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The adventures of Manix Abrera and ‘Ang Mahiwagang Dwende’

When Manix Abrera was 6 years old, he saw a dwende (magical dwarf).

This is a story he likes retelling. The Abreras’ long-time kasambahay May was leaving their Antipolo home for good when she told Manix she wanted to introduce him to a friend. After she ushering him into her room, May asked Manix to look at the window. Manix was stunned to find a little person the size of a thumb, sitting there smiling back at him. The dwende then talked to him, asking him his name, asking the things you would ask a child. Manix didn’t say a word. Then the dwende said goodbye, adding Manix would not see him again as the dwende’s friend May was leaving.

Manix, of course, told his parents, artist Jess and historian Bernadette, but they didn’t believe him. But Manix is adamant it really happened, adding that’s why the character known as Ang Mahiwagang Duwende first appeared in the by-then long-running Kikomachine Komix! strip in March, 2008, making it one of the very few characters in the Kiko-Verse to have an actual name. “Pinapakita nito na sa Kiko-Verse ay may dimension palagi para sa mga supernatural characters and stories,” Manix says in that trademark Manix way of talking. “Super naniniwala akong marami pa ring unexplained mysteries, and supernatural stuff sa mundo! Bukod sa dwende experience, ang iba pang memorable weird experiences ko ay yung high school classmate namin noon na sinapian ng spirit habang nasa retreat kami! Nakakatakot!Ang isa pang memorable din ay yung nakakita kami ng UFO ng tatay ko, kahit walang naniniwala, nakakita talaga kami.” The former experience is the basis of a story in the 2021 “Li’l Bertong Badtrip” book while the latter is recalled in the About the Author page of 2012’s “Kikomachine Komix Blg.8.”

Ang Mahiwagang Dwende is, as his name suggests, partly based on the creature from Filipino lower mythology with wish-granting powers. In the Kiko-Verse (yes, we’re sticking with it), the Dwende appears to chosen individuals and grants them wishes, but it always becomes a case of “Be careful what you wish for” because the Dwende is a very literal creature. Manix says his portrayal of the Dwende has changed a lot over time. “Bukod sa look ng dwende, nagbago rin kung paano siya mag-isip philosophically. Mas nagiging wild na habang tumatagal. Ang fave part ko is ang pag-iimagine kung gaano ka-twisted si Mahiwagang D sa pag-grant ng wish!” You can witness just how wild and twisted by reading Manix’s newest self-published book, “Ang Mahiwagang Dwende,” which collects the namesake character’s shenanigans from the strip. Manix first thought of collecting Mahiwagang D’s strips after putting out the first two books dedicated to appearances of two other named Kikomachine Komix characters, “Bertong Badtrip” (2019) and “The Terror Prof” (2022). “Ang Mahiwagang Duwende,” boasting a strikingly glossy blue and gold cover (with Mahiwagang D in the center) has a much smaller size than Manixs other books–6 inches by 4 inches–by design. “Planned talaga na small ang size ng book para sa small Dwende,” he says. Up next for a solo title is the other remaining named character: Alpha Omega. “May pinaplano akong something weird para sa book niya, na bagay sa character niya.” The Terror Prof will be getting her second volume as well.

Fans of Kikomachine Machine will get their regular fix as “Kikomachine Komix Blg.18” will be released this September. “Super excited ako kasi may Kikokomix-style weirdness ito para sa covers–yes, plural!” Yes, he uses the word “super” a lot–and we love it.

Beyond the pages, Manix has been wearing his art on his sleeve–as have many others, thanks to his popular collab with Linya-Linya. “The Art of Tunganga” is the Linya-Linya x Manix Abrera T-shirt, and it sold out almost immediately (it’s since been restocked, whew). The phrase itself was coined by host Ali Sangalang during Manix’s appearance on the Linya-Linya podcast. “Naging topic namin ang tungkol sa pagtunganga, kasi sabi ko important ito sa pag-iimagine,” he says.

Manix has been kept busy and also enjoying doing superhero art commissions in his very distinctive style ever since he was invited by Jiggy Cruz to be part of NextComicArt. He got to return to painting, and he has enjoyed Marvel’s X-Men and DC’s Batman since grade school. Doing about seven commissions a month, Manix has discovered “perfect ang combination” of his art style and superheroes. “Masaya din kasi super daming art collectors dito and around the world na nakikilala namin.”

The biggest and most unexpected honor of his life is being named one of The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) in 2022 for Literature, Culture and the Arts: “Super masaya ako and grateful na nabigyan ako ng TOYM award. Ito yung pinaka-kakaiba and hardcore na award na natanggap ko! Nakakatouch at nakakaiyak na marecognize ang nako-contribute ng paggawa ko ng stories, komix, at pagbigay ng workshops mula pa noon. Tapos nakita ko rin na ang tagal ko na palang nagkokomiks.Isa sa mga goal ko ay maka-inspire ng marami sana na magkwento at magsulat, at gumawa ng komiks din; at makita parati na napakaraming magaganda at maliliit na stories sa paligid.”

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After that, he got to take some downtime by travelling around Europe with girlfriend Meh Antonio, Meh’s eldest daughter Sophie and Ulan, Manix and Meh’s daughter, visiting Amsterdam, Belgium, Paris, Switzerland, Milan and Germany. His favorite destination was Interlaken, Switzerland: “Super relaxed ang vibe and ang sarap mag-drawing habang nakatingin sa lake at mountains.”

But he never forgets about “Kikomachine.” In fact, his European trip was chronicled in recent strips. The characters of “Kikomachine,” who first appeared as college students in absurd and relatable situations, have grown up, just as Manix has, and they now have jobs, and go on family vacations to Europe. “Natural development ito. Habang nagsusulat ako ng strips, nakikita ko lang din kung papaano naggo-grow ang characters.” And “Kikomachine” is part of his magical life. “Lagi kong hinahanap ang pag-create mismo ng stories sa ‘Kikomachine Komix,’ at iba pa. Ang pinaka-lesson ko talaga dito ay yung tinuro sa akin ng tatay ko, mahalin mo ang art mo and tuloy-tuloy lang sa paggawa; and isipin lagi kung ano ang gusto mong sabihin. Sa tingin ko, ang magandang makuha ng readers ay napakahiwaga ng life, ang saya-saya to be always amazed.

“Ang Mahiwagang Dwende” is available at a book festival and comics convention near you. It will be available at the Kikomachine Komix online shop and Shopee, as well as bookstores nationwide.

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