Posted August 31, 2016 by Drew Bagay in Comics

APCC 2016: Billy Tan on GREEN LANTERN, Tan Comics and Asian Superheroes


Comic book artist Billy Tan in a press interview at AsiaPop Comicon 2016.

Last weekend’s AsiaPop Comicon 2016 saw the biggest gathering of fans and international artists under one roof, featuring guests from the different branches pop culture. Among the first time guests was Malaysian comic book artist Billy Tan.

Even though it was Billy Tan’s first time in the Philippines, he’d surely recognized the passion from Filipinos when it comes to comic books. “I know you’ve got a big fanbase here and also lots of creators. You have Whilce [Portacio], Leinil [Yu] and so many more,” said Tan during a press interview at APCC 2016.

Tan became more prominent in the industry when he worked for Marvel in 2004 on titles such as Uncanny X-Men and New Avengers. After his work on Marvel, he became the regular artist for DC Comics’ Green Lantern during the New 52 era, alongside writer Robert Venditti.

“I have a very good relationship with him. I love working with him,” said Tan about Robert Venditti. “We communicate quite a bit. I know what he wants, and his scripts are loose enough for the artist to improvise stuff. Robert is just perfect. We have very good chemistry.”


Green Lantern (2011) #21, art by Billy Tan.

Green Lantern was a new challenge for Tan, a property that incorporates a whole new world in terms of scale and characters. And for him, it seemed like he had a lot of fun being the regular artist for the book.

“I think Green Lantern, although it’s got tons of characters, is relatively easy compared to other books,” admitted Tan. “because it’s all in space and you don’t have to draw backgrounds, right? It’s just black, with some stars. And you can’t go wrong with drawing aliens. Nobody’s gonna tell you, ‘That alien looks wrong.’ It’s a fun book.”

Tan also admitted out of all the aliens characters in the book, Kilowog is his favorite to draw.

Another big DC Comics superhero that saw a resurgence in the company’s Rebirth initiative was Superman. Tan revealed that he was originally tied to New Super-Man, which stars a Chinese counterpart of Superman named Kenan Kong.

“Actually I was supposed to be the one to pencil that book,” said Tan. “But to me I just didn’t want to put a cape on an Asian guy and have him fly around. The universe they were trying to do, I would want it to be more realistic to Asian cultures, something that a local could relate to. Because I don’t think that a lot of Chinese people could relate to Superman. And that’s what I’m trying to do with the universe I’m trying to set up [with Tan Comics]. I wanted something that portrayed Asians more accurately.”

Billy Tan is currently busy establishing his own comic book company Tan Comics. “I currently stay in China, so I’m trying to create my own superhero universe featuring Asian cultures. I’ll start off with Chinese characters first because it has such a great history of culture and also a lot of stories to tell. From there, hopefully I’d be able to incorporate other Asian cultures into the universe. Who knows, maybe a Filipino character could appear.”

Tan mentioned keeping the details of what he’s working on right now hush-hush, but that he’d announce it soon when it’s ready.

Drew Bagay

Drew is a lover of comic books, movies, and all things pop culture. He enjoys crime/thriller/noir fiction, playing the guitar, and taking long walks. He also doesn't like talking in third person.