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

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Comparative Historical Overview of American and Filipino Mainstream Comics Industries: 1950 to 2006

Circa 1950, the U.S.: “The comic book world that Stan Lee left behind in the late 1970s was a dismal place compared to the vibrant, booming industry he had entered three decades before. Where once there had been dozens of scrappy firms competing for control of a bourgeoning mass medium, now there were only a few companies scuffling over a dwindling marketplace. In the early 1950s, annual comic book sales totaled 600 million copies; by 1990 that number had totaled to 150 million. Comics were no longer a mass medium. The decline brought on by Television had been exacerbated by the disappearance of traditional distribution outlets, such as soda shops and “mom and pop” stores, as well as rising cover prices, which dissuaded buyers. Comics now attracted an audience of older collectors and nostalgia buffs, but they were losing ground among children and teens, two groups essential to the medium’s long-term survival.” (Source: Jordan Raphael and Tom Spurgeon, “Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book, Chicago Review Press, 2003 ed.)

Circa 1960s, the U.S.: “Stan Lee was editing so many as 50 or 60 comic books each month. And at the height of the Silver Age in 1968, Marvel was selling 50 million comics per year. Financially however, the industry was still fairly small. A cover price of only 12 cents yielded a meager $6 million in gross annual sales to be shared by the publisher, employees, distributors, newsstands and stores.”(Source: Dan Raviv, Comic Wars: Marvel’s Battle for Survival, Heroes Books, 2004 ed.)

Circa 1963, the Philippines: "Once every fortnight half a million comic books roll off the battery of offset presses in the Philippines, most of them located in Manila. This dwarfs the combined circulation, for a given day, of all the country's daily newspapers and satisfies the literary instincts of four million readers, the bulk of them teenagers. A postwar phenomenon, komiks, to give them the true Filipino rendering, is a growing, profit-making business, in the otherwise competitive and, not infrequently, risky field of publishing. Modelled after the American comics, the first Philippine komiks were such a rip-roaring success that today over a dozen publishing houses are cashing in on the reading preferences of millions of students. A komik usually sells at 25 centavos, about U.S. six and a half cents. In terms of retail business alone this means tht Filipinos pay out an estimated one and a half million pesos annually, roughly US$390,000, for their fortnightly quota of illustrated and dramatized fare. This excludes substantial advertising revenues which accrue to the publishing house. xxx In the Philippines---population 29 million, literacy rate an impressive 65 percent---komiks hold top spot in the rating for mass communication that even politicos running for public office seek to win friends and influence people via the strip cartoon. xxx Komiks are not entirely the monopoly of big time publishers. One publishing outfit, CRAF Publications for example, is owned and operated by four leading komik illustrators in the Philippines --- Tony Caravana, Nestor Redondo, Alfredo Alcala and Jim Fernandez. Starting out early this year (1963) with 2,000 pesos which the four pooled, they struck a 15,000 circulation. Scripting their own stories and giving them life in their individual pen and ink styles, the four have succeeded in boosting circulation to 35,000 inside of six months. Drawing the moral from this Max Lalata, chief artist of the country's biggest chain of local language newspapers and President of the Society of Philippine Illustrators and Cartonists, says, "to get started in the Komiks business all one needs is to gather a group of artists and then look for a printer." Costs are indeed reasonable. On a print order of 15,000 copies the estimated cost per copy is 12 centavos for a 42-page book. Circulations are also more than encouraging. Some of the top five publishing houses average 300,000 copies a month." (Source: E.P. Patane, Bureau Chief, The Asia Magazine, October 20, 1963 issue.)

Circa late 1960s to September 20, 1972, the Philippines: "It is significant though that the philosophical standpoints that many komiks-magasin nobelistas assume align with conservatism. Even their depiction of the alleged "liberated woman" is portrayed through the distinctly jaundiced eye of male chauvinism. The liberated woman is actually a libertine, the direct antithesis of the Spanish-Catholic virgin cult-type. Also, any expression of youthful protest is categorically frowned upon as impious. This puritanism stands in stark contrast to the blatant pornography which marked many komiks-magasin nobelas in the years immediately preceding martial law. In the late 60s and early 70s, bomba komiks-magasins ruled the day. Interspersed with vividly illustrated sex stories were photo reproductions of stills from smut films. It was also about this time that the public stirred in its consciousness of the potential of komiks-magasins as an influential opinion-maker. During the election campaigns of the period, komiks-magasins became arenas of political debate as well as vehicles for partisan propaganda." (Source: Danny Mariano, "In the Name of the Masses", TV Times Magazine, September 10-16, 1978 issue)

Circa 1972 to 1978, the U.S.: “The comic book market was weakening due to rising production costs, paper shortages, and escalating competition from television and other media. And, despite their popularity, Marvel’s superheroes were not selling as well as they had only a few years before. The Amazing Spiderman, Marvel’s number one title, sold 290,000 copies per month in 1972, compared with 370,000 monthly copies in 1968. Of the dozens of publishers who had tried to mine the comic-book business since the late 1930s, only 6 remained in operation. Marvel and DC, the leaders, were slugging it out for industry dominance. In a bid for the upper hand, Stan resorted to one of Martin Goodman’s classic ploys; he flooded the market. DC responded in kind. From 1975 to 1978 the 2 companies would release 100 new titles more than 2/2 of which were axed in 2 years. They lobbed genre after genre at their ever-shrinking readership, hoping something would stick.” (Source: Dan Raviv, Comic Wars: Marvel’s Battle for Survival, Heroes Books, 2004 ed.)

"With rare exceptions, like the super-hero boom of the early 40s and the Batman boom of the mid-60s, the comic book business tends to make more money on licensing of characters for film, TV, toys, etc., than it does in publishing. If I remember correctly, we did about $800,000 in publishing alone in '74. I had brought the company up from being creamed by Marvel to being dead even with them. Comics sold for 25 cents a copy at the time; they sell for $2.50 now. Wouldn't that mean $800,000 then would be equal to $8,000,000 today? My tenure at DC, ended very simply: Our printer told me late in 1974 there might be a paper shortage in '75. Marvel was launching a huge expansion which, among other things, could tie up all the available paper. Marvel knew that, in the long run, most of their new books wouldn't make it. But they also knew there would be a demand for any new first issues. The retailers and distributors would most likely favor the new Marvel books over any existing, moderate-selling DC titles off the comics racks. Personally, I believe that was Marvel's plan, all along. The only way I could protect DC's rack space position was to go head to head with Marvel's expansion. I knew many of the new Marvel and DC titles would lose money, but if I didn't match their production, we would lose existing titles and be blown off the racks by the new Marvel books. The resulting loss of our share of the market would be devastating and take much longer to recoup than calling Marvel's bluff long enough for them to come to their senses and cancel the poorer-selling titles. xxx Honestly, it was not a surprise to me to find out both Marvel and DC showed financial losses in 1975. The much-speculated paper shortage never occurred. Faced with 1975's final numbers, the Warner Bros. executives above me decided to withdraw their support. I was understandably quite upset. Warner's own people noted I had been doing the work of four or five people. I'd given the company everything, leaving little time for any personal life. It was time to move on and, in many ways, it was a relief. It is my understanding that, the year I left, sales were the worst in DC history. People there told me that Batman had only a 12% sell through, the lowest of the Caped Crusader's career. " (Source: Carmine Infantino with J. David Spurlock, "The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino: An autobiography, Vanguard Publications, 2001.)

Circa 1976 to 1984, the Philippines: "Sa kasalukuyan, may apat na malalaking kompanya ng komiks--Ang Atlas, Affiliated, Ace, at Graphic Arts-- na naglalathala ng mula 5 hanggang 8 komiks. Ang kabuuang sirkulasyon nito ay tinatayang mahigit sa isang milyong kopya linggo-linggo. Ipagpalagay na lamang na sa bawat kopya ay lima ang makababasa; ang tunay na bilang ng mambabasa nito ay humigit-kumulang sa limang milyong Pilipino." (Translation: At present, there are four (4) big comics companies--Atlas, Affiliated, Ace and Graphic Arts--who publish five to eight million copies a week. Assuming that for every copy there are five readers; the actual number of komiks readers is estimated to be at around five million Filipinos.) (Source: Soledad S. Reyes, "Ilehitimong Panitikan: Ang Komiks bilang Salamin ng Buhay", Sagisag Magazine, December, 1976 issue)

"Komiks-magasins have the enviable distinction of being a truly mass medium. Every week, about two million komiks-magasins, bearing 44 different titles, are sold. If we assume that six people eventually get to read each copy (which some claim is still a conservative estimate), then komiks-magasins should easily have a redership of no less than 12 million. For the 12 komiks-magasin publishing houses this means weekly sales of about P1.7 million, or P88.4 million annually. Among the leading komiks-magasins is Pilipino Komiks, published by Atlas publications. In 1976, Pilipino Komiks reported an average weekly circulation of 151,481; a figure that so-called legitimate, English language magazines can only drool over. Current circulation estimates surpass the 175,000 mark, it is claimed. Some in the komiks-magasin business insist that street sales could be much higher if newsstand owners did not prefer to rent out komiks-magasin copies, at 10 to 15 centavos per sitting. (Each copy sells for 85 centavos.) But komiks-magasin publishers have little else to worry about since through three decades, their merchandise have maintained a secure hold on the grassroots. The "Illustrated Press", the trade paper of the Kapisanan ng mga Publisista at mga Patnugot ng mga Komiks-magasin sa Pilipino, cited a readership survey which found that the great bulk of komiks-magasin readers belong to C and D households, 38 percent and 41 percent respectively. Only four percent of komiks-magasin readers belong to A and B households, while 17 percent are in E homes. The same study described the average komiks-magasin reader as a married adult who has high school or some college education. Only four out of every 10 readers are 19 years old and below. This probably explains why the content of komiks-magasins can hardly be classified as kidstuff, a point we shall dwell on later. (Source: Danny Mariano, "In the Name of the Masses", TV Times Magazine, September 10-16, 1978 issue)

"Nakapagtataka subalit noong dekada '70 at unahan ng dekada '80 nang nagsitigil ang bawat kompanyang sumubok maglathala ng komiks, tila hindi naapektuhan ang mga Roces. Sa katunayan, lumago pa nga ang negosyo nila. Halimbawa, sa panahon 1975-1978 umakyat ang sirkulasyon ng GASI sa 400% at sa panahon ng 1979-1984, nagrehistro ang kompanya ng 20-25% tubo bawat taon. (Translation: "Its uncanny, but during the 1970s and first half of the 1980s when every company who tried to enter the comics business folded, the Roceses were left unaffected. In fact, their business prospered. For example, during the period 1975-1978 the circulation of GASI rose by 400% and during the period 1979-1984, the same company registered an annual 20-25% profit.) (Source: Corazon D. Villareal, "Ang Industriya ng Komiks: Noon at Ngayon, Kultura Magazine, 1990 issue)

Circa 1981 to 1988, the U.S. : “And that’s the way it was. Till 1981, till Kirby’s Captain Victory and Sergio Aragones’ Groo the Wanderer started making money in the direct-sales market, and comics creators were able to break out of the beanfields of the two major publishers to begin controlling their own destinies.

And at that point, the pressure to keep comics a childish, introverted, essentially frivolous commercial product began to ease. Once there were alternatives, the maturity that had always been there, stunted and ridiculed, censored by the Comics Code Authority and the strictures of the publishers, burst loose.

By 1986, with the blasting open of the medium by Frank Miller and his Dark Knight Returns version of Batman as an aging, more than slightly psychotic crime fighter coming back from retirement, comic books began to achieve the mainstream notice that aficionados always knew was potentially possible.

If Siegel and Schuster were the artistic and imaginative godfathers of the field, if Neal Adams was the champion who shamed DC into giving them a yearly nibble at the profit pie, if Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were the first major talents to reduce the level of silliness in comics characters and show them as real people with unreal powers, then Frank Miller has been the ass-kicking, indefatigable spokesman for a new, adult outlook on funnybooks.

The past two years in the world of comics have been a real toad-strangler. Censorship, duplicity, heroes, quislings, mountebanks and arrogant poseurs. The Gulag has turned into a feeding frenzy, and from the melee has come a banquet of tasty tidbits.

Here's the line of logic, for those who think it's been a long journey: If comics are so whorthy, how come Joe Tobul's mother tossed out the books I lent Joe back in 1946, when were both 12 years old in Painesville, Ohio?

Because Joe's mother, who was a nice lady, thought they were trash. And why did she think they were trash? Because the industry had a vested interest in keeping the material childish and narrowly focused. They were men of limited artistic vision, and their commercial view of the medium was equally tunnel-visioned. And how did they keep the unpredictable artists and writers who aspired to nobler ends in line?

They did it by holding both copyrights and trademarks on every last creation. If they owned Superman and Spiderman lock, stock and long johns, they could always fire those who threatened their policies, even if the one getting the sack was the talent who thought up the character in the first place. So we study the Siegel and Schuster case at length, not only because Superman was the feature that made comics as popular as they've become but because what happened to Siegel and Schuster was the same scenario for virtually everyone who went into the field.

And that is why it took more than 50 years for Superman to appear on the cover of TIME; 50 years for journals such as THE NEW YORK TIMES, THE VILLAGE VOICE, THE NEW YORKER, ROLLING STONE and THE ATLANTIC to publish essays that said, "Wow! Look what we've discovered"; 50 years for magazines such as SPIN (intended principally, one assumes for MTV refugees who had the misfortune to learn to read) to write, "These days, comics stores are infinitely more exciting than record stores, even if you aren't a dweeb in highwater pants."

Because for 50 years, what could have been was prevented from being. But seven years ago the creator-owned comic came into existence, and the all-powerful interests that ran the Gulag found that the best talents were cleaning up with offbeat and original work for the independent, smaller houses. In a matter of months, direct-sales comics shops were springing up all over the country, selling many times the units that were being sold by traditional newstand-distribution methods.

Companies such as Comico, Kitchen Sink, Eclipse, First Comics, Quality and Vortex were stealing away the artists and writers who were producing the books that made them the most money. They still had Superman and X-Men, Batman and Daredevil, but Mike Grell had gone to First, where he created Jon Sable; Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier had gone to Pacific, where Groo the Wanderer was pulling down big numbers, and Timothy Truman was writing the revived Forties character Airboy for Eclipse. Even more significantly, Dave Sim, up in Canada, was himself publishing the astonishing Cebebus the Aardvark, copies of the first issue selling for huge sums through dealer ads in the weekly tabloid of the funnybook world, Comics Buyer's Guide; Steve Moncuse in Richmond, California, was self-publishing The Fish Police and copping reams of critical praise; Eastman and Laird had started publishing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in Sharon, Connecticut, as a gag parody of the profusion of X-Men comics flooding the market, and suddenly, their Mirage Studios was a thriving company.

So Marvel and DC, who had outlasted the hundreds of comics companies that had flourished in the Forties and been destroyed by the likes of Dr. Wertham in the Fifties, who had blossomed anew in the Sixties and Seventies, now saw the empire at peril. For 50 years the giants had stonewalled the concept of author royalties, vowing, "Over our dead bodies!" But Frank Miller, who had blown breath back into Marvel's Daredevil, wouldn't produce for anyone simply with a work-for-hire contract anymore, so DC lured him away with a royalty deal, and he created the astonishing multileveled six-book "graphic novel" Ronin; and then The Dark Knight Returns...and it was all over for the plantation mentality.

Rolling Stone did a major takeout on Miller and his gritty, surreal, film noir vision of the myth of superheroes, set against mean streets filled with vicious mad-dog vatos and SWAT-crazy fascistic authorities. Batman, middle-aged, racked with guilt over the death of the young man who had been Robin, lost in memories of his caped crusader career but retired for a decade, goes back to the shadowy alleys and rooftops of Gotham City, a half-crazed vigilante prowling in a nightime world dolorous under the threat of imminent global nuclear warfare. Superman works for the Government. The Catwoman is a madam. The Joker, now a media celebrity, shrills at us from the set of Late Night with David Letterman, having at last found his proper venue.

And suddenly, U.P.I. and A.P. started blowing kisses and urging their adult audience to get a load of this! Not yet 30, Miller found himself riding the wave of serious attention. The evening news shows interviewed him, treating him like a modern poet of urban society. Like Fulton, Chaplin, Kerouac or Nader, Miller was in the right place at the right itme, with the deliverable goods and an enormous talent, and he became the point man for the entire comics industry. He opened the door and, because there were now alternatives to work for hire, work at command, other restless creatos kicked that door off its hinges and the Gulag began to empty.

Now an adult reader who makes no snob distinctions between the value of a Jim Thompson or Harold Adams suspense novel and the work of Thomas Pynchon, Jim Harrison or Joyce Carol Oates, considered "serious" writing, can go to the nearest comics shop and find magazines and graphic novels that--in this different medium of presentation--have as much emotional and intellectual clout as the best movies, the best novels and one or two items on television. xxx

In the pages of WAP! (for Words and Pictures), for the first time in the history of the Gulag, comics professionals are speaking out. Endless recountings of the screwings and hamstringings of their work in a field that was purposely held at an adolescent level. In the pages of WAP! and in the pages of Comics Buyer's Guide, the new, strong voice of an art form coming to maturity can be heard. The censors tremble, the moguls fret, the occasional jumped-up fan turned editor of a critical journal (in the same way that The National Enquirer is a critical journal) spits bile, but after a half century, the talent is finally speaking out.

(WAP!-- 12 issues a year for $25--can be obtained from RFH Publications, 1879 East Orange Grove, Pasadena, California 91104. Comics Buyer's Guide---free copy on request--is avialable from Krause Publications, 700 East State Street, Iola, Wisconsin 54990. The former gives the inside, the latter the outside.)

Televison wearies. Film pander to the sophomoric, to the knife-kill crazies. Novelists write smaller and smaller about less and less. Fast food gives you zits. But from the rubble of the Gulag the song of the imagination is heard. And there is an insistent rapping on the sanctified portals of the Frick and MOMA. Those who have survived come with Zot! and Swamp Thing to demand that, at last, attention, attention must be paid.

That's truth, justice and the American way. “ (Source: Harlan Ellison, “It Ain’t Toontown”, Playboy Magazine, Vol. 35, No. 12, December, 1988 issue)

“Every twenty years or so, a new wave of innovation sweeps the comics industry. In 1938, it was spearheaded by Jerry Siegel’s and Joe Schuster’s Superman, which appeared in Harry Donenfeld’s Action Comics and heralded the beginning of “the Golden Age”. In 1958, Donenfeld’s company, now National Comics, launched a number of new continuing characters starting with The Flash, and that was heralded as the “Silver Age”. Twenty years after that, in 1978, the comics industry was on the ropes. In August, DC (ne National) axed 23 titles. Marvel also cut its line by about 25 percent. The industry appeared to be dying. Xxx

At that time, Marvel and DC were virtually the entire comics industry and newsstands and candy stores were where you bought your comics. The only publication which offered writers and artists copyright and creative control was Mike Friedrich’s Star Reach, a small “ground level” magazine with limited circulation. Wally Wood and Bill Pearson had Witzend going long before that but it was basically a fanzine sold through the mail. Byron Preiss had packaged a number of graphic novels for Baronet and Heavy Metal had published a couple of collections which were sold through mass market bookstores. Xxx

By now, the presence of Eclipse was causing changes in the comics industry. Marvel had started a magazine, Epic, that also allowed creators to retain copyrights. Jim Starlin took full advantage of this opportunity and split negotiations over his “Metamorphosis Odyssey” between the two publishers. When The Price appeared in October 1981, billed as part 2 of the “Metamorphosis Odyssey”, part one was still running in Epic. The Price became the first instance of a feature appearing both from an independent publisher and one of the majors at the same time.

“The two major companies did not make a single concession to creators until there was enough competition to force them to,” said Dean Mullaney, “Now both DC and Marvel pay royalties to writers and artists, and Marvel will even allow creators for its Epic line to retain copyrights,” which is how The Price was possible.

Three years after Action Comics #1, the dam broke and there were superheroes all over the place. Three years after Flash 105 began the “Silver Age”, Fantastic Four No. 1 was published. Three years after Eclipse’s first graphic novel, in July 1981, a publishing innovation was announced which changed forever the direct sales and independent comic book markets. Although both DC and Marvel had tentatively offered comics for sale solely to the direct market, these had been one shots. Now, Pacific Comics announced an entire new line of creator owned comics to be published in the standard 36-page color format. Eclipse, meanwhile, had already begun production work on its own initial entry into this new market, a very special comic called Destroyer Duck.

Labelled “Special Lawsuit Benefit Edition #1” Destroyer Duck hit the stands in December, 1981. The creators and publishers had donated their talents to the financing of Steve Gerber’s lawsuit against Marvel Comics over the ownership of his earlier creation, Howard the Duck. In the main story, drawn by Jack Kirby and inked by Alfredo Alcala, Duke Duck, a hard hat construction worker voyages to the “world of pink primates” to avenge the death of his buddy “the Little Guy” at the hands of the merciless Godcorp, a faceless corporation who’s philosophy is “Grab it all, own it all, drain it all” and who’s motto is “We make product.” Backing up the twenty page lead were two “Great Moments in Comics History” shorts by Mark Evanier, Dan Spiegle, Marty Pasko and Joe Staton, and the very first Groo the Wanderer story by Sergio Aragones.

Sales on the first issue were strong enough that the book was added to Eclipse’s continuing line in January 1983. Gerber and Kirby produced four more issues featuring such characters as Booster Cogburn, the Dislocated Spine, Woblina Strangelegs and Vanilla Cupcake (TM). Jack was certainly the ideal artist to draw these creations and many feel that Alfredo Alcala was the only professional inker Kirby had had since he left Marvel the first time. The last two issues featured the work of Buzz Dixon and Gary Kato and number 7 sported a Frank Miller cover that no Wolverine collection would be complete without. Xxx

By the end of 1983, Eclipse was an established force in the comics industry. XXX In the short period Eclipse had been in existence the entire face of the industry had changed. The focus had switched from the newsstands to the comics stores and the independent publishers wanted to claim an equal footing with Marvel and DC. At the San Diego Convention in 1984 there was a meeting of representatives of Marvel, DC and Archie with Pacific, Capital, Eclipse, and First for a discussion about having the new companies join the Comics Magazine Association (although not necessarily subscribe to the Code). Before that there had been a few attempts to organize the independents into a promotional organization of their own but they didn’t work out. There was too much bickering and disagreement, so the larger independents contacted the big three about joining their organization. “It was a good initial meeting but nothing came out of it,” said Dean. “I was told that one of the members vetoed having any new publishers join, but I was told his third hand.” In any case, an opportunity to bring the entire industry together in a cooperative promotional venture was missed. xxx

Most independent publishers were in trouble in 1984. It was a crowded field. “Marvel was flooding the market and there were just too many comics being published” said Dean. Although Eclipse had embarked on a conservative program of steady incremental growth, other publishers were not so lucky. Faced with rising debts, Pacific Comics suspended publication in mid-1984 with many already completed books in house. None of the creators would get paid for these books unless they reached the stores, so they breathed a sigh of relief when Eclipse and a number of other publishers vyed for the publication rights. Fourteen Pacific titles ended up in Eclipse’s hands including Berni Wrightson, Master of the Macabre 5, Alien Worlds 8 and 9, Twisted Tales 9 and 10, Somerset Holmes 5 and 6, Sergio Aragones’ Groo Special, Siegel and Schuster: Dateline 1930’s 1 and 2, Sunrunners 4-7 by Roger McKenzie and Pat Broderick, and Dave Stevens’ Rocketeer Special. xxx

Despite the fact that all their comics featured better paper, better printing and better coloring than the newsstand comics put out by the Big Two, a vocal minority of fans, retailers and distributors constantly complained that independent comics cost too much and that more copies could be sold if prices were lower.

Now the main factor in the price of a comic is not the paper but the print run. The main cost in printing is the set up charge, which doesn’t change whether you print 20,000 copies or 300,000. Consequently, the unit cost of The Amazing Spiderman is less than that of DNAgents. Faced with the fact that a lot of people couldn’t seem to get these economic facts through their heads, Eclipse decided to try an experiment. They took three comics which had potentially high international sales, found a printer in Finland who promised quality printing at discount prices, switched to mando paper and flat, as opposed to full process, color and issued the books for 75 cents. The hope was that the lower price would increase sales to the point where the size of the print run would justify the price. It was a tricky gamble and from the first things started to go wrong. The coloring was garish, the flesh tones were hideous (black people came out green). The first shipment was damaged so badly that Miracleman #1 was a collector’s item before it even appeared. A new printer was found in Canada though and the coloring problems were fixed and Eclipse settled to wait for the verdict. Xxx

Initially, the lower price worked out incredibly well, but sales dropped over time” as speculators who only purchased large quantities of early issues stopped buying the books. “We gave it our best shot and we gave the distributors and retailers what they were asking for, but in the end wasn’t enough to support to keep it going,” said Dean.

The success of Eclipse’s continuing “micro-series” and the two new horror/sf titles, plus the inevitability of the title finally forced Eclipse into issuing a six issue mini-series featuring reprints of fifties horror stories by greats like Reed Crandall, Alex Toth and Jack Katz. Eclipse set a precedent in the industry by paying reprint fees to the artists and writers of these stories, even though they were in the public domain and the creators hadn’t owned the original copyrights anyway. In fact, the new color versions were copyrighted in the names of the creators, allowing them to get royalty payments on European sales also. “Some artists received more money for the reprint, which we weren’t obligated to pay for, than they received initially from the publisher,” said Dean. “Even if the material is owned by someone who is not the writer-artist on the story,” said Cat, “we still set aside money for the writer and artist because we feel it’s immoral to publish their work without paying them.” Xxx

1946 was a big year in comics, as wartime paper restrictions were lifted and returning veterans swelled the ranks of available artists. The result was a massive glut of short lived titles and publishers.

1966 saw a similar flood of titles, as publishers jumped on the camp bandwagon caused by the popularity of the Batman TV show.

1986 seemed to be year that everybody with a couple thousand dollars in the bank and a line of credit decided that they too wanted to be a comic book publisher. With the recent phenomenal success of a couple of a couple of well-known, small print run black and white titles, comics publishing seemed to be an easy way to become an instant millionaire. By summer, this became known as “the great black and white glut”, as over 100 new small press publishers disrupted the entire wholesale and retail market-place with product that, for the most part, did not meet even minimal standards of competency. Xxx

Back in the “golden age”, a number of the most famous and best remembered titles were produced in a “shop” situation, in which the entire comic was packaged outside the publisher’s office by creative editor/writer/artists and a staff of assistants. The editors would deliver the completed books and the publisher printed them with little interference. Timothy Truman of Scout and editor of Airboy thought that sounded like a good idea to revive, so he and Chuck Dixon formed a partnership called 4 Winds. Eclipse ended up accepting ten out of twelve projects Truman and Dixon proposed to them. Xxx

The studio idea seemed to catch on, as Eclipse worked out a deal with Bruce Jones and his wife, April Campbell, to also package titles. Twisted Tales and Alien Worlds were revived in new prestige format squarebound editions. They also packaged Man O War with art by Rick Burchett, which featured a Vietnam Vet given super powers by a dying alien (September, 1987) and Hand of Fate (January, 1988) with art by Gerald Forton which concerned detective Artemis Fate and his psychic partner. Xxx

Part of our reason for being is for creators to get a good deal and creators to want to create stories as they envision them” said Dean. “If a creator has a story that’s going to last 24 issues, Eclipse is not going make that creator continue it for ten years and have it become stale. All of us have favorite characters from our childhood that we’ve stopped reading because they’ve become so horrible. When a book gets stale you should stop publishing it.” So far the longest running title Eclipse has had has been DNAgents at 41, followed by Crossfire at 26, although Airboy and Scout will pass them soon. Unlike Marvel and DC, Eclipse does not have the merchandising income which would require books to continue to be published even when not making a profit. When the creators own the copyrights, the publisher can’t force the character to continue beyond the time when they should be put to rest.

On the other side, there are books that Eclipse would have liked to continue but couldn’t because of poor sales. “The whole comics industry has changed so much in the last five years, very possibly the new trend is limited stories. Very few new characters have started in the last ten years from any company that are still with us,“ said Dean.”
(Source: Bob Hughes, “Enlarging the Penumbra: Ten Years of Creators’ Rights at Eclipse”, Amazing Heroes No. 142, Fantagraphic Books, June 1, 1988 issue)

Circa 1992, the U.S. : "Comic books, once the refuge of pre-adolescent boys and girls have grown up and today represent an almost half-billion dollar business. The reason: adults are buying the magazines at a growing rate. "If we had to give up every customer below the age of 15, we would survive," noted Buddy Saunders, president of Lone Star Comics, a retail chain in northern Texas. "If we had to give up everyone above the age of 17, we'd be out of business," he added. A survey commissioned by Marvel Comics and reported in the New York TImes suggests the average comic book reader is about 20 years old and spends about $10 a week on comics, an amount most children cannot afford. Price increases in the industry have pushed the cost of the average new release to $1.25 or more. The graying of the comic book readership has not been lost on others in the mass media, as the success of the film BATMAN readily demonstrates.

Today, in the United States there are about 2,500 retail stores dedicated principally to the sale of comic books, up from fewer than 100 in the mid-1970s, according to Kurt Eichenwald in a story in the New York Times. Marvel and DC comics tended to dominate the industry for more than a generation. Today there are about a dozen major publishers and many more smaller ones. The turnaround in the sales success of the comic book is partially due to a significant change in distribution methods. In the past, comics were distributed like all magazines. Publishers sold the comics to independent distributors, who in turn sold them to newsstands and grocery and convenience stores at 20 percent below the cover price. Retailers could return any unused publications to the distributor for a refund. Comic books lacked a stable readership, however; the sale of a particular title could vary widely from issue to issue. Independent distributors were often inundated with huge returns; hence, they gave short shirft to comics.

Enter Phil Seuling, a former school teacher and comic book reader. "In the 1970s he negotiated an agreement with retailers and publishers to become the first specialty distributor of comic books," according to Eichenwald. Under his arrangement, retail stores got the comic books at 50 percent of the cover price, but the books were non-returnable. Other specialty distributors copied this idea, and comic books began to flow far more freely from the publishers into the retail stores. And this encouraged new publishers, and new retailers, and with the product more easily purchased, new readers.

Most comic books are purchased to be read as entertainment and then discarded. But there is a vigorous market for used comic books, with some Number 1 issues worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars today. Hence, many purchases gingerly read the books but then stash them carefully in special plastic bags for storage and future sale. Comic books became an investment, and the jargon in the trade sounds at times like a conversation between Wall Street brokers. No one knows whether this new interest in the compact and colorful story books will last, but for many adults, being able again to enjoy the adventures of Superman, the Avengers, Batman, or Captain America is a welcome return to a simpler time in their lives." (Source: Don R. Pember, Mass Media in America, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992, Sixth ed.)

Circa 2003 to 2005, the U.S.: “Comic book stores, already fragile from the late-shipping practices inflicted by Image Comics and struggling to keep up with the explosion of new titles, began to blink out of existence with frightening regularity. The number of comic-book stores declined from over 10,000 in 1993 to just over 3,500 in 2001. Fans left in droves as well. Some lost their local retail outlet and a convenient way to purchase comic books. Others grew sick of multiple titles, laborious crossovers, and manipulative sales gimmicks. Editors resorted to story hooks that were reminiscent of the moves that had been made in the late 1940s to goose interest in the Timely superheroes; characters were killed, costumes changed, and supporting casts were revolved. Comic-book readers suffered burn-out; comic-book speculators began to suspect their “investments” were largely worthless. They raced each other to the exit. By 2001 the best-selling Marvel comic-books rarely exceeded 100,000 units in monthly sales, compared to ten times that at the start of the 1990s.”(Source: Jordan Raphael and Tom Spurgeon, “Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book, Chicago Review Press, 2003 ed.)

“Comic-books are past the point of decline. The top titles struggle to sell 125,00 copies. Kids prefer to buy anything and everything else, and at $2.25 per issue, its not certain they could afford to return.”(Source: Jordan Raphael and Tom Spurgeon, “Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book, Chicago Review Press, 2003 ed.)

“In the new DC Comics mini-series “Infinite Crisis”, sinister forces threaten to unravel the fabric of reality itself. Nobody knows what to do—not even Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman. One thing is certain: When it’s all over…nothing will be the same again !!! (Cue dramatic music.) It’s the kind of plot that sells comics—and, alas, not a bad way to sum up the comics biz itself. For at a time when Hollywood is Flame On! Hot for superheroes, the niche’ that spawned them—the monthly periodical (an estimated $290 million business)—is battling for a future due to escalating costs and graying consumers. “I’m not predicting the imminent disappearance of comics,” says Mike Richardson, publisher of Dark Horse (Sin City). “But I believe we’ll see less and less as time goes on.” (Source: Jeff Jensen, “Comic Timing: For Marvel and DC, fans aren’t what they used to be”, Entertainment Weekly Magazine, November 4, 2005, No. 848 issue)

"Global publishers say that graphic novels--which include everything from the hugely popular Japanese illustrated stories known as manga to highly sophisticated works like "Persepolis", Art Spiegelman's 'In the Shadow of No Towers" and Joe Sacco's "War's End"-- had their best year ever in 2004 and look to grow even more in 2005. In the United States, sales of graphic novels have leaped from $75 million in 2001 to $207 million in 2004. Booksellers in America, Britain, Germany, Italy and South Korea cite graphic literature as one of their fastest-growing categories. In Borders, one of America's largest bookstore chains, graphic novels sales have risen more than 100 percent a year for the past three years. In France, where comics have long been mainstream, sales are reaching record highs, up to 13.8 percent to 43.3 million copies in 2004; indeed, five of the ten bestselling books in France last year were comic books. Manga, which already represents 20% of Japan's publishing market is also spreading rapidly in South Korea, Thailand and other countries; in many cases, locals are buying American versions of the originals in an effort to learn English. Move over, Spider-Man. Graphic literature has finally broken out of hobby shops and into the mainstream. Superhero fantasies have given way to grittier, more pointed works grounded firmly in reality. Academics in the United States and Europe are teaching comics as literature in the classroom. Books like 'Persepolis"--as well as Sacco's "Palestine" and "Safe Area: Gorazde", and Guy Delisle's "Pyongyang"--are held up not only as great literature but also as instructive guides to global conflict zones." (Source: "Comic Relief" by Rana Foroohar, Newsweek International Edition, August 22, 2005 issue)

Circa 1990, the Philippines: "Ayon sa pinakahuling sarbey (1989) na isinagawa ng Philippine Information Agency, sa buong Pilipinas, ang komiks ang may pinakamaraming tagasubaybay kung ihahambing sa ibang midya. Ang kinalabasan ng sarbey ay ang sumusunod: magasin (33%), dyaryo (37%), pelikula (45%), telebisyon (53%), at komiks (54%). Sa 54% saklaw ang C,D, E, at gayon rin ang B-uri ng mambabasa na ang nakararami ay nasa pagitan ng 19-25 taong gulang. Dahil ang komiks ay abot-kaya ng karamihan, pinagpapasa-pasa ito sa reyt na 5-8:1 at pinaarkilahan pa, tinatantiyang may 18 hanggang 20 milyong mambabasa ang abot ng komiks, magmula Aparri hanggang Tawi-tawi." (Translation: According to the latest survey (1989) conductd by the Philippine Information Agency for the whole Philippines, comics have the most number of audience share when compared to other media. The results of the survey are as follows: magazines (33%), newspapers (37%), movies (45%), television (53%) and comics (54%). This 54% includes the C, D, E, and B class of reader majority of whom are between the ages of 19 to 25. Because comicbooks are priced within the reach of the greater many, copies are passed from hand to hand at a rate of 5-8:1 and is even rented out, it is estimated that 18 to 20 million readers are reached by the comics from Aparri to Tawi-tawi." (Source: Corazon D. Villareal, "Ang Industriya ng Komiks: Noon at Ngayon", Kultura Magazine, 1990 issue.)

Circa 2000, the Philippines: "There are 26 comics magazines published weekly with a nationwide circulation of 2,873,541, and 9 published bi-weekly with a total nationwide circulation of 1,367,376. In addition, there are 4 comics magazines published bi-monthly with a total nationwide circulation of 494,730." (Source: 2000 Philippine Media Factbook, Philippine Information Agency (PIA), at www.seamedia.org/philippines.php?story_id=22)

Circa 2002, the Philippines: "Mass media today are marked by a rather sharp class divide. Broadsheets cater mainly to the upper class. Business World, which mainly caters to business people and professionals, has a daily print run of only 65,000. The largest broadsheet, a great paper called the Inquirer, runs 250,000 copies but this still pales in comparison with the tabloids, which cater to CDE audiences. The largest tabloid, Abante, claims a daily print run of more than 400,000 while People's Tonight runs 365,000 copies.Similar patterns are found with the magazines. The glossies like Metro and Cosmopolitan have a print run of between 50,000 and 70,000 per issue while magazines like Intrigue and Kislap run between 150,000 and 180,000 copies. These figures are still low compared to weekly publications using a comics format. Horoscope with a claimed circulation of 345,000, Lovelife Komiks with 315,000 and Golden Drama with 296,000. It's depressing when you think of what most Filipinos are reading. But this "dumbing down" of the Filipino isn't something limited to CDE audiences. Glossy publications, English talk shows and FM radio also dish out their fare of horoscopes and psychics, romance stories and advice for the lovesick, and gossip about celebrities. Generally, there is a trend toward a tabloidizing of all of mass media, a focus on the sensational and the macabre. As for the activist function of mass media, I'm afraid that mass media commentaries often end up fanning more controversies rather than educating the public on current issues. In fact, the bombastic AM radio programs, for all the fire and fury of its commentators, probably function more as safety valves, allowing people an outlet for their frustrations much like the programs for the lovesick. Other programs end up as brokers, helping to facilitate applications lost in the bureaucratic maze. The radio stations (as well as charity TV programs) actually end up reinforcing the patron-client relationships. It's not surprising that media celebrities end up in politics, voted into office with a large following built from among their listeners and viewers.The media factbook tells us we now have something like 700 radio stations, 700 cable TV operators, seven national broadsheets, six national tabloids and dozens of magazines and local papers. On the horizon is the Internet, now estimated to have 4 million users in the Philippines. Mega media are growing by leaps and bounds but I wonder, as we talk more are we perhaps communicating less?" (Source: Michael L. Tan, "Mega Media" from his blog: "Pinoy Kasi" at: www. pinoykasi.homestead.com/files/202articles/06272002-Megamedia.htm )

Circa 2006, the Philippines: "Bago tuluyang nawala ang malalaking publication ng komiks sa Pilipinas, unti-unti nang nagsulputan ang mga "independent publishers. Karamihan sa mga taong ito ay hindi "business people" kundi mga manunulat, dibuhista at creators lang na gustong makagawa ng sarili nilang mga komiks. Ginastusan nila mula sa sariling bulsa ang printing at distribution ng kanilang mga gawa. Ilan sa mga independent publishers na ito ay ang mga grupong Alamat at Sining Ekis. Karamihan din sa mga grupong ito ay hindi nagmula sa local publication ng komiks. Sila ay mga American at Japanese comics collectors na nagmamahal sa medium ng komiks na kanilang kinokolekta. Limitado ang distribution ng mga komiks na kanilang inilalabas. Hindi nila pinasok ang sirkulasyon ng "traditional komiks publication". Bagkus ay makikita lang ang kanilang mga trabaho sa ilang comic bookshops tulad ng Comic Quest at Filbars. Mayroon din silang sariling mga "cult followers" (na katulad din nilang kolektor ng mga foreign comics) at malayung-malayo sa mga mambabasa ng mga naunang komiks sa bansa. (Translation: "Before the disappearance of the big Filipino comics publications, there gradually arose the so-called "independent publishers". Most of them are not business-minded people but were rather, writers, artists and creators who just wanted to make their own personal comics. From out of their own pocket, they paid for the printing and distribution of their personal works. Some of these independent publishers are the "Alamat" group and the "Sining Ekis" group. Most of these groups did not come from local comics publication houses. They are American and Japanese comics collectors who just love the comics medium of their respective collections. The comics they put out have limited distribution. They do not venture into the circulation of the former traditional komiks publications. Rather, their works could only be found in some comics bookshops like Comic Quest and Filbar's. They also have their own respective cult following who, like them, are also collectors of foreign comics, who are far and away different from the readers of original Filipino comics produced in the country." (Source: Randy Valiente, "Ang Kalagayan ng Komiks sa Pilipinas", Liwayway Magazine, Manila Bulletin Publishing Corporation, October 2, 2006 issue.)

"Nang tuluyang bumagsak ang malalaking publishers ng komiks, ang naiwan ay ang mga independent publishers. Naiwan sila sapagkat sa una pa lang ay nakatuon na ang kanilang atensyon na mabasa ng mga tao ang kanilang mga trabaho. Hindi sila tulad ng mga traditional publishers na kapag hindi kumita ang komiks na kanilang inilabas, hindi na nila ito itutuloy pa. Ang mga independent publishers ay mapagmahal sa medium ng komiks. Kumita man o hindi, itutuloy nila ang paglalabas ng komiks mula sa sarili nilang bulsa. Lumakas pang lalo ang impluwensiya ng Japanese comics (Manga) at anime shows sa telebisyon nang mga huling taon ng dekada '90. Dito sumulpot ang Culture Crash. Ito ang komiks na masasabing nagtagumpay sa paglalabas ng "modernong" komiks. Sa katunayan, nanag sumikat ang komiks na ito, nagsulputan na rin na parang kabute ang ilan pang independent publishers na naglabas din ng Japanese-inspired comics. Hanggang sa dumating sa puntong halos lahat na ng komiks na inilalabas ng mga maliliit na publishers na ito ay "clone" na ng Culture Crash. Sa puntong ito, nabaon na sa limot ang orihinal na nilalalman at ano ng komiks ng Pilipinas. Mapa-story, drawing, printing, circulation, ay hindi na muli pang binalikan ng mga bagong manlilikha ng komiks. Gumawa sila ng sariling mga marketing strategies at distribution na naka-pattern sa mga magazines sa bookstores tulad ng FHM, Pulp, Cosmopolitan, at iba pa. Wala nang komiks na mabibili sa bangketa. Ang lahat ay makikita na lang sa bookstores at magazine shops. Nagkakahalaga ang mga ito ng P75 hanggang P120 bawat isang kopya. Matatanggap pa ito ng "upper middle class" ngunit hindi ang pangkaraniwang Pilipino na kumikita lamang ng P100 o mas maliit pa sa isang araw. Sa ganitong sitwasyon, hindi na muli pang pinag-uusapan sa mga baryo at liblib na pook ang komiks. Para sa kanila, wala nang kumakalat na komiks. Sa madaling salita, patay na." (Translation: "When the big komiks publishers fell, only the independent publishers remained. They remained because at the onset they were determined to gain the attention of the reading public towards their works. They are unlike traditional publishers who discontinue a publication once it stops selling. Independent publishers have an intense love for the comics medium. Whether or not they earn profit they still continue putting out comics subsidized entirely from their own pocket. The influence of Japanese comics and anime shows increased during the 1990s. From this impetus arose "Culture Crash". This is considered by some to be successful in putting out a "modern" komik. In fact, during the popularity of this comic, there mushroomed several other independent publishers who also put out japanese inspired comics. Eventually, almost all comics put out by these small publishers were clones of Culture Crash. At this point, the original look and content of Filipino comics had already been forgotten. From style of writing, drawing, printing and circulation, these new creators of today's comics never looked back. They made their own marketing and distribution strategies patterned after licensed foreign magazines found in bookstores such as FHM, Pulp, Cosmopolitan and others. Komiks cannot anymore be bought in the usual newstands and kiosks. Today's komiks can only be found at bookstores and magazine shops. Accordingly, they are priced from P75 to P120 for every copy. This is easily within the price range of the upper middle class but not to the ordinary Filipino who earns P100 or less in a day. In light of this, comics are not anymore talked about in the faraway barrios and inner street corners. For the ordinary folk, comics are not anymore ubiquitous. In other words, the komiks have passed away." (Source: Randy Valiente, "Ang Kalagayan ng Komiks sa Pilipinas, Manila Bulletin Publishing Corporation, October 2, 2006 issue)

"Ang pinakamurang komiks sa kasalukuyan ay ang Elmer ni Gerry Alanguilan. Mabibili ito sa halagang P50 at makikita sa ilang piling comicshops sa Pilipinas at maging sa ilang tindahan sa ibang bansa. Ang pinakamahal na komiks naman ay ang Siglo: Passion, nagkakahalaga ng P800. Hardbound ito at mabibili lamang sa mga bookstores at pwede ring orderin sa internet. Ang ilan pa ay nagkakahalaga ng P85 hanggang P100 pesos na mabibili lang din sa bookstores, ang mga ito ay gawa ng Psicom, Mango Comics, at Neo Comics. Sa kabuuan nito, ang komiks sa kasalukuyang panahon ay hindi na maituturing na "murang libangan". Makailang beses mong iisipin kung dapat ka bang bumili ng komiks o dapat ay bumili ka na lang ng ulam at bigas." (Translation: "Currently, the cheapest comics is "Elmer" by Gerry Alanguilan. Priced at P50, this can only be found in a few choice comicshops in the Philippines and several stores abroad. The most expensive comics on the other hand is "Siglo: Passion", priced at P800. Hardbound, it can only be bought in bookstores and by order from the internet. Others are priced from P85 to P100 and can also be bought only in bookstores, comprising comics works by Psicom, Mango Comics and Neo Comics. On the whole, today's comics are not anymore considered a "cheap form of entertainment." Nowadays, you have to think more than once whether you should buy today's comics or a simple meal instead consisting of one viand and one cup of rice." (Source: Randy Valiente, Ang Kalagayan ng Komiks sa Pilipinas, Liwayway Magazine, Manila Bulletin Publishing Corporation, October 2, 2006 issue.)

" xxx After World War 2, people didn't have television and very little limited access to movie houses, specially to those living in the provinces. Comics then became the most popular form of entertainment and it was so because it appealed not just to children, but to the masses. The country is not a rich one, and most of our population hover below, in and around the poverty line. This was both fortunate and unfortunate. Fortunate because its mass popularity enabled comics to become an indelible part of Philippine pop culture. Unfortunate because the rich and elite, who pretty much decides what goes and what doesn't in the world of art, look down on comics as a cheap entertainment for the masses. It is a stigma that persists heavily to this day.

SPURGEON: Can you give me a snapshot on the comics "scene" where you are, any same-age peers you have and those younger particularly? What are they like? Where do they work? What kinds of comics are being done?

ALANGUILAN: As of this moment, the only remnant of the old industry is Liwayway Magazine. Not even a comic book, it's a news, gossip, prose and poetry magazine with a comics section in it. It's only fitting that the magazine where the Philippine comics industry was born in 1929 to be still in publication today.In the face of the falling industry in the early '90s, a lot of young artists, including myself, decided to create our own comics and publish them ourselves. By "publishing" it meant going to the photocopy place and have 100 copies made and have a sympathetic comics store carry them. Some had more money than others (or some had richer parents than ours) and they were able to afford to actually go and have 1000 copies printed at a real printing press.The general output owes very little to the traditions of the old industry. These new comics were populated by mostly superheroes, with a few delving into fantasy and crime, with one or two doing very odd trippy flights of fancy. Very few attempted anthologies, opting instead for limited runs from one shots to four issues.These comics were more expensive as the creators could not afford print runs that would assure an lower retail price. These are kids doing comics out of their own pockets after all.This scene still holds true today, but some of us eventually established real publishing companies and some of the more popular and successful, like Mango Comics, Nautilus Comics, and PSI Com publish comics on a more or less monthly basis. Much of their output is influenced by Japanese comics to varying degrees. Many other companies like Stephen Redondo's Redondo KOMiX (Stephen is Nestor's nephew) and NEO Comics are very heavily influenced by Japanese comics as well. It's safe to say that manga has a very strong foothold in the culture of Philippine comics at the moment. Some of us who have continued to self publish, eventually established our own personal legal and duly registered publishing companies. For my part, I thought it essential to do so because I've long decided that comics will be my career for all time so I better get off the underground and do this thing seriously.Self publishers like Arnold Arre and Carlo Vergara have produced very popular and successful comic books that they have been taken on by established book publishers.A Philippine convention for comics, called the Komikon, is now in its 2nd year this October 21, and it's our opportunity to sell and promote our work and mingle with the other creators." (Emphasis Mine) (Source: Tom Spurgeon, "A Short Interview with Gerry Alanguilan", The Comics Reporter website at http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/resources/interviews/6314/, 2006 interview).

"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 in the overall Philippine society and that is the utter lack of a powerful local effort to inspire our youth as to our own history." (Source: Whilce Portacio interview from "Celebrating 120 years of Komiks from the Philippines. Part One: The History of the Komiks", by Benjamin Ong Pang Kaen, at "http://forum,newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=88232)


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