributes and messages of support.
A terrific artist, we never met in person, but thanks to the Internet and his social media presence – a medium he had on occasion found quite frustrating – I was well aware of his enthusiasm for comics and more (including food), and the support and encouragement he gave to many creators across the globe, not just in his own country; and his undoubted and welcome passion for documenting his country’s long comic history. In that, he was an inspiration, to myself and many others.
Here he is, recently, talking food and comics on his revived YouTube account…
While he could be quite acerbic at times, such commentary was more than outweighed by his evident enthusiasm and passion for comics and more that he posted online, from his excitement just last week for a new edition of his award-winning graphic novel, ELMER, out next year, to praise for the Netflix Christmas film Klaus.
“It’s sooo nice ” he enthused on Twitter. “I’m 52 and now I believe in Santa Claus.”
An architect by profession, and a member of the San Pablo Chapter of the United Architects of the Philippines, he preferred to be a storyteller through the creation of comic books.
His many credits include comics he either wrote or drawn or both published in the Philippines such as Wasted, Timawa, Lastik-Man, Crest Hut Butt Shop, Johnny Balbona, Humanis Rex!, Where Bold Stars Go To Die, Rodski Patotski: Ang Dalagang Baby and the award-winning ELMER, a story set in a world where chickens suddenly gain human-level intelligence and the ability to speak. Some were web comics, still available to read online.
The latter three were published through Gerry’s own Komikero Publishing. ELMER was eventually picked up by SLG Publishing for publication Internationally in 2010. Editions Ca Et La at the same time released a French translation in Europe.
Gerry was also an inker of comics for DC, Marvel and Image, and he worked with Leinil Francis Yu and Whilce Portacio on titles like Wolverine, X-Men, X-Force, Superman, Batman, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Wetworks, Grifter, High Roads, Silent Dragon, Ultimate Avengers: Crime and Punishment, Superior, Ultimate Avengers Vs New Ultimates: Death of Spider-Man, Indestructible Hulk and Star Wars – to name but a few.
Gerry also adapted and illustrated various short stories by classic authors for Graphic Classics including “The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe, “The Judge’s House” by Bram Stoker, “The Plague of Ghosts” by Rafael Sabatini and many more.
He was passionate about promoting and preserving the artwork created by the many great Filipino comics illustrators of the country’s past￼￼, and established his own Komiks Museum, located here in San Pablo City.
Author Paul Gravett was among many to pay tribute to Gerry yesterday, saying he was “deeply sad” and that he was a truly great artist, writer, historian and promoter who has done so much for Filipino komiks.
“And I am sadder than sad that we never got to meet,” he continued. “Gerry was a huge help to me at the early stages of my mad exhibition and book project, ‘Mangasia: Wonderlands of Asian Comics’. His original artwork from his landmark graphic novel Elmer is featured in the touring exhibition, thanks to Laurent Mélikian generously loaning [a] superb page.
“Gerry touched so many people sharing his love for comics the world over.”
“Gerry was one of the most tireless promoters of Filipino comic art,” notes artist and fellow comics historian David Roach. “Such a terrible loss.”
“This is just such terrible news,” commented Karen Green, Curator for Comics and Cartoons at Columbia University Libraries. “He was such a powerful and cheering presence, and an enormous talent. I was fortunate to have been on the Eisner Award jury the year that ELMER was nominated (the only book to get unanimous highest scores from the judges), and completely fangirled out over him at the ceremony.
“My profound sympathies to his family, who got to see his lovely nature close up and on a regular basis.”
“Like many have mentioned, he was very very kind to me as a young inker and I looked up to him as a mentor of a kind as well as an example of how to befriend others on the net circles we frequented,” says artist PJ Magalhaes. “I hope people will take up his mantle to champion Filipino comic books and artists. I’m going to miss his posts, his art, of course his smile that I’ve shared with all my Filipino friends, his occasional recipes and the energy he brought to comics.”
“I’m so sorry… My condolences,” commented artist Stephen Segovia. “He will always be the Komikero we idolised.”
“I am so so heartbroken to hear this,” said writer and editor Rantz Hoseley. “I loved talking with Gerry… his talent, his optimism, his outlook on life were such inspiration, and will remain reminders of the best way to approach life.”
“Gerry Alanguilan is the reason why I was compelled to make Komikero Chronicles,” wrote Kino Arts Film Director and Producer Keith Sicat in his tribute. “It was his sheer love of komiks (both its current state and its rich local history) that wanted me to share how inspired he got me. It was a privilege to be allowed into his home, watch him as he inked an issue of Avengers (pencilled by another Pinoy master Leinil Yu), discover his love of “Tin Tin” and see his prized possession – an Alex Niño art book, and see his sacrifice to restore Francisco Coching’s komiks for many future generations to enjoy and appreciate.
“He didn’t just work for the komiks crowd – he worked for all Filipinos, making sure our cultural artefacts aren’t lost to the winds.
“For being a cultural warrior, he is a hero. For inspiring so many with his artistic skills, he is a hero. For being all that while being so gracious and kind, he is legendary.”
“Rest in peace, Gerry,” commented artist Ian J. Miller. “He was the artist who convinced me I should learn to ink through some emails I sent him around 2003. I was a 16 year old kid and he was a pro inker, so it always amazed me that he took the time to write to me and encourage me to keep at it. I still think of the tips he gave me to this day when it’s time to sit down and ink!”
“I’m stunned and saddened,” notes Insight Comics writer and editor Mark Irwin. “Gerry was a singular talent and encouraged me a lot during my Wildstorm days. Another heartbreaking loss for our industry and even larger one for his friends and family. Our condolences.”
“He is alive forever through his works,” noted Filipino artist Mervin Malonzo. “But the comics community will still miss him. He inspired me and many other people.”
Earlier this month, Gerry posted this inspiring piece of advice to aspiring creators:
“You know I’m getting old and I start to get a different perspective on things. One such thing is humility. I think giving due importance to humility is overrated. So what if a person is ambitious? Was Muhammad Ali humble? He was still the f****** greatest. He would not have reached the heights he reached if he was humble.
“Having a healthy ego isn’t bad. In fact, for an artist, it is essential. Because it is that belief in one’s self (and sometimes an overinflated belief in oneself) that is the fuel the fires one’s creativity beyond what was thought possible.
“Be ambitious! Be arrogant even, as long as you hurt nobody, as long as you don’t step on anybody, nobody should care about what you do to reach your dreams.
“You sold only 20 copies of your photocopies mini comic book? Be proud of it! As long as you reached someone, touched the life of someone, and you’ve done your work honestly and with integrity, you have every f****** right to be proud.”
In his last post to his blog on 14th December, Gerry was still fighting and dreaming of new stories.
“It probably would be a lie to say that I’m doing OK,” he wrote. “Well, physically that is. It’s such a constant struggle everyday. I have to admit it’s really difficult. Thankfully, it hasn’t gotten in the way of me thinking creatively. As long as I stay in my room and not have to go out for interviews and events and things, I will have enough energy to do the work of creating comics. But sometimes it’s so hard. Sometimes I have to lie down.
“But when I have to do that, I think of stories. I think of things to write down. I create characters. All this has really forced me to live a simpler life. Which I never thought I wanted or needed in my life. Not having to go to Manila and meet people, even here in San Pablo. Just staying home with me and my creativity. It’s what I need. And I’m really starting to enjoy it.”
We enjoyed his passion, too. Our sympathies at this sad time to family, friends and the many, many, creators he inspired and supported.
Gerry Alanguilan, born 20th January 2019, died 21st December 2019
• The late Tom Spurgeon highlighted this essay by Gerry Alanguilan about the passing of his mother, posted back in 2014. It’s very touching, and starts off with a wonderful detail that Tom right felt would resonate with a lot of writer and artists friends, the way he initially notes hearing the news
“We might have lost a talented artist, but surely, his legacy in the creative industry remains. Indeed, Gerry has inspired the next generation of artists to continuously create and tell stories.”
(DAKILA is an organisation of artists, cultural and development activists, students, young professionals and individuals building a movement of heroism towards social transformation)
• Gerry Alanguilan books on AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)