The State of Filipino Komiks

Are you aware that there is a thriving Filipino Komik book industry in the Philippines nowadays? If not, then let me inform you that there is in fact a resurgence of original Filipino Komik books. But, mind you, this has not always been the state of the industry, and just like World History has it, there were the so-called Golden Age and the Dark Age of Filipino Komiks.

So what caused the downfall of the industry back then?

Truth is, I can only guess as to the real reason behind this. Maybe it was because of the stories being told, maybe it was because of the era itself, or maybe because of new available media within reach of the Filipinos. Who knows? But let me take a stab at it, and at least try to enlighten you on a theory as to why.


STAGNANCY


At first, I was of the opinion that it was the makings of stagnancy. Characters going through the motions, repeating what was already tackled in the previous issues and not really much character development to reflect the state of the society.

2489112-darna3

The early komik books had it right, create a backstory or origin story, transition your hero from a lowly citizen to something else or someone else (sound familiar?), and have an epic battle with the hero’s arch nemesis, and repeat. Problem was, after a while it became repetitive and there’s just too much of the same thing going on for years and years and years to the point that even the most devout reader would say enough. It also didn’t help that Ravelo passed away and no one took over the mantle of writing the books. But there is always a way around that. They could have adopted the business plan of Marvel and DC and outsourced the writers to create stories that would otherwise have been untold. To complicate matters, creators felt the need to leave the country due to extraneous circumstances posed upon them by the government. Which brings me to my next point…


THE GOVERNMENT


Sure, people would say, blame it on the Man. But hear me out for a second here. The decline came during the 70’s, and if you know your Philippine History, this is also referred to as the Martial Law era.

marcoses

During this era, then President Marcos put a stranglehold on freedom of press. The government back then only allowed stories to be disseminated when it was flattering or when it tends to bring goodwill to the country, and disallowed pieces that would tend to cause an uprising or incite any person to stand-up against the regime. And again, if you know Filipinos, then you know that, as a people, Filipinos believe that the pen is mightier than the sword, thus, by putting a stranglehold on writers and creators, it greatly affected the creativity and distribution of any creative material.

December 1985, Manila, Luzon Island, Philippines --- Student Protest Against Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos --- Image by © Alain Keler/Sygma/Corbis
December 1985, Manila, Luzon Island, Philippines — Student Protest Against Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos — Image by © Alain Keler/Sygma/Corbis

So the most possible reason as to why the komik book industry declined was due to the lack of freedom for creators to make new stories due to the fear that the stories could possibly incite an uprising. And when we examine most comic book stories during that era, we are often reminded of a humble hero fighting against an insurmountable force and in the end prevailing against them. Which again might have inspired the people to revolt against the government.

Which in turn could have been the reason why stagnancy took place. The creators were constrained to chug out “safe” stories which were already told before, to appease the government, thus, limiting any character development.


BRAIN DRAIN


As an effect of the Martial Law regime and the constant shadow of the government overlooking every move, creators were forced to find greener pastures and continue their passion elsewhere. I for one do not hold it against the creators to pursue their dreams elsewhere especially if they believe that the well has dried-up.

As a result of this, fewer creators remained which resulted in the nose-dive of the industry.

But with all inspiring and great stories, the heroes always rebound.


KOMIK INDUSTRY RALLIES


After the downfall of the Marcos regime, there was an uptick in the arts, not only in komiks, but also in print media, books, arts, music, TV shows and movies, and the like. Suddenly, there was an abundance and influx of new creations and characters in the komik book industry.

Book04dustjacket

And inch by inch, the komik book culture’s heart had a steady pulse. Slowly but surely the industry kept weathering every storm being thrown at them, and with the rise of comic book fandom around the world, Filipinos have gotten hungrier and hungrier for original content featuring a home-grown Filipino hero. As a result, we are getting komik book content that was unheard of decades ago. We now have are own komikons, events and book signings. And hopefully, with the resurgence of the industry we would get the earlier heroes like Darna,Dyesebel, Captain Barbell, Lastikman be given their chance to evolve and evoke inspiration through new stories, new directions, new characters, like they did decades ago.

barbell

And maybe, just maybe, the pipe-dream of having our own cinematic universe featuring the old heroes like Darna, Captain Barbell, Lastikman, Dyesebel, among others, be united on-screen with newer heroes like that of Alexandra Trese. Suddenly, people would not have to think “What if?”, and instead would think “When is this happening?”.

Happy Philippine Independence Day!

Mabuhay!

Gino is the Gladiators’ resident TV and Comic book reviewer. He is a lawyer in the making at day, and a full-on geek by night. He believes that the lightsaber is the best weapon during a zombie apocalypse. #AgeOfTheGeek

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