While artwork from local komiks legends such as Mars Ravelo and National Artist Francisco Coching are admired in the country, there is little local attention being given to a Filipina cartoonist who is making big waves all around the world.
From critical acclaim and major showcases, to features in prominent comics conventions and anthologies, November Garcia’s wild ride to international notice began in earnest just a few years ago, yet it is something that she’s been working towards her entire life.
Born and raised in the Philippines, Garcia always drew and created comics for fun. However, it wasn’t until she moved to San Francisco in her early 20s to attend art school that she discovered indie and underground comics.
“Reading Peter Bagge, R. Crumb and Jim Woodring is what made me want to seriously make comics,” she related. “I tried to avoid doing any real writing because I wasn’t confident in my abilities. Meanwhile, my professors would encourage me to enter pieces into the school’s art shows even though I never got in. I guess they always loved my funny ideas and weirdo characters but my art was lacking in execution.”
Returning home to the Philippines in 2014, she continued to make comics, persistently and diligently focusing on improving her craft, often just posting her work online to little notice. Then, in a combination of sheer luck and fortuitous timing, Matt Moses of Hic and Hoc Publications happened upon her blog and offered to publish her first comic.
In 2017, Foggy Notions was released and globally distributed. It soon garnered near-universal critical acclaim around the world. It has also been featured in The Comics Journal, Broken Frontier, High-Low, Just Indie Comics and more.
Foggy Notions is a collection of autobiographical shorts that details November’s episodic misadventures during the many years that she spent living in San Francisco.
Garcia’s figure drawing is simple and efficient, but that aesthetic is also homage to her roots in the underground, indie comics of her predecessors. Whereas her style is nothing like the ultra-rendered superheroes people sometimes associate with the words “comic books”, hers is based on the influence of Peter Bagge, Gabrielle Bell, John Porcellino and Lynda Barry on her, with storytelling increasingly becoming a focal point in her craft. It is the conscious and complete antithesis of flashy superheroes. From the subtleties of real life, alcoholism and the mundane come moments of great humor and the occasional difficult times.
Her serial comic, Malarkey (which captures funny events from her daily life, random (mis)adventures and oddly hilarious conversations with her mother), has also generated its fair share of critical praise.
Malarkey #1 made the list of “The Best Short-Form Comics of 2016” in The Comics Journal. Malarkey #2 was listed in the “Top Ten Single Issues of 2017” by the Daily Grindhouse.
This year, Garcia is the recipient of Short Run Seattle’s Dash Grant and will be featured as a special guest at the Short Run Seattle festival, where she will be premiering Malarkey #3. Its original cover art will be featured at the Fantagraphics Bookstore and Gallery show.
This year, she was approached to contribute a comic to the Illustrated PEN, a prestigious American literary publication. It will feature her comic about growing up Catholic in the Philippines, this November (the month, not the person). She will also be part of the Sweaty Palms 2 anthology coming out next year (which will feature a fellow Filipino cartoonist).
Garcia exhibits and sells her comics at various alternative comics shows. Most recently, she exhibited at the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo in 2017, debuting two more critically acclaimed ‘zines (Rookie Moves and More Diary Comics from a Relative Nobody), Small Press Expo in Maryland and locally at Komikon (the biggest and longest running Filipino comics convention) for the past three years.
She is thrilled to debut Malarkey #3 at this year’s Short Run Seattle on 3 November and at Komikon from 17 to 18 November.
Now that she’s back in her home country, Garcia is able to cut back on her graphic design work in order to dedicate more time to her comics. Her books are distributed locally through distributors and bookstore such as the Studio Soup Zine Library, Mount Cloud Bookstore, Buku Buku Café and Comics Odyssey. They are also available abroad through the famed Spit and a Half distributor in the United States, and the Hopeless Sapling distributor in the United Kingdom. It’s hard to tell what the future holds, but for now, Garcia promises to keep making better comics and working a lot harder each and every day. “It’s a blessing and a curse,” she said, “but I’ll probably do comics until the day I die.”
You can find her at novembergarcia.com and on social media as @novembergarcia.