Friday, January 30, 2004

The Filipino Comics Art Project

I've been immersing myself in the work done by the many Filipino comic book artists, specially those from the many decades before the 80's. I've been aware of them ever since I was a kid, but I only started to give much more attention to them in the last 10 years, and serious study only during the past couple of years.

I've been talking a lot about Nestor Redondo and specially Alex Niño lately. That's because them, along with Francisco V. Coching, I count as the greatest Filipino comics creators the country has ever seen. And the more I see of their work, the more I become convinced of it.

And I think it's too bad that many young Filipino comics artists today don't know who they are. But they can't really be blamed, I know. The works of Niño, Redondo and Coching cannot be bought from the shelves nowadays and there are no archives of their work that are readily accessible to the general public. I've had to move heaven and hell and sell the roof of our house just to buy the Niño art book that I mentioned in earlier entries. That book and their works should be made available widely and inexpensively. But they're not. And that is a greater shame.

ALEX NIÑO: Detail from The Last Samurai, Weird War Tales #13, DC Comics 1972

Did you know that unlike today, original art produced by artists back then were OWNED by the company they worked for? What's extremely worse is that because of probably lack of storage, or more likely, assurance that the artwork will never benefit anyone else, those artworks were bundled up, shredded and destroyed. I feel like crying every time I think of it.

Filipino artists, you should not let this happen to you. We now have the Philippine law on Intellectual Property Rights and it ensures that although the company you do your work for owns the rights (at least for a time) to USE the image that you draw, you OWN the physical artwork.

So every piece of art by Coching and the gang, and by other excellent artists like Alfredo Alcala, Fred Carillo, Rudy Florese, Franc Reyes.... I grab it and keep it in a personal archive. I've been trying to share as much of these artwork as I can so younger artists can get to know who they are and what their work is. That's why I talk about their work endlessly here in my site, and the reason why there was a Comics Art Festival held here in San Pablo last month. Through he help of Azrael Coladilla, we can have the chance to exhibit much of this art at UST next month and probably more schools after that.

One of the projects of the Komikero group this year is to collect as much of that artwork and publish them in a huge portfolio of Filipino Comics Art. We hope to have it done this year, but a project of this size may well take several years. Stay tuned.