Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Youth & Campus
The Comic Quest
By Karen Anne C. Liquete
For true-blue comic book enthusiasts,
Gerry Alanguilan is the name that is as familiar to them as those of their
family and friends. Born Doroteo Gerardo N. Alanguilan, Gerry is a comic
book artist and writer who has worked with the likes of Whilce Portacio
on comic book titles such as X-Men, Superman: Birthright, Wolverine and
In the local comics scene, Alanguilan
has created such titles as Wasted, Johnny Balbona, Humanis Rex! and ELMER,
and contributed works to the anthologies Siglo: Freedom, Siglo: Passion
and Filipino Komiks.
Alanguilan started out as an architect
doodling comics during his spare time. Little did he know that his continuing
passion for comics-book creation would eventually grant him entry into
the once impenetrable fortresses of the Image, Marvel and D.C. empires.
A decade after establishing his name in the US, he has a brand new mission:
To mentor the next generation of Filipino comic book titans raring to venture
into foreign shores.
Youth and Campus Bulletin (YCB) asks
this prolific artist on his thoughts about his craft and the Philippine
comics industry in general. Hereís what he says:
Youth Campus Bulletin (YCB): The Philippine
comics industry has contributed richly to our literary heritage. If this
is the case, why is it that there is no formal college courses that teach
students the art? Why is comics still relegated as a minor subject in design
classes? How can students empower themselves to learn in the absence of
Gerry Alanguilan (GA): Actually,
formal training in comics is starting to appear in colleges and universities
across the country. I myself will begin teaching comics at the College
of Saint Benilde beginning in September. You might also want to get in
touch with people like Elbert Or and Ian Casocot, who are actively teaching
comics in their respective areas. Admittedly, itís formal education at
its infancy, but I believe itís going in the right direction.
Itís always possible for Filipinos
to study comics on their own what with all the reference material already
available on the internet. I myself studied on my own, using books and
magazines I bought locally as my reference materials.
Self-reliance is something I have
always discussed in my online journal, and itís the strongest advice I
would readily give any aspiring artist. In comics, you really need to step
up and initiate a lot of things for yourself. Nobody is going to come to
you to teach you or give you jobs. You really have to not only work hard,
but be also resourceful in creating opportunities for yourself.
YCB: As a creator of comics, which
is the better approach Ėuse comics as a means of self-expression or consider
it as a business where you need to sell?
GA: I would not probably be the best
person to answer what is better, because deep down, Iím very idealistic
when it comes to my art, considering what will sell is something I have
never done because itís something Iíve never believed in. Nevertheless,
my work seems to have gotten good feedback, and have been quite profitable
for me financially.
I always do what I want to do first
and foremost. I seek to satisfy the harshest critic and the most cynical
audience, and that would be ME. I have to satisfy myself, and I would have
to create work that would have to create work that would live up to my
own expectations and standards. If I am happy with my work, and I am confident
that I have done the best that I could do, then thatís just great with
me. I really believe that any artist who throws himself at his work with
much passion and dedication, the audience will respond to that because
they believe they are getting an honest piece of work.
YCB: What are the many career paths
a person can pursue in the comic book world-here and abroad? Can you give
us realistic scenarios?
GA: There are several career paths
as individual can follow.
One is to find an agent, and there
is one actively searching for talents locally. One other is to strike out
on oneís own. With the internet so readily at hand, itís easy for any Filipino
artist to create an online portfolio and promote oneself online.
A lot of potential employers do go
around the internet for possible people to hire. And there are a lot of
potential projects such as anthologies, contests and the like, that artists
can contribute to have their work seen. Itís really all about getting your
work noticed out there.
And with the millions of artists
from all over the world that have portfolios online, the challenge for
the Filipino artist is to make his work good enough to stand out among
YCB: In your experience, what are
the career highs and lows of writing/drawing for comics?
GA: The lows are those times when
you donít get the job that you want. Itís always tough when a project that
you have proposed wasnít accepted, or if a project was all systems go one
minute and it falls apart the next. There are many instances like that
in the business.
Then there are the good bits when
you actually do get to work on a project that you want, and your story
or art gets out there. Anything that I do that gets published Iím very
YCB: How can the comic book writer/artist
set professional standards for himself/herself?
GA: For a beginning artist, itís
hard to determine what the professional standard is. Many young artists
can believe that their work is already the best but when I look at it,
itís not very good. But beyond judging quality of oneís art, to be professional
is to be able to turn your work in on time and honor your commitments.
I admit, Iíve had trouble on those areas myself so itís a standard I still
try to strive for and maintain every single day.
YCB: There is a current interest in
reviving Philippine comics for 2007 and beyond. What do you think are the
changes or improvements necessary to make real progress?
GA: I think itís grown beyond mere
interest. There is a strong effort at this moment to revive the komiks
industry on a massive scale. When I mean komiks, I mean those Tagalog weekly
black and white comics that are inexpensive and can be bought at newspaper
stands, public markets and sari-sari stores. I think weíre going to start
seeing that in coming months.
On the other hand, young generations
of comic book writers and artists have been busy developing a new comics
industry ever since the early 90ís, when the old industry begun to collapse.
I believe real progress could begin
when the mistakes of our past are never in repeated in the future. When
the ugly practices in the old industry where people screwed each other
just to get the upper hand and the better benefit all in the name of business
is put behind us. If such underhanded and despicable practices are still
prevalent, then I hope the people involved donít honestly believe that
anything progressive, meaningful, substantial or enduring could come out
of their efforts.
YCB: Who is the most promising comic
book writer in the field today?
GA: Budjette Tan is the writer Iím
most impressed with locally at the moment. His comic book Trese, with artist
Kajo Baldisimo is nothing short of brilliant.
YCB: What current trends will affect
Philippine comic book publishing in the future?
GA: One must understand that there
are currently two comic book industries in the country right now. One is
the new industry that a young generation of comic book creators have begun
to develop beginning in the 90ís. Their sensibilities lie more in more
personal pursuits of artistic expression. From this group one can expect
comics that would be more progressive and experimental, penetrating into
topics and artistry that very few have gone before.
The other industry, the old komiks
industry, is about to be revived in the coming months, and they maintain
the sensibilities of the old one, one with the pursuit of what the masa
wants is primary. From this group would spring forth the future subjects
for local movies and teleseryes The komiks industry and the showbiz industry
have long enjoyed a sort of symbiotic relationship, which suffered when
the industry collapses in the 90ís. With itís return, I see that the relationship