Saturday, September 23, 2006

Video Blogs and Small Minds

"The Philippine Comics Art Museum Online"
Komikero Video Blog #11

In this video I talk about the reasons why I put up the online gallery of Philippine Comics Art with a montage (which I mistakenly call "collage" in there. ugh!) of samples of artwork included in the site.


“Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great ones make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

- Mark Twain

I really love this quote. I got it from Journalista's Dirk Deppey, and it's perfectly dedicated to my special friend out there (who refuses to identify himself) who's got nothing but bad things to say about us doing comics in the Philippines today.

He just keeps on yakking, as a couple of people have written to me. I'd rather not go on explaining myself or my work to this person, as it's perfectly obvious that he's judging us on a completely different platform than where we are operating.

In other words, he just doesn't GET it.

He's of a belief that all comics should only be done for the poor, should not seek to pursue art, should all be written in the vernacular, and any comic book that do not fit into that mold is automatically the work of satan and is responsible for the downfall of comics.

I mean, what the...?

There's no changing the minds of people like that. And I'd like to think Filipinos would be intelligent enough to discern through his deceptively "knowledgable" writings to realize what is really true and what is not.


On a related note, I do respond more easily to those who write me about such things. Pardon me if some points are oft repeated, but some things are worth repeating, not only for people involved, but for myself. It is through exhanges like this, getting the point of view of other people, that I'm able to reflect and determine my own beliefs.

For example, Mynel emailed me the following question:

"Is it possible that the comics for the \"masses\" is already dead and now replaced by comics for art\'s sake or now called the comics for the rich?" - Mynel A

Hello Mynel!

One thing you have to bear in mind is that there are no absolutes. Meaning just because comics are expensive, it doesn't mean there are no longer comics for the masses and they are all automatically for the rich.

It's not that simple.

One reason why there are no longer any inexpensive comics is because the old companies that provided them, with the exception of Liwayway, have either closed or have stopped publishing comics. They have been closing one by one during the last 20 years, until at the very last, Atlas published it's very last komiks sometime towards the end of 2005. That signalled the end of a great tradition in komiks.

The other side seem to think I'm responsible for helping usher that in, which is just ridiculous. The fact is, the komiks industry started its deterioration towards the end of the 1960's and early 1970's (just about the time I was born) when many of the great artitsts either left komiks in the Philippines or retired, due to a variety of reasons one of which was Martial Law. Komiks were still very successful and profitable, but here I mark the point in komiks history that the "quality" of comics started to deteriorate.

The late 1940's and the entire 1950's up to the early 60's was truly the Golden Age of Philippine Comics. We'll never see it's like again.

I hope the many artists and writers from the 70's and onwards don't take offense, and many of them were really good, specially Hal Santiago and Steve Gan, but they will be the first to admit that their own work will never match the mastery of artists like Coching, Redondo, and Alcala. By the early 70's Redondo, Alcala and NiƱo have all started working abroad, and Francisco V. Coching retired shortly after Martial Law was declared.

The quality of the comics continued its deterioration throughout the 70's and 80's, due to falling wages in the midst of inflation, an industry that doesn't inspire quality (personal experience) thus driving artists out of the country or into other fields, a large company monopolizing the industry, less emphasis on the quality of production, decreasing drive for experimentation and settling for proven formulas resulting in cliched, stagnated and repetitive stories.

The Filipinos aren't idiots. They know when something is crap. And they spoke with their wallets. They stopped buying altogether, and now the old industry is dead.

Now if you are a writer and/or artist and you want to create comics, what are you going to do when there are no publishers to hire you?

The solution for many of us is to create our own comics.

But also bear in mind that we are NOT huge companies. We are individuals paying for the printing of the comic books ourselves. If we cannot make our comics as inexpensive as the old industry did, it's not by choice. We want our comics to be inexpensive so people can afford it, but the problem is, specially in my case, if I sold my comics any cheaper, I will end up losing money.

That's the economic reality we have to face. Many things today cannot be afforded by the poor. Does it mean all those things aren't made for the masses? Intellectually, yes they are. As I've said often before, the Filipino masses are an intelligent and sophisticated bunch who can appreciate more than we give them credit for.

"For Art's Sake" is another phrase being bandied about by the other side like something that's awful and despicable. We want GOOD comics. I'm of an opinion that many of the komiks from the last 15 years of its life to be extremely LOW in quality. The writing is mechanical, cliched and lifeless. The art is even more so. I want to do something BETTER and DIFFERENT. I want good writing and good art. Because the readers DESERVE good writing and art. They deserve so much better than what they've been given for the past several years.

Our comics are not here to REPLACE the old as you mentioned. Our comics are here simply because the old industry is no longer doing any comics. It's not our fault that they're not. It's baffling why so many people seem to want to pass on the responsibility of old companies to us, when we are creators, not publishers. And we have a different set of priorities, artistic sensibilities and objectives.

To pass that responsibility to us is to not "GET" us, and what we're trying to do. For a mind so steeped in the ways of the old industry, what we may do may be baffling. For some people, it's unfortunate that they seek to denigrate what they don't understand.

I refuse to say comics for the "masses" is already dead. Hand them our comics, specially those by Carlo Vergara and Arnold Arre, and they will understand and appreciate it.

It's just that the reality of economics prevent them from buying it, and it prevents us from making our comics inexpensive enough for them to buy it. But I believe they have the intelligence and the sophistication to appreciate it.