Tikoy, by Malang Santos

Malang Santos was a Filipino cartoonist and painter. His long career made him one of the most important visual artists of his country after World War II. He is historically significant as the first Filipino cartoonist to publish his comics in English. He was also the first whose work was picked up by foreign magazines like the U.S. publication Pageant. Santos was a master in pantomime gag comics, as well as beautifully detailed illustrations. He seemed to have a soft spot for policemen and robbers, as several of his cartoons involve characters of this kind. Among his signature series were 'Kosme the Cop' (1947-1965), 'Chain Gang Charlie' (1955) and 'Beelzebub' (1959-1962). While he mostly created humor comics Malang occasionally also drew more serious series in a realistic style, such as 'Labuyo, Ang Limpiya Bota' (1947) and 'Prinsipe Enkantado' (1948). He was also co-founder of the comic magazine Bituin Komiks.

Labuyo by Malang Santos

Early life and career
Mauro Malang Santos was born in 1928 in the Santa Cruz district in northern Manila. His father had him study art lessons at age ten in a night school in Avenida, Rizal Avenue. His tutor was Teodoro Buenaventura, an art professor at the University of the Philippines. Back then Malang felt his older brother had more talent and therefore disliked these art lessons. But he soon developed the skills and necessary discipline which eventually launched his career. In 1934 he studied at the Antonio Regidor Elementary School, followed by the Arellano High School from 1941 on. Malang also tried out the College of Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines in 1946, but dropped out after only one semester.


Early comics
Malang published his first cartoons and comics in local magazines like Liwayway, Llang-llang, Halakhak, Sinagtala and Aliwan. His first attempt to create a recurring comic character occurred in October 1946 in Aliwan Magazine, where he created 'Bugoy' (1946), a gag comic about a dim-witted thief. The magazine Halakhak published his humor series 'Ha-lakhakan' (1946) around the same time. Between February and July 1947 he had a series in Singtala named 'Dito't Doon'. From April to August of that same year he drew a more serious and realistically drawn action-adventure series named 'Labuyo, Ang Limpiya Bota' (1947), based on a script by E.A. Tablan. This was followed by the humorous comic strip 'Bentot' (1947) between August and October, about a man in a straw hat. Both comics were published in Sinagtala. Malang furthermore created the humorous series 'Osboy' (1947-1949) about a bumbling teenager, and the series 'Awit Tawa' (1949) for Illang-Illang Magazine. In Pilipino Komiks people could enjoy the gag comic 'Samut-Samut' (1948) and the realistic adventure series 'Prinsipe Enkantado' (1948), based on a script by Oscar Del Rosario. 'Prinsipe Enkantado' was based on a popular daily radio serial, 'Prinsipe Amante' (1949-1953), written by prolific comic writer Clodualdo del Mundo, Sr. Alfredo Alcala also drew a comic adaptation of this radio show.

Prinsipe Enkantado by Malang Santos

Kosme the Cop
From 1947 on, Malang worked at the Manila Chronicle where their house cartoonist Liborio Gatbonton - who signed his work with "Gat" - became his mentor. Malang not only learned to draw cartoons, but also did advertising, lay-out and photo retouching. His first regular series was 'The Passing Scene', a series of one-panel gag cartoons. His biggest success, however, was the long-running humor comic 'Kosme the Cop' (1947-1965), which would become his signature series. Kosme made his debut in August 1947 and was originally a traffic policeman. By October Malang seemed tired of this concept and had his character retire. From that moment on Kosme spent most of his time at home, being bossed around by his nagging wife. Malang even officially changed the title into 'Kosme the Cop [Retired]' to indicate the change in content.'Kosme the Cop' ran for more than two decades and was notable for being the first locally produced Filipino newspaper comic in a time when most magazines still published American comics. It is furthermore historically signficant for being the first Filipino comic strip to be published in the English language.

Chain Gang Charlie
Malang's second best known series was 'Chain Gang Charlie' (1955), which made its debut on 20 November 1955 in This Week, the weekly supplement of the Manila Chronicle. The pantomime comic centered around a prisoner who had a ball and chain attached to his leg. Despite this nuisance Charlie still found creative ways to use this round object to his advantage. Some cartoons show him using it as a balloon, a golf ball, a bowling ball, an ice cream and - in a dark twist - as something he can use to drown himself in the river. In 1956 this series was picked up by Pageant, making Malang the first Filipino cartoonist to be published by an American national magazine. When Pageant introduced the series to their readers they described 'Chain Gang Charlie' as "their nominee for the all time Gold Medal 'making do' championship. When it comes to making the most of what you have few could hope to make more out of less than dauntless Charlie with limited equipment. It's a wonder he ever got arrested. What ordinary policeman could have snared such ingenuity?"

Chain-Gang Charlie by Malang Santos

Beelzebub and other comics
Malang drew another well known series for This Week Magazine named 'Beelzebub' (1959-1962). Its concept was comparable to that of 'Chain Gang Charlie'. Instead of a prisoner playing around with a ball and chain it revolved around a demon and the various ways he used his forked tail. The series was also picked up by Pageant. Some other more short-lived comics by Malang were 'Sa Iba't Ibang Sulok' (1951) for Mabuhay Komiks and the spy series 'Alat 12' (1955), published in Silangan Magazine. In the mid-1950s the monthly women's magazine Womans World also published a text comic series by his hand which offered a humorous look at relationships. Together with Gat he created two comic magazines: Bituin Komiks (1949) and Bughouse Comics (1955). Malang was not only assistant editor for these magazines, but in May 1949 he also drew a series in Bituin Komiks named 'Tikoy' (1949-1950). Bughouse Comics was notable for being the first Filipino comic magazine published in English. Alongside Malang and Gat's work it also offered pages by cartoonists like Larry Alcala, Elmer Abustan and Hugo Yonzon.

Cop on Wheels

One-panel cartoons
Apart from comics, Malang was well known for his one-panel cartoons. In 1948 he published several cartoons in this genre for The Manila Chronicle. Between 1949 and 1950 Malang also had a series named 'Weekly Songlaffs', published in This Week Magazine, which poked fun at the lyrics of popular hit songs by literally visualizing them. Other gag comics for this magazine were 'Padre' (1954) - about a Catholic monk - and 'That's the Law' (1956). For the women's magazine Women's Weekly Magazine he drew a weekly page with humorous cartoons named 'Joketionary' (1952-1953). For a special 1954 issue of Sunday Times Magazine he illustrated an article named 'Humor in the Classics', which parodied famous paintings. The same year he also drew the one-panel cartoon 'The Cop on Wheels' (1954) for the Saturday Mirror Magazine, which dealt with a police cyclist who chased criminals by bike. His cartoon series 'Batas at Puso' (1956) appeared in Kislap Graphics.

Malang's Menagerie
'Malang's Menagerie'.

Malang's Menagerie
One of Malang's most beautiful series was the one-panel pantomime gag cartoon 'Malang's Menagerie', published in the Weekly Graphic/Graphic Magazine. These were big, detailed illustrations depicting huge crowds of people. Each episode was set in a different location and the drawing usually covered one entire page. Readers had a lot of fun looking at all the tiny little jokes the cartoonist hid in each picture. However, sometimes people took these drawings a bit too seriously. On 5 March 1951 Malang was sued by the police for "defamation". Police captain Leoncio P. Mariano of Manila's fourth district took offense at one little gag Malang hid in a picture called 'Manila Today'. The scene in question depicted a traffic policeman who took a bribe from a bystander. Ironically enough the cartoon had already been published in the Evening Chronicle two years earlier, on 24 December 1949, without anyone taking offense. The police only noticed it when it was displayed in a 1951 art exhibit. They even took the precaution of taking a photograph of the drawing as "evidence".

Cover for The Asia Magazine by Malang SantosCover for This Week by Malang Santos

Later career, final years and death
Malang frequently made beautiful cover illustrations for The Asia Magazine and This Week Magazine. He created several advertising comics, among which for Pepsi and Mighty Soy. He was a much-requested book cover designer and in 1968 created a letterhead for the Philippine Tourist and Travel Association. In 1965 Malang was adviced by the editor of This Week, H.R. Ocampo, to retire as a newspaper cartoonist and become a full-time painter like him. He only followed this advice partially. Malang dropped several of his comic series, most notably 'Kosme the Cop', and worked as a technical assistant at the presidential office under Ferdinand Marcos. This job didn't stop him from still making political cartoons for Graphic Magazine in 1967, although he kept his targets general rather than direct. Many of his cartoons ridicule characters literally described as "politicians", "abusive policemen" or "armed forces".

Political cartoon from Graphic Magazine (13 September 1967).

In 1967 he also created another gag comic for the same publication, 'Pocholo' (1967), about a street cleaner. Yet the majority of his later career was indeed devoted to painting. In 1966 he launched Art for the Masses, a project that promoted art among general audiences. Two-and-a-half decades after leaving art school he took some additional art classes in 1972 at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, California. Malang created numerous landscape paintings, while his style became more abstract as the decades passed by. His work won several prizes in various art competitions and was exhibited in Mabini's prestigious art gallery. In 1981 Malang was honored by the City of Manila with the cultural award: Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan.

In 2007 Malang established his own blog. He passed away in 2017 at the age of 89. His sons Soler and Steve Santos are also graphic artists.

Larry Alcala, Tony De Zuniga, Malang Santos.


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