During the event Creator Brand held on 10 December 2017, KAORI Nusantara staff Ahmad Faisal sat down with one of the event’s guest speakers, Indonesian comic artist Sweta Kartika. One of the more prolific young comic artists in Indonesia, Sweta shared with us his thoughts about and his experiences in IP development, and how he has been able to reach to different markets through various channels for his different comics.
Hello, Mr. Sweta. I’m Faisal from KAORI Nusantara. Thank you for your time to take this interview.
Can you tell us how you started learning about intellectual property (IP) development?
Actually, I’ve only known the term IP after I have released a number of comic titles. Initially, I only made comics, but then I came to know that IP is the big idea that encompasses various forms of media. If we look at Naruto, yes, it is a comic series. But aside from that, it’s also made into video game. That’s the idea. I only came to knew about it after I’ve been making comics for quite a while. So, I learn as I go on with making comics.
Have you ever encountered challenges in developing IP, or are there certain factors that can support IP development?
I look at the motivations first. If I could have made my living only from making comics, I would only do that. I wouldn’t be focusing on IP and the like; not too concerned about that. But considering the economic needs, it’s not enough just making comics. I have to sell merchandise, or license my comics to be turned into other media or products. That will create added value, in economic terms, in popularity, awareness, and so on. I didn’t use to think about these stuffs, at first. But as the needs arise, I learn and try to develop these.
Not all IP originates from comics. Hello Kitty, for example, is a character-based IP. As I see it, there are character-based IPs and story-based IPs. As I develop my stories, I need media that I can use to tell them: film, animation, game, and, of course, comics. As I started from making comics, I focus on story-based IPs. But that doesn’t rule out the possibilty of making character-based IPs in the future, like with Faza Meonk. It’s explicitly stated that his works are character-based IP. His company, Pionicon, is, so to speak, a “management agency” for fictional characters.
Some of Mr. Sweta’s comics have been published abroad, such as Grey & Jingga, which has been translated into Japanese. Have you received responses, or comments from foreign readers?
Because the content is basically slice-of-life romance, the readers there are already familiar with such content. I received responses indirectly through their friends, like informing me that their Japanese friend read the comics and laughed while doing so. That means they get the joke. The party that licenses Grey & Jingga has already put into consideration whether the content, the dialogue, or the jokes can suit Japanese market, before releasing it in Japan.
If we return to the topic of challenges in IP development, it’s kind of like that. When I began developing Grey & Jingga for domestic market, there weren’t any challenges. I am happy enough if I can expand the distribution. But, initially, developing Grey & Jingga is quite easy because I did it on Facebook. It’s easy to reach into the community, making people familiar with the title. The main medium is comics, but later, it’s also developed into animation. We’ve also been making merchandise for some time.
It’s true that I first knew about the series from website and Facebook before buying the physical release.
That’s it. There is the term market block. So, we already offered the contents for free, but we also release it in physical format. Market block means it’s already blocked by this group of buyers. They still buy the physical release even though they’ve read it for free online. So, there’s still plenty of chance in Indonesia to profitably develop IPs with printed comics as the main medium. Basically, what I’m doing with making IPs is investing for the future. The returns are not instant. But maybe eventually it can be made into a feature film, like what Faza has done with Si Juki. If it’s already made into a film, the licensing for derivative products and official merchandise would be more intense.
So, the key is in licensing. The end goal is in selling the license for derivative works and products. Look at Stan Lee, who holds copyright for various characters in Marvel. He can already relax and reap his shares from works using his characters.
There are still many others who think only of making the comics, have it printed, published, done, They don’t think further ahead, for example, about what kind of work to release next, the timing, adapt to trends, and so on. If you learn about IP development, you’d have to consider those factors. You have to consider what products you’ll develop your work into. That’s the challenge. You don’t just write stories.
In my observation, the hype is still in digital. So, try to explore it. We now also see some comic characters doing endorsements in Instagram. If in the past comic artists can rely only on royalties or rates per page/panel, there are other sources of income now.
Mr. Sweta has made many different comics published through various publishers. How do you decide which comics go to which publisher?
There are two lines of consideration. First, different comics in different publishers, and the other, the same comics in different publishers. For the first, consider Grey & Jingga, which I’m aware has the widest market compared to my other IPs such as Wanara or H2O:Reborn. Because of its enormous popularity compared to the other titles, I feel it’d be a waste if I only sell it through online channels. So, I offered it to the publisher that has the widest possible distribution, which means a part of the Gramedia group.
For the other example, take a look at what I’m doing with the comics magazine re:ON now. I see that re:ON has quite respectable sales across Indonesia, now. So I offered them Grey & Jingga, but with different content from what has been published through Gramedia’s Koloni. So, Koloni has published the title Grey & Jingga: the Twilight, while the one serialized in re:ON will be called Grey & Jingga: Purple Sunday. The story of Purple Sunday features a new character who hasn’t appeared previously. I’m sure it will encourage readers to buy both series. I told Koloni that having Purple Sunday in re:ON will also benefit them, since it will attract re:ON’s readers to buy the Twilight. And vice versa, it will attract the Twilight’s readers to pick up re:ON to see what’s new in Purple Sunday. At least they would want to buy the collected volume if it’s released by re:ON eventually. That’s how I did the bargain with the different publishers.
As for other comics, I have a work in a very niche genre. Pusaka Dewa (Divine Legacy) is a silat (martial arts), action story with heavily prose-styled writing. I can’t offer such a niche work to large publishers; it won’t profit them, and so, I don’t want to bother them with with something that wouldn’t sell much. Thus, I take the route of independent publishing for it, founding our own publisher Padepokan Ragasukma. It’s also a good opportunity for me to learn about publishing, and direct selling. In brief, I always consider the market to decide which content goes through which channel.
The Indonesian Anime Times | Interview by Ahmad Faisal | Translated by Halimun Muhammad