04 June 2015


Option 31: The Filipino Heroes League, Book 1: Sticks and Stones by Paolo Fabregas
(Scroll down for the Rafflecopter and see the Giveaways page for more information)

"Good evening and welcome to the ADS-ZBN nightly news. I'm Ricky Tolentino. Now to our top news story.

"Our most beloved Filipino superhero, Bomb Boy, became an American citizen today. He celebrated by aiding his long-time partner, The Great American, in capturing the terrorist, The Blade of the Desert . . . A proud day indeed for Filipinos everywhere. In other news, an inferno raged along Nueve de Febrero. No one was injured. Now to the weather . . ."

"Putang ina! We saved 3,000 people in that fire and we don't even get mentioned on the evening news!"

I'd say that 2011 was a great year for superhero teams. Marvel had just assembled the last two major Avengers for the Brobdingnagian blockbuster that would finally put them all together as a team . . . the breathtaking X-men: First Class (Read my Twelve Things!) made superhero cinema beautiful . . . and Paolo Fabregas celebrated the national release of the first Filipino Heroes League graphic novel. The latter probably won't be a movie any time soon, but hey, even the Marvel Cinematic Universe wasn't built in a day!

Let's play "Spot the Filipino"
(which these days is practically the national pastime)

Does it seem strange that the most celebrated Filipino superhero of his generation would prefer to be an American superhero's glorified utility belt item sidekick? Well, think about this way: when you had your own daydreams of being a superhero (What's your power? My first choice is always flight!), which city did you imagine yourself battling a supervillain in? I'm going to bet that it wasn't in some Third World country.

Indeed, Bomb Boy is only one of eleven "Overseas Filipino Heroes" (The satire is doing me in . . .) who are making better money, and getting more respect, in countries much wealthier than their native land. And perhaps the remaining three "supers" in the demoralised Filipino Heroes League would jump ship, too, if given the chance. Where did patriotism ever get a Filipino? =P

Well, grizzled founding member Flashlight, slightly overweight Invisiboy, and class clown Kidlat Kid are holding on, in the hope that their patriotism will get the rest of the country somewhere. But it's one thing to do your best as the most undermanned and underfunded branch of law enforcement, and quite another to deal with no less than the national police chief framing you for the murders of the president's most public critics. Yet it isn't until they go underground that they learn they are not the only ones who have been hiding behind secret identities all these years . . .

As a satire of the Philippines, The Filipino Heroes League is fantastic, with insightful twists on everything from the Department of Education to the Payatas slum. As a superhero story, it relies greatly on the usual cliches and then on Filipino flavour to make them seem fresh. A combination that sometimes works wonderfully, as in the celebrated scene in which Invisiboy and Kidlat Kid, whose superhero vehicle has broken down, catch up to a van of bank robbers in a pedicab.

Now you know why Bomb Boy wanted out =P
Not to mention Inferno . . . Zapper . . . Crush . . .

There's a sense in which our heroes are better off with the pedicab than in anything with an engine, because The Kidlat Kid's power of super speed means he's faster than any car . . . but like saying that poor children are better off learning street smarts than whatever passes for education in public schools, this is just the bright side of a depressing situation. Worth the proverbial thousand words, this panel deserved its "Best Scene" win at our local Komikon.

We get a similar balance of old and original in the plot and the characters: while the story is something even the most lightweight SF fan would have read (or watched) before, the league members are quirky enough to make the whole package feel new. (I still haven't decided which of my two favourites will be featured in the next Character Connection, which is supposed to go up tomorrow!) But in fairness to Fabregas, the superhero genre has some very strict conventions--and a comic book writer/artist is judged by how well he puts his own spin on them. Fabregas's spin is fresh, fun, and yes, very Filipino.

You should choose this book in the giveaway if . . . you need some cool new comic book characters to cosplay as.

By the way, since this first installment ends on a cliffhanger, I will send the second book along as well if the winner chooses this for his prize. =)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Image Source: The Philippine Heroes League, Book 1: Sticks and Stones by Paolo Fabregas


Banshee said...

I used to be part of a semi-pro (ie, we sold it and all the settings and heroes were original) superhero shared-world story magazine.

The series originators set it in my hometown (Dayton, Ohio), for various logistical advantages that their hometown didn't have, but it was actually a smaller town in my state than the places most of the other participants were from (Columbus, Cleveland, and Toledo). We sent our heroes on various adventures throughout the world, but a lot of the fun was not setting things in New York or LA.

I think hometown superhero tales are pretty common, really, although you start to feel guilty a lot quicker about destroying landmarks.

Enbrethiliel said...


A friend of mine who grew up in St. Louis, Missouri was tickled when I told him that its famous arch makes an appearance in the first Percy Jackson novel. He was especially pleased that Rick Riordan got certain details right.

There is a scene in Sticks and Stones in which a famous national memorial is damaged during a fight. It's not a very impressive monument, so it's not there for spectacle, but for symbolism--and the full impact of the latter takes a while to be felt. I think it's Fabregas's second best scene.