COMICS CREATORS: “Let’s Bolt In”
by Red R. Samar
MANILA BULLETIN, January 27, 1996, Page B-13
For these young and budding comic book creators, it was one call they couldn’t afford not to heed. After all, it came from no less than famous Filipino comic book superstar William “Whilce” Portacio.
Portacio, who is co-creator of X-Men and creator of Wetworks comic books in the United States, recently came back to the country to be permanently based here. While still abroad, he had already been hearing news about the beehive of activity that has been happening in the local comics industry. Pitching in his expertise to encourage the industry’s development, Portacio called for a meeting for a rag-tag group of comics publishers.
“He (Whilce) heard that something was happening in the local comics industry with small publishers like us releasing titles every now and then. Whilce wanted to do something to help us. He then suggested that instead of competing with one another, why couldn’t we just band together under one name, with a logo that everyone can recognize as proudly Philippine made” says 23-year old Ferdinand-Benedict “Budjette” Tan, president of Cheap thrills comics studio.
Portacio’s suggestion was taken seriously. A series of meetings among the “small” but dedicated publishers ensued all fo them guided by one ardent wish—to fortify their ranks and be taken industry. “Alamat” was born.
Alamat, the umbrella organization of local comic book publishers, is compased of Cheap Thrills, ARCHON, Flashpoint, Memento Mori, Exodus, and Lakan. These are all local comics publishing houses for quite some time now. Merged into one entity, the group has trained its collective vision on conquering the local comics market, which is at present dominated by full-color foreign titles. With Alamat’s entry, a unified group thriving in its very diversity, a change in the scenario is certainly in the offing.
“Alamat is there basically to help promote one another. When we were starting out we were just releasing our own books. Now as one group, we hope to make people aware that there are also good comic books that are created by Filipinos, which they can read, which they can related, “ Tan avers.
Aside from the benefit of a unified marketing effort to push the comic books, the merger also proved to be a great help in the creative aspect of the business.
“We ended up borrowing ‘talents’ from one other—artists, pencillers, writers, colorists—whenever there is a need for an extra hand in the production of other comic books. Most of our writers and artists do a lot of switching around between different titles. Likewise, we also assist in promoting by running an ad in each of the book we come up with,” says Tan.
Although more of a loosely-based organization than a formally-structured boy, as each comic book company maintains total independence from one another especially in the creative area, there are still ground rules that each group has to follow for everybody’s common good.
“Although wala na kami with whatever they want to do with their book, we have a sort of common understanding of rules to follow, like try not to have any profanity, nudity, or these stuff in our works,” points out writer David Hontiveros.
The unified comic books publishers’ first offerings—ALAMAT 101—is a three-in-one book consisting of THE FLYING PHANTOM, ANINO, and TIMAWA.
Although ALAMAT 101 and the rest of the titles in the Alamat checklist (Comics 101, Exodus #1, Flashpoint #1-4, Indigo Valley/P-Noise #1, Memento Mori, #1-2, Shadow comics/Scions #1 and Wasted #1-5) have yet to match the gloss of DC or Marvel Comics, they have already managed to make their presence felt in the industry.
A perennial stumbling block in the success of any comic book business is the high cost of production.
“Right now we can only produce a thousand copies because of our budgetary constraints, but we manage to come out,” Tan says.
Tan explains that production cost one issue per thousand ranges from P30 to P40, an instant P30,000 to P40,000 cash outlay. And this, for all Alamat members, is an issue not to sneeze at, considering that most of them are either studying or are fresh graduates and employed in companies.
And because of the financial constraints, only the cover of Alamat comics have color. The inside pages are in plain black and white, which hardly hold any appeal to visually-oriented readers.
But somehow, there are salient features that Alamat has which makes it different from your usual comic book fake—the incorporation of local sensibility among its titles.
For instance, David Hontiveros and Gerry Alanguilan’s TIMAWA delves into relevant social issues that are all too familiar with us Filipinos. Thus you find scenes of urban squalor, reference to rapist mayors, and victims of heinous crimes in their works. They talk about traffic, the urban poor, social injustice and whatever there is to find in Philippine society.
The group Alamat is also trying to revolutionize the Filipino comic book reading habits with the incorporation of local superheroes like P-NOISE, SCIONS, and TIMAWA.
“We are trying to get away from the stereotype with superhero image that we have been so used to. Since Filipinos are the ones doing it, we might as well make use of our own local ideas. We also try to put in the stories positive Filipino values and a dose of local humor,” relates Tan.
The future indeed shines bright of this enthusiastic bunch. As part of their expansion plans, Alamat will be releasing next month its ARCHON title back-to-back with Pol Medina’s popular PUGAD BABOY. Many are still in the offing. But for now, all of them are being moved by one common goal—to make a legend, or in the vernacular, an alamat of the works that are proudly Philippine made.