[This article was originally written in BM. Untuk membaca versi BM, klik di sini]
Have you guys heard of Komik Ronyok? Wait…what are we saying? Of course, everyone has heard of Komik Ronyok by now. His comics are going VIRAL and we saw his Facebook page had gone from 2,000 Likes to 30,000 Likes overnight! That’s an incredible achievement, but if you check out his comics, you’ll know why…
They’re so funnyyy, so Malaysian, so us! They’ve also got a bit of a dark streak la just so you know.
In fact, CILISOS ran a cartoon series once Lu Ni Toon, about everyday Malaysian issues, like the AG clearing Najib’s name and angry lorry driver. They are drawn by talented Malaysian journalist and artist Sukhbir Cheema. (Check out his page or buy his e-book on press freedom for RM10 here!)
Anyway, this brought us back to our past when we used to be hooked on our comic books before we became hooked on our smartphones. You know la last time Internet was super slow when we used those dial-up modems that went teee-tooo-teeeeet. Took us like 10 years to sign into our Yahoo email accounts on Internet Explorer. So comics saved us from a lot of boredom and staring blankly at the toilet wall while we did number 2. Here are 8 comics people used to love but prolly don’t buy any more.
1. American superhero comics
Femes titles: Superman, Batman, Spiderman, etc.
American superhero comics are in English and most people say only the KL kids could afford them. 😀 They were pricey man, usually between RM16.80 to RM68. Unlike Hong Kong or Japanese or local comics which can be bought in any regular kedai newspaper, American ones are sold in big bookstores like Borders and MPH, or in specialty comic shops. Because it’s so mahal and more difficult to find, collecting and reading American comics were more of an elite geek group thing.
So for some people, only when these superheroes become blockbuster movies or morning cartoons on RTM channels, did they start getting to know characters like Iron Man, Ant Man, Hulk, etc. Did you know, one Malaysian artist actually drew for Marvel? Yep, he’s drawn Batman, X-Men, Thor and Silver Surfer to name a few.
Where are these superheroes now? OMG everywhere – in our cinemas, on our YouTube searches,
Torrented into our laptops, in our bookstores and in our hearts! Haha so tacky, seriously tho, even though there’s a superhero movie boom, the comics themselves are suffering in the Malaysian market. Yes, they’re still being sold in MPH, but a lot of specialty comic shops are closing down or relocating. They were at their peak in the 80s and 90s.
Still they’ve made an impact enough on Malaysians that we came up with our own local hero, Cicak Man. Speaking of local heroes…
2. Malaysian comics in BM
Femes titles: Gila-gila, Ujang, Gempak
Starting out with comics in newspapers, Malaysia eventually started publishing standalone comics too. According to this blog Anarkis, cartoonists those days would copy international comics across many, many genres, including horror, action, comedy and thriller. But these comics slowly lost it’s popularity until at point, they were being sold for only 20-50 cents.
After that, the Malaysian comic industry was revived when Gila-Gila came out in 1978. This blog explains its appearance and how it was considered the “rebel” of its time. Gila-Gila is as old as some of us 😥 but people will always remember the hilarious characters and plots and how every barbershop and klinik in the country had them. Its peak circulation was 200,000 copies per issue, but once it became outdated, Ujang took over the rebel image baton up.
Gila-Gila stopped printing adi, but July last year, Galeri Petronas gave them one last hurrah when they organised this exhibition and a very special issue #777. So now on to Ujang…
Named after the its own creator’s pen name Ujang (aka Ibrahim Anon), the comic started publishing in 1993. In fact, Ibrahim Anon was actually part of the Gila-Gila team. After he started his own comic strips, they made it to TV and by 2000, became the first humour magazine to surpass Gila-Gila in circulation. Eventually Ujang ended after the publisher MOY Publications officially closed on 6th August 2015.
Then a new comic emerged called Gempak magazine, which tried to bring all kinds of new ideas from the comedy industry. Gempak not only has different themes, but they made an effort to put in extra bits and information on movies, games and anime, making it like relevant to today’s kids. Finally, they compiled all their comics into a standalone copy and until today, we can still see the Gempak Starz rack in 7-Eleven stores.
3. Archie comics
Betty or Veronica? Which one will he choose? Archie comics is another famous American comic Malaysians loved. They’re also sold in big bookstores, and you’ll definitely find them at book fairs like Big Bad Wolf. From our experience, Archie comics are not very cheap either (depends on your definition of cheap), ranging from RM13++ onwards. However at book fairs, RM6 oso can find.
Archie definitely has a loyal following in Malaysia….and fans were super sad when the creators decided to KILL him off in the July 2014 #36 Life with Archie series – he sacrificed his life to save a friend:
“Most of my teenage years were spent reading Archie Comics and I still re-read them today. It is very sad that they are ending it this way.” – Iris Loh, 31, accountant, The Star
4. Lat’s comics
How could we not mention Lat!? Datuk Mohammad Nor Khalid the creator, more commonly known as Lat, has published more than 20 volumes of cartoons since he was 13 YEARS OLD!! As a huge fan of Raja Hamzah’s ‘Pahlawan’ stories, he would illustrate them and sell the comics to his classmates at 20 cents each.
A lot of his works are also centered around family life and kampung living coz he grew up in a typical Malay village. The cute trademark of his comics is how Malay characters are drawn with three-loop noses.
Lat is arguably Malaysia’s most famous cartoonist, not just among Malaysians, but international artists as well, including Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, who is a fan.
It’s so good we don’t want it to stop, but Lat had gone back to Ipoh in semi-retirement. Bawww! 🙁 Yet, people are still requesting his drawings. “I tried to do my best for them but I made sure that my drawings were used solely for the benefit of the society. I made it a point to only draw about current affairs that would benefit the public. I do not draw for the personal gain of others,” he said.
5. Hong Kong comics that are kung-fu action-packed
Femes titles: Alam Perwira, Dewata Raya, Pedang Setiawan, Raja Rimba
Translated comics from Hong Kong are all the same wan, always with the kung fu only. You meet someone, then fight, you fight, then you meet someone, fight for seven days until seven in the evening. Stories are usually set against the backdrop of legendary China dynasties (ugaiz can see how HK comic artists drew the ancient times here).
Their artwork all not bad, quite realistic, and in full colour, that’s why copies of HK comics are much thinner compared to black and white Japanese manga comics. Print in colour expensive mah.
But what was most interesting about HK comics are the over-literary translations. So aside from a character’s name like ‘Tok Bulu Hijau’, and kung fu moves with names like ‘Hikmat Alam Semesta’, they would also use strange phrases like, “Apabila keranda dibawa, barulah bercucuran air mata.” (English: When the coffins were brought out, only then did the tears begin to fall). That’s some high Shakespearean Bahasa Melayu right there!
Although the era of HK comics are long gone today, there are groups of comic lovers who still get together for the nostalgia. Ugaiz can go join la, who knows maybe you can get your hands on those old copies of Anak-anak Wira everyone used to love so much.
6. Lao Fu Tze (or Old Master Q)
We’re not sure that Lao Fu Tze is veeery popular in Malaysia, but we used to see them in Chinese hairdresser shops. Hmm… it’s prolly more popular among Chinese Malaysians. For some weird reason, his name in English is called Old Master Q, we can’t even….
Anyways, Lao Fu Tze was a popular manhua (or Chinese comics) which first appeared in newspapers and magazines in Hong Kong 1962. Just so you know, it’s still in publication today. The interesting thing is, though the main characters are always the same – Lao Fu Tze himself (dohhh), Big Potato, and Mr. Chin (who bears an uncanny resemblance to Jughead Jones from Archie Comics) – their settings and scenarios can change!
For example, in one strip, you’ll see Lao Fu Tze as a beggar in modern times, then in the next strip, he’s an ancient warrior in a different time period. This gives the cartoonists a lot of room to explore crazy, crazy stuff. And ok, the main theme is always humour, so you can get really brainless comics like this:
However Lau Foo Tze does touch on serious stuff like changing social trends (especially from the 60s to 80s), poverty, secret societies, rock music, and so on.
Anyhow, he must have had a significant enough market la coz this CNY, the characters were brought to life at Resorts World Genting. You HAVE TO watch him break dance here. BTW, they also went to The Star office! 😀
7. Kawaii manga comics from Japan
Femes titles: Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, Detective Conan, Slam Dunk!
Compared to HK comics which are printed chapter by chapter, Japanese comics (known as manga, no relation to the Mangga magazine) come out as standalone copies, or in the original Japanese language, ‘tankoubon’, they’re each complete in itself and is not part of a series. Like this only satisfying to read mah.
Japanese comic artworks are much cute, so adorbs. Best of all the storyline is quite varied. Other than fight themes (Dragon Ball), there are detective comics (Detective Conan), comics about sports (Slam Dunk), there’s even one about freaking bread (Yakitate Japan). Sometimes you learn new things from them, because the team that produces these comics not only consists of writer and artist, but they even have a whole research team to make sure they get their facts right! Don’t pway-pway k.
The manga culture which is closely related to anime and cosplay is going strong in Japan today and it spread to Malaysia as well. Since 2002, Comic Fiesta has been held almost every year with comic exhibitions, anime, Japanese games and we’re not short of local talent. Last November, the famous San Diego Comic Con was brought to this country for the first time!
8. Newspaper comic strips
Femes titles: Kee’s World, It’s a Durian Life, Garfield, etc.
So let’s end this list with comics EVERYONE has surely read…newspaper comics. They’re FREE so every kid would have read them. Well, RM1 for the newspaper la, but then your parents paid for them, you only wanna read the comics as kids, so technically it’s free for you.
Kee’s World and It’s a Durian Life some local English-language ones that have been published in The Star newspaper for ages! The creator, C.W. Kee began working for The Star in 1986 as an Editorial Artist. One year later, he began drawing It’s a Durian Life on a weekly basis, which was published in Sunday Star. Everyone loved it and soon he began drawing Kee’s World for daily publication.
Somehow there’s something about these local newspaper comics that are much loved by Malaysians. If you notice, Kee’s World often draws stuff we can relate to, like today’s Malaysians kids playing with phones all the time, football season craze more important than thief robbing your house, or free water in Selangor, or even…
Yep, newspaper comics will always be a part of Malaysian culture. We hope…
But do kids nowadays still read comics?
When we hear that a comic is gonna stop publishing such as Ujang or Gila-Gila, we might feel sad and a bit nostalgic. But now with faster Internet, everyone moved on to downloading movies and Korean dramas. We hardly see kids holding comic books anymore do we?
But there’s so many great comic talents in this country. Like Zunar for example. His cartoons are for a more mature audience since they’re about politics, but heck, maybe this is how some kids get introduced into real life issues – through cartoons. Here are 12 other local comic artists you can check out!
However, Fakhrul Anuor former editor of Gempak and Utopia, is still positive:
“There are still many comic readers out there and the new generation can be nurtured to get interested in comics. Every year, there are still so many events and carnivals on animation, comics and toys.
So many comic artists are being called to go to schools or universities to share their knowledge on making comics, so we can nurture their talent and open up more opportunities in the creative industry in future.
So in my opinion, as long as there is motivation to keep it going, then God willing… the comic industry will have a future.” – Fakhrul Anuor (Ayour), in an interview with SOSCILI, CILISOS’ new BM site
Hopefully we’ll see comics continue to have an audience among Malaysians.
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