Pinoy comic creators can rejoice in the knowledge that technology is on their side after all, and that they are far from being a dying breed.
Recently, on Free Comic Book Day that takes place annually every first Saturday of May, local animation studio and game developer Synergy88 Digital held the soft launch of their new app called iKwento, which allows users to access a growing library of Pinoy comic book content. It has several features including easy-to-read comic book panels especially designed for mobile readers.
According to iKwento Project Manager Marc Cua, more than anything else, their purpose is to give both independent and mainstream Filipino comic book creators a platform where they can bring their content to a wider audience.
“We’re trying to revive the local comic industry,” he said.
He shared that the app is a brainchild of one of the founders of Synergy88, Jackie Chua.
“She went to a comic book convention and then she saw mga local book comic artists. They were printing their own comic books, wala silang publisher,” he shared. “So then she realized ‘Paano kung mawala ’tong mga ’to. Especially the old comic books from ’70s to ’80s, ’yung mga naka-print diyan na pasira na – paano kung mawala na lang bigla?’”
“So naisip niya, what if we immortalize this, we digitalize. Then its forever, it’s gonna be on the internet, in the app,” he added.
Marc cleared they’re not commissioning creators to make content for them. Rather, their doors are open for existing works.
“Na parang lapit lang kayo sa amin. Even if you have your old comic books that aren’t published pwede niyo ilapit sa amin. We’re gonna scan everything, we’re gonna save it, we’re gonna digitalize it.”
Among their main goal is retrieving the local comic stories from ’50s, ’60s and ’70s which have been gathering dust on shelves somewhere.
“We want to save all of those. We want to put it up there – on the Cloud, para immortal siya. Para ’yung apo ko or apo ng apo ko mababasa n
ila ’yan,” he related. “Kasi it’s really sad na their are content owners that comes to our office and they showed us their works from ’90s, ’80s, and the pages konting hawak mo lang parang mapupunit na siya. So that’s the main advocacy of iKwento – to preserve it.”
They started working on the app around August and September last year. They’ve met with 30, 40 comic creators so far, including and no less than the family of legendary Filipino comic book cartoonist and graphic novelist Mars Ravelo.
As of this writing, they are still negotiating with the iconic creator behind “Darna,” “Dyesebel,” “Captain Barbell,” and “Lastikman,” to name a few. Marc said the family of Mars is “receptive” to the idea.
The iKwento app is available on the Google Play Store but Marc said they’re already in the process on having the app also available on App Store.
He believes certain readers will enjoy the iKwento app as it is basically like any video-on-demand streaming service except that theirs users are simply reading the content.
They hope to grow their application in the coming months by integrating sounds and moving pictures to make it more interactive.
In terms of the genres they offer, they cater to all types (love story, drama, superhero, sci-fi, sports, etc).
The app already has 15 titles and most of these are already uploaded, well at least, chapter one or two of each story.
Their major title, so far, is the “Barangay 143” which is a Japanese-Philippine-Singaporean anime television series about a group of high school basketball players in Manila. Dubbed as a “360-degree concept,” it tackles love, hubris, drama, crime, and basketball.
On giving neophyte comic book creators a chance to shine, the app also features titles by up-and-comers like Dan Borgonos (“Lakaw”), Jun Dayo (“Mr. Pol”), Randy Torres (“Super Tsimay And The Magic Sandok”), and Romulo Miclat (“Berto Balani”), among others.
But the best part of it is that users can get into on the action as well. For instance, if readers have a good idea for a comic book, then they can draw and write it and then publish it for the world to see using the app.
Also, the iKwento app allows them to scan and upload their own personal comic book collections to the app’s own library. So for those who have made it their mission in life to collect rare comic book, they can now share them with fellow aficionados.