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April 22, 2015

History Comic Book Style

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – It's finally finished. After three years of hard work, frustration and working with a hundred people, the comic book will be launched on May 2.

It all began when I had the bright idea to compose a comic book on the history of our area. The government had wanted a bright new idea to communicate the past doings and to teach English. Why not a comic book, I thought.

I came up with two main characters and the story line. The comic tells of the adventures of Dzul and Hong Huat. Dzul (named after my son) comes to Kuching (much like people coming from the Western to the Eastern Shore of Maryland) and meets Hong Huat, a studious Chinese student. They are transported back into history via a magical jar where the adventures begin. The first issue would be about the boy who saved Kuching from the great fire.

I sat down and wrote the dialogue; and, using stick figures because that is the extent of my artistic ability, planned out a 24 page book. This work done, I search for an artist to convert my poorly drawn panels into a real live cartoon.

The first guy we hired was Nikki, the boardwalk artist who drew the pictures in my first book. He tried, but he could not get the boys down. He sketched guys in their 20s and not the 11-13 age group I was looking for. This took about a year, what with us going to the states and Nikki disappearing for Ramadan and other festive holidays.

The next guy was an artist who tried to draw the characters but could not. He returned after about two weeks on his motor bike and said as much. I gave him a copy of "Borneo Tom" and we left it at that.

My third attempt was a person who had all of the software to draw and color the cartoons. Perfect! We met about three times and that's the last I have seen of him. I can remember to this day him driving off in his car all set to work. Of course, I thought he was working on the project but after three months I called him and received a disconnected notice.

I then went to the local art school, where I should have gone in the first place but I was trying to give business to local artists. We ended up, after making the head guy sit in front of a middle school to get the characters right, with three outstanding people.

Why three? Well, one draws the figures, one has to color the panels and the other one adds the background and blurbs. I didn't know it took three to make a comic book. I thought one could do it all, but nooooo.

We are also going to add a map of places to visit in Kuching, plus a menu translating the local meals from Malay into English. This will the tourist edition. For the locals, I have written a history of the area in simple English for the students and probably their families. This will encourage them to read and to discuss their history, which has never been done before. A formal piece is partially written with footnotes and bibliography, suitable for a scholastic journal which I will try to have published.

The launching will be at a shopping center. We need to find a minister of something to attract the news media. We also need to have posters printed and an Internet presence. We have a bookstore which will handle the sales. They have three stores in Kuching and are opening in Bintulu and Miri very soon. Both are oil rich area where I hope we can sell a lot of copies. I will let you know how the opening goes.

...Life is good. . . . .


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