Co-founders of AD Comics Khai Anwar and Adi Farhan Othman holding copies of the newly published Tebuanman at Fanboys Infinite on 18/12/19. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Social media platforms across the sultanate were buzzing with excitement recently as an image of Brunei’s first comic book superhero Tebuanman was the talk of the town.

Boasting an impressive showing, with 70 percent of the comic books’ first batch being sold in the four days since its launch, publisher AD Comics is already looking beyond the horizon, heartened by overwhelming support from the local comic book community.

As they strive to push the hornet-like crusader’s second issue, the comic book publisher is simultaneously itching to find other creatives across the country to include them in their budding pantheon of local talent.

Building a platform for the voiceless

Founded by Fanboys Infinite Co-Founder Khai Anwar and graphic narrative artist Adi Farhan, AD Comics was born out of the duos’ passion for comic books and the desire to give a voice to local aspiring comic book artists and writers that lacked platforms to express their art. 

Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

“There are so many artists out there that are interested in telling stories, but most of them are unsure of where to bring their work because there are just not a lot of (comic book publishers) available,” said Khai in an interview with The Bruneian. 

When the idea for Tebuanman was conceived, Khai and Adi saw slim chances of it coming to fruition considering the current publishing ecosystem in Brunei, which did not put stock in comic book narratives.

They feared that their idea would not be taken seriously by existing publishers: “We were just two dudes with a proposal and a script; no one was going to listen to us”. 

“The drive to establish AD Comics actually came from wanting to find the best home for our product (Tebuanman) and for us to make sure this happens, we had to construct that element ourselves,” he added. 

However, having no prior experience in creating and publishing a comic book, even for major comic book enthusiasts like Khai and Adi, Tebuanman proved to be a daunting task, one that required a bit of help. 

Tebuanman; it takes a village

“Tebuanman actually debuted during the Comic Art Exhibition held at the Royal Wharf in April, but there was no story behind him, not even a name, he was a character without origins” said Adi. 

Co-founders of AD Comics Khai Anwar and Adi Farhan Othman discussing Tebuanman at Fanboys Infinite on 18/12/19. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Inspired by the Bruneian football team ‘Tebuan’ that won the Malaysian Premier League in 1999, Tebuanman came to existence to fill the void in Bruneian comic book superheroes especially when the character received a great response from the public. 

“A month later I approached Khai. Initially we played around with publishing a colouring book featuring original characters that I have created, but that led us to think about doing a project that we both loved; comic books,” he added. 

Even with the combination of Khai’s narrative and story with Adi’s art and illustrations, the task of publishing was too big for a two-man team, one that required the skills of other artists; namely an inker, a colourist and a letterer.

“Around October we went to meet Guerilla Architects, and I have to say, they were a big help, not only did they match us with the right colourists, inkers and letterers, they helped us throughout the process of acquiring the right approvals from the right agencies,” said Khai. 

“Everything after that was a breeze,” he added. 

Graphic novels for sale at Fanboys Infinite on 18/12/19. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

With Progresif Cellular providing help by managing Tebuanman’s launch event last month, all the overwhelming support came to be an important factor that helped push Tebuanman’s first issue out into the hands of comic book readers nationwide. 

“It was very much a community effort,” he continued. 

Dawn of a new age 

A number of artists and comic book retailers from Southeast Asia has shown keen interest to carry Tebuanman on their shelves, according to Khai, however with the second issue still in progress, AD Comics intends to focus on the domestic market before expanding outside. 

For Adi, it’s important for AD Comics to have a stronger foothold in the Brunei market, intending to teach the local community on the love of comics and fandom, as they try to foster a stronger ecosystem for comic books and comic book publishing in the sultanate. 

A customer making a purchase at Fanboys Infinite on 18/12/19. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

“(Tebuanman) is only one product, but our ultimate goal is to keep growing, to publish more stories, and not just about superheroes. With a good story and good art, comics can be about anything,” said Khai.

As Adi works on Tebuanman’s second issue which is set for February, Khai is revving up to find the next book to be published by AD Comics, calling for aspiring artists and writers to engage with them, as they attempt to usher in a new age for comic book creators in Brunei. 

This article was first published on January 04, 2020 in our Weekly E-Paper issue 70

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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