Open Letter to A Certain Screenwriter from a Local TV Station
I’d like to tell you a story. In the spirit of local telenovela flavor, let’s start with a lengthy “childhood” flashback that predicts 90% of the storyline. We’ll call this context.
Back in 2008, while mulling over which college I wanted to attend, I decided I’d do something I haven’t done before: attend a comic book convention. I wanted to go to this magical place where comic book fans could just hang out and be with other fans before I took the jump into semi-adulthood.
On October 2008, I met up for the first time with some longtime online friends – one of them, the co-writer and editor of the comic book for which we won the Indie Grassroots Comic Award for the following year.
See, I’m a comic artist. I’m a struggling local comic artist, and I have some pretty strong words to say to A Certain Screenwriter From A Local TV Station.
I get it. Original ideas are hard to come by. The comic book we wrote was part college project (for Rika Sioson, my dearest friend and co-writer) and part dare (for me). It was about a sullen young adult (I know) who is the designated Chosen One (yep, I know) and deciding factor to a generations-long war (yep) plaguing a fantasy land (if it sounds like YA urban fantasy bingo, that’s because it kind of is).
We had already finished the comic weeks before Komikon, and when I brought up that I planned to attend the convention, we thought: “Why not take up a table at Indie Alley? What’s the worst that could happen?”
We didn’t really know there was going to be a contest for the participating artists and titles. We didn’t expect to make it to the final round of voting. When we looked at the titles we were up against and saw that the highly esteemed and ground-breaking local series Trese (by Kajo Baldisimo and Budgette Tan) was in the running, we were just happy for the honor of being on the same list as them.
And then we won.
On October 2009, our little urban fantasy comic had won a small but precious thing.
Flash forward to present day: A Certain Screenwriter From A Local TV Station, in light of being criticized of the utter unoriginality (bordering on sheer and blatant plagiarism) of a project, went and posted this at the start of this month:
Dear Jerald Uy,
My post’s heading is clear – unless you’re blind, son?
POPULAR LITERATURE TOPICS (comics and soap opera) so what’s clear about this (sic)? That comics and soap (sic) belong to Literature (which is extensive) but — under POPULAR literature (This is better because back in the 70’s up to the 90s and even to this day, the snob (sic) and elite call these PULP or CHEAP!)
What does this mean?
That comics and soap (sic) belong to one box (popular literature) as a branch of literature. This isn’t (sic) “high art” (fine, it doesn’t belong to the category of Shakespearean writings and the other god (sic) and goddess (sic) in literature (that I’m suggesting you read, okay?) (sic for punctuation)
Comics are part of literature?
Yes. As part of POPULAR LIT.
Coined word or term as a gentle recognition for us working in popular culture..at least it’s ok, right? Because before we were called, along with Filipino comic writers (like Ravelo, Caparas, Gilda Olvidado— not the bourgoisie and expensive imported comics that people buy and worship like the creations of Stan Lee), as cheap and pulp and never acknowledged as part of literature except now (sic) so good, right?).
Is this clear my boy?
Or do you want me to give you a lecture about the state and struggle of Filipino comics (and soap opera) writers in the Philippines?
For another day..
PS. I’m avoiding swearing for you..
Many are saying Hey, wait, COMICS are considered part of Literature. People have won Pulitzers for it.
Yes. True. In America. In other countries.
Those comics are elitist (expensive). The masses can’t afford them.
(They’re) In English too. Hence, you can’t really call them pulp. Only the well-off can buy them. I mentioned other comics, loves 🙂
The struggle of Filipino comics writers is different (not the Filipino comics writers who work for Marvel or DC Okay and I don’t know anything about their world)..which is why I cited the names of Caparas, Ravelo, Gildo Olvidado etc. Do you know them? (Carlo Caparas yes, maybe Ravelo).
Here in the Philippines, comics are much maligned from the beginning until it died. It is called pulp, “common”, cheap (like soap opera). When it disappeared in the 90’s (when you were kids) and that’s only when it became known as part of Literature (sic) which is why we have what we call POPULAR LIT (sic).
First off: you don’t know the first thing about what you’re talking about.
Second: for the love of all things creative, sit the heck down.
Comics aren’t “elitista”. I can personally tell you that. Comics aren’t reserved for a certain class of person, or a particular economic bracket. Anyone can get into it, and anyone can make it. More importantly, shame on you too for assigning class distinctions to the universal value of literary and visual entertainment. Were the creators of Zsazsa Zaturnnah, Trese, and good ol’ Darna being elitist when they first published their stories?
Zsazsa Zaturnnah – winner of the National Book Award in 2003 – was a fresh, creative, and respectful new spin to the Dakilang Bakla trope that has been endlessly pillaged ad nauseam in many local TV shows (including projects of yours, Certain Screenwriter From A Local TV Station). It was lauded by near-everyone, nearly everywhere, for the irreverently funny story it told despite (and because of) the protagonist’s orientation; any introductory must-read list for Filipino comics wouldn’t be complete without this title on it. It was even doing zombie apocalypse-style comedy before it became fashionable with the popular collective.
Trese – awarded the National Book Award for Graphic Literature in 2009 and 2011 by the National Book Development Board, and is required reading for public schools as of 2015 – brought the lore and mythology of Filipino beasts and monsters to the forefront of the general reading public. Go to any National Bookstore branch, you’ll find at least one volume there if they haven’t sold out (and they do, by the gods do they sell like hotcakes). Trese made childhood bedtime horror stories cool, transporting the tikbalangs and kapres out of the province and into the city. If you want a more informed opinion, you could even ask local actor Bianca King, who has been a very vocal fan of the series for years.
And Darna – did you think the phrase “Ding, ang bato!” would come to be if there hadn’t been a comic book basis for the Vilma Santos movie? We were doing comic book movies arguably ahead of the curve. Darna is one of most relatable heroes of the “masa”; she wasn’t the “anak mayaman” heroine that populates the general landscape of local television, and she never will be. On top of discounting the value of comic artists and comics in general, you’re insulting one of the biggest feminist pop culture icons we have that we can truly call our own. (And didn’t Local Network adapt this story at least twice?)
This isn’t even covering the rich history of our newspaper comic strips. There are so many we could name, but let’s talk about two prominent titles: Pugad Baboy by Pol Medina, Jr., and Kikomachine by Manix Abrera. If you’re thinking “the who?” about these people, let me personally remind you that not only are these widely recognized titles, containing some widely recognized characters and art styles, by widely recognized artists – they’re also all published by your sister company through The Philippine Daily Inquirer.
To quote one of Michael V’s many characters from Bubble Gang: Mahiya naman ako sa ‘yo.
Patutchada aside, though – how can you say that comics are “for the rich”, and then in a later post differentiate “local komikeros” from the “western” comic artists?
Stephen Jorge Segovia lives in the Philippines; he’s as local as you can get. Who is he? He’s only worked on The Amazing Spider-Man, Wolverine, The Young Avengers, Red Hood and The Outlaws, Deadpool, Superman: Lois & Clark, and Green Lantern – just to name a few. He’s a longstanding stalwart of the local comics industry.
Whilce Portacio is a legend in both Marvel and DC fans, having worked on so many titles and impacted the industry so much (he was one of the founders of Image Comics) that he has his own wikipedia page.
Gerry Alanguilan (who I’ve had the honor of meeting) didn’t just spend a good few decades banging out top-shelf work for Marvel and DC – he also wrote the phenomenal and controversial graphic novel Wasted, which is set in the syncopated landscapes of the Philippines and reads like a ‘90s Manila era action movie poured onto paper, and the bittersweet short comic Where Bold Stars Go to Die, which is about falling in love with a torero genre actress in the twilight of her career.
I bite my thumb at you, Certain Screenwriter From A Local TV Station, from the bottom of my heart as a creator who doesn’t have the force of a multi-million corporation’s various bank accounts to waste on rehashed and regurgitated “plots”. For insulting the very medium that you’ve recently and blatantly ripped off in hopes of riding the comicbook adaptation trend while hoping no one will notice. For calling yourself a creator when you haven’t created anything good in over a decade, nor have you tried, if your recent projects are any indication. I bite my thumb at you for riding the nostalgia of that One Good Show you had all the way to a protracted creative death, but hey, that’s your call.
I don’t have to like it. I don’t like it.
As a comic book artist, at heart if not by day job, I very much don’t like what you’re doing at all. And as a viewer, I feel that I deserve not to be insulted if I’m going to spend my precious time on your creative product. I deserve better. We all deserve better. Not just in comics, not just in TV, but in terms of mutual respect.
Really, that’s all we want.
GGG would like to credit the edited featured image, which is taken from Green Arrow Volume 4, art by Joshua Middleton.
Editor’s Note: We would like to thank Dana for translating Ms. Doctolero’s posts literally as per AP style guides for our international readers.