Filipino comic book creator Tsambolero presents an LGBTQIA+ story with local myth on the side

What if your other half is just, well, half?

Among the famous themes Filipino fan fiction readers love are the queer undertones in the country’s rich folkloric tales. Examples of these are the Bikolano legend of Bulan and Sidapa and the art of drag that went into male babaylans.

Adapting the same queer theme is Filipino comic book creator Tsambolero. But instead of setting his story in pre-Hispanic Philippines, the writer and illustrator brought it to the 21st Century with a modern gay couple. But not just any ordinary gay couple, mind you. One of them is an aswang.

Tsambolero’s “Ang Jowa Kong Crosswise” puts a spotlight on yuppie same-sex lovers Tomas and Leo as they navigate through life as partners, from coming out (as an aswang in Tomas’ case) to family and friends to making the real world and supernatural life work for both of them.

What if your other half is just, well, half?

In a conversation with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, Tsambolero shares how he turned his pandemic time into a creative journey and why the queer movement in Philippine comic scene is important.

How long have you been doing comics? What inspired you to pursue this creative path?

I started making comics and posting them online last December 2020. Growing up as an artist and avid comic book geek, I’ve always wanted to write and draw comics of my own. But I never really found the time until last year, due to the abundance of free time I had because of the lockdown.

Can you tell us the story behind your creation ‘Ang Jowa Kong Crosswise’? What pushed you to do it?

Ang Jowa Kong Crosswise” started out as a sort of joke. I had no real plans of doing a full series run of the story. To my surprise, the pilot episode gained a lot of traction, and people were quick to ask me for more content. I was happy to oblige, because “Ang Jowa Kong Crosswise” is semi-autobiographical, so I had plenty of material to write and draw about. All of the events in the comic did happen in real life. I just thought it would be too plain to draw just that, so I decided to put a little twist: What if one half of the couple was an aswang? I guess you could say that Tomas being an aswang living among humans also serves as a metaphor for being queer in a pre-dominantly Catholic country. I also thought it would be nice to highlight our own rich culture and mythology.

Why is it important to have LGBTQIA+ characters and plot depicted in comics?

It’s important to have LGBTQ+ characters in comics because of, first and foremost, representation. For queer people to be front and center in comics, and not just sidelined as supporting characters or as comic relief, it shows us that we can take charge of our own narratives. We can be the hero (or villain) of the story just as much as straight people can. We’re all really no different from each other. Accurate and consistent representation of queer people in media helps us normalize what shouldn’t have been taboo in the first place.

What are your favorite comics?

I’m a big fan of DC Comics! “Kingdom Come,” “Batman: Hush,” and “Superman: Birthright” are some of my favorites. I’m also a huge fan of Hulkling and Wiccan from the “Young Avengers” because they’re arguably the most iconic gay couple in comics today. Plus, they’re so cute together!

What advice would you give to other illustrators and writers who would like to create their own comics, be it centered on the LGBTQIA+ narrative or not?

Piece of advice for any aspiring comic writers or illustrators out there: Just go make something. It’s a universal experience for any type of artist to struggle with beginning to work on a piece, because they always worry about it not being good enough. Try to tune those anxieties out and just go write or draw. Once you’ve finished the piece, then you can look back and actually judge your work. And then you’ll realize it’s probably not as bad as you thought it was going to be.

Read “Ang Jowa Kong Crosswise” here.

Source: Manila Bulletin (