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

Saturday, May 31, 2008

History of the Filipino Mainstream Komiks Industry: A Summary

A few months after the war in 1946, the first commercially sold local Tagalog comics magazine “Halakhak Komiks” was published by a bookstore owner and lawyer, Atty. Jaime Lucas. Because of the prevalence of U.S. comic books brought, read and freely distributed by American military servicemen, “Halakhak” followed this modern U.S. comics pamphlet format.

“Halakhak” was priced at 25 centavos, had 42 pages with blue and red newsprint covers and interior black and white newsprint pages. It featured editorial cartoons, news articles, and four (4) page serial installments on adventure, love, mystery and humor. The contents were provided by then out-of-work Philippine Free Press editorial cartoonists and Liwayway magazine comics illustrators. “Halakhak’s” first editor was editorial cartoonist and painter, Isaac Tolentino.

However, because of limited capital and lacking publishing experience, Atty. Lucas’ “Halakhak” folded after ten (10) issues. The main bulk of “Halakhak” were consigned to stallholders and newspaper dealers who were slow in paying him allegedly due to collection problems. Distribution was reportedly excellent but collection did not improve, and there was limited cash on hand.

Immediately after “Halakhak” folded, Don Ramon Roces, millionaire publisher owner of the Manila Times and Liwayway magazine, set up ACE Publications with “Kenkoy” strip creator, Tony Velasquez, as manager and editor.

In 1947, under Velasquez’ guidance, Ace Publications put out 10,000 copies of “Pilipino Komiks” with a cover price of 25 centavos and was distributed in the newsstands. Its success paved the way for “Tagalog Klasiks” (1949), “Hiwaga Komiks” (1950) and finally, “Espesyal Komiks” (1952). Unlike U.S. comics, these local comics magazines featured Tagalog stories and the Filipino way of life through cartoon humor, adventure, love, drama, mystery and humor serials. The success of Ace’s comics line was also due in large part to the fact that it availed of the distribution and collection facilities of “Liwayway magazine” also owned by Don Ramon Roces which had nationwide distribution and readership.

Local comics publishing flourished because they were affordable to many low income Filipinos displaced by World War 2, who were hungry for information and entertainment that spoke their language and knew their way of life. Local Tagalog comics publications were a respite from American magazines, newspapers books and other print media that flooded the country at the time.

The success of ACE’s comics inspired other independent local comics publishers to follow suit. But lacking the distribution and collection facilities of Don Ramon, many of these small start-ups folded after a few issues. It did not help that Don Ramon controlled the largest magazine distribution service in the country with many newsdealers loyal to his publications. Nevertheless bigger, more organized publishers like Doña Beatriz Guballa, Silangan Publications, Quioge Publications, Arcade Publications to name a few, entered the picture.

From 1947 to 1954, just as local comics publishing was beginning to be more diverse, creative and follow different editorial perspectives, all this began to change in 1955 when local comics publishers began to self-regulate and censor their ranks.

They were apparently following the lead of U.S. comics publishers when in 1954, American crime and horror comics were accused of being the cause of juvenile delinquency and illiteracy. This backlash was primarily led by the Catholic Legion of Decency and other religious socio-civic groups. It worsened when popular EC horror comics publisher, William M. Gaines, appeared before a televised senate sub-committee investigation on juvenile delinquency, and gave an earnest but poorly organized defense of his competence and rights as a publisher. Gaines, who would later continue publishing the successful MAD magazine, would be vindicated by a public that has learned to appreciate his horror comics line as a work of art and potent social commentary, even inspiring top Hollywood directors and producers into adopting his comics stories in the early 1990s into a successful HBO cable television series: “Tales from the Crypt”.

Fearing that legislation would soon be passed outlawing the publication of ALL comic books, the conservative and child-friendly comics publishers at the time (i.e., National/DC, Atlas/Marvel, Dell, Walt Disney, Archie, Fawcett, and others) decided to self-regulate themselves by forming the Comics Code Authority. The Authority outlawed horror and crime comics, and required every comic to pass its standards of “wholesomeness” before being allowed distribution. Violators were refused distribution by the Authority’s partner newsdealers nationwide. From them on, U.S. mainstream comics were censored and became “safe”, “conservative”, “child-friendly” and “inoffensive”. Its creative drive gone, readers left in droves resulting in a decline of the American comics industry that is dominated by cartoons, romance, superhero comics and sanitized war, horror and crime comics.

In the Philippines meanwhile, some enterprising comics companies either reprinted or imitated the U.S. horror comics. This angered the local catholic and moral crusaders who petitioned Manila City Hall eventually causing Manila councilors to propose banning the sale and distribution of ALL comics. But before any initatory actions could be made, Don Ramon Roces, backed by the Catholic Knights of Columbus, called on all local comics publications to follow the lead in America and self-regulate their industry.

Specifically, Don Ramon proposed that all other companies adopt ACE Publications’ editorial standards in making comics. The local publishers, together with the Catholic Knights of Columbus, agreed to form the APEPCOM (Association of Publishers and Editors of Philippine Comics) and be governed by ACE's conservative editorial guidelines now called the APEPCOM Code. This Code was similar to the conservative U.S. Comics Code and pretty soon, all Filipino komiks from 1955 onwards would follow the same conservative and “catholic” editorial outlook. This is why most, if not all, Filipino komiks, looked and read the same.

No legislation outlawing Filipino comics publications being passed, the medium now censored and self-regulated by the APEPCOM controlled by Don Ramon and the Catholic Church, the local mainstream comics business grew without opposition. However, since ACE Publications had the largest magazine and newspaper distribution in the country, it profited more than the other publishers. ACE also had the largest circulation of local comics and consequently, gained the loyalty of many newsdealers. Most importantly, ACE employed the best illustrators and writers in the business. It was no wonder then that Don Ramon’s ACE became a monopoly early on.

ACE drove out fly-by-night and small, start-up independent comics publishers, most of whom tried to go around the conservative and creatively restrictive APEPCOM code. The result was that by 1963, only the following were the biggest comics publishers, with ACE being the largest and more powerful even with all other comics publishers combined: Don Ramon Roces’ ACE Publications, Dona Beatriz Guballa’s Bulaklak Publications, D. Benipayo Press, G. Miranda and Sons, Philippine Book Company, Bookman, Goldstar Publications, Pioneer Publications, G.M.R. Publications, Viratas Publications, Makabayan Publications and PR Publications.

Working conditions however were far from perfect. In 1962, a company-wide strike hit ACE Publications forcing it to shut down. It resumed operation after two months under a new name: Graphic Arts Service, Inc. or GASI in order to avoid liability from its striking workers. GASI put out “Kislap Komiks” (1962), “Pioneer Komiks” (1962), ”Aliwan Komiks” (1962), “Pinoy Komiks” (1963), “Pinoy Klasiks” (1963), “Holiday Komiks” (1963) and “Teens Weekly Komiks” (1968).

GASI was able to place its komiks-magasins among the frontrunners circulation-wise. Aliwan Komiks for instance, started with 25,000 copies. In four years time, it hit a high 80,000. Kislap Komiks also began with a print order of 25,000 copies, subsequently converting into a movie magazine in 1965 and by 1970 its circulation registered 130,000. Pinoy Komiks also performed quite well – from the intial 25,000 copy circulation in 1963, it soared to 120,000 in 1970.

After the strike, ACE’s most popular comics artists: Nestor Redondo, Alfredo Alcala, Armando Castrillo and Jim Fernandez, formed their own comics publications company: CRAF and put out several komiks titles named after them: “Redondo Komiks”, “Alcala Fight Komiks”, “CRAF Klasix” and “Amado Lovers Komix” all in 1963. Other titles were added in the late 1960s until CRAF's closure in September, 1972.

After GASI, another comics publication company was put up by Don Ramon in 1964: Pilipino Komiks, Inc. or PKI, again in an effort to avoid liability from the striking workers. Tony Velasquez, "the Father of Philippine Comics" and right hand man of Don Ramon, was called in again to manage. The office of PKI later transferred to Commandante Street in Sta. Cruz, Manila where the garage of Don Ramon's Liwayway Publications was also located. This sector eventually became the traditional drop-off place and pick-up area for Manila agents for practically any publication particularly all the komiks-magasins.” In short, Don Ramon Roces again controlled the distribution of ALL local comics magazines giving preference to his titles.

The first issue of PKI's revived "Pilipino Komiks" consequently enjoyed the largest circulation in the country. This was followed by PKI's revivals of other cancelled titles from ACE: "Espesyal", "Hiwaga", and "Tagalog Klasiks". They too, immediately and expectedly, enjoyed a meteoric rise in circulation thanks to the lone, nationwide pick-up point for ALL komiks-magasins set in place at the PKI office in the garage of Liwayway Publications.

Soon, Circulation Service, Inc. was set up to handle the increasing marketing and distribution requirements of the komiks published by PKI. Later on, the companies transferred to the Capitol Publishing House Compound at the corner of Scout Reyes Street and Don A. Roces Avenue in Quezon City. Then the incorporators decided to prevent confusion of the PKI and komiks-magazine itself, particularly to avoid liability from the striking workers. The corporation renamed itself "Atlas Publishing Co., Inc." purportedly inspired by the greek mythical hero who bore the world on his shoulders—and this was what the company did—by being the strongest in the local komiks world.

The creation of GASI and ATLAS was in preparation of Don Ramon’s turn-over of his entire comics business to his two daughters: Dona Carmen and Dona Elena who later obtained ownership over these two companies in the late 1960s. Actual management of day-to-day transactions however, was turned over to their respective sons Ramon R. Davila (ATLAS) and Alfredo R. Guerrero (GASI). Ultimate control however, rested with Don Ramon who still operated behind the sidelines.

In the mid-1960s, the komiks business had grown into a thriving industry. There were fifty titles in circulation as of 30 June 1965, as registered with the Philippine Bureau of Posts. Of this total, nine were published by Roces, but all were controlled editorially by the APEPCOM code and availed of Roces' nationwide distribution service oblivious that Roces' titles were given preference by this distribution network. The aggregate number of copies per print run of the fifty titles was at 1,343,206, according to a contemporary account. The growth was mainly due to the fact that most komiks had movie columns and with komiks storylines serving as screenplays for komiks based movies that also gained widespread patronage.

With the advent of the bomba sex comics in 1968 however, a challenge to Don Ramon’s comics monopoly came to the fore. From 1968 to 1972, bomba sex comics outsold the mainstream local comics monopolized by Don Ramon. Bomba sex comics operated outside the APEPCOM code as cultural and social mores were being questioned by liberal philosophies prevalent at the time. Don Ramon and his Catholic lobby group sought the help of government and initiated moves to outlaw and prohibit the distribution of the sex comics to no avail.

That is, until the advent of Martial law in September, 1972. Marcos’ first order was to outlaw the printing and distribution of any and all print publications and broadcast of any program without prior approval from Malacanang. A three month media blackout followed where radio and tv stations were raided and taken over. Print publications were not spared including the komiks and bomba sex komiks. Many were jailed and re-oriented towards the propaganda of a “New Society”.

Komiks publishers who wanted to resume publishing had to apply for permits and pay a bond. Don Ramon who still had money and influence, negotiated for the release of his brother, Manila Times editor Chino Roces, and was able to obtain permits for his komiks companies. All other komiks publishers either closed down, shifted to textbook publishing, or were sold off to Don Ramon’s komiks companies. The fortunate few who were able to obtain permits did not last long and less than a handful mainstream komiks publishers survived the end of the 1970s. These three survivors were Mars Ravelo, GMiranda and Sons, and the Rex Group of companies.

The remaining comics publishers, most of whom were now under Don Ramon, were re-organized yet again into a new self-regulating Authority now known as the Kapisanan ng mga Publisista at mga Patnugot ng mga Komiks-Magasin sa Pilipino (KPPKP). This new body re-adopted the old APEPCOM Code but broadened its prohibitions to make the komiks industry a more effective partner of the Marcos government in the "national developmental effort". Specifically, the new restrictions prohibited any story, image or material that would cause hatred or contempt against the Marcoses and the military.

Armed with several komiks companies under parent ATLAS and GASI publishing houses, the Roces family’s monopoly of the local mainstream komiks industry was in place. Under ATLAS were the following komiks publishing companies: Atlas Publishing Co., Magellan, Islas Filipinas Publishing, Adventures Illustrated Magazines, Inc., a revived Ace Publications and Mass Media Promotions. Under GASI were: GASI, Affiliated Publications and Counterpoint. Under such a restrictive social, political and economic atmosphere, many komiks writers and artists either retired or migrated abroad. The remaining komiks creatives meanwhile, had no choice but to continue toiling under exploitative industry sweatshop working conditions standardized and practiced by Don Ramon's comics companies. The other few remaining comics companies also had no choice but to follow these working standards set by industry leaders ATLAS and GASI.

Pilipino komiks was Roces komiks and Roces komiks was Pilipino komiks. In 1978, it was reported that every week, about two million komiks magasins, bearing 44 different titles, are sold. If we assume that 6 people eventually get to read each copy (which some claim is still a conservative estimate), then komiks-magasins should easily have a readership of no less than 2 million. For the 12 komiks publishing houses (i.e., Atlas Publishing Co., Magellan, Islas Filipinas Publishing, Adventures Illustrated Magazines, Inc., Ace Publications, Mass Media Promotions, GASI, Affiliated Publications, Counterpoint, Mars Ravelo’s RAR Publications, GMiranda and Sons and Rex) this means weekly sales of about Php 1.7 milion, or Php 88.4 million annually.

The leading komiks title during martial law was "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. As of 1978, Pilipino Komiks’ circulation surpass 175,000 copies a week.

The great bulk of komiks readers belong to the C and D households, 38 percent and 41 percent respectively. Only 4% of komiks readers belong to A and B households, while 17% are in E households. The average komiks reader is a married adult who has high school or some college education. Only 4 out of every 10 readers are 19 year old and below. This explains why the content of komiks can hardly be classified as simple kidstuff.

One of the factors for the great patronage of local mainstream komiks, is that during the martial law years of the 1970s, most broadcast and print media were censored and limited in number. Consequently, many Filipinos were again hungry for information and entertainment. Once more, Don Ramon, being the lone komiks monopoly had a "captive" audience who had no real choice in the matter. Komiks at the time, especially Don Ramon’s komiks, helped placate an entertainment and information hungry public through its censorious KPPKP comics code. Komiks was also used by the Marcos government and military in its propaganda efforts. Such use and acknowledgment was considered by some as giving the komiks medium a certain sense of "legitimacy".

However, opposition to the conjugal dictatorship grew in the late 1970s especially when Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino was allowed to live in exile in the United States. There, the excesses of the conjugal dictatorship were exposed to the international press. In order to show the world that the Philippines was not a banana republic, an ailing Marcos in January, 1981 lifted martial law and tried to portray a return of press freedom and other liberties in the Philippines.

With martial law lifted, the entry of sleazy tabloid wars, sex in cinema, and return of the Pinoy Bomba Komiks came to the fore. All were tolerated for the benefit of a skeptical international press and community. Escapism was a big product in times of adversity as shown by the renaissance of Don Ramon’s monopoly during martial law. The early to mid-1980s was no exception. After the assassination of a returning Senator Aquino on August 21, 1983, the Philippine Peso devaluated twice in that same year compelling Mars Ravelo to later close down his RAR Publications due to unpaid dollar loans on his importation of new printing equipment for his new office building. What followed were several street protests that demanded the ouster of Marcos. The mainstream comics monopoly responded by cautiously stretching beyond the KPPKP comics code and being a little daring in its escapist fare as observed in this article by Dr. John A. Lent, international comics scholar:

“As the 1980s dawned, melodrama, with an emphasis on sex, violence, class divisions, and familial turmoil, was favored in komiks and movies. Readers seemed to prefer tearjerkers that reminded them of their own plight. Also popular were pocket komiks, which had been around for some time, but took off in the 1980s with Speed Pocketkomiks (GASI), Bestseller Pocketkomiks, Mighty Viking Pocketkomiks, and Kasaysayan Pocketkomiks (all Atlas products); Combat and Bulilit Pocketkomiks (Rex Group of Komiks); Filipino Superheroes Pocketkomiks and Commando Pocketkomiks (Adventure Illustrated Magazine, Inc.), and Crimebuster Pocketkomiks and Western Pocketkomiks (Mass Media Production, Inc.)”

By the mid-1980s, all these stunts apparently paid off in that by this time there were now 47 mainstream komiks titles on the stands, not counting at least 24 bomba, as well as religious and educational titles. Estimated total circulation of mainstream komiks was from 2.5 to 3 million, and a readership of six times that figure or about 15 to 18 million, which is about a third of the Filipino population at the time. By the mid to late 1980s, only Rex and GMiranda and Sons remained as the only other small time “competitors” of the Roces monopoly.

The 1985 snap presidential elections and the February 1986 revolution that followed, did not affect the circulation and continued monopoly of the local komiks industry. Sheila S. Coronel, Executive Director of the Philippine Centre for Investigative Journalism observes in her 1998 online article: “Media ownership and control in the Philippines”, that:

When Marcos fell the system of media controls that he had established was dismantled overnight. Once they were set loose, the media blossomed. Suddenly, there were two dozen daily newspapers publishing out of Manila alone, compared to only half-a-dozen during the Marcos years. The three major nationwide TV networks became six. At the same time, radio stations were set up as if air waves were running out of fashion. Twelve years after people power, there are 156 television stations (excluding cable and UHF) operating in various parts of the country; 402 radio stations, 25 nationally circulating dailies and over 200 other weekly or fortnightly newspapers.

After Marcos, there were virtually no controls on the press, no licenses were required to set up newspapers. In broadcasting the government retained ownership of one television and radio network. At the same time, it wrested control of two other television networks owned by Marcos cronies and assigned their management to politically well-connected firms which operated the networks as private businesses with little government interference.”

The Roceses knew that they had to act fast. The new freedom and euphoria that accompanied the EDSA revolution emboldened big and small players to enter the local komiks publishing field. Of particular note were Tagalog B-movie producer “Mother” Lily Monteverde’s Mariposa Publications and the Lopez family who were then rebuilding their television and radio broadcasting empire, who initially came out with “Kiss” and “Aargh” komiks. These two potentially big players were intending to join the fray. Writers and artists working for Don Ramon's komiks companies were intimidated and warned not to work for these new competitors, threatening loss of employment if they did. Another measure was to edge out these competitors’ titles from the newsstands by flooding the market.

This "flooding" can be discerned from an increase in circulation of the top selling komiks titles of Atlas and GASI from 1986 to 1989 which was accomplished by putting out their top sellers twice a week. These top sellers were Hiwaga, Tagalog Klasiks, Espesyal Pilipino and Extra for ATLAS and Aliwan, Pinoy, Pinoy Klasiks, Universal and Superstar for GASI. Another important point was that the Roceses' KPPKP comics code was relaxed. Roces komiks at this time, notably GASI, allowed for some graphic sex and violence in its titles, particularly its horror titles when compared to the more conservative Atlas. The few komiks competitors who tried to do the same were chastised by the KPPKP comics code. A double standard in the application of comics censorship was practised.

As a result of this manuever, GASI’s profits in particular, doubled from Php 4,845,568.10 in 1984 to Php 8,810,555.54 in 1987. GASI in fact, was listed as no. 640 among the top 1000 corporations in the Philippines for the year 1988. By 1989, there were now 89 mainstream komiks titles, approximately 90% of which were published nationwide by nine (9) komiks publishing companies, all of whom were owned by the Roces family, i.e., Atlas, Magellan, Islas Filipinas Publishing, Adventures Illustrated Magazines, Inc., Ace Publications and Mass Media Promotions, GASI, Affiliated Publications, and Counterpoint.

Of these 89 mainstream komiks titles, only nine were being published by two independent and separate publishers: G.M. Miranda and Sons and Rex Group of Companies. In 1989, G.M. Miranda was only publishing one komiks title: “Wakasan” which had a weekly circulation of only 20,000. The remaining eight komiks titles of Rex meanwhile had a circulation base of 12,000 to 15,000 copies a week per title. These numbers however, pale in comparison to Atlas and GASI’s circulation wherein their four top selling titles (i.e., Pilipino, Aliwan, Pinoy Komiks and Love Story) was at 175,000 copies a week while their least selling titles (it is claimed) never went below 60,000 copies a week.

In 1989, the Philippine Information Agency released a nationwide media survey declaring the komiks medium as having the most number of audience share besting television, movies, newspapers and magazines. The monopoly had finally reached its peak. In the following years of the 1990s decade however, its downfall would also result in the collapse of the whole mainstream komiks industry.

A reduction in the number of published titles could be discerned when we consider Dr. John A. Lent’s article “The First 75 Years of Philippine Komiks” appearing in “Comic Book Artist” No. 4, September, 2004 issue, wherein he cites the following 1992 data:

“In 1992, of the 71 komiks published in the Philippines, 62 came from komiks companies owned by Roces—GASI, 37; Atlas, 20; Affiliated, five. Roces products included the country’s four largest books (Love Life, Aliwan, Pinoy Klasiks, and Pinoy Komiks) each published twice weekly with a circulation between 200,000—250,000. Atlas’ Pilipino Komiks also published twice weekly in 1992; nearly all other 66 komiks were weeklies.”

From a high of 89 mainstream comics titles in 1989 to 71 komiks titles in 1992, we could immediately tell that the business had reached its peak and is now beginning to bottom out. The Philippines is an archipelago of approximately 7,100 islands with three main island groups: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The city of Manila is located in Luzon and it is here that the hub of local mainstream komiks publishing operates. A great bulk of komiks were distributed in Luzon as there were no additional costs for shipping and air freight charges incurred as opposed to distribution in the outlying provinces of Visayas and Mindanao where shipping and air freight costs were necessary.

In 1991, Mt. Pinatubo erupted; its volcanic lava or "lahar" inundating the nearby provinces of Pampanga and Pangasinan in Luzon. Not only were many families rendered homeless migrating to Manila as beggars and illegal squatters, but that distribution of komiks to other provinces in Luzon beyond Pampanga and Pangasinan were blocked by the lahar. For several months, komiks sales in the outlying Luzon provinces were at an all-time low.

Besides Mt. Pinatubo’s lahar problem, there was the nationwide power crisis which began in late 1989 lasting until 1990, where frequent brownouts greatly affected industries that depended on electricity, particularly the komiks printing and distribution aspect of Don Ramon's enterprise. This was aggravated by the huge traffic problem in Manila resulting in the imposition of numbered coding of vehicles and of the drastic "Daylight Saving Time" measure where timepieces were advanced several hours so as to convince people to retire early from work. The monopoly was in trouble.

Low sales meant low income, and low income meant low (sometimes unpaid and delayed payment of) wages. Don Ramon’s komiks publishing companies again experienced internal labor problems. Komiks artists, young and old, were being siphoned by more lucrative and bourgeoning foreign sub-contracting animation work in Manila or were immigrating to the U.S. for more high-paying paying jobs in American comics companies. Lowly-paid Komiks writers (mostly females) meanwhile, transferred to a bourgeoning Tagalog romance pocketbook business, helping it morph in the early 1990s into a profitable industry targeting the same low-income audience of komiks. The early to mid-1990s would also see internal company strikes at Atlas and GASI by underpaid and maltreated komiks writers and artists thus affecting product quality.

As a result, sales of Don Ramon’s komiks monopoly began to decline in 1991 and in 1994, Don Ramon passed away. Thereafter, each of his komiks companies were either closed down or sold off to other companies who did not continue the comics publishing business. One komiks company in particular, Atlas, was sold off to Benjamin Ramos in 1996 and its komiks line (now reduced to a handful) were taken off the newsstands and distributed exclusively in all National Bookstore branches nationwide owned by the Ramos family. Unfortunately, the shift of distribution venue and target audience resulted in the closure of Atlas’ comics line in 2006. Rex and GMiranda and Sons, bereft of a newsstand distribution network that was wholly dependent on the huge volume of Roceses’ komiks titles, stopped their komiks publishing business and concentrated in selling textbooks. The Roces-Guerreros of GASI meanwhile, tried to hang on with their KISLAP movie magazine and "Space Horror" komiks which were distributed in the newsstands but were operating at a loss. "Space Horror" eventually folded around 2003.

Since the fall of the Roces komiks monopoly (and along with it the whole Filipino komiks industry), there have been attempts to jumpstart or create a new local mainstream komiks industry. In 2003, the nation’s second largest Tagalog tabloid newspaper, “Abante” put out more than eight weekly komiks titles but folded in only two years due allegedly to poor management and the employment of editorial policies and class "B" veteran creatives from the defunct Roces komiks companies. The truth however was that for two years, Abante komiks' manager, Rodrigo Cabrigo, witheld from management the fact that newsstand dealers at the time were returning approximately 90% of unsold Abante komiks titles. Apparently prodded on to do so by the former Roces komiks veterans working under him in order for the latter to maintain employment, Abante komiks actually operated at a loss for two (2) years. When the matter was finally revealed to Abante top management, a furious and incensed Allan Macasaet, immediately ordered the closure of the Abante komiks line. In 2007, these same class "B" komiks creative veterans initially organized by former GASI komiks editor-in-chief Joe Ladd Santos, and then led by his best friend: Carlo J. Caparas, a former top melodramatic komiks novelist and local B-movie director, obtained a monetary grant from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and partnered with a publisher, Sterling Paper Products, Inc., who had no prior knowledge and experience in local komiks publishing. It is significant to note that Joe Ladd Santos, who is now connected with the government of President Arroyo, is also a board director of the NCCA.

The Caparas line of komiks came out with four monthly titles and was preceded by a six month nationwide komiks caravan and media exposure in 2007. The titles came out in September, 2007, with black and white interior pages selling at Php 10.00 then later at Php 15.00 when it decided to have interior color pages. Caparas' monthly komiks line was distributed nationwide in all participating newsstands. Unfortunately, the partnership stopped in March, 2008, due allegedly to internal management conflicts as Sterling had also published its line of licensed komiks titles: “Maalala Mo Kaya” and “Joe D’ Mango’s LOVENOTES” which was not approved by Caparas claiming the same was in competition with his komiks line. This was aggravated by the fact that the newsstand formatted Caparas komiks (and the two (2) other Sterling komiks titles) were also distributed in early 2008, to urban magazine dealers and retail establishments which significantly cut into the income of the newsstand dealers. The newsstand dealers did not take this lying down. Caparas on the other hand, eventually left seeking greener pastures of having his komiks titles made into local television series, and the partnership with Sterling has since dissolved. No new issues of Caparas or Sterling's comics line have appeared since March, 2008. Some of the class "B" komiks veterans however, continue to put out their work in a "webkomiks" website, art galleries, an annual cult comics convention of so-called "indies" in the University of the Philippines, and in the few local Tagalog newspaper tabloids, waiting for the next "employment gimmick" to come around.

As the mainstream comics industry fell in the 1990s, there arose in its place a Manila-based cult group of young U.S. and Japanese comics enthusiasts engaged in the "self-publishing" of their own comics titles (or comics in book format called "graphic novels" and "grafictions"). This group focus mostly in the illustrative aspect of the medium, with a handful of their titles sold at low circulation in the mainstream market, primarily targeting an upper to higher income socio-economic class audience. Written mostly in English, with concepts and storylines not unlike those seen in American and Japanese mainstream comics and cartoons, these local "indie" and "globalized Filipino comics" published by Alamat, Nautilus, Psicom and Mango among others, are distributed in a few and hard to find specialty bookstores particularly in the approximately 200 nationwide branches of the country's biggest bookstore chain: National Bookstore. Concerned more with the satisfaction of seeing their work displayed in classy urban settings, they are oblivious of the fact that majority of cost-conscious Filipinos haven't developed the habit of expending additional transportation fare to travel to these out of the way bookstores just to purchase their graphic works. Another characteristic of these "indie" and globalized Filipino comics is that they usually carry cover prices that are not within the reach of majority of low income FIlipinos. Not surprisingly, these globalized "indie" comics creators fraternize with each other into near-masonic proportions and have been declaring, through the internet as their main marketing tool, the epiphany that they have been "keeping alive" komiks reading in the country for 15 years since 1992. These "globalized indies" have also been actively promoting the idea that local comics creatives should forget about resuscitating a mainstream comics industry and instead continue to independently self-publish and create comics for a global and westernized audience in order to survive. Their zealousness extend to the recruitment of local creatives into working for American and other foreign comics, or comics-related, industries.

As of this writing, imported U.S. comics and English translated Japanese manga, along with licensed reprints of U.S. mainstream comics (particularly those of Marvel and DC), dominate the upper-income, specialty and commercial bookstore racks located in the few urban areas of the country. None of these foreign comics are found in newsstands, appear monthly, and are not within the reach of majority of low-income Filipinos.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks guys to showing this imfomation,mabuhay ang pinoy ,peace.

10:32 PM


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