KAKOSA.com interviews Gerry Alanguilan
interview by Bosyo
Gerry Alanguilan is probably the most prolific Filipino artist on the web. He has his own website and so do some of his comic book projects.
He has given plenty of interviews online. From GetAsia to comic book fanzines to the Inquirer.
He has also been very outspoken and honest about his views on Pinoy culture, manga and music.
Of course Gerry deserves all this attention. He achieved fame abroad as the comic book artist for titles such as Iron Man, Wolverine, X-Force, X-men, Wetworks and Grifter. He has also published several local comic books such as Timawa, Wasted and Dead Heart Stories. He has developed a unique style and has deeper understanding and concern for culture than most comic book artists.
Kakosa: Much has been said about your stand regarding Pinoy manga artists, originality and the people behind "Culture Crash" comic books in particular. To summarize your position in http://alanguilan.com/sanpablo/art2.html the issue is not about using any certain style but rather about incorporating outside influences and developing your own. You seem to be saying that being a Filipino comic book artist is having a distinct personal style, that your "Pinoyness" will naturally come out if you be yourself. Am I right? Aside from having an original personal style what else makes a comic book Pinoy?
Gerry: The search for the identity of the "Filipino" in comic book art has been very difficult, and I don't pretend to even begin to know the answer. What you see on the article on my site is what I stood on the subject last year and my belief on it is still evolving. More and more I'm starting to believe that regional identity is not as important as individual identity. In the age of communication through faxes and Internet, interaction between people from all kinds of races, cultures, beliefs and backgrounds are becoming more widespread. In just a decade’s time, the Internet will be as common as the television and telephone. Information will flow freely and artistic influences from the most obscure places to the most common will be easily had by almost anyone. I see distinct characteristics between styles of comic book art from Europe, America and Asia breaking down. Slowly but surely we are becoming more and more "citizens of the world" rather than citizens of any particular region. And I believe comic book art will reflect that as it is starting to now. More and more the thought of creating "Filipino" or "European" or "Japanese" style comic art will become less important to creating a distinctive "personal" style which will vary from individual to individual, based on his personal experience.
In spite of this, I still believe the basic point of my article holds true. An artist MUST strive to be original. In comic art, it is always possible to create something new and fresh. A particular style may have certain influences, but if a style is well realized under the hands of a capable artist, something true to the spirit of that artist will shine through. If the end result of that is what may be considered "Filipino Comic Art", it's not for me to say.
Kakosa: What is your dream project? What would you love to do?
I've got LOTS of dream projects! One that I'm trying to get off the ground now is an illustrated adaptation of the legends of the Seven Lakes of San Pablo City. I want to create something that will last, and something that will have significance to me culturally. San Pablo City is where I was born, where I grew up and where I hope to die some day. I'm so grounded in this place that I don't see myself staying any other place for long. I may leave once in a while, but I will always come back. I want to create something that will celebrate this place and to let other people know about it as well. My other projects also run along the same lines.
Kakosa: Do you plan to do an online interactive comic book series, something like Marvel Online?
Gerry: I most likely will not. Even though I'm so steeped into technology, what with my art portfolio available online and many of the tasks of my work needing computers, the end product of my efforts will always be in print. I'm still a traditionalist at heart and I believe taking comics into the web takes something away from the joy of reading them. Many people would disagree with me, but there you go. It's not that I haven't tried. A web-only work of mine is currently available through Unboundcomics.com, in the third issue of Remote Views. I have a 6 page story there called "City of Light" as written by Antony Johnston. It was a nice experience, but it's something I'd rather not repeat again. I understand that I may be losing a certain segment of the reading public, but it's something I can live with. My work will always be in print or not at all.
Kakosa: Do you plan to take your comic book stories into other kinds media as well? I read somewhere you were doing a film based on your comic book "Wasted". What has come of that so far?
Gerry: Yes, shooting has actually begun on the movie, and it's been really terrific seeing all that so far. It's a whole new experience for me. My ultimate goal is really just creating comics. I have no definite plans to bring these stories to other kinds media like animation or films or whatever. Comics is really just what I want to concentrate on. But if other parties approach me about bringing my stories elsewhere, like the Wasted movie, that would be terrific! Other artists regard comics as stepping stones to other fields like animation and film, as if they are a natural progression from one place to another. Not me. Comics is the ultimate for me. This is the place where I want to tell my stories.
Kakosa: Among the current crop of comic book artists it is you who seems to pay most tribute to the old masters like Alfredo Alcala, Alex Nino, Francisco Coching, Nestor Redondo and Rudy Florese. What can we do to keep alive and further their tradition of comic book art? Do you consider your own style as something that builds upon their tradition or does your style have roots somewhere else?
Gerry: To be honest, my roots come more from Herge of the Tintin comic books, Barry Windsor Smith, Mike Kaluta, Frank Miller, Moebius and the like. It wasn't until much later did I come to appreciate our own local artists for their accomplishments, although I had been aware of their work ever since I was very young. Only in the last few years have I been conscious about the importance of appreciating our legacy of Filipino Comic Book art. I look at all those terrific artwork, specially those by Francisco Coching and the many artists he has influenced like Alex Nino, Alfredo Alcala and Nestor Redondo and I just marvel at it. And I've come to realize people from all over the world marveled at the talent of these Filipino artists as well. Nino and Alcala have become famous internationally for their art and Filipinos, as a result, have gained honor and respect for it in this particular field. Those artworks were one of a kind. Obviously coming from the same pool of creativity, each artist nevertheless displayed an individuality unique to himself. To create comic book art today grossly derivative of the artwork popularized by other cultures seems to me like an insult to this legacy. To keep true to this tradition, I don't believe it's necessary to copy what they did. It's all right to be influenced, but any true artist will be able to use them, and come up something unique to himself. That is the way to carry on this tradition. Be unique. Be original. Be true to yourself.
Kakosa: Do you consider comic books an art form? Why?
Gerry: Certainly! What is art anyway? For me it is the product of a person's talent and skill in arranging and composing elements to create an aesthetically pleasing whole. That goes without saying that this pretty much covers a lot of people. A gardener can be an artist if he is able to create a garden that looks good with well-chosen and trimmed plants arranged in an aesthetic manner. A comic book artist, along with the writer, creates stories on paper that come alive in the minds of the reader. And if that writer and that artist is talented enough, amazing pieces of work has the potential for being created. Is comics art? Yes it is! Of course it is! And I'll knock anyone on his ass if he takes a look at any artwork by Francisco Coching and thinks it's not art.
Kakosa: Where do you get your inspiration? Is there some sort of routine you follow to get yourself in the mood?
Gerry: I get inspiration from many things. They could be anything as long as they impress me. They could be novels, comics stories, TV shows, movies, paintings, sunsets, fields of flowers, animals, anything. I've watched the Stephen Chow movie Shaolin Soccer now for like 5 times. What a terrific movie and yes, terribly inspiring.
Kakosa: Aside from comic books are there other creative endeavors you engage in right now?
Gerry: Aside from writing the Tagalog screenplay to the Wasted movie, I'm also trying acting in it. I'm not so good at it, but we can't afford to pay real actors. he.he.
Kakosa: It seems foreigners often judge the entire Filipino race by the actions of one person. Do you feel a need to represent the Philippines, especially when you are abroad? Do you feel a certain kind of burden not felt by other nationalities with more recognized cultures? Is there something you want to prove or be recognized for?
Gerry: I've not been abroad that much, but yeah, I guess when I'm here or when I'm there, I don't want to do anything stupid lest I be misconstrued to be typical of Filipinos. I keep that in mind a lot when working in comics. I always try to make it the best job that I can, and do it as fast as I can so I won't be late. My performance could help determine the future employment of future Filipino artists. If they know they could depend on me, then they would be predisposed to trust other Filipinos like myself. I don't feel it's a burden at all, but an honor. I just do my best, and I'm sure I'll be OK.
What is Pinoy culture? Must all artists take responsibility for it?
Gerry: This goes back to question #1. I don't feel I'm in a position to tell what is Pinoy culture as yet. Maybe in a few years I may start to have an idea, but now I'm still searching, I'm still studying. But what I can tell you know is what Filipino Culture is not. It's not Japanese Culture, it's not European Culture and it's not American. Artists must always keep this in mind. Like I've always been harping, just strive to be original, do your best and you'll be all right.
Kakosa: Are there any projects you want to plug?
Gerry: Ochlocrat #1 from Comics Conspiracy, out last January. With writer Doug Miers. High Roads #1 from Wildstorm/DC, out in April. With writer Scott Lobdell, and artists Leinil Yu and Edgar Tadeo. Dead Heart Stories #1 from Alamat, out in June. With artist Leinil Yu. The Yellow Shawl, a comic book adaptation of the classic novel by National artist Francisco Arcellana also out sometime middle of the year. With writer Emil Flores.