Comic artist Ernest Ng of Bro, don’t like that la, bro has been playing an uplifting role in our current pandemic situation.
His webcomics, Covidball Z, features familiar faces from the news like Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah battling out Malaysia’s fight against Covid-19.
2 years ago we wrote about Ernest’s comics that mainly focused on his adventures with his four “bros”.
They featured titles like Here Comes The Bros and Bro Don’t Like That La Bro, Origins: Back To School, in 2014.
“After many years of drawing just about my life, I decided to explore current issues because I wanted to try something new, tell stories about different topics and move out from my comfort zone,” he told Vulcan Post.
On top of publishing weekly comics for Covidball Z on his social media, he also runs the production house, MacamYes Studios with Dan Khoo.
A Drawing Addiction
“Doing new chapters every week does take a lot out of me,” said Ernest.
When he first started uploading his comics in 2010, the thought of giving up used to cross his mind.
3 months in, he took a few steps back and decided to shift his mindset.
“Since then this thought never really crossed my mind anymore. Mainly because I decided to just focus on enjoying the drawing process and don’t think about anything else. I decided to get addicted to drawing,” he said.
Topics featured in his webcomics are chosen based on news pieces collected over the week, and connected into a single storyline chapter.
“To be honest I just choose the ones I like and those that can fit within the storyline easily. If a topic goes too far off the plot I will usually choose not to cover it. Usually, I go for the big or viral topics of the week,” said Ernest.
In order to ensure that he won’t mistakenly cover fake news, the illustrator will verify reports with some journalist friends to confirm or debunk news that goes through.
“I’ll make sure at least I am not covering fake news”, he said.
He shared that the writing and planning process is one of the more mentally taxing parts.
Sometimes, he would already be halfway through when something big happens in the news, so the storyline has to be tweaked to fit the news into its plot.
Featuring Familiar Faces
Characters illustrated in the webcomics are based on definitive features from recognisable political leaders.
Orange skin for Donald Trump’s character, the tired eyes of our Health Director General, and lips and moustache for our current Prime Minister.
The COVID-19 character is an ill-looking green alien with a buff body dressed in spandex. Ernest pretty much winged it for this character’s design.
“Usually I don’t put too much thought into it and just go with the first design that comes to mind.”
“I try not to spend too much time designing as the main aim is to focus on the story,” he said.
He credits his inspiration to some of his favourite manga from childhood.
“I am a big fan of Japanese manga and anime so most of the character designs are based on those especially the popular ones such as Dragonball Z, Naruto, Bleach, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure,” he added.
The characters in the animated webcomics are voiced by professional voice actors. Some names include Azman Zulkiply, Steven Bones, and Puteri Hana.
Like Us, He Doubts His Work
Because his work parodies current issues, we were curious as to how Ernest manages to come up with the right jokes while hitting the right spots with his audience.
“I doubt my own jokes and story all the time, but I overcome that by just publishing the chapter online and just hope for the best,” he said.
Giving credit to the intelligence of his readers, it makes his day when they manage to catch the subtle jokes he included in the stories.
Ernest published his book, Covidball Z on September 24, which features deleted scenes and extra chapters that did not make it online.
As of the end of 2019, Ernest had about 180,000 followers on Facebook and 20,000 on Instagram.
Covidball Z has now pushed those numbers up to over 271,000 followers on Facebook and 46,200 on Instagram.
1,000 copies of the book were sold on the first day, and it’s currently available for purchase on Shopee.
Featured Image Credit: Ernest Ng, comic artist of Covidball Z