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Whatever Happened to Pinoy Komiks?

CEBU, Philippines - The creative culture of Filipinos has been well-celebrated in local music and films. And Philippine literature has seen many books published. These three art forms often enter-mingle – literature turns up stories that are then made into movies, where music is effectively used to enhance the film’s emotional impact.

But there’s an aspect of the country’s literary landscape that seems to have been sadly losing its appeal with the population – the komiks. It is said to trace its roots, to Jose Rizal’s illustration of a fable “Ang Pagong at Matsing,” attributed to have sparked inspiration for the eventual komiks industry.

Komiks was very popular during 1920s when Liwayway magazine first serialized the creation of Tony Velasquez’s “Mga Kabalbalan ni Kenkoy.” The American occupation of the country brought an improvement to the komiks format, with the introduction of the idea of publishing it in booklet form.

For many years, the komiks enjoyed widespread popularity, until the 90s when the industry began to decline. Foreign cultural influences slowly veered the interest of Filipinos in their own literature. Moreover, the coming of various media novelties – like radio and TV – seemed to have further sealed the komiks’ fate.

First, Western comics like DC and Marvel competed with Pinoy komiks. Then the Japanese “manga” comics brought in more excitement. Finally, the animation technology completely made the komiks too old-school already. The komiks industry was soon forced to close shop.

But it appears like the appeal of the komiks has not completely died out. A new generation of creators is trying to revive and re-introduce the legacy of Philippine komiks. These young artists turn out self-published works and conduct events that aim to fan popular interest in the art form.

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The event called Philippine Komiks Convention, or Komikon, is an annual gathering of comic- book artists, publishers, and enthusiasts in the country. The friendly competition is geared towards spreading public awareness and appreciation in the art of komiks.

The present comic style may be a far cry from the Filipino original. But it retains its local character by way of stories that depict the obtaining Filipino culture, often highlighting the native traits of resilience and resourcefulness. The face of the Pinoy komiks may have changed – but the current efforts of local graphic artists and animators are sure to pour oil into the dying fire.  (FREEMAN)

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