Saturday, December 23, 2006

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Thanks for visiting on this blogsite that celebrates Filipino Comics and the people involve on it. It's been inactive for almost more than 1 month to give ample time on the last article. This will be back on its regular features and updates by next week . I will be posting some articles based on the book provided by Mr. Gerry Alanguilan himself: Comic Book Artist Issue no. 4: The fearless stylings of Alex Niño that also includes an Article about The Invasion of Filipino Artists.:

Meanwhile, while Christmas and New Year is Fast Approaching, we would like to greet everyone Advance Merry Christmas and Happy New Year !!!.

Keep tuning in since we will provide you some articles that celebrates Filipino Komiks. As well,as we will feature Artist of The Month, Featured Blogsites and Websites, some interviews on the Industry and Philippine Comics Reviews. 2007 will be a new exciting year for this blogsite.

Anyone who would like to contribute on this blog or share some Articles that you think would be beneficial for Philippine Comics Industry please feel free to email: or notify us here. We would be glad to welcome your comments and suggestions.

For The Love of Filipino Comics

*image courtesy of

Friday, November 03, 2006

Thoughts on Komikon 2006

Well it was almost two weeks after our Komikon 2006 event
but I can't still get rid my hang over on it.We have all the
same sentiments--it was a total BLAST!Indeed it created a ripple
not only here in the Philippine comic Industry but as well as
in the international community.Believe me, we are watched by
other countries.One thing Im proud to say, is that we as Democratic
Society showcased a Tsunami of Talents within ourselves.

For the past few days, I'd been busy browsing and reading some articles,
blogs, comments,reactions and news about the Komikon 2006.I smiled on it
and said, its a new HOPE for all of us who belong in this Industry.
A lot of positive Aura about this were being established.

However, I wanted to go deeper on the true significance of having a
Komik Convention here in the Philippines. I have observed that we
are all preoccupied on things and ignored some current issues that we
need to address accordingly.After Komikon, WHAT'S NEXT FOR US?

I am actually a newbie on this so called industry.But even a newbie like
me do have observations and critical analysis.It is all up to you whether
you believe on me or not.I just want to express and I don't intend
to dictate everyone.Who knows? This might be an Eye opener to all of Us.
Afterall, everyone is entitled or do have the right to give an opinion.

First and foremost, I salute the Artist's Den with the cooperation of
At The Drawing Board for organizing this much awaited event.As what I have said,
organizing and facilitating such event is not an easy task.It requires
a lot of effort.You guys, actually succeded in bringing together all the Komiks people
in one venue.This kind of event made us all become more acquainted with each other.
We became more aware that we are not alone and with one voice- we exist.It is
enough to bring more inspiration and make the industry more active once and for all.

On Being an Indie

You know guys, I love doing and supporting indie comics because Im an indie also.
Being an endie, means doing all the things we wanted the most as an artist
with out the prohibition or limitation for art sake.Being an independent.
I understand that.

We have witnessed lot of indies who managed to attend the convention.
And its is a true fact that we are increasing in numbers based on my research
on the internet.We are therefore existing!And is it a sign.A sign that we can
still become more and more until we reach to the point that we can attract the
attention of the public.

But the sad questions: Do we really understand what we are doing?
I have observed that we just do it because we love doing it.But never have
the idea on how to explain it? Do we really know the consequences on what we are
doing, might effect the next generation and the future of the industry?
Does we really mean it or we just do it for the sake of satisfying our own belief or
artistic ways?Or because we just want to express?I guess we are doing this simply
because we wanted to create.It is our natural tendency as an artist.If everyone ask you
about it, just say, it is I wanted to create that's why i went indie.I think
we need reasons first before we say that.Reasons and feelings are forces that drives
us to think and then create.It saddens me to hear some people do not understand
the aesthetic and importance behind what we are doing.If you are aware, don't you see
that until now, we can't still determine where we are going? Are we satisfied and contended
on what were doin now? Or we will just continue seeking for excellence?

"We are being branded as children who just wanted to spoil ourselves".I wanted to
break this notion and slap those people who said that. Because, they just don't understand.
They have just little knowledge on what we had been through.Will you accept that notion?
Or we'll do something about it? Let us show to them that what we create are not just a product of a childish persona but a result of a creative mind or even a potential genius.We tend to be deviant to the norms,coz we know how to innovate, we are the trendsitters.Ask them if
they can do it, they'll answer, "everyone can do that". Uh uh..I dont think so.

"Destructive Competition among us will eat us all and will lead us to nothing". Accept it or not we are competing during the convention of not just who will be the best but for the respect of the attention of others.This is an evident atmosphere that I observed during the event.We are not intact. I can see divisions/factions among artists with different styles varrying from cartooning, manga, western, realistic, painting etc.I can sense struggle between the traditionalist, modern and digital artists.WE NEED TO STOP INFLICTING DAMAGE TO EACH OTHER. If our aim is to revive the local comic scene, let us be united, set aside our differences, focus on what will be our contribution and support each other.It is high time, can't you see?I can also sense that there are other people who mocks the works of other, please don't do that. Art is unlimited and every artwork has an aesthetic value or its beauty can be interpreted in different ways.Let us respect each other or better shut up if we don't have a solid constructive criticism.It will not help.We will learn on the long run, we will become more active giving more life to the industry.Don't act as if you know everything.Humble down.Later on you will see, that what Im suggesting will help you a lot in becoming a more matured and responsible artist.Try to share your talent and only then you will find that it will later return in double with out you realizing it.

" Indie Comics cannot revive the local comic scene." HUH?! THEN WHO ELSE? The bankers? The nurses? The politicians? The preachers? I gravely disagree on this issue.We are all aware that the Past Comics Industry was already Six feet under.In the past years, many comic people attempted to revived, they succeded for sometime but eventualy failed.Because they lack support.We have no other choice but to accept the fact and move on.Indie creators are the product of this struggle and will remain a forefront in making comics still visible to the eyes of Filipino people.Philippine Publishers nowadays do not gave importance on comics instead they are busy doing lifestyles and special interests magazines specially glamour.We can see it everywhere on the bookstores.But despite of that, indies did not stop doing.That's why I admired creators, writers and artists who still proceeded.If we will eliminate the existence of indie people, are we sure about the future of the Industry?

Don't just stay as an indie. What I mean is stop being so over independent.Artists tend to become loners and usually branded as eccentric Try to socialize sometime.Gather suggestions and accept criticism from experts but do not compromize your own conviction.Learn from them but you do not need to be dictated.Join clubs or groups.Proposed your indie creations to publishers.If rejected, don't stop, adjust it and make it more better.Maybe something wrong or lacks with in it.Sometimes, we are blinded by ourselves and do not understand that it is already our ego at work.Get some advise, surf and chat with other artists on the internet.There are free web accounts there, post your artwork or create your gallery.Being an indie creator is a tough decision and a choice.

Lastly, don't stop creating!Don't tell me you'll just doing comics for the Komikon purpose only.That is wrong!Find more place to present your works.There are still kind stores that accepts indie comics.Do not lost Hope.Your perseverance and determination will be your key to success.Don't listen to unnescessary negative energies, just do what you think is right.But don't forget to put responsibility on it.There are zillions of beings in the world.And it means a zillions of chances for us also.In playing a game hundred times,I don't believed you can't get even 1 victory overthere.A mistake is a path to understanding what is right.Becoming you a master of your own field.

On the Philippine Comic Industry

How and when can we revive the industry?I think we are doing it right now. Supporting
each other.Now,that we still continue to know each other, different ideas were also shared
and creates new ideas that might help survived the Industry.

Komikon promises us a lot.It excites us.But until when? Komikon is just but a venue, the real struggle will be inside of us.Though I sound like the tagline used in the teaser of Spiderman 3, it is still quiet true.If we will try to check, our overexcitement might blind us to know the real state of the industry as of this moment. Komikon is just a firestarter, it is just up to us to continue the flame.I hope we will not end to "ningas kugon" again.I appreciate those creators who up to this moment never surrendered despite of the crisis.We know this people who strive hard, and let us follow them.

The style, language or the price is not the issue here.What is more important right now is that we must work on how to make comics accessible to the market and how can we make it a DEMAND again just like the old glory days.Now that we know that we have a lot of potentials-bring it on. We need to focus on that instead of checking the fault of each other.The law of Supply and demand can be applied here. If comicbooks are in- demand in the market again, all of its prices will go down because most of the publishers will compete on the pricing already.If we will always argument on what style or language we are going to use in creating a comics, we will again end up to nothing.Let us respect the prerogative of the creator.But once again, please try to check that comics is a medium and it can influence readers.Creating comics also accompanies responsibilty.Don't forget that.Language is also not a question since Philippines do have the diversity on dialects and English are also dominant here.For me, it does not affect the entire industry.The industry battles other forms of medium such as the internet, movies, etc..You see?That is more important right now.We ,must make the market aware that we are offering them a worthy medium for their consumption.

Originality is somewhat we need to gave priority also.I know all of us understand this term.If we can create a more and unique piece then you are a full matured artist.I don't mean to offend anybody but we as an artist must create and not copy.Yes, not all of us still on the process of exploring our artistic side.But hopefully, you can work it out.I know you can, you are an artist!

Komikon will marked in the rich history of our Philippine Comic Industry.And I know it inspired us all.It's a good sign. And this will serve a Challenge to all of us who loves doing comics.

There are still lot of questions that runs along my mind but this is enough for now.

Goodluck to all of us.

For the love of Filipino Comics,


Monday, October 30, 2006


by Benjamin Ong Pang Kean

If names like Panday, Angel Ace, Flash Bomba, Lastikman, Darna, and Captain Barbell sound unfamiliar to you, it’s because they’re comic book characters from the Philippines.

In celebration of the 120th anniversary of komiks (that’s the Filipino term for comics), spoke with komikeros (i.e. cartoonists or comic artists) from the island nation in Southeast Asia.

Incidentally, October is also Filipino American History Month and 2006 marks the 100th year of Filipino migration to the United States.

Also, the second Philippines Komiks Convention, Komikon 2006, is scheduled for Saturday, October 21 in Quezon City.

Just how big is the komiks industry in the Philippines?

According to writer/artist/inker/The Philippine Comics Art Museum webmaster and curator Gerry Alanguilan, komiks in the Philippines has had a very rich history, tracing its roots way back to the late 1800's when national hero Jose Rizal created what would be the very first Filipino made comic strip, "The Monkey and the Tortoise”.

“But it wasn't until 1929 on the pages of Liwayway Magazine that the first regularly published comics character was born: Kenkoy, as created by Tony Velasquez,” Alanguilan explained to Newsarama. “Liwayway Magazine (which is still being published today) is pretty much where the Philippines comics industry was born when the comics section grew to accommodate more short stories and artists. Liwayway is where artists like Fred Carrillo debut.

“1946 saw the very first regularly published "comic book" via the short lived Halakhak, and a year or so later, in 1947, saw birth ACE Publications, which debut several comic books that will see publication for many decades. It is in ACE that artists like Tony DeZuniga, Nestor Redondo, Alfredo Alcala, Alex Niño, Rudy Florese, Ernie Chan and many other Filipino artists familiar to people abroad, began to work.

“It's an astounding body of work. To see what kinds of comics those Filipinos were able to do, I've put up an online museum which you can find at

“A lot of these artists eventually found work in American comics at the very end of the 1960's, and it was since then and all throughout the 70's did America finally see a huge treasure trove of artists as yet unknown to the western world.”

Alamat Comics founder Budjette Tan concurred that it used to be a thriving industry back in the 1950s and 60s. “Its circulation supposed out-ranked newspapers and had nationwide distribution,” he said. "Back then, komiks was a major source of feature films; and later on became material for TV shows as well.

“Ironically, the 70's also saw the start of the decline of Philippine comics due not only to the mass exodus of artists to America, but also to a number of other factors including the declaration of Martial Law in 1972, where restrictions on creativity forced many artist to leave or retire altogether,” Alanguilan said. “The komiks, as comics are referred to here, were still popular and financially profitable for the companies. But the quality of the comics themselves, specially the artwork, suffered a marked decline. It is a decline that will continue well into the 90's until at last it will collapse soon after.

Alanguilan said that the Filipino artists doing work in the US by this time included Redondo, Alcala, Niño, Florese, ER Cruz, Gerry Talaoc, Rico Rival, Jesse Santos, Teny Henson, Romeo Tanghal, Abel Laxamana, Ading "Adrian" Gonzales and so many more. For a more complete listing, please see Comic Book Artist Magazine Vol. 2 #4, which features an in-depth look at Filipinos who worked in US Comics.

“Rafael Kayanan was probably the very first US based Filipino (not born in the Philippines) to find work there beginning in the 80's and found work on Conan, Spider-Man, Turok, etc. He would signal the start of a new invasion of Filipino artists, the most popular of which was Whilce Portacio.

“It is undeniable that when it was revealed to Filipinos in the Philippines that Whilce Portacio, who was then just coming off X-Factor and has just created Bishop for the X-Men, was in fact Filipino, it served as a kind of trigger that inspired many others to follow in his footsteps. And one of them was me. Many of us never worked in Philippine comics (but I did), and opted to start work directly for US publishers. Among my group were Leinil Francis Yu, Roy Allan Martinez,
Gibert Monsanto, Edgar Tadeo, and Jay Anacleto.

“Another group of artists followed like Wilson Tortosa, Rod Espinosa, Carlo Pagulayan, Philip Tan, Mico Suayan, and Lan Medina (who has actually been around local comics for a while).

“Except for Philip Tan and Rod Espinosa, all of us chose to remain in the Philippines because the Internet allows us to work for American companies but at the same time stay with our families. In the case of Rod, it wasn't until he moved to the US that he was discovered and started to work in comics.

“Concurrently in the US, in the wake of artists like Rafael Kayanan and Whilce Portacio, who both grew up in the US, many other Filipino Americans and Filipino Canadians in comics began appearing like J. Torres, Jonathan Sibal, Cedric Nocon, Mark Pajarillo, Marlo Alquiza,
Noel Tuazon, Ed Tadem, Ronnie Del Carmen, etc.

“Back here in the Philippines, the old local comics industry has all but died towards the end of the 90's and early 2000s. No more comics from those old companies are being published, except for Liwayway Magazine, which still features comics on its pages along with showbiz news,
prose, poetry and opinion.

“However, in the wake of the decline of the comics industry in the 90's, many young Filipino artists looking for venues in which to work didn't find any. So they created their own little companies and published their own comics. I was a part of this "new" industry as well, publishing my own titles like Wasted, Dead Heart, Crest Hut Butt Shop and Timawa, while I inked American comics. I still continue to do so today with my own Elmer, The Adventures of Miko and Jec-Jec, Johnny Balbona, and Humanis Rex!

Tan said that it was in 1993-1994 when things started to get “interesting with the entry of “indie creators” and self-published comic books. These individual creators and groups eventually formed Alamat Comics. The past ten years have not been as glorious and as profitable, but it has been very active and exciting.”

Additionally, we asked some of today’s pros about their knowledge of the komiks in the Philippines and the industry’s legends.

Newsarama: How much do you know about the history of komiks and the industry’s legends?

Whilce Portacio (Wetworks, Batman: Confidential, Stone, Iron Man): Having grown up in the States, I have very little first hand knowledge of our komiks greats. And having been reading American comics only in the 1970s and 80s was only exposed to Alfredo Alcala and Rudy Nebres through their work on Conan and Iron Fist. Although, somehow (I cannot remember now how it happened) I was exposed to Alex Nino’s super stylized artwork and that had a major influence on me. The design sense and the limitless imagination of Alex Nino really got me inspired to let my creative side imagine new worlds and characters.

I lived in the Philippines while a teenager and there I was exposed to artist like Hal Santiago. His work especially attracted me because of its simple but bold lines. He taught me how to refine my structure.

Other than that I knew there was a large exodus of Filipino talent to DC Comics in the 1970s. During the time I was in the Philippines I started to see the downfall of quality in local komiks that would shut down the local companies one by one.

J. Torres (Copybook Tales, Love as a Foreign Language, Teen Titans Go!, Degrassi: Extra Credit): I know enough to understand and appreciate the impact that Filipino creators have had on the North American comic art aesthetic and the industry overall. I have various comics by Alex Nino, Alfredo Alcala, Romeo Tanghal, etc. in my collection and as a child when I discovered that these guys were Filipino like me, I found it very inspiring and kind of took pride in that. These guys paved a way for the rest of us...

Leinil Francis Yu (High Roads, New Avengers, Superman: Birthright, Ultimate Hulk/Wolverine, Wolverine, X-Men): Very little to be honest. I greatly admire the greats such as Coching, Redondo and Nino as well as the rest. I knew about the 70s Filipino American comics impact. I think Filipino artists from the 70s are among the best in the world better than most and comparable to Moebius, Frazetta and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez.

I seriously think that technically, they were the best at the time.

Philip Tan (Spawn, Uncanny X-Men, Iron Man, Taleweaver, Mutant Earth, Trakk): Quite honestly it was not until Gerry Alanguilan showed me stuff by Francisco Coching that I started to ask around and research on the amazing works done by legendary Filipino artists. So no, I do not have a wide knowledge about it, but I definitely have my share of countless hours studying and drooling over the works of these masters!

Francis Manapul (Witchblade, Love In Tights, Necromancer, Iron and the Maiden, Seven Sarmate): I feel embarrased to admit it but I'm not very knowledgeable of Filipino comic history. Although names that I do recall is Alcala, Coching and Nino. I remember looking through their art and just being in awe of the intricate line work and the amount of detail put in each panel. Not only were they amazing comic book artist they were also fantastic illustrators.

Rod Espinosa (Courageous Princess, Neotopia, New Alice in Wonderland, The Alamo, Dinowars): I absolutely admire the old timers! Because they grew up in a less complicated time, they had a lot of practice in their craft. Their work is refined and their compositions and layouts, impeccable.

Carlo Pagulayan (Incredible Hulk): Not much honestly, all the information I get are all thanks to the efforts of Gerry Alanguilan and his Museum, and Dennis Villegas of
I actually thought that Whilce was the first Filipino to break into western comics... that is to the fault of irresponsible reporting of some networks here. I've seen Alcala's artwork in a Conan Magazine and Ernie Chan's, but never knew they were Filipinos.

Jennyson Rosero (No Man’s Land): I am actually the last person you'd ask about the history of komiks and it's legends. I started working professionally at a young age. Therefore, never having any interest on the industry's history and stuff. And when I became interested, I never had time.

Hai (Blade For Barter, Death Jr Manga): Although I pretty much grew up on a varied diet of locally produced comics, my knowledge of the industry and its people is pretty much limited to the stories I'm interested in. Back in the late 70s and 80s, my mom would buy me and my brothers a weekly anthology comic book called Funny Komiks. It has several stories ranging from super-powered furries "Supercat" and "Superdog", Dennis the Menace-type mischief makers "Batute" and "Niknok", and pure adventure and science fiction stories like "Darmo't Adarna" (translates as "Darmo and Adarna") and "Vitro".

Despite the book being printed on rather cheap paper, I remember the stories to be quite vivid with imagination and creativity and the illustrations were very detailed and dynamic. Unfortunately, I pretty much only just remember the art and how good they were. The names of those amazing artists sadly escape me. But to name one that I do remember and deeply influenced my love for illustrating crowds is Larry Alcala whose crowded page spreads remind me of the chaotic genius of Sergio Aragones of Groo.

Marco Dimaano (Angel Ace): I myself am not much of a historian; I like to live in the now and the tomorrow. However, I am aware of the classic Filipino komik styles, which sadly are hard to find these days.

Andrew Drilon (Siglo: Freedom, Ran Online, Project: Hero, Caraboy, Kare-Kare Komiks): I know quite a bit, but my knowledge isn't nearly as extensive as Gerry Alanguilan's or Reno Maniquis'. You'll have to ask them. [laughs] What I know of past masters to look up to: Alfredo Alcala, Nestor Redondo and Alex Nino. Modern-day successes from here: Leinil Francis Yu, Wilson Tortosa, Eric Canete and Whilce Portacio.

When I look at the stuff that was published back then—Darna, Captain Barbell, Lastikman, Dyesebel--I'm floored by this pure romantic vibe that seems to pour out of the pages. And the art was fantastic too, very detailed, very classic, very well-composed. Makes me wonder why there weren't more Filipinos doing komiks internationally back then What really grabs me about the history of komiks here in the Philippines is the work ethic that seems to be consistent when you look at all the creators. I'm thinking that's the Filipino thing—when you look at past Pinoy komiks, you get this sense that these creators put their all into their work, 100% plus--that's something I look up to and try to channel into my current work, creeping deadlines aside.

Randy Valiente (Pambalot ng Tinapa (Isang Pagtanaw sa Komiks ng Pilipino) (Smoked Fish Wrapper-An Insight About The Philippine Comics Industry): After the decline of our local industry in the late 90s, many of our artists went to animation studios and advertising, even travel abroad just to have a decent salary. But before that, would you believe that for almost twenty years (I worked in local komiks for about 17 years), the page rate of our artists here is just Php75 per page, that's $1.50. That's one of the main reason local komiks suffered a great loss of talented people.

Good thing, there are agents, just 2 of them actually (as far as I know), that helps our local artists to penetrate 'again' (after 'Filipino invasion' of the 70s) international comics. Without them, working comics abroad is unreachable for our local artists. But there are still other artists that are still undiscovered. We need more events and conventions and agents. [laughs]

Carlo Vergara (One Night In Purgatory, The Spectacular Adventures of Zsazsa Zaturnnah, Pantheon, Siglo: Passion): I confess that I don't know much about Philippine comics history, but I was an avid reader of the weekly newsprint comics when I was growing up. I recall admiring the artwork of a few of the artists, but I don't remember their names, save Mar Santana. That's why going through Gerry Alanguilan's website is such a joy. The things those legends could do with a brush!

It's sad that the craft behind the Filipino comics style hasn't been passed on. While that style can be said to be "retro," it's a foundation that can be artistically explored and updated without compromising the Filipino flavor. I admit that most of my influences are non-Filipino artists, though those who know my work describe my stuff as "very FIlipino."

Joel Chua (Robotika, Yun, Siglo: Passion): I don't know all the popular titles and artists during the golden age of Filipino komiks. Their works look the same to me, unfortunately. I do however have knowledge of the industry's growth, its degeneration, and its present state of resuscitation. Nonetheless I am certain my knowledge of it is quite poor - having been brought up in a Chinese family which collected no Filipino komiks at all.

Gilbert Monsanto (Hellcop, Houdini: The Man from Beyond, The Saints, Tropa, Rambol Komiks): I can still be considered a puppy inside this business. I’ve started doing komiks during the early 90’s and those were the hard times in the industry, so to speak. There was even a time that a group of artists challenged the management and boycotted Gasi, one of the country’s top 2 publications. The artists in the end failed to get their demands for royalties and settled with a minimum per page rate raised. A few more years later, more and more artists stopped working with them and went on doing other stuff like animation, pocketbooks and some even worked on movies.

.originally posted in


by Benjamin Ong Pang Kean

The United States acquired the Philippines from Spain following the Spanish-American War of 1898.

Therefore, it’s undeniable that the Americans had a huge effect on komiks in the Philippines as the nation was under the U.S. rule at the turn of the 20th century.

In the concluding chapter of our 2-part series on Philippines komiks, we take a look at the current state of the industry.

Today, there are new players that get to publish/release new titles on a more frequent basis. “Mango Comics and Nautilus Comics have their bi-monthly comic books,” Budjette Tan explained. “A comic book called Culture Crash also energized the scene with the anime-inspired comic book anthology. The publishers of Culture Crash later organized two comic book/anime/cosplay events that brought thousands of fans together.

“The group Artist’s Den launched the first Manila Komikon last year and already in the works of organizing this year’s event [to be held in Quezon City on October 21]. The Komikon successfully brought together generations of comic book creators.

“A couple of years ago, Adarna Publications, one of the Philippine’s successful publisher of children’s books ventured into publishing graphic novels,” he added. “Their titles: Arnold Arre’s After Eden and Mythology Class have done well, in terms of sales and critical acclaim. Another publisher, Visual Print Publications, also dipped their feet in the comic book publishing arena with Carlo Vergara’s A Kagilagilalas Na Pakikipagsapalaran Ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah graphic novel. That title was in National Bookstores Top 20 list a couple of months ago. Its story has already been adopted into a musical and will soon be seen as a full-length feature.

“Gerry Alanguilan’s KOMIKERO group has also been busy attending every possible event that will allow them to showcase the great works of past Filipino comic book artists. Gerry, of course, continues to produce works like Humanis Rex and Elmer that provides much needed variety in the Philippine comic book scene.

“In the past couple of years, the creators from different studios have won recognition from the Manila Critic’s Circle and won awards from the National Book Awards. (Arnold Arre’s The Mythology Class, Trip to Tagaytay. Carlo Vergara’s Zsazsa Zaturnnah, Kestrel/Quest Venture’s Siglo: Freedom. Mango Comics’ Darna)

“Despite all of that, the Philippine Komiks scene is still a far-cry from the giant publishing companies found in the US and Japan.

“I’m just glad to say that there are very active comic book creators who release new works every year or every two years, so that makes the scene interesting all year round.”

At the same time, quite a number of creators of Filipino origin have made a name for themselves in North America and the rest of the world, namely Whilce Portacio, Leinil Francis Yu, Jay Anacleto, Gerry Alanguilan, Rod Espinosa, Philip Tan, Francis Manapul, J. Torres, and others.

“I can't deny that it's financially more rewarding,” Gerry Alanguilan admitted. “You can settle down, get married and have kids, buy a house and a car from what you make working for foreign publishers. I got paid as much as my contemporaries. I refused to get paid less just to get jobs. I wanted to be hired because I could do the job, not because I was cheap and living in a third world country. If I lived in the US what I make would not be enough on just one book, but if I stayed here, the money I make is worth much more and could pay for so much more.

“Before I create the impression I'm doing it for the money, I love comics. I mean, I really don't believe anyone will last in this job if one did it for the money. Because the hard work, the sacrifices and heartache would scare away anyone who didn't love comics enough. But you know, as long as I'm doing what I love, it would be nice to get paid for it as well... just so I can go on continuing to do what I love. And I love doing comics more than anything else.

“And of course, the attraction of working on those great characters. I've had the honor of working on such icons as Superman and Batman, Wolverine, X-Men, and Fantastic Four. Doing Superman: Birthright was one of the highlights of my inking career.

“But the compulsion to create my own characters and my own comics is really strong. There is also a great need for me to do comics here in the Philippines. I want to contribute to the local industry as much as I could. This kept me doing my own comics here all the time I had been inking. I find it very creatively fulfilling and kept me sane as my creativity served the creativity of other artists for so long.”

In saying that, Alanguilan is currently working on several of his own creations back in the Philippines. The latest of his pride and joy is Elmer, a story about intelligent… chickens. “I've always been fascinated by chickens,” he said. “I had a pet chicken named Solano when I was younger. I think their paranoid and jittery demeanor is absolutely hillarious. I can spend many hours observing them and I'll never get bored. I keep imagining what kind of things that go on in their minds that make them act the way they do. One day, perhaps sitting in church as I would many times be in when ideas come, I just asked myself... what if chickens could talk? What if they were intelligent? I think they'd be pretty pissed that people had been eating them, and that seemed to lead into a huge well of ideas that just keep on coming.”

We’d also posed a question to the following creators about their thoughts on the current state of affairs in the Philippines komiks scene.

Newsarama: What's your views on the current industry in the Philippines compared to the Western and Japanese scenes in particular?

Whilce Portacio (Wetworks, Batman: Confidential, Stone, Iron Man): What I see happening in the Philippines in terms of the effort to revive komiks and the trending towards American comics or manga to me is a personal major disappointment,” he said. “In the sense that what is currently happening seems to be a microcosm of what is happening and has been happening in the overall Philippines society. And that is the utter lack of a powerful local effort to inspire our youth as to our own history. The histories of other now developed countries show that you must fervently embrace your history so that the country as a whole gains a character, the meaning of being a Filipino. You do that by teaching history to our youth, by constantly bombarding the youth with local everyday heroes in society to emulate. This gives confidence to our youth as they grow up and gives them a sense of identity. Instead, what we have in society is “in fighting”, “kanya-kanya”, we have plenty of heroes but none (other than Jose Rizal) are remembered for long. As an example just look within the local komiks scene, there are hundreds of Americans that love the works of Nestor Redondo but very few of our current generation know who he was. Because of this lack of reverence in those Filipino heroes that went before us we have no true sense of identity as Filipinos. Each new generation is left to reinvent themselves, instead of taking the best of the past generations, instead of learning what the past generations have to teach us, each new generation finds its own way many times making the same mistakes that other generations have made.

Therefore, in my opinion that is why we are where we are in the effort to revive the local komiks industry. And that is, one group of local revivalist looking as enemies anyone who will not willingly go broke doing cheap local komiks for the “masa”. They look with disdain at any who are lucky enough (in our downward economy) to obtain profitable foreign comic book work in the States or Japan.

Then you have the generation that grew up on Japanese cartoons on local TV, that were (to no fault of their own) never exposed to the old komiks legends, and never given a strong sense of what it means to be a Filipino that their version of a Filipino character is a Japanese looking, and Japanese stylized drawing of a Japanese character with a Filipino name. Again, I cannot fault them but fault society for caring more for what is “cool”, and “in fashion” than what is truly Filipino.

Then you have the many artists who have made their own mark in the profitable American superhero market. They, like many Filipino’s in our society now, are practical and have successfully marketed their God-given talent to where they best serve their families. No one wants to starve. But they, like the Japanese manga market, know very little of what it is to be Filipino and therefore have little desire to write and draw Filipino centric stories. (Tho’ of late that has started to change with the advent of totally Filipino characters like Trese, Wasted, and Zsa Zsa Zaturna using the American comics model) Still in general there is a lack of local identity in this market.

So you have these groups fighting each other for turf and respectability. Instead of like in other countries the different groups taking the different influences and styles and making these styles their own by writing and drawing stories that are purely local and assessable to the local market but only use as a style or medium these outer influences. What is to other countries artist a new style or influence to only experiment with, to our local artist is a lifestyle to embrace for lack of a strong Filipino model to emulate.

So, in short, I see no true possible light for a revival of the local komiks market in the near future until we get a new generation that knows in its heart what it truly means to be Filipino. That are not good copycats but are great Filipino artist that cannot not write anything but a true Filipino story.

J. Torres (Copybook Tales, Love as a Foreign Language, Teen Titans Go!, Degrassi: Extra Credit): From what I've seen, it's a very vibrant and diverse scene. I haven't been to the Phils in quite some time, and this was way before I ever worked in comics, so I'd love to visit again and especially to attend a comic book convention or some kind of industry related function. I've of course met several creators from the Phils at shows here, albeit briefly, and I keep in touch with others online. But I think it'd be an interesting artistic and cultural experience to go there and see everyone in their home environment, compare notes, and talk shop.

Leinil Francis Yu (High Roads, New Avengers, Superman: Birthright, Ultimate Hulk/Wolverine, Wolverine, X-Men): Komiks is practically dead here and has been dead for a while now. Komiks used to be ubiquitous when I was a kid but now, it's easier to procure illegal drugs. Seriously, it's unfortunate.

Philip Tan (Spawn, Uncanny X-Men, Iron Man, Taleweaver, Mutant Earth, Trakk): It is definitely shaping into a very interesting playground, specially for local artists who are very skillful in the art of comic book creation. As not too long ago, getting into mainstream comic book industry (US market), or even the European or Japanese market are pretty much impossible, without having the stars align and get lucky enough to have someone who knows people in the industry to see your work and help you out. With a growing mixed audience of not just Western and Japanese comic books, along with those who have been followers of the traditional Filipino komiks, the industry are slowly building a new era of fans and audience, not to mention the deep pool of talents, that will eventually support the komiks industry into a successful form of entertainment!

Francis Manapul (Witchblade, Love In Tights, Necromancer, Iron and the Maiden, Seven Sarmate): I don't know too much about the current comic scene in the Philippines, but there are a lot of amazing Filipino artist and writers in the North American industry that I feel are making great waves. From the little that I do know, it seems to me that back in the days Alex Nino, Alfredo Alcala and Francisco Coching greatly influenced the North American industry as artist. I think their style and intricate line work influenced a slew of American artist which probably helped shape the way comics are drawn now.

Rod Espinosa (Courageous Princess, Neotopia, New Alice in Wonderland, The Alamo, Dinowars): I can only offer my views on the American comics scene. I have been exposed a bit with the Philippine komiks scene. Most of it is manga influenced these days. Lots of potential there. But needs to grow in terms of story content and panel layout.

In that respect, since I work for Antarctic Press, I get lots of submissions of manga influenced art. Lots of potential talent again. But the stories is what is lacking. The stories and the art most often too.

The thing with the Japanese is that their stories are so brilliant because they are written by guys with actual life experiences. Their artist studios are structured like schools.

Our new crop of manga artists are still kind of raw. But since we now live in a world where amateurs are glorified (Witness the popularity of American Idol), craft and experience are counted secondary.

Hence, we get plenty of rough drafts and rough artwork and inexperienced writing. In the US, where individuality is highly valued over teamwork, the result is you get plenty of individuals hashing their work out their way, finding their own bloody path in a way.

Carlo Pagulayan (Incredible Hulk): The Philippine comics I had first become aware of was those of newsprints and below standard print quality. The drawings were good but the quality of the product never really got me interested, especially when I started reading western full color comics. Seeing people use our local komiks for wrapping stuff only convinced me that comics were too ordinary and of least value. Back then I thought of the local industry discriminately, comparing them with western comics and B&W manga... I thought even in B&W our industry can't even match the level of passion the Japanese were pouring into their line works. Of course I was ignorant of the industry's past and it's real situation then.

The local industry, I hate to say it has gone into comatose. Although there are those trying to revive the industry in a much more modern approach. Because back then the industry failed or feared to change. Indies are steadily filling the void left by the industry, and we're all hoping that one day komiks wakes up

Jennyson Rosero (No Man’s Land): If only we could expand our market and make people accept that what we do is serious work. Most Filipinos treat comics as mere child's literature, some would even brand us weird, childish, wasting our time, etc. It makes me sick whenever people treat drawing as an easy thing to do. "Just drawings, easiest thing to do in the world." Well, let's see them do what we do. We have a lot of very talented Filipino artists looking for a break. I just turned out to be one of the lucky ones.

Hai (Blade For Barter, Death Jr Manga): I think the current industry in the Philippines is but a pale shadow of what it used to be. There are a lot of people trying to stir the industry back to its feet but high printing costs and distribution problems remains to the biggest hurdle to overcome. I’ve seen a lot of glossy komik books on the shelves lately but I feel that they still lack the quality to compete with Western or Japanese produced book. Low wages prevent anyone from earning a living on local comic books here so most of the established and talented artists are often employed by foreign publishers.

There's definitely no shortage of talent here but the lack of opportunity for artists to fully express themselves and remain financially stable makes it difficult for the local industry to take off. I think the Philippines still have a very long way to go before it can play catch up to the level of Western and especially Japanese comic/manga publishing.

Marco Dimaano (Angel Ace): The local comic industry in the Philippines is sadly small and under-developed. It consists of a rapidly-shrinking mass-based comic publication market, a much smaller and upscale group of publications geared towards more upscale readers which are often based on manga, and the very small but enthusiastic independent comic book creator segments. I believe that there are many Filipino readers who will support local comics... it's just that there hasn't been a true mesh of the best of Pinoy stuff for people to get behind.

Andrew Drilon (Siglo: Freedom, Ran Online, Project: Hero, Caraboy, Kare-Kare Komiks): Well, if you rank the three in terms of success--I'd put Japanese first, Western second, and Philippines last. The comics industry here isn't as strong as the first two, probably due to our current economy and literacy levels. Not that that's a bad thing, mind you. There's a lot of very strong work coming out of the small comics community here, which I think is fuelled by the current climate--a lot like how the Western comics industry got really funky and experimental during the slump--tons of good work came out of that, too. So I think the Philippine komiks scene is pretty healthy right now, at least creatively.

Arnold Arre (After Eden, The Mythology Class, Trip to Tagaytay, Ang Mundo ni Andong Agimat, The Lost, Lastikman): In my opinion, unlike in the US and in Japan, there is no real industry yet. As of now, only a handful of companies or comic publishers are hiring artists to do work and not all of them have regular titles so most artists try to look for work overseas.

Elbert Or: I write, illustrate, and edit comic books. I also do freelance work for newspapers, magazines, and children's picture books, but I think that's par for course when you're in the Philippine comics "industry." Comics doesn't earn enough for you to make a proper living out of it, at least not here. A lot of the time, comic creators have to keep day jobs, usually in the field of advertising or graphic design, and just create comics in their spare time. This means that a lot of the time too, creators are unable to commit to projects with any regularity, or the work is not as good as they can be had they the chance to really spend time and effort on it.

There is, in fact, no actual industry to speak of. I'm sure Gerry's already told you about how newsstand komiks here peaked a couple decades ago. These days, there's only a handful of publishers, although what also helps is that we're slowly getting attention from the critical and academic circles - in universities, classes on comics production have started popping up, and the prestigious Manila Critics Circle has opened a National Book Award category for Best Graphic Novel. Likewise, the general pop culture is feeling the effects of comic books - TV shows and movies both locally-produced and foreign-made bear comic book influences, (here we have adaptations of the classic superheroes Darna and Captain Barbell, as well as comics-inspired shows like Mulawin and Encantadia). Even rock bands name themselves after comic book characters here.

That said, there are still a number of problems that need to be addressed: distribution remains difficult - it's easy to make yourselves heard, but it's pointless if readers can't find your books in stores anyway. Books don't come out in a timely manner - again, because day jobs get in the way of the comics work, but also because while there is no shortage of artistic talents here in the country, there is a shortage of discipline and professionalism especially among the younger artists.

I wrote about comics and the current state of the industry a few times in my blog

Randy Valiente (Pambalot ng Tinapa (Isang Pagtanaw sa Komiks ng Pilipino) (Smoked Fish Wrapper-An Insight About The Philippine Comics Industry): For the local industry, obviously it's still suffering. But good thing there are independent publishers that are trying to revive the industry.

Carlo Vergara (One Night In Purgatory, The Spectacular Adventures of Zsazsa Zaturnnah, Pantheon, Siglo: Passion): The Philippine comics scene is still largely underground, in the sense that there a very few works printed in offset and marketed to a wide audience. A lot of what's happening still revolves around a small niche market of supporters and enthusiasts.

To begin with, only a handful are willing to invest time and energy to improve their craft and see their dream projects through from beginning to end. The setback is economic in nature; it's a third world reality. Either that, or there may be a lack of confidence. For those who just want to write or just want to draw, there's hardly any opportunity.

There was a small movement in the mid- to late-nineties to pick up the pieces left by the large comics publishing houses that slowly went under. This movement sought to revive things. Problem was, the movement was composed mostly of creators, and hardly anyone had the business savvy or the money to let it grow.

Creatively, the challenge is coming up with material that can be patronized by a large audience, without compromising creative integrity. Commercially, the challenge is investing in tapping marketing channels to generate awareness and excitement. Sadly, not everyone making comics here are effectively addressing those challenges. It's one or the other, or a little bit of both.

It's generally an uphill battle, and largely disheartening in this age of gaming consoles and DVDs. Hopefully, the few who are doing their darndest in creating good quality work will succeed in their efforts, and slowly open doors for newer creators.

Gilbert Monsanto (Hellcop, Houdini: The Man from Beyond, The Saints, Tropa, Rambol Komiks): I think that it is just like our nation, komiks in general is a big eclectic mix especially in style. The amount of influx of different influences is all up in the air giving us both the edge to conform and the confusion on where our true identity lies. The local market itself has a very broad idea of what they want to see and how they want to get their komiks in terms of format and desired price range. Compared to western and Japanese scenes where formulas seem to work, tapping new readers in the Philippines can get a bit tricky. It is a challenge all local creators must face in order to raise the interest for new readers and gain momentum to uplift the unstable state of komiks industry in the Philippines.

Joel Chua (Robotika, Yun, Siglo: Passion): There is a growing awareness about Philippine komiks in the Philippines, brought about by the internet, the rise in conventions, media participation, and even because of anime & manga. I myself would've have learned about the story of Pinoy komiks until I was in my 20s and meeting comic book artists. The internet has kept us in touch, and has subsequently allowed us to collaborate on projects and maintain continuous exposure of local work. Any local convention with popular culture (toys, games, comics) draws comic book people as well as media attention - further curdling the comic scene brew. I would think we are a fair deal ahead of mainland China in terms of the comic book activity and quality going on but definitely behind Hong Kong, Europe, America, and Japan. Their societies have generally surplus cash to spend on comics. Again the internet comes into play to allow artists like me to set up websites and work on projects from abroad.

“Now anime & manga have had a major influence on popular Filipino tastes - and it reflects onto a good number of independent comics out these days. But more importantly, you can tell it from the crowds that line up during anime conventions and cosplays. More and more young Filipinos are giving animation and comics a try because of anime and manga. However, for a society trying to peg down its roots in comics, the effect of Japanese anime & manga has been both positive and negative. It has invigorated more young Filipinos to produce independent comics but it has also overshadowed the Filipino comic illustration style (as represented by the likes of Alex Niño, Nestor Redondo, Mars Ravelo, etc).

Wrapping things up, Alanguilan stressed that “Komiks in the Philippines has undergone huge changes in the last 15 years. The traditional industry that gave us people like Nestor Redondo, Alfredo Alcala and Alex Niño has all but died when the legendary group of anthology comics that ushered in the golden age of Philippine comics after World War 2 ceased publication in early 2006 after more than 60 years of consecutive bi-weekly and weekly release. Of the once great industry the Philippines has had, only Liwayway Magazine remains, which still carries several 3 and 4-page short/continuing stories within their prose and showbiz news.

“Those old comics were standard comic-book sized, and each one contained around ten 4 or 5-page long short or continuing stories written and drawn by various creators. Mostly they were black and white. Special stories had red tones, and special Christmas stories came out in full color. The most popular of these were Pilipino Komiks, Tagalog Klasiks, Hiwaga and Espesyal. There were many more, but these four comic books were the ones that had the longest history, and they were widely considered the best in the industry.

“If comics elsewhere have been considered "for kids" by the masses who don't know better, here in the Philippines comics were never considered to be for kids, but they were considered by many, even to this day, cheap entertainment for the masses, specially the underprivileged. For many decades, comics were the main source of entertainment by the mid to lower classes, those who couldn't afford TV sets or go to movies.

“The kind of stories were of all kinds: horror, action, love stories, soap opera, sci-fi, historical fiction (including, believe it or not, Westerns), biography, educational, fantasy, political campaigns, new age, suspense and so many more.

“Strangely enough, there were relatively few super hero stories, although they are the ones best remembered today.

“In the 90's during the decline of this traditional industry, a new industry was slowly being born, spearheaded by a new kind of comics creator. Their comics resembled western comics much more closely in format, style and subject matter. Many of these comics were self published, written and drawn by creators weaned on Marvel an DC comics when they were kids. Although they drew superheroes, sci-fi, horror and drama in the manner of foreign books, all of them had distinct Filipino sensibilities. Their comics were rarely anthologies, opting instead to create one-shots and limited series stories.

“Today, many of the young creators are influenced by Japanese comics and publish comics that look, for all intents and purposes, like Japanese comics. It's a state of affairs that I find personally distressing, specially when you realize that many of these kids don't know Filipino artists like Alex Niño, Nestor Redondo or Alfredo Alcala. They don't have a sense of identity as Filipinos, and I find it hard to blame them because nowhere today can you find the work of our great masters up for sale. No archives have been produced, and no comics publication showcase any of their work.

“It's something I try to change with my online comics museum, and various books I plan on publishing, including a Philippine comics art book. I don't do these things so I could prop up the work of our great masters and tell these new kids, look you guys gotta draw like this. No. Because to me that would be as bad as drawing like Japanese artists. They need to find their own voice and although we artists will always be a product of our influences, one would hope that we can find a style unique enough to them as individual artists. I hope the museum could give them a sense of identity, and a sense of the great history and legacy of a great body of comic book art, that could inspire them to create something uniquely their own.

“This new industry grew and is still growing to this day. Already, several notable comic books have been released to much popularity and critical acclaim. Notable creators to emerge from this movement includes Arnold Arre, who wrote and drew award-winning comic books like Trip To Tagaytay, After Eden, Mythology Class and Andong Agimat.

“Another award-winning creator, Carlo Vergara, is responsible for the extremely popular Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah, a story about a gay beautician who transforms into a hot blooded female superhero when she swallows a magic stone. Zsa Zsa has been adapted into a wildly successful play at the prestigious Cultural Center of the Philippines and is currently being shot as a motion picture.

“Other notable creators include Budjette and Ka-jo Baldisimo for Ttrese, Dean Alfar and Vin Simbulan who edits the anthology Siglo, Jamie Bautista and Elbert Or's Cast (which is distributed in the US via Diamond), Hugo Yonzon's Mwahaha, a Mad-like comics anthology, Pol Medina's Pugad Baboy, and many others.”

originally posted in

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

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Filipino indie komiks alive and kicking
By Erwin Oliva

Last updated 02:57pm (Mla time) 10/24/2006

NOT familiar with what Philippine comics is all about, I wandered off to a booth where people gathered. Having dabbled in comics when I was still in my elementary years, the only idea I have of comics is Sgt. Rock and Tarzan.

I could barely remember the time I first read one. Since I didn’t know where to start, I chanced upon Jake, a friend in college whom I remembered to be a fan of American comics. He was with his girlfriend. Of course, he was carrying a drawing pad. He was surprised I was there. I was not. He loved comics. I discovered this when we were apartment mates. He had volumes of comic books (mostly DC comics), and it was through him that I learned about the Death of Superman. Later, I saw him drawing and knew that he was more than a fan or a collector. He was an artist.

Jake was among hundreds of Filipino artists, fans, and well, curious onlookers who attended the second Philippine Komiks Convention (Komikon 2006) at the UP Bahay ng Alumni in Diliman, Quezon City. Organized by the Artists’ Den and The Drawing Board, the event is perhaps the only time independent Filipino comic artists can strut their stuff.

Indie comics

"Bihira pwede makabenta (It is rare that we can sell). So I sell my comics through conventions, word of mouth, or online," said Joanah Rose Tinio, a young and established Filipino indie comic book creator and artist.

Friends said she is one of the more "notable" and prolific local comic artists producing the "Cresci Prophecies" that is already on its 20th volume. She has been making her own comic series for the past 10 years (another rare feat). She produced her comic series using the ever reliable photocopiers. But recently an independent publisher, Point Zero, decided to support her.

Tinio said she started making her own comics back in College, while she was a Fine Arts student in UP Diliman. Today, she has her own fans.

"We really need more venues to show our work," Tinio said, as she revealed that she’s currently doing freelance work.

Sherry Baet, program director of Komikon, agreed.

"Our objective is to give opportunity for indie comics. Also we want to bring in comic artists and companies and make this into a job fair too," Baet added.

Baet said that through Komikon, companies like (through local subsidiary Interactive Art Services) was able to recruit local artists to do outsourced work for the American firm. is currently doing storyboards and animatrics (animated storyboard) for the US advertising companies.

This year, Interactive Art Services is recruiting more local artists, especially those who can do 3D animation, according to Jonas San Diego, studio director for the Philippines.

"Due to Komikon, these companies have found local artists who can do the job for them," Baet said.

Comic artists as ‘rock stars’

Another company actively recruiting local comic artists is Glass House Graphics.

It was the booth of Glass House Graphics that was crowded when I got to Komikon 2006. Since I was in unfamiliar territory, I figured I should go where the people are.

So I met David Campiti.

Campiti loves comics so much that he formed a company in the 1990s. Having been editing, writing, designing and publishing comics for the past 25 years, he decided eventually to set up this company to focus on training upcoming artists and finding work for them. Seven years ago, he formed Glass House Graphics Asia for the purpose of representing Filipino artists in the American comic book, manga, and advertising markets. He also maintains an office in Brazil.

In an interview, Campiti narrated how he developed some local artists who are now well-known not only in local circles but also the international market. Among the known Filipino comic artists who work for him are Carlo Pagulayan (who worked on Marvel’s The Hulk), Wilson Tortosa (Battle of the Planets), Stephen Segovia (Vampirella) and Harvey Tolibao (Star Wars comics).

"I’ve been able to affect the lives of so many artists and people. I had one artist who had a congenital heart disease. He used the money he earned from drawing to pay for his surgery. So I could say that comics literally saved his life," Campiti recalled.

Campiti admitted that the comics market was at its peak in 1996. Today, he said that it is gradually recovering. "A lot of comic books are not selling well but it is good enough for us to build careers for more than 100 artists," he said.

About 50 percent of Glass House Graphics’ business comes from the comic industry. The rest is from web design, photography and advertising.

Other known comic artists who have worked for Campiti include Brazilian Mike Deodato, Ed Benes, Luke Ross, Al Rio, Joe Bennett, Ivan Reis, Cliff Richards, and Will Conrad.

Shy Filipino comic artists

This year at Komikon, local artists and onlookers crowded Campiti as he invited them to show their portfolios. He said that he has found several potential artists he might sign up to become his contract artists.

"A lot of Filipino artists seem hesitant or shy to show their work. In fact, some who attended my local seminars took years to gather enough courage to show their work. This is unique in the Philippines. But I think there is talent here," he added.

Currently focusing on the American comic industry, Campiti requires his local artists to go through intensive training before he gives them contract jobs. He said he is bringing in work for at least 15 to 16 comic books to the Philippines.

"Artists really need to learn to communicate. Communication is as important as the lines and drawing in a page," he stressed.

He said there are four steps to becoming a professional comic artist. First, one should learn how to draw. Next, one should learn how to tell a story in pictures. Third, one should develop a "saleable" commercial style. And finally, one should develop a professional attitude (e.g. follow-through communication).

The last step is often forgotten by most artists who end up working for tiny wages, he said.

Campiti said William Tortosa was among his local recruits whom he describes as a "perfect example." Tortosa is now one of the sought-after local comic artists, whom he discovered during his seminars in Manila.

"Some artists don’t become successful because they don’t want to follow what they’re told," he said.

More opportunities

Komikon’s Baet said Filipino comic artists have more opportunities these days. Companies like Glass House Graphics, Interactive Art Services, and Seven Seas are now recruiting more local artists to do contract or full-time work.

In her case, Baet is connected with Quantum Amusement, but she spends her spare time doing comic strips for the Manila Bulletin.

She said Komikon continues to attract more people. Last year, about 800 people came to the convention. This year, the number of visitors has surpassed 800. Also, more than 20 indie groups and individual publishers of Filipino comics have joined the convention this year.

Capping the whole day affair were performances by indie bands, including from the comic artists themselves who have formed their own bands.

"I’ve been in the Philippines for the past seven years. Back then, I was coming here every three months. Now I come here once a year. We now use this event (Komikon) and our seminars to reach out to more artists. I have artists working for me all over the world. But I have offices in Brazil and the Philippines," said Campiti.

Campiti admitted that it was the works of Alfredo Alcala, Alex Nino and other local comic artists in the 1970s that attracted him to the Philippines.

E-mail the author at and visit his blog at

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

by Gerry Alanguilan

I just got back from Komikon 2006, the 2nd Philippine Comics Convention, held at the UP Bahay ng Alumni, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City on October 21. I had planned to do an in-depth report on what went on, but since I had my own Komikero Publishing table holding the launching of the second issue of my comic book Elmer, plus sketching and signing comic books I've drawn and/or inked in the past 10 years, I was left with little time to actually go around the venue, talk with fans and creators, and witness the various activities on the stage.

I attempted to make the rounds nevertheless, and I think I was able to get a cross section of the event's pulse. To get a brief background on the Philippine comics scene, please refer to Newsarama's recent features on the past and present of Philippine comics.

The event itself, Komikon 2006, is the second such billed Comics Convention in the Philippines. It is organized by The Artist's Den, in cooperation with At the Drawing Board. Before they attempted to organize the Komikon last year, The Artist's Den was, and most likely still is, a group of young friends who are cartoonists. Ariel Atienza writes and draws West Side, a weekly strip for Philippine News, a newspaper based in California. Syeri Baet is the writer and artist of Carpool strip published by the Manila Bulletin. Lyndon Gregorio is a cartoonist whose strip Beerkada is being published daily by the Philippine Star (several compilations of which are sold at bookstores). And Jon Zamar contributes to several comics publications like Fresh and the creator of "Minsan sa Panaginip".

The Komikon is similar to comics conventions in the US, where publishers and retailers rent tables and booths to promote and sell their comics. There's no Artist's Alley in the strict sense however, as the professionals in attendance sign, sketch and interact with fans at their publisher's tables, or mill around the venue. Special guests sit in at the organizer's booth. I spotted New Avengers penciller Leinil Francis Yu signing and sketching at the Artist's Den booth. He signs and sketches for free so it's no surprise that a long line eventually formed as soon as he sat down. Roaming the venue checking out the booths were Tomb Raider's Wilson Tortosa, and The Incredible Hulk's Carlo Pagulayan.

Avalon Studios' Hellcop and Houdini: The Man from Beyond artist Gilbert Monsanto took a stab at self publishing by establishing his own company, Sacred Mountain, releasing 2 issues right off the bat: Rambol Komiks and Tropa. I asked him why he chose to self publish, and he expressed some frustration about restrictions and other limitations when working for publishers. He felt the need to do his own characters his way, with the best production values he can provide.

Writer-artist Randy Valiente released his 115-page graphic novel Diosa Hubadera in an interesting format: A PDF file, burned into a CD, packed in a DVD case with a cover and sold for 25 pesos ($0.50). It's the first time I've seen anything like it locally. Would we see more comics released this way in the future? I wouldn't be surprised. I missed quizzing Randy about the format he chose to release his graphic novel in, but I resolve to chase him down, even up to his house in Sta Mesa in Manila, and do a video interview with him about it.

Although much of the new material comics from independent self publishers, the most significant step in bringing comics back into the mainstream was the publication of Filipino Komiks #1 by Risingstar Printing Enterprise. Risingstar is the publisher of many nationally distributed music magazines, romance and horror pocketbooks, and puzzle booklets. Bringing together the talents of writers and artists from the old komiks industry and the new industry, creatives from komiks like Karl Comendador, Nestor Malgapo, Ofelia Concepcion, Nar Castro, Fermin Salvador work side by side with younger creators like Gilbert Monsanto, Rodel Noora and Ner Pedrina. The style of the stories and art are decidedly reminiscent of the old komiks, which is cool, but I think they need to be infused with newer blood and newer sensibilities of approaching comics storytelling, without losing any of the Filipino feel so evident on every page. I thank Risingstar for taking this risk, and it's obvious Editorial Director KC Cordero loves comics to the bone. They have a great opportunity in their hands to actually revive comics in the Philippines big time. I hope to be involved with this company creatively to help in any way I can.

A representative of Liwayway Magazine, the last remaining magazine with comics from the old industry still being published, approached me at my table and I talked to him about doing something for Liwayway sometime soon. That really blew my mind. This was the magazine that saw stories and art by the likes of Francisco V. Coching, Alfredo Alcala, Fred Carrillo, ER Cruz, Jun Lofamia, Alex Niño and many more. This was the magazine that gave birth to the Philippine comics industry. To be part of this magazine would be a huge honor, even for just a week.

Comics historian and writer Orvy Jundis published and released Of Wings and Memories especially for the Komikon, an illustrated glossary of Orvy's recollections on the many personalities, comics, terminologies, groups, publications, and locations historically significant to Philippine comics.

Writer Budjette Tan and Artist Ka-Jo Baldisimo released the sixth issue of their remarkable TRESE, a series about a supernatural investigator, cleverly incorporating elements of Philippine mythology into a gritty present day reality. Budjette had been writing comics stories off and on for many years and I thought his stories were good, but they really didn't jump out at me. I saw some potential in the last issue of Batch 72, a story he wrote for artist Arnold Arre. But he soon found a job at an ad agency, and he didn't do comics for a long time. Once in a while he'd vent out his frustrations at his blog about wanting to do comics but didn't have time. And I'd often tell him the secret to do it is to just do it. This year he came out with TRESE with artist Ka-Jo Baldisimo, and they're still scraping off my body parts on our bedroom wall when the thing blew me completely away. A whole bulk of TRESE issues are available online at

Colorist and Inker Edgar Tadeo hung around my Komikero Publishing booth to sell his mini comic Yew Stupid Basturd. I've known Ed for a long time and I've always known he was kind of crazy, but he's also immensely talented. Aside from his mini, there is also a preview of his upcoming comic book Kadiliman which he illustrated and written by my one time collaborator David Hontiveros.

My table was quite honestly, a warzone. Backtracking a bit, I worked like mad the past couple of weeks trying to finish the second issue of Elmer and get it to press in time. Elmer #2 had to come out at Komikon, there was no question about it. It was simply unthinkable if it didn't. I asked the printer what was the absolute last moment I can give the files that will give them enough time to have it printed in time for Komikon. They said I could bring the files on Thursday morning. Komikon was 2 days away, on Saturday. It was crazy, but they said they could do it. They would be delivering the comics on the day of the con itself, but that was OK. In fact, it was perfect. I thought I could use it. Make my comic book's arrival more dramatic.

I had very little sleep on the days leading to Thursday, but I managed to finish it in time and deliver the printer right on Thursday morning. I had no time to rest as I only had less than 2 days to prepare for the Komikon itself. I had to make copies of Crest Hut Butt Shop #3, organize all the original art of High Roads to split with Leinil, organize a folder of Batman, Superman, X-Force and Stone original art to sell, and bag various old DC and Marvel comics in my collection I'm willing to let go. Good thing my wife Ilyn (Tarzan artist Rudy Florese's daughter) and a friend, Zara Macandili (who created the art for the back cover of Elmer #2) were there to help me.

Still groggy and tired, but nevertheless excited, we staggered into the venue thirty minutes before the doors opened to the public. And guess what, I blinked, and when I opened my eyes, two boxes of Elmer #2 were on our table. The rest of the print run was sitting in a delivery van outside the building. Even before the doors opened, people from other booths and tables were already buying our comics and the owner of a comics store with a table beside us started to buy lots of original art. I had previously announced on my blog that Elmer #2 might be a little late, so everyone was surprised that it arrived before even us. From then on, everything was a blur of meeting people, signing Elmers #1 and #2, signing copies of Silent Dragon, Superman: Birthright, Stone, High Roads, Batman/Danger Girl, X-Force, Wetworks, Wasted, Crest Hut Butt Shop, sketching, and meeting more people. I was literally forced by my wife to have my lunch by 2pm, having forgotten what time it was. I would occasionally step out to make quick rounds, taking photos and videos. Even then, people would approach me to have stuff signed. I can't really complain. And I'm not. Every time a person asks me to sign something it means they appreciate something I did, and I'm extremely grateful. At the end of the day I sold around 140 copies of Elmer #2 and around 70 copies of #1!

Incidentally, I also won a "Comics Aid Award" for The Philippine Comics Art Museum online. I hadn't heard them call my name because I was busy at my table. Organizer Syeri had to fetch me and I said a few words and went back to my table. I had been nominated for it, and it feels great to be recognized for something. I really don't win too many awards so I'm really proud of this one.

There is a large area devoted specially for creators of "indies", or creators of photocopied mini-comics. I browsed their tables and got a lot of things that looked interesting to me. It's amazing to see so many young people so interested in creating comics. Many of them were done in the manga style, but it didn't stop me from checking some of them out. Regardless of the art style, I know talent when I see it and these kids are just bursting at the seams with it.

There is a group in the indie booth called “Komikera,” a group of female writers and artists creating these really unusually written and drawn stories. I find their work strangely fascinating. Some of my friends asked me if I took issue with them calling themselves "Komikera", probably after my own "Komikero" group. I didn't even think about it. "Komikero" is a term that has been used to mean "comedian" and although I'd like to think that I was probably responsible for popularizing the term to mean "comic book creator", I've already let it go and will not take issue if anybody else claims it, or uses the term for their own purposes. They're making some really cool comics, and I think that's what matters.

There is a kind of thrill creating your comics with your own bare hands, photocopying them, and see how people will react. It's the easiest and cheapest way of making print comics and it's something I love to do myself once in a while, even when I was inking for Marvel, DC and Image. In addition to my printed comics Elmer #1 and #2, I also sold copies of my own photocopied comics, Crest Hut Butt Shop #3. I suspect it's something I will continue to do no matter what.

American comics agent David Campiti has a booth where he reviews portfolios. David is a tough-as-nails reviewer and it is not an uncommon to see crushed and disillusioned would be aspiring artists walk away from the review. But it is generally accepted that David tells it like it is and if you want an honest assessment of your work, you go to him. Filipinos are not used to such brutal honesty, as they are generally genial and polite and would rather lie than hurt someone else's feelings. However, such honesty is essential if an artist should ever want to improve himself. Whenever someone comes up to me to show his work for critique, I'd give an overview of what I think, but I generally ask them to go up to David if they want the full deal. Who knows, they might even find themselves an agent.

Writer-artist of ZsaZsa Zaturnnah Carlo Vergara and newspaper cartoonist Manix Abrera were in attendance at the Visual Print Enterprises table, publisher of their compiled comics. For some reason, Spider-Man was also behind the table. I would later learn the reason why. Spider-Man is the bassist for Manix's band Kikomachine, performing on the stage later that night.

Carlo Vergara is probably one of the most popular local creators at the event, due to the popularity of his creation: Ang Kagila-Gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni ZsaZsa Zaturnnah, a story about a gay beautician who transforms into a voluptuous female superhero when he swallows a huge stone and shouts "Zsa Zsa!" It's a story that was eventually translated into a wildly successful musical, and now the filming of the movie version has just been completed. I asked Carlo how he felt seeing his creations in other media. I just love his answer: "If other people see the movie and the musical and become curious enough to see what the original material is like, that's what's exciting to me. Because ultimately the musical belongs to Tanghalang Pilipino, the movie belongs to Regal, for me the book is mine."

Mango Comics, publisher of my character Johnny Balbona in Mwahaha, has a booth with the head honcho himself, Mr. Boboy Yonzon in attendance. Mango is the publisher of the popular comic book Mango Jam, a unique title in Philippine comics by being the only one completely staffed by women, and all writers and artists are women. I talked to Mango Jam editor in chief Karen Kunawicz about this one of a kind comic book. "The publisher saw an opportunity in the market for young women comic book readers and they wanted to get this message of girl power across, and there was no better way to do it than start off with women writers and women artists."

PSI-COM Publishing also had a table, promoting the numerous comics they publish, including authorized reprints of DC stories (Superman: Birthright among them) as well as anthologies of original material like Fantasya, collecting various stories in the fantasy genre by international talents like J. Torres and Lan Medina, and a host of talented local artists like Gilbert Monsanto (him again!), Bow Guererro, Jac Ting Lim, Leonard Banaag, Michelle Segovia and many more.

Legendary comics creator Mars Ravelo, creator of such iconic characters as Darna, Lastikman, Captain Barbell and Dysebel was represented by Reno Maniquis, Dodo Dayao and Bong Leal, the team currently authorized to interpret Mars Ravelo's creations in print. And wow, this new Darna, based on the preview, rocks really hard. Bong Leal is known to me as a really good artist and his work on Darna is the best I've seen of his art so far. Reno, on hand to provide art for Captain Barbell and other titles, was also promoting his own title Maskarado. I bought all seven available issues, and as I go through each issue, I'm amazed at Reno's development as an artist. By the end of the 7th issue, he's smoking! I had wanted to talk to Reno more about Maskarado and his involvement with the Mars Ravelo characters, but his table was right in front of the stage and was very noisy for most of the time.

Jamie Bautista of Nautilus Comics, together with Harvey Ong, put together put together Tri-Tech #0, which had the unique distinction of being well... FREE. Naturally, pretty much everyone had a copy. Nautilus is also the publisher of the award winning SIGLO series of graphic novels, as well as Cast.

There are probably more publishers and creators in attendance, but I simply didn't have the opportunity to go around too much to meet them all.

Alexis Aguilar won the Lead Slinger Challenge at Jonas Diego's talent search for their animation company IAS. I could tell what was going on at their booth because they were located just across my table. Although Jonas Diego is now an executive at this animation company, he is still actively doing comics online and his webcomic is one of the rare few that come out on a more or less regular basis.

Probably one of the high points of my day was meeting veteran comics illustrator Jess Jodloman when he stopped by in front of my table. Older American readers would probably know him from many horror stories he did for the various mystery titles from DC in the 70's. His art is characterized by grotesque and meticulously drawn characters, perfectly suited to the stories he illustrated. Older Filipinos still speak with awe at Jess's masterpiece from the 1950's called Ramir. I've only seen a page of it, and I was impressed at the artistry that went into it. I asked Jess about having it collected and his daughter said they're just missing a few pages. Once they find a source for it, a collected Ramir is a certainty. I'm going to help look for it!

Other veterans I met during the day included Jun Lofamia (still active with Liwayway), Yong Montano, Karl Comendador, Ofelia Concepcion, Alfred Liongoren (not really a comics artist, but an amazing painter!), and the Alfredo Alcala exhibit was back with more art, manned by his son, Alfred Jr.

There are no panels in function rooms where new titles are announced or discussions about the issues in comics are made. It's strictly a one day affair of interaction between fans, pros, and publishers. There is a stage at the far end of the floor where awards are given out, performances by bands are held, and special guests are interviewed and quizzed by fans.

Initial estimates on crowd attendance based on ticket sales is 889. Add to that the number of exhibitors and guests, the number could easily surpass 1000.

Komikon started to wrap at 7:30pm, and with Manix Abrera's Kikomachine band hitting the stage rocking the night away, we made our way out of the venue. It felt more like a comics festival than anything else, and it is the spirit of celebration of comics that one cannot miss.