We are very privileged to welcome Mr. Kajo Baldisimo today in GatheringBooks as our featured Illustrator. We thought that since we are celebrating Monsters, Beasts, and Chimeras, we might as well ask the slayers of demons themselves to share with us their creative process.
Thank you, Kajo, for taking time out from your extremely busy schedule to answer a few questions about Trese.
When you pitched the idea of doing a 20 page comic book to Budjette in 2005 – and publishing it on a monthly basis – did you ever imagine that your little spark of an idea would be as huge as it is now?
Absolutely no idea. Not even sure if it’s really huge now. All I know is that, since the beginning, and after all this time, Budj and I are still at it for the FUN.
I could see that your artwork has grown considerably as the novels progressed: the panels more inventive, the illustrations even more striking than usual. If you were to make any changes to the earlier books based on what you’ve learned in the succeeding novels, what would those refinements be?
I attempted to redraw and do some clean ups for Case #1 for TRESE: BOOK of MURDERS which compiles the first 13 stories. I found that the attempt is somewhat futile because what the art really needed more is better storytelling rather than cleaner lines. That’s what I would like to revise. Better lay-outs, better details essential to Budj’s story. But then, I stopped tweaking because it feels more right to maintain the ‘rawness’ and the inexperience inherent in the first trilogy, artwise.
Does it bother you to have such a rock star status as the artist of Trese? What are some of the costs and the occasional perks of being known as one of the creators of Trese?
I don’t feel like a rock star at all. Maybe when people start sacrificing farm animals in my name, maybe then. Bad joke aside, it’s nice to be recognized by readers who really enjoy the book, during conventions. It’s a good feeling. The ego is nourished. But at the end of the day, I just really look forward to drawing TRESE again and again, alone, in the cave.
Tell us about your collaborative process with Budjette. I know that in Book 1, you deliberately omitted the section about the Kambal’s history as a prod or a suggestion to Budjette to develop an entire story arc for them in a separate booklet. What are some of the other story ideas or creative seedlings found in the first five books that you strategically plant into Budjette’s infinite mind?
We brainstorm during those rare dinner meetings after komikons or after our meeting with our publisher and other Trese co-champions. Sometimes, just thru text. Budj already have the big picture of Trese in his head and what I bring into the soup are nuggets and details for the story that he may or may not use depending on whether the idea will work or won’t, with the bigger pic. Artwise, Budj gives me total freedom on how to plot his script, and add picture information, unless he requires something specific. A detail I remember adding, but not necessarily in the script, is teen Trese greeting his father with the traditional ‘Mano po’ gesture in book 3. In Budj’s script, Anton and Alexandra were just talking. I add touches like that and Budj allows it as long as it doesn’t distract.
How do you snuff out the darkness after you’ve completed pages and pages of drawings etched with nightfall, crime, heartache, and loss?
I don’t feel any ‘darkness’ at all while, and after, working on Trese. I actually think that, amidst all the stark black, the tragedies, the cynicism and the horrors shown in the book, Alexandra pretty much shines a ray light on all of them, well, after punching them in the face, of course. Yes, I believe that Alexandra is a symbol of hope and knowing that makes me happy after every page.
What does Alexandra Trese mean to you?
Hope. And Bad-ass.
What should the fans of Trese be on the lookout for in the coming months?
As of this year, 2013, we’ve had a story come out in ‘Manila Noir’ and produced ‘Stories from the Diabolical’. As of this writing, TRESE: Book of Murders will be coming out and TRESE book 6 will be released at the November komikon. I think after all these, there won’t be anymore TRESE from us.
Thank you very much for this interview and I apologize for ending it with another bad joke.