A candid and personal examination of the Philippine comics scene from a social, cultural, economic and business point of view.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Companies and associations: an untapped revenue source for comics

Companies have more money than individual buyers. This is obvious. Juan dela Cruz may not have the individual purchasing power to buy a glossy paged, computer colored comicbook but a company or association with an annual budget augmented by a network of various financial resources, most definitely can. Its a no-brainer.

Take the late, great WILL EISNER for instance. In 1950, after tiring of his syndicated newspaper comic feature "The Spirit" he formed a company called 'American Visuals" and immersed himself in the then unique field of educational comics. Eisner's company provided commisioned instructional brochures employee relations pamphlets, and maintenance manuals in comics format to associations as diverse as the American Red Cross, General Motors and the United States Army. Comics as social study enrichment materials were also published by Eisner's company and sold to teachers and colleges. These client companies and associations paid so well that in the 1960s, DC Comics' then publisher, Carmine Infantino and Production Manager, Sol Harrison, and even Marvel Comics' Stan Lee, approached Eisner and expressed interest in buying or merging with American Visuals. But Eisner refused.

It was only when Eisner decided later to return back to his love of graphic storytelling and sold his company to another publishing entity, that he resolved to elevate the comics medium's serious literary potential by writing and drawing what is considered by many as the first modern graphic novel: "A Contract with God" published in 1978.

In the Philippines there have been in the past, specially commissioned comics works made for government agencies, cause-oriented groups, politicians/political parties, advertising agencies, religious organizations, and schools. They were non-literary and more information (of the propaganda variety) or education-oriented pieces. These commission based comics works paid well but were usually infrequent, sporadic, and unorganized. It remains so to this day.

If these specialized activities could be properly organized and formally managed as a distinct business operation like Eisner's "American Visuals" company, it is possible that the commission works would be made more frequent, Filipino comics professionals would earn a modicum of respect and income, and most importantly, a broader adult audience for comics would be tapped and developed. It would be a whole new ballgame enitrely.


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