Comics and Doughnuts
Whatever it was that made Atlas peddle naked women is rhetorical at best. In many ways, putting together such a publication is easy. Plus, I am aware that a lot of people would be eager to contribute some intellectual content. The sales potential is a no-brainer, and companies are more than willing to plunk down money for ad space.
I wouldn't blame Atlas for going this route if revenues are their primary objective. It's their business, literally and figuratively. Doesn't matter that I absolutely despise their bondage covers. Call me a prude, but that's something I wouldn't want my nine year-old niece to see. (Even if it was a hunky guy on a cover, I'd still wince.)
But the topic at hand is comics, so here goes.
Will comics sell in the Philippines? Yes.
Will comics sell enough for a Filipino creator to make a living? Yes.
Can comics be a sound revenue-generating avenue for a publishing company? Yes.
I don't want to sound biased based on the success of the first Zaturnnah book, but I do know that my publisher would have immediately let the book go if it didn't do well. Granted, the book may just be a fluke, but the potential has been made clear. While Philippine comics may not reach the fantastic sales of yesteryears, there is still a sizeable market. It is a market that has yet to rediscover the beauty of the medium, and remains highly untapped.
Let's segue to doughnuts for the meantime. In the past, we basically just had Dunkin Donuts and Mister Donut. Now, there's Gonuts Donuts, Krispy Kremes, plus all those generic selections in one too many coffee shops, and it seems all those doughnuts are doing well.
But think about it: who needs doughnuts?! A better question: who needs ALL those freakin' expensive doughnuts? Why are doughnuts selling better than hotcakes? If people are just after satisfying their sweet tooths/teeth, then there are a gazillion insulin-spiking options out there. It is, however, an inescapable truth--doughnuts sell. Why? Because there's something about doughnuts that appeals to the market. It might be taste, it might be texture, it might be shape...whatever. But more importantly, the people who make and sell doughnuts were able to take something people arguably do NOT need, and turn it into the proverbial "pasalubong ng bayan."
(Oh, and if someone says, "but it's food," check your diabetes risk. Sorry, couldn't help myself. Hee hee.)
Is it remotely possible that the reason why comics can't get a strong foothold in this country is the simple inability of creators to make a great product? And when I say great, I mean compelling. I mean unique. I mean interesting. I mean something as special as doughnuts. Its sweet, yes, thus satisfying a base instinct, but its shape is unlike any other pastry. Eating a doughnut is a dining experience you don't get from munching on a revel bar or popping M&Ms. Doughnuts are doughnuts and nothing can compare with them.
Comics can do the same thing. It can satisfy the human need to be entertained, but it at the same time has to isolate itself as being independent from other media. Apart from creating a story that can move readers, the comics creator has the responsibility to make his work stand on its own, providing a unique experience one wouldn't get from television, movies or the theater. There has to be parts of the work vital to the narrative that are impossible to directly adapt in other media. If a comics work was 100% adaptable, what's the point?
Now how can this help stir publishers into going back to comics? Buzz. Simple but overwhelming buzz. In a lot of ways, revenue-driven companies are very passive. They won't touch anything unless they're assured they can make a healthy buck. That's why they have market research. That's why they listen to trends. That's why they spend to get the pulse of the market. They want to be assured that there are enough people who are interested in a product before they shell out an investment.
To get buzz, the product has to get attention from those who create buzz. And to get attention, the responsibility falls on-- guess who--the creator. If there are enough creators shaking things up, churning out one wonderful story after another and fueling chronic word-of-mouth, someone with money is bound to wonder what the fuzz is all about.
(As an example, let's talk theater. Now this didn't come from me, only from people within the industry so you decide with how much salt you'd want to take this. I was told that when the Zaturnnah musical came out, it reaping the success that it did, there was a sudden spike in public interest in theater. Theatrical works in general gained more attention. That's what a good product and the resulting buzz can do--it benefits the industry in general.)
If we don't have enough able creators, then we might have to wait a little longer. The challenge, however, is there. We have to make more doughnuts. Lots and lots of tasty ones.