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Filipino comic book artists help shape mythologies

By Oliver Pulumbarit
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Last updated 17:05:00 01/21/2008

MANILA, Philippines?Behind some of the popular comics currently being released internationally are Filipino artists, delighting geeks of all ages with their distinct takes on different heroes?from those in form-fitting battlesuits to those in Jedi robes?and their traditionally frenetic fisticuffs.

Pinoy pencilers and inkers started getting attention for their work abroad decades back. Some comics pros, like Whilce Portacio, Leinil Francis Yu and Jay Anacleto, became sought-after talents in the ?90s. They continue to draw for major American publishers such as Marvel and DC Comics.

Not long after, other Philippines-based pencilers?Glass House Graphics? Wilson Tortosa, Carlo Pagulayan, and Harvey Tolibao, among others?debuted and began making waves with a number of noteworthy monthlies as well. Once again, fellow Pinoys? artistry and storytelling skills enhance some previously established fantasy realms.

WILSON TORTOSA

Manga-inspired artist Wilson Tortosa, 30, has penciled titles such as Top Cow?s 12-issue ?Battle of the Planets,? ?Tomb Raider? and ?City of Heroes.? But before landing his first mainstream project, he worked on lesser-known comic books like Chaos Comics? ?Jade? and Sirius Entertainment?s ?Banzai Girl? in 2001.

Tortosa also lent his artistry to the 38-installment ?Lego Exo-Force? web comic, and is now illustrating ?Couplers,? written by Buzz Dixon, who describes the series as ?a star-spanning space opera that serves as a metaphor for courtship and marriage.? It will be launched in 2008.

Most proud of:

?Battle of the Planets.? It was the closest experience to working with illustrator Alex Ross. Plus, I?m such an otaku, so the thrill of working on a project that involves giving life to the Gatchaman universe is priceless!

Formal training:

The basics I learned back in Fine Arts helped a lot; it speeds up the drawing process. It?s also very helpful especially when coming up with different styles because it?s important to keep basic anatomy in mind.

Art advice:

To be a good comic book or manga artist, you not only need the ability to draw everything well, you also need the ability to tell a story. A cool or pretty drawing style may get you started, but good storytelling will keep you there.

Biggest art influences:

A lot of people, like Art Adams, Whilce Portacio, Jim Lee, Akira Toriyama, Katsuya Terada, Yukito Kishiro, Hiroaki Samura and Masamune Shirow.

Thoughts on Pinoy comics artists:

I believe Pinoy artists are very flexible, highly adaptable, and some of the best in the world.

Dream project:

I wish I can write well enough so I can draw my own characters and publish my own story.

HARVEY TOLIBAO

The former tattoo artist and travel agency messenger from Cebu knew that he wanted to draw for a living since grade school. Harvey Tolibao, now 26, is thrilled that he?s drawing comic books full-time. The artist penciled three issues of Dark Horse?s ?Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic,? and Marvel Comics? recent ?Iron Man? annual. He also illustrated a segment in ?What If: Civil War,? and is currently busy working on a ?Young Avengers? story.

He admits that he?s improved immensely since he started showing art samples to his agent, who reviewed his portfolio and told him, ?This is the ugliest Superman I?ve ever seen!?

Most proud of:

My ?Star Wars? work! The colorist, Jay David Ramos, is a Cebuano like me.

Formal training:

None, but I learned a lot from Carlo Pagulayan, Stephen Segovia, Leinil Yu and other artists. I discovered that I had to be consistent with anatomy. There should be correct perspectives, proper placement of muscles, and consistent facial structures. Akala ko noon, drowing lang nang drowing.

Art advice:

Just draw. Every time you feel like it, draw. And listen to what people say to improve. Tibayan lang ang damdamin.

Biggest art influences:

I think every comics artist, at some point, wanted to be like Jim Lee. But later, I liked Travis Charest. I have many influences, including older artists.

Thoughts on Pinoy comics artists:

Many young artists right now don?t know that back in the 1960s and 1970s, Filipino artists were some of the best illustrators. Sina Alfredo Alcala, Francisco V. Coching, Nestor Redondo, sobrang galing nila!

Dream project:

A ?Lord of the Rings? comic book adaptation! I really want to work on something like that. But working on ?Star Wars? is a dream come true!

CARLO PAGULAYAN

Carlo Pagulayan, 29, considers himself fortunate that he landed an important penciling gig back in 2002. ?I was really lucky,? he says. ?They were looking for a replacement artist for ?Elektra.? I was at the right place at the right time.? The longtime Batangas resident has drawn other prominent Marvel titles, including several issues of ?Emma Frost? and ?Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four.? He?s thankful that his recent ?Incredible Hulk? stint, where he visualized writer Greg Pak?s epic transformation of the misunderstood man-monster in the ?Planet Hulk? storyline, challenged him to be more creative.

Pagulayan, an Industrial Engineering graduate, is currently illustrating the second ?New Avengers? annual. He admits that he barely remembers lessons he learned in school, especially those involving Math, but he fondly recalls becoming artistic with like-minded people.

Most proud of:
That would be ?Incredible Hulk.?

Formal training:
None. Back in school, when classes got boring, my classmates and I drew our teachers!

Art advice:
I?d like to say, aside from ?practice,? understand the lines you use and compare different ways of shading, like hatching. If you understand why a particular technique is used, it?s easier to draw. If you choose a style, make sure that you?re comfortable with it, because if you?re just going to copy, you really don?t know how the artists you?re emulating think or approach things.

Biggest art influences:
Joe Quesada was one of my earliest influences. My friends and I liked his trading card drawings back in the ?90s. I discovered Image Comics around that time. I preferred Marc Silvestri?s style over Jim Lee?s. I liked his women more. Brandon Peterson, David Finch, and Travis Charest, Leinil Yu and Whilce Portacio also influenced me.

Thoughts on Pinoy comics artists:
Taob kami sa mga artists noon! Aside from Alfredo Alcala, I admire Alex Nino.

Dream project:
I?ve already done ?Hulk!?

     


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