It feels like ages I didn’t talk anything about manga. But right after one of my fiancée’s students suddenly sent me an e-mail contained with questions mentioned about it, I apparently answered those questions like I’m such a pro in that field. Well, I was… but presently I’m not sure whether I’m still in the right place to respond. Who cares anyway, right?
1. When you first worked at GempakStarz as an editor, did you know any comic artist that went to the international manga awards?
I didn't know that much of local artists that went to the international manga awards back then when I first worked at the GempakStarz. But as far as I'm concern there are only three of them who had been there, if I'm not mistaken, they're Kenny, Ayour and Slaium.
2. A lot of people said that our local graphic novel is adaptation from Japanese Manga, is it true?
The format that we have nowadays regarding to the graphic novel has a slightly a bit adaptation and as well with the imitation on the certain style of Japanese manga that can be recognizable. But when we take a look at the past, there were numerous graphic novels (compiling the whole series into one book) been produced even though Malaysian weren't familiar with manga at that time. For example, we have Ujang with his Aku Budak Minang, Aca, Atuk, Jibam etc graphic novels. Along with that we have Kerengge, Don, Aza, Datuk Lat, Allahyarham Rejabhad and many others with their own so-called graphic novels. But, the good thing about those graphic novels by those individuals aforementioned is we can feel that all of it been produced and delivered in very local taste; the Malaysian flavour which can be identified in their presentation and the brush stroke etc.
3. Is it true that our local comics cheaper than most international comics?
As in our local comics been published and marketed within the local market itself, therefore I reckon it's indeed cheaper than the most international comics. But I believe it will be a lot cheaper than we have now if the publishers can distribute the comics by themselves. I do think that distributors having benefits more than the comic artists/publishers by only distributing the comics. Publishers have a lot of thing to consider and money to spend: Salaries and royalties etc.
4. What do you think about our local comics; do you think our local comics can reach the international level?
Sure it can. But certainly a lot of effort must be taken to get that certain aim.
5. I understand that ben got a shorei award in international manga award 2007, is there any more local artist that got an award like him?
He's the only one that I know who achieved that kind of level. It would be great if we have more artists like him.
6. A lot of people like Japanese manga because of some ecchi stuff or erotic scenes inside the comics do you think it's true?
As I consider myself an otaku, thus I disagree with that. In fact, even if they took out the ecchi or hentai, I still think people will still stick to it. Plus, I can't deny the fact that manga has its own prominent style in its story telling and the drawing is undeniably awesome. Maybe I can put myself as an example, I've been attracted with manga since I watched Astroboy and My Neighbour Totoro… so, is there any ecchi or hentai included in these mangas/animes? As far as I'm concern, none of any scene in these mangas/animes having those erotic scenes.
7. There is a lot of doujins artist in Malaysia as I am one myself; do you know how to make these doujins artist to be known to the world like ben?
There are only three solutions according to this:
a) You have to join or send your manga to the well known company or famous publication like Shonen Jump etc.
b) You have to do it yourself. Make your own publication (the one that is professionally printed and widely well distributed) that surely will publish your manga weekly/monthly. So, it does surely will take a lot of effort and hard work.
c) Participate actively as much as you can in a lot of competition or convention so then you’ll be acknowledged among manga activists and fans.
8. Do you think that our local doujin artist can compete with Japanese doujin artist?
Yes, but our local doujin artists MUST have their own identity, their own touch. This is the polemic that haunted our local artists since aeons ago; the originality. It's okay to have a lil' bit of influences but the artists SHOULD implement their own style more than their references' style. We are aware that Japan has a lot of mangakas (with their recognizable touch/style), but why we must repeat it again and again? It's one day I'm so sure that people will get bored with this style, thus we have to search for another NEW style that could attract readers. Or else, our local doujin artists should be very good than the Japanese doujin artists in order to compete because manga is their style (and their life as well; it's in their vein), so how can we defeat them with their own 'weapon/skill'? Unless if we're VERY good in this field, so that will be another story.
9. What do you think about the progression of manga in Malaysia?
It's slowly reaching its own path of success. But a lot of the so-called Malaysian mangakas busily try to imitate the whole structure of Japanese manga, that's the only obstacle that we should break in order to get more chances to come in our way. There are a lot of story about tradition, urban legend and as well with the myth etc that should be adapted in our own manga on which will make these manga more sensible to Malaysian culture and its society at large.
We should have built a strong organization that will taking care of the copyright issues, as well with the Intellectual Property thingies. Many Malaysian comic/manga artists are now striving to get the copyright of their own, instead of their works being owned by the company/publisher on which they’re working with. So, in order to get the good quality of graphic novels, we must take a deeper look on the benefit (or the welfare) of the artists itself in the first place before we pompously hurried to have the end product of it.