Friday, November 5, 2010

Of Komiks laws

Lost among yesterday's headlines may have been the news that Lito Lapid was proposing a new law to preserve komiks. My initial reaction to this was my usual distrust of politicians, compounded by the fact that the legislator in question is a former action star. However, I found myself making a full 360 after reading some of the comments on this page:

Just to quote: 
Kung bakit sa tatalino ng mga Pinoy e nanalo si Lapid ! si Jinggoy ! at si Bong Revilla ! ay eto ang dahilan .... KOMIKS 
 Tama lang po ang ginawa nu mr senator, tingan mo nakinabang ang dalawawang higanteng istasyon ng TV lalo na ang isang bias dyan kita mo naman halos lahat ng telenovela nila galing sa komiks.... lol
ang galing ni senator lapid, suportado ang komiks. doon kasi nagka-pelikula. nakasakay sa kabayong puti, may baril at pasirko-sirko.
 Kaya pala maraming komedyante sa kongreso graduates pala sila sa komiks.
Now, I understand that message boards and comments don't always yield the most constructive conversations. However, I felt the need to speak out against the hate speech propagated here against komiks, which seems to be fueled by reaction against Senator Lapid. These comments generally assume that an attack against komiks equates to an attack against Lapid, therefore, they are logical fallacies.

However, I am still dismayed that some people demonstrate a general disdain for komiks, and not just because I call myself an advocate. I can understand outright ambivalence towards komiks, or even the condescending attitude that it is not high art. I'm not new to that, although I may not like it. I also can understand hesitation towards the bill, after all, the proposed budget is at PH P 50 million. But the outright condemnation of komiks, that it is some form of propaganda tool, or that it hinders poor people from rising above poverty, it just hit me as discriminatory.

So I asked myself, what is in this law anyway? What would the money used for, and who would benefit from it?!.pdf

The document is only 10 pages long, so I will only quote select passages. In justifying the bill, Lapid refers to our Constitution and states:
Our heritage needs to be preserved for all to share and benefit. A nation is defined by its history and culture. Our graphic novels and all its write-ups reflect our history and culture.
His definition of graphic novels is compatible with those used by Will Eisner and Scott McCloud.

In non legal terms, Lapid explains

The proposed Philippine National Graphic Novel Archive shall be responsible for acquiring, safeguarding, documenting and making graphic novels available to current and future generations for private study and public pleasure.
 Concurrent to this cause, the Archive

shall have all legal powers appertaining to a juridical person

 These powers include the ability to enter contracts, buy property, receive gifts & donations, make their own rules & to establish offices in Manila & other regions. Furthermore, the Archive's Board of Directors will have representation from several other gov't offices, including DepEd, the National Archives, the NCCA, the NHI, the National Museum, a member of academe and a representative from the graphic novel industry. The last 2 members of the Board also have to meet certain requirements to be considered eligible.

Regarding access to the archive itself, the Board is given free reign to set rules and even charge fees for access
Provided, That copying or duplication shall not be allowed except with the written permission of the copyright holder.
Now, do I like everything in this law? Certainly not. What bothers me the most is the inclusion of board members from gov't institutions that have for years refused to acknowledge the value of komiks as to merit archiving. As Gerry Alanguilan pointed out here, the National Library refuses to give komiks ISBNs, the NHI & National Museum do not archive komiks, and the NCCA has never named a komiks artist as a National Artist*. Why do these institutions get a free pass in entering this body? Why are they not held to the same requirements as the proposed members from the academe and the komiks community?

I also feel wary regarding copyright protection and corruption issues. Clearly, there is possibility for corruption within the system, currying favor as well as embezzlement, but the possibility and the actuality are two different things. It ultimately depends on the Archive Board members if they will sincerely carry out their functions. They also have to balance out the need to protect individual creators right to their work with the public interest. How do we expect them to do that when they are given free reign in making these rules?

In spite of all my objections, I feel this law would be a major step forward, not just for the komiks industry, but for all arts and culture in the Philippines. It will increase the quantity and quality of  the our goverment's recorded history, and will function not only as a record of creative output and artistic distinction, but also as a historical record of our shared mores and values as a people.  In short, this will benefit all of us, assuming the Archive dispenses its function effectively.

To put this in perspective, please consider Gerry's reporting and opinions regarding the prior proposed komiks laws, none of which have been passed to date:

Komiks Rumblings

*Of course, as a side note to this, we all know about the brouhaha that was created when former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo nominated Carlo J. Caparas as National Artist for the Visual Arts. He was not necessarily being lauded for his komiks work This distinction was meant to reward him for the totality of his creative work, covering komiks, film and television. As a reminder, the Supreme Court suspended his entitlement.

What most people may not remember or even be aware of was that the late Nonoy Marcelo was in the running to be National Artist, but he himself passed that over for a rarer distinction, which was the CCP Centennial Artist Award. In this case, the NCCA may have favored Nonoy to be a National Artist, but in spite of that never gave him the distinction.

EDIT: Other komiks people have also chimed in on their blogs. You can read  the venerable Adam David's  wasaaak and young upstart Gerry Alanguilan's komikero dot com. If you know of other people's articles on this law, please share them in the comments below.

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Can Komiks be crowdsourced? Part 4: Crowdsourcing webcomics

Unfortunately, not everyone's best laid plans come to fruition. Here we look at three separate crowdsourcing webcomic initiatives that have been shut down, and why they've closed, for one reason or another.

To be clear, we are not talking about crowdfunding for webcomics. Rather, we are talking about outsourcing webcomics ideas in the web.Comicbin's 2008 article on crowdsourcing looked at initiatives comparable to Youtube (which lets users upload content for them) and Wikipedia (which relied on the web to make and revise entries, as well as to fund them). They particularly referred to BuzzComix, Warren Ellis' Rocket Pirates, and DC Comics' Zuda Comics.

Of the three, BuzzComix itself seemed to be the simplest. It was a webcomics toplisting and forum site, where the readers got to vote on the webcomics' ranking. Unfortunately, they ran into issue with hosting, traffic and coding. It went down on August 2005, as well as early last year, and has not come back since. 

A sample page of Buzzcomix can be found here:

This should not be seen as a cautionary warning against webcomic toplists in general, in fact sites like and continue to thrive with an updated version of Buzzcomix's voting system. However, it does point to the fact that such an endeavor is a huge investment, and should not be entered lightly. 

Warren Ellis' Rocket Pirates seem to have hit the same standstill. Although he has yet to explain it in full, he has made a short answer on the Whitechapel forum, and I quote; Technology defeated us.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Rocket Pirates would have been a pioneering website if the project had gone through. Apparently, with the help of Webcomics Nation founder and friend Joey Manley, Ellis was going to launch his own webcomics hosting site, featuring webcomics of his own choosing. The site was going to be fully ad supported (to each creator's preferences), with no subscriptions, and nonexclusive.

A cursory look at Warren's blog posts on the project tells a straightforward story. Two weeks after announcing the project on August 2, 2006, Warren is overwhelmed by submissions and has to cut off new ones from coming in. Near the end of the month, however, he seems all set. Then this post three months later:

Serial catastrophic email failures have completely wrecked my plans. I swear, God waits for me to attempt something and then shits in my computer.
He goes on to say that he plans launch the following year, but that didn't go through.

You can go here to see all of Ellis' Rocket Pirates blog posts:

EDITED! : Warren Ellis actually answered me about the mysterious disappearance of Rocket Pirates on Twitter.

So that's the end of it. This bolsters the idea that crowdsourcing webcomics is or has become a high-risk enterprise. Anyone who wants to try it should not only have the necessary resources, but be prepared for all the things that could go wrong, and be in it for the long haul.

Finally, DC's Zuda Comics, which inspired unending controversy from the start. In essence, DC held a competition for comics creators to pitch their own projects. Selected creations would be placed under their Flash player style comic reader in the Zuda website, and could be 'renewed' via continuing popular vote or replaced by new comics. The announcement for Zuda triggered a variety of reactions among creators of comics and webcomics alike, some of which are catalogued here:

Comic Book Resources posted an editorial regarding the 1st batch of Zuda winners and creators, pointing out that almost all the winners had already done print comics, and they didn't actually get anyone from the webcomics community:

Mainly, comics creators seemed doubtful about copyright issues as well as the business model. Zuda was closed in 2010, although the projects had migrated to DC's digital comics, and some projects, including High Moon and Celadore, were published in print.

Zuda closed just last month. As per Ron Perazza's final blog post, 
"as a whole, ZUDA just never quite seemed to fit with DC Comics."
DC had the money and resources to fund their crowdsourcing comics experiment for the long term. However,   it's hard to justify such an experiment unless it proves itself relevant, which Zuda failed to do.

All in all, crowdsourcing for comic talent is a risky venture. We have yet to see if crowdsourcing would be more feasible or not in making komiks.

Promo: Don't Miss Out On Komikon 2010! Starmall EDSA, Trade Hall PH P 80 Entrance fee. For more details, go to

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Can Komiks be crowdsourced? Part 3: Crowdfunding komiks IRL

First things first: I understand the real world is a harsh place. New comics creators have to hurdle multiple barriers to entry, and even veterans aren't assured their next project will be at least a modest success. 

My endorsement of crowdfunding, as it is done in Kickstarter, is not as a cure-all or an easy way out. It is a tool, a means to an end. Komiks makers can't rely on crowdfunding as a business model or as their sole source of revenue. For people who are pure comics creators, this is a great way to get patronage from a large pool of sponsors. For comics entrepeneurs and businessmen, this is a shortcut for what is often a difficult, frustrating process.

There are also issues with crowdfunding in Kickstarter, that no doubt pop up in real life. If needed funds are not reached by the deadline, it won't push through. When funds are committed, the funders need verification from the creators that the project is being made. Outside of Kickstarter, most creators would have to set deadlines on their own, so that other people involved in the project won't be tied down too long and take other commitments. A creator willing to handle all the duties on their own is rare and puts them at risk for trying too many things all at once.

As a follow up to Joanna Draper Carlson's earlier posts, here's a post giving some advice for people who want to try it themselves

and another list of tips from Jason Brubaker, who actually did get his work reMIND funded:

Major points to consider:

-Better to fund a single project, rather than an ongoing series. However, something like a 3 issue series or even a maxiseries counts as a single project (since it's intended to end at some point).

-People are more likely to donate to a project when work has already been done on it. Don't just make a mockup of what it could look like. Show production script, finished pages, or for a series of books, an entire issue!

-The pitch should not come off as too greedy or needy. Instead, let your passion for your project show through.

-the incentives for funding should be special. At least, if you're giving away a copy to the funders, they shouldn't have to pay more than the final retail price. And it's better to give them less options, so that they don't get caught up deciding which incentive they want.

Local komiks creators could sign up for Kickstarter, but it may be more feasible to attempt localized crowdsourcing efforts. How do you think komiks creators could reach out for support for their komiks projects among fellow Pinoys? Should they make blogs, or go straight to social networks? Should they try to look for supporters IRL, in their own localities? Pinoys have increased their online spending in recent years, but this remains among the few who can afford it. Should crowdsourcing rely on purely online transactions, or attempt to accept alternate payment options? 

Promo: DON'T MISS OUT ON KOMIKON 2010! Starmall EDSA, Trade Hall PH P 80 Entrance fee. For more details, go to

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Can Komiks be crowdsourced? Part 2: Comics on Kickstarter

For those doubtful that Kickstarter is at all viable as a way to make their comics projects, I went and looked for some projects that were succesfully funded. Found three right off the bat:

Oregon History Comics is a compilation of comics made by ten Portland based illustrators. They tell stories about Portland itself, so that their fellow Portlanders could learn more about their city's rich multicultural history.

Poorcraft is a guide to simpler living, in comic book form. The creator IronSpike wanted to dispel the notion that getting into comics means becoming a starving artist. Hence, his book explains how to do handle essentials like housing, transportation, food, entertainment etc. on a smaller budget.

Jamie Tanner's initiative was the most audacious since she didn't even now what she was going to make yet! Getting by on her reputation from her previous work, the Eisner Award winning The Aviary, she asked people to give her the money so that she would have a reason to get to work on her next project.

So how does Kickstarter work anyway? The general idea is a creator with an idea makes a project pitch on the Kickstarter site, people pledge money, and if they get sufficient funds on time, the project gets made.

How is the money handled? The people who make pledges register their credit cards on Amazon's payment system. Their cards don't get charged until they get complete funding, and a pledger can cancel anytime before that.

What do the pledgers/funders get? Each creator is free to provide whatever incentives they want. This could be pdfs and/or hard copies of the comic, original art, extra copies, signed copies, book acknowledgements, etc.

How do we know that the projects pitched are real? First off, Kickstarter reviews each project for veracity. There are pitch videos so that people can make sure that they come from real people. Furthermore, the person who pitches is obligated to update the pledgers on the site.

However, Kickstarter is more than a mere placeholder for pledge requests. It's a full social network, where the creators and their fans/pledgers can interact with each other. More than the money, the creators enjoy getting the support and just feeling the love from their fans.

For those looking for more details, the full FAQ can be found here.

For a history of how comics people got started using Kickstarter, go here:

PS If anyone knows of any Pinoy comics illustrator or writer, here or abroad, that used Kickstarter to fund any of their creative projects, please share in the comments or via email. Thanks!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Can Komiks be crowdsourced? A primer

You may have heard of a new crowdsourcing tool called Kickstarter. Recently, comics creators worldwide have been flocking to it to get their comics projects made. For the unaware, some of these projects have been successfully funded and released, which begs the question, can it be done for komiks in the Philippines?

We won't be entering a full discussion on crowdsourcing yet. Instead, as a primer, I'm sharing a few links to some relevant articles about Kickstarter and other crowdsourcing intitiatives. More on crowdsourcing later.

First, the wikipedia articles on crowdsourcing, and in particular, crowdfunding (using crowdsourcing to pool funds)

An introduction to Kickstarter by one of its founders, Perry Chen

Johanna Draper Carlson of Comics Worth Reading explains here thoughts on Kickstarter. However, even more noteworthy than her article are the comments that follow

Johanna's partial retraction, 2 days later.

A short discussion of crowdsourced webcomic intiatives Buzzcomix and DC's Zuda Comics Web Portal

And finally, how Ed Chavez of Vertical Inc. uses crowdsourcing to pick manga licenses for their company to publish

NB Edited because I got some factual information wrong. In 2006 Warren Ellis planned a webcomic initiative called Project Rocket, which seems to have never gotten off the ground. Will be talking about that when I find out why.