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Webcomics spread joy, laughter on Instagram

A. Kurniawan Ulung

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Sat, December 28, 2019  /  03:02 pm
Webcomics spread joy, laughter on Instagram

Going digital: Indonesian comic creators have turned to social media, mostly Instagram, to showcase their creativity and reach audiences. (Courtesy of Instagram/komik ga jelas/tahilalats.com)

Aspiring Indonesian webcomic artists take pleasure in making their followers smile with the hilarious, awkward and sometimes dry jokes they post on Instagram.

Tahilalats is one of the most followed Instagram comics in the country. Since its beginnings in 2014, the comic has touched on just about everything – from love, friendships and family to working life – with story lines that trigger laughter, and at times confusion, with their absurd plot twists.

The artist behind Tahilalats, Nurfadli Mursyid, who named his work after a mole near his lip, said he simply aimed to entertain.

“We just want to express the crazy things we have in mind,” said the self-taught cartoonist from Makassar, South Sulawesi.  

Nurfadli MursyidNurfadli Mursyid (A. Kurniawan Ulung/-)

He said he had dreamed of becoming a cartoonist since elementary school after seeing a comic strip in Fajar, a local newspaper in Makassar.

Tahilalats, which he initially created to entertain his circle of friends, has garnered more than 3.6 million followers on Instagram.

He said he was not sure why his work had become so popular but assumed it was because people could relate to the real-life situations he made fun of in his stories and because people could easily share the comics with their friends.

However, Nurfadli has also received some negative feedback. He said it bothered him at first but not anymore, as he was aware it was something he could not avoid.

The criticism, he said, never discouraged him, adding that he made sure to steer clear of politics, religion and ethnicity.

Overall, however, the response has been positive. Sony Pictures Indonesia even approached him for a collaboration to help promote Jumanji: The Next Level, which is currently in theaters.

The collaboration was on display at the recent Indonesia Comic-Con festival in Jakarta, with the Tahilalats booth designed to resemble a Jumanji film set. “We also made Instagram feed ads about the movie for the promotion,” he said. 

Like Tahilalats, Komik Ga Jelas (KGJ) is another Instagram comic that promotes positive values, despite its humor being described by some as receh (shallow) and ga jelas (absurd).   

Jasmine Surkatty Jasmine Surkatty (A. Kurniawan Ulung/-)

Cartoonist Jasmine Surkatty, KGJ’s creator, explained that promoting positive values does not mean her feed preaches morality but that it avoids inciting hatred or hostility toward individuals and groups.

She also ensures her comics are free of harsh words and pornographic and violent content.  

“Our target readers are teenagers, but I want to ensure my comics are also safe for children to read,” said the 26-year-old SpongeBob SquarePants fans.

With Budi as its main character, KGJ covers all manner of topics to brighten up its followers’ days, such as poking fun at riddles and questions that many can relate to, like “kapan kawin?” (when will you get married?) – a common but irritating question for singletons.   

She recalled that friends on her campus at Binus International School found her comics to be “ga jelas”. Rather than take offence, she found the word catchy and used it as the name for her comics.

“The meaning of ‘ga jelas’ is usually negative in people’s minds. I wanted to shift this perception through my comics. Therefore, I fill my comics with positive content,” Jasmine said. 

KGJ has gained nearly 63,000 Instagram followers since being launched in 2014.

On the right side: Budi, the main character of the webcomic 'Komik Ga Jelas', humorously answers a test question about the location where the country’s proclamation text was signed.On the right side: Budi, the main character of the webcomic 'Komik Ga Jelas', humorously answers a test question about the location where the country’s proclamation text was signed. (Courtesy of Instagram/komik ga jelas)

Earlier this year, KGJ was also featured at the Hong Kong International Licensing Show and was named by the Creative Economy Agency (Bekraf) as one of the top five examples of Indonesian intellectual property (IP) the government believed was ready to go international.

She has also been approached for collaborations, including from game developer Gambir Studio, which made game Tebak Gambar Gak Jelas, and headphone developer Pioneer, which recently launched a Ga Jelas edition of its S3 wireless headphones. 

“Hopefully, a short animation of Komik Ga Jelas will be released next year on YouTube and IGTV,” said Jasmine, who received a dinner invitation from President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in 2016 for making positive social media content.

For comic book fan Hikmat Darmawan, Tahilalats and KGJ are some of the best webcomics in Indonesia’s comic industry.

“At various events, such as the London Book Fair, I often mention Tahilalats as an example of successful IP content in Indonesia’s comic industry,” he said. “Tahilalats is one of the smartest webcomics in Indonesia.” 

Hikmat said he told audiences at such events that the future of Indonesia’s comic industry lay in webcomics like Tahilalats, not in superhero comics.  

He said superheroes had never been a dominant force on the Indonesian comic scene, despite once being very popular.  

He praised webcomics like Tahilalats and KGJ for using social media to independently build a fan base, adding that the aesthetic quality of Indonesian webcomics was not in question, but that the challenge moving forward was developing content that engaged international audiences. (ste)

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