Comic Art Festival KL goes online this year

CAFKL Online is a continuation of all the efforts to promote various comic cultures of Malaysia through activities online, which would usually be at the physical event

by AZALEA AZUAR/ pic credit: FACEBOOK

COVID-19 might have ruined 2020, but it seems like it would still be a good year for the local comic industry.

If you scroll through your social media pages, you would have noticed friends or followers sharing heartwarming comics about frontliners or comics that raise awareness on Covid-19.

Comic Art Festival Kuala Lumpur (CAFKL) event director Audrey Leong said Malaysian comic artists have been very active since the inception of the Movement Control Order (MCO) in showing their appreciation especially for frontliners while encouraging the general public to do the same.

“They’ve been producing lighthearted and heartwarming comics to keep spirits up and encouraging their readers to work together to get through the pandemic,” she said.

Since many comic artists weren’t able to work particularly during the MCO period, CAFKL has been using its online platform to help them get an income.

“Like a lot of other professions, many comic artists have had their income affected so it’s important to support them by buying their printed material or merchandise so that they can continue producing comics for our enjoyment without worrying about their next meal,” Leong said.

She added that sharing their work will also help the artists capture the attention of potential clients and big brands so that they can continue doing what they do best, “keeping us entertained and sane throughout the pandemic”.

CAFKL has been instrumental in promoting and nurturing comic artists to continue expanding their creativity and celebrate diversity behind the art of illustration, comic-making and related fields.

However, the festival this year will be held online via its Facebook page @cafkl from Aug 8-16 due to Covid-19 concerns.

Leong said CAFKL Online is a continuation of all the efforts to promote various comic cultures of Malaysia through activities online, which would usually be at the physical event.

“The online event will include an online marketplace, online portfolio reviews, themed art jams, an online Comic Worm, forums and online interviews which will be aired via Facebook Live on our Facebook page,” she told The Malaysian Reserve.

Despite the limitations, Leong said CAFKL has more content to share this year.

In fact, she said since the festival is held entirely online, artists are presented with better opportunities to reach a wider audience while making new contacts.

Leong said the online festival also allows the organiser to feature more special guests.

The annual CAFKL is known to attract thousands of comic enthusiasts in the country.

It is organised by the Sequential Arts Youth Society, a non-profit organisation that seeks to create awareness about the animation, comics and games community in Malaysia.

Leong said barring any unforeseen circumstances (with Covid-19 under control especially) the seventh edition (CAFKL7) is expected to be held next year.

“For 2021, we would definitely want to have a larger physical event compared to our last CAFKL in 2019 and continue building a larger platform to support local independent and professional artists, and to produce better content so that various circles can come together to share and learn from one another,” Leong said.

Be sure to stay tuned for CAFKL’s live forums as they will feature Malaysia’s most interesting comic artists. Here are some of them:

Ernest Ng

Earlier this year, Malaysia went through a political turmoil in the middle of a pandemic, just before the MCO.

Malaysian cartoonist Ernest Ng, who is best known for his “Bro, Don’t Like That La Bro” and “SMK Fast Food” comics used this opportunity to create a new series under the album “If Malaysian Politics Was an Anime” on his Facebook page.

The webcomic became viral and later became known as the “Covidball Z” as it pairs up Malaysian politics with the Covid-19 pandemic issues.

The webcomic features Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Health DG Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah drawn in hilarious Japanese anime-style thropes.

The Covid-19 virus, which is the main antagonist of the comic series is a parody of “Dragon Ball” villains Piccolo and Frieza.

His “Bro, Don’t Like That La Bro” webcomics have been published as a book and has sold more than 100,000 copies since 2013.

A mass communications major from Melaka, Ng’s earlier comics include Japanese Manga series such as “Doraemon” and “Dragon Ball”.

However, it was classic Hong Kong manhua (Chinese comics) “Old Master Q” which led to his education in comic art.

If you want to know more about Ng’s “Covidball Z” series, you can check him out in the “The Making of Covidball Z and Live Q&A” panel on CAFKL Online on Aug 8 at 3pm.

Hanna Alkaf

Hanna Alkaf may not be a comic artist, but she won the US-based Freeman Book Awards for her debut novel “The Weight Of Our Sky” under the Young Adult/High School Literature category.

Her novel tells the tale of a teenage girl struggling with mental illness during the infamous May 13 riots in Malaysia in 1969.

Hanna’s novel was also adapted into a webcomic last year, which is available on webtoons.com by producer Susan Cheng and Alya Rehman.

Nisrina AN illustrated the novel, while Nurel and Toadfrogs were involved in colouring.

Prior to her career as an author, Hanna, a Northwestern University journalism graduate, has written B2B marketing emails, investigative feature articles, profiles and press releases.

She also worked as a senior writer at a major fashion and lifestyle magazine, as well as a communications manager at a non-profit organisation in education.

Hanna will be involved in two panels which are “The Value of Research in Storytelling” on Aug 16 at 11am and “The Making of The Weight of Our Sky, the webcomic” on Aug 15 at 2pm.

Erica Eng

Malaysian animator and illustrator Erica Eng recently made headlines after winning the prestigious Eisner Award, which is the Oscar-equivalent for comics.

Her comic “Fried Rice” managed to beat other nominees for the “Best Webcomic Award” which are “Cabramatta” by Matt Huynh, “Chuckwagon at The End Of The World” by Erik Lundy, “The Eyes” by Javi de Castro, and “reMIND” by Jason Brubaker.

Eng’s webcomic depicts the story of an aspiring artist and animator from Batu Pahat, Johor, who travels to Bangsar, KL, to visit her cousin while applying to an art school in New York.

What’s interesting is that readers are able to take a glimpse into the daily lives of Malaysians.

Every year the Eisner Awards are held during the San Diego Comic Con in July, but like CAFKL, this year it’s held virtually.

Eng’s panel will be “Long-form Webcomics” which will focus on serial comics with a continuous plot and a wide cast of characters. The panel will be held on Aug 9 at 11am.