Vania Hardy, an artist and illustrator with Lebanon County ties, was excited to take the stage at the San Diego’s 2022 Comic Con in July.

She joined the “Lumpia with a Vengeance” film and comic book crew for the event.

Hardy, who is Filipino-American, said the panel discussed the film as well as Filipino-American representation in film and TV. She said it was the first panel ever about a Filipino-American superhero series.

“I didn’t know how significant San Diego Comic Con was before until I was invited there,” she said, “There’s an average attendance of 150,000 people every year, and Marvel premieres the trailers for its upcoming films there.”

“Lumpia with a Vengeance” is a crowd-funded Filipino-American indie action comedy feature. Directed by LA-based filmmaker Patricio Ginelsa and filmed primarily in the San Francisco Bay area, it stars former UFC champion Mark Muñoz, April Absynth, Katrina Dimaranan (Miss Philippines Universe Tourism 2021), Earl Baylon, and Danny Trejo.

According to the film’s website, it’s a re-telling of Ginelsa’s first-ever micro-budget feature titled, “Lumpia.”

“Lumpia with a Vengeance” has spun off its own comic book series, which is also crowdfunded. It’s published independently by Kid Heroes Productions.

Hardy illustrated a cover and some interior scenes for several of the comic books.

“The main character throws lumpia, a type of Filipino spring roll, at the villains. It’s campy and family-friendly,” she explained, “The film and the comic books are important to me; it’s meaningful to see my culture represented — representation matters. Since most of the actors in the film have a Filipino heritage, other Filipino-Americans can watch it and see themselves. Kids can value their culture and see what’s possible for them.”

Although the 2012 graduate of Lebanon Valley College is currently living in Elizabethtown, Lancaster County, she grew up in Lebanon. Her mother, who was originally from the Philippines, worked as a nurse for nearly 20 years at Good Samaritan Hospital and the Renova Center.

Hardy explained that her parents met in Hawaii while her dad was serving in the Navy.

“I was born in Hawaii and we lived there when I was a young child. Since my dad was in the service, we did a lot of moving around. From Hawaii, we moved to Texas,” she said, “When people ask me what is my favorite place to live, I always answer that it’s the place where I’m living now. I think because we moved a lot, I’m more open to different cultures.”

Hardy also learned about Hawaiian culture and mythology.

“I learned hula dancing at church in Hawaii. There are storytelling elements in hula, and when we moved to Lebanon, I would do hula at Hawaiian parties,” she said.

Her parents divorced when she was 10-years old.

“My mom was a single mom, and she worked, yet she home-schooled me and my siblings. As a first-generation immigrant, her philosophy was that we have to work hard to survive,” Hardy said.

She said her imagination and creativity developed during her childhood.

“I loved to read, especially fantasies like Harry Potter; they inspired my imagination, and the characters gave me hope. I also loved drawing and crafting, and my art was inspired by trees and nature,” she explained.

In her artist’s statement on her website, Hardy said her “art comes from the patchwork of my identity — from the various places I’ve lived, the cultures that have shaped me, to the communities that have influenced me, and the faith that’s been my lifeline.”

“Art is my passion, and I always wanted to be an illustrator, but I didn’t know how to get into that field. I decided to be practical and to pursue graphic design as a career,” Hardy said.

She started her college studies at HACC and then transferred to LVC, focusing on LVC’s digital communications program. While at LVC, she volunteered her services as a graphic designer as a way to not only gain experience but to also create her portfolio. After college she landed a job at a web development and design company.

“Ten years ago businesses and organizations were beginning to develop their websites so they would be mobile-friendly. I worked with them on that issue,” she explained, “But what I learned after about a year and a half was that the job was very stressful and not as creative as I would have liked. Advice I’d give my younger self is to find the creative outlet that provided more of a balance for my creative side.”

In 2014, she began painting and illustrating as a creative outlet.

“I started to post my work on Facebook. I didn’t post it to sell it, but to share it with others. I was pleasantly surprised when I began to get offers to buy my work,” she explained.

That gave her the confidence to apply to the Mount Gretna Outdoor Art Show to have her work exhibited there as an emerging artist. She was accepted and her work was part of the 2015 Mount Gretna Outdoor Art Show.

“It was a hot day, but it was good to be part of that art show,” she said. “Overall the response to my work was positive. I call my style whimsical realism, and I got feedback that my style is more in keeping with children’s books.”

Hardy’s work also came to the attention of the Lebanon Valley Council on the Arts that summer. Through the arts council Hardy created a mural on a storage building at the Sixth Street playground.

“It’s something I had never done before, but it was fun. It was created in collaboration with kids from the neighborhood,” Hardy explained. “It was fun to work with the kids. I had conversations them about creating art and some of them had desires to become artists.”

Two years later, in 2017, she collaborated with Lancaster’s Friendship Heart Gallery for the gallery’s Chalk the Block, a fundraiser that created a temporary chalk mural.

There’s an Instagram art challenge in which artists post an ink drawing every day.

“I decided to participate as a spin on Filipino History Month (October). It was a personal expression of my connection to my heritage,” she said.

Those Instagram posts are how she became involved with the Lumpia comic books.

“A member of the ‘Lumpia with a Vengeance’ crew saw the Instagram artwork and brought them to the attention of the director who then reached out to me,” Hardy explained.

Hardy also works with independent children’s book and graphic novel authors to illustrate their stories. To date she’s illustrated four books: “The Lonely Unicorn” by Bee Zimmy, “If Puppies Had Pockets” by Lyn Willy, “If Puppies Had Backpacks” by Lyn Willy, and “Runaway Silver: The Impossible Sight of Lily Lilac” by S.W. Quinn.

She has several projects in the works including illustrating another book with the Pittsburgh couple, Bill and Sarah Kuchma, who write as Lyn Willy. Hardy is also working with BOLDSAGA, a small studio in New Britain, Pennsylvania. She said they have an illustrated chapter book trilogy in the works.

“In my ‘free’ time, I make artwork to sell on Etsy, and even some of my own book projects. I have my sights set on illustrating my own graphic novel,” Hardy said.

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