Monday, January 09, 2006

[Blog Entry] More Comic Reactions

More Comic Reactions

On Fearless Forecast 2006:

My main problem with this post is that it's the usual doom and gloom post. Honestly, doom and gloom posts about the Philippines isn't exactly rare. In fact, I've probably made a couple. It doesn't take a genius to realize how government policy or the ever-increasing peso to dollar rate will affect every industry, and not just comics.

But you know what, what does that mean? That people should give up? Everyone has had their own economic crisis, including the US and Japan. But they move on. Same goes with our country. Sorry, but we've been having an economic crisis for the past 20 years. If it was that terrible, we wouldn't have lasted this long. The ingenius and dedicated will find a way. Or think of it as a challenge to be more creative and to come up with a more efficient way of distributing comics (web comics is an alternative, for example).

Even more alarming: with the general populace in intense saving mode amidst this godawful economic and political crisis, why should they shell out their hard-earned pesos for luxury items like glossy imported or globalized Filipino comic books? For escapist entertainment? Not a chance. They could readily get that from other cheaper, more stimulating, and readily accessible media such as: the internet, video games, cable tv, cellphones, pirated discs, and comic book movies. These are the preferred media for entertainment nowadays.

Surprisingly, even admist poverty, people will find ways to acquire luxury goods. People don't simply work, eat, and sleep. Not even the poor do that. There will always be a room of luxury items, especially recreation. Although granted, comics stands to compete against other media such as video games, DVDs, TV, and radio. And again, as can be said of any enterprise, know your market. A comic industry does not need to depend on the masses to survive. If your comic is a luxurious luxury item, then make sure it gets into the right markets. Profit does not always necessitate addressing the mass market. If that were the case BMW would have gone out of business a long time ago.

So what can local comics do? What can Filipino comics do? Imitate more mainstream American and Japanese sources? Continue to stay in the sidelines as if nothing is happening and go on being apathetic? Do more harmless, kid-friendly, and generally sedate comics entertainment for the elite? The short answer is yes. Its STILL happening.

Of course I'm for variety. Let some comic creators do mainstream and/or kid friendly titles. I wouldn't want an entire industry that's dominated by socially relevant comics either. But similarly, that shouldn't stop people from publishing other types of comics. And I think the writer is, in many ways, confused. A lot of comic creators do put out comics that aren't mainstream and/or kid friendly, for example. Unfortunately, because they're not mainstream, they obviously don't get as much publicity as a mainstream title would. They're called indies, the independent comic scene. It's not necessarily a big scene, but it's there nonetheless. It's not as diverse as I'd want it to be, but it's a start. American comics is actually also diverse, but a lot of its diversity comes from the indie market.

On Licensed Foreign Comics: Who Really Benefits?:

Can we honestly say that many local Filipino comics writers and artists are employed on an ongoing basis whenever a several months old issue of say, Dragon Ball Z, Witch, or Justice League, is reprinted and sold in the local comics market? Of course not. Is Filipino readership and support for original Filipino comics works generated? Not by a long shot. Does the licensing money paid to foreign comics companies redound back to the printing and publication of local comics works? Are you kidding? The money goes directly to the foreign publisher! Is the profit obtained from these licensing activities poured back into the production of varied and original Filipino comics titles? Don't bother holding your breath.

I'm not so much as arguing as clarifying some things. What he fails to take notice is who the publisher is. For example, Summit Media publishes foreign comics. They don't accept local submissions (and some say for good reason: because they want to meet their deadlines and publish regularly, which unfortunately some artists and writers can't meet, especially when they're starting on a brand new series). Do the profits of Summit improve the "local comic industry"? Not really (although being who they are, they do provide jobs to many Filipinos from their other publications, and who knows what's in store for the future?). Then you also have Psi-Com. What do they usually publish? Still foreign comics, especially the DC titles that are shrunk to digest format. What the writer fails to notice is that Psi-Com also publishes local comics as well, including the recent fantasy anthology. So money does go back to the Filipino artists and writers.

A tactic some book publishers might employ is this: I come out with ten books, and only one or two of them is a best-seller. That best-seller funds my eight other titles. Business-wise, that seems like a bad formula. But not everything is judged by profit, and such practices give birth to diversity, or publishing the titles you want to publish, be they socially relevant ones, artistic, etc. that would not otherwise have been published. For all I know, other comic companies (like Psi-Com) might be employing this strategy. So don't cry "foul!" just because a publisher publishes foreign comics.

So, are the statements "Is Filipino readership and support for original Filipino comics works generated?" and "Does the licensing money paid to foreign comics companies redound back to the printing and publication of local comics works?" true? Not necessarily all the time. It can. Although admittedly, a successful locally published comic will provide more cash flow to the local industry that an import one. As for money going back to the foreign publisher, only a percentage of the profits goes back to them. Either that or a flat rate licensing fee.

Local publishers need to be persuaded and convinced of the viability of a local comics industry. And you can't do that by just concentrating on making good stories and art. Business-minded creative people need to come out of their rabbit hole. Especially those business-minded creative people who have adequate financial resources.

While I'll agree that more business-minded people need to be active in the comic industry, I'm not exactly supportive of giving up on good stories and art. I mean what would happen if I publish a highly commercial comic that sells well, but has bad art and/or story. What is that projecting?

That's why I like the concept of a team. Because each one can make up for the weaknesses of others. Someone can come up with a good story and art. Another will make it commercially viable if it's in their interests to do so (a successful "comic" is not just measured in sales, mind you: one needs to have a mission and vision, and see if they're achieving that). I mean there will be compromises, but if you're an art comic, conceding to the commercial aspect might not be in your best interests. So sometimes you must balance things out, but at other times one should never compromise. Just be sure what you hope to accomplish. If it's profit, then that's well and good. But just because you're profitable does not mean you're improving the industry.

Want to jumpstart a local and moribund comics industry? Concentrate on the BUSINESS of publishing for once, which involves marketing and distribution. Its what the comics industries of Japan, Hong Kong, France, and the United States do.

Now I find this statement a bit funny. The guy is essentially saying "Don't mimic American or Japanese comics... but mimic their comic industry."


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