For the child in all of us

Come meet a pur­ple oc­to­pus and his best friend at BookFest@Malaysia.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Reads - By ROUWEN LIN star2@thes­

HOW can any­one re­sist a talk­ing pur­ple oc­to­pus called Fara­day and his part­ner-in-crime, an adorable lit­tle boy named Wil­bur? They play pre­tend and explore the world, chase their dreams and won­der about why things are the way they are. They con­fide in each other, as friends do, and com­mis­er­ate over chocolate chip cook­ies they bake to­gether.

The in­sep­a­ra­ble duo can be found within the pages of Pep­per Lim’s Wil­bur & Fara­day ,a comic book writ­ten “for both chil­dren, and the child in adults”.

“Wil­bur & Fara­day is a re­minder of my­self,” says Lim, 49.

“I think some­times adults are so busy being adults that we miss out on the sim­ple plea­sures in life. This comic helped me explore some sub­jects that bring joy to me, like being cu­ri­ous, fall­ing in love for the first time, and hav­ing a good friend,” says the en­tre­pre­neur and mo­ti­va­tional speaker.

Wil­bur & Fara­day, pub­lished by Keropok Comics and the Pop­u­lar Book Co (M) Sdn Bhd, is Lim’s third book; the first is a self-help book and part trib­ute to his mother, How My Mother Be­came A Mil­lion­aire (2008); and the sec­ond, a chil­dren’s story book called The Trou­ble­some Prince Lucky Mole (2010), mark­ing his foray into the world of comics proper.

“I never imag­ined draw­ing a comic book. I guess it is an­other mile­stone in my life. And I guess I was just lucky to catch the eye of a publisher,” he says.

But the Pe­nang-born Lim is no stranger to draw­ing a car­toon or two when in­spi­ra­tion strikes.

In fact, car­toons were what got him no­ticed in the first place by Pop­u­lar. “Some­one from Pop­u­lar saw my political car­toons and thought I had tal­ent! So they told Keropok Comics, which pub­lishes English lan­guage comics, to con­tact me about mak­ing a comic book,” he shares in an e-mail.

Hav­ing never drawn a comic book be­fore, Lim was ini­tially scep­ti­cal.

“But then I thought, I have noth­ing to lose if I try. So I started to form ideas for char­ac­ters and fi­nally de­cided on a lit­tle boy and his oc­to­pus friend. The boy, Wil­bur, is named af­ter Wil­bur Wright, the first avi­a­tor, and the oc­to­pus, Fara­day, is named af­ter Michael Fara­day, the fa­ther of elec­tro­mag­netism,” he re­lates.

Lim did not im­me­di­ately dive head­long into cre­at­ing a book; he thought it was first im­por­tant to get a feel of what other peo­ple find funny, so he tested his car­toons online by shar­ing them on so­cial news ag­gre­ga­tor site Red­

“One comic, A Hero’s Pay (see the car­toon strip left), was shared so much that it gained over nine mil­lion views. I was shocked! Most of my online draw­ings were only get­ting around 3,000 views, but this one was a real hit. And with that, I was con­fi­dent I could make a funny comic book,” he says.

Wil­bur & Fara­day was fi­nally com­pleted af­ter four years, a long jour­ney fraught with as much doubt and frus­tra­tion as fun and ela­tion. Lim not only felt he had ex­hausted his sup­ply of jokes when he was at the half­way mark, but ev­ery new joke he came up with just didn’t seem funny to him.

“How­ever, my ed­i­tor found them funny so I re­alised that I shouldn’t be too crit­i­cal of my own ideas. I try to read a lot, and if I liked some­thing I read, I would try to find the funny side to it and see how it could fit with Wil­bur & Fara­day,” he ex­plains.

The big­gest chal­lenge in get­ting the book done was the process of trans­lat­ing thought into art and words. He strug­gled many times with comics that turned out, in the early drafts, to be “too com­pli­cated”.

“My rule is, comics have to be funny in the least com­pli­cated way pos­si­ble. There is re­ally no point in draw­ing beau­ti­ful, lav­ish, com­pli­cated pan­els with lousy jokes. But comics that are vis­ually not pleas­ing are also a turn off. So my chal­lenge was to find that fine bal­ance,” he says.

Lim strove to make Wil­bur & Fara­day as fun as it is ed­u­ca­tional, in­cor­po­rat­ing the won­ders of sci­ence, ru­mi­na­tions on life, and amus­ing ob­ser­va­tions, into the book.

“I write reg­u­larly for a chil­dren’s mag­a­zine called Just English, and I en­joy con­tribut­ing fac­tual ar­ti­cles, so I guess that’s why Wil­bur & Fara­day is skewed to­wards that di­rec­tion,” muses the fa­ther of two, daugh­ter Pa­prika, eight, and son Saf­fron, six.

Lim hopes that Wil­bur & Fara­day will be some­thing the en­tire fam­ily can share and read to­gether.

“I would be very happy if the reader de­vel­ops a sense of cu­rios­ity and a love for seek­ing an­swers to cu­riosi­ties. We live in such a won­der­ful age where in­for­ma­tion is avail­able at our fin­ger­tips. But if we do not ask ques­tions, we will re­ceive no an­swers,” he says.

Lim will be mak­ing ap­pear­ances at the BookFest@Malaysia 2017 ex­po­si­tion cur­rently on­go­ing at the Kuala Lumpur Con­ven­tion Cen­tre. Swing by at 4pm on Tues­day to meet him and check out the book, and per­haps even score your­self a free Wil­bur & Fara­day T-shirt. On Wed­nes­day, he will be run­ning a work­shop be­gin­ning at 5pm for chil­dren at which he will be pre­sent­ing fun facts about the moon and pro­vid­ing in­fo­graph­ics for chil­dren to fill in and colour.

BookFest@Malaysia 2017 is cur­rently on daily, from 10am to 10pm, un­til July 2, at the Kuala Lumpur Con­ven­tion Cen­tre. Ad­mis­sion is with pur­chase of the BookFest cat­a­logue at RM2.50 per en­try or RM10 for mul­ti­ple en­tries. Cat­a­logues are avail­able at all Pop­u­lar and Har­ris bookstore out­lets na­tion­wide and also at the event’s en­trance. En­trance is free for stu­dents 18 years old and be­low and se­nior cit­i­zens aged 60 and above.

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit face­ BookFestMalaysia. Star Media Group is a media part­ner of BookFest@Malaysia 2017.

— Re­copy

A Hero’s Pay gave Lim a push in the right di­rec­tion when it was well-liked and widely shared online.

— Keropok Comics

Lim is glad he took the plunge to cre­ate his first comic book.

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