October 31, 2020
This is part of a series of interviews where we feature creators, their comics, and the creative process behind all of it.
Stories of grotesque monsters and horrifying creatures have always been a part of Filipino culture. We’ve made the genre our own, with our folk-Catholicism bleeding through the ghost stories we tell each other at night.
Penlab talks to Kael Molo of Kolokomiks about why we love horror, where he gets his ideas, and his upcoming projects.
1. How did you get started as a comics artist? Who are your influences?
I actually started early on in my formative years. My first comic was this anthropomorphic can of sardines who became a superhero called Super Sir Dinas that i made in the 3rd grade and then a horror comic drawn entirely with highlighters. I don’t have copies of them anymore, sadly.
We once had this really old incomplete issue of marvel’s avengers that I read over and over as a kid but the comic that stood out to me the most was Pol Medina Jr.’s Pugad Baboy and Manix Abrera’s Kikomachine which I was able to read at the bottom of newspapers. I then started writing a lot of stories in old notebooks that I hid which never saw the light of day.
It was 2014 though when I decided to pursue comics seriously, after a very, very long hiatus. A combination of my obsession with Visayan Culture, Mythology, and hong kong martial arts action movies lead me to create AGLA: The Graphic Novel. A webcomic about Visayan Mythology that ran for almost 3 years but is now on hiatus because of plans to reboot it. AGLA somewhat garnered a cult following and that gave me a lot of confidence as a comic artist.
My main influences are Katsuya Terada, Junji Ito, Mike Mignola, and Naoki Urasawa to name a few.
2. Hailing from Visayas, how different are the creative and comics communities in the regions compared to Metro Manila? What do we need to address to improve our overall creator community?
Based on my experience there are virtually no comic communities existing outside the NCR. I went to Cebu Litfest last year (2019) and although there were a lot of exhibitors, most of them were artists selling their art. The only comic people in that event were us from manila. I think one reason is because the pinoy komik culture didn’t really propagate in the provinces and most events are held in the NCR. There’s still much work to be done. I think for starters, since the pandemic is possibly going to last us at least a couple more years, a digital platform like Penlab is the best way to showcase comics coming from all over the country. There is great talent scattered around but the organized communities and committees holding events are in the NCR, sadly.
3. What made you choose horror as your main genre as a creator? Tell us more about Darahug’s inspirations.
Horror has always been a mainstay in my family during movie nights since I was little. I started watching horror movies as young as 9 (or even earlier), as the first horror movie I remember watching was The Blair Witch Project (1999). From then on I got obsessed with a particular genre of horror that people now call “folk-horror”, which originated as an old-english folk tale concerning cults, witches and strange communities.
Darahug came at a moment in my life where I discovered A24 and Ari Aster, one of my favorite horror directors. It was at the time where I was binging old horror movies like 1973’s The Wickerman and Rosemary’s Baby, combined with Aster’s newly released Hereditary which made me want to create something equally terrifying and personal.
I’ve always wanted to write a story that people like me who came from the provinces could relate to. I mixed some old wives’ tales that were common in my province and some inspiration from my favorite movies and a year later, Darahug came out. It is still one of my favorite works to date and I’m very happy people are enjoying my stories.
4. How do you think Pinoy horror differentiates itself with foreign works? Are there any qualities you look for in a good Pinoy horror story?
Pinoy horror, If we examine it closely is rooted in culture. The stories we tell are very personal and relatable. A common trope in Pinoy horror is folk-catholicism veering on witchcraft and/or demon possession. This is because of our 300-year long history with Spanish Colonization and its relationship with our old animistic religions. A lot of our movies stem from pamahiins, urban legends, and elements from philippine folklore and mythology. I think that’s what makes our horror movies stand out from the rest.
As with personal taste, I’ve been watching a lot of ghost/supernatural horror movies since I was really young so the genre has grown stale to me, especially with the overuse of jump scares (which I admit, if used right can be very effective as seen in James Wan’s Insidious), so now I am very picky with my horror movies and stories. I think a good pinoy horror story is something that is very personal and is not afraid to talk about things that could be taboo in our culture but is an important issue to tackle as a growing society.
5. What do you think of comics being a tool for social change, specifically in relation to horror komiks? How do you think the local scene is fairing in this regard?
Comics as a medium has always been important in changing social opinion since World War I. It’s been used as both propaganda and entertainment even to this day. I believe comics as a medium is in a position to influence society for the better. What’s unique with horror is its ability to touch very sensitive subjects that could be very important and very personal to some people. I think the local scene is doing its best and getting better in this regard.
6. Given your work is dominantly of the horror genre, are there ever moments where you feel like you want to explore other genres as well? If so, what kind of work do you want to try doing in the future? Is there anyone you wanna collab with?
I actually tried to pitch a middle-grade sci-fi adventure graphic novel some time ago but i’m not sure how that went considering the pandemic happened, but i’d really like to try shonen-manga ish stories with lots of fighting and adventures (as what was seen in my first comic AGLA). I’m currently doing a couple of collaborations and in both I am writing the story, so It’d really be cool to work with amazing artists like Mervin Malonzo or Kajo Baldisimo (knock on wood) to illustrate my stories. I feel like I’m a much better comic writer than a comic artist LOL.
7. What have you been doing during the lockdown? Are you reading anything right now? What can our readers look forward to from you next?
There’s the comic collaborations mentioned above that I’m currently working on but mostly I’ve been doing art commissions to get by. I recently lost my day job due to the pandemic so I used my free time to work on my illustration skills, which has been paying off as I’ve noticed the quality and speed of my work increased greatly compared to a year ago and I’m very happy about that.
Aside from the collabs, I’m also working on two horror komiks, a short one that I’m aiming to release before 2020 ends and another longer one that I’m still writing but aiming to release mid next year.
FREOLE THE WEIGHTLESS
In a world void of gravity, Freole and her best friend Kina brave the dangers of the abandoned floating ruins of ancient Manila to find her missing father.
— Kolo 👹 ‼️ Commissions Open ‼️ (@kolokomiks) October 26, 2020
You can read works by Kolokomiks in our library.
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