Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Komikero.com/Elmer/Humanis Rex

I've just uploaded a major redesign of Komikero.com to reflect my current projects to hopefully show visitors a quick overview of who I am and what I do in just a few glances. It's still a work in progress as I will continue to redesign individual pages, but all links are clickable as of right now.

The topmost largest graphic will change, depending on which project I'm featuring at the moment. In this particular case, it's ELMER, the first issue of which will be made available at select stores beginning this Saturday, June 3.

These stores include:

Basement, Megamall Bldg. A, Edsa

Comics Odyssey
Robinson's Place, Malate

Druid's Keep
Magallanes (3rd Floor, behind Rustans)

I'm working on making it available on more stores and I'll announce them here when I can.

Humanis Rex! #14

Page from Humanis Rex for Fudge Magazine's June issue. Check out the new redesigned Komikero.com for an information page about this strip.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Exploitation and Self Exploitation in Comics

Don't Sell Yourself Short

Exploitation and Self-Exploitation in Comics

We all love doing comics. That's why we are here. We all love doing comics so much that we're willing to do it for free. I've been there before. Early in my career I would have worked for free if only I could just do comics. And I have. And many of you still do, and will. And that's where exploitation starts.

A lot of industry people who have been in the business for years know this, and will have no shame in taking advantage of that. They can see it, they can smell it. They can see it in your eager eyes and your shaking hands as you show your portfolio. They know they have you. They know you'll sell your own sister just to get into comics. And the grin that you mistake for friendliness is the grin that really says, HAH! You're mine now, fucker. I'm going to make lots of money out of you, you little brown bastard.

I received an email from an overseas company looking for artists to work on their books. The payment they're offering is pathetic. And probably convinced I'd be bamboozled by the paltry amount of money being offered to me (Ten US dollars a page), they even boasted that they've already got another artist in the country working for less, so I'd be getting much more than him. They added that since it's work for hire, they would OWN all original art, and for the sake of marketability, we can't use our real Filipino names. We need to "Americanize" them because they admitted, they don't want people knowing Filipinos had done the work.

I don't have the words to express how furious that makes me feel. So I'll stop right there.

But it's true, and it's happening. These people came to this country not too long ago, and they may well have found Filipinos willing to work under those conditions. Can I really blame these artists? For all I know they may well think of it as a jackpot. They may think they're getting a lot, not knowing they're actually being exploited. Or maybe they know. They just don't care.

All they care of course, is getting food on the table for their families. Nothing wrong with that, except of course, it does make it harder for other Filipinos looking for something better for themselves. The moment we start asking for more, these exploiters could so easily say, "Well, we've got this bloke in Bulacan doing this for far less than what you're asking for. Why should I get you?"

And so the value of our work as artists will always be as low as the exploited artist is willing to go. Is that what you want?

For those of you who are aware of your own worth, please don't sell yourself short. I said no to this job. Not only did I say no, I reminded this company how unlawful it is, according to Intellectual Property Laws both in the US and the Philippines, for any publisher to keep the original art. That belongs to the artist. It is also immoral to pay so low, and it's even more immoral and even racist to deprive an individual the use of his real name and nationality.

Some may contend that it would be easy for me to refuse because I'm this DC and Marvel artist, and I make a lot of money. Dudes, this is NOT about me. Part of the reason where I got where I am is because I did not stand for getting less than I should. If I did, I would have never worked for Marvel and DC and just stayed home in a shack here in San Pablo doing work for an overseas company paying me bullshit money with bullshit terms. I'd be well fed by instant mami, and people across the world would be reading a book by Gerry Gallant and nobody would know or care it was by me.

It's about YOUR self worth as an artist. Call it ego if you will, but an artist without an ounce of ego will get nowhere fast. As artists, you've GOT to know in your mind and in your heart that you are GOOD, and that you are WORTH more than a pathetic few dollars they are waving in front of your face. Knowing that you and your work are WORTH something will make you always demand for something better.

I can say the same for those making their own comics. Eager to please, we would price our comics as inexpensively as we can, oftentimes we make no money out of it at all because we sell our comics for the price of the photocopying cost. Sometimes even less. What about the work you put into it? What about the value of your worth as an artist? That's where self-exploitation starts.

Years ago, I sold my Crest Huts for almost the same as the cost of photocopying them. I added just a few pesos to round off the number. I wanted more people to be able to afford to buy it. I made no monetary profit from it. I just got back my photocopy money and the ride to Manila and back. And I was happy with that. But did you know I even got complaints that my comic was too expensive as there's this other guy selling his comics for half? Dude, I'm already working for free and that's not good enough? You want ME to pay YOU to read my comic book? That is what you're asking if you want to buy my comic for less than how it cost.

As an architect, it's all too commonplace to see clients recoiling in shock at the professional fees we are asking. And yet those are fees that are standard and regulated by our architect's nationwide organization. "Why is it so expensive? It's only paper!" is the common feedback, referring of course to the paper in which the plans are blueprinted.

Well, OF COURSE paper is inexpensive. You can get a cartolina at your local store for three pesos. Get ten of those and you only pay thirty pesos. Cheap, isn't it?

But what a lot of people don't seem to get is that it ISN'T a few piece of paper and a couple of staples they're buying. It's the hard work that went into producing whatever is on that piece of paper. The years of education, the training, the experience, the talent, the ideas, the hours, long nights, sacrificed relationships, blood, sweat and fucking tears that went into producing those things on the paper. THAT is worth something. That is worth so much more than how much that paper costs. When you sell your comic book for the price of the photocopy, you give all of that for free. You are saying your hard work and sacrifice is worth nothing.

We need to stop selling ourselves short.

It's all well and good to work for free once in a while, specially if it's for a good cause and/or a good project, but for someone who wants to do comics for a living, for our industry to get on it's feet, we need to start making money from doing comics. We can't go on just working for free all the time. Because making money from comics would ensure more commitment than just "free time" an artist with a day job is willing to give. Think of it. You've got a nice job with an advertising company, animation company, or a call center or an architectural firm. You're not about to quit that to make comics for free full time, are you? The best you can do is do comics in your free time. But what if you are making money from your comics? GOOD money? What if comics can be THE job that you do for a living? That would be great, wouldn't it? Specially if comics is what you really want to do.

Then let's start by not selling ourselves short. You are in your offices and jobs right now and most likely you stay because you may well like what you're doing, and secondly, it pays well. You accepted the job and the pay in the first place because you DIDN'T sell yourself short. You WANT to be paid well because you feel your work is worth it. I'm sure that you won't hang around there long if the janitor is making more money than you.

Well, comics deserves your self-worth too.

And even more so, specially if you love the medium and you love creating comics.

When you sell your work, please add in the worth of your work and yourself as an artist, and sell them for more than the cost of photocopy.

When a company asks you to write, draw or color for them, don't work for less than what you feel your time, effort and talent are worth. Work for free if you must, or if you owe any favors, or if you believe in the project, but never work for free for the same company more than twice.

If an overseas company or even a local company approaches you with terms that are exploitative, stand up for yourself. Tell other artists about it. Write it in your blog. Tell ME and I'll write about it here.

Good luck to all of us!


And for our readers, thank you for all your support, and I hope I could beseech for a little understanding. Creating comics is no easy thing. Oftentimes, we just work out of our houses, powered only by a few hundred pesos. We haven't got a nationwide network in which to distribute our comics, and we have no big print runs that ensure a lower retail price. We can never compete with the big companies and their nationwide ( or even just metro-wide) distribution with print runs so large they can afford to sell their comics cheaper than us.

We can only distribute to a few select stores who are sympathetic and willing to carry our titles. If you want to support our comics, please help us out by either getting in touch with us for your copy or if you're able, do a little bit of legwork to get to where our comics are. And we would be very appreciative of your patience and your effort.

And if you are buying a photocopied mini-comic, it would be a great convenience if you don't insist on a receipt. I mean, would you ask for a receipt if you buy a 1.5 Coke and bag of Chippy at your local sari-sari store? The BIR does not require them to issue receipts and yet they make more money than your average mini comic book maker. To insist on a receipt will require the small time mini comics maker to pay thousands of pesos in fees and lose a couple of weeks of man-hours just to get the proper permits to give you that receipt. Many of these mini comics makers will be considered as "marginal income" by the BIR anyway because they make very little money. They'll end up paying more fees than what money they can earn from their comics.

Once again, thanks for the support! It really is very much appreciated.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Lastikman, Humanis Rex!

Here's a message I got recently. I'm posting it here because the message bounced back to me when I replied. I welcome all correspondences and I feel bad when they're unable to receive my reply. To prevent any problems, please make sure you spell your email address correctly in the address field so the message gets back to you OK.

"Sir, you might have referrals as to how i could get hold of a copy of this. It's for a research paper i'm doing regarding pinoy superheroes. Many thanks!" -Darnel V.

Hey Darnel...

If you're in the Philippines, you can get Lastikman at National Bookstore and Powerbooks. Since it's a little old, you might find it tucked behind the other comics. It's also available at Comicquest and Filbars.

If you're abroad, I think you can still get a copy here:


I'm trying to redesign the main site (http://www.komikero.com) so it represents more comprehensively what I've been up to in my work. I'm hoping to make it look uncluttered, more comic book-y, and give visitors a quick overview of my work in just once glance. I hope to put it up before ELMER #1 hits the shelves next week.

For the meantime, I'm working on Part 14 of HUMANIS REX!, my other major work for the moment. I got some interesting feedback to Humanis Rex all the way from, believe it or not, France. His observations on my work in this series is so spot on it's eerie. Basically, he hits upon the inconsistency in the style that I use, from the simple linework from some parts to heavily rendered in some parts. He did say that this particular style would probably fit more in the European market rather than American.

I guess I was trying to define in the artwork the different time periods the story is set in. Anything set in the past would be heavily rendered with hatchings, while anything set in the far future would be rendered more simply, with hardly any hatchings at all. Apparently, it's still something I'm struggling with.

The "clean" style of comics art is something I've been attempting to do for such a long time and I've yet to hit on the balance that works best for me and I'm aesthetically satisfied with. There are definitely parts of Humanis Rex that I like a lot, specially this one, because it's come close to what I've imagined what I like this particular aspect of my work to be.

I don't want to completely abandon a fully rendered kind of illustration, as it's something I've always wanted to apply to one complete comic book. After ELMER it's something I'm hoping to attempt.

Ilyn was rummaging through our old pictures when she came across a contact print of a black and white roll of film. I was pleasantly surprised to see what pictures there are in the print including this one, which I had to blow up considerably.

It's our old apartment at Aguado St. in San Miguel, Manila. On the left is the house of our landlord Mr. Montesa, in the middle is the gate and driveway, and on the 2nd floor of the building on the right is the apartment I lived in from 1979 to 1993. This photo was taken in 1993 on the day we moved to another apartment in P. Noval in Sampaloc, Manila. That's my bed being lugged up to the truck. I haven't seen this photograph in a long time, and I haven't seen our old apartment in years.

And yet, this particular apartment and driveway (including our landlord's house) are things I drew completely from memory for use in Humanis Rex! #10, where the main character recognizes his old home.

When Rodel Esguerra says, "It's my house! I live here!", it's actually me who's saying it. Almost 15 years I lived in that house. I practically grew up there. It would be tough to forget. I didn't get the windows on the ground floor completely right though.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

ELMER Trailer

For slow connections, press play and then press pause.
Let the video load completely before pressing play once again.

Elmer #1 is at the printer and they promised delivery by middle of next week. They were good enough to offer to deliver the copies right here in San Pablo, which is great! That solves a problem I've been thinking about for a while.

I'll make delivery to stores by next weekend so you can check the Megamall branch of Comicquest, Druid's Keep in Magallanes (3rd Floor of where Rustan is located) and Comics Odyssey in Robinson's Malate by Sunday, June 4. I'll deliver to other branches of Comicquest at a later date, and while Mag:net has agreed to carry Elmer, I still need to talk to them for the details. I'll also try to talk to the owners of the store that used to be Filbar's at Alabang Town Center if they could carry it.

I'll be at the Toycon next month so come on and visit so we can talk comics!

For the meantime, here's a little trailer of ELMER.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Selling on Ebay

Selling on Ebay

In order to fund my various publishing ventures, I'll be selling some of my stuff at Ebay Philippines, and some original art from Superman: Birthright, Batman/Danger Girl and Silent Dragon at Ebay Worldwide. I've had an agent sell some stuff for me on Ebay many years ago, and it turned out ok. But now I want to try it for myself. I'm normally hesitant to sell any of my original art (as Leinil would attest), but if I get to publish more comics because of this, then it would be just allright.

I'm testing the waters now on Ebay Philippines by selling a copy of WASTED: Final Edition, one of the very few I have left here in the house. (To db of QC, don't worry, your copy is safe with me.) I would have sold some original Wasted art, but they all went up in smoke when Pulp's offices burned down many years ago.

I got my dates confused. I thought the TOYCON was this month. It's NEXT month. Although I've already said that I won't be getting a booth, a friend of mine invited me to sell stuff at his booth if I wanted to. Well, in that case, I'll be there. I'll be selling copies of ELMER, as well as meet with people who won items from me at Ebay.ph. More details on the Toycon later.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Elmer #1 Goes To Press

Elmer #1 finally goes to press early next week so there's a very good chance that I will be able to pick up the books by the end of the month. I was able to put together a mock up earlier today to check for typos, errors, and stuff I need to adjust. Seeing the finished thing after all that work these past months made me realize how exhausted I was and I fell asleep rather quickly.

I had a dream where I didn't feel human. In fact, I was a chicken. I was doing something I can't remember, but it was dark and there was a lot of panic. Ilyn tried to wake me up but I was so into it that I thought she was part of the dream. I half woke up, completely forgetting what day it is, what time it is, what I should be doing. I don't remember going to sleep. She was saying something like it's 9:00 o:clock but it was meaningless to me. At that moment, that world was more real to me than the one I actually have. And then I woke up, and quite honestly, I was more exhausted than I ever was. It was like the first day you recover from a long illness. You feel like you've been through something, and you're very shaken by it.

Good thing Chris Barrie was in my dream as well, which sort of made it less terrible than it would have been. I guess he's there because Brittas Empire and Red Dwarf have been constant companions throughout the creation of Elmer #1. The man's a genius!

Thanks to all those who sent in their artworks. I was able to use some of them, but not all. I was looking for artwork that would fit certain areas of the comic book, so although I may think your work is really good, it may have been not used because it didn't fit this part of the series, or I'm just waiting to use it for something else. Here is a list of people whose work are included in the first issue:

Edgar Tadeo, Elbert Or, Jac Ting Lim, Jerald Dorado, Rene Enriquez, and Solano Cruz.

There are three more issues so for those who sent in their art not included in the first issue need not worry. And if anyone still wants to send anything, you're still welcome! There's plenty of time for the other issues.

If you would like your work to pop up in the comic book, it would be far easier for me to use artwork that's completely black and white. No greyscale. My artwork for the book is black and white without greyscale so your art needs to fit in the general look. Incorporating a greyscale image in there would make it look out of place.

Here's a couple more I received, one from Carlo Fabello, and another one from Elbert Or. Thanks guys!

Elbert Or

Carlo Fabello

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Jun Lofamia Sketch

Jun Lofamia

Erni Labao came over to visit a couple of weeks ago with a group of his officemates to visit the mini-museum in my house. Erni has an interesting Jun Lofamia story in his blog, and through that I was able to meet him. Erni brought with him this original sketch that Mang Jun wanted to give to me, along with some other drawings and prints. Thanks to Erni and specially Jun Lofamia for his generosity. And I'm really stunned at how beautiful this thing is. Looking over the other artwork he sent, I can definitely say that he is more, much much more than what we normally see of his work in Liwaway.

More and more I'm convinced that Mang Jun, and a lot of our great comic book illustrators are the unheralded master artists of our time, disadvantaged by the derogatory impression many in the art community has for those who work in "comics". More of Jun Lofamia's art in future postings.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Surprising and Disappointing

Surprising and Disappointing

As some visitors have already noticed, I removed all direct links to my email address in the website to cut down on spam I receive. I replaced the email link with a contact page where anyone who wishes to get in touch can do so via a web email form. It also gave me the opportunity to write a mini-FAQ on the page to help me answer questions asked of me numerous times, and to help those who wish to write to know what to expect. Since I do reply to almost all emails I receive, and I do take quite a bit of time to write them, I'd like to save time by not repeating what I had already written down to someone else.

For instance, I do get a lot of emails from students asking for interviews for help with their school projects, and for them, I've always taken a rather firm stance that they should communicate properly before I help them. These are young people trying to prepare themselves for the real world and if they ever hope to land good employment anywhere, they ought to know how to conduct themselves properly, and they ought to know how to communicate well and with courtesy. A lot of students are pretty good with it, and we all end up having a great time. But there a lot of students who aren't, unfortunately.

I'll have none of that "text speak" in any correspondence. I'll have no stranger trying to coerce overt familiarity with me by calling me "Tito Gerry". This isn't showbiz, and I'm not German Moreno.

Now I've written all this down in the web mail form, asking them to read the message carefully, hoping to prevent any problems.

Imagine my surprise and disappointment when I received some messages via the web form, doing exactly what I had asked them not to.

One wrote:

" elow ask ko lng kung tumtanggap b kau ng ojt for fine arts student..w8 ko poh ung reply..salamt poh"

Apparently, this student pretty much ignored all that I had written there, scrolled straight down and sent the message. I for one will *not* hire anyone who cannot spell and cannot write a proper letter. Now I sent a reply to this person, but it bounced back to me. Either he misspelled his email address, or it's someone trying to yank my chain.

But if it is a real person, I won't embarrass you by putting your name here. If you are reading this, I hope you learn something from this, and to answer your question, yes, I do get OJTs once in a while. I already have one now. But they need to be based in San Pablo, and they need to be someone I can get along with.

I got another email from an aspiring comic book artist, asking how to break into comics, and what are the things he needs to study.

Once again, it's someone who ignored the message in the web form completely and scrolled right down to send the message. If he had read what's written there, he would find a link to a rather long article that I wrote on how to break into comics (at least here in the Philippines), and what books he needs to read and study.

I can't stress how important it is for anyone who wishes to find employment to know how to follow instructions. If they can't do something as simple as that, well...

And those are only two. And I'll stop right there.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Power's Out

As soon as I updated this blog yesterday morning, the power went out and didn't come back until four in the afternoon today, the following day. Engrossed as I was with work, I hadn't realized a typhoon had been bearing down on us until I noticed how uncharacteristically rainy and windy it had been last Friday. All throughout yesterday and all last night I kept thinking... well, so much for web comics eh?

On a cold rainy day like this, there's nothing I'd like to do than to lie in bed with a stack of old comics. My stack consisted mostly of DC Showcase: Superman 1. If you want to have a nice fun time with some enjoyable inventive stories, check this out. There's nothing like holding something in your hands because it will always be there, electricity or not.

When you're pissed when the power is out, your monitor is dark, and you've got no ice on your coke, you realize web comics, online journals and blogs, websites, Friendsters and Deviant Arts don't really exist. They're just electronic impulses that exist when the power is on, but disappear as quickly when the switch is thrown, as intangible as quickly fading dreams.

It may be unlikely, but in the event that all this breaks down, and tomorrow there is no longer Internet and no electricty, what in hell are you going to do when you spend so much of your life online? Stare dementedly at your cold dark computer and slowly go insane, or are you gonna pick up a book, a newspaper or a comic book? There is much value in that, you might discover, and something worthwhile to do, even if there is electricity and computers and the Internet.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Alcala Legacy, Wasted

Christian Alcala sent a message linking us to a photogallery of the Alcala Legacy, a series of exhibits featuring the work of Christian and his father, Alfredo Alcala.

It's a very nice collection of photographs and artwork from various exhibits here in the Philippines and the United States.


Out of the blue, a review of Wasted suddenly popped up after all these years. Vincent Coscolluela did a review of several local comics for their May 2006 issue of Gamesmaster Magazine. It's always nice to read something like this about your work, and contrary to the idea that compliments make you complacent, the opposite is true for me. Reviews like this make me feel embarassed, and push me to do a whole lot better the next time around.

Writer and Illustrator: Gerry Alanguilan
Publisher: Pulp Magazine

Testament to its popularity, WASTED has been available in many form over the past few years: in its original eight-part mini-comic debut, a compiled edition by Alamat Comics, and finally serialized and also recompiled by Pulp into a “Final Edition.”

The hundred page mini was written “during a time of extreme personal difficulty,” as Alanguilan says in the book’s afterword – and it does show in the work.

Eric, WASTED’s protagonist, goes on a killing spree after his girlfriend, Jen, breaks up with him, Instead of being a mediocre excuse for wanton violence, the book actually pulls us into Eric’s world and makes us experience in shocking visuals his own inner demons. Alanguilan’s passion for WASTED shines through in his crude, black-and-white drawings and earnest dialogue, which form an uncompromising story about lost love, one that has inevitably found its way into the Philippine comic book canon.

The magazine also reviews Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo's TRESE, as well as Arnold Arre's After Eden. Read the rest of the reviews here. Thanks to Budjette!

Friday, May 12, 2006


Elmer/Toycon Updates

When is Elmer coming out? It's a question I've been asked a lot recently. I'm very grateful for the positive response that the preview has had so far, so I really can't wait to share the first issue as soon as I can. I apologize for moving the release of the first issue by a month as I had to take care of legalizing Komikero Publishing, which has just been finished. With the kind of bureaucracy we have, doing that is an achievement in itself. But thank God Ilyn volunteered to take care of a lot of the legwork as she was setting up her own business at the same time. I can't stand standing in lines to be honest. I have really no patience for it so really, I don't think I would have been able to do it on my own. The comic book will be at the printers by next week, and should be available towards the end of the month. In the meantime, here is a brilliant chicken cartoon art by Elbert Or.

I've been asked if I will getting a booth at the Toycon next week. The Komikero group and I have been mainstays for several years at the Toycon and although it would have been nice to go this year, I'm afraid I won't be able to. It's got nothing to do with the Toycon itself or the organizers because to toys and collectibles fans, it's still the one and only Philippine collectibles event to go to. But I decided as early as last year that I will only concentrate on the Komikon and other events where comics is the central theme. The Toycons had been fun, but the response, interest, enthusiasm and business we were able to make at the Komikon far surpasses all our Toycon years combined. This is also the year I need to be more careful of my finances, and paying for a booth at the Toycon is unfortunately one of the things I've had to forgo, specially since I need to take stock of my finances for a possible Comics Festival here in San Pablo in December.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006



I've only recently discovered that HALOSCAN comments older than 4 months are archived and can no longer be read. You can check yourself by going back 5 months to see our discussions suddenly gone. The only way to bring them all back would be for me to get a paid Haloscan account. I cannot afford any additional expenses at the moment so that's pretty much out of the question. I'm a bit disappointed because a lot of great discussion over matters of comics and art can no longer be read and I realize it's a loss that I no longer wish to perpetuate with each passing month. It is for this reason that I've decided to no longer make use of Haloscan's service.

I no longer wish to use Enetation as well because a lot of visitors find it slow, and I just can't figure out how to make Blogger's built in commenting system to work on my template. And I have neither time or inclination to mess with my template in an effort to make it work, or do I wish to do any other work on this blog other than updating its content. As visitors would probably notice, I haven't been updating as often as used to, as I have become preoccupied by other matters.

So with the next update after this one, Haloscan comments will be disabled. I hope the lack of a commenting system be temporary, but for the meantime, anyone who wishes to comment on anything that is said here, or just to get in touch, they can send an email. I will try to come up with an email form to facilitate it.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Legacy of Komiks

The Legacy of Komiks

"Komiks" is what has come to mean Philippine Comics, but in the context of this article and this site, Komiks will mean any comic book published by ACE Publications, GASI, GSM, PSG, ATLAS, and any other publisher who have published comics in the traditional weekly or bi-weekly anthology format from the 1940's to the early 2000's.

As my earlier article have described, the great tradition of these anthology komiks, which had been so popular for so many decades, has finally died out with the cessation of the publication of Pilipino Komiks, Tagalog Klasiks, Espesyal and Hiwaga after more than six decades.

The reaction to the news has certainly been mixed, although disappointingly sparse. Those that did offer reaction expressed sorrow at the passing of a great tradition, others expressed the need to let go and move forward.

While moving forward is really the only logical and natural course of action, I sense we may have not fully taken stock of the significance of what has occurred. Perhaps many of us still don't grasp the enormity of just what we have lost. To move forward, I believe we need to study and learn what has gone before to empower us to make something better tomorrow. Leaving it all behind and letting go just like that to me seems a little callous, specially if we have yet to take the time to lament our loss, and take the time to examine what went wrong.

I have always stressed the importance or keeping and presenting komiks and komiks art in this site, not because I want us to live in the past, and relive past glories, as some faceless opinion makers seem to assert, but I do it for something more important. And that is to preserve our history and legacy of a rich culture of komiks art, and hopefully give our young artists a sense of identity as Filipinos that would inspire them to create new and original things.

The apathy and indifference which greeted the passing of our komiks, now makes it even more important to preserve all that can be preserved for the benefit of future generations, and out of respect and appreciation for those writers and artists who have given their entire lives to create beauty in words and in art.

Nestor Redondo
Manila Klasiks Cover
Artwork courtesy of Dennis Villegas

I've seen little written about this online, but here is a link that gives a different perspective on the subject.

Where Did Komiks Go?
Mcoy-Remote Control Giant Robot

Monday, May 01, 2006


The Death of a Once Great Industry

I was browsing through one of my online message boards just the other week, the one specializing in the local Philippine comics industry. I read a message from long time illustrator Nestor Malgapo that illustrator Rod Santiago was reporting Atlas Publications' cessation of publication of all their comics.

It was the last report in a long line of alleged reports indicating the end of comics from Atlas. I had been hearing the same thing as early as last year during October's Komikon, the First Philippine Comics Convention at UP Diliman.

Although early reports have proven to be untrue as I continued to see komiks being sold at my local town store, this last report by one of the illustrators working for Atlas itself, seemed to confirm the inevitable truth.

Komiks from Atlas had been limping along for the past few years, appearing only sporadically, and hardly ever these last few months. I realize, much to my chagrin, that the last batch of comics I was able to buy was from late last year and early this year, and then no more.

Atlas Publications had been the repository of a truly great and legendary line of comics, passed down from company to company, beginning with ACE Publications, which originated these comics as early as 1947.

Pilipino Komiks, the first regularly published Philippine comic book after the short lived Halakhak Komiks, came out in June 14, 1947. Tagalog Klasiks followed in July 1949, Hiwaga Komiks in 1950 and finally Espesyal Komiks in 1952. These four comic books, initially published once every two weeks, and then years later once a week, were a huge success. Selling an average of more than 100,000 copies per issue, it is conceivable that those 4 comics alone were selling more than one million copies in a single month. For a poor struggling country trying to recover from the horrors of World War II, those numbers are staggering indeed.

The success of these comics spawned many, many other comics, not only from ACE Publications itself, but from many other companies that were born in its wake.

Graphic Arts Services, Inc. (GASI) produced Kislap, Pinoy Komiks, Pinoy Klasiks, Pioneer, Aliwan, Holiday and Teens Weekly. Affiliated Publications produced Superstar Nora Aunor Komiks, and PIP Komiks. Makabayan Publishing came out with Tagumpay Komiks. Soler Publishing House published WOW, Romantic Klasiks, Mr. and Mrs. Komiks Magazine, and Hot Komiks. Pablo S. Gomez Publishing came out with United, Kidlat, Universal and Planet Komiks.

CRAF Publications came out with Redondo Komix, Alcala Fight Komix, CRAF Klasix,etc. Nestor Redondo himself published Superyor Komiks. LIRA Publications came out with Caravana Klasiks, Darling, Venus and Adonis Komiks. RAR Publishing House published 8teen Mag, Teen World, Bulaklak, Dracula, and Ravelo Komiks. Gold Star Publishing came out with 9 Teeners, Pag-Ibig, Movie King and Movie Queen. Sold Gold Publishing published Pilipino Funny Komiks. GMS Publishing came out with Sampaguita, Diamante, Kilabot, Fantasya, Ligaya, Lagim, Detektib, Sweetheart, Wakasan and Short Story Komiks.

And believe it or not, I really haven't even begun to list all the comics that were ever published in the country. I'm just scratching the surface of a gigantic industry that was as part of Filipino culture as eating, newspapers and movies. You can't go anywhere without seeing them being read, being sold, being rented, and being used as wrapping paper at public markets.

And at the very top of this heap were Pilipino Komiks, Tagalog Klasiks, Espesyal and Hiwaga.

From these comics a lot of our greatest artists were born. From here came Nestor Redondo, Alfredo Alcala, Fred Carrillo, Teny Henson, Mauro Malang Santos, Federico Javinal, Elpidio Torres, Jesse Santos, Larry Alcala, and so many more.

From the pages of these comics sprang forth immortal classics like Darna, Jack and Jill, Roberta, Bondying, Ang Panday, DI-13, Kalabog en Bosyo, Ukala, El Indio and many more. Comics were the source of many motion pictures. The connection was so close that at many times, movie versions of komiks serials were already filming before the series even finished running.

The impact on Filipino culture was so strong that it's still being felt today. On TV now you will be able to see programs inspired from Komiks serials. Darna, Panday, Kampanerang Kuba, and ABS-CBN's Komiks series. Bear in mind that these are not new stories. These are stories that have been produced at the height of the komiks industry many decades ago.

One can appreciate today how large this industry was when we look around and we no longer see any of these comics, and yet we still feel and see the impact that they have left us.

Through the years, many of these comics companies that were once so successful slowly dropped out one by one, until at the very last, only ATLAS remained. The big FOUR comics, including a few others like Love Story and Horoscope, themselves slowly disappeared from the sidewalks and newsstands and for a time, they could only be seen at National Book Store. Until finally early this year, Atlas finally called a halt to their komiks, ending more than 60 years of a tradition of comics that was part of the lives of your parents and grandparents, and in certain ways, your lives as well.

The very last issue of Pilipino Komiks that I ever got was issue # 3248. Last issue of Tagalog at # 2775, Espesyal at #2598, and last issue of Hiwaga at #2867. I'm sure that there are some more issues that came out after that, but I never saw them, even as I staked out my local magazine stand week in and week out.

Look at those numbers. More than three thousand two hundred individual consecutive issues of Pilipino Komiks alone. Collectively, that's eleven thousand, four hundred and eighty eight comic books. For a local company now to be able to release 10 consecutive issues on a bi-weekly or weekly basis is daunting enough, and as far as I know, *nobody* is doing it at all. You now start to see what a staggering achievement these comics were, and how unimaginably large that tradition of comics was.

At last it can finally be said. A great tradition in Philippine comics is finally ended. And it truly is an end to an era.

But today, nobody hardly seems to notice, or even care. There's nothing in the newspapers about it, not in the TV or radio, and hardly anything at all on the Internet. And that's a tragedy.

But all is NOT lost.

Although Atlas Publications has ceased publishing its comics, it doesn't mean it's the end of the Philippine Comics Industry, as some people seem to fear it is. Bear in mind that Liwayway Magazine is still being published on a weekly basis.

Remember that Liwayway is truly where our comics industry was born when Tony Velasquez debut KENKOY on its pages in 1929. It is here that writers and artists like Francisco V. Coching, Mars Ravelo, Clodualdo Del Mundo,Tony Velasquez, and Francisco Reyes came from. It is here that stories like HAGIBIS, Marabini, Kulafu, Pedro Penduko, Buhay Pilipino, Rita and El Vibora were published.

Today, Liwayway still thrives under its current publisher, Manila Bulletin, and it features a group of reinvigorated artists who carry on the tradition like Rico Rival, Hal Santiago, Abe Ocampo, Nar Cantillo, Jun and Rod Lofamia, and many others.

I also heard that Atlas is not selling their comics properties. One can interpret that any way they want, but I prefer to be optimistic. There may still be a chance that they will continue publishing eventually in some form. And then again they may not. If they do, they need to take a serious look at what went wrong, and learn their lessons from it.

A part of me is hoping that something like Bulletin buys the properties completely, like they have Liwayay, and continue publication with improved production values. I can certainly use a few million pesos right now. I can make a lot of comics with that!

Completely independent from these established publishers, a new industry of comics has been growing since the early 90's, spearheaded by young artists looking to find a venue for their work. Failing to find established venues, they formed their own groups and companies, and published comics on their own.

It is from this industry that writers and artists like Arnold Arre, Oliver Pulumbarit, Gilbert Monsanto, Jim and Jay Jimenez, Lui Antonio, Carlo Vergara, David Hontiveros, Reno Maniquis, Budjette Tan, Zach Yonzon, Marco Dimaano, Dean Alfar, Elbert Or, Jamie Bautista, James Palabay, myself and many more have come from, producing comic books like Mythology Class, Siglo, Class, After Eden, Andong Agimat, One Night in Purgatory, ZsaZsa Zaturnnah, Trese, Horus, Lexy and Argus, and many others.

Although this new industry has a long way to go before it can reach a mass audience like the previous industry, if it even can, what's important is that they are there, that they create, even if they make very little money out of it. If that isn't doing it for the love of it, I don't know what is. And with people like that, this industry will never die.

Can love save an industry? Yes it can. And a pox on anyone who says otherwise.