Once-great Philippine comic industry fights for survival

Philippine comic books have nurtured talent for international TV and animation blockbusters, but the once-mighty industry is fighting to survive as it comes up against the Internet and other new media.

Comic books that dominated the Philippine publishing industry just a couple of decades ago are now largely relegated to photocopied titles sold in a few specialty stores and at conventions, lamented veteran artist Rico Rival.

"There are still a lot of good Filipino artists. They just don't have an outlet anymore. They just photocopy their own works," said Rival who has worked for local publications as well as US comic and animation companies.

The 72-year-old Rival is now retired but still indulges his passion by drawing occasionally for Philippine magazines and doing commissioned art at conventions.

Local comic books, popularly known as "komiks", were once the most widely read periodicals in the country with dozens of titles sold on newsstands every day.

Terry Bagalso, editor of Atlas Publishing, once the country's largest komiks publisher, recalled that in the 1980s, at the height of the industry's popularity, his company was printing 30 titles a week.

Its top-selling titles easily sold 400,000 copies a week with total komiks circulation in the millions.

"We had to send out an armoured car to collect our sales earnings," she recalled.

These komiks - printed in black and white on cheap newsprint - presented serialised stories in a wide variety of genres, including romance, horror, superheroes, historical adventure, fantasy, comedy and fairytales.

Sold largely by street vendors, they appealed mainly to the poor masses and cost just a few centavos (less than one US cent), far cheaper than a movie ticket or other forms of popular entertainment.

Komiks characters such as superheroine Darna, the mermaid Dyesebel and the monster-slaying "Panday" (the Blacksmith) are still household words in the Philippines and live on in TV series and movies.

The artists who worked on these komiks caught the attention of US companies such as Marvel and DC Comics, which started recruiting them in the 1970s to work on characters including Batman and Conan the Barbarian.

"They were amazed that Filipinos were very good illustrators. They thought there was an art school that trained us and then they came here and they found that we just influenced each other," said Rival.

Many Filipino artists then went on to produce cartoons for companies such as Disney, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. Today, Filipino artists can be found working on big-screen animation projects such as the 'Toy Story' series.

But despite that success, komiks have virtually disappeared from Philippine newsstands.

The consensus is that komiks lost their audience as Filipinos turned to more modern forms of entertainment such as television, videogames, DVDs and the Internet.

"It is the technology. With one click on the computer you can get anything. So instead of reading komiks, people like computers, cellphones and other things," said Bagalso.

There have been various attempts to revive komiks in recent years but none have had much success.

Alexie Cruz, editor of PSICOM, a local publisher, said his company's last komiks foray two years ago - a comedy title called "Topak" (Nutty) - fell victim to poor sales after just two issues.

"One of the main problems is the bookstores don't cater to komiks by Filipino publishers. They give them very little space," he said.

Ironically, PSICOM's big sellers are magazines on 'manga' or Japanese comics, as well as licensed reprints of DC Comics titles - which do get shelf-space in local bookstores, said Cruz.

But local creators won't give up. Some publishers still come out with their own home-grown "graphic novels" - extended stories told in comic format.

Philippine publisher Visprint is producing one such effort next year: 'Filipino Heroes League', a semi-comedic tale by artist-writer Paolo Fabregas who puts superheroes into a developing world setting.

"They're underfunded, unappreciated and generally unwanted... like Kid Kidlat (Kid Lightning). He's super-fast and super-poor," Fabregas, 32, said with a laugh.

Like many other aspiring Filipino komiks artists, Fabregas started out either putting his stories on the Internet or selling home-made copies.

His main job is in advertising and he describes his komiks work as "a glorified hobby".

Komiks artist Gener Pedrina said he and other creators just drew the stories, printed them with a photocopier, stapled them by hand and then sold them on their own.

He described his products as "labours of love," because they take so much time but make barely enough to break even.

Pedrina's superhero title, "Sanduguan," (Blood Brothers) and other komiks like "Zombies in Manila" and "Gerilya (Guerrilla) Komiks", are sold at the handful of comic conventions held in the Philippines each year.

While these titles may not have the polish of their predecessors, Rival said they still kept the tradition alive.

"Komiks is still here. It won't go away. There may not be publications but artists can come up with their own komiks. You cannot restrain their creativity."

Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
artSistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer, Lord Alan Sugar, Karren Brady are returning for The Apprentice series 10

TV
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder star in 'Girl, Interrupted'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas Pynchon in 1955, left, and Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of his novel, Inherent Vice

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Nicole Scherzinger will join the cast of Cats

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Fans were left surprised by the death on Sunday night's season 26 premiere

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lady Mary goes hunting with suitor Lord Gillingham

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

    Time to stop running

    At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?