Bomba Komiks is a generic term referring to Philippine komiks magazines that contain adult-oriented materials, especially those that contain graphic nudity and sexual themes.
It is not known exactly when the first Bomba Komiks appeared in the Philippines. In the early 1960s, some fly-by-night publishers began issuing underground komiks with adult content. One of these was Akda Komiks, first published in 1964.
Although these komiks did not contain any frontal nudity, they nevertheless featured stories with sexual content. During this time, komiks publishers were not yet so brave in offering graphic sexual content. This changed over time as more and more small-time publishers began issuing their own Bomba Komiks.
By the end of the 1960s, there were already numerous Bomba Komiks sold discreetly on the streets of Manila, this time containing frontal nudity. Many veteran komiks writers and illustrators were lured by the additional income offered by the Bomba Komiks. Understandably though, they rarely used their real names in writing or drawing, preferring to use pen names instead.
The most successful of the Bomba Komiks publishers was Cil Evangelista, a movie talent manager. His komiks gained cult status for featuring photographs of Filipino movie stars in the nude.
The Rise and Fall of Bomba Komiks
The years 1967-72 were the peak years of the Bomba Komiks. They were bought like hotcakes by middle-aged men and by women as well. Though they were not sold openly in newsstands, they were however hidden under piles of wholesome komiks titles. A slight hint from the purchaser would make the salesman offer them discreetly. The first of this wave was Pogi Komiks clearly targeting an adult male audience. In 1968 came a whole slew of suggestively titled ones with the names of Toro, Barako, and Pil-Yeah!.
The grand old man of Pinoy komiks publishing Don Ramon Roces was constrained by the Golden Code, which was his publishing houses' set of editorial content for mainstream, conservative and old order komiks title. Such was his influence and that of his right hand man Tony S. Velasquez that their editorial guidelines were adopted by the industry body called APEPCOM (Association of Publishers, Editors of Philippine Comics Magazines). Any deviation from the Code was severely sanctioned by the komiks body.
Understandably, many legitimate komiks publishers complained about the proliferation of Bomba Komiks. Don Ramon himself could not ignore the tidal wave of cheap prurient titles engulfing the staid self-censored komiks titles that he published. So even he ordered one of his publishing houses ACE Publications to create a shameless spinoff of the then leading bomba komiks. The result was Pogi Magazine for Men with a tagline "Pilyo ngunit clean fun!" In our postmodern society this could rightfully be considered the predecessor of today's saucy Philippine magazines such as FHM or Maxim.
Pogi Magazine for Men featured the editorial vision of its editor-in-chief R.R. Marcelino who mixed daring semi-nude photographs of Philippine sexy starlets together with comic stories and feature articles on crime, the supernatural and the bizarre. His magazine would be clean sexy fun for the male audience, unlike his cheap and lurid competitors.
PinoyKomiksBiz blog of April 7, 2007 analysed the coming showdown as follows:
"(Pinoy bomba komiks) was a genre that really challenged not only the APEPCOM code, but most importantly, the underlying conservative Catholic ideology behind it. If U.S. mainstream comics experienced the trauma of having been introduced to the senseless violence of a horror comic in the 1950s leading to negative public-wide discrimination towards the culture of comics reading, the Philippines later had the same equivalent through the introduction of sex/erotica or alleged pornography in a Bomba comic, that almost led to a public-wide discrimination against all kinds of Filipino comic books, thanks again to the hysteria initiated by the Roceses' APEPCOM."
In September 1969 the controversial issue of bomba komiks came to a head. Religious and feminist organizations started to rally against the Bomba Komiks. A female contingent of students led by APEPCOM member Fr. Rizalino Veneracion and aided by journalist Jose "Joe" Burgos staged an anti-smut demonstration and followed up with a march to the Manila Mayor's office, where they denounced the proliferation of pornography on newstands.
The acting Mayor of Manila Antonio Villegas ordered the confiscation of bomba komiks titles and a crackdown on their publishers.
Pogi Magazine for Men was forced to defend its position and differentiate its offering from that of the smut publishers. It stated in a September 1969 editorial in Pilipino:
"At sa opisyales ng City Hall ay mayroon kaming natuklasan: hindi sila prudish. Mga tunay na lalaki sila. May healthy outlook sila sa sex, at alam nila where art ends and where pornography begins. Kinikilala rin nila na kailangan sa ating kalalakihan ang magkaroon ng MAGAZINE FOR MEN, ngunit sa isang paraang makasining, pilyo nga, ngunit pino, at may maturity ang pagkakasulat ng mga artikulo tungkol sa sex…bagay na siya mismong patakaran ng ating POGI simula pa sa unang labas nito.
"Iyan ang tunay na nangyari, at hindi tulad ng ibinibintang sa amin ng mga nasamsaman, na kung sinu-sino ang sinisisi, gayong ang kanilang mga kabulukan ang dapat nilang sisihin.
"So, with the blessing of the authorities, na kumikilala sa kagandahan ng misyon ng POGI, magpapatuloy ang magasing ito sa kanyang plataporma na imulat sa kalalakihang Pilipino na ang sex ay malinis, maganda…na ang paksang ito’y hindi na taboo…na maraming problema na may kaugnayan sa kalungkutan o kaligayahan ng isang nilalang, at ang mga ito ay siya naming laging papaksain sa bawat labas ng POGI sa scientific na paraan, tungo sa lalong ikatatatag ng Pamilyang Pilipino na ang pinakahaligi ay ang lalaki."
The brouhaha captured the attention of Filipinos. Leading Philippine writer and thinker Jose F. Lacaba had a more nuanced view of the social phenomenon and wrote in a Philippine Free Press issue in the same year that although he considered most of the komiks of this genre as "trash", he considered the anti-bomba komiks campaign as discrimination: "The chief objective to Pogi and its relatives seems to be that they are cheap, in both senses of the term, but specifically in the sense that they are inexpensive. This is where discrimination comes in. Anybody with more than 5 pesos is free to go to any thoroughly respectable bookshop and get a copy of Playboy, but the jeepney driver with 40 centavos to spare can’t go down the sidewalk to pick up Pogi without a horde of comstockians jumping on his neck."
"What particularly bothers me about it is that it seems like a manifestation of rank discrimination. For what is the specific target of this decency crusade? Those little magazines capitalizing in sex, locally produced, that have recently swamped Manila’s sidewalks and stalls. They’re cheap, costing from 35 to 40 centavos therefore easily accessible; and have been known by such flip and vulgar titles as Pogi, Toro, Barako, Pil-Yeah, and what have you—they’re proliferating so fast I can’t keep track of them all. Their pages are replete with pictures of burlesque dancers and movie starlets in scanty costumes and provocative poses, comic strip serials dealing with such taboo topics as impotence and venereal diseases, tik-tik type crime stories, instructional articles on subjects such as masturbation, and cartoons this shade of green. Without exception these magazines are, no question about it, trash."
Many people however agreed with the Mayor's offical line and began to mistakenly think that all komiks-magazines contained sexual content, and so even the clean-type komiks suffered a decline in sales. The stigma of the Bomba Komiks affected the wholesome ones, and it contributed to the decline of the komiks industry in the early 1970s.
The leading komiks writer Pablo S. Gomez stated in an interview with komiks buff Dennis Villegas that the most significant factor that led to the industry’s decline was the proliferation of the Bomba or smut komiks. Wholesome komiks titles were forbidden in many homes because of this stigma associated with smutty materials.
Gomez stated in an interview: “Pati kaming mga malilinis na komiks ay nadamay sa mga Bomba Komiks na yan, kasi ang akala ng mga tao lahat na ng komiks ay may mga litrato o drowing na Bomba”. This idea was seconded by Hal Santiago, then PSG Komiks’ resident artist. Apparently, the fly-by-night Bomba Komiks which sold as cheaply as the clean-type komiks, captured the attention of male local readers.
When President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972, Bomba Komiks were banned. Under the slogan of Bagong Lipunan, the New Society promised a moral regeneration, along with the immediate censorship and suppression of Bomba movies, dissident newspapers and radio stations. One of the main thrusts of the Marcos dictatorship was the total control of media, komiks magazines included.
Resurgence of Bomba Komiks
Bomba Komiks surged back to life after the lifting of martial law in 1981. In the mid-1980s, after the EDSA Revolution, a few titles began to appear also clandestinely. These included Betamax Komiks, Seksi Komiks, and Sizzling Hot Komiks.
As long as there are people wanting to deviate from reading ordinary komiks, and as well as men in general are fascinated by sex, the Bomba Komiks will still be around. Even if mainstream Philippine society considers it taboo.
- Original Article by Dennis Villegas
- ”Sinamsam ng Pulisya ang malalaswang Komiks at Magazines for Men!” appearing in Pogi Magazine for Men, Ace Publications, Inc., September 18, 1969, Issue No. 13, p. 15)
- “History of Komiks of the Philippines and other countries”, Islas Filipinas Publishing, 1984 ed., p. 58
- Jose F. Lacaba, “Smite Smut they Say”. Philippine Free Press, 1969