Nov 26, 2013

[Comics] Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady

Admittedly the main reason we went to this year's Komikon was to pick up a copy of Carlo Vergara's Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady. Sadly, we had been unable to catch the original staging of the one-act play that this comic was based on, so getting a copy of the comic seemed like the next best thing for now.

I first learned about Carlo Vergara through my partner Tobie - he had been a longtime fan of Carlo's work since the Flashpoint comics days and the two managed to become friends over the years due to Tobie's own comic book creating efforts. Thus it was Tobie that officially introduced me to the original Zsazsa Zaturnnah comic some time after we had gotten together. And while I had already watched the stage musical and the movie, it took Tobie to share a copy of the comic with me.

I've had a chance to meet Carlo Vergara a few times and the man is ridiculously humble despite all that he's achieved in the local comic book world. And seriously, his creating a queer superhero like Zsazsa Zaturnnah is a most unique achievement in itself in a world with so few superheroes that properly represent the LGBT community. And so beyond friendship, I'm more than inspired by his creativity and his penchant for telling stories and thus I'm more than happy to continue to support his work.


Synopsis: Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady (How I Became the Leading Lady) is a Filipino comic book adaptation of Carlo Vergara's original one-act play that had debuted during the 9th Virgin Labfest. The comic was illustrated by Elmer Cantada and the play is set to be restaged at the 10th Virgin Labfest in 2014 and will be adapted into a full musical by Bit by Bit Company.

We are first introduced to Mely, who works as a maid for what is obviously a superhero team. The story opens in what is most likely their meeting room with is littered with pizza boxes and other trash. She quickly sets about cleaning up while the superheroes are off saving the world. The quirk is that her sister Viva was already in the conference room before her given Viva was thrown out of the house by their mother and is temporarily staying with Mely.

Given the fact that she does work for superheroes, Viva's presence is a secret and Mely quickly orders Viva back into the room to hide from everyone else. She had even gone as far as disabling some of the security cameras in order to keep Viva a secret all in the name of family. And the story progresses, we learn more about the dynamic between the sisters and Viva's string of unsuccessful relationships. Clearly she's hiding the full story of why she was thrown out and Mely is determined to get to the bottom of things. But there's another hiccup to things - one of the heroes is still in the base due to injuries.

Carlo has always had a knack for writing good comedy and it's always a pleasure to dive into his stories. His comedic timing remains impeccable even in this play-turned-comic and I found myself laughing while reading the book. Beyond a grasp for humor in general, I've always found that Carlo makes effective use of code-switching between Filipino and English for full effect - something that is intrinsic to our melting pot culture and is all the more amazing.

The story is rather brief given it was in fact based on a one-act play, and thus the plotting is all the more brilliant in its structure. Over the course of just 70-something pages, he's able to give us a decent view of the type of person Mely is, the challenges that Viva faces and many of the nuances of their relationship as sisters. To do so strictly through conversations without sounding like one is monologing tot he audience is quite an achievement and this is definitely one of the greatest points of this story.

The art is rather clean and Elmer Cantada's art is rather reminiscent of Carlo's own illustrations, which was a nice thing. Even as a black and white comic, the pages are a pleasure to go through given the clean lines and logical flow across the pages. And the paneling wasn't your standard 6 rectangles across each page or something - the layout was nicely creative at times and made good use of the space.

Overall, Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady is a lovely book and more importantly a great story. Having finally read the book just makes me regret not having seen the original play even more but that should not take away from your own experience with the comic. Thus the book rates a full 5 surprise revelations between Mely and Viva out of a possible 5.

PS
I just realized that the very title of the book could be seen as a play on words when you think about how to translate it into English. The Filipino language is brilliant in moments like these.


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