There was a recent article at the Philippine Daily Inquirer (via AFP) painting a pretty grim picture of the Philippine comics industry as it stands today. If you want to read the article, click here.
I’ve been tagged endlessly on Facebook by concerned people who perhaps wanted to hear my side of the story. It’s very hard to argue the facts presented in the article because they’re pretty much true. The old big companies have gone. The once ubiquitous komiks at the newsstands have disappeared. The great artists went off to America to work for US Comics. Other media have definitely made an impact on comics readership. All of that is true.
However, the article does not present all the facts. And I find it frustrating that grim conclusions about the state of Philippine comics can be made without all the facts at hand, and then presented to an International audience. Such shoddy research is completely unbecoming of someone writing for the Agence France-Presse, no less, and has given all the hardworking comics creators in the country no great service.
I think the problem people are having is that of a skewed point of view. Look, the old, great Philippine komiks industry, you know the one with Atlas and GASI and PSG and REX and all those once great comics companies, well it’s DEAD. It’s GONE. Not only is that industry dead, that whole way of life of getting your comics at sidewalks is dead. The sooner you get to grips with that, the better. I shed buckets of tears for it when I held the last copies of Pilipino Komiks, Tagalog Klasiks and Hiwaga Komiks in my hands FIVE years ago.
It’s 2010. There are no more komiks at newsstands. GASI is still dead. PSG is still dead. REX is now just a bookstore. ATLAS still publishes…. stuff. But hardly comics. They did publish one comic book in 2009, the compilation of Coching’s Lapu Lapu, but that was it.
And yet, what is this Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah comic book that was made into a movie, and wait, wasn’t it also a successful musical for the CCP?
And yet, what is this Andong Agimat comic book that’s now set to come out in Philippine TV with Dingdong Dantes in the lead?
And yet, what is this TRESE Comic book that’s appearing on the bestseller lists at bookstores, and who this writer Budjette Tan who had been Powerbook’s Filipino Author of the Month? Oh yeah, TRESE is also a National Book Awardee and is also nominated to win THIS year? REALLY?
And yet, what are all these Filipino made comic books and their creators getting so much write ups at newspapers and magazines like the Manila Bulletin, Manila Standard, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippine Star, FHM, Playboy, Philippines Free Press, High Society, Fudge Magazine, Pulp Magazine, Animal Scene, BluPrint, T3, etc.? Not to mention all that coverage on the TV?
And yet, what are all these comic book events that have been happening all over the country? I mean, in 2010 alone there were like what? Seven? Or wait… eight? EIGHT major comic book conventions in the Philippines? Are you serious? There was Renaissance and Komikstrip in February. Summer Komikon in April. Bicol Komiks Convention in May. Metro Comic-Con in August. Cebu Comics Convention in September. PICCA in October, and Komikon in November. All of that just this year?
And yet, when you go to these conventions there are LOTS of new comic book titles being sold. Some of them are printed, some of them are photocopied? Some are stapled, some are hardbound. Some are color, some are black and white?
And yet when you go to bookstores you get to see all these comic books… FILIPINO made comic books for sale: Private Iris, Martial Law Babies, Andong Agimat, Siglo: Passion, Siglo: Freedom, Underpass, TRESE, Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah, Basted, Fantasya, Tropa, Bayan Knights, Mangaholix, Mwahaha, 12, Kikomachine, Beerkada, Callwork, Chopstix, etc.? And when you go to comic book stores like Comic Odyssey, Comic Quest, Druid’s Keep and Sputnik, you get to see even more Filipino made comics including Elmer, Where Bold Stars Go To Die, Kalayaan, Maskarado, Carpool, Sulyap, Kubori Kikiam, Nardong Tae, Mascot, Super Debil Robot, Cresci Prophecies, Lipad, Langoy, Zombies in Manila, Roleplay, El Bimbo Variations, School Run, Baboy, Love Story, Plague, Punnx, Sandugan, Tog, Laban: A Love Story, etc. etc.? I’m running out of words here, really?!
I thought ATLAS, GASI, PSG, REX, and all those huge comics companies were now GONE? So WHERE are all these comic books and comic book events and happenings and stuff coming from?
If you have to ask, then you better get your head out of that sand and look around. LOOK AROUND, for once.
There is a NEW Philippine comic book industry, and it has been around since 1993. It’s nothing like the old komiks industry. It’s comic books are nothing like the old comic books. These are comics you don’t see at sidewalks or rent at your local sari sari store. They are no longer produced in the millions like the old days, but the question is: DO THEY HAVE TO BE? Do they have to be published in the hundreds of thousands for people to be happy and believe Philippine comics is alive? Do they HAVE to be in sidewalks? The answer to that question is NO. The days of the hundreds of thousands of comics in a week is GONE. It’s never coming back.
But we have comics NOW. They are fewer but they are here and they exist. They may not be found in the usual places, but they can be found. If we are not lazy and expect comics to fall out of the sky and into our laps and instead go out of our way to look for them, they CAN be found.
If you love Philippine comics so much, then get off your asses and go to your bookstores, comic book stores and attend comic book conventions so you can buy them. You can go to Lucban to get your longganisa, you can go to Lumban to get your barong, you can go to Paete to get your statues, you can travel as far as Cebu to get your CnT Lechon, why can’t you be bothered to take a trip to your nearby freakin’ bookstore or mall or attend one of the many conventions to get your comics?
Philippine poetry can’t be found at sidewalks. Philippine fiction can’t be found at sidewalks. Do we get all worked up, call a press conference and declare Philippine poetry and fiction are dead? We don’t. Because that would be STUPID. Same is true for Philippine Comics.
They are not created by huge comic book companies. They are created by individuals who do it not for money but for the love of comics. Some of them have since been picked up by book publishers. Can you imagine that? A whole freakin’ comic book industry powered not by money but by love?
It’s why this industry has so many detractors. They cannot wrap their money minded practical and logical brains around the concept of creating things out of love. To them we’re simply stupid misfits they wish they can turn their heads from and ignore. And if they can’t ignore, they attack. Ridicule. Belittle. Where’s the profit? What do we get out of it? What’s in it for me? These are questions we don’t ask ourselves, but questions THEY often ask themselves.
This is why this comics industry will never die. This is why we will never go away. Because we love doing it. We create comics even if we don’t make money from it. It’s an exercise that confounds every business sense, but it’s an exercise that will make our comics immortal.