Monday, February 06, 2006

Reviving a Comic Book Industry

Reviving a Comic Book Industry

This is a coincidence. A few blogs are talking about this same thing right now, most notably Dennis Villegas' excellent Pilipino Komiks blog. But I wrote this article while I was ailing, long before Dennis posted his, so this is by no means a reply to it or to any comments posted in reply to it.

Mr. Alanguilan,

I read your site with great interest. It's one of those sites I visit to keep me up to date on whats going on in local comics. I express my disappointment that the current batch of comics from so called writers and artists doesn't live up to the accomplishments of comics of many years ago. How can our comics industry be revived by comics that come out only once in a while? Many of these comics are of very poor quality, and only a chosen few are really good, but even those come out only once every year. I hope everyone takes doing comics more seriously and make our industry great again. More power!

Thanks for the email, Dan. This deserves an answer, but I hope it's allright if I talk about this here because it's something I've been wanting to talk about as well, but first, I have to mention something related...

In his blog, Reno Maniquis defends creating comics for the "love of it", reacting to an opinion that doing comics just for the "love of it" may not be enough to revive the comics industry.

All right.

I think nobody ever really said we were doing our comics to "revive the Philippine comic book industry"? Who told everybody to expect this from us?

None of us woke up one morning thinking, "Oho! I will revive the comic book industry! To accomplish this goal, I will do THIS. I will do THAT." Wouldn't that be insanely and grossly egotistic of us to believe ourselves wondrously talented, skillful, and knowledgeable enough to dare to make it our #1 objective.... to revive a national industry?.

I apologize if we have disappointed you by not living up to your expectations, but they are expectations we never even dared to have for ourselves, let alone strive for.

It's an unrealistic and an unfair expectation, and how could anyone to put *that* on our shoulders? We only wanted to write stories and draw pictures because it's fun. And we love doing it. Now all of a sudden we're expected to be responsible for the resuscitation of a whole industry? Get a GRIP. Get a SERIOUS grip! Please!

The expectation to come out with comics on a regular basis is another objective we never really set out to achieve. Some of us do, but many others don't. Some of us want to take our time, not out of ego, or out of feeling "superstar" as some people seem to think, but out of desire to just do a really good job.

A fact that people need to bear in mind, specially those used to how it was in the old days, is that the comic book industry of decades ago is different from the industry today. When once it was pertinent to come out with comics week after week, the industry today now allows for works that can be read complete in a few issues or in just one go, "graphic novels" that can be reprinted over and over as demands require.

The sooner you start judging us for the work that we actually do, as opposed to judging us according to what you expect of us, the less disappointed everyone will be.

You know, a lot of these kids just love comics, and they love making them. Many of them aren't getting paid to do it. In fact, they're putting out money from their own pockets just to make them. And the older guys... they have their day jobs at the advertising agency or the call center, and in their free time they do comics, as opposed to resting, sleeping or goofing off. They do COMICS of their own volition, and not for money. And I think that's a great thing. It results in some really bad comics, but there are a few with startlingly surprising potential.

It would be grossly unfair to expect more from them other than a really good job. And it's grossly unfair and to dismiss their work because they don't live up to your lofty expectations. It's cruel and it's hurtful.

We're comic book artists. That's what we do. We're not businessmen with the economic acumen qualified enough to tackle something as daunting as reviving an industry. We need people with money, and businessmen that will invest in us as creatives. We need more people like THEM.

I speak for myself, but yes, I do it for the love of it. I quit inking American comics in part to concentrate on creating my own comics to be published right here in the Philippines. I don't make it my objective to revive the local comic book industry. I can't afford to think like that. I just hope to create comics as best I can do them. That's ALL I want to do. I hope to create comics that I can't be ashamed I have made. Comics I'll be proud to show around as something *I* have done. Would they be good? I can't be the judge of that, but I'll make damned sure that I do my absolute best. That's all I can really do. And that's the only thing anyone can reasonably expect from me.

If I manage to, in my own little way, help revive the industry, even for just a little bit along the way, then wow, that would be fantastic!

Please don't misunderstand. Don't get the impression that I *don't* want the comic book industry to be revived. I do. But to actually make that as an objective (as opposed to just make good comics)? I believe that to be a wrong headed way of going about actually reviving an industry. It's superficial, and no one can realistically hope to have anything good and lasting to result from it.

Writers and artists should only concentrate on creating good work. That's the only thing they should ever consider.

I can't afford to think in terms of "reviving an industry" because I feel it would only compromise my work. I'd be forever chasing the elusive brilliant idea that would make comics sell like hotcakes in the country's current economic realities. I'd be forever analyzing markets, trends, fads, things I really don't believe in, in the hopes of reviving an industry. I would just be frustrated, and it would create an unbearable atmosphere that would prevent me from being creative and do the best at what I really want to do. And that is writing and drawing comics.

My personal goals I consider audacious enough as it is. In two years, I hope to write and draw at least just TWO stories that I hope would sell well, and that would have a lasting quality that it would endure long after I'm dead. That's a tall order for me. I can only hope to be able to do it, and I'll kill myself trying to.

If I am to be judged, then please, judge me for the work I do, not for the glorious future you expect us to achieve.

Here is a graphic list of the work I'll do in 2006.

It's by no means a complete list, as there are many other things I can't talk about at this point.