Man And Mutants Rejoice! This Filipino Made A Toy Recreation Of The X-Men Yearbook—And It’s Awesome

X marks the spot.

This self-professed Filipino comic book and toy geek embarks on a passion project to re-introduce X-Men characters to the social media generation.

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Profound and deeply complex, there is certainly a lot to pull from the incredibly diverse and full of depth narrative of the X-Men. Sure, there is lots of action and tension to keep one engaged and emotionally invested until the next page of panels in the comic books or next episode in the 90s animated series, but from its rubble of destruction comes a highly insightful commentary into the greater world we live in beyond the realm of make believe. Inclusion, acceptance, and courage are constantly woven into the dialogue that goes in and out of realities, further driving the point that even in the most advanced of human evolution, there is no great difference or divide between man and mutant.

From the very beginning of all its adventures, Professor Charles Xavier was always about the next step—starting from an earnest indoctrination of gifted teenagers to protect and educate as part of a pursuit of harmony between human and mutants. Much like the challenges they have had to face in the X-Men canon, there is no singular introduction to the uncanny world of superheroes and marvelous mix of merry mutants. There are the willing and open-minded, there are the resistant, and naturally, there are those lost and confused.

In the same parallel beyond fantastic fiction, there are the more traditional gateways through the library of literature that are comic books and graphic novels, but access points such as animated series, television shows, films, video games, and toys shouldn’t be disregarded at all. In a world where access to information is quite literally everywhere, there should no gatekeeping of what is presumably right or wrong. The point is, at least more people are being taken into this co-existence that Professor X has long dreamt of, finding their path towards a story that they most resonate with, and most importantly, understanding who they are themselves.

Take Gabriel Yap (@_gagabobo), for example. A licensed architect and self-professed geek who has done everything from collecting, cosplaying, and consuming all things X-Men, it was only fairly recently until he has taken a next step in his commitment to the series. Over the long holiday break, he embarked on a creative passion project, which was a direct offshoot of photos he was already publishing on Instagram and his brother’s extensive library of X-Men comics. “I initially planned on just printing an X-Men Alphabet as a Christmas present for my young niece—a compilation of Instagram photos I shot from September to October 2020. Once I found a suitable printer for that X-Men Alphabet, I started thinking of other themes I could compile in book form,” he details. “I remember reading an official Xavier Institute Alumni Yearbook from 1996 that gave me my first history lesson in all the X-Men’s real names and team rosters (there was no Wikipedia yet at the time!)”

From posting his X-Men history series on social media, Gabriel Yap widened the parameters of his recreations and worked towards recreating an updated version of the aforementioned Alumni Yearbook using his toy photography instead. “It was all just a matter of laying them out to look like a real school yearbook. I was able to complete 20 team photos for Instagram—covering team rosters from the X-Men’s debut in 1963 all the way to 2013. 20 pages seemed too short for a yearbook, so I took solo photos of 64 characters that officially joined the X-Men and other affiliated teams to complete the yearbook vibe of the project,” he says. “Unlike most toy collectors, I don’t display my action figures on my shelves because I play with them and take photos of them all the time. Removing them for photos and rearranging them would take up all of my time if I did display them. My Instagram is really my digital toy display, and this X-Men Yearbook project was a way for me to have a compact yet aesthetic inventory of my collection. It was also a way of keeping me busy with a creative project during the long holiday break, so my mind could keep its momentum once work started again.”

Just like the memories tucked within the yellowed pages of yearbooks from our time in high school, this re-imagination of the Xavier Institute Alumni Yearbook is a true feast for the eyes with all its details and dedication. Now, wherever one figures in the spectrum of appreciation and obsession, this dream come true of a passion project is definitely one to marvel at.

NYLON Manila: What got you into the toy collecting, assembling, and photography?

Gabriel Yap: I got into toy collecting as an adult in 2014 during my first job after college. I was in charge of organizing a Halloween party for my department, and I bought some Lego superhero mini figures as prizes for the young trick-or-treaters. Most of the prizes were ignored by the kids who were more interested in candy, so after the party, I decided to just keep the figures for myself. Taking photos of the toys at my desk was very therapeutic and stress relieving, so I started posting toy photos on Instagram.

As I progressed in my professional career, and my purchasing power grew, I was able to expand my collection from Lego mini figures to Funko Pops, and eventually to action figures like the Marvel Universe 3.75” line and the Marvel Legends 6” line. I used my personal Marvel Legends collection for the Yearbook & Alphabet projects, along with several custom figures made by my talented brother Paolo Yap (@teamyap_toys).

NYLON Manila: As a fan of the X-Men series, why was it important for you to realize this passion project in the way you did?

Gabriel Yap: I really value accuracy when I do my toy photos. I often post kilometric captions on Instagram with every toy photo, because I enjoy sharing geeky trivia with my followers. (One of my biggest pet peeves is when collectors pose characters from different eras together, or when collectors pose characters who weren’t in the same team together.)

Prior to starting this project, I really did my research to maintain comic accuracy as much as I could with the options I had in my collection. I even made a spreadsheet to ensure that I was able to arrange my photos in the correct chronological order. It was important for me to honor over fifty years of comic canon because I really am such a huge fan of the X-Men franchise.

NYLON Manila: How has the response been so far? Was it anything you anticipated at all?

Gabriel Yap: I shared my X-Men Alphabet and X-Men Yearbook projects on Instagram and local collector Facebook groups, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive! I got so many messages from collector friends and online acquaintances asking if they could get a copy of this for themselves. I’ve even been getting requests for orders from other countries, even though I never said I was selling them. I was able to print several more copies for my collector friends because sharing is caring.

I guess in a way, I inadvertently made a collector’s guidebook on which X-Men have been released in Marvel Legends form, and which comic-accurate teams could be formed using those releases. That was something I did not expect to achieve, but it was very validating that a project I really just made for myself was received so well by the geek community.

NYLON Manila: What is it about the X-Men that is so special to you and why should the younger fans get into its canon?

Gabriel Yap: The X-Men are my favorite superheroes because they represent minorities who have been hated and persecuted for simply existing. And yet despite that harsh treatment from the world, they choose to fight for their rights while protecting a world that hates and fears them. The X-Men welcomed diversity, and that diversity is what makes them strong. Many X-characters have been shunned by society but established strong family ties with their chosen community. Plus, it was through the X-Men that I was exposed to so many strong female and LGBTQ+ superheroes!

That was something that really resonated with me growing up weird, gay, and misunderstood. Cliché as it may sound, the X-Men comics have taught me how to embrace what made me different, and use that power to enact positive change upon the world—something I try to keep in mind every day.

The X-Men comics have around sixty years of comic book canon and history, so it’s very daunting for new readers to dive into it. Most people are more familiar with the heavily diluted X-Men movies, but I wish more people would explore the richer and more vibrant themes of the comics. I hope this personal project of mine would help generate interest especially with the younger generation because so many stories could apply to the real-life political climate we have in the world right now.

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