One thing I learned about the Filipino artists at this year’s con is that they have a strong sense of history and an appreciation of the past.
Stephen Sogovia: In the Philippines, we love art and we love comics. It’s been a century since the birth of komiks in the Philippines. Artists like Alex Nino, Tony DeZuniga, Ernie Chan. We do remember them. In the past, we have the komiks first and then movie adaptations. The komiks served as the storyboards for these movies.
Leinil Yu: Filipino komiks started when the Americans came. Of course, we have Dr Jose Rizal’s fable, The Monkey and the Tortoise, drawn in 1885. They were more illustrations than komiks. I was influenced by Whilce Portacio, the Filipino-American comic artist (X-Men), when I was young. His was a different tradition. Young kids during my time would not draw in that 70s Filipino style of perfect anatomy. I grew up watching the Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters, Transformers and Japanese animation on TV. Those things were easier to draw. When I got older, I know more about the older Filipino artists like Alex Nino and Nester Redondo and I have a lot of respect for them. But really, I’m an Image Comics guy. (smiles)
Gerry Alanguilan: I was not a fan of Filipino artists when I was growing up. I was a fan of DC and Marvel. But after 5 to 6 years of working on US comics, younger Filipino artists would come up to me to show me their work, which was very influenced by US and Japanese manga. I asked them if they knew about our own komik history. They looked at me as if I was speaking a foreign language. They have no idea what I was talking about.
That got me wondering. I realize we don’t know our own history of komiks. We have no practice of preserving and reprinting old komiks. Even our National library, you could not find those old komiks. We have a long history of publishing komiks. Our publishing industry was very huge in the 1970s, more than a million copies were published a month.
There is no trace of it now.
People have no idea it happened. There are no books or articles about this that a young artist can study. It made me wanted to do research of my own. So I started collecting old komiks. It was very hard and I had to buy them on eBay. Now these sellers were Filipinos who knew the value of these old komiks. They were very expensive! I’ve spent a lot of money, almost all my savings on these komiks and visual art books. I have collected a few hundred titles and some original art. I scanned them and put it up on my website, so that young Filipino artists can find something that’s our history.
My website is regularly updated and I’ve scanned hundreds of artwork from the 1950s to 1970s. Some are from the 1980s. It’s to give a brief overview of our history.
One of the most underrated artist in our history is the late Francisco V. Coching. His El Indio (1952) is a classic Filipino masterpiece and was out of print for years. I started this project in 2003 to get his komiks reprinted and that finally happened when Vibal reprinted El Indio. There is also an art book out. The state does not want to make him a national artist, but that is okay. There are exhibitions of his art anyway and many considered him to be a national artist.
I wrote about El Indio in Paul Gravett’s 1001 Comics To Read Before You Die. (pages 166 – 167)
There are two important publications. One is the special issue of Comic Book Artist (Vol 2 #4, Sept 2004) on Filipino Komiks, which you showed me. Because of that magazine, I met John Lent who was researching for that issue. I told him that there are new komik books by Filipino artists, so when he did his book, The First One Hundred Years of Philippine Komiks in 2009, he included our generation of artists. It is a good book, which included female comic writers as well.
Whilce Portacio influenced Leinil. But you also have Western artists like Frazer Irving who is influenced by Alfredo and Rudy Nebres.
We have come a long way.
NB: some articles by Gerry:
Photos of Tony DeZuniga, Alfredo Alcala and Malang in New York, circa 1970s
Francisco V. Coching for National Artist
Filipino Comics Illustrator Ernie Chan Passes Away
Why Tony DeZuniga Mattered A Lot to Us
The State of Comics Preservation in the Philippines