Elbert Or interview in Inquirer

The Elbert Or Project
By Ruel S. De Vera, Philippine Daily Inquirer

ELBERT Or knows how to keep himself occupied.

“I pretend I'm 16, I feel like I'm 40, but I'm actually 25,” he says. That combination of mental states makes him perfect for the work he's engaged in. The bespectacled writer-illustrator had scored a hit with “The More The Manyer,” the tiny but funny book of Pinoy malapropisms he illustrated that turned out to be publisher Tahanan Books' best-seller for 2008.

“The added ‘Yay, I’m so happy’ comes from people who get in touch with me to say that the book’s being used as an educational aid in classrooms. It warms my heart so much it’s affecting the polar ice caps.”

After about half a year of work, Or is back with the sequel, “Without Further Adieu,” out in bookstores now. He’s hopeful it will be a pleasant surprise as well. “I certainly hope it’s just as good, if not better. It took me twice as long to finish it,” he explains.

Now, he’s embarking on “Lola: A Ghost Story,” his first mainstream US project as the penciller for Filipino-Canadian comics writer J. Torres, to be published by Oni Press. “Lola” is a graphic novel Torres (“Teen Titans Go!”) had written that revolves around the narrator’s grandmother and dabbles in Filipino mythology. Or had e-mailed Torres to congratulate the writer when “Lola” was first announced a few years ago. When the original artist pulled out, Torres asked Or to take over. “That said, the book has met with numerous delays on my end, but I’m happy to report that after two years, the end is finally in sight, and people can finally see the book,” he says.

While he had provided uncredited work for US publishers in the past, Or considers this a huge opportunity. “To have a book released that has my name on the cover just gets me all excited and nervous like a nerdy boy on a first date.”

Another awesome book inching its way to publication is Or’s labor of love, “Bakemono High.” Two years ago, the illustrator had cold-called K-Zone Magazine and wound up providing them with his pet project, a strip featuring cute versions of movie monsters like a vampire and werewolf in high school. “’Bakemono High’ grew out of a desire to challenge myself by coming up with a concept that is simple enough for first-time readers, but at the same time allows me to tell a wide range of stories. Adults seemed to always call me a little monster when I was a kid, so a school full of them—literally—makes sense to me.” The Bakemono High book will feature two year’s worth of strips as well as a new full-length tale. Or also has several graphic novels for young readers in the works.

All this is reflective of what Or is trying to push: “I really just want kids to have more comics. It’s the same here as in the States; people still think comics are just for kids. But the reality is that there’s just not enough quality comics for kids out there. Much of the stuff available caters to juvenile or mature readers and that, to me, was a situation that needed to change, and I’m in a position to help change that.”

There’s more. Or’s first short story is part of Vincent Simbulan’s “Time for Dragons” fantasy anthology for Anvil Publishing. He’s one of the brains behind marketing and design company Saddle Stitched Inc., at the same time that he’s working on his Masters in education and teaching freshmen literature and comics production at the Ateneo. When Or says he’s keeping busy, he isn’t kidding. “Bees have nothing on me,” he laughs. •

For more information, visit Elbert Or’s blog at http://mars4.blogspot.com.