Indonesia’s #1 Comic Illustrator

Posted on February 18th, 2010 at 9:21 am by Arroisi


American comics capture the world market successfully. Superhero names of the characters are known by various age levels. To that Indonesia should be proud because one of the illustrators is one of the nation’s talent. Who is he?

He is  Cristiawan Lie.

Who does not know the character of the robot in the Transformers movie? In early 2009, a sequel to the film of battle among robots raked hundreds of millions of dollars of profit . A few months later, Hollywood released G.I. JOE, a movie about the U.S. elite team fighting a team of international crime syndicates. Well, Transformers and G.I. JOE comics were of the bestselling in the world.

Talking about comics, certainly one of the attractions is the quality of the image reader. Who would have thought that one of the illustrators of the many editions of the Transformers and G.I. JOE comics is an Indonesian.

Christiawan Lie, born in Bandung 5 September 1974, is a comic book illustrator who managed to penetrate Indonesia’s competitive world of comics.

“G.I. JOE was my first work,” said Chris Lie- Christiawan’s famous names, when met in the Caravan Post Java Studio, a comic shop he founded in 2008. Caravan Studio is located in the Mediterranean Gardens apartment complex, Jakarta. Chris along with seven of his staff work every day completing a number of comics and illustration projects to be marketed throughout the world. “(Our) motto here is to get living from comics. We do not work on anything else,” said Susan Setia Dharma’s husband.

Departing from hobbies, Chris is motivated to be a comic illustrator. That’s what makes Chris would leave the world as an architect. Yet, when he graduated in 1997 from Bandung Institute of Technology, Chris was one of the best graduates with cum laude. “I was with four friends then make a comic in the night and in the day work as an architect,” said Chris.

The first comic book titled The Catalyst was made. After that, those released were Amoeba, The Adventures of Ozzie, and a dozen other books known in the comics community Bandung. Chris along with four others marketed their own comics. “(We) printed (the comics) ourselves, then channeled them into Gramedia. It was serious intentions,” he said.

Their efforts ware not wasted. Mizan and Elex Media Komputindo Publisher became interested in their work. Five companions were then asked to fill in the illustration in the prophets stories published by Mizan. There are about 40 titles that have been done. To help illustrate the work, then the number of staff added to the eleven people. “We then made a prophet comics, comic posters, much to not count,” he continued.

Cooperation with Mizan and Elex only lasted for three years. Although the work went smoothly, the income earned was not balanced. “We were able to hire staff, but we were not able to pay ourselves,” he recalls.

Financial turmoil was making the comic partnership ends. Chris along with four friends agreed to take the path respectively. The man who went to high school in Solo, Central Java, was ultimately the architect continuing to work. “However, I still want to make comics. While working, I look after the scholarship,” he said.

In 2003, the scholarship has been waiting to arrive. Chris finally got a full scholarship from the Fulbright Scholarship to pursue a master’s program at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, United States. He took the field of sequential art. “Simply put, I take comic department,” he said.

The scholarships are available as full tuition coverage for two years. In the middle of study, Savannah College provides opportunities for student to have internships. The options can be an internship on campus or at a company. Chris chose an internship at a company. He received an internship in November-December 2004 at Devil’s Due Publishing (DDP), Chicago.

“Everything, I was lucky to intern at the DDP,” he recalls. It’s not easy to get access to internships at comics company’s . Fortunately, one of Chris’s colleagues was working in the building occupied by DDP. “To go in there, we must use a special card access,” he said.

“Opportunity is what I use to apply,” he said. Applications were filed in June 2004 and it finally was received five months later.

Internships at DDP  was  the first career of  Chris’. At first, Chris was working on other projects and not trusted to do the picture. He only was asked to perform work as an office employee. “At first, I just made copies of documents. Even if a picture was never used,” he said.

However, luck was still sheltering Chris. Hasbro company, where G.I. JOE and Transformers shelter, offer to DDP  a project for action figures. Toy figures requested are three G.I. JOE figures. “I was asked to join. Hey, my picture was selected,” said Chris, proud.

Why was his picture chosen at that time? Chris said, that he was from Asia is one reason. Hasbro wanted to produce toys for the segment of teens. Well, at that time, the Japanese comic fever entered into the United States. “The others were American style. Incidentally, the image that I made was Japanese American style, so would fit with their market concept,” he explained.

The opportunity was not wasted by Chris. The offer came on Friday. During the holidays, Chris then worked day and night to draw the character of G.I. JOE figures in various poses. The result, Chris got a contract to make G.I. JOE action figures for five waves (editions). “I worked until 2008. For a wave, usually five figures released,” he said.

After that, offers came to Chris. He was grateful for the offer came while he was still studying at his college. Because, without prior knowledge, the cost of college always swells each period. His works matched his study. “A lot of my friends work as a waitress, at a video rental. I am lucky to work in accordance with the college sideline,” he said.

Chris returned to his homeland in 2006. At that time, Hasbro and DDP had become regular clients of Chris’. G.I. JOE toy project continues on a number of comic book illustration project for G.I. JOE and Transformers. Beyond that, one thing that is a pride in Chris’ original work. Together with editor Mark Powers, he collaborated to publish a new comic book titled Drafted.

“It works because the original story ideas from both of us since the first edition,” he said. Mark Powers is the editor of the series X-Men comics, which also was adapted to  a movie.

Drafted tells of the fight all the nations in the world with an alien. Simply put, a group of aliens from the A came to earth to warn humans. In essence, there will be an alien nation B that will attack the earth. The whole nation in the world must be prepared, trained by A aliens against B aliens when coming to invade. “Except for the children, who had to fight here. Rich, poor, young, and old ones,” says Chris, showing the picture.

Drafted first edition was getting a positive response. Chris also incorporated  Indonesian elements into Drafted in the second season (a series of editions). Published since 2007, the second season was published February 2009. What’s interesting is the character which was adapted from the real world. For example, the U.S. president Barack Obama is also in action in the Drafted.

“Barack here is a substitute for the U.S. president who died in season I,” he said. If the popular comics in the U.S. have been adapted on the big screen, Drafted is a matter of time. According to Chris, the producer of New Line Cinema purchased Drafted to be produced in movies. “It is not showing because it is also a new comic,” he explained.

Several other illustrations that have been made by Chris were the Ninja Tales, Voltron, and Return of the Labyrinth. The most phenomenal is the Return of the Labyrinth. Published by Tokyopop, the comic is a Japanese comic wing produced in America. In the early editions published, Return of the Labyrinth has occupied the fourth position in America’s best-selling comic books, with Naruto competing.

To create a comic, Chris takes six to eight months. Chris recalled, there are certain satisfaction when the comics show up on the bookshelves. Especially when the comics are published around the world. “If people love to read my comics, I am even more pleased,” he said, then smiled.

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