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Talking Komiks

Filipino komiks – searching for its style and voice

By EK Gonzales Published May 12, 2021 5:00 am

Sometimes, when people are not wondering where komiks could be found, people ask why there is no longer one distinct komik style. You know: realist, well-detailed, narrative, telling cultural or realist stories.

Sometimes there are calls for one Filipino art style, one Filipino komik style. Are people seeking a distinct Amorsolo presentation, a style that is similar to Velasquez, to Redondo?

Always, this is unfair to ask.

Some answer this in a sentence: If a Filipino made it, it is Filipino art. If it is a komik made by a Filipino, it is a Filipino komik. But this answer needs to be explained in a bit more detail.

As an example, there is one name for music created by Filipinos, especially those residing in the country: Original Pilipino Music (OPM). But the vibrant local music industry is represented by many kinds of music. We have excellent balladeers who sing about love or the pain of love. We have astounding rappers. We have heavy rock bands. We have acoustic groups. We also have groups inspired by Kpop and dance as they sing. Their various inspirations and roots mold these music makers, to form the kind of original music they make as Filipinos.

Kundiman and cultural music will always have a place overall in our music, a deserving one in respecting our roots and heritage. But it is completely unfair to ask all of our music to be restricted to this style of music. It is also unfair to shoehorn our excellent music makers and force them to make only one certain kind of music.

The same is true of the vibrant art scene, and the diverse komiks community.

Over the 15-20 years since the komiks industry folded, the independent komiks community has developed their own styles, their own voices.

It is unfair to demand that komiks creators be only of a certain kind, to use a certain style... That will stifle all of Filipino art.

Some have chosen to retain the art styles of the classic komiks era, such as those who saw the end of the industry, or the descendants of the classic era komikeros. There are those who were inspired by western superhero comics, and such people made komik characters of their own, but considering factors that are unique to our country and situation.

A younger generation who saw the rise of manga and anime in the country were inspired by it, but also by now they have adopted the techniques and devices for their own unique stories, stories that tell the experience of the Filipino or the mindset of the Filipino. There are some who were inspired by alternative comics in the American and European comic scenes, but these creators firmly have their unique personal voices in employing such devices in their own komiks.

The majority of independent komiks no longer creates work to imitate, now fully understanding and having matured from this need to do so. Almost all of them now use the comic devices to deliver their unique stories, in the way that is comfortable to them.

Therefore, there is now a palpable, distinct identity to current komiks, if you take the time to read their material. This goes beyond external trappings such as having Pinoy public elementary or high schools, sari-sari stores, black-haired characters, MRTs or LRTs, and lots of traffic.

The storytelling now has the distinct sense of Filipino idiosyncracies, cultural behavior, and ideas. A majority of characters—whether made for local or international stories—have the distinct flavor identifiable as Filipino.

Even those who employ what I tend to call the "manga style" for their stories do not look like manga from Japan anymore. They are their own komiks.

It is unfair to demand that komiks creators be only of a certain kind, to use a certain style, in the similar way that it is unfair to demand that artists just channel Fernando Amorosolo. That will stifle all of Filipino art.

Current komiks is many voices, many messages, many stories. All of them are created by Filipinos, all of them deserving of their place in komiks.

The independent komiks community that rose after the end of the komiks industry was not restricted by expectations, and were free to make komiks the way they saw was best for them and for their stories, based on their artistic capabilities and interests. This resulted in the various available kinds of komiks: serious realist pieces, high-comedy action series, horror stories, tales of fantasy both international and based on local folklore, unapologetically rude pieces, introspective messages of healing, stories of understanding identity, tales of new superheroes, alternative pieces that push the boundaries of komiks.

The history of world comics is also a history of assimilating and being inspired by the work of other countries and other cultures, anyway. For instance, one key reason for the large eyes in a majority of manga is that Osamu Tezuka was inspired by Walt Disney’s art style. The main reason American comics as a whole exists is newspapers needing comic strips similar to those being made in Britain. Our classic komiks derived its roots from American comics and European comics and its realist forms, and comic strips such as Kenkoy is inspired by European and American newspaper comic strips.

Thus, komiks is not one voice. Current komiks is many voices, many messages, many stories. All of them are created by Filipinos, all of them deserving of their place in komiks. There are only levels of experiences and skill. But all their voices are valid. They are all komikeros.

They all deserve your support. Seek their work where they are available. Support their work as much as you can. You may choose to support as many as you can. You could choose to find those you admire and whose styles you prefer, and share the word about them. But give the komikeros all of your support. Their individual voices, and their voices as a whole, are an important part of our collective history as Filipinos. 

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