Friday, December 02, 2005

Wasted Interview

Two whole pages were devoted to articles/interviews on Philippine comics in today's issue of the Manila Bulletin. There are interviews with Arnold Arre, myself, Marco Dimaano, and Oliver Pulumbarit about our respective works, a feature on the upcoming Siglo: Passion, and a short feature on the history of Philippine comics.

It's a great set of articles and I'm grateful to writer Yonina Chan for putting it together and taking the time and effort to do this for the benefit of Philipine comics. Although I do have to disagree with the article's assertion that the comics began with Halakhak Komiks in 1946. I would set that date earlier to 1929 with the creation of Kenkoy on the pages of Liwayway, and the publication of the very first true Philippine comic book, "Album ng Kabalbalan ni Kenkoy" in 1934.

Anyway, my interview concentrated mostly on the topic of Wasted. It seems strange to read because the questions I were responding to were not included. I'm reprinting my unedited interview here, with the original questions included to give context to my answers, in the order in which I had answered. I think it's one of the better interviews I've done because it forced me to think really hard about what Wasted means to my life today.

I Section, December 2, 2005
Manila Bulletin

Wasted is a slice of life type of story by Gerry Alanguilan about a man who goes on a rampage when he loses the woman he loves. A painful, gut-wrenching story that is not for the faint-hearted, this comics deals with very real issues and emotions between the extreme violence and rage.

1. It's been some time since you created Wasted. Looking back on it, how do you feel about it? What are your thoughts on the story, the art?

2. What has its impact been, especially considering that you completed it at a time when the first-issue syndrome hit comicbooks? How was the story received?

I'm still surprised at how Wasted all turned out and how much an important part of my life it had been. In 1993 I was still a struggling artist. Although I had already been writing and drawing stories for local comics, my intention back then was to get a job drawing for Marvel or DC so I could go to the US to be with my then-girlfriend. I had been sending in submissions left and right and received as much rejection letters back. But instead of letting it discourage me, I let it drive me to do much better... to really improve my work. I was becoming known to my friends and to those who saw my work as someone who drew superheroes with intricate detail in both figurework and backgrounds. I was pretty obsessive about detail, about correct anatomy, about the right visual perspective.

So when my relationship with that girlfriend fell apart, it all pretty much fell apart. My dreams to go join her, and my dreams to become a comic book artist all fell down together. It was devastating and a very difficult time for me. I stopped drawing completely and it took me an entire year of bumming around before I picked up my pen to draw again. I had become pretty self destructive, my hair grew very long, I didn't shave, I drank, and I did other things I'd rather not say because I'm reminded of how stupid I was.

And when I started to write and draw again, all that hurt and anger just came pouring out. I just wrote anything that I wanted, not caring about what other people might think. I was doing it for myself anyway. Nobody was going to see this, just me. It was kind of liberating because I didn't have to kowtow to an editor, or think that I might get censored, or think that my friends would hate me. I did the first issue of 8 pages pretty fast. I just wanted to get the first part of the story over with so I just blasted through it as quickly as I can. My intent was just to write the story, and I really didn't care very much about how I drew it.

Looking back on it, I realize that the art is pretty bad in a lot of places. Once or twice I had been tempted to redraw everything, but I thought I'd better just let it stand as a document of who I was at the time. I'm not ashamed of what I had written and drawn, in fact I'm very proud of it. I look at it as one of the high points of my creative life.

I'm surprised that it had generated so much positive response when all I expected were letters of scorn and hate. I'd get all these letters in the mail thanking me for writing it. Most of my mail came from surprisingly enough, girls. When I had my book launching in 1998 at Robinson's Galleria, most of those that got their books signed were young girls. That was quite startling to me. I'd get letters from guys too, and one particularly memorable one was from this musician who had been contemplating on killing himself but changed his mind when he read Wasted. I mean, how do you react to something like that? It was something so overwhelming, so out of bounds from my life experience, that I sort of didn't let it totally in. It felt great, you know, knowing your story can actually help people, but at the same time it was all so bewildering, and I was afraid that I'd lose myself in that somehow.

I had grown concerned over the years that Wasted may well be the only thing people know me for, and I dread the notion that as an old and doddering man 30 years from now, I'd still be talking only about Wasted.

So I naturally had been trying to avoid mentioning it in recent interviews, choosing to talk about my recent work instead like Humanis Rex! or Dead Heart Stories or Stupid Chicken Stories, or SIGLO, or Tales of the Big City, or my stateside inking work like X-Men, Superman and Batman.

And yet, I'd still get email about Wasted, thanking and congratulating me for it, and if there are still any copies around. At signings, people would still bring Wasted. And you know, I realize that for some, they're encountering Wasted for the first time in their lives and it somehow means something to them, and they just want to let me know. I feel ashamed that I had rejected Wasted for a while, not realizing the value it has had, and still has one some people.

3. How were you able to complete it? Did you fund yourself? Can you expound on your experience creating Wasted?

Wasted was done in a span of two years, from 1994 to 1996. The first issue, comprising of 8 pages, was put together into a photocopied mini comic. I gave away 15 copies to friends to see what they think. Some of them pressed me to have it published. One copy eventually found its way to Budjette Tan, who was at the time putting together his Comics 101 anthology, and invited me to add Wasted there. I was hesitant, because if it came out in Comics 101, it would be read by a lot more people than I wanted. Eventually, I relented.

Finishing the first issue, and receiving positive feedback from it, gave me some of my self confidence back. I thought well, I think I can do this again. I started drawing , and I started sending submissions to Marvel and DC once more. I started working in an architectural firm again so I can have some money, which I had stopped doing when I decided to concentrate on doing comics a couple of years before. Eventually, I finished the second issue, and the third, and the fourth in a span of a year, in between all the other things I was doing.

It was emotionally exhausting finishing one single issue. For instance, I got sick after finishing issue #4, the Wedding Issue, because doing it, and going through the emotions I needed to finish it, totally exhausted and wasted me. I was in bed with a fever for a week.

By the time I finished the fifth issue, I had quit architecture completely as I finally managed to find an inking job with an American comics company. It wouldn't be long until I was hired by Filipino Whilce Portacio to work as a comics artist in a studio he established in Manila.

I felt pressure to finish Wasted, which I had projected to be done in 8 issues. It was harder to find time to do it, and the fact that I was slowly recovering from my failed relationship and my anger was slowly fading, it was even more difficult to maintain the momentum and sustain the emotion that I felt Wasted needed. But inspite of that, I eventually finished the last issue in July 1996, exactly 2 years after I had first started it.

In all this time, I had been doing Wasted as a photocopied mini comic book and selling them at comic stores in Manila. By the time the last issue, Issue #8 came by, I was doing around a hundred copies per issue. It wasn't too expensive to produce since it was only photocopied, and I used money I earned from the previous issue to pay for the printing of the next issue.

When the entire series was finally finished, the demand for a compiled edition started coming. I complied by compiling 2 volumes of Wasted, volume 1 containing 1-4, and volume 2 containing 5-8. These were photocopied compilations as well, and I managed to do some 50 copies of them. But producing these compilations on my own proved to be too much work and I found I couldn't keep up with the demand.

Fortunately, ALAMAT Comics stepped in, and came up with a single compiled edition of Wasted which came out in February 1998.

Finishing the entire story and seeing it finally put together in one volume was terrific. It felt like a great weight had been lifted from me. I still count Wasted as probably the reason why I'm still here. It literally saved my life, and gave me the confidence to just go on. If I hadn't done it, I might have self destructed all those years ago.


There were a few other questions that I answered that had nothing to do with Wasted. Some of my answers eventually found it's place in the accompanying article on the history of Philippine Comics.

There is certainly *finally* some development in the Wasted movie. Rest assured guys that it will be finished, one way or another.