Comic books feature Borneo’s headhunters


FOR THE MASSES: (From left) Stalin, a ‘mascot’, and Danny are seen at the launching of the second issue.

NEW HERO: The comic’s main character is Rhemaung Berih.

KUCHING: A Sarawakian living and working in Kuala Lumpur has been tracing the myths and folklore of his Dayak ancestors and come up with a series of comic books based on the legendary headhunters of Borneo.

‘Rhemaung Berih’ is inspired by a mystical being often mentioned in Iban folklore.

Artist Stalin Mark James, 31, of Bidayuh-Iban parentage, has remained passionate about his roots despite having lived in the federal capital for almost 10 years.

Stalin, whose father is from Braang Payang, Padawan and mother from Kanowit, released the first issue of the comic last September.

Almost 10 months later, he has come up with the second issue, which again centres around the main character Rhemaung and his heroics in defending his community at Sebakam longhouse as well as battles with other headhunters for glory and honour.

Stalin has included translations of certain words and explanations of certain rituals to help readers.

“I am not a full-time artist, as I am working in another industry in Kuala Lumpur. Comics have been my favourite since I was young, and I am heavily influenced by Manga (Japanese comics) which shows in this comic I am doing.

“I hope with this comic, the traditions, folklore and rituals of the Dayak community will not be forgotten, especially by the younger Dayaks. That is what I want to achieve in this comic, that is to promote our Dayak customs among the Dayak young and others,” he said.

Due to his mixed parentage, some of the names and terms used in the comic are from the Bidayuh Braang clan and Iban Kanowit clan.

Stalin pointed out among the rituals portrayed in the second issue is fortune-telling through reading the edges of a liver from a freshly- slaughtered pig.

“All of the drawings are filled with Dayak motifs, characters based on pagan spiritual ghosts, and also legendary weapons which were used by great warriors during that time,” he said.

The first issue of the comic was well received not just in Sarawak, but also by fans in the peninsula, Singapore and even the Philippines.

If all goes well, Stalin said an animation company in the peninsula might turn the comic into an animated movie or series for television.

The second issue was launched last Friday during the Evil Acoustic special live music show at Zeus Sports Bar and Bistro.

Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) youth exco member Danny Mason, who officiated at the ceremony, said the local arts should be promoted, especially if it promotes local culture to the masses.

He called for more encouragement to be given to local talents so that their creativity can be utilised for greater use by the community.

Zeus spokesperson Billy Mason also said the bistro supports any activity that can act as a platform for local artistes and musicians to gain exposure and reach out to a larger audience.

‘Rhemaung Berih’ is produced by Mad3dign, a local company involved in printing and event management.