Alfredo & Yeh
Continuing our trip through the vaults, we found this picture of the late Alfredo Alcala, Phil Yeh and The Beat at a 1994 signing for our book SECRET TEACHINGS OF A COMIC BOOK MASTER. During the research of the book I spent many hours interviewing Alfredo and learning about the history of Filipino comics. The Phillippines have a rich, individual history of comics and cartooning that goes back 120 years, making it one of the more quirky outposts of comics tradition.

Coching13Just this week, Benjamon Ong Pang Kean had a two part history of Filipino comics at Newsarama, an examination of the past and the current scene. At various points, komiks, as they are known, have been hugely popular in the Phillippines, with the most popular being adapted into movies, plays and soap operas.

The biggest contribution of Filipino cartoonists to American comics history was undoubtedly in the 70s, when many of the top Filipino artists were recruited to work on the then burgeoning horror comics scene, but tons of superhero work as well. The top artists were Alcala, Nestor Redondo and Alex Niño, but the list included, Tony DeZuniga, Rudy Florese, Ernie Chan, ER Cruz, Gerry Talaoc, Rico Rival, Jesse Santos, Teny Henson, Romeo Tanghal and many others. The artistic wellspring for their tradition was the American pen and ink school of illustration, best exemplified by Charles Dana Gibson, originator of the “Gibson Girl.” No wonder that so many of the artists become inkers, then, most sporting an intricate, sometimes overwhelming style. (I know Alfredo had no qualms about redrawing whatever he thought was bad draughtsmanship.)

Redondo3Nowadays, artists like Whilce Portacio, Leinil Francis Yu, Jay Anacleto, Gerry Alanguilan, Rod Espinosa, Philip Tan, Francis Manapul and J. Torres are staying in the forefront of the US mainstream, with a wide variety of styles. Kean’s articles include interviews with these artists and more about the past and current state of Filipino comics. Some of them admit they aren’t completely well versed in history, but others have longer comments on the current struggles of the marketplace, as gaining acceptance for fresh material is as hard as in any other market. A lot is still going on, however.

Garry Alanguilan (a regular poster here) also supplies a report on Komikon 2006, the second annual national komiks convention.

Although much of the new material comics from independent self publishers, the most significant step in bringing comics back into the mainstream was the publication of Filipino Komiks #1 by Risingstar Printing Enterprise. Risingstar is the publisher of many nationally distributed music magazines, romance and horror pocketbooks, and puzzle booklets. Bringing together the talents of writers and artists from the old komiks industry and the new industry, creatives from komiks like Karl Comendador, Nestor Malgapo, Ofelia Concepcion, Nar Castro, Fermin Salvador work side by side with younger creators like Gilbert Monsanto, Rodel Noora and Ner Pedrina. The style of the stories and art are decidedly reminiscent of the old komiks, which is cool, but I think they need to be infused with newer blood and newer sensibilities of approaching comics storytelling, without losing any of the Filipino feel so evident on every page. I thank Risingstar for taking this risk, and it’s obvious Editorial Director KC Cordero loves comics to the bone.

Alanguilan also runs Komikero, an online comics museum, an outstanding source for information on the history of komiks. You can spend a long time looking at the art — there’s a kind of adventuresome elegance to the prevalent style that you hardly ever see in comics any more. I have to admit, I’m a big fan of the romantic Alex Raymond/Caniff/Pratt school of comics, and the komiks seem to have excelled at this tradition.
Alanguilan’s own current book is ELMER, which is about the adventures of some chickens who gain human intelligence. Needless to say, if I ever come across a copy, I’ll definitely check it out. The history of Filipino comics may be peripheral to the American trends, but it’s also ax example of the universal appeal of comics, and how a unique culture adapts them to its own concerns and sociology.

[Top art by Francisco Coching, who’s kind of the Jack Kirby of the Phillippines. Below that, a page by Nestor Redondo.]


  1. I remember at an early SDCon, Jack Kirby being asked his opinion of various artists work and the one he seemed to like the most was Coching. “It moves,” he said. It certainly does.

  2. what a cool story. was he asked about filipino artists particularly, or just in general? i didn’t even know coching’s work was published or reached the US.

    heidi, any chance that book you did will go back to print? i’ve been looking for that and satan’s tears forever. i would’ve called coching the eisner of the philippines, myself. :)

  3. Had the pleasure of bumping into a few of the Old School Filipino comic artists at this year’s SDCC. Alex Nino, Tony DeZuniga, Ernie Chan, & Del Barras were complete gentlemen and it was a pleasure talking to them and looking over some of their works.

  4. I just re-encountered my copy of that book as part of the nigh-endless reshuffling of bookcases that commands a lot of my life nowadays. Most cool.

    If you, me, and my copy are ever in the same place at the same time, be ready to be hit up for an autorgaph!

  5. I’ve had the pleasure of reading this, and also a few books by Alfredo Alcala. Brilliant work. A year ago at a local convention (Oakland’s “SuperCon”) quite a few of the Old School Filipino artists got together. They took pictures and had some tables in artist’s alley. Sadly…. way in the back, where people just passed by. Criminal. Simply criminal.

    I’m glad Heidi is keeping this in the limelight.

  6. Hello Heidi!

    I sent a couple of copies of Elmer #1 to Publisher’s weekly, but I’m not sure if it got there…. I’d love to send you a copies of both #1 and #2… just let me know where to send it.

    Thanks very much for this article! Me and the rest of us active in Philippine comics today appreciate it very much.

  7. I had the pleasure of talking with Alfredo Alcala at the 1998 SD Con, and it was great talking to him that I spent more than half a day just with him! He even showed me a collected edition of Conan published in Spain (I think), he was credited as sole artist even though John Buscema pencilled it. I guess that;s why John Buscema didn’t really like it when Alcala inked over him.

    I echo Gerry’s sentiments of thanks for writing this article! I’m glad that people have begun to take notice of komiks again.

  8. I’m sorry that some of this refers to the Newsarama articles, but since that story was linked to on The Beat, I think it’s fair game!

    2 points-

    As a Filipino cartoonist, I’m glad that there’s been such interest in my country’s artistic output. Just wish that at least one female was profiled i=here and in the Newsarama article- granted, there aren’t many popular Filipino women artists, but if you’re gonna go with a Seven Seas guy like Hai, what about Shiei, who also works with Seven Seas? What about Andrea Peterson, the American-Filipino creator of the webcomic ‘No Rest for the Wicked’?

    Second, I noticed that several of the artists profiled seemed to be uneasy with manga – okay, Whilce Portacio and Joel Chua- being considered a ‘Philippine art” and would rather that Filipino comics harken back to the golden days of ‘komiks’ and Alcala, Darna, etc. Or guys in tights. Or guys in furry loincloths. What is up with that?

    Filpinos should be embracing any and all influences that can enliven the artform. Besides, very few Filipinos of my generation know what the hell we are anyway- we’re still trying to figure out what our culture is, let alone what our comics style is….don’t stress about it! Just draw what you like!

    The fact that we’re Filipino should be immaterial. The onyl way to make truly good work should be to put the art first, the Filipino-ness second.

    That said, I weep for the day I found a rare out-of-print book collecting Alfredo Alcala’s art, selling for 200 pesos ($4) at an antique shop at MegaMall, and putting it down “for later.” Of course I never saw it again.

  9. Hello Tintin! You bring up a lot of issues that a lot of us here in the Philippines are currently struggling with. As someone who had been very outspoken about these issues and have naturally been on the receiving end of a lot of hostility, I nevertheless believe these are things worth talking about. It’s much too long and involved to talk about here, so I would just like to invite you to link on my website link on my name. Right now it points to an article I wrote called ‘The Filipino Comics Artist and Manga”.

  10. As a Filipino and a reader I am a bit concerned about the above statements of Tintin and Mr. Alanguilan. Specifically in their comment that there is no such thing as being “FIlipino” which is secondary to their primary goal of being “universal artists”. Comics is not just about ART, you two. Comics is a unique union of Writing and Art. It is a unique Language. Art is just an ASPECT of this unique language. What you think, what you write, DETERMINES what you draw in a COMIC. And just what is it that Mr. Alanguilan thinks when he makes and draws his kind of comics? Clearly, it is American or Westernized. From language, to culture, lifestyle of his characters, subject matter, plot, their environment, etc., Mr. Alanguilan and company’s kind of WESTERNIZED” Mainstream Filipino comics reflect a different culture, his kind of comics reflects the values and aspirations of an AMERICAN culture. His comics art may be “UNIVERSAL” but his writing is clearly FOREIGN. Not just Alanguilan, but Maniquis, Carlo Vergara, Tintin, and everybody else on the internet. It is so unfair that only these kind of Americanized Filipino comics creators get to comment on these matters on the Internet. Their kind represent only a negligble minority of the local comics scene.

    Dra. Soledad S. Reyes, a Filipino historian and social scientist specializing in the Filipino comics culture had this to say in 1984:

    “Like Proteus, the komiks will continue to transform itself; but as long as it continues to relfect the collective reality of the Philippines, it will survive…and prosper.”

    Mr. Alanguilan has been braging in his site that he and his “Americanized” kind are the new “industry” that is rising above the demise of the old, traditional and largely Roces-owned komiks industry of yesteryear. They call themselves “indies”.

    But has their kind of cottage industry really prospered? Has it been reflecting the collective reality of the Philippines? Is it even surviving? They’ve been at it since the 1990s and until now, the 21st century, their expensive “grahic novels” are still ignored by the mainstream majority.

    Mr. Alaguilan and his friends may continue to put a blind eye on these things but the fact of the matter is, their kind of comics is a marginalized cult in the Philippines supported by a small, insignificant westernized” elite audience. In a country where there are more poor people and there is a widening gap between a rich “westernized” minority and the poor, Mr. Alanguilan and co.’s Americanized comics are definitely the minority.

  11. Hello, pilipino komiks mess. Still ranting, I see. And still going by many names on the internet. This is a new alias for you, huh?

    If anyone’s interested in reading more of this person’s thoughts, go here:

    He (or she) has a lot of valid points, but I don’t see why he (or she) always feels the need to attack the present crop of Filipino creators.

  12. I just found out about this Filipino comic subject! Since I was the publisher of Secret Teachings of A Comic Book Master – The Art of Alfredo Alcala, let me just add that it is wonderful to see that Alfredo is still being remembered and that young artists are discovering some of the true talents of the past generations. Art education is the United States is in terrible shape and after 22 years traveling all over the world as part of our Cartoonists Across America & The World tour, I have come to believe that the current generation just needs more exposure to a wider variety of art and music for that matter. Alfredo was my best friend for the years he lived in the United States and he loved MUSIC. He could go on all day and night (he seldom slept) about the connection between the two.

    I included Alfredo’s work in many of my comics over the years including my Winged Tiger series with more than 200 featured guests from George Lucas to Lat in Malaysia. Sadly, since we begin this Cartoonists Across America tour in 1985, we have had very little coverage from the American comic book press. In 2005, I took the mantle of the Godfather of the Modern American Graphic Novel (Eisner has been called the Father and his book appeared in 1978, a year after mine) and slowly, we see that the comic book world is starting to pay attention to the hard work that myself and many other writers and artists did back in Long Beach California from 1970 to 1987. Alfredo was very much a part of those years and often slept in my gallery and Moebius became a good friend as well after 1982 when he came to Los Angeles to work on Tron. I am writing and drawing a 30th anniversary graphic novel called CAZCO: What a Long Strange Trip Its Been to document the years 1972-2007 — the first 32 full color preview will be ready for the San Diego Comic Con — NBM which did a reprint of a French graphic novel that same year is also publishing a new full color hardcover version of my best selling Dinosaurs Across America book. It will be in San Diego as well.

    Please stop by the Cartoonists Across America booth – I am always happy to talk about Alfredo and the many artists worldwide that I have known.

    It was great seeing Heidi in New York this past month for the BookExpoAmerica convention! I am glad to see this blog!

  13. Mr. Maniquis, I think its wise before you go off again making your baseless assumptions like many close-minded and “creative”comics artists, that you first gather hard convincing proof. Do you really think its just ONE person in the internet who share the same views as that in the blog you mention? You give too much undeserved credit (and advertisement) to that blog.

    MANY people, for your information, are of the opinion that the current crop of YOUNG Filipino comics artists LIKE YOU are actually unoriginal and too influenced by the comics cultures of the U.S. and Japan.

  14. I’m proud of those who brag the Filipino art and definitely name itself. I’m a seminarian and I’m eager to have access of your updated komiks.

  15. hmmmm…as what i see in all the post,this article is posted way 3 yrs. ago(???)i like any kind of drawing even if there is someting i appreciate more…and i agree to tintin that there are no female artis in ph…which is a little sad for me because i cant find someone like meeee!!! q.p sob….
    ive been searching for female artist but if there where none back in 2006….how much more now in 2010??!?!and there are big,huge,mega-extra probability that no one would read this post……hy…..