Sunday, December 04, 2005

Hearting Comix

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“My amazement turns to conviction: talented people see things that others don’t. People with eidetic memory see colors flash as they recite books word for word; oido musicians hear bass lines beneath the melody; and Oliver sees patterns in marbled walls, in comic book covers, in everything.”

Peach Abubakar wrote that for the December issue of Chemical magazine three years ago. Actually, she said that because I showed her the old New X-Men masthead, which, I mentioned in passing, was perfectly symmetrical that one can read it upside down and still see it the same way. She then asked me about things that I “see” in everyday objects, so I answered that I just notice things like random lines forming strange, face-shaped doodles on the surface of marble tiles, and how I spot comic book artists’ strengths and flaws quickly. Her article mostly focused on how I became a “comic book nut” and my love for the medium, and the staffers of the mag even had me “pose” for a colored pic (above) that accompanied her nice writeup.

Comics for me are an occasional escape from mundanity. I have read and re-read tons of four-colored, paneled goodies (and guilty pleasures) since I was a wee kid. My mom suggested a few times, when I was a teen, that I stop buying them and save my allowance. Of course, one time, she immediately did so after seeing a cover of Uncanny X-Men, an Inferno tie-in, which had the near-naked Madelyne Pryor (as Goblin Queen), her scary pet demons (Jean Grey’s transformed parents), and on the foreground, her nasty ally Nastirh clutching baby Nathan Summers (the future hero Cable).

But by that time, it was akin to an addiction already, and Mom soon learned to accept it. My parents knew that I was seriously into it, and whatever it was that I got from the books was inspiring me in my school work. She even told me that she and her friends, as kids, also enjoyed quiet time with their komiks. Dad, meanwhile, once shared that he really enjoyed a Batman comic book that was given to him when he was really young. Reading comics really started with them, as I clearly remember enjoying the Agua Bendita, Taurus and Panday serials in old issues of Liwayway when I was in grade school. I was bombarded with fun kid stuff in the form of Darmo Adarna, Superkat, Dax, Niknok, and Planet Op Di Eyps from Funny Komiks. I also browsed through different mature anthologies in Wakasan and Love Stories, which, now that I think about it, contained a lot of implied sexual activity. But they were nicely self-censored.

The fantastical and resonant worlds appealed to me then, as they do now. Throughout these years, I have met disparate people who became friends because we shared the penchant for periodically visiting these bright, mysterious, escapist territories. I, along with these similarly appreciative, and sometimes nitpicky individuals, continue to speak about our unending jaunts into these modern mythologies.

I was interviewed three times this year about comics. Met up with Yonina Chan last month for the lengthy article which came out last Friday (thanks, Yonina!). I was emailed questions about LNA for Icon magazine’s website last summer. And I was also contacted to talk about the project for a college campus paper early this year. That last one, I’m assuming, has yet to be published, since I’ve yet to receive word about it. I doubt it’ll see print now, but no worries. I understand that these things happen, so I’ll just post some of the questions and my responses here.
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Who or what was your inspiration for this comic book?

When I was given the chance to try out for Pulp’s comics section, I knew that whatever I’d be creating must have its own edge and voice. I have a number of stories in my head, some of which involve a big, epic superhero setting, but space constraints didn’t exactly allow for what I had in mind originally. So I tapped into something universal, something that would make people notice and pay attention. And this was “Lexy, Nance…”, about the joys and pains of people who didn’t conform with society or tradition. From there, I understood how I wanted to present it.

Where did you get your characters?

They were all formed in my head. I’ve hundreds of characters, but when I knew what I wanted to create and what kind of story I should tell, those three protagonists surfaced. It was easy to write them from that point. They had to be distinct from each other and relatable.

Are your works autobiographical?

Not necessarily. There are certain scenes, thoughts and ideas that might be considered things I believe in or have experienced, but I’d rather not talk about the specifics for the sake of keeping the story’s mystique intact. That way, my readers can still separate me from my work, and can keep guessing if what they’re reading is taken from reality or just creative fabrication. It’s part of the whole writing deal.

What messages are you aiming to send to your readers?

A few letters I have received, presumably from young people, tell me that they have been empowered by it. They have been moved or touched by what they have read, and identify with the difficulties that the characters have had to go through. Mostly, the intention of the comic book is to provoke thought, and challenge people’s old notions about inclusion, family, and sexuality. If they feel positively affected by it, then I feel that I’ve done my job of getting my messages across.

When did you start doing this?

I wanted to tell stories through the comics art form since I was a kid, when I was in Grade 2. I just wanted to draw and draw action scenes, monsters and villains being beaten by superheroes, stuff like that. Eventually, I was creating my own characters, with their secret worlds and wars drawn at the back of notebooks and sketchpads. By college I knew that I wanted to be a comic book storyteller since I have met like-minded individuals who shared the same passion, and we discovered during this time that several Pinoys worked and are working successfully in US comics.

Do you have any advice for the people who wish to join this industry? Is this a good career move?

Practice. Never stop learning. You have to be open-minded to be the best storyteller. You have to be observant and pay attention to issues and events in and around your own life. If you want to self-publish, you have to want something enough to see it through, finish it, market it, and sell it. Realistically, doing your own comics entails a lot of real, hard work. Find a day job, or a number of freelance jobs. Find sponsors, connections, and people who believe in your project, so you’ll have the necessary support system to get it off the ground. Everything’s a learning experience, and you should savor it and let it fuel your creativity. And learn to accept criticism. But most of all, promise yourself that the project will not suck.

2 comments:

noooooooooooooooo said...

nice to hear about dax, niknok and those other old funny komiks title besides combatron.

howsabout darmo adarna and mahimud ali in da pantasi island?

oliver said...

Hi jsoriano.

I'm not familiar with Combatron... must have been serialized years after I stopped reading.

Mahimud Ali was fun! I remember that his family included the centaur, the sirena, and the super-strong baby girl. :)