Via Rocket Kapre:
Mervin Malonzo’s “Tabi Po” is a beautifully illustrated webcomic that until recently was only available in Filipino. Now, Mervin has released an English language version on the Kindle and will be releasing another version on the Nook and the iBookstore. (Note that the Kindle version has a different layout than the original comic – the “sample” button is your friend.) I took the opportunity to speak to Mervin about “Tabi Po”, the pros and cons of webcomics, and the new English international editions.
How would you pitch “Tabi Po” to new readers? What’s it about, and why should people read it?
... to publishers and other people I’d like to impress, I would say, “It’s my own interpretation or deconstruction of the Philippine mythology and folklore. I made the aswangs, engkantos, diwatas and anitos as real as I could, putting them in our history, creating a feasible origin story for them and how they were affected by and will in turn affect the human race. Are aswang really different from humans? I am also fusing some Christian beliefs with the old nature worship. Ultimately, it is my explanation of how our world would work if these beings really existed. The purpose of this whole epic is to make the reader think about human nature, the environment, religion and the meaning of life, the universe and everything–all while still being entertained.”
Why did you pick an Aswang for the hero of your book?
Because I believed that it would be interesting and fresh! In most stories, aswangs are often depicted as the enemy, the evil ones, the devils! And they are commonly drawn as monsters, deformed and really really wretched.
I wanted to attack these norms. So I made them the center of the story and made them beautiful and almost human. They do not need to transform into monsters to look terrifying. Wouldn’t it be scarier if they looked human while they fed on humans?
Are they evil? Maybe so, because they kill! But humans also kill, right? Having an aswang as my “bida” allows me to have that moral ambiguity. There is no pure good and pure evil in this world, my friends!