Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Philippine Comics Revival: My View

Gerry Alanguilan (Wasted, Elmer, Humanis Rex) writes an intriguing series of commentary about the recent Komiks Congress held at the National Center for Culture and Arts. I wasn't able to attend the Congress, but Gerry's musings reminded me of what happened at a Philippine Animation forum held last year at De La Salle-Greenhills. While the authorities were sincerely gung-ho about the revival and progress of their respective industries, hardly anything was tackled about what revival and progress entailed.

The Philippine comics scene undoubtedly has a huge talent base. You'd see it every year in the comics conventions. Seeing the younger folk dole out pages and pages of comics always reminds me of those years when my batch (which included Arnold Arre, Marco Dimaano, etc.) was starting out, filled with enthusiasm and energy over whatever we could produce, and hoping that someone--anyone--would find it in their hearts to spend some cash on what we had to offer.

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of comics titles from Cast to Mwahaha!, though they've hardly generated a lot of noise to give the comics revival campaign a major boost. While the Fully Booked contest and Carlo J. Caparas' altruistic involvement have afforded the medium some publicity, they only went as far as attracting attention from those who cared. And, in my opinion, the number of people who cared isn't enough to catalyze a revival that could spur progress.

The key is making people interested in comics again, and I'm talking about people who haven't bought a comic book since Funny Komiks. Our world is filled with virtually every conceivable hi-tech, ultra-cool, trendsetting, upgraded, top-of-the-charts distraction, and the challenge of Philippine comics is to reach a point where a sizeable portion of the populace will notice it, acknowledge its presence, and say, "I want one of those." Not solely because they care about it, but because they feel they can get something out of it.

In the small but involved discussions between comics creators, the issue of distribution has always been a hot topic. While distribution is, indeed, an important part of the whole process, the question still has to be asked. When ordinary shopper sees a comic book on the shelf, what's going to guarantee a purchase? What's in it for them, especially when there's the pirated DVD rack nearby?

So it boils down to that four-letter word "marketing," and that's not limited to distribution. It is marketing that involves knowing what people want to see, creating a story that matches it, and telling these same people that "Hey, have we got something for you!" It is this process that has fueled all those hi-tech, ultra-cool, trendsetting, upgraded, top-of-the-charts distractions in the first place. It is the reason why you bought your iPod, listened to Beyoncé, or caught 300 (in my case, three times).

The question is, of course, why would any self-respecting comics creator want to manufacture a story for business purposes? I personally would scoff at the idea of manufacturing a story (unless it's on a work-for-hire basis), but I do believe in adding elements to a story to make it a little more familiar and accessible without jeopardizing what I wanted to tell. Moreover, I believe you can tell a great story and yet satisfy an audience's basic requirement to be entertained.

Down the line, comics that cater to the mainstream audience can help move the more high-brow and artsy books. A portion of that audience may eventually find the need to read more thought-provoking fare.

Skills and resources in marketing, however, are beyond most comics creators limits or priorities. And here is where I think the Komiks Congress (and the animation forum) failed. Creators can churn out as many stories as humanly possible, but beyond the lofty ideals and the rallying cries there has to be the marketing machinery that will look at these stories from a business point of view and determine who to sell these stories to. In this day, shot-in-the-dark marketing isn't enough. For Philippine comics to build enough steam, marketing it has to be planned out and calculated, but not necessarily cold.

And I thank you.


Gerry Alanguilan said...

Hello Carlo! Thank you very much for the point of view. You've been mentioning something like this at the forum of the Rodcon, and quite honestly, it's really making me think about the commercial aspects of comic book creation that I haven't really considered seriously before.

I'll be linking back to this on my blog.

By the way, I still owe you an email... sorry for the delay. It's really just musings about comics. I'll get to it soon! :D

Reno said...

Good points. Although sometimes, even the most thought out marketing and advertising plans fail to sell. Much like the Darna comics Mango put out a while back. They had billboards, print ads, even a launch event. But the comics didn't do too well. It brouhgt back Darna into the mainstream consciousness, and paved the way for the Darna Ballet and the TV series, but didn't do much to sell the comics, which was what the advertising set out to sell.

On the other hand, Filipino Komiks from Risingstar (according to reports) had almost nearly sold out, especially in the provinces with no marketing brouhaha whatsoever.

The price isn't even an issue, I think. Darna was priced at P125, while Filipino Komiks was priced at P100. Not much difference.

Are these isolated cases? I don't know. Just some things to ponder on.

Jonas Diego said...

Heya, Carlo! Great insights!

The problem of distribution is one of the reasons I'm now exploring the possibilities of webcomics. Of course, on the web, it's a whole new ball game with new rules but getting your work to a bigger audience won't cost you an arm and a leg at least.

The real trick is monetizing your work and doing that through advertising is just the first step.

I think however that this is a very achievable goal for any comic creator and hopefully before the year is out I can prove that this is so.

Carver said...

Gerry... Nakows, suspense na suspense na ako diyan sa email mo. :) Salamat sa pag-link.

Reno... Now that you've mentioned Darna, I thought of putting in my two cents about it from a marketing point of view. Purely theoretical, but I hope to offer some insight. (I haven't read Risingstar, but I'm starting to get curious.) Thanks for posting! :)

Jonas... When you had mentioned Adsense at the con, I failed to talk to you about it, as I had been tinkering with the idea myself. It's really a good means of revenue-generation, but there are a few challenges there I'm sure you're aware of.

Jerome C. Herrera said...

I am Jerome Herrera. I am the owner of Pinoy Penster Community, a website for Amateur and Professional Filipino Writers. I was wondering if we could exchange links. This will give your blog/website a wonderful opportunity to be exposed to our hundreds of visitors everyday. If you are interested, please email me at jeromeherrera2006@gmail.com. Pinoy Penster Community is located at http://penster.fyi.ph

Jonas Diego said...

There're always challenges but you know us...it just makes it more attractive.

We really should get together one of these days because I have a lot of things I'd like to run by you and get your opinion. :)

Carver said...

jerome...Thanks for dropping by. Will email you as soon as I can. :)

jonas... oo nga, date tayo minsan. Kaya lang, paano, saan at kelan? Saan ka ba sa Makati nagwo-work?

Noel said...

I remember when Darna came out again but didn't really get into it after reading the first issue. Maybe because I was thinking (if I remember it correctly) there'd only be 3 issues of it and so the story better be earth-shattering and change how we think about Darna forever. I was reading articles /maybe press releases and email about it and about how it's the Darna for the new generation, but then marketing it like that isn't really going to cut it. So she's got a cellphone and goes to college and likes to do things that other young people like to do. It's okay, but not really that compelling yet.

Carver said...

noel... I have my own views about Darna, but I'l save my comments for a future blog entry. Thanks for posting! :-)

monsanto said...

The real BIG problem with Darna and the likes is that a title like this tends to morph, depending on WHO is in charge and in control at the time. If you look back, there was even a high tech looking Darna published by Atlas. But folks, the trilogy Darna is the first time she was treated with all aspect decent, from paper to production, compaired to the entire Atlas produced "pambalot sa tinapa" versions right?
I can't say much about the story, once again, who ever is in charge takes control of her. I have a different angle back then but I know it won't matter, it will just get discarded.
Katulad din yan ng mga Movie versions ng DARNA, paiba-iba. No definitive story origin at ang gugulo ng pakulo concepts.

Kaya kung gagawa ka ng buong history ni DARNA-- maloloka ka malamang sa loopholes hehe.

Let us start fresh siguro. Itama ang sistema mula sa paggawa hanggang sa pagbigay ng tamang credit at rights ng creators. That way, slowly but surely tayo di ba?


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