Posted October 21, 2017 by Drew Bagay in Comics

LET’S TALK KOMIKS: Kevin Ray Valentino Talks ‘Bakokak’

Welcome to Let’s Talk Komiks, where we interview local comic book creators about their works and other things. In this interview, we caught up with artist Kevin Ray Valentino to talk about his background, his upcoming komiks with Gerry Alanguilan Bakokak, and their collaboration.

Bakokak-coverFlipGeeks: Who is Kevin Ray Valentino?

Kevin Valentino: Hello, I’m Kevin and I’m an indie comic book creator from San Pablo, Laguna. I’m a Development Communication graduate from UPLB. I love my Chowchow, Twerk.

What is Bakokak?

Bakokak is a comic book about a toad that suddenly gains, through surreptitious circumstances, a form of higher self-determination or sentience and subsequently finds itself lost and disgruntled in the heart of Metro Manila. It’s basically a fish-out-of-water story, if the said fish was a gargantuan kaiju.

What was your impression of Gerry Alanguilan before knowing him personally?

The “Gerry Alanguilan” that I first found out about was the one who made vlogs and skits on Youtube. I think it was in 2008 or 2009 when I stumbled upon one of his videos – faux first take interviews about a sentient chicken assaulting and harassing bystanders in Sampaloc Lake (in San Pablo City). Funnily and coincidentally enough, I vaguely remember commenting (with a now dead account) on the video about how the joggers will also have to worry about feral chickens, aside from the dead frogs splattered across the pavement that surrounded the lake.

I was still oblivious to his work in comics – both locally and internationally – so when I eventually did, I was really amazed that there was someone from my hometown who’s making comics and gets to do work for Marvel Comics.

How did you meet Gerry Alanguilan?

I personally met Gerry back in August 2009 when my friend Enzo and I decided to attend one of his group’s Komikero meetings here in San Pablo. We also had just started this comics-oriented student organization in UPLB, The Graphic Literature Guild (GLG), earlier that year, so I think we figured that that was the best way to get our feet wet in the local comics community.

When Alanguilan pitched you the initial idea of Bakokak, what was your reaction?

It was during one of our Komikero meetings back in 2014 when Gerry nonchalantly mentioned that we were going to collaborate on a comic book. I was pretty shocked and caught off guard I suppose, so I could only internally reply with “Seryoso ka ba?” Hahaha! But yeah, I just agreed (even if I felt pressured and definitely doubtful if my drawing skills were suited for it) and later that day we briefly discussed on chat what would become the early genetic strands for Bakokak.

Gerry Alanguilan has published well-known local and international comics, how was your experience working with him?

I think some people would be surprised to find out that our collaborative process was very very lax. I’ll discuss the process a bit more later, but I guess Gerry, for some irrational reason, trusted me enough to do what I want to visualize and add upon his ideas for the story.

What were your references while working on this book?

I think the biggest influence of this book for me at least, was the first Godzilla film from 1954. Other influences and inspirations include the 2014 Godzilla reboot (which however mediocre it was, I still adore), the Akira movie, Big Guy and Rusty series by Frank Miller and Geof Darrow, and James Stokoe’s Godzilla: The Half-Century War.

What sort of research have you done for the story?

I do tend to get really entrenched in doing extensive research for images and readings for my comics because I try to attain some verisimilitude. For this book though, I specifically read, and consumed images of Japanese toads, the Fukushima power plant, military equipment, and city skylines. I have to say though that as someone who’s from the province and not very familiar with Metro Manila, I really struggled and honestly think I botched my attempt in effectively portraying how Manila actually looks or feels.

Tell us about the characters in this book and how you designed them.

Aside from the titular monster itself, there was never really any in-depth brainstorming for the design of the human characters. Come to think of it, I probably took more time designing other things in the story than the main characters themselves. One character though coming from a scientific/academic background looks very hip and constantly haggard, as I wanted to avoid visual stereotypes like white lab coats and thick eyeglasses. On the other hand, another character was based on an old doodle I did of a heavily scarred Andres Bonifacio. One concern I had design-wise, especially when I wasn’t able to finish the book last year, was that their then trendy and distinguishing hairstyles would become outdated or “laos na” by this year, hahaha!

During editing, how did you deal with revisions while Alanguilan was editor?

I tend to be more critical of my work, which is why (aside from my adult life getting in the way of productivity) this project took so long to finish. I always scrutinize and revise any error I see on my pages (even now) so by the time I actually show Gerry a page, it more or less has passed his standards, I guess. The only substantial revisions that I can remember coming from Gerry, was in one panel where I unwittingly drew something that had vulvic connotations.

Alanguilan mentioned that he had made thumbnails while writing the script. How did you react to that? Did you give suggestions to change some panels?

We went about this collaboration using the Stan Lee/Marvel method, so I had no standard script and dialogue to read in the onset. I would just drop by Gerry’s house and he’d give me rough thumbnails of the pages and he’d discuss what would happen on each thumbnail or page. Consequently, I would alter the thumbnails and even added panels or pages, hahaha! I was really inspired by this anecdote that Gerry told me about how Geof Darrow pretty much disobeyed Frank Miller’s script for their book, Hard Boiled.

I’m very much grateful though because Gerry was very open and even encouraging when I decided to disobey him, hahaha!

Kevin Ray Valentino and Gerry Alanguilan.

Kevin Ray Valentino and Gerry Alanguilan.

How similar and different is your storytelling with Alanguilan?

I can’t really say. But compared to his initial thumbnails, I guess I have a preference for a slower pace, and wider cinematic panels.

How do you draw Bakokak?

The earlier pages were drawn traditionally on vellum, and then cleaned and toned in Photoshop. The subsequent pages though are all drawn digitally in PS. I usually start by doing rough thumbnails and perspective lines of the page and then go through about 2-3 layers of loose “pencils” – each incrementally having clearer details. After that, I just start inking and toning each panel, or element in separate layers for convenience and easier revisions.

Why do you think Alanguilan wanted to collaborate with you for Bakokak?

I’m honestly still not sure hahaha! He mentioned in his recent blog post that he saw potential in my work, so that’s his reason I guess.

What’s your favorite thing while doing this?

The feeling of completing each page, and the masochistic glee from the looming dread and certainty that I will mostly likely see a glaring error with it the next day that would necessitate some revisions. Also, getting Gerry’s approval for each of them was always motivating and validating!

How’s the experience when working on a book with a writer?

Again, Gerry was very open to all of my contributions to the story, so it was all great!

Did you have any formal training in art?

None. I just wing it, I guess.

Who are your artistic influences?

My artistic influences are Frank Quitely, Geof Darrow, Jean Giraud, Junji Ito, Makoto Shinkai, and of course, Gerry.

How would you describe your art style?

I wish I could say terrible (because that’s how I feel), but to be more presentable less self-depreciating, I guess you could call it pseudo ligne claire.

What comic books are you reading and following these days?

None as of the moment, the last books that I read but put on hold were The Incal and Providence.

How long have you been making comics?

Six years, I think.

What were your past works?

I made this sci-fi indie about a boy and his satellite, called The Adventures of Starchild and Jagannath. It was included in the 3rd Sulyap C Anthology and has four issues so far, but I really want to redraw the older issues before I ever continue it. I also released last year The Daily Lives of Reichsheer Girls – a serious parody of the slice-of-life genre set in World War I. Aside from those, I’ve also self-published two zines and contributed some content to anthologies.

What genre are you most comfortable in drawing?

Science and historical fiction, I guess? I’d love to dabble in horror or comedy someday.

Do you prefer working on a project by yourself or by collaboration?

I prefer working alone because I’m just a terribly slow artist and the last thing I want is to disappoint my collaborator with my inefficiency. But I’d still do collaborations, as long as I like the story and my collaborator understands how I work, I guess.

What do you think of the current state of komiks? What would you contribute into this scene?

I think it’s livelier and diverse since the time I started, more and more talented creators, young and old, are joining! I honestly don’t feel like I’m really in any position to contribute anything significant to the scene. All I can do is make more comics, and support other creators.

What have you learned while working on Bakokak?

I forced myself to learn how to draw a lot of things I’ve never drawn before. Working on Bakokak has also awakened my inert ruinenlust. Plus, I learned that Gerry Alanguilan has boat loads of patience hahaha!

Do you see frogs as pests or as pets?

If frogs were as affectionate as dogs, you can bet I’d get one in a hearbeat! Though if we’re being serious, I guess it depends on the species, if I remember correctly from my electives, the common cane toad is an invasive species that was brought here in the Philippines to control the population of crop pests but that plan backfired and resulted with the toads becoming pests themselves.

Why should everyone pick up Bakokak?

Everyone should pick it up because contrary to popular belief, frogs don’t give you warts.

Bakokak is set to release in Komikon 2017.

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.