Celebrated Pinoy comic artists’ Manix Abrera and Mervin Malonzo have their brains picked in Box Talk, an intimate creative workshop hosted by Beyond the Box. Here, the two artists share wisdom on how they, modern-day storytellers, manage to come up with original work.
Wanting to tell stories that serve to inspire, designer and cartoonist Mervin Malonzo brought to life local folklore in his National Book Award-winning comic, Tabi Po — a graphic novel about Filipino horror culture.
“Take something familiar. Something people are intimately familiar with… Stay true to the character’s core. Once you establish that connection, break the character and make it your own.” – Mervin Malozo
He presents as an example Elias, the main character from Tabi Po. Elias is an aswang, which is perhaps the most famous (Grim, anyone?) and the most grotesque among local monsters. In Tabi Po, Elias’ aswang is presented to readers as a charming, innocent lad. The story also revolves around his human problems, which allows readers to somehow identify with what would otherwise be seen as nothing more than a monster.
For Manix Abrera, the reader’s mind is an untapped pool of creativity. He likes to keep the readers engaged. This shows in his two most popular comics, Kikomachine and News Hardcore, reflects on the most familiar slices of everyday life.
He explains his use of the “gutter,” that blank space between frames, which is where imagination takes place as the reader advances between scenes. He advises to avoid spoon-feeding the audience, to share the burden of storytelling.
By strategically leaving out bits of the narrative, Manix is able to engage the reader’s imagination as they are forced to fill in the blanks between well-defined scenes.
Manix’s success has a lot to do with his knack for finding creativity in the most unlikely places. He explains how Kikomachine, for example, makes use of even the most mundane scenarios from college life.
“We’re all familiar with life in school, but we know it mostly through the point of view of a student. Have you ever thought about viewing it through the eyes of the teacher? The security guard? What about the POV of the frog on the dissection pan? Identify the most popular point of view in your story, then stay as far away from that as possible.” – Manix Abrera
According to the artists, nothing squeezes creativity out of an artist like some good ol’ collab work. “Sometimes, the need to complement your partner forces you out of your creative comfort zone. It makes you come up with things that you otherwise would not have been able to even think of,” Malozo explains.
And it certainly is easier to collaborate nowadays with the use of modern gadgets. Manix, for example, doodles on his iPad Pro whenever and wherever inspiration strikes. Recently, the two teamed up with international comic artist Harvey Tolibao to create BEYOND, a compilation of comics drawn entirely using the iPad Pro. The work was commissioned by Beyond the Box, which has long been a supporter of digital artists and the creative industry.
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