Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The merits and disadvantages of independently made komiks

Decades before most of us were born, komiks luminary Mars Ravelo, already an extablished and popular komiks writer, decided he wanted to get into the business of making komiks, and launched RAR Publications in 1970. They launched with four titles - Mars Ravelo Komiks, Kampeon Komiks, Teen World and 18 Teen Mag - and later acquired a fifth, Bulaklak, which they then renamed Bulaklak at Paruparo. Although Ravelo had full editorial control over his own work now, his komiks did not vary that much in substance and form to other komiks made by other publishign companies during that time. The company made komiks for over ten years, until a global crisis hit and they ceased publications in 1983. source: Komiklopedia

Nowadays, nearly all komiks are made and published independently. Whether they make photocopies in fanzine format, or can afford to establish their own self-publishing companies, they no longer rely on the major publishing companies to be able to make their own komiks. Those komiks that do have publishers (like Visprint for Trese) are given the creative freedom to make the kinds of stories that they want, and retain ownership of their property.

 This is a far cry from the industry's heyday, when the sellability of a komiks-magasin was still relevant. Komiks didn't just have the superheroes we know today, like Darna and Panday. They also contained romances, comedies, action, and stories of all kinds. They laid the seeds for Pinoy popular culture that would later develop even further in romance novels, movies and television, as those media flourished. At that time, komiks had to appeal to the popular imagination, and there wasn't really any regard made for personal expression.

Today, komiks don't have to conform to what's popular or already established. Instead, they reflect the likes and influences of their creators. So we now get komiks based on superheroes, manga and anime, horror, adapted comic strips, etc. At the same time, the market for komiks has gone niche; so most people who buy and read komiks share the same likes as their creators. Freed from the demands of catering to mass markets, komiks creators are free to express themselves.

However, this absolute freedom is an imperfect model, as you can ask any of the struggling counterculture comics artists in America in the 60s, who likely continue to struggle to get their work published today. Or, you can ask the entirely uncommercial gegika artists of Japan, active around the same time but now made irrelevant and near-forgotten. (You can read more about Japanese underground comics in Comipress' Manga Zombie, available in its entirety online.)

What do you think are the pratfalls and benefits of indepently publishing komiks?

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