By: Jonah Morgan
As evidenced in recent months, Southeast Asia is currently experiencing a boom in the areas of Comics, Animation and character licensing from abroad. Over $1,000,000 in manhwa licensing over the weekend of San Diego…. Lucasfilm’s animation studio move into Singapore… These events and many others have shifted the absolute focus of character related licensing in the Asia region away from Japan. Today we’re going to enter The Phillipines, another local vibrant area of talent and creative force. There, a relatively small and young studio called Nautilus Comics has been making very large waves in the local market. Their title Siglo: Freedom, has just won the Manila Critics Circle’s National Book Award for 2004. We recently talked to Jamie Bautista of the studio:
1. First of all can you tell us a little about yourselves and where you come from in relation to CAST? Who are some of your influences as far as art, character design, and storytelling?
I’ve been reading comics for quite a while, but I’ve been collecting comics religiously since 1994. I majored in Communication Arts and graduated cum laude. My first job was as a writer/graphic artist for a glossy magazine here, but then I left to do freelance graphic art. Later, I did a part-time teaching stint at my old college, the Ateneo de Manila, teaching freshman English (fiction and general writing classes) and a summer elective on comics theory. This is where I met Elbert, who was one of my students. He was one of those “nightmare students” in that he knew more about comics than I did! We kept in touch and when I decided to put up my own comic company, I tapped Elbert to help me out as an editor and pretty much as a COO.
Cast came about when Elbert suggested that we pitch a comic to one of the local publishers here. He would draw and I would write. I join two school plays in high school and I always thought the people and the world of theater was very fascinating and fun. So one idea I gave was this series about high school kids doing a play. But as we found out about the story limitations the publishers had (number of issues allowed, content, etc), we decided to go ahead and publish the story ourselves. One of my uncles had an existing publishing company that wasn’t doing anything, so we pitched the idea of doing comics to him and asked for control of the company.
Cast allows me to do all the romantic comedy/ drama type stories that I love and yet it allows for some exotic and almost fantasy-styled elements to be used due to the theatrical element of the series. So I get to do heart-warming teen hi-jinx while our artists can still dabble with some elaborate costumes, sets and even fantasy scenes from the script.
Personally, I was heavily influenced by the “slice of life” comic creators like Alex Robinson (Box Office Poison), Craig Thompson (Blankets, Goodbye, Chunky Rice) and Tom Beland (True Story, Swear to God). But my biggest influence would probably be Terry Moore (Strangers in Paradise), who is a master of emotional storytelling, expressive character art and inventive layouts. Films like “Shall We Dance” and “Almost Famous” also influenced the themes and storytelling styles I use. While I never really intended Cast to be manga style (this came out mainly due to market demands and the available artists), some anime series that did influence me were Cooking Master Boy and Slam Dunk, in the way they explained their core concepts (cooking and basketball) in such interesting detail yet managed to weave these descriptions into the plot so well and seamlessly. It definitely made me want to do something similar with Cast and the world of theater.
2. And so you guys based alot of the reality elements of CAST on things you saw in your own and others’ life experience being young?
Though a lot of the elements of Cast are based from my experiences, it isn’t really autobiographical. If anything, it’s more of a “What If” type of deal where I try to imagine how things would have been if certain events in my life had turned out differently. Other storylines are amalgamations of certain experiences from other times in my life. While other ideas are just wild stuff that grew out of the setting of high school theater.
I was actually in the play “Camelot” back in my old high school and another play called “Thirteen Daughters” which was done by an all-girls’ school. The basic story of Cast is a mix of these two experiences. Many of the characters are not based on any particular friends but rather combinations of different people I knew back in those days. My own life stories are really more of springboard for ideas rather than actual sources.
Personally, the main attraction of doing this type of story is nostalgia. In a way, writing Cast lets me travel back in time and relive some of the most fun moments in my life. At times it allows me to relive those memories differently. That’s the sort of my selfish motivation for doing this.
3. CAST is said to be illustrated in Manga style with distinct Fillipino art overtones. For those outside of the Phillipines, can you elaborate on what defines those Fillipino styling cues? I understand it must be a difficult question, translating an art technique into words……
One of the biggest debates in this country among local creators is about what constitutes a “Filipino art style.” Considering the overwhelming popularity of manga here, a unique national style doesn’t seem to be emerging. But then again, we’re a country that is known for taking in the traditions and ticks of other cultures then remolding them slightly into something new. We were under the Spanish, Americans and Japanese for decades (and dealt with the Chinese for centuries) and our culture is really a