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Artist of Gothic Classics

by Richard Vasseur - (Posted: 6/11/2007)

Carlo Vergara

Richard: What is "The Mysteries of Udolpho" all about?

Carlo Vergara: "The Mysteries of Udolpho" is an adaptation of Ann Radcliffe's novel of the same title. Adapted by Antonella Caputo, "Udolpho" is about a young French girl's offbeat experience as she uncovers the secrets of a 'haunted' Italian castle. References say Radcliffe's work is the first gothic novel, and it has a nice combo of horror, suspense, romance and drama.

Richard: How do you feel about your U.S. debut with Graphic Classics with Captain Blood?

Carlo: It feels wonderful, to say the least, and going through the process has been a great learning experience. I found myself doing things on a creative level that I had never done before.

Richard: How did you end up working on "Gothic Classics"?

Carlo: Soon after I had finished "Captain Blood," Graphic Classics editor Tom Pomplun asked me if I was willing to draw another story for a new anthology. I enjoyed working with Tom so saying 'yes' was not hard to do. "Udolpho" was more difficult to do than "Captain Blood," and I admit that I was surprised at the amount of added research, but the final product turned out well.

Richard: Who are the main characters in your story and what are they like?

Carlo: "Udolpho" has a huge cast, and there are a lot of major characters, so I'll focus on the top four here... Emily St. Aubert is a young woman who has this odd habit of fainting. Antonella admitted that she had to tone the fainting down because apparently Emily was doing a whole lot of it in the original novel. Emily is very introspective and curious-sometimes too curious for her own good--and I try to capture a lot of her internal dialog in her facial expressions. Madame Cheron is Emily's aunt, who had to look after Emily after the death of Emily's father early in the story. Madame Cheron is portrayed as heartless and a social climber, though you can sense that she's pretty fragile inside.

Valancourt is Emily's love interest. An adventure-seeker and quite the charmer, Valancourt quickly earned the favor of Emily's father. However, Madame Cheron sees Valancourt as an opportunist, as the young man isn't exactly wealthy. Montoni is the villain of the story. Buried in debt, he marries Madame Cheron on the impression that she was well-to-do. Realizing that Emily inherited a huge estate, he makes life hard for her by keeping her locked up Castle Udolpho.

Richard: How would you describe the comic book industry in the Philippines as compared to in the U.S.?

Carlo: The comics (or "komiks") industry in the Philippines suffered a major decline in the early 1990s, and it hasn't found its former glory even until now. While most of the comics in the US fall under the superhero genre, Philippine comics thrived through anthologies of serialized komiks nobela, or comics novels--romance, horror, adventure, etc. A number of romance or adventure stories serialized in these anthologies have been adapted to film.

The most successful comics properties here are those created by the late Mars Ravelo, whose creations Darna, Lastikman, Dyesebel, Captain Barbell, and others have seen numerous incarnations in film and television. I can't think of any other property that has matched Ravelos' success. Presently, W.I.T.C.H., and Winx dominate the local comics scene, published by major magazine companies and fueled by cross-media exposure and merchandising. But there are dozens of independent comics creators who do graphic novels, webcomics, comic strips, pamphlet issues and other formats. This concerted effort to keep

Philippine comics alive is really exciting, and I hope it progresses. Then come some of our inspirations, comics artists who have made it in the competitive US industry-Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, Edgar Tadeo, Lan Medina, Carlo Pagulayan, Wilson Tortosa, and others. Their work constantly reminds us that skill and perseverance can lead to great opportunity.

Richard: What did you do in public relations and marketing communications?

Carlo: I spent a good chunk of my career writing press releases, speeches, and articles for newsletters. I would design corporate publications like annual reports, manuals, information materials, and also do photography and video work. The companies I've worked for would also ask me to emcee their corporate events, like retailer meetings, press conferences, program launches, even Christmas parties.

Richard: What was "Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah" about?

Carlo: Zsazsa Zaturnnah is a powerful female heroine similar to Wonder Woman, with her alter ego being a homosexual beautician named Ada. Ada is able to transform into Zaturnnah by swallowing a rock that's slightly larger than a fist. The story is Zaturnnah's first adventure against the alien Queen Femina Suarestellar Baroux, with a parallel plot about Ada 's pursuit of a normal life. It's a very simple story, a classical one, complete with a spunky sidekick and an object of affection, lots of drama and comedy, and the happy ending.

Richard: Why did you use a gay super hero?

Carlo: When I thought about the concept, I didn't really think about the why's. It was one of those concepts that hit you squarely on the head and felt right. But if I were to analyze things, I'd go back to that advice given to beginning writers-write what you know. I like superheroes, I'm homosexual, and I wanted to do a comics story that I would like to read. Then there's the representation issue. Just how many gay superheroes are out there? Yes, there's Apollo and Midnighter, Batwoman, Colossus, Wiccan and Hulkling, Moondragon... but I wanted to see how the effeminate homosexual protagonist would handle getting superpowers. There was no intention of making a political or social statement-it was purely a creative decision.

Richard: What was "One Night in Purgatory"?

Carlo: "Purgatory" was my first solo comics work that I self-published in 2001-I still have a huge box of unsold copies in the closet. As a creator going solo, I wanted to start with something simple, a melodrama about two people talking about their relationship and how it changed them. So there's the two guy friends-one gay and one straight-who've been best buddies for years. But things take a turn when they found themselves falling for each other. "Purgatory" explores the aftermath of that.

Richard: Do you still work as a graphic designer and what does a graphic designer do?

Carlo: Right now, I work as an art director for Real Living magazine under Summit Publishing. It's a magazine about home décor and design, a subject that was very strange to me when I went on board. As an art director, I design and maintain the "look" of the magazine to help make it appeal to our target audience and stand out on the shelves. So that entails conceptualizing for and attending photo shoots, doing page designs, coordinating with the production department, and checking out the runs at the printing press. Art direction is synonymous to graphic design, though the former is by definition more managerial in nature.

Richard: If you could have one super power what would it be and why?

Carlo: Oh, that's a toughie. Something like that of Molecule Man would be really nice.

Richard: What comics did you read growing up and do you read now?

Carlo: Sadly, I hardly pick up a comic book now. I haven't found anything lately that really appealed to me, and they can be expensive if we consider the exchange rates. When I was growing up, I'd collect the X-titles. But if anything by Adam Hughes turns up, I'm in line.

Richard: How can someone contact you?

Carlo: Email is carverhouse at gmail dot com. My blog is carverhouse dot blogspot dot com. I also have a ComicSpace and a Friendster account, and a profile page in the Prism Comics website.

Richard: Any last words of advice?

Carlo: Just be patient. Persevere. Have fun with it. Accept the challenge openly but don't let the pressure bog you down. Create stories you feel others might want to read, but at the same time be true to yourself.

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