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The Death and Life of the Komiks

Forwarded by Sir Vim Nadera from the artforum ML. Its an article about the Komiks Symposium last year at the Pasko ng Komiks. If you missed the Pasko ng Komiks event, you can visit my coverage here with photos and video.

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The Death and Life of the Komiks

Article by : Emil M. Flores

It all began with death. But death was to be denied. On December 11, 2007 the College of Arts and Letters of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, the Likhaan Creative Writing Center and Read or Die convened “Pasko ng Komiks” the first ever gathering of creators, collectors and academe on the “literature of the masses,” the komiks. Amidst the statements that the komiks were dead, the symposium speakers begged to differ. The komiks are alive. The creators may not be properly recognized or compensated, but the komiks are alive. Institutions may not see them worthy to be preserved and archived but the komiks are alive.

The pronouncements began with National Artist and College of Arts and Letters dean Virgilio Almario questioning komiks’ demise and reaffirming the art form’s importance to Philippine culture and society.

While the komiks were alive, all was not well. The first session was moderated by Prof. Michael Chua and Sally Eugenio and it began with a fairly troublesome note.

The first speaker Gerry Alanguilan recalled his early career in komiks. He lamented how the industry itself does not encourage creativity. One publisher he approached in 1992 told him that he didn’t have to make his work look good since it was only for local readers. The low opinion of the publishers for its readers had a way of bouncing back. Eventually the readers developed a low opinion of the komiks. The opinion was so low that according to Alanguilan, the National Library deemed that komiks had no research value and were thus not preserved. Because of this lack of preservation, Alanguilan lamented how many young artists do not know the creators from the 1940s. Ironically, many of the past creators took pride in their work and put their hearts and souls into them. To counter the sad state of komiks, Alanguilan continues to preserve the komiks works from the past in his online museum at komikero.com.

One of the great komiks creators from the 1930s to the 1970s was Francisco Coching. UP Art Studies professor Patrick Flores spoke of the importance of Coching’s work in Philippine society. Coching, who chose to be a komiks artist rather than a painter, influenced many Filipino artists. In fact, according to Flores, many artists in the provinces learned their human anatomy drawing through the Francisco Coching komiks since art books were not available to them. Through his works such as Pedro Penduko, Hagibis and Lapu Lapu, Flores stated that Francisco Coching helped shape the face of the Filipino in the 1950s and 60s.

Komiks writer Gladys Gimena outlined the types of stories that are prominent in the komiks namely: drama (Bituing Walang Ningning), love (Sinasamba Kita), mystery and horror (Bangungot), fantasy (Zuma), hero-oriented (Darna), action (Bad Boy), true-to-life and political propaganda, and children’s educational komiks. From the types of stories given, Gimena showed how diverse the komiks were in terms of content. The komiks were not ruled by a single dominant genre and that demonstrated the medium’s significance to Philippine society.

Legendary creator Pablo Gomez shared his experiences as a komiks creator and as a writer for film. At one pint in his talk he lamented the lack of respect older creators like him get from the creators who came after him. He simply lets his work speak for themselves, a valuable lesson for the future komiks creators.

Collectors Dennis Villegas and Orvy Jundis showed samples of rare komiks and stressed the importance of preserving them for future readers. Jundis, a Filipino American noted how many Filipino artists who worked in the United States such as Nestor Redondo and Alfredo Alcala were highly respected in the American comics scene. American artist such as Al Williamson were even influenced by Francisco Coching.

The afternoon session, with Prof. Vim Nadera and Sally Eugenio acting as moderators, further expanded the scope of discussion.
The first session featured women komiks creators Ofelia Concepcion, Vivian Limpin, Gilda Olivado, Joanah Tinio-Calingo, Elizabeth Chionglo, Syeri Baet and Claire Villacorta. The impressive assembly demonstrated that women despite the challenges they have faced have made an indelible mark in the various forms of komiks: the komiks magasin, newspaper strips, and indie comics.

More creators were featured in the second session. These were Carlo Vergara, Andrew Drilon, Andrew Villar, Randy Valiente, Jonas Diego, Melvin Calingo, Rey Tiempo, Victor Balanon and KC Cordero. While Randy Valiente pointed out the problems that the komiks industry faced such as the monopoly in publishing and the unfair treatment of the creators, the panelist themselves demonstrated that a new breed of komiks creators were looking at alternative venues such as the Internet to present their creativity. Creators such as Melvin Calingo showed that an alternate source of inspiration can come from Japanese manga and anime. Andrew Drilon has created komiks based on video games. Carlo Vergara’s Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah has been made into a live musical production as well as a feature film. Komiks may be struggling but the eclectic group of creators showed that all was not lost.

The final panelists Emil Flores, Romulo Baquiran, Lawrence Mijares and Boboy Yonzon reinstated the importance of komiks in Philippine art, history and culture. The challenges are great the panelists noted but the possibilities are endless and exciting.

Throughout the symposium video presentations of seminal komiks series were presented by Filipiniana.net. The presentations of Carlo J. Caparas’ Ang Panday, Gilda Olivado’s Babangon Ako at Dudurugin Kita, and Carlo Vergara’s Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah provided were wonderful examples of how the komiks reflected Filipino culture through stories filled with action, drama, humor and heroism.
In his closing statement National Artist Bienvinido Lumbera stated that the times have changed for the komiks. The komiks are not as ubiquitous as they once were but they are taking new forms in content, art styles and inspiration. But as the symposium clearly demonstrated, the komiks are not dead. The komiks are changing and they must be preserved so that all of us can experience that the wonder and excitement that they provide.

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February 11, 2008 - Posted by | coverage, feature, komiks | ,

2 Comments »

  1. […] You can read the rest of the article here. Thanks Az! […]

    Pingback by The Life and Death of Komiks : Komikero Comics Journal | February 12, 2008 | Reply

  2. The “Filipino” has been taken out of the kind of expensive and westernized comics being made right now by Alanguilan and co. True, the medium (now an “artform”) is not dead, but rather, a walking, mindless, mishapen ZOMBIE. The LIVING dead, if you prefer.

    These are dark days indeed.

    Comment by bicky | October 7, 2008 | Reply


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