Since I started this blog, I’ve interviewed artists from all different walks of life, each with their own individual styles and unique experiences. Now, as much as I would love to take total credit for finding some of those artists, I have to give it up to my good friend, Kyle Chaney, Jr. Usually, when I want to break things up a little bit and diversify the artists that are featured here, I’ll email Kyle and say, “Hey , I’m looking for more artists to interview. Any suggestions?” I’m expecting he’ll respond with maybe one or two, if that. This guy comes back with like ten to twelve dope artists, drops them at my feet, and says, “Take your pick.” Then I imagine he walks off into the sunset, back to whatever lair he operates Plan B Comics out of, and continues to push out awesome artwork and stories while saving orphans from burning buildings in his spare time.
Am I exaggerating a little? Nope. Not at all.
So it was by Kyle’s recommendation that I was able to interview today’s amazing artist, Julius Dean Abrera. Growing up in Malaybalay Bukidnon, a small town in the Philippines, Julius was inspired by the 90’s X-Men and Spiderman animated series.
“I fell in love with the characters right away, they were the reason why I picked up a pencil and started to draw. I have been drawing since I was eight,” he says as he reflects back on his younger days. Ever since, drawing became a long time passion for Julius. “Growing up in a small town, I never thought it would be possible to pursue comic books as a career,” he says. “It wasn’t until I knew that a very good friend of mine made it to Marvel and into the mainstream that I decided to take things more seriously.”
This friend was Harvey Tolibao, an incredible artist who has worked on Ultimate X-Men, among other Marvel titles, and Star Wars: Knights of the Republic published by Dark Horse. Julius openly admits that Harvey’s mentor-ship directly influenced and changed the way he approached art. “I’ve known Harvey for like 17 years now. Hes more than a mentor, more like a brother actually. Before Harvey took me under his wings, I had no idea on how the comic biz would be,” Julius says. Before Harvey began working with him, Julius believed what any budding young artist believes – that drawing well is the only key to being a great comic book artist.
“Comics have a lot that goes into it. Harvey taught me the basics of anatomy, especially on women, the importance of layouts on your work, and making dynamic poses. Even if it means bending and damaging some of his most prized comic/book collections just for me to learn, that’s how generous this guy is. He’s currently teaching me how to make cool ‘story telling’ and ‘ how the flow works’ when doing sequential art.”
Julius was falling more and more in love with comics, but he had already developed a prior relationship with school, where he was studying architecture – a four year relationship that wasn’t going to be easy to break off. “I pursued architecture because it was the only course, which is related to drawing, that I could find close and near enough in my hometown, “ Julius says. “I remember the time when we were told to do research about building designs and structures in the library, but instead of doing what I was told, I was researching on human anatomy and books on how to draw heads and hands.”
Things were getting heated. If I could put it one way, architecture was Julius’ wife, and comic books were his much more entertaining mistress. If I could put it another way, comic books are just awesome. Julius had already been seduced by those energetic panels, and lush story-telling, and there was no turning back. “It was really tough working on school projects and at the same time drawing superheroes and comic characters. It felt like I was torn between doing what I love to do and doing what I have to do,” Julius says.
In the end, he changed his major after four years and left architecture to pursue his love of comics. It wasn’t an easy change, however.
“Lets just say it was hard and easy at the same time,” Julius states as he thinks back to that moment. “Hard, because, my family was greatly affected by the decision I made. It wasn’t easy for me to make them understand the comic world. Easy because, drawing comic characters and comics has been a long time part of me. And finally I’m able to do something with my heart and talent in it.”
Julius eventually moved on to become a freelance artist, working on commissions and sequential art for independent labels, including Plan B Comics. His ultimate goal, however, is to work for the Big Two.
“I think every young and new comic artist like me wants their name published and wants to be known as having worked on mainstream comic industry titles from Marvel and DC publishers. For me, as of now, that’s the current goal, to be able to work with the big names on comics.” I’m personally confident that Julius is not that far off from having his name on a major title from DC or Marvel, and I say that with the utmost sincerity. Ever since reading Frank Miller’s Daredevil: The Man Without Fear, it has been Julius’ dream to work with the man himself on another Daredevil title. “Frank Miller is such a great writer that he captivates the character not as a super hero, but a living, breathing normal human being, who like us, has problems that needs to be dealt with in our daily lives,” Julius says.
Like many artists, he has faced a great deal of challenges and obstacles as he continues to grow and improve in his creative endeavors. “The greatest challenge for me as an artist, especially as a new artist, are the adjustments. You have to be able to work much faster to reach the deadline of a book,” he says as he reflects on some of his personal experiences. “I have this latest experience where I was pulled out as an artist of a book because I wasn’t able to produce the required number of pages, and I didn’t reach the deadline. It was an awful feeling and experience for me, but as an artist, it is all part of the deal. Because of this situation and what happened, I have pushed myself even more to work faster without risking the quality of my artwork.”
Julius is clearly a hardworking person who is dedicated to his craft, and is even able to flip a difficult situation into a learning experience and thus, something positive. He has his own personal rewards, as well, which might not be as extravagant as one might think. “The most rewarding experience for me as an artist is when I receive messages from fellow starting/new artists that they have been greatly inspired by my works. Its always an honor when you can share a couple of tips and tutorials on how you draw,” he says.
Julius is obviously well on his way to achieving his goals, both as an artist and as a person. Not only does he have passion, and some amazing skills with a pencil, but he has a fortitude to continue improving in his craft that one could argue is the most important aspect of success. I look forward to seeing his title on the shelves someday. I’d pick up a copy of that book in a heart beat.
Thanks for reading, everyone. Until next time!
Julius Dean Abrera hails from the Philippines and is currently a freelance artist who has done everything from small commissions, to cover art, to sequential work. You can find some of his work on Plan B Comics’ Z: The Dream Warrior, as well as on his Deviant Art page below.