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Acclaimed Filipino comic 'Trese' gets ready to haunt U.S. readers ahead of Netflix anime series

By Alexis L. Loinaz
Trese comic

A winged vampire with a body torn in half. A horrific horse-like minotaur that towers over prey. Ghastly specters that lurk outside your window.

They're the terrifying stuff of nightmares. They're also the terrifying denizens of Filipino folklore that are gearing up to make their U.S. debut: Acclaimed Filipino supernatural comic book Trese has now been picked up by a U.S. publisher, ahead of the title's eventual adaptation into a Netflix anime series.

Portland, Oregon-based Ablaze has announced that for the first time, the comic book will be arriving in local stores later this fall. Written by Budjette Tan with artwork by Kajo Baldisimo, the comic tells the story of a sprawling, supernatural crime saga set in the dark shadows and alleys of Manila — think Godfather-esque, if Vito Corleone were a hulking otherworldly creature capable of stomping you out in one breath. (Let's see you go to the mattress for that one.)

Here, kidnapping rings are run by malevolent aswang creatures, spine-tingling engkanto burglarize unsuspecting folk, and the hulking kapre rules as kingpin. Not your typical CSI crime scene there. On the case is an occult detective named Alexandra Trese, who is hunting down a cadre of, shall we say, very unusual suspects.

Now, the comic is being released in the U.S. as a collected edition titled Trese Vol 1: Murder on Balete Drive and featuring all-new and redrawn artwork, along with bonus goodies teeming with concept sketches and behind-the-scenes intel.

Trese comic

"When we started Trese back in 2005, we did it for fun, because we wanted to tell stories about Philippine myth and folklore through the lens of a detective story," Tan says in an announcement, revealing that he and Baldisimo initially photocopied about 30 copies to sell to friends for less than a dollar before the title became a cult word-of-mouth hit. "So, we are extremely excited to have partnered up with Ablaze and now have a chance to share with the world the wonders and mysteries of Philippine mythology to a new set of readers."

Adds Baldisimo: "With Trese, we would like to contribute to the trillions of stories shared all over the world. Other talented Filipino artists and writers will be sharing their stories too as we slowly find more readers across the globe curious for tales set in the various 7,000 islands of the Philippines."

The comic book's stateside debut will no doubt whet a vampire-level appetite for the upcoming Netflix anime series, which the streaming giant announced in 2018 as part of its larger push to debut 17 new and original anime productions from Asia.

That project will be executive-produced and directed by Jay Oliva, who's worked on Wonder Woman and The Legend of Korra, among other credits.

"Trese brings to life the stories/folklores from my childhood," Oliva says in a release. "These stories both fascinated and scared the hell out of me as a kid but also sparked my imagination of the place where my ancestors were from. Trese is a rare insight into Filipino folklore where the juxtaposition of old-world superstition and myths and police procedural are balanced craftily amongst the backdrop of modern Manila. Kajo and Budjette have truly created something special with Trese."

No word yet on when the Netflix series will descend on viewers, but readers can expect Trese Vol 1: Murder on Balete Drive to spook its way to shelves this September as a black-and-white trade paperback. It'll be available in stores and on ComiXology for $16.99. Nab a copy before those engkanto burglars steal 'em all.

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