Choosy Beggar Books

Vbi Djengotten and Indonesian Comics

Posted in International Comics by mvblair on October 2, 2012

Scene from Djenggotten’s “33 Pesan Nabi”

Vbi Djenggotten is an Indonesian writer who is one of his country’s few remaining comic professionals. In his most recent comic, “33 Pesan Nabi,” which is being serialized, he explains concepts of Islam. It’s hard not to cheer for such an enthusiastic writer who not loves the medium of comics, but also loves what he is writing about. Unfortunately, the comics are not available in English.

Below is an excerpt of an article from the BBC:

Indonesian Cartoonists Keep Up with Competition, by Karishma Vaswani, BBC News, September 27, 2012

Surjorimba Suroto sighs as he recalls the good old days of Indonesian comics.

Wistfully leafing through pages at his local comic store, he explains that there was a golden era from the 1960s to the 1980s when many titles were household names.

Rather than superheroes, they focused on Indonesian life and folk tales.

However, today local comic sales have taken a beating. Sadly, Mr Suroto says, they are just not cool any more.

Younger readers now seem to prefer the work of foreign firms such as US-based Marvel and DC Comics, or styles and characters such as Japan’s Manga and Naruto.

“These days a young boy has to have a Superman or Naruto comic magazine on his shelf, otherwise no-one will want to be his friend,” Mr Suroto says.

But despite this bleak prognosis, over the past five years, fresh blood has been injected into Indonesia’s comic culture.

Keen to create their own, more home-grown, voice and images, a number of young Indonesians are finding innovative ways to draw in an audience.

And they are being noticed…

One of the featured artists [at an exhibition] is 30-year-old Veby Surya Wibawa, more popularly known as Vbi Djenggotten…

The author of works including Married With Brondong (Married to a Younger Man) and Aku ber-Facebook Maka Aku Ada (I Facebook, Therefore I Am), he has connected with his Indonesian audiences by talking to them about their religion.

His most recent comics series, 33 Pesan Nabi (33 Messages from the Prophet), tries to explain the ancient teachings of the Prophet Muhammad to his followers in a modern-day context.

Vbi is one of few comic artists in Indonesia to have tried this approach.

The comic book is now on Indonesia’s best-seller list – a testimony to its popularity among young people. It will also be published in Malaysia soon.

“I wanted to show people that Islam isn’t a religion of bombs and violence,” Vbi said, at his studio in the city of Malang in East Java province.

“That’s all anyone sees these days. I hope through my art people will see a different face of Islam.”

Another article from The Jakarta Post discusses Djenggotten’s biography in more detail:

Vbi Djenggotten: Universality of Comic Books, by Niken Prathivi, The Jakarta Post, September 16, 2012

…A conservative Muslim, [Vbi Djenggotten] sports a long beard and wears celana ngatung (loose trousers with legs cut at ankle-level) that are commonly worn by traditional Muslims in Indonesia.

But ankle-length pants are as far as he goes with his religion. On the paper, he is a prolific artist that can find humor from subjects ranging from the hadith (the words and deeds of Prophet Muhammad) to Facebook…

Among his concerns is how Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim-majority population in the world, is often portrayed as a nation of “hard-liners”.

“Through these comic books, I portray a different kind of Muslim who actually has great universal values that every one shares.”

He also has produced other solo comic books titled Aku ber-Facebook Maka Aku Ada (I Facebook, Therefore I am) and Mangan Ga Mangan Penting Eksis! (Eating or Not, Stay in the Spotlight) in 2009; as well as a collaborative comic book with his wife, illustrator Mira Rahman, titled Married With Brondong (Married to a Younger Man) — which was reprinted under the title Bo & Jo in 2010...

As a young boy, Veby was an avid fan of several local and international comic books, including Javanese graphic novels by the late Indonesian comic maestro RA Kosasih as well as Belgian’s Smurf by Peyo and the Japanese manga 20th Century Boys by Urusawa Naoki…

…Veby says meeting Mira, the love of his life, was among his most important journeys. Like a match made in heaven, he and Mira, an architecture undergraduate from University of Indonesia and fellow comic aficionado, met on the Internet in May 2007...

“We decided to meet face-to-face for comic reason. In September, I proposed to her and by the end of 2007 we got married,” says the father of a four-year-old.

…After facing challenges when distributing Aku ber-Facebook Maka Aku Ada and Married With Brondong independently, Veby decided to directly offer his solo comic books to a publisher…

“I do comic books because I simply want to share all the good things in life,” Veby says.

On Sept. 9, he published his latest work called 101% Cinta Indonesia (101% Love Indonesia) — that talks about everything about the country, including corruption.

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