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

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Globalization should be the effect, not the cause

This is a reply to one of the comments posted in this blog. The comment submits the proposition that there's nothing wrong with approaching Filipino comics with a modern, "global" outlook and that one's artistic or national identity could still be maintained distinctively by such an approach. It also asks for a definition of the term "globalization" as a point of reference. The answer to this is quite complicated and will require some elaboration. Advance apologies then, and the kind indulgence of the reader is sought in advance for the length of this entry.

"Globalization" is a contentious term. There are those who view its effects as either beneficial or destructive. Alvin Toffler, in his acclaimed 1980 bestseller "The Third Wave" summarizes the conflict as follows:

"At the exact historical moment when many poor countries are desperately fighting to establish a national identity because nationhood in the past was necessary for successful industrialization, the rich countries, racing beyond industrialism, are diminishing, displacing, or derogating the role of the nation.

We can expect the next decades to be torn by struggle over the creation of new global institutions capable of fairly represnting the pre-national as well as the post-national peoples of the world."

Viewed from a political and economic standpoint, globalization is the process of denationalization of markets, politics, and the legal system, i.e., the rise of the so-called global economy. From a business point of view, globalization is a process where companies decide to take part in the emerging global economy and establish themselves in foreign markets. First, they adapt their products or services to the final user's linguistic and cultural requirements. Then they might take advantage of the internet revolution and establish a natural presence on the international marketplace with a multilingual corporate website or even as an e-business. (Source: www.globalization.com)

Noting the italized statement above and as we survey the few globalized Filipino Komiks out in the market today, we cannot deny the process taking place. Most of these titles are either in english and/or conform as much as possible to the cultural approach, style and look of an American or Japanese comicbook apparently in order to market and sell the same abroad. This is the business aspect of globalization exhibiting itself. Can we honestly say that one's culture or personal and distinctive artisitic vision is being allowed to flourish by such a system?

When one foregoes the linguistic and cultural nuances or experiences shared by a community of Filipino individuals, can one truly label the final product as a 'Filipino' comic? Is the cultural identity left intact? Obviously, it isn't.

Are these globalized Filipino Komiks any different from their American or Japanese counterparts? They evidently aren't. Even if the comics artist is a Filipino, its still an American comic like Wetworks, Hellcop, X-Force, or Superman: Rebirth. Language and shared community experiences of Filipino individuals, their identity, is evidently absent from these works.

Proponents for the beneficial effects of globalization see it from a cultural point of view as the eradication of territorial boundaries between separate and distinct communities brought about by new technology allowing for an immediate and shared interconnectivity of their cultural identities and experiences. Through modernity, identity formation becomes a universal feature of human experience. Identity becomes a people's source of meaning and experience. A Filipina mother sending her children off to school is also concerned and finds affinity with, IDENTIFIES with, the tsunami that struck Thailand killing men, women and children. Both are different situations, territories, and cultures yet they find common universal identity or linkage in the welfare of people such as men, women, and children (Source: www.plato.standford.edu./entries/global/).

One will also notice that in the positive view of cultural globalization, one's culture or shared individual experiences within a group or community, are not compromised or eradicated. Rather, its integrity is maintained. Only after it is made known to other people across the globe that an international affinity is achieved; unity through diversity.

Applied now to the issue at hand, if the objective is to gain international recognition I don't think that aping or emulating the concepts, drawing styles, language, and even cultural approach to comics by other foreign countries will result in recognition or affinity by these countries. In short, one must first be culturally distinct and not assimilate or "globalize" at the onset.

Take our present moral problem for instance spawning a lot of personal, economic and political hardship. This is a shared community experience by many Filipinos writ large. Yet, the few globalized Filipino Komiks out in the market do not even recognize or acknowledge this. Rather, they treat this very real conflict between good and evil in an "entertaining", 'safe", "sterile", 'appealing", "child-friendly" and globalized way as if we Filipinos are living in some idyllic, rich and developed foreign country. How alien. It is this sort of product that caters to an economically well-off elite who disdain our culture and also to those buyers in idyllic, rich, and developed countries. I'm sorry but you just don't find any general affinity, relevance, or patronage towards this type of comicbook.

It is thus evident that to obtain the positive benefits of globalization, one must first be faithful to one's language and shared cultural experiences, then reflect the same as best as one can through craft and intelligence in the comics work being made. Globalization or international recognition and assimilation by other nations comes after. You do not put the horse before the cart.

Take a look at the success of the Japanese manga for example. In the 1960s down to the 1980s, American superhero and cartoon comics characters were popular worldwide especially here in the Philippines. Superman, Batman, The Marvel Superheroes, Donald Duck, Charlie Brown, and a host of others.

While this was going on around the world, Japan continued to quietly nurture and develop in its own backyard, its manga relying wholly on the original and diverse visions of its comics creators using its language, distinct culture, history and national experience as story elements. The Japanese were doing this without aping the kind of American comics popular worldwide.

The result? Akira, Ran Ma 1/2, Oh my Goddess!, Appleseed, Ghost in the Shell, Mai the Psychic Girl, Area 88, Lone Wolf and Cub, Crying Freeman, and a host of others. These manga, you must admit, were not only popular but totally different from American comics titles. Their black and white works were longer, more compelling and thought provoking. The Japanese did not compromise their originality, creativity, distinctiveness, language and culture by generally aping and emulating the Americans (or other comics producing country for that matter). Because the Japanese manga stuck to their artistic integrity and individuality, they are now the most read comics publication in the United States and in most parts of the world. In short, the Japanese manga (and anime') became popular worldwide by not being "globalized" by the Americans and their culture. They are also reaping the economic rewards for maintaining such integrity. This is the example that should be emulated by the comics publishing businesses in this country.

During the 1990s I recall some enterprising Filipino comics creators in cooperation with a comics specialty shop then, put together an Image-inspired comicbook about some superhero-type celestial being. Far as I recall it was done in English and was largely a Marvel Comics inspired space-opera, sci-fi concept. It got a lot of publicity and was even featured in the Previews comics catalog. I don't know if it sold or if it became wildly popular like the manga titles, but I do know that its not around anymore or as fondly remembered. Is this the kind of positive globalization being referred to where some artistic distinctiveness is retained?

This blogger may be wrong, but it seems that one's work should first be original, creatively appealing and reflective of the conflicts and achievements of one's own shared community experiences or culture, before it achieves global popularity and acceptance. In other words, being globalized or assimilating with other foreign cultures does not come first, but last. Globalization should not be the cause but an effect. It is the culture of other countries that does most of the assimilating, not us. I personally think that our country's history, culture and present struggles are rife with material that if rightly managed with craft and intelligence could be appreciated internationally without being compromised by globalization at the outset.

I realize that making something original takes a lot of courage, effort and hard work. Its difficult. But that's how it all starts and certainly the more lasting and satisfying once the objective is achieved.

P.S. On the matter of proposing solutions in this blog, well there have been initial recommendations made which have been met with some consternation but that's normal and I'm okey with that. I believe however, that identifying the problem first, accepting and acknowledging that there IS a problem, talking about it and then re-examining it again, is the first step towards finding a solution. Sometimes you see, the solution presents itself when the problem is examined and dissected long enough. I don't have all the solutions right now but I am trying to identify and ask the hard questions first as candidly and as honestly as I see them. I'm not here to polish anybody's helmet nor am I here to maliciously step on someone's shoes either. I address my concerns to a general and amorphous body and not to anyone in particular.

This is not a comics artist blog or site. We don't talk or fawn about each other's "artwork" here. This is not an artist's lodge either where it is obligatory to exchange pleasantries, keep things under wraps, and engage in other superficialities. There are better, more entertaining, more fun, more teen-ager friendly, qualified blogs and websites out there for this sort of thing. This blogger is more concerned with the non-artistic matters in the real world that affect the Philippine comics scene.

If anyone feels personally slighted by anything written here, then I'm sorry but that was not the intent of this blog nor was it referring to anyone in particular. Other than that, I thank you sincerely for your comments and I do hope my candidness doesn't dissuade you from visiting again. Please feel free to disagree anytime but do allow me the same privilege if I tend to hold an opposite view. For now.


Blogger Reno said...

Everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion. I may not agree with some things you say, but I accept your right to say it. Mahirap lang kasi pag binabasa di mo alam ang tono ng tao. Though there was no offense taken. And I hope I have not offended anyone too with my comments here.

You raise valid points of dissecting the problems first before handing out solutions. But it would be much more... comfortable (for lack of a better word) to read these points if they don't smack of too much negativity.

Though to be realistic, the situation really is bleak. Not just for the komiks industry, but for the nation as a whole. And finding solutions is not easy. I hope as this blog continues, we would eventually get to that.

As I've said before, different creators have different reasons for self-publishing. Others think it's a way to get some extra bucks, others do it,a s you say, to pander to what the "elite" want (because maybe they are among this "elite" group themselves), and some just love the medium that they just have to get their stories and ideas out there. Never mind if it sells, if even one reader likes what he/she does, they find contentment in that. I, for one, am among the latter.

My point, I guess, is there should be no generalizing that the Pilipino writer/artist just caters to this "elite" that you speak of, since there are many factors with each different individual.

Pardon me if I'm not making my thoughts too clear on the matter... I'm not much of a writer, really.

And on an entirely different note... puwede kaya mas malaki yung font size nitong blog? Medyo mahirap basahin. Thanks.

Oh, and one more ditty... you have the right to call it "komix" if you want, like some others call it "grafiction," but for me it will always be "komiks."

Hanggang sa susunod!

7:42 PM

Blogger aklas isip said...

Thanks for your comments. I have enlarged the font of my August 12 entry adjusting it to "huge" from the previous "large". Is that okey now?

9:17 PM

Blogger aklas isip said...

Pahabol: it is true that different comics creators have different reasons for publishing their comics. But my "generalization" that globalized filipino komiks cater primarily to the elite is based on effect rather on its cause or creator's personal intent. By this, I base my personal observation on where these kinds of komiks are sold (which are usually places where the class A and B crowd congregate) and who generally purchases or supports them (again, the class A and B crowd). The creator may "intend" that his comics be bought by more people from the C, D and E class demographic. But if the effect is that its not, that its instead bought generally by a higher class buyer, the elite, then the product caters genrally to the elite. This is after all a 'personal' observation and generalization and I'd gladly hear a contrary view. Again, thanks for your comments.

9:58 PM

Blogger Reno said...

Yup. Thanks so much for the larger font. =)

it IS a shame that indie komiks are sold only at the venues you mentioned, but then the indie creator has little choice as to where he/she can sell the komiks. They have nowhere else to go.

Personally, I would like to see my komiks sold in newsstands, bookstores, convenience sotres and everywhere else, but my resources are sorely lacking. Indie creators have to do everything by themselves (writing, drawing, printing, stapling, cutting, distributing). But I'm sure you also know that.

Faced with such limited resources, what's an indie creator to do?

P.S.: Puwede pa isang request? Sana anyone can post a comment, and not just blogger users. That way, mas maraming taong makaka-voice out ng kanilang opinions. Thanks!

4:01 PM


Post a Comment

<< Home