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

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Looking for the Pinoy Golden Age of Komiks

Comics people always talk about this vague and nebulous "Pinoy Golden Age of Comics". When pressed to explain what time period they are referring to, and why it is considered a "Golden Age" there is disparity and a lack of unision in their opinions.

In college, our history class lessons on western civilization, the Far East, Southeast Asia, and other countries, try to understand their respective histories by dividing them into "Ages" such as the Bronze Age, the Age of Renaissance, the Industrial Age, the Middle Age, the Electronic Age, the Digital Age, etc.

Each "Age" is composed of four (4) parts: the "Early", the "High", "Late", and "End of an Age" period. The "High" period is usually referred to as the "Golden Age" referring to that period in a country's history where prosperity, peace, and advancement in almost all fields of human endevour, is prevalent. It is the highpoint of a people's accomplishment; the best period to live in where almost everything that was good coalesced. Curiously, these "Golden Ages" do not last long either.

In fact, the periods preceding and following the Golden Age, i.e., the "early", "late", and "end of age" period are frequently long and often the most difficult, tragic and turbulent.

Sometimes too, there are "percursor events" which, though existing oddly in a particular age and not of its time, looks nevertheless into future developments as a harbinger of what is to come. These out-of-age events can either be found in the early, high, late, or 'end of age' period of a given "age".

Shifting now to Filipino comics history, one must realize that the term in itself is very broad. What aspect or Filipino comics history is one referring to? Here, topics are endless where we can talk about the history of a particular comics publication house dividing it again into "ages". We could refer to genre such as romance, horror, action, adventure, sex, educational, political, religious, etc. We could also talk about the varying comics art and/or writing styles that influenced or dominated Filipino comics. Or, as we are doing in this blog, talk about the business side of things, the COMICS INDUSTRY itself as a whole.

The above items are usually treated as separate and distinct from each other though on hindsight, some correlation may be had from each.

The early period is that event which identifies the beginning of a given Age. The high period is that event which defines the period; its influence and dominance spreading throughout. The late period is that event which causes a significant change in the high period; a shift of interest away from it due to some intervening development. Finally, the "end of age" is that period where we see all vestiges of the high period disappear one by one or simultaneously altogether.

So far, this blogger has not yet encountered any serious discussion of Filipino comics history treating any of the above topics separately and comprehensively. Golden age of Filipino comics? Specify. What "aspect of Filipino comics" are you talking about?

Nowadays, you usually get the standard reply: "Art styles." Is Filipino comics merely defined by comics illustrators? Do they always have a monopoly on the subject? The effect is that people are sometimes misled into thinking that Filipino comics is only about comics art. Is it?

So what if Coching, Redondo, Alcala, et. al. were the best Filipino comics artists the Philippines ever produced? Their drawing styles, like the varying styles of kung-fu, represent only one school of thought or discipline: the naturalist/illustrative style. Does this then make them the only persons who truly made "Filipino comics" ? The idea going around these days promoted mostly by Filipino comics art enthusiasts and so-called "historians" is that yes, only the naturalist style produced true and authentic Filipino comics. All other styles should defer to the standard they have set. Consequently, the comics art styles of the entire 1970s and 1980s are of poor quality and have declined. How sweeping. Fortunately, there are more liberal persons out there who disagree.

A call then has to be made: can't we have more variety, order, and intelligence in our discussions on Filipino comics? Can't you define your terms first before you go on yakking and impressing us no end with your comics and comics art collections? No wonder we're in an "end of age" period right now. Indeed, Filipino comics today is having a period.


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