Friday, October 16, 2015

Retro Foreign: Philippine Alemar's Star Wars #2

In 1945 Dr. Enesto Sibal started a bookstore called Centralbooks in the Philippines' capital city of Manila.  His son, Jose Sibal, followed in his father's footsteps and started Alemar's.  By the early 1980s, Alemar's had grown to a chain of 12 stores.  Sometime in the mid 1980s, Alemar's had closed.

Bookstore chains in the Philippines published and distributed local editions of U.S. comic books.  There are comic books published by Alemar's, National Bookstore, and Goodwill.  Philippine editions of U.S. comics are considered some of the rarest foreign comics.  It is speculated that because they were published and distributed by bookstore chains the print runs were not large and when you factor in the climate conditions of the Philippines, very few of these comics have survived and those that have are usually in worn condition.  The Philippine edition of U.S. comics books are almost exact replicas of their U.S. counterparts, including being in English which is an official language in the Philippines.  Even the indicia on the first page is taken from their U.S. counterpart.  They differ from the U.S. edition by some minor modifications to the front cover and the inclusion of local ads, mostly for the bookstore chain that published the comics.

There has been speculation about a National Bookstore edition of Star Wars #1, but no pictures proving the existence of this comic have surfaced.  What has been discovered are Alemar's editions of Star Wars #1 - 4.  Alemar's Star Wars #1 is a well known comic book, having been discussed by comic collectors for several years now.  What does not appear to be known is when exactly the comic was published.  The Alemar's Star Wars #2 that found it's way into my collection may help with this.

Star Wars #2a - Alemar's, Philippines (1980 - 1985?)
contains Star Wars #2
Star Wars #2a - Alemar's, Philippines (1980 - 1985?)
back cover
This comic has moisture damage and rusty staples which are common problems with Philippine editions.  A sticker covers the UPC symbol which is blacked out.  The information about the price, issue number, and month has been replaced by SW 102.  Alemar's Star Wars #3 has SW 103 and Star Wars #4 has SW 104 printed in this same location so this is probably a reference to the title/volume/issue number.

As for the sticker, the U.S. based restaurant chain, Shakey's Pizza, opened up in the Philippines in 1975 and today there are more Shakey's restaurants in the Philippines than in the U.S. The Shakey's Pizza sticker reads "Watch for Vol III on Nov at Shakey's". The III is hand written. Could a Shakey's Pizza store have distributed these Alemar's Star Wars comics to kids who ate there? Shakey's did give away toys, stickers, mask, etc. to kids. Could the "Watch for Vol III" be a reference to the Alemar's Star Wars #3?

While it is speculation that Shakey's distributed this comic, if it is true, it might help us understand when this comic was published by Alemar's.  Also on the sticker are 6 locations for Shakey's Pizza:

LocationOpening Year
Makati1975
Cubao1976
Malate1980
Masiniunknown
Angelesunknown
Loyolaunknown

I researched the years that the first 3 stores opened, with the 3rd store opening in 1980.  If Shakey's distributed these Star Wars comics around they time they were published, this would mean the comics were published in 1980 or later.  Since we know Alemar's closed in the mid 1980s, that would place the publication of this comic between 1980 and 1985.

Here is a picture of the three issues in my collection.  One copy is in extremely nice condition with only a few ink marks on the cover.  The second copy has the Shakey's sticker.  The third copy is incomplete, missing the center page, and has extensive ink marks on the cover.

Star Wars #2a - Alemar's, Philippines (1980 - 1985?)
two complete and one incomplete copy
Regardless of when the comic was published, the Alemar's Star Wars #2 is a cool example of a Philippine edition of a U.S. comic book.

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