Budjette Tan: Trese 5 Launch Interview

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 7 - 2012

Trese 5 will be available nationwide very soon, so as has become something of a tradition for each launch, I shot a few questions out to Trese scribe Budjette Tan. I wanted to make the interview accessible to those who haven’t yet read the book, but also wanted to ask him about specific things from Book 5, so I’ve divided the interview into spoiler-free and spoiler-filled sections. I warn everyone when we hit spoiler territory, so those who go beyond the red line, do so at your own risk!

Thanks once again to Budjette for making the time.




The Trese 5 release seems to have taken quite a few people by surprise — was it a conscious choice not to promote the launch heavily until you were sure you’d make the Komikon?

HAHAHA! Yeah, I guess I didn’t want to jinx it. We turned over the cover to Visprint sometime early October and we were emailing pages to be proofread every time we finished a batch of them. So, we turned over the final pages to Visprint five days before the Komikon! HAHAHA! I don’t know what kind of magic spell Nida, our publisher, had to weave to make everything ready by Komikon but we are extremely happy and thankful that Visprint pulled it off. Even though I’m used to getting stuff done just minutes before the deadline, it’s always scary. I’ve already drafted the “ideal schedule” for Book 6. Let’s see if we can keep to the sched. HAHAHA!

With Trese 4 launched almost in October 2011, and Trese 5 being launched at the October Komikon, are you aiming for a new volume every October?

Yup! That’s the plan! If me and Kajo keep to our scheds and don’t get distracted by other projects then it’s possible for us to release a book once a year.

While you ventured back into the realm of episodic stories with Trese 4, this volume seems more similar to Trese 3 in that it is basically one story — only instead of being about resolving plot threads (as in Trese 3), here you’ve laid the ground work for the future. Is this book is the start of another three volume arc?

Like I mentioned in the Afterword, this story was only supposed to be a 20-page single-shot issue. But if I followed that outline, I guess I might have just ended up copying the structure of [Redacted - sharp eyed readers may spot a clue to a revelation from Trese 5 if we told you the title of the case Budj mentions here - Ed. Note].

But when those ideas from Kajo and that idea from Yvette Tan’s story came into play, the story just ran away and became a full graphic novel.

Is this laying the ground work for another thee volume arc? I don’t know. I just make this up as I go along. HEHEHE

Has the popularity of the Kambal surprised you? They display their personalities more here than in previous volumes, and I was wondering if this was you giving the readers more of what they want.

Yup, considering how they didn’t have much speaking lines in the first two books, I’m surprised at much of a following they’ve generated. Also surprising how much Happy/Long-Haired/Basilio seems to have a bigger fanbase compared to Gloomy and even Trese herself.

I do keep in mind what readers say and post. If it’s an idea worth exploring then I try to toss it into the mix.

And this was one of those moments when the Kambal just took over and the lines just came out.

Book 5 was generally written “Marvel style”. Since we were rushing this for the Komikon, I was sending Kajo scripts which just had general descriptions of the action. So, when I finally got the pages, I had to figure out what they were saying and the Kambal just filled in the lines themselves, looking at how Kajo drew their expression or their actions, it was just easy and fun to fill in their dialogue.

With each volume, Trese’s abilities increase — or at least she shows more of them. Do you ever worry about her becoming too powerful, too competent?

Nice observation. Will keep that in mind. Thanks, Paolo!

I remember someone else making that comment based on the first three books (maybe you were the one that made the comment) that Trese is always in control of the situation and never seems to falter. So, I tried to show that she’s not always perfect in Book 4; tried to make her sweat a bit before she gets to solve the mystery. (hehehe)

But she did learn a lot while she was in the Great Balete Tree. So, I guess she’s just showing us more of the stuff she already knows. Which only means, I’ll need to give her bigger, badder challenges.

You’ve always created characters which seem to have real life analogues — as with a certain famed boxer in the last volume — and this volume ratchets that up a notch. When do you decide to create a brand new character, and when do you pull more liberally from real life personas?

I’ve never really thought about that. I guess if the story calls for it, then I’ll make a new one or base them from some real life person.

If I’m paying tribute to a character or a creation, then I’ll toss in some Easter eggs from that characters history, as a way of paying tribute to him / her.

When I originally started TRESE, it was heavily influenced by Warren Ellis’ Planetary. So, I do plan / hope to explore more of Pinoy pop culture. The funny thing about Pinoy pop culture is that we tend to blur the lines between fiction and reality. I still remember the story (supposed a true story) of how an FPJ movie was shown in Mindanao. At the end of the movie, FPJ’s character died. The audience, all of them were big fans of FPJ, got so angry that FPJ’s character got killed, pulled out their guns and shot the movie screen, taking aim at the bad guy that killed FPJ.

So, if I were to make an FPJ analog, then his story might become a mix and mash up his history as an actor, movie director, Panday, and his attempt at a political career – all because that’s how we Pinoys see him.








Based on your afterword, you originally didn’t envision Maliksi as a returning character. Kajo is the one who came up with the courtship idea, but when did you (or Kajo)  decide on his role as a catalyst for this volume?

This is the artwork that started it all:


Yup, as far back as 2010, Kajo has begun his inception of telling me that maybe Maliksi and Trese can get together.

In fact, Trese Book 3 was supposed to show more of “human Maliksi” in the battle against the Talagbusao, because Kajo already wanted to give him more screen time, but I thought it would be better to show all these mystical creatures battling the Talagbusao and Trese would be the only human in the melee.

Going back to the idea of Maliksi courting Trese… the more I thought about it, the more it sounded like a fun idea to play with and I thought that if ever were give Trese a romantic angle, then it would be about the guy/s trying to win her and it wouldn’t be about her trying to look cute for the guy, fussing about her hair and dress.

I know you’ve recently been introduced to the concept of “shipping”, and I know that a vocal segment (minority or majority is up in the air) of Trese fans would like to see Alexandra deal with relationships outside of her comfort zone. Without speaking about Alexandra per se, do you think there’s a role for a romantic subplot (requited or not) in a book with a strong, independent heroine?

Yes, as long as it brings out something new about the character, seeing how she’ll deal with the situation that will make it interesting for me as a writer and make it an interesting read for the reader, then it can play an important role.

I read somewhere, and I paraphrase, the best way to flesh out a character is to put her in the most difficult of situations and see how she figures her way out of it.

Your little twist at the end of the book — well done by the way — once again touches upon the concept of the old school superhero. Is the Trese world one where superheroes actually did operate in the public eye before? (They certainly do not seem to be now.)

Ha! And here’s another thing that I haven’t really thought about. As far as I’m concerned, this world is a mish-mash of Pinoy pop culture and we just happen to be exploring the dark side / magical side of it. So, if ever, the super heroes in this world would be “magic based”. (Yes, yes, I know Darna’s magic stone came from outer space and she’s really from the Planet Marte, but not here! This is Earth 13! Hehehe! )

If it’s any indication, the appearance of Maverick Rider and The Judge seems to be taken in stride by the public. So, I guess they’re used to seeing super-powered individuals saving the day.


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