UP professors talk Pinoy comics in UK

By Edward Lao, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Posted at Oct 13 2012 12:08 PM | Updated as of Oct 13 2012 08:08 PM

OXFORD -- Three Pinoy professors recently gave presentations in the UK on Filipino comics at the first-ever global conference on the graphic novel.

Professors Emil Flores, Ana Micaela Chua and Carljoe Javier all teach at the Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines (UP).

They were invited to the 3-day conference in Oxford last September 7-9 after submitting abstracts that organizers found important to the discussion of comic books on a global scale.

Some 45 delegates from various countries attended the closed-door event at Mansfield College, which was sponsored by Inter-Disciplinary.net - a forum for the exchange and interaction of ideas, research and points of view.

Professor Flores focused on the attempt to create a Filipino superhero team, as well as the comic book "Andong Agimat."

Chua's presentation was on 'Trese' and how the comic creates mythologies.

Javier meanwhile attempted to define Filipino humor through the use of "Taal Volcano Monster versus Evil Space Paru-Paro."

Professor Javier, who teaches creative writing, told ABS-CBN Europe that Filipinos have an old and rich tradition in the comic book industry.

"If you look at old Swamp Thing, old Wonder Woman, some of those artists are Filipino and up to now we have a lot of Filipino creators who are working with Marvel and DC, so we're there."

However, Javier concedes not enough Pinoys are creating their own work and getting it out there.

"We have Gerry Alanguilan with 'Elmer' which is making waves, but I think that's just a spearhead. There's so much more that we could talk about. Whenever you're making a piece of art you're trying to tell your story and we as Filipinos have so many stories to tell."

The 31-year-old professor adds Filipino comics blend many styles together and as a result "do a lot of everything". There are influences from Japanese manga and Jim Lee [DC Comics], but Javier feels its uniqueness lies in the type of humor.

"In my paper I talk about how a lot of our humor is based on Filipino bodabil. It is stand-up comedy, we have puns, Filipinos like corny jokes.

"We have this thing on TV called the 'nyeh.' Someone says something corny and then another person says nyeh, and we find that funny. We find the reaction shots funny," he said.

"There is a brand of Filipino humor and it comes from our classics like Dolphy and then the more contemporary like Tito Vic and Joey. My own personal favorite and what I drew from in my paper were Joey De Leon and Rene Requiestas."

Javier explains the main reason why Filipino comics are not so well known abroad is because of distribution issues.

"How do you get your little zine [out], like the thing I'm talking about? It's a small independently produced comic that comes out at Komikon in the Philippines. How are you going to get that across all of the globe?

"I think at present we're working towards distributing digitally, but really, comics in physical form, that's still our biggest barrier, but I'm very hopeful. As distribution barriers break down, as people become more interested it will be easier for us to reach more readers."

If Filipino comics do go mainstream, Javier is confident they would be embraced. He says he and his Pinoy colleagues received positive responses from those at the conference.

"It was just very enthusiastic, very encouraging. People at the conference love comics and they know comics, but again because of the distribution or access problem they didn't know so much about Filipino comics.

“It wasn't that it was a novelty but more like wow, this is something that we're totally missing out on and we want to get in on that, we want to read this stuff.

"We just need to get out there. People want our comics, people want to read about our comics, people want to learn about us. It's just a matter of putting ourselves out there on the global market to interact with this much bigger audience."

Professor Flores' presentation earned him an immediate invitation to have his piece published in a journal.

Javier says he was also invited by delegates at the conference to attend future comic book events.

"They were like you have to attend this, you have to see what's going on here and it was really encouraging. I would love to attend all these things but the problem is I'm also working on a university professor budget."

Asked if he would like to attend next year's Interdisciplinary.net conference on the graphic novel, Javier replied: "I would have to write a paper that's good enough to bring me back and I'd have to find some money, but I definitely would. How things are now? Maybe if I win the lottery I can come back every year."