Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Interview with Romeo Tanghal
For DC readers of the 1980s, Romeo Tanghal would not be an unfamiliar name, especially if a fan of The New Teen Titans. Tanghal was born in the Philippines in 1943 and started working in the komik industry after he graduated from high school. He moved to the United States in 1976 to pursue a career in drawing his favourite superheroes. The rest is history. We caught up with him recently and he was kind enough to answer these questions.
Were comics something you wanted to do since young?
Yes, I loved to draw and I copied those professionals in komiks hoping to land a job like them.
What sort of pop culture were you into when you were growing up in the Philippines?
I grew up reading local komiks and imported American comics, listening to the Beatles, watching TV and English movies.
You are a self-taught artist. How did you get started in the Philippines komik scene? What were some of the komiks you drew?
I became an apprentice to one of the komik professionals and learned from him. He is not a popular one here in the US. I first started drawing cartoons until the editors gave me a trial on short love stories and then to serial novels.
Like Tony DeZuniga, Alfredo Alcala, and Nestor Redondo who moved to USA in the early 1970s, you followed suit in 1976. Can you share with us about those early days in the US?
Joe Orlando was the Editor in Chief at DC Comics and he’s familiar with these Filipino talents. When I presented my portfolio, he accepted and gave me my first break which is The Christmas Batman issue. From there on, I became a regular artist doing short stories like the House of Mystery and war stories. Then when Marv Wolfman and George Perez introduced The New Teen Titans, I was available and Joe gave me a trial and I passed. That's how I became the regular inker for almost 8/9 years until they shifted me to ink The Green Lantern.
During those days, DC had a lot of comics and always looking for artist. I was a fast inker so aside from my regular series, I also accepted other titles to do. When my contract with DC expired, I applied to Marvel and that's where I became a regular inker of Fantastic 4 over Rich Buckler. Many editors were having troubles meeting their deadlines and they always asked me if I could help them and I always obliged. I really worked very hard not like other artist who only accept one job at a time.
You are most famous for inking The New Teen Titans in the 1980s. How was the 1980s and 1990s like for you?
Having one serial book is already enough income and I have two with DC and one with Marvel. When animation was booming in California, some artists moved there to work. I joined them and still maintained my regular series in New York. I did storyboarding on the side. I almost worked 16/18 hrs a day and full time freelance during weekend. I have no life but was providing a good life to my family.
Which do you prefer: drawing or inking; team books or solo titles?
I preferred inking because I don't have to do research. There's no Google during that time and the library was the only research ‘home’ for the penciller. Also in inking, I have to give respect to the style of the penciller and just follow their lines. Pencillers get angry when they are over shadowed. So even when I see mistakes, I just go on inking it. And they liked it! Now I have a lot of so-so pages that I'm selling on Ebay, but collectors don't mind because it's history they are looking for. (Check out Comic Art Original Romeo Tanghal on Ebay; I'm a regular seller)
For solo titles, I like mystery short stories. I like it because I could practice on my inking and pencilling too… but they needed me more for just inking. I didn’t get that much chance to draw.
You have retired. How would you describe your career in the comics?
I would say I was the fastest inker and one of the most sought after for hired artist. That just accounted for a successful career. Now that I'm free from deadlines, I have all my time doing sketching and painting and that makes me a happy artist.
Can you tell us more about Sariling Atin Komiks and Maligno. Anything new on the horizon?
Sariling Atin Komiks is a long time ambition to publish. I have a very good novel that's finished and ready to be illustrated, but I ran out of time. I am too old to get back to gruelling deadlines again. No way, Jose. I'd like to enjoy my remaining years a free man and healthy person.
All my kids turned out to be artists too, good ones. But they are doing good as art directors of ad companies and in house artists of Louis Vuitton. They don't dare to tread where I went before. Hehe… they remembered when they were kids and instead of watching TV, I'll bribe them to help me with my deadlines. I put ‘X’ on the pages parts that are supposed to be inked black and they were the one doing it – with no mistakes at all! Fantastic kids.
Which is your favourite title you have worked on? I grew up on your Super Friends so that was very memorable for me.
The New Teen Titans. George Perez and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez are phenomenal! I can't wait to lay my hands on their pages whenever I got them! And they "LOVED" my inking!!! Sorry, i pencilled Super Friends but I never liked my inkers. I could do better.
What do you think of the new batch of Philippines artists like Leinil Yu and Gerry Alanguilan?
These Pilipino artists like Leinil and Gerry are the best of their time. Just like Alcala, Redondo, Coching of the past. New generation of geniuses.
Do you consider yourself as an Asian American comic artist?
I'm a naturalized American citizen now but my blood is still Pilipino. I have worked my whole career as an American comic artist…and was accepted by my peers. I must say: YES!
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