Every Wednesday until August, I'll have a special feature on the 3rd Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards.
Andrew Drilon is the 2nd-place winner for the comics category in last year's Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards. His fiction has appeared in publications like Bewildering Stories, Digest of Philippine Genre Stories, and Philippine Speculative Fiction while his comics work can be found at The Chemistry Set (Kare-Kare Komiks).
Tell us something about yourself.
My name's Andrew Drilon; I'm 22 years old with a Godzilla love for comics. I buy them, read them, make them and try my best to understand them, which is harder the more you get into it.
How did you come up with the idea for your story?
"Lines and Spaces" was conceived as an homage to Alex Niño, one of the best Filipino comic book artists ever. I've been a fan of his work for a long time, and part of the story came out of a fanboy wish to experience his psychedelic worlds and perhaps try to emulate them. So the idea was to make a story where an artist literally dives into a comic book that he's making (which is also a tribute to his favorite artist) in an effort to understand comics and perhaps himself. It's basically about how inspiration is passed on through generations of artists, and of how emotions like love and loss are intertwined with the creative process.
What was the most challenging part of the competition?
Making the comic! The hardest part of it was figuring out how to do a visual tribute to Alex Niño, when clearly there was no way I could draw like him short of copying his work. In the end, I decided to call the absent artist "Axel Nuñez", which freed me up to create characters and vistas that paid tribute to Niño's work without straight-out plagiarizing them. Then I struggled to conflate the story in 8 pages, because I tend to make narratively dense comics, and this one needed space to breathe. It worked out well in the end, because Niño's personal work tends to have a travelogue feel to it, and I think the comic managed to achieve that.
What was the coolest moment you experienced when you won the Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards?
Lots of moments, really. Halfway through the program, I discovered, belatedly, that I was sitting next to Neil Gaiman's son, Michael, who's like 2 years older than me. That was funny, because I actually thought he was one of the contestants. And then when my name was called, I think I lost my head a bit, because I couldn't believe it. I ran up the stage thinking "Awesome Oh Shit I Can't Believe This It's Not Real" over and over, and when Neil Gaiman shook my hand, there were lots of people in the audience shouting "Kiss Him!" and I think impulse took over and I kissed him quickly on the cheek, to everyone's surprise. That was insane. The after-program dinner with Neil was also wonderful, even though I didn't get to talk much, because my brain was still on fire. It was my first time meeting Neil, and he was so pleasant and down-to-earth.
What advice can you give to those participating in this year's competition?
Do your stuff. Be yourself. I think it's clear, if you look at the previous winners of the competition, that the judges aren't necessarily looking for Neil Gaiman or Dave McKean-style comics. They're just looking for good comics. The thing I like about most of the winners is that they have a solid identity and style. Manix Abrera's stuff is Manix Abrera's stuff; it's not Sandman and it's its own brand of awesome. Have a good story and present it to the best of your ability; that's all you really have to do.
One more thing: competitions are always a crapshoot, but whether you win or you don't, keep making comics. I realize that a lot of people jump into this competition for the money, but I think it's a shame when they stop after that. The competition is there to inspire people to make comics, so we owe it to ourselves to keep at it. Keep writing, keep drawing, and share your talent with the world.