The Filipinos, technologically aware and adventurous, have created a presence, albeit belatedly, in the virtual world of online comics. Although there have been numerous worthy attempts, no Filipino that I know of has yet to produce something truly worthwhile online. It is surprising, considering the web allows the creators no limitations on their creativity, and it allows them to pursue any avenue they so wish.

The impression this creates, possibly, that given the freedom to create without limit or censure, the creator is unable, unwilling, or perhaps even unqualified to take advantage of it. The reasons for this are several. Perhaps the creator, in spite of his openness in creating comics for the web, he ironically considers the web a venue unworthy of worthy effort. Perhaps the web has allowed many individuals, emboldened and empowered by the ease to create “something”, consider themselves writers and artists, even when the results of their efforts clearly indicate that they are not.

And thus we find ourselves in this situation. Filipinos who are capable of doing worthy comics are not doing webcomics or are doing them halfheartedly. The majority who do comics on the web simply do not have the talent to create something worthwhile.

 

Gilbert Monsanto, an established professional, gives us Digmaan, a fanciful exercise in super heroics. A quintessential superhero artist, his webcomics fall short of the quality he is capable of providing. He has demonstrated that he is fully capable of solid meticulous illustration when he wants to, and yet he considers it unnecessary to apply the same to his webcomics.

 

The same is true for another industry professional, Gerry Alanguilan. However, the impression one gets from the quality of his online work is that it’s intentional. One cannot apply the meticulous renderings of Humanis Rex ( a work in print) to a strip about every day life such as Crest Hut Butt Shop (a work online). That still begs the point. Why the unwillingness to do a strip of Humanis Rex’s illustrative caliber online?

 

A self touted “webcomicker”, Jonas Diego fares a little higher, if not for a fundamental flaw that ails most of his online comics. His technical skill is excellent. Proficient with a brush that allowed him to create a unique illustrative approach, his comics suffers from unequivocal inadequacy in storytelling. His sequencing of composition, movement and action within the strip are oftentimes frustratingly difficult to understand.

 

Tintin Pantoja’s Seven Plains is the closest I could find to excellence in Philippine webcomics. Although crude in a few places, Pantoja obviously gives it her all. Her story is engaging, her storytelling easy to follow, and her art best suited to simply tell the story. This one bears watching. I cannot help but expect great things from her in the future.

 

The web is replete with Philippine made comics in all manners of shape and form. I don’t envy anyone the task of wading through the rubbish to get at a few really good ones. Online comics is a burgeoning field of graphic storytelling, and I am, at the very least, delighted that a few enterprising Filipinos have taken the stab. Optimism demands that I expect good things. But pessimism requires the many creators to take this task more seriously, and create better work.

Far from being a “convention” in the traditional sense of being a formal assembly of delegates (as in a profession) to discuss issues and course of action regarding a common concern, the Komikon is more strictly a fan convention where comic book creators conduct commercial activities and interact with fans.

The Komikon, an annual event to be held this year on November 17 at UP Diliman, will be in existence for three straight years. The reason why the date was moved from its traditional October date to November is yet to be revealed. A poster for the event can be seen here.

The poster is a literal cross section of the current comics industry, and demonstrative of the trends and sensibilities of it’s writers and artists. One can deduce many things from this poster, some of which may be obvious, and some may not.

  • Despite the collection of the varied characters from the various comics of different creators laid out in a single image, the chaotic nature of the overall layout seem to imply division rather than unity. It’s as if no thought was paid to establishing an aesthetic layout and more mind was paid to simply place as many images as possible. The result is confused and chaotic. However, having attended Komikon 2006 and it’s chaotic atmosphere certainly makes a poster like this rather representative.
  • The overall nature of the type of artwork produced by this cross section of creators seem to indicate that foreign influences still have a firm grasp of the Filipino artist’s imagination. The addition of some classic images seem perfunctory at best.

There is no doubt that a certain amount of enjoyment can be derived by comic book fans with the structure of the event as it stands. I found myself quite engrossed at the passion many of these fans, as well as creators, about comics. However, looking around at the venue most likely filled with the best and the brightest that the country can offer, along with the many fans that complete any industry, I feel there is a wasted opportunity if all the activities would only center on creators promoting and selling, and the fans buying.

Events at venues of this kind would benefit from a more substantial interaction where the pressing issues of the comics industry are addressed. There is room to have fun, but there is also room to get serious and figure out the best direction this industry is to take. If the Komikon truly takes itself seriously as a “convention”, then this is a direction that is essential.

More Komikon thoughts forthcoming.

It is in the interest of analyzing the most misunderstood modes of storytelling that this blog is conceived. In applying this critical analysis to Philippine comics, irrevocably tied to events within the Philippine Comics Industry, it is hoped one can extract observations that are both interesting and illuminating.

Objectivity is an important and necessary goal considering the subjective opinions that result from many of the comics community’s impassioned bloggers. It’s a difficult goal, as this writer is not immune from the same passions that brings this community together, or tear it apart.

Michael Osorio

People get addicted to drugs, alcohol, and women. I've been addicted to comics all my life. Tragic, but true.