ENCORE FEATURE: The Minds Behind Trese
November 29, 2018 Victoria Luz
Who’s Alexandra Trese and what do we expect to the modern twist of Philippine folklore and mythology? All these questions to be answered as we dive deep into the minds behind Trese!
We’ve grown a love-hate relationship with Philippine mythology and folklore. We love sirenas and diwatas but hate aswangs and tikbalangs. We’ve been afraid of the mystic powers of mangkukulams but admired them from afar. And since ‘Trese’ is now getting it’s own Netflix anime adaptation next year, let’s get to know more about the minds behind Trese!
‘Trese’ is a Filipino horror/crime comics that tells a story of Alexandra Trese. She fights off supernatural crimes in the Metro, alongside with the Kambal. The graphic novel has been out since 2005 worldwide and has been picked up by BASE Entertainment and Netflix for its anime adaptation next year.
So to tease you on the upcoming anime adaptation, we were able to score an interview with Budjette Tan!
Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo
As far back, during that time, I’ve always loved making comics.
The man behind the story, Budjette Tan, was in Grade 4 when he decided that he’d create comics. He created his first comic, ‘Cosmic Man’. Inspired by Space Ghost and Batman, Cosmic Man rides his spaceship and ride around space protecting people. With his cosmic ship and a cosmic gun that fires a cosmic net, he fights all sorts of crazy villains. Not bad for a fourth grader, right?
Budjette had laid out a plan that will (he thought) would give him a roaring start in his career. But unfortunately, it did not go as well as planned so he met with other comic book creators.
Following the advice of Whilce Protacio (a Fil-Am comic book artist), he and his colleagues created a group, Alamat Comics, to promote comics in the community during that time. There were some hits, a lot of misses. But Budjette’s comic career never really took off that time.
BUT, he and KaJo found their groove back in 2005. KaJo texted Budjette to work on a monthly comic. So Budjette sent out a script of Trese and then KaJo drew it. And that’s how it started.
And I guess when we made trese, we just want to make something that we don’t need to seek approval of anyone except ourselves. In 2007, we pitched it to Visprint, they picked us up, they like our story. And we’ve released 6 volumes so far and 13 years later, we’re still making Trese.
Every comic creator has their own favorite character, either be it in comics, television or film. They put not only bits of their own personality in creating their own character but also from their own favorites. Who was your inspiration in making Alexandra Trese and how was she created?
“Trese was inspired by my favorite characters. I’m a big Batman fan and I also like John Constantine in Hellblazer. I’m an X-files fan as well, so I’m a fan of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Gil Grossom of CSI and Karl Kolchak of Nightstalker, too. And I guess all of these things became part of the ingredients in the mix of Trese.
When I wrote the first drafts of Trese back in 2002, the character was called Anton Trese. He was like a tough guy investigating supernatural crime in Metro Manila. In one draft, he was an NBI agent kinda like Fox Mulder and in another draft, he was a tabloid reporter like Karl Kolchack.
But I felt like there have been too many tough guys and admittedly, the Anton Trese character in my head was different versions (of Batman, John Constantine, etc). So I thought, what haven’t we seen yet? And I thought we haven’t seen a tough female paranormal investigator. At least not in the Philippines. And I texted kaJo and said, maybe Trese should be a girl. And KaJo said, “That’s even a cooler idea!”. A couple of hours later, he sent me two sketches of Trese as Alexandra Trese. And it just makes sense for Trese to be a girl.”
How about the inspiration of the story line of the whole ‘Trese’ world?
“In Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’, he poses a question on where the old gods could be after people stop worshiping them. And that was just a fun concept to think about and put it in a Philippine context. Where did the old gods and monsters of Philippine myth and folklore and end up when people stop worshiping them or people stop fearing them? That’s what I put into Trese.
Each episode or initial cases was really getting Gaiman’s question and posing it in a Philippine setting. So where are all the tikbalangs, where are they hiding in the city? Where are all the aswangs? Where are all the nuno sa punso in the city?
That just became the starting point whenever I would write Trese. It’s trying to answer or find the answers to the things we never had the answers for. So this is me trying to come up with my own definitive answer.”
What’ the most fun part of creating ‘Trese’?
“I guess it’s getting to finish a story. Also figuring out something surprising like where would be the tikbalangs be hanging out? Eventually, it came to mind, they hang out at the Manila Polo Club. So when everyone goes home, this clan of tikbalang takes over the Manila Polo club. And of course, down the line, is getting to hear what readers think about these stories.”
It’s been all over the news and we are hyped to see ‘Trese’ in Netflix this coming 2019. Do you have any idea what can we expect from your brainchild once it hits the big screens?
“But yes, I’m also very excited that BASE Entertainment with Tanya Yuson and Shanty Harmayn who have spearheaded the pitching of Trese to Netflix has made this all possible. Very happy that Dir Jay Oliva is going to be heading the creative team in making this come to life. I can’t wait, as much as you cant wait as well. And let’s talk about this after we’ve binge watch the first season.”
Will we be seeing more of ‘Trese’ or will we be seeing a new comics from you guys?
“Yes, you’ll be seeing more of ‘Trese’. We’re working on Book 7 and if you go to the Trese Facebook page, we have started to upload preview art of the first case from Book 7. That’s what me and KaJo are focusing on. Tanya, Shanty, and Base entertainment have put together a very great team to work on the animated series adaptation.
Like I’ve said, it’s been four years since we came out with an issue of ‘Trese’ and we’d like to go back to finishing Book 7. Hopefully we get our groove back. And that at least we get to release 1 book every year.”
Aside from the recent news about Trese getting a Netflix anime adaptation (which we are so psyched about,) what else is the most rewarding accomplishment throughout your comics career?
“Typical answer would be that ‘Trese’ won national book awards. Three of the ‘Trese’ books have already won Best Graphic Novel of the Year. But what’s most rewarding is when we meet the readers.
They’re the most fun group. They are the most intelligent as well. If you read the discussions of the Trese Facebook page, some of them started to come up with their own theories and speculating on what happened to this, what’s gonna happen to this guy. And sometimes, they actually guess what I’ve already written down. Part of me is thinking, oh should I not change that?
We’ve met little kids. Youngest I met is 8 years old. And somebody sent me a picture of their daughter whose like 5 years old, reading ‘Trese’ already. We never thought we would be the comic book tha8-year-olds would read. But somehow their parents (thank you, parents!) of these little kids let them read ‘Trese’ (and not get any nightmares from seeing all of the aswangs). That’s the rewarding bit right there!”
Comics is now getting big in the country and there are a lot of talented newbies paving their way to their dream projects. What’s the best advice you can give to them as creators who’ve now reached a new milestone in their career?
“Just keep going, keep writing. Don’t stop. Don’t let anything or anyone stop you. It will find it’s audience. Don’t expect to get it right the first time. Write your story, get it done. Release it, in some form or another, you upload it online or publish it or self publish it, get rejected, self publish it, pitch it again.
Don’t be afraid to share your work. Get it done and move on to the next story. If you think your gonna write your 300 hundred page master piece in one go, it happens step by step, page by page, panel by panel. We are now at the best possible time to be creative, thanks to the Internet.
It’s the best possible time to be a comic book creator. Thanks to organizations and events like Komicon and Komiket, Asia Pop Con, Manila Con that there’s so much interest in comic books today. Ans it’s just a matter of making people realize, “oh, there are Filipino comic books out there, right now.”
So better read ‘Trese’ now and ride the hyped just in time! You can read the first few cases featured in the comics here for FREE! For FREE, people! And if you loved them, you can purchase the books (along with other local comics) from Visprint’s Shopee account here! Be sure to watch out as Trese Comics Netflix Adaptation comes to life this coming 2019!
Excited for Trese’s upcoming Netflix anime adaptation? Inspired by the minds behind Trese? Talk to us below about the Trese Netflix Anime Adaptation at the comments section. Or better yet, message us on Facebook or on Twitter @UdoUph. We’d love to take to you about this hype!