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March 5, 2014

"Borneo Boys" a Year Later"

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – A year ago (February 6, 2013) I posted a column about writing and producing a comic book. I said the saga would be continued. A year later, here is the continuation.


To recap, I had decided to write a comic book based on the history of Sarawak, the place where I live now. There are two boys who go on adventures, time travelling to the past " Borneo Boys" will change to "Borneo Boys and a girl" during the third episode. I could introduce two characters but adding a third in the opening adventures was just too much.


I drew each panel and added the dialog. The problem was – I cannot draw. I pencilled stick figures and I was horrible at that. I needed to find an artist to turn my ideas into panels. The other problem was I knew nothing about writing a comic book.


The first  story is based on the great Kuching (the city where I live) fire and the resultant Chinese Temple that was constructed after the boy god stood on the roof tops, waved a flag and extinguished the blaze. The next one will be about fighting the pirates, while the third will cover how the local peoples tried to battle the British.


The second guy I engaged to draw the comic strip said, after a month, that he could not do it. I wasn't exactly sure why, but he returned all of the materials and the money. I had paid in advance. I thanked him and allowed him to keep part of the advance for his efforts.


The next person I hired was an engineer who had quit his job and elected to go out on his own with cartoons. He purchased the software to produce the comic book. I haven't heard from him since.


I am the type of person who does not give up easily. I went to the local art community college, where I should have gone in the first place, and met with instructors about the project. They informed how to publish a comic book.


The first thing I must do is write a script. This is a description of each panel and the dialog. Then they draw a story board which is a sketch of my ideas. I approve or add changes to the mock up.


The next step is to have each panel is drawn in ink by the drawer. (I guess that's what they call her). A person who teaches architecture then adds in the buildings and other background scenes. I absolutely insist that the historical buildings are as accurate possible.


This black and white rendition is followed by the person who, using the computer, adds the color. I did not know it takes three different people to produce one panel. The final product has been delivered to me.


I now have a copy of the first comic book and it is glorious. The drawings are rich and sharp, the colours bright and alive while the dialog is snappy and "with it." I am very proud of the results.


Now, what to do with it. The newspaper that had promised to pay for and publish the book declined at the very last minute. The oil company that said they would pay for production as an educational tool also backed out. Yes, I should have gotten everything in writing.


I have other buyers in the works and, hopefully, they will pan out. An outfit in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia's capital) is very interested in producing a cartoon television series for the local market. And, yes, I will get everything in writing next time.


I will be travelling to Montana in mid May and will be able to mail copies of the comic book to people in the states. I will let you know the cost and you can support my work with the orangutans here in Borneo.


...Life is good. . . . .


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