Surreal realities in Manix Abrera’s News Hardcore

Text by: Kimmy Baraoidan
Comic strips courtesy of Manix Abrera

2016-03-29 10.03.03-2At dahil hindi natutulog ang balita, nakatutok kami beinte-kwatro oras (And because the news never sleeps, we are tuned in twenty-four hours),” goes the spiel of veteran news anchor Mike Enriquez of GMA Network–a mantra that everybody in the media would come to know as early as day one on the job.

Manix Abrera‘s latest work News Hardcore! Hukbong Sandatahan ng Kahaggardan! sheds light on the daily life of a mediaman. Normally behind the scenes, members of the media now take the spotlight in this 243-page compilation of strips from Manix’s weekly comics News Hardcore on GMA News Online.

Photojournalists have recently been on the hot seat when President Rodrigo Duterte, during his State of the Nation address, remarked on a photograph taken by award-winning photojournalist Raffy Lerma of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, which shows a gunned down suspected drug pusher being cradled by his partner–a scene eerily reminiscent of Michelangelo’s famous sculpture the Pietà. Duterte remarked that Lerma’s photo was overly dramatic, and netizens hastily concluded that the whole scene was probably staged—something that photojournalists, especially those who were on the scene, did not take lightly.

Not everyone understands the nature of a mediaman’s work—the difficulties, risks, and dangers that come with it; and the things that make this kind of work fulfilling, challenging, at times exhausting, and sometimes amusing. Whether from his observations or from stories told by friends in the media, Manix takes the struggles of the common ‘haggard’ mediaman and finds the hilarity in his everyday work situations. Manix brings the reader into the world of the media where coffee and cigarettes are considered staple food, where sleep is a luxury few people can afford, where sarcasm is part of everyday language, and where existential crises coexist with comforting camaraderie.

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collage1Manix’s signature humanoids populate the strips in the book. Their exaggerated facial expressions—and sometimes pointed teeth and bulging eyes—precisely depict how the haggard people of the media industry look and feel like when assignments are piling up, when deadlines are looming, when sources and interviewees are not cooperating, when bosses and coworkers are being a pain in the ass, and when one is on the verge of snapping and turning into a crazed homicidal psychopath.

If the pages are flipped quickly, a barrage of morbid scenes will jump out—office equipment being smashed into pieces, an angry mob on a rampage, stabbing with scissors, eyeball poking, bursting into flames, severed limbs and heads. Heck, even Satan makes several cameos. It’s like watching the music video for Slayer’s Repentless, where a riot breaks out in prison and the convicts start beating and stabbing each other to death while the band rocks out and the other convicts slam in a mosh pit. Manix’s portrayal of a mediaman’s state of haggardness might be closer to reality than we think.

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