Gerry Alanguilan: The Wasted Interview
November 2000
Updated February 2002

Gerry Alanguilan is a friend of mine, I must admit. But when a local paper asked me to interview him about his comic book Wasted, I didn't exactly jump at the chance. I knew him during the time he was writing it, and it wasn't a Gerry that I was eager to revisit.  But as his friend, I knew I would be able to ask him questions other people may be hesitant to ask.  Besides, I hadn't visited him in a while and knowing him, he'd most likely cook something, or if he's feeling lazy, just order something from Domino's. In any case, I was looking forward to this interview.


Gabriel Banaag: So, how are you doing today?
Gerry Alanguilan: Just great. Getting fat. You?
GB: You know me. Well, let's start this thing. Before anything else though, there is a question that I've always wanted to ask you. Why Comics?
Gerry A.: Whoah! I didn't expect that one. Hmmm. You know, I really don't know. I just like comics, I guess. I like looking at drawings, and I like to read. Comics just seem perfect for me in that case. I've read them all my life, I realize. And I suppose it shouldn't surprise me that I would eventually do them myself.
GB: When did you realize that you wanted to do comics yourself? Since the beginning?
Gerry A.: I was drawing even before I started reading comics. But at the time it was more like play than anything. I was drawing all these little comic strips at the back of my notebooks at school. It featured all kinds of characters like this orphan Ricky Anderson, which was inspired from the anime Remi, the Orphan Boy. I also drew further adventures of Tintin where Captain Haddock would turn into the HULK whenever he drank whiskey.
GB: Wow, you never showed me THAT one. Must have been hilarious.
Gerry A. It was TERRIBLE. ha!ha! They're tucked away somewhere in my cabinet.
GB: Please continue.
Gerry A. Ok. I pretty much carried on that way even in college when I was taking up Architecture. I wanted to take Fine Arts, but my folks wanted me to take Archi. I relented, thinking architecture was an art as well, and I thought it didn't have much math. Boy, was I mistaken! That course had  a TON of math. Anyway, it was at this time that I rediscovered the X-Men via a compilation of the Dark Phoenix Saga. I had been reading the X-Men as a kid, but as soon as I stepped into High School I gave it up, thinking that I was too old for it. Boy, was I wrong LOTS of times. Anyway, my brother brought this compilation home and it's pretty much not an exaggeration when I say that it literally changed my life.

The Dark Phoenix Saga
Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Terry Austin.
Copyright @ Marvel Comics
It was probably the best superhero story I have ever read. It's STILL the best superhero story I have ever read. And I've read a lot. Some other people would put Watchmen at that spot. I mean, I have read Watchmen and I'm a big Alan Moore fan, but nothing really beats something that you grew up on. And the Dark Phoenix Saga connected with me on a very deep emotional level that other comics have not been able to do. Those three creators, Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin were at their very prime. I mean, Byrne's art really blew me away.

As a result, I started drawing just a little bit more seriously. This was around 1985 and I started sending submissions to Marvel. Eliot Brown was the very first person I ever got in touch with at Marvel. He had seen my submission and sent me a polite rejection letter. Nevertheless, I was ecstatic because someone at Marvel actually knew I existed! I was still serious in pursuing Architecture though, and submissions were still just a cute little hobby.

GB: So when did you finally take it seriously?
Gerry A. Much much later. And it came about due to many things.

I had a girlfriend whom I was absolutely crazy about who had just left for the US. I wanted to follow her there, but since I have not entertained any thoughts about leaving the country before that time, I didn't know what to do.  I wanted to go, but I also wanted to have a good job, one that would be good enough to support the both of us there.   I was working as an architect for around 2 years already and yet I still didn't know if it's what I really wanted to do.  I briefly entertained the thought of become an actor. You know, as one of the goons whom Fernando Poe Jr. beats up on. I would have been happy with that, really. I had continued reading the X-Men and I was really blown away by this new artist Jim Lee.  His work was incredible at that time. And it really inspired me to come up with even more submissions (and even more rejection letters). Then I met Whilce Portacio. I had been seeing his work on and off as in inker at X-Men, New Mutants, and he had recently begun penciling with Punisher and X-Factor. I liked his work a lot. When I learned he was a Filipino, I went NUTS.  If that wasn't enough to kick my in the ass about drawing comics, this was it. I thought, shit. If he could do it, maybe so could I.  I thought, this is IT. Comics is the way for me to go to America and be with my girlfriend. At that point on, I just dropped everything. I stopped working and went home and just practiced and practiced, day and night from 6 am to 12 midnight.

GB. Yes, I remember that you had come home to San Pablo to stay a while. Was that OK with your folks? After all, they did send you to school to be an architect.
Gerry A. Well, they were supportive, and pretty much left me alone do do what I wanted. But when this jobless state stretched on for years, my mom started to question the wisdom of my decision. It was a pretty tough time. I had been sending penciling submissions all over the place. All that photocopying and mailing expenses soon drained the money I had tucked away. At the end of it I was broke and I didn't have a job. I had been calling my girlfriend , who was in America, to let her know how my job hunt was doing. I asked her to be patient, and I was doing everything I can, devoting all the time I have to getting that job in comics so that I could finally join her.  Those phone bills killed me. I had to sell my X-Men comics collection for 7,000 pesos just so I could pay those bills.

GB. So I think this is where Wasted comes in? I understand that you had been drawing nothing but superheroes at this time. What made you do Wasted, and why did you draw it the way you did? To be honest, when you first sent me Wasted #1, I couldn't believe it was done by you. I thought, man, this art SUCKS! Specially after seeing what you had been doing with superheroes.  I automatically thought that there was something wrong and I called you about it, remember?
Gerry A. Yeah, I think I remember you calling, but I'm not sure. Well, it turns out my girlfriend did not fully understand what I was doing. She revealed to me, somewhat unintentionally, that she preferred that I was still doing architecture stuff. Soon she became somewhat aloof and later told me that we should go and meet other people. I was pretty much devastated. At that time, the late Neil Pozner, an editor at DC,  had given me a test script of Green Lantern to draw. If he liked what he saw, that story would have gone to print. But I made a mess of it. I went crazy, tearing up my little studio apart. It was a very bad time. I thought about taking my own life, but I just cried it out. For the next few months I wasted more money calling her up begging her to take me back but she already had a new American boyfriend. That drove me up the wall even more. I swore never to cut my hair until she came back. My temper was short and I said a lot of strange things to people. I lost a lot of friends and it was not a good time to make new ones. For a  long time I hated America and anything American. I can't even stand to listen to CNN because I couldn't stand to listen to anyone speaking with an American accent. I stopped listening to Bruce Springsteen, and by extension, any American songs. I went through a really freaky Pinoy Ethnic phase, which was fortunate because this was the time when all these great Filipino bands were emerging. Eraserheads, the Youth,  the Jerks, Bagiw, Grupong Pending and so on. I wore all kinds of beads on my wrists and wore all kinds of strange necklaces around my neck.

Worse, I stopped drawing altogether. The next time I drew was almost one year later and that was when I started writing and drawing Wasted.

(Note: Of course, that irrational hate towards anything American soon passed. I watch CNN all the time and I'm back to listening to Bruce Springsteen. [The Rising ROCKS!] Looking back, it was such a stupid thing to think about but what can you do eh? Love (or the lack of it) can make one do the most craziest things.)

GB: Where did that title come from, by the way?
Gerry A. It came from The Who's song, "Baba O'Riley". I was such a big fan of the British rock group "The Who" for a long time, and this was a song that really liked to listen to a lot back then. The original title for the comic was actually "Berserk!" But I thought it didn't fit. When I heard Roger Daltrey scream "They're all WASTED!!!" while the song was playing, I thought, shit. That's my title right there!
Anyway,  I just started with one panel. And then everything just came pouring out and I couldn't stop it. All the anger and frustration that I've felt during the past year came out all at once. I have to tell you that the conversations that Eric and Jenny had on the first few pages are almost word for word conversations that I had with my ex during our breakup. I finished the first part, all 8 pages of it, in just a few days.  I fell on my bed exhausted after it and felt sick for a couple of days.   Then I wondered what I was going to do with it.  I certainly didn't plan on publishing it or anything. It was just a personal outlet. A diary of sorts made into a comic book. Knowing that it wasn't going to be read by anyone, I was totally uninhibited with the way I wrote it.  I wasn't concerned about what others would think so I pretty much went crazy with it. After a few days I thought of making it into a mini-comic. I photocopied 15 copies of it and mailed it off to friends.  At first the reaction was disbelief, like how you reacted. My friends couldn't believe I could write something like that. It was so unlike me, or so they thought.

GB: I remember getting it and wondered what the hell it was. All of a sudden I thought you were a totally different person altogether. In the first issue alone you shot a traveling preacher right through the head.  Is that a reflection of what you believe? Don't you believe in God?
Gerry A. Oh, I definitely believe in God. I just don't believe in people forcing other people what to believe. Those street, bus and other traveling preachers really piss me off. Oh I know that God himself instructed people to go off into the world to spread the word of God. But damn it, go spread the word to people who haven't heard it yet.   You know, most of these people have had really bad lives. Some of them are former addicts, former alcoholics, and the like, or maybe some of them have just been very unfortunate. At one point in their lives they find God and they change for the better. They feel it's a miracle and in a way it is. Now they take it upon themselves to spread the good news of God. That in itself is a good thing.  But  now just because they have seen the light, they feel I should see it too.  They approach you with eyes full of judgment, assuming I'm this Godless heathen that needs to be saved.  They talk to as if you don't know what they are talking about.   I'm happy for you that you've found God and you are happy,  but who are you to judge me? You don't even fucking KNOW me. I have ALWAYS known God. I have grown up reading the Bible. I did not have an unfortunate life that I would need to be "saved" from.   Go convert a pagan or something and leave me the fuck alone.

GB: I'm getting the idea that aside from being an outlet of grief for a failed relationship, Wasted is also a sounding board for your religious and political beliefs? Are you condoning murder?
Gerry A. I really wouldn't want to put it that way. What do I know about politics anyway? I'm just reacting to what I see everyday when I go out on the street. I hate people who smoke in buses and jeeps and elevators. I hate these people with a passion. I want to kill them, but to be honest, I can't and won't do that in real life. My conscience wouldn't let me. But I feel free to kill them all in my comics. If anyone thinks I'm condoning murder in real life, then you must be some kind of moron. If I really wanted to kill someone, I would have already done it.

In a way, Wasted is a sort of sounding board for the things that annoy me in life. I hate traveling preachers, I hate thieves, I hate corrupt government officials. They all have their day in my comic book.

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Interview
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