I’m Ian Velasquez. I use Damy Velasquez III as my pen name writing The New DI-13 komiks series. The series is based on my grandfather Damy Velasquez’s classic DI-13 serial in Pilipino Komiks in the 40s, 50s and 60s. Damy is the younger brother of the “Father of Philippine Komiks” Tony Velasquez.
I am full time in charge of Velasquez Characters Limited, our family’s licensing and publishing company. I also work part-time as an English language tutor and editor at FEU Manila. I worked for more than 20 years in Far Eastern University as a communication professor but had to retire early due to K-12. Since I’m still new to the komiks industry, I don’t have any awards yet. But for me, the accomplishment that I want to highlight was releasing our first issue of The New DI-13 with 13 variant covers by accomplished komiks artists. I think I was the first to dare do it in our country in spite of the challenges getting the likes of Lan Medina, Rod Santiago, Randy Valiente and Jim Jimenez. Our goal was to celebrate the grand return of DI-13 in style with the said multiple covers.
Aside from The New DI-13, we also plan to release other legacy titles as part of our Velasquez shared universe like updated versions of classic characters Rogel Maglaya and Falcon. Moreover, we are celebrating Tony Velasquez’s Kenkoy’s 90th anniversary this year with a History of Komiks exhibit in March at FEU and publishing oversized vintage reprints of “Album ng Kabalbalan ni Kenkoy,” Rod Santiago’s “Agua Bendita” and Tony Velasquez’s “Underpass” (featuring Nestor Redondo) as part of our “Masters Series” line.
I love reading foreign comics and local komiks — I read DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, Image and Pinoy indie komiks. I also love collecting action figures and Transformers and lately, Funko Pops. Of course, who doesn’t like watching movies! I try to eat healthy and be physically fit through working out in the gym once a week.
Q: Everyone has an origin story. Could you share with us the exact moment (or moments) wherein you realized that you wanted to become an artist?
The exact moment wherein I realized I wanted to become a komiks creator was after the release of The New DI-13 #0 in August, 2018. My original intent, really, was just to publish reprints of my grandfather’s DI-13, so I joined the komiks workshop held by Komikon last year to get to know the organizers.
I mean, I just wanted to know how to get an exhibitor’s table at Komikon. Since the final output was to produce a 6-page komiks for Komikon Indieket, I had no choice but to create and write a komiks story. My batchmates in the workshop were all artists, so I was thinking what was a former teacher doing in this workshop for artists.
Add to that the pressure of being the grandson of 2 komiks pioneers. To cut a long story short, there was no escape. Luckily, my brother Tommy agreed to be the artist in spite of his busy schedule since he was preparing to migrate to the US.
The release of the issue led to a favorable feature and review by journalist Rick Olivares. That gave me inspiration and confidence to continue writing the series which led to issue #1 in November 2018 and the upcoming issue #2 this April at Summer Komikon.
Q: From that moment, and throughout your journey as an artist, what has been your biggest struggle?
From that moment and throughout my journey as a komiks creator, one of my biggest struggles (aside from the financial struggles as an indie creator) was the initial writing process.
At first, it was really hard to come up with ideas for a story since I’m really a new writer. Doing the synopsis also at first proved challenging. But what really challenged me creatively was putting dialogue to my characters. I initially wanted to do it in English, but again I had no choice since I’m continuing a legacy, the original DI-13 was written in Filipino.
I was very concerned with the naturalness and the believability of the dialogues. As I mentioned earlier, there was a bit of pressure living up to the Velasquez surname.
Q: How have you been able to cope with (or overcome) this struggle?
Thankfully, komiks legend, our series artist and my now-mentor Rico Rival, gave me words of advice and encouragement. Add to the fact that his veteran experience immensely helped in telling the stories of The New DI-13.
What I will never forget Mang Rico tell me was, “Even if you run away from your destiny, you won’t escape it. You are a Velasquez! It’s in your blood.”
Rico Rival has come full circle since he also worked under my grandfather at Ace Publications and Adventures Illustrated. Starting with issue #1, I was able to confidently write stories of the New DI-13, who is also the original DI-13’s grandson.
Q: What would you consider is the ONE thing that REALLY helped you level up your skills?
The one thing that really helped me level up my skills as a writer was collaborating with a true legend in Mang Rico. We share the same sensibilities in pacing a story cinematically. What I love in our team-up is the respect that we have for each other. I give Mang Rico artistic license especially in crucial scenes in the story. We communicate comfortably with what works and what doesn’t.
Q: What is one thing you’d wish you’d known before you started your artistic career? Why?
The one thing that I wish I’d known before I started with my career was I wished I started much earlier as a komiks creator and thereby, having continued my grandfathers’ legacies much sooner. But as the saying goes: better late, than never.
Q: What drives or inspires you to continue making your art?
What drives me to continue as a komiks creator: Continue the legacies of both Damy and Tony Velasquez. They seem forgotten in this world of Netflix and online gaming. Perhaps even in this age of independent komiks publishing.
Q: What does your average day look like? (And when do you fit in the time to create art?)
Since I’m full time steering the future of Velasquez Characters, I do everything from creating, social media, etc. I find time to write when my mind is relaxed at home. Occasionally, I go to Starbucks just to have a change of scenery.
Q: How do you deal with distractions or challenges that you encounter while you’re working on your art?
I deal with distractions or challenges that I encounter with creating art by not forcing it. I stop if I don’t feel like writing. I continue if I’m in the mood for it.
Q: What do you do when you feel just completely uninspired or burnt out? How do you motivate yourself to start working again?
As I mentioned in the previous question, I stop if I’m completely uninspired or burnt out. The best thing to do is to leave the script alone until I find inspiration to start working on it again. What I do is tinker with my action figure collection or read comic books before I go back writing. Sometimes, I talk to my friends family and friends to get a few ideas for my story.
Q: What would you say has been your most EPIC win so far?
For me, all that we’ve published so far. Up to now, I still can’t believe that I’m continuing the Velasquezes’ legacy in komiks.
Q: What would you say has been your biggest failure?
Since I’m new in the industry, I can’t say yet if I’d already experienced my biggest failure. Perhaps in the future.
Q: What, for you, has been the best way to promote yourself and your work to potential fans, clients, or publishers?
The best way to promote myself and my work is through social media, and attending the komiks conventions (Komikon, Komiket, etc.). Being the grandson of komiks pioneers and re-introducing legacy characters has its advantages.
Q: What has been your game plan throughout your journey? What’s the BIG picture here? The ultimate dream? The end game?
The game plan, throughout my journey, is to continue the family legacy and open a new chapter with fresh stories and innovative komiks ideas and formats, yet still harking back to the past. The ultimate dream is to have my granduncle Tony Velasquez nominated as the third National Artist for komiks. The end game is to further revitalize the komiks industry with our legacy characters as well as create new ones.
Q: What, for you personally, has been the source of your ideas, creativity and talent?
Personally, the source of my ideas and creativity are the films and comics that I watch and read. Also, the people that I talk to where I get a few ideas from. And nothing beats a few real-life first-hand experiences.
Q: What is your big “WHY”? Why do you feel the need to make art? Who are you doing it for? What’s the hidden reason behind your big dream?
As mentioned in previous answers, to continue the legacy of my grandfathers. I feel like I’m living the heroes’ journey. Sometimes, I feel like I’m my childhood hero, Luke Skywalker, in this unexpected and destined journey.
Q: What 3 stories (comics, movies, documentaries, novels, etc.) would you say influenced and inspired your work the most?
Star Wars, the James Bond and Mission Impossible films and Sherlock Holmes. These series are my inspirations in crafting my The New DI-13 stories.
Q: What are the top books, art books, blogs, podcasts, or workshops you’d recommend that helped you level up your skills? (Feel free to plug in as many as you’d like)
I highly recommend Komikon’s Summer Komiks Workshops since I was a graduate of this last year. The instructors are top-notch and are truly helpful to aspiring komiks creators.
Q: If you could work remotely, from anywhere in the world, where would your office be? Why?
If I would work remotely, I’d say I would like my office to be those traveling fully-furnished trailers/vehicles that movie stars own so that if I want a change of scenery I could travel from one place to another to get inspiration from different places in the country. That is, if I had the resources.
Q: Name ONE artist/writer that, if you could, you would pick their brain and find out all the hidden secrets behind their amazing work?
This looks biased, but it would be my grandfather Damy Velasquez. I wish I was able to find out how he wrote the original DI-13 series. How I wished he was able to mentor me and tell me all his secrets.
Pop Dam (that’s what he preferred to be called) was reserved and was not as talkative as my granduncle Pop Tony. But reading his stories made me admire him more especially that during the “Golden Age of Komiks,” stories are churned out every week.
My father, Damy Jr., told me that my grandfather together with Tony Velasquez, were the ones responsible for the high artistic excellence of many now-komiks legends that they mentored.
Q: Who do you consider your biggest mentor that helped you improve your skills? (Doesn’t have to be someone you’ve met personally. Can be someone you look up to, or someone whose art has inspired you to get better, over the years.)
Aside from my Dad, who serves as my story editor, it would be Rico Rival for being the one who brought to life in komiks form The New DI-13 stories. As I mentioned earlier, my collaboration with Mang Rico also doubles as a mentor-student relationship.