Set for release during Filipino American History Month in a joint venture by Kwento Comics and Clover Press, The Mask of Haliya: Heir to The Warrior Moon is a 200-page hardcover comic about a young adult teen who finds a magical mask at her great-greatmother’s wake. Created by an all-female and all-Asian-led team, the hardcover featured cover art by Haining (Spirit World, DC vs. Vampires: All Out War). The Kickstarter campaign is live just in time for Filipino American History Month. The first in a series of books published by Clover Press, the series tackles topics such as mental health, intergenerational trauma, and corruption, with a major emphasis on its female characters, all linked and described below:
In THE MASK OF HALIYA, seventeen-year-old Marisol Reyes is in need of a do-over. After getting kicked out of one too many schools for strange and unsettling behavior, Mari’s overbearing mother sends her to the Philippines for a fresh start. The promise of a normal life is dashed, however, when Mari attends her recently deceased Lola Talia’s wake. For it’s there she discovers a mysterious wooden mask that unlocks frightening visions… and terrifying abilities. So begins THE MASK OF HALIYA, where Mari must forge new allies and battle new foes while finding her place in a world on the brink of darkness. In the heart of Cebu, an ancient power awakens…The Mask has chosen its new heir.
The Workprint had the chance to interview the Co-Founder of Kwento Comics, Waverley Lim, and the Mask of Haliya writer, Kaitlin Fae Fajilan. We discussed this latest project and the importance of seeing Asian Women in comics and media.
INTERVIEW WITH WAVERLEY LIM
Can you share with us your company’s mission statement and the kinds of projects Kwento Comics is seeking to publish?
WL: Our mission is to create stories that introduce Filipino and other Asian mythology through riveting contemporary fantasy series. Our stories aim to inspire young women everywhere as they follow our female heroines who learn to spark the warrior goddess within. Our hope is that our readers will be inspired to face the future with hope, compassion and grace born from an understanding of the past and the struggles of our ancestors.
Our goal for the future is to continue creating more meaningful content that
shines a light on our unique heritage while introducing more dynamic and diverse
heroines at the forefront. The Mask of Haliya is the first of many more stories to come!
With the exception of TRESE, there hasn’t been a lot of Filipino mythology-based IP despite the Phillippines’ rich history with monsters and Gods. Why is it important to share these stories about such distinct voices? How does Filipino culture, and our relationship with family, have an influence on everything we do?
WL: As a Filipina born in the US, I was fortunate enough to have my family who instilled in me my Filipino roots and heritage at a young age; however, not having grown up in the motherland, there are still so many things about my culture that I am still learning about today. The vibrant world of Philippine mythology is something that I found later in life as the result of wanting to tell more stories with Filipino fantasy! Our research led us to some of the most scary and interesting creatures and we just knew that we wanted to help bring this world to audiences who have yet to discover our mythology.
Family is definitely a strong core value to the heart of the Philippines, so much so that it allowed me naturally to create a business with my mom and a creative family within our team at Kwento. I’m really grateful that my identity to my roots has continued to evolve as I’ve gotten older, to where I have a genuine appreciation from where I come from and a desire to share that with the world, which in turn led me to a creative venture into comics that I never would’ve imagined!
It’s not just about being Filipino culture but about women’s voices too. How does Kwento uphold this ideal of representing women-centered creative teams and what kinds of follow-up projects are in store after Haliya to keep this mission statement going?
WL: We launched during Women’s Herstory month in March of 2022 to show that it is never too late to make your own HERstory! In an industry such as comics that is still heavily male dominated, we wanted to not only give talented women a platform to show their incredible work, but also have our stories written and drawn from the perspective of a diverse group of women who readers can see themselves reflected in. I know how important it was for my mom and I to show that women can do it all! We can be entrepreneurs, CEOs, writers, and artists, while coexisting in both business and creative spaces! We want to show how special a collective of all women creators can be and what you can truly create when you’re surrounded by like-minded individuals who all are inspired by a shared mission and vision. Meeting women at conventions and seeing them be inspired by our booth to create their own stories are some of my favorite interactions at comic cons! We have a brand new series currently in the works featuring a new goddess from the Philippines with a brand new team of incredible Filipina writers and artists!
INTERVIEW WITH WRITER KAITLYN FAE FAJILAN
Can you share with us a little bit about your writing background and what it was that inspired you to create this story?
KF: Though I’ve composed short stories, plays, and poems for my own amusement since childhood (Sailor Moon fanfiction being my first foray into creative writing), it wasn’t until the past decade that I began working professionally as a journalist, and then screenwriter.
When Cecilia Lim (CEO of Kwento Comics) first approached me to write a graphic novel series about a Filipina-American teenage superheroine, I was not only a complete newbie to the medium of comic book writing, but a total idiot when it came to the culture and mythos of all things Superhero™. The more I pondered Cecilia’s concept, however, the more I realized that I had, in fact, always been a fan of mythos itself. In college, I wrote a play involving Filipino gods and monsters; I remembered how thrilling it had been to do the research and breathe life into the vast world of Philippine folklore and superstitions—something I felt not nearly enough people knew about. My mind began to spew out images of an anxious young woman thrust into a landscape teeming with these dark supernatural beings and voila! The Mask of Haliya was born.
For those unfamiliar, can you tell audiences about Haliya’s story in a short synopsis and what to expect if they support the Kickstarter?
KF: According to Bikolano legend (Bikol being a region in the Philippines), there used to be seven moons in the sky, all of them siblings and children of the Creator god. One day, Bakunawa, a gigantic sea serpent, attempted to swallow the seven moons, so transfixed was he by their unearthly beauty. Before he could swallow the last moon, however, the Creator god came and pried her from Bakunawa’s jaws. That last moon is Haliya, the lunar warrior goddess featured in our upcoming graphic novel, The Mask of Haliya: Heir to the Warrior Moon.
Supporting our Kickstarter allows us to continue the saga of Marisol Reyes, a troubled Filipino-American teen who moves to the Philippines and discovers her connection to the lunar goddess Haliya–and all the excitement and danger that revelation unearths.
A big thing about Filipinos, and Asian families in particular, is the idea of expectations. That neuroticism that comes with always trying to be the best out of familial pride. Do you think OCD-like tendencies are a hindrance or a help in the artistic process? How do we balance that fine line of making good art while still remaining good, and better yet, kind to ourselves?
KF: This might sound a bit controversial, but I do think that OCD-tendencies can drive artists to constantly better themselves. OCD-sufferers (and other types of perfectionists) are less likely to settle for “good enough,” opting instead to consistently improve their work, even if that means demolishing everything they’ve built over the course of months and starting over, endlessly raking through the minutiae of their projects with a fine-toothed comb. However, I need hardly say how utterly detrimental neuroticism is to one’s mental health and overall wellbeing!I think the key to balance here lies in three things:
1.) eagerly focusing on the aspects of your work that you’ve successfully accomplished, versus the things you didn’t (for example, a single page filled with writing is better than no page at all), 2.) forgiving yourself for your so-called “mistakes,” because life is short and it’s a waste of energy to spend hours of the day beating yourself up over things you can’t change, and 3.)practicing radical self-love and self-acceptance–and yes, sometimes this means settling for “good enough”!