Wednesday, July 27, 2005

crash

After a long absence on the comic book stands, word has come that Culture Crash is no more (Taga-Ilog bids farewell here).

I was never a real fan of the book ("scorned by countless critics and scores of detractors", to quote Taga-Ilog) but was supportive of the fact that it was a local comic book that was somewhat regular, in color and created by Filipinos (yes, you can be supportive of what something is in a larger sense, without subscribing to the particulars). For one thing, the writing was terrible. I apply the same critical sense I apply to myself and to other texts that I read. I will never agree with anyone who dismisses lackluster writing in comics because “it’s just comics, not literature – it’s meant to be fun, not deep”. Please. You can be write “fun” without being senseless, inconsistent, and shallow. And the best fun comics are finely written.

For another thing, I continue to be unimpressed by the way the Japanese manga style and conventions have been appropriated by artists wholesale, forcing Japanese cultural sensibility into the bruised box of whatever “Filipino sensibility” is supposed to be. It is one thing to acknowledge artistic influences; it is another thing to just emulate without the goal of developing your own style. Like writers, one cannot “grow up without slaying one’s parents”.

I am saddened though that Culture Crash, for all its flaws and my biases against it, is gone. Regardless of what I think, the comic book had many followers and inspired many to read comics or even to create their own. For the time it existed, James Palabay’s book filled the void felt by many, found its market and delivered what they wanted. But more importantly, for me as a comic book creator, Culture Crash proved for a time that it was possible for a comic book to survive in a commercial atmosphere.

Among the factors in its demise were the twin bugbears of distribution and collection, a reality check with the need to reach the market and collect sales from distributors. Another is their apparent failure to sell ad space. All these reasons are financial in nature.

Creating a book is only the beginning (writing, illustrating, inking, coloring, lettering); beyond that – as all of us independent creators will tell you – is a host of things to be done. Culture Crash took it many steps further down the line and managed to make it work for five years, but they too, ultimately ended.

Content is not really a problem. I am happy to report that there are many good writers and artists here. At any given moment, with the right project and drive, these people can create wonderful things. But where many of us are short-sighted is what happens afterwards. Too many people are happy just to create a book, sit back and hope for the best – as if the work of a creator ends with creation.

I disagree.

Unless your goal is to create only for yourself, unless you don’t intend to publish to reach an actual audience, unless you are so paralyzed by fear or sloth, unless you do not possess the tiniest shred of entrepreneurial spirit, unless your ability to learn from actually trying is absent, unless you are so terribly insecure about this or that - then you need to go beyond and push. Do something more. The number of people who push in our industry is sadly small. I hope that number grows as people go beyond the personal act of making comics and embrace some sort of comic agenda, big or small – from helping to gain a wider readership for comics in general, to uplifting the state of comic book publishing here, to restoring the previous ubiquity of comic books as it was in the years when it used to be seen almost everywhere, to solving the distribution and collection problems, to acting as an ambassador for comics in the context of a literacy program, to creating content in Tagalog and other Philippine languages, to adapting stories from Filipino literature, to winning advocacy from government, and everything else in between.

The agenda-space is vast and there is room for everyone’s particular comfort level, artistic ability, financial capability, measure of commitment in terms of time and effort.

I will not say that all it will take is a few good men. No. All it will take is all of us.

Sad to see you go, Culture Crash.

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