Cheeming Boey, Zunar and Reggie Lee win over the rakyat, one cartoon at a time

In celebration of World Cartoonists Day on May 3, the trio shares how they use cartoons to add a lighter touch to issues of the day.

Local cartoonists (from left): Cheeming Boey, Zunar and Reggie Lee. 

Boey, oh boy!

Readers who follow Cheeming Boey series build a relationship with his characters.

Not having his own game console while growing up meant that Cheeming Boey — better known by his surname — could only re-enact the fighting sequences on paper at home when he was done playing Street Fighter with his friends. Interest stoked, Boey dreamt of drawing  action comics in the style of the popular Dragon Ball animation.

He studied art, pursued a degree in advertising in the US, and then switched to computer animation. He made a successful career out of it, working with game developer Blizzard Entertainment as lead animator on Diablo II and III, and later, on Factor 5’s Lair. However, unfortunate circumstances saw him laid off and he distrusted working for someone else after that.

“My goal was to retire early. I was making a lot of money when I lost my job,” he says in an interview over lunch. “I realised that if a company could let you go after a decade of service, there was no such thing as a safe job. The only surety is to work for yourself. I had nothing left so I decided to give my book a shot.”...


From heart to art

Zunar aims for the deeper perspective so viewers can draw meaning from his cartoons.

It is no exaggeration to say those whose dealings are cloaked in shades of grey quiver when Zunar reaches for his pen. For in his cartoons, he spells out their shenanigans in black and white. The political cartoonist, born Zulkiflee S M Anwar Ulhaque in Kedah, is best known for this quote: “How can I be neutral … even my pen has a stand” . Then there is “Why pinch when you can punch?” — which sounds like a warning to transgressors.

There have been many over the decades and Zunar has used his cartoons to help Malaysians understand what is happening around them, and the corruption and abuse involving those in power so they will not be in the dark. “Cartoons cut across social classes and [reach out] from urban to rural areas. The message is universal and people can get it quickly because of the visuals and jokes,” he says...


Hitting them in the funny bone

Reggie Lee has made his name skewering the foibles of politicians and big shots.

Despite Malaysia’s refreshed politic al climate and new faces at the helm, with former leaders relegated to the opposition benches, social commentators are still harping on the same subjects. Cartoonist Reggie Lee reckons it is because “there are still clowns jumping up and down and lots of things to highlight, such as people telling lies.”

Foolish comments create fertile ground for moral tales, but Lee wants no part of that. Instead, he digests the news on the ground, draws it in a single frame, and then presents it to newspaper readers with a dollop of laughter. Recently, the creator of Ah Lok Kafe (a live-action movie was made in 2004 based on the cartoon) drew a caricature of Datuk Mohammadin Ketapi in a rainbow-hued tee — a spoof on the lousy T-shirt trope — after the tourism, arts and culture minister reportedly told German media at an international trade fair in Berlin that Malaysia did not have any homosexuals.

Penang-born Lee, 63, who has been poking fun at political gaffes and Malaysian foibles for decades, says deciding on what to highlight takes time but drawing it out is easy nowadays — it can be done on screen...



For the full story, pick up a copy of The Edge Malaysia (May 6, 2019) at your nearest news stand. Save by subscribing to us for your print and/or digital copy. 

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