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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Preserving a Legacy and the Revival of an Industry


Voltar by Alfredo Alcala

Once in a while I'd get feedback about the intentions of this site with regards to the comics industry in general. There seems to be an impression, at least from some quarters, that my intention for this site, specially my message boards and the Philippine Comics Art Museum online, is to help revive the Philippine comics industry. And as such, it has been suggested that to revive the industry, we should not look to past glories and past accomplishments and strive instead to go forward, pushing new boundaries, creating new stories and new art.

I totally agree that to revive our current komiks industry, we do need to go forward and create new things, but never be confused as to the purpose of my site. The online museum and the accompanying message boards are not here primarily to revive a comics industry, although it can help it in some way simply because of the attention it can generate for the industry. Its primary purpose is to reintroduce to a new Filipino audience the art of our great masters of komiks art, a colossal body of work that has largely gone unnoticed, unappreciated, nearly forgotten.

This all began several years ago when I had been approached by young Filipino artists showing me their work for critique. More and more I was seeing work primarily influenced by Japanese comics. I had asked them if they'd seen the works of Filipino artists like Alex Niņo, Francisco V. Coching, Nestor Redondo and the like. They would look at each other as if I had spoken a foreign language. They didn't know who they were, and yet these artists are responsible for some of the most beautiful, most imaginative pieces of comics art the Philippines has ever produced.


Electric Man by Ruben Marcelino and Tor Infante

I could not really blame them, as there is no archive, no easily accessible publication, nothing you can really buy off the shelves where our young artists can see all this artwork. Indeed, because of neglect and lack of interest in preservation, a lot of our old komiks and a lot of original art have been lost to us forever.

So I set out to establish the online comics museum, and with the help of the Komikero Artists Group, occasionally organize public displays of our old komiks and original art.

Digging up our past, at least as far as our komiks are concerned, is a good thing. It can be a source of inspiration and a source of pride in ourselves as Filipinos. It can be a source of our identity as Filipino artists, something that is important to many of us in search of something we can call uniquely our own.

Now if it's the revival of the current Philippine comics industry that we are talking about, then to me that's a different thing altogether.

A lot of opinions have been put forward from all over on how to do just that. From the magniloquent opinions of anonymous writers online to the honest ruminations of people on the street, the theme of having comics once again at the forefront of popular culture is always a subject of great interest. But who really knows the surefire way of reviving an industry? Who really knows what kind of comic book will be a success or not? This is a topic for another article altogether, but at the very heart of it is one simple fact: There won't be an industry if there are no comics being made.

And the only people who can actually help revive this industry are us, the comic book writers and artists, and the publishers who would print and distribute our comics. If you are an artist and/or a writer who chose comics as their career, there are plenty of ways to help. Working from the notion that there is no industry without comics, creating comics and getting them out there becomes our primary purpose.


El Indio by Francisco V. Coching

I have great admiration for people like Carlo Vergara and Arnold Arre, who have both set aside time and effort to write and draw their own stories, publishing it themselves here in the Philippines and have produced wildly successful comic books. Carlo's "Ang Kagila-Gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni ZsaZsa Zaturnnah" and Arnold Arre's "Mythology Class" are two of the most remarkable comics produced by contemporary creators. They are at the forefront of a reviving industry, but it will take more creators like them to invest the time and expertise to create more comic books.

I realize that a lot of us are working for publishers abroad. Indeed, it is a great time for Filipinos in the International comics community because so many of us are working on so many high profile popular comic books. This current batch of Filipino artists have worked/are working on on titles like X-Men, Fantastic Four, Wolverine, Elektra, Battle of the Planets, Tomb Raider, Spawn, Superman, Batman and Hulk. Some of us, like Whilce Portacio, was even able to create Filipino superheroes in Wetworks and Stone.

But unlike doctors, engineers, nurses and architects who go abroad to work, us artists don't even have to leave the Philippines. We can do all our work here, transmitting our work via email or Fedex. Unlike others from other professions who have migrated abroad , we have the opportunity to *still* contribute to our chosen profession locally, if we choose to.

It might surprise you to know that there are many opportunities locally through which we can channel our stories and art. PSI-Com Publishing is currently putting together some comics anthologies and are actively looking for writers and artists. Same is true for Mango Comics on their comedy title Mwahaha! and is searching for female contributors for their all-female comics Mango Jam. I'm currently doing Johnny Balbona for Mwahaha! and I know for a fact that they're always on the lookout for cartoonists that would fit their magazine. Nautilus Comics is publishing CAST and has published SIGLO in the past. It might be worth the time to get in touch with them as well in case they're looking for artists and writers.

A new company called Thunderpunch Studios has recently called for contributors to their comic book anthology. Since they are new untested company, I would advice caution in dealing with them. But if they turn out to be legit and serious about their publishing plans, it may well prove to be a good place to contribute.


Francisco V. Coching

One option is for you to create jobs for yourself. In an industry that is reviving, we need be more pro-active and aggressive in finding places in which we show our comics. If we wish our industry to expand, we can't just rely on jobs offered by current comics companies. Approach an established publication, even though they haven't carried comics in the past, like a magazine and propose a comics section for them. It may seem far fetched, but it works! I was lucky enough to find receptive editors for the pop culture mag FUDGE and they accepted my proposal for a comics section. This is why my Humanis Rex! is currently being serialized there. PULP Magazine used to carry comics, but as far as I know they don't right now. It would be a good idea to approach them with a proposal and if they like it, they just might well take it. There are lots of other magazines out there. It can't hurt to approach them with something like this, specially if it will help create more appeal for their magazine.

Another option, if you can't contribute regularly to a regularly published title, would be to do your own comics. You can publish it yourself, like what Arnold and Carlo have done, or get a publisher to do it for you. Carlo and Arnold's comics have proven to be so successful that established companies actually picked their comics up for republication and wider distribution.

You know, anything that will help get comics out there, comics that are original, with great art and great stories. Some of us may be busy with our other comics work abroad, or busy with our day jobs right here in the Philippines. I'm not really asking you to give that up to work full time locally in comics instead. But we need great artists here, so anything you can do would be much appreciated. A lot of these local comics only require a few pages from each artist at a time. I'm sure a lot of you can pull that off if you make the effort to. And bear in mind that Philippine komiks is not "local lang!". It demands the best that we are capable of.

I think it's about time to make Pinoy komiks ROCK again! Don't you think?

I guess that would be the last on this subject from me. I think it's better to just go and do it rather than yak about it all day. I'm shutting up now and just put my opinions to practice, as I've always asked others to do. I'm just glad I have the means to do so.