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This Filipino Artist Drew a Limited-Edition Comic Book Cover for Marvel's Cebuana Superhero

Mico Suayan worked on the exclusive Comic Odyssey cover variant, featuring Filipina Marvel superheroine Wave, for War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas.
IMAGE Karen De Vera
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The Cebuana Marvel character Pearl Pangan a.k.a. Wave received much fanfare from Filipinos when comic book writer Greg Pak, who also wrote the miniseries where Wave made her debut, posted her design. The character artwork, designed by co-creator Leinil Yu and colored by Sunny Gho, features Wave wielding Filipino Kampilan-inspired swords as she swims toward the surface.

Then, the first panel from War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas went viral thanks to an exchange between Wave and her Chinese colleague Aero. It possibly hinted at the current conflict between the countries, butspoiler alertWave’s comment, “These aren’t Chinese waters…,” doesn’t become anything more than a throwaway line. Wave and Aero band together to face an even bigger threat—an Asgardian god who wants to melt the ice caps to transform earth into an inferno, thus speeding up the global warming process. (It’s not like we needed further assistance in the total destruction of our environment.)

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IMAGE: Karen De Vera

When Comic Odyssey announced a signing session featuring Mico Suayan, the Filipino artist tapped to create its store-exclusive Wave cover variant of War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas, the hype was already at its peak. Both comic book fans and newbies alike were intrigued by the prospect of owning a limited-edition Marvel comic book with a proudly Pinoy character design and were already lined up in the morning for the 1 p.m. event. Once Suayan arrived at Comic Odyssey Robinson’s Galleria, the lines were so long that they snaked around the area.

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Each signature came with a certificate of authenticity signed by the cover artist. The hardcore collectors were able to get their issues graded by Comic Book Certification Standards (CBCS), a process that helps assess the value of a comic (this comes in handy should you decide to sell it). The issue was then encapsulated in a holder that maintains its condition.

“This is the best turnout for a single artist event so far! It almost feels like Free Comic Book Day where it’s [a] continuous [stream] of people,” says Comic Odyssey owner Sandy Sansolis about the huge turnout.

IMAGE: Karen De Vera
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IMAGE: Karen De Vera

Of Suayan, Nicki Roque, one of those Marvel fans who waited as early as 8 a.m. and even dressed up as the titular character herself, says, “He’s a really chill down-to-earth guy. He’s very nice and was happy to find out that his cover was the inspiration for my costume. Then, he asked for a picture with me. Masaya! Ang galing lang.”

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This was the first time Comic Odyssey released an exclusive cover, and its Wave variant even made its way abroad with Comic Odyssey shipping approximately 600 copies—about 20 percent of the limited run. (The cover exclusive is already sold out as of this writing.) The signing session was from 1 to 5 p.m. but somehow, the line never let up throughout the day. Suayan was gracious enough to sign more copies beyond 5 p.m. in order to accommodate all the fans who lined up.

We caught up with the artist to talk about his creative process, hopes for the MCU, and dealing with deadlines.

IMAGE: Karen De Vera
IMAGE: Karen De Vera
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ESQUIRE PHILIPPINES: How do you feel after the Wave cover comic book signing event at Comic Odyssey?

MICO SUAYAN: Oh my god! I’m overwhelmed with the reception not just for myself but for the store itself. I expected a good turnout but not this…not of this magnitude! This is actually the first time I’ve had a big crowd for myself, yung nagpunta lang sila para sa akin. Hindi ganito kadami ang pinirmahan ko [in U.S. conventions]. Pero medyo mabusisi pa rin ang pagpirma ko! (Laughs) I personally think that [the Wave cover variant] is one of my best works not only because it’s a Filipino character but since it’s gaining a lot of praise among the international crowd.

ESQ: Can you talk us through the process of creating the cover?

MS: I was very grateful to be chosen by Sandy [Sansolis] to do a variant cover for the store, which was a first for them. I drew two rough designs, including the one that made the print and another featuring Wave standing on the rocks in a badass pose. During the process, I would look at different covers from other artists to get inspiration—kung ano ang mga nagamit na nila na pose, hindi ko na gagawin! That’s difficult since there must be like a thousand poses that have already been done by other artists! Nahirapan din ako to come up with the pose. (Laughs) Sobrang honored talaga na pinili ako!

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IMAGE: Karen De Vera

ESQ: What were the challenges that you faced during this time?

MS: I struggle with deadlines because I’m a very detailed artist. Medyo perfectionist ako when it comes to my artwork. I tend not to let go of my sketch unless I feel that it’s detailed enough and sobrang ganda sa paningin ko. 'Yun ang problema ko! I even had to work on the Wave cover immediately after attending two U.S. conventions, one in Chicago and another at WonderCon, because the deadline was two days after these events. Doon talaga ako nagmadaling tapusin!

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ESQ: As a stickler for detail, how do you manage your time?

MS: I use a handwritten calendar on my iPad Pro and schedule how many hours it would take me to finish a certain part of the cover. [For example], I’ll work on the background for two hours from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., then I’ll move on to the Philippine flag, then rocks, and so on.

ESQ: What made you decide to base your character design on Nadine Lustre?

MS: Whenever I draw a character, I tend to use famous people for reference. I came across Nadine’s picture while searching for “Filipina actress” on the Internet. Maganda kasi features niya, talagang Pilipina! Maganda ang color ng skin.

IMAGE: Karen De Vera
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ESQ: How important is it to have Filipino heroes that look and talk like Wave?

MS: Hindi naman kasi lahat ng Filipino mukhang mestizo at mestiza. That’s why Marvel strictly advised me to make her more morena.

Then the colorist Rain Beredo augmented the character’s [look]. I would [discuss with] Rain through instant messenger and just add notes here and there. A lot of credit would go to Rain for how he rendered the character. Maganda talaga ang color niya. Wave is shining under the sun.

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Mico Suayan and Rain Beredo doing their magic.

ESQ: How do you think that Pearl Pangan a.k.a. Wave will impact the Filipino consciousness?

MS: Considering that Marvel is now a huge household name—I assume almost 90 percent of the world recognizes the name because of its movies, right? Marvel is a great vehicle to promote [Filipino superheroes] like Wave since she’ll be brought to an international crowd.

ESQ: Do you think that Wave could make an appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

MS: Since Shang-Chi [who also appears in the miniseries] will have his own movie, there may be hope for Wave since she belongs to the same team as him (Atlas Foundation). Malay natin, baka may cameo.

IMAGE: Karen De Vera
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ESQ: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming Filipino comic book artists?

MS: Just keep on drawing, practicing, and improving yourselves. Don’t be scared to start by copying other artists’ styles [until you develop your own.] Kasi ganon rin naman ako nag-start! (Laughs) Si Todd McFarlane (The Amazing Spider-Man, Spawn) yung first, as in talagang ginagaya ko dati yung buong comic book. Spider-Man!

ESQ: What are your upcoming projects after working on Wave?

MS: Actually, I’m not allowed to disclose the project but I’m doing something big for one of the big two (Marvel and DC). It’s going to [feature] dark and mature content.

With characters like Marvel’s Wave gaining mainstream attention even among non-comic book fans, it gives us hope for the future of Pinoys in the comic book universe. Since Pearl Pangan’s description states that she belongs to the Triumph Division, a Filipino team first seen in Invincible Iron Man Volume 2 #2 (2008), we might see more superpowered beings who look and talk like us appear on comic book pages. And with real life disappointing us as of late, maybe it’s time to look to fictional heroes for inspiration.

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IMAGE: Karen De Vera

If you failed to catch the Wave during its first print run, then you’re in luck! Thanks to a collaboration between Comic Odyssey and Unknown comic books, there will be a second print run of Suayan's Wave design featuring black-and-white copic artwork in its original penciled sketch. Orders are open now at comic-odyssey.com and unknowncomicbooks.com

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War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas #2 recently dropped in stores, too, so grab a copy if you want to find out what happens to Wave, her superpowered colleagues, and the entire world. The third issue in the miniseries will come out on June 5 and its final installment will be released on June 26. 

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