Sunday, January 7, 2007


January 7, 2007
How is this for weird? I woke up from a mind-blasting nightmare at 6:45AM, and, choosing not to pick up where THAT story had let me off, I jumped out of bed. Downstairs I switched on the Internet, while the coffee was dripping into a carafe. I know what day it was, (March 1, 2006), because I've checked my journal. I always start with three news sites before I surf; I just don't recall the keyword or phrase I Googled that morning. This is what came up on my screen.

The posters were promoting a comic book, structured around an idea which was both creative and original. While the developed world was obsessing over a possible bird flu pandemic, something much more sinister was happening. Chicken DNA was mutating, and the new generation had a leader, Gallus Rex. ELMER! Intelligent chickens were organizing and would be demanding their rightful place among the human population. Well there I sat pondering the cleverness of it all. I enjoyed Gerry's sample "teaser" pages of the comic, noting of course that the character had just woken from his own nightmare and had also sought some form of distraction.

I immediately fired off an email to Gerry Alanguilan, the comics' creator. I wanted to congratulate him on highly original story and his great artwork. (Keep in mind that in addition to writing and drawing the comic, Gerry was innovating the promotional campaign.) He created a webpage and these clever posters which enhanced the concept, exposing the first reveal on a great story that was just beginning to be understood. From Gerry I learned that ELMER No.1 had not yet appeared, and in fact he was still two months away from publication. (It launched on April 1, 2006). This is how Gerry sets up his Gallus Rex story:

"ELMER is a window into an alternate Earth where chickens have suddenly acquired the intelligence and consciousness of humans, where they consider themselves a race no different than whites, browns or blacks, and push to recognize rights for themselves as the newest members of the human race. It tells the story of a family of chickens who live and struggle to survive in a suddenly complicated, dangerous and yet beautiful world."

Gerry was self publishing, but quipped that he hoped to "con" an American publisher into picking up the magazine. I knew he was joking, because he is actually established at the centre of the comics industry in the Philippines.
Gerry, I learned, has been Blogging since 1998 and his home is a hangout for some of the best comics artists in the country. Last year he registered Komikero Publishing to protect his large body of work, and to support new projects, including the ELMER graphic novel . Alanguilan is held in very high regard, has a thriving business, and is known for his generosity in assisting younger artists to get started in the comics industry. I did offer, in March, to assist with promotion in the Vancouver area, if I could be of help. But he really didn't need much help because ELMER became an instant success. In the comics trade media ELMER received excellent reviews in 2006, and as a character Elmer is a "made" cock. On December 19, 2006 PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, bible of the American publishing industry, released the results of its "First Annual" Comics Week Critics poll. ELMER No. 1 made the Honorable Mention list. Bravo!

ELMER No. 2 has already appeared and the character has legs. Gerry sent an email today in which he relates that he's still writing No. 3, which should appear in the Spring. He also mentioned the disruption to local telecommunications caused when an earthquake off the southern tip of Taiwan severed a vital undersea cable. [A note to fellow Neal Stephenson fans. Search out WIRED, December 1996, for Neal's cover article entitled "MOTHER EARTH MOTHER BOARD". It's his epic tale of the world submarine cable system.]

I first became interested in the Philippine comics community back in 1993, when I corresponded for a time with a talented artist in Manila. Those were, for most of us, the pre-Internet days. Information was hard to come by. Now almost all the Philippine artists are found on one mega-site called which was the brainchild of Gerry Alanguilan, who volunteers as the web master. There is no hotlink to the ELMER page, so if you want to buy copies for your collection you must enter the Komikero museum and navigate your way to the online shop. It is a fascinating place, I promise. If you are too impatient for that, drop to the bottom of the greeting page and click on Gerry's name. You can jump directly to his ELMER page. Enjoy!