MANILA – in 1999, a four-issue graphic novel was released by writer/illustrator Arnold Arre. It was an unassuming collection. Published in black and white with hardly any fanfare, but the story of a group of friends gathered together to battle mythical creatures of Philippine lore resonated with many people. Now, 18 years after The Mythology Class was first published, Arnold Arre's masterpiece will be adapted into a live action film by TBA Studios and Heneral Luna director Jerrold Tarog.
“I never thought of it being adapted into a movie at all,” Arnold says of his first graphic novel to see print. “But I am greatly influenced by film which helped my approach in tackling the book in terms of visuals. The paneling, layout, and pace were all created to give a cinematic feel, so in some ways, I was creating my own movie when I was working on the novel.”
In The Mythology Class, anthropology student Nicole Lacson and a diverse group of college kids are summoned by the mysterious Mrs. Enkanta. When it is revealed that the myths and legends that she had been hearing about since her childhood are actually real, Nicole is skeptical until meeting Lusyo, a real-life tikbalang. As an ancient evil begins to rise in the heart of Manila, it is up to these kids, backed by legendary heroes Kubin, Sulayman, and Lam-Ang, to repel them.
When asked why it has taken this long for The Mythology Class to jump from the printed page to the big screen, Arnold says, “To me, a comic book creator should really focus on telling a really good story to an audience before anything else and not be too absorbed in thinking how it will turn out if ever made into film. A book being turned into a movie is a nice thing (and a big bonus too), but I believe as comic book creators that we need to make the work stand on its own. Otherwise, the book merely becomes like an unfinished sketch void of meaning.”
Since The Mythology Class was released, it has reaped awards and recognition on top of praise from numerous corners. The series won a Manila Critics Circle National Book Award on September 11, 2000, the first to win in the Comic Books category. It has also been reprinted with new covers courtesy of Nautilus Comics. Speculation has also been swirling if the piece can be adapted for either television or as a motion picture. During the formal launch of TBA Studios, Arnold joined renowned director Jerrold Tarog (he of Heneral Luna fame) to state that it will indeed be turned into a film.
“I got to know Jerrold when I saw his movie Mangatyanan back in 2009,” Arnold bares. “Aside from having great visuals and acting, one aspect of the film really stood out for me that set it apart from all other local indie films. And that was the natural and believable dialogue delivery. It is one aspect that makes or breaks a movie for me, because if characters don't sound or talk like real human beings should, it completely takes me out of the film. Jerrold truly amazed me with Mangatyanan because for years, I've wished for something like it, and thanks to his talent I was finally seeing one. And learning that he has read my work was a nice surprise. So when he asked if he could pitch The Mythology Class to TBA my answer was a resounding 'yes!'”
At the same event, Arnold premiered a music video for the band Peryodiko featuring the characters from The Mythology Class, “Vin Dancel of Peryodiko told me that he wrote a song inspired by The Mythology Class called "Milenyo" and wondered if I could help turn it into a music video (even animation),” he says. “That was back in 2006 and I had no idea about making a video, let alone animation at the time. Now I am very pleased with the result and I am glad with how it is received. It's a very lovely song, there's so much magic in the words and melody which made it easy for me to interpret.
Just a few years ago, Arnold created animation for the Philippine national anthem and has been teaching himself the intricacies of this medium for some time now. Thus, he wanted to take on the challenge of giving a visual element to the Peryodiko song. “TBA asked me if I had material for a promotional ad for the Mythology Class,” he begins. “I then remembered Peryodiko's "Milenyo" and suggested making a music video. The video took two and a half weeks to complete, just in time for TBA's launch event.”
“It's an interesting experience showing your film to an audience,” Arnold shares of the music video's premiere. “The reaction is immediate and you feel the audience's emotion right there and then.
While in comics it's different but equally gratifying since there's a more personal connection that occurs when your reader is holding the book and is absorbed by the story and creating their own experiences from it.” One can only imagine Arnold's reaction once Tarog's interpretation of The Mythology Class actually opens in cinemas.
In the meantime, Arnold muses on which scenes from the book he looks forward to seeing adapted in live action form. “The dance of the Diwatas scene with the Kapres and the Tikbalang chase scene in SLEX would be great to see done in live action,” he notes. “Generally, I am excited to see how the characters interact and how the actors lend themselves to characters in the book.”
As for any of his other seminal pieces transitioning to other forms of media, Arnold plays it coy when saying, “As for now, it is still under development so I can't give any more info. Maybe. Who knows? It would be nice if it happens.”