Jim M. Fernandez


JIM M. FERNANDEZ, komiks illustrator-writer is a Certified Public Accountant. This at first blush would lead one to think that he’s a squre peg in a round hole. But he definitely is not. While still a junior in college, he was already editor of The Commerce Journal, The English Journal, and The UST Commerce Silver Jubilee Book. Add to this the fact that he was a gold medalist in a UST student’s debate and you have a man definitely well-equipped to be a writer.

But Jim started out in the komiks field as an illustrator, apparently lured into it by his then youthful idolization of Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan.

In 1953, Jim’s potential in the art was seen by Tony S. Velasquez when he showed the latter a sample illustration done in ordinary pen and ink. Velasquez invited Jim to observe the top illustrators of that period then working at the Velasquez Advertising Agency. He also thought Jim the rudiments of proportion and perspective.

Within a few weeks, Jim got his first illustration assignment: a short story entitled “Batas ni Sumakwel” at Marte Publications, followed by several more at the Mabuhay Komiks and Extra Komiks. Then followed the inevitable “big time”. After teaming up Jim with Liwayway writer Gemiliano Pineda in “Mga Haragan”, Velasquez assigned him to do Mars Ravelo‘s “Mariposa” and “Dalaginding na si Tessie”.

Among the hit novels that Jim illustrated were Ravelo’s “Darna at ang Impakta” (which won for him the SPIC’s Award for Excellence in Illustration), “Darna at ang Babaing Tuod”, “Captain Barbel”, “Haydee”, “Elepanta”, “Flash Bomba” and Rico Bello Omagap‘s “Ang Nobya Kong Igorota”. Jim counts as among his “most memorable” illustrations Tony Tenorio‘s “Sor Matilde” and Tony Velasquez’ classic “Lupang Ginto”, “Ulilang Christmas Tree” and “Ang Mahal Kong Bungal”.

Jim, to quote Velasquez himself, was an overnight success as an illustrator.

In 1963, Jim helped form and manage the CRAF Publications which came out Redondo Komix and Alcala Fight Komix. Also in that year, he established the Real Publications and came out with the Bolniks Komiks and Lindelmel Komiks. In 1965, he rejoined the Roces organization when they again started publishing the Pilipino Komiks, Hiwaga Komiks, Espesyal Komiks and Tagalog Klasiks. His brother, Rolando, became Jim’s most reliable assistant artist.

Jim took the entrance examination of the Famous Artist School in 1967 and discovered that his creative talent was at par with internationa standards. His black and white illustration of “Darna at ang Impakta” got an A-rating and a comment of ‘very good handling of pen and ink” signed by B. Th. Closset.

Trying his hand at cartooning, Jim creaed the strip “Feathers” which appeared in the defunct Manila Times in 1967. The strip equalled the high domestic ratings of America’s top cartoon strip, Peanuts.

In the late 1970, Mars Ravelo and Carmelo Y. Reyes, then editor-in-chief and general manager of Atlas Publications, paved the way for Jim to write and illustrate his own stories. Jim’s first attempt, “The Fighting Priest”, came out in the Hiwaga Komiks and its high rating in the survey led to more hit stories, among them Farida, The Dormitory, The Grandmaster, Nunal sa Balikat and Starex. The key to Jim’s successful transformation from illustrator to writer, says Sol Antipola, then Atlas’ managing editor, was his The Fighting Priest.

After that novel, Ravelo, in a conversation with Jim’s wife, Judy, said: “If anyone is going to be my successor, he’s Jim!”

In 1973, the demand for Jim’s novels became so overwhelming that he had to give up illustrating altogether. He teamed up with Hal Santiago in “Halik sa Hangin” and “Titang”, with Mar T. Santana in “The Astronaut” and “Mission: Jupiter” and with Elmer Esquivias in “Aztec”. The latter was to be the first of the Zuma hits.

Ted Tenorio, former editor of the Pilipino Komiks, opines that “Jim is a circulation-booster writer.” Jim holds the record of garnering 7 of the top ten novels (including number one) in one of several surveys for the komiks-magazines of the Graphic Arts Service, Inc. (GASI) At home in any kind of story (drama, love, sex, space, sports, adventure, fantasy), Jim has a way of injecting varied and new twists to his plots. Ed Plaza, formerly of the Atlas Publications and editor-in-chief of Rex Publications, remarks that Jim could add a new character in an on-going novel and get away with it while keeping his readers in suspense. And Zoila Meneses, former editor of Darna Komiks, thinks that Jim wrote more beautiful stories while he was with the Atlas komiks-magazines.

After his stint with Atlas, Jim contributed to the Graphic Arts Service, Inc. publications. In March 1976, his biggest hit, “Anak ni Zuma” appeared in the Aliwan Komiks. Other hit novels followed: The Gorgon, Astrobal, The Cannibal, Jeric-the Boy from Mars, Polaris, Virga, Borbo, and Angkan ni Zuma.

Among the other novels that Jim wrote were Kambal sa Uma for Kislap Magazine and Anak ni Kro, Karpetina and Mulawina for Affiliated Publications, Uso pa ba ang Birhen, Tiza, Touchdown and Anak ni Touchdown for the Liwayway magazine, and Nazka for the Rex Publications. Several of Jim’s novels have been filmed: Nunal sa Balikat, Farida, The Dormitory, Life Everlasting, Kingpin, Brutus and Kambal sa Uma. For his Anak ni Zuma, Jim was paid a record P100,000 by a movie outfit. “Anak ni Zuma is a phenomenal hit novel in the history of komiks,” says Mrs. C. P. Paguio, publishing manager of Graphic Arts Service, Inc. “It set a trend in long running novels.”

“The best factor in Jim’s writings is the philosophy or message that he wants to impart,” comments Joe Lad Santos, GASI editor-in-chief, who also says that he will never forget what he learned from Jim: The legacy of a writer is the distinct and clear influence that he leaves in the minds of his readers.

Published Works