Dominique's Portfolio

Champion of the Rose

Written by Cat Aquino

Illustrated by Dominique Duran

Illustration by Dominique Duran

Layout by

JJ Agcaoili


Champion of the Rose

Graphic Novel




July 2020

This graphic novel follows Rey, a trans swordsman thousands of miles away from his homeland, and Rosa, the princess of the empire. Their lives collide when Rosa’s father, King Castor VI, hosts a deadly tournament of four impossible tasks and promises Rosa’s hand-in-marriage to whoever survives. The four tasks include a series of gladiatorial battles, the slaying of a dragon, a quest for the Water of Life, and the killing of an ancient god. Rey and Rosa strike a deal: if Rey fights as her champion to help her win her own hand, she can help him return home. 

Concept Art

Illustrations made of the characters

during the graphic novel’s creation process

One of the two main characters. REY is a 17-year-old trans indio swordsman taken from his homeland in Himala at a young age to work forced labor in Sagrada’s capital. The design is inspired by 19th century Philippine commoner fashion.

TEO is an 18-year-old “pintado” (“painted”/“tattooed” man) from Himala. He is Rey’s best friend, and is a kind, friendly, empathetic boy who has full faith that he and Rey will be able to return to Himala eventually. His design was inspired by 19th century Philippine commoner fashion.

One of the two main characters. ROSA the 16-year-old mestiza crown princess of Sagrada. Rosa is compassionate, intelligent, and stubborn and is a devout believer in the Dying God. Her design is based off of the baro't saya and the Dolorosa.

SANTI is 10-year-old street urchin whom Rey and Teo treat like a little brother.  His character design is based on the Gitano community of Spain. He has a perpetual mischievous glint in his eyes and sticky fingers that never fail to grab unwary Sagradan’s possessions.

SANTI (alternate designs)

ALFONSO is Rosa’s deceased 14-year-old brother, King Castor’s youngest son, and the former crown prince of Sagrada. He was a sweet young boy who had been sickly since birth. His clothes were based off of the wardrobe of Philippine saints.

ALFONSO (alternate designs)

KING CASTOR VI is the ruling emperor of Sagrada. Castor is a deeply religious and insecure man who feels that he must do all he can to uphold an image of power in the way that his predecessors have.

KING CASTOR IV's armor variations. I based these off different sections of El Escorial and how they correlate with Castor's person. The left one is based off of the castle's hypermasculine exteriors and hints at the intricate murals found inside. The center is based off of the library and catacombs. The right one is based off of the altars and monastery.

KING CASTOR VI's armor+cape variations because what is a

king without a cape.

MARIA is Rosa’s 16-year-old sister and King Castor’s second child. She is sharp and politically savvy and runs a vast informant network that helps keep her tabs on the goings-on at court and around the empire. Her design is more heavily based off of the Dolorosa, but in mourning.

MARIA (alternate designs)

SERGEANT GONZALO is an officer of the guardia civil who terrorizes the lower class citizens of Sagrada’s capital.

GENERAL AGUILAR is a world-famous conquistador who is also Rosa’s godfather and politics/military strategy mentor.

GENERAL AGUILAR (alternate designs)

GENERAL AGUILAR (alternate designs)

Forthcoming Characters

Early designs of characters to appear past the prologue.

GENERAL AGUILAR is a world-famous conquistador who is also Rosa’s godfather and politics/military strategy mentor.

COLONEL CONRADO is Rosa’s sweetheart and a loyal officer of Sagrada’s imperial army. Conrado is a skilled swordsman who pledges himself as champion to the viceroy of Corrido. He is a straight arrow who values duty and honor above all else. 

SALVADOR is a professional conquistador who enjoys being champion for the sport of fighting and killing and firmly believes in the “survival of the fittest”. He genuinely believes that there are some people who are too weak-willed to live and must therefore be annihilated.

BASTIAN is a 24-year-old black Joyan blacksmith imprisoned for killing the guardia civil officer who murdered his boyfriend. He seems gruff and intimidating at first, but is in truth caring, protective of his friends, and extremely passionate about metallurgy and craftsmanship. His weapon of choice is an axe.

IÑIGO is a 21-year-old freed black Joyan slave. He is a master strategist and analyst who always fights alongside his best friend Bastian and always has a handmade explosive at the ready. In contrast to Bastian, Iñigo is level-headed, quiet, and relaxed.

EVA is an 18-year-old lesbian swordmaiden from Corrido who hears the voices of dead saints in her head. She pledges herself as champion to a grandee for money and the chance to prove her worth as a woman fighter. She is headstrong, snarky, and confident.

CRISANTA is Rosa’s 16-year-old lady-in-waiting. She is a charming, optimistic, and upbeat Sagradan noblewoman who fully support’s Rosa’s dreams of reforming the empire. 

ZARA is Rosa’s 17-year-old lady-in-waiting. She is half-Sagradan and half-Alcazaran (a group of peoples inspired by the former “Moors” of Spain, who were driven out of Spain during the Reconquista. Alcazarans in Champion were able to resettle into a successful empire far from Sagrada). Zara is Crisanta’s foil—she is cautious, scholarly, and shy.

SOR CORDELIA is a 15-year-old mulatta nun from the Convent of Sta. Dolorosa who manages the Palacio’s library. Blessed with stigmata that match the Dying God’s 7 most precious wounds, Cordelia is a mystic with a strong connection to God.

PADRE GEMINO is a Confessor priest and Rosa’s tutor. He is a kind man whose sincere devotion inspires Rosa to remain devout to the Dying God.

QUEEN JOANA was King Castor VI’s wife and Rosa, Maria, and Alfonso’s mother. Her real name is “Sina.”

NAY ISANG is an old, blind Himalan katalonan (shaman) who lives beneath Sagrada’s capital. She was Queen Joana’s spiritual adviser prior to Joana’s untimely death.

Cat Aquino

Cat is a pansexual Filipina writer born and raised in Manila.

Her stories and other works have been published/are forthcoming in Berghahn Books’ Worlds of Memory series, Strange Horizons, Rookie Magazine, Anak Sastra, HEIGHTS Ateneo, The GUIDON, and Ampersand. She holds a double major in English Literature and Creative Writing (Fiction) from Ateneo de Manila University and was awarded the 27th Loyola Schools Award for the Arts for Fiction Writing. She also received fellowships for fiction in English from the 2020 University of Sto. Tomas National Writers Workshop and the 25th Ateneo HEIGHTS Writers Workshop.

She currently teaches grade school students Philippine history.

Dominique Duran

Dominique is a Filipino comic illustrator and game artist based in Quezon City, Philippines who graduated BFA Visual Communication from the University of the Philippines, Diliman.

She is a regular creator in the Philippine comic scene, having been nominated twice in Komiket in 2017 for Best Art for “Heart on Your Sleeve” and Best Student Komiks for both “Heart on Your Sleeve” and the Homebound comic anthology, illustrating for Ethan Chua and Scott Chua’s Doorkeeper, a comic anthology published by Summit Media Publishing, and creating “Thicker Than Water”, one of the Top 10 entries of Manila 2019-2050: City of the Future Comics Contest in 2019 under the Embassy of France to the Philippines and Micronesia.

She currently works as the Art Director for Polychroma Games for the game Until Then, and is also in the middle of illustrating her work Fester, which was chosen as a featured comic in the Philippine International Comics Festival 2022.