Sep 9, 2019

Trese Book 7 Preview, with Budjette Tan

If you're from Manila, live in Manila, or are going to Manila this week, you should know that the annual Manila International Book Fair is happening this Wednesday, September 11, to Sunday, September 14. It'll be at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay, next to Mall of Asia, and among other things, Trese 7: Shadow Witness by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo will be released at the Visprint booth.

Alexandra Trese is an investigator of the supernatural, and the series is a mix of crime and horror. It's steeped in Philippine mythology (one of Alex's friends, Maliksi, is a tikbalang — a legendary Philippine creature that is a horse that walks and talks like a human) and history (there's even a boxer character named Manuel who is really familiar).

We caught up with Budjette Tan to find out what to expect, and get some preview pages.

CUBE: What can fans expect in Book 7? 

BUDJETTE: Simply put, you get one “old story” and you get three new stories. Well, it’s an old story if you already bought a copy of either Manila Noir or the Abangan anthology, because we’re finally including Thirteen Stations in the “Trese continuity”. When I wrote that story for Manila Noir, I wanted it to serve as an introduction to the world of Trese since I knew new readers will get to pick up that book. When I sent Kajo that script, he made a comment about how it’s actually “set in the future” and that we should include it in one of the books. And so, we’ve finally reached this time.

Table for Three had a limited release in KOMIKON back in 2016 and I’m happy that we’ve also included that short story in this book. This case is all about a pop-up restaurant run by an aswang-chef.

The other two stories puts the spotlight on Father Matthias Trese, the exorcist / demon hunter of the family. And the last story introduces Jimmy Trese, the art collector / gentleman thief / magic item hunter.

How would you say your writing process and collaboration with Kajo has changed since you started Book 1? 

Not much has changed in our collaboration. Kajo let’s me write the stories. I let him draw the stories. Occasionally, he’d send a thought / idea / plot line over Viber and I’d pick it up and run with it.

I guess the new thing about this book is that for the Jimmy Trese story, I wrote it Marvel style – sending him just general scenes and a story-flow, with very minimal page breakdowns. After I got the pages from him, that’s when I started to write the dialogue and other word balloons. The delightful surprise in the trying to find a voice for this story is how it ended up being narrated by Jimmy Trese. At first, I was trying to write it like I usually write TRESE cases, with a  third person narrator. But there was something about Jimmy. It was as if he demanded for his voice to be heard. And I think we ended up with a very unique sounding story compared to the other three cases in the book.

How do you respond to people saying comics shouldn't be political, considering that you use actual real human beings in your stories? 

If people don’t want politics mixed with their comics should read … I don’t know… a cook book!

In some way or another, comics will end up making a statement about society or politics or religion or all of the above. Some will just be more overt than others.

I’d like to think that when I include these “political characters” that I do it in service of the story and not because I’m promoting a political agenda. I leave that up to the reader to interpret.

Would you say that Alex's politics aligns with yours? Or I guess another way to ask this question is, how personal is Trese for you? How much of Budjette is there on the page?

Yeah, I guess I'm there somewhere ... all over the place... bits and pieces of me. My brother pointed out to me that the Kambal are actually me and him. One is the serious guy and the other is the fun-loving guy. Which is something I never thought of. But that's how I wrote them. I guess these are the times when the old saying "write what you know" comes into play.

As far as the politics are concerned, I think I'm just showing "the world outside out window" (borrowing that from Stan Lee), that we do live a country that have corrupt cops and politicians and at the same time we have cops like Guerrero. We have corrupt politicians and public servants /lawyers who just want to do good, but sometimes go too far when they get a little power in their hands.

Trese's four brothers are based on the four uncles I grew up with and yes, one of them is a priest who told me stories about the exorcism rites he's heard about it in his encounters with other priests.

Any updates you can tell us about the cartoon? Will it adapt the stories as is or go its own way?

No update for now. Maybe we can give you an update early next year. I have read the scripts. I think they work very well in introducing Trese to a new audience. And if you’re an old time reader, then I think Jay Oliva and the writing team have found ways to still surprise you.

And now, without further ado... preview pages!

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