Web comics are on the rise and a local artist is leading the way. Izwan Ismail enters her realm
IT’S 11pm and Irma Ahmed has just completed a rough sketch of a comic page on her special tablet computer. She is working on an online comic project called Fox And Willow, a collaboration with US-based comic writer Allison Pang.
When she is done, she sends the sketch to Pang for approval.
Minutes later, her tablet beeps and she gets a “go ahead” to colour in the comic sketch.
“The story is about a runaway princess named Willow and a fox, which is under a curse. It has gone online since April this year,” says Batu Pahat-born Irma, who is more popularly known in the comicsphere as Aimo.
Irma says her role in the project is to translate Pang’s story into comic images and the pages are uploaded on the Internet every Monday and Thursday at sadsausagedogs.com.
Irma had gone professional since she was 17 and Fox And Willow is one of her works in the online comic scene. To date, she has produced over 50 comics — single, short and long pages, together with hundreds of sketch cards on popular characters such as those from Star Wars, Lord Of The Rings and Indiana Jones.
Her talent has also earned her the Lucasfilm, New Line Cinema and Marvel-approved Artist title that gives her the “licence” to draw all the characters from the comics on collectors’ sketch cards.
Like many artists, Irma was born with a pencil in hand and started drawing from a very early age. The only daughter of teacher parents, she was exposed to comics like Beano, Bambi, Bujal and My Little Pony, as a child.
“Both my brother and I loved to read comics. We are lucky that our parents have been very supportive from the start,” says Irma, whose special talent is drawing characters.
At 9, Irma began to display her talent, and the walls of her home were her favourite canvas! Time and again, her parents would have to do a repaint job.
One day, she came across a Manga magazine which belonged to her brother and was taken in by the drawings. That was the start of her interest in drawing comics.
Since going professional, she has not looked back. “I love comics so much and I don’t see myself doing anything else,” says Irma who has a degree in digital media from Multimedia University.
While her comics on the Web are free for all to read, she earns her living by making sketch cards for collector’s card companies such as Topps, Upper Deck and Rittenhouse Archives on properties of Lucasfilm, New Line Cinema and Marvel.
Her ability to draw comics that are of world standard comes from years of self-learning.
“Initially, I tried to trace over comics. Then once I was comfortable with it, I started to do them on my own. I observed a lot of people’s work,” says the bubbly artist who likes manga-style characters.
Irma also has loads of comics at home for reference and reading. “Now I am reading a lot of American and European ones which are different culturally,” she says.
In addition to reading and comparing comics from different continents, Irma learns a lot from great comic artists like American Will Eisner, who made a career of comics.
“He explains how to write comics and transfer them into video form. I learn a lot, especially with regards to panels in comics as there are reasons behind them,” she says.
Other famous comic artists that she follows are Stuart Immonen who does comics like Ax Man and the Ultimate Spiderman, female character artist Becky Cloonan and Alex Alice.
ONLINE COMIC AGE
Irma started professionally by writing and drawing comics for local comic houses like Komiku. She later turned to the Web to place all her comics. With her knowledge in digital media, setting up and maintaining her own website is easy.
Irma’s online comic gallery can be accessed for free at Aimo Studio (www.aimostudio.com), which contains almost all her works like digital and traditional media, sketch card arts and a range of comics.
“I started Aimo Studio 10 years ago, but only began to post my works regularly in the six years,” she says.
Her free online comics helps her share her passion and build up a fan base around the world. Going online also helps her connect with many comic artists from around the world and opens up the possibility of collaborations. In Malaysia, Irma is a member of comic artist group Yongumi.
Although she prefers drawing on papers, Irma says the digital media and equipment get her work going.
“I can’t imagine working without my digital tools,” she says.
For fast digital sketching, Irma has a range of tools at her disposal. She uses a special tablet called Wacom Intuos4 which is made specially for sketching iPad, a PC workstation, and a host of software like Photoshop. While for drawing on block papers, she uses multi-coloured Copic markers and special pens.
Irma also uses a program called Livestream which allows her to doodle a page layout live.
These tools also enable her to collaborate on worldwide comic book project, Womanthology, which is a large scale anthology comic showcasing the works of women in comics.
One can easily see the the presence of a strong female character in her work.
“The comic world is dominated by male superheroes, and being a female, I would like to see more strong female characters in the fantasy and fairytale world,” says Irma.
DREAMS AND HOPES
Irma hopes to write her own full-fledged online comic one day.
“I’ve been doing a bit of short writing for comics, but I hope I can do a long one, like a novel where the characters can grow,” she says.