This article doesn’t contain anything about video games or esports, this is about international comic scene that I assume that we need to know about it too because comics are taking a big part of creative industry and it’s really close to our beloved video games industry, many games are made from or made for comics. There are a lot of comics based on a game or a game based on comic even movie industry have done the same thing, comic scene is old, video game is young enough to learn a thing or more from what comic industry done past in several dozen years, but the first thing is, I like comics it’s like, who doesn’t right? Everybody loves comics with their own taste, there are a lot of different kinds of comic in this world, a lot of different sequential arts that people know and enjoy today. So this is my first article about comic, and this is my first experience participating in an international conference.
ISC is an annual conference held by IMRC (International Manga Research Center – Kyoto Seika University) at international scale. This conference talks about comics, all kind of comics, eastern comics, western comics, manga, manhua, all of them. This year’s ISC held at Bandung, my hometown. There’s a lot of comic artists, mangakas, authors, publishers, researchers, critics, curators, and professors from around the world comes to attend this conference, they were mostly have a major in comic or art but some people don’t, they just love it and care about it, they love sequential arts like comics. Like me, I have a great chance to come to this kind of conference even though I don’t have any art background and I’m not a comic author, but I love comics really much so I’m really glad and excited to participate the conference.
In this year’s ISC, the title of the conference is ‘Comics Alternatives: From Graphic Diary to Manga Style’. It’s discuss about how comics are drawn, what style do they choose to make a comic, what kind of story telling do they choose and other thing about the style that people chose to make their comics. Just like many comics that we have read from many places like Japan, North America, Germany, France, Indonesia, Singapore, etc. There are so many different styles. Some artist want to draws his/her comic with manga style and a diary like story telling even though he/she isn’t from Japan, manga style drawing is so popular these days, here in Indonesia it’s so popular, Japan origin translated comics or it’s called manga are the most popular kind of comics here, like Naruto the most mainstream manga here in Indonesia, even supir angkot (local public transport driver) reads it, they love it.
Inside the conference, every panelist that talk in front of the hall have their own different issue and different discussion, almost all of their discussion are interesting for me, maybe because I’m not that familiar with comic scene or doesn’t know there so much interesting issue on comic industry nowadays, I do know some history of comic books around the world like the story of DC comics and the Comic Code Authority, development of Japanese manga after Tezuka and so on but I never know there much more about comic industry nowadays other than its market. First let’s talk about Indonesian comic scene, as far as I follow the talks during the discussions, there’s many different comic style in here, like in Yogyakarta, a lot of alternative comics style there, the unusual one, their style is very unique with some suggestive themes like politics, religion and other local social problems. They even have a very funny pig cartoon, I lol’ed so much when I saw that picture even now when I remember it, it’s still very funny for me. Next thing that I interested is about wayang, as we know wayang is one of Indonesia’s heritage that every people know and the most popular thing that comic artists takes to be a comic. Wayang is a thing that comes from Java region, but the fact is Indonesia is more than just Java region, there are so many more culture that we can talk from other regions, so during the discussion about wayang, they talk about Indonesian identity on a comic, what makes a comic looks and feels like so Indonesian, what uniqueness it had on its content when we compare it with other’s comic. It’s so interesting. So many interesting talks in the conference, but these two things really caught my attention. Then, one of the researcher from Indonesia discuss about how girls frame themselves in Indonesia’s girls’ comic but many people from Germany, Japan and other south east Asia told him that his research are really a sensitive case because the research are about something feels too sexist.
Then let’s talk about international comic scene, many artists and scholars come from many countries, there are from Japan, Germany, Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, US, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Main Land China. Everybody has their own interesting subject to discuss although researchers from Japan can’t make me curious about their subject, I don’t know maybe because their English is hard to understand or the long slides are confusing me, but overall there are many interesting subjects. Many artists and researchers from South East Asia are presenting their subjects, like the from Manila, Elbert OR, comic artist, my favorite person in this conference, he is so funny that I always laugh when he start to explain something and there’s a researcher Karl Ian, they told us that in Philippines, comics are so expensive, and mainstream comic are depending on its distribution and price, more cheaper the comic is, more popular it gets. Rest of the issue are much the same as in Indonesia, like hard to find a good comic books, no one support local comic artist, lack of alternatives genre, poor development on local comic scene, and so on. Same thing happen in Vietnam, Phong from Hanoi talk about local comic development in Vietnam, at war time, local comic artist create a comic for propaganda purpose and even today there are still many propaganda comics in Vietnam.
Different things happened in Singapore and Malaysia, in those two countries, local comic artists are supported by their government, like in Malaysia, local comic artist have life insurance and a sufficient salary and payment so they can have a good life being a comic artist, animator and other creative professions. In Singapore, the government is having a special program to support their comic artist; many comics are published by their own government. So there is a good future for creative professionals in Malaysia and Singapore, no wonder that Tecmo Koei, Lucas Art and many big game developers or studios and major game publishers built their branch in Singapore and Malaysia. Lim Cheng Tju are a professional comic critic from Singapore, he’s the one of many comic related professionals from Singapore, when he talk or ask something, from my perspective he always have a great point of view and great knowledge about comics all around the world. He’s good.
Other thing that we discuss is about comic scene in Japan, there is two type comic in Japan, there are Manga and Gekiga although I don’t know how tell the different yet but they define Gekiga as alternative manga, there are many deep discussion on this, that I can’t write it all here, but it’s very interesting to know that how complicated are manga business in Japan and how its develop from World War II until now. Artists from Japan talks about their comic, there is Est Em, a Yaoi / BL manga artist talk about what the different about it, about homosexual and / or homosocial on her manga. We have a Japanese curator from Louvre Museum too. And then we have Yokoyama Yuichi, a Gekiga artist, an alternative manga artist, his comic is so unique, I love it, his works are really really interesting. His mangas are so unusual; all I can say is his works are the REAL sequential art. You totally should check it, google it!! Right now!!
From another part of the world, there is Li Chitak from Hong Kong, the author of the original manhua Black Mask (Hap Hak), and then it’s adapted to a movie starring Jet Li as the Black Mask. There are two Black Mask movies has been released. The interesting thing that he pointed is about Chinese history influence on their local comics and he explains about how to differentiate Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan and about their culture too. And there is Akru from Taiwan, she told us about her work and it’s development, manga is the style that she chose for her comics, I come late to her panel so I don’t really know and remember much about her presentation, as far as I know her drawing are really good. From Germany, Carolin Walch, I don’t remember it too well but I’m sure she talks about how alternative comic runs on Germany and about what people in Germany like from comic, about their publishers too. And from the US, there is Monica Chiu, an Asian American researcher from New Hampshire talk about the Visual Rhetoric in Asian American Graphic Narratives, she talk about how Asian people drawn at American comics and other racial problem on comic scene, it’s really interesting but unfortunately she has limited time so the discussion must end. When we look at her face, he’s so bule (foreign / Caucasian) for us but she said that her face is so Asian back in New Hampshire.
Finally, what I get from this international conference, now I know that cell phones are really affecting wireless microphone and I know a Singaporean swearing word : Ka ni na. LOL just kidding. There are many things that happen in comic / manga scene around the world, they even research it with scientific method there. It is really great to have people from around the world with different language gather in same hall talk, share and discuss about things that we love, we really enthusiastic about it, there some mistranslation too but that’s what interesting that happen in there, I feel so lucky to be there. That’s all I can say, thanks for reading my article.