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Hendry Prasetya lives his artistic life to the fullest

A. Kurniawan Ulung

The Jakarta Post

Yogyakarta  /  Mon, November 19, 2018  /  09:16 am
Hendry Prasetya lives his artistic life to the fullest

Hendry Prasetya (-/A. Kurniawan Ulung)

When he was a junior high school student, Hendry Prasetya was not good at mathematics, but excelled in the arts. Noticing his exceptional drawing skills, his classmates often asked him to draw superhero characters they liked to watch on TV every Sunday morning.

After the school exam ended, his teacher used to put a pile of students’ drawings in a cupboard in class, so that the pupils could check their scores and then take their work home.

However, he often did not find his drawings there. He did not understand why, but was afraid to ask.

“My teacher might have taken my drawings home because they were good,” the 37-year-old Hendry said, chuckling at his studio in Yogyakarta.

Hendry did not realize his potential until his classmates gave him praise, saying that one day he would make it big in the comic book industry.

Today, he is one of the country’s rising illustrators who has signed a deal with giant comic book publishers like BOOM! Studios, Marvel Comics and DC Comics from the United States.

Having been an illustrator for over 15 years, the Yogyakarta native not only pencils outlines of the characters and scenes, but also finalizes the images in ink.

In color: Hendry's illustration on BOOM! Studios’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comic book.In color: Hendry's illustration on BOOM! Studios’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comic book. (-/A. Kurniawan Ulung)

In 2012, he drew cartoons for DC Comics’ Green Lantern comic book series. He, however, is best known for his illustrations for the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comic book series, which BOOM! Studios revived in 2016.

BOOM! Studios’ Power Rangers book series is the first since Marvel Comics’ 1995 Power Rangers series, which was a comic adaptation of the Power Rangers TV Show in early 1990s.

“This was a project that I never imagined before because when I was a teenager, Power Rangers was my favorite TV show. When I told my wife, she also did not believe that,” the father of two recalled.

Written by Kyle Higgins, the new Power Rangers comic book series offers a new story, centering on Tommy Oliver, the Green Ranger, who escapes Rita Repulsa’s mind control and then joins the Power Rangers to combat the onslaught of evil attacks plaguing Angel Grove town.

“The writer [Higgins] focuses on Tommy, who was previously brainwashed by Rita Repulsa, and his transition from a bad ranger to good ranger,” Hendry said, adding that the BOOM! Studios production was not a comic adaptation of any Power Rangers TV show or film.

Since 2016, BOOM! Studios has released 34 issues of the Power Rangers comic book, with Hendry doing the first 19.

Being the first illustrator for BOOM! Studios’ Power Rangers comic book series made Hendry nervous.

“In DC Comics’s Green Lantern comic book, I was not the first illustrator. I just continued the work of previous illustrators,” he said.

Learning that the fan base of Power Rangers was massive and most of them were the readers of the old version of the Power Rangers series, he admitted that he was worried about their response over new things he made.

He said he was afraid that his work would not match their expectation.

“If this fails [which means hard to sell], [the failure] will be one of my wrongdoings because I have a role in it,” he said.

He was relieved that his fear did not materialize. According to his observation in social cataloging website Goodreads, readers’ reviews about his illustrations were positive in general.

Hendry is now working on an illustration for Titan Comics’s all-new Robotechcomic book series, which tells of hotshot Veritech pilot Roy Fokker and skilled rookie Rick Hunter involved in an intergalactic war on the Earth invaded by the insidious Zentraedi.

For the big fan of cartoonist Dwi Koendoro’s Sawung Kampret comic strips, drawing is not just a hobby, but a way of life. It is something that also motivated him to not complete his studies at the Indonesian Institute of Art (ISI) Yogyakarta.

When he was studying graphic design at the ISI, he moonlighted as a freelance illustrator for children’s books and magazines. After three years at the ISI, he decided to quit in 2001 to focus on his job because he found it difficult to work and study at the same time.

“I am not sad. A university degree is not important [to be an illustrator]. What matters is the skill,” he said.

“[Being a dropout] is not a good example for others to follow, but this is my choice.”

His older sister, who helped his parents pay tuition fees at the ISI, was disappointed, but later could understand his decision.

She wondered how he would survive because in the early 2000s, the Indonesian comic scene was dying, with many local comic titles failing to survive in the market because of the rise of translated foreign comic books.

“[At that time] we, comic book artists, had already realized that the prospects for our jobs were unclear, but it did not mean that we would leave the comic world. We did not understand why we still loved drawing. We were crazy,” he recalled, laughing.

Amid people’s pessimism about the future of his career, Hendry did not stop believing that one day, the golden era of the Indonesian comic scene would be restored, although he did not know when it would happen.

Today, his belief has started to become a reality, with the rising popularity of local comic books from re:ON Comics and Bumilangit company.

Hendry says that the door for local comic artists to have an international career is wide open, thanks to the internet. They, for example, can show their work on online art-sharing platform DeviantArt to attract the attention of foreign comic publishers — something that he also did in the past.

He said that a BOOM! Studios editor approached him by email after finding his illustrations for the Bima Satria Garuda comic series, the adaptation of a TV series of the same title, on DeviantArt.

“[For local comic artists], the way to enter the American or Japanese market is clear now, but it depends on whether we can compete with other foreign artists,” he said.

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