Times are definitely changing. Nowadays, the term conventional is hardly ever used to describe a certain thing because almost everything is being reshaped and redefined, but a good balance between tradition and innovation is always a good idea. Let us all take a closer look on how this artist and comic creative curates the blend and harmony between both aspects by devising loads of funny and whimsical events through the use of his web comics – Hunghang Flashbacks
As he tells us, his creations are all about thoughts and flashback stories of relatable awkwardness, over the top pick-up lines, dumb jokes, witty puns, and many more wholesome kahunghangans. Obviously, his content is tailored to humor Filipinos alike and I can’t stress enough how strong his stories entertain and relate to people like me. If we do happen to share common experiences, I’m pretty sure that you’ll find yourself scrolling non-stop, tagging friends, and wanting for more once you give his page a visit.
Get to know the brilliant mind behind all the playful and jocular tales and how he was able to expand his art into more than that of a web comic. Art fans, comic book/web comic readers, aspiring artists, content creators, or anyone in particular, take note and read away. Learn and take inspiration on how he was able to chase and pursue his passion.
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your background
Hey yah! It’s me, ya boi, Drew Borja. I also go by D.Borja, 29 years old, year of the Dragon, born and raised in Pasig city. I am currently working overseas as a creative designer but still try to continue drawing comics on my spare time (I have a lot). I’m originally a nursing graduate but never saw any interest in pursuing the career. After my first job, I saved enough and took additional courses in digital art and web design. I’m the oldest of 3 siblings and probably the most charismatic one. The two beg to differ though. I created Hunghang Flashbacks web comic as well as other artsy stuff like illustrations and merch designs.
“I’ve always liked the comics medium. The previous projects I did were all through it. I’m always entranced with all the storytelling possibilites it can offer.”
Who or what has the most extensive influence on you, both in and outside of your career?
Outside of my career it would have to be my girlfriend. I am the laziest person I know and she’s always there to push me and remind me that I can create something cool. I can confidently say I wouldn’t have created Hunghang Flashbacks if it weren’t for all her nagging. Even when it comes to ideas she always find time to pitch in, whether it be corny jokes (which are usually it) or any relatable stuff that happens to her.
As for what, I’d say working overseas, living alone with all the free time to myself has helped me focus on things I wasn’t able to do before. You’ll be amazed as to what isolation can do to your head. I’m super sane so don’t worry.
How did you come up with your web comic? When did you decide that creating comics were the medium you want to take as an artist?
I’d have to go back a year ago when me and my girlfriend were reading a web comic called Shortless. It was so good that with just a few comics it got the attention of a lot of readers. That being said, my girlfriend got a little irritated because she knew all about the projects I’ve started but then quit not even halfway through. Being the petty boy I was, I secretly made Hunghang Flashbacks, waited for it to get some attention and finally rubbed it in her face.
I’ve always liked the comics medium. The previous projects I did were all through it. I’m always entranced with all the storytelling possibilites it can offer. I love reading web comics and mangas. My personal favorite are the ones that are easy to read, like one-shots, and the slice of life types. I was never good at backgrounds so even though I have some story ideas I’d want to do, it’d be too ambitious of me to do it. So webcomics it is!
“Getting myself out there I suppose. Meeting new artist friends! Because that, you could never have enough of. Seeing different creations inspire me to take note and not be left behind.”
Tell us about Hunghang Flashbacks and what it’s all about. What does it aim to Impart?
Hunghang Flashbacks is a web comic about random relatable shenanigans of 8 friends, each with a unique identity. It all started with the XX and XY twins that explores the life of a confident and flirty female twin, XX, and the socially awkward and introverted male twin XY.
I wanted the web comic to be the good-vibe kind of reading material that readers would find relatable and heart warming. I want them to see themselves as part of the HHFB world in a way that something as wacky as the things that happens there can actually happen to them in real life. It’s on a stand alone episode kind of format but lately I’m exploring some continuity on it.
How do you navigate and explore the world of art?
Getting myself out there I suppose. Meeting new artist friends! Because that, you could never have enough of. I’d like to explore other art forms with other groups (like DBTK!) by doing collabs to see how far I can take my skills. Social media has been a great instrument in the growth of my style. Websites like webtoons, deviantart, tapastic, and even twitter, tumblr, and facebook are some of the sites where you can see fresh and amazing artists. Seeing different creations inspire me to take note and not be left behind.
“Anything can be a comic, it’s how you explore the delivery in the way you draw it that will decide how charming it’ll be.”
What element or factor of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?
The readers, definitely the readers. There’s a weird kind of joy seeing people constantly visiting my page, looking for new content, commenting, sharing. What’s even more satisfying is getting private messages from them simply thanking me for creating the series. That’s it, they just want to let me know. Isn’t that awesome? I got a few readers that told me HHFB got them out of a slump or motivated them to start their own series. Even if that was only a little ripple, I’m super happy my comics can create such an effect.
Describe your typical work regimen or routine.
Let’s see. The type of day job I have has two extremes: extremely busy or extremely… not busy. When it’s not busy I can sneak in some comics on my free time. When I get home, I take a 1hr nap then I have a few hours to work on some stuff which I mainly dedicate to a comic or two. I’d get to sketching first, show it to my friends to see if they’ll like it then do the line art and coloring. Whenever I get too lazy, I take a bath (don’t know why I feel the need to share that). On a good night, I can maybe create 3 comic sketches. Deadlines are super effective motivators. When I made my book I only had 45 days to create 200 comics. That’s 4 comics a day without fail. Needless to say that was impossible, so I wasn’t able to do it (lol). At some point I forgot how to sleep and just kept drinking energy drinks.
“I always tell myself not to think about being viral because then I wouldn’t be able to draw what I really want to. That will take all the fun out of it.”
What are the challenges you face as a comics creator? Was there a time that you struggled with ideas or gimmicks to come up with new content? Please elaborate.
Thinking of ideas is the hardest part which is why I make sure to write it on my phone the very instant I thought of one. (Tip: write as specific as possible. Because after some time you’d forget why you wrote a “butt joke” on your phone.) Sometimes you think of an idea that seemed fresh at first but then it’s too obvious that it’s impossible no one has ever thought about it before. For sure somewhere out there, there’s a similar comic and one of my worst worries is that someone will say I ripped it off from there (happened twice actually). Sometimes I even finish a comic but then didn’t feel satisfied, so I ended up trashing it.
How do you respond to these challenges and how do you keep your creative juices flowing?
If ever I get stuck on an idea, I read a few web comics to get inspired. I make sure not to rip off any of it of course. Instead I try to reinvent the formula. Not the punchline or the story, but something along how it was delivered. The paneling, the storyboard, the effects, something like that. Anything can be a comic, it’s how you explore the delivery in the way you draw it that will decide how charming it’ll be. I also never hesitate to ask help from others, to critic my work and see if it’s something worth showing to others.
I always tell myself not to think about being viral because then I wouldn’t be able to draw what I really want to. That will take all the fun out of it. Toto Madayag once said that it should be quality over virality. Ever since I heard that I’ve always taken it to heart.
“I think I still got a long way to go. If there’s one thing I’ve learned though is that to never stop doing it. Always find a new reason to keep loving what you do.”
How have you improved or developed your career and artistry as a creator?
I think I still got a long way to go. If there’s one thing I’ve learned though is that to never stop doing it. Always find a new reason to keep loving what you do. Being a creator did help me improve a lot of aspects about me as an artist. I got the confidence and motivation to do stuff that at first, I think I’m not good enough to even try. I had more reason to participate in art markets, talks and other art events. Putting myself out there have also invited persons of interest that helped me explore even more areas. I meet new amazing people to do collaborations with. I was able to put myself on the map. I was never fond of getting noticed but it has its perks.
You’ve been operating HHFB for over a year now and you already had great achievements like receiving awards and even having your very own book published and sold in leading bookstores nationwide, take us through your journey and best moments.
It still feels as surreal as it was when it all started. It all began with wanting only around 5k likes on facebook and then I told myself I’d quit. But for some reason, one corny comic got me 30k likes and then things got interesting. I’ve always admired Janjan comics and Huhsmile who both got a feature on Spot.ph and I secretly wished maybe I could do it someday too. That day was the next day. By the time they published the article, HHFB already had over a hundred thousand likes. Then Rappler noticed too and decided to include me on an article about a list of webcomics to look out for on comics day. All the publicity and love was so overwhelming, I almost wasn’t able to handle it when Summit books popped the question: Wanna make a book with us?
During the days I was creating the content for the book, I got an email from Komikon as well, telling me that HHFB was nominated for the best web comics award. How awesome can that get?! I mean it’s Komikon! It was almost sad that I’m stuck overseas and I could completely celebrate. But that’s okay since I wouldn’t be able to do any of these without the needed isolation (I am a very easily distracted guy).
“What’s important is to get started on something with the goal of finishing it. Do not get fixated on perfection because that will stall you and give you unrealistic standards. Perfection will follow on its own.”
Then come September when it’s finally time for the HHFB book launch. I was so worried I wouldn’t be getting anyone to fall in line on the book signing aside from my dad. Imagine how high I was on happiness when I did! And imagine sitting next to Manix Abrera, one of the most influential person to me, signing my book! I was like a kid again.
Come October and it’s time for Komiket. My girlfriend and brother manned our table and we received even more love that before. We got to sell lots of different merch. I wasn’t able to get a table for November Komikon but boy, was I ecstatic when they announced that HHFB won the best web comic award.
After that I resumed regular posting on the HHFB page. I became a regular contributor to Spot.ph doing a bi-weekly comic about relevant events. This last week of February I’m participating in Komiket again.
I hope the future has more exciting stuff in stored for HHFB
What’s the greatest idea or philosophy you’ve learned in life, in or out of comics – and why is it important/necessary?
“Finish, not perfect.” What’s important is to get started on something with the goal of finishing it. Do not get fixated on perfection because that will stall you and give you unrealistic standards. Perfection will follow on its own.
Also, chill. “Worrying is like rocking a chair, it gives you something to do but gets you nowhere.” If you can do something about it, do it and don’t worry. If you can’t, then you can’t, so still, don’t worry. This might be something I just tell myself whenever I feel stressed out, but it mostly does the trick.
Keep creating stuff, keep getting inspired, don’t doubt yourself and be confident. Once you worry about not being good enough, that will be the point where you will start giving yourself unnecessary limitations. Love yourself, love your work, be proud of it. Don’t half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing.
Now that you have an idea and insight of how interesting his personality and background is, it’s time for you guys to resume reading his stories. For further updates and more of his creations, click here.