CERGAM was a term coined in 1960s to denote the native version of Indonesian comics. Literally meaning “picture-story”, “Cergam” was widely respected to represent comics published in the country.
The Indonesian comics history started with comic strips in 1931 where “Put-On” by Kho Wang Gie was carried in the Sin-Po newspaper and “Mentjari Poetri Hidjaoe” by Nasrun A.S. in the Ratoe Timoer weekly and Billy Cam’s works in de Zweep and D’Orient magazines.
As part of the Japanese cultural propaganda, Saseo Ono created “Papaya Pa`chan” (Pi`chan) in Kana Djawa Sinbun circa 1944.
“Sie Djin Koei” (Xue Ren-gui) originally a comics strip in the Star Weekly was extended into a Cergam created by Siauw Tik Kwie (Otto Swastika) based on the story of Xue Ren-Gui.
Inspired by Superman, Captain Marvel (Shazam) and Wonder Woman, Melodi published some superhero characters like Sri Asih, Kapten Kilat, Putri Bintang, Garuda Putih, and also “jungle adventure” characters like Nina and Djakawana in 1952.
RA Kosasih is the pioneer of Indonesian comics books, He did a lot of Wayang CERGAM and influenced many other artists. Besides Wayang, he also created many CERGAM in various genre: Superhero (Sri Asih), Jungle Adventure (Cempaka), Silat (Kujang Emas, Kala Denda etc.), Romance, Cergam for children, Folk tale and legend, humor, propaganda, and many others.
Silat (Pencak Silat) was one of the traditional martial arts of Indonesia that enjoyed great readership. In 1967 “Si Buta dari Gua Hantu” (The Blind Swordsman from the Cave of Ghost) by Ganes TH was published which met with tremendous support from comics fans. Popular names in silat Cergam were RA Kosasih, Oerip S., Hans Jaladara, Teguh Santosa, Jan Mintaraga, Jair, Mansur Daman and Henky etc.
Besides that, there were also humourous Cergam (Punakawan or Petruk-Gareng) and also romance Cergam. Romance was a favorite among comics artists during the 50s.
Comics of such genre often portrayed characters in the western outlook, bringing itself to the accusation of “being bad influence” to kids. Government bodies implemented a ban on such comics, on grounds that it caused kids to lose their appetite in proper schooling. Many artists were forced to change jobs during the ban which lasted until 1967. Ganes TH and several Cergam artists started a self-disciplinary movement to submit their works for censorship by the Police before going into print.
During the decade of 1960s-1970s Cergam even long-running comics were shoddily reproduced.
Educational institutions like the University of Indonesia, Institute Technology of Bandung and Jakarta Institute of the Arts, organised seminars and exhibitions in a bid to bring back the booming days of Cergam.
In 1995, Toni Masdiono with some other artists created Avatar. Other studios to contribute to the comics scene were: QN studio, DS (Dwianto Setyawan), Balon, Karpet Biru etc. In 1997 the government held an annual event “Pekan Komik dan Animasi Nasional” (National Comic and Animation week) and comics competitions.
In 2002, PENGKI (Pengumpul Komik Indonesia, in English Indonesian Comic Colllectors) was established by some lecturers at IKJ (Jakarta Institute of the Arts). In the same year and in 2004, PENGKI created events to create awareness among young people and new comic artists.
Old comic titles were revived and reprinted. Many artists began to do commissioned works from the US or Europe.
Having gone through the ups and downs in the previous decades, the Indonesian Cergam community has acquired the resilience and experience to weather what is in store for their future. The Cergam community would definitely be well poised to take the web media by storm.