Andrew Drilon Interview: "Weird, dark & absurd... That works for me"

We're all excited to have Andrew Drilon joining our Studio, and for his upcoming new comic WHAPAK! Long-time pal Elbert Or spoke to Andrew about his work so far, and what's to come. And hey, let's throw in a preview for WHAPAK! while we're at it:

We're all excited to have Andrew Drilon joining our Studio, and for his upcoming new comic WHAPAK! Long-time pal Elbert Or spoke to Andrew about his work so far, and what's to come. And hey, let's throw in a preview for WHAPAK! while we're at it:

Hey Andrew Drilon! For those who are just tuning in, how long have you been making comics?

I’ve been drawing my own little comics as far back as I can remember, but I started self-publishing my own stuff in high school (with terribly imaginative titles like Germinator and Subwhere!) That was in 2002, if memory serves, so I’ve been at this comics thing for 12 years now, on and off.

What are some of the titles you've worked on?

I’ve had a hand in a few print anthologies like Siglo: Freedom, Siglo: Passion and Project: Hero. I released a small Komikon ashcan in 2006 called Funky Munky Komiks, 50 copies of which are floating somewhere out there in the world. I’ve also had short comics in books like HIVE 3 and No Formula: Stories from The Chemistry Set.

I did a Sunday strip for The Philippine Star called RAN Online for like five years, did some work on their other MOORPGs, and I both wrote and drew the recent Susy & Geno comic books for Sustagen. So I’ve sort of been all over the place, though my most personal work has been online in the form of Kare-Kare Komiks.


How would you describe your story sensibilities?

The words I hear most often when people describe my stuff are “weird”, “dark” and “absurd”, so I guess that works for me. Building stories, I try to jump back and forth over the boundary between familiar and unfamiliar, so there’s always the notion that you’ve been here before, but it’s not quite how you remember it. At least, that’s what I’m currently striving for when approach the work. I want people to feel a sense of rediscovery, even if they’re tuning in for the first time, and this applies regardless of genre, be it fantasy, realism, horror or superhero.


And what have you been keeping busy with in the last few years? Where have you gone?

I spent a few months in New York taking classes and attending lectures, all geared toward improving my craft, and I was in Kuala Lumpur just recently, representing Pinoy comics in various talks and panels. I’ve also been very active as a member of Litcritters Manila, contributing to various speculative fiction publications and even editing one. So I’ve been producing a lot of prose stories and a lot of standalone art, mostly with an eye toward synthesizing these disciplines back into comics.

Most of my comics efforts these past few years have been dedicated to my upcoming OGN, Black Clouds. It’s an epic horror story and is kind of my big take on local folklore. It’s taken so long already and it still has a ways to go before it’s done. This has been on my desk since 2010—a big PR blast already went out over the airwaves, a partner movie was released, interviews were done and exhibits held—I’m laughing just thinking about it, because it’s like the life of a comic book publication in reverse. When it finally comes out, it’ll be great, I promise, and hopefully worth all the fuss.


And now you’re part of Studio Salimbal!

I like the site, and I like what it’s trying to do. I’ve been part of comics collectives before and I think the general appeal is that you can link arms with fellow creators and push each other do more. Making comics can often be a lonely task so it’s nice to have comrades-in-arms. It’s also cool that I get to be in the same room as Budjette Tan, Elbert Or and Mervin Malonzo, people whose work I really enjoy. Paolo Chikiamco is captaining a very illustrious ship in Salimbal, and I’m just happy to enjoy the passenger privileges.


What made you decide that this year is the time to get back into the scene?

I kind of missed it, really. I’ve attended a few Komikons over the past few years and dipped my toes into the scene, but mostly as an outside participant. I really missed the thrill of releasing something new. Meeting awesome people like Rob Cham and joining up with Studio Salimbal has lit a fire under me. Plus, I needed a short break from Black Clouds, and WHAPAK! serves that role really nicely.


WHAPAK! is your big Komikon 2014 release right? Can you tell us what it’s is all about?

WHAPAK! is my ode to classic Filipino superheroes.  This is probably the oldest idea in my notebook, and it happened while I was thinking of Carlo Vergara’s Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah, which is in my opinion the best modern version of Mars Ravelo’s Darna. It took the basics of the Darna concept and pushed it to the limit in such a charming and elegant way, you couldn’t help but see the myth in a wonderful new light.

So I kind of wanted to do something similar to what Carl did, but rather than metaphorically employ a full orchestral ensemble on one hero, go for several quick and dirty EDM remixes. To take the very basics of each archetype and spin them into something new, kind of like how Darna repurposed bits of other characters. At least for the first four parts of WHAPAK!, each issue will tackle a new Pinoy superhero in a complete 22-page short story.

Issue one is called “Gut Star” and in it, we’ll meet young Edna Estrella, who’s in line to be the next Dakila—a mystical “champion of the motherland”. To be Dakila, you have to be “poor, selfless and kind-hearted” but Edna is the opposite of that. She’s spoiled and selfish and a bit of a bitch. On top of that, there’s this sub-dimensional entity called Dimonya prowling Manila to get her, a triumvirate of hyper-critical super-mentors and a race to acquire this big, mystical power. A lot of stuff happens very quickly.

And then in issue two, it’s all about the super-sexy Macho-Man. He’s this steroid-pumped barbell-wielding hyper-hunk with some raging insecurities and a nice, twisty secret origin. He’s one of my favorite characters I’ve ever come up with and I can’t wait to tell his story. After that, in issue three, we dive into this fairytale romance and then issue four finds us knee-deep in some crazy alien invasion stuff. If all goes well, I should be able to get everyone together for a big “Fight the Philippines” storyline which will tie into some of the aswang stuff I’ve got planned for Black Clouds, since they’re all set in the same universe.

WHAPAK! is going to be a fun ride, so I hope people give it a shot and pick up the first issue.


What can we expect from you next?

Just WHAPAK! and then a slow retreat to obscurity so I can make even bigger and better comics.


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Friday, October 31, 2014