Sunday, April 6, 2014

Lan Medina’s having a ball drawing Aquaman and comics

Lan Medina’s having a ball drawing Aquaman and comics
by rick olivares

There was no rock star feel to the arrival of Rolando “Lan” Medina in the Comic Odyssey branch at Fullybooked, Promenade for the signing of the first issue of Aquaman and The Others. It wasn’t like the royalty feel of Leinil Yu or Stephen Segovia or the other Filipino artists currently taking the comic book industry by storm.

Medina looked very unobtrusive in jeans, a white t-shirt, and a grey baseball cap. He sat down, fished out some signing pens and began autographing the books laid out in front of him. While he was asked to pose for photos, he obliged but later admitted to being terribly shy about it.

He didn’t say much -- “kaya siguro nagging artist ako at hindi writer,” he opined.

And why not? This is a man who prefers to let his work do the talking.

In the afterword of Fables #1 (published by Vertigo Comics in July of 2002), creator Bill Willingham wrote, “You’ve already seen a full issue’s worth of Lan Medina’s amazing artwork – deftly aided and abetted by Steve Leialoha’s masterful inking and Sherilyn van Valenburgh’s colors. When Fables quickly takes its place among your short list of “must have” books every month, most of the credit (and glory) will go to them.”

Fables did make it to my “must have” list but aside from Fables’ hype, I tried out the book due to Willingham, who I first read in The Elementals, and Medina, who I first saw in Image Comics’ Aria a few months earlier.

Aria: Midsummer’s Spell (published March of 2002) was my introduction to Medina. At that time, another Filipino artist, Jay Anacleto, had put his stamp on Aria with his lushly painted work. When there were other fill-in artists for the book, I got upset because not only were they radical departures from what Anacleto established but they were in my opinion unfit for the book. Lan Medina appeased my anger with his artwork that – at least for Aria – reminded me of English artist, John Bolton.

When I mentioned this to Medina, he felt embarrassed to be mentioned in the same sentence as Bolton who worked with Chris Claremont on Marada, the She-Wolf for Epic Illustrated, Neil Gaiman on The Books of Magic, and Clive Barker on Hellraiser among many others.

His first inclination at illustration was from his father Segundo, who was a draftsman who drew schematics for carpentry and some such. However, it was only when he saw the work of Larry Alcala, Tony DeZuniga, and Mars Ravelo among others did he become inspired to really take up comic book illustration.

When Fil-American artist Whilce Portacio made his triumphant return to the Philippines in 1992 after his breakout runs on The Punisher, X-Factor, and Uncanny X-Men, Medina was one of the artists who was invited to become a part of a burgeoning studio being run out of New Manila. The studio was meant to provide artwork to American publishers.

Medina helped Portacio on art chores for X-Factor, Stone, and eventually Aria (I also picked up his second Aria series, The Uses of Enchantment). He went on to work on projects for Marvel, DC, and Image that included the X-Men, Iron Man and Batman to name a few. “Parang panaginip,” he broadly smiled. “Enjoy talaga lalo na comics fan ako.”

For all the superhero fare he has done, it is with Fables where he achieved popularity.

While Medina didn’t stay too long as he only penciled the first story arc (#1-5), I felt he set the tone and look of the book that was hyped to be the “next Sandman”.

“Salamat at ganun ang pananaw mo sa trabaho ko,” he sheepishly said.

While he has amassed quite a body of work, he admitted that his favorite character to draw is Batman. “Gusto ko yung grim and gritty stories,” he admitted. “Bagay kay Batman.”

While there aren’t any penciling jobs open for the Caped Crusader, he is happy to be concentrating on Aquaman and the Others -- that was released internationally last April 2 – at least for the first five issues.

Several dozens of fans were on hand to ask him to sign the new DC book as well as his past works. He signed and drew sketches for more than three hours straight without taking a break.

It isn’t too often that he agrees to do signing events as he’s busy with work. According to his wife, Mayette, it took a while to set this one up. With the release of the second Aquaman title, the timing seemed just right.

Harvey Tolibao, another young Filipino artist who has drawn books ranging from Star Wars (for Dark Horse) to Green Arrow (DC) to the Silver Surfer (Marvel) among many others, is in attendance. “Today, fanboy ako,” he quipped as he asked Medina to sign his copy of Aquaman as well as to do a quick sketch on a small notebook that has all these other famous artists chipping in their own ink.

Medina continued to broadly smile. “Enjoy to!” he later admitted about the event.

Behind the table where Medina sat were three sketches – one, of Snow White from Fables, and two characters from Aquaman and The Others: Ya’wara and Prisoner of War. Fanboys gush over the Ya’wara and Snow White art. The female form is something Medina does so well. In fact, his Facebook Fan Page posts many of his commissioned sketches. “Si Mars Ravelo yung inspiration ko,” Darna. Sino ba hindi nagging fan ni Darna?” he said of the famous Filipino artist and the local answer to Wonder Woman.

After the guest appearance at Comic Odyssey, it was his turn to revert to the comic book fanboy. The second Captain America film was on his itinerary.

“Hindi to trabaho,” he summed up about his two decade-long career in comics. “Kasi nage-enjoy ako.”

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