My thanks to Reggie Manlungat, who unearthed and posted this old 1998 interview for a fanzine called La Liga Filifina. I totally forgot about it until he reminded me last month. I’m reposting it with some punctuation corrections. According to Reggie, he gave me a questionnaire via snail mail and I sent my handwritten reply to him. I was in my early 20s back then. This made me smile (and wince) when I read it a few weeks ago.
Reggie Manlungat: When did you start in comics?
Oliver Pulumbarit: Dhampyr is the first comic book that got printed, although I have other stuff that’s been done for Alamat way before Dhampyr was given to me.
RM: Who are your influences? Your style is unique compared to other artists, especially Jim Lee clones and some manga artists.
OP: I have lots of influences and Jim Lee is one of them. I think that artists who clone manga or any “hot” artist will eventually evolve into their own style. It’s a phase, after all, and it’s their choice. If they’re happy with it, well and good. Back to my influences, I like the ‘80s stints of John Romita, Jr. and Marc Silvestri on X-Men, and Art Adams, Walt Simonson were also influential to me back then. A few years ago, I discovered the art of Bernie Wrightson, Nick Manabat and Albrecht Durer. Recently, I’m into drawing from life. I try to incorporate a more realistic and observant approach. I’m letting movies, music, and life experiences broaden my mind, as well as help develop my talent further. You get new ideas that way.
RM: What do you think is wrong with the Philippine comic book industry?
OP: Before Alamat, “the industry” was about local “komiks”– quick reads which almost every time eventually ended up as fish wrapper. But that was meant for that crowd. I think there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a decent job for most people involved in it. Alamat serves as an alternative to US comics, and a more sophisticated crowd is what the group is after. Alamat, and other alternative publishers have struggled and are now getting recognized. Hopefully, bigger things will happen to Pinoy comics.
RM: What is the worst comic book that you’ve seen in your entire life?
OP: Lots. I just can’t recall a specific one right now. And I’d rather not name them. After all, one man’s bad comic book may be another’s gold.
RM: When you first read the script for Dhampyr, did you have any idea how much work it was going to involve?
OP: I knew it was going to be very visual. I was worried, because it was a 3 issue mini-series. I thought it might take forever to finish. The 3 issues merged into a one-shot, and if you noticed, each chapter was an issue long, because that was the initial intent.
RM: What kind of research did you do for the Dhampyr comic?
OP: David Hontiveros lent me postcards and photographs of places and gothic stuff. They were very useful. Also, watching vampire movies for the nth time (like Coppola’s Dracula, and Interview with a Vampire) helped make me feel the mood of the story.
RM: How closely did you work with David Hontiveros in creating the character designs for Dhampyr?
OP: He gave me short descriptions, and gave me free reign on the characters. For instance, Gregor is brutish, has piercings and tattoos, etc. Nikolai wears a crucifix pendant and earring. He left the other details to me.
RM: What kind of tools did you use in making the comic book?
OP: Almost everything: pens, brushes, quills, ink, and paint.
RM: After looking at the finished product, do you have any regrets about how the Dhampyr comic turned out? Was there a time when you think that you could have changed a couple of pages to make it better?
OP: Most of my pre-Dhampyr stuff, I’d look at them now and I’d go, “What the heck was I thinking?!” I’m that kind of artist. At one point I’d be content with my stuff and I’d just wake up one day and tell myself, “Oh, this should’ve looked this way, I should have drawn it differently…” I guess in that sense I try to be a perfectionist. I’m quite happy with my Dhampyr work, although I’m not congratulating myself. I’m constantly learning new stuff and I’d redraw a few things if we reprint the book.
RM: Do you have any scathing criticism on the book? How do you cope with people who never shut their hole on how they can draw better than you?
OP: Everyone gets criticism. I get constructive criticism, but only a few for Dhampyr. It’s okay because I draw comics not only for myself--people buy these things and my work is always subject to scrutiny. It’s challenging to show them my perception, my individuality as an artist, and if people respond to it positively or not is up to them. I always let my work speak for itself. If people like my work, thanks. It’s icing on the cake. I have to please myself before I can show my work in printed form. My art is an acquired taste. I don’t want my style to be predictable and uninspired. I want the reader to be challenged by my busy line work. On the subject of “foul” criticism, it’s different. It’s a sad fact that “talangka” people exist to malign other people in the creative field. It only reflects the frustration and lack of talent of the person, belittling efforts or achievements he can never have. It’s pitiful.
RM: What is your deep, dark secret?
OP: I’m a deep, dark secret.
RM: Horror or Superheroes?
OP: Both. I liked superheroes before horror. I also like sci-fi/fantasy. There are so many subjects to be read and drawn, and comics is a very rich medium for readers and creators alike.