Starting The Year Right: Meeting with Zen Pencils

22 Jan

Hello everyone! We’re almost at the tail end of January so I figured it was about time to kickstart Indiedoodle for the new year!

 photo ZenPencils.jpgOmmmmmm….nomnom.

Earlier this month (actually, on the 2nd day of the New Year to be more specific) I had the honour of meeting the creator of the wildly popular Zen Pencils webcomic, Gavin Aung Than, when he stopped by Singapore for a short visit and hosted a Meet and Greet Session with fans. The session was held at a relatively new cafe named Wheeler’s Yard, which took me and my friends quite a while to get to.

 photo ZenPencils3.jpgWheeler’s Yard, a new cafe-cum-fixed-gear-bicycle-shop. Yes, I know, it’s a very hipsterish place.

In a nutshell, the Meet and Greet Session was awesome. I had the opportunity to pass Gavin some of my zines before he started his session and he is a really nice and down to earth person (I’ll elaborate on this later). I initially thought of doing an interview with him, but I decided that it wasn’t very wise to deprive the many fans there of his time. Also, lets face it, I’d be hard pressed to find a fresh perspective based on all the various interviews he’s done before.

 photo ZenPencils4.jpgGavin Aung Than, Man of the Hour, chatting with his audience.

Still, all is not lost even though I didn’t take notes or record anything, because here’s what I remember from that night off the top of my head:

- Gavin quit his job at a rather big Advertising Agency to kickstart Zen Pencils, a risk he was willing to take because he felt that the time was right. He had been gearing up for something like this for quite a while (drawing comics on the side), so it wasn’t a spontaneous decision.

- He had the support from his family and friends (Side note: surprise surprise, his wife is Singaporean!).

- His inspiration for making comics from quotes (and I’m paraphrasing here) stemmed from his initial annoyance with the tackiness of ‘Inspirational Powerpoint Presentations’ (you know, those with beautiful scenery and/or animals/people behaving intimately with quotes plastered all over them) and he thought ‘Hey, I can make something better and more tasteful out of those quotes!’. And he did.

- When asked why did he use some recurring characters in the quotes he has adapted thus far, he said that he doesn’t consciously make plans for story arcs for those characters as he’s drawing a certain strip. Instead, he summons those characters again when he stumbles upon new and fitting quotes that he considers suitable to continue telling that particular character’s story.

 photo ZenPencils5.jpgA view of the interior of Wheeler’s Yard from where I was sitting. The turnout was pretty solid as the place was packed by the time Gavin started!

Honestly, it’s hard to believe that Zen Pencils has only been around for slightly more than 2 years now, if the fanfare is anything to go by. I find it heartening to see people like Gavin working on comics which broach a different subject matter, as it draws a more diverse crowd to comics, and who knows where these readers might progress from here.

Remember that I said that Gavin is a really nice guy at the start? Here’s why: After the end of his talk and Q&A session, he stayed and signed anything and everything the fans at the venue wanted (from iPads to sketchbooks, including the free stickers and mini prints he brought and handed out generously), and even took the time to pose with each and every one of them for a photo. I’m not exaggerating, he really did. With every. Single. Person. In. Line. All this despite having already mingled with most of them even before the event started and still recovering from his travelling fatigue.

 photo ZenPencils2.jpgZen Pencils’s Buddha Quote poster for sale at 20 SGD a pop, and free postcards and stickers!

My first encounter with a Zen Pencils comic was on tumblr, and it was Alan Watts’s quote adaptation, ‘What If Money Was No Object?’. From there I was directed to the Zen Pencils website, and I’ve been a loyal follower ever since. I always find Zen Pencils’s comics a joy to read, especially on days when I am feeling down and need an encouraging word or two.

Naturally I chose to wait until the very end during the signing session to get a postcard and my patience was rewarded!

 photo ZenPencils6.jpgWise words indeed.


If, like myself, you crave a more tangible form of the Zen Pencils comics, fret not. There will be a Zen Pencils compilation published by Andrews McMeel, coming out sometime later in 2014, so keep your eyes peels for it at your local bookstores!

On a more Indiedoodle-related note, I intend to post an update at least once a month this year, so wish me luck.

Have a great year ahead, and an early Happy Chinese New Year to those of you who celebrate it!

P/S: Photos courtesy of the wonderful Joelyn Alexandra! Except, you know, the very last one.

A New Year, A New Direction

21 Aug

It hit me today that if I had left Indiedoodle with no new posts for another 2 more months, it would’ve been a whole year since I last updated.

I actually had a new year’s post drafted back in January, but I totally neglected this blog and never really completed that entry and now it’s too long overdue for it to have any relevance at all.

Such long breaks between entries should come as no surprise for those of you who are still following this blog (and for that I humbly thank you), but I’ve actually been wondering for the longest time what made me lose my motivation to update this blog and I think I’ve arrived at a conclusion.

Despite my professional life and my obstinance in making comics on the side while balancing my relationships with others, I realized that one of the main reasons why I don’t update as much as I’d like to is because of the standards I set for myself when I first started on this blog: That this blog would function as a sort of an online magazine, focused mainly on the comic happenings in and around Malaysia, and occasionally around the world.

Once that outline had been laid out, I decided that I had to keep the language ‘professional’, ergo being less personal and more upbeat, with fewer personal opinions thrown into the mix (comic reviews nonwithstanding).

However, now I realize that that definition has worked against me as almost everything I post on this blog is wholly based on what I know as an individual, things I have stumbled upon that have piqued my personal interest.

At first I thought of casting a wider net to include other things, like other events in Malaysia that are only loosely associated with comics as well as local comic publications that I would not otherwise buy except for review purposes, but then I realized that it would be a futile effort as I was effectively running this blog singlehandedly and the money I’d be spending on those books would be coming out of my own pockets.

So I decided to review things that I bought for myself, or books that I could borrow from the library, and cover events and people that I had access to. That worked for a spell, but then I realized that most of the books I was reviewing weren’t exactly made by Malaysians, or even from around the South-East Asian region (which is really ironic considering the tagline for this blog!).

I realised that the harder I tried to deliberately find ‘Malaysian-ness’ in the things I wanted to put up on this blog, the less likely I would be able to find it, much less enjoy the process of writing about it. I effectively ended up being unable to gush about things I loved, simply because I was trying too hard to stick to the boundaries I had set for myself and this blog.

As such, dear readers, I have decided to redefine the scope of this blog. From now on, I will be running Indiedoodle very much like a personal blog, with a focus on comics and comic-related things that I am able to experience and make time for, which may or may not have a Malaysian element to it (unless you count the fact that I’m Malaysian to begin with and everything has been filtered through Malaysian eyes!). As most of you should know by now, I flit between Malaysia and Singapore, so that’s where the events I’ll mostly be writing about will be taking place. I have some big ideas for Indiedoodle which I intend to work on, time permitting, as my pursuits in making comics are taking up most of my personal time (among other things). I don’t intend to use Indiedoodle as a platform to promote my own work, but in the interest of full disclosure I thought it was something that I should put out there first. If you are interested to find out about my work and such, you can just drop me a comment or tweet me, whichever works!

Thank you for reading this entry and sticking around for as long as you have. I will strive to maintain Indiedoodle better than I have before.

P/S: I will be using Twitter from now on for updates on local (meaning Malaysia and Singapore) events instead of making entries as a time saving measure (unless the event requires further elaboration),  as well as other interesting things that might not make it onto the blog, so please follow @indiedoodle if you’re interested in such updates!

Info Bites: 24 Hour Comics Day and Singapore Writers Festival 2012

17 Oct

Hello again everyone, it’s been a (long) while since I last updated this blog! I’ve been really (REALLY) busy for the past 8 months, travelling, drawing and whatnot! It’s been a crazy ride but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, though I do regret not making time to write about the comic-related things I’ve been up to. So this is me trying to make amends by kickstarting my writing engines again with an update.

24 Hour Comics Day

24 Hour Comics Day is just around the corner (like this weekend!) and will be happening on the 20th till 21st October worldwide. This year I’ve finally decided to take the plunge and commit to participating in the Singapore version of this event (since I’m still working here) but for those of you in Malaysia, there’ll be one taking place at the Balai Seni Visual Negara  organized by none other than Sarah Joan Mokhtar (about time too after the last one held back in 2007)!

 

The Poster for the Malaysian version of 24 Hour Comics Day

Both versions of the event require pre-registration so that spaces will be allocated for your participation, so please register quickly if you’re interested! I’ve not participated in one before but I am pretty sure that it’ll be a great experience as well as a good way to meet people who love comics!

The Poster for the Singaporean version of 24 Hour Comics Day

More information and details on how to register for 24 Hour Comics Day Malaysia can be found here on their Official Facebook Event Page while the 24 Hour Comics Day Singapore has its own pages for Rules (aka what to expect) and Registration.

Singapore Writers Festival

If you were like me a few days ago you’d probably be wondering what does the Singapore Writers Festival (SWF) that will be taking place between 2nd till 11th November 2012 have to do with comics, and you’d be delighted to know (like I was) that SWF has a lineup of comic panels/sessions in their itinerary!  Here are some of the comic-related highlights that I am itching to attend, if possible (click on the links for details of each event):

Brand New Books: Lingua Comica – Graphic Novels from Asia and Europe

Panel: Comic Artists Capture Singapore (Featuring Sonny Liew, Oh Yong Hwee, Miel)

Workshop: The Making of a Graphic Novel (Featuring Khalil, Creator of webcomic and graphic novel Zahra’s Paradise)

Meet the Author: Jimmy Liao

I’m definitely attending the Lingua Comica book launch session even though it’s on a weeknight I need to grab a copy of each of the books, especially the ones containing Hwei and Sarah Joan Mokhtar‘s comics when they attended Lingua Comica, a comics exchange program by the Asia-Europe Foundation! I’m still trying to make a tough decision on whether to attend the workshop or the meet-and-greet session with Jimmy Liao (a very famous Taiwanese Illustrator, in case you didn’t know. Go brush up on him on Wikipedia!), as the last three items on the list (Panel, Workshop, and Meet the Author) are taking place on the same day with overlapping time slots! The pains of being an avid comic lover!

Well, that’s all I have for now (that is, until Comic Fiesta rolls around in December)! Till next time, keep drawing!

P/S: There’s loads of drawing competitions currently bring co-organized by Comic Fiesta in conjunction with Comic Fiesta 2012, so you should probably take a look at the Comic Fiesta Forums if you want to join in! (Yes, I’m lazy to write about them now, haw!)

A Rare Occurence

29 Feb

The title of this entry would be a suitable label for the frequency of my posts of late, as well as the significance of today’s date, the 29th of February.

I originally intended to try to rush finish up part 2 of the Comic Fiesta Doujinshi Reviews that are long overdue (among other things in my life) just to make it for tonight, but then I didn’t want to compromise the length of the article for a self-imposed deadline so I figured that I should just type up something short and fresh that I’ve been meaning to share with you for a while now.

During the past month and a half (somewhere after the Chinese New Year holidays up till now), I’ve been travelling quite a lot to attend social obligations (willingly, mind you) and somehow I ended up travelling to Batam, an island located in Indonesia. It’s just a stone’s throw away from Singapore (an hour’s ferry ride) which made for a nice weekend getaway for my colleagues and I.

The gist of it was that I had a whale of a time thanks to my happy-go-lucky colleagues, but the highlight of the trip for me was my serendipitous discovery in a bookshop there.

 

The complete set of Indonesian Adolf volumes by Osamu Tezuka

This! I’ve longed to read Adolf since I discovered its existence after reading The Art of Osamu Tezuka but the English editions are quite difficult to find (they were published almost 16 years ago by Viz). What you see above are the Indonesian editions of Adolf, printed by Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia, one of their local publishing houses. It’s been translated into Bahasa Indonesia of course, but I’m still slowly but surely making my way through the books! After all, apart of the meaning of certain words, the sentence structure of Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Malaysia are almost similar, so I guess I’m somewhat learning a new language as I’m reading this!

Taking place before World War II, Adolf chronicles the story of three different individuals by the name of Adolf and how differently each of their lives play out. There’s loads of mysteries and rumours entwined into the story, which I am still trying to get my head around (hey, it’s in a somewhat foreign language to me!).

At the bookstore where I purchased these, I was quite surprised to discover the sheer amount of different comics that are being officially translated and published for the Indonesian market. From bandes dessinees (European comics) like Lucky Luke to the latest shoujo or shonen manga (they even had Nurarihyon No Mago) , they have them all! Their editions are fairly thin though, thanks to the brown and thin recycled paper (I think?) that they’re printed on, but don’t let that deter you from grabbing them should you ever chance upon them as the printing quality is extremely good – clear till the last crosshatch. This pretty much justifies the prices of the books though, as they roughly cost about RM15 per copy.

This made me reflect on the quality of comics that are currently being made and translated for the Malaysian market…and it pains me to say this but we still have a lot of catching up to do in terms of quality of content and the maturity of themes presented.

Well, that’s all I have to share with you on this special day that only comes about once every 4 years. I hope that it’s been an enjoyable read though I’m writing this off the cuff while I edit some of the images I’ll be using in part 2 of my Comic Fiesta Doujinshi Review. Trust me, it’s shaping up pretty well and it’ll be done real soon, I promise!

Till then, adieu!

P/S: Here’s to hoping that Vertical will re-release Adolf in English! *fingers crossed*

Info Bites: Spera Volume 1

13 Jan

Hey guys and girls, I know that I probably should be following up with the next part of the Comic Fiesta 2011 Loot Review, but I just couldn’t help but promote Spera Volume 1 after I remembered that it should’ve been out by now – and I was right!

 


Spera Volume 1 Cover (source)

Spera is an on-going story written, created and editted by Josh Tierney, who has enlisted various artists around the world to help make his visions come to life – in the form of graphic novels. As I’ve not read Spera before (yet!), I think it’s only fair that I use the ‘official’ excerpt for the book to give you an idea of the story:

Lono’s life as a princess consisted of sitting, reading, and dreaming—until the day Pira, princess of a neighboring kingdom, arrived with news of a waking nightmare! With the help of Pira’s best friend—a fire spirit in the form of a dog named Yonder—the princesses now find themselves in a race against evil. The goal: Spera, a magical realm of which the princesses had only ever heard the tallest tales. The prize: their very lives!

This book deserves your attention because it contains a comic by one of our very own up-and-coming Malaysian talents, Hwei! If you’ve not heard of her (which is impossible if you’ve been keeping an eye on this blog as I’ve mentioned her work before in my review of Hawk in my Comic Fiesta 2011 Loot), she won 2nd place in the inaugural Morning International Manga Competition (MIMC) back in 2007 with her entry, Vefurrin. And if that’s not enough to make you sit up and take notice, her work was recently (and I mean as recent as 36 hours ago) featured on Comic Book Resources. Plus, come on, it’s not everyday that you can say that somebody you know has their work published alongside Emily Carroll (yes, she’s in Spera too)!

I do intend to sit her down sometime soon and hopefully squeeze an interview out of her but until then, I shall leave you with an interview she had back in 2008 with The Star.

Do get the book if you can from a bookstore close to you, or just order it from Amazon.

It’s 2012!

9 Jan

Hello everyone!

It’s already a week and a few days into the year 2012 and I’ve yet to post anything yet! Inexcusable! Before that, please allow me to wish you a Happy New Year! Here’s to hoping for more quality posts on Indiedoodle (fingers crossed)!

Also, I would like to take this opportunity to direct your attention to the spanking new Indiedoodle header that was updated a few days before the new year. A great big thank you to Ashel for making this very pleasant surprise!

New post coming soon! Till then, doodle on!

Comic Fiesta 2011 Loot Review Part 1: Artbooks

27 Dec

On the 17th and 18th of December 2011, I made a trip back to Malaysia just for the most epic annual comic festival that I’ve been faithfully attending for the past 9 years: Comic Fiesta. It was held at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center Exhibition Halls 4 and 5, the largest event space it has ever taken up in its 10-year run. Despite some glitches with crowd control on Day 1 which I will not go into, I found myself enjoying this year’s event the most out of all my previous experiences, which I must credit the event organizers and the legendary booth owner tag (which basically allows its bearer easy access into and out of the event halls).

In any case, the purpose of this post is not to review the event itself (even though I would love to), but the marvellous swag that I managed to procure. Year after year of attending Comic Fiesta I realized that many people do not take the time to type up their thoughts on the stuff they’ve bought, which I am partly guilty of myself, so I decided that I would do it all to completion this year, so matter how tedious the task might seem.

In this first part, I will be reviewing the 3 artbooks I purchased: CHAM (the official Comic Fiesta Art Collection), A Splash of Imagination: The Art of Silver Fox, and Hawk.

 

From Left to Right: CHAM, A Splash of Imagination, Hawk

Loot Review Part 1 is a go!

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