My brothers and I have an unhealthy collection of comic books. In fact, we have a shelf dedicated to comics in our pseudo library at home.
Last night when I was wondering what to write about on this blog, my brother suggested that I write about our comic book collection starting, of course, with a review of his favorite comics series Y: The Last Man. This was a good idea, I thought. Especially now that it’s going to be a TV series. It’s the perfect time to revisit its controversial themes.
Interestingly enough, Regina had a similar suggestion but with a much more interesting prompt: what 5 comic books would you save in a fire?
I thought about the answer to this question all day. I mean, how could I choose between classics such as Asterios Polyp and Persepolis or tear-jerkers like Blankets and Daytripper? How could I choose among Alan Moore’s brilliant works? How could I choose only five from our collection? It seemed impossible.
Nevertheless, I managed to come up with this list. I’d like to think I have chosen well.
1. Culture Crash
When I was young, my reading was limited to fairy tales, Philippine legends, the Playstation Magazine, and, well, My First Holy Bible. I was not a voracious reader at all.
I used to think that I became a reader and eventually a “writer” because of Harry Potter or A Series of Unfortunate Events or All-American Girl. But I realized that before all of these was Culture Crash.
The discontinued, out-of-print Pinoy comic magazine introduced me to One Day Isang Diwa and Pasig, stories which from time to time I still read when I can. It also introduced me to content that reviewed, explored, and celebrated pop culture—something that this blog is trying to do.
As a lonely child, I found refuge in the pages of Culture Crash. I learned about comics, cosplay, illustration, and other pop culture content and events that I would otherwise have not known. It filled in the time I was supposed to be hanging out with friends. I started drawing fictional characters and drafting stories. These activities plus the conversations I had with my brothers were enough for me to realize how fun it is to celebrate art or one’s creation.
It would be cheating to say I would save all 16 issues of Culture Crash. That would make this whole exercise pointless. So, I would just save its very first issue. After all, it started my lifelong love affair with literature, and this list or even this blog would not have existed without it.
2. Calvin and Hobbes: Sunday Pages (1985-1995)
I still read Calvin and Hobbes every day, albeit through a Twitter page that tweets a strip or two daily. Sunday Pages boasts of the same charm, intelligence, and wit that all Calvin and Hobbes have, but what makes it my favorite collection is the autobiographical introduction of its reclusive author, Bill Watterson.
In his intro, he narrates how he honed and explored his craft within restrictive newsprint space, how he managed his deadlines, how he demanded and won more newspaper space for his cartoon strips, and how and why he is adamant to keep Calvin and Hobbes away from further commercialization in different forms of merchandise.
For Watterson’s introduction alone, he became one of the creators who I genuinely look up to: a dedicated genius who never forgot to critique mass culture—the space that he almost begrudgingly worked in for a decade.
3. Trese: Murder on Balete Drive
I had a copy of the first run of Trese: Murder on Balete Drive. Like many first prints of independent Pinoy komiks, it was photocopied. But what made it special was that during a Komikon event, I—with a literal push from my friends—was able to have my copy signed by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo. Unfortunately, I lost that first copy.
Nobody knew that I had lost that signed first print, but as luck would have it, a friend gave me a new one. A few days later, another friend, who remembered that I love Trese, offered to have my copy signed. Long story short, my friends were responsible for my copy shown above. And because of that, this one is extra special.
4. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
I read Persepolis during my freshman year in college, at a time when I was only beginning to become aware of social inequalities and form my own political stance.
As I read how Satrapi masterfully tells her life story, covers a wide range of social issues with wit, and presents them through her eyes as an innocent child and eventually a young woman, I also discovered in the university all the realities that my privilege had made me unaware of.
While its exploration of class inequalities, womanhood, and resistance are very prominent, what I remember most about Persepolis is this wonderful quote: “You’ll meet a lot of jerks in life. If they hurt you, remember it’s because they’re stupid.”
It is a good reminder of how we can deal with pain inflicted by others: some people will and can hurt us because they are simply mean or they just don’t know any better. Sometimes just thinking about this helps me become less bitter and angry about the world. At least on days when I believe it.
5. Civil War #1
One of my favorite things to do is to talk to my brothers. They are among the smartest and kindest men I know. They are also huge nerds.
I particularly love it whenever they talk about Civil War—how two of them side with Captain America and one sides with Iron Man. How they go on a mini debate. How their perspectives and choice tell me so much about them.
My relationship with my brothers is defined by our experiences with food, basketball, and pop culture. And I think Civil War is one of the many pop culture topics that are very important to all of us.
Thus, we deserve a better MCU adaptation.
But if I’m really being honest about this, our copy has Mark Millar’s signature, why would I not freaking save it?
There are still many comic books that I would like to save. Books like The Killing Joke and Blankets that made me forget that I was only reading a story, that grabbed me by my wrists, took me in, and made their stories my own personal memory. And some like Asterios Polyp and It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken that I read during my darkest times and made me remember that I am here, I am alive, and I am not alone. And finally, books like Daytripper and Hawkeye (2014) that made me understand more about myself and remind me why I began reading in the first place.
For more insights on comics or pop culture in general, visit our website at https://theamprsnd.com/.
Patriz Biliran and Regina Peñarroyo co-run The Ampersand and write blog articles in their free time.