MANILA -- Like the rest of the world, many young Filipinos grew up reading “Archie” digest, following the funny exploits of the redheaded teenager and his friends.
Filipino fans were delighted to learn on Sunday that “Archie” now has its first Philippine-exclusive cover -- one that shows the gang visiting Manila.
In the cover, shown to ABS-CBN News before the launch at SuperManila Pop Culture Convention, Archie is shown wearing a Manila jeepney shirt, while Betty and Veronica hold tall glasses of “halo-halo.” Also with them is Jughead in flip flops eating barbecue and isaw (chicken intenstines) and Reggie taking a selfie.
The five teenagers are posing in front of Rizal Park that is surrounded by Philippine flags.
The variant cover is for the first volume of Archie & Friends Travel, which is a compilation of comic strips showing the group in different parts of the world. Included in the volume is a story that involves Archie’s band going to Manila for a concert tour. This first came out in “Archie’s Funhouse Spring Annual” two years ago.
The illustrator behind the new cover is up-and-coming artist Miguel Mercado, who also drew the cover for the recently announced Amazing Spiderman #33.
In an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN News, Mercado talked about how SuperManila’s organizers -- Filbar’s and Comic Odyssey -- reached out to him for the commissioned artwork.
“I didn’t expect it at all,” he said.
OPM, HALO-HALO CRAVINGS
Mercado said the organizers sent him options for the cover, including a request to add a jeepney, which he eventually decided to turn into a shirt.
“I thought of doing something different from the usual designs so I thought maybe I could integrate the letters into the shapes somehow,” he said.
He also enjoyed working on Betty and Veronica’s halo-halo.
“That made me kind of hungry, as well,” Mercado said, chuckling. He ended up ordering halo-halo from a popular restaurant.
To get into the mood for the project, the 31-year-old illustrator listened to original Pilipino music (OPM) -- a lot of Eraserheads, Rivermaya, Itchyworms, Urbandub, and Ang Bandang Shirley -- “just stuff I grew up with.”
“I put that on full blast while making the artwork. And it just gave me a sense of how much I love this country and enjoy this country,” Mercado said.
“I am so happy seeing something from my childhood,” he added. “Me being a big fan of Archie as a kid and seeing them ‘coming here’ and drawing it just made me so happy.”
He said it’s something that he wants the fans to feel as well. “They see it and they be brought back to their childhood.”
SOCIAL MEDIA STAR
Mercado has been an illustrator since 2011. But it was only in 2016, that he started working on comic book covers.
“I make a lot of fan art. One day, the editor (of Boom Studios, which publishes Power Rangers) just saw my work that I posted on Twitter,” he said. “They contacted me asking me if I wanted to do work for them.”
Mercado admitted that it was just like any fanboy’s dream.
“You just start doing things for yourself, just drawing your favorite heroes and then those people take notice,” he said. “Even up to today when I get offers from different publishers to make covers, I never can get over that feeling of surrealness.”
Currently, Mercado has more than 17,000 followers each for his Twitter and his Instagram accounts.
“Sometimes when you’re lucky your work gets a lot of shares, retweets. When that happens, some of the editors are tagged. Some of them just find it on the trending list. If they like your work they’ll contact you,” he said.
Mercado said this is why young artists should keep posting their work on social media. “Posting on social media gets you that audience, gets you that reach that people in the '90s didn’t have.”
Mercado considers his latest Archie and Spiderman covers as his most memorable.
“For Archie because I’ve always read the book as a kid and for Spiderman it’s my very first Marvel cover, which I’ve always wanted to get,” he said.
Filbar’s president Jacob Cabochan said more and more Filipino artists are now being tapped to draw for international titles.
“Internationally, Filipinos are really known for being talented illustrators,” he said. “Publishers are also now seeing how the Philippine market has grown.”
Cabochan said this is why publishers like Archie Comics are keen on producing Philippine-exclusive covers.
Besides the new Archie variant cover, SuperManila is also showcasing the Philippine-exclusive covers of Wave for Aero.