Friday, October 29, 2010

Komiks 'Humanis Rex!' Will Be Published Print On Demand

EDIT: Added pic. General Elias couldn't be happier.

If you hadn't heard it yet, Gerry Alanguilan's decided to publish Humanis Rex! via print on demand.

quote from komikero dot com:

Since Humanis Rex! was done in full color, it would be financially difficult for me to have a collection of it printed at the moment. I considered selling it through online print on demand services like, but it would drive the retail price very high, as POD books normally are, exacerbated by additional shipping costs from the US to the Philippines.

But during the talk I had yesterday at UP Diliman, part of the 2nd Philippine International Comics, Cartoons and Animation (PICCA) Festival, I met the owner of a local print on demand service that would make collected editions of Humanis Rex! possible.

This may not be the first time a komiks creator has tried print on demand. But it is a major risk for a prominent komiks creator, who markets and publishes work for local consumption.

By opting to print on demand, Gerry is retaining the high quality standards he's set for Humanis Rex!, and ensuring that that standard will be enjoyed by everyone who reads his book. Unfortunately, not everyone will be able to afford it. But more importantly, there may be a segment of komiks readers who can afford but will now choose not to, because they will not see it as a good deal irregardless of the actual quality of the work itself

At least, this would be the conventional wisdom based on Pinoy's spendthrift culture. There is also the prevailing perception that komiks should not be too expensive. In any case, most of the people buying Gerry's work are hardcore fans anyway, so they will more likely to be pleased that they will be able to get Humanis Rex in full color.

The self publishing paradigm has changed radically in the age of the internet. Self publishers can rely exclusively on their core fan base to buy their projects, and now many are exploring the possibilities of having them fund these projects as well. Komiks makers have not fully explored these possibilities yet, but the risk/reward factor makes it seem so tantalizing, and I personally hope to see more experimentation, and greater success, in the future.

Supplementary Reading:

On the differences between print on demand and offset printing, you can't go wrong with Wikipedia:

"But what in God's name is Humanis Rex!?" You might be asking yourself. Here's a short introduction and preview from Gerry himself:

Bonus: a short interview with self publishing pioneer Cory Doctorow: This link courtesy Budjette Tan!

Have a nice Halloween/Samhain everyone :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Komiks, their Competition, and their Interrelations

A common point of contention by new and old komiks makers alike is that they face so much competition from other media and hobbies. I think this warrants a closer examination. What exactly are komiks competing against and who are they competing for?

In past komiks essays by Prof. Soledad Reyes, the interrelationships between komiks, romance novels, film and TV were deeply explored. Komiks stories often became films and TV shows, and some famous films & TV shows were also adapted to komiks. Many komiks writers, such as Mike Relon Makiling and Carlo J. Caparas, went on to become popular movie writers and even directors. At this time, komiks were made for public consumption.

The advent of newer media, such as cable and video games, meant more competition, but also new sources of inspiration. Unfortunately, komiks creators were unable to enter relationships with these new media, because at the time they came in, they were exclusively foreign. People who started enjoying cable shows and video game consoles didn't get callbacks to Pinoy komiks as they used to.

As the industry shrunk, komiks started targeting smaller niches; hence we had all romance titles and all children's komiks titles. At this point, komiks buying and collecting had become a simple hobby, and now started to compete with other children's hobbies. So these komiks had to interest kids who may also have been into various sports, video games, hip-hop, bands, basketball, 4 wheel drives, collectible card gaming, MMO gaming, blogging, etc.

Nowadays, kids (and young adults) have a myriad of hobbies previously unheard of. The one which particularly interests me is cosplay, because it's so new in this country and yet so succesful, but there's even more! Competitive gaming, toy collectibles, parkour, street art, and speed stacking are just some of the new hobbies kids are getting into.

I don't think we should see these new hobbies exclusively as komiks competition. Rather, you have to consider each cosplayer, parkour performer, toy collector, etc. as a potential komiks reader (or if you make komiks, as a potential market). Some of them already are, and they could just as easily get their friends into it too. There is an opportunity to form interrelationships with these other hobbies and share hobbyists across the board. And this does not necessarily mean making komiks about toys or cosplayers! Although that would be the obvious route, of course.

What ways do you think komiks fans can get other hobbyists engaged into buying and reading komiks? And how can komiks creators interest kids who are into different hobbies into buying and reading their komiks?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Are Komiks still popular culture?

Can we still call komiks popular culture? There may be some confusion to this question, so I will have to clarify my definition of this question.

There is no doubt that many old komiks properties are pop culture. Darna, Panday, Dyesebel, Zuma, Lastikman all have name recognition, thanks to continued retelling of their stories in komiks, TV and movies. There are also non superhero characters that have also risen to fame, like Kenkoy, Roberta, Dyesebel. These are, no doubt, a part of the pop culture canon.

And then there is the popular old convention of turning popular nonsuperhero komiks stories into movies. Lino Brocka made his name with these adaptations, from Wanted: Perfect Mother, to Pasan Ko Ang Daigdig and Angela Markado. On the other end of the spectrum, comedians also enjoyed adapting komiks properties to movies, like Dolphy & Panchito did with Max en Jess and again with Kalabog en Bosyo, Chiquito's Asiong Aksaya, and more recently, Jimmy Santos's Bondying. These may not be as easily remembered, but certainly made significant contributions to the fabric of pop culture.

There has also been a resurgence of interest in old komiks properties in TV, thanks to deals made by networks and the property holders. Specifically, the old komiks properties owned by the Roces companies were bought by NBS, and sold to ABS-CBN, and this is where we got the weekly TV series KOMIKS. Aside from that, however, many of the original komiks writers retained ownership, not just of their characters, but also their whole stories, which is why we got teleseryes like May Bukas Pa, Dyosa, Agua Bendita, Midnight DJ, Bakekang. Some of these are still fresh in the public's imagination, but the enduring quality of these properties have yet to be tested.

Related to this are properties similar to komiks, but made for movies or TV. Of these there are innumerable examples, including Ninja Kids, Batang Z, Fantastik Man, Batang X, Mulawin, Encantadia, Atlantika, Marina, Krystala, Volta, etc. Many of these were also written by komiks writers, and/or were imagined for the popular audience, the same way komiks used to be written.

Then there are newer komiks properties. Carlo Pagulayan's Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah was succesfully made into a musical, and subsequently, a movie. There are now talks of Arnold Arre's Andong Agimat to be made into either a movie or TV series. These series have tickled the interest of big name production studios.

However, even more komiks properties continue to hide under the limelight, whether by choice or not. Examples of  noteworthy komiks properties that fall under this category include Wasted, Kiko Machine, and Biotrog. These properties may be beloved by fans, and may even appear in a newspaper or magazine article or two, but are still not quite as famous as their older compatriots.

And even more obscure komiks properties abound. As noted earlier, komiks today have developed a cult following, ably supported online in official websites, fansites and forums, but notably distinct from the fame old properties have acquired. 

Irregardless of the merits of komiks today, could they still be considered popular culture? Or is it fair to say that komiks fans have formed their own separate subculture, perhaps even clans based on what kinds of komiks stories they enjoy? (superhero, manga, horror, underground)

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?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Why The Komiks Advocate needed to be made

I found this blog post from Bandido Pilipino on Facebook Komiks ang naglalahong mundo, which itself was a reaction to this Agence France-Press article Once-great Philippine comic industry fights for survival. Both articles comment on the state of komiks today, often in regret or condemnation. It's also not uncommon to bandy around derogatory terms towards komiks, like 'baduy' (uncool) or 'laos na' (stale). Some komiks creators will come forward as apologetics and defend the craft they work in.

However, what I had noticed is that people had been posting their opinions about komiks. Whenever these blog posts and discussions come up online, these 2 points don't seem to be considered:

1. How great were komiks back then? Were writers and artists treated fairly by their employers? Were they always able to make good komiks stories? How financially viable was komiks, and for how long? Who were the last major komiks publishers, and why did they fail? Why did the komiks industry fade?

2. What is the actual state of komiks now? If there is no money in komiks, why are people still making them? Do komiks have to be mass produced to major markets to be considered successful? Should we dismiss the output from the current komiks community simply because it isn't mass market?

There is no common agreement to these questions. Most komiks fans of old are probably unaware that these questions remain unresolved and have taken them for granted. Among current and retired komiks makers, however, there is a wide range of perspectives and opinions. There is a need, not just to scan these opinions, but to have real discussion and debate.

I hope to make my blog a forum for this and other topics related to komiks. I think the komiks blogosphere hasn't really reached far enough in connecting the community together, although not for lack of trying. So this blog is one of many efforts to bridge that gap, to get old and new komiks makers talking, make new fans of the young kids obsessed with cosplay and video games, and make older fans rediscover their old passion.

As for my credentials, I really don't have any, aside from being a komiks fan. But, I have no affiliation with any prior or current komiks publishers, I'm not close to any komiks makers, and I don't write for any major old or new media companies either. In this sense, I'd like to think I can make this blog a fairly neutral arbiter of these discussions.

I may expand this to other things, when the opportunities arise - it may benefit the community if we make a dedicated wiki, or a public message board, for example. But for now, I'd like to see how far I can get with this blog.

If you'd like to share your opinions on the 'death of the komiks industry', please go ahead and comment.