Thanks to the recently held Singapore Toy, Games and Comic Convention 2010 (STGCC), one of the talents whom I only just discovered recently is artist Harvey Tolibao, who was a guest under the Marvel Comics banner. Having utterly enjoyed his art on his definitive mini-series Psylocke, I was naturally looking forward to meeting the man face to face, and I was pleasantly surprised at how he swiftly sliced away any preconceptions I had, just like the psychic ninja that propelled him into my consciousness.
While at STGCC, I noticed a stylishly dressed superstar sporting a cool pair of shades. It turns out this man was Harvey Tolibao, and the illustrator was clearly trying to leave a positive impression by standing out among a crowd of casually dressed guests who were clearly treating this as a holiday rather than work.
Up close and personal, however, Harvey was much more than the “cool cat” persona he portrayed. I had found out a couple of days before that he was in the midst of launching his own website and took the opportunity to ask him about it. Immediately, his warmth and passion became apparent, and it was hard not to be caught up in his excitement.
Harvey was very clear on his goal for the website – he wanted it to be a place where his fans could communicate directly with him and get updates about his work, not unlike a social networking site but one that he believes would be the first for a comic book artist. The driving force, according to Harvey, was that he considered his supporters to be more than just fans, they were like friends that he felt compelled to keep entertaining. When asked how this attitude came about, he revealed that growing up, he had to endure criticism about his art. Though initially put down by the reaction of several of his detractors, he soon became grateful for the feedback he received, channelling it towards improving his art.
As a kid growing up in Malaybalay City in the Philippines, he would take every opportunity to draw. As long as he could find a blank side on a piece of paper, he would start to doodle on it, as if he could already see the completed picture he was working on. This dream to become a comic book artist eventually led him to work with and learn from fellow Pinoy artist Stephen Segovia at publisher Top Cow.
Marvel discovered him in 2007 and Harvey revealed very frankly that back then, though the comic book giant had been very generous with their deadlines, he found it difficult to commit to the ongoing series Avengers: The Initiative despite having drawn several issues. Since those days, however, he has since made a name for himself on titles like his definitive mini-series Psylocke and this year’s X-Men: Hellbound.
I mentioned how popular his portrayal of Psylocke seemed to be, based on the number of limited edition prints fans at STGCC were buying from him. Harvey credited it to his distinct art style, which blends influences from manga in terms of exaggerated limbs and actions as well as a focus on detail that was prevalent among Filipino artists. In particular, he paid homage to the likes of legendary Pinoy illustrators like the late Alfredo Alcala, Alex Niño and even his fellow STGCC guest Leinil Yu.
When I asked him what his plans were, looking ahead, Harvey became reflective, saying how he intended to challenge and develop other artists from the Phillipines and the region. With the memory of his financial struggles as a young artist never far from his mind, he now intends to give young talented potentials the chance that he never had through by creating scholarships and mentorships.
Having met Harvey Tolibao in person, it is clear that there’s a burning passion for the industry beneath that cool exterior. Come experience that same drive for yourself! The National Library has organised a spotlight session on this wonderful artist on Tuesday, 21st December at 7.30pm. Register for the event here. If you’re interested in more awesome library happenings, check out their Go Arts facebook page! We’ll see you there!