A Thrilling Filipino Space Opera — An Interview With The ‘Mythspace’ Art Team
by Gary Catig
Mythspace is a critically acclaimed science fiction graphic novel that was initially released in the Philippines back in 2014. It’s an anthology consisting of six different stories that all take place within the same universe. What makes the title unique is the alien civilizations within its world are inspired from Philippine folklore. Many extraterrestrials depicted in fiction are monstrous humanoids, so why not use actual mythological beings as their basis? Become acquainted with Tikbalangs, Kapres, Manananggals and more in this captivating space opera.
Ablaze Publishing has a history with bringing Filipino komiks to international audiences beginning with the supernatural noir story, Trese. They have made Mythspace their latest acquisition and have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund a remastered version entitled Mythspace: Ignition. It will be a fully-colored edition with a significant number of pages redrawn. It’s good to know the campaign was successfully funded, but you still have time to contribute to hit those stretch goals. The Kickstarter will end on April 21, 2022 at 6:13 am PDT.
The creators behind the project include writer Paolo Chikiamco and artists Koi Carreon, C.R. Chua, Borg Sinaban, Jules Gregorio, Paul Quiroga and Mico Dimagiba. Recently, we had the chance to speak with the art team to learn more about Mythspace and the creators themselves.
All of the artists had their own reasons to join up. Carreon, whose story, Lift Off, is the only multi-issue arc, saw an anthology series as the perfect way to work with his friends. “I’ve always enjoyed seeing different artists tackle the same subject but in their own way, and I think that is why I’ve always liked anthologies. And when I got to talking with Paolo, I sort of saw it as a way to finally be able to work on a project with my friends.”
He also thought sci-fi was a versatile genre adding, “I think you can do a lot with sci-fi, a lot of variety within the genre that will still be recognized as sci-fi, everything from space dinosaurs, to giant mecha, to starship battles, right? I don’t think many other genres have quite the same level of ease when it comes to diversity.”
While Gregorio was sold on the premise alone, Sinaban, Quiroga and Chua liked the inclusion of Filipino culture and mythology into the narrative. On the other hand, though Dimagiba was a fan of the genre, he saw it as an opportunity to test and push himself as an artist.
The artists are good friends and colleagues but their styles can be different from each other. “I think that distribution of the stories was intended to suit the strengths and preferences of each of us on the team,” Quiroga said. “I like little bit of drama in my stories, and unconventional character races like the nuno … and of course, you can never have enough mecha!”
Chua shared her approach for her contribution. “My direct input was: ‘Paolo, please I can’t draw robots.’ In Mythspace: Humanity, Paolo wrote a story with lots of human drama. I did my best to depict the emotion and feelings of the characters and made the background characters distinctive with their own unseen lives (Miner #3 POV soon??? lol).”
For Sinaban, “[I] had so much fun incorporating my art style to Unfurling of Wings’ mood of youthful recklessness combined with the subgenre of heist that’s set in space. With that in mind, I tried using playful line work with minimal textures to bring out each characters’ charm.”
Dimagiba believes his style falls somewhere between anime and western comics. Carreon also has Japanese influences in his art. “I like shonen manga, I like being able to illustrate the feeling of speed, I like chase scenes. I think Paolo did a great job in allowing me to be able to draw all of these things at some point in Lift Off. I think all of those helped to bring the character of Bros to life.”
Gregorio pulled inspiration from an unexpected source. “My style for Devourers [of Light] was influenced by the promotional artwork for online games during that time period. I like to paint big battles and expansive sci-fi scenes and I think that fit well with the tone of the story Paolo wrote for me. I remember I requested to have many spread pages for the comic so I could create layouts that were more like scenery than the usual comics pages.”
When it comes to remastering their previous work, most of the artists agree that redrawing their parts will help present the best version of Mythspace to the audience. The first go round, they dealt with tight deadlines and had to compromise some of the quality to get the issues printed on time. In addition, the price to make color copies was expensive so they are happy to add color now.
Some also wanted to show how much they’ve grown as artists since the initial release. Chua said, “In my case I felt a burning need to redraw it. I like to think I’m also redrawing it for the sake of past-me, and using everything I’ve learned for the past eight years to better approximate what I wanted to show back then.”
Dimagiba shared similar sentiments. “In my case, the art I made for the original release was all done traditionally on paper and it was all very messy. I barely knew how to do digital art back then. I’m grateful to have the chance to apply what I’ve learned since then.”
Probably the one who is redoing the most pages is Carreon. “A large part of my motivation for this is because I wanted to improve the character designs, as well as correct some of the issues brought out in the reviews. I know that how a creator takes criticism can be a complicated issue, but I’ve always believed that listening to criticism, while difficult, is a great tool to improve yourself and address your blind spots.”
He added, “I wanted to make sure that Lift Off really flowed well and made the reader invested in the Mythspace Universe, because if a reader is turned off by my story, they would never have the chance to read any of the others. I feel I have an obligation to the rest of the team to pave the way for them, to hook the reader for them, rather than serve as an obstacle.”
Through Mythspace, they hope to inspire the next generation of creators to tell their own stories. They also wish to attract new readers and Gregorio wants to show them “[t]hat it can be fun to broaden your horizons and immerse yourself in the folklore and mythology of other places.” Chua drew upon her story for a lesson to teach others: “That even if you feel weak, you can step up and grow.” Then for the local creators in the Philippines, Quiroga aims to “help make a komiks career more viable for others” through the international release of the anthology and its potential success.
Speaking of which, if there is interest for more stories in the Mythspace Universe, every single one of the artists wouldn’t hesitate to come back. Some, including Sinaban and Chua, would continue the stories of Ri-En and Dani and Marta, respectively, while Quiroga and Gregorio are ready for something new. Dimagiba could go either way either with additional Haskra adventures or a different tale.
Carreon probably sums it up best for everyone: “I hope that it would be successful. I’ve always felt at home drawing in the world of Mythspace, mostly because Paolo lets me draw what I want <snickers>. I would want to draw more if possible.”
If Mythspace sounds like a graphic novel you would be interested in, please support the Kickstarter. You have until April 21, 2022 at 6:13 am PDT to contribute to the campaign.