This graphic novel combines ‘Tomb Raider’ and ‘Percy Jackson’ with a touch of Kapampangan folklore

If you love mythology and archaeology, Sol Dalusung’s tale is definitely for you

Treasure hunts, legends, mythology, MacGuffins, and a journey to the unknown. Those were the things that filled the world of the kids from the ‘90s, and that’s all thanks to pop culture. Science fiction (sci-fi) and fantasy were everywhere, from the movies showing in theaters and the currently issued comics of the time to the virtual world with adventure games. Truly, imagination reigned supreme in the young’s mind during pre-social media and high-tech age. And if you grew up in that era, “Indiana Jones” movies, “Tomb Raider” video games, and “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” novel series are definitely among your top favorites. They are action-filled and definitely have loads of nods to historical literature and artifacts.

Channeling the same themes is Filipino comic creator Cams Cabezas, also known as Breezami. In their upcoming graphic novel, “Sol Dalusung and the Nameless Hero,” the writer and illustrator pay homage to those classics with a special local touch, incorporating Filipino mythology, particularly, Kapampangan folklore.

"Sol Dalusung and the Nameless Hero" cover art (Photo from Breezami Facebook page)

The story centers on Soledad “Sol” Dalusung, an archaeologist who was once celebrated as a demigod. As years passed, the immortal uses her gifts for her Philippine History research. And while she tries to live a quiet life, her past world continues to disturb her present peace. But apart from the fantasy that lies on the character, Sol stands for a cause that goes beyond the pages of the comics.

Giving a glimpse of what’s happening behind the scenes, Cams chats with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle as they look back on their early beginnings as a comic book creator, the origin of “Sol Dalusung and the Nameless Hero,” and the importance of queer representation in Filipino comics.

What inspired you to do ‘Sol Dalusung and the Nameless Hero’?

One of the main inspirations that led to the creation of “Sol Dalusung” was my archaeology and art history studies in college. I'm studying in Canada, and in my first year, our professors emphasized the issues of Eurocentrism and underrepresentation in these fields, especially in Western countries. This made me want to make a Filipino archaeologist character who goes on adventures like Indiana Jones, or “‘a Lara Croft who knew to say 'tabi-tabi po.’”

People are seeing movie/book influences such as Lara Croft, Percy Jackson, and Achilles on the graphic novel. Was that one of your intentions as the creator?

Yes! I was not surprised about the Lara Croft and Percy Jackson associations, as they were indeed creative influences in Sol Dalusung. I had compared Sol to Achilles in a concept art I posted very early into development, but never mentioned the Greek hero afterward. I’m surprised people caught on or found that very old post!

Why is it important to you to include Philippine mythology, particularly Kapampangan folklore, in the comic?

It's important to me mainly for personal reasons. Kapampangan mythology and folklore specifically mean a lot to me because I wanted to learn more about it with my dad, who’s from Apalit. I have a memory of him talking about how he felt like his language and culture were dying out, so the inclusion of Kapampangan mythology in the comic became one way of revisiting my heritage with my dad, hopefully, to inspire him as well. We are aiming to see more regional stuff represented in Pinoy komiks, so it is also important to me that the comic contributes to that in some way.

Concept arts for Sol Dalusung (Photo from Breezami Facebook page)

Can you tell us something about the lead character, Sol? Why making a queer character an integral part of your work?

Sol is a very private individual who keeps a lot of personal secrets, which will be key to the story and the mystery of the cursed artifact. Her secrets aside, though, Sol is happy living among mortals, and she enjoys spending her time learning about the ways of both humans and supernatural beings in “demigod fieldwork.” Yes, Sol is queer! It's important for me as a queer Filipino creator whose favorite genres are sci-fi and fantasy. There's a position certain fantasy fans have that goes, “It's a fantasy story, what does a character being queer have to do with any of that and why do people care so much?” In response, I like to make characters who are queer whether or not it's relevant to the story quite simply because “why not?” I know firsthand how meaningful it can be to see identity or experience like yours in a work of fiction you like. So this is something I do for myself, and hopefully, what I'm doing resonates with a young Filipino reader somewhere out there, too.

What made you want to pursue creating comics?

I’ve always loved storytelling, and at one point I tried to get into prose writing. I, however, didn't feel confident enough in my skills. It so happened that I was really invested in drawing and illustration, so I turned to sequential art forms to tell my stories, like storyboarding and comics. The creation of Penlab and some encouragement from collaborations was what convinced me to try pursuing comics more seriously, now that there was a local online platform where I could share them. And now that I'm making Sol and planning to develop more fun projects with Kalabaw Kolektib, I don't think I'll be abandoning comics anytime soon.

Know more about “Sol Dalusung and the Nameless Hero” here.