Graphic Novel

In the Shadow of Giants

When Constance discovers an old photo of her grandmother as a teenager, she is blown away. It’s not just the shock of seeing that her lola was a badass resistance fighter in World War II. What really intrigues Constance is the mysterious handsome man standing beside her. Solving this mystery transports her back to life in the Philippines under the Japanese Occupation and reveals the lasting impact of the war and its aftermath on her family and many Filipino Americans today. Inspired by true events and the experiences of veterans and their descendants, In the Shadow of Giants is a historical fiction with real-world significance.

This 220-page graphic novel tells a compelling story spanning from World War II in the Philippines through to the United States in the present day. It provides a fantastic introduction to a lesser-known chapter of American History touching on themes of wartime service, civil rights, and congressional legislation. To support classroom learning, the book contains Reading Questions, Based on True Events references, and links to explore more on the Duty to Country website.

In the Shadow of Giants was published by FilVetREP as part of the Duty to Country Education project. An initial run of 1,000 printed copies has been distributed to schools and educators across the United States. It is available here as a webcomic for the general public and as a Adobe PDF download for educators and students.

If you are an educator interested in bulk printing orders of 100 or more for your school or district, email


Inspired by True Events

In the Shadow of Giants is a work of historical fiction born out of an interest in bringing a complex and layered history to life in a single visual, dramatic story. It is a history that has been overlooked in popular accounts of WWII, but that veterans and their families helped to keep alive. The events depicted, including the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines during WWII, and Filipino Veterans’ decades-long struggle for recognition and benefits, however, were very real.

In many cases, the actual history and wartime experiences of Filipino Veterans were even more astonishing than those depicted in the graphic novel. For example, Rudy Panaglima tells in his oral history how he spied on collaborators who threatened his guerrilla outfit. Ciriaco Ladines was 15 when he assumed command of his squad in the middle of a firefight. Derek Leda’s father survived the Bataan Death March. Celestino Almeda, interviewed when he over 100 years old, tells of his experience as a guerrilla during WWII and his lifetime of activism after the war. These oral histories and more are brought to life through animations in the Under One Flag exhibition.


Praise for In the Shadow of Giants

“An incredible and thrilling story of a young woman in search of her family’s legacy… reminded me of my own journey discovering my family’s legacy from the war.”


Retired Major General Antonio Taguba, US Army and Chairman of The Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project

“Terrific! Does a fantastic job of making a great story out of a complicated history.”


Colleen Woods, Associate Professor of History, University of Maryland and author of Freedom Incorporated: Anticommunism and Philippine Independence in the Age of Decolonization

“Really informative and inspirational at the same time. Awesome stuff!”


Christopher Capozzola, Professor of History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of Bound by War: How the United States and the Philippines Built America’s First Pacific Century

Read the Graphic Novel online!

Read In the Shadow of Giants now with our free webcomic online reader

Download In the Shadow of Giants

In the Shadow of Giants is available as an Adobe PDF download for educators and students to use for educational purposes. This PDF can be printed and shared as appropriate in classrooms and for educational use.

Download PDF (251MB)

PDF Tips

A spine has been included at the end of the PDF for printing and placing the graphic novel in a binder.

About the Authors

Matthew Fisher

Matthew Fisher is the principal of the digital storytelling studio Night Kitchen Interactive, where he writes and produces interpretative and educational experiences for art museums, cultural organizations, and science centers. He was inspired to write this story soon after he began capturing oral histories of Filipino Veterans for FilVetREP in 2018. Together they went on to produce the Duty to Country education project. Matthew lives with his wife and son in Maine, where he enjoys baking bread, getting out on the ocean, and reading aloud more children’s books than he can remember.

Aria Villafranca

Aria Villafranca is a Filipino-American comic artist and editor from Ewa Beach, Hawaiʻi. She received her BFA in Drawing and Painting from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in 2017, as well as an MFA in Sequential Art from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2021. Aria is based in Savannah, GA, where she enjoys drinking coffee, walking her dog, and winding down from making and editing comics by reading comics. She also enjoys rollerskating, reading about history and politics, fiddling on the piano, and generally living in the world.

In the Shadow of Giants Copyright @ 2023 FilVetREP. All rights reserved. Published by FilVetREP. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except as permitted by U.S. copyright law. For information regarding permission, write to FilVetREP, Attention: Permissions, 5002 Halley Farm Ct., Alexandria, VA 22309. This book is a work of fiction. Several scenes were inspired by the experiences of  Filipino veterans, but any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. The Japanese Occupation of the Philippines during WWII and Filipino Veterans’ decades-long struggle for recognition and benefits, however, were very real. This is a freely distributed educational book and should not be sold. This book can be reprinted in bulk for educational use. Please contact for more information.

ISBN 979-8-9891878-0-5 First Edition, 2023 Written by Matthew Fisher and Illustrated by Aria Villafranca. Story by Matthew Fisher and Aria Villafranca. Colors by Richard Mercado. Flats by June Dao, Nur Schuba, and Kimberly Wang. Cover Design by Aria Villafranca and Richard Mercado Interior Book Design by Aria Villafranca Book layout by Richard Mercado.