Tebuanman hit the local market successfully back in December 2019, receiving a lot of positive attention and feedback from the public. But what goes behind the production of it? Who are the people behind it? Earlier this month, the Sutera team had the opportunity to meet the makers of Tebuanman, Khai Anwar and Adi Farhan at Fanboys Infinite.

A haven for comic book lovers and collectors, not only is Fanboys the only comic book store in Brunei at the moment, but it is also the first place where Tebuanman is officially sold. Located at the Times Cineplex at Times Square Shopping Centre, it’s easily accessible especially for movie goers.

Photo: Sutera/Safwan Sulaiman

But before Fanboys, there was Bluestone, the comic book shop that sparked it all. Adi was only 11 when he purchased his first comic book, The Green Lantern. He shared his experience saying, “The moment I flipped through it, I read all the sequence, all the actions, and I immediately fell in love with the medium. From then on, it’s just drawing and more drawing and buying more comic books for me. And with each, my interest in comics increases.”

As for Khai, he entered the world of superheroes through the screen. The regular 90s animated Batman and Superman and Smallville being the popular show on TV at the time, he labelled it as the “most transformative experience” when he entered Bluestone for the very first time. “I grew up idolising superheroes so I bought a comic book, and another the next week, and that’s how I became a fan of the medium. When I dropped out of university I had a very small amount of money saved up and I wanted to open a comic book store. Going from a comic book reader to a comic book store owner, I guess that’s a natural progression.”

Photo: Sutera/Safwan Sulaiman

With an academic background in screenwriting, Khai Anwar explained, “I’ve been a freelance writer for a few years, and I’ve always dabbled in fiction. With screen driven narratives, it’s very graphic in the sense that there’s a lot of visuals in screenplays. As a writer, I’ve always been shaped by comic books especially because that’s the medium that I read the most.”

On the other hand, Adi has been drawing since he was a child, dreaming of becoming a comic book artist. “I’ve been studying this medium for a long time. But, it was only a few years ago that I put time and effort in understanding the industry and the process involved in making a comic book.”

Photo: Sutera/Safwan Sulaiman

Interestingly, Khai and Adi had a competitive history before they worked together. “We used to go to the cyber café a lot and he held the highest score for one of the games. I told myself, “One day, I’ll destroy him”. That never happened. A couple of years later when I opened a comic book store, a friend of mine said that the Legend is coming to the store. He walked in, bought The Green Lantern comic books, and that’s how we became friends,” Khai explained.

Seven months ago, the ball started rolling when Adi came to Khai with a character that he designed for the “Kami Orang Brunei” 2019 exhibition hosted by Birdhouse Studio with the Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sports. With Khai’s background in writing, together they’ve managed to create not only a platform for comic book creators through AD Comics, but also their own comic book, Tebuanman.

Photo: Sutera/Safwan Sulaiman

The purpose of AD Comics is more than to help publish local comic books to the creators. In addition to creating local quality content that could potentially become sensations outside the borders of Brunei and would be recognised as Bruneian, according to Adi, it’s more than that. “I would like AD Comics to be able to become a destination for other aspiring creators. When I was growing up, there was nowhere for me to go. AD Comics is not just looking for comic book artists and writers, but it welcomes other people with artistic dreams, a platform for other creators.” The company might have started as a necessity for Tebuanman, a single comic book, but it aims to become an industry in itself.

Photo: Sutera/Safwan Sulaiman

Both agreed that despite the maddening creation process, the positive reception and the overall experience is quite fun. “When Tebuanman was published, one of our main concerns was how people would receive it. There was a lot of hype, a lot of interest, which is something we weren’t expecting,” said Adi. Khai added, “We didn’t realise that we were on the brink of something big. That day of the launch, when we saw people lining up to buy the book, that’s when it struck us that it’s a big deal. The first batch sold up really fast.”

Photo: Sutera/Safwan Sulaiman

Reception has been good for the first issue, but what can readers expect for the upcoming issue of Tebuanman? AD Comics is hoping to be able to release the second issue by February or March this year. They promised that with the upcoming issues, they will provide answers to the questions that the first brought up, yet will still retain an aura of mystery. Quality requires patience, both in the part of the reader as much as the creator.

However, not only should fans of comic books anticipate the upcoming issues of Tebuanman, but as AD Comics aims to create an industry for comic books in Brunei, people should also look forward to future publications from AD Comics.

Photo: Sutera/Safwan Sulaiman