Meeting the artist of Kiko Machine: Manix Abrera in Iloilo City

Last September 22, 2018, Manix Abrera was in Cinematheque Iloilo for a talk and book signing, and I went. I was a fan of Kiko Machine for a long time, and since high school, I was already reading the comic strips in The Philippine Daily Inquirer. I like the cute drawing style, the funny yet relatable topics and characters, and how it tackles subjects that are so out-of-this-world in a thought-provoking way.

This is actually the second time I saw the artist in person, the first was in ZineZoned3: Iloilo Zinefest 3 in Robinsons Place Iloilo last August 2017. I asked him some questions in their forum and his answers made sense. When I asked how they handled criticism, he said that even a bad reaction or negative feedback is still better than nothing. The most valuable lesson on writing I heard from him was that people don't feel 100% of the same emotion - people can have a mix of emotions like 80% sadness and 20% anger, and even more. In comics, the facial expression is very important. I also find this valuable advice in writing fictional characters.

He said that early in his drawing career, he used to show off his drawing skills, but in time realized that he should focus more on story-telling and the characters.

I had previous volumes of Kiko Machine but most probably went to donations and I found volume 7 on my shelf. They also sold his works during the event. I bought volumes 12 and 13 of Kiko Machine. They also had his works unrelated to Kiko Machine. His 'Silent Comics' series is now on its 14th volume, these are comics without words and they still manage to tell a story. I like this series because it shows that you can tell a story with just art that speaks enough for itself.

There's also Hukbong Sandatahan ng Kahagardan, a collection of his comics related to the news/media/journalism profession in the country. They also have reprinted the first three volumes of Kiko Machine into one book, Unang Katipunan ng Kikomachine Komix.

The author discussing his works [photo from Hubon Manunulat Facebook page]
The author discussed how he comes up with the stories for his comics and how he improved his style over the years, not just in art but also in writing and story-telling. He also showed his earlier work and it's really a different look from his current style.

He also gave valuable advice to artists and writers. As a struggling and insecure writer, I always look for advice that could help me and I attend talks like this if I can. He says that he gets his ideas from everyday things and always keeps a notebook handy to write down ideas and even conversations he hears and gives them a twist.

For comic writers who always have to churn out content in a regular basis, he advises to stick to one subject and create ideas and stories out of that. For those who dream of being published in a daily newspaper like the Inquirer, he encourages artists to submit their work and the portfolio must contain at least a month's worth of strips so the editors can see that the artist is able to create consistent work. He also says that if authors or artists who want to get published with publishers, they should submit complete or almost complete manuscripts. One of a publishers' fears is incomplete submissions... who knows if they sign you up and you might end up not finishing the work?

I love these little doodles! 
He also encourages aspiring creatives to keep going and keep practicing even if the work is ugly, even if people don't like it. Eventually, when we keep at it, our work will gradually improve. Even with criticism, aim to be the 'last man standing.' Be the artist who keeps working even after everyone who said something has gone quiet.

During the book signing, he took the time to sign and personalize each book, chat with those who attended, and he was overall nice and kind to his fans. He seemed very down-to-earth and I find it inspiring. I saw a lot of people having multiple copies of Kiko Machine from its first volume.

For more information, you can visit Manix Abrera's website and Shopify page if you want to buy his works and other merchandise online. Thanks to Hubon Manunulat and Cinematheque Iloilo for making this event possible.

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