Richard: Where were you born and raised? What was it like growing up?
Leong Wan Kok: I was born in Sungai Rui, in the state of Pahang, Malaysia. Sungai Rui was a gold mine in the early 60s. From early age, I love doodling and always decorate my school books with my monster sketches. My elder brothers brought many comic books and I was immersed in those world offered by the comic book/stories. My brothers had a small group, dedicated to story developing,
comic creation. I was therefore exposed to world of comic and fascinated by it. Since the place where I grow up is quite a small town, there was no job that was related to comic line. So after graduated from school, I worked in industry totally not related to comic. During that time, such job only available in the big city like Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia. I still draw after retire from my day time job, (that has nothing to do with comic what so ever). After few years passed, I have decided to moved to KL, where I had granted an interview, as a comic assistant. I was thrill and pack all my portfolio and showed up for the interview. It was disastrous. I did not impress the editor. He could not understand my comic.
I felt terrible. I was back to my daily job, but still keep drawing and practicing to improve my skill during night time. All this continue until about 6 months later, I again showed up to some comic publishing company, and present the art which I produced so far. I got the job as a comic assistant this time. This was how I started in this comic/ art related industry.
Richard: What is "The Oval Portrait" about?
Leong: Oval Portrait is a story about an obsessive painter. Day and night he immersed in his painting, and had his wife to pose for him. It is unfortunate that his obsession over painting however lead to a fatal end for his wife.
Richard: How would you describe your art style?
Leong: dark, humorous, unique
Richard: Do you enjoy drawing creatures?
Leong: Yeah, I do enjoy drawing creatures/ monster(anything that is not cute). That's also why I always tend to like bad character instead of nice one in comic book. When conceptualize them, I think of their attitude, the way they live their life. This is an enjoyable process, as bad characters do not bind by any rules, of being a good citizen, thus the design can go wild.
Richard: What is "Astro Cityzer" all about?
Leong: "Astro Cityzen" is my illustrated art book which published in October 2006. It depicts a world calls Astro City, where its denizen practice the art of Zen, hence, "Astro Cityzen". This is a world pollution, slums every way, and only the elite and the rich manage to stay in a clean places. For those who are not so lucky, they stay in the slum, breathing the polluted air, always wear glass helmet which supply clean air. Their physical appearance change dramatically, and turned mutated. In the social ladder,the mutated stay at the bottom of the list, the "normal-looking" of course stay high up. This is a book describing how the mutated one try to continue with their lives regardless of the hostile surrounding.
Richard: How are comics different in Malaysia than in North America?
Leong: Manga is popular in Malaysia. Most of the local comics are influenced by manga. The flow of the comic is depicted more in detail in each following panels, more continuous actions in a single page.
The local comic mostly published in the form of magazine, something like Mad, where different comics make their appearance in the same magazine, contributing few pages for each issue. Some comics made into series and some in short story. The pages can go up to 6 pages each episode, so it is quite challenging to tell a story with such limited pages allocated.
Richard: Do you still try to improve your art?
Leong: Yeah. When I look at my early and present work, I can notice a stark differences. I believe that one has to have high expectation of oneself, don't easily get contended with the current art work, always strive to make improvement. This is important to me.
Richard: Which artists do you admire?
Leong: Moebius. His idea is unique and original. I love his lines, pencil stroke. He can tell realistic cowboy story and also illustrate some alien world with surreal surrounding. His b/w illustration is awesome.
Richard: When did you first start drawing?
Leong: Early stage about 5 or 6 years old. Mostly doodling on monsters.
Richard: What advice do you have for other artists?
Leong: Hmm......I believe that having to develop our unique style is most important, be it art style or story telling. When the readers look at the art work and instantly recognize the artist by its stroke, lines, story layout, style, without having to check on the credit page,that means a lot to an artist, well, at least to me.
Richard: What comics did you read as a child and do you read now?
Leong: When I was kid, I read whatever books were bought by my big brothers, Hong Kong, Japanese, or US comics. My taste for comic is still the same now. My comic preference is wide, as long as it is fun and unique. One of the book I'm reading at the time being is by a Hong Kong artist, name "Tak". His work mainly depicts daily live stories, in a humorous and sarcastic way.
Richard: If you could have one super power what would it be and why?
Leong: I'd like to have an "endless-fresh-ideas-generated" power! Then I'm able to think of many interesting stories and illustrate them and tell fun and original stories for the readers to enjoy.
Richard: How can someone contact you?
Leong: Reader can contact me by visiting my web site: email@example.com . I have most of my recent art works, illustrations, sculptures display there. You are welcome to drop me a mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard: Any final words of wisdom?
Leong: I am now working on my next comic project by Graphic Classic. It is based on HP Lovecraft story and my story has a total of 42 pages. As you have notice, HP Lovecraft's writing is most unusual, with a lot of surreal concept, ideas and the story is full of weird characters and happening. It is one of the best stories from Mr. HP himself. The world is full of dark, sinister plot and strange encounters.
It is scheduled to be released in beginning of next year, please check it out in graphic classic web site: http://www.graphicclassics.com/ for the final release date and my site www.1000tentacles.com as well.
Thanks for having me for this interview, it's a pleasure. I hope the reader will enjoy reading the "oval portrait" and drop me a mails, tell me what you think of my work.