Friday, November 26, 2010


This is once again a repost of a Facebook Note by Gilbert Monsanto. Original can be found here:

 People have always asked me different questions regarding comic schools. Do you still teach? Can you teach me? Where did you learn how to do comics? Nagfine arts ka ba? and sometimes it gets silly, but this questions are serious ones.

 I had the privilege to be Whilce's chief instructor for his school a few years ago. For three years I have encountered very talented people through this experience, some of them are now well respected names in the business. When Whilce moved out of the country, the school stopped. PWU-LEARN offered me to continue the school but without Whilce, it won't be a Whilce Portacio's comic course. I had to turn them down.

 What is it like to teach comics? It was different in all aspect of the word. I'll try to explain why I feel it would be hard for regular schools to actually turn this and turn it into a complete course.

 When I started creating comics for a living. I've always wondered why there was no comic making classes in school. I think I know the answer now and this is just one point of the why? This profession was not viewed as a well paying job. There in an industry at the time but it aint high profile. Komiks was known to be the lowest form of entertainment at the time. Unlike top career choices like architectures and such. Anyone can just come in and try komiks, we don't need a degree, just great drawing skills. They called us contributors, we get paid by the piece without royalties and everything else. We are by the way respected by our readers. That was our happiness. That is one reason, there was no need for such classes in school.

Anyways, as for training? We are instructed to go to the artist's ummm lobby near the restroom. There we watch the regulars do their magic. We learn doing that, talking to them helps a lot also. That is where the learning starts. Knowing the dos and don'ts, what  the publisher's needs and what you need to deliver, handle deadlines and of course if you can't do it the way they like it? You can't get a script, without a script? Nothing to draw, no money to collect. That was school for us.

Now, it is another story too different from the past. Now, more and more people are getting paid better. Pinoy comic creators are now well-known outside the country. With this comes a new level of respect and a new kind of discipline. This is the new image of comic makers, and you don't know how they do things? Well, it gets harder to break into comics. This is why I think, there seems to be a need to have comic book courses in schools.

 I  still think, that there is no mathematical formula to succeed in comics. Just determination, skills and a little bit of luck. Komiks is not an organized kind of learning. It is not like counting from one to a hundred or a to z. A student can come in gifted and gets side tracked to other stuffs he'd rather do, or another can start only able to daw a simple apple then after a while becomes the best there is. Learning comics is not just a skill, it is about talent. In fact, I'd say I learned a lot from my students before. I had the experience to pick up new tricks. They are usually afraid to make mistakes. I told them that sometimes? The mistakes we make are the styles we invent, styles that can make you famous.

 So what do I think of a degree holding comic artists of the future? I bet it still won't matter. Learning is an experience, and for comics? It never ends.

 The truth is, I can only offer to show you ways to create comics, I can encourage you to try things that you might feel is right for you. It can not be forced fed. The real teacher in fact, is yourself.

 Happy learning guys!

Now, just to clarify, is there no one teaching how to make komiks? Not entirely true. Elbert Or teaches a Fine Arts Elective called Comics and Graphic Novel Creation in the Ateneo De Manila University (details here.). Gerry Alanguilan also tried to teach komiks before in the College of Saint Benilde, but only did it for one year (brief reflection on that here). There have also been sporadic attempts to teach with one day workshops, etc. 

But I do believe Gilbert is referring to the kind of training afforded by komiks professionals in the days of full-scale komiks publishing, when komiks artists where invested in teaching younger guns, to keep quality at a certain level. Aspiring komiks makers just don't have a school dedicated to their craft. 

I think, rather than one, we need several schools, or several courses under one komiks school. All komiks makers need to go through some rudimentary basics, but different skill sets are required to work in komiks as a traditional artist, manga artist, cartoonist, writer, inker, colorist, letterer, and editor. Most indie komiks makers seek to fill up all these roles nowadays, and it's kind of a shame, because they run the risk of spreading themselves too thin. Hopefully, the time will come when komiks artists can fragment their roles, and specialize into the best work of their lives.

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