Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thoughts from a komiks newbie

Thoughts from a komiks newbie
by rick olivares

In four days, for the first time in my life, I will be one of the exhibitors for the year-ending Komikon at the Bayanihan Center in Mandaluyong City. The Komikon on November 15 is the biggest one of the year when local comic book creators release their new works. And as a first time creator and publisher… I have butterflies in my stomach.

This was how I felt when I had my first book published in 2009 (The 18th Banner)  and a couple more in 2013 (Five and 11 Days in August). Then as it is now, I wonder if people will buy it and like it.

You see, this is a realm hitherto unchartered for me. Oh, I have read, collected, and loved the medium since I was about three years old. This isn’t marketing, public relations, political research, or even sports and feature writing where I fit like an old glove. This is all new to me.

I am a rookie in a rookie draft camp.

I wonder if in a sea of manga-inspired art and a plethora of superhero and supernatural books how my efforts will be viewed. Looking at them now, I see my mistakes for sequential art and storytelling (not to mention the bane of many editors – proofreading) is different from writing books and articles or even commercials.

Furthermore, it sounds completely audacious as I am releasing not one but two komiks this November 15. The first is a historical fantasy epic titled, Ang Ilog, that is drawn in the classic Pinoy komiks style by Rey Asturias, and the second is a humorous stab at life in the Netherworld called, Dante, featuring upcoming wunderkind artist, Niño Balita.

I conceived Ang Ilog to be a multi-part epic with each story arc involving different characters in its “universe.” Ang Ilog is basically set in Central Luzon, Tarlac and Pampanga to be exact in the early years of American colonial rule. The first arc involves Pablo, a young boy who traverses a lengthy river to sell produce to purchase medicine for his ill mother but gets waylaid by the waters’ many evil denizens. The second arc involves another of the characters, the enigmatic Lawin, in a story arc that vastly different in tone, mood, and pace than the first. If Book One of Ang Ilog was like paddling out of a wharf then Book Two and Lawin is like shooting the rapids.

Ang Ilog first came to me as a youngster riding a raft down the Tarlac river with my grandfather. I read Huckleberry Finn as a kid and I conjured up my version of Mark Twain’s classic piece of Americana. As a history buff, creating a story set in 1903 is a task and a half because we have to get everything right from the Mauser and Krag-Jorgensen rifles to even the clothing.

I had to do a lot of the panel designs and layouts for Rey. I haven’t done any illustration since my grade school days but art direction is something I practiced during my advertising days. As a writer, I have been trained to think visually and I thought that helped me in advertising writing scripts or doing thumbnails for storyboards. It has been a while but it was fun setting up Rey for Ang Ilog.

Dante on the other hand was originally conceived to be a very mature story as inspired by many of the Vertigo Comics that I read over the years. It’s about a kid named Dante who is the son of Charon, the ferryman of the Netherworld. Except Dante is kind of irresponsible and opts out for various adventures. Some strips are whimsical; some are satirical, some are homages, and some will deal with very mature themes but being very sensitive to the issues contained within.

I had to change it radically in tone, style, feel, and writing to suit Balita whose cartoony style brought a different feel to what was an otherwise heavy or mature story. Actually, I prefer the new direction and I really credit Niño for that because it is a lot more enjoyable to write (it really is difficult to write angsty stuff when I am not an angsty person). There’s a reason why I have never been able to follow the footsteps of Robert Smith or Morrissey writing angsty and depressing songs wrapped in perfect alternative gems.

After the first issue of Dante, we intend to release a weekly series of “Sunday strips” before compiling it for the second issue with of course, a lot of additions and bonus material.

As you can see, Ang Ilog and Dante are not exactly what young folks are reading or even raving about in this day and age. Instead I am mining stories I conceived and wrote from decades ago to as far back as four years ago. In fact, I have about five others in various stages of development but have been parked due to many factors. Some of them will see the light of day soon while others will have to be updated to suit the times.

I’ve attended the San Diego Comic Convention and the New York Comic Con as a fan. The Summer Komikon and the Indieket that I attended this year were different because they are for the burgeoning local scene. And it sure is a source of pride to see all these talented creators producing terrific material that for the last decade have been sources for Hollywood films and television series. Who knows where the local books may be adapted?

As for me, now I get to sink my teeth in a medium I have always loved. And the butterflies are still there.


Pio Garcia featured both Ang Ilog and Dante in philstar.com. Click on this link to read it. 

Jason Inocencio reviewed Ang Ilog for abs-cbnnews.com. Click on this link to read it.

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