In this day and age, the concept of a superhero has never been more popular or relevant. Rarely does a month go by without theater houses screening superhero movies, or different venues setting up for comic conventions featuring all sorts of superhero media, from video games to TV shows. Perhaps the secret behind the success of the modern-day superhero phenomenon lies in the fact that the stories and characters of heroes, riddled with hardships and flaws, resonate almost universally across different cultures and geographies; for just as struggles and trials are inseparable aspects of humanity, so too is the innate hope that within each and every person is the capacity to overcome such adversity, and to emerge triumphant despite setbacks, injustices, and unfortunate circumstances. More than any super power of strength or flight, it is fighting for this hope that defines the hero for all of us, within all of us.

It is with this belief that the Phi Kappa Mu Fraternity started to conceive a project, one that would pay tribute to the patients whose struggles with illness are witnessed and felt by our brothers every day in the clinics and wards, and translate their stories into a message of hope using a popular, colorful, and accessible medium beloved by many. With comic books being the widespread medium for conveying superhero stories, and with a number of our brothers being deeply passionate about the comic book culture, the choice for a medium came naturally. Hence, Project Hero was born.

Behind the Project

Project Hero began in late 2014, with the conceptualization of the Project’s superheroes and storylines. Many storyboards were drawn up, but it was decided that for its first year, the Project Hero comic book would be inspired by the pediatric patients of the Philippine General Hospital Cancer Institute. These children tend to get discouraged from continuing their treatment regimen, given that the usual recommended treatment for cancer, chemotherapy, has side-effects that are notoriously debilitating and toxic; the Fraternity believes that, through Project Hero, the comic books could inspire and empower them to continue treatment and stay strong in the face of the hardships they encounter along the way.

Through coordination with the director of the Philippine General Hospital, Dr. Jose C. Gonzales Φ1969A, and the chair of the Cancer Institute, Dr. Jorge G. Ignacio, these pediatric patients would become part of the project as its beneficiaries. Their stories would also become an integral part of the first superhero’s storyline, as conceptualized and written by a number of our brothers, namely: Dr. Christopher S. Constantino Φ2009, Dr. Mark Terence P. Mujer Φ2010, Lorenzo C. De Rivera Φ2012, and Jasper Paolo R. Viloria Φ2013.

With the script and characters set, there only remained for the first Project Hero story to be translated to images on paper. Visits to comic conventions and calls to comic book enthusiasts and various contacts in the print industry were done in the hope of seeking graphic artists who were willing to volunteer their time and talent, and contribute at least a page each to our superhero’s ten-page storyboard. Ultimately, eleven artists selflessly dedicated their efforts to bringing life to the pages of the first Project Hero comic book: the cover was done by Arnold Arre, and the story pages were illustrated by Jose Miguel Amante; Ernest Caritativo, M.D.; Paul Castro; Bong Dazo; Camille Estanislao; Kester Orbiso; Renan Ortiz; Ernie Patricio; Kevin Verona; and Andrew Villar. Inking and coloring was done afterward by Olana Marie Tan, and the layout of the lettering was done by Benjamin P. Rodriguez, Jr. Φ2014 and Manuel S. Vidal, Jr, Φ2014.

The completed comic book pages were then screened to ensure appropriate Filipino grammar and approved as suitable for children by Professor Anida S. Mustapha of Mindanao State University and Dr. Lorelei Elma Chua of the Adult and Child Psychiatry Unit of the University of the Philippines Manila, respectively. Only after then was it finally sent to the printers for production.

The Launch


Project Hero was formally launched on September 18, 2015 at the PGH Cancer Institute. The event featured the first Project Hero superhero, christened Sinag, in person, meeting the pediatric patients of the institute and joining them for an afternoon comic book drawing workshop facilitated by Vmeme Contemporary Art Gallery. The day also saw the distribution of 150 copies of the Sinag comic book, as well as the installation of a Project Hero tribute board at the Institute. The timing of the event launch could not have been more perfect, given that the month of September is recognized as International Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Future Pages

With the launch of the first comic book a resounding success, the next step for Project Hero entails the sale of the Sinag comic book in bookstores and various outlets, the proceeds of which will be donated for the benefit of the PGH Cancer Institute’s facilities and the Philippine Cancer Society. In addition, for every one comic book that is purchased, one copy is given to a pediatric patient at the Institute.

The production of the first Project Hero comic book would not have been possible without the indefatigable support and generosity of its many benefactors. With the Project readying to embark on a region-wide hospital tour within the year and aiming to produce one new and original comic book series every year, you too can be a part of this extraordinary venture. Join in the Project Hero vision of empowering patients to realize that just as each new page in a comic book brings more color to a superhero’s story, so can each new day bring light and hope into their own extraordinary stories.

 

 

Established in August 1933 by the UP College of Medicine's best medical students, the PHI KAPPA MU (Fraternity of the College of Medicine) continues to uphold its tested tradition of Excellence, Leadership, Service and Brotherhood in the College, University and in our country.

Through the Fraternity's ideals and pillars, her Loyal Sons continue to lead, innovate and excel in the practice of medicine worldwide and in preserving the honor and integrity of the medical profession.

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