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Requiem for a Komikero

Comic industry icon Gerry Alanguilan has passed away, but his work and his memory remain.

Christmas in the Filipino comics community just became colder with the passing of one of its modern day pillars. At approximately 3:00 am on December 21, 2019, as some were tucked in bed, some were about to fall asleep, and others prepared to attend Simbang Gabi, news broke that Gerry Alanguilan had passed away. The news spread like wildfire in the small but tight-knit comics fandom, and tributes immediately began pouring out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the beloved artist.

Yet to limit Gerry as just “an artist” would be to show just one aspect of the man. He was a penciler, inker, writer, creator, humorist, meme creator, komiks conservationist, curator, husband, mentor, father figure, and friend to so many that his loss leaves a gaping hole in the people he affected. 

Alanguilan’s Instagram account is where fans thank him for his kindness during comic conventions.

A lifelong resident of San Pablo, Laguna, Doroteo Gerardo Alanguilan, Jr. studied to become an architect, but the pull of comic books was too strong that he would eventually become what his social media accounts always identified him as: komikero. From giving his own take on American superhero comics, Gerry would write and illustrate Wasted from 1994 to 1996—a story about a musician named Eric who goes on a profanity-filled rampage in a city after losing his father and girlfriend. This became the vehicle that launched Gerry’s career as an independent comics creator with other titles such as Johnny Balbona, Elmer, Timawa, and Where Bold Stars go to Die emanating from his mind and pencils. 

As a fan of American comics, Gerry would go on to provide inks to fellow Filipinos Whilce Portacio and Leinil Yu over the next 25 years on titles such as Superman: Birthright, Wetworks, High Roads, Secret Invasion, Captain America, Superior, Super Crooks, and Wolverine. When Marvel Comics recently relaunched the X-Men title, Leinil Yu was tapped as penciller with Alanguilan as inker even as the book was lined up to be the publisher’s main title.

Beyond his work on these comics however, Gerry was a fan, and that led him to put up the Komikero Komiks Museum in San Pablo in August 2016. Inside are panels of art as well as individual issues and collections of Filipino masters from the golden age of Filipino komiks until today. The goal of the museum is to inform and educate aspiring comic book artists or mere fans of the medium on the long and colorful history of Philippine comics. 

As a Filipino whose works were being shown to millions worldwide, Gerry felt a responsibility to tell people that generations of Filipinos before him had paved the way for his entry into that world. Names such as Nestor Redondo, Francisco V. Coching, Alex Nino, and many more were not resonating with younger generations, so Gerry wanted to rectify that with his humble contribution of a physical structure to house their work. With the support of his wife Ilyn, Gerry always welcomed visitors who made the trip to Laguna and never hesitated to regale them with stories of those older masters.

But make no mistake, Gerry himself had become one of those masters. A respected voice in local comic circles, he could be scathing and blunt when commenting on social media, though always honest and constantly offering positive encouragement to youngsters who were venturing into the comics world. A quick look at social media postings hours after the news of his passing saw some industry names—Mico Suayan, Miguel Mercado, Rian Gonzales, Rafael Kayanan, Carlo Pagulayan, Stephen Segovia—sharing stories about how simple words of encouragement from Gerry gave them the strength and desire to stay focused on their own work in comics. 

Marvel Comics editor-in-chief, C.B. Cebulski, on Gerry Alanguilan’s passing.

I first became aware of Gerry’s name as an inker on Superman: Birthright. When I finally started attending local signing events, I asked him to sign my individual issues, and as always, he gamely did so. When I first became a fan of the British sci-fi show Doctor Who and attended a 50th anniversary party for the series, there was Gerry, the lone “celebrity” who proudly showed off his fandom. His other level of internet fame, as the “Hey baby” guy with that naughty smile, only made Gerry an even bigger icon, and he clearly deserved that fame. I would eventually purchase his books such as Elmer, Wasted, and his collaboration with Arnold Arre, Rodski Patotski: Ang Dalagang Baby.

In 2013, the first time I attended the annual November Komikon, I sent in a hastily shot video to audition for “the Voice of Komikon.” It was a bid to help out the community, doing some voice-over work and moderating a few panels. To my surprise, when I shared the video, Gerry gave me a ringing endorsement. 

Since then, I’d see him at Komikon, Komiket, Asia Pop Comic-Con, and recently, the first SuperManila, and he’d always sign my comics.

Alanguilan (right), and the author.

The past few years, though, I’d noticed that Gerry wasn’t as strong as when I first met him. He’d often be wearing a surgical mask, using a cane to walk around, and would even apologize for not shaking hands because he was down with an ailment. Even when I saw him in a wheelchair during last month’s Komikon Grande, I still believed I’d see more of him in the years to come.

I join the many who—thanks to just a simple gesture, a note of encouragement, or a smile from Gerry Alanguilan—found strength, support, and a little swagger to go down the path they were walking. Beyond his work in comic pages, beyond his “Hey baby” fame, beyond his Komikero Komiks Museum, Gerry Alanguilan was a giant of a man with an immeasurable heart. Even as we give our support and prayers to his widow, Ilyn, we mourn the loss of our mentor, fellow geek, and friend. And while we may never again see him bring new pages to to life, his work, and his memory will never be forgotten.