Town Boy: Malaysian Manga

Posted by Michael Pinto on May 25, 2008 in Comic Books |

Town Boy by Lat

As part of our ongoing campaign to support the destruction of superheroes I’ve decided to shine some light on publisher :01 First Second books. What I like about these folks is that they’ve done an amazing job bringing high quality yet quirky graphic novels to a world that’s been lost to the epic battle of comic book clichés. So here’s a title from their back catalog which I think is worth checking out:

Town Boy

Whenever most fanboys (and fangurls) think of Asian comics often manga from Japan comes to mind first, followed perhaps by manhwa from Korea and manhua from China. However if you go a bit further south to Malaysia you’ll find the well beloved cartoonist Mohamed Nor Khalid who goes by the pen name Lat.

Lat is very much a local legend: At the young age of thirteen his first comics were published in the Majallah Filem and Movie News and by age 23 became editorial cartoonist of the New Straits Times, a large Malaysian newspaper. Lat is best known his creation which is the Kampung Boy series, of which Town Boy is the second book. What makes Lat’s work so enjoyable is that he draws what he knows, so while you won’t find any giant robots what you’ll experience is a vivid visual sense of what it’s like to live in Malaysia through the eyes of someone coming of age:

Town Boy by Lat

The other thing I love about Lat is his sense of style and aesthetics are very unique, so while the slickness that you associate with manga is missing (although that’s not always the case with all manga) what you get is a wonderfully eccentric cartoony expressionism. Not only do you feel like your reading an intimate biography, but you almost feel like you’re looking through the pages of a close friend’s personal sketchbook:

Town Boy by Lat

The other reason that Lat’s work feels so unique is that unlike Japan or Korea, Malaysia is a very multicultural place where you meet ethnic Chinese, Indians and other south Asians. Reading through his pages you feel like you’re getting a taste of the local food and almost get the feeling that you’re just hanging out with the characters — it’s something very magical. However the characters you come across aren’t just quaint charactures, but can get quite philosophical at times:

Town Boy by Lat

I’d recommend this series to anyone who’d like to travel to Malaysia for the cost of a subway pass. Anyone with a sense of humor will enjoying getting to meet the characters in Lat’s world.

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