Alternative Alamat Interview: Budjette Tan

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On July - 25 - 2014

For the digital release of Alternative Alamat, I ran interviews with several of the contributing authors, asking them about writing in general and their stories in particular. I wasn’t able to interview everyone, however, so for the print launch today– yep, the 25th — I went back to the contributors I wasn’t able to interview last time.

 

BUDJETTE TAN

 Without spoiling anything essential, could you tell me a bit about your story?

One of favorite bits from Neil Gaiman’s AMERICAN GODS was this vignette of how Egyptian Gods now run a small funeral parlor in Middle-America. Which made me wonder, where are the old gods of death from Philippine mythology? What are they doing now in the city? I then remember a story my mom told me, about a story she heard from the sales lady in the mall, who heard it from the security of the mall; about how, every now and again, senior citizens were found dead in the movie theater of the same mall. Obviously, they died of natural causes. Well, maybe they did.
This one was also a bit different, in that it didn’t start with a call from the police, but from Spunkmeyer…
I guess I just wanted a break from the usual way Trese gets brought in for a case (Captain Guerrero calling her up). It was also an opportunity to shed more light on Spunkmeyer of the City Morgue, who’s actually patterned after fellow author, David Hontiveros.
How different is it, writing a prose Trese story as opposed to a comic book script?

Whenever I write a TRESE prose story, it allows me to immerse myself (and the reader) in her world more.
When I’m writing the comic book script, I can easily just tell Kajo, “Page 1, Panel 1: we are inside The Diabolical. It’s a Saturday night. Full of people bouncing up and down the dance floor.”

But when I’m writing a short story, I need to guide the reader into that world and get to spend more time talking about the details of Trese’s Manila. So, I end up knowing more about it and at the same time the reader comes along for the ride.

What part of the story–or the writing process–was the most fun for you?
I had fun revealing those bits about Spunkmeyers’ back story.
What part of the story–or the writing process–was the most difficult for you?
Usually, it’s the middle part. I usually know how things will end and sometime I know where things start. So, it’s trying to figure out how to get there that’s the problem.
How were you first exposed to Philippine mythology?
Oh wow! I have no idea. Does the legend of Malakas at Maganda count? That was probably my first exposure to a “creation myth”, which confused the hell out of me, since as far as we were taught in school, we all started from Adam and Eve. So, who the heck were Malakas at Maganda? Took me awhile before I sorted all that out.
Is there any myth, epic or legend that you wish would be adapted into a novel, or comic, or movie?
Unfortunately, I can’t really name a specific one. I think all of our major myths and epic poems should be adapted into some new form. I recently attended a book conference in Singapore and the featured country of the year was India. One talk specifically focused on the Indian comic book market, which has numerous adaptation of their myths. It seemed like every couple of years, they’d have a new version of their myth, retold for a new generation. It would be great to see that happen for the Philippines.
Who is your favorite character from Philippine mythology, and why?
What about the myth of The Honest President? No? That doesn’t count?

Alternative Alamat Interview: David Hontiveros

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On July - 17 - 2014

For the digital release of Alternative Alamat, I ran interviews with several of the contributing authors, asking them about writing in general and their stories in particular. I wasn’t able to interview everyone, however, so for the print launch this coming Saturday [EDIT: LAUNCH HAS BEEN POSTPONED TO JULY 25, FRIDAY, 4PM, SAME VENUE] I went back to the contributors I wasn’t able to interview last time.

DAVID HONTIVEROS

David Hontiveros, author of “Balat, Buwan, Ngalan”, was a 1997 National Book Award Finalist in the Best Comic Book category for “Dhampyr” (drawn by Oliver Pulumbarit), and a 2002 Palanca Award Winner (2nd Place in the Future Fiction- English Category) for his short story, “Kaming Mga Seroks.” He has three horror/dark fantasy novellas out under the Penumbra imprint, published by Visprint, as well as a digital novel, “Pelicula”, from Bronze Age Media. His on-going comic book series, “Bathala: Apokalypsis”, is also available digitally from Flipside. He has had his short fiction, film reviews, articles, and comics appear in several Philippine publications. He has adapted Bret Harte (no, not the wrestler) and Edgar Allan Poe (twice!) into comic book form for Graphic Classics. He may be observed online at fiveleggediguana.blogspot.com (where he blathers on about film) and davidhontiveros.com (where assorted bits of his work are housed). He would like to humbly dedicate the story to his four current grandspawn, in chronological order: Gray, Mischa, Chloe, and Sophia, who will keep the flames of his family history burning on, down through the years.

While the Philippines is home to distinct cultural groups, a certain amount of cultural cross-pollination did take place. The results are myths which are variations of the same themes, and characters which appear in more than one culture, or who bear the same name but with an altered form. But, as David says of his story in Alternative Alamat: there is power in words and there is truth in myth. If these characters did exist…which version would be true? Would it matter?

Without spoiling anything essential, could you tell me a bit about your story?

“Balat, Buwan, Ngalan” is about Bakunawa, the creature that’s blamed by legend for eclipses, this massive beast who repeatedly attempts to swallow the moon, but is never quite successful.

One of the things I tried to do in the story was to provide motivation for Bakunawa, to add an emotional dimension to the legend, to cast the myth in the light of an unrequited love, which is something I think we can all identify and sympathize with.

The story’s about other things as well: the importance of legacies and heritage, and of stories and narrative, particularly the oral tradition.

The structure you used for the story was very striking. What led you to the decision to construct the story in this way?

While I wanted to tell a version of the Bakunawa myth, I also wanted the reading experience to be one of discovery, in much the same way it’s a journey of revelation for the unnamed protagonist.

So the order of the three stories is decidedly non-linear, in the same manner in which we discover things in real life, not in a straight line but in a patchwork way.

We’re told little stories here and there, not necessarily in any particular linear order, and these stories, over time, can eventually be fit together to form a larger narrative.

As I mentioned earlier, among other things, “Balat, Buwan, Ngalan” is about stories and narrative. It’s about the importance of storytelling, and what we can glean from all the tales that we’re told. It’s about the interaction between the storyteller and the audience.

Which is also one of the reasons why I chose second person narrative, since it literally places the reader in the position of the protagonist, who is the audience to the karibang’s storyteller.

Thus, the identification becomes more solid: the reader is “listening” to the stories, just as the protagonist is.

And while first person narrative could also achieve similar results, I feel it would also make the protagonist’s journey a little more specific and particular, whereas second person makes reader identification a little easier.

And I wanted that universality, which is why, even within the story, I make no explicit mention of the protagonist’s gender. You, as the reader, could be male or female, and still slide smoothly into the protagonist’s skin, for the duration of the story.

I also wanted a wide berth between the narrative styles of the sections concerning the protagonist and the three stories.

While the three legends have a very distinct “voice” patterned on the oral storytelling tradition, the sections of the story featuring the nameless protagonist have a very modern, contemporary “voice,” steeped in pop culture and 21st century trappings.

To me, that helped underscore what I’ve learned from distinguished voices like Joseph Campbell and Rollo May: that ancient myths can help us navigate the “modern” problems we face on a daily basis.

That these aren’t just some musty old stories that have no bearing on today’s world of Twitter and Facebook and Instagram.

That these tales are just as relevant today as they were back then, when they were first being told around campfires, and by traveling minstrels and bards, and in smoky, raucous mead halls.

So it was a matter of presenting these old legends in the context of a very modern world and having those legends reveal something to the protagonist that he (or she) couldn’t have discovered otherwise.

What part of the story–or the writing process–was the most fun for you?

I think that would have to be a toss-up between,

A) the period when I’m formulating the story, doing the research and gathering together all the separate strands that make up the narrative, since, at that point, the story itself is still all potential, it’s as grand and as sweeping as my imagination allows; at that point, it’s still the best story I’m ever going to write; and

B) those points in the writing process proper when I’m firing on all cylinders, and the words and the language just all come together with surprising ease, and I’m laying down sentences and paragraphs just as I imagined them in my head, or, on those rarer occasions, when what comes out onto paper is even better than what I’d imagined.

(And this would be the same answer for any other writing I do, not just for this particular story.)

What part of the story–or the writing process–was the most difficult for you?

In relation to the previous question, I suppose the most difficult (or perhaps “frustrating” would be a better term) would be when, for whatever reason, I just can’t seem to make the writing as good as how I imagined it in my head, as if my abilities can’t seem to capture in reality the rhythms of the prose that sound so amazing and fantastic in my imagination.

How were you first exposed to Philippine mythology?

There isn’t a clear, momentous memory of my introduction to Philippine myth, though I imagine it must have been through folklore and the lower myths, stories of aswang and manananggal and kapre.

My siblings had stories of our family’s ancestral home (a place I have never been able to visit, as, by the time I was born, my family had ceased visiting the house for vacations), which included tales of a woman who might have been an aswang and a large man who might have been a kapre.

Hearing these as a young boy only served to enhance the feeling I had that the world was a very curious and strange place…

I’ve also always been a huge mythology geek, ever since grade school, and though I was first inducted into the Greek myths, and by extension, the Roman, as well as Egyptian, I eventually wended my way all around the globe and then began to unearth our own local myths and legends.

Is there any myth, epic or legend that you wish would be adapted into a novel, or comic, or movie?

Who is your favorite character from Philippine mythology, and why?

At this point, I’m going to have to cheat and reply to both these questions with one answer.

Now, I may be a self-confessed mythology geek, but that’s a very far cry from an expert; I imagine experts are the mega-hyper-geeks of their field of expertise. Like Joseph Campbell or Rollo May or Father Francisco Demetrio.

And, since I’m not an expert on local myths, I’m certain I don’t know even a quarter of all the Filipino myths out there, so it’s difficult to actually peg down a “favorite,” one that perhaps I’d like to see as an adaptation.

The closest I can come to having a “favorite,” I suppose, would be either of the two myths I’ve done more than just passing, casual research on, one being Bakunawa, and the other, Agyu, whose legend I’m currently approaching through the filter of the superhero genre in The ‘Verse comics I’m keeping myself busy with.

The crux of AGYU, the comic, is definitely “shaman as superhero,” and though earlier, ultimately aborted efforts to get AGYU on the comic page hewed closer to the legend (currently, the approach I’m taking is perhaps a bit more oblique than previous iterations), I’m having a lot of fun with the idea right now, along with my AGYU collaborator, Vinnie Pacleb.

As to the “Why?”

With Agyu, I think it’s probably the whole sprawling epic, proto-superhero feel to his legend: bravery, heroism, evil bad guy, struggle, death, rescue, resurrection… it’s all in there, just without the spandex.

With Bakunawa, I guess it’s that fascinating idea of how the human mind, without the rigidity of science, can make artistic associations and take creative leaps in order to explain massive phenomena like eclipses.

It isn’t the planets and satellites and stellar hoohah aligning and blocking each other in our view; it’s a gigantic serpent/dragon (or spider or lion or dog or jaguar or toad or wolf) that’s actually swallowing the moon (or sun).

And we, puny mortals, actually have the power to scare the hungry beast away by making noise…

The thought that we can have that kind of cosmic agency in our world is so awesome…

Alternative Alamat Interview: Timothy James Dimacali

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On July - 17 - 2014

For the digital release of Alternative Alamat, I ran interviews with several of the contributing authors, asking them about writing in general and their stories in particular. I wasn’t able to interview everyone, however, so for the print launch this coming Saturday [EDIT: LAUNCH HAS BEEN POSTPONED TO JULY 25, FRIDAY, 4PM, SAME VENUE] I went back to the contributors I wasn’t able to interview last time.

TIMOTHY JAMES DIMACALI

Timothy James M. Dimacali, author of “Keeper of My Sky”, has always been fascinated by the intersection of science and mythology. He is currently the Science and Technology Editor of GMA News Online, but loves to play his violin every now and then. He has been a fellow for fiction at the annual Silliman University National Writers Workshop and the Iligan National Writers Workshop, and graduated with a degree in Creative Writing from the University of the Philippines.

The people of Panay tell the story of the god Tungkung Langit’s eternal search for his wife, the goddess Alunsina. They speak of how Tungkung Langit scattered Alunsina’s jewels in the sky in an effort to call her back to him; how her necklace became the stars; her comb, the moon; her crown, the sun. According to the old story, she never returned. Perhaps she had a good reason.

Without spoiling anything essential, could you tell me a bit about your story?

It’s a love story based on a very simple premise: What is it like for a god to be lonely?

The structure you used for the story was very striking. What led you to the decision to construct the story in this way?

I tend to write my stories in chunks, not necessarily in a specific order. If I think of an interesting scene or turn of phrase, I’ll write it at the bottom of the page. I’d collect several of these and move them up the page if I find a place for them to fit. But somewhere along the line when writing Keeper of My Sky, I realized that a lot of the random scenes I had thought up could be tied together as a parallel narrative. From that point on, it was just a matter of weaving the two streams together.

What part of the story–or the writing process–was the most fun for you?

The whole writing process is fun for me! It’s like being on a rollercoaster that you built yourself, except that you’re riding it *while* building it. You have just a general idea of where you’d like to go, but the track is never quite the way you plan it and you never really know for sure how it’ll all end.

What part of the story–or the writing process–was the most difficult for you?

I honestly think it’s waiting for the pieces to fall into place. Sometimes I’d stare at the page and all I’d see are just bits and pieces, fragments that I’m not quite sure will fit together if at all. And that gut-wrenching feeling when you know that you’ll inevitably have to throw something out.

How were you first exposed to Philippine mythology?

My single fondest memory is of a little book of Philippine myths and fairy tales, written in the 1960′s, that I found in my grandfather’s house.

Is there any myth, epic or legend that you wish would be adapted into a novel, or comic, or movie?

Not any story, in particular, but the fabric of it all: the texture of the languages and cultures. I’ve always been fascinated by how closely Tolkien’s world echoed the myths and cultures of ancient Europe, and I feel that something similar can be done to Philippine mythology as well.

Who is your favorite character from Philippine mythology, and why?

Seriously, it’s always been Tungkung Langit and Alunsina. Yes, that’s two characters, but they might as well be a single one. We often talk about lovers being “made” for each other, but just imagine what it must be like to be gods who have only ever existed for each other. And then imagine that, despite being a god, you can never be with literally the only other being in the entire Universe who completes you. That’s the loneliness that only a god could know.

In the run-up to the print launch, I’ll be reposting old material on Alternative Alamat that’s still relevant for the new, expanded edition. Today, I’ll be reposting the relevant parts of an interview (conducted by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, a contributor to Alamat)  that originally appeared on the late, much-missed, World SF Blog. It provides some insight into the editorial side of things, and why I initially went the digital only route.

Hi! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. First off, what made you decide to start Alternative Alamat?

First, my more selfish reason: I was very into mythology as a child–but it was always Western mythology, not Philippine mythology. I only discovered Philippine myths well into my teens, and was mortified both by my ignorance and by the fact that I couldn’t see many modern writers drawing from these old stories. The reason I put up Rocket Kapre was to allow me to produce/encourage stories of the type that I would want to see on the market, and from the very beginning, I knew that one of my first projects would be to create an anthology which would bring together such stories, or give those stories a reason to be written.

My second reason was to help, in some small way, to promote awareness of both modern Philippine speculative fiction and Philippine mythology. In a sense, both are still invisible, internationally and in the Philippines itself, and one of the most effective ways I know of becoming more visible is simply by producing more content. To put out a book is, I think, the literary equivalent of “showing up”.

How did you first become acquainted with speculative fiction?

I grew up on a steady diet of fantasy and science fiction. The first novel I ever read was a fantasy novel (YA wasn’t a category back then). I’m an only child and, in what I’m sure is a familiar story, I found a haven in these other worlds.

Now, my encounter with specifically Philippine speculative fiction came much later, in the form of, first, the Mythology Class comics, and second, the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology.

Did your experience as a slush reader for Fantasy Magazine come into play when editing the stories for the anthology?

Yes, in the sense that my experience in the slush pile helped me refine my personal taste in short fiction. I find it much easier now to decide whether or not a story is a good fit for me. I did, however, have to always remember that I was an editor as well as a slush reader. As a slush reader, it doesn’t usually matter if a story is “fixable”–it’s a pass or fail. As an editor, those aren’t my only options.

What was your criteria in selecting the stories?

The presence of a mythological element–whether that be in the form of a character, a concept, an artifact–was the first factor I considered. Equally important to me, however, was for the stories to have a clear and coherent arc–even with the more experimental formats employed in the last two stories of the book, readers will know what the stories are about. One of the goals of the anthology was to offer a glimpse of our cultural heritage, and it didn’t serve that purpose to have stories that were amorphous or unclear.

Who was your target reader for the book? Were you gearing it towards local readers or to an international audience?

I tried to make a book that would appeal to any fantasy reader who was interested in mythology–particularly the lesser known mythologies. As far as nationality goes, I didn’t make a distinction between a Filipino and non-Filipino reader because the sad fact is that Philippine mythology is, for the most part, a mystery to both Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike. It’s one of the reasons I put so much non-fiction content in the anthology.

What made you decide to go with an eBook release?

Lower costs, wider distribution, and faster turnaround. That and the fact that I probably buy ten books a month for my Kindle, so while I still love physical books, I love digital books just as much. That being said, I am still considering a print run, if only so I can put Alternative Alamat on library shelves.

Dean Alfar and Joey Nacino Interview on Chie and Weng Read Books

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 3 - 2013

Authors interviewing authors! Rochita Loenen-Ruiz has an interview up on her book blog with Dean Alfar and Joey Nacino, where they talk about their processes, and the challenges of Philippine science fiction and fantasy. Go check it out.

An Oral History of Indie Komiks

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On August - 20 - 2013

Mervin Malonzo’s self-portrait.

Belatedly linking to an interesting post from the Philippine Star last week: Xerox, staples, starving artists: An oral history of indie komiks .

The indie komiks scene is full of raw talent. An uncensored creativity fueled by pure passion for the art runs rampant. To know more about underground comics, we asked some comic artists themselves to talk about the industry, where the scene is today, why life as an artist can be difficult, and where you can get your hands on these precious zines.

The creators interviewed are: Noel Pascual, Josel Nicolas, Robert Magnuson, Jon Zamar, Mervin Malonzo, and Rob Cham.

Timothy James Dimacali Interview at Adarna SF

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On August - 6 - 2013

Adarna SF has just posted an interview with Skygypsies writer and Alternative Alamat contributor, TJ Dimacali. (Adarna SF also has a new review of Alternative Alamat here.) Here’s an excerpt, with TJ answering a question aboutthe audience for and nature of Filipino speculative fiction stories:

It’s a fact that we don’t yet have the means to produce our own high technology, and won’t be capable of doing so for at least a generation more to come, if at all.

This means that we’re completely at the mercy of whatever technology lands in our hands from first-world countries. Sure, they’re built and assembled in Asia, but the basic construction paradigms and even the basic marketing strategies stem from people who are of a different cultural milieu and world-view than ours.

And yet, we’ve proven time and again that we are capable of adapting these technologies to suit our needs and to use them in ways that the original designers never even thought of.

This happened a decade ago with SMS, and now with social media. But all of these are after the fact, merely reactionary to the arrival of foreign technologies.

So that’s where speculative fiction —particularly SCIENCE fiction— comes into the picture: it’s a way for us to dream our own future, to empower us with a vision of what we can become. So that we’re more than just blind adopters of foreign technologies.

You can read the full interview here.

Who Is Tintin? An Interview with Tintin Pantoja

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On April - 11 - 2013
Filipina artist Tintin Pantoja will be at this Saturday’s Summer Komikon from 4-5 pm to launch “Who is AC?“, a new graphic novel illustrated by her and written by Eisner-award winning creator Hope Larson.
In this breakthrough graphic novel from the award-winning author of Mercury, there’s a new superhero in town—and she’s got kick-butt cyberpowers.

Meet Lin, a formerly average teenage girl whose cell phone zaps her with magical powers. But just as superpowers can travel through the ether, so can evil. As Lin starts to get a handle on her new abilities (while still observing her curfew!), she realizes she has to go head-to-head with a nefarious villain who spreads his influence through binary code. And as if that weren’t enough, a teen blogger has dubbed her an “anonymous coward!” Can Lin detect the cyber-criminal’s vulnerability, save the day, and restore her reputation?

With ingenious scripting from graphic novel phenom Hope Larson and striking art from manga illustrator Tintin Pantoja, this action-packed story brims with magical realism and girl-power goodness.

Tintin spared some time to talk to me a little about magical girls, comic workshops, and fandoms.
Q: “Who is AC?”, your new graphic novel with Hope Larson, has been described as “Who Is AC? is a love letter to the magical girls of shojo manga and anime…” Did you watch magical girl shows growing up? Who were your favorites?

As a kid I would watch SailorMoon dubbed into Indonesian, not really knowing what was going on but loving the characters and the show all the same. I’ve also seen some Card Captor Sakura (but more of the comic than the anime). I also got into a lot of western shows with magical girl elements, like Rainbow Brite and My Little Pony ( the eighties series).
Q: What do you think it is about the idea of the “magical girl” that makes it such a popular genre, especially with teens?

I think teens like seeing someone who’s their age, with their own experiences, exhibiting special powers and saving the world. Magical girls are just a feminine iteration of the superhero- emphasis on magic, romance, and of course, outfits and the relationships between characters. In popular culture, a lot of which is devoted to the heroic exploits of male characters, it’s nice to have a genre in which girls can be the star and save the world through strength and love.
Q: How did you come by this project? What’s it like working with Hope Larson?

I came by this project online. Hope was looking for an artist, and I volunteered my portfolio. She’s great to work with- very upfront about what she wants, and very clear. She sent me the script, and I was pretty much free to interpret it visually. She’s also been very supportive in other ways.
Q: You  graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York, and now you’re based here. Why did you choose to come back and work from here, as opposed to staying in the United States?

Honestly, it’s hard to stay in New York and not already a permanent resident or citizen, especially if you’re an artist.

Q: You’ve begun teaching a Comics and Manga Workshop here in Metro Manila. Why’d you decide to put up the workshop?
The workshop is only on a dry run right now. I hope to offer it to students during the school year on a weekly weekend basis. I just went online looking for comic schools and didn’t find any, so I thought it might be a good niche to fill, if people were  interested in learning to make comics I don’t know if Elbert Or’s workshop is still ongoing? It might be nice to trade notes with him, if he is. Anyway, a couple of my Indonesian friends put up comic/manga schools in Jakarta and I thought it might be a fun thing to do here. If anyone’s interested in the comic workshop, it’s a two-hour eight/nine-session program in which we make a short comic from script to final coloring/ tones. Email me at tintinp@gmail.com! ;) The first MWF summer sessions starts April 12!
Q: While everyone learns how to create in their own way, what are the benefits that you think a classroom-based workshop has to offer, that would be unavailable to an aspiring creator working on his/her craft alone?

The classroom setup automatically forces you to do the comic itself. A lot of creators- including myself- have a hard time motivating ourselves to work. So in a classroom, you’re automatically being obligated to make your stuff. Also, making comics is so solitary. It’s more fun to be working in a setting where people can learn from each other and encourage each other. It’s true that comics can easily be self-taught. What I want is to make the comics process more social, regular, and enjoyable for the individual creator.
Q: What’s your favorite part of the creative process?

Definitely the inking, when all of the hard work ( thumbnailing and pencilling) have been done!
Q: I read in an old interview that you liked to listen to stories while working. What have you been listening to lately?
I used to listen to online radio shows on the BBC and NPR websites, but mostly I just turn the TV station to the Crime Channel these days, or when inking, catch up on HBO shows like True Blood.
Q: What works/fandoms are you passionate about at the moment? Anything you’re looking forward to picking up for yourself at the Komikon?

At the moment my biggest fandom is the TV show Supernatural ( my favorite character is Castiel), and Adventure Time- but with Fionna and Cake. As for Komikon, I’m very much looking forward to picking up anything new from Mel Casipit- he’s a great artist and I’ve been following his career. I also love discovering new local cartoonists and finding something really unique and cool.
Q: What’s next for you, after “Who is AC?”

I have no idea. the future’s kinda wide open at this point. I don’t really have plans or ongoing projects.

 

Words and Pictures at Play: An Interview with Elbert Or

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On April - 8 - 2013
Writer/artist/creator Elbert Or is one of the special guests at this Saturday’s Summer Komikon 2013. where he will be launching his first Bakemono High compilation. I’ve known Elbert for a while, and he’s one of the most creative and driven people in Philippine comics, and he graciously agreed to sit down and talk about Bakemono High, his creative process, and comics for younger readers. He also gives us an exclusive: a colored version of a 2 page Bakemono High story that appears in black and white in the compilation.
Q: Thanks for your time Elbert! For those readers who don’t know your work, can you tell us a bit about your work in comics? You’ve certainly amassed quite a body of work through the years.
Sure thing! Let’s see…if I had to put together a bullet list of highlights, it’ll maybe be something like this:
  • Four years in college spent creating and peddling photocopied comics, at a time when there weren’t a lot of venues and opportunities to sell them. I also ran a comics org in Ateneo for a couple years.
  • Convinced my comics literature professor Jamie Bautista to try his hand at making his own comics. He ended up forming Nautilus Comics with me as the first employee, and over the course of a couple years released National Book Award-winning anthologies Siglo: FreedomSiglo: Passion, and the popular teen series Cast. I also contributed to various anthologies.
  • Conducted comics workshops across the country in an attempt to provide aspiring creators with opportunities that weren’t available to me when I was starting out, and eventually opened a comics creation elective in Ateneo.
  • Worked with various publishers like Anvil Publishing, Tahanan Books, Psicom Publishing, Milflores Publishing to try and open the doors for comics.
  • Worked with foreign publishers, from Chuang Yi in Singapore to Archaia Press and Oni Press in the U.S. The most prominent of these is the YALSA-winning Lola: A Ghost Story, which I illustrated for J. Torres.
  • Through all these, I created material across a range of genres too, from superhero stories (Jet Titanium, Super Space Ranger), to adventure stories for young girls (The Many Adventures of Stephanie Smee) to shonen manga-style stories (Card Battler Teks) to this one, Bakemono High.
Q: You’ll be at the Summer Komikon with a compilation of you Bakemono High comic. Again, for those unfamiliar with is K-Zone run, can you tell us what Bakemono High is all about?
Bakemono High is set in a school for monsters, and mostly follows three friends — Max, a vampire who’s a stickler for rules; Chuck, a werewolf who likes adventure almost as much as he likes food; and Amy, a mummy who’s a boy named sort of like a girl and is deathly afraid of everything!
Q: You’ve mentioned that there’s a lot of never-before-seen content in this compilation — around 30%. What can old readers look forward to in these new strips?
I don’t know if that’s a lot, but yeah, there’s some strips there that haven’t been published. If anything though, the biggest thing is that the cover says “book one,” which for me is an inherent promise that there will be a book two. And if all goes well, that’ll be out as soon as October. With 100% new content!

Q: So it’s true then — you’ll be continuing the series in the future?

I plan on continuing the series in the future, and have actually started work on the next book. What I’m discovering is that when it was being serialized in K-Zone, I was restricted to mostly one- to two-page installments, and I wanted to be sure they were self-contained but still be meaty enough story-wise. That meant compressing a lot of material into a small amount of space. With this new format, I’m letting myself — and the stories — breathe a bit more. Bigger panels to show off the art, or even just being able to dwell on the smaller character moments instead of speeding from one plot point to the next. It’s all getting me quite excited and reinvigorated as the creator!
Q: You are both a writer and an artist. Does one role or the other come more naturally to you? Or, perhaps, are they inseparable to you?
They’re actually quite inseparable, and if you look at my notes, whether they’re for comics projects or even for my day-to-day life tasks and work meetings, they’re littered with words and pictures playing with each other. I guess that’s really just how my mind works!
Q: What comics did you read as a child?
I read a lot of Tintin, Archie, Calvin and Hobbes, Dragonball Z, and Funny Komiks! Thinking about it now, that’s actually a healthy range of comics material don’t you think? Haha! It’s like a United Nations of Comics! I want to say it’s by design, that I’m reading Eurocomics beside American comics and newspaper strips beside Japanese and Filipino comics, but really I was just consuming whatever I could get my hands on!
Q: Does anything change, in your artistic process, in creating a book aimed at children, as opposed to one aimed at a more general audience?
I think if anything I tend to think more visually when I’m writing all-ages material. Lots of moments where I would either use a specific image in my head as a starting point for the story, or “This would look cool!”
On the other hand, for some reason, I find that I think more in terms of dialogue when writing more mature stuff. It’s not something I’m really conscious about though; really this is the first time I’ve had to articulate it! Do kids and younger characters just go and do, while adults like to talk things out? Is that how I see things? I don’t know what that says about me!
Q: What advice can you give comics creators in general, and those who want to make stories for children in particular?
In general, I always tell aspiring creators to stop aspiring and start creating. If you want to be a writer, write! If you want to be an artist, draw! The only way you get better at making comics is by keeping on using them. Just like muscles!
As for specific advice…well, it almost doesn’t matter if you’re making stories for kids or for adults: you have to write something that is true to yourself. It may be true to who you are now, or it may be something that is true to the 10-year old you, but it has to be true to some version of you.
I’m not talking about facts, I’m talking perspective. Wiser men have said, “don’t talk down to kids when you’re writing for them,” and that’s true: I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, I could tell when some adults were trying to pull my leg, and telling me something that I know just isn’t true! (If you don’t finish your ampalaya, people in Africa will die from hunger!) On the other hand, I also can remember believing in things that were just outright, boldfaced lies, all because I admired or loved the people who said them! (Your school is built on a graveyard and it’s haunted by spooky ghosts!)

Q: What types of stories would you like to see more of, from the local comics industry?

I don’t know what I want to see more of, specifically, because what I really want to see is something I’ve never seen before, something fresh and exciting!

What I’m sure I want to see less of though are fantasy comics with characters wearing bahags and tikbalangs and manananggals. Surely there are more creatures of folklore than that! I realize we have a rich history and tradition of folk literature, and there will always be a place for that, but right now, I’m really just at the point where I want to see the future right here, right now.
And now, an exclusive colored comic preview of Bakemono High!

Charles Tan Interview at Read in a Single Sitting

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 20 - 2012

The interview came out weeks ago when I didn’t have time to post about it, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t point you all to an interview with Charles Tan over at the Read in a Single Sitting blog. In the interview, Charles talks about why he put together Lauriat, his anthology of Filipino-Chinese Speculative Fiction (which contains my story, “The Captain’s Nephew”.) Give the interview — and the anthology — a read, if you haven’t already.

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Rocket Kapre is an imprint of Eight Ray Sun Publishing Inc. (a new Philippine-based publisher), dedicated to bringing the very best of Philippine Speculative Fiction in English to a worldwide audience by means of digital distribution. More info can be found at our About section at the top of the page.

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