I pray all is well. On deck today is Noel Paolo Libunao. He was born in the Philippines in 1979. Having the interest for visual creativity, he took up industrial design in college. It was in 2002 at the age of 22 when he met Christ. Since then he has been serving the Lord and has been a blessing to Jesus Is Lord church, a full-gospel/pentecostal church. A former youth leader, he is now a volunteer Bible teacher. Professionally he works as a freelance illustrator full-time. And now for the interview…
When did you first get into comics as a reader/fan? As a writer/artist/creator?
I think I was four years old when I got a copy of Funny Komiks, a local publication that is not being produced anymore. When I was twelve I took this hobby seriously when I saw the first X-Men:Animated Series on TV. During that time Dragonball Z was first aired in the Philippines and it just blew me away!
I just wanted it to be my hobby; I never thought I can get work in this medium. In 2002 before I met Christ, I was invited to critique sessions with Taleweaver artists Philip Tan and Gary Mayoralgo. At that time they were looking for pencillers to work on their projects. The projects never pushed though and only Philip Tan got to expand his career. Now armed with these skills I get to have the chance to serve the Lord using art.
Why comics? What do you like most about this medium?
I’m also interested in film and animation, but with comics I get to take control of the story, which is good if you want to share the word of God. I may be able to tell a story using animation if I’m the director.
Say a little about the project(s) you have worked on in the past (if any), and what they were about?
Corrupt Theophany was my first Christian project. Although I’m not sure if it was really a Christian project, we never finished the series so I never knew how the story ended. The writer of the project is a Christian though.
Another project I worked on is Revelators, which is still unpublished. I worked on it for six issues. The story is about three Christians with superpowers in a struggle against the anti-Christ. Thirdly, I worked as a cover artist for a novel by E.D. Casey called The Runaway . It’s a sci-fi novel inspired by the book of Philemon. My favorite, and the project that opened new doors for my career/ministry, is The Thieves. It’s written by the prolific Ben Avery, and is about the two thieves crucified alongside Christ. It’s a great read, and the ending is a real surprise! Currently you can find it here.
What project(s) are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on Armor Quest: Way of the Warrior for Rising Star/Community Comics and Prince Adventures for Fantasy Soft. They’re currently under production so I’m unable to provide anymore information at this moment. Aside from these projects, I’m working on various secular projects that include character designs, illustrations for PDF manuals, and other illustration/design stuff.
What format(s) do you prefer for telling your stories (e.g., on-going series, mini-series, one-shot, graphic novel, etc.) and why?
Anything that has more than thirty pages. I think you’ll be able to convey a message if you have a longer story. Plus it’s more entertaining that way, giving you a better chance to reach to a wider audience.
What sources of information and inspiration have helped you along the way?
Visually-speaking, artists that have influenced me are Hiroaki Samura (Blade of The Immortal), Tesuya Nomura (character designer of various Final Fantasy games), and Yoji Shinkawa (Metal Gear). In terms of sharing my faith, the legendary Filipino artist Nestor Redondo has influenced me to create Christian comics. He illustrated a lot of Bible-themed comics for DC during the 70′s. Too bad he died in the mid 90′s and I never got the chance to meet him. And most importantly, Jesus inspired me because of his use of parables to minister through stories.
Say a little about how you’ve been able to communicate your faith through your project(s)? What has that process been like? How has it evolved over the years?
Aside from church activities, Christian comics/media is good for reaching unsaved people especially when you don’t want to do anything that’s too “churchy” or religious. It’s something people will accept in instances where preaching the word of God is too sensitive for unbelievers.
As for the artistic side, my art has improved over the years. My anatomy, perspective, and story telling have gotten better, as well as other things. I’ve been trying to create a style of my own by combining manga with western influence. I told Ben Avery about this fusion style and he said that I have created a fresh style. I think I have achieved that now. Spiritually, since I’ve been more mature in my spiritual walk, conveying a Christian message has been easier.
What advice would you give to other Christians who are considering making comics?
Keep off my territory, lol! Seriously, I can share advice when it comes to creating art. I’m not a publisher or writer. We must provide the Lord with excellent art, one that has better quality compared to art made by the secular world. I treat this as a form of worship since I’m horrible at singing and dancing. Even if we don’t get famous with this at least we make Jesus famous by making people notice our high-quality-better-than-secular-made art.
Are there any future projects you are working on, or would like to work on?
I’d like to take Christian comics to the next level. A former Christian client of mine said that Christian comics is a hobby level ministry. I don’t think so. I want to see Christian comics competing and even doing better than secular ones. Can you imagine Hollywood making movies inspired by Christian comics because they have better art and story-telling?
What is your take on the current state of Christian or Christian-themed comics? What, if anything, would you like to see more of in the future? What, if anything, would you like to see done differently?
I think it’s doing fine, but I want to see more breakthroughs. I want to see Christian comics making it through DC and Marvel, winning Eisner awards, and movies being based on what we do. I would like to see the entertainment industry being dominated by Christians. Sounds impossible? When was the last time anything was impossible with the Lord?
What is the best way for people to contact you, and to read/purchase your work?
My personal email is roninpencil(at)yahoo.com. You can reach me via Facebook, but please introduce yourselves properly and use your real names because I don’t take invites from strangers. My business email if you want to discuss a project is np.libunao(at)yahoo.com.ph. No Facebook invites on this one please. My gallery can be found here.
Any last thoughts?
We are experiencing a typhoon as I write this. So my brain is cold. If I were able to think, I’d say I hope what I said is a challenge to Christian creators to stretch beyond their potential. I give a challenge to everyone to do better than your best for the Lord in this field of service. I hope that someday before Christ returns I get to see us side by side conquering the entertainment industry!
And that’s a wrap! Until next time, stay blessed and encouraged!
© Justin Martin and www.rsquaredcomicz.com, 2011. All rights reserved.