Tuesday, 31 July, 2012 | 14:53 WIB
Creator of Superhero Sri Asih Passes On
TEMPO Interactive, Jakarta:Comic legend R.A. Kosasih passed on last week. His works, inspired by the Hindu epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, set milestones in Indonesian comic history.
Comic books are good for you. They are interesting and they educate. Even as the contrary is conveyed by so many educators, who have been known to scold and criticize children for reading comic books – which they claim will prevent students from correctly studying their lessons. A man who underwent these dynamics, and felt them deeply during his days, was Raden Ahmad Kosasih. This comic pioneer, who died at the age of 93, was buried in a single gravesite alongside his wife in Tanah Kusir, at a ceremony so humble, no mention was made during the reading of his life’s works immediately prior to his burial, that he was a comic artist.
Comic sketches however, as a form of art, are everlasting. It will resurrect itself and return every time it is snuffed out or forgotten. This is why there is no grave designed yet for comic books, despite previous comic book burnings. Every one of us must have read a comic book and may still do. Therefore, if you want yourself to be called a liar, simply state the words: I have never seen a comic sketch.
The history of Indonesian comics dates back to a comic character called Put On, drawn by the late Kho Wan Gie and published the August 2, 1930 issue of the newspaper Sin Po. Later a full-page comic strip, Mentjari Poetri Hijau, drawn by Nasroen A.S. appeared in the February 1, 1939 issue of the bi-monthly magazine Ratoe Timoer. The newspaper Kedaulatan Rakjat followed much later with Kisah Pendudukan Jogja, by Abdulsalam, a serial that ran from December 19, 1948 to January 29, 1949.
Indonesian comics then were still part of the print media. Comics in the form of a book began only in 1953, with Sri Asih by R.A. Kosasih. Sri Asih was the female superhero with a strapless wraparound sarong, which seemed to have immense power and skill, including flying. The same publisher of Sri Asih, Melodie in Bandung, also released at the same time, Nina Putri Rimba, by John Lo.
Thirty-three years ago, during a visit to the home of the creator of Sri Asih – a home he bought with money earned from the sale of his comic books - I asked Kosasih what made his female superhero so powerful, towering so tall over the South Sea. The soft-spoken artist answered: "I don’t know yet. When I do, I will tell you.” Last year when I visited him at his hospital sickbed, I asked the same question again. He gave me the very same answer.
With the passing of the Indonesian Father of Comics, we are reminded again that as heirs to the legacy of Sri Asih, we are at fault if we let all of this go in vain. We cannot just pray and hope that that government will take note. We should spell out the mantra that is already in our hearts: to love what is ours and this country of ours.
Why is it that to simply imagine, we need to be dictated by other nations?