Third Zone by Boboy Yonzon
Third Zone

The Days of Kites and Komiks

May 29, 2023, 12:10 AM
Boboy Yonzon

Boboy Yonzon


When you have whisked past the age of 60, some retirees say there is no better way to relish your remaining days but to look back. Are they serious? I jump to the music of Lady Gaga and chuckle while navigating with my iPad, so certainly I am not ready to gaze languidly at the sunset as yet.

Many of my silver-haired buddies complain that kids get too absorbed in the virtual world, befriending humans with pseudonyms and pasted faces, only to be themselves seduced by Facebook and role-playing games.

In our games, piko and tumbang preso, we played our selves. Our opponents and wounds were real. We hoarded jolens (marbles) and teks (playing cards) in shoeboxes and not imaginary Farmville crops in overworked hard disks.

The kids of today enjoy a myriad of entertainment fares. There are now, for instance, graphic novels or new generation comics. Must haves, the kids declare. I didn’t use to buy comics. Every time my Mom came home with her bayong from the talipapa (wet market) in Paco, she would bring comics, hot from the press, along with kakanin as pasalubong.

I would get lost in the pages of fantasies and dramas, first marveling at the drawings by the masters Francisco Coching, Alfredo Alcala, and Nestor Redondo; and then finding that comics were teaching me how to read and spell - correctly at that - so unlike today’s mobile phones that have spawned a generation of despicable jejemons.

When I was a kid in the 50s, there were four pillars of comics or komiks that no Samson or Bernardo Carpio could topple: Pilipino Komiks, Hiwaga, Tagalog Klasiks, and Espesyal. These komiks would produce classics that are still being rehashed up to today on prime-time television, affirming the calibre of storytelling we had before.

There was a period when I would hoist my collection of comics to the other side of the railroad tracks in San Andres, set up my flimsy d.i.y. rack where I hung my collection and, in front of a busy health center, rented them. At age seven, I was learning how to share the joys of comics albeit handsomely. Of course, I got my ears pinched by my Mom for straying away precariously far from home.

At home, I was awed by this virtuoso of this artist who worked as an art director by day and as a painter at night. He was one of the pioneers of comics after World War II - my dad, Hugo. I could be like him, I thought, unaware then that good drawing not only extracts blood but tears from its practitioners.

One time during a summer vacation in my moms’ hometown in Agusan, I came across my cousin’s amazing collection of American comics. I particularly liked several issues of super heroes that I, obviously, couldn’t take home but wanted copies of. There was no xerography during that time. So I resorted to the best technology available -while my cousins were flying giant gurions (kites), I got busy hand drawing/copying without tracing each page of the illustrations.

Comics or sequential art is definitely a visual medium. Notwithstanding novelists like Mars Ravelo or Pablo Gomez, comics can only spring alive with drawings. And terrific cartoonists and comics artists we had a surfeit of. In the 70s, talent scouts from the USA were astounded to find a goldmine in the Philippines. For a time, some 200 Filipinos worked for DC, Marvel and other brands in America.

In the 60s to the 80s, dozens upon dozens of comic titles proliferated in our own shores; each issue reached 200,000 or so copies surpassing the circulation of most Philippine newspapers of today. The bonanza did not last long. Directions of the wind were changing.

Academics point to the cutthroat competition and the decline of quality of works for the demise of comics in the Philippines. Also, television was taking over as the entertainment vehicle of choice. Then Betamax was invented. Movies, threatened by the presence of tapes, instead of cowering, took the notch further.

Came too the game consoles – from Game Boy to Play Stations. Then the Internet and the mobile phones, now offering seamless connectivity and limitless entertainment. Old fogies like me were overwhelmed but beguiled.

Comics became an endangered specie and yet paradoxically offered itself as progenitor of materials for cinema blockbusters. Thus came in succession Superman, Batman, Fantastic Four, Hellboy Ironman, and a host of others. In the Philippines, we had Darna flying on television even with its ham villains and crude animation graphics. We also recycled dramas.

Like minor miracles, comics are resurrecting in different forms or vehicles. We encounter comics in printed-on-paper graphic novels (actually an extended wakasan). We can now flip them in iPads, follow a series on the Internet, or read them on cell phones. Whew! If only we could be like comics enjoying full revivals in life, not only in brief Viagra episodes.

There are no longer any comics on the sidewalks or talipapa but bookstores have opened comics sections. Comics conventions are being held more frequently where avid young creators hawk their photocopied “indie” art. Now we have a bigger international comics and animation festival each year.

Today, my 84-year-old Mom watches sumo wrestling, tennis matches and basketball on television, upsetting the neighborhood’s peace with her loud cheering and shrieking. Here’s a feisty widow enjoying life.

Perhaps I should remind her that she and my Dad long ago introduced me to an art form that poured torrents of words, pictures and new vistas. It was like dancing in the rain. Thank you guys for being indulgers!

And oh, I should brandish my senior citizen’s card when buying my stash of comics at Fully Booked the next time around.

PS. This was an article I wrote more than a dozen years ago.

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