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Comics: Good Things Come to Those Who Wait; Paolo Fabregas Concludes The Filipino Heroes League with Supreme Power

The long wait is finally over. For six years, fans of the local comic known as The Filipino Heroes League have been waiting (sometimes impatiently) for the third and final volume to come out. Writer/artist Paolo Fabregas released Book One: Sticks and Stones in 2009 while Book Two: The Sword came out in 2013. Many things have happened in those six years yet over the weekend, at the 2019 Manila International Book Fair, there was Book Three: Supreme Power in all its glory, selling out copies left and right.

“Book Three took a long time to develop because of the art,” Paolo shares in an adobo exclusive. “I wanted to do the best that I could. I took some art lessons and tried my best to try to implement them in the comic. Then I finished the comic and I looked back at Chapter 1 which I had drawn so many years ago and I saw that it needed to be improved. I started a grand redrawing project which was cut short because Visprint (the publisher of FHL) was closing down. In the end, I decided to live with some frames and just improve some real stinkers here and there. So, in fact, if Visprint wasn’t closing you would probably have needed to wait even longer!”


When last we saw the Filipino Heroes League, Invisiboy, Kidlat Kid, Flashlight, Bhoy, and Kumander, the team had kidnapped President Reyes from Malacanang in hopes of clearing their name. Unfortunately, a long-term plan to take over Congress through the multiplying villain 101 and his cohorts, The Whisper and Vector, had been implemented and Bishop Juan Luis Garcia Borromeo had been sworn in as president. One of the FHL’s own members, Invisiboy’s brother Inigo a.k.a. Slick had betrayed them for a monetary reward and Borromeo was revealed as the long-thought dead villain The Touch, the ages old nemesis of the legendary hero Supremo. Supremo himself has been in a coma since his last battle with The Touch and things seem at their most dire for the FHL.

Asked if his plans for the conclusion of The Filipino Heroes League changed from the release of Book One to the eventual release of Book Three, Paolo bares that, “The major plot points of all three books were written already 10 years ago. So, I’ve been sitting on that final chapter for a long time. There were however some structural difficulties in the first two chapters that needed to be addressed as well as some glaring plot holes (It’s really tough writing a powerful mindreader in a group). But beyond that, Book Three has remained relatively unchanged.”

Addressing the six-year gap between Books Two and Three and the changes in the world over that period of time, Paolo, an Executive Creative Director at Publicis Manila by day, notes that he was largely unaffected by global events in crafting this conclusion. “With all the changes that happened between 2013 and 2019, I was afraid that my story wouldn’t be relevant anymore,” he says. “But what could I do? I had two books on the shelf and I couldn’t change the story significantly without compromising the ending. I decided to muster through. In a sad but nice way, I started seeing that perhaps FHL will always be relevant.” 

In Sticks and Stones and The Sword, it’s pretty clear that some of the characters were based off popular celebrities from ten years ago. These included Boy Abunda as the model for showbiz TV host “Manny Abad” and Marian Rivera as model for both “Charmaine Riviera” and “Maria Constantino.” For Supreme Power, Paolo honestly shares that, “The character modeling changed because in the first two books I didn’t really even know what character modeling was. Even if Boy Abunda isn’t as popular anymore, I still wanted to use him because I think he’s still synonymous with showbiz tsismis. For Charmaine, it became less important what she looked like and more about the power she yielded as a superstar in the Philippines. I just needed to find a face that was charming enough but also something that I could draw with relative consistency.”

 As for his art style, Paolo admits that he is his own worst critic. “I wanted the art of Book Three to be a significant improvement from the first two books. I can’t open book one and two without cringing. Ugh. But what can I do? In hindsight, I should’ve asked a more polished hand to render these pages, but it is what it is. The art of Book Three changed because I started taking art lessons. I finally started learning how to draw a face, started learning about anatomy, started really learning about visual storytelling, and I tried my best to put that all in Book Three.” 

When one reads The Filipino Heroes League Book Three: Supreme Power, it’s very hard to put it down. The third chapter in particular goes at a breakneck pace, with big action manifested in splash pages and double page spreads to really emphasize the large scale of Paolo’s intended action. “In my head, Book Three was the last time I was ever going to work on these characters so I wanted them to have the biggest ending I could possibly give them,” he relates. “I wanted it to end like the sarswela Walang Sugat. I watched it almost 20 years ago. The final scene of the play was glorious! The sets changed rapidly, pieces of it were being ripped off, gun fire, a huge Philippine flag waving. I was overwhelmed by it. I wanted that for the end of FHL.”

One of the first things you’ll notice about this third book is that it is very thick. So thick, in fact, that it is thicker than the first two books combined. Supreme Power was first supposed to be only slightly thicker than the previous books but as I started writing the last chapter, I felt that the frames were getting too small for the moment,” Paolo opines. “I needed to go big. The last chapter has so many double page spreads that are mostly silent. Of course, in my head, there’s music and sound effects. I tried my best to convey that drama through the art. Chapter three is almost half the book!” 

Even as he seemingly threw everything but the kitchen sink into the ending of Supreme Power, the audience will likely feel exhausted by the time they reach the last page. Themes Paolo raised in 2009 like Filipino heroes working overseas as sidekicks to American superheroes are revisited as well as Paolo’s own take on the era before the People Power Revolution of 1986. At the core of The Filipino Heroes League though are friends Invisiboy and Kidlat Kid. One is an insecure, slightly overweight guy with a heart of gold while the other often talks too much but would do anything for his family and friends. These three volumes tell their story of trying to be heroic in an age when it isn’t necessarily viewed in high esteem but also in a society that really needs that same heroism.

“For me, FHL is done,” Paolo concludes. “I have no intention of doing a sequel or a prequel. Perhaps if it ever gets turned into a live action series, I’ll think about these characters again but not until then. I want to do something small next time. Or perhaps write a novel. I’m not actually sure. Because of my art lessons I’ve started getting obsessed with painting. We’ll see. I know that I love telling stories. I’ve got some ideas floating in my head, but nothing fully crystallized yet. I can only hope that another idea drops into my head.” 

We can only hope that any of those other ideas reaches the heights that The Filipino Heroes League has reached.

Photography by Mohd Sarajan

Partner with adobo Magazine

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