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19 May 2012

Giving life to superheroes

By Karen Ho

What does a group of local guys have in common with the likes of Spiderman, Batman, Green Lantern and Thor, wonders Karen Ho

SIX ordinary-looking guys. They don’t have the ability to make women swoon or make a habit of wearing capes and tights. At least not that we know of.
Their connection: Comic books.
These guys may not have extraordinary powers, but they do possess a talent for visual story-telling using sequential art. And comics are their medium.
With just their hands, they can create hulking heroes, formidable foes, adrenalin-packed action scenes and scintillating stories that can keep audiences aged 8 to 38 entertained for hours. 
What started as a childhood passion continued into adulthood, and from a hobby, it became something more. To them, comics are cool, and proof of that lies in events such as the Malaysian Games and Comics Convention which brings together anyone who shares that love and enthusiasm. You may not find the Dark Knight at the convention, but you’ll find six alternative heroes who’ll impress you with their artistic abilities.

SHELDON GOH, 38
Marital status: Married, father of three
Place of birth: Kuching
Qualification: B.Sc. (Hons) in Computing Science
Other passions: Watching well-made TV shows

Goh read his first comic book at age of 5 or 6 and loved the way words and pictures combined to tell a story. But unlike most kids, his heroes were not the characters in the stories, but the writers and artists. “It was always about the artists for me, specifically the pencillers,” he says.
Little did he realise then that he’d become a penciller one day. 
Goh has been drawing comics most of his life but the hobby took a professional turn five years ago when he was recommended for a GI Joe comics job. Today, he’s an accomplished comic book, storyboard and concept artist. As a penciller, he creates mostly black and white linework and still uses old-fashioned pencil and paper as the tools of his trade.
“There’s nothing like the feeling of the lead hitting the paper just right and the physical mark you make being the exact same mark you visualised in your head. When it happens, the feeling is sublime,” he says enthusiastically.
Goh recommends aspiring comic book artists to learn to draw first before they learn to draw comics. “Be prepared to draw anything and everything because comic books is a very demanding medium.” 
His drawing style leans towards American superheroes, because these were the biggest influences on him. It’s no big surprise then that his two favourite characters are Spiderman and Batman, specifically how they were portrayed in the 1980s.

MUHAMMAD AZHAR ABDULLAH, 35
Marital status: Married, two daughters
Place of birth: Taiping, Perak. Grew up in Shah Alam
Qualification: Architecture Degree. Masters in New Media
Other passions: Animation, movies and football

Azhar’s love of drawing and reading comics started at a young age but his passion was sparked in 1985 when his uncle bought him three comics: Batman, Sgt Rock and Warlord. He started to buy comics based on the writers and artists involved and they became long-term training tools for him.
“I learnt a lot from comic books. By imitating every panel and art style of selected comic artists, I gradually developed my own style,” recalls Azhar. He adds that his artwork favours more gritty and heavy ink and brush work. 
He began drawing comics professionally in 2001 and that same year, he and some friends released their first self-published work called Urban Comics.
Azhar’s solo works include tales of local historical warriors and legends as found in Pendekar Melayu Terakhir and Liga Pendekar. The latter won Azhar multiple Pekomik awards in 2009.

Liga Pendekar - Azhar

Today, he serves as president of Pekomik, the Malaysian Comics Artists Association.
Azhar advises budding comic book artists to keep drawing. “Do what you love most. You must have passion, willpower, patience and practice.” After buying and reading so many comics from all over the world, Azhar still finds that Batman and Spiderman make up the most titles in his personal collection. 


JULIAN “LEFTY” KAM, 43
Marital status: Married
Place of birth: Penang
Qualification: Diploma in Graphic Design
Other passions: Food (eating, not cooking)

As co-founder of the local independent comics team, Gilamon Studio, Kam is partly responsible for unleashing some bizarre and alternative heroes on graphic novel fans. As the group approaches its 10th anniversary, he is more than proud of Gilamon, calling it “the best thing that ever happened to me as a comic book creator”. 
This Penang native finds immense inspiration from his beloved hometown, but generally ideas can come from everywhere, such as music and movies or just his surroundings.
For instance, Gilamon’s Jimi Germ character took shape following the Nipah virus and other outbreaks of diseases across the globe. Kam says the idea for Major Zombie stemmed out of a love for fantastic figures in B-movies (like vampires, monsters and aliens) and superhero comics.
Aside from Gilamon creations, his favourite comic book characters include Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese for his sense of freedom and adventure, plus Mike Mignola’s Hellboy for his will to go against the odds.
These qualities sound like chapters from Kam’s own story about his journey as a comic book creator. He says: “It’s more of a lifestyle than a career to me, and like all creative processes, there are struggles. To make it easier, I believe it’s important to set your mind to enjoy the process.” 
So far, it has been an enjoyable 15-year journey for him. 

MOHAMMAD YAZID KAMAL BAHARIN, 28
Marital status: Single
Place of birth: KL
Qualification: Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours)
Other passions: When my passion has become a job, music is my escapism. I do my own recordings and help friends produce music.

Behind his boyish exterior is a man who has amassed much experience across a diverse range of artistic fields. Yazid, better known as Zid, imparts wisdom that belie his looks, yet maintains the sense of humour of a fun-loving lad. 
Zid grew up with a plethora of highly imaginative and creative literature that made him yearn to tell stories of his own. Schoolboy efforts at self-made comics led to further years of trial and error as he honed his skills in sequential art. To give essence to the form that he had cultivated, Zid decided to pursue formal training in the fine arts.
“Art school taught me scholarly responsibility such as research. And I learnt that intuition is important but theory will always save you from meandering aimlessly on raw talent and technical prowess,” he says.
The ride has been far from a bed of roses but the toiling makes victory sweet. Passion, discipline, and a humble attitude are some of the qualities that have helped him survive the thorny moments.
Being versatile is also crucial and it allows Zid to be involved in projects such as concept art for films and video games, fine art exhibitions, and music productions. Comics-wise, he is currently working on a five-issue mini series called Son Of Merlin.
His favourite comic book title is The Sandman for its skilful writing. “The Sandman disproves the stereotype that comics are just light reading material for adolescents”.

TAN ENG HUAT, 38
Marital status: Single
Place of birth: Ipoh Background
Qualification: Secondary school
Other passions: Movies, photography

If there was an Olympics event for drawing comics, Malaysia would have a good chance at gold because of our secret weapon: Tan Eng Huat. A well-known name in the domestic comics scene and one quarter of Gilamon Studio, this unassuming Perak-born chap gives nothing away about his international success as an artist for Marvel and DC Comics, plus as an Eisner award winner (the comic industry’s equivalent to the Oscars).
Tan sealed his future when, after secondary school, he found work with a local comics company as a comics cover and background artist for five years. Later, he worked on Gempak magazine. He has always loved to draw and fondly recalls duplicating onto paper everything that he saw in TV shows and movies. “The feeling of being able to imitate things inspired me to learn more about the art form. It took a lot of trial and error.” He adds that every single bump in the process was an opportunity to learn something new.
Almost 19 years on, the professional road must be a lot less bumpy now. Tan’s impressive portfolio includes Doom Patrol, The Silver Surfer, Ghost Rider, Batman, and Thor: First Thunder. This year, he’ll be focusing on some personal projects such as the Gilamon’s 10th anniversary comics.
FAEZAL “TAN”

MUNIRAN, 34
Marital Status: Married, one daughter
Place of birth: Kuala Lumpur
Qualification: MA Design & Digital Media, Coventry University
Other passions: Travelling, running, knowledge-sharing

The turning point that led Faezal to a career as a professional comics artist was a 24-hour Comics Challenge in KL five years ago. He told himself that if he could create 24 pages of comics for 24 hours non-stop, then he would get into the comics business seriously. Obviously, he completed the challenge.
Like the others, Faezal was born with the talent to draw. Drawing gave the young, imaginative Faezal a creative outlet and comic books offered him escapism to whole new worlds. “It was the story-telling elements in the comics that kept me hooked. I had my own stories and ideas to share, and I realised the best medium to do it was through comics.”
He was formally trained in art and design, but owes much to the informal lessons he learnt studying the beautiful illustrations in every single comics book he read. Starting with Malaysian humour comics, then American superhero comics, his interest moved on to Japanese Manga and other comics from across the globe. Till today, his hunger for learning from international comic artists is as strong as ever.
Of all the comic book characters that have influenced him, Faezal’s ultimate favourite is Morpheus a.k.a. The Sandman. “He is one of the first non-superhero characters I read that opened up whole new possibilities for comic characters beyond the typical superhero.”
Malaysian Games and Comics Convention
The first Malaysian Games & Comics Convention (MGCCon) aims to bring the perfect blend between community and industry, in the comics, games and creative fields.
Among the many activities include comics, games, Cosplay, booths, exhibitions, talks, competitions, workshops/Masterclasses, 24-hours Comic, 24-hours GameDevthon, performances, Anugerah Pekomik 2012, signing sessions and more. The convention takes place at KDU University College, Damansara Jaya, tomorrow from 10am to 6pm.

Source: New Straits Times