MANILA, Philippines – American comic book publisher Dynamite recently released Blood Queen #1 that features the artwork of Filipino Fritz Casas.
Blood Queen is sword and sorcery tale inspired by the notorious Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Bathory de Ecsed, who is known as one of the most prolific female serial killers in history as she was alleged to have drank and bathed in the blood of the hundreds of girls she tortured and killed in the 16th century in order to keep her youth.
Blood Queen, as written by Tom Brownsfield, begins with the heartbreaking plight of a royal child, teetering between life and death. Summoned to save the princess, a young woman of untold power begins a journey that will uncover secrets, reveal forbidden desires, and stoke the fires of war.
Providing art chores is Casas, who has done a lot of Dynamite’s titles in recent years by illustrating Dragonsbane, Miss Fury and Queen Sonja. Casas has made a name for himself by drawing gorgeous and beautiful women.
During a recent signing for Blood Queen #1 at Comic Odyssey at Fullybooked in Promenade, Greenhills, Casas admitted to being unsure about attending the signing.
“I am not a household name unlike other Filipino artists like Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, Arnold Arre or Kajo Baldisimo,” confided Casas. “I hardly even attend comic book events as I prefer to stay home with my family.”
“When Sandy Sansolis of Comic Odyssey asked me if we could do a signing, I was nervous,” he added. “The few times I went to an event, I was at ease if I was with a group of other artists. But a solo signing? Would people even come? Will they even buy the book?”
Sansolis ordered a couple of dozen copies of the issue that instantly sold out (as compared to the hundreds of copies he orders for the more popular titles).
“The popularity of Indie comics are hard to predict,” said the Comic Odyssey head honcho. “If they are good, they spread by word of mouth and it is usually by the second or third issue where you can make adjustments in ordering. But the nice thing about having a Filipino artist in American comics is there is a market for them.”
Casas, who grew up in Bulan, Sorsogon, didn’t even know there was a whole new four-colored world out there for comic books. His only exposure to the medium while growing up in the province was the local fare that his mother read.
“When I saw the local komiks, I was hooked,” recalled Casas of that time that made such a huge impact on his dreams. “I knew then what I wanted to do.”
Moving to Manila for his secondary and tertiary education, he got exposed to American comics and its heavy superhero fare.
“All the more I wanted to become a comic book artist,” noted Casas.
The first ever comic book he purchased with his own money was the first issue that Uncanny X-Men issue that Whilce Portacio drew.
“By then he had done X-Factor and word spread that he was Filipino. I saved my money to buy that and holding that copy in my hands blew me away.”
From Portacio, Casas soon discovered other noted artists of the 1990s from Jim Lee to Todd McFarlane to Marc Silvestri and more.
He honed his craft while working as a visualizer in an ad agency and eventually began to post his work online drawing the interest of American agents.
One agent first saw his work where he sketched the popular video game, Electronic Arts’ Medal of Honor. Casas was asked to submit sequential art but he didn’t comply.
“I wasn’t ready,” he confessed. “I had not done any sequential art. Storytelling was something I had to learn.”
When a second agent asked him a year later, Casas was ready. And soon he began to illustrate books from Dynamite and the rest is history.
For the Blood Queen, Casas has submitted four issues worth of art and is currently finishing his fifth issue.
“I work from full scripts,” he said of the process with Brownsfield. “Sometimes, if I feel I can tweak something, I ask permission to do so. Luckily, he is a nice person who is very accommodating and he allows it. As I learn this craft, right now, I am at ease working from full scripts.”
“My plan is to also put out my own local komiks next year,” he revealed. “Something with historical undertones with a bit of sci-fi.”
“I hope people will like it though.”
No doubt, we’ll find out – at the next signing.