Lunchtime is over and you’re back in your cubicle, trying to get your brain to work again. The only problem is you couldn’t.
You need a quick fix, a brief buffoonery. You need some webcomics.
The situation above is a fine example of what we go through every day. Some of us find our seventh heaven by watching cat videos, some read short stories, and some scroll through a six-strip online comic from the likes of They Can Talk and Gemma Correll.
The First Page
Though not exactly a fresh approach today, webcomics started off in the 90s as a rebound platform for artists not quite good enough to make the publishing cut. Publisher rejections forced the rise of these underdogs, giving way to free-form internet comic strips we have come to love today.
That aside, what about the ones we have in our own backyard?
In this day and age, the situation is sadly the same. Veteran comic artist, Remy “Eisu” Mokhtar said that we have talents, but sadly no venues to showcase these talents. With so few publishers willing to bankroll, the tables are turned with the emergence of webcomics, existing without the profit-based goal to start with.
Their only aim? Creative freedom of expression – making a statement in the most visually-pleasing, thought-provoking way possible with barely any cost at all.
Popular webcomics like Bro, Don’t Like That La and Hxsm are testaments to this situation. Both started their webcomics from scratch, growing a fanbase as they went along before venturing into profitable territories.
Three years after launching Bro, Don’t Like That La, founder and creator Ernest Ng sold over 100,000 copies of his first book – a compilation of his best, most-shared strips. Apart from self-publishing, diversification of products is one of the ways to lubricate this hobby-turned-passion. Famous artists like Alan Quah for example also designed DC and Marvel characters for Selangor Pewter. Alan works for DC Comics.
The Young Bloods
But what about up-and-coming talents short of a few years of exposure? How will they achieve their big break like renowned artists Datuk Lat and Zunar made a name for themselves in both ends of the spectrum?
We spoke to rising webcomic artist who goes by the pseudonym, Ganninia, on what it takes to be an online comic artist and what he gets from making his webcomic – Nothingwejun.
TFF: Hello, do you mind sharing a little about who you are?
Hi, my name is Ganninia and I’m originally from the green valleys of Taman Negara. That’s Pahang to you. I went to SMK Gangster Batu 8, Puchong before I continued my creative study at PJ College of Art and Design.
TFF: Okay mysterious man, can you give us the lowdown on your creation and brand?
TFF: The main character looks like a timid, self-absorbed Asian boy always in deep thought. Why did you create Nothingwejun and what’s the story behind it?
Well, Nothingwejun is not deep in a sense, but I’d like to think of it as thought-provoking. It occasionally touches your daily struggles and questions your behaviour from a different perspective. But it’s mostly about the funny stuff like memes, jokes, and trending materials because to me, this rat race society is too serious. I want them to laugh a little.
Wait, did you just assume he’s Asian?
TFF: Here comes another standard script: What inspired you in making Nothingwejun?
Not you obviously.
To be honest, at first, it came out of the blue. It wasn’t really planned. I just wanted to draw things I find funny. This was during my college days but since I barely got any recognition (or money) out of it, it was barely there.
The working life, however, made me realise that I needed to crank that comic engine again. Getting stuck in the same routine, I felt that I needed something to look forward to. It was hard adjusting myself to having the only free time after 7 pm so I told myself that I gotta do something I love before I go for good in that wooden box, burnt to ashes without any proud achievements.
So that’s Nothingwejun. There wasn’t any particular person or situation that inspired me. It’s just something that I need to do before my time is up and Thanos snaps his fingers.
TFF: Was it worth it?
TFF: Your webcomic. Was it worth the trouble to make those? Is there monetary return in what you do? Would it justify a career change, perhaps?
Well, you’re interviewing me. I guess it was worth it.
Of course, I don’t really make that much money to buy me a yacht (just yet) but I’m being very honest here: it’s not about the money.
I made Nothingwejun for fun and the occasional profit that comes with it is just icing on the cake. But I understand that whatever we do today, it has to have a return somehow. So for me, it’s the knowledge that my comic strip did its part in making someone’s day a little bit better and that it inspired someone out there to achieve their dream.
I’m still trying to balance my career and this hobby, weighing the prospects before I decide my next career move. Can’t exactly quit my job, I have bills to pay.
TFF: Did you say occasional profit?
Yes, I did.
Based on the research I did on my fanbase and studying how the industry works, I decided to produce my own line of merchandise. After a couple of years running a non-profit brand, last year I decided to produce something to answer the demands of my fans, something I can sell and justify the time spent to do this, leading to Nothingwejun on Pinkoi where you can get all my merchandise from bags to accessories to stationeries. I also now go on-ground at some arts and creative fest for a more personalised approach.
TFF: What would you consider a success for your work?
I would say getting enough recognition to make this brand a staple diet in society, be it an award, coverage, or even earning considerably from this. Personally, I feel like success does come with shortcomings though. It’s like reaching the end of your journey. Once you’re up top, there’s little push to go further. I want to stay in this journey, with my fans, knowing that I did something for someone out there until the day I permanently lie in that wooden box.
TFF: You have a penchant for that wooden box, don’t you?
Okay, thank you, bye.
Whoever Said It’s Dying?
Sure, comic sales have been dropping this decade, making it a tough career choice where even big guns like Marvel Comics have reported a revenue drop to 16% from 2016 to 2018 but what these Malaysian comic and creativepreneurs taught us is that with passion comes possibilities.
Nothingwejun took a good few years to materialise, to reach a fanbase the internet folks still call mediocre. But the journey is there.
Malaysians like Ganninia did not start at the peak of success. Some are still far from it but what they do share is the same high-spirited predetermination to do what they love while setting profit aside for a second. They chased their dreams while being real. So what’s stopping you to start?