Trese 4 Pre-Launch Interview: Budjette Tan

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On October - 4 - 2011

The much anticipated fourth book in the Trese series (which is popular enough to merit a Wikipedia entry) will be launched this Saturday, October 8, 5pm, at the NBS Best Sellers branch at Robinson’s Galleria. The book is entitled “Last Seen After Midnight”. I caught up with series writer Budjette Tan to ask him about the newest installment of Alexandra Trese’s ongoing adventures.

In many ways, Trese: Mass Murders (the previous volume) felt like an ending to a chapter of Alexandra’s life. Do you view volume 4 as something of a fresh start?

At one time, there was actually a possibility that the stories in Book 4 might have been part of Book 3 to begin with.

I never really envisioned Book 3 to be such a sprawling story arc. I really tried to tell the story of the Great Balete Tree in 20 –pages and was trying to tell the “secret origin” of the Kambal in the usual 20-pages as well. But as I kept writing that story, it just didn’t allow itself to be contained in 20-pages. So, it ended up becoming 113 pages long!

Book 4 is once again a collection of stand-alone stories. I like doing these types of stories. They feel more like a short jog, as compared on the long marathon that was Book 3.

We’ve actually started on Book 5. Looking at where that is planned to go, I think Book 5 will come closer to a “fresh start” for Trese. Or maybe it’ll take her down new path,s is more like it. We hope to finish Book 5 before the Summer Komikon of 2012.

So we’re seeing a return to the episodic cases then. How many pages will this volume be?

This volume will have four new cases. Each case is a stand-alone story. The stories range from 20 to 22 pages. We’ve actually released three of these cases in the past Komikons because we wanted to always have something new for the readers, just to show them that we are working on the new book. It also pressured us to finish each case for whatever was the upcoming Komikon of the quarter.

How different was it working on this volume, as opposed to the previous ones? Was it easier or harder to complete? I can imagine that as the anticipation increases for each new installment, the pressure on you two must also be growing…

I think Kajo felt more pressure with this book. As you can see, his artwork has improved tremendously. He even insisted on rendering some stories with greytones / greyshades. He really pushes himself to make each book better than the last one. He makes me look good! Hahaha!

As far as these stories are concerned, they were “accidentally” written for different reasons. One story was supposed to be part of a free comic book that was going to be given away in the LRT, which is why I set the story near an LRT station. The other story was adapted from the short film script of what was supposed to be a 10-minute TRESE film, which didn’t push through, so we just converted it into a comic book story. The third one started out as a story from The Diabolical blog, but I felt that I wanted to delve into that story more, so I went back to it. And the last story came about because of Manny Pacquiao’s many wins; which made me ask, why does he always win? Why does the crime rate go down every time he has a fight? Maybe there’s a not-so-obvious reason for all these things happening.

For new readers who haven’t read the previous Trese graphic novels, would this be a good place to start?

Yes. I always make it a point to make each Trese story, each Trese book, a good “jumping on point” for new readers. I think it was Stan Lee (or was it Chris Claremont) who said that every comic book is someone’s first comic book (which might be the reason why Claremont had so much exposition in every issue).

I’m also a big believer in Warren Ellis’ Pop Culture Grenade or Pop Comics Principle. He said, the problem with comics today is that you need to know their 50 year back story in order to understand them. He said (back in 1999), there was a great need to have more Pop Comics, comics that you can pick up for the first time, read it, and enjoy it without having to Google the character’s history. He said, such comic books were like “grenades” one-shot / single-explosion stories that readers can easily get into.

Aside from Alexandra, the Kambal, and the regular supporting cast, are we going to see any other familiar faces?

Of course, Capt. Guerrero will be calling in Trese for a couple of the cases. Hank makes an appearance in the newly built Diabolical. And Trese once again goes to the corner of Balete Drive and 13th Street to consult with the Nuno in the Manhole.

How has your approach to the characters changed throughout the years? Do you find yourselves drawing/writing them differently, because of the stories you’ve already told or other factors?

I’m not sure. It still feels the same for me. If there’s anything that I’m guilty of, it’s that I use these characters as vehicles to explore the mysteries about Manila that I want solved.

Well, for the first time, we do venture outside of Metro Manila and end up in General Santos City. Maybe we’ll see more trips outside of Manila in the future.

You’re going to be selling (through National Book Store and associated outlets) a limited edition of Trese 4 with a dust jacket (and some stellar art). How’d you guys arrive at this decision?

In the past two years, National Bookstore has been making the effort to get more people to give comic books a second look. They’ve expanded their graphic novel section and established Comic Zones in their big stores. They’ve also sponsored comic book events and just this year, they sponsored David Lloyd’s tour and brought him to Manila and Cebu.

So, this time they approached me and asked when we were going to release the next Trese book. National Bookstore then offered to promote it in all their stores and do a book launch.

This is all part of their effort to make Filipino comic books more mainstream, to make more readers realize that we’ve got a pretty good selection of local graphic novels which they should try out.

We also wanted to do something special with this tie-up, which is why we thought of doing the “Trese variant cover”, which is actually a dust jacket.

To help promote the fact that Trese is available in National Bookstore, we are also raffling off an original piece of artwork by Kajo.

You can get raffle tickets when you buy a copy of Trese from National Bookstore, Powerbooks, or Bestsellers from October 8 to October 31. It’s going to be a very special Halloween treat for whoever is going to win this very special artwork!

Sounds awesome. While on the subject of the jacket… Is that a shark?

Yup! That is definitely a shark.

Can’t wait to see how that fits in. So, aside from sharks, what can fans expect from Trese 4?

They will see more Trese in action, more of the Kambal shooting down enkanto and aswang. They’ll also get to read what the Trese short film would’ve been like. And they’ll also get to meet another “protector of the city” and it’s someone very, very familiar.

What else can fans expect from the book launch on the 8th?

Of course, me and Kajo will be there for a book signing. We are going to have a short Q&A at the start of the program. We will have some Trese artwork on display, as well as the new art piece that will be raffled off.


We’d like to thank Budjette for his time–as well as for the exclusive pages from the Wanted: Bedspacer case, which we’ll throw up on site on Thursday.

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