Philippines Komiks as a genre has been a struggling industry at the dawn of this century- struggling to survive and struggling to discover its identity.
Though many are struggling here in Third World Philippines, others likes of Whilce Portacio bask in the sunlight of the American dream (and the limelight of the American comics industry). His stereotypical Westernized art is commendable in terms of technical virtuosity but I still feel that too much of his super hero characters can be bad for one’s health. I mean, they're too puerile to be anything more than in its present state no matter how window-dressed it is for mature audiences. Although it is a fact that Filipino old masters have served the altar of DC and Marvel, they still retained their air of originality with works leading the horror and adventure series, thus, they stuck to their own style without being smothered by American spandex.
On the flipside, Filipino manga artists who have been suckled from the teats of Tezuka, Asamiya, Toriyama, and Watase have lost their originality when they aped the big saucer-like eyes, smudge-like noses and lips as thin as a hairline. Even with all the arguments in the world telling me that “it’s the story that counts” or “we’re just manga-influenced but our art is still original” whittles down to the fact that these artists (me included- I never cared for originality) took the best from Japan and morphed it into something half-Japanese. Though one cannot be blamed for it since many Filipinos have been weaned on Voltez V, Transformers, Ghost Fighter, Fushigi Yuugi and Dragonball, it’s frustrating to see that these artists feel they have a need to copy everything from the technique up to the patently Japanese semantics and non-verbal expressions. In effect, their pursuit is not to produce a Filipino identity, but to satisfy their manga cravings. Ask yourself: Is there a place in the Filipino identity for gigantic robots? For school kids in miniskirts? For nosebleeds and sweatdrops?
|Culture Crash's take on manga Pinoy-style|
If we remove all the capes and spandex from the scene, and the manga from the pages, we will be left with our own classic Pinoy style. If one collectively puts the works of the aforementioned Masters, you would be able to find a style that is uniquely Pinoy. Ours have more ornate and elaborate details. You can find it in the background, in the folds of the clothes, in the ripples of the/ lakes, or in the facial expressions. They evoke a beauty that is richly Baroque unlike their American counterparts whose lines seem spartan, sparse and lazy. The draftsmanship of Pinoy komik style is borne from the Filipino mentality of horror vacui wherein every corner must have its use, its decor and its embellishments. We take inspiration from the florid lines of our churches, from the creative strokes of the Art Noveau bahay na bato, from the grimy pollution and garbage filled scenes of Manila. We make horror vacui our style of rendering, and it works.
|Hiroshige's woodblock print|
|Tintin in Tibet by Herge|
Apart from those that make our style unique, there is still one foreign art style Filipino artists may want to try- the ligne claire. Ligne claire, French for “clear lines,” favors the use of deep bold lines of equal strength and thickness to draw the entire scene. It’s what some would call a “democracy of lines” for there are no crosshatchings, no chiaroscuros. Unlike the Marvel way of drawing where realism and shadings are de rigeur (Think: Moore’s V for Vendetta), Franco-Belgian graphic novel artists tend to do the other way. With the Belgian Hergè at its forefront, bandes desinees like “Adventures of Tintin”and “Asterix” have been churning out art published in the ligne claire style. Is it because perhaps they were influenced by the Japanese ukiyo-e prints of Hokusai and Hiroshige just as Van Gogh and Tolouse-Lautrec were inspired? Perhaps so, for the Japanese influence is apparent in these contemporary artists of bandes desinees. However, what’s most striking is that they adopted this form as entirely their own that if one has not studied Japanese prints and its connection with Post-Impressionism, you won’t realize that Tintin is part Tokyo.
Here in our country, the only one I have seen practicing this style while infusing the techniques of the Old Masters is Gerry Alanguilan. He has not abandoned the legacies of Velasquez and Redondo for it can be appreciated clearly in the meticulous details of his backgrounds, but also he has been making his characters in the ligne clair style which is a breath of fresh air in the industry.
|Peter van Dongen's Rampokan Jawa, a novel about the Indonesian Revolution|