A Documentary on a Comic Book Fan

Meet Joms Robles, a self-confessed comic book fan!

An Interview with Budjette Tan

Get to know the writer and his writing process!
Featuring Budjette Tan, writer for Trese.

Fan Culture

By Ina Morales

A major aspect of any form of pop culture has always had to be its devoted fan base. For the comic book industry, their fan base has grown so prevalent today that their profile and culture is widely identifiable.

Under this large fan culture, many types of fans have emerged. Die-hard followers of certain comic book series each produce a unique culture all on their own as they cluster together. These enthusiasts range from the stereotypical “fanboy” who revel in mainstream superhero titles like X-Men to the more somewhat snobbish reader of distinctive alternative comics. Many literate comic fan groups demand comprehensive knowledge from fellow supporters and reward members of the culture for their expertise while tending to alienate those outside.

Although these different groups are majorly conflicting with each other in many aspects, all of them share a passionate love for the comic book as a medium. All usually hangout in specialty stores where they talk shop and the culture flourishes as they debate among themselves, spread news about the industry, arrange trades, discuss collectibles and many more.

For any comic book fan, the biggest event of the year would have to be San Diego Comic-Con. This major annual event has more than 125,000 fans of comic books, cult television programs, and sci-fi and fantasy films. Seeing the fans themselves in attendance is a spectacle all on its own as most sport wonderfully elaborate costumes to celebrate their favourite superheroes or any other character they favour.

Like many underground movements, like punk rock or grunge, the comic book fan culture eventually evolved from a fringe culture to one that is considered mainstream, contributing to many pop culture trends. With their place in pop culture and mainstream media deep-seated due to the growth of the said culture and comic conventions since the 1970s, fans have been frequently stereotyped. Usually they are portrayed as dishevelled, socially awkward loners who refuse to grow up.

Despite that, the usual portrayals of the said fans are usually embraced by those being imitated themselves. Many comic creators like to satirize and poke fun at the stereotype of the comics convention-goer. Ultimately, those in the best position to make fun of comic book fans are comics fans themselves. And so many fans revel in their own supposed “nerdiness” which in turn shows their pride for their intense love of comics.

Indie Komiks

By Ina Morales

It’s nothing new that in this day and age of western-dominated media, the local comics industry is dwindling. Many comic book writers and artists struggle to revive this once deep-seated part of Philippine culture. But despite having the lack of an equivalent for Marvel or DC in the country, one can still say that “comics is still alive,” as local comic book creator, Gerry Alanguilan says.

The underground and independent nature of the local comics scene makes one rethink if one can call it an industry at all, as companies exclusively dedicated to producing comics are nary to be found. Despite that, this does not overshadow the general optimism with regards to the direction that the local comics scene is taking. This is evident in the number of comic conventions in the country that grow larger and larger every year, accommodating more and more independent comic books and their creators.

Although, it is to be admitted that despite the many venues and outlets present for indie comic book makers to showcase their work, making and selling comics is rarely profitable. This is because it is usually the makers themselves who have to put their own money forward to have their works go into print. Without the privilege of sponsorship, most indie creators must still find other sources of income to support the costs of releasing a comic which runs the gamut from drafting materials to reproduction expenses. Hence, it is not uncommon to find comic book writers and artists who have day jobs.

The usual indie comics are generally sold at conventions catering to broader interests, like toys, games and anime and are just printed in bond paper with a price range of P20-P60, depending on the number of pages. It is rare for the creators to sell a majority of their stock and most are usually stuck with half of what they produce.

Aside from low quality printing and lack of financial support from any sponsors, another set-back for indie comics is the fact that they must still compete with other forms of popular culture merchandise and overcome the standards that mainstream media set for comics. Because of this, these indie comics are usually ridiculed and not respected.

Despite this, many comic creators remain positive and many rely on their small yet loyal fan bases to inspire them to keep on releasing more comics with better concepts and art styles. So in spite of the dull state of the indie comic industry today, indie comic creators still continue to display Filipino talent and passion in comics making.

Japanese Manga and Pinoy Komiks

By Ina Morales

The Filipino’s ability to adapt is very prevalent in the phenomenon that is Filipino manga-style comics. The manga style, primarily as a visual style, will always have its roots in Japan. It cannot be claimed by any other country; and so Filipino komiks with a Japanese manga styleare the fruits of that Japanese influence.

Although the comic book format is actually American in origin, the most popular art style these days found in pinoy komiks hails from Japan. As Japanese comic art developed with little outside influences, the manga style is considered very unique and quickly identified as Japanese, compared to other American/European styles which are considered universal somehow. This uniqueness of the manga visual has caused a many komiks readers and critics to raise the question of cultural identity, questioning whether or not one has to copy another country’s style and wonder why Filipinos cannot create their own distinct national style.

As was previously mentioned, manga, or at least its popularized form, is quickly recognized as Japanese because of its unique look, despite being translated or even when artists of different nationalities employ the style. However, with regards to visuals, one can argue that manga characters do not look Japanese at all with their colourful hair, large eyes, etc. In addition to that, supporters of the style have argued that manga is the visual of today’s youth and so, it can be said that manga now transcends national borders. Hence, there are numerous comics around the world that employ the popular visual style.

Despite this, some popular comic book writers in the Philippines still make it a point to not draw in the Japanese art style. For Gerry Alanguila, the comic book writer popular for works such as Elmer and Wasted, if he were to publish a comic book, he wouldn’t use manga at all (despite respecting the style and drawing manga from time to time). On drawing manga today for a comic book, he states that, “I would not use manga. I would use something that I came up myself. Manga is a Japanese invention you see, an art style that was popularized by Japanese. Whether we like it or not, manga is closely associated with Japan, Japanese people and Japanese culture. Being a Filipino, it would make me very uncomfortable to create a Filipino comic book using an art style that was closely associated with another country.”