Thursday, May 15, 2003

Seeing Opportunites In Philippine Comics

The stuff below is just me talking. Any innacuracies are just out of my foolish ignorance. So there.

The big question faced by Philippine comics creators is an economic one. Is the demand for comic books big enough to guarantee a business’ longevity? Thus far, there have been no solid indicators on a macro level to give anyone a precise answer. While Culture Crash seems to be enjoying success with their manga/anime market, the fact they don’t have any ads in their publications leads one to wonder if such was a management decision or the result of failed attempts to entice advertisers. Culture Crash is a magazine and, historically, magazines subsist more on advertising revenues than actual sales. (The mere fact that it had already released 10 issues is nothing short of admirable.)

Sales figures and circulation statistics aren’t enough to convince advertisers, especially if the publication is viewed as catering to a tight niche market. In Culture Crash’s case, the peaking anime wave on television a year ago didn’t seem to do much. Insiders had hoped that the anime and manga convention held last December 2002 would bring in much-needed pesos to boost Culture Crash’s position as an attractive advertising venue, but advertisers expressed no kind of effervescent enthusiasm in the near six months since the convention. If they had, signs of this should have appeared in the last Culture Crash issue.

Questor Extreme Mangamania could be regarded as the next high-profile manga publication to hit the shelves, and it remains to be seen if the market will embrace the anthology series the same way as it did its competitor. The fact that it’s in black-and-white and in English may result in a slightly lesser piece of the market pie. But Questor has an existing magazine which it has been able to sustain quite well, and thus benefits from experience. This two-magazine combo can be perceived as its ace over Culture Crash in terms of attracting advertisers.

Mango Comics current performance is still anybody’s guess at present. It has spent the biggest amount in terms of production and marketing which generated long-term speculation and anticipation. But with highly-polarized opinions over the first two issues of their Darna reinvention, insiders are curious to know whether the fledgling comics company can still take the medium to new and more encouraging heights and sustain itself at the same time. Epson appears to be its high-profile sponsor, but the nature of the relationship (cash or ex-deal or both) is unconfirmed. New original projects are reportedly being executed, including The Twelve, which suggests that Mango still has a number of surprises up its sleeve, which hopefully will bring pique the interest of more sponsors.

Psi-Com Publishing’s TxtMen is in an odd position. While its producer is perhaps the most experienced publisher of the lot, TxtMen looks like a marketing experiment, a wandering soul trying to find its place and a regular audience. As an established publisher, Psi-Com doesn’t count comics as its bread and butter except, perhaps, for comics-related items like Antarctic’s How To Draw Manga series. But its inspiring to know that alongside Txtmen, it has released full-color stories based on Philippine myths and legends, which proves to this writer that the publisher is openly risking its resources to see if there’s a solid and growing comics market out there.

All these efforts, as well of those I haven’t mentioned, seek to prove in essence that producing comics as a business is a worthwhile venture because there is a paying audience who acknowledges the medium’s value as being different from other forms of entertainment. With the ever-rising costs of advertising in tri-media, consumer businesses should consider advertising in comics to get their marketing messages across, to treat comics not as a fad but as another important communications medium that presents numerous spin-off opportunities. The call is issued: Be a pioneer.

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