Philippine Comics in July 19, 2010: A Snapshot

Posted by on July 27th, 2010 at 12:01 AM

 

The Philippines once boasted of a gigantic comic book industry that saw no less than a hundred new issues a month released across several publishing companies. The most successful titles sold no less than 100,000 copies per issue, coming out on a weekly basis. It was a tremendous industry, which gave hundreds of writers and artists employment, and millions of Filipinos entertainment.

As of July 2010, the large comic book companies of the past have closed. These include PSG Publishing, GASI, Rex, ACE, G. Miranda & Sons, Mass Media, and many more. The largest of these was Atlas Publishing, which until around 2005 continued to publish venerable titles like Pilipino Komiks, Tagalog Klasiks and Hiwaga inherited from ACE which began publishing them in the late 1940’s. Today Atlas is still around, but concentrates mostly on non-comic book publications. However, it still sporadically publishes new comic books including two comic book adaptations of classic Filipino literature in 2008. And in 2009, they released a compilation of Francisco V. Coching’s Lapu Lapu from 1953, inspired by the initiative of a book publisher, Vibal Publishing, when it compiled and digitally restored Coching’s “El Indio” from 1952.

These efforts to preserve and archive classic Filipino comic books is a new development. The first such effort was the republication of “Album ng Kabalbalan ni Kenkoy”, arguably the very first Filipino comic book, published in 1934. Filipino comics historian and collector Dennis Villegas reprinted that book with a new cover in 2004, which in turn inspired this author to begin efforts to do the same for one of Francisco V. Coching’s classic stories. That eventually resulted in “El Indio” in October 2009.

Many other such restoration/compilation efforts are now in motion, including Mars Ravelo’s and Nestor Redondo’s “Darna”(1952), Alfredo Alcala’s “Voltar”(1963), and Jess Jodloman’s “Ramir” (1955), with hopefully more to come.

As the old industry began to fade, a whole generation of young aspiring comic book writers and artists were hungry to create comics. Finding no publishers to release their work or finding the publishers too wrapped up in tradition and restrictions to express themselves freely, these young kids decided to publish comic books on their own. Independently produced comic books in the form of photocopied mini comics began to appear in the early 1990’s. The mini comics produced were anywhere from 10 to 100 copies. Those who had money through employment or were from well off families went so far as to have their comic books actually printed and produced 500-1000 copies of each title.

These comic books were distributed hand to hand, mail order, or through a few sympathetic (comic book?) stores across Manila. One such store, Platinum Comics, went ahead and put together a one-day comic book gathering of all these independent comics creators in front of its store, in what would be the very first modern day comic book convention.

 


Komikstrip, Los Baños, Laguna. February 13, 2010.

 

Today, that independent industry has grown to encompass, at the very least, seven separate comic book events/conventions/festivals held in the country each year. As of July 2010, four major comic book events have already been held in Manila, Los Baños and Bicol. Five more major events are scheduled to be held in Manila, Cebu and San Pablo City during the latter half of the year. The biggest of these are Metro Comic-con (August 21-22), Komikon, the 6th Annual Comics Convention (November 13) and the Philippine Comics, Cartoons and Animation (Picca) Festival, one week in October.

Over the last few years, there is an average output of no less than a hundred new titles a year, majority of it are photocopied mini comics. 10% of that are major releases by established independent creators, some of whom have successfully crossed over into other publication venues or mediums. The most successful titles such as “Trese” by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo and“Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah” started out as being self published by its creators. They have since been picked up by book publishers and have proved to be successful in that format. Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah has been adapted into a successful musical play and motion picture. Trese has received many offers to be translated into a TV series. Arnold Arre’s “Andong Agimat” published by Adarna, is currently being adapted into a television series.

Most of the titles today are sold through the many events that dot the year, as well as many comic book stores and bookstores in shops and malls. Many of these titles are written in English with many using a mixture of both English and Tagalog. A typical photocopied title, or “Indie” as the local creator calls it, costs anywhere from 20 pesos to a hundred pesos, depending on how many pages there are, or how expensive the printing has been. Some of these titles have computer printed color covers.

In 2007, there was an effort by Sterling Publishing, owned by Sterling Paper, one of the country’s biggest paper products manufacturers, to bring back traditional comics. By traditional it means inexpensive Tagalog comic books on newsprint, distributed nationwide as ubiquitous as newspapers. The titles lasted only a few months. The problem lay, as this author sees it, in the fact that the editorial team, composed of veteran writers and editors, did not seek to inject their creative teams with new blood, opting to go for mostly veterans. That in itself isn’t a bad thing, but it resulted in old fashioned comic books that the average Filipino reader of today found difficult to sympathize with. It was as if these veterans felt they could simply continue from where they had left off in the 1980s.

Another more recent effort to distribute comics widely include the impending release of Espresso Comics, which proposes to give away 50,000 copies of their ad supported weekly comics magazine for free, along the route of Metro Manila’s elevated railway systems. Since this is a new title, it’s still too early to tell how it will do, or what kind of feedback it will get. One interesting creative decision that the Espresso editorial team made was tap young independent comic book creators exclusively for their content.

Just two days ago, the first Philippine 24-Hour Comic book creation challenge was held online in which several participants across the country joined in. To ensure that the participants truly worked within the specified 24 hour time period, the theme of the competition was only announced on the starting hour on Twitter and on Facebook. The contestants then sent in their pages one by one via email as they finished them. The winner of the competition will have his work published in an issue of Espresso Comics.

 


Renaissance, SM Megamall, Mandaluyong. February 21, 2010.

 

Today, many creators are already preparing to launch their comic books to take advantage of next month’s event, The Metro Comic-Con, to be held at the SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City on August 21 and 22, 2010. Some of them are already starting to post preview images of their work online in their blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and DeviantArt.

The typical Filipino comic book creator today makes full use of the Internet to talk about, and promote their work. It only makes sense as most of them literally do not have the capital to advertise in any traditional medium. With the increasing popularity of the Internet, even in the Philippines, the comics creator has plenty of tools at his disposal to get his work seen. However, the ones creating content for print still far outweigh those who create content specifically online.

In the coming weeks, I will be zooming in on specific aspects of the Philippine comics industry by featuring specific comic books, creators, publishers and trends. Hopefully I would be able to ultimately provide a comprehensive view of the current state of the industry, a nostalgic look back to what has gone before, and possibilities for what is in store for the future.

 

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3 Responses to “Philippine Comics in July 19, 2010: A Snapshot”

  1. Gerry,
    Absolutely fascinating! And I think what is most refreshing is the purity of creators simply creating comics and enjoying it, regardless of income or status. Nothing like the overblown, lumbering industry and Comic-Con we have here in the States.

    For a while, I’ve been colllecting the works of Alex Nino, Alfredo Alcala, and Nestor Redondo from their fertile period at DC Comics in the 1970s. I’ve also researched their original works and that material is even more amazing! Will those remastered editions of the classic comics you mentioned be available outside the Philippines? I’d love to get my hands on Alcala’s Voltar or Redondo’s Darna.

    I’m looking forward to future articles, Gerry! Keep them coming!

    Thanks!

  2. Interesting, thank you!

  3. Thefanboyseo says:

    You forgot about Nardong Tae. This was a really great read. May i repost this sir gerry?