Comics played an important role in historical Thailand. It was the ultimate tool of censure towards the unruly powers and unfair regime. In 1917, the first commercial comic was published, criticism targeting and jeering at Germany’s defeat in the European War.
Prayoon Chanawong, with his avid passion for classic literary and culture of Thailand, published his works “Anti-Poverty Club” Kaboon Karn Kae Jon) in 1938. The intense and biting pen strokes displayed in his political cartoons were received with great affection, making him the instant celebrity.
Besides political cartoons, other long-running comics were also published , like the “Ramakien” which narrated tales from the teachings of Buddhism. It also followed the principles of practicing calmness in adversities, with influence from China and India.
As the only Southeast Asian nation devoid of western colonisation, Thailand possessed to a certain extent, the freedom to express dissent against social ills.
When military power heightened in the fifties, such freedom was locked down by force. It was only until the Thai monarchy came into power, that political comics made a comeback.
Apart from the political side, comics with mere entertainment value did exist. These were of the superheroes variety deeply inspired by the likes of Western and Japanese comics. Martial arts comics from Hongkong also contributed immensely to the scene.
Due to the popularity of imported comics, local publishers were inclined to duplicate whatever was popular among the imports, and developed into their very own ‘superheroes’ and such.
In 2005, Rop Ponchamni organised the “Let’s Comic from Tomorrow Comix” research classes in a bid to explore the reasons behind their failure to develop comics content of local values. Findings revealed that comics were expensive commodities by Thailand’s living standards. Even pirated comics were fixed at a price too high for the usual reader. Faced with the difficulty of emerging amid a market packed with foreign comics, Thai publishers eyed the potential of the booming web platform and mobile content opportunities.
Piyapat ‘Art’ Jeno, and Anuchit Kumnoi were among the first pioneers to jump onto the web bandwagon and tasted success with their creativity. “Kiwtum” by Anuchit enjoyed a tremendous success with viewership running into the millions.
Panuwat Wattananukul’s “EXEcutional” on the C-Kids web also performed exceptionally. Meanwhile, Jod-8-Riew with his creation, a girl by the name Noon featured in “What kind of a Guy dates a bear?”Kon Arai Pen Fan Meebecame the pioneer to break free from the foreign comics genre and forged a new path on its own. The comics series exposed insights into the chores of daily life, winning the hearts of many city dwellers.
Thai boxing, more renowned as Muay Thai, is well recognised globally as a ring sport. Comics with storylines that centred around this sport, naturally became staple food for avid comic fans. This genre of comics, fully devoid of duplication and mimicry a.k.a. martial arts or anime manga, form the ultimate pride of Thai comic talents. It’s no surprise, Muay Thai would spearhead the comics community to greater levels on the web platform.