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.


Gerry Alanguilan said...

I think artistic high point talaga ang CRAF sa history ng Philippine comics. Tatlo lang ang CRAF komiks ko from their early days at grabe talaga ang art dito. The artwork produced on these pages are truly some of the best, and I can say this with confidence, in all the world.

Dennis said...

Yes indeed, Gerry. This is the greatest reason why I collect only old Tagalog Komiks. Grabe ang talent ng Filipino sa komiks! Sa ngayon, ikaw ang isa sa nakikini-kinita ko na makakasunod sa tradisyong ito ng ating mga maestro. Partikular yung art mo sa Graphics ay nakakamangha.

Reno said...

Mahirap talaga pagsabayin ang business and art. Kailangan sa isang bagay ka lang magconcentrate, kundi mangyaayari ang tulad sa nangyari sa CRAF. Kahit maganda ang mga gawa nila, di nila natuonan masyado ng pansin yung business side, kaya nawalan ng pondo.

Hindi ba't naging successful ang McFarlane at Wildstorm ay dahil nag-concentrate sina Todd at Jim Lee sa pagpapatakbo ng negosyo? Tumigil sila sa pagdidibuho kaya't natutukan nila ang business side ng mga kumpanya nila.

erwin said...

Ipagbili ko na lang sayo yung mga Craf ko Gerry (joke!). Marami rin akong nabili kay Mang Vir nyan, more or less 50 assorted copies.

Yung first prize ni Alcala na kay Mr.Orvy Jundis yung original nyan. He told it to Christian during the komikon when I asked the latter if he has the original of that prized collectors item.

Salamat sayo Dennis at sana ma-compile lahat 'tong nasa blog mo sa isang libro.

erwin said...

Ipagbili ko na lang sayo yung mga Craf ko Gerry (joke!). Marami rin akong nabili kay Mang Vir nyan, more or less 50 assorted copies.

Yung first prize ni Alcala na kay Mr.Orvy Jundis yung original nyan. He told it to Christian during the komikon when I asked the latter if he has the original of that prized collectors item.

Salamat sayo Dennis at sana ma-compile lahat 'tong nasa blog mo sa isang libro.

Dennis said...

Reno: It would have been really better had CRAF only hired management professionals to do their publishing business. Isa pa mako-kontrol yung emerging rivalry nila sa isat-isa.
Naalala ko din tuloy si Steve Jobs na isa sa mga inventors ng Mac. Pinatalsik siya sa kumpanya niya noong 1985 kahit siya mismo ang nagtatag nito, kasi gumulo ang Apple nung pamahalaan niya. pero no doubt that he' a great scientist..although Apple's board didn't like his management ideas. :)
Erwin: Sige pabili rin ng mga komiks mo, hehe. Marami din akong nabili kay Mang Vir, pati yung Reynaldo, Nick Roldan, Dong, at maraming Palos at Gagamba serials.
Sige pag may pagkakataon iko-kompile ko lahat itong naisulat ko sa isang aklat. Tutal nandyan naman si Pareng Gerry Alanguilan para sa editing :)

Gerry Alanguilan said...

Erwin, bilhin ko yung may mga VOLTAR! :)

Dennis, maaasahan mo ako ang tulong ko sa pag edit ng aklat mo! :)

Randy P. Valiente said...

aba! may bilihan na pala dito, wehehehe...erwin pabili na rin...

erwin said...

Gerry, mga sampung Voltar lang yata yung nasa akin. Ayaw din pakawalan ni Mang Vir dati yun mga may Voltar. Mga duplicate copies nya lang yung na-dispose sa 'kin. :-)

Gerry Alanguilan said...

Erwin, I'll understand if you still wish to hold on to those Voltar comics (they are stunning after all), pero ok lang kaya mahiram at least? Para lang mascan ko at mailagay sa site. Yang isa sa mga likha dito sa Pilipinas na talagang kakaiba. :) Pero kung bebenta mo OK lang. he.he.

Dennis said...

Randy: hehe maganda ngang magkabentahan dito para may porsyento ako :)
Erwin: Mas marami ka pa palang Voltar kaysa sa akin, ako mga tatlong issues lang e.
Gerry: Tama ka Gerry isa ang Voltar sa mga masterpieces ng Pilipinong komiks!

Erwin said...

Sure Gerry, email kita pag nasa akin na yung copy. You know naman that all my copies were in Valenzuela. I'm renting an apartment here in Pasig, the village behind Nil's place :-)

Pero yung complete photocopy I'm sure meron kayo ni Dennis? Yun meron ako, courtesy also of Mang Vir.

marvz said...

Dennis, ask ko lng if you some illustrations of Mr. Hal Santiago?
If you have, kindly post.