Coming off the wheels of our successful and well-regarded six-part special series on comics in Thailand comes another series on comic books from Malaysia. Malaysia is the Southern neighbour of Thailand but unlike its Buddhist neighbour, it is Muslim. It’s population is much smaller than Thailand, just above 29 millions. Malaysia is a recent country formed from various former British territories. Malaysia has a large Chinese population which counts for about 23% of its population. Native Malay consists of about 50% of the population. People of Indian, Indonesian decent and local tribes round up the numbers. Malaysia is an industrializing country with an economy based on exports and oil and gas.
Source: CIA Fact-Book
Malaysia has been influenced by many different peoples. It is of course a Commonwealth nation due to its British past. Japan occupied the nation during the Second World War. Chinese merchants have lived in large cities and practice commerce there for years. Malay uses Latin scripts unlike other Asian countries. That means that comic books are read from left to right. The comic book scene in Malaysia is beefy and well established. Although, just like Thailand, Japanese and Chinese imports dominate the comics industry, a home grown activity exists with many popular Malaysian cartoonists. Many of these creators export their work to nearby Singapore, which was briefly a part of Malaysia in the 1960s. One important thing is that there is a home-grown Chinese-language comic book industry in Malaysia that co-exists with the dominant Malay culture. It’s like how in Canada, there are two concurrent comic book industries, one for French Canadians and one for English Canadians. This is fascinating.
Of course, Malaysia has created respected comic book literature celebrated throughout the world. The first graphic novel we will explore in this series is the perennial Malaysian classic The Kampung Boy by the ethnic Malay cartoonist known as Lat (Datuk Mohammad Nor Khalid). It is an autobiographical comic book originally published in 1979 that has been reprinted several times and is available in several languages such as English. My research for this series on Malaysian comics has been more extensive and I did receive help from bookstores clerks in Malaysia. I hope you; our fellow Comic Book Bin reader will enjoy this series as much I enjoyed working on it.