Saturday, January 28, 2012

Top 10 Comic Book Publishers

I love comic books.  I credit comic books as one of the reasons I started loving literature since it is the first form of literature that ever caught my interest.  As far as I can remember, comic books have always been part of my life.  Thanks to my father who was fond of them, I was introduced to comic books.  Before I was able to purchase comic books on my own, he was the one who made the purchases (reading them before handing them to me).  I grew up loving comic books – loving them more than my father ever did.        

In my years of reading and collecting comic books, I’ve come across a variety of genres, titles, and styles of this literary medium.  Listed below are the top 10 comic book publishers that have produced the most beloved characters, stories, and titles that have given me great delight in my comic book reading.  By the way, this list didn’t consider the publishers that have printed compilations of newspaper cartoon strips in paperback or volume form; only traditional publishers of such in the form of comic books, magazines or digests, and graphic novels are considered.


Harvey published stories of kid-friendly characters like Felix the Cat, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Richie Rich, and Hot Stuff, to name a few.  Aside from their original characters, the company also published comic books depicting other characters from other properties like Stone Protectors, Beethoven, Hanna-Barbera characters, Alvin & the Chipmunks, Popeye, Beetle Bailey, and even Ultraman.  I have enjoyed Harvey so much because you can find in it most of the immortal children cartoon icons outside of Warner Bros. (Bugs Bunny and friends) and Walt Disney (Mickey and Friends).


This company was popular for publishing beloved Walt Disney stories – most prominently adventures by Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge.  Though this wasn’t the publisher in which I got the most Walt Disney comic books (see no. 6).  My most favorite was the well-written mini-series chronicling the early days of Scrooge McDuck as he builds his business empire.    


It was my father who introduced to me and bought for me most of my early childhood comic books.  However, these comic books were American ones.  It was my mother who introduced me to Filipino comic books.  She was the one who would buy me the weekly Filipino-made children comics such as “Bata Batuta” and “Pilipino Funny Komiks”.  The latter – which was published by Islas Filipinas Publishing Co., Inc. – was my favorite.    

The Filipino comic book industry, in the present, is more or less extinct.  If there are still Filipino-made comic books out there, it is published by indie publishers and does not enjoy wide distribution around the entire Philippines.  But back in my childhood, Filipino comic books – romance, horror, or children – can be purchased easily from newsstands.  During those glory days of Filipino comics, I would excitedly wait for each new issue of “Funny Komiks” that comes out each week.  I would bug my mother to buy it for me. 

Each issue of “Funny Komiks”, though had included some one-shot stories once in a while, contained serial titles like “Bananaman”, “Tomas En Kules”, “Combatron”, “Tinay Pinay”, “Eklok”, “Bamper”, “Dragon Force” and “Planet Opdi Eyps” to name some.  Each issue is cheap but the art quality was mediocre.  The humor and stories, however, were very special and Filipino.  I have collected it and enjoyed it very much because of, probably, merely due to the sentiment of it being a Filipino children’s comic book.  


The charm of Archie Comics is its interesting gang of characters – especially Jughead – and its timelessness.  It follows no concrete continuity, thus, it is free to evolve with the time, without a change of age or setting.  Writers were able to enjoy the flexibility of depicting Archie and friends in different creative adventures, not only in the traditional way, but also in alternate settings like “Archie 1” (cavemen), “Little Archie” (when the gang were still kids), and “Archie’s Weird Mysteries” (supernatural events in Riverdale).  At the present, there is even this mindblowing series where the scenarios of Archie being married to Veronica and Archie being married to Betty are explored side-by-side – plenty of mysteries and heavy drama. 

Aside from Archie and gang, Archie Comics also have “Josie and the Pussycats” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”, and it’s implied that they are in the same universe with Archie and friends.  Archie Comics also ventured with superheroes (Mighty Crusaders) and published stories featuring other properties like “Sonic the Hedgehog”. 


During the 90’s – the decade which I spent most of my childhood – Universal Records ventured into licensing American comic book properties and re-publishing them here in the Philippines, selling them in more affordable prices. 

The first comic book series they published that I encountered was the “Mickey Mouse & Friends Comics”, which – as the title suggests – contained stories featuring Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and the rest of the Disney gang.  I think I was able to get all of these comics as published by Universal Records.  I would buy (or rather, my parents would do so for me) as soon as a new issue comes out.  Universal Records would go on publishing other Disney comics as well, like comic book novelization of some Disney movies.  (Aside from Universal Records, another publisher – A-Z Group – republished Disney comics during those times.  Got a few comic books from that publisher also, but most of my Disney comics are from Universal Records).  Then, Universal Records started publishing “X-Men Adventures” (based on the hit 90’s X-Men TV show) next.  And as time went on, more and more titles by Marvel Comics, Dark Horse, and Wildstorm were licensed and republished by Universal Records. 
Though Universal Records doesn’t license and republish American comic book titles anymore, I am grateful of their run during the 90’s, allowing comic book fans like me to get exposed to more comic books in an inexpensive way.


I thought CCCom would be the savior of the Filipino comic book industry.  But in the end, like other Filipino comic books, it ended up dying. 

But during its run, boy, it was glorious.  Its titles – “One Day, Isang Diwa”, “Pasig” (my favorite), “Cat’s Tail”, “Solstice Butterfly”, and, later on to replace a “Solstice Butterfly” in hiatus, “Kuburi Kikiam” – were compelling and well-written.  The art was beautiful.  And though the art was manga influenced, the stories and cultural identity remained to be very Filipino.

CCCom’s run of 2000-2004 was plagued with economic and schedule issues for the creators.  That’s why they were always late in their release schedule and were only able to publish 15 and a half (a special, non-continuity collector’s edition issue 5.5) volumes in their four years.  I have all but one and a half of the volumes; I wasn’t able to get issue 14 and that special 5.5 (though I have read them through friends). 

The financial problems were too much for the creators that they had to cease publishing CCCom.  It was terrible since all of the stories never had conclusions (they were probably never even half-way yet!), thus, I wasn’t able to know how the stories turned out to be.            

Too bad the company got bankrupt.  I really believed they have something special.  Instead of having a universe or multi-verse occupied with superheroes, Crossgen’s multi-verse had sci-fi and fantasy elements.  Crossgen’s universes, which Crossgen’s various titles explored, were exceptionally different from each other but are still somehow connected.  The common theme among the universes/titles is the Sigil-bearers, special and gifted individuals powered by a Sigil (the Crossgen logo).  However, though the titles (universes) shared this common factor, they rarely crossed over with each other. 

My favorite Crossgen title was “Ruse” which featured Simon Achard, a Sherlock Holmes-esque detective in a Victorian fantasy setting.  “Ruse” was finely written and Achard was a finely created character, making him one of my mostfavorite comic book characters ever.   


Living up to its name, Dark Horse Comics is indeed the dark horse among comic book giants.  Dark Horse’s titles were great alternatives to the usual superhero-themed titles by DC and Marvel.  Dark Horse doesn’t concentrate much on superhero titles, though they have Hellboy and the Mask – if you would like to consider them as traditional superheroes (they aren’t). 

Dark Horse is well-known for licensing TV or movie properties and printing comic book stories out of them.  Their most popular of such were Star Wars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alien, and Predator comic books.  Aside from these, Dark Horse also published manga (translated and flipped) and indie or creator-owned comic books, the most popular being Sin City (by Frank Miller).        


DC is the home of Batman and Superman.  That reason alone is enough for putting DC in the no. 2 spot.  But aside from that, it can’t be denied that DC created some of the most popular comic book characters out there.  Moreover, DC printed Alan Moore’s “Watchmen”, one of the greatest stories in literature ever written. 

Right now, as an attempt to make their comics more accessible to newer readers (and, also, to beat Marvel in comic sales), they did a major overhaul of their universes, continuity, and timeline, informally calling this event as the DCnU.  Origins were changed.  Costumes were redesigned.  Massive retcons were made.  And the Wildstorm universe was formally merged with the DC universe.  All titles started with no.1.  Personally, I still can’t judge if this is an awesome or disastrous move for DC (though they were able to finally beat Marvel in sales).  I’m still in “wait and see” mode.       


Since DC was number two, it’s obvious already that Marvel will get the top spot.  More than half of my comic book collection is made up of Marvel comic books.  In general, I find Marvel Comic’s characters, history, and storylines richer and more fascinating than DC’s.  Thanks largely to the legendary Stan Lee, Marvel created such iconic characters as Spider-Man (my most fave), the X-Men, the Avengers, and the Fantastic Four.  Though DC’s Superman and Batman are still the most iconic comic book characters, Marvel’s quantity and quality (in general) of iconic characters are more than DC’s (in my opinion).  

1 comment:

Yuri Yagari said...

wish funny comics and other filipino comic publishers are still alive... if they can just update from whats trend today, or a good advertise thing it would still survive today....