Tag Archives: Komikon

art + music by Darleen Sy

A Quick Chat with Scott Chua and Ethan Chua

Philippine history takes on a different hue and texture with the first graphic novel of two young authors


We often had the most bizarre dreams to become a superhero or a mermaid one day. But for both Scott and Ethan, they have always dreamed of becoming a writer and to publish a novel of their own based on the stories they read and the experiences they had as kids. Once they started turning their dreams into goals, the two have stopped at nothing to turn their dreams into reality by publishing their very first graphic novel. And at an early age of 19, they have definitely proven that age is just a number.

So how did you two first get into writing?
Ethan: Growing up, I was obsessed with the possibilities of fantasy. I had this bookcase at the edge of my bedroom with The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings. So I started writing at an early age, mostly copying those books, dreaming of publishing a novel of my own.

Scott: I first published books at age twelve. Wherever my family would travel for vacation, I would keep a little diary, list down the good restaurants and fun things to do. Eventually, I converted these diary entries into what would become the Top Ten Travels children’s book series, my official entry into the writing world.

How was it like working on a graphic novel as co-authors?
Ethan: Working with Scott was actually pretty easy, since we’ve been batchmates since first grade. With the comic, our roles were more clearly demarcated in the beginning. After coming up with a plot skeleton, I would write up the dialogue while Scott would describe for the artist how he imagined the scenes coming together.

Scott: But since we were both commenting on each other’s work anyway, toward the end we were jointly handling each stage of the creative process.Scott-Chua-1Was there any personal experience that you had that might have inspired you while writing your stories?
Ethan: One inspiration behind the Doorkeeper was this conception of history as story—the idea that history isn’t one fixed, objective timeline, but rather a fluid narrative depending on whose viewpoint you’re taking. And we wanted to highlight the rich heritage of Philippine history in a way that didn’t feel impersonal or didactic… so the Doorkeeper was, in a sense, our way of “humanizing” the expansive flow of time.

Scott: My grandfather used to tell me stories about growing up in the midst of WWII. I still remember them today—the one about the Japanese soldier who was impressed with his medals, the time he drove a kalesa through a crossfire to deliver flour. I drew on his stories when writing the second chapter of the anthology.

It’s interesting that the graphic novel contains six short stories all with different genres. What was the idea behind that?
Scott: One thing that drew us to the comics genre was the ease with which it displays scope and scale. When we dreamed up a character who could travel through space and time with close to zero effort, we wanted to properly convey the scope of all that temporal territory.

Ethan: So Spanish-era Philippines should feel different from Martial Law, which should feel different from the far future. It can’t just be a matter of changing the backdrops and costumes; the diction of our writing and the artists’ styles should fit the time period, too.scott-chua-2Aside from a journey full of time travelling, what should readers expect from the novel?
Scott: A friend remarked that the last “Great Philippine Novel” was the Noli-Fili, and that most stories since then have only been read by a portion of the Philippine audience. The comic genre is unique in that it has been, and can be, considered both low and high literature. The Doorkeeper Anthology is our first shot at writing something that bridges literary and social divides and bring people together.

Ethan: Our hope is that the book retells our national history in a new, exciting way. We wanted to grapple with the stories that form the backbone of our society—whether that’s classics like Florante at Laura, the revolutionary literature of the Spanish colonial period, or the long tradition of creature mythology.

Scott: Ultimately, though, the Doorkeeper Anthology is about the small stories. Sometimes comics get lost in the immensity of their universes, blowing the plot up to such huge proportions that human stakes no longer feel real. But the human stakes are central to the Doorkeeper.

Ethan: It’s not about warring nations and multiple ends of the world, though it does include these things… in the end it’s about the dreams of a prince and the memory of a child; the bonds of family and of love; the choices we make that echo on and on.

Photos Illustrated by Aaron Felizmenio, Jap Mikel, Allen Geneta, Brent Sabas, Bow Guerrero, Gia Duran, Bianca Lesaca.

THE DOORKEEPER ANTHOLOGY WILL BE LAUNCHED AT KOMIKON 2017, NOVEMBER 11-12, AT THE BAYANIHAN CENTER. AVAILABLE SOON AT BOOKSTORES, NEWSSTANDS, AND CONVENIENCE STORES NATIONWIDE FOR P275. IT IS ILLUSTRATED BY GIA DURAN, BOW GUERRERO, AARON FELIZMENIO, ALLEN GENETA, BIANCA LESACA, JAP MIKEL, BRENT SABAS, AND BORG SINABAN
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Darleen Sy
Darleen Sy is a freelance multimedia artist and aspiring creative director. An old soul at heart, she enjoys having long and deep philosophical conversations. If she's not cooking up vegan dishes, she's probably out exploring new things to do and places to visit. You can find her on Instagram at @darleensy.