Kwento Comics Founders Talk Bringing Girl Power and Filipino/Asian Mythology to Comics
We had the opportunity to pick the brains of the mother-daughter duo of Kwento Comics, creator and CEO Cecilia Lim, and Co-founder COO Waverly Lim. These determined women founded Kwento Comics, the first all-female, all-Asian comic book company.
They have since expanded and now host an impressive collection of artists, writers, and creative comic women who are making waves by focusing on Filipino and Asian mythologies and stories.
The Mask of Haliya is a young adult urban fantasy series and is the first series from Kwento Comics. It follows a Filipina-American teen who discovers a mysterious mask at her great-grandmother’s wake and sends the young woman on the adventure of a lifetime. The Mask of Haliya has strong female characters and tackles tough issues like mental health and intergenerational trauma.
We asked leaders of Kwento Comics about their inspirations, rewards, challenges, and their first comic The Mask of Haliya.
What inspired you to start your own comic book company and why focus on Filipino and Asian mythologies?
Kwento Comics grew out of a mother and daughter team, Cecilia and Waverley Lim, who were inspired to take action and be a solution to the lack of Asian American representation in the entertainment industry. Our goal in creating the company was not only to create Asian female characters on the page but also highlight the immense amount of Asian women artists and writers out there in an industry that is heavily male-dominated.
We knew that the creation of these characters starts with women who look like us, who can share our stories and shared experiences in an authentic way, and in doing so, highlight the wonderous world of Philippine and other Asian mythology in our
There hasn’t been much representation of Filipino/Asian cultures or mythologies in Western comics. What are you hoping readers will get out of comics being published by Kwento?
We hope that through our comics more Asian and Asian-American young girls are going to be able to see themselves as the hero in their own journey. Additionally, our goal is that readers will get to learn more about the Philippines such as our mythology and language that they may have not known before. So we definitely made sure to sprinkle lots of cultural easter eggs in The Mask of Haliya, from Filipino street food (such as isaw) to ancient Filipino script (babayin).
There is so much beauty and strength behind our people and culture and we’re excited to bring more vibrant representation and visibility to the Filipino diaspora. Through reading our comics, we hope that readers will be encouraged to try their local Filipino restaurant near them, support other Filipino business owners, or even take interest in visiting the country.
What has been the most rewarding thing about starting/being a part of an all-women comic book company? What has been the most challenging?
The most rewarding thing about starting Kwento Comics has been working together as a mother-daughter duo. Not only have we had the privilege of watching each other grow, but have also been able to foster the growth of our Kwento Team as they continue to develop as better writers, artists, and storytellers. There are many myths in business that women cannot be great entrepreneurs or that they are bad at problem-solving or that they don’t work well with other women.
From our experience working together as an all-female team, we have been able to tackle challenges and overcome obstacles through our mutual respect for one another. The most challenging thing that we’ve learned along the way was constructing the best production workflow for all the different stages of comic book creating, marketing, and distributing as well as how to manage everyone’s time zones with a team that’s based all over the globe.
GlobalComix has made headway in connecting with publishers and readers and now is developing an app which will be launching soon. How does it feel to find Kwento Comics among some of the best indie publishers on a platform that is breaking ceilings as it trends upwards?
Fantastic! We love the team at GlobalComix and we are so appreciative of all the support they have given us. The team at GlobalComix has done a wonderful job in helping to promote indie comic book creators. The GlobalComix digital platform will only get bigger in future years and we are thrilled to continue to work with them as their success grows.
Admittedly, Filipino mythology is not something I know much of but seeing the premise for The Mask of Haliya has awoken a curiosity for sure. I understand that Haliya is the goddess of the moon, how did you land on a story tied to Haliya and how did you come to collaborate with Kaitlyn Fajilan and Renoida Renovilla?
We met Kaitlyn on the set of a short film in 2017 and were all members of Fil-Am Creative, an organization for Filipino Americans in the entertainment industry based in Los Angeles. Once we decided to create Kwento Comics, we approached Kaitlyn to help us write our very first series about a Filipina American teen who goes back to the Philippines for the burial of her great-grandmother and finds a piece of jewelry that possesses supernatural powers.
Kaitlyn took that seed of an idea, found the mythos of the Bicolano moon goddess Haliya and brought the story to life. Different regions have different spins on the same myths, and that goes for the tale of the Seven Moons. What we know for sure is that Haliya was an ancient ritual performed in ancient Bikol during the full moon. This ritual was believed to frighten away Bakunawa, a sea serpent bent on eating the moon. Haliya is speculated to have been a moon goddess ancient Bicolanos worshiped.
Her warrior abilities and mask made of pure gold are potentially the result of fan fiction created throughout the years, but we’ve decided to incorporate those elements to enrich our narrative nonetheless. Renoida was referred to us by our cover artist Kat Layno, who is from the Philippines, and she has been wonderful in helping us maintain the authentic landscape of the Philippines.
There’s no doubt that Kwento Comics has a team geared to deliver great narratives while highlighting Filipino and Asian mythology. So, what’s next for Kwento Comics in the near future?
Since the launch of The Mask of Haliya, we have been hard at work developing a brand new series that will focus on a different mythology from the Philippines. We want our readers to be surprised with each new series and to expect something completely new and different from us. Because there are so many mythos not only in the Philippines, but Asia as a whole, we have lots more inspiration to tap into and a lot more stories to be told.
We are very much looking forward to the bright future Kwento Comics has in store. They have discovered the perfect recipe for storytelling and have a strong team behind them and it’s obvious they can accomplish anything. They have joined a growing list of top publishers joining GlobalComix, where you can find the first 3 issues of The Mask of Haliya.