Whilce Portacio, creator of X-Men's Bishop, believes it's time to share Pinoy stories to the world

by FM Ganal
Aug 26, 2016
Whilce Portacio, the creator of X-Men's Bishop, believes: "Comics will never die."

Today marked the first day of AsiaPOP Comicon Manila 2016 at the SMX Convention Center in SM Mall of Asia.

Over the weekend, comic books fans will get the chance to meet comic artist legends up-close with Mike Zeck, Ken Lashley, Billy Tan, Jason Palmer, and our very own Whilce Portacio joining the event to sign autograph and answer questions about the comic book world.

At the AsiaPOP Comicon Manila 2016 press conference on August 24 at the Conrad Manila, PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) and other reporters had the chance to talk with Whilce Portacio about the future of comic books, the resonance of the Avengers and Justice League have to Filipino audiences, and why Pinoy artists must make a stand and finally create Filipino stories for the world to explore.

CREATING THE PINOY SUPERMAN. The recent years had been a spectacle of Marvel and DC characters coming into life whether on the big screen or the small screen. This year alone witnessed the highly-anticipated showdown of Captain America and Iron Man in Captain America: Civil War and the ultimate clash of titans flick with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

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Despite these roster of superheroes being major, primary American figures, why had Filipino resonated their story arcs throughout the recent years?

Whilce had this to say, "Psychology is the basis of everything. Now, in general you can say, we are a society of rules, of expectations.

"You know, when I was a kid and I was coming here to the Philppines, I was purely balikbayan. I come here, I used to workout a lot, I watch my diet, I don't eat this, I don't eat that. Grandma's complaining I don't like her food. So, I get it after a while. So, okay, for one meal, I'm just gonna eat everything and then she's happy now.

"And then she turns to me and say, 'Ang taba taba mo.' So, my point is, the expectation that we have.

"On the other side of our psyche, we have this kind of pushing down, this kind of oppression of putting everyone in boxes and stuff and that kind of gets to your psyche and you want to branch out, so when you read and see these characters [Avengers, Justice League], you know, these aspects that maybe you can relate to as a character, but you see that they're strong and they do what they want to do, they do what they feel is right. You know, that resonates because that's what you wanna do.

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"For creatives, that's the opening. So, you take a character of who we are, take that oppressed feeling, take that psyche and make him or her a superhero."

The creator of X-Men's Bishop felt that Filipino had what it takes to be among the roster comic book superheroes, but it was important that Filipino creators create a character that was more Filipino than a foreigner in the Philippines.

"You don't go to the American comic book and say, okay, what happened to Superman? Kasi 'di ba, he came from Smallville, okay, I'll just copy that. No, because that's not what's gonna happen.

"Do you have a big Superman, superhero here? He's not gonna be like 'Hoy, I'm cool and everybody stay away from me.' No. He's got a hundred uncles, a hundred aunties He's got nephews and nieces, and they're all gonna be calling him Kuya and they're all gonna be wanting him to help them and the Filipino in me will say yes."

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The Fil-Am comic book artist pointed out the recent film Heneral Luna to prove that the history of the country alone was thriving with epic Pinoy "superheroes."

"One thing I really hate-- which is why I liked in general, for the most part Heneral Luna-- is that we have this thing, 'di ba, when we do historical pieces and malinis na malinis yung damit and everything, because you know, we want to take it seriously.

"But that's not how it really was. Heneral Luna, in all his fallacies, he showed us, 'Ah, 'yong Uncle ko gan'on din.' or that's how my dad was. And that's why he resonated because he wasn't this drawing, he wasn't this ideal--Heneral Luna was a real person.

"They were showing us in the movie--I don't know if it was perfectly truthful--but I have to appreciate that they should us a Pinoy hero being Pinoy and that's the only real secret for creativity. Do what you know, you guys know these people.

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"You guys have these stories in you, let you guys be proud of that."

HIGH CALIBER PINOY STORIES International graphic novelist Neil Gaiman once expressed his fascination for Filipino tales, specifically the mythological ones.

For Whilce, this should had been a wake-up call for Filipino artists to get together, sit down, and make Filipino adventures for the world to embark on.

"When you make decisions, especially like this, it can't only be creative. The real truth in creation is, it's timing.

"It's not because something is perfect or creatively pure. Look, take any story, any movie, any singing star, any band if they released any stuff five earlier year it'd be like -- huh, weird stuff! If they release five years later, it'd be been there, done that. It's timing and it really takes a creative to really feel out there.

"When I talk to the business side of things, look, Neil Gaiman, internationally famous artist, he knows about our stuff but the world doesn't yet. So if that means, if we do our stuff, our mythology, our tikbalangs and mananaggals, if we do it right, people will like it because you have here a famous guy already thinking about stories like this. He's thinking about that because he knows people want to see this, to see this new world.

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"We've done Europe. Everybody knows about the European myths. We've been doing them for decades now, so it's not that it's boring it's just that we're already used to that. So they wanted something new they went to Japan, then they got all that and wanted something else, they go to Korea.

"And now pretty soon, very soon, people are going to want something else and when you tell people about the manananggal, they go, 'Huh!!" you know? They don't go, 'oh that's kind of like this, kind of like that.'

"They don't even say, 'Oh, the female vampire.' Well, I don't know many male vampires that make hiwalay. So our stuff has the potential to excite people, but you gotta do it right, you gotta do it correctly."

THE POWER OF COMIC BOOKS Regardless of the number of screen adaptation set to be released for next set of years, the comic legend assured that comic books wouldn't be dissolving anytime soon even if the publishing side of things would suggest otherwise.

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"I need to be honest with people because that's the only way to get through with something, but the publishing industry is almost nowhere--but it will never die.

"Comics will never die. Why? Because traditionally with movies in Hollywood, they'll pull out books, 'Oh, this is a classic, this has won awards.' And they'll study it, take a year talking to people, asking people for advice, and then there's maybe two years after that there's production and design work on that. It takes a long, long time to decide on a movie and then to make a movie.

"Today, they send their assistant to the comic book store every Wednesday. He buys a hundred comics because there's a hundred new comics every week. Secret is they don't like reading words, that's too hard for them, so they like the pictures. They can through one comic book in five minutes.

"So the stories, the characters will always survive. This industry will be fueling everything forever now."

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For an industry that had continuously gave stories of hope and encouragement to certain communities in the society, its strong resonance would protect it from disappearing.

Having done artworks for X-Factor and Uncanny X-Men, there was one particular cover from Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1 Issue 290 that made him realize the power of an artwork can have.

"I did a Storm cover back then that a lot of people liked. It's a half body shot, the rain is pouring down on her, and you see some drips--and for the X-Men fans that know, Storm is a very strong character. She doesn't like anybody to see her weak. So the only way she could cry was in the rain.

"Now I did that because I thought it was cool image. Today, I have people constantly come up to me from the LGBT community and do them, what that meant was 'we, too, cry,'

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"It's so powerful for me that something I do because I want to do and for my own reasons can mean other reasons for other people, but you have to do what's real.

"It's not about can we do Godzilla the way they did Godzilla, can we do the kaiju like they do that? No, it's about what scares us, what inspires us? And that's what you do and if you do that, I promise you, the world will respond the same way and they'll even love it more because it is something different and something unique to them and they'll learn about us and they'll want to learn more about us."

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Whilce Portacio, the creator of X-Men's Bishop, believes: "Comics will never die."
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