INDONESIA: Illustrator Fachreza Octavio Zain and RE:ON Comics

This article is especially for the comic and manga fans. We met one of the illustrators and comic conceptors of the Indonesian media agency RE:ON COMICS for an interview. His name is Fachreza Octavio Zain and he told us about the comic world in Indonesia, the concept of re:on and about his work as an illustrator.

The name “re:on” means relaunch, get on line again, to be reactivated, to be on and not off. Indonesia had once some Golden Times of comics, but this went quiet and it´s about getting the comic scene rolling again. This creative and passionate group of artists built up a whole network by connecting a lot of other writers and comic groups who are doing great comic art throughout the country. They created re:on comics and later Fachreza became as well a part of it. The published sortment is representing a huge variety of Indonesian comic artists, writers and editors, single ones and collectives. You can get from each one the individual artworks, but re:on publishes continuously some kind of anthologies with mixes of the best collections. If you want to get more impressions or just want to order heaps of comic books, check out their website. The page is a gate to phantasy wonderland !

If you think about mangas and animes you alwas have Japan in mind. But the other countries around are doing as well their fabulous artwork in comic production and so does Indonesia. Altogether the creative stories are awesome, the writing and storytelling depending on each country is fantastic. And that´s one of the points. It´s all different, and Indonesia has its own special style. re:on is trying to make a mix of everything what Indonesian culture of today and of the past can offer. The modern times, maybe the future, ideas with history and the legends from the past. All this combined in wonderful comic stories. And they are doing great with building up a network and by reanimating the scene. Still it´s a subculture like everywhere.

They are combining the writers and creatives from the country and motivating them, giving them support, organizing them and helping them with teamwork. At the same time re:on leaves the space to work and paint and draw or whatever how the artist wants. Like Fachreza said: “As long as the finished result for the comic is just good, it doesn´t matter. “ Some paint with a pen, some with brush, some on the computer. Together they are re:on.

Listen to the podcast with Fachreza Octavio Zain below, the conversation is as well written down in the following part. His start was with Koloni comics, his passion came up in early childhood. It´s just perfect if you are able to combine your passion with your job and making your wage with it.   It means you love your work.

Tell me a little bit about re:on comics and your work there.

Yes. So re:on comics was estsablished in 2013. Our main product is a compilation of local comic books compiled in one magazine that releases each six weeks. We have up until now around 45 volumes of magazines and more than 50 titles on our stash.

That means you collect the latest editions of a lot of different comic writers and put them in a combined work.

Exactly. We compile it into an anthology and when the readers for the titles decide that one or two titles are popular for them, we make the title into an entire volume. Just one with this title. As you can see here on our wall, we have many titles which are already released.

What is your job in the company? Do you paint and write yourself?

Actually I am an illustrator. But I am also a licensing manager for re:on comics. First I am doing the illustration for the series and for some comics. But I am also a rights manager and I am selling our titles to other countries as well.

Can you show me something what you have illustrated?

Yes, sure. Here we have “Shivers”. Do you know what it means? Shivers. It´s like when you feel another presence around you and you feel like somebody or something is watching you from behind. This is also an anthology of Mistery Comic. Each one of them has an entire different title especially in horror themes. And I draw the cover and I also draw one of the chapters inside of the volume. This here is my drawing.

 So there are different writers and illustrators. Mistery Comic, is it a single person or a group?

It´s a group of actually different writers that you can see on the back. There is just one writer, here as well, here is a group or a kind of circle who draws together. This is also done by two persons, and as well this here is one person. For me and my job it´s a single person work.

They continue a story or keep on writing on a series?

No, it´s always a one shot story.  If you see this here, the volume three, it´s not entirely true, because every volume is not connected to each other. They are single stories.

How does it work? There is a writer who writes the story and you paint to the story or illustrate the pictures? How do you get the story? Do you just read it and think about how to paint it?

Yes, I draw the rough sketches and then I show it to my editor. And they say, this should be done like this, or this should be done like that. Then after getting the feedback from them, I start to do the final work.

So it´s like a longer process.

In the editorial process the writer and the editor also have some insight on my sketches. Like the writer can tell me that the protagonist looks dumb or looks cool. And the editor can tell me like the pace should be faster or maybe the tone or the atmosphere on the comic should be darker or something like that. And then I do the final sketch based on that what they told me to do.

These are all black and white. Are your other artworks as well black and white or do you illustrate also in color?

Most of our works are black and white illustration. But recently in Asia, especially in Southeast Asia, we have a trend to do colored ones. They are to scroll down and are digitally. You read it by just scrolling down. It´s called the webtoon format. So we try to translate this black and white illustration into the full colored one so we can sell it to the other countries as well.

Do you do your illustration meanwhile on the computer or do you still draw oldschool? How does it work?

It depends who illustrated it. I am doing all of this here digitally. I am great on computer. But we have another illustrator who prefers doing it manually, like using ink and a pen. Yeah, oldschool. It´s also effective. If he feels better, if he is better in drawing that way, we cannot tell them what to do. As long as the final result looks good, we don´t have a problem with it. As long as the quality commits our standards or maybe above them, anything is fine for us.

How do you like the book fair so far?

I think with the book fair you can have a lot of exposure, because many countries and many people around the world didn´t really know that Indonesia has comic books like this. They always see America or Europe or Japan especially. But accordingly we have also our own comic books. We have our local writers and our local stories as well. As you can see, we have a lot of manga styled, as well we have more American style or more Europe style that we think that fits the themes perfectly. I think people from all over the world came to realize that we have this kind of comics and some of them already are buying our titles.

Which are famous comics from Indonesia?

Indonesia has lots and lots of comic books. But on our side we have this great legend Ramayana. It adapts the Ramayana folklore that originally is from India. But Indonesia has its own version about it and we translated it into a more contemporary and more modern like of art and stories which we can still use to educate about the folklore, but in a more familiar and today modern get in touch way.

This here is about fighting and magic.

Yes, but as you can see, it looks more like a modern type of comic book. The title has gone published to South Korea and even in Japanese, but there it´s on ebooks. This is more for boys, we have also something for girls. It´s called Me vs Big Slacker Baby and its illustrated by one of the most profound female artist and female illustrator in Indonesia right now. It´s so popular among girls, there is now as well an live adaptation on Indonesian television.

So this here is a bit more thriller and action, here you have more science fiction and futuristic themes, and this Shivers goes even more into horror.

We have a lot different titles all over the genres. We have action, we have romantic comedy, we have horror, we have thriller. Even we have a slice about a live of a cat.

When did you start illustrate comics?

I started drawing as far as I can remember. I think it´s from childhood on. When I graduated from high school I went on studying Visual Communication Design and I graduated. Then I started making comics with a friend and we started to do things for the local publishing. It was quite a hit. And then re:on comics came to me and asked me to be one of their illustrators.

Do you like it? It´s like you could make your hobby and your passion to a job.

Yes, I really like it. It´s kind of a pleasure for me that my hobby eventually became my work as well. So I can get money and I can get passion and some feeling of satisfaction while drawing. So I can do my work fullheartly. Indonesian comics are eventually now embracing, it´s uprising. Because people are more aware that we have also our own comic books. That is really reinsuring because people don´t just look to the other sources but they also started looking to us and started reading our books. Eventually we have already a lot of big fans around the world and on Facebook or Instagram. Even if it is not a big impact, but we can create an environment where the fans can interact with each other, with their friends and with Indonesian comic book readers.

Have you been here on the Frankfurt Book Fair last year as well?

This is the fifth year of re:on comics being here and the participation of the Frankfurt Book Fair. But for me personally it´s the first time.  Eventually I hope we can reach more global market. We have already reached global market, but we want to reach out for more people that can read our comics and know our culture through comics and if we can promote our country from our roots, that would be better.

Meanwhile there are a lot of countries which are famous about comics, there is Korea, of course Japan and every country has its own and a bit different style. Comics are always a face of the culture as well, you can learn a lot via comics.

Yes, the art has its distinctive in many countries. I think the art is just a medium to the reader to better understand what is going on in the comic. But eventually the comic is all about the story telling. The comic is good if the story is good. It´s not all about the graphic. It is important, but I think what we have been doing is for our story, for our culture to be told by comics and to made it physical to people around the world. I think personally it´s the essence of the comic, because the story telling shows the people from different countries and cultures our world. Now they can say, oh nice, this is Indonesian culture and style. They can understand easier through the drawing and the style. They are familiar with manga or something like that, so we are similar.

The name of the media agency is re:on comics? What does it mean?

Re:On means to make the spirits on again. Like an engine that needs to be turned on. Because Indonesia had once a golden age of comics, but for some time the sphere is not that big. But then around 2000 the urge for reading Indonesian comics and making Indonesian comics is reignited and re:on is one of the actors to encourage the urge of reading, the urge of making comics in Indonesia and the urge to bring Indonesian culture through comics so people can learn from our culture so far. We make it back in onto the line. It means to turn the spirit back on.

The series “Shivers” is that popular and has as well it´s own real life adaption series.