The sheer amount of detail in nearly every panel of the upcoming comic book The Runts is enough to make anyone nostalgic for Manila—readers don’t even have to have left the city or ever set foot in its streets to long for it. In a small home with concrete brick walls, a kitchen is lovingly cluttered with an assortment of Pinoy cooking wares, household items, and foods. In the streets, a band of kids runs rampant under massive skyways, across wide intersections, and within a maze of tight residential side alleys. Familiar Filipino motifs cram every inch of page space. Everywhere there are plastic home furnishings, election ads hung wantonly, and crowded street markets. And intense basketball games unfold in courts tucked between tin-roofed homes packed closely together.
在一间由混凝土砌块墙壁围作的小屋内，菲式厨具、居家用品和食物杂七杂八地堆放在厨房；小孩们成帮结队，他们肆无忌惮地在敦实的天桥下奔跑，一路穿过十字马路来到迷宫般的住宅深巷。这些熟悉的菲律宾元素，被描绘在画面的每一个角落 —— 满目玲琅的塑料家具、肆意张贴的选举宣传页、人来人往的市井气息、以及后街院落的铁栅栏背后，正在激烈争抢的篮球比赛。
The Runts is a story about a pack of kids growing up poor in Manila, doing whatever it takes to survive and make something of themselves. It’s the first major project of Modern Magic Stories, a new comics publishing company founded by Filipino illustrator Raymond Tan Tan, writer Don Gaoiran, and letter artist Paul James Go.
Tan grew up in Laguna, a province just outside Metro Manila, and has been interested in art for as long as he can remember. A sketch of Elvis that his father drew for him when he was a kid captivated his imagination, and he fell in love with visual art. He drew his first full-length comic book in high school, which clocked in at over 100 pages. “That was the first time I felt I’m not a loser, that I’m quite good at something,” Tan says.
During college, Tan had drifted from art. He was studying hotel management and had a passion for basketball, which he ended up pursuing professionally. Neither career paths were ultimately in his cards. After getting injured, he returned to art and honed in on it intently. “I was in limbo after the injury and my peers were on their way to their careers,” he says. “I didn’t have the courage to live a corporate life, so I focused all my energy on drawing as if my life depended on it.” Within a couple of years, he was already on his way, working as a professional artist with a portfolio to be proud of.
Raymond 在马尼拉郊外的拉古纳省长大，从小对艺术充满兴趣。小时候，父亲曾画的一幅猫王的素描总让他爱不释手，是他视觉艺术创作道路的一颗萌芽。高中时候，他就完成了自己第一本完整的漫画，共有 100 多页。Raymond 说：“那是我第一次觉得自己不是一个窝囊废，我也有擅长的事情。”
He’s lived in different places across Asia and the West, working as a concept artist for several major companies and projects, including Ubisoft, Lucasfilms, and Capcom. Despite his hard-won success, he wanted more—something he could call his own. “Where is this heading?” he asked himself. “Am I going to be continuously contributing to somebody else’s vision? Why build somebody else’s castle when you can build your own?”
Raymond 曾在亚、欧、美很多国家生活过，也曾为 Ubisoft、Lucasfilms 和 Capcom 等多家大型企业和项目担任概念艺术家。尽管收获了来之不易的成功，但他并不满足——他想拥有真正属于自己的作品。他问自己：“这样做的意义是什么？是要继续按别人的意愿来创作吗？可是，明明有能力建造自己的城堡，为什么还要给别人打工呢？”
Tan, Gaoiran, and Go had known each other since college and been dreaming about doing a comic together for years. “It’s one of the few mediums where you’re free to do it your own way, in your own style, and have creative expression free from conformity,” Tan says. Launching a venture together was an off-and-on discussion between the three friends, but it took on a newfound urgency for Tan. “I went back and traced how I got into this industry. I re-learned that I can find peace amidst this noisy life when I’m doing something for myself.”
So together, they started exploring the business side of the comic world. They studied how start-ups work, looked at the business models of game studios and other related industries, and sought opinions about Tan’s art from established artists in the comics world.
Raymond、Don 和 Paul 在大学时就认识，多年来三人一直梦想一起创作一部漫画。Raymond 说：“这是为数不多能让我们按照自己的方式和风格，不受拘束的创作。” 这原本只是三人间茶余饭后的话题，但 Raymond 却对此十分期待。“回顾了自己当初进入这个行业的经历，我再次意识到，只有专注于自己的创作，才能让我在嘈杂的生活中沉静下来。”
When Gaoiran returned with the idea for The Runts, it changed everything for them. Tan left a comfortable job in the UK and returned to the Philippines to launch Modern Magic Stories with the crew. “The Runts was our answer to the existential question of what you want to leave behind,” Tan says. “I believe this will be our life’s work together.”
The Runts is set in Manila in 2015 during the height of a shifting political climate with the upcoming presidential elections; the country was on the edge of significant change. The settings are largely inspired by real times and places, but the book is allegorical enough to be considered fictional. Recognizable signs of famous Filipino chain restaurants and hotels are everywhere in the comic, although usually spelled slightly different, whereas the names of real, prominent politicians are plastered throughout its pages. It’s a parallel reality of Manila. Tan says they aim to defamiliarize the reader enough to tell a universal story. “As artists, we borrow from reality and interpret it on our own.”
当 Don 提出了关于《The Runts》的想法时，整个项目迎来了转折。Raymond 辞去在英国的工作，回到菲律宾与他们一起创立 Modern Magic Stories。“《The Runts》是我们对于存在主义的回答，即你想在这个世界留下什么。我相信这个出版社会是我们一生的合作。” Raymond 说道。
《The Runts》的故事背景设定在 2015 年的马尼拉，当时正值菲律宾总统选举，政治风向在悄然变化，整个国家处于重大变革的边缘。本书在大量真实事件的基础上，加入虚构元素。漫画中，菲律宾知名连锁餐厅和酒店招牌随处可见，另外一些招牌则画着现实生活中那些声名显赫的政客名字。这恰恰反映了马尼拉生活的两重天地。Raymond 解释说，他们的目的是消除读者的熟悉感，以便讲述一个人人都能看懂的故事。“作为艺术家，我们借鉴现实，又要以自己的创作重新演绎。”
Each page takes two days to a month to complete. They’re crammed with realistic details, including license plates, tangled electric wiring, water meters, and jeepney dashboards. “We go to lengths to get this accurate,” Tan says. “We head into the field taking photos, especially for interior shots, interviewing people to have a broader perspective of topics we want to tackle.” He says they dug deep from movies and documentaries, even asking friends to take snapshots of specific locations and objects.
About a year ago, they were almost finished with the book and decided to take a much-needed break in order to return to it with a fresh eye. Gaoiran took classes on game design and creative writing while Tan and Go published a short comic to test out what they’d learned along the way. “We got back together after several months of learning and saw a lot of holes and an unacceptable story,” Tan reveals. “We decided to scrap everything and not make compromises. If it’s not going to be good, then let’s not do it at all.” But he says that they’ve since made up for the lost time, and the project is on track to be published later this year.
Keep an eye out for the release on the Modern Magic Stories website.
大约在一年前，在这本漫画书即将大功告成之时，他们觉得有必要给自己放个假，希望以新鲜的角度继续创作。在这期间，Don 去了学习游戏设计和叙事写作，而 Raymond 和 Paul 则出版了一部短篇漫画，以检验他们在这个过程中的成果。Raymond透露道：“经过几个月的调整和进修，我们又聚在一起，发现了原来创作中的很多漏洞，以及故事存在的问题。我们决定放弃一切，绝不迁就。如果效果不好，那就干脆不做。”但他也表示，现在他们已经解决存在的问题，这本漫画也有望在今年晚些时候于 Modern Magic Stories 网站推出，各位敬请关注。