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

Monday, December 12, 2005

The arrogance of mainstream U.S. Comics

Just bought the 1989 BATMAN Special Edition DVD starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. As I put on the special features disc on the History of the Dark Knight, world famous sci-fi writer HARLAN ELLISON comes on screen declaring that in the past century, the United States gave birth to five original "artforms": the banjo, musical comedy, the mystery novel, jazz, and the comic book.

This is not the first time I've been getting this. A few months ago on the History Channel, there was a feature on American Superheroes and the same thing was said: Americans invented the comic book.

Now wait a minute. I could accept the fact that Americans with their overwhelming monopoly of worldwide media, POPULARIZED the "modern" 20th century format of the western-style comic book: a monthly pamphlet size format tome printed on pulp paper, in color, mass and assembly-line produced, targeted mainly at children and teen-agers, dealing mostly in humor, violence, melodrama, and other trivial pursuits.

But I could not, for the life of me, accept the fact that Americans INVENTED the comic book as an "art form". That's pure malarkey.

Since 1998 in Oakland, California, an 1842 American edition "comic" entitled: The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck by Rodolphe Topffer, was discovered triggering the Americans' curiosity of a possible "Victorian Age of Comics" or, basing it again on American standards, a possible "Platinum Age of Comics". The Europeans and the Japanese are possibly rolling their eyes by now at this late discovery made by the Americans.

Rodolphe Topffer (1799-1846) is considered by Europeans (especially the French) as the creator of the comic strip and the comic book graphic novel. He is also considered the father of bande dessine'e or French Comics. Topffer was a Swiss teacher and had made 7 comicbooks or "picture stories" that were widely circulated in Europe and later, the United States. Among his works were: Histoire de M. Jabot (1833), Monsieur Crepin (1837), Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck (1837), Les Amours de M. Vieuxbois (1839), Monsieur Pencil (1840) and Le Docteur (1840).

Topffer's works were in 8 1/2" x 11" format, had 6 to 12 panels, had no word balloons but had text under the panels describing the story. As previously noted, these and other works were widely circulated in Europe and the United States during the mid to late 19th century. And Jose Rizal, the Philippines' national hero, who was travelling at the time in Europe and America, most probably got exposed to these works from which he based his picture story of "The Monkey and the Tortoise" and other comics works. (For more about Topffer, check out: http://lambiek.net/artists/t/topffer.htm and www.collectortimes.com/~comichistory/Platinum.htm/)

Come to think of it, its also downright arrogant, if not ignorant, for us Filipinos to have declared that Rizal was the inventor of the comic book. I believe it was in the defunct Philippine Comics Review of the early 1980s that this rather, outrageous claim was made. Let's not imitate the Americans. Its not really an invention for the Americans to have "mass-maketed" the comic book. Nor did they invent it as an "artform". Its a VAGUE claim made by a creatively bankrupt mainstream American comics industry dominated by nonsensical cartoons and super-heroes.

Let's stop being "globalized" by this particular canard promoted by comics creators who work for a mainstream American comics company. Knowledge and humility is the first place to start if Filipino comics creators are to be original, independent, and creative. Speculation and false pride are for "globalized" Filipino comics creators, publishers, and fans only.


Anonymous Reno said...

Just wondering what you mean when you use the term "globalized." A clarification might be in order. Thanks!

4:03 PM

Blogger aklas isip said...

February 1, 2006

Sir Reno,

Please see my prior blog entry: "Globalization should be the effect not the Cause" which I think was a response to the same question you asked before. I think I answered it there.

Salamat po. And profuse apologies for publishing your comment at this late time. It is only now that I was tinkering with the functions of this blog and found out how to check in and publish comments. No, I don't screen them like the MTRCB either. Thanks for the visit.

Aklas Isip

6:35 PM


Post a Comment

<< Home