Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Not A Crime! An Interview with Kazimir Lee Iskander

A few weeks ago, I came across the comic story, Not A Crime by Malaysia born cartoonist, Kazimir Lee Iskander. It is a story about the arrest and discrimination faced by trans women in Malaysia and a particular incident that happened in Negeri Sembilan in June 2014. It came out of nowhere and it's really one of the best things I've read this year. I tracked down Kazimir to get the lowdown on him and his work.

Not A Crime is a fascinating story. If you have not drawn about it, most of us would not know about the Jempol arrests in Malaysia in June 2014. How did you get to know about it (you were in Malaysia at that time) and what made you want to do a story about this?

I had done some work with Thilaga, who is one of the members of Justice For Sisters (JFS – the group that helped the trans women after they were arrested), prior to learning about the Jempol arrests. Thilaga and I did some work with Food Not Bombs, another excellent lefty NGO. Thilaga actually put me on the Seksualiti Mederka (the Malaysian equivalent of Pride) and JFS mailing list, so I was informed about the Jempol arrests the night it happened, and watched it unfold over the week. I really wanted to make work that showed outsiders the state of Malaysian activism, that there were actually a lot of wonderful people working to fight bigotry and fundamentalism every day.

The story has been featured in Slate and a 1-page version of it is on the Guardian #OpenComics project. Have more people written to you about this story and wanting to find out more about the Section 66 law in Malaysia?

Yes! People normally contact me through my website. It's amazing to be able to refer people to the JFS homepage and it's really heartening to see so many people show interest in Malaysia's LGBT scene too. It's an amazing scene.

What are your politics?

I am a dyed in the wool leftist. I consider myself a feminist and advocate for LGBT (IQA) rights as well, though I guess time will tell if I can make a difference or if I'm just another middle class man shooting his mouth off. I'm also increasingly passionate about sex work decriminalization and worker's rights.

I looked through your website. There are many comics and animation which most people are not aware of - where have you been doing your work and where have you been published?

I am currently in grad school, but I spent the last few years working freelance, so a lot of my work is either published solely on the internet (through my website or tumblr) or self-published to sell at conventions.

Your bio stated that you have lived in Malaysia, USA and the UK - where were you from originally and what/where did you study/work?

I lived in Malaysia for the first 12 years of my life. Then I went to boarding school in the UK, in Tonbridge, Kent. I received my BFA in Animation at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

How would you describe your comic style - more American/Western?

I suppose my style is somewhat western or European, although Malaysian comics have been very influenced by publications like MAD magazine, and I draw from that as well.

What are your influences? What sort of comics did you grow up reading in Malaysia? Lat?

I grew up reading a lot of Tintin, Lat, Gila-Gila, MAD magazine, Ren and Stimpy comics, and standard superhero stuff.

You are currently doing a MA in cartooning at the Center for Cartoon Studies - how did that come about? Something you have always wanted to do? How is the course so far and who are teaching you?

The course is amazing. I feel like there could be more support for international students, but I think the course is always evolving and learning from its mistakes, so I think that will change. I really wanted to make more work that was overtly political, and there was no room for that in animation, so I decided to make comics instead. I feel privileged to have some really amazing course instructors, including Stephen Bissette, James Sturm and Jason Lutes. We get so much hands-on advice and instruction from these award winning creators, there is really no other school like this one.

What do you hope to achieve with your comics and animation?

I hope to reach a wide audience and hopefully entertain people while engaging with their politics. I want to make great art and bring people together, and make them laugh and cry.

Finally, a comment on what's happening in Malaysia right now..

It's disgusting how the culture of corruption and racial supremacy has eaten away at our democracy for so long. I can hardly even call it a democracy anymore, since the elections are so dirty. I am deeply disappointed that our leaders operate with the implicit approval of the West (because said leaders sell themselves as 'Islamic moderates' and are willing to sign the TPP).However, just this weekend we had a giant pro-transparency march that my amazing activist mother attended (I am so proud of her) so I have to believe things can change for the better.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

STGCC 2015: An interview with Ms Lin Koh, Assistant Project Director for the Pop Culture Cluster of Reed Exhibitions

Ever wonder what goes on behind the running of STGCC and how they choose which guests to invite? Well, the answers are right here as we managed to score an interview with Ms Lin Koh, Assistant Project Director for the Pop Culture Cluster of Reed Exhibitions, who gamely answered our questions…

1. Reed Exhibitions took over STGCC in 2010. How has the market grown in these 5 years?
We observed that the market has grown over the years and underscoring this trend is the continuous growth of STGCC since 2010. From 50 exhibitors in 2010, this year’s STGCC will host over 200 exhibitors from 13 countries. We have also seen a 42% growth in attendance numbers from 2010 to 2014 while our Facebook following has expanded from 9,750 in 2010 to 36,000 in 2015.

[according to its 2013 press release, the attendance for STGCC 2013 was 40,000, an increase from 35,000 in 2012.]

2. How far ahead do you plan for the next STGCC?
We typically start brainstorming on the strategic plans for STGCC and project how we want to shape the show three years ahead, while project management for the next edition usually kick starts right after the current one!

3. How do you decide who to invite as guests?
Input on who will make up each year’s guest list will be collected from our counterpart, ReedPOP USA, feedback from fan surveys, the blogger community, followers on our STGCC Facebook account, as well as through research by our content team and conversations with our exhibitors. From there, we will narrow down a list of pop culture personalities, a good mix representing the Eastern and Western spheres of comics, toys, games, manga, anime and cosplay.

4. STGCC attracts attendees from Asia and Southeast Asia. Currently, Reed is also going regional with Indonesia Comic Con, ICC - what prompted this move?
Indonesia is a big market with a lot of potential, in terms of population as well as the very strong pop culture community, and we have a local office there with the capabilities to leverage the opportunities there. We also see a lot of potential in other Asian countries, with rising demand for conventions from fans. There is also a growing pool of artists from the Western and Eastern hemisphere who are more open in venturing into new markets in Asia to grow their fan base and spread their love for art. Under the ReedPOP portfolio, we have also launched Shanghai Comic Con this year, so do stay tuned for more updates for new shows under ReedPOP.

5. As the Assistant Project Director for the Pop Culture Cluster, can you give our readers an idea of what goes on typically in a day of prep for STGCC?
For me, my day typically starts at 9am, and sometimes at weird hours as we have regular t-cons with our USA office to share updates for STGCC. My morning is usually spent tackling all the emails that cover sales, marketing and operations. After which, I start running through the to-do lists with my assistant project manager to identify urgent items that need to be “attacked”. In the afternoons, I will be leading project meetings with the team to go through the action points by each team member to ensure work is on track. We also like to stay well-connected with our fans and hence I work very closely with my marketing team to plan the online and social media content on STGCC’s website and Facebook. This is to ensure that our fans get updated with the latest news, announcements of this year’s pop culture personalities, exclusives and new products launches from our exhibitors and all the exciting things happening at this year’s con! The day gets busier as we lead up to the show but we all enjoy the adrenaline rush putting together Singapore’s biggest pop culture event of the year.

6. What role does STGCC play in the development of the local comic scene? How does it promote local writers, artists, publishers?
STGCC provides established and rising local talent in the pop culture scene – from artists to illustrators to toy designers – with a platform to showcase their craft to local and regional fans as well as companies in the industry. Each year, we see an increase in the number of exhibitors at Artist Alley, a dedicated space at STGCC for creative talent in Singapore and the region to showcase their works. From 166 artists from 12 countries in 2014, this year will have over 170 artists from 11 countries participating in Artist Alley. Local writers, artists and toy designers can also gain great exposure to the many local and overseas companies taking part in STGCC, as well as influential pop culture personalities, and provide them with opportunities to network which can pave the way for tie-ups and partnerships.

This year, STGCC will host a local comics panel with Kelly Bender, Lim Cheng Tju and Elvin Ching as they touch on topics on the past, present and future of comics making in Singapore. Fans will also not want to miss on a special SG50 collaboration between STGCC and talented local artists like Tell Your Children, Keh Choon Wee, Ong Ean Keat of Keatopia, Mas of Wanton Noodle, Ziqi of Monster Little and Caramelaw A.K.A Sheena Aw as they design an array of custom Munnies in celebration of Singapore's Golden Jubilee. These custom Munnies will be available for bidding at a silent auction at STGCC, where all proceeds raised will go to child welfare organisation, Club Rainbow. C.B. Celbulski, Senior Vice President of Creative & Creator Development of Marvel Comics and talent scout for the publishing giant, will also be doing a portfolio review at STGCC. More details will be announced soon, so stay tuned to the STGCC website.

The pop culture scene here is burgeoning and we definitely see STGCC continuing to play a strong role in its development.

7. Are there more people in Singapore reading comics, collecting toys and playing games as a result of STGCC?
We are definitely seeing more interest on the ground as seen from attendance numbers growing stronger each year, solidifying STGCC’s position as the must-go event of the year for industry players. Through our conversations with our key exhibitors, such as Toy Baze, The Falcon’s Hangar and Simply Toys, they have shared that there has been increased demand for their products through their participation at STGCC over the past few years.

8. It's a few weeks before STGCC 2015 - how hectic has it been?
We have been burning late nights but it is all worth it for the fans to make sure we put up a good show, do expect a lot of fun at STGCC 2015!

Photos courtesy of STGCC.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

STGCC 2015: Garrie Gastonny and friends

Garrie Gastonny is coming back to STGCC. This time, he will be travelling with friends, Yusuf Idris, Sami Basri and Iwan Nazif. Also coming are Is Elfandiary, Dika Toolkit and Yasmine Putri (Storm Lion).

I got the chance to get these goodies from him at Popcon. He obligingly drew Red Sonja and Darkseid. So make sure you grab this 2015 sketchbook at STGCC. Limited edition of 150. While stocks last. You can also get him to sign your copies of A1 and Supergod.

Now if only I can get him to answer my interview questions...

Interview with Ian Gibson

Ian Gibson is a legend in UK comics. Not only was he responsible for many a memorable run of Judge Dredd and Robo-Hunters in 2000AD, he was the co-creator of one of the most iconic female characters in comics, Halo Jones. Born in 1946, Gibson came to prominence with his strips for 2000AD, including The Ballad of Halo Jones, written by Alan Moore. Like many others in the UK, he would draw for American comics like Mister Miracle (DC) in the 1980s, but it was not a happy experience. Since then, Gibson has kept himself busy with projects in the wings, waiting to be released at the right time.

What struck me most about interviewing Gibson is his sense of humour. I hope we get to see his new comics soon. Thanks to Kenny Chan for the link up.

1. For your longtime fans, what have you been up to? Any new comics, writings?

I'm no longer fighting with deadlines. I'm working slowly on the Lifeboat project and playing with ideas for other things I've written. But they are all big projects, so I have no release dates for any of them.

2. You have been associated with drawing/creating strong female characters. Was it intentional? (you have talked about the influence of Heinlein)

The 'female lead' aspect of my work is, I suppose, somewhat influenced by Bobby Heinlein - from Podkayne of Mars to Friday, etc. Plus I never really enjoyed drawing big muscle bound dudes.

3. You worked for IPC Girls Comics Group in the 1970s. Can you tell us about those early days of girls comics in the UK?

When I started in comics there was no science fiction being published in the UK. So I had to look elsewhere to get work in other genres. First it was horror; then it was love stories and girls' adventures, with a sprinkling of oddments in between. I don't know who the writers were because in those days we were all 'anonymous'. But one of the other artists working through the same agency was Romero doing love stories etc. I worked with Blas Gallego as a way into girls comics as the editors thought my girls were too skinny!

You see, Blas Gallego was living in London at that time while I was too. So I had the chance to go and work in his 'studio' amid the clouds of smoke from his cheap cigarrettes! He was working on a variety of girl's comics that included stories like 'Sugar Jones' as a comedic piece and some girls' drama adventures. I was doing the pencils and Blas was inking the finished art. The editors at IPC girls comics had looked at the 'test' piece I'd done for them (I think it was for Mirabelle) and they declared that my girls were too skinny for their tastes. So working with Blas allowed me to work 'under his cover' without their complaints.

The readership for these comics was all young girls as far as I know.

4. You also drew the Bionic Woman story in the 1977 Annual. Do you remember much of that story and how did it come about?

The Bionic woman stories happened because the editor asked me. I think the writer was Steve Moore. I'd worked with him on other projects and he liked to take me out to small cinemas that showed Toshiro Mifune classics. So we had a good rapport for the stories. Sadly the second annual cut the budget and as a result I had to work in just two colours for much of the scripts. I think I got the Bionic job after I'd done some work on a Kung Fu annual and then that lead on to working on the Invisible Man annual too.

5. You created Halo Jones because you felt the female characters in 2000AD then were like 'men with tits'. Has the portrayal of women in comics improved since then?

Halo doesn't seem to have changed the face of comics very much. For instance the big hue and cry over the Milo Manara Spiderwoman cover. But if you look at any of the American comics the hypocrisy level is high, as most of the time the girls are thrusting their bosoms and wearing skin tight costumes and usually posed in a provocative manner. I think Manara was pointing this out in his own way, maybe?

But despite the clingy state of the costumes there is never a nipple in sight nor, perish forbid, and sign of a 'camel-toe'!

6. What was the experience like drawing for American comics (Mister Miracle for DC) in the 1980s?

I really liked the idea of working on Mister Miracle as homage to the legend of King Kirby. Sadly the writer had other ideas and the scripts betrayed the character and cheapened the story. So I spent a lot of time changing the scripts where I could to take out the flim flam. But eventually the editor asked if maybe they could recognise the stories when they got them back from me. My response was that if the editor had been doing his job I wouldn't have to change anything. This resulted in them dropping me from the series!! Their loss!

7. Still, there was the Steed and Mrs Peel (1990) series with Eclipse and written by Grant Morrison which I like a lot.

The Steed & Mrs Peel series was supposed to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the TV show. And the release date was set for that anniversary. But all of the publicity came to naught as a certain American general decided that Desert Storm would start on the same date. So nobody noticed that it was the Avengers anniversary! You could say we got covered by a cloud of sand..? All to support a 'resource war' that was as illegal and disgusting as the ethnic cleansing of the native American peoples.

But I did rather enjoy working on the characters of Steed and Emma Peel. I also had fun with the 'back-up' story by Anne Caulfield. When I saw that the script started with Emma's hubby crashing his plane in South America, I decided, even though it wasn't in the script, to pay homage to the delightful Mayan Codex memories I have of studying pre-Columbian cultures. So I began the story in the style of a Mayan Codex and gradually integrated modern comics into the mix. I had a lot of fun!

8. Halo Jones is tied up in a copyright mess. But any chance of you returning to Judge Dredd or Robo-Hunter one day?

I don't think 2000 are interested in giving me any work after I quit half way through the Samantha Slade story. I got fed up with the quality of the stories and eventually it came to a point where I just couldn't stomach it any more. I told the editor 'Alan has beaten me! Not even I can turn this into entertainment!!' I haven't heard from them since.

9. Among the many characters you have drawn, which character did you enjoy working on the most?

My all time favourite character was Annie Droid which I wrote for the Times Saturday editions. A story called Millennium Bug, at the turn of the century when everyone was in a panic about the change of date on their computers. But very few people ever saw it.

10. Any update on Lifeboat? The premise is fascinating. How did you come up with this story idea?

The Lifeboat project started a long time ago. I was helping a friend get a start as a writer, and took him down to the Brighton seafront to chat and get inspiration. There I ventured into the Lifeboat museum and was fascinated by the displays and thought it would be great to celebrate their work by writing a story about how someone decided to start a lifeboats in space facility. From there the story took various turns and twists until I came up with the current version. It's a long and convoluted saga that will take years to finish.

[In another interview, Gibson explained the premise of Lifeboat:
‘combine “What if Romeo and Juliet had had a child?” with a ‘space’ version of the American War of Independence, where asteroid mining colonies are trying to break free from the Empire. Father becomes head of the Imperium; mother becomes Queen of the colonies – child raised by aliens. And it gets more complicated from there on in!’]

11. Is there a story you want to tell and an existing character that you would like to draw?

I have a filing cabinet full of the scripts I've written; some started; some complete; some just ideas. Destiny is one of my favourites. But sadly some games company has just brought out a game with that Title. So that could be a problem. Like the Halo game that appeared 'coincidentally' just after Halo Jones was popular..?

I have so many projects that I need another lifetime to get them all done!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Popcon 2015

Popcon 2015

What is it?
According to the organizers: POPCON is the biggest pop culture convention in Asia that is dedicated to celebrate and appreciate the professionals, artists, and creators in the creative industry, focusing on comics, games, toys, films, and animations.

Popcon Asia aims to encourage and support the creative industry ecosystem, as well as to become the platform for networking and collaboration among creators, brand, government, media and other stakeholders to grow the creative industries in Asia.

When is it?
This year, Popcon Asia will be held for the 4th time on 7-9 August 2015, which will be attended by visitors from various countries such as Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, Japan, France, Malaysia, Thailand, Korea, and Philippines. This event is a joint project between creative companies such as Revata, Fabula, Kibar, Kreavi, Layaria, Pionicon, and Plastic Culture.

Where is it?
Assembly Hall, Jakarta Convention Centre.

Who are going from Singapore?
Jerry Hinds (SupaCross)
Evangeline Neo (Evacomics)
Shawn Siow and Mark Koh (Silent War)
D’Creativeaholic (Wackymons)

For them, it’s their first visit to Popcon, although a few like Shawn, Mark and Jerry had participated in the first Indonesia Toy Game and Comic Convention (ITGCC) last year. It was a positive experience for them.

Shawn and Mark: It was very interesting. The best experience about attending such overseas event is of course meeting their local artists and letting people other than your own country know about you. It’s the best chance for networking and relationship building with artists of different backgrounds.

Jerry found ITGCC a bit slow in general and the entrance fee was too high for a small event with no big names present. Hence he was pleasantly surprised that he was able to sell many books & commissions.

Most of the artists do not have their books on sale in Indonesia, with the exception of Eva whose book is translated to Bahasa Indonesia and published by Elex Media. At Popcon, she will be participating on a comic panel on the second day of the convention, The Climate and Condition of ASEAN Comic Industries, which will discuss and assess the potential and possibilities of collaboration between South East Asian countries in order to strengthen the position of ASEAN comics as cultural and commercial product within the global market as a whole. I will be moderating the session, which also includes artists from Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

In general, the artists felt that attending overseas conventions has been helpful for them. Eva, Shawn and Mark was at Comic Fiesta 2014 in Kulua Lumpur last December. Shawn and Mark explained: As Singapore is a small country, attending only local events has a tendency to recycle the same group of supporters every year, and once you reach a threshold, it is hard for the others to notice your work. One of the best ways to show your art to a wider audience is through such overseas events, besides the Internet. This allows a very good chance for us to increase our supporters and making our work known to other countries. And by meeting other creators, it opens up many possibilities for collaboration.

So if you happen to be in Jakarta this coming weekend, do look out for them at Popcon. And also drop by Akademi Samali booth as there will be some Singapore comics on sale - Gone Case, Benjamin Chee, AnnaRex, Funics and Epigram Books.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

STGCC 2015: Interview with The Art of K

One of the best things about STGCC is discovering the talent we have at the Artist Alley. The Art of K has been around for the last few years. He's back again this year, so don't just spend all your time (and money) queuing up for Adam Hughes and the other big names. Go check out K at the Artist Alley Booth AA37.

Name: Keh Choon Wee (aka K)
Age: 39
Current Job: Lecturer at Digipen

What are some of your favourite comic titles and creators who have influenced/inspired you?
Some of my favourite comics are Slamdunk, Dragonball, Invincible, Saga, Amazing Spiderman and The Umbrella Academy. As for creators, there are so many that have influenced or inspired me over the years - Akira Toriyama, Takehiko Inoue, Mike Wieringo, Chris Bachalo, Joe Madureira, Humberto Ramos, Art Adams, Glen Keane and Claire Wendlinge, etc. just to name a few.

How long have you been drawing comics? Have you been published or self-published before?
I have not been drawing comics actively for quite some time now. Some of my past published comics works include 2 manga anthologies (Manga Doomei 98 and Comics Alliance 2000) and a comic on Zen wisdom published by Asiapac Books. Was involved in a few comic projects but unfortunately, those did not see the light of day.

When did you start exhibiting at STGCC? What did you sell and what was the experience like?
I started exhibiting at STGCC in 2013 and I have been selling my sketchbooks, postcards and prints. A new sketchbook every year is something that I have set out to do and STGCC provides an excellent venue to promote my art. So far the experiences and reception have been pretty positive which allows me to keep doing this year after year.

What's the big deal about this year's STGCC?
I guess the big deal with STGCC (not just this year in particular) is that it provides a venue for fans and creators to gather at an event which celebrates comics, games, toys and art.
This year, they managed to invite Adam Hughes and Jim Cheung to STGCC which is a big deal (at least to me) as I’m a huge fan of their works.

If I don't read comics, why should I attend?
Why not? ☺ There are more than just comics at STGCC. As the name suggests, there’s also games, toys and even cosplay competition if you are into those stuff. They have also invited creators from popular anime/mecha works to the event.

What is there to buy from you?
I’ll be selling my new Sketchbook 4 as well as postcards, original art and other prints. I will also be bringing limited pieces of my Ghibli Sleepover Tote Bags for sale.

When and where can I find you?
STGCC is on 12-13 Sept 2015 at the Sands Expo & Convention Center, MBS, Level 1, Halls B & C and you can find me at the Artist Alley Booth AA37.

What's the future of comics?
I think the future of comics is pretty positive and exciting. Especially with the recent boom of Hollywood Superheroes flicks, I think more people will be drawn to the world of comics. As for creators, there are so many platforms now to get their work out there to the public, eg. Kickstarter, Patreon, etc. The ways we get and read our comics are also slowly changing in the digital age. However, call me old school but I still prefer flipping through pages of comics than to read them on a digital device.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Maple Comics

Maple Comics is a new comics company in Malaysia who is making waves at CAFKL and Cooler Lumpur. Even with just three titles so far, you get a sense of their curated approach. Set up by Amir and Roy, I managed to ‘sit down’ with Amir and get the lowdown on Maple.

What is the genesis of Maple Comics?

Both Roy and I wanted to do comics - write, draw and publish them. So we decided rather than bitch about how bad things are, we'd go and do something.

Roy was in Gempak and then he published a comics magazine - Komikoo. It had a great start but couldn't maintain the momentum because the business model for comics magazines is not sustainable without massive investment.

I was never in the comics publishing business until Maple Comics. I read a bunch and got into credit card debt in part because of comics. I also spent 12 years in magazines, TV and newspapers though.

What is the meaning behind the name, Maple?

It's maple as in "mah-pleh". A common word in the 90s to denote 'makan place' or something. We came up with the idea of a comics publishing company at a maple, so we decided to call it Maple Comics.

What is the strength and weakness of the Malaysian comic scene right now?

We have an abundance of talent. A lot of it world class. And we have unique treasure troves of stories either with our folk tales, our culture, colour and also the very unique Malaysian perspective - this kind of identity is something others dream of having.

Weaknesses - we are way too whiny. Everyone's complaining and not many are actually doing something - anything. You want comics to be accepted? You can't simply tell the public to accept comics. You have to make comics that the general public will embrace and enjoy.

What do you mean by you are way too whiny?

'We are too whiny' is directed at some parts of the comics community who simply complain about a lot of things but hardly ever get anything done.

But we also believe that we can't promote the scene/industry by simply finding who is at fault. I don't believe we can rely on Governments or feel entitled enough to say that everyone should read more comics. These things have to come from the grassroots and of their own volition. You can't force people to love you or like you. You just have to keep at it until you get it right and be there IF the public wants comics.

It is very possible that at the end of all this, at the end of our lives, people still don't give a shit about comics, and that's fine. We just want to be there, if and when they decide to pay more attention to comics.

What niche is Maple fulfilling in the Malaysian comic publishing scene now?

Well, there are the hobbyists and convention people, and then there are the big players Gempak, PTS, Karangkraf. We want to be somewhere in between - we publish professional, high quality graphic novels like only the big boys do, but we want to be opened with our themes and genres.

In terms of content niche, we would like to have our comics to work on multiple levels, with different ages getting different things. We also hope to publish more adult comics with heavier themes. Something that works on teen, young adult and above. And we publish fiction and non-fiction comics.

Are there particular genres, art style or stories that you are inclined to?

We want Malaysian stories. This takes some explaining. It's not the locale or the people, or the clothes that make a story Malaysian, though it helps. We want stories that only Malaysian storytellers can tell. If it's a generic action comic or a manga style princess story set in Kyoto, I bet a lot more artists can do the job better. So we want stories and perspectives no other comics publishers in the world can do.

What are your titles so far?

We have three - Kuala Terengganu in 7 Days, Invasi and Taubat Si Tanggang. This year, we hope to have six or seven titles.

Invasi was a novel published by Buku Fixi. Written by Raja Faisal and adapted by the author as well as Azhar.

Kuala Terengganu in 7 Days is sort of a sequel to Beijing in 7 Days which Mimi self-published in 2013.

Do you see Maple as part of the pulp fiction wave in Malaysian publishing now albeit in graphic form? (e.g. using a 90s slang like ‘maple’ for your name)

We would like to tap into the pulp fiction wave but after six months, I can tell you that these are different markets. We hope to build our audience as the indies have done but the way comics are, and the way readers are, we see a long and winding road ahead of us before the thing can cross over and hit critical mass. We are hopeful, though.

In the near future, the website will have more titles as we open it up for products from other publishers. We aim to make Maplecomics.com.my a one-stop shop for all ASEAN indie comics. In fact, we are in talks with Epigram Books from Singapore and a few publishers in Indonesia to hopefully bring some titles over, in Bahasa Malaysia (BM).

Is language still an issue - ie to reach a wider audience, you need to publish in BM?

Yes and no. We see our country as having a huge opportunity cause we're all multi-lingual. Maple Comics prioritise getting things out in BM and we are also doing some titles in English. Our first book is in English - Kuala Terengganu in 7 Days, and it's our best-selling book so far, so it's really not an obstacle at all.

Language is a consideration, but it is not a problem. Marketing and distribution - that's an issue. We usually ask the artist - what language is right for the book (with a choice between BM and English)?

How has the comic scene changed/grown? There are indie cons now like CAFKL.

The indie cons are great, and we at Maple Comics believe some of these con-folk are ready to hit mainstream bookstores - they are that good! We hope to bring more of the artists out of the con and into the real world. You need to graduate from this very wonderful, supportive, tight and friendly community, to take on the greater Malaysian public. We hope to find some comics that will eventually make the whole scene mainstream and sustainable for those who may want to quit everything else and just do comics (like ourselves).

What's next?

We're doing something with Alan Quah - very excited about that. He's doing something personal that could be one of his greatest books ever.

Also, we're doing these anthologies in colleges called Donk! (Dongeng Kontemporari) where we get students to reinterpret and reimagine traditional fables in a contemporary setting. The project is to get college kids interested in comics, really. We are doing an all-star professional version of Donk! ‘cause the concept is great!

We are also publishing another travelogue called Pelempang Realiti (Reality Bitchslap) by Arif Rafhan. And there's a Japan travelogue with one female artist and she's just amazing. Jonsuraya is one of our greatest talent that needs a platform - we hope we're it.
We're doing our first adult/mature title - Iblis dan Kugiran Kambing Hitam. It's about some school kids summoned Satan and he actually appeared.

We have a crime/drama title coming up next year.

There's Nafiri - an epic fantasy that is late, but hopefully worth the wait.

There's a bunch of other stuff but we'll announce them when they're ready.

Also, it is our dream to one day publish Lat. We know we'll do a great job of it, if only he'd say yes...