And that's why I'm going to talk a bit about The New Teen Titans and Romeo Tanghal.
In the days before the world wide web, you couldn't just Google things that you were curious about. And in the infancy of my fandom, there were many things I wanted to find out -- and tried to, the old-fashioned way:
letter columns of comic books
and so on..
One of the things I wanted to know -- something that many of my comic-book reading grade school classmates wanted to know -- was this: is Romeo Tanghal, inker on The New Teen Titans and other comics from DC, Filipino?
In the days of Google, a quick visit to a suggested link reveals that, yes, Romeo Tanghal was and is Filipino.
But back then, going only on his name, we guessed he was. (We originally though Perez might be too, but we also knew that Perez was a name that was more Spanish-derived in origin, and we quickly found out via the letters pages and fan publications that he was Puerto Rican.)
Why was this of interest to us?
The thrill of identificationI suppose it's very similar to the feeling of knowing that someone from your family, from your neighborhood, from your hometown, from whatever you consider your "tribe" or "group" is doing well or doing something cool.
Perhaps because we all liked comics, and a fair number of us had given some thought about getting into the industry, it was like hoping that someone from the Philippines had already made it into the industry. (Of course, we didn't know about the Filipinos that HAD already made it into the industry, because they hadn't really been the focus of the sources of info available to us; but that's another story).
It's not (necessarily) about being a minorityBefore this threatens to become a talk about being a minority looking for more equitable representation in media (which is a worthy goal, though I'm not necessarily agreeing with all the ways that have been suggested online and offline), let me just make a few statements as to why it isn't exactly that.
At the time, I was living and studying in the Philippines. I was surrounded by Filipinos, and the mestizos and folks who could pass themselves off as American or European were few and far between. I guess what I'm saying is, we didn't necessarily need to see more Filipinos represented in media -- because we got that every day by virtue of where we lived.
So why did we look for it? Why did I look for it? I mean, it's not like it was this big thing that I spent nights wondering about -- but it pleased me when I found out.
It's a big world, and I'm just one guyWell, I can only speak for myself, and introspection isn't always my strongest suit.
I do believe that it's not just one reason, but a multitude of reasons of varying intensitives. Here are a few:
- I can be president after all -- one of the major exports of the U.S. to the Philippines is the American Dream, the one that says anyone born anywhere (in the U.S.) can become whatever they want to become, even president, so seeing someone from the Philippines doing something you want to do yourself, seems to re-affirm that possibility and chip away at barriers (like the fact that I'm NOT someone born in the U.S.)
- I'm not alone -- you get made fun of for having strange, unpopular hobbies, and perhaps not-so-practical plans for your future; and it's nice to see someone you can identify with doing the very thing you want
- That person's like me -- I believe it also has something to do with looking for something that resonates with you in media -- whether it's in a profession, or on the news, or in fictional exploits. For example, I tend to react less strongly to, say, a Filipino in the news who is an ultra-athlete than a Filipino who had a very nerdy childhood