Benjamin Lee DeGuzman shares details of his comic book cover designs and what it feels like seeing Filipino culture in ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’
It’s been weeks since “Spider-Man: No Way Home” was released here in the Philippines, and viewers are still stuck in the web of how amazing the friendly neighborhood superhero’s latest depiction on the big screen was. How can we blame them, having three Spider-Mans in one film, that’s far beyond just a treat for any comic book fans—and no point in screaming spoilers by now, guys.
But for Filipinos, “No Way Home” presents more than just a continuation of the adventures of the famous webslinger but a sense of visibility courtesy of Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and his Lola (Mary Rivera). In that viral scene, audiences all over the world got a glimpse of Pinoy customs when other Spider-Mans (Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield) met at Ned’s place and her grandma spoke in Filipino. The humble pandesal even got a share of the limelight thanks to MJ (Zendaya).
That scene was so hilarious that it left many wanting to see more of Ned and his Lola. Among them is Filipino video game animator Benjamin Lee DeGuzman. His Instagram page alone is a testament to his skills in comic book illustration. This time, he imagines more of Ned and his Lola encountering Spider-Man’s foes through his own-designed comic book covers, while paying homage to his own grandmas.
In a conversation with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, Ben shares more about why he started his “The Further Adventures of Ned’s Lola” project, the story behind his designs, and what he feels after seeing Lola’s scene on the big screen.
First off, what inspired you to become an artist?
I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. My family has saved old sketches I’ve done when I was four. It used to be things like Mickey Mouse and dinosaurs. But I also became a giant comic book geek, so I started emulating that style.
How long have you been a Spider-Man fan?
I can tell you exactly when. I was in third grade. I got my hands on this book called “Spider-Man: The Secret Story of Marvel's World-Famous Wall Crawler.” It was published in the ‘80s and had an overview of Spider-Man's history. It was perfect because it taught me all about his back story, his villains, and his supporting cast. So I didn’t have to buy all of his back issues from the local comic book store. As a kid, I didn't have that kind of money anyway.
Can you tell us something about your latest project ‘The Further Adventures of Ned’s Lola’? What initiated it?
Almost immediately after I saw “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” I knew I had to draw something relating to Ned's Lola. I was talking to a friend of mine, Jeremy (who is also a Filipino animator), and he mentioned how he wanted Lola to pull out a walis (broom). I responded with 'yes to fight Sandman with!' And it all started from there. I started to think of what she would do if she came face-to-face with Spider-Man's villains. Once I made the first five, another Filipino artist friend, Ted, suggested I post them up on a Facebook group (SoCal Filipinos) and that's where it started going viral.
What did you consider in making the designs?
There are a few things I took into consideration with the designs of the covers:
- Every cover I made is generally an exaggeration of how my own lolas would react. For instance, If either of them saw Green Goblin in full costume, they would immediately assume he was some kind of devil. I’m sure this translates pretty well with how Ned’s Lola would also react. I, of course, took some liberties. I’m sure none of them would actually try to eat Venom (haha).
- I wanted the covers to emulate old Spider-Man covers. I looked at how Steve Ditko drew his characters. I even looked to see what colors were used for each villains’ first appearance. If it fit, I would try to use the same color scheme. Vulture’s first appearance, for instance, had a red sky with a gray cityscape, so I used the same colors for the “Balut” cover.
- As silly as these covers are, I try to keep some continuity. Since they’re based in New York, I make sure Ned and his Lola aren’t going to a restaurant that exists in LA, for instance. Also I don’t think anybody noticed but the “Vicks” cover had some of the ramifications of the previous covers. Sandman, for instance, was in trash bags. The Lizard has a tsinelas (slipper) imprint on his face. And Doctor Octopus has full-on bites on his mechanical limbs because Lola thought he was seafood.
How was it witnessing Ned’s Lola on the big screen? What do you think of her scene?
Seeing Ned’s Lola on the screen was more meaningful to me than anything that has happened in any of these Marvel movies. I finally saw myself reflected in a character. Ned is basically me growing up. He has a Lola that takes care of him, he’s a bit of a nerd, and he lives in a household that looks like a house I grew up in. This also 100 percent means Peter Parker has been in a Filipino household. Peter I’m sure, at some point, has been fed adobo and lumpia. I never thought I could say something like that. The more I thought about it, the more incredible it was to me.