Monday, July 15, 2024
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A zombie resurrection

ANN/THE STAR – Malaysian comic book enthusiasts will rejoice with the thrilling return of Major Zombie.

If you’re unfamiliar, Major Zombie is an original superhero character created by Malaysian comic artist Julian ‘Lefty’ Kam in 2003 for the debut issue of the now-defunct but once-popular Gilamon Magazine.

In the story, Major Zombie was initially a beloved superhero named Superium, who contracted a zombie virus while rescuing a girl named Kaktus from a villain called Zombie King. Although the virus killed him, Superium’s superhuman antibodies revived him as a half-zombie, half-superhero.

Believed dead by the world and now disfigured with only a fraction of his original powers, he adopts the identity of Major Zombie, a C-list superhero who tackles missions other heroes avoid. His super-antibodies also created an intelligent maggot named Mikey, who, along with his maggot army, fights the zombie virus within Major Zombie’s body.

In a twist of fate, Kaktus, the girl Superium saved before he died, grew up to become highly skilled in martial arts and firearms. She serves as Major Zombie’s sidekick and views him as a mentor and father figure.

The Major Zombie series later spawned two graphic novels, 2011’s Love And Loss and The Blood Trail, which won Lefty the Best Comics Series and Best Independent Comics awards at the 2012 Malaysian Comics Society (PeKOMIK).

ABOVE & BELOW: Lefty Kam with issues of ‘Major Zombie: Mark Of Blood’; and the cover of Book 1. PHOTO: THE STAR
PHOTO: THE STAR
ABOVE & BELOW: Photos show scenes from the comic. PHOTO: THE STAR
PHOTO: THE STAR

After that, however, Major Zombie appearances have been few and far between, which was why it was a thrill to hear Lefty announce in the run up to Comic Fiesta in December 2022 that he was resurrecting Major Zombie with a brand new series called Major Zombie: Mark Of Blood.

At the time, he even released a free comic called Major Zombie: Unearthed to refresh peoples’ minds about the character.

According to Lefty, the idea for Mark Of Blood has been knocking around his head for a couple of years. Then in 2021, fellow Gilamon founder Michael Chuah mooted the idea of publishing an anthology in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the first ever Gilamon Magazine #0, which fell on August 2023.

“Michael had the idea of doing an anthology of reprints, and I got the idea for writing a new short story for Major Zombie. It was only supposed to be a four-page story, but I added more and more story to it, and in the end I had enough material for an 80-page blockbuster!” he said, laughing.

According to him, Mark Of Blood serves as a prequel of sorts for that 80-page blockbuster, if he ever gets around to producing it. It is a 48-page comic that has been divided into two books, Book 1 of which was recently released at the Singapore Comic and Games Festival in December 2023. Lefty hopes to finish and release Book 2 by “middle of 2024”.

Mark Of Blood sees Major Zombie returning alongside his teammate, Kaktus, for a new mission. However, what was initially a simple task takes a darker turn when they find themselves up against the sorceress Deadwalker, who possesses the power to control the zombies under her spell. “This story is interesting because we get to see Major Zombie become a real zombie for the first time!” Lefty says excitedly. “This story is also actually quite crucial, because it is about the transformation of Kaktus, where she has to face her personal demons to use the power she inherited. Book 2 will talk about how the power came to her.”

TO THE LEFT(Y)

Born in 1969, Lefty is a veteran Malaysian comics artist who has worked at major publications such as MOY Publications, Gempak Starz and Storm Lion in Singapore.

In 2003, he formed Gilamon Studios with fellow Gempak Starz artists Chuah and Chin Sau Lim, having grown frustrated at doing more administrative work than creative work during their time at Gempak Starz.

With fellow comic artist Tan Eng Huat in tow, they formed an independent comic collective that enabled them to come up with darker and more mature content than they could in mainstream Malaysian comic companies. Kind of like an Image Comics for Malaysian creators, but without the baggage.

Gilamon released its first publication, Gilamon Magazine #0, in August 2003, which featured the first appearances of Major Zombie, Cyber Merkaba by Chin, and the Collector by Chuah.

Lefty later left the country in 2017 for a stint in China’s Left Pocket Studios alongside Tan, returning to Penang in late 2018 to help set up a branch for the company there.

Lefty left Pocket Studios in 2019, then started to focus on his own art projects. These included exploring the culture, history and traditions of Penang through his Sama-Sama: A Multi-Cultural Art Journey exhibition, which is a series based on childhood experiences and places; as well as contributing to Dr Kuah Li Feng’s I Am Home series, and more. – Michael Cheang

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