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Indonesian Comics, New Indonesian Soft Power

Comics emerge as the new soft power of Indonesia in the latest years. New titles, studios, and communities are growing up as they are being passionate about making Indonesian comics get acknowledged. Although most of their drawings and story lines influenced by American graphic novels and Japanese manga styles, they are struggling up to form a new identity. How far do they have gone?

Home interface of ngomik.com

Home interface of ngomik.com

Graphic was one of human ancient cultures. Through graphic we communicate messages, which then could be seen even by the next generation. Through our ancestors hand, we know how did they live and perceive things happen in the past. Graphics become a powerful tool as it depict what we see with our eyes.

Comic itself has a long story in our civilization. Most country has its own variation, thus developed as a style and identity for each country. We can see how superheroes are associated into American pop culture and manga form the contemporary Japanese lifestyle. When they grow up, getting more fame, they start to become the global culture that is acknowledged by the whole world.

Indonesia itself was not a newcomer in the comic industry. In 1969, my mother and father was familiar with the name Gundala Putra Petir (Gundala son of Thunder). It was drawn like American superheroes, with the character illustration was an adaptation of Flash of DC Comics. But as the stories goes around Indonesian culture, it gains popularity from the youths at that time (whom grow old become our parents). Si Buta dari Goa Hantu, Godam, and another title then approaches. Hasmi and Daman (Retroman) were the names which set the history of Indonesian comics.

Cover of Gundala Putra Petir, famous in the 1970's

Cover of Gundala Putra Petir, famous in the 1970’s (source: http://prettypagezero.blogspot.com/p/komik-indonesia.html)

But it wasn’t long as the Indonesian comics declined. They lost popularity to Japanese manga that filled up the bookstore. Indonesian comics lag of market support as well as techniques in drawing. It lost it fame and comes up to stagnancy within the popular culture industry.

1990’s might as well marked as the new hopes for the Indonesian comics. Chris Lie set up his studio Bajing Loncat in Bandung and brings up new title to the market. Although it also doesn’t last long, Chris Lie broke up the stagnancy of the comic industry. It motivates other youths to start set up their studio and stand in the front line to support the growth of local comics. “Support your local underground comic movement” was set as the tagline by Studio Karpet Biru as their response to the invasion of imported comics.

Yet those youths don’t give up set the hope for Indonesia to have their own local title of comics. Now, it’s Chris Lie again, coming back from America after his involvement in illustration of G.I. Joe. Looking up at the irony on how our comic industries are struggling up in the market, this guy knows what’s up: we need to set quality standards. As he sit up in the chair of chief editor for re:on comic magazine, Chris Lie is being busy to gather up authors to put on in the comic magazine. It’s a tough job as he should reject works that doesn’t meet standards and acts as advisory for the authors, while he should ensure the comic magazines are going to published – and bought by the market.

re:on becomes the new trendsetter in the Indonesian comic magazine

re:on becomes the new trendsetter in the Indonesian comic magazine

It was then considered as a success as the fanbase are built across the country. Indonesian are always waiting for their next edition – thanks to their marketing strategy. They ensure their works are pressed and sold at festival or events. Participating in POPCON ASIA and Anime Festival Asia Indonesia at 2013 helped them in promoting their works. They also put up their works in Indonesia most visited book store Gramedia and convenient stores around the city.

Now many are participating to support the local comics to develop and get attention from the market. Site such as ngomik.com helped some authors to get known by the public. Published online, this site promote their works as well as provide free contents to the readers. This site also become the niche for the authors who doesn’t have much capital to publish their works, yet they want people to see their works. One small step, a big leap for the local comics growth.

Mobile interface of Ngomik app

Mobile interface of Ngomik app

Stand as a new contributors in country’s GDP, creative industry need continuous support. They are the new soft power for Indonesia, which could promote its local culture and social life. It could even tackle of the nightmares and set the foundation for global interest in Indonesia. Let’s start reading Indonesian comics now!

Click Further

Wookwook Magazine – https://www.facebook.com/wookwook.jogja

re:on Magazine – http://reoncomics.com/

Free Comics at Ngomik.com – http://ngomik.com/

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2 thoughts on “Indonesian Comics, New Indonesian Soft Power

  1. interesting.. but still after several years, indonesian comics couldn’t find their own style. Yes, I know they did things here and there but I think a good reader is always the biggest magnitude of changes. So, instead of just read them all along, why don’t we start to give them critics, the push that they needed, the hope that emerges them into finding the main core of Indonesian comics. Not just a manga adaptation which is just a smokescreen to conceal the identity of our pure, rich and vast culture.

    Now, I am writing this to evoke you. Yes, you young man, to came out from your little nutshell to tell everybody through your writings. Make them notice. Everyone’s a critic, but not everyone is an intelligent critic. Not that I think you are as intelligent as me, but a simple words of wisdom is enough to make you realize what you have done and what you have to do in the future. As for my identity, it is nothing for you to concern.

    Stay Alive.

    • Yes, you’re right. I think it won’t get any bigger if people just find “just another Japanese comic look alike”. I understand how the public might still prefer manga (thanks to grand brand of bookstore who keeps the manga on their front rack). I also suppose that maybe the authors just need time. They need time to learn to draw, to gain market, and to develops more Indonesian style of comics. But yet, as fans or community, your suggestion is right. While maybe many associate critics with something sound negative, critics need to be done in order to push them harder (I love to say this as catalyst).

      I’he had some bad experience making critics. They say like,”Appreciate our nation’s work, you faggot!” or “Why would you bother? It’s just a kid show after all.” Critics is appreciation, as well as helping to promote and form a good atmosphere of creativity. As a good citizen, I critics to help them to built up their passion (and know that their work get serious attention) But thanks, you motivate me as well! It’s okay if you won’t tell me about your identity. Keep support us, the living creative species!

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