Art lies in the heart of every city! And for our Manila CitySlickers' second task, we asked them to roam around their analogue cities and know more about its artistic side. Let's take a look at what Joanne has to share with us after the stop.
City: Mega Manila
Occupation: Visual Artist, Mum and Wife
Meet Carlo Vergara, Filipino Comic Book Creator. Born and based in The City of Marikina, (the Eastern side of Metro Manila), Carlo is the creative wizard behind Philippine pop culture icon Zsazsa Zaturnnah, the beautiful superheroine whose adventures are chronicled in the graphic novels “Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah” (The Spectacular Adventures of Zsazsa Zaturnnah) and “ZsaZsa Zaturnnah sa Kalakhang Maynila" (ZsaZsa Zaturnnah in Metro Manila).
A bit about Zsazsa Zaturnnah: the voluptuous, scarlet-haired, beautiful (and muscular!) super-being is the alter ego of Ada, a talented gay hairstylist. Ada got the shock of his life when a mystical stone dropped from the sky and hit him on the head while singing in the shower. The stone’s magical powers transformed quiet Ada to the fabulous Zsazsa, and this major physical modification leads Ada to one adventure after another.
Here’s a sample page from the comic book. The artwork really is a sight to behold!
In January of this year, “Zsazsa Zaturnnah in Metro Manila” was released (a decade after the first book, much to the excitement of fans like me!)
Readers are treated further to Carlo’s fantastic treatment of Manila’s urbanscapes.
Carlo’s earlier works include:
Illustrations on “Flashpoint” (1993). “The very beginnings of the modern Philippine Independent Komiks Industry can be traced to this comic book.” (source: http://gerry.alanguilan.com/archives/3411)
Production, Writing, Illustration and Art Direction for “One Night In Purgatory” (2001)
Knowing how extremely busy he is, I felt fortunate that I got to spend one afternoon with Carlo Vergara himself (AKA Carver), discussing his works and creative process over milkshakes, and the scent of black marker ink. Read the full interview below:
Hi Carlo! Please introduce yourself to the Lomography Community.
Hello, everyone! (waves) This is Carlo Vergara. I’m mostly known for my comics work, but I’ve done graphic design, magazine art direction, acting for theatre, voice-overs, teaching at university, news and feature writing, copywriting… quite a lot, come to think of it.
Have you always dreamt of becoming a comic book author and illustrator?
I really, really wanted to draw the X-Men for Marvel. I had sent two or three portfolios in the past, but didn’t get any bites. However, being a comic book author wasn’t the dream from the beginning. Back in my twenties, I really didn’t know what I wanted to be. I was just doing what I felt like doing. It was in 2002, when my graphic novel got a lot of attention, that I thought, “Hey, maybe I could focus on this one.” Making comics felt right, because it allowed me to apply everything I’ve learned and know, from writing to drawing to graphic design to acting. Even marketing, which was my major in college.
Do you remember the first time you picked up a writing or drawing instrument? When was this, and what were your first stories and drawings about?
Oh, I was drawing, like, forever. Like everyone, it all started with stick figures. I remember really enjoying making up stories. The first comic book I ever made was inspired by Donald Duck. I think I wasn’t even 10 years old then. It was about a parrot and a duck, both scientists, and they were trying to contain an evil germ. They were examining a germ through a microscope when the germ suddenly looked up at them and grinned, flashing its jagged teeth. So, back then, I think my sense of humor already had a wicked streak.
Please share with us a portion of your creative process. How do you come up with words and images (do they hit you on the head like the Zaturnnah Stone)?
Before you draw or write, do you have some sort of a ritual that encourages your creativity to flow?
Creative process… hmmm… Sometimes the ideas hit me from nowhere, sometimes I have to encourage them. It’s mostly the latter, because stories require a logical backbone. It usually starts with doodles and sketches, plus snippets of dialogue. Then I try to string them together, using both gut and brain. I don’t really have a set ritual, because a lot of times when I’m alone my focus turns inward, like daydreaming but not quite.
On the writing side, I do a combo of plot outline and partial script. I need the plot outline to make sure I’m going where I need to go. Then I write a partial script of the important parts, particularly the emotional parts of the story. It’s from the time I draw a page to lettering it when the script becomes more concrete. I get to edit the text and add new ones, to get as much interaction as possible between text and image.
Please describe the stages your artwork goes through when you create it.
On a general level, my process is pretty standard—pencils, then inks with detailing, then lettering. But before I start penciling, the process is all over the place. Ideally, I should have a model sheet, set and prop design, storyboards and page thumbnails, all the prep work done before actually doing the final pages. But I don’t have that initial process down pat. A lot of times I would wing it, and a lot of times I’d be meticulous in the planning. A few times I would jump right in without a plan. Personally, I think I should standardize the way I do things during the planning stages. It’ll save me a lot of time.
Do you have a particular favorite writing/drawing spot?
I hang out in coffee shops. I usually choose a spot in the corner, facing the main area. That way I can brainstorm, doodle and scribble while people-watching. You get a lot of ideas just by looking at body language.
Who usually gets to see and read the first draft of your book pages before its public release?
Apart from my editor and publisher, I usually let my closest colleagues read what I’ve done. Right now I’m more conscious about my storytelling than my artwork, so when I ask for critique, I’m usually more concerned about the story.
Who are the comic book authors/illustrators do you admire (local and foreign)?
My influences run the gamut, from Jim Davis to Katsuhiro Otomo. My journey to find my “artistic voice” led me to John Byrne, Jim Lee, Brian Bolland, Bryan Hitch, Paolo Serpieri, Ryoichi Ikegami, Mitch Byrd, etc. Then there’s my strongest influence, Adam Hughes. For Filipino artists, there’s Mar Santana and Francisco Coching, as well as Gerry Alanguilan, Harvey Tolibao, Stephen Segovia and Mico Suayan. For non-comics artists, I’ve recently discovered Alphonse Mucha and Drew Struzan.
What is the best thing a fan/reader has ever said to you about your work?
Before microblogging and status updates, people really wrote letters, and you get to appreciate how these people take the time to write their thoughts out. During those times, I get a rush whenever readers write in to say how much my work has made them look at their own lives with a different or reinforced perspective. I think, subconsciously, fans of stories are not just there for the entertainment. They’re also looking for a point of view, a new way of looking at things, a fresh spin on what’s been taken for granted.
In your short bio in “The Spectacular Adventures of Zsazsa Zaturnnah”, it listed “photography” as one of your occupations. Do you still get to practice photography?
I only got to “practice” photography as part of previous jobs in public relations when I had to cover events. The stuff I knew about photography was purely functional and elementary, and I don’t think I remember what they were. Which is sad, really, because there’s something about the old ways that instill discipline, even respect for those who practice the art. I don’t recall what kind of camera I used, but it was definitely one of those professional kinds, and the fact that I had to use film made me more conscious about how each setting affected the final outcome. I don’t know if I want to practice again since I’m so immersed in comic book storytelling.
Carver live-sketches a Wonder Woman portrait using his drawing tools: paper, pencils, ink and an eraser. Analog artwork made with analog tools.
Here’s the finished product, with Carver’s special shout-out to the community!
Stay tuned for our Manila Cityslickers’ analogue adventures as they roam their cities with their film ammunition!