Sunday, January 22, 2006

Pablo S. Gomez' PSG Publications 1963-1972

In 1963, Pablo S. Gomez, a top komiks writer of the defunct Ace Publications, founded his own komiks publications. He named the company after his initials, the PSG Publications.
When Ace folded up in late 1962, Pablo S. Gomez was already one of the big names in the Philippine komiks industry. He had a big following of readers who anticipated his new stories and serials.
To house his new company, Gomez alloted one portion of his house in Sampaloc as temporary office of the PSG Publications.
As a veteran komiks writer, Gomez knew some of the best komiks illustrators and writers and he hired them as regular contributors to PSG, such as Mars Ravelo (who used his pseudonym Virgo Villa), Francisco Coching, Nestor Redondo, and Alfredo Alcala.

United Komiks #1. Cover art by Francisco V. Coching, by then the most popular artist in Philippine komiks.

The first komiks-magazine of PSG Publications was United Komiks, the first number of which was reeased on January 1964.

As a prolific writer, Gomez could capitalize on his voluminous unpublished scripts (plus the ones brewing in his head) and thus economize on writers 'fees. For instance in one komiks-magazine there were at least two or three stories or serials written by him although he sometimes used Rene Rosales as a pseudonym. The technique worked, and many komiks readers became fans of Rene Rosales as well, not knowing that Rosales and Gomez were just one and the same.
Gomez also tapped the talent of his younger brother Daddie Gomez, who was in his own right also a talented writer. Daddie sometimes used the pen name Tennessee Francel, and D. G. Salonga, which is a play of his actual name Dominador Salonga Gomez.
The United Komiks was a bestseller. It competed fiercely with the numerous komiks titles that proliferated at that time, such as those published by Bulaklak, GMS, Philippine Education Company, and even GASI (the new komiks company of the Roces clan). The only advantage of GASI from its competitors was its komiks-magazines’ efficient distribution even to the very far provinces. Some of the most anticipated serials in the United Komiks were Mars Ravelo’s Optarza, Dyangga, and Gapang sa Lusak, while Gomez contributed with his Timbuktu, Tsandu, Triple, and Danny Boy.

But perhaps the most successful feature that boosted the sales of the United Komiks was “Mga Kuwento ni Bruhilda”, a series magically illustrated by the young Alex Nino. Previously rejected by local komiks editors who could not understand his genius, Nino was rediscovered by Gomez, who gave the former regular assignments in the PSG. Indeed, Gomez saved a genius from anonymity and obscurity.
The over-all sales of the United Komiks were encouraging enough to Gomez, who decided to publish an additional komiks-magazine: the Universal Komiks. It was released on April of 1964

Universal Komiks #1. Cover art by Elpidio Torres.

The Universal Komiks was another PSG bestseller. Some of its popular series were Mars Ravelo’s Devil Boy and Gomez’ Taong Buwaya and Halik sa Apoy and Rico Bello Omagap's Uhaw sa Dugo.

Halik Sa Apoy serial novel in the Universal Komiks. Story by Pablo S. Gomez. Illustrated by Alfredo Alcala.

The third komiks-magazine of PSG Publications was Continental Komiks, launched in 1965. Like the other two titles before it, the Continental Komiks became a bestseller among komiks readers. The Continental featured short stories by such veteran writers as Rene Villaroman, Greg Igna de Dios Tony Tenorio, and Rico Bello Omagap.

Continental Komiks #1. Cover Art by Nestor P. Redondo

Gomez eventually hired Tenorio to take charge of the full editorship of his komiks-magazines.
At around this time, a young man was introduced by Tenorio to Gomez. His name was Carlo J. Caparas, a security guard who showed a talent for writing. Gomez was impressed with the story submitted by Caparas, and from then on the young man became a regular PSG contributor. A few years later and Caparas would make a name for himself for his komiks serials Panday, Pieta, Citadel, and many others that became successful movies. Yet, it should always be remembered that it was Gomez who discovered his talent and gave him a break in the Philippine komiks industry.

Kidlat Komiks #1. Cover Art by Francisco V. Coching.

The success of his earlier titles prompted Gomez to publish another komiks-magazine in 1967. Entitled Kidlat Komiks, this was another bestseller that became a favorite of the masses. At about this time, Gomez transferred his office to a big compound in the corner of Aurora Boulevard and Balete Street in Quezon City. Christened the “White House” because of the big white edifice in the property, this new building was the solid proof of Gomez’ success as a komiks publisher.
Because of his popularity as a movie and komiks writer, Gomez became a close friend of many movie stars among them the young stars Fernando Poe Jr ., and Susan Roces. Gomez and Roces were personal confidants to each other, even before the latter’s engagement to the young Fernando Poe. Gomez even featured the love story of Susan Roces and Fernado Poe Jr, in a section in the United Komiks entitled “Mga Lihim ni Susan Roces”. It was a delight not only to komiks fans but to movie fans as well. Even now some forty years since they first met, the two regularly visit each other.

An early issue of Planet Komiks. Cover art by Alex Nino, who signed the art "Louie Chito", his firstborn son.

In 1968, another PSG komiks-magazine was born entitled Planet Komiks, a komiks-magazine that mostly featured fantasy and science fiction stories and serials. It was a highly artistic komiks-magazine, with some of the big names in komiks art contributing, such as Alex Nino, Alfredo Alcala and Nestor Redondo.
The PSG Publications, however, was hit hard by the decline of komiks readership in the late 1960s. This was partly due to the proliferation of several komiks-magazines that flooded the newsstands. Komiks readers just got somewhat overwhelmed. This decline could be considered as an implosion, a self-destruction. The booming industry killed itself.
Yet, according to Gomez (when I interviewed him), the most significant factor that led to the industry’s decline was the proliferation of the Bomba or smut komiks. This idea was seconded by Hal Santiago, then PSG Komiks’ resident artist. Apparently, the fly-by-night Bomba Komiks which sold as cheap as the clean-type komiks, captured the attention of male local readers.
Most importantly, some people equated the Bomba Komiks to the clean-type ones which got the stigma as well. Komiks was forbidden in many homes because of this stigma.
Says Pablo: “Pati kaming mga malilinis na komiks ay nadamay sa mga Bomba Komiks na yan, kasi ang akala ng mga tao lahat na ng komiks ay may mga litrato o drowing na Bomba”.
Then, in 1972, President Marcos declared Martial Law. Severe censorship followed. Sure it killed the Bomba Komiks, but it also killed the clean-type ones. The regime forced komiks publishers to use cheap and inferior local papers in komiks printing. Hal Santiago laments, “This kind of paper was of the cheapest quality. You could hardly appreciate the komiks after the printing. How can you expect people to buy them?”

PSG Publications indeed suffered irreversible losses after these unfortunate events. Gomez who mostly got his initial funds through personal loans, was forced to sell his titles to his rival komiks company, the Affiliated Publications, Inc., another company of the Roces clan.
Yet, this was not the end of Gomez’ career in komiks, for the best years were still ahead of him. There would be more big novels to come, especially in the late 1970s and the whole of 1980s. Indeed, a good and talented man is very hard to put down.

This then is the story of PSG Publications, one of the most colorful komiks company of the once thriving Philippine komiks industry.

Monday, January 16, 2006

CRAF Publications

The fall of the giant Ace Publications in the early 1960s led a group of highly talented Ace illustrators to start their own komiks publishing company.
These illustrators were Nestor and Virgilio Redondo, Alfredo Alcala, Amado Castrillo, Tony Caravana, and Romeo Francisco. They named their company CRAF Publications, which is a combination of their surnames' initials. Later on, another talented artist, by the name of Jim Fernandez, joined CRAF.

In 1963, CRAF held office at the corner of Recto Avenue and T. Alonso St., in Manila, with telephone number 6-22-98.

On May 7, 1963, CRAF's first komiks-magazine, Redondo Komix, was born. The group planned to publish komiks-magazines bearing the names of each of the members. But since they only had limited budget, they decided to publish the other titles on a staggered monthly basis.

On June 1963, Alfredo Alcala's Alcala Fight Komix, was published. After one month, Amado Lovers Komix (Amado Castrillo's namesake komiks)was issued. CRAF's komiks-magazines boasted a full wrap-around cover, the first of its kind in the Philippines.

I am not sure why Romeo Francisco and Tony Caravana did not have their namesake komiks at this time, although Mang Vir told me that Francisco and Caravana were just junior partners of CRAF.

About a year after Redondo Komix's first issue, CRAF published another komiks-magazine: CRAF KLASIX. This cover was iilustrated by Federico Javinal for Francisco Coching's serial "Marko Bandido"

As a komiks fanatic, I am well aware of the contribution of CRAF komiks-magazines to our rich komiks tradition. CRAF elevated Filipino comic art to new heights, unmatched even today.

Yet a few years later, CRAF closed shop. It did not prosper commercially.

When Mang Vir (Virgilio Redondo) was still living, I was able to meet him on some occasions in GASI where he sold xerox copies of his old komiks-magazines. According to him, even at the beginning, there were some misunderstandings between the incorporators.

It seemed that there was some sort of unspoken rivalry that emerged between these highly-talented artists. Small things were source of petty misunderstandings, such as, who will do the cover, which artist will illustrate this or that serial, etc.

Yet the biggest setback of CRAF was on the economics side. Since they only had very limited funds (mostly gathered from their own personal money), printing costs were always a big concern.

CRAF also lacked an effective distribution network, a vital problem of small-time komiks publishers. Indeed, most other small komiks publishers point to this reason for their early demise.

Great artists, in general, are not great businessmen. They are too preoccupied with their art to bother on its commercial side. CRAF took the greatest care to make its komiks-magazines the most artistically superior komiks of that era, yet it is not enough to ensure the companies success or even survival.

CRAF's komiks-magazines are artistically far superior than other komiks-magazines at that time(and that includes those published abroad). Even the great illustrator Fred Alcantara was recruited to grace the pages of CRAF's komiks. Later on, young Alex Nino would join CRAF's creative team.

Yet, CRAF lacked the PR, so to speak, and their komiks pages speak for proof. A Redondo Komix or Alcala Fight Komix, for instance carried some of the most outstanding artworks of that era. Alfredo Alcala with his magnificent Voltar, and his historical ships, and Redondo with his ever popular Gagamba and Palos series. These pages are testaments of the high level of artistry achieved by these greatest Filipino artists. Yet, even these were not enough to make the company survive, much less prosper.

Alfredo Alcala's Voltar in Alcala Fight Komix. This splash page was awarded first prize during the 1963 annual illustrators contest sponsored by the National Press Club and the Society of Philippine Illustrators and Cartoonists. Superior rendering like this had elevated the Philippine comic art to such heights unmatched even today.

The bi problem was that CRAF had virtually no advertisers, the life-blood of the komiks-magazine. In an industry when thousands of komiks-magazines had to be printed weekly, advertisers' funds are vital for survival. Yet, turn the pages of a Redondo Komix or an Alcala Fight Komix, and you wont find any advertiser. Unlike Ace which relied mostly on advertisers' fees to shoulder their printing costs, CRAF and other small publishers lacked the PR to attract the big advertisers.

Fimed several times, the Redondo brothers' Palos was the most popular komiks hero of the era, even for a time surpassing Darna's popularity.

The first incorporator to leave CRAF was Jim Fernandez, who, incidentally, was the last to join. He said he was concentrating on writing stories, which was true. He sold his rights to Amado Castrillo. It was the signal, Caravana was next. He left the company to establish his own komiks-magazine: CARAVANA KLASICS, in 1965.

I am not very sure what happened next. Maybe Alcala left CRAF in 1965, because I have not seen an Alcala Fight Komix after that year.

In 1968, Nestor Redondo founded his own komiks publishing company:ARES, which published Superyor Komiks and Palos Komiks.

It is not very clear when exactly CRAF finally closed shop but I believe it did not reach the year 1969. What is clear, however, is the fact that CRAF will stand out as one of the most artistically (if not economically)succesfull komiks magazines in the Philippines.

This short story that appeared in the issue #12 of Redondo Komix was a unique example of experimentations by CRAF'S creative team. Why? Because this was literally illustrated by CRAF,that is, by Caravana, Castrillo, Redondo, Alcala, and Francisco. Each panel had a touch of ink by each of these artists.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Komiks at Pinilakang Tabing(Komiks and Tagalog Movies)

The Golden Age of Komiks and Movies in the Philippines (1946-72)

Since Komiks was a popular form of entertainment in the Philippines, several film producers decided to transform many komiks stories and nobelas into movies.
During the golden age of Philippine komiks-which coincided with the golden years of Philippine movies-there were three major film studios in the country: Premiere, Sampaguita, and LVN. These movie producers created some of the greatest box-office blockbusters from komiks materials.
The following is a partial list of such movies. It is not a complete list since there are literally hundreds of komiks stories that have been adapted into the silver screen. I ask knowledgeable readers of this blog to add to this list.
I have undertaken to compile this list because I know of no such list in existence. With the rich komiks tradition that we Filipinos have, I know this will become invaluable someday to researchers of Philippine popular culture. Even today, when the komiks and movie industry are in a desparate state to survive, the television industry had come to the rescue by creating telenovelas out of original komiks stories and serials. I hope that this will be the start of the rejuvenation of the komiks industry in the Philippines.
I have tried with great care to be as accurate as possible with this list. Yet, I know that perfection in research is almost an impossible task, especially to a researcher like me who works without an editor and assistant. Thus, I will gladly acknowledge corrections if the reader felt that there are mistakes in the list. Important: The date given in the list is the year the movie was shown in cinemas, and not the year the comic trip was created.
I am currently writing an essay on the history and relationship of Philippine komiks and movies, and any of your contributions to this project, be it an additional list or information, or an image of a poster of the movie or movie stills, will be most welcomed and gratefully acknowledged.
My email address is and my cellphone number is 09155766643.

Kulafu(Liwayway) Francisco Reyes; 1947 Mario Montenegro

Hagibis(Liwayway) Francisco V. Coching; 1947 Rogelio dela Rosa

Siete Infantes De Lara (Bulaklak Magazine)Manuel Conde/ Carlos V. Francisco; 1950 Mario Montenegro, Romano Castelvi, Eddie Garcia, et al

Prinsipe Amante(Mabuhay Komiks) Clodualdo del Mundo;1950 Rogelio dela Rosa

Kenkoy(Liwayway) Tony Velasquez; 1951 Lopito/Virginia Montes

Kislap Magazine 1951, showing Kenkoy movie on the cover.Author's collection

Prinsipe Amante Sa Rubitanya(Aksiyon Komiks) Manuel Conde/Carlos “Botong” Francisco; 1951 Rogelio dela Rosa

Darna (Pilipino Komiks) Mars Ravelo; 1951 Rosa del Rosario

Roberta (Tagalog Klasiks) Mars Ravelo; 1951 Tessie Agana

Sawa sa Lumang Simboryo(Mabuhay Komiks) Amado Yasona; 1952 Jose Padilla Jr.

Barbaro(Pilipino Komiks)Francisco V. Coching; 1952 Pancho Magalona

Kerubin (Liwayway) Clodualdo del Mundo; 1952 Rebecca Gonzales

Espada (Liwayway)Francsico V. Coching; 1952 Cesar Ramirez

Rebecca (Tagalog Klasiks) Mars Ravelo; 1952 Tessie Agana

Texas:Ang Manok na Nagsasalita (Pilipino Komiks)Clodualdo del Mundo/ Mars Ravelo; 1952 Pancho Magalona

Cumbanchera (Tagalog Klasiks)Mars Ravelo; 1952 Tessie Agana

Basahang Ginto(Pilipino Komiks) Mars Ravelo;1952 Alicia Vergel

Gorio at Tekla (Tagalog Klasiks)Mars Ravelo; 1953 Chichay/Tolindoy/Fred Montilla

Hercules(Pilipino Komiks) Clodualdo del Mundo 1953 Cesar Ramirez

Diwani (Hiwaga Komiks)Redondo Brothers; 1953 Alicia Vergel/Cesar Ramirez

El Indio(Pilipino Komiks)Francisco V. Coching; 1953 Cesar Ramirez

Cofradia (Mabuhay Komiks)Dominador Ad Castillo;1953 Gloria Romero

Munting Koronel (Liwayway) Clodualdo del Mundo; 1953 Tessie Agana

Maldita (Hiwaga Komiks)Francisco V. Coching; 1953 Rita Gomez

Dyesebel (Pilipino Komiks)Mars Ravelo; 1953 Edna Luna

Inspirasiyon (Tagalog Klasiks) Mars Ravelo; 1953 Carmen Rosales

Kiko (Hiwaga Komiks)Mars Ravelo; 1953 Boy Alano

Tulisang Pugot (Tagalog Klasiks)Gemiliano Pineda; 1953 Fred Montilla

Reyna Bandida (Espesyal Komiks)Redondo Brothers; 1953 Rita Gomez/Cesar Ramirez Reyna Bandida by Virgilio and Nestor Redondo

Recuerdo (Tagalog Klasiks)Pablo S. Gomez; 1953 Fred Montilla/Gloria Romero

Vo-da-Vil (Hiwaga komiks)Redondo Brothers; 1953 Pancho Magalona/Tita Duran

Jack and Jill (Tagalog Klasiks)Mars Ravelo; 1954 Rogelio dela Rosa/Dolphy

Bondying(Pilipino Komiks) Mars Ravelo; 1954 Fred Montilla Pilipino Komiks with Bondying Cover by Elpidio Torres

Salabusab(Pilipino Komiks) Francisco V. Coching; 1954

Tres Musketeras(Bulaklak)Fernando Monleon; 1954 Cesar Ramirez

Si Kerubin at si Tulisang Pugot (Liwayway)Clodualdo del Mundo/ Gemiliano Pineda; 1954 Fred Montilla/Tessie Agana

Pilya (Liwayway) Susana de Guzman;1954 Ric Rodrigo/Gloria Romero

Ang Biyenang di Tumatawa (Liwayway)Mars Ravelo; 1954 Gloria Romero/Etang Discher

Luha ng Birhen (Espesyal Komiks) Rico Bello Omagap; 1954 Carmen Rosales

Kurdapya (Tagalog Klasiks)Pablo S. Gomez; 1954 Gloria Romero

MN (Pilipino Komiks)Pablo S. Gomez; 1954 Carmen Rosales

Ukala (Pilipino Komiks)Alfredo Alcala; 1954 Cesar Ramirez/Alicia Vergel

Luha ng Birhen (Espesyal Komiks) Rico Bello Omagap; 1954 Carmen Rosales

Tres Ojos (Pilipino Komiks)Tony Velasquez; 1954 Cesar Ramirez

Lola Sinderala (Tagalog Klasiks)Rico Bello Omagap; 1955 Pancho Magalona/Lolita Rodriguez

DI-13(Pilipino Komiks)Damy Velasquez; 1955 Jose Romulo DI-13 by Damy Velasquez and Jesse Santos

Hootsy Kootsy(Espesyal Komiks)Mars Ravelo; 1955 Gloria Romero/Luis Gonzales

Mambo Dyambo (Pilipino Komiks)Mars Ravelo; 1955 Fred Montilla

Bim, Bam, Bum (Tagalog Klasiks)Pablo S. Gomez; 1955 Gloria Romero/Ramon Revilla

Gigolo (Pilipino Komiks) Francisco V. Coching; (I’m not sure of the date and the actor of the movie)
Prince Charming (Pilipino Komiks)Teresita Arce Cruz;1955 Ric Rodrigo/Myrna Delgado

Gilda(Pilipino Komiks) Pablo S. Gomez; 1956 Lolita Rodriguez

Taga sa Bato(Espeyal Komiks) Francisco V. Coching; 1957 Van de Leon

Pusakal (Liwayway) Francisco V. Coching/Fedrico Javinal; 1957 Zaldy Zshornack (Special thanks to Mr. Dado Dela Cruz for this additional list)

Talipandas(Espeyal Komiks?) Francisco V. Coching; 1958 Rita Gomez

Condenado(Pilipino Komiks) Francisco V. Coching; 1958 Eddie Garcia

Pobresita(Hiwaga Komiks) Rico Bello Omagap; 1958 Lani Oteyza/Zaldy Zshornack

Baby Face(Extra Komiks) Rico Bello Omagap; 1958 Jose Mari/Amalia Fuentes

Kadenang Putik(Pilipino Komiks) Clodualdo del Mundo; 1960 Efren Reyes Sr.

Kalabog en Bosyo(Pilipino Komiks) Larry Alcala; Dolphy/Panchito

TO BE CONTINUED(I'll be posting more images soon)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Halakhak Komiks 1946-47

In 1946, the first regularly published Philippine komiks-magazine was born: the Halakhak Komiks.

Onomatopaeic for guffaw, the Halakhak was published out of the initial efforts of Isaac Tolentino and Atty. Jaime Lucas.
At the time of the Halakhak's birth, the Philippines was a devastated nation struggling to rise from the ashes of war. Most of the local publications were still closed because of the shortage of paper. Hence, many cartoonists were temporarily out of work. Understandably, reading cartoons at that critical time seemed a luxury, so that the few newspapers who managed to publish erratic issues carried only news and statements from the government.
One day, an unemployed cartoonist (of the former T-V-T) by the name of Isaac Tolentino was wandering through Azcarraga Avenue (now Claro M. Recto) in search of work. Tolentino chanced upon the newly-established Universal Bookstore owned by Atty. Jaime Lucas.
Atty. Lucas immediately recognized Tolentino because he was a follower of the latter’s satirical cartoons in the Philippines' Free Press. In the ensuing conversation, Tolentino casually suggested to Atty. Lucas the idea of publishing "funnies", a regular comic book, after all, would it not be timely now to make people laugh after the grim destruction brought about by the recent war?
At that time, no one had thought of publishing a regularly-issued comic book before. Since he was an admirer of Tolentino, Atty. Lucas agreed on the spot to publish comic-magazine which they agreed to call Halakhak.
In the next few days, Atty. Lucas gathered enough funds-mostly from his personal money and loans from banks-for the initial printing.
For his part, Tolentino gathered some of his pre-war cartoonist friends, which included the brothers Tony and Damy Velasquez, J.M. Perez, Elmer Abustan, Gene Cabrera, Francisco Coching, Liborio Gatbonton, Fred Carrillo, Francisco Reyes, Jose Zabala-Santos, Hugo Yonzon, Larry Alcala, Pedro Coniconde and Lib Abrena.
Since Tolentino and Atty. Lucas had no printing press, they commissioned Carmelo and Bauermann Company to print the 10,000 initial issues of Halakhak Komiks #1 in 1946. They established the Halakhak's office at #665 Evangelista, Quiapo Manila.

Issue #4 of the Halakhak Komiks. Cover art by Jose Zabala-Santos

Included in the Halakhak were the following comic strips:
Mga Hindi Sukat Akalain, Geslani- Isaac Tolentino
Eto na si Tibo- Gene Cabrera
Si Pino- Jose Zabala-Santos
Talahib- Francisco Reyes
Doon daw sa Langit- Liborio "Gat" Gatbonton
Bulalakaw- Francisco V. Coching
Kidlat- Jesse Santos and Damy Velasquez
Kasikoy- A. I Roullo
Binong Lambanog- Nolasco "Noly" Panaligan
Enyong Bohemyo- Cris Caguintuan
Teryong Alat- Hugo Yonzon (Father of Hugo Yonzon III of Mango Comics)
Indo- Maning de Leon

All in all, the Halakhak had 42 pages and initially priced at 25 centavos (then about the price of one 8oz Coca-Cola). The first issue was printed on a smaller than usual size, about the size of a half of long bond paper, this is because of the shortage of paper, as already mentioned. In its later issues, however, it was made into the regular sized komiks, and was priced at 40 centavos.
Initially,the company prospered but in its later issues, it began to have business troubles; it never recovered stability and the Halakhak lasted only ten issues; the company closed shop after that, financially ruined.
The ultimate reason why Halakhak failed? Uncollected debt.
Since there was no precedent as to how to run a komiks business, Atty. Lucas and Isaac Tolentino failed to understand its economics. Publishing comics for nationwide distribution required an effective distribution network, something Atty. Lucas and Tolentino did not have. They relied heavily on agents who advanced copies without payment. This eventually became the ultimate problem since many agents did not pay their obligations, even when the komiks had been sold out. Since there were only few advertisers in the Halakhak, these were not enough to cover the fees for artists, let alone pay for printing expenses. Atty. Lucas was forced to close the company.
Thus, the Halakhak, which meant laughter, and was highly successful in giving laughter to its readers, failed to give laughter to its publisher.

Issue#8 of the short-lived Halakhak Komiks. Two issues later, it closed publications.