Passion, Hobby, Career: Comic Play at Publika 2017

This article was contributed by Kairyu of the Malaysian Touhou Brigade

It is Sunday and Publika’s Comic Play event is in full swing. What was once regarded as a subculture rarely discussed in polite company has blossomed over the years into a vibrant scene, an outlet for which both fans and creators alike could get together and just be themselves, an understanding that reaches out beyond the boundaries of age and occupation. We reached out to several of the attendees, to find out what brought them here to this event.

“We’re just Illustration students, actually,” Liu Chean exclaimed. Next to her, two boys introduced themselves as Taka and Tan Thick Zhao. They refer to the girl as ‘boss’. “It’s part of a fund-raising project.”

The trio have a booth setup in the Artist Alley, a section of the convention where artists and creators can set up shop for anything they would like to sell, from sketches and drawings to jewelleries and handmade plushies. On the far end, someone has engineered a digital pinball machine for sale.

“It’s a great way to learn about selling,” she continued. “As artists, not only do we need to be able to draw, but to learn how to market ourselves.” The table is filled with artwork based on popular animation series. The Pokémon drawings stood out in particular.

“We can’t just draw what we want and expect people to come buy our stuff. It’s important to research market trends too.”

Several tables down, we stopped to chat with Leon Tan. Several dozen of animal plushies of varying sizes were arranged neatly on the table.

“These are all handcrafted by me,” he explained. Unlike the table before, he was doing this as a full-time job. He gestured to a pile of name cards on the table, indicating that we should take one.

“When I’m not at events, I work from home, taking orders and selling them via Facebook and Instagram.”

On the other side of the convention, bigger booths had been setup. They represented the other half of the geek industry: Corporate. Games Fusion has various big-name consoles setup for attendees to try for free. Staff stood around the area, ready to assist anyone needing help, or perhaps to push a possible sale. All Abroad Gaming, with their impressive inventory of table top games were showcasing their latest selections, with assistants tutoring newcomers in learning the ins and outs. A stage in the middle hosted a Cosplay competition, small in scale but no less charming, with an emcee who kept the mood light and breezy.

But even all those staff in their uniforms did this part-time. The salesmen, Sulaiman and Amir, are both students who love games. The emcee, Eddie, is an accountant by trade. And the event collaborator who helped bring it all together? A child consultant specialising in learning disabilities.

“It’s more than just a hobby now. It’s a lifestyle in which I can use to work on my creative and artistic side.”

Yvonne is active year-round in the scene, helping to make sure events run smoothly from start to finish. From sponsorship to guest relations and marketing to scheduling, she has a hand in it all.

“ACG (Anime, Comics, Games) has always interested me since high school. Through that interest, it became a lifelong hobby that persisted as I pursued my professional career,” she quipped.

When he’s not writing to make sure his girlfriend never leaves him, Kairyu is trying to grow the Malaysian Touhou scene to be an internationally recognised entity. Go give him some likes!

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