In spite of being historically underrepresented in mainstream US culture, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have made advances over the past few years. AAPI comics artists are making headway, with their work published under both independent and major comics publishers. Among them are Fairlane Raymundo and her niece MARRIONE Manalo, writer and illustrator, respectively, of Aswang, an upcoming NFT graphic novel that features various Asian mythological creatures who accidentally had to become superheroes.
Aswang, a Filipino term used to describe various mythological monsters, centers on a misfit group of monsters who were rejected by their clans because they were bad at being bad. In search of food to eat and a roof over their head, the group joins a school that trains superheroes, leading them to use their powers for good and confront their dark natures. The graphic novel contains a wide array of characters drawn from various Asian cultures, and it aims to pique the interest of Western readers in Asian mythologies and lead them to genuine appreciation of the cultures.
According to Fairlane, the main inspiration for Aswang, is her late father, Samuel Raymundo, who was an artist and illustrator in the Philippines. As a child, Fairlane had a very active imagination, and she would tell him various fabulous stories, such as seeing a dragon on the way to school or making friends with a dwarf. Her father would encourage this by asking her about the creatures in her stories, which helped her become a better storyteller. Growing up, she was surrounded by Filipino and Asian literature, and she eventually pursued a career in writing for TV and movies before moving to the US.
“Three years ago, my father passed away, and I remember him by revisiting the stories we would tell each other in my childhood. This inspired me to collect the various ideas I had laying around and create a story that I’m sure he would be proud of. He may not be a big personality in the global comic industry, but he’s a big personality to us,” Fairlane says.
Samuel Raymundo was also a major influence in developing MARRIONE’s talent, and he personally mentored his granddaughter after she expressed interest in art at a very young age. Fairlane says MARRIONE was the one who had a full grasp of his principles and values, as well as capturing the spirit of his drawings. She says that it’s this connection that led her to choose MARRIONEe as illustrator for the Aswang project. She believes that MARRIONE’s art would do justice to her father’s memory, and that working on this graphic novel would allow MARRIONE to show off her own style while still maintaining his influence.
“I hope that the fun and discoveries we had, and new found appreciation we have towards Asian literature translates and resonates to the rest of the world. People are visual beings, so I hope that in between the lines and brushstrokes, people will find something they can relate to or be inspired by.”says MARRIONE.
Fairlane Raymundo and MARRIONE Manalo
Moving forward, Fairlane plans to create a metaverse of Aswang‘s characters. This will allow the readers and fans to interact with the literature, instead of just reading about them and watching them. This echoes Fairlane’s childhood stories of meeting mythological creatures such as dwarves and befriending them.
“My vision is to allow readers, especially young kids, to be able to experience an alternate universe and talk to the characters. They can ask the characters about the literature and experience their world, just like I did in my imagination when I was younger.”
According to Fairlane, Aswang also puts forward her father’s vision that art is part of everyday life and that it should not be seen as a luxury that is out of reach of the average person. She believes that art is what makes life bearable.
“In order to survive, humans need just food, water, and shelter. But, in order to truly live, we need art and creativity in our life. However, many of us fail to recognize the artistic things in our life. Everything around us has the potential to become art. We just need to recognize it and seek it out,” she says.
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