Of the new comics artists working today, it is Leonardo M. Giron who’s been making a fast impression. The filipino artist has been getting much attention for his work illustrating short strips in British magazine Murky Depths – and now he has joined forces with cult author Richard Calder to illustrate the graphic novel adaptation of Calder’s first novel, the notorious Dead Girls. Calder’s novel was written, and is partially set in, Thailand – particularly Bangkok and the small town of Nong Khai on the Lao border.
Here is what Locus said of the original novel:
‘Calder, who lives in Thailand, seems to have a clear notion of the scope “pornocracy” has reached in the Far East, and his dazzling evocation of the brutally corrupt 21st-century Bangkok and Nongkhai is perhaps the greatest strength of this disturbing novel. Described through prose that is alternately breakneck and overripe, the cities seem as convincing and terrifying as the Calcutta of Dan Simmon’s ‘Song of Kali’ – and what we learn of a depopulated London seems even worse … What helps to make the novel disturbing is that – for a tale which revolves around carnality and desire – there are virtually no human women anywhere in sight. The few grown women are automata, nanoengineered through “fractal programming” down to the quantum level; the girls are “lilim” – born normal, but infected by a nanotech plague, transmitted through their fathers, which gradually transforms them into mechanical nymphets facing an early death, but already biologically “dead.” If one believes that the sex industries dehumanize women, Calder offers the most dramatic metaphor yet to show just how this works: his lilim partake of every aspect of the woman-as-alien from Lolita to dominatrix to vampire. The protagonist, Ignatz Zwakh, has been infatuated with one of them, Primavera, since he met her in school while she was still human. Now he has escaped with her from a plague-quarantined London and works as a decoy to set up her targets for murder. Captured by American intelligence agents who want to know how they escaped quarantined London, they become pawns in an international game whose stakes seem to be the survival of humanity as a biological species …’
I wrote Dead Girls, the novel, in 1990, soon after taking up residence in Thailand. I was living in Nongkhai, a small town on the Mekong River, overlooking Laos, but making frequent trips to Bangkok. Nongkhai and Bangkok (along with London) are the story’s most important locales – and Bangkok is of special importance: it’s where the story really takes off. Leonardo lives in Manila, but his indigenous grasp of the ambience that Manila shares with Bangkok, and his ability to translate this into a unique, manga-like idiom, makes him perfect for delineating the cyberpunk exuberance and sheer down-and-dirty exoticism of Dead Girls. Leonardo is a mangaka, but one who uses manga techniques in a very original way. His work is, in my opinion, far more detailed, far more crafted and instilled with personal vision, than the manga most people will be familiar with. He weds an intricate attention to line and the kind of stylisations one normally associates with manga to something sketchier, looser, more expressive, as if the spirit-guides of, say, Shirow Masamune and Jesús Blasco, were simultaneously inspiring his hand. It’s a style rich in mood. He’s simply wonderful at rendering the atmospherics of Dead Girls in his depictions of the urban decay of a future, abandoned London, and – most especially – a mad, frenetic, hyper-real, future Bangkok. – Read the rest of the interview.
The graphic novel will be serialised in Murky Depths before being released as a full-colour stand-alone book. To see more of Giron’s art, go to his DeviantArt page, or check out Murky Depths for more of his published work.