Monday, September 23, 2002

Culture Crash and Me
Updated below Sept. 25, 2002

Mike Simbulan of Comicquest extended me an invitation from Culture Crash for a meeting last Saturday. Apparently, lots of guys would be there from Pol Medina to Arnold Arre to Dean Alfar, etc. Unfortunately, me who don't have Internet for much of the week received Mike's email only yesterday, Sunday, when it was all over.

Additionally, Budjette Tan sent me a text message telling me about the meeting, but unfortunately again, my Saturday was busy with a Wasted shoot. The shoot involved other actors who had committed to the schedule. We're damn lucky just to have other actors commit like that and since we're running behind schedule, I'd be crazy to postpone it after we had planned it for sometime.

I hope no one makes up stories of why I wasn't at that meeting, considering my feelings about Culture Crash and their comics. If you are from Culture Crash and you want to get in touch, just email me:

I'll get back to you guys as soon as I can as I'm away from my computer a lot of the time these days.

My thoughts about Filipinos publishing comics using the manga style pretty much hasn't changed. A lot of people have asked me to read the stories and I would discover that they're as Filipino as bibingka and puto bungbong. I will not doubt that. I have 3 or 4 of their comics and I've read them.

I wasn't talking about stories. I was talking about artwork. I have to make that distinction. And this is just a personal opinion. There have been accusations that I'm a crab that won't let others get ahead and bring others down, that I'm envious of Culture Crash's success, that I don't have a right to say what I say because I'm doing nothing for the Filipino Comics Industry.

I disagree with all of that. I'm not envious of Culture Crash's success at all. And I'm not saying what I'm saying because I want to bring them down.

I was just offering my opinion, and I think I have the right to say it, whether or not I contribute to the industry or not. If people have the right to praise them, I reserve the right to point out what is bothering me about them. Everybody else is free to disagree with me, that won't be a problem. I just hope that those people who rise in Culture Crash's defense will keep their cool and not label me as a bigot and call me all sorts of colorful names. I'm just a guy offering an honest opinion.

I have very particular sentiments about Filipino Komiks. I have been reading them for a long time, I have been appreciating all the varied kinds of artwork for a long time and I've idolized guys like Coching, Alfredo and Larry Alcala, Nestor Redondo, Tor Infante, Vicatan, NiƱo, etc. What stood out to me was that our stuff, and I'm talking just about Artwork here, our stuff could stand toe to toe with the best of what the rest of the world had to offer.

As the years wore on, quality of comics has gone down. Because of poor working conditions, artists were forced to find work elsewhere to survive. Some of my friends and I toyed with our own comics to offer an alternative to readers who were looking for something to read. We made our own comics to the best of our abilities, but we could not produce them as often as we would have liked simply because we did not have the money.

Simply put, we were artists and writers. We were no businessmen. What did we know about running a business? All we knew was making comics. And that was what we did, as best we could.

We were always glad when we saw new comics being produced by other people. Good or bad I enjoyed all of them. And I enjoyed them because they were the product of the imagination of those who created them. Some of them were bad, but at least they were original and were drawn in ways I've never seen before.

So it bothers me a lot when a lot of professional artists started to draw in the manga style whenever they drew their comics, for whatever reason. I don't hate manga per se. I'm a big manga fan. I have lots of manga books here at home and I even have reference books about the history of manga and anime. And when I was younger, I even belonged to a comics outfit that produced manga comics. But as I grew older, I believed that if I were to publish anything, I would not use manga, or American or European styles of drawing. I'd use my own, whatever it was.

It's allright to draw manga for the fun of it, whether it be at home or whatever. But if one is going to publish something, it really is better to draw using a style of one's own.

Yes, comics ought to be fun. And it should be. But something that must not be forgotten is that publishing also gives one power. And to quote an oft repeated cliche, power comes with responsibility. There is a responsibility not only to the readers, but to our history and legacy as internationally respected comic book creators.

If we, as Filipinos, draw in that manga style, then what kind of comic book identity do we have? We're reduced to a just another country drawing in a style that everybody else uses. Don't you artists aspire for something more? Don't you aspire to create your OWN style and blaze your own trail? Don't you wish, even for a moment, to create your own unique style, draw it in the best you can and let everyone else follow your footsteps? Be the MAN! Be the artist that everyone else copies!

Once in a while I'd hook up with a friend of mine who knows someone from Culture Crash. Once I find this out, I'd ask my friend, "Are those CC guys pissed with me?". My friend would laugh, nod his head immediately and say yes resoundingly.

Is this true? I'm sorry if it had come to this, but I really do feel strongly about this. Maybe I'm just a freak. Maybe I'm just holding on to some stupid old fashioned way of thinking. I don't know. All I know is that when I look at a CC comic book, or when I see a venerable title like Funny Komiks being drawn in manga, I feel so sad it breaks my heart.

And this is why I cannot be part of a movement that will promote works like this. I cannot be part of something that will help something like this flourish. And this is why I must sadly decline your invitation to join your convention. I'm sure it will be lots of fun without me.

I'm sorry if I make people sad or angry with what I say. Do the comics you want to do the way you want to do them. I'm just one person so I don't know why what I say can be such a big deal.

On Me Being Envious of Culture Crash's Success

Not at all. I didn't come into comics for the primary reason of wanting to be popular and "successful". I wanted to go into comics because I wanted to, because it was a job that seemed fun to have. If CC's reasons for doing this is to be "successful" then they should be congratulating themselves because they have done just that. I cannot be envious because that is NOT my reason for being here. I just want to draw and to create stories. If people like my stuff fine. If people, don't, then it's fine as well.

On Me Wanting to Bring Down Culture Crash

Anybody who thinks this NEVER understood the point of what I was trying to say. I should just dismiss it outright, but I guess I ought to elaborate and add something more. Wanting to be successful comes with the desire to be praised. Your comic book is very popular and your mailbox is most likely filled with letters of praise. Is there no room at all for any dissenting opinion? If someone doesn't like your stuff does it mean they are bringing you down? I thought this was a democracy and people are free to express what they believe in. Even the government has an opposition. What makes you think you shouldn't have one?

You are responsible for bringing life to the faltering comics industry, yes, I can give you that. But in the long run, you are bringing much more damage to our rich comic book heritage. You are the ones bringing us and and our respected standing in the international comic book community down by publishing comics that are derivative in art style of other countries. You are eroding the standard in which our comic book veterans and forefathers fought so hard to create and establish.

But do what you want. Be unoriginal. Be derivative. Make the Philippines be known as just another country that doesn't have a unique identity in comics. Just like everyone else.