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Komiks from the heart – Inquirer.net

First posted 00:23:35 (Mla time) April 06, 2008
Marlet D. Salazar
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Comic books and magazines may be huge commercial successes overseas, but in the Philippines, the komiks trade has yet to keep up with the pace.

One man is determined to turn the situation around with his passion, love and deep concern for Pinoy komiks.

As part of writer and illustrator Gilbert Monsanto’s efforts to try to infuse new life into the local comic book industry, he published “Rambol” and “Tropa” two years ago under his own Sacred Mountain (the English translation of his surname) Publications.

“Every issue of a comic book has an underlying message,” Monsanto explained. “For the first issue of ‘Rambol,’ I wanted people to realize that it is possible to come up with quality comic books because we have the talent, ability and will to make things happen.”

“Tropa,” which tells the story of a gang of childhood friends endowed with superpowers, is a collaboration among Monsanto and several other artists. The five characters, according to Monsanto, were drawn by five different illustrators. “The message here, obviously, is that we can come together as one,” he said.

“Rambol,” on the other hand, is a mixed bag in a flip book format. “It has two covers and two stories, ‘Metropolitan,’ and ‘Alagad’,” explained the artist who was once art director of the locally published Mango Comics’ revival of Darna, the Pinoy’s own Wonder Woman. “I want to show how good Filipino artists and writers are.”

To make the comics affordable—and more important, accessible to everyone—he opted to have black and white pages preceded by full-color frames.

read the full article at

Evolving characters

“Metropolitan” features all the characters he created for other comic books before “but this time, these characters have evolved and their looks have been updated, so they are grownups now.”

Monsanto admits his creations have a tinge of Western influence.

“But when you read the story, their personalities, everything about them is Filipino,” he said.

After a rough start in the early ’90s, Monsanto, a self-taught illustrator, said his hard work paid off when he landed a job illustrating for Avalon Comics’ “Hellcop” in 1998.

His most notable works during that period include “Omac,” “Tales of Darkness,” and “Philippine Legends.”

International market

“Houdini: The Man from Beyond”, on which he collaborated on with Jeff Philips and Brian Haberlin, the award-winning founder of Haberlin Studios—a California-based illustration and design outfit specializing in comic book art—has been released in the international market.

His love for drawing surfaced after an older brother, George, a civil engineer, brought him to a friend’s house to borrow back issues of “Fantastic Four” comics.

Flipping through the pages, he was drawn to the illustrations and tried to find out who was responsible for the “fascinating” drawings.

Seeing the artist’s signature at the end of the comic strip, Monsanto realized that a creative genius was behind what he thought were amazing art works. With no formal lessons in art, he picked up a brush and started drawing. He has not stopped since then.

George was the person responsible for bringing the budding artist and his illustrations to a publishing house, Gasi Publications, when he was in his teens.

The editors agreed to publish Monsanto’s drawings while his brother wrote the stories.
300 characters and counting

Monsanto not only draws, he also creates characters and writes stories. At the age of 12, he counted around 300 characters in his bulging sketchbook portfolio.

His major influences are penciller John Byrne and writer Chris Claremont of the hugely popular “X-Men” series.

“I like Byrne because he writes and draws, and he inspired me to do the same,” he said. “I read his scripts and I liked his writing style.”

Claremont’s feel for real life situations, on the other hand, made Monsanto a true blue fan of the writer in more ways than one.

“Claremont knows it’s human nature to listen to or read stories about real people, about ordinary lives, that it is not just a story that ends when you flip over the last page,” he explained.

And that is how he wants his stories and characters to be like. Something that he can resurrect anytime and with enough drawing power, literally and figuratively, that readers would still be curious to find out what will happen next.

On the local front, Monsanto admires writers and illustrators like Vincent Kua and the US-based artist Whilce Portacio.

Portacio is one of the more popular Filipino-American comic book creator-illustrators in the United States.

He used to be with Marvel Comics and did some work on “The Uncanny X-Men,” “The Punisher,” “Batman, “Heroes reborn: Iron Man,” “X-Factor” and more recently, “Wetworks.”

Once, Monsanto tagged along with a friend who was working for Portacio. He was asked by the artist to try his hand drawing for him.

Always in a rush

“When Portacio saw my output, he commented that my images were kind of like a blur,” he related. “As he watched me draw, he realized that I was trained to work fast since we were always in a rush. That’s why the drawings were blurred.”

Portacio advised him to slow down, although he thought Monsanto’s storytelling and composition skills were “good.” This prompted him to take on the promising illustrator on a short-term basis as an instructor for one of his comic book courses.

Monsanto accepts regular commissioned projects from foreign and local publishers to sustain publishing expenses and also to provide a steady income to support his growing family: Wife Glenda and sons Kyle and Shawn.

He considers himself lucky because Glenda is a comics lover who adores Spiderman and does editing work for him.

As a komiks publisher now, Monsanto says his “mission” does not end with producing comic books and spreading the word about how Filipinos can be good illustrators and can continue to grow as such.

Royalties, too

He hopes that one day, local artists will also be able to enjoy royalties due them, just like book authors, recording artists, musicians or lyricists in other countries.

Another goal he wants to accomplish is to be able to keep and preserve original art works of illustrators not only of his generation but also that of other artists who have come before them.

Working late once during his salad days as an artist, Monsanto noticed scraps of paper ready for shredding. When he took a closer look, he found out that the “scraps” were original drawings headed for the garbage heap.

“Imagine, if we have the original art works of famous artists in the past, these would have been a source of national pride apart from being collectors’ items by now,” he said.


April 7, 2008 - Posted by | interview, komiks

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