Cecilia Lim built her careers on a foundation of economics and law. In addition to making a living as a day trader as well as providing consulting and attorney services, she is the CEO of Double Forest Entertainment. Recently Lim created Kwento Comics which has the mission of making Filipino folklore relevant to modern audiences through comic books. With an all-female Asian team, Kwento has published The Mask of Haliya. Wanting to learn more about Lim and Kwento, I was able to interview her for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: Growing up, what were some stories you loved as a kid? Are there any you still enjoy revisiting?
Cecilia Lim: When I was a kid, I was an avid reader of fantasy and sci-fi. I loved the Chronicles of Narnia series of books by C.S Lewis as a kid. However, as I got older I found myself gravitating to reading many women fantasy authors such as Ursula K. Le Guin, Andre Norton and Anne McCaffrey. More modern female authors such as Sarah J. Maas and Robin Hobb are so much fun to read. I wish I had time to go back and revisit these authors.
Yanes: On this note, what type of comic books did you enjoy before Kwento?
Lim: Growing up in central Illinois, my mom didn’t drive initially, and we took the bus everywhere. There was a newsstand right next to the bus stop that had comic books and I couldn’t wait to get the next issue of Wonder Woman, Batman or any comics about UFOs.
Yanes: You have degrees in economics and law. How do you think this background has helped you understand the comics industry?
Lim: In 2020, graphic novel and comic book sales grew to $1.28 billion. My background in economics gives me the ability to understand and formulate strategies that will allow Kwento Comics to take advantage of print, digital e-books, streaming, TV and film platforms. From the writing of the story to the creation of the artwork, there is so much intellectual property that is created in the making of any comic book. My law degree has given me a good understanding of all the intellectual property involved in creating comics as well as the ability to navigate the negotiation and formation of contracts tied to that intellectual property.
Yanes: You are the creator of Kwento Comics, a company focused on bringing Philippine mythology to the comic book medium. What was the moment in which you realized you were going to create this company?
Lim: I am not sure there was a particular moment, but over the last 5 years there was this constant realization that Asian– and specifically, Filipino– characters, roles, and mythology were not seen in film, television, or comic books. I wanted to be part of the solution—to create content that young Asian Americans could can portray in the entertainment world. We chose comic books as the medium for that content.
Yanes: Kwento’s first comic book is The Mask of Haliya, which was written by Kaitlyn Fajilan and drawn by Renoida Renovilla. What was it that attracted you to this story?
Lim: I actually approached Kaitlyn 4 years ago about writing a story 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 and turned it into a truly epic story with intriguing subplots and surprises along the way.
Yanes: Both Fajilan and Renovilla are incredibly talented. How did you find them?
Lim: I met Kaitlyn on the set of a short film in 2017, and we both were members of Fil-Am Creative, an organization for Filipino Americans in the entertainment industry based in Los Angeles. Renoida was referred to us by our cover artist Kat Layno, who is from the Philippines.
Yanes: Haliya is the goddess of the moon in Filipino mythology. Were there aspects of this figure that were left out?
Lim: As you may know, Filipino culture is hardly monolithic. 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 (or Halia) 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.
Yanes: Given how many titles are currently being sold, it is notoriously difficult to market a new comic book. How did you go about developing a marketing strategy for The Mask of Haliya?
Lim: Being an unknown comic book company, we knew that we needed to work hard on the marketing. First and foremost, we worked on making sure we delivered a comic book that had a great story with amazing artwork and high-quality printing. My belief is that organic growth through word of mouth on social media in the US and Philippines would be key. We also will be participating in several comic book signings, comic cons, and other events. The comic books stores who have The Mask of Haliya on their shelves have been giving us overwhelming support as well. If you are not near one of those stores, you can order a copy through www.kwentocomics.com, or digitally on the Amazon Kindle Store.
Yanes: When people finish reading The Mask of Haliya, what do you hope they take away from the experience?
Lim: I’m most excited for more Asian-American female teenagers to see themselves in our “unlikely” heroine: a main character who you’d never expect to be heroic and yet grows to empower her voice and embrace her vulnerability. I really hope people are going to be represented with the unique cultural identities featured in the story, and that more will learn about underrepresented Filipino mythology by finding characters in our series that they really love.
Yanes: Finally, what else is Kwento working on that people can look forward to?
Lim: Well, we already have the first 20 issues for The Mask of Haliya mapped out. However, we are super excited about the second comic book series from Kwento Comics. It will also have Filipino mythology, but it will be darker and a little scarier.