Reno Maniquis’ Maskarado: A throwback superhero
by rick olivares
Reading Reno Maniquis’ Maskarado is like reading comics from an age when right was might and not the other way around. That was a time when black and white referred to good and evil or if a comic was not colored. It certainly did not refer to the grim and gritty of which has blurred the lines between hero and villain that is prevalent in a lot of superhero comics today.
Furthermore, it is good to know that Maskarado was influenced by the pre-Parallax Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner who both wore the mantle of DC Comics’ Green Lantern. They are good and solid characters and so are Carlo Miranda and Raymond Pacheco, the two men who bore wore the mask of Maskarado one after the other.
In Maniquis’ Maskarado Vol. 1: Into the Fire, much like their Green Lantern counterparts, the two Maskarados were bequeathed powers by the alien guardian Orimar with the simple mission – to be an avatar of peace and justice. With Miranda having retired from his tour of duty, the new mantle of the Earth’s protector falls to Pacheco, who like Rayner has artistic skills and works in an advertising agency.
Thinking that the Maskarados would go up against foes who resemble Sinestro, Major Force or even Dr. Polaris (traditional Green Lantern rogues), Maniquis throws us a loop by pitting each Maskarado (in Miranda’s last battle and Pacheco’s first) against a supernatural foe. Normally, I loathe “magic vs. powers” battles, Maniquis is able to pull it off quite nicely and in a believable manner. Later, there are the more apt foes like the energy-powered Energon and Silakbo and the Iron Man-like A.T.A.C.
And there’s the Spidey-esque banter by Pacheco’s Maskarado that lightens up the 104-page collection of the compiles the first three issues of Maskarado, the Special Preview Edition, and Maskarado Adventures.
If you liked the old Justice Society of America, Green Lantern, or even the Blue Beetle, Maskardo is right up your alley.
Here’s a short interview with Reno Maniquis.
Rick: What and who were your influences in comic books?
Reno: As a very young kid I read US comic books, and, cliché-ish as it may sound, I somewhat learned how to read because of them. During prep school I discovered Funny Komiks, and that began my interest for both local and international comics.
A lot of comic creators have influenced me over the years, but the most influential would be Hal Santiago, who taught me how to draw komiks. He also introduced me to a lot of comics creators before my time such as Al Williamson, Alex Raymond, Reed Crandall, Hal Foster... just to name a few. As for superhero influences, two creators I would say who have had the biggest impact on my work would be John Byrne, Gil Kane, and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez.
Rick: How did you arrive at the concept of Maskarado? Is it safe to say that it there's a Green Lantern/Shazam/Miracleman influence as well? I got that vibe when reading it.
Reno: My father was a part-time journalist, and he told me that there would be an opening for a comic strip in Tempo after the series Bagwis ended. So I scrambled and searched all the superheroes I had created when I was a kid to see if anything had potential. There wasn’t anything worth being re-worked so I created a new one.
I first came up with another character entirely, but it didn't feel right so I scrapped that and started over. Green Lantern was a favorite of mine, so I guess that influenced the whole "alien-bequeaths-earthling-with-powers" thing. I guess subconsciously there was that Shazam influence there, but I think the whole transformation thing was just an easy way for him to get in and out of costume.
Rick: When was Maskarado first released and when was it completed? Are there any plans for its further publication?
Reno: Maskarado was first released as a comic strip in Tempo on February 2, 1992, following Bagwis as the regular comic strip serial. It ran for around six months. I had to end it because I was still in college doing my thesis and something had to give.
I revived it as an indie comic around 1999 or 2000. He became a legacy character, with a new, younger person under the mask. I guess the darker tone of the first story arc was influenced by DC's Vertigo line, which was pretty popular during those days. But all in all, I try to stay away from the grim and gritty stuff. I like my heroes to be inspirational.
Rick: Having said that, what are you working on now?
Reno: I mostly do various design and illustration work, dabbling in comics from time to time. I am doing something for Moonstone Books at the moment, and also try to get some work in finishing the lettering and layout for Maskarado Volume 2, which I plan to release next year if I hopefully have the funds to publish it. And when time allows I'm also drawing and scripting pages for Volume 3.