The future is bright for comic book creators who strive for creativity and expand audience reach through various platforms.
This was the message of Trese’s co-creator, publisher, and producer during the webcast titled “Trese: From Komiks to Netflix” organized by the National Book Development Board (NBDB).
The decade-long journey of the Philippines’ first Netflix anime adaptation was not an easy feat and required a lot of processes, said Trese writer Budjette Tan.
Tan urged authors and artists to persevere in their work, just like how he and Kajo Baldisimo did in finishing the graphic novel series:
“Sometimes, when people see how passionate you are about your story, that is what attracts them to you instead of you trying to pitch it left and right and knocking on everyone’s doors. Just keep doing the story that you want to tell and someone will find you,” he said.
To gain a publishing deal whether local or foreign, he asserted that it best to pitch it from “beginning, middle, and end.” He added, “if it’s not a series then sell it as a one-shot. It’s mostly getting it done.”
Tanya Yuson, Trese’s writer and co-executive producer, stressed the importance of seeing the “big picture” to connect with the creators’ target audience.
“There are some people who just want to write for themselves, and then they are like ‘Why does nobody want to read my story,” she said.
“If you’re envying someone who has a bigger reach, you have to think of the big picture. There could be different factors to that [and] their core audience is what they are drawn to,” she added.
In the case of “Trese”, Yuson said it captured people’s attention with its “thought-out and mature way of storytelling.”
Bringing Philippine folklore to life
In 2005, Tan and Baldisimo had to step out of their comfort zone to reach the “turning and starting point” of “Trese.”
“We had done Pinoy superheroes with a twist, other fantasy stuff and Sci-Fi fantasy stories. But we have never done anything related to Pinoy mythology but to tell it as a detective and murder story,” Tan said.
“Trese” follows the adventures of supernatural detective Alexandra Trese going head-to-head with a criminal underworld composed of malevolent supernatural beings in Manila.
The comic book creators started with 30 black and white copies, which they sent to officemates, family and friends at Comic Quest, a comic book shop at SM Megamall.
The duo completed eight issues and was picked by pioneering publisher Visprint Inc. in 2007. However, it ceased its operations this year.
Nida Ramirez, former Visprint publishing manager, said it was not a difficult decision to publish “Trese.”
“Our main consideration is always about ‘this story.’ Is it about the Philippines? Is it about the Filipinos? Is it something a lot of people can relate to? Is it a story we haven’t seen much in bookstores? ‘Trese’ was able to check all of these boxes,” she said.
After reading the graphic novels in 2009, Yuson took it to her producing partner Shanty Harmayn who was convinced of pitching the idea and adapting it to animation.
“To get something into Netflix, it is a big collaboration on so many levels. The start of the journey really was in finding the gem that was ‘Trese’ that Budjette and Kajo wrote which Nida fearlessly published and that was the nexus of everything,” she said.
For Tan, meeting Yuson was an “eye-opener”, which made him realize that “Trese” has a “potential to reach a global market.”
“It was not about ‘let us do a teleserye or a movie for filmfest’ discussion. It was like ‘This is something we can pitch to a foreign studio’ was the talk way back 2009,” he said.
“Trese” has received both commercial and critical acclaim, with six graphic novels released. In 2010, it won “Best Graphic Literature” at the National Book Awards.
Promoting Pinoy komiks
Through the power of social media, Tan said various publishers and producers are on the lookout to discover more Filipino comics properties that would also be great for adaptations.
He called on creators to promote their own work as a way to reach their target readers.
“Once you get the story done, how do you find a way to make sure that you get as many readers reading it and redirecting them where they can best read it? It is still up to you—the creator—to promote your own work at the end of the day,” he said.
He also encouraged komikeros to join communities that can help them protect and register their work.
To increase film and TV adaptations, Ramirez suggested training programs for creators and festivals similar to Germany’s Berlinale, where “producers get to meet publishers, authors, and filmmakers.”
The NBDB’s Translation Subsidy Program, she said, could “help increase the publishing industry capacity to make more local books available for translation rights, especially internationally.”
How Filipino creativity can become a cultural wave
Asked if “Trese” would have a revolution like the Hallyu wave, Yuson said Filipino creators should focus on making a “creative ecosystem.”
“For the Philippines, we have great craftsmen and geniuses for creatives. If we want to do that, we have to start realistically taking consideration of stuff into where we are,” she said.
“A more concrete goal is how we can create a creative ecosystem that is thriving and sustainable and can raise generations of creatives who can sustain themselves in doing creative endeavors,” she added.
Produced by Filipino-American director and artist Jay Oliva, “Trese” gained traction since its announcement back in October 2020.
Thanks to its supposedly vandalized billboards, the show surfaced on social media days before its premiere last June 11.
“Trese” topped the Netflix Philippines chart on the weekend it premiered.