These 3 artists are collaborating on a comic compilation

Karen Mae de Vera
These 3 artists are collaborating on a comic compilation
Get to know the amazing all-girl group behind 'Beyond Vol. 2'

What better way to get into the spirit of #Inktober than to pick the brains of some of the most creative young women in the local comic book industry? Beyond Vol. 2 is a compilation book that features the work of Julienne Dadivas (aka Hulyen), Rian Gonzales, and Mika Bacani, who each have their own unique styles that contrast yet complement one another. The multi-talented trio teamed up to go above and beyond the boundaries in order to create mind-blowing artwork done entirely using the iPad Pro.

With a huge online following, international recognition, and tons of mainstream collaborations under their collective belt, you’d think they’d be an intimidating bunch. But they are very grounded individuals who fangirl over their idols, panic over looming deadlines, and pursue their passion. These ladies show us how to get along and support each other’s successes without undermining anyone else on the way to the top. Who run the world? These comic book queens definitely do!

At what point did you decide to pursue a career out of your art?

Hulyen: Pagkatapos ko magbenta sa Komikon 2014. First time ko mag-publish ng komiks at sumali ng convention noon so kinakabahan talaga ako. Hindi ko inaasahan na may mga pupunta sa booth namin at bibili ng komiks ko. Sobrang saya lang ng experience. Sold comics and met many cool people. 

(After selling my work at Komikon 2014. It was my first time to publish my comics and join a convention, so I was really nervous. I wasn’t expecting anyone to go to our booth and buy my comics. The experience was so fun. Sold comics and met many cool people.)

Rian: [Watching the] anime shows aired on local channels definitely jumpstarted my curiosity about art! I was so enchanted by Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura. I would copy drawings of them on my notebook and show it off to a bunch of people! I also collected Archie and W.I.T.C.H. comics when I was younger. I was also a big manga reader! 

Mika: My mom warned me about pursuing the arts, saying that I wouldn’t be able to support myself peddling paintings. She was probably joking, but she said it all the time. I took up Visual Communication in UP anyway, and when I learned about graphic design, I latched onto it immediately. I was thinking, “Cool, I don’t know a lot about this right now but I’m gonna figure out how I can be good at this, no matter how long it takes. So that’s where I am, still. 

Photo courtesy of Beyond the Box

What made you collaborate on a book with Beyond The Box?

H: The iPad Pro! Actually, familiar kasi ako doon sa ginawa ng Beyond Vol. 1 (I was familiar with what they did with Beyond Vol. 1) last year with sina Manix Abrera, Mervin Malonzo, and Harvey Tolibao. So, I was excited to be part of Volume 2. Plus, ang cool din na sina (too that) Mika at Rian yung kasama ko dito (are working on it too).

R: I also agreed to the project since I heard about the one last year with Manix, Mervin, and Harvey! I was even more excited when I found out that I’m working with fellow art friends Mika and Julienne!

M: It was a new thing for me to do, mostly. I don’t make comics regularly and it’s one of several hobbies at this point. This project felt like an opportunity to take it more seriously.

What was the creative process behind the stories you told for Beyond Vol. 2? 

H: Yung theme na binigay ni BTB [Beyond the Box] is “beyond,” so free kami to interpret it in any way. Since ang medium ay digital, naisip ko lang what if gumawa ako ng comics about millennials and how they use technology. Then, I connected it to my favorite folktale, “Ang Alamat ng Pinya.” 

(The theme that BTB [Beyond the Box] gave was “beyond,” so we were free to interpret it in any way. Since the medium was digital, I thought about making a comic about millennials and how they use technology. Then, I connected it to my favorite folktale, “The Legend of the Pineapple.”)

Photo courtesy of Beyond the Box

R: My story is about a girl named Candy who’s going through a quarter-life crisis where she feels the need to accomplish something big like her friends by the age of 25. She’s trying to rekindle her life-long dream of drawing but she’s stuck working a 9-to-5 job. I usually finish rough layout sketches then ink and color everything on the iPad Pro.

M: It’s about distance, an examination through the lens of a long distance relationship (LDR). It just felt right at the time, and I’m only ever comfortable writing about what I know. I have several years’ worth of notes from the time I spent in an LDR. Making the outline for the comic was a process of picking some of those notes that I felt had a good enough sequence to tell visually. The story in the comic is fiction, and while it’s not about me per se, the feelings in there came from a real place. I hope I was able to communicate that!  

How would you describe each other’s art style?

H: Yung kay Rian naalala ko sinasabi niya parang Lisa Frank – parang rainbow-colored anime. Kay Mika, sobrang fan din ako ng mga comics niya, gusto ko na sobrang minimalist yung style niya na medyo geometric.

(Rian’s reminds me of Lisa Frank – like rainbow-colored anime. Mika’s, I’m such a fan of her comics, I like that her style is so minimalist and kind of geometric.)

R: I actually encountered Hulyen’s work online. May nagrepost ng panel niya na sobrang nakakatawa (Someone reposted her panel and I really liked it). I think unique yung thought [and the way she tells a story]. Kay Mika naman (for Mika), I was fascinated by her minimalist style and how she can convey a lot in just a few colors and shapes.

Photo courtesy of Beyond the Box

M: For Hulyen, kuha niya yung voice ng (she captures the voice of) local millennials. Sobrang honest niya and sobrang nakakatawa palagi (She’s so honest and always funny). For Rian, amazing yung work niya kasi lahat ng (her work is amazing because all the) colors of the rainbow napapasok (are used). It’s not jarring and everything is harmonious. 

What can you say about the Pinoy art scene?  

H: Masaya ako na mas maraming comics ngayon. Dati kasi wala talaga akong gustong basahin. Sorry, ha? Parang hindi ako interested sa mga nakikita ko dati. Pero ngayon mas maraming materials available na pagpipilian [that appeal to my taste]. 

(I’m happy that there are more comics now. Before, I didn’t want to read any. Sorry, okay? It was like I wasn’t interested in what I saw before. But now there are more materials available that I can choose from [that appeal to my taste].)

R: I think there was big improvement in terms of representation. I see a lot more women and children in conventions. I guess what we can do to improve is to encourage younger people to participate – although I think there are a big pool of younger comic artists now. Maybe we could open opportunities for those in college and emerging artists and highlighting them instead of the more established one.

M: [I attend conventions every year] and I noticed that the people who used to attend are now behind the table selling their own stuff. I think it’s a good sign that con-goers eventually create content themselves. That’s cool, diba?

Do you feel that the depiction of female characters has grown in diversity in the recent years? 

H: Male [authors] nagsusulat about female characters tapos pag nakabasa ako ng sinulat talaga ng female author iba talaga. [There nuances about women] na female author lang makaka-get, hindi nila kaya ikwento yun kasi wala silang idea doon.

(Male [authors] wrote about female characters and when I read something written by a female author, it’s really different. [There are nuances about women] that only a female author can understand, they wouldn’t be able to tell that story if they didn’t have an idea of it.)

R: Dati kasi puro male yung nag-drawing ng female form, parang na-stuck sila sa Christina Aguilera fashion na kita pa yung belly button nila. [Recently] lumabas yung Batgirl and hindi na yung spandex-type [like before] na bumabakat in every crevice of the body. Ngayon, may function and logic [ang sinusuot] na talaga since they want to appeal to a [more diverse] crowd.

(Before, there were so many males drawing the female form, and it’s like they got stuck on Christina Aguilera fashion where you can see their belly buttons. [Recently] Batgirl was released and she wasn’t wearing a spandex-type costume [like before], which showed every crevice of the body. Now, [what she’s wearing] has function and logic, since they want to appeal to a [more diverse] crowd.)

M: When artists are being inappropriate and offensive to women, they get called out on social media. Hindi ka pwede maging sexist (You can’t be sexist). It provides that space for discussion and helps people think twice. It’s really annoying when artists still do the “stripperiffic” [type of costumes for women]. It’s 2017, why are you still doing this?

Photo courtesy of Beyond the Box

How has art contributed to empowering women in the community?

H: I think comics are a great medium for promoting female empowerment. I’m really glad that more women are making comics now. It’s important to hear stories from [our own female perspective and experiences] in this industry kung saan may kakulangan sa maayos na (where we are missing proper) representation.

R: The Internet is such a powerful tool in delivering messages from women of different races in all parts of the globe. I follow a lot of artists from other countries who illustrate women in all shapes and sizes. For me, it’s nice that we get this first-hand knowledge from other people and we tend to be more mindful about social issues and sexism. I’m happy that there are now more stories for everyone! 

M: I think it helps when a work of art, especially if it’s available and accessible to the public, makes a women feel visible. To feel represented is validating and empowering! And if you’re looking for one, art is a great act of permission to come forth, speak out, and share what’s important to you.

With negative depictions of pitting women against each other, how does one strive for success without being weighed down by competition?

H: Walang ganoon na competition sa mga (There isn’t that kind of competition among) female comic artists sa (in the) local scene. I think sobrang supportive naman ng lahat (I think we’re all very supportive). I try my best to support artists that I admire. I buy their works, I recommend them to other people. There’s no need to label them as female artists since for me, artist lahat yan (They’re all artists). Haha.

R: I’ve met amazing female artists online and in conventions who have supported me throughout my art journey and I’m very grateful for that. I think the goal is to be able to connect with fellow artists and propel yourself towards learning and supporting each other to make better art. 

M: I think part of being a socially responsible adult is unlearning the impulses of crab mentality. It’s difficult, but important enough for me to keep trying. Whenever I feel the urge to put someone down, I step back for a second to analyze where that feeling is coming from. Most of the time it’s plain old human insecurity, and when that’s the case I have to remind myself that someone else’s success doesn’t diminish my worth, and vice versa. There’s enough room for everyone! 

When was the last time you fangirled and what did you geek out about?

H: Every time na may idol akong artist na mag-like ng post ko sa social media. Si Michael Deforge ata yun once sa Twitter. Also, noong nagreply si Lisa Hanawalt sa tanong ko on the Reddit AMA. I have a folder containing screenshots of online interactions with mga idol artists. Tinitignan ko minsanpag feeling basura ako. Haha!

(Every time one of my artist idols like my posts on social media. I think it was Michael Deforge once, on Twitter. Also, when Lisa Hanawalt replied to my question on the Reddit AMA. I have a folder containing screenshots of online interactions with my idol artists. I look at them sometimes, when I’m feeling like trash. Haha!)

R: When I was invited at a convention in Kawasaki, Japan, I was able to meet Shirahama Kamome. She’s the manga artist and writer of Atelier of Witch Hat and she’s one of my female Mangaka idols. She was so nice, she even drew a profile of Batgirl when I asked her for an autograph!

M: I was complete garbage for [the anime] Yuri On Ice!! when it came out. It was one of the best love stories of 2016 for sure, but I was more interested in how the show tackled anxiety and pressure in performers. I’m a fangirl of complex feelings! I had to take breaks from watching the more intense episodes ’cause I couldn’t breathe from ugly crying. The show destroyed me in the best way possible and I can’t wait for the second season to ruin me again.

Aside from your fellow collaborators (of course!), is there a female artist you admire and would want to work with in the future?

H: Si Emiliana Kampilan, creator of Dead Balagtas. Pero sobrang galing na niya kaya ewan ko kung ano pang pwede ko i-contribute (But she’s so good already so I don’t know what I can still contribute). Haha!

R: I’ve loved to be able to collaborate with Loish and Babs Tarr. Both have been major influences to my art. Locally, I’d love to collaborate with my friends Abigail, Bea, Pauline, and Ady who are equally amazing female artists!

M: I’m honestly more inclined to collaborate with people outside of my work, so I can learn something new along the way. But to answer your question somewhat: Not sure how, but I really want to work with Christina Tosi.

Lastly, what are the qualities that you admire in each other? 

H: I admire their art skills talaga. Hindi ko kaya yung ginagawa ni Rian na paggamit ng mga colors. Yung kay Mika, kayang-kaya niya gumawa ng art gamit ang konting shapes lang tapos sobrang ganda pa rin. 

(I admire their art skills, really. I can’t do what Rian did with her use of colors. And with Mika’s, she can do art with so few shapes and it still looks beautiful.)

R: Hulyen’s work delivers a very strong message. A lot of people don’t want to voice out what millennials say. It’s very honest, uncensored, and expresses how our generation wants to break out of the stereotype. With Mika’s work, it’s about empathy because it conveys what you might be going through and you can relate to what she’s portraying. 

M: Comics is really hard – it’s writing, storytelling, and it’s also illustration. [Hulyen and Rian] are great representatives of the scene. I admire them because making comics takes a lot of hard work, dedication, talent. They have all of that. –

Beyond Vol. 2 will be available this month in selected Fully Booked branches. The book was launched officially on October 7, at the 3rd floor of Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street. 


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