Interest in ongoing komiks series like Trese has shown a growing enthusiasm for wider, global accessibility to consume Philippine-produced media. In recent years, especially accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic’s limitations of conventions and art shows, platforms like Penlab have given komiks creators more opportunities to expand their reach online while broadening the channels potential readers can use to read their work.
I had the opportunity to interview Erica Juliet, one of the co-founders of Diwata Komiks, a Filipino-American comics publisher. Diwata recently published Issue #1 of Carmina, an ongoing komiks series. Erica discusses the importance behind the inception of something like Diwata, especially when it comes to bringing more Philippine stories that would resonate with Filipinos all over the world who seek to strengthen the bonds to their culture and ancestry.
Thank you so much for taking your time to talk with us! In your own words, how did you get involved with Diwata Komiks? How did all of you eventually come together to develop the collective? And why focus on the medium of komiks in particular?
Thank you for taking the time to get to know us. I got involved with Diwata Komiks by realizing with my creative partners, Mark A.J. Nazal and Joe Arciaga, that it made sense for us to publish our own stories and to also be able to share other stories that we found to be missing when it came to an international level. We chose the medium of “komiks” or rather really, comics, because it is a very easy point of access to stories that can bridge cultures and we believe that our stories are for all readers to discover and enjoy.
What went behind conceptualizing Carmina? What are its influences? How have your own personal experiences been channeled through this work?
Carmina’s concept came from two parts—the challenge to create new powers for a strong, supernatural character that felt fresh and wasn’t another rehash of a witch or a vampire but also, for an unapologetic female character who happens to be biracial (which I am). In a sense, Carmina is the collective consciousness of us as writers. Speaking for myself, I imbued her with experiences of challenges I’ve had growing up and finding my independence and identity.
Without spoiling Issue #2, let’s just say Carmina is not what you expect her to be as a female Fil-Am character.
As a Filipino-American myself, I feel as though Carmina also taps into the disconnect and longing many of us feel in an effort to bridge a connection back to our ancestry in the Philippines. How significant was it that Carmina is centered on someone who was not just Filipino, but specifically Filipino-American?
Well it’s easy. Because it’s who we are. To give a perspective, it took a while for us to admit where our stories fit. Eventually, we fell into the conclusion that our stories don’t belong in one world but in two—but not in a perfect fit either. But we also realized that there is value in that.
With my experiences as a mixed race actress, I came across ethnicity challenges at different times and what Carmina represents is a character who is very much like me in that respect and we hope that she also connects with others in a similar situation.
What aspect of Philippine identity did you feel was most important to be properly represented?
This is a tough one because people identify with so many different things, but I do know that includes being connected to your family, understanding where you come from, and finding the power to face your demons and standing up for yourself. If anything, I think Carmina is a character that will break stereotypes.
There has been a renewed, growing global interest in seeing more Philippine-produced media on a global scale. How has this impacted your own work? And based on these recent trends, how do you feel as though this makes the collaboration and creation process work much more differently compared to the past?
As creatives, we try not to have the rest of the world dictate the stories and projects we want to tell. The more important thing for us to do is to continue creating stories that connect with us on a personal level. What’s becoming more and more evident in the industry today is that authenticity in the content is what drives audience engagement.
What is next for Diwata Komiks? What are some other works currently in development? What are you hoping to accomplish?
You can stay on top of what is coming next by checking out our website at diwatakomiks.com. Currently in development is the second issue of Carmina, which will define the character in unexpected ways. While “Beginnings” was a great introduction, Issue #2 will be the start of her definitive storyline.
Apart from our stories with the Carmina series, we’ll also be publishing other titles from our creative partners in the Philippines. We remastered Carnal Tales, an acclaimed Filipino komik, for the US market and we will be releasing Darahug, a Visayan horror folktale.