COMIC TALK with Gilbert Monsanto
Gilbert Monsanto started his career as a comic book writer/artist in the Philippines in the ’90s. He later became the chief instructor for Whilce Portacio’s comic creation school in Manila for three years. He penciled Hellcop and Houdini: The Man from Beyond under Image Comics. He’s done other projects like the 50th Anniversary Trilogy of Darna (Mango Comics), Hands of the Dragon (Black Ink Comics), and some independent titles like Bayan Knights.
Geo Aria: When did you first discover comics?
Gilbert Monsanto: I was too young to read then. Initially, I’ve seen my big brother George’s comics. Usually flipped through the Sal Buscema HULK run. I never realized people actually make them, until my brother and I went to his classmate’s place. And then I saw FF#250 by John Byrne. I heard them talk about it and carefully read/handled it. My brother would have gotten mad if I didn’t. After a few years, I’ve learned about more titles and reread the other issues.
Geo: What attracted you to them?
Gilbert: The storytelling. Since I started without understanding the dialogues, I relied on the visuals. Actually, I loved even the smell of the print. I think they do not smell the same with the new comics though. Maybe the ink used? It was expensive, so it would take time before I could actually afford to buy my own comics. I actually thought those images were bigger, but it might be because I was small then. Now, I would like to get some of those artifacts, artist editions, just to get that grand effect again.
Geo: When did you start drawing superheroes?
Gilbert: Living in the Philippines, I never thought it was possible. I just like to draw for fun. We had our local komiks publications, but the format was different. We had our own komiks superstars as well. Again, it was my brother George who one day stormed in and took some of my drawings to show to an editor. I was in my 2nd year of High School. We were able to get our superhero in a kiddie komik magazine. His name is MID-GUARD, Super Strong Protector of Earth. I think most of my body of work is superhero stuff. I love creating and drawing anything superhero.
Geo: Where did you study art?
Gilbert: Self-taught. The usual “copy your idol” artist kind. When I was doing more work at the publications, I’ve met a lot of artists working there and they let us watch how it was done. It was surreal, getting to see actual pages done, knowing the tools, and getting professional tips from the pros. Years after, I was lucky to be included in Whilce Portacio’s Manila studio. He would teach us a bit each time. So, he was my mentor.
Geo: What was your first published work?
Gilbert: Hmmm, locally, it was that kiddie comic, “For Children’s Only.” Can’t remember the issue number, but it was like 1986. Outside the country work, I would say a few pencil pages for “Top Cow’s” Tales of Darkness #1 and the Avalon/Image comics’ Hellcop. a 4-part mini-series around 1998.
Geo: How did you get your first break, into comics?
Gilbert: I think I mentioned the how, but I’d like to say that Brian Haberlin convinced Whilce to let me do Hellcop. I might not be where I am without the gift of trust from him. Always grateful for that.
Geo: How did you get involved with G-Man Comics?
Gilbert: Slowly but surely. I have this FB group called the ARENA where I do commissions that turns into a voting thing for fun. Rik Offenberger would let me do stuff. And like all things, the offer was made and I surely won’t say no to a great offer like that.
Geo: What do you like most about the G-Men?
Gilbert: G-Men is easy to love. It has lots of room to grow, quick and free-flowing. I like that kind of environment. I think they trust me enough to do my thing. Changes will be made but I like it. I like fun.
Geo: How much freedom do you have creatively with the comics?
Gilbert: In my point of view, my duty is for the pages to work. I hope to understand what I need to show, for the G-men characters to work. There will be “oops” moments along the way. It will always be a part of this job. I aim to do it well with their approval of course.
Geo: What is it like working with Rik, Jim, and Eric?
Geo: What else are you working on?
Gilbert: Anything new G-man comics throws at me. Currently finishing Judah “the Hammer” Maccabee issue 1. I regularly do commissions here and there. I am not sure which titles I can mention. I am waiting for the American Bladerunner issue 2 script. Bill Raupp’s Tribulation Taskforce gigs. I guess we will just see them when we see them in circulations. I am a freelancer all my life. So I’d like to say thank you guys for the trust.