Reno Maniquis is the owner of Creativetrio Digital Publishing, Design and Illustration, and also works as a freelance artist. He was awarded the Gawad CCP Award for Animated Short Film in 1993, alongside his co-director and friend Heidi Guzon. He’s known mostly for his self-published comic series, Maskarado, as well as his crossover/team-up with David Hontiveros’ superhero, Dakila (both of which are available at Comic Odyssey in Robinson Galleria). Reno is also a regular contributor to the horror anthology, The Creeps Magazine, and is working on some upcoming work for independent publisher ACP comics. He loves comics (obviously), movies, drawing, and reading in general. He also likes to work out, and in particular, do Zumba.
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?
I don’t remember any exact moment, but my mom has a photo of me as a three-year-old kid drawing on paper with black markers on top of my bed. My earliest recollection of attempting to draw my own comic book was maybe around Prep or Grade 1. It featured Spider-Man getting transported back to medieval times and fighting some evil knights. I never did finish that story.
I never stopped drawing since then. And I guess all that time I knew I wanted to be an artist. It really helped that I had supportive parents, who never told me I should be something else I didn’t want to be.
Q: From that moment, and throughout your journey as an artist, what has been your biggest struggle?
There were many different struggles and challenges through the years, but I guess the biggest struggle for any aspiring comics artist (at least back when I was starting out) is getting their foot in the door of the business, which was really hard during the 1980s/1990s. It’s easier nowadays, with the internet and social media. It’s easier to get exposure and attention to one’s work.
Q: How have you been able to cope with (or overcome) this struggle?
Initially, I had help. My father moonlit as a part-time journalist and screenwriter, so he knew some people in the entertainment industry. Back then, showbiz and the local comics industry had quite a symbiotic relationship, so people from showbiz would also do comics and vice versa. One of his friends introduced us to Hal Santiago, one of the most prominent comic creators back then. So I spent my high school summer vacation studying comics and illustration under him. Soon, I started showing my work to editors. Even then I got a lot of rejections, but there were other editors who also gave me work. That started my (sporadic) local comics career. I couldn’t do it full-time, since I was still studying high school.
In 1993, I had the opportunity to go to the US. There, I would send samples to a lot of different companies, big and small alike. I even managed to go to the Marvel office and got a sample script to work on. I met artist Walter McDaniel through my cousin, and he took me to Marvel with him. Nothing came out of it though, I guess I needed to still improve my skills. Throughout the 1990s I would keep at it, even going to a couple of conventions to show my work. Then-DC editor Kevin Dooley expressed interest in my work, but again, nothing came out of it. All this time, I worked full-time in the local advertising industry.
With the internet making things easier in the 2000’s, I started emailing independent publishers my samples. I eventually got my first international paying gig with TwentyToSix Books, then Moonstone Books, Zenescope, and others.
Q: What would you consider is the ONE thing that REALLY helped you level up your skills?
The aforementioned Hal Santiago, my mentor. He really helped me improve my drawing skills, especially drawing the human anatomy, storytelling, and overall page composition.
Q: What is one thing you’d wish you’d known before you started your artistic career? Why?
Geez, I don’t know. There’s really nothing that came as a surprise when it comes to my chosen career. I think it’s because I’m a pretty adaptable person. I don’t spend a lot of time or energy dwelling on stuff.
Q: What drives or inspires you to continue making your art?
It’s what I’ve been doing for most of my life. I think even if I’m doing something else professionally, the itch to draw will always be there.
Q: What does your average day look like? (And when do you fit in the time to create art?)
Art is my job, so on an average day it will always be involved. I wake up at 4:30am to prepare my daughter for school. At 6am I get a little more sleep, waking up at 8 or 8:30am. I fire up my laptop, visit some sites that I regularly go to just to read articles and stuff, to get me in the mood.
Around 10:30am I start work, which would vary… it might be a printing job, graphic design, illustration, comics work, storyboarding… whatever job or jobs I’m doing at the moment. I break for lunch at 12:30 to 1pm. I resume work after that, and take a break at around 4pm.
My work day continues until 7:30 to 8:30pm, depending on the workload. I make it a point not to keep working until the wee hours of the morning, but sometimes it happens when there’s a rush job (mostly storyboarding work).
Q: How do you deal with distractions or challenges that you encounter while you’re working on your art?
I just take a short break from working. It doesn’t help to keep at it when you hit a creative roadblock. Most times moving away from it gives you a moment of clarity.
Q: What do you do when you feel just completely uninspired or burnt out? How do you motivate yourself to start working again?
Same as my answer to the previous question. Also, when you’re working commercially, having a deadline helps a lot with motivation. If you don’t hit the deadline, your clients lose faith on you. They won’t hire you anymore. No work, no pay.
Q: What would you say has been your most EPIC win so far?
The most rewarding part for me, as a comics creator, is knowing that people appreciate and enjoy your work. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I don’t put much stock in awards, but if a person who has seen or read my work approaches me and tells me he or she got a fair amount of enjoyment out of it, that gives me a sense of fulfillment. Even more if it’s a peer or a fellow creator I admire.
Q: What would you say has been your biggest failure?
Not really a failure, but maybe a “What if” scenario. I mentioned going to the US in the early 1990s. Sometimes I wonder if I would have succeeded in becoming a comics artist there if I had kept at it instead of going back to the Philippines working a cushy and stable job in advertising.
Q: What, for you, has been the best way to promote yourself and your work to potential fans, clients, or publishers?
The internet has been a big help in promoting my work, at least internationally. I get work from other countries because some people saw my work online. Locally, I feel it hasn’t been that much of a help. Here, it’s more of being introduced to a potential client/publisher/fan through someone you know, or someone who’s heard of you through someone else.
Q: What has been your game plan throughout your journey? What’s the BIG picture here? The ultimate dream? The end game?
Hmmm… I can’t say I have a game plan. I’m pretty satisfied with where I am right now. I really have no aspirations (right now, at least) to work for DC or Marvel. I do hope, however, that my own creation Maskarado would reach a wider audience.
Q: What, for you personally, has been the source of your ideas, creativity and talent?
Reading, mostly. Not just comics, but a lot of various things. Different types of books, magazines, etc. I also like watching documentaries. You can get a lot of creative ideas from those things. Also, observing people and things in everyday life.
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?
No hidden reason. This is just what I like doing best, and If I go a long time without drawing even a little, I feel uneasy inside, like there’s an itch you just have to scratch.
Q: What 3 stories (comics, movies, documentaries, novels, etc.) would you say influenced and inspired your work the most?
It’s hard to narrow it down to just three, but all the comics (both local and international) I grew up reading and re-reading are big influences on my work today.
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)
Andrew Loomis’ series of books are a great educational tool. I also learned a lot from the books of Burne Hogarth and George Bridgman. Bridgman’s books are readily available at National Bookstore, and I’ve seen some Loomis and Hogarth in Fully Booked. I also follow various artists on Instagram (too many to mention). Some of them upload videos and/or pics of their process and it’s great for trying out different techniques used by different artists.
Q: If you could work remotely, from anywhere in the world, where would your office be? Why?
Japan, definitely. I admire how disciplined they are. And they are always considerate of others.
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?
Alex Toth. He did amazing work, and was the best storyteller when it came to the comics medium. It would have been daunting, though, since from everything I’ve read about him, he was a tough, scary curmudgeon who would hold nothing back. I’m pretty positive that if I had the opportunity to show him my work, he would have screamed at me at how badly I’d done. He would have torn me to shreds, figuratively. Hahaha!
You said to name ONE artist/writer, but I feel that I should also mention Neil Gaiman, writing-wise. His ideas are really interesting, and his style of writing is simple, but it’s never boring.
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.)
My mentor, Hal Santiago. He taught me mostly what I know on doing comics, and he also introduced me to a lot of past artists that I wouldn’t have known about if I just stuck to just reading superhero stories mostly.