COMICS IN MALAYSIA

Prior to independence, drawings were instrumental to political propaganda, due to its ease of legibility nature.

The British occupation and post-independence Malayan administration included drawings and pictures in their circulars to educate the public about anti-communism, as do vice versa.

Folk comics and art was pioneered by Huang Yao, who hailed from Shanghai, China to the fame of “Niu Bi Zi”. He was deemed one of the few leaders during the Anti-Japanese war.

comic in malaysia

Huang Yao renowned cartoonist from China

In 1956, Huang was invited by the Malayan Education Minister Tun Razak to establish learning classes and libraries for adults, besides formalising the education syllabus in the country. During the sixties, he made comics a tool for education purposes.

Nik Mahmood Idris from Kelantan, published his first solo compilations “Kasturi” in 1955, followed by other comic artists like: Abdul Halim Teh (Kris Berpuaka), Saidin Yahya (Hang Tuah) and Hashim Awang. The latter in his younger days contributed many creative works to the children section in “Utusan Melayu”. Those days, the contents were mostly heroic sagas and mythical legends derived from the “Sejarah Melayu”.

Malay comics were mostly imported from Indonesia, and local newspapers started early in encouraging local talent by opening up comic sections in their daily publications. The opportunity to exposure gave birth to a lot of local talent, and dedicated comic companies were set up to publish solos and varied compilations.

Lat Mohamad Khalid Nor, or more popularly known as Lat, a keen cartoon fan since young, realised his dream as a fulltime cartoonist when he took up journalism with the Straits Times Group. “Kampung Boy”, a compilation and rendition of his childhood days memoirs shot Lat to famedom.

comics in malaysia

A page from Raja Hamzah’s comic

Creative Enterprise, publisher of Gila-gila magazine, was founded by three artists, Jaafar Taib, Zainal Buang Hussein and Azman Yusof. It became the best-selling cartoon periodical in Malaysia. The three founders being dedicated artists themselves, even published “Fantasy”, to promote works of comic purists. The runaway success of Gila-gila attracted many other Malay comic periodicals, all duplicating the concept borrowed from the American “Mad” magazine.

The Chinese comic market have yet to find their very own local talent. The few ardent cartoonists who made it to print were often employees of newsrooms, moonlighting for the sake of fueling personal satisfaction. Among them were Yap Teng, LangYi, XiaoMan and Yang ZhenChang, who persevered and became fulltime cartoonists. Yap Teng’s 47 years of Nanyang-style artworks represented closely to the livelihood of Southeast Asian dwellers, and he is still actively painting for charity.

Malaysia being a multi-cultural country, has an abundance of publications in four languages.

Chinese readers have their share of reading materials from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Local creations were few in-between, with the occasional single-frame or four-frame cartoons appearing on Chinese newspapers. Among them were Yap Teng, Yeoh Thiam Huat, Shi Sheng Ti, XiaoMan and Yang ZhenChang, who persevered and became fulltime cartoonists. Yap Teng’s 47 years of Nanyang-style artworks represented closely to the livelihood of Southeast Asian dwellers, and he is still actively painting for charity.

comics in malaysia

Veteran cartoonist Yap Teng

Malay comics were mostly imported from Indonesia, and local newspapers started early in encouraging local talent by opening up comic sections in their daily publications. The opportunity to exposure gave birth to a lot of local talent, and dedicated comic companies were set up to publish solos and varied compilations.

Lat Mohamad Khalid Nor, or more popularly known as Lat, a keen cartoon fan since young, realised his dream as a fulltime cartoonist when he took up journalism with the Straits Times Group. Kampung Boy, a compilation and rendition of his childhood days memoirs shot Lat to famedom.

comics in malaysia

Renowned cartoonist Lat

Creative Enterprise, publisher of Gila-Gila magazine, was founded by three artists, Jaafar Taib, Zainal Buang Hussein and Azman Yusof. It became the best-selling cartoon periodical in Malaysia. The three founders being dedicated artists themselves, even published Fantasy, to promote works of comic purists. The runaway success of Gila-Gila attracted many other Malay comic periodicals, all duplicating the concept borrowed from the American Mad magazine.

The Chinese comic market have yet to find their very own local talent.

Cheong Swee Seng, influenced by Osamu Tezuka, fell in love with comics at the age of 12, and began to pursue the dream of a fulltime comic publisher after secondary studies. He joined forces with Ng Ex Ki and Chan Yoon Loy to establish the first Chinese comics publishing company “Cartoonist Publishing Company” in 1984. The trio contributed comic solos to the Mingguan Pelajar, Mingguan Tunas and Life TV magazine, and concurrently published comic titles like Artoo the Caveman, Treasure Hunt, Superkid, Devil Cop and Curse Buster. Engaging young assistants to increase productivity was considered a breakthrough then, and the process nurtured a new generation of young artists: Tan Choon Wai, Heng Yong Kee, Wee Siew Tiong, Yong Siew Yong, Auguste Kwan, Hew Kuan Yau, Pek Teck Hui, Police, Rodney Koh, and Patrick Yap.

Cheong also devised a correspondence comic course which became popular among schooling pupils. It sparked a trend among them, and comics societies appeared in schools. Comics societies all over the country became active in churning out their own comic booklets and distributed photocopied compilations among themselves. While comics production flourished at the kiddy level, commercial publications in the Chinese sector fail to hold up against the Hongkong martial arts influx. During the economy slump, many comic artists left the scene for other careers, except for an elite few like Yong Siew Yong, Zhang ZhenYu, Tan Kheng Seng and Sam LongKi. Yong even moved on to Hongkong and later Shanghai for greener pastures. Hew Kuan Yau focused on political comics and made waves despite the gloom.

comics in malaysia

Ujang’s cartoons

Jacky Chong and Loh Chee Seng, with their advertisng calibre, cooperated in the publication of a few fine titles: ChengBao Comics, Special Forces, Combat Forces and Combat General. Yong Siew Seng also had to his credit a series of “Quad Twillight Forum” which ran in the China Press supplements, as do Zack Yu’s God of Martial Arts, all of which mimic the real-life drawing-styles of Ma WingShing.

Gila-Gila, on the other hand continued to ride on its success and produced 2nd-Gen comic celebrities like Don, Ujang, Batu Api and Apo. Sot-Sot was one brave attempt by a Malay publishing company to make inroads into the Chinese market.

Mingguan Pelajar and Mingguan Tunas circulation declined after enjoying a decade of sweet success, as readers graduated into teenagers. Cheong Swee Seng and Chew Sheng respectively led “JiYing” and “Comicsity” to tap on the void, and a number of new budding artists were born. Tan Kheng Seng with his Nine-tattoed Dragon, Kenny Chua (“Jingga”), Zuan (“Mat Gempak”), and titles like WuKong, Demon Hunter and Water Margin Sidetrack were names that rose amid the gloom.

In 1994, Tatsun Hoi of the One Academy articulated some of his best students to produce Immense Might, a highly acclaimed fine arts comic series which rippled through the Hong Kong comics industry. The publication nurtured many talents who later made history under the wings of Tony Wong, Ma WingShing and Ho Chi Mun. Leong Hoi Yuk was one of them.

In 1989, Comics Weekly which carried translated Japanese Manga was published and garnered significant readership. Despite infringing copyrights, the weekly kept the comics market fueled and afloat.

comics in malaysia

“Sot-Sot” by Moy

Singaporean comics pioneer Asiapac came into the scene and recruited many local talents like: Tan Kok Sing, Wong KK, Liu JinHan and Terry Lim. Other publishers diversified to take advantage of the comics void too.

The 1997 economic downturn forced the closure of Comic Artists (Life Publishers), Life Comics (Hup Lik) and Sot-Sot (Moy). Nonetheless, a diligent group still persisted in freelance cartooning, keeping the flame ablazed. The local scene was still decorated by talents like Lefty Julian, Blue, Chai Tian Fatt, Soo Bee Seng, Dick Yoo and Soo Boon Teck while hardy ones like Tan Eng Huat, Sonny Liew, Reggie Lee, Alan Quah and Baba Chua all spread wings abroad.

The slump in Chinese comics saw artists migrating over to the Malay market. With Gila-Gila, Apo, Ujang, Upin Ipin and Along in place, the addition of Gempak from Art Square Creations made the comics scene tremendously vibrant.

Although serialised comics fell victim to the bearish market, many independent cartoonists like Yap Teng, LangYi, XiaoMan, Si ShengTi, Eddie See, LiuDing, Li XingCang, PhoneBoy and Heng Teik Chee sailed through with political satire, social humour and scrutiny cartoons.

comics in malaysia

“Gila-Gila”

The first decade of 21st century was the most glorious landscape for Malaysian comics. Eddie See with ten years of perseverance finally reaped the fruits of labour through the success of Gemeilia. The series had a following of primary students so tremendous, it made a debut on the Silver screen in 2014.

Art Square Creation rode on the success of Gempak to spearhead its bevy of artists into the Chinese sector. Keith Chong, Michael Chuah, Redcode, Kaoru, Clay, Ben Wong, Zint, Oga, Puyuh, Slaium and Zuan were all slingshot into famedom as fulltime cartoonists.

The move to explore school children potentials proved fruitful, and many other publishers follow suit. This sparked off the subsequent publication of numerous titles, like the works of Qin, Black Jellyfish, Longneck from Eddie See’s Pinko Comics, durian Princess (James Lu), Oka (Zhuang Yinji and Ahliow), Little Monitor, Solar series, Brilliant World, ManTou, KK Superman and Go go Class.

comics in malaysia

Mandarin Comics Society logo

Other publishers which took advantage of the comics action were Odanata, Pelangi, Big Tree, Gemilang, Hup Lik and RawangBoy. Despite the sudden rush of extra players in the market, comics readership further flourished into the teenager’s segment, with Art Square Creation taking the lead to explore new comic categories.

On the other hand, Malay comics began on a decline due to lack of eagerness to nurtured new talents. The founder generation have aged and successive leadership was amissed, forcing much of the competition to divert into animation works like Upin Ipin, Boboiboy and Kluang Man.

The flourishing chinese market encouraged setting up of a comics society, and in May of 2009, MMCS was born. The Malaysia Mandarin Comics Society co-hosted a few comics seminars and exhibition events, bringing together artists from all over the country. Contests were held to explore new young talents. Comic Fiesta being one of the more successful comics function at national level, became an annual big event.

The comics society was established to consolidate and pioneer art efforts in the country, and events like “MMCS comic artists exhibition” and “MMCS professional artists awards” were held to promote and acknowledge the talents of locals.

comics in malaysia

Eddie See, the first President of Malaysian Mandarin Comics Society

As the country moves towards the target of an advanced nation, primary school comics readership took on a bearish outlook. While the long-term players were still hanging on firmly to their strategies, the onslaught of manga-styled publications from China began to chomp on local market share.

Meanwhile, long-running titles like Ujang and Apo have ceased production. The Malay comics segment would need some soul-searching, before taking on the future, what with a slurry of weband mobile-content flaunting the new media age.

comics in malaysia

“Ujang”

Nonetheless, Art Square Creation with their relentless forging methodologies, and by introducing the educational adventure series X-Ventures, continue to lead the pack. As of December 2015, the company consolidated resources with the Japanese publishing giant Kadokawa Group to form an even stronger alliance: Kadokawa Gempak Starz. This marked a historical milestone in the Malaysian comics industry, and would certainly served to springboard local comics to the global frontier.

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