Sunday, August 19, 2007

Mars Ravelo: The Original Komiks King

I have been following with keen interest the news about the so-called campaign to revive the komiks industry in the Philippines led by Carlo J. Caparas, whom the media named as the Komiks King.

I didn't know that Carlo J. Caparas is now regarded as the King of Komiks. This makes me look back on the Golden years of Tagalog komiks, when Mars Ravelo was hailed as the Komiks King.

Now, I don't have anything against Carlo J. He is one of our great komiks writers, maybe even second only to Mars Ravelo (and only if you neglect the great writings of Clodualdo del Mundo, Jim Fernandez and Pablo S. Gomez) . Caparas' output is still so far behind that of Ravelo. His stories barely influenced the industry as had Mars'.

Yet, now, Carlo J. is at the forefront of the campaign that may revive the komiks industry. His efforts are commendable for spearheading this important movement. He lent his prestige and personal money in this, and it is very important. Well, if he succeeds in this, he may well deserve the title, and will not be regarded as just a "pretender to the throne".

Because way back in the heyday of the komiks in the Philippines in the 1950s and 1960s, Mars Ravelo was the original undisputed Komiks King.

During that time the komiks greats had their own monickers, not unlike movie stars today who get the title of Superstar (Nora Aunor} "Megastar"(Sharon Cuneta}, "Diamond Star"(Maricel Soriano), "Star for All Seaons" (Vilma Santos).

In komiks the title holders were:

Tony Velasquez: "Father of Tagalog Komiks"; Francisco V. Coching "Dean of Filipino Illustrators", and Larry Alcala was the "Dean of Filipino Cartoonists".

The King of Komiks title was usually applied to only one man: Mars Ravelo

Mars Ravelo, the original Komiks King

People today barely have any knowledge about Ravelo. He died in 1988 and most of his works can no longer be read due to the rarity of old komiks materials.

The closest thing that the people had been able to relate to his works was watch GMA 7's fantaseryes like Captain barbell and Darna, which are way too different from Mars Ravelo's original versions. Many of the scenes in both series were so ridiculous, it alarmed me that people create an impression that Ravelo was a nonsense writer contented with creating superficial heroic characters who fought absurd and ridiculous nemesis.

In truth, Mars Ravelo was a great writer, arguably the most talented popular writer the Philippines ever had. Some may argue with me, especially those "scholarly" writers who thought komiks was just crap. Indeed Ravelo himself experienced it, in a symposium designed to teach komiks writers the art of komiks writing . Ravelo recounts:

"There was a meeting [in 1979], at the Philippine International Convention Center. The meeting was composed of "legitimate" writers and komiks writers. I had been invited by [fellow komiks writer] Ramon Marcelino. Before the meeting opened, we were formally briefed by Marcelino who told us not to question any of the speakers, who were all "legitimate writers". And these writers started to lambast us the komiks writers. I remember one of the speakers very well because he was the one who got my goat, a certain Bienvenido Lumbrera. When I couldn't take what he was saying anymore, I raised up my hand to ask him questions. And my questions brought home the fact that his knowledge of komiks writing was at best superficial. Marcelino's face was red. And so was Lumbrera's. I ended up by telling the audience that we, the komiks writers, know the komiks best. And that we do not need the advice of people who do not know anything about it, to tell us how to do our work. I got a long applause from the komiks writers present"
(source: Matienzo, Ross ed. "The Philippine Comics Review" 1980, Manila Philippines)

In all his career as komiks writer, Ravelo broke grounds and established new ones. He was a master storyteller. His writings were lucid, straight and without any verbosity.

He understood that the primary consideration in komiks writing is to captivate the attention of the reader at once. His more than 500 successful komiks creations are proof that he mastered it. No doubt, Ravelo is the greatest writer the komiks industry had produced.

Our grandparents knew Ravelo's masterpieces: Maruja, Mambo Dyambo, Bondying, Dyesebel, Jack en Jill, Rebecca, Pomposa, Roberta, Goomboo Roomboo, and hundreds more. I was younger but am fortunate to read them in my musty old bound Tagalog komiks sets.

When you read Mars Ravelo comedy, you end up with stomach and jaw aching due to so much laughter. His tearjerkers can make you melancholy for days. His adventures can make you leave momentarily the boring plane of existence you are currently in.

Truth is, when you read Mars Ravelo, you forget everything and become a spectator to a unique world he had created, be it the world seen from an abused child (Roberta), or the brokenhearted (Maruja). That's why I prefer reading his komiks than reading Harry Potter.

Only when one takes a survey of most of the komiks writing of the last fifty years, one can truly appreciate how Mars Ravelo became the original King of Komiks


TheCoolCanadian said...

No doubt in my mind that Mars Ravelo is still the UNDISPUTED KOMIKS KING IN PHILIPPINE KOMIKS.

He was an extremely versatile writer, and wrote wonderful stories that broke new grounds, such as MARUJA, tackling the subject of reincarnation (never explored before in the Philippines); TUBOG SA GINTO, delving into the serious subject of homosexuality; I BELIEVE, the melding of faith and fraudulence; ALIPIN NG BUSABOS, the intricacies of love coming from all the wrong places; SUICIDE SUSIE, a no holds-barred statement on the brutality of the Japanese Imperial Army in the Philippines during the Second World War; and too many more to enumerate.

Ravelo excelled in all the genres he tackled. He was indeed a RARA-AVIS, the true KOMIKS KING.

Dennis Villegas said...

Hi Taurus: I agree with you totally. I love Mars Ravelo, and I hope this media people writing that Carlo J is the Komiks King should begin to read komiks first before writing nonsense. Yet Carlo is still King...King of Massacre movies!

Anonymous said...

Yes Mars Ravelo come in first before before Carlo J. Its in the early 70s that komiks was so popular.I can still remember popular title series like "Taklobo","Palos","Arkong Bato".A lot of this classic series has been made into action film by action king Jun Aristorenas (cowboy/western Philippine style)

danny d...vancouver

Pers said...

I just hate it when self-proclaimed "legitimate writers" from the Philippine literary fold put on their high-and-mighty robes to lambast and blame komiks writers for making the masses "bobo" and "out of touch with reality" as they would often put it. I admire and respect our literary greats but I can't stomach their vainglorious proclamation of superiority in the writing craft. Judging komiks writers based on their own literary standards and theories is like judging religion in scientific terms or comparing apples with oranges.

But then again, maybe I'm just biased, having grown up reading works by Vic J. Poblete, Jim M. Fernandez, Pablo S. Gomez, Mars Ravelo, etc. all of which I appreciated and admired.

I know it was the twilight of Komiks in the Philippines already but I'm eternally grateful to have had grown up seeing firsthand the works of these cultural greats. I'm in my 30's now but I still remember all the names and memorable stories that made up my world of komiks back then. It's just sad I wasn't able to take care of our roomful of komiks collecton. We used to have floor-to-ceiling heaps of holiday, pinoy komiks, pinoy klasiks, pioneer, kilabot, ghost, hiwaga, nightmare, shocker,darna, thriller, funny komiks, etc. but they were all given away, destroyed or given to the "magbobote" because we just don't have room for them and my father, who once was an aspiring komiks illustrator himself, bought new copies almost every day.

Ah, the good old komiks days. I just miss them sorely :(