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Rising Stars of New Comic

The way people enjoy comics has evolved greatly over the last few decades — a few clicks on your smartphone can now take you to the latest comic series.

Since American artist Eric Millikin published his Wizard of Oz parody comic on CompuServe in 1985, a flood of comics has inundated the web.

Webcomic, as it’s popularly known, serves as a vehicle for emerging comic creators to break into the industry. LINE Webtoon, a global digital comic service platform, does just that — providing free comics from a curated selection of artists.

Since launching in Indonesia in April, Webtoon was downloaded over 1.5 million times in the first two months alone and has been accessed by an average of three million people per month.

Orange Marmalade, a vampire-human love story penned by South Korean artist Jung Seok Woo, has bewitched Indonesian comic lovers and become the most popular Webtoon comic in the country.

LINE Webtoon has also cast light on some emerging local comic artists, like Faza Meonk — known for his tales of silly-but-witty boy Si Juki; and Sweta Kartika with his hilarious feud among superheroes tale, Piraku x Piraku.

The three talked to the Jakarta Post about their inspiration, vision and skyrocketing fame.

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JUNG SEOK WOO

First published in South Korea’s Webtoon, Seok Woo’s Orange Marmalade has attained astounding success.

The comic, which ran from 2011 until 2014, has been adapted into a 12-episode Korean drama series under the same title.

Seok Woo said the comic series was inspired by his initial drawing of the vampire girl, Baek Ma-ri, who unintentionally kisses — and almost bites — the neck of a popular boy, Jung Jae-min, after sensing the sweet aroma of his blood.

“In the first episode, the girl bites the boy’s neck. When I first drew it, I felt the story [transpired in that scene] would become booming, thus I continued to draw the rest of the story,” he said on the sidelines of the recent Popcon Asia festival in Jakarta.

The story is set in a fantasy world where humans and vampires coexist and vampires no longer rely on human blood for food, but they face discrimination, forcing them to hide their true nature.

“Through Orange Marmalade, I want to show the discrimination faced by vampires in the human world and the ups and downs of Ma-ri and Jae-min’s romance.”

Born in 1984, Seok Woo launched his career with the thriller webcomic Nostalgia in 2008. A year later, he released a teenage drama 17 Years Old, That Summer Day’s Miracle, also on the web.

Drawing was his favorite activity to kill time during his school years.

“I didn’t know how to make friends so I spent most time alone. By drawing comics, I could pour my heart out,” he said.

Despite his parents’ disapproval, he studied animation at university. His parents’ views about his career choice gradually shifted after his comics became a hit.

“I am grateful many people like Orange Marmalade. I want to thank the fans for reading the series, and hopefully they will like my upcoming works,” he said about his success in Indonesia.

“I hope more Korean Webtoon comics can receive great response like what Orange Marmalade has. I also hope that Indonesian comics can enter Korea Webtoon too.”

FAZA MEONK

Courtesy of Webtoon

Webtoon series Si Juki, Lika Liku Anak Kos follows a buck-toothed, round eyed 20-something-year-old boy named Juki as he plays tricks and pranks, which oftentimes go hilariously wrong, on his friends.   

The comic was developed four years ago when Faza Ibnu Ubaidillah, better known by his pen name Faza Meonk, was pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in animation at Binus University in Jakarta.

He created the comics story based on observations of his friends’ silly behavior. “Si Juki is encouraged by his lecturer to be different so he tries his best to show he is an anti-mainstream boy,” the 24-year-old artist said.

Since its debut in late 2011, Faza has dedicated much time to popularizing the character; regularly penning new episodes and uploading them for free on social media.

“With this, I built the character’s branding. When a lot of people know him, it becomes much easier [to market Si Juki].”

Until now, Si Juki has appeared in nine books and starred in advertisements of almost 30 local and global brands, ranging from FIFA Online game and Samsung to Bank Mandiri and instant noodle Pop Mie — earning Faza and his nine-man team around Rp 60 million (US$4,248) per month.

Faza developed his business model after observing how Japanese and American comic artists diversify their creations.

“Comics open the way for animation, games, toys and advertisements. I believe this [product diversification] should be applied in Indonesia. I became the first to apply it, and hope that other local artists will follow.”  

He also set up Pionicon, a character-based IP management company, which currently manages seven comic characters, including Tuti and Friends and Si Bedil.   

Faza, who treated Si Juki more than just a marketable comic character but also as his vehicle to make social commentary, hopes to reach into the global comics scene with his dearest friend, Si Juki, who received the 2015 Kosasih Award for Best Character.

“In the past, we already had icons, like Unyil and Si Komo. I hope Si Juki, along with other local comic characters, can emerge to be the new icons in Indonesia, and also gain popularity worldwide.”

SWETA KARTIKA

Courtesy of Webtoon

Renowned for his romantic comic series, Sweta Kartika steps out from his comfort zone with comedy series, Piraku x Piraku.

Piraku x Piraku, his debut Webtoon series, revolves around six families of superheroes enmeshed in a fierce competition. Piraku x Piraku is a blend of American comic and Japanese manga drawing styles, with an unexpected touch of Javanese culture.

“I am attracted to Javanese nobility family names. I think they are just like the name of noble houses in Game of Thrones,” he said, referring to HBO’s hit fantasy drama series.

“I thought of how to make these names sound cool when brought to a modern media form like comics. Instead of using the original, Kartosasmito, which may sound ndeso [rustic and backward], I create the Kartasasmita, the Aryateja and the Sastradireja.”

The comics title originates from Sundanese word, Piraku, which means “how come”.  

The series starts with an oddly funny moment. A dying father of the Kartasasmita family reveals to his four kids that they have superpowers. He dies, but within a second reappears as a ghost who constantly annoys his children.

Born in Kebumen, Central Java, in 1986, Sweta was introduced to the art of drawing at an early age by his father, who loved sketching comics but never published any books.

His father exposed Sweta to a wide array of comics, from Chinese Manhua, Japanese Manga, European comics to Donald Duck, which later influenced his drawing style.

In 2004, Sweta moved to Bandung to study Communication Visual Design at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) and in 2011 released his debut comic, The Dreamcatchers, which follows a team who battles nightmare creatures in the realm of dreams; and web comic series Wanara, which ran for over a year.

However, his rise to fame came after the release of teenage love story, Grey Jingga.

Through a Facebook page, Sweta published a new page of Grey Jingga every Monday and Thursday. He also made the soundtrack.

From Oct. 2012 until the series end in January 2014, Sweta garnered some 14,000 Facebook followers. Now, he has some 27,000 followers.  

Koloni, the comic publishing house, later released the printed version of Grey Jingga despite concerns people would not be interested to buy it, since it was already available online for free.

But some 3,000 copies were sold within a month, making it the fastest-selling comic ever published by Koloni. Grey Jingga is currently in the translation process in preparation for its Japanese debut.

In the long term, Sweta hopes he can have a steady licensing income from his comics, like American comic creator Stan Lee.

“That’s my ultimate goal because such a business can be passed down over the generations. When I am gone, my children can still enjoy the royalties.”

Paper Edition | Page: 21

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