Komiks died? Don't you believe it! As the once great old industry and komiks slowly started to disappear, somewhere in the pit of our culture and our very humanity groaned a phantom pain that frantically willed new komiks into existence.
- Gerry Alanguilan mixing metaphors in the foreword to Sulyap
These stories and how they are told and drawn shows just how diverse and open minded we are not only to ideas but on how we look at the world. We take it and make it our own.
- Gilbert Monsanto in a back cover blurb
Ever since the collapse of all major publishing ventures, there has been a note of defiance, even desperation, coming from the komiks industry - A need to state in no uncertain terms that they are alive and well, thank you very much. But it's a tough message to get across when overall readership is down from historical record numbers. The reality on the ground is that komiks is now a niche industry. One that reaches a primarily local audience. And one that functions in the shadow of American and Japanese imports. There's nothing inherently wrong with that per se. But it's a scene were the options beyond self-publishing are mostly limited to several boutique publishers, like Mango or Visprint.
In many ways, Sulyap is a palliative to this situation. It's interesting to compare it to Underpass (reviewed here). The 2009 horror anthology was released by a leading magazine publisher, going a conservative route by selecting recognized industry veterans to work on a historically successful popular genre. The overall results were, from my own perspective, dull and formulaic. In contrast, Sulyap could be described as Komikon's showcase for talent deserving greater recognition. As far as I know, none of the featured creators were in danger of getting a major book deal at the time. And there's a conscious attempt to be inclusive about genre and mode. The intentions to exhibit the medium's breadth are admirable, even if the end results prove to be uneven.
Sulyap marks a generational shift in the industry. While the creators of Underpass were more polished and traditionally illustrative, Sulyap's creators draw from a greater variety of stylistic influences. Given the circumstances surrounding the creation of each individual work, all of their art evinces a personal choice. As I've pointed out, not all demonstrate equal mastery of their respective lexicons. But there is at least the potential for further growth.
Above all else, Sulyap is a celebration of a particular indie vibe - an unwillingness to let the lack of conventional publishing avenues* get in the way of creativity. This tends to get conflated with a certain degree of patriotic boosterism that brooks no criticism. "It's an industry built on sheer unapologetic passion for a historically unappreciated form of art, a passion shared by Filipino komiks creators across the decades beginning with Doctor Jose Rizal. Komiks has indelibly grafted itself into the very fabric of our culture and our identity as Filipinos that I truly believe that we cannot exist too long without komiks being created in some way" claims Gerry Alanguilan in the book's foreword. Yikes! How does one critique such an idealistic effort, especially after conjuring the image of a national hero, without sounding churlish? But of course, it really shouldn't stop anyone.
If nothing else, Sulyap shows an industry in transition as its younger creators continue to expand the medium's artistic range.
* which apparently includes publishing webcomics as well