Illustrating satirical representations of the Filipino youth with humor that’s as dark as the marker she uses, comic stripper HULYEN sends #moods that would make you say “ugh”–and we can’t get enough of them.
In an age where overheard conversations rule the Twitterverse, Julienne Dadivas, more popularly known as everyone’s favorite hipster Hulyen, doesn’t need to rely on random strangers’ experiences to draw attention. Just like what pop diva Christina Aguilera preached to us in 2002, the comic artist simply trusts the voice within. “I have a lot of inner thoughts and jokes in my head that I wish I could say out loud, but I tend not to, so I use my comics as a way to deliver them,” she explains. “Then I just hope that my three hours worth of work would turn out to be as funny as I imagined it to be.” Although she seems like a natural in her chosen medium, making comics was never a part of Hulyen’s plan. “I didn’t dream of becoming a cartoonist back then because I wasn’t aware that there were different kinds of art aside from what was taught in school where it involved realistic drawings of fruits. That’s why I didn’t pursue Fine Arts in University of the Philippines and just enrolled in a random course,” she quips.
“I just like finding comedy in weird, awkward, and embarrassing situations.”
Her exposure to the alternative side of the comic book world where protagonists didn’t necessarily have to wear capes and have super powers was a catalyst to her fate as an artist. As she flipped through the pages of Daniel Clowes’ Ghost World, Gabrielle Bell’s Lucky, Manix Abrera’s Kikomachine Komix, and Apol Sta. Maria’s Alamat ng Panget, Hulyen soon realized that doodles could actually get you far.
Come 2014, the then-amateur doodler published her own work and made her debut at indie comic conventions. “When I was starting, I observed the lack of female authors in the local comics scene, so I thought that I could probably contribute something new,” she adds. Aptly titled UGH, her hilarious depictions of the Filipino youth culture hit too close to home as she relives the horrors of puberty while dealing with high school drama and pokes fun at the pretentiousness that comes with being a millennial artist through heroines like Jhonnalyn or Jhuli Beth. But what makes Hulyen stand out from the comic bunch is her ability to take unexpected turns with her punchlines. From a catholic school girl who was awarded “Best in Religion” for always staying inside the chapel when she was actually praying for the immediate death of those who bully her to an uber hipster who’s dreading her corporate job but just takes every experience as inspiration for her “art,” Hulyen doesn’t hold back when it comes to her darkly twisted musings. “I just like finding comedy in weird, awkward, and embarrassing situations,” she explains of her art. “I didn’t expect that there would be a lot of people who would relate to my comics.”
Making her way from the photocopy machine to an actual printer, Hulyen compiled her UGH series and turned it into a book towards the end of 2017. “Comics just started out as a hobby for me and I never thought that I would follow up UGH #1. I’m just happy that I found an audience that could get my humor,” she relates. Even though she admits that a full-time career as comic artist in this economy is seemingly a figment of our imagination, Hulyen feels genuinely #blessed that the independent creative scene has been vital to self-made artists across the country. “It was our local community that gave me the idea that I could make my own comics, that it wasn’t an impossible feat. I’m thankful that there are groups that organize indie events like Komikon, BLTX, Local Loca, etc. I don’t know where I’d distribute my work without these events,” she digresses. “There were a lot of new and interesting indie comics published last year. It’s been so inspiring. I hope I can keep up. I have a few comics collab that’ll be released via Haliya Publishing this year, so stay tuned!”