Lifestyle Features

Happiness is a Funny Animal

Rick Olivares - The Philippine Star

“Learn to laugh at your troubles and you'll never run out of things to laugh at.”

The late Walt Kelly wrote that in the pages of Pogo, that satirical comic strip of modern day living as told through the eyes of its anthropomorphic funny animal characters. And for as long as people have done comics, this art form has stayed with us in one form or another.

And the sons and daughters of Pogo, Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes are alive and well in the pages of Philippine comics today.

There’s Robert Magnuson’s Hero Kitten, Elbert Or’s Bakemono High and Carlo San Juan’s Callous Comics to name a few. It would be easy to dismiss funny animal strips as “kids’ stuff” or “whimsical” but Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart wrote in How to Read Donald Duck (published in 1971) that cartoon animals are “exempt from the vicissitudes of history and politics and are a convenient symbol of a world beyond socio-economic realities. And the animal characters can represent ordinary humans.”

However, not all comic strips like that present slices of life. Sometimes, they are what they are – merely children’s stories. Meant to entertain or even teach and communicate good values.

These stories make the local comic scene well rounded because superhero, horror, or romance fare isn’t for everyone.

Here’s a sampling of some of the good stuff out there.

Hero Kitten (OMF Literature/Hiyas)

Good Morning Dog’s world is rocked when Professor Flores brings home a wandering kitten from the rain-soaked streets of Marikina. Who said that man cannot have two best friends? It’s a story of friendship and youthful mischief. Did curiosity kill the cat? Nope, it just got Hero Kitten into more adventures.

What I look forward in Magnuson’s work is how – as of the cliffhanger ending to “A Sinking Feeling”, the free comic given away during Free Comic Book Day – is how this story could be moving into unchartered country with the scheming eyes of one kontrabida kat in the house next door. I don’t expect Magnuson to go into Ren and Stimpy country because that would greatly change the tone of Hero Kitten but I look forward to a little light-hearted villainy because that can teach a few more things to kids.

Bakemono High (K-Zone magazine)

Trese’s Budjette Tan would sign my comics with “You don’t have to be afraid of the dark.” And Elbert Or’s fun Bakemono High (“bakemono” is Japanese for monster) is the Peanuts of local fare. The strips follow the adventures of young monsters who get caught up in all sorts of school high jinks. There’s Max, the insecure and neurotic vampire, Chuck the werewolf, and Amy the Mummy.

The friends deal with school bullies, pets who steal the Show and Tell session, the perils of eating cafeteria food, pranksters, detention, and -- horrors -- young love.

Was high school ever this fun?

Or’s work is fun, highly imaginative, and puts back the groovy in the ghouly.

Callous Comics (www.callouscomics.com)

Carlo San Juan draws from his experiences as a medical doctor in telling the life and times of Rhianne Nicah, a struggling physician, and her guardian duck, Cal Duck. There are others in the cast but the two are the main characters. Has there been any more synergy between a human character and a funny animal since Eddie Valiant and Roger Rabbit?

This one is more in tune with the works of Walt Kelly and Charles M. Schulz as there are references to the modern world we live in from Rhianne’s lack of IT savviness to Cal’s witty remarks and views on life.

I love it for its lightness without being silly and because it isn’t sardonic. The day-to-day challenges, even as something as befuddling as Sudoku, find its way into the strip. Clearly, San Juan draws from his own experiences as a physician and I am sure there are quite a lot to tell.

If you enjoy Pogo, Peanuts or even Liberty Meadows, check out Callous Comics.

Sometimes, one need not read heavy stuff to find fulfillment or enjoyment. As Walt Kelly also once said in the panels of Pogo, “Don’t take life so serious. It’s ain’t nohow permanent.”

You can find these titles at Comic Odyssey, www.callouscomics.com, www.omflit.com and www.elbertor.com

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